Been busy


Coming in to land

Busy bee

Honey bee busy on a butter burr next to River Wharfe, Strid Wood


Mending benches at East Riddlesden Hall


Extensive oak baord replacement with a couple of them.


Need a rest from this woodworking now and then.


Snack sandwich at:

Holden Clough Nursery


And a break sitting on the ramparts of Clitheroe Castle, Lancashire watching Jam Factory doing their stuff.


Made seven of these beggars – all sold I’m afraid, but more 2″ thick milled sycamore available for to plane up for more


Spring busting out in Strid Wood.


I’m so small …


… have to eat my lunch with yellow blusher ‘srooms foraged on the way to work and cooked with improvised spatula in cold-pressed linseed oil.


This should be the other way up …


It was a leaning alder next to the river we felled this Winter.  Felled using the dog tooth cut, dog tooth at left, letterbox centre, gob at right.


… milled the main stem into boards.

Photo0348Using them on my stall – here at Otley Show last Saturday.  The shrink pots & spoons are John Mullaney’s – sweet.


New line – garden tool scrapers.


Monks hood by The Wharfe – garden escapes?


Tooled oak for an hotel breakfast servery.


Been to London too – row of cottages – Halifax Road conservation area, Forest Hill.


She’s busy too, solitary mining bee – onwards, onwards.

Courses – in stone.

SAMSUNG CSCToday’s topic is walling stone in courses.

As any bricklayer will tell you, walling material of equal courses is faster and therefore probably more efficient and economical than walling random stuff (although the later may be more satisfying and fulfilling).

Our practical object is a disused barn on The Chevin, West Yorkshire, UK.  It’s in the progress of being converted into a kitchen and dining room, but that need not concern us here (however, the proprietors of the existing eatery make a mean orange cake, which I can recommend).

When walling a building such as this, the practice is to build the corners first.  Building the corners entails ensuring that they are square and plumb on two faces, then the courses can easily be run across using the corners as guides by running a string across and walling the courses between the corners to that line. The cornerstones are clearly visible at right and left of this elevation of the former barn.  You may notice that, starting from the courses above the massive lintels above the ground floor doors and windows, the corners are alternately tall and broad.  If you were able to see the righthand or indeed lefthand elevations you would see that the tall on this elevation becomes broad on the gable elevation and the broad on this elevation becomes tall on the gable.  OK, so far so good.  The corners are made hefty as they are important to the stability of the building.  Turning now to the walling between the corners, starting low down, you will see that the courses run across two courses high for each corner stone. The run across is interrupted by the ‘door’ in the middle.  This would have been where hay etc was forked up into the barn from a cart, but I digress.  This forking hole also has cornerstones, one to every two courses.


The lefthand courses do not add up exactly to the number of cornerstones and a smaller stone lies beneath the lintel of the hole.  This should not have happened.  I can hear the cursing now.

Stand back a bit and imagine the building going up a couple hundred years ago.  Men are working from a wooden scaffold.  They have lime mortar and stone on the scaffold.  Their tools and themselves.  A couple of craftsmen and labourers.  One craftsman works from left to right (the natural and easy way)  and one works from right to left (easy for a scaevola but uncomfortable for a right-handed waller).  The waller working from left to right “gets a pig in it”  that is his courses don’t level through to his mate’s.  This is corrected with the narrow stone under the lintel.  Phew.

But.  It now gets worse.  Because of adding that extra stone his second next course ends higher than the top of the cornerstone.  The cursing gets more fierce.  I’ll wager the man working on the left was either an apprentice, drunk, or hung over.

The fault actually starts above the fourth course of stones. In fact the third corner up at each end are unequal in height, and throw all the rest of the work out, because the lefthand one is too short.

It’s not as though these cornerstones are just any old pieces of stone that came to hand; they have worked margins.  Not very clear, but below you may just be able to make out a narrow band of smoothed stone about an inch and a half wide, running up the arris (or corner) of the lower stone.  In fact all the corners have been thus worked, time consuming.  Just a little more concentration by whoever was on the banker bench working the corners would have made pairs of equal height.










Anyway, they managed to get level across at the eaves for the roof to sit on, but not without a right lash up involving the third last course being out at BOTH sides.

What a story – frozen now in time, and probably ignored by all, except maybe the men who have just repointed the whole building.

Bodgers’ Ball



We were at The Bodgers’ Ball at Wimpole Hall this last weekend and had a great time. Took the De Waard tent and collected my daughter Nim from Cambridge railway station.


A bright start to Saturday morning.

