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!
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:
I 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%.
I 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:
Grossly ugly, but works, and is easily removed for conventional horse-work.
Then, there’s the Landy, oh no not the Land Rover!
Until 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.
Leveled 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
To 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.
In 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.
I’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.