Heck, it’s nearly February!

Bee skep making again tomorrow and no post in between.

It’s been a little chilly and dark, but now we’re rounding the corner as Monday is Candlemas, when we turn off the Winter lights left over from the 40 days of Christmas fest.  Candlemas falls midway between the Winter solstice and the Spring equinox, so either the depths of Winter, or nearly Spring depending.

I’ve been making lambs tongues (40 of ’em):

SAMSUNG CSCThey stop the chamfers on me new ‘window’ bars:

SAMSUNG CSCThis may look a little odd, but it is an opening in a wall that is outside on both sides and we wanted to get some light through to prevent a dark little corner.  I understand these opening fillers were used in the Olden Days before glass was extensively affordable.  Perhaps someone who knows more than I do about timber buildings will put me straight.  I have seen them in several period buildings and I like the look.  Mine may be over fancy and perhaps they should be like these at St Gregory’s Abbey in East Yorkshire:

SAMSUNG CSCAnd Great Dixter:

SAMSUNG CSCThis may have been messed about with a bit, as an extra wing was added in the 20th century.

SAMSUNG CSCWhile I was making the bars I used the double screw vice as part of the hold me down while planing.  Speaking of which, I fixed the bench last week, it had gradually grown two inches out of level. Consequent of a floor of rotting shavings.  It seems a little unfamiliar now level both ways, but things should fall off it a little less frequently.


New member of the woodland menagerie:

SAMSUNG CSCA lil girl is making one on a course next month so I thought I should have a practice one for her to copy.

Hope Spring comes soon, meanwhile more of this in the pipeline:


Bee skep making



(It was a lot darker than this – it’s a barn.  More like this:

I’m just back from a bee skep making session.  As you can see this is very concentrated work.  These are all members of the association I belong to Airedale Bee Keepers Association.  This was taken at about half time, the floor got much messier than that.

Here’s my workstation.

SAMSUNG CSCFor the tricky start at the top the straw had to have been soaked for 24 hours, and the binding cane is just soaked for half an hour.  The needle is included in the very reasonable £20 for the whole course, including the session still to come in February.  By the end on the session I was just starting to turn down the corners and start building the walls.  But at half-time it looked like this:

SAMSUNG CSCThis will be jolly useful for taking swarms, should any appear this Summer.


Here’s what we’re aiming for:


Fixing it.

During the mad Winter festivities I had a semi-serious line: “If it’s broke, don’t fix it.”  Well that can only apply in limited ways and I really spend a lot of time fixing things.  I find this really satisfying.  Take this morning, the fire bricks lining our No. 1 wood-burner are getting way past their best.  A couple are broken in two, one side cheek has a bit missing, the top section that gets hit when fuelling logs is rather worn.  I considered buying a whole set and just replacing the lot.  Until I saw the price £272!  No.2 wood-burner entire cost less than that.  I had always thought about cutting new bricks and I’ve found I can get a sheet that will more than do the job for £60 delivered.  It’s mainly vermiculite so isn’t going to present immense difficulties cutting to shape and the odd holes to be drilled here and there.  I’m going to improve the cheek pieces so they are less likely to break again.  So that’s on the stocks, ordering the sheet today.

On a woody theme, I fixed a couple of parts of the elf making process recently.  I’ve made over a thousand of these little chaps, which sell all the year round – even in early January – first sale of the year!

SAMSUNG CSC The paint doesn’t dry when the temperatures get low, so I put them in their rack in the fire box (once it’s extinguished for the night, obviously).  That works fine, unless it rains, when, despite having a good cowl over the chimney end, water gets down and mars the paint work.  But not with the umbrella I added to the rack quite some time ago now:

SAMSUNG CSCI can cut these elves in about 19 cuts with a following wind.  Just before the Misrule Season I found I could reduce the cuts to about 13 by taking two initial cuts with the axe, makes a smarter job of the hats too.  I’ve made over a thousand of these elves over the past few years (I analise my sales as I prepare my tax return).  This all started from a great Swedish site showing how to make them step by step.

