Where I’ve got to.


I started my journey into green woodworking in 2008.  One of the early items I made was a thrown stool, in fact I made a few.  Here’s the my first stool, not turned at all, just branchwood fastened to the underside of half a log.  It’s actually a stock for use about the workshop – it’s still kicking about in the bodgery, had a few new legs etc.

stockThis was the thrown stool.

DSCF4079Can’t imagine how I managed it with no guidance, just working from a picture. Twenty four round mortise and tenon joints, twelve of ’em at an unrightangle.  I don’t know why I didn’t either put three burnt rings on all the stretchers or one, two and three – lost in the mists of memory.

I copied a tiny stool we acquired in an old house we bought in Halifax.  This was one of my favourites.  Still have them both. Just the right size to sit a 5 gallon stockpot on whilst filling with water (or liquor as we brewers perversely call water).


I upscaled the pattern of the legs and this is now incorporated into my stock children’s stools.

DSCF9228Back in those early days I also made this stool with applewood legs and a joined elm slab top, good job I put a spline in the slab joint – it has survived much brewing and welly-putting-on-sitting-on where it resides in our conservatory.


Looks like I wasn’t so hot at getting photos in focus in that period.  Nor aligning the wedges in the leg tops correctly!

I’ve done a lot of turning over those years, but weirdly very little turning of coves, beads by the hundred, but hardly any coves.  It’s rather strange to find turning something hard after all this time, but the book rest project and the joined stool at the top of this post both required four coves, and I struggled.  At this time in an apprenticeship, I would be coming out of my time, so I was rather dismayed, but we never cease learning eh?

I was also rather challenged by the sixteen ‘proper’ M&T joints in the stool atop.  I started this project when I’d acquired Peter Folansbee’s excellent book “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree”.  I had done some beefy 3/4 inch M&Ts in my shepherd’s chairs which had their own challenges, but the nature of the beast allowed quite wide a leeway with accuracy:


The planing was enjoyable too and that smell of green oak became addictive.

Then I started on the 16 mortises in the stiles (you may call ’em legs – Ed).  I messed up on the first one and put the work aside, for quite a long time – too long really – much of the greenness was gone by the time I had time and determination to tackle them again.  This made the job harder – like the oak.  But I got there, made a few more mistakes, taught myself not to trust my setting out and to check it carefully.

Besides learning cove turning, I had to learn how to cut into square stock on the lathe – again made more difficult by delay causing unwanted seasoning (Do stop moaning – Ed).  Had to teach myself carving too, as well as sharpening gouges and V-tools.



It’s been a good trip, but I think I now need to start over as a joiner/carver in place of a bodger.  Watch this space!  Back to the Future – say 1633?

Family Watkinson's pew dated 1633

Family Watkinson’s pew in All Saints’ Parish Church, Ilkley. Dated 1633



Lost in The City

.. well more misplaced really.

I was making for the Carpenters’ Hall in ye olde city of London.


Thought I’d divert from the main thoroughfare and walk past Dennis Severs House (Amazing inside experience, don’t miss it!)

severs map

It is in a well preserved Georgian area of Spitalfields.


I passed my favourite East End shoppe.


After many false starts and dead ends in those curly medeval streets I finally arrived in the Carpenters’ Hall just in time for the Heritage Crafts Association conference and AGM.  A stunning building originating from 1429 (rebuilt a couple of times).  It was a sunny morning.


The theme for the day was “Tool tales”.  There was a pop up exhibition of makers’ tools to which we were all invited to contribute.  I was too busy chatting and looking at tools to take a photo – but it would have been well worth it.  I took my everyday axe.

My favourite presentation of the day was by Dr Phil Harding.  Archaeologist, craftsman (flint knapper) and “that bloke off the tele”.  He said today he was not “that bloke off the tele”.  The tools he makes and works with are stone age.  That covers a long period which he explained thusly (I paraphrase).

Man started using stone tools about a million years ago.  How long is that?  Well, if you take a football pitch it is about a hundred meters long.  Imagine I’m standing on the goal line at one end looking toward the goal line at the other end of the pitch.  Let’s call that distance a million years.  Now.  If I take a small step forwards towards the other goal line like this … I’ve just stepped into the beginning of the bronze age.

