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.

Goose-stepping horses

We were at Otley Show at the weekend.  This is a very old-established agricultural show mixing all sorts of attractions: pole lathe turning ( – obviously!); vintage tractors, rabbits, fly fishing demonstrations, dry stone walling, farrier competitions, goose-stepping military bands (well one cornet player anyway). And that was just what I could see from my stand.  There were reportedly lots more including ferret racing, sheep shearing, heavy horses, micro breweries … but those tied to their pole lathe have to work.  And chat.  Occasionally eat a sandwich … and chat at the same time (Why didn’t I sit at the back of the shelter like I planned to do when I left that space for the very purpose? Love my public too much?)

And another rhetorical question – why is it that every time I put up the shelter it’s always different?  This time I was using the white tarpaulin, so it was a different colour from the more usual green.  But also I tried to copy the Sussex APT group’s shelter erection by fastening the main pull-up rope to the A-frame before offering it up to the ridge pole, and thus avoiding having to stand on the chopping block/horse/bench and lash the top of the A-frame together.  Of course it didn’t work out, producing an out-of-level cross pole on the A-frame, so I still had to climb up and not only lash the poles from a teetering position, but also unlash ’em first.  This probably means nothing to anyone who has not erected a pole shelter before, but, dear reader, it will mean something to you soon.  Next show I’m going to run a video camera of the setting up.  Then, using some technology I’ve not yet discovered, speed it up to a frantic pace, should be quite amusing, but if not, at least it will be certain to be different from the last time I put it up.  Ah well, variety is the spice of life.

The horse breeding season seems to be going quite well.  Jane was using her new gypsy flower pony and got a few take-ups on the have-a-go front, here she is:

Took an order for a heavy-duty horse at the show too – that’s a first. I have another horse out at grass preparing for its debut at the Gardener’s World Live show at the NEC.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch … Philip had an enjoyable day today (he tells me) making a stool – it’s actually four-legged, he’s working on the last one at the horse.

Amazing what a sheet of tarpaulin can do, this was on a day of torrential rain and gale-force winds (but as they were in the West, filtered by the trees).

A note for Mr D – the rocket stove performed admirably drying the leg tenons in short order, and even providing hot water for tea toot sweet.

Tail piece

Whilst getting hazel for gypsy flowers I discovered some broomrape, I’m afraid I only had my ancient phone (remember when taking a photo with a phone was a novelty?) so the picture quality is a bit dodgy:

I’m working on finding out more about this variety as there are 200+ in the species.  Looks like it paracitises hazel.

The earth didn’t move for me, but the knives did!

The perils of demonstrating the shave horse in front of 50 people.  On Tuesday evening I did a demo for the West Riding Woodturners Group in Eldwick.  My little talk went OK, the log splitting drew a few gasps as usual, but not as big a one as when one of the back legs of the shave horse gave way shortly after starting to shave a billet.  No damage done, fortunately despite the hard floor.  For the second half I removed the remaining rear leg and sat the rear of the horse on my 3-legged chopping block.  ALthough slightly precarious this enabled me to complete the evening with turning a Windsor chair leg etc.

So first thing yesterday was spent fixing the said leg so David and I could work up some bow blanks for some firewood carriers.

Drilled out the old tenon – the failure was just where you might expect, where the tenon enters the underside of the horse bed and the diameter changes, obviously too suddenly in this case.  The legs were also pretty high as they normally sink into the shavings quite a way at the normal office.  So I reused the old legs but shorter, and shaved down the area before the tenon.

I used the stock knife stock (bench) as temporary rear leg, and used the rounder plane to work up the tenons.

I didn’t used to get on with the rounder plane at all well, but since I set the blade properly, and realised it cuts worse rather than better if forced, I find it pretty good, and a little more in keeping with the office set up than the wholly reliable Veritas power tenon cutter.

I would have made 1 1/2″ tenons, but I didn’t have the right auger with me (the joys of bringing all tools to site and taking them away every night).  That would have been a good thing, as later that day BOTH back legs broke on David.  What?  The old legs had been fine for about 6 months, and now they’re suddenly totally unreliable.  More shaving and now even shorter legs.  Seems more stable – fingers crossed.

Apart from demos, logging, and log carriers, I’m building up stock ready for Spring and Summer (rather a sales dessert at this present time of year).  Drew Langser has set a challenge to design butter spreaders that he will exhibit here, so I’m having a shot at developing my own style.  Here are the unfinished results so far:

The development is from early (left) to recent (right).  The last one is the odd man out as I was short of space for the handle on the board where I’d set four of them out.  I’m using birch from the tree I cut a couple of weeks ago.  It is very wet so I’ll put the finishing touches to the surface once they’re dry.