My friend David made me some V-blocks for general holding of round objects and one of them has become an essential part of the production line.  I use them when I saw off the carved elf from the stick.  In the bad old days the elf fell on the floor about 50% of the time.  Now they stay in the V-block 99%.

SAMSUNG CSCI ride my shave-horse side-saddle when carving elves, which used to make it tricky to put my foot on the treadle to nip the V-block.  Now I have improved, self-closing dumb-head:

SAMSUNG CSCGrossly ugly, but works, and is easily removed for conventional horse-work.

Then, there’s the Landy, oh no not the Land Rover!

SAMSUNG CSCUntil its last visit to Railside Garage & MOT test, the faults were: fuel gauge not working; windscreen washers u/s; dodgy hand brake; end of exhaust pipe missing; two front tyres tired out and  a broken rear work light.  All but the last item were fixed and it seemed like a new vehicle!

That work light … essential these dark evenings when I’m packing tools etc into the Landy.  The LR version cost £70 and they’d changed the fixings, so a bit of a non-starter.  Well, I found an £18 LED version that would mount properly.  Hey Presto!


Let there be light.

What a difference.

SAMSUNG CSCLeveled up the chopping block that has had a jaunty lean on it for about a year, at the same time discovered that the shavings had crept up a few inches, much better working height now.  The shavings went into the newly instituted additional storage area.


Hum, the bubble was in the middle before I put that heavy cup of tea on it. (Wouldn’t that have made the bubble run the other way? Ed.)

I’m doing some paid fixing too, this National Trust bench will be getting a little TLC

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCTo sort some of the problems out I’m replacing three of the boards, so I need some inch oak boards.  Chainsaw mill at the ready!  Slight problem fixing the wooden frame for the mill to run on for the first cut.  I either use 4″ coach screws into the log – but these would definitely have fouled the chain,  or use log dogs.  My two big ‘uns are already fastening the log to the milling ramp. And the beautiful little ones didn’t seem to be in any of the 4 places I searched for them. Here’s my fix, again rather ugly, but worked a treat.

SAMSUNG CSCIn festive mood I’ve also discovered the wonders of Sugru – putty that cures to a rubber-like compound in 24 hours and sticks to many things.  Won a few Brownie points fixing kitchen stuff.





SAMSUNG CSCI’m not in the woods tomorrow, I’ll be in a massive tithe barn at East Riddlesden Hall learning how to make straw bee skeps (retro hives, now mainly used for gathering swarms). I prepared the long straw earlier.


Working so fast you can’t see me hand moving.

I felt thrown back a couple of hundred years to the time when straw plaiting was a good means to boost the family income of agricultural labourers.  The ladies (OK women and girls really) earned more than the head of household in that way.  It must have been pretty monotonous work.

read more here.

Twelfth Night – welcome Lord of Misrule

The twelfth night of Christmas. Start counting from the night of December 24th/25th. Days used to start in the evening, after the end of the previous day at sun set. Hence Christmas Eve is Christmas evening, the start of Christmas (i.e. Christmas day). Hallowe’en is the same, the evening of the following All Hallows or Saints Day (followed close upon by All souls day). To which day would you allocate night? Surely not to two days – that’s just crazy. These days we seem to think that morning starts before the sun comes up – c’mon, how can it be morning before dawn, that’s just upside down and inside out, and in no way agrees with the concept of the arrow of time nor with spacetime – we can’t travel backwards in spacetime you know. “Oh I think I’ll arise really early today” (I say to myself on Twelfth Night Even), “for the festive Twelfth Night celebrations before the day begins – like yesterday!” You can’t have your jam and eat it so the rule is, “Jam today, jam tomorrow, but never jam yesterday.” Because yesterday never comes – right?

