When a tree falls in the forest …


SAMSUNG CSCHave you seen this tree before?

It was rather windy and wet this Sunday at the end of November.  I had a course for a couple of people from Manchester, who went home happy with their fox and badger:


The River Wharfe‘s in spate.

My workshop is almost in the bottom of a steep little valley, or ghyll as we call ’em round here, it is therefore very well sheltered from the Westerly winds, but there was even a breeze coming right into the bottom and blowing the smaok from my fire around rather a lot, but we’d been keeping dry under the tarp.

I was tidying up and starting to make a couple of deer for a customer when there was an almighty cracking and the sound of a massive tree going down in the wind.  It was at the back where I have no rear view so I ejected out at the front over the fence.  To my dismay a very large bough had been ripped from my favourite oak tree (see above):


One bough missing.

There was still creaking and groaning going on.  The oak was now weakened and seriously unbalanced.  A large hole had appeared in the canopy.  Then …

A corresponding limb on the other side came away.  The oak tree has now lost its good looks:



Very fortunate that nobody was walking along the path where these tons of oak fell.

What a disaster for the many flora and fauna dependent on this tree, there was quite a dust as the airborne debris fell around me.  Some of these:


Twigs, oak apples and lichen.

The Estate have winched the boughs from the path and repaired same.  Anyway, I think I’ll be making a few bowls, from little of the timber, the tree is high up on the bank and the timber is being left as deadwood.



The dark side of the spatula

I lost/mislaid my Coleman lamp and now it gets dark in the woods towards 4pm (and we’re in the gloomy “no sun” months).  I found a storm lantern, but it just doesn’t cut the mustard.  Seems somehow to make it darker (as they seem to say in novels) perhaps it’s a dark lantern.

A dark lantern

It’s certainly too dark to read, but nevertheless, my breakfast reading is:

Scan 1Very interesting book.  Works over a very wide definition of craft including medicine, cooking, cello playing, glassblowing, programming to name just a few. It considers the craftsman, machines and their rise, the workshop (e.g that of Stradivari) , the workshop system, including apprenticeships, and gets deeper and deeper into issues such as material consciousness and the hand.  I thoroughly recommend it.

Coincidentally, I’ve been repeat making spatulas (or spatulae as I would like to think in Latin) like Owen Jones makes 10 an hour of:


Master’s left, my first poor effort right.

I’ve done quite a few now, and even sold some!  Today’s …

IMG_0420Changed species from (English) sycamore to some kind of willow that I mistakenly took for alder.  The two with the narrowest handles are the sycamore ones. I carved them in the dark last Thursday.  This is what they looked like raw:

IMG_0416I’d missed putting the chamfer at the top of the handle on the bottom one.  But otherwise they look kind of OK.  Having thought about this a bit, I realised that I am working in the dark anyway when I cut down the blade/handle transition in the shave horse …

IMG_0418I just can’t see the curve from above, so I must be beginning to do it by feel.  Then on Saturday morning I read this in “The Craftsman” .. he is discussing learning the craft of glassblowing,

The problem, she came to understand, lay in dwelling in that moment of “being as a thing”*.  To work better, she discovered, she needed to anticipate what the material would become in its next, as-yet non-existent, stage of evolution.  Her instructor called this simply “staying on track”.

*Previously explained thus “We have become the thing on which we are working.”

Simple huh?  Read the book, Richard Sennett explains it well, and not in a long boring drawn-out kind of way either like some Utube phart.

Anyway, I’ve not just been making spatulae.  I’ve a course coming up teaching a carved bowl.  Thought I’d better brush up as I’ve not made one in a while.  Took loads of tools with me, and forgot the blummin’ adze.  So I used gouges instead – what an happy accident.  Changed the inside of the bowl completely, nice and deep and one has steep sides and a flat bottom.  I guess I could do it with the adze too, but it would take some practice.

IMG_0412 IMG_0398

PS, the Coleman lamp has turned up over the weekend and it gave great light this evening, especially after I’d pumped it up properly.

Malleable iron


After the spring failed on our back door handle I am having to replace the pair of ’em (after only 22 years, blimey!).  I found this run through of making malleable iron castings very interesting, you may too – if you like that sort of thing.

It’s worth clicking through to the process, lots of photos of hot iron being poured etc. RAL (AKA FS)

