Stools, hazel and a building site

My wimping on about not getting a prize for my 3 legger caused a couple of comments about voting (notably from  Eric Bloodax Rick McKee, master hewer).  I’ve never tried this before so I thought I’d set up a poll, just for fun, and you should be able to see this in the right sidebar (may need to scroll down a bit or go to the “Home” page until I find out why if you go to an individual post no right sidebar info shows grrr!)).

Just to remind you, here are the stools in question:

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The three legger (Must get that focus sorted man! -Ed).

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The 4 legger with pretty flowers (Are these shots taken in a stone quarry? -Ed).

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Also ran.

Enjoy your voting – you can see the results with a simple click, unlike the retro polling of the political variety.

At the moment I feel a bit like a square peg in a round hole, bursting to fit in, where is that fitting hole?  Where is the support for 17th century joinery?  Should I try the Worshipful Company of Joiners? Am I just too square?

SAMSUNG CSCThe rubbly background to the photos is the rebuild of my workshop, don’t worry, once the masons have finished there will be some timber included, watch this space.

SAMSUNG CSCThe season of woodland deer is ‘pon us once again and my stocks of animal limbs, and antlers was woefully low, so I had a half day cutting the hazel coppice at Wood Nook.  At lunchtime I had a walk round previous years’ cut stools and some regrowth is pretty good

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Some is rather poor, but still has a chance – if the deer will only leave it alone:

SAMSUNG CSCBut around 25% have died 😦

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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!

 

 

 

Spoon Club of two

I’m on a journey with carving spoons.  Making them is the most demanding work I do in wood as the tolerances are very, very fine; the risk management (one slip and it’s firewood) is high; the design content almost outweighs everything else; the number of beautiful spoons carved by other people is very high.  OK so it’s not an easy thing, I’d like to say I do it for relaxation, as I certainly don’t do it to make money!

Cyclo Cross Group

CycloCross Group (Photo credit: mirod)

However, making a spoon is a very concentrated piece of work, which lasts quite a long time, it’s a bit like riding the Yorkshire Three Peaks Cyclocross bike race – concentrated effort over a sustained period.

 

 

 

The thing is while I’m carving a spoon I can not think about anything else.  That is a good thing I think.

So here are two hazel spoons I’m working up.  I’ve done this design around four times before, all in hazel. They are copied from a Scottish horn spoon that we’ve had around the house for some years. This time I’ve made two at once.  A bit like in a spoon club pass round, I worked on one for a spell and then swapped to the other.  The main thing I noticed was that the second run always seemed to work better and more quickly than the first.  I guess I’m learning from the first making.

Axing out the split log:

This is bark up, that is, the bottom of the bowl and the back of the spoon facing the pith at the centre of the log.  You can see the brown line of the pith in the left hand half that’s just split. I’ve split the log with my little ‘Gem’ axe that I reserve for spoons and then with the right-hand half I’ve axed off the pith and the outside until it’s flat and wide enough to draw on the outline of the spoon.

Now I’ve got them both ready for tracing an outline.  I’d like to get away from this outline, but it gives me the overall length and width and a guide to the shape I’m after.

Here they’re drawn in:

And now I’ve axed the shapes out.

At this point I stopped and re-read the notes I’d taken at Spoonfest when attending Steve Tomlin‘s workshop on improving your spoons.

This gave me a good plan to follow instead of flitting about all over the spoon blank at will. My next tasks were: complete the plan profile of the handle, then the bowl, carve the underside of the bowl, carve the stem – where the handle joins the spoon last.  Hollow the bowl after the underside of the bowl is done.  All the time checking for symmetry and line.  I finished them off this morning and they are now awaiting poker-work from Jane and dispatch to customers.  They turned out slightly different, but I think carving two at once is a good thing for improving my carving.

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Beech ball part 2

Phew! Work is getting rather hectic.  After the holiday away in Dorset at The Ball, I had a couple of days in The Bodgery and then a day in Cumbria at Moss and Height Spring Woods helping to peel oak coppice.

I’m the softee wearing the gauntlets, my damaged finger still needs a little protection and I wasn’t sure how the tannin in the oak might affect it. It was a magical day.  A great crowd of the Coppice  Association NW (CANW) gathered with a large variety of oak peeling weapons (tools) and a couple of chainsawyers.

This Woodland Trust Woodland is oak coppice which is cut on a much longer rotation than hazel.  The wood is leased to Bill Hogarth MBE Memorial Apprenticeship Trust and managed by CANW according to a written coppice management plan.  The whole point of peeling the bark from the oak is a cash crop for the trust.  The bark is bundled up and collected in Autumn by J & FJ Baker, the only remaining tannery to use oak bark in the leather tanning industry in the UK.  The by-product is a large pile of peeled oak poles which have a beautiful surface texture and can be used for many purposes.  I’ll be using a bunch of them for a fence to complement the double oak gates I made last year for a client.

Thanks for the photos David.

Then on Friday I built a woven hazel fence in situ 

And now I check the photo there seem to be a couple of imperfections that could have been remedied – never mind though the spaces will allow the wind to be filtered through rather than blown over as often happens with the lap larch fence panels that are so popular in gardens for some reason. A hazel panel is not meant to be impenetrable, except by sheep!

On Saturday it was Otley Show, our first of the year.  A great little show with lots going on (not that I got to see anything other than the odd vintage tractor, ferret cage and marching band as they passed by). We again had a good pitch right next to the pedestrian entrance looking out towards the lake and Otley Chevin.  Busy turning and demonstrating all day, having carelessly left all the turned stock hanging up in my store-room.  Fortunately there were quite a few have-a-goers to give me some respite.  The sun even came out towards the end, but no sunburn this year. Lots of interest in my courses.