From Pepys (This day, 1659/60):  “Early came Mr. Vanly to me for his half-year’s rent, which I had not in the house, but took his man to the office and there paid him. Then I went down into the Hall and to Will’s, where Hawly brought a piece of his Cheshire cheese, and we were merry with it.

Just the right day for making merry with a Cheshire Cheese, could be code though:

Thanks for the image: http://londoniscool.com

On Twelfth Day we were all agreeably surprised with a sort of masquerade, on being dressed into character, and then we were conducted into the library, which was all lighted up and at one end a throne, surrounded by a grove of Orange Trees and other shrubs, and all this was totally unknown to us all! Was it not delightful? I should have liked you very much to have been of the party. Now I will tell you our different characters. Edward and I were the Shepherd King and Queen, Mama a Savoyarde with a Hurdy-Gurdy; Marianne and William her children with a Tambourine and Triangle; Papa and Aunt Louisa– Sir Bertram and Lady Beadmasc, one hundred years old– Aunt L with a great hoop; Aunt H a Pilgrim; Uncle John– a Turk; Elizabeth a flowergirl; Sophia–a fruitgirl; Fanny Cage– a haymaker; George– Harlequin; Henry– Clown; and Charley a Cupid! Was it not a good one for him, sweet fellow! He had a little pair of wings and a bow and arrow! and looked charming.

Besides these great days we had Snapdragon, Bullet Pudding, and Apple in Water, as usual.

Fanny Austen to Miss Dorothy Clapman
January 12, 1806

More excellent stuff on Twelfth Night here. Including:

In medieval and Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve — now more commonly known as Halloween. The Lord of Misrule symbolizes the world turning upside down. On this day the King and all those who were high would become the peasants and vice versa. At the beginning of the twelfth night festival, a cake that contained a bean was eaten. The person who found the bean would rule the feast. Midnight signaled the end of his rule and the world would return to normal. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. This Lord of Misrule tradition can be traced to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia.”



Anatomy of a forester, Day 11

Ahem.  Could I just apologise quickly for the lousy spelling in yesterday’s post.  It took a long time to do, and it was tea time just as I thought I’d finished.  But I hadn’t run the spell checker, then forgot about it. Doh!

If it’s broke – don’t fix it.

We are used to seeing ‘perfect’ objects these days.  It wasn’t always thus, ‘good enough’ was once perfection.  I’m not trying to argue for sloppy work, but I just want to say how much I like work that shows a hand-made it rather than a machine (not that the latter always achieves perfection! Just take out a hand lens or microscope and it will soon become clear that ‘smooth’ surfaces don’t exist but we can get close to smooth, or smooth to the touch.)

I am coming from a similar angle to that in “The Unknown Craftsman” where imperfection is valued for various reason

Let’s apply this to the Windsor chairs that have recently taken up residence in our cottage.


Windsor chair arm spindle showing a wild groove from a mis-held chisel when originally turned

This turning was clearly not done by a copy lathe!

SAMSUNG CSCThe beads and the foot of this leg have small flats arising from the stock not bein quite big enough to get the complete diameter.  But back in the day you wouldn’t want to waste a whole leg just for that little imperfection.  The leg is just used at the rear of the chair where it is less obvious.

SAMSUNG CSCGet the stick layout on the back of this one.  The far right hand one is about an inch further down than the far left one where they meet the bow.  Does that spoil it?

Let’s turn one over:

SAMSUNG CSCThis is the seat underside, fairly obviously pit sawn from the differing angles of saw cut.  There are also two larger holes in this picture, which I think may have been made by dogs to hold the seat still while it was being bottomed and fettled (shaped) in that typical comfortable saddle-shaped seat.  There are nine of these holes in this seat, and they are squarish in section deeper in the hole.  Why would you finish a wooden surface that was never going to be seen in everyday use?

SAMSUNG CSCHere’s the underside of a three-legger I recently made for a competition.  The judge criticised it because …

SAMSUNG CSCThe pegs were too long (or dowels as he called ’em).  Better than too short say I.