SAMSUNG CSCOne of the good things about camping is cooking out-of-doors.  Nim’s tucking into porridge with raisins.  This is real porridge where the oats are just hulled and cut.  This means they need to be soaked overnight and then cooked for about half an hour.  We use charcoal, shavings that have flown, Kelly kettle, dutch oven and a great little Vietnamese charcoal cooker:


Bolton Abbey charcoal, of course, easy to light, burns hot and long, and a steal at £3 a 2.5kg (easily portable under the arm), made from FSC woodland thinnings (Ok, less of the gratuitous self-advertising – Ed).  On Friday night we had fine couscous with a ladies fingers curry, 4 course dinner on Saturday was, sweetcorn cobs, barbecued veggie kebabs with grilled pitta bread, then sweet followed; barbecued bananas filled with chocolate.  I had a handful of syrup tin potatoes at this point then we had home-made cake and coffee.  Then the residual heat was used to stat the porridge soaking.

As you can guess from above, I did a bit of scything.  I’m just beginning learning this skill so I managed to pick up a few tips from the more experienced people there.  The meadow was a mixture containing fescues which dull your blade quickly because it contains silica.  I wasn’t sure whether it was that or my sharpening or cutting technique causing poor cutting.

There was Doug Joiner there doing some demo horse logging, here’s Simon from The Hall getting a bit of tutoring:

Simon’s energy in organising and running the Ball was immense  Wimpole Hall and model farm is run by The National Trust and has quite a few heavy horses of its own.  Mostly the breed is Shire horses which apparently are on the endangered list.

SAMSUNG CSCThese are some of their cattle, an Irish breed, you can tell they are a heritage breed from that very square body.  Compare some of the old paintings, here’s out local Craven Heifer, much celebrated in pub names round home:

Even though the regimen is RSPCA Freedom Food it looked to me like the hooves of some of them needed clipping as they were very overgrown, I suppose lying about in crap all day doesn’t help, I suppose they’ll be let out once the grass is long enough.

There was such a lot going on, you really need to go to appreciate that.  Many pole lathes (all different designs) tool auction, log to leg racing, food, AGM, straw-plaiting, hedge laying, scything, timber hewing, purse net making (for rabbit ferreting), new and secondhand tools, and much more.  Such as Mr Nic Westerman making an axe from scratch.  He was using coke rather than charcoal – don’t blame him, an axe is a big chunk of steel!  Have a look on his website – he has some really beautiful leaf fobs that actually look like the species they represent.


Here’s his natty forge made from what looks to be a wagon wheel, I wonder what the secret of the magic bellows box can be.  Runs from a 12 volt battery and there’s a switch hanging from the forge edge lower left.


I bought quite a few items including a really beaut. of a plough plane – here it is already in service on the story/shepherd’s chair:
That router can go back in its box now, noisy, dusty dangerously frightening semi-controllable beggar!

I bought a good flat adze in the auction to replace the one that grew legs and walk off from my workshop whilst unshafted. Also a new pair of large size log tongs. If you handle large lumps of wood get some of these, they will save your back and make life much more pleasant believe me – they are a dream when loading and unloading my trailer with 4 foot felled timbers. They become like an extension of your arm, and with practice you can throw a log and release it by jerking the tongs in a special way (Glad you didn’t try to make that particular point an instructable, remember the cost of your public liability insurance – Ed).

Also on my shopped for list were two hessian sacks, rather hard to come by these days, but good for informal rain hoods, aprons, bagging shavings or small children (Steady on! – Ed) OK small animals then.  They need a good banging with a carpet beater but today it’s going to pour it down all morning – floods appearing already.  Got a couple of presents for friends too.  Sean Hellman sold me a cake of pink honing compound, I’m finding Autosol that I’ve used up to now a bit too messy, so having a swap.

I visited the Shed Therapy setup and I’m rather taken with their ‘Make a Pencil’ activity for kids – should go down well at shows, and it’s Otley Show this coming Saturday.  Gavin has posted me some pencil leads so here’s hoping they arrive in time.



OK I need to post this or it will be next week.

To finish a few pictures on the shepherd’s chair progress, making lambs tongue stops on the back frame members’ chamfers:



Rhubarb,rhubarb, rhubarb.

OK, day off again yesterday, where did we go, what did we see?

SAMSUNG CSCWe went somewhere dark,and warm, where a 30 second exposure is needed to capture the scene.

