Would you believe it? “Words, words, words.” Hamlet Act II sc. 2.

F in E

“About time you turned up with that ale, I’m fair worn out treadling away here like billy-ho and the damn blank just doesn’t turn.”

On our recent trip to Massachusetts I bought the above book from an excellent second-hand bookshop in Boston – Brattles Books. In fact I bought two, the other is about treen in early colonial New England, but that is another, related story.

Peter Folansbee warned me to be wary of the contents of the book as it’s written by a dealer.  He also pointed out that there is an interesting point in the dust jacket picture of the Stent panel.  The strap on the lathe is broken off.  It was subsequently repaired and modern pictures show the strap complete.  Peter discusses this here.

Anyway I bought the book partly because it has pictures in it (“and what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?” Thought Alice.(Not found any conversation therein so far)).  Well reading all the stuff that isn’t pictures (nor conversations) I came across this interesting paragraph:


F in E-1

Well, well! green pegs – really?  I wonder when we found out about draw-boring M&T joints – did we ever forget?  I started feeling a little uneasy about what I was reading in this book, things were a bit whacky back in 1968 when it was first published, then I came across this:


F in E-2C’mon, you’ve got to be joking – Wagenschott doesn’t resemble wainscot that closely.  Well maybe it doesn’t, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary that is the current, if somewhat puzzling, derivation.  Apparently we English used to import oak from Germany and other countries nearby, for posh work to get the best quarter-sawn figure in oak.  So I learnt something, well two things actually, I thought wainscot just meant panelling (it does too) but it was first applicable to a quality of quartered oak.


Cover of "The Oxford English Dictionary (...

Cover via Amazon

So you can’t always believe what you read, and it’s worthwhile checking, sometimes you may be surprised.  There is a good post on this topic in a blog I follow about searching with Google, you may find it interesting.







The Village Carpenter


English: The village carpenter 70 x 49 cm. sig...

The village carpenter signed l.r.; (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m reading “The Village Carpenter” by Walter Rose.  I bought this on the recommendation of a blog I was reading (which I don’t seem to be able to find just now but it has certainly been on Sean Hellman’s and Peter Folansbee’s).  This was written in the 1930s by Mr Rose who was born in 1871, so his grandfather’s business went back to very traditional times.

I’ve just read the chapter on making and repairing wooden pumps cut from green elm on the farm where they are to be used.  Excellent!

There is some nostalgia to this book, but it is tempered with facts like it was getting difficult to hire sawyers for pit sawing shortly before it became defunct.  The book is therefore nicely balanced between the old fashioned ways and the changes taking place way back then.  Here’s a sample about tin roofing (it should get bigger if you click on the scanned image):

You can still buy the book, it is a real classic and immensely enjoyable.  The modern print is paperback, I managed to get a secondhand hardback copy (with a 1947 inscription inside).

Last night Jane and I attended a talk by Ian Dewhirst

This was about Keighley between the World Wars.  Ian is an old time raconteur who used to work in the reference library in Keighley, well I say worked there – he was more of an institution and dedicated to recording local history.

There were many gems in his talk, but the one I’d like to share is about a lady who brought  a spoon to the library for the archives.  Ian had an open invitation for people to bring him historical material.  It turned out the wooden spoon was her father’s issued to him when he was posted to Russia after the First World War fighting with the White Army, because metal spoons would have been impractical.  The punch line of the story was that she had also had all his letters home from Russia – but they had burnt them all!  SHe didn’t think they were important because he was only a lance corporal.

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!


Woodsman’s poems

I was going to have a day off tomorrow at The Great Yorkshire Show for the first time in about 40 years, and the ticket was free!  However, I won’t be buying new Silky saw blades or checking out the goats or the thousand other things that go on there.  It’s rained off. (What in England – doesn’t it rain there all the time anyway? … Yes)

So instead of lots of pictures of animals and crafts here are two poems from a book of John Clare’s poems, lent to me by my brother (The Woodcutter’s Night Song):

Lie ye there indeed, work again tomorrow, making the Peter Galbert dumb head ratchet modification for my shave horse.

This one has a good evocation of what a cottage might have once been like:

Smoke, mud, rain and joint stools.

Hi Folks!

This is your correspondent relaxing at The Commercial in London, an interesting pub:

Not at all like the old pubs of Keighley where I started drinking beer. The Boltmakers Arms, The Friendly, The Volunteers, The Gardeners, The Lord Rodney.  Ah, those past teenage days of Timothy Taylor’s ale and headaches.

The woody highlight of our trip to The Smoke (AKA London) was another visit to the Geffrye Museum.  In one of the period room settings was a stunning oak table with a set of 6 joint stools.

