Carving – it’s real.

On a visit to Ilkley I took a couple of photos in the Manor House museum and the parish church next door. I should have taken my tripod, it was very dark in the church. Old buildings do have smaller windows.  Both these buildings are in the very old centre of Ilkley, in fact the Manor House is built on the site of a Roman fort and incorporates some of its stonework.

It’s good when you can find solid examples of work read about in books.  Here is a joined chair from the Manor House.  Not heavily decorated, and maybe unfinished?  The middle of the ‘flower’ designs on the top rail of the chair back seems vague compared to the other six.  The first initial on the crest rail seems barely more than marked out and the second initial and the ‘1’ of the date are rather shallowly defined.


The turnery and mouldings are bolder and crisper.  I’m going to have to look at this again and take better photos, there looks to be a decent zig-zag or dog tooth design on the front apron below the seat.  The panel in the back looks like it might have been repaired.

What I particularly like about these kind of pieces is the informal way the pattern is set out with no slavish adherence to symmetry.  This is a fairly basic design and execution compared to this beauty at Bolton Priory near to where I work.



This rather finely executed chair has a high regard for symmetry and those leaves on the panel are beautifully done.  The crest has great power, supported by the scrolled brackets.  It must be almost like wearing a crown sitting there in state.


This is the only stick of old furniture in the Priory, a little disappointing considering the priory , but The Victorians seem to have had a field day and all the woodwork is modern gothic, very dull to my taste.

Back in Ilkley The Victorians had also ripped out all the family pews, except for one:

Family Watkinson's pew dated 1633

Family Watkinson’s pew dated 1633

I need to go back and get a better picture as the whole thing is a pretty well preserved box pew.  It’s an enclosed pew which looks like this:

ilkley pew

© Copyright Alexander P Kapp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Quick body swerve back to the Manor house and here’s a real example of a table made to be set against the side of a room rather than in the middle.

Wall side:


SAMSUNG CSCOnly carved where it will be seen, otherwise just a nice bit of moulding. Interesting box there too.  Ah so much to discover and so little time.  I must return (well it’s about 10 minutes walk away!) to my village church where there are some very fine pew fronts (on 19th century working parts), I knew I remembered some good carvings from my choirboy days.

choir deskingKildwick

© Charles Tracey,Evaluating English Pews.

And what have I been doing?

SAMSUNG CSCTurning pigs’ noses, for Goodness sakes!



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!

A four-legged workshop

Today I ran a workshop for five people making deer.  I was ably assisted by my wife (chief photographer, waitress, tool mistress and adviser for the day).  Two of the chaps on the course shared today as their birthday and the course was a present from their wives.  Although we were surrounded by (melting) snow I managed to keep everyone busy and all went home with a deer (except for me, I’m more of a venison man):

Here are the youngest and oldest 15 to 62 (fortunately my insurance cover goes as low as 9 years old).

These gels had fun:

I should point out that the rips in the jeans were pre-existing and that no humans were harmed in the making of these deer.  The red stains liberally sprinkled around the middle work bench are just Flying Goose hot sauce stains caused during an eating incident at lunchtime.

There were actually six members of the course but the robin just didn’t seem to get the hang of things at all.  He seemed to enjoy the biscuits and home-baked bread nonetheless.

It has been very scenic in the wood this past week, if a bit chilly.  I’m surprised at the very low numbers of visitors considering the sights to be seen:

I think sometimes I like the shape of trees without their leaves better than with.  The shape is so much more clear and stark and beautiful.

Even the messy old bodgery looked not bad:

The sun did his bit too to make things look good:

These pictures take a bit of getting as the sun only shines on my side of the River Wharfe briefly in these short Winter days.

I feel so sorry for the wildlife living outdoors all the time, I know vaguely how they must feel, and they don’t have four pairs of trousers and five tops like me.  Earlier this week at home the temperature dropped to minus 13 centigrade – just how do you sleep out through that?  Maybe the cold is just another state to wildlife, but I guess they must enjoy warmer weather.

And another thing, why do snow pictures usually look as though they were taken on (almost) black and white film?

But always at my back I hear / Time’s wingéd charriot hurrying near.

Spring is well under way now in Strid.

The bluebell leaves are everywhere, and where they’re not there is wild garlic:

Most people will see these two easily, but if you look more closely there is an abundance of other plants shooting up.

