Anatomy of a forester, Day 11

Ahem.  Could I just apologise quickly for the lousy spelling in yesterday’s post.  It took a long time to do, and it was tea time just as I thought I’d finished.  But I hadn’t run the spell checker, then forgot about it. Doh!

If it’s broke – don’t fix it.

We are used to seeing ‘perfect’ objects these days.  It wasn’t always thus, ‘good enough’ was once perfection.  I’m not trying to argue for sloppy work, but I just want to say how much I like work that shows a hand-made it rather than a machine (not that the latter always achieves perfection! Just take out a hand lens or microscope and it will soon become clear that ‘smooth’ surfaces don’t exist but we can get close to smooth, or smooth to the touch.)

I am coming from a similar angle to that in “The Unknown Craftsman” where imperfection is valued for various reason

Let’s apply this to the Windsor chairs that have recently taken up residence in our cottage.


Windsor chair arm spindle showing a wild groove from a mis-held chisel when originally turned

This turning was clearly not done by a copy lathe!

SAMSUNG CSCThe beads and the foot of this leg have small flats arising from the stock not bein quite big enough to get the complete diameter.  But back in the day you wouldn’t want to waste a whole leg just for that little imperfection.  The leg is just used at the rear of the chair where it is less obvious.

SAMSUNG CSCGet the stick layout on the back of this one.  The far right hand one is about an inch further down than the far left one where they meet the bow.  Does that spoil it?

Let’s turn one over:

SAMSUNG CSCThis is the seat underside, fairly obviously pit sawn from the differing angles of saw cut.  There are also two larger holes in this picture, which I think may have been made by dogs to hold the seat still while it was being bottomed and fettled (shaped) in that typical comfortable saddle-shaped seat.  There are nine of these holes in this seat, and they are squarish in section deeper in the hole.  Why would you finish a wooden surface that was never going to be seen in everyday use?

SAMSUNG CSCHere’s the underside of a three-legger I recently made for a competition.  The judge criticised it because …

SAMSUNG CSCThe pegs were too long (or dowels as he called ’em).  Better than too short say I.

It was supposed to be the turning which was being judged:

SAMSUNG CSCWhich may or may not be acceptable, but I’m blowed if I can understand what the length of unseen pegs has to do with it.

Here’s a table in The Manor House Museum in Ilkley, near here:


Forgot the tripod again? Ed.

SAMSUNG CSCThe front apron is carved (love those diamonds) and the back apron isn’t as it was made to be at the side of the room where only the front side would normally be on view.

And you may have seen this one before:

SAMSUNG CSCWho put that moulding on upside down?

So, don’t worry be happy:

Whoa!  Steady there, we can’t take the Christmas decs down yet – must be down by sundown tomorrow though or bad luck is sure to follow.

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!