New for old

Last Sunday I went to see my mate Rod at the top of Bingley Five Rise, a staircase of locks on the Leeds Liverpool canal which is celebrating its 200th anniversary of fully opening.  Rod’s been blacksmithing for quite a while and has some great stories.  He was there with his bucket forge and a great improvement over his usual foot pump blower, a customised VW heater fan and a car battery.  Orders to Mr David Wadsworth.

No working pictures, sorry, I was in old fashioned mode with a swill basket of iron, so a camera was a bit if a no no.

As a change from the hooks and candle holders he’d been knocking out all morning, I’d taken him some real work, a stock knife to hook and a pair of tongs to adjust. I’ve had this clog maker’s knife for some years, puzzled by how it was supposed to be mounted with the 3/4 inch thread on the end in place of a hook. With several heats in the tiny forge Rod transformed the thread into a regular hook. I sharpened the hollower, as it is called, and gave it a test run on some ash.  Some adjustments needed, bit of slimming on the neck of the hook, and investigating why the edge leaves one if the raggedest finishes I’ve made for a long time.


I’ve turned a new carving mallet, my old one was starting to delaminate. I’m not used to exotic timber so I’ve no idea what this is, but it’s got a good weight to it.  I’m using the mallet rather a lot, making the decorations on my new carved oak grain ark.

The tongs are now adjusted to close on finer diameters like nails.

More coppicing tomorrow.

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.

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:


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:


Copyright National Trust


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.


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.

Open the mural door … better make it first.

IMG_0692This is a copy of the door to a wall cupboard, or mural cupboard (just the same word but from a Latin stem, posh). I wrote briefly about this local cupboard now in Cliffe Castle Museum here.  Wow that was back in November 2014!  Well now, I’ve lots of pieces of oak hanging around from past projects so I sorted out eight pieces for the door frame and for the door itself plus a broader piece for the center panel.  Then lots of planing to get them all dimensioned, lots of shavings, lots of fire lighting materials, it does burn well does oak, this really is hardly green any longer (better wait until it’s been installed for a while before you get carried away. Ed.).

imageSome of this stuff too.

I think it best to do most of the carving before assembly.  Inevitably, discovered this by error.  Working the groove for the panel and then attacking the edges of an S-scroll carving with large chisel and heavy mallet can have rather unwanted consequences.  But that’s part of learning.  This is the first panel construction I’ve done, and I knew there would be a little frigging around to fill the end of the groove where it exits the stiles with a shoulder on the rail tenons.  That turned out not to be too bad.  The trickiest part was seating the tenons in the mortises.  I must have made a bad decision in opting for 1/8th inch clearance in the mortise bottom.  1 and1/4 inch mortise and 1and 1/8th tenon is a bit close.


Tenons cut, next just been, draw-boring. Bore the mortise and borders the tenons thickness of a shilling closer to the shoulder.


Mark the mortise hole through to the tenon, then bore closer, leaving the top of the hole intersecting the mortise hole so the pegs pull the tenon up tight.


Here are the pegs. Dry oak, they bend through the offset holes.


Much stronger than a board.


Good and neat on the back.


Same process for the frame.



Ready to draw boring.


A touch of edging, and we’re ready for hinges.


Then nailing on’t wall.

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.

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:


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.

Been to London


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.

SAMSUNG CSC(Hand done that moulding tha knaws.)

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.