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.
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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:

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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:

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Copyright National Trust

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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.

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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.

Asymmetry thoughts

imageMachines seem to be good at making symmetrical  artifacts, nature is not. However, if you measure very accurately machines do have their limits in accurate symmetry.  We think we see symmetry everywhere, but this is a trick played on us by the way our brains create patterns. We perceive  people’s faces as symmetrical , they are not.

Me:

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Me split and flipped.

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Sorry, the software won’t let me actually shove them quite together

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2 plus 2 make a very weird number!

Lots of early artifacts, I think pre-industrial revolution, do not slavishly use symmetry.

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The Manor House Museum, Ilkley.

Consider the guilloche panel carved on the top rail of this chair. While there is a flower in the middle and three more at each side, our modern eyes might expect the flowers on each side to reflect each other.  Instead the figures are repeated in the same order at both sides, a repeat rather than a reflection.

Sometimes the issue is asymmetry because a pattern doesn’t fit:

portraict - 1Didn’t seem to be a problem then – this chair survived, the pattern on the lower panel also has a lively dance around the edges ignoring slavish symmetry.

I suppose the tiger looks symmetrical on first glance but to a tiger’s eye no doubt full of the charm of asymmetry.

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While natural scenes hold not a jot of mirrored sameness, we do occasionally mimic that beauty.

image … but then necessarily spoil it by repeats, often out of pure necessity as with this Wm Morris wallpaper block.

Then in the Arts and Crafts movement therer was a move against symmetry in architecture:

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The Red House

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Blackwell, Lake District

I find it hard to describe why I prefer the windows dotted around rather than in a slavish pattern. I wouldn’t try to say patterns are unnatural but I do enjoy natural chaos.

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Hang on, they’re not English oak leaves – Ed,  Nah, Bald Eagle State Park, PA – FS

portraict - 1 (1) portraict - 1 (3)Sorry the posts have been so thin on the ground.  A collection of various minor issues have been getting in the way: work; file sizes on my host server; holidays in the US, posting to Instagram – I would like to find a way to  post here direct from Instagram, anyone know if it’s possible?

Then there’s beekeeping and queen rearing, much easier in nature:

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Longwood Gardens, PA

Been busy

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Coming in to land

Busy bee

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

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Mending benches at East Riddlesden Hall

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Extensive oak baord replacement with a couple of them.

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Need a rest from this woodworking now and then.

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Snack sandwich at:

Holden Clough Nursery

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

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

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Spring busting out in Strid Wood.

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I’m so small …

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… 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.

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This should be the other way up …

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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.

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… 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.

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New line – garden tool scrapers.

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Monks hood by The Wharfe – garden escapes?

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Tooled oak for an hotel breakfast servery.

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

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

Speed drawknifing

Hello!

August used to be the month we went on holiday.  Nowadays it seems to be my busiest month what with courses, shows, and caving …

SAMSUNG CSCWell, actually this is my garage/store-room and it leaks far too much, so much so that it will be destroyed and out of the ashes will be built a new glorious stone and green oak workshop with brewery area and a pitched roof. NOT a flat concrete slab that sweats and leaks, cold in Winter boiling hot in Summer.  But first I have to get this lot:

SAMSUNG CSC(You should have seen it before I started throwing things out.)

.. into this:

SAMSUNG CSCThis is a tin shed, 10 foot by 13 that my brother and I just spent 2 days putting up (including making a floating floor for it).  I think I must have screwed about 200 screws in and dropped probably 400 into the flowers.  Anyway it’s up now, and the poor flowers are down.

SAMSUNG CSCAmongst other things to go in The Shed like bee keeping equipment (photo op. for my first honey extraction:

SAMSUNG CSC) are a cast iron band saw, a second-hand multi-fuel boiler I bought in readiness for the new workshop (well for the brewery really), all my tools, two bikes, about half the last charcoal burn output (our warm Summer has suddenly stopped), various jerry cans of fuel etc, etc.  And then I need to find somewhere else secure to put the two chainsaws.  Man!

Anyways, I’ve started running spoon carving courses finally and made this totally silly spoon during the course of it.

SAMSUNG CSCYep, bark and moss on (C’mon – who’s going to buy that? – Ed):

SAMSUNG CSCThe interesting thing is the spoon is photographed casually relaxing on the roughed out top of the clover leaf top three-legged stool I’m about to make for a competition.  I’ve worked out that the legs will be truncated equilateral triangles where the draw-bored M&T joints will be in the apron and rung areas.  Then turned between on the pole lathe (important consideration for the comp).  Ah well, perhaps ye olde 17th century joinery will catch on over here one day (maybe after Peter Folansbee has taken his class here!)

I’ve been busy with oak again – another garden bench commission.  Here’s some speed drawknifing work (Not too long I hope – Ed)

So lots more shavings, and a growing pile of parts,

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must make sure I don’t mix members for the stool with those for the bench.

Spoonfest!

SAMSUNG CSCPhew!  Where to start?  Maybe in the morning (as above).

