No wonder I’m so tired of an evening …

Here’s a video of some green oak adzing I’ve been doing to make a pair of outdoor seats for either side of a green oak picnic table.

There’s about 10 seconds at normal speed, then about 4 minutes 20 seconds in slo-mo, which may get rather boring, if so fast forward to about 4m 30s where it’s back to normal speed and some work with the inshave.

Notice how the work rocks, that’s the pressure of being on film.  The screw clamp came loose and I didn’t want to stop and tighten it up again.

Anyway, the pair looks like this at the moment.

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I did some more of this:

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Unfortunately it burnt rather faster than usual and I had the lowest return yet, the charcoal had been merrily burning away to itself overnight before I shut it down and I got about half the weight I should have done. Can’t win ’em all!

Never mind, on the plus side we have lots of these:

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Bee eggs in a new colony we’ve just taken on to reinforce our small colony with the drone-laying queen.

And the bluebells are out in Strid Wood too.

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Bodgers’ Ball

Hello!

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We were at The Bodgers’ Ball at Wimpole Hall this last weekend and had a great time. Took the De Waard tent and collected my daughter Nim from Cambridge railway station.

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A bright start to Saturday morning.

SAMSUNG CSCOne of the good things about camping is cooking out-of-doors.  Nim’s tucking into porridge with raisins.  This is real porridge where the oats are just hulled and cut.  This means they need to be soaked overnight and then cooked for about half an hour.  We use charcoal, shavings that have flown, Kelly kettle, dutch oven and a great little Vietnamese charcoal cooker:

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Bolton Abbey charcoal, of course, easy to light, burns hot and long, and a steal at £3 a 2.5kg (easily portable under the arm), made from FSC woodland thinnings (Ok, less of the gratuitous self-advertising – Ed).  On Friday night we had fine couscous with a ladies fingers curry, 4 course dinner on Saturday was, sweetcorn cobs, barbecued veggie kebabs with grilled pitta bread, then sweet followed; barbecued bananas filled with chocolate.  I had a handful of syrup tin potatoes at this point then we had home-made cake and coffee.  Then the residual heat was used to stat the porridge soaking.

As you can guess from above, I did a bit of scything.  I’m just beginning learning this skill so I managed to pick up a few tips from the more experienced people there.  The meadow was a mixture containing fescues which dull your blade quickly because it contains silica.  I wasn’t sure whether it was that or my sharpening or cutting technique causing poor cutting.

There was Doug Joiner there doing some demo horse logging, here’s Simon from The Hall getting a bit of tutoring:

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Simon’s energy in organising and running the Ball was immense  Wimpole Hall and model farm is run by The National Trust and has quite a few heavy horses of its own.  Mostly the breed is Shire horses which apparently are on the endangered list.

SAMSUNG CSCThese are some of their cattle, an Irish breed, you can tell they are a heritage breed from that very square body.  Compare some of the old paintings, here’s out local Craven Heifer, much celebrated in pub names round home:

Even though the regimen is RSPCA Freedom Food it looked to me like the hooves of some of them needed clipping as they were very overgrown, I suppose lying about in crap all day doesn’t help, I suppose they’ll be let out once the grass is long enough.

There was such a lot going on, you really need to go to appreciate that.  Many pole lathes (all different designs) tool auction, log to leg racing, food, AGM, straw-plaiting, hedge laying, scything, timber hewing, purse net making (for rabbit ferreting), new and secondhand tools, and much more.  Such as Mr Nic Westerman making an axe from scratch.  He was using coke rather than charcoal – don’t blame him, an axe is a big chunk of steel!  Have a look on his website – he has some really beautiful leaf fobs that actually look like the species they represent.

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Here’s his natty forge made from what looks to be a wagon wheel, I wonder what the secret of the magic bellows box can be.  Runs from a 12 volt battery and there’s a switch hanging from the forge edge lower left.

