6 feet in 1/16ths of an inch

I’ve been making informal seating from ash cheeses for a client.  I started with a sample one in the bodgery.

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Bodgery cheese

I’m using a 1 1/2 inch auger to get some beef into the joints.  I don’t usually work with cheeses as they have a good chance of splitting and ash splits in spades (they don’t call it most excellent splitter for nothing).  However, the client wants it this way, the cheeses were there and I’ve explained about the splitting, and they are partly dry.

I’ve been having to use heavy smoke methods to deter midges, which have been a real nuisance recently.  It does give a moody tone to photos though.

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Veritas, Veritas semper Veritas.

I use a tenon cutter for the tenons from those excellent folk in Canada, you know the one I mean.

Well the sample went down well, so yesterday and today I’ve been making the other 5 seats and a table.  Made the legs in Strid Wood, then moved to the client’s house today for mortising.

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Hobbit stools

I had to rig up a temporary vice as there is a lot of torque involved in turning that auger 3″ deep.

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Ratchet vice

I strapped each seat in turn to the underside of what would become the table top which is the biggest heaviest cheese.  Worked pretty well.

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Done.

Notice the tiny one sitting atop a full-sized stool?  It for the toddler in the family.

I managed to avoid a few potential problems – nails

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Hidden steel.

The tree was a couple of years older than I am.

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67, born from an ash key in 1948.

So … today 5 seats and a table, four 3 inch holes each, 5 foot of hole, each shaving from the auger is 1/16th of an inch, guess what’s coming … 60 times 16 is 960 turns – very good for the pecs, but also rather tiring, especially as the seats and table had to be leveled and the edges chamfered.

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Freehand draw-knife work.

No wonder then that I managed to cut a hole in my new work trousers (and my knee) with the drawknife. Well I was about finished and found a handy bandage in the ambulance  Land Rover, could have used a couple of Steristrips though.

Meanwhile, back in the woods.

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That’s no dog’s bark

Someone had been eating the beech bark, well stripping it actually and not eating any at all.

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Send them back home

Grey squirrels, they are no match for a 410 shotgun.

 

 

A Nature Walk

When I was a lad at school (this is before the Beatles were invented) we used to go on nature walks from school along the banks of the Leeds and Liverpool canal. We picked wild flowers (imagine that) and brought them back to school to identify and draw.

At work I sometimes treat myself to a post prandial stroll through Strid Wood to see what’s going on. On Thursday it was get your boots on Spring.

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Not very much in the way of colour (other than green) but then the ramsons are back!  Wild garlic, a delight to the palette and an intense green.  Here be green flowers.

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This is dogs mercury.  The mercury bit gives a clue to its toxicity.  But it is about the first flower to bloom in these woods, and it blows for many months – in fact some of last year’s stalks are still standing with a few dishevelled leaves (mainly through the absence of any snow).

This isn’t wild garlic, Lords and Ladies methinks, not palatable, but also very green.

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Look at this – wild strawberry leaves.

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And these guys are here almost all the time, sometimes 20 foot up in the trees.

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And then there’s moss.

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Lots of it, climbing anything raised from the woodland litter.

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Sometimes creating a landscape of its own, with sinister companions.

SAMSUNG CSCOk more sinister.

SAMSUNG CSCRather like trees.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCAnd they like trees.

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No fear of man-made sawing horses either.

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(These can be used as splitting breaks too.)

I been doing woodwork too. Planing ash.

SAMSUNG CSCTo make a test stool leg.

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But really I’d like to do some painted work that would look like this.

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A Correction for Laziness

Title page of the first quarto edition of Shak...

Title page of the first quarto edition of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1600 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been struggling along with a sash cramp made up of Marples loose heads and a 3 foot odd piece of milled ash.  The ash was thicker than it needed to be, so I’d attacked it with the axe to thin it down and seem to have drilled random holes that were:

a) not far enough away from the edge of the  ash to make the heads seat properly, and

b) the randomness meant that it was almost always the wrong length and much packing was needed to make them kind of work.

I occasionally get fed up with my sloppy ways as I did when I was using this sash cramp on the memory box which has now gone to a satisfied customer:

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When I set initially set up in Strid Wood I had a pole lathe and a shave horse and a stock – simple old days.  Then I added a bench.  No vice mind, just some dogs and a weird cam device, which kind of worked.