Anyway, rewind back to The Beech Ball.  There are lots of classes of craft and activities to enter, but I couldn’t afford the time or diesel to take my set up so far down South (clocked 300 odd miles on the way back).  I did enter the 1/2 hour challenge to make something saleable for a demo.

My 1/2 hour challenge item was a set of six napkin rings made from a locally scavenged cherry branch, made on the same basis as a shrink pot using an inch auger held in a newly acquired (at t’Ball) beech  screw clamp, Silky saw to cut into thirds, middle then clean up with a crooked knife and finishing touches with a straight knife.  Alas I didn’t come in the first three, James Pumfrey takes some beating with his half-hour pole lathe turned bowl.

We also got down to the Dorset Jurassic coast as it was only a couple of miles away, through exciting twisted back lanes.

Seemed like ages since we’d seen the sea, but we were at Bamborough not long ago.

On the beach here at Charmouth the ‘rocks’ are fossiliferous and there is much hunting goes on in this stuff:

We found a few small ammonites and iron pyrites.

Well lots of things went on at the Ball, check out Sean Hellman and Mark Allery’s blogs for more reports.  The food was especially delicious from The Peasant Evolution Producers’ Co-Operative.

The boy’s new fence

Theo built a dwarf hazel fence in situ yesterday, and made a really good job of it I reckon.  Especially as it was both our first attempts.  It’s woven from the thinnest stuff I’ve taken out of Wood Nook.  It replaces a rather naff-looking nylon cord I had in the same place to discourage visitors coming uninvited into the work area (with its attendant sharp tools, hot stove, etc.  It should also help keep the shavings in the workshop, rather than spreading over the track.  The fence has proper bindings on the top with under and over weaving and wrapping around the end sales (upright poles).

I’ve been working on a split hazel hurdle too.  Not as easy as it looks in YouTube videos, so this hurdle will be destined for an inconspicuous place as its neatness leaves quite a lot to be desired, although it does have the required strength.  Here is a small section behind this lump of spalted ash I’ve worked up for a caterer to display cakes on (they wanted it just like this, honest!).

I’ve also been making a shave horse for a customer this week, here’s the finished article

And today it’s log making, working on the oak bench, finishing that large sycamore bowl, which, as predicted, is now as hard as iron, even to the sharpest tool.

London at the weekend for the Heritage Crafts Association annual meeting.

Coppice work

Hi!

I’m rather busy with coppicing just now and very tired when I get home at night, and the chainsaw elbow doesn’t help!  However much progress is being made and today I’m getting help from a group of students from Craven College as part of their Countryside Management course.

I’ve been so busy I’ve not managed to take photos, but may be able to get some today.

In the meantime here’s a brilliant little poem to put you on:

[With acknowledgements to The Edward Thomas Fellowship.  Illustration by Howard Phipps.]

(And thanks for the card Gus!)

The poem is by Edward Thomas born in Lambeth 3rd March 1878, killed at Arras on Easter Monday 9th April 1917.

Why coppicing is like making stir fry

Spot the similarities?

Much chopping and sorting into heaps.  Sharp stuff to do the chopping. Hi-tech background equipment (well a hob and a Land Rover are pretty hi-tech compared to a bill hook and knife).  Raw ingrediments. Piles of stuff.  Promise of future good stuff.  Cold first then hot.  And working alone.  The kitchen and the new coppice woodland (very rare in West Yorkshire) were both my domain with no visitors.  I’m not anti-social, but it’s good to have your own time now and again.  The woodlands were filled with animal tracks, many rabbits, and some others, and there were deer as I looked around first thing with Michael, the owner.  The piles of brash soon attracted a robin, as did the disturbed soil.  This wood has not been worked for many years, and there is much dead wood to prove it. I’m hoping that my efforts will produce a richer environment in years to come.  The plan is to coppice 1/2 hectare a year for 5 years in blocks of 5 to 11 stools.  This should produce a good mix of woodland environments.  I’m looking forward to coming back and looking at the wood in Spring.

Here’s a little 8″ x 8″ bird table recently commissioned.  I always try to give them a go with the birds, and this one worked as usual – spot the coal tit inspecting the sunflower seed.

It’s hard in Winter

Today I’ve been finishing a couple of jobs at the workshop and making logs and filling the charcoal kiln in the yard.  The weather has changed and we had rain – the sort that falls and then instantly freezes on anything it touches.    The new logs I was splitting for the kiln/firewood logs for next year were glued together with ice, I couldn’t lock the trailer hitch as the lock was frozen, going into and out of the wood was hazardous – rain on compacted snow – not good. But it still looked kind of pretty.

Yesterday I recovered the loaded trailer from the other-side of the river (I’m usually on the dark side, but this Winter I’m felling timber on the “sunny” side).  The exit from the wood on that side is short and steep, and too much for the Landy, even in pulling gear and locked 4×4. Gave up as I was tired after quite a day’s felling (about 2 in 10 trees fall, the others are winched down.  Thanks Theo, winchman) parked the trailer in the wood and went home.  It was much easier on a new day.  This is the “solve problems by ignoring them” method of working.  I’d brought my concrete three-pronged rake and smashed up the ice a bit.  Out came the trailer first go, although it took quite a bit of the rocking-to-and-fro technique to free the trailer wheels from the frozen ground.

Note.  This was actually written late last Thursday, but embargoed pending checking.