Riving, hewing and speed planing green oak

SAMSUNG CSCA little Spring fog yesterday morning in the forestry yard, lighting the charcoal kiln was the main cause.

I’m progressing with the shepherd’s chair, with more splitting out of components, I found the felled beech tree at the back of the workshop had a handy accidental cleaving brake:


Some very handsome-looking sections have come out of the half butt I’ve been working with:


In fact there’s hardly anything left now but hewn sapwood and bark:


I have also been making the pegs for jointing, here is a sample.

SAMSUNG CSCI’ve done a lot of shaving making too, using three four planes: an adapted scrub plane, a rough jointer, a fine jointer with a very narrow mouth and a little smoothing plane.  All wooden, very easy on the hands and good to use now I’ve finally mastered sharpening and setting, and the old trick of beeswax on the sole (thanks David).  Lovely green oak shavings all over the bodgery, the odour is incredible.

SAMSUNG CSCI’m getting to be quite a speed king on the planing just watch the shavings fly on this little video.

(Did I notice you nearly falling over at 2:15? – Ed)

So Now I have all the components worked up for the base of the chair prior to jointing.  Here are the two back legs and the back rail.  Remember I want this to stay upright by keeping lots of weight in the base.

SAMSUNG CSCSo first thing tomorrow I’ll be jointing these three together with mortice and tenons.  Then, when it stops raining, the worst job I do – bagging charcoal.

East Riddlesden Hall Shepherd’s chair

SAMSUNG CSCYesterday we went to East Riddlesden Hall, which is our local National Trust property and is on a scale that suits us best.  It’s really not much more than a farm house, but was enlarged and upgraded by James Murgatroyd of Halifax who made his brass in the woollen industry.  The Hall is also where I’m taking my beginner’s bee keeping course and where The Airedale Beekeepers Association have their apiary.  The Hall exterior has black-faced stone, fairly rare now in the industrial West Riding, and is a relic from the heavily polluted sooty air during the Industrial Revolution.  The parish church in Halifax was another fine example last time I saw it.

I wanted to visit to take a few pictures and measurements of this chair:

SAMSUNG CSCIt is an example of a type of chair made in the Lancashire and Yorkshire Dales in the 18th and nineteenth century.  They are also known as lambing chairs.  I’ve yet to find any evidence to support the theory that they were used by shepherds at lambing time and the dog or a lamb could be housed under the seat.  This one is certainly enclosed on three sides and would work as such, but more often they have a drawer under the seat, and maybe that is just missing from this one – my photos don’t give me enough detail to check, so I’ll have to revisit.  There is a very steep rake to the back, which I think is partly due to the back feet having rotted more than the front ones.

The main features of the style are the framed back. winged sides, arms and framed undercarriage.  Several examples also have the rope support for the seat and some have rather good carving to the back panelling.  There are not a great many survivors and so each one seems to vary from the others quite a bit. Bernard Cotton in his “English Regional Chairs” shows seven examples, none with a maker’s stamp.  He says:

The great variety of individual designs found in this group of chairs suggests that they were made by cabinet makers or carpenters for an individual order, rather than working in th tradition of the turner who made many chairs in the same design.  These chairs were, perhaps, the most comfortable and commodious made in the English common chair tradition.

It strikes a particular chord with me as we had one which used to have rockers (since removed) and my brother now has it.  I’ll be taking some photographs later.  The reason for my current interest is that I’ve been asked to make a story chair for Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes.  The chair will be sited outside in a new wildlife area so I’ll be finishing it off in situ on 23rd May at the opening of the new wildlife area.  The demands of outdoor living mean that the chair will not be a copy of an indoor shepherd’s chair, but inspired by the style.  I hope to have the shaped wings and arms and a panelled back as well as some basic carved decoration, hopefully.  The bottom will need to be very sturdy to create a robust bottom-heavy balance and withstand the rigours of Dales weather.