Why Black Malleable iron products are special?
Before we go into details about Kirkpartick it is important to understand why their products are special. All Kirkpartick products are 100% British Made British made and take over six weeks to complete. Kirkpartick make their products from malleable iron, not cast iron. This is an important difference and should be understood. Cast iron is a superb medium for items such as brackets, knobs and other non moving parts. It is very strong under compression, such as when used as a bracket, but brittle under tension. Malleable iron is much stronger and less brittle under tension and this makes it excellent for thin items and moving parts such as hinges and gate latches.
Malleable iron is basically cast iron which has had an extra special heat process added to it during it’s production. This ‘annealing’ process gives the iron malleability (hence the name malleable iron). This makes the iron much stronger and gives it a slight elastic property which, unlike cast iron, stops it from being brittle. Stopping cast iron from being brittle has been a special technique used by Kirkpartick for 140 years. Because the iron is now malleable, component moving parts are now able to be hand riveted together giving a very much stronger joint which will never break. This cannot be done with cast iron because it is brittle and therefore runs the risk of breaking. Many cheap imported products which look the same as Kirkpatrick products are make from cast iron and the component parts are held together using cheap spring washers which will usually break at some point, we do not sell these cheaper products. Each and every product from Kirkpatrick is individually hand riveted (where required), this ensures outstanding quality which is unsurpassed anywhere.
Overall you can be confident when you buy a Kirpatrick product you are guaranteed to be purchasing a 100% British made British made product, made in the original foundry in Walsall, West Midlands, which has been hand finished in a process that takes over six weeks to complete and possessing a quality that is unsurpassable and will last you a lifetime. We are so confident in Kirkpartick products we offer a returns no quibble guarantee.
Click here to learn more about how it is made. [It’s worth clicking through to the process, lots of photos of hot iron being poured etc. RAL (AKA FS)].
Monkey Rats Tail Window Casement
Thumb Latch
Kirkpatrick HistoryWilliam Kirkpatrick, Esq., J. P. (1817-1887). Founder, in the year 1855, of the business in Walsall, that was carried on for many years in his name and under his direction. His son, Vincent Kirkpatrick, succeeded his father and presided over the incorporation of the business as a Limited Company in 1901. Upon incorporation, many loyal and long serving employees were given a shareholding. This started a tradition which continues to this day. Many of the descendents of those first shareholders still retain their interest in the Company and the Kirkpatrick family still also retain a shareholding.
I Mak Siccar
The origin of “I mak siccar” forms a direct link with one of the most decisive events in Scotland’s history.
The defeat of Wallace by Edward 1 at Falkirk in 1298 was reputed to be due to the defection of the forces of John Comyn, Earl of Badenoch, to the English. After the capture and execution of Wallace in 1304, Comyn had ambitions of becoming King of Scotland himself. It was at the Monastery in Dumfries that Robert the Bruce, a strong supporter of Wallace, and Comyn came face to face. They quarreled. Comyn was stabbed by Bruce. Rushing out to his escorts Bruce told them, “I doubt I have slain Comyn.” Roger Kirkpatrick, saying “I mak siccar” (I’ll make certain) ran into the building and finding Comyn wounded but alive, stabbed him to the heart. Subsequently, Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland in 1306.

I’ve been making paint

IMG_0387I’ve not had a lot any success with home-made paint before. But I think I’ve cracked it this time.  Started with some brick red.


Heavy computer case man.

I made it with water, lime pigment and a little linseed (flax) oil.  It took a while to dry and then was powdery, so I sealed it with a couple of coats of finishing oil.

Had another go today.


Looks even heavier in black. (I’m surprised at that knife stuck in by its tip, a wet handle is hardly a sufficient excuse. – Ed)

This is mostly charcoal & raw linseed oil with a little red to get some lime in as I forgot to take it to the woods. I then started wondering, how about using it to get an antique finish?

IMG_0384This is a little test panel I made in early days of green oak decoration.

I wonder …

07267008_2Dare I, should I?

Made some spatulas after Owen Jones pattern:


Owen’s at left.


One good apple in the barrel …

We’ve been to RHS Wisley garden too.  The orchard was grrreat, good job I had an healthy appetite.


One of many, many varieties.

They had some good oak benches too.


Proper bench.

Made by these chaps.


Maker’s mark.

Soon be Christmas.

Can you make me a …..

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is when I get a request like this, which I find when I come into work:


New on old

What could be better than giving new life to old tools.  The finished ones on the left are 50 years old I’m told, they had no handles when they arrived.  They will make a good set when completed.

I was at Harlow Carr RHS garden at Harrowgate (as we wickedly insist on calling Harrogate in Bolton Abbey) last weekend.  Lovely garden, a handful of other craftspeople and an apple and fungi display and identification service amongst other stuff that it’s hard to get to see when I’m working.

However, I did get plenty of opportunity to chat with my neighbour at the show, Owen Jones MBE.  What a good chap he is.  Showed me how to cut his spatulas with the drawknife.  He takes 6 minutes.  His at left, my first poor effort at right.  I’ll be working on this.




Harrogate Autumn Flower Show


Weeton Show earlier this year

A quick reminder that I will be at Harrogate Autumn Flower Show in the Great Yorkshire Showground on this Friday 18th September for three days.

Under my white tarpaulin I will be demonstrating the pole lathe and you can a a go for free and gratis.  I’ll selling my woodland products and making them.

Call in for a chat about things woody, courses, Christmas present orders, etc.


I think I make life hard for myself sometimes.

I make garden benches in a particular style.  The style avoids many square angles, straight edges and all those luxuries that make joinery easy to fit together.


Starting assembly

Who else would use round peeled oakwood for a crest rail, combined with slabbed waney-edged chestnutwood for a saltire back, and riven hedgerow oak for end frames?


Embryonic end frames


Saltire components

Making mortise & tenon joints can be demanding; just how does one lay out the two joints to fit the armrests – where does the front through tenon fall, much deliberation, center finding, and, well, some guess-work, I guess.


Chase the mortise

I’ve found that a full-sized drawing can help with some dimensions.


How long’s that arm rest to be?

Starts to come together gradually.


Getting there



I should stick to helping people make bears.


Bear & fox.

But then, there is some reward in going out on a limb.



Clothes rack detail.

Reusing 17th century carving motifs.


Sycamore chopping board

Redesigning the iPad from the outside:


Thicker, heavier.

Ah, perhaps life’s not so bad, after all, I do have the privilege of living in God’s Own County (Yorkshire, where it’s always sunny).


Culloden Tower, Richmond, North Yorkshire


Richmond, Yorkshire

IMG_0288Cockpit Millennium Garden, Richmond Castle