In the 7 or so years I’ve been in this game I can’t recall any axe accidents. Other, maybe, than a few nail shaving events, but no major catastrophes. I was hewing today in a somewhat untutored manner, preparing the seat for the current oak bench and somehow (well I know exactly how really) I followed through a blow into my calf – the worst damage was a hole in my fairly new working trousers (two layers). Bit of a flesh wound too, but nothing a medium sized bandage couldn’t cope with. Surprisingly little blood, probably my age, but my fingers still bleed like fury from tiny nicks. Anyway, enough of that, here is the oak before I started hewing.
I went to Summerbridge to buy the oak butt from Nidd Valley Sawmill (there’s been a mill there since 1540). First I had to wait for a mixed load to be expertly stacked from a timber lorry.
Just look at that perfect Yorkshire blue sky (it’s always sunshine in Yorkshire).
I sometimes wish I had something like that, but then …
I had a good old chin wag with the man in charge, mainly about the way the whole economics of the timber trade have been sadly distorted by the biomass energy fad. He is finding it more difficult to source timber to add to his 40,000 cu foot stock.
A very small portion of 40,000 cu ft.
He was most concerned about not tipping my rather small trailer over with the large lump of oak on board.
Please note, the sledge NEVER made contact with my pretty 2.5 lb Kentish pattern axe – I use a wooden maul (out of shot).
I guess it weighed more than a ton(ne). It was a challenge to open up – took about an hour. I am more and more finding that the way to deal with awkward splits is to start them by getting the axe embedded partly into the sapwood and partly into the heartwood and sinking it until a split opens on the bark profile, and then I get the wedges in.
I am usually very fastidious about changing from steel to wooden wedges as soon as possible so I can hack away at crossing fibers, which latter you can see above (betwixt the axe and the steel wedge). Immediately after I took this photo I nudged the wedge with the axe – 20 minutes on the grindstone and honing put that right again. Riving a butt is an energetic job (Showing your softee Lancastrian roots? – Ed).
See the axe on the left? – that’s the one that bit me!)
Eventually I’d got the beggar split into three.
The split the little one into two – so three and two makes four huh?
Anyway, I’m going to mill off the bench seat, following the split, and I’m hoping to get a slab just as good as fully riven, but with less waste – this butt is not straight-grained.
I’ve been doing lots of other things, not so exciting for others but time demanding – attending wet shows. This is really mad – we are having our best Summer for years and yet I’ve been at 3 wet shows this Summer, bummer. Also making hurdles.
These are special order – barriers to corgi pup escape attempts. My mate Dave Jackson, whom I met at a wet show in Leicestershire, had just fulfilled an order for 50 sheep hurdles for an Oxfordshire sheep auction. I bet there are not many people who are able to say that they provided sheep hurdles within the last 20 or 30 years.
By request, I made a Parson Jack Russel terrier today and it immediately started chasing the peace-loving wood-loving pigs.
I just relaxed and watched the smoke rising …