It was here:


SAMSUNG CSCInside this shed:

SAMSUNG CSCThose heaps in the field are the waste product from this ancient process –

SAMSUNG CSCYes, we were in the mysterious Rhubarb Triangle.  Crowns of rhubarb are dug up (about 14,220 in the shed we visited first) and kept warm, dark and moist  and the result is this:

SAMSUNG CSCBeautiful pink rockets of fibreless forced rhubarb, a vegetable we use as a sweet, much celebrated and used by posh chefs, as well as me and thee.

The sheds are lit only by candlelight to encourage the rapid growth:

SAMSUNG CSCAlthough it’s quite dark in the sheds a 30 second exposure revelas the extent of this seasonal crop:



We bought a couple of packs of the forced jewels as well as a crown/root of the variety Timperely Early which crops twice in a season out-of-doors, which is how we grow it.

We then went on to one of our favourite haunts, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where there is always a feast for the eyes, even by just looking out of the gallery through the windows:

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCWe saw some very fancy spacemen by Yinka Shonibare floating around their tin can

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCEven the cafe with its blocks of subtle colour changes looked like a work of art:

We had sandwiches in the car before we went in!  Cheap skates.

Out of doors we saw some chunky Miro:


And more Yinka Shonibare

An iron door to nowhere

And a new Gormley which changes colour!

Altogether a Grand Yorkshire Day Out.

Working in public & baking at home

Two aspects of working in public:


There are stories behind both these messages (cunningly in the same frame), but I’m not one to nag.  The latter one does seem to have worked the last couple of days of schools’ half-term break at least.  Don’t know why anyone would want to play with a nice ash log in a muddy puddle though.

I was away last week at Knights Wood near Sand Hutton, York, giving some advice to a family who recently acquired it.  Beautiful mature woodland, oak, sycamore and Scots Pine mainly.

English: The Scots Pine - cones (Pinus sylvest...

English: The Scots Pine – cones (Pinus sylvestris),  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the way there I stopped off for this:

Not just organic:

This stuff is great for making the sourdough starter I use for baking my Forester’s Bread.  In fact it tends to get over excited even when in the fridge between bakes and tried to escape from the container, with partial success. I bought it from Food for Thought in Saxby (No not that Food for Thought, good though it is.)

VERY busy in the workshop now.  Two sets of pegs made to go to a customer in Lancaster.

These are random ash turnings on a chestnut backing board.  I’m also making deer and animals fifty to the dozen, and now an order for salad servers, and I want to develop some hazel log hods, being less hassle than  bent wood ones.

Getting cooler now and the long johns, lined socks and long-sleeved vests have been pressed into service again.  Looks grand when the sun eventually rises though:


National Forest Wood Fair

Last weekend (well I suppose it’s the one before last now) I was in Leicestershire’s Beacon Hill Country Park for the NationalForest Wood Fair.  The National Forest has been a project for quite a number of years and for most of that was to me just a sign on the M1 motorway “National Forest”.  It now spans some 200 square  miles of established and recently planted woodland.

I was joined by a great bunch of the UK pole lathe fraternity for log to leg racing – twice daily.  Team event in the mornings and singles in the afternoon. Turning Windsor chair legs under pressure is not what I usually spend my working day doing, but it’s a bit of fun and entertains the crowd, helped along by the calm, informative commentary from Jim Steele

Here I am sweating away in my Winter vest:

The other chaps competing along were Dave Jackson (on his way to barrack me here, I think)

Peter Wood,

Mike Ashton at his bow lathe, calm, collected, precise.

and Matt Jarvis, a man very skilled in the art of cutting cords.

Peter  gave a great demonstration of steam bending, making four ash hoops in quick time.

Mind you he did have the massive advantage of the use of my steaming cabinet.  His steam generator, sitting atop my failed one, was very nifty; he draws the steam off from the top into a flexible pipe and introduces water via a pipe which reaches almost to the bottom of the converted gas cylinder he uses.  Thus he can get steam from about a pint of water and only tops it up when the inlet pipe emits steam, thus indicating that the boiler is running low on water.  Simple but very effective – just what I like.

It was a two-day affair this year so we camped (fun putting up a brand new tent with head torches!). It meant I had more time to look around.  The most exciting I saw was Phil Gregson wheelwright.  Phil put on a great display of shodding two cannon wheels with steel tyres.

Very fine joinery work on the wooden wheel parts:

He keeps very busy with wheels for hoop top caravans, private and museum commissions. I liked the way he gets the tyre out of the fire:

The hooping bench all ready for the tyre looks good too, especially through the heat of the fire:

Time devised methods like the inside dishing of the wheel which tightens the whole job if it drops into a pothole and the weight of the vehicle pushes against the nave (boss).

All in all a good weekend away, with pretty good weather, excellent indian food from Afia’s, local beer and good company.