Pictures of an English Winter

SAMSUNG CSCWe’re having a rather typical English Winter, wet and cold, not much snow at all, or even frost.  Rather grey, so when the sun shines through the trees covered in raindrops, it looks rather pretty.

All the rain makes the river run high and as it washes away the sand the early Spring plants show through, rather too early.

SAMSUNG CSC

These are butterburrs which will be in their ‘other planet’ bloom in a couple of months time.  The snow drops are much more seasonal.  I reckon these get washed down into the wood fron gardens upstream.

SAMSUNG CSCAll this moist atmosphere makes for much moss and ferns.

SAMSUNG CSC

This one looks almost humanoid.

SAMSUNG CSCHere’s some sycamore (acer pseudoplatanus) I’m making into a duck bowl, hopefully.

SAMSUNG CSCIt has an interesting orange hue in the more mature inner wood, not sure if it will stay longer term.

SAMSUNG CSCHere’s some work in hand.

SAMSUNG CSCOn Thursday (my Friday) after above photo was taken,  I discovered that a spoon neck gouge is rather better than a knife or a drawknife for the tricky shaping of the neck and tail transitions where the grain direction is rather like the transition between the handle and bowl when carving a spoon except a much bigger area and challenge.  Watch this space.

Quack, quack.  As the lady mallard ducks have started repetitively calling around here.

 

 

 

 

“An yll wynde that blowth no man to good, men say.” John Heywood’s A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546

The best thing about being on holiday is that you can do a bit of work for relaxation from holidaying.  On Christmas’ Day Even a high wind blew and brought down an old ash tree that has been a creaking gate for some years (I remember a bough falling off it when I was a child about 50 years ago).

SAMSUNG CSCIt fell rather inconveniently partly into The Leeds Liverpool Canal, almost blocking the way:

SAMSUNG CSCIt looked much worse before we started clearing it out with a handy winch, all my straps and a couple of chain saws.  It was a wonder, really that the tree had managed to stand up so long, the root-ball was almost entirely rotten.

SAMSUNG CSCI’m not an expert on tree fungi, but this one has been at work on the tree for a long time, and I’m expecting the stem to be at least partly hollow.

SAMSUNG CSCMost of the wood will end up in my log store, but there maybe a chance of getting out a couple of planks with the BIG SAW and Alaskan mill.  The thinning chain saw is certainly going to need a good sharpening, even though the muddy logs that had embedded in the bottom of the canal were avoided.

 

SAMSUNG CSCI’ve brushed off the worst of the mud and the wind and rain now falling should help out a lot finishing the job.  We’re certainly going to have plenty of good ash logs for some time.

SAMSUNG CSCAnd then fortuitously our neighbour’s fence blew down too, so that’s the kindling sorted out for this Winter too.  Just a bit short of newspaper now …

 

 

Would you believe it? “Words, words, words.” Hamlet Act II sc. 2.

F in E

“About time you turned up with that ale, I’m fair worn out treadling away here like billy-ho and the damn blank just doesn’t turn.”

On our recent trip to Massachusetts I bought the above book from an excellent second-hand bookshop in Boston – Brattles Books. In fact I bought two, the other is about treen in early colonial New England, but that is another, related story.

Peter Folansbee warned me to be wary of the contents of the book as it’s written by a dealer.  He also pointed out that there is an interesting point in the dust jacket picture of the Stent panel.  The strap on the lathe is broken off.  It was subsequently repaired and modern pictures show the strap complete.  Peter discusses this here.

Anyway I bought the book partly because it has pictures in it (“and what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?” Thought Alice.(Not found any conversation therein so far)).  Well reading all the stuff that isn’t pictures (nor conversations) I came across this interesting paragraph:

 

F in E-1

Well, well! green pegs – really?  I wonder when we found out about draw-boring M&T joints – did we ever forget?  I started feeling a little uneasy about what I was reading in this book, things were a bit whacky back in 1968 when it was first published, then I came across this:

 

F in E-2C’mon, you’ve got to be joking – Wagenschott doesn’t resemble wainscot that closely.  Well maybe it doesn’t, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary that is the current, if somewhat puzzling, derivation.  Apparently we English used to import oak from Germany and other countries nearby, for posh work to get the best quarter-sawn figure in oak.  So I learnt something, well two things actually, I thought wainscot just meant panelling (it does too) but it was first applicable to a quality of quartered oak.

