Coincidence across th’Atlantic

When I was in Pennsylvania earlier this Summer we met our son Will and his wife Eva at Baldwin’s Bookbarn

Unbeknownst to me Will bought “Akenfield, a Portrait of an English Village” written by Ronald Blythe. It’s an interesting book about the changes taking place in life in a rural village in the 1960s. Will came over to the UK and stayed with us in July and we had a happy time visiting gardens, drinking beer and chatting.
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I read the book after Will and enjoyed it, well worth a read.

Pass on a couple of months.

I’m sitting at my shave horse making pegs for the oak chest I’m making.  Along comes a chap, interested in what I’m doing, we have a chat about an oak bench he’s made with an chain saw, a heavy outdoor bench. We get chatting about how he converted the log, the woodland where he sourced his oak, and it turns out he comes from Suffolk near Ipswich. Not just there but almost exactly where the book and film Akenfield were set. What’s coincidence.

So what else have I been up to this Summer?image

Making the mural cupboard door, it’s just about ready to hang now, I’ve turned a little knob, thanks Peter F for the photos, and polished it with a medium oak wax to bring out the relief of the carving a bit. Got a second prize (out of four entries!) for it at the local agricultural show.

My brewing sacks of malt and bread making rye four need a home, so I’m making them an oaken one.  I’m calling it a chest, but I guess it show really be an ark. I’ve scraped together left over riven stuff from previous jobs, but still have had to use some sawn through and through oak that’s been on hand for about 30 years, time it earned it’s keep. The stiles are sawn stuff, they are good 4 x 2s and very stable by now. I’ve spent some time working out what carving to do and I’m leaning towards just decorating the front panels, stile and top rail with carving. S-scrolls for the rail and stiles and a big floral piece for each of the panels, maybe two or three different ones, there are three front panels.

I’m just about decided on this version of the S-scroll:

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This is a prototype, based on a chest which is at East Riddlesden Hall.  It needs a little refinement but I particularly like the extra V-tool vein in the middle of the main S (which I’ll be joining up with the leaf veins) and the little ‘peas’ in the V of the leaves. I need to do some work on how the middle raised vein at the centre of the leaves will work too.  The half-moon cutouts need to move away from the centre a little.

Here’s the original:

Copyright National Trust

Copyright National Trust

The chest’s  provenance is not from East Riddlesden as the hall was empty when taken on by the National Trust except for some amazing grain arks which you may have seen before:

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Copyright National Trust

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I need to check with the staff if they know whence the chest was sourced.

I’ve made a scratch stock for the lesser members based on the one Peter Folansbee uses in his Carved Chest DVD, a very useful resource.  The scratch is a repurposed Silky saw blade, ground and filed to shape.  There are a couple more details to the profile I’d not filed in at this point.

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I’ve assembled together all the parts for the chest and started joining the rear frame first from a setting out of the front one.  I’m waiting for a couple of the front boards to dry a little before I carve those prior to joining.

Regional Furniture Society 2014, gouge work

The Regional Furniture Society’s 2014 journal arrived a few days ago, and I must say it’s an excellent read!

SAMSUNG CSCSorry, not breaking copyright, you’ll have to join – worth it just for this journal alone.  There is an American secretary too.

I’ve just read a really well researched and presented article about a press cupboard made in the Lake District.  It includes a detailed analysis of the carving by chisel type.  Brilliant.  I think it would be a good discipline to analise carving in this fashion as background to my 17th century-style carving (And lots more practice. – Ed.).

New logo for the Landy:

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Been to London

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Show bench at The Apothecaries Hall, Blackfriars Lane, the oldest Livery Hall in the city of London.

The stools at left were 1st 2nd and 3rd.  Personally, I thought my stool would stand being thrown across a bar room in a drunken fight better than any of the others and therefore should have won.

SAMSUNG CSCBut then the judge wasn’t taken by the hewn finish and peg ends when he turned it upside down (presumably in readiness to throw at someone).  Really – it was a “turning” competition, I thought the best thrown stool would be the winner. Doh!

Here’s a photo immediately after that nerve-racking pegging of the seat onto the legs.

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But then it’s a funny place is London (not much like Manchester):

SAMSUNG CSCMore like a streetful of books one might be forgiven for thinking:

SAMSUNG CSCVisited the Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincolns Inn Fields and saw again Hogarth‘s paintings for A Rake’s Progress.  I’m reading an excellent biography of Wm. Hogarth by Jenny Uglow.  I seem to be getting deeper and deeper into history.  In many ways there was a lot wrong with the olden days, and the behaviour of some members of the ‘upper’ classes was a case in point.  Mr William found it so and did not hesitate to pillory them, as did Balzac a little later and in a different country – I’m listening to Le Père Goriot (in English) downloaded from Librivox, which seems to be on the same problem, but if anything more bitter about it.  Never mind, next up should be some Henry Fielding – more fun.

We also visited the Dulwich Picture Gallery, some fabulous paintings in there, and some extraordinary furniture too.  The curtilage has some great trees, here’s a mulberry pollard.

SAMSUNG CSCOn the way back home we called in at Canons Ashby and saw this magnificent cedar of Lebanon, planted 1780:

SAMSUNG CSCIt is a fine garden and the Elizabethan manor house is pretty respectable too.  We came across a sad memorial to a shepherd lad.  The story goes a group of Roundheads were sheltering in the house when Cavaliers approached, the shepherd blew his flute in warning and was killed during the resulting skirmish.

SAMSUNG CSCIn the driveway we met these two box green men chatting to each other.

SAMSUNG CSCMeanwhile … back at the bodgery … I’ve been making a ladder, amongst other things, here’s the first split of the stiles.

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Bench work

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Is this man: a) Sleeping on the job; b) dead in his own-made open-air coffin; or c) dreaming of his next blog post?

Well, in July about a couple of hundred highly motivated chaps mount their bikes (and sometimes fall off them) and race them for three weeks around Europe, and this year they came almost past my front door, well, within two miles of it.  It’s not every day the Tour de France comes up Skipton High Street on a warm Saturday afternoon.

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Yes, not a brilliant view, but the build up and atmosphere were great (Good view of Will’s hat – Ed).  In fact I nearly got caught on the wrong side of the road to my family whilst buying this book:

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At a real bargain price of £9!  It is a very good review of furniture as found in the less fashionable places such as houses of correction, cellar dwellings and bothies – gripping stuff.  The ale houses are my favourite.

Course my son and I have been avid followers of the T de F for many years, well since 1990.  So Will and his wife Eva came over for to see the tour (and a holiday in the UK too!) staying with us, which was great, but took a little time up.

We did however, venture into home territory – Lancashire.  Partly to visit ancestors’ graves, but also for a very interesting visit to Queen Street Mill in Burnley, now run as an award-winning museum.

And they use one of these

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To drive two of these

Which drive these

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Yes a cotton mill!  My grandmother and my aunt worked at a weaving mill in the next village and I visited with my mother as a child and I was terrified by the deafening noise and the terrifying machinery.  The noise was bad enough at Queen Street Mill with just four looms running, never mind the 300 in the weaving shed. Almost as scary as the Thames Clyde express at the level crossing – but that’s a worse story.

Anyway, back to a spot of woodwork.  These large pieces of oak have started to reappear in the bodgery

SAMSUNG CSCDragged in by my powerful righthand man

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How Mr McKee does all the hewing he does, just beggars my belief (Oh, c’mon, the guy’s suffered enough, he’s obviously brain-damaged – Ed.).

I was wrecked this evening after just this little bit

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With a curly bench back like this one, holding the beggar still enough to work on leads to much improv, holds …

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And one day I’m just going to have to stop and fix that tail vice …

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Once sturdy beech joint opening up for the second time.

 

 

Where I’ve got to.

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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).

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

 

 

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.

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

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

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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!).

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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.

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Leisurely pursuits of noble ladies of North Yorkshire

Edith Sitwell

English: Portrait of Edith Sitwell

English: Portrait of Edith Sitwell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, the oldest child and only daughter of Sir George Sitwell, 4th Baronet, of Renishaw Hall; he was an expert on genealogy and landscaping.  Her mother was the former Lady Ida Emily Augusta Denison, a daughter of the Earl of Londesborough and a granddaughter of Henry Somerset, 7th Duke of Beaufort. She claimed a descent through female lines from the Plantagenets.” -Wikithingamobob.

My brother greeted me today on my return from the woods with a book of North Yorkshire 100 years ago (The North Riding of one hundred years ago by David Gerrard, Alan Sutton ISBN 0-7509-0292-2).  It definitely was another country back then.

Here’s how the mother of Edith (above, famous poet(ess)) got her kicks:

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Well, well.  Nothing like a bit of fun and sport.  I hope they used proper rat catchers’ sticks. You know, the ones a bit like a hockey stick but stickier.

1900 The Sitwell Family by John Singer Sargent

1900 The Sitwell Family by John Singer Sargent (Photo credit: Sacheverelle)