Bench work


Is this man: a) Sleeping on the job; b) dead in his own-made open-air coffin; or c) dreaming of his next blog post?

Well, in July about a couple of hundred highly motivated chaps mount their bikes (and sometimes fall off them) and race them for three weeks around Europe, and this year they came almost past my front door, well, within two miles of it.  It’s not every day the Tour de France comes up Skipton High Street on a warm Saturday afternoon.


Yes, not a brilliant view, but the build up and atmosphere were great (Good view of Will’s hat – Ed).  In fact I nearly got caught on the wrong side of the road to my family whilst buying this book:


At a real bargain price of £9!  It is a very good review of furniture as found in the less fashionable places such as houses of correction, cellar dwellings and bothies – gripping stuff.  The ale houses are my favourite.

Course my son and I have been avid followers of the T de F for many years, well since 1990.  So Will and his wife Eva came over for to see the tour (and a holiday in the UK too!) staying with us, which was great, but took a little time up.

We did however, venture into home territory – Lancashire.  Partly to visit ancestors’ graves, but also for a very interesting visit to Queen Street Mill in Burnley, now run as an award-winning museum.

And they use one of these


To drive two of these

Which drive these

SAMSUNG CSCTo make these


Yes a cotton mill!  My grandmother and my aunt worked at a weaving mill in the next village and I visited with my mother as a child and I was terrified by the deafening noise and the terrifying machinery.  The noise was bad enough at Queen Street Mill with just four looms running, never mind the 300 in the weaving shed. Almost as scary as the Thames Clyde express at the level crossing – but that’s a worse story.

Anyway, back to a spot of woodwork.  These large pieces of oak have started to reappear in the bodgery

SAMSUNG CSCDragged in by my powerful righthand man


How Mr McKee does all the hewing he does, just beggars my belief (Oh, c’mon, the guy’s suffered enough, he’s obviously brain-damaged – Ed.).

I was wrecked this evening after just this little bit


With a curly bench back like this one, holding the beggar still enough to work on leads to much improv, holds …


And one day I’m just going to have to stop and fix that tail vice …


Once sturdy beech joint opening up for the second time.



Gleanings from Herefordshire

We ‘re just back from the Bodgers’ Ball in Herefordshire.  The annual gathering of green woodworkers took place at Lower Brockhampton House, an old timber-built moated manor house with a magnificent gatehouse and beautiful parkland.

The door on the gate house is rather fine, with another small door set in it:

The timber frames have all been covered in whitening, a feature I’ve not seen before – they’re often painted black (possibly a later fashion) or untreated.

There was a cracking split oak fence:

Looks to me like it grew out of the land (which, of course, it did like that oak tree next to it).

There was a lot of stuff going on:

But not at 6 in the morning, except maybe in the pasture over the hedge:

A few cows having breakfast:

Looked like the pasture could do with Steve Tomlin’s scything to get rid of those weeds.

Amongst lots of other things Steve is addicted to mowing with scythes, a whole new universe of useful body work.

I met a great guy, Alan Waters who was there making pimps (used to light the fire).  They are made with the twiggy ends left over from other coppicing activities and split kindling, and very fine they look too (I bet they are really good for lighting your fire too!).  Some very sophisticated machinery is involved, including “The Machine” above front right, a 5lb pimp cleaver:

This photo also shows Alan’s “boy” which holds the twiggy stuff while it’s being cloven into frith, prior to binding on the table with the woodman’s vice.

A pimp is bound in the ‘machine ‘ from 25 individual fire-lighting bundles.  There’s a good video of Alan explaining his craft here .

I had a go on Sean Hellman’s cross cut saw challenge.  Rich D and I didn’t break any records but it was a good aerobic workout.  Here’s Sean testing out someone’s saw (he’s the one who sensibly removed his hat before starting):

I also bought a nice tool kit for making the base groove in a shrink pots from Sean.  I will be doing a report on this in this place in the next few days, watch this blog.

This was the biggest ever gathering of the APLTAGWW and there really was a lot happening (but no loud music, blaring PAs nor ice cream vans! (OK, perhaps occasionally the soft purring of a lone chainsaw preparing logs for the log to leg challenge)). Maybe the gentle roar of the charcoal-making retort.

Damn cunning use of the exhaust gases to add gaseous fuel to the fire and increase efficiency:

And perhaps now and then the rhythmical toc toc of a framer demonstrating hewing logs square:

This is Henry Russel. He also explained the finer points of the shape of the head of a side axe, which he is using in this photo.  Also the angle of the haft which bends away from the timber being worked on so you don’t catch your knuckles.

Gudrun Leitz clearly explained the principles she uses when designing and making free-form stools and chairs.  We’d visited Clissett Wood where Gudrun holds chair-making courses which I attended a couple of years ago. The seat of the chair she is talking about in the photo is made from small leaved lime bark, really stunning:

Not easy to get the stuff, but very, very beautiful!

There were lots and lots of interesting and friendly people there, too many to mention them all.  And I found a new friend in this fraxinus excelsior just coming into leaf.