Wood anenomy, one of my favourite Spring flowers:

Dogs mercury, as it’s name suggest, poisonous and very thickly spread in Strid:

Even the wild strawberries are back:

Down by the River Wharfe the butterburrs are sprouting through. I think they look pretty alien, I assume they are of a very old genesis:

The dipper now is separate from its mate who is presumably nesting. You maybe able to make out the white spot of his breast feathers at the far side in the river, standing on a semi-submerged stone:


I’ve not just been idly snapping photos either. Yesterday I made this bowl (not quite finished yet):

And today I need to get more felled wood back to the woodpile and sheeted before, the plants are too tall, the birds nest, the wood starts to spoil … and people start making shelters & bridges with it or chucking it into the river. Cleared most of it now with the help of some asylum seekers from all the trouble spots in the world.

On with the work; load of logs to make, shift wood, get ready for the Knaresborough Castle medeval do on Saturday, edit bowl carving video (watch this space), chop, chop!

Made it.

The six chairs are now united in their new home on the moors above Bolton Abbey.

My customers are very pleased, especially with the little table

It was rather a struggle to get up there, even with snow chains on the Landy.  I kept thinking, well I’ll get up there, but maybe not get back.  But I was accompanied back and two shovels came in very handy clearing 3 foot drifts of heavy melting snow that the Landy kept on bellying on.  All the snow’s gone from down in the valleys round here, but at 1,600 feet up where the chairs now live it had only just yesterday got above freezing, first time in weeks, and my customers had not had their 4×4 car down to the village since New Year’s Day!

The package in may last post was a 2 1/2 pound Kentish pattern axe that I’m now making a new handle for. It looked like it was going to be a cleaver from the package!  Photos to follow when it’s re-shafted.  It’s an old War Department one in good nick.  I do wish, however, that people who sell tools on eBay would resist the temptation to ‘sharpen’ them.  Which usually just means putting a shiny, inexpert edge on with a grinding wheel.  Fortunately on this one they had not over-heated the edge and lost the metal’s temper as can happen with a powered grit stone.  I’ve just about restored a better smooth edge with my treadle-powered grit stone that runs in a bath of water keeping everything cool.

Course coming up tomorrow over at York with Paul Atkin.  I’m getting a couple of hook tools for bowl turning, and a half day on their use.


The thaw has started in Strid Wood, with the snow on the trees dripping into the snow.  It was also dripping off the tarp yesterday, mainly due to the roaring fire I got going in the afternoon.

In the morning I finished off moving all the stray Spring felled timber back to the bodgery.  I’ve been using two very useful tools for this.  First up the log tongs.  This is great.  The two dogs bite into the logs and then you can haul them into the trailer, mostly without touching them and keeping your gloves drier. The logs look rough, but they are fine inside.

If the logs are frozen together (and few weren’t!) I’ve been using this home-made pickeroon.

This was originally a short-handled job, not sure of its intended purpose, but with a long handle it’s great for freeing logs and digging the spike end into  log also allows rolling and pulling without bending – great!

While I was back in this part of the woods I surveyed my thinning work last year, you may be able to see all the stumps as larger black lumps.

And this is where I’m due to thin next.

There’s a lot of small stuff in there to fell.

Meanwhile back at the bodgery I spent the afternoon making rolling pin blanks and animals:

They are supposed to be foxes, the front one is OK.  I’ve since modified the big one into a bear, the rather angular one awaits further attention from the knife.

I also had a look round at tracks – I like the ‘shadow’ of the wing in this one:

When I got home there was an interesting eBay delivery:

Guess what’s inside.  See next post.

Last Orders

Autumn is well on its way now in Strid Wood.  I had a short stroll round at lunchtime yesterday and this is what I found:

These look harmless enough (they’re not in my fungi book, again!)

But this one is definitely not:

Destroying Angel, one of our more poisonous fungi – note the white gills and large ring distinguishing it from edible mushrooms.

(Amanita virosa, A. verna, and A. bisporigera) and death cap (Amanita phalloides) produce some of the most poisonous compounds known. As little as 30 grams, or half a mushroom cap, is fatal to a healthy, adult human. Amanitin poisoning is not a pleasant experience. The onset of symptoms does not begin for at least 10 hours; death may be delayed for as long as 10 days, which complicates diagnosis. When the toxin finally affects the victim, it causes severe abdominal upset, followed by liver, kidney, and circulatory system failure. The poison is usually fatal; there is no known antidote; and the progressive effect of the toxin causes the victim terrible suffering. It says here.

On a more pleasant note there is regeneration taiking place around the bodgery because of the higher light levels from last winter’s thinning work.  Even a couple of oaks:

After lunch I completed the assembly of the first of the six ash dining chairs I’m on with:

Then I sawed out a bowl-carving block, but more of that anon.