Not a stool, but a useful horse with dogs.

SAMSUNG CSCIt turns out to be a mini sawing horse designed to be held in a WorkMate vice/bench.  It is after the style of Owen Jones’.  I only supply logs to a single customer now – an old friend – and my method of making logs means that sometimes the end log of a branch is short or a bit too long.  This horse will help sort out the long ones.  The short ones are no problem, except for stacking, but they are useful for filling in spaces in the stove firebox.


New Year, new milling dogs

SAMSUNG CSCPlease note, since this photograph was taken, the near side rear wheel has been replaced

Day 129 - March of the Mole Grips

Day 129 – March of the Mole Grips (Photo credit: DaGoaty)

by the spare.  The one you see in the picture had a pair of Mole Grips or Vicegrips, or cheap crappy copy (not checked yet) embedded in the tyre, as I found last evening at 9:45pm after band practice.  Should repair though – as the puncture is not in the side wall.  I was relieved that it was  a mere puncture as it sounded more like the prop shaft had broken or something serious as the grips hit the ground each time the wheel turned around.  They are not my Mole Grips; if the owner is reading, please stand forward.

Anyway next to the Landy is my new bench, or sawing dogs as it is described in Salaman. You can never have enough benches.  This one will live out-of-doors, there not being enough room really in my workshop:


I’ve made it to help me make the seat for a spec. garden bench.  Benches, benches, who’ll buy my benches?

The idea is that the plank or bed of the dog rests on the ground at the rear and is supported by two crossed legs at the front (four legs good, three legs better on rough ground).  This makes a nice slop up which a heavy log may be rolled by one man and another tool:

This is another dog, ring, cant hook dog, or log hook according to Salaman.  Essentially a hook (I’m using the double dogs from my Lift and Shift which in turn are spare hooks from a felling bar) fastened to a ring into which a stout pole is inserted as a lever to roll the log up the bed.


This oak log must have weighed about 4 cwt I would estimate and there was no way I could have lifted it – one end lift would have been difficult, and so I would have ended up milling it on the deck with my back bent over for about half an hour (try it!).

While rolling up the slope I insert 1 inch dogs in mortices at the back of it so I can take a fresh hold with the ring dog.  Once at the top it is at a good working height and held in place at the front by the top of the legs, at the back by 1.5″ dogs and its own weight.  I could fasten it down with a couple of log dogs but it didn’t seem necessary.  Milling proceeded with a fine straight stance.  Although I did subsequently find it easier to work from the other end so I didn’t need to step over the two beds!
MillingRather a messy business with all that fine sawdust, and I admit using a chain saw for milling, is not very efficient, but I only do a small amount, certainly not enough to justify anything more sophisticated (read expensive).  I’d recommend one of these pairs of sawing dogs, I’m pleased with the result.

Sawing dogs

Another dog:

Dog Looking at and Listening to a Phonograph, ...

Nipper, “His Master’s Voice”, The Original RCA Music Puppy (Photo credit: Beverly & Pack)

Rounder plane

A rounder plane makes the tenon part of a round mortice and tenon joint.  ‘Tenon’ a fifteenth century French/Latin word meaning holding on, same root as ‘tenant’ one who holds land.  ‘Mortice’ Norman word, origin obscure, but used since the 14th century, meaning essentially a hole that takes a tenon to form a secure joint.

Anyway, a rounder plane is a bit like a pencil sharpener.  The blade is set at a tangent to a hole into which you insert the stick upon the end of which you would like to make a tenon.  The infeed of the hole is conical, the end of the hole is a cylinder of the desired finished diameter. Very simple.  No idea when these things came to be made, but they are very handy when you don’t want to use the lathe e.g because the rest of the blank is very irregular, and would not turn well, like the leg of one of my deer:

(These are old ones, I prefer to choose leg branches with ‘knees’ in now)

So, making a rounder plane, first turn your blank:

This is just two handles and a thick bit for the cutting business where the blade will be mounted.

Then thin the middle down with flats:

Bore a hole of the appropriate finished diameter This one is one inch):

Sorry about the lack of focus; it’s getting rather gloomy in my workshop at this time of year, no direct sunlight for a couple of months.

Then the infeed, where the stick starts its journey into becoming a tenon, is opened up into a cone (I used my knife):

Funny, if you’d asked me, without looking at the plane, I’d have said the hole was in the middle, but, of course, it’s offset to give more meat where the blade is mounted.

Then a couple of saw cuts at accurate angles to finish the blank:

Now I think you can see how the stick blank is gradually cut down to a cylinder.  The blade will be mounted on the left-hand flat.  Just need the blade and fixings … I have this idea … If your stick is thicker than the entrance hole, you’ll be needing some work with the draw knife.

Been making this too:

And mending clogs:

New heels with beech wedges to take up the wear.  Just need the glue to set and then trim.

To be continued …



What’s my mallet?

Well strictly speaking a maul:

I use this one for splitting rocks with wooden wedges.

