Whitby with the Regional Furniture Society

We went to the seaside yesterday, stopping for a swift coffee (from the flask) on the green at Great Ayton where Captain Cook RN was a boy.


We passed by Roseberry Topping, which has a very distinctive shape, rather like our own Sharp Haw beyond Skipton, but with steeper sides.  Apparently it used to look more like a sugar loaf, but there was a collapse in 1912, partly due to local alum mining.  What a coincidence, the hill next to Sharp Haw is called Sugar Loaf.

English: Cows Grazing under the shadow of Rose...

Wikipedia Commons.

We were on our way to Whitby, where Capt. Cook served his apprenticeship with the Quaker Walker’s shipping business.  This was our first venture out with the Regional Furniture Society, and certainly won’t be our last.  What an excellent collection of friendly experts.

The Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby is very well worth a visit, with high quality exhibits and much original fabric of the building carefully preserved.  I was particularly impressed by the pastel portraits of Captain William Bligh (commanding lieutenant, HMAV Bounty) and of his wife with her truss of red currants.  We need to return there and take a more detailed look at everything.  I was magnetised by the Resolution model with it’s cut-away side and comprehensive and detailed array of the ship’s contents and crew, including the hen coit!  We spent quite some time in there enjoying an excellent description of the exhibits by Dr Sophie Forgan.

It is an intimate museum, being housed in a former dwelling plus storerooms.  I did notice in the attic where the young Cook slept and studied (along with a hoard of other apprentices), that some one had used a very blunt axe or adze to do some hacking on the roof timbers.  It was over the staircase head, so maybe modern.


Sometimes, I know my tools are blunt, by by G** not that blunt!

The highlight of the visit was Saint Mary’s church on the cliff top next to the abbey ruins.  It is hard to do justice to this church, the interior and fittings in particular.  Nikolaus Pevsner says of it, “It is one of the churches one is fondest of in the whole of England.”

Doesn’t look extraordinary from the outside, except it’s squat, but you wouldn’t build a tall steeple on a cliff top next to the sea now would you?


Good gargoyle.

Two clocks.

SAMSUNG CSCAnd a great view of Whitby harbour entrance.



Inside the church is where the fun really begins.  Triple decker pulpit, box pews by the score built over hundreds of years.


Even box pews in the galleries upstairs.


Get that lack of uniformity. Thank Goodness the Victorians didn’t get a go at their ideas of how it should be remodelled.

We were lucky to be allowed into the galleries which are normally open only for services.  It feels like being below decks in a ship with the shallow support arches and the light filtering through from what seem like skylights from above deck.  Little wonder really as the church had extensive building work done by shipwrights, Whitby having been a major ship building centre with up to 20 ship building yards.  Little wonder then that the galleries are held up on wooden pillars that look remarkably like ships’ spars.  And little wonder that the graffiti in the back-most pews tends to have a nautical flavour.

SAMSUNG CSCThere is also some more considered carving to view, how about this box?


You really must go and see this building for yourself, and afterwards there are a host of things to do including Whitby jet shops, old shambling streets and donkey rides on the beach.SAMSUNG CSC



Seven inch knocker


(Whoops!  Thought I’d pressed publish on this one, but obviously didn’t.)

This post is mainly about blacksmithing of which I worked two shifts yesterday.  One in the woods and one at Craven College.  The latter was on a beginner’s course and will be the last one there ever as they are closing the metalworking facility, it seems like to make more courses for nail clipping and painting courses, etc. No not iron nails, but the ones that ladies wear.  I think we are rapidly losing our sense of reality.

Here’s my door knocker ready for its back plate and hinge to be finished next week.


It has its faults, but there are some useful techniques in there.  It reminds me of Mint Sauce, a great cartoon that used to appear in a mountain biking magazine my son and I used to read when we were full-on mountain bikers.

Copyright MBUK

My friend David make a great little bucket forge from the expansion tank used in a domestic central heating system.  It makes a good midge repeller too when topped with shavings


He also built a box bellows, operated by hand.

David aka Bellows Boy

David aka Bellows Boy

It works really well using the hardwood charcoal I make.  I finished the initial twisting of the ram’s horns above to save time at college.  (It’s a double helix, tha knaws.  Of course rams don’t have double helix horns, the horns have rings, and then they are curly, small point, but I s’pose blacksmiths are allowed artistic licence because they are wizards really).

Then we started manufacturing tangs for holding bowl blanks to the mandrel in the pole lathe.  We used silver steel to make a centre and two driving teeth, a bit like on a power lathe. (When is a pole lathe like a power lathe? -Ed.)

This is what I was bashing away at – round to square taper:


Here’s the hardening colours, from shiny through straw to blue:


I wanted to make a confining collar to stop the wooden mandrel from splitting and David took over opening up some iron piping on the anvil beak and then truing it on an ash former turned to finished size …

Shrinking onto the mandrel:

Here’s the partly finished mandrel.