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I bought quite a few items including a really beaut. of a plough plane – here it is already in service on the story/shepherd’s chair:
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That router can go back in its box now, noisy, dusty dangerously frightening semi-controllable beggar!

I bought a good flat adze in the auction to replace the one that grew legs and walk off from my workshop whilst unshafted. Also a new pair of large size log tongs. If you handle large lumps of wood get some of these, they will save your back and make life much more pleasant believe me – they are a dream when loading and unloading my trailer with 4 foot felled timbers. They become like an extension of your arm, and with practice you can throw a log and release it by jerking the tongs in a special way (Glad you didn’t try to make that particular point an instructable, remember the cost of your public liability insurance – Ed).

Also on my shopped for list were two hessian sacks, rather hard to come by these days, but good for informal rain hoods, aprons, bagging shavings or small children (Steady on! – Ed) OK small animals then.  They need a good banging with a carpet beater but today it’s going to pour it down all morning – floods appearing already.  Got a couple of presents for friends too.  Sean Hellman sold me a cake of pink honing compound, I’m finding Autosol that I’ve used up to now a bit too messy, so having a swap.

I visited the Shed Therapy setup and I’m rather taken with their ‘Make a Pencil’ activity for kids – should go down well at shows, and it’s Otley Show this coming Saturday.  Gavin has posted me some pencil leads so here’s hoping they arrive in time.

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OK I need to post this or it will be next week.

To finish a few pictures on the shepherd’s chair progress, making lambs tongue stops on the back frame members’ chamfers:

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East Riddlesden Hall Shepherd’s chair

SAMSUNG CSCYesterday we went to East Riddlesden Hall, which is our local National Trust property and is on a scale that suits us best.  It’s really not much more than a farm house, but was enlarged and upgraded by James Murgatroyd of Halifax who made his brass in the woollen industry.  The Hall is also where I’m taking my beginner’s bee keeping course and where The Airedale Beekeepers Association have their apiary.  The Hall exterior has black-faced stone, fairly rare now in the industrial West Riding, and is a relic from the heavily polluted sooty air during the Industrial Revolution.  The parish church in Halifax was another fine example last time I saw it.

I wanted to visit to take a few pictures and measurements of this chair:

SAMSUNG CSCIt is an example of a type of chair made in the Lancashire and Yorkshire Dales in the 18th and nineteenth century.  They are also known as lambing chairs.  I’ve yet to find any evidence to support the theory that they were used by shepherds at lambing time and the dog or a lamb could be housed under the seat.  This one is certainly enclosed on three sides and would work as such, but more often they have a drawer under the seat, and maybe that is just missing from this one – my photos don’t give me enough detail to check, so I’ll have to revisit.  There is a very steep rake to the back, which I think is partly due to the back feet having rotted more than the front ones.

The main features of the style are the framed back. winged sides, arms and framed undercarriage.  Several examples also have the rope support for the seat and some have rather good carving to the back panelling.  There are not a great many survivors and so each one seems to vary from the others quite a bit. Bernard Cotton in his “English Regional Chairs” shows seven examples, none with a maker’s stamp.  He says:

The great variety of individual designs found in this group of chairs suggests that they were made by cabinet makers or carpenters for an individual order, rather than working in th tradition of the turner who made many chairs in the same design.  These chairs were, perhaps, the most comfortable and commodious made in the English common chair tradition.

It strikes a particular chord with me as we had one which used to have rockers (since removed) and my brother now has it.  I’ll be taking some photographs later.  The reason for my current interest is that I’ve been asked to make a story chair for Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes.  The chair will be sited outside in a new wildlife area so I’ll be finishing it off in situ on 23rd May at the opening of the new wildlife area.  The demands of outdoor living mean that the chair will not be a copy of an indoor shepherd’s chair, but inspired by the style.  I hope to have the shaped wings and arms and a panelled back as well as some basic carved decoration, hopefully.  The bottom will need to be very sturdy to create a robust bottom-heavy balance and withstand the rigours of Dales weather.

