Half a hedge is better than too much

SAMSUNG CSCI’ve been laying the hawthorn hedge at the bottom of our garden.  This is a management method to fill in the bottom of a hedge and control the height.  I layed it 18 years ago and the bottoms of the oak 2 x 2 stakes have rotted away – but they’re only needed for the first couple of years to keep the cut hedge in place while the new growth comes on.

This is what it looks like before laying (you may be able to make out the remains of the old layer in the bottom of the hedge):


That’s the new workshop towering over the garden. Just needs windows, doors, plumbing and electrician. Waney-edge green oak cladding, and then fitting out by Joe Soap.

It’s with a little regret that I’m getting rid of the bobbles that are reminiscent of guardsmen in bearskin hats (or ‘busbies‘).  My father served in the Coldstream Guards, but never wore a bearskin I fear, he was too busy driving around in the Italian mountains in a bren gun carrier.  However, it is rather a teetery job, standing on the top step of a tall pair of steps to trim them and I’m not getting any younger, and down they must come.  I left the bobbles last time.  Once layed it looks like this:

SAMSUNG CSCNew hazel stakes from Wood Nook and hazel binders to hold the top down too.  The uprights are cut about 7/8th through and then bent over.  As some of the bark and wood is left on the pleachers carry on growing in their new position.  The pleachers are woven around the stakes.  The material was a little sparse at the left so I’m weaving in a bit of hazel to make out until the regrowth gets going.  I think that, while it would win no prizes at a hedge laying competition, it is stock proof and will keep the sheep out.

Look what turned up in the ashes.

SAMSUNG CSCThis came from the sycamore logs I obtained a couple of years ago from along the road, when a big tree was taken down.  This must have been embedded in one of them.  No sign of it from the outside.  What do you think it is?

The results of the skep making at East Riddlesden Hall are in:

skep making 2015

Yes Linda, although you’re but small, you were obviously just too big for your skep!

It was a good course.  Bring on the swarming season – not until May 😦  .

Bench work


Is this man: a) Sleeping on the job; b) dead in his own-made open-air coffin; or c) dreaming of his next blog post?

Well, in July about a couple of hundred highly motivated chaps mount their bikes (and sometimes fall off them) and race them for three weeks around Europe, and this year they came almost past my front door, well, within two miles of it.  It’s not every day the Tour de France comes up Skipton High Street on a warm Saturday afternoon.


Yes, not a brilliant view, but the build up and atmosphere were great (Good view of Will’s hat – Ed).  In fact I nearly got caught on the wrong side of the road to my family whilst buying this book:


At a real bargain price of £9!  It is a very good review of furniture as found in the less fashionable places such as houses of correction, cellar dwellings and bothies – gripping stuff.  The ale houses are my favourite.

Course my son and I have been avid followers of the T de F for many years, well since 1990.  So Will and his wife Eva came over for to see the tour (and a holiday in the UK too!) staying with us, which was great, but took a little time up.

We did however, venture into home territory – Lancashire.  Partly to visit ancestors’ graves, but also for a very interesting visit to Queen Street Mill in Burnley, now run as an award-winning museum.

And they use one of these


To drive two of these

Which drive these

SAMSUNG CSCTo make these


Yes a cotton mill!  My grandmother and my aunt worked at a weaving mill in the next village and I visited with my mother as a child and I was terrified by the deafening noise and the terrifying machinery.  The noise was bad enough at Queen Street Mill with just four looms running, never mind the 300 in the weaving shed. Almost as scary as the Thames Clyde express at the level crossing – but that’s a worse story.

Anyway, back to a spot of woodwork.  These large pieces of oak have started to reappear in the bodgery

SAMSUNG CSCDragged in by my powerful righthand man


How Mr McKee does all the hewing he does, just beggars my belief (Oh, c’mon, the guy’s suffered enough, he’s obviously brain-damaged – Ed.).

I was wrecked this evening after just this little bit


With a curly bench back like this one, holding the beggar still enough to work on leads to much improv, holds …


And one day I’m just going to have to stop and fix that tail vice …


Once sturdy beech joint opening up for the second time.



New headers


I’ve been working on a new display stand to use at shows.  Above is the header which will have turned hangers fixed in the holes and it will be fixed above a new trestle table.  As you can see I’ve been having some fun decorating it with 17th century-style carving.  OK there are quite a few mistakes in the execution, but it is a learning piece.  These are only the second to fourth S-scroll designs I’ve cut.  I’ve been using Peter Folansbee’s excellent DVD on S-Scroll carving.  I’m going to have to do something about either my stance or the height of the bench, or the ever-changing depth of the floor shavings because I’ve been getting an aching back whilst carving.  I suppose this is partly because of it’s being a new thing and getting tense trying not to make mistakes, like especially when removing the background from around the last letter!.  The most tiring part was matting the background with a punch, even though I did it in four sessions.

I’ve made it from a piece of sweet chestnut left over from an epic milling session making feather-edged boards for a counter front in a cafe.  The big Stihl 66 I am running the Alaskan mill with gradually got slower and slower at cutting , even though I sharpened it, made sure there was oil in, and made sure the cut was level.  Eventually I gave in a bought a new guide bar (24″) and chain (3/8ths, chisel).  This improved matters amazingly, and no wonder. The new Oregon bar has a sprocket at the nose, like my little 18″ thinning 260 machine, it also has to be greased manually daily.  Whereas – the crappy worn out bar that came with the second-hand 66 doesn’t even have a sprocket – no wonder life was getting tough!