And by the way, that old axe was known as a “long axe”, and it became obsolete in the mid 19th century, blimey, no wonder, it was used as a felling axe!  Apparently it was good for undercutting a deep gob in the front of the tree because of its length.  Ah those were the bad old days when men were men, and died young, many in their traces.

It was good to get the answer from Tom who’d looked the monster axe up in Salaman, R. A’s Dictionary of tools used in the woodworking and allied trades.  Some of these instruments of torture were 15 inches long!  They were superseded by those designed by the sensible US guys (well OK, probably Sheffield guys who got lost going home from the pub and landed up in Pittsburgh) who balanced the blade with a poll at the back, and put fat cheeks on to make it easier to withdraw from a cut, a bit like stone-age axes in fact.  Takes a long time for ideas to catch on sometimes, eh?

Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Bishops' House,Norton Lees, Sheffield

English: Bishops’ House,Norton Lees, Sheffield (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s my axe?

My brother gave me an axe head he bought in a market.  It has proved to be rather a mystery:

What I know about it so far is: It was made by Wm. Greaves & Sons at Sheaf Works, Sheffield, UK.  This firm existed in the nineteenth century :

From “The Cutting Edge” a catalogue of items in the Hawley collection
displayed at the Ruskin Gallery in Sheffield in 1992. The back of this
book contains short histories of the firms which made the tools displayed.

“They (Wm. Greaves & Sons) soon established a large American clientele, and in 1825 built the famous Sheaf Works, the first integrated steel works in Sheffield.

The Sheaf Works was situated alongside the newly opened Sheffield Canal
where Swedish iron bar was offloaded directly into the works to be
converted into steel and goods which were manufactured on the premises.
The canal and the use of steam engine power provided a more efficient
system of production as previously many separate operations were required
for the manufacture and movement of goods.

By 1833 files and edge tools were added to the cutlery and in 1849 the
company started to produce railway springs.  The firm closed in 1850.”


English: Steel melting house where was made cr...

English: Steel melting house where was made crucible steel, Samuel Osborne & Co, Sheffield  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


So it’s pretty old.  Even made of “Electro Boracic steel”, Which is either crucible steel with boron salts added or just a promotional wheeze.

The size is 13 and a half inches (count ’em) from what would be the poll to the foremost part of the edge.  It has no poll, showing its age here.  The edge is very heavily curved, which I assume was done to stop it getting stuck in whatever it was cutting.  It is a long, even taper with no flattened cheeks.

I’ve mounted it on a pick shaft, as I believe all axes of the period were hafted on straight handles.

It is VERY HEAVY about 7 and a half pounds, excluding the shaft!

In use the weight and the length seem to suggest it was not swung as a felling axe, unless someone with very mightily strong wrist muscles was able to keep it horizontal.  I can’t for about two swings without pain in the wrist, but I’m a bit old too.  This suggests it was either swung between the legs or with a vertical chopping motion.  There are a couple of similar examples kicking about described as mining axes, but they seem later, having polls.

It is quite a beast:

Any ideas anyone?

Getting rather autumnal in the woods these days and a chill in the morning air with mists.  The sycamore leaves are just about all off – they’ve suffered black spot badly this wet Summer.  Beech leaves beginning to look quite pretty.

Bashing ash and Wild about Wood

On Jarrod StoneDahl’s mocotaugan making course last month we got into a discussion about delaminating ash to make splints for weaving.  Jarrod does this for his wife to make baskets from.  See his post on this here.

There was some feeling that this used to be done in the UK.  However, the ash Jarrod uses is a swamp growing variety which grows very quickly so the annual rings are thick. There was some feeling that Edlin had something about this, and indeed on page 28 of his Woodland Crafts in Britain 1949 he describes a Yorkshire tradition of soaking an ash log for several months in a running stream and, after drying, the log is hammered with a wooden mallet causing strips to split off along the annular rings, the bands being used for making birch and heather besoms.  He also has a picture (plate 114) of two men stacking besom heads in Winlaton, Durham and describes the ash as riven.

I’ve eventually tracked down more info on the Yorkshire use of ash strips for fastening ling together to make brooms.

Them were the days.  These are pictures from “Life and Traditions in The Moorlands of North-East Yorkshire” by Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby (Smith Settle 1990). There they go off to market, notice the oak ‘scuttles’ in the background, these look like the ones we made with Owen Jones.

There is a clearer picture of the tools used in “Made in England” by Dorothy Hartley, Eyre Methuen 1939 (This really is a most excellent book with lots of added colour – look at the adder on the rock.)  The picture will zoom in twice as it’s a scanned image.

So you don’t get a crick in your neck, here it is turned so you can get a flavour of Dorothy Hartley’s writing style:

One of the joys of this book is that she actually took the trouble to go out and visit the craftsmen and record, first hand, how they worked, she often travelled by bike and slept under hedges. There is an excellent account of coppice work on page 23.

Castle Howard

Only two more shows left this year now, having completed our tour of duty at Wild About Wood at Castle Howard.  It really is a joy to work there in the arboretum with so many unfamiliar, wonderful trees from around the world:

We camped a couple of nights next to a Chinese maple.

This beauty is an ash tree, but not as we know it!