Last Friday I started splitting out some oak from a massive Bolton Abbey stem that I’ve already used in other work.  Here’s where I’ve got to so far:

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These are the raw splits into the thicknesses I will require adding an allowance for cleaning up, removing bark and sapwood etc.

The whole chair will eventually weather to this colour:

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But when freshly broken out of the oak butt it has this colour and an addictive aroma reminiscent of oak casks, whisky and leather:

SAMSUNG CSC  I’ll be doing some updates on this project as it progresses, maybe even doing one of these jobbies that Tony filmed during his coursework last Friday:

Meanwhile, I’ve a charcoal burn to do for an order as well as a couple of courses.

More woodland animals on the escape from Strid Wood:

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Veteran oak and smoke

I’ve just done the first charcoal burn of the year.  Turned out not bad.  Half the load was pre-sold and it was a good outturn 13 hefty 5 kg bags and 20 handy 2.5kg bags, or, technically, big and little bags.

One of the trickiest parts of making charcoal in a steel kiln is judging when to shut it all down by sealing out the air.  Too early and the charcoal can be smoky when burning as all the tar hasn’t been burnt away and more brown ends are produced.  Too late and you’ve burnt some of the charcoal away into the air.  One way to judge the state of the burn is to look at the smoke.

This smoke is dirty-coloured. At the start of the burn the smoke is just about white as the wood’s moisture is driven off as steam.  Then towards the end the smoke gets dirty as the built up tar burns and evaporates away.  This is the sort of smoke you don’t want to inhale.  Next comes the critical point.  The smoke starts to clear a bit.

However, if it is left too long at this stage and the smoke turns blue, then you’re loosing money as the charcoal production starts to go up the chimneys! Notice ruined Bolton Priory in the background?  What a place to work!

The final sign to heed is what is happening at the base of the air intakes.

The tar can be seen burning a pink colour here and it’s about time to shut down.

Theo and I delivered part of the bagged up out turn to Howgill Lodge caravan site and on the way we pass The Laund Oak.  This is a veteran tree that used to mark the boundary between the forests of Barden and Knaresborough.  You can see it’s a veteran from the hollow trunk, the massive girth and the dead limbs.  There is still life in it though, its buds have not burst in this photo but there will be a modest display of oak leaves shortly.

Interesting word Laund; it means a clearing in a forest where deer can graze, and the legal definition in England is an area where deer were raised, principally for hunting by the king and his cronies, and occasionally poached by us peasants on pain of severe consequences at the hands of the verderers, who enforced the king’s law in the forests.

“…yet even from the wide tracts of forest, there was something more substantial to be gained than the pleasures of the chase. They were under the charge of bailiffs, who (in each bailiwick, as it was called) had their staff of foresters, verderers regarders, agistors, and woodwards, who collected and annually accounted for the profits of waifs, agistments, pannage … for the pasturage of hogs on the acorns, etc., … hollies, and perhaps other trees, for we have the word preserved in Anglo-Saxon, hirst, a wood), the croppiugs of which formed a principal article of winter fodder for cattle as well as sheep, and was valuable, as appears from an entry in Henry Younge’s, the forester of Barden’s book, a.d , 1437 : ‘ of husset sold to the amount of IV. iiis. viiid.’ (at least fifty pounds of our money), also of bark croppings, turbery (peat turf), and bee-stock. For in the old economy of the forest, wild bee-stocks were always an object of attention, and in France, as well as in England, officers called Bigres or Bigri (a byke was a bee’s nest in Chaitcer’s day), perhaps from Apigeri (bee-keepers) were appointed specially for pursuing the bees and securing their wax and honey. And it is to be remembered that those rugged districts, now stripped of their woods, are spoken of in the Compotus of Bolton as far from destitute of timber. The manor and chase of Barden comprised three thousand two hundred and fifty-two acres. The forest of Skipton. which comprised an area of six miles by four, or fifteen thousand three hundred and sixty acres, seems to have been enclosed from very early times with a pale, a practice indeed, introduced by the Norman Lord. Here the mast bearing and bacciferous trees, particularly the Arbutus, were planted ; and herein were nourished the stag, the wild boar, the fallow deer, the roe, and the oryx (or the wild bull), which, indeed, during the winter were fed with beans, even as the few remaining deer above Bolton are fed still. There was many a ‘ toft and croft ‘ also, as they were called (i.e., a homestead with a space of clear ground around it), where sheep browsed among the brushwood and glades. And so the forest furnished support for those who dwelt in it, either by fair means or foul.” Edmund Bogg. Extract from “Two thousand miles in Wharfedale; a descriptive account of the history, antiquities, legendary lore, picturesque features, and rare architecture of the Vale of the Wharf, from Tadcaster to Cam Fell. Three hundred and twenty illustrations.”