Last Friday I started splitting out some oak from a massive Bolton Abbey stem that I’ve already used in other work.  Here’s where I’ve got to so far:


These are the raw splits into the thicknesses I will require adding an allowance for cleaning up, removing bark and sapwood etc.

The whole chair will eventually weather to this colour:


But when freshly broken out of the oak butt it has this colour and an addictive aroma reminiscent of oak casks, whisky and leather:

SAMSUNG CSC  I’ll be doing some updates on this project as it progresses, maybe even doing one of these jobbies that Tony filmed during his coursework last Friday:

Meanwhile, I’ve a charcoal burn to do for an order as well as a couple of courses.

More woodland animals on the escape from Strid Wood:


A Correction for Laziness

Title page of the first quarto edition of Shak...

Title page of the first quarto edition of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1600 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been struggling along with a sash cramp made up of Marples loose heads and a 3 foot odd piece of milled ash.  The ash was thicker than it needed to be, so I’d attacked it with the axe to thin it down and seem to have drilled random holes that were:

a) not far enough away from the edge of the  ash to make the heads seat properly, and

b) the randomness meant that it was almost always the wrong length and much packing was needed to make them kind of work.

I occasionally get fed up with my sloppy ways as I did when I was using this sash cramp on the memory box which has now gone to a satisfied customer:


When I set initially set up in Strid Wood I had a pole lathe and a shave horse and a stock – simple old days.  Then I added a bench.  No vice mind, just some dogs and a weird cam device, which kind of worked.


Now I have a proper(-ish) bench with a vice I made a couple of winters ago, with dogs, yes, and some Gramercy hold fasts from Brooklyn.  But why do I put up with inconvenience for so long before I sort it out?  The inconvenience is often more time-consuming in the long run than doing the fix.  Well all I can say with Puck is ‘Lord, what fools these mortals be!’ (Midsummer Night’s Dream).

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing....

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. From William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway,  I sorted out the ash plank yesterday:

SAMSUNG CSCAll I needed to do was some (rather warming) planing the thickness, measuring and boring.  So now the heads sit properly, are set at the right width so I can cramp any length up to about 3’3″ on a continuous scale, and I can pat myself on the head (but not necessarily rub my tummy at the same time (C’mon it’s not that hard – Ed)).


Look how crazy the old holes were on the back of that plank, doh!

Weather update

It has been too cold for anything much to grow for the last month when Spring should have been springing, but I’m delighted to say that Spring has now indeed sprung and the wood has suddenly come very much alive, even the bluebells look to be about to give us their misty display at any moment:

SAMSUNG CSCGrass is flowering:


Any day now the wood will be carpeted with these little beauties – wood anemones:

And now the Bodgery has its chimney in constant smoke to keep away the little flying blighters that love to bite my skin:





SAMSUNG CSCDo you know what I like about trees? They have no straight lines – especially if, like this one (probably a veteran ash – has lots of missing branches, associated fungi and a massive girth (about four hugs), grown in a hedgerow.  I have this thing about trees – forest or hedgerow, crowd or singleton.  I’m not sure which is more ‘natural’ – probably both.

Probably a bit like life, unpredictable, lots of twists and turns, things happen, the wind blows and life changes.  This is how it is supposed to be, well, anyway it’s how it is.


Memory box

The memory box I’ve been working on for some time is now just about finished.




It is really a joinery item, and as such tried my skills to their limits, and probably increased them.

Dare I mention biscuits?  Number 12 brass screws.  However, following Peter Folansbee’s excellent description I managed to make a successful wooden pintle hinge   The hinges and handles are in oak, the body is chestnut and the floor is pine.

Could Spring be far behind?

Although the snow drifts from over a week ago are still melting, and night temperatures are near freezing and the dread NE wind doth both still (but a little less strongly), there are signs that Spring will burst forth with great force – given a chance.

Here is the first pair of wood anemones I’ve seen this year:


And here is a thrush’s anvil, a stone (mighty like an egg) used to crack open snail shells.