He told a very detailed illustrated story of making a haft (handle) for a flint axe using flint tools only.  He managed to do this – it was his first time attempted.  He showed how he’d even cut the mortise hole for the axe head with flint, it was previously guessed that the mortices must have been burnt through.  Anyway.  We saw a photo of the completed axe it looked quite useable, and he had felled a tree with one, but a different technique is required with a very lean angled ‘gob’ as we call the angled cut at the front of the stem.

The completed axe is in the new interpretative centre at Stonehenge.  Only trouble was the haft had a couple of tiny rough bits that might lead to someone getting a splinter in their hand.  Guess what they did?  Sanded it – problem solved, work ruined!  Save us from bananas Health and Safety.



Coppicing – not always what it’s cracked up to be.

Lack of photos warning.

Unfortunately coppicing is not always simply laying into grotty old coppice stools with a Stihl, slipping around, getting the saw stuck, hauling logs and covering levelled stools with hazel brash against deer.  Oh no my children, sometimes it gets dirty.

It hadn’t rained for quite some time and the ground has been drying up nicely.  Then today, coppice Tuesday, the heavens let down their gentle balm in bucketfuls.  Just coinciding with my having brought the trailer home ready to take out that hazel I cut last week.  Well crash on, I thought, not been raining so long yet.

The terrain in Wood Nook coppice is shallowly buried limestone.  Limestone has two properties, when it gets wet it gets slippery in spades.  I think this maybe because it dissolves in rain and becomes very smooth, must also absorb rain a bit I reckon.  Probably because it absorbs water so well, the quality of the soil on limestone, certainly in The Dales, at least, is pretty poor, that is thin.  Water drains away quickly, often into subterranean rivers and caves (good for the tourists and cave rescue folk).  So Wood Nook track up to the top of the coppice is short, steep, curving, littered with outcrop limestone boulders, narrow and in places has a thin layer of soil, read mud.

Went for it, got up last week with just the Land Rover.  Engaged low box and diff lock, crawled up the first section, then took a run at the curve leading onto the top. Nah!  Not going up.  Put the handbrake on – slid back down! Hum, nowhere to turn round, and can’t go forwards.  Got out, had a look, got back in, backed back (as we say around here).  My backing is still pretty bad, but I always get there in the end.  The trouble here was, if I started getting the line wrong I couldn’t go forwards to correct it and try again.  Inevitably I ended up with the trailer pointing into the coppice I cut three years ago, at rather a jaunty angle.  Got out, took a look.  Hah I could cut that corner.  Just kick that old rotten brash out of the way.  Damn, there’s a badly cut stool about a foot high in the middle of it, right in line for catching the underneath of the trailer.  Saw out, rev, rev, rev.  Bit slow, thought I always sharpened the saw ready for next time, not this time – idiot.  So got the stool lowered eventually and shifted all the brash, plus an uninvited stump ball that had turned up on its own.  Ready to run further back, and either turn or abandon the trailer, must at least get the Land Rover out to get home.

Dear Reader, do you remember it’s raining?  By now it is soaking through my chainsaw trousers, my mac, my waistcoat and shirt.  Feet feel dry though, and forgot to put gloves on so they are still dry.  Hands are getting a little muddy though.

Climb back in, try to reverse with the hand brake on. (Really – Ed)  Back, back, back.  Trailer folds into an elegant jack knife, still can’t go forwards, despite laying little sticks horizontal (You’re too optimistic – Ed).  Get shut of the trailer, it’s far enough out of the way now to get away in the LR.  Unhitch, feels a bit light  with no load on, I wonder.  Pulls a bit on the jockey wheel (weighs about a ton though).  Back in the cab.  Forward, no, check hand brake off, yes, no go, line up wheels in a straight line, oh yes!  Escape in sight, at least in the motorised section of the train.  Pity to have to leave the trailer though, don’t really need it immediately, plenty of logs at home.  Hang on though, did I put those straps back in yet?  Out, round to the passenger side, flip the seat forwards, nah, just the blue ratchet strap, hum, might work.  Fastened the strap round the trailer hitch and onto the ball of the LR (sounds quick, took two goes to get in the right position).  Now this did seem optimistic to me.  The trailer was pointing away from the back of LR by about 120 degrees. maybe more.  Could I pull it round.  Have a go.  Worked like a dream.  Get out, duh, need to back up to get the strap off, Back up, park right on the strap.  Back in , back up, back out.  Strap off.  Back in. Back back.  Back out. Hole in one – ball right under the hitch.  Down the rest of the slippery slidey track – forwards, luxury.  Loaded up with some easier logs, and back to base.