It was supposed to be the turning which was being judged:

SAMSUNG CSCWhich may or may not be acceptable, but I’m blowed if I can understand what the length of unseen pegs has to do with it.

Here’s a table in The Manor House Museum in Ilkley, near here:


Forgot the tripod again? Ed.

SAMSUNG CSCThe front apron is carved (love those diamonds) and the back apron isn’t as it was made to be at the side of the room where only the front side would normally be on view.

And you may have seen this one before:

SAMSUNG CSCWho put that moulding on upside down?

So, don’t worry be happy:

Whoa!  Steady there, we can’t take the Christmas decs down yet – must be down by sundown tomorrow though or bad luck is sure to follow.

Anatomy of a forester, Day 10

And the answer to the location of yesterday’s fishing smack quiz is ….. Provincetown MA.  Loads of points to Bodger Mark, the only one to work this out – how did he do it?  Has he been there?  Recognized the boat?  Did a search (I did, dint work for me). Princetown is a really cool place (well it is well up in the Northern hemisphere).  Extraordinary clothings: SAMSUNG CSCIf I’d used this shot it would have been easy:


Good ducks though – they’re not mallards? Ed.

No, I mean this one:

SAMSUNG CSCBut then, today, I realised the blummin clue is in the question:

SAMSUNG CSC“*town,MA”  Gives you the sub-continent, the state, and somewhere by the sea ending in town.  Good work , MArk.

But I digress.  Today’s topic is not “You are what you eat. (see Anatomy of a forester Day … erm … 9). Oh yes” But “You are what you wear, or you’re dead.”  My dear wife Jane tells me she encouraged her charges to think “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”  I think this is an excellent maxim.  Let me take you through my Winter wear.  Well it is Anatomy of a Forester!

But first, our climate.  Temperate, for which read “unpredictable”.  Winter can be quite cold for a temperate clime, borrowing horrid East winds and driving snow from our Scandinavian neighbours, or barmy with the Gulf Stream (or Beck, as we would say) washing the whole of the United Kingdom (see James Joyce, Ulysses: Ch. 1 ‘–All Ireland is washed by the gulfstream, Stephen said as he let honey trickle over a slice of the loaf.’ [Don’t get me on about honey.]) So one day in Winter it’s 12 above centigrade (50F) then next morning 2 below (28F). We don’t really go much below 6 (21F) very often, and sometimes it only dips below 0C (32F as you know) a handful of times in Winter (like last year).  But you are aware that the Thames once froze 11 inches thick.

So, the secret is to have a well-stocked armoury of clothing against the weather.  In Summer it’s easy, it’s dry under my tarp so T-shisrt are just about OK, but shorts just don’t work – all the shavings creep into that space between the boots/clogs and socks and are very uncomfortable.

But Winter, hum, tricky.  As above, the weather varies.  The UK Met Office, gives amazingly accurate weather predictions – they should do; they have some really powerful computers to model chaos systems.  However, in the micro-system where I work, with no sunshine from December to February, I have to manage variences.  So here’s how I do it.

People ask, “Are you here; all year round/just at weekends/all the time.”  I say, “All year round, I keep warm in Winter by working hard.”  That’s not all the story, remember” No bad weather, just crappy clothing”?

Start with a hat, the second lat thing I put on:

SAMSUNG CSCThis is the best, most comforting thing I wear:

SAMSUNG CSCEx-army, those boys need proper clothing (Although, it’s desert clothing now).  I’ve heard it described as a tank commander’s hat – well mebbe, but it is certainly good for the head and ears.  It has several configurations:

SAMSUNG CSCCool, all flaps on top.

SAMSUNG CSCWarm, ear-flaps down and options to get a bit extra over your temples.SAMSUNG CSCAll down and locked on, that East wind holds no threats to my hat security!