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Now I have a proper(-ish) bench with a vice I made a couple of winters ago, with dogs, yes, and some Gramercy hold fasts from Brooklyn.  But why do I put up with inconvenience for so long before I sort it out?  The inconvenience is often more time-consuming in the long run than doing the fix.  Well all I can say with Puck is ‘Lord, what fools these mortals be!’ (Midsummer Night’s Dream).

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing....

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. From William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway,  I sorted out the ash plank yesterday:

SAMSUNG CSCAll I needed to do was some (rather warming) planing the thickness, measuring and boring.  So now the heads sit properly, are set at the right width so I can cramp any length up to about 3’3″ on a continuous scale, and I can pat myself on the head (but not necessarily rub my tummy at the same time (C’mon it’s not that hard – Ed)).

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Look how crazy the old holes were on the back of that plank, doh!

Weather update

It has been too cold for anything much to grow for the last month when Spring should have been springing, but I’m delighted to say that Spring has now indeed sprung and the wood has suddenly come very much alive, even the bluebells look to be about to give us their misty display at any moment:

SAMSUNG CSCGrass is flowering:

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Any day now the wood will be carpeted with these little beauties – wood anemones:

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And now the Bodgery has its chimney in constant smoke to keep away the little flying blighters that love to bite my skin:

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Complicated

 

SAMSUNG CSCDo you know what I like about trees? They have no straight lines – especially if, like this one (probably a veteran ash – has lots of missing branches, associated fungi and a massive girth (about four hugs), grown in a hedgerow.  I have this thing about trees – forest or hedgerow, crowd or singleton.  I’m not sure which is more ‘natural’ – probably both.

Probably a bit like life, unpredictable, lots of twists and turns, things happen, the wind blows and life changes.  This is how it is supposed to be, well, anyway it’s how it is.

 

Here we go! Bring on the future oak forest …

We always try to go for a walk on New Year’s Day.  It is usually quite brisk. This year we stayed local and walked from home, just a short way onto the moor above our village.  This moorland has an interesting history, much of it hidden.  There are a couple of despoiled long barrows from the bronze age.  A monument to Queen Victoria’s jubilee year.  Two millstone grit quarries, where building stone was extracted for local buildings, including, presumably, the one in which we live.

“When I was a lad”, as we like to say around here, the moor had been recently grazed by sheep and was mostly heather, or ling (useful for thatching and for raising grouse for sport), with some bracken and small areas of trees, not big enough to call woodland.

During the last 50 years the wood has been steadily marching over the moor, unbrowsed by sheep.  It is a mini study in colonisation by those cunning ancient earth dwellers – trees.

This post is a pictorial (Eh, that’s not really anything different then – Ed) check on how that progress is going.

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English: Birches in Sherwood Pines Forest Park...

English: Birches in Sherwood Pines Forest Park. Sherwood Pines is mainly pine woodland with birch, oak, sweet chestnut and beech. The silver birch, one of our most common native trees, is becoming a feature of woodland glades on this former heathland site as natural habitats are restored. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These guys start the assault – silver birches (OK there’s a sycamore or three in there too).  They must have started their invasion about 50-70 years ago, my Mum and Dad used to pick their favourites when they were out walking in courtship before the Second World War.  This picture shows a dell we really like, a stream runs through the middle and it is mostly silver birches.  You could sleep out here, or have a picnic.  The trees have shaded the ground for so long that the heather and bracken have given up and grass is prevailing.

Look at the trunk (stem) on this one – you can easily tell we’ve had a really wet 2012 (Well it was a bit dry in March) – look at he green of the moss.

DSCF1193So, the silver birches started the colonization quickly followed by these fellows.

DSCF1197This is a mountain ash, as we call them (Rubbish picture – Ed. Well at least you can see all the rubbish bracken and that’s about all there is to see where there’re no trees – FS).  They have no close relationship to the real ashes, except that they have a similar leaf form, so they will not suffer the dread fate of chalara fraxinea or ash die back – more of this in 2013 and for a couple of decades to come.  My father hated this tree as it produces it’s bright red berries really early in autumn, presaging the cold Winter days to come (he worked out of doors).

OK, fast forward, and today the oak is establishing itself widely on our moor.  The pictures should tell the story, but they need a little help.  They start small.

DSCF1184Oaks don’t appear on their own, they are helped by squirrels (wash your mouth out) and jays burying acorns and forgetting where they are – apparently jays are the best at this.  In Winter, unlike their parents, they keep their dead leaves on which helps protect buds against frost (it says here).