 

Cover of "The Oxford English Dictionary (...

Cover via Amazon

So you can’t always believe what you read, and it’s worthwhile checking, sometimes you may be surprised.  There is a good post on this topic in a blog I follow about searching with Google, you may find it interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting Peter Folansbee

IMG_20131010_144252

Other side of the fence

I have followed Peter’s excellent blog posts for some years, so it was an exciting prospect to be meeting up with him in he carriage house at Plimoth Plantation MA.  I can’t see the point of being on holiday if there is no contact with the natives, and woody natives are the best.  For those few who do not know, Peter recreates  17th century furniture from mainly green, riven oak.  Many items of his work can be seen around the houses in the Museum, darkened by wood smoke and slowly rotting away from the feet up as they sit on earth floors.  It was a blast to chat with Peter, and a little bizarre to be on the other side of the fence with the public, asking dumb questions like the others.

SAMSUNG CSC

Peter showed me his stock of wood butts outside, beautiful straight-grained white oak is his favourite, and it is clear to see why from the quality of work he produces.  I had a quick lesson in the differences between red and white oak and English oak.  Of course I’ve read about the differences, but there is nothing like hands on experience.  There is English oak available in New England as the English navy used to plant acorns (see  Footnote 1).  Red oak is  only rarely grown in the UK, and mainly in arboreta.

On raw wood, Peter kindly gave me a couple of pieces of hickory for chisel handles, I’m looking forward to working these up.

I’d acquired a couple of books from Brattle second-hand book shop (more later) in Boston and we had a pore over them, as well as several that Peter bought off his bookshelf.

IMG_20131010_145231

In the above we are discussing over-turned chairs and the thrown three-legged stool as often seen in Pieter Brueghel’s paintings e.g.In The Fight between Carnival and Lent, there are a couple such being carried aloft in top right background (the image will enlarge if you click on it).

1559-Pieter-Bruegel-the-Elder-The-Fight-Between-Carnival-and-Lent-on-wood-118x1645-cm
But those ones have backs!  Peter tells me the 3 leggers never seem to pop up in inventories, so they are rather a mystery.  There is an excellent film here, of PF and the irrepressible Roy Underhill putting such a stool together.  I made one when I was just setting out, but I made mine up as I went along, and missed out on making the interlocking jonts.  It’s still in one piece despite that.

I hope to attend one of Peter’s carving classes, sometime soon, but in the meantime I have two of his DVDs on 17th century carving,  a heap of photos from  The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) and a whole country of English carved furniture to study.  Then yesterday I acquired the entire tool chest on a pattern-maker which has increased my collection of gouges by about tenfold (more later).

Drool, drool:

SAMSUNG CSC

Admiral Collingwood, Rotheram's commander at T...

Admiral Collingwood, Rotheram’s commander at Trafalgar, who considered his subordinate “stupid” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Footnotes:1. Dudley Pope relates an aspect of Collingwood at the beginning of chapter three of his Life in Nelson’s Navy: “Captain Cuthbert Collingwood, later to become an admiral and Nelson’s second in command at Trafalgar, had his home at Morpeth, in Northumberland, and when he was there on half pay or on leave he loved to walk over the hills with his dog Bounce. He always started off with a handful of acorns in his pockets, and as he walked he would press an acorn into the soil whenever he saw a good place for an oak tree to grow. Some of the oaks he planted are probably still growing more than a century and a half later ready to be cut to build ships of the line at a time when nuclear submarines are patrolling the seas, because Collingwood’s purpose was to make sure that the Navy would never want for oaks to build the fighting ships upon which the country’s safety depended.”

Two stools

Coppicing, felling, tushing (pretending to be a horse dragging timber rideside) trying to do a little woodwork.  Today it was coppicing.  Finally finished off the monster stool – it’s about 4 foot across, and severely overgrown.  Nothing else was growing within the spread of its massive (for hazel) canopy.  But after four visits its all down:

SAMSUNG CSCI should have taken a picture of the huge pile of wood we got from it.  ‘All’ that’s left to do now is to get it down to this level:

 

SAMSUNG CSCA neighbouring, smaller stool we took down in one today, thanks David!