Then, if your hands are frozen to numbness you can’t work, so wear a pair of these:

SAMSUNG CSCYes, there is a tiny hole hidden under the right thumb.  They help me not get white finger when using the chainsaw, keep the wet from logs away from my hands, and are just generally a good thing when it’s very cold.  I have about 6 pairs in variopus colours.

The next most important hing in cold weather is long Johns:

SAMSUNG CSCThe trouble is, once you pull them on of a morning, you don’t want to take ’em off until bedtime (we have an electric blanket (Too much information – Ed.)

They’re designed in JApan, where I read the Winter is pretty horrid too:


You’ll have to squint – they’re from UNI CLO

Then a long-sleeved vest: SAMSUNG CSCYup, Heat-tech too.

My upper body covers are very important.  I think this is just a comfort thing, but I s’pose we have to keep our core warm.  Add a shirt:

SAMSUNG CSCZip it up a bit when it’s cold:

SAMSUNG CSCIf it’s really cold … zip it up to the top:

SAMSUNG CSCThen, if you’re sure it’s not going to get suddenly warmer (i.e. if you got icilcles on your beard on your morning bike ride, wear this:

SAMSUNG CSCYeah, thought so, can’t read it – try this one:

SAMSUNG CSCOK, it says “Extreme Cold Weather, Olive” , it works.  Towelling interior, cosy. But don’t even try using a chainsaw – you will die of heat exhaustion (unless you live in Wisconsin, mebbe).

More for the legs:

SAMSUNG CSCThe padding for the knees is useful when stoking the fore, and unfortunately can’t be relied upon to stop axes.  Also more insulation around those important mid-leg joints (knees).

I think we can now safely don out boilersuit:

SAMSUNG CSCHaving previously donned some stout socks:


Wool’s best I find.

If I’m not in working mode, but standing around chatting. I’ll wear my LL Bean shirt ($10 from an charity/thrift store/shop):

SAMSUNG CSCThen, the first defence against those vile East winds:

SAMSUNG CSCEx-army (21st century) jerkin,  or if I’m chatting:

SAMSUNG CSCWWII leather jerkin with woolen lining and solid back, hand-turned buttons (I did it).

Oh yes, if it’s near freezing I wear this (under the boiler suit):


And I can still move about and work – amazing, eh?

Footwear is still a work in progress, but at present, clogs preferred (even if they pull your socks down) (Huh well they only cost £5, what do you expect? – Ed.)


Anatomy of a forester, Day 9

Friday is brewing day, you must know the rhyme:

Monday’s washing day,
Tuesday soooup,
Wednesday’s aroastabiff,
Thursday’s shepherds’ pie,
Friday fish,
Saturday is pay day,Sunday’s church …

Is everey body ‘appy? You bet your life we are.

Recorded by The Scaffold in May 1966

But seriously, who has roast beef on Wednesday?  Must be:
Every day of the week or;Sunday or;


Loads of points if you can tell me where this was taken. Clue – Northern Hemisphere.

Definitely fish on Fridays though, and with good reason.  On Fridays George from Fleetwood sets up his stall in Caroline Square in Skipton selling fresh fish, I am a regular visitor.  George

If I am what I eat then … I must have eaten about …

3233 fishes, if you include the about 2,400 mussels, lots of fish and fernerks, some whitebait, mebbe some 50 salmon, an Arctic char, a very small quantity of eel (smoked), my share of these:



6236 loaves, including about 520 home-baked sourdough ones


and around 8,032 pints of home-brewed beer and mebbe as many commercial ‘beerpints’.  Cases of whisky, wine, no wild women, mind.

I’ve eaten frogs legs, shark, innumerable insects, I expect.  Goosnargh cakes, Blackpool rock, a few stones of Yorkshire pudding, Paris buns, Eccles cakes, Pontefract cakes, London Gin, Stilton, Melton Mowbray pies, Aran Pilot potatoes,

Mmmm indeed, but don’t eat the seed potatoes. Ed.

Mmmmmmmm – potatoes … my favourite … must be nearly teatime ….