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This makes them really easy to spot in Winter.  Below’s one open to the vicious blast of our prevailing West Wind, you can perhaps see how the leaves have been ripped off windward, but preserved leeward, and how the growth of the tree has been affected.

DSCF1195If the sapling grows in a sheltered position the formation of the tree is much more even.

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This one is atop one of the stone quarries and therefore a bit exposed, but it seems to be coping well. See those serried ranks of silver birch in the distance.

As I look forward to 2213 I am happy that there is a good chance of oak trees like these coming to adulthood and producing much of value to whoever walks the moor in those days to come.

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Servers deer course

Pigs and deer, that’s what the green visitors to Strid Wood have been making this weekend.  All adults this time, two birthday presents, two ladies and three gents.  A jolly good bunch with handsome woodland animals to take home.

This is not a skills course just a couple of hours of fun making something for the garden.  The main work consists of drilling one inch mortice holes with a hand auger and then fitting legs, necks heads and antlers with matching tenons using a draw knife and rounder plane.  I guess some of the skill for beginners is understanding that any skill at all is required to make something by hand.  It requires concentration to make the tools jigs and clamps work effectively, and the result is so free-form that (sometimes with a little tweak from my Silky saw) it always pleases.

It’s a different day for me, baking the rolls first thing, getting the soup ready, making sure the stove is roaring away to heat the soup, tidying up, making sure the right tools are available, and then splitting my time several ways between the participants to make sure everyone progresses.  As I know, it can get a little cold standing around (mental note to self; long johns compulsory on course days!)

Very busy now with Christmas orders as well as courses.  Made a set of salad servers:

A bunch of wine carriers (this is getting a bit like production runs):

They’re being collected today.  I need to replenish supplies of deer, foxes, bird tables as well as complete a half-dozen split ash hurdles.  There’s a small table on the stocks too.  Got a load of logs home last week so should be OK until Christmas now.

The Examination and Trial of Father Christmas,...

The Examination and Trial of Father Christmas, (1686), published shortly after Christmas was reinstated as a holy day in England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Busy, busy, busy!

Get a new head & make a spoon

I’m trying to refine my spoon carving skills.  Making spoons is not my main day job, and I’ve had slow sales, then in the last week, I’ve sold three, taken an order for an engraved one and had the best one I ever made stolen (it was made from a crooked branch and was a cranked ladle with a pointed pouring lip – birch, if you see it, smack its bum and send it home, it had a hook on the back to hang it off the side of a pot – here it is:

).

I’m going to concentrate on making this spoon as seen in the above series.  Pretty small and thin and with endless opportunities for decorations at the top (the commissioned one will have  a hazel nut, echoing the wood type).

There is no Summer in the UK this year – the Jet Stream has gone on holiday apparently! However, the meadowy sides of the road into Bolton Abbey don’t seem to mind, these spotted orchids have grown very tall:

I’ve been making the shave horse modification as  Peter Galbert has neen kindly telling us about.

I got to the final stages today

Planing the base of the bed – from sweet chestnut.  Look how you can hold a piece of wood.  Holdfast at the far end. A dog underneath to slope it 10 degrees (or 1″ in 4″, I believe) and a dog aside, to stop the work wandering about the bench. It looks so rough as I was using the scrub plane.  Finished it off with the jointer.

I did some glueing yesterday. This is the leg with the ratchet.  Notice the filled tooth where I drilled for a dowel in the wrong place whilst talking to a passerby.  I don’t use steel cramps much but they were very useful this time, and here’s a wooden one …

Blimey!  Bit of an bondage moment, but these pieces are very technical.  The wooden cramp is great.  I tried to make one (an other unfinished project).  They work so well , I must make some more.  I acquired this one at The Bodgers’ Ball this year in Devon.

This is the old horse stripped down readying for the new Smarthead (© Peter Galbert).

The slot needed enlarging:

I noticed the original cut-out was done with the chainsaw, I was a bit quieter this time and chopped it out.

That’s about as far as I got as I managed to break the top-toothed member in testing.  I’d used ash and the gluing hadn’t taken (lousy planing I’m afraid t have to blummin’ admit (again)).  I’ll be remaking it in elm – no way that’ll split.

Watch this space but I’m off work for a week now, breaking in my new clogs

… so don’t hold your breath.