Here’s a picture of my newly discovered way of holding the thing in the vice whilst sharpening the blade, much better than trying to balance it on top of the timber I’m milling.

So less of this mess for a while …


I milled some oak for this job (while the old bar was working pretty well) a picnic table with benches (note the drainers at the rear of the seats).

And this weeks quiz. What is the significance of this number sequence?

It runs: 1,2,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,14,14,15,15,16,16,17,17. Hint: you may need to look back to an earlier post on this channel.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice

A few random ingredients from my last few day’s work.

Seen one of these?  Know what it’s called?


Well apart from a pair of chainsaw trousers, it is a nail acting as a button, fastens your braces (suspenders) to your trousers.  We call ’em a joiner’s button.  Make sure you take them out before they go in the wash – could cause unpleasant disharmony at home.  Mind you if Stihl made their buttons as well as they do their saws it would be very helpful – I’ve used all the spares that came with the trousers (about 2 I think).

I’ve been preparing to make a picnic table with two benches.  It has to be like some the estate have put on the banks of the Wharfe in their car park.  Firmly attached to the earth – the table sits on two 6 inch fence posts and likewise the benches.  However, I’m not doing the tops in treated softwood, oh no my readers, oak for that.

I sometimes miss young Theo, he was a great boon on two handed jobs like hauling a butt onto the trailer.


Heave ho!

At four foot long and about 20″ diameter this butt weighs quite a lot. No the Lugall winch is not fastened to the trailer with that orange bailer band. There’s a strap going down to the tow bar through the grill. Lot of fussing back and forth, work the winch, move the rollers, move the winch, kick the tailgate, work the winch, and so on.

Getting it onto the milling dog is no joke either, especially rolling it round to get the right attitude on top for the first cut.


I use an Alaskan mill and a frame to get the first cut.


The first cut is the fussiest, except for the second one at right angles to it.

And I must say the big old Stihl 66, though a little scary, doesn’t complain about this heavy labour I bought it for.


The milling spread over two days, I can only stand so much at once as the dust is filthy stuff, very fine and mixed with the vegetable oil (sunflower currently) I use for the chain lube. Everything you touch turns light brown.

Anyway, watch this space for more adventurers in picnicing.

More gentle work is stripping bast from elm saplings. A couple of felled stems were lying around and I noticed epicormic buds appearing, so I tested for bark stripping. Yes! Quite a few rolls for a future seat.

The timber will make good mallet heads.


The stripper

I finished the new sales display stand, or whatever it might be called.  At least it looks different, and a change is as good as … well.


On the rapidly developing flower offensive Heb Paris looks about ready to bloom from its four leaves.  This just looks like an invitation to copy into a gouge-work motif.  Reader, that’s why I took the photograph.

SAMSUNG CSCI found these lil yellow and green flowers on a lunchtime stroll.


They are yellow star of bethlehem, apparently Strid Wood is known for them.

I like the contrast of new plants growing from the flood banks of the Wharfe.



And the sun shining on the glossy ramsons.
SAMSUNG CSCBut probably this week’s Number One is this little bunch of violets growing in the river bank below my woodland staff restaurant.

On being a tourist

We’ve been away for a couple of days.  Down in the Midlands.

There are lots of what we tend to call black and white houses there, really timber framed buildings. The one above is Wightwick Manor (pronounced Witic). Not half so old as it may appear. Built in 1887 and extensively added to in 1893, it is one of very few arts and crafts buildings surviving in the UK. It is a visual delight outside and a feast inside. The inside is stuffed with arts and crafts furniture, soft furnishings etc etc. 200 pieces by William Morris & Co – that’s quite a collection.

Acanthus wallpaper.

Acanthus wallpaper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then there’s a heap of Pre-Raphaelite pictures, some of which are very compelling:

Trouble is, being a tourist, I wasn’t allowed to take photos because of copyright. (The one above comes from some reproduction on Amazon.)  So I suppose all I can say is, if you are ever in Wolverhampton, do go there it’s the best collection of arts and crafts in the UK bar none (or so it says on Wikipedia).

There was a fascinating settle in the hall with very shallow strap work, and possibly missing a table top as it had no back, or a very low one.  When I asked about it it was dismissed as ‘just’ Elizabethan that happened to be in the house.

That night we went to the pub. The Fleece Inn at Bretforton.  Funnily enough, it was black and white too… and it had two settles.
We ate (mostly asparagus it being in season in this ‘gras-producing region) in what used to be the brew house, although these vessles were used for somethingelse, I had to email the landlord to check what they were.  They are oak with four small drain holes, and in the centre, what looks to be the remains of the original turning centre hole – any guesses?

Next day we called to have a look at this mighty tithe barn.

It belonged to the former Evesham Abbey, and is pretty well preserved, being in the ownership of the National Trust.  The latter describe it as a raised cruck barn the link has a good guide to the elements of such a barn.  I can’t figure out why there are aisles framings at either end of the barn.

But it seems slightly disappointing when such a building is empty, apart from some very messy pigeons.  The barn in the days of The Abbey must have been a huge store of food riches and gives a clue as to why Henry dissolved the monasteries (apart from his marital problems!).


Just in at the door is this rather extraordinary ladder which thinks its a staircase, it must have taken a couple of strong men to manhandle it into position.  The rungs would have given a very firm footing, providing the ladder slope was 45 degrees, far slacker than allowed with modern ladders.