Old shrink pot

This is the shrink pot which was discovered by peat cutters in 2009 in a peat bog.  It was, and still is, filled with butter. The National Museum of Ireland is conserving the find which is 3 foot high and a foot in diameter – bigger than any I’ve ever made.

I like the closer. Watch this space for imitations.

Read more about it here.  But feel free to ignore some of the journo rubbish like “An oak barrel dating back to about 3,000 years ago”  alongside: “‘It is hoped that through further tests the species of the wood will be identified and the vessel dated through radiocarbon dating,’ the museum said in a statement.”  They may have well as saved their breath!

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In praise of variety

SAMSUNG CSC   This is the continuation of our Three Days in the Midlands.  The quote above is from the owner of Snowshill Manor, who bought a house to fill with his collection of artefacts that embodied his ideas of craftsmanship, design and colour.  The house is quite big and contains 20,000 objects.  He lived in a two roomed gaff in the grounds.

English: Snowshill Manor

English: Snowshill Manor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The objects feast the eyes and mind.

  • The largest collection of samurai armour outside Japan;
  • Three serpents – a musical instrument withdrawn due to …

  • A collection of very early bicycles, including The Hobby Horse and penny farthings;
  • Shipwright’s models;
  • Shepherds’ chairs – four off;
  • A model village he made, or several versions of it I think;
  • Early spinning machinery;
  • A fine pair of hewing axes.

Doh, I’d used up my camera batteries in the morning visit to Hidcote Gardens.  And there we sat in a little open gazebo building tiled with hand made tiles.  SAMSUNG CSC
The 4″ x 4″ tiles were rather charming, including these variations on a pattern:
SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCThis is what I like!  All hand done, quickly, simple, but very recognizably vernacular.  Look how the craftsman has introduced  such variety to his tiles, swapping boats for churches, mirroring the houses, moving the smoak from one chimney to another.  Blimey it’s like a film.  The corner decorations differ – even on the same tile.  Could a machine do this?  Well yes, but it would be a clever programmer that would write the code, and what would be the point? It’s not just decoration either that can be interesting to the eye.  Look at this Victorian brewery: SAMSUNG CSCI don’t think we build factories like that any more – why not?
And then there’s the serendipitous stuff, here are some of the vents up in the old chiller at the brewery’s top floor (well it’s actually two breweries stuck together this one is at the top of the near side in the photo above). SAMSUNG CSC

And here are some glass panes, obviously repaired over the years (no wonder when the grist mill shakes the whole building). SAMSUNG CSC Pleasing variety.

Why I don’t like tarmac:

SAMSUNG CSC And why I do like hand worked stone.

SAMSUNG CSC I think this stuff is catching on with some people, there is a desire for the irregular rather than the machine-made, and just to come back to the woods, here are a couple of irregular pieces I just made:



Shrink pots at the Tarn

I ran a course at Malham Tarn Centre making shrink pots (probably shrink boxes would be a better translation of the Swedish, but we seem to have fallen into this translation).  The centre has been running for over 50 years and mainly accommodates students of the environment for field studies of the surrounding limestone area.  The Tarn is effectively the source of the River Aire which runs down my home valley.  There is no surface exit from the Tarn, instead the collected water runs away underground and reappears beneath the 260 foot high Malham Cove which is a spectacular limestone cliff where peregrine falcons nest.

The Tarn looked very well as I left last Sunday.

The chaps attending my course did very well making pots.  I find people enjoy hard work and the satisfaction of making something by hand:

The bandage is on a wound Liz brought into the course, thankfully no wounds this time.

The results were impressive too, here is a sample.

The sculpture is a work in progress brought along by Beverley for show and tell.  We used the stock knife to slice off a little waste wood on what was become a rather tough dry material.

It seemed rather odd working in a classroom and courtyard, it’s always the hard flooring that gets me.  Dropping edge tools isn’t an option, unlike at work where the deep shavings litter saves all edges from damage.  The horses and benches don’t react well either and I had two leg repairs to do afterwards.  A simple operation with the type of legs I have on my benches!

On my way home I felt very lucky to live in such a glorious part of the world:

Return of the pint pot!

Yes, today I located a brand new pint pot for £2.75 on Skipton market.

Every working chap used to have one of these and they were very easy to obtain.  Sadly no longer (‘cept in Skipton market).  All those working chaps seem to drink pop, what is the world coming to?  But perhaps we have met the turning point at last.

Long live the pint pot!

My wife is taking bets on how long it will last – I have a bad habit of breaking them, usually by dropping them out of the jock bag as I take it out of the Land Rover.  I