We found the tangs were sticking out too proud and a combination of too blunt angles on the drive teeth and length of centre stopped the mounting of a blank.  This is work in progress, lower mounting and a couple more tangs needed.  And I’m intending to turn the mandrel core again, shorter and from rocky-hard hornbeam.

Close encounter

Here are the mark II bowl mandrel tangs.  Hand forged this morning and pretty sharp.


Well they seemed to be in focus on the tiny camera screen.

Somehow or other (as they are wont to say in Health and Safety Executive enquiries) one of these flew out of the hole in the mandrel as I gripped it with the Moles to remove it prior to enlarging the hole.  It flew through the air invisible.  I found on returning home a very small blood stain in my beard.  Don’t worry though, no damage to the beard.

And now with added tudor roses (footnote to new headers post).


Tudor rose badge from the Pelican Portrait of Elizabeth I of England

“When Henry VII took the crown of England from Richard III in battle (1485), he brought about the end of the Wars of the Roses between the House of Lancaster (which used the badge of a red rose) and the House of York(which used a white-rose badge). Henry’s father was Edmund Tudor from the House of Richmond, and his mother was Margaret Beaufort from the House of Lancaster; in January 1486 he married Elizabeth of York to bring all factions together. (In battle, Richard III fought under the banner of the boar, and Henry under the banner of the dragon of his native Wales.) The white rose/red rose idea was a Tudor invention.[1] The historian Thomas Penn writes:


The “Lancastrian” red rose was an emblem that barely existed before Henry VII. Lancastrian kings used the rose sporadically, but when they did it was often gold rather than red; Henry VI, the king who presided over the country’s descent into civil war, preferred his badge of the antelope. Contemporaries certainly did not refer to the traumatic civil conflict of the 15th century as the “Wars of the Roses”. For the best part of a quarter-century, from 1461 to 1485, there was only one royal rose, and it was white: the badge of Edward IV. The roses were actually created after the war by Henry VII.[1]


On his marriage, Henry VII adopted the Tudor rose badge conjoining the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster. The Tudor rose is occasionally seen divided in quarters (heraldically as “quartered”) and vertically (in heraldic terms per pale) red and white.[2] More often, the Tudor rose is depicted as a double rose,[3] white on red and is always described, heraldically, as “proper”.” – Wikipedia.


I think the official tudor rose may just have two sets of petals, and certainly doesn’t have the prickles, or sepals appearing other than on the outer rim.  OK yah, tudor rose has just five petals round, that’s ten in all, not six and eighteen, but I was doing this from memory, and ended up with my take on it.


First I had a trial of how to set it out and form the petals:



Argh! Those concave gouge cuts look convex again! My eye messes my brain up again.


Didn’t like some of this, best at three o’clock.


Started laying out with the dividers:




Struck major pattern with gouges:




Finished layout:




(Only used the ruler as a straight-edge, honest!)






Oh yes, added punching in the central button:




Blog header amended accordingly.


Rather puzzled why I could use the radius to mark out sixths on the circle perimeter, just about.  Thought it would be much less accurate than that.


PS The reason for the plural ‘headers’ will become clear in a couple of weeks when I start forging nails.





New headers


I’ve been working on a new display stand to use at shows.  Above is the header which will have turned hangers fixed in the holes and it will be fixed above a new trestle table.  As you can see I’ve been having some fun decorating it with 17th century-style carving.  OK there are quite a few mistakes in the execution, but it is a learning piece.  These are only the second to fourth S-scroll designs I’ve cut.  I’ve been using Peter Folansbee’s excellent DVD on S-Scroll carving.  I’m going to have to do something about either my stance or the height of the bench, or the ever-changing depth of the floor shavings because I’ve been getting an aching back whilst carving.  I suppose this is partly because of it’s being a new thing and getting tense trying not to make mistakes, like especially when removing the background from around the last letter!.  The most tiring part was matting the background with a punch, even though I did it in four sessions.

I’ve made it from a piece of sweet chestnut left over from an epic milling session making feather-edged boards for a counter front in a cafe.  The big Stihl 66 I am running the Alaskan mill with gradually got slower and slower at cutting , even though I sharpened it, made sure there was oil in, and made sure the cut was level.  Eventually I gave in a bought a new guide bar (24″) and chain (3/8ths, chisel).  This improved matters amazingly, and no wonder. The new Oregon bar has a sprocket at the nose, like my little 18″ thinning 260 machine, it also has to be greased manually daily.  Whereas – the crappy worn out bar that came with the second-hand 66 doesn’t even have a sprocket – no wonder life was getting tough!

Here’s a picture of my newly discovered way of holding the thing in the vice whilst sharpening the blade, much better than trying to balance it on top of the timber I’m milling.

So less of this mess for a while …


I milled some oak for this job (while the old bar was working pretty well) a picnic table with benches (note the drainers at the rear of the seats).

And this weeks quiz. What is the significance of this number sequence?

It runs: 1,2,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,14,14,15,15,16,16,17,17. Hint: you may need to look back to an earlier post on this channel.