More water.  Moved the grind stone to The Bodgery a couple of days ago and installed a water dripping tin.



It is really cool to have fresh water running over the stone rather than the mud from the bath.  Try it!  I always thought it looked a bit silly.  I even have an easy drip control – a tack sitting in the hole that I can wiggle about.

Much drier at the bench.

bench work


Oak, hazel and blue blue skies.

SAMSUNG CSCInspired by Peter Folansbee’s accomplished oak work, I’ve been working on a joined oak stool, for quite some time now.  In fact so long I doubt whether it would even qualify as green woodworking any longer.  I don’t seem to have photographed the riving of the parts and planing the components, but it feels like ages ago.  I got busy with other paid work and the oak sat there getting drier and drier.

The picture above isn’t oak at all, its sweet chestnut.  Much softer than English oak.  I used it to practise some gouge work, which is all new to me.  I’m following  Mr F’s great book Make a joint stool from a tree. I’ve also drawn some inspiration from photographs of beautiful work in Oak Furniture, the British tradition by Victor Chinnery.  The flower design is taken from a stunning little hung cupboard.

SAMSUNG CSCMost of the flowers have seven petals, except the one centre left through which the key is inserted, and its opposite number on the right, oh yes and the centre bottom one … but not the centre top.  These unexplained details fascinate me and give the work such a life of its own.  As I look at this photograph now, I’m beginning to think there’s some punch work on the petals I hadn’t previously noticed.  I’ve filed a cross-shaped punch to decorate the ground on my stool aprons.

So I began by shooting off the rather stained surface and checking everything was still square.  Marked off the tenons and then laid out the pattern.  I don’t have Peter’s confidence yet so I’m afraid the two foot was rather in evidence to get things in the right place.

SAMSUNG CSCNot easy to see, but basically the width of the moulding, a couple of margins and the three circles for the flowers.

I used an old moulding plane for the edge and then attacked with a suitable gouge.

SAMSUNG CSCArgh!  Why do these photos always make the gouge cuts look inside out?  Makes me feel a little sea sick.  I was careful to follow the advice to make the gouge cuts into the solid, not into the last cut (got that one from The Woodwright’s Shop I can’t quite remember which of PF’s appearances that was).  It’s a bit nerve-racking by this stage as there is quite a bit of time invested in each piece.  Wow, turning the legs was scary after an epic mortising session spread over a couple of weeks.

Setting out the petals was an interesting exercise.  I found a geometrical method set out in By Hand & Eye accompanying animations, but that just seemed far too over the top for my project.  I ended up using the guessing method.  Set the dividers to what you estimate will make sevenths of the scribed circle.  Then divide up the remainder into sevenths by eye and increase/decrease the divider setting accordingly.  This seemed to work out OK.  Then I found a gouge that just about did the job with a little rotation at either end to fill out the space  See how I cunningly made the space between two petals fall at the bottom where that little margin is rather vulnerable.  Looks to me like the craftsman who made the cupberd above just went for it as the attitudes are quite varied, a bit like real flowers are!

Anyway this is what it looks like at the moment.

SAMSUNG CSCNot a patch on the old one, but I have to start somewhere.

Like the coppicing.  I’ve been working there three Winters now and the amount still to be cut is pretty intimidating.


Today I cut another five stools and an extraction way out.


Although from this shot I’m still deep in the woods – can you spot my red gloves in there?


There’s an old dry stone wall as derelict as the coppice running through the wood, and it’s a mixture of limestone and millstone grit, one of the Craven geological faults being nearby.  Here is a nice bit of limestone that people used to like to take home and plonk on their wall tops (no longer allowed!).


The weather is quite mad here.  We’ve had blue skies now for days. SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

Took me a while to find some hazel catkins that were not yet overblown.

SAMSUNG CSCAnd any minute now the blackthorn will be in bloom (flowers before leaves, if you please).