It’s a bit quieter in the forest today, and there seem to be about as many wooden deer produced as live ones.  Here are two people, Jo and Andy,  who came on a woodland course this week.


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Charcoal ovens and witch charms (more stone than wood again)

We went to Skipton Castle last Saturday morning (cheapskates, there was a voucher for free family admission in the local paper – Craven Herald).  I was amazed to see how old Swiss army knives are – see them featured on the ancient coat of arms of the Clifford family above.

The castle is in very good nick to say its 900 years old, mind you the walls are 3 metres thick and it held out for 3 years under siege during the Revolution.  Part of the castle is still occupied by the Fattorini family, but the Clifford family managed to hold onto it for nearly 400 years.  Here’s a view from the back showing the occupied quarters (more like half – Ed.)

Anyways, the feature that struck me immediately was the masons’ marks on each window reveal:

It quickly became apparent that these marks are not only masons’ marks, but some are charms to keep something evil out of the castle by protecting the window openings and at least one doorway (couldn’t spot any on a fireplace though, but I’m told there is one such in the oak room above the shell grotto in the East tower of the gatehouse.)  Feast your eyes.  Apparently the genuine mason’s marks help to date similar parts of the castle and its additions and alterations.

This could be what we’re missing these days – perhaps we should get some of these in our house, workshops and woods to stop onslaughts from bankers, trolls, junk mail, deer, rabbits, squirrels and the rest?  I’ve got a glass rolling-pin I’m intending to fill with salt & hang by the fireplace which apparently has a similar preventative effect.

I guess these marks may have been made during the siege as the windows were added in Tudor times (before the Civil War) when they thought war in England was over (never mind, we’re all wise in retrospect.)

I really liked the roof timbers in this room (the kitchen I think, off the banqueting hall).  The room also has a garderobe just off, a view from the outside of which shows why it is also called “the long drop”:

There was a rubbish chute from the kitchen next to it.  This also shows what a good location for the castle was chosen in 1090 – just about impregnable up the North side cliff.

Another thing that caught my professional/businessman’s eye was this:

Any guesses?

I also liked the warm irregularity of this building in the courtyard.  Why don’t they build like that anymore?

Inevitably we had to do a little walk in the woods too.  Skipton Woods are owned by The Castle and managed by The Woodland Trust.  The ransoms (Wild Garlic) are just coming through.

Wild

How does this
Plus this

Become this?

With a lot of hard work and lifting.  So we were rather envious of Dan’s:

May try to lighten up next year.

The pictures are from 2011’s Wild About Wood at Castle Howard, N Yorkshire. We had a good couple of days, cooking on charcoal in our dutch oven, demo-ing charcoal making, making a stool and a Viking cup, racing spinning top making and getting quite a few people to have a go.

Meanwhile back in the woods …

The days are shortening and the afternoon shadows are lengthening.  Been a good Summer for the moss:

Most forest-like.