I took the role of morning hot water monitor:

SAMSUNG CSCEarly morning is my favourite time of day – a whole day ahead to spoil, and not many people about.

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The fire ring was big and usually had embers in from the revels of the previous night, so it was easy to rekindle it and race the gallon kettle against the Kelly Kettle.

The festival is a great meet up place, OK currently only two continents, but I can’t see that lasting for long.  People carve spoons all together, all the time (the first axes start at about 7am):

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Check out how concentrated everyone is.

But spoonfest is not just spoon-carving alone, it is about learning and meeting people.

Here is  Fritiof Runhall explaining the development of wooden spoon styles as living traditions changed and associated ergonomics.  So cranked handles are hypothesised to go back to a communal bowl and straight handles can only work with individual bowls (i.e. when the standards of living changed).

SAMSUNG CSCThis is JanHarm ter Brugge.  Jan excels at teaching spoon decoration amongst other things.

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He is an excellent disseminator of techniques, principles and design.  This is his illustration of a Sami maze decoration:
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I learnt a lot from him, and I’m aiming to copy this style:
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There’s a mistake in one spoon – can you see it? Jan explained that mistakes are fine as they reinforce the hand-made quality.

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This is Jarrod  Stonedahl explaining how to make and use ‘natural’ paints, oil paint, milk paint, egg tempura with earth pigments for colouring.  I learnt why my paint wasn’t working – missed out the lime!

SAMSUNG CSCNic Westerman’s rather neat blacksmithy.  He demonstrated in full forging an axe, the crowds were rather deeper when that was happening!

Not all hard work and learning.  2013 saw the premier of The Spoonfest Athletics.  Here is the start of the race to stir a cup of tea with a wooden spoon no-handed.
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There were a handful of races in the championship including The maker who looks most like their spoon.  Fritiof that afternoon had made a spoon with a statue of himself as the handle, it was topped off with a bunch of his own hair!  Steve Tomlin was overall winner, and I should really have taken a vid of his extraordinary victory tour.

Great weekend, great people, great location,

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and I learned quite a bit too – my spoon knife is now pretty damn sharp, and I should be able to stitch leather neatly, I’ve got the basics of playing the spoons (thanks Jo) and I’ve already got the first stage of a moulded hook knife sheath.

The finale again was spoon club with around 200 people all doing 5 minutes carving a spoon and then passing it on.  Although not a race, it was hard concentration, as you can see the moment after the hour was up:

SAMSUNG CSCThis is the output from out group

SAMSUNG CSCA big thank you to these two guys who put so much effort into the production of Spoonfest.

SAMSUNG CSCRobin Wood & Barn The Spoon in very uncharacteristic reflective mode.

 

 

Mortise and tenons

The storyteller’s throne is beginning to take a recognisable shape.

SAMSUNG CSCAt the moment it must weigh about an hundredweight, but the crest rail is way oversize and will be thinned and shaped to ape the ERH shepherd’s chair crest.  It has a very worn  effect to the middle of the shaping and I’m unable to suggest any reason why this section of the top of a chair should be so worn. it’s the centre section – no photo from the front where it’s more obvious – a mystery to me:

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I’ve made 4 and two half mortise and tenon joints, and realised that I can half the time of making, following Peter Folansbee’s method with joined stools.  There’s no need to make side shoulders on the tenon – just the front and back.  The next 14  M&Ts should be much quicker, and a neater fit.  Funny how you can read a book several times and miss such an obvious method.

I’m using this chisel which is really good for scraping out the loose shavings, and tidying the corners in the mortises.

SAMSUNG CSCI originally acquired it to use as a rat tail for making captive rings n the pole lathe, but never got around to it.  Now I know it’s real use I can see that the handle must be a replacement as there’s no way it should be struck!

I’m also using this handy shoulder plane for tidying up the tenons.  Quite good for final adjustments.

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Rather warm here still, but on Monday evening we took to the cool of the canal on two narrow boats for our Dales Jam band rehearsal and had a jacob’s join meal moored near Bradley.  Here’s our boss conducting from the drums:

DJ boat trip IMG_5212

Planing riven green oak

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I’m getting to the smaller components for the shepherd’s chair now.  This will be the front under-seat framing rail.  The dogs in the bench top are great for this, half the battle is holding the stuff still to plane, the other half is stance and sweat.  It was very warm yesterday, for Yorkshire, and the next two days are forecast to be hot too (read ‘too hot’).  I’ll be milling out a coupe of larger items – crest rail and seat slabs and maybe the wings .  I’m milling them on the quarter so they will be as good as riven.  The oak butt I’m getting these from has some rather large limb junctions and riving could turn out to be too wasteful.

You can see end on how the above rail follows the rays on the finished face:

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The back will be left as is because, being under the seat, it will not be seen, and the extra weight will add to my desired bottom-heavy balance to avoid tipping over.

The ray patterns are looking pretty good though:

SAMSUNG CSCThe aroma of this brown stuff is almost intoxicating, it just reminds me of whisky maturation warehouses in Scotland where I used to work.