Andy Coates had an interesting post about how design works.  I’m afraid I don’t have any thoughts to offer on this process, but I do find it interesting how different spreaders are coming out of the same basic pattern that I’m drawing round to develop.  It reminds me of an early BBC computer program where you were able to mimic selective breeding of bugs.


This book was a birthday present from the New Yorkers (my son Will and his wife Eva).  It is an extraordinary book, a collection of articles researched by school kids in the late 1960s and first published in a Northeast Georgia school magazine.  This volume (and there are at least 10 more) concerns home life in The Appalachians and is full of first-hand stories of a life gone by with pictures diagrams and photographs.  It reminds me of The Whole Earth Catalogue vein of culture. It tells history in a much more immediate way somehow that some books on English country life which, while interesting and informative, seem to be more remote from the people who lived e.g. in The Yorkshire Dales as the information about the people is less and more about their skills and equipment (However, I was reading a fascinating account of oatbread making in Life and Tradition in The Yorkshire Dales by M Hartley and J Ingilby but that’s another story!).

Anyway in Foxfire amongst a lot of other fascinating things I’ve not had a chance to read as yet there’s a picture of Bill Lamb’s shave horse.  I think this is the most minimalist horse I’ve ever seen.

It was used for dressing shingles.

I thoroughly recommend at least this volume of Foxfire (which is the first one) and I will definitely be dipping in to volume 4 which appears to have a something on the pole lathe:

(By the way, I’m aware of the criminal problem with the editor in later years, but he has probably suffered enough over that)

And on that subject I can report that the Japanese style minimalist cleaving break works really well.  I’ll take a photo today of the one I’ve made from a sycamore log I’ve had lying around.

New year, new horse

Well, I’ll be blowed, now I can understand perfectly why so many people prefer the dumb head shaving horse.  I’d been getting a bit irritated at the way wet deer legs (OK hazel branches) were inclined to rotate while working a tenon up with a rounder plane so I thought I’d take the plunge and convert my donkey into a horse.  Here’s the old fellow:

This is an old photo, and I think all parts but the front leg and the bottom footrest in the frame were replaced by the time I converted it.

Here’s the new un:

I used the legs and bed from the old one.  The treadle is a little high on the dummy, but I was following plans.  I’d really like to add in about 6 inches to the middle of the lever/treadle, my Sunday apprentice Rich may find this one a bit cramped 😦

Anyway, I measured up the comparative leverages of the two horses and the old English frame version gives about 1:1 advantage (i.e. none) while the dumbhead gives about 4:1 mechanical advantage.  Now why would anyone use the frame one with such poor pressure?  Bit like using an axe without a handle!  I feel longer legs coming for the stock knife ‘bench’ ( AKA ‘stock’ – that’s presumably how the knife got its name, the favourite first task for an apprentice joiner was making his sawing stock).  Longer legs would mean less bending when using the knife.  Fortunately the stock knife I bought as a clogger’s knife seems to be a peg maker’s knife as the handle is hardly swept compared to a clogger’s which is severely bowed, and increases the back bending effect.  Poor old bones.

So I also managed today finally to ‘install’ the new extension stove-pipe that David gave me, well I say install, rammed it into the old pipe and wired it to a shelter member at the top to keep it away from the tarp:

Much healthier having that smoak outside the shelter.  You can see the 75 foot ‘leg’ of my pole lathe in the picture above.  It’s a felled beech tree that’s been down about three years now and is doing its job playing host to various fauna and flora and these (which seem to be neither):

And these:

These are on the stump:

And amazingly, there is a little regrowth from the stump too which I missed when it was in leaf:

I spy the buds ready for Spring

Head down bum up

Very busy in the bodgery making chairs.  I’m using a chair stick to make sure the set of six matches.  This is a stick with all the relevant measurements marked on it – height of front leags, where the rung mortises are, splat height and widths.  I find it very useful, it was used in days of yore too.  It’s very quick using a gauge instead of measuring everything.  When I had 12 asylum seekers visiting in summer to help make a charge of logs up for the charcoal kiln I made a length stick and a thickness gauge, made it very easy for everybody, and overcame any language difficulties.  Mind you it didn’t stop one guy from insisting on carrying about 1.5 cwt logs on his shoulder and running with them.  He had been in the Somali army and had to run with sand bags to make defences when the other side were advancing, how easy we have it!

Here’s a photo of my day student of Saturday

He had a good time on his birthday making a stool.

The autumn colours were rather drab, as it was wet most of the day (but dry under the tarp in the bodgery).  Then the sun came out and the colours were rather fine.

I’ve taken the top section for my blog header.

Mind you, today it was very wet and windy all day and the River Wharfe rose quite a lot quite quickly.

Never mind day indoors tomorrow learning how to be a tutor – for free.