Sorry about the lousy picture, it’s not a brightly lit place The Geffrye, but well worth a visit, with a beautifully calm herb garden (well more like the size of about 4 allotments) at the back.  I liked this green window:

Nim & Jane

But, back to the joint stools.  We met up with my son Will in London, over from Brooklyn, and he brought with him Peter Folansbee’s new book Make a Joint Stool from a Tree.  An excellent book.  I will be making a joint stool using the guidance in said book and I already have the green oak lined up.  Unfortunately, I have now got a bit of a thing going about these stools and I’ve gone and ordered another book:

This has a whole section on period joint stools, and further along some chair leg turnings which are uniquely Yorkshire, so I may be using them as a base for the stool legs.  One of these stools would look well in Skipton Castle or indeed in any other castle which is short of furnishings.

We did quite a lot of culture in London (That’s what London is for innit? -Ed) including a visit to 18 Folgate Street, Dennis Severs’ House.  If you visit London, and don’t visit anywhere else, visit this house – cost £10, you can’t take photos or speak.  It is an experience in warping of reality, history and your senses that you will not forget.  And, a great bonus, you can have a pint of Meantime beer in The Commercial afterwards.

We also did some mudlarking too.  My brother-in-law lives in Deptford in what was once the naval victualling yards, quite near to Drake’s Steps

Hardly now in fit condition for a queen to ascent prior to knighting her circumnavigator. When I went out for a walk on the Saturday the prospects for mudlarking were rather off-putting:

A fine coat of silt over everything.  But by Sunday morning propspects were much better:

London is so old the flotsam and jetsam are very diverse. anything from printed circuit boards to flint arrow heads (I searched for the latter but didn’t find any).  The oldest natural thing I found was a fossilised sea urchin, the oldest man made thing also flint, with a hole in it, but unrecognisable (by me at least), I think I’ll have it as a charm.  It was a good Sunday morning out for all the family:

From here you can see the three-masted Cutty Sark tea clipper which was due to open a couple of days later

On the Monday we saw the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery practicing for a royal salute as the queen shall have been re-opening the Cutty Sark after long and extensive refurbishment.

Typically, as it started raining in Greenwich we headed indoors, and both father and son’s beer noses detected a mash in progress – hah, it was the aforementioned Old Brewery who produce Meantime bitter beer (Geddit Greenwich meantime?)

Well it was back to work on Tuesday and it’s been a rather wet week, to say the least.  Tuesday wasn’t bad, in fact Theo and I dined in the luxurious outdoor canteen in Strid Wood, with view of nesting Mergansers.  Theo finished off his coat rack with double wellington rack – rather impressive I’m sure you’ll agree.

It is surrounded by this week’s paying project – 4 off 8 foot bike racks for The Cavendish Pavilion.  I was working outside The Bodgery, and it was a very pleasant change, the sun even shone a bit.

By Wednesday the weather had turned nasty and I had a course running with a NE wind gusting rain into the bodgery.  I’d advised Bob to wear layers and he had taken my advice – I wish I had taken it in spades.  Anyway, despite my almost catching hypothermia, Bob had a good day and we had some very interesting chat to boot.

This is one of the unfinished bike racks, I was in no mood for taking photos by the end of Thursday’s installation, but ~ I’ll get one on Sunday, hopefully with a few bikes as serving suggestion.

The logs for the base were rather heavy, and I bust the guide bar on my milling saw last week so I had to split the first one:

They were still heavy after splitting as I found to my discomfort when I managed to trap my finger between one and the trailer, doh!

Ah well, after a heavy week I’ve been relaxing today, making beer, granola, shopping for brill and jacket lining repair material, planting beetroot and lettuce seeds, launching a new Twitter account (@FlyingShavings funnily enough) and dreaming of joint stools …


Book review and damned mark

This is a good book I’m currently reading.

Peter Thomas, a lecturer in environmental science at Keele University, recognised there was a hole in the literature of trees dealing with the technical side of tree growth etc in a straight-forward concise way.  It brings together a lot of information that is otherwise scattered over many books of far more technical depth, but the latter are referred to for further reading and lots of diagrams are included such as this:

It has taken me some time to find a book that covers the mechanics of how trees grow and die so I thought I’d share this.

I had a bizarre experience yesterday.  I noticed I’d run out of garlic presses so I turned a couple as relaxation from the heavy work on the double gates I’m making.

I now have a nice mark (impact stamp) so I bashed this into the tops.

First customer who wanted one said “Have you got one of these without Flying Shavings on it?” Doh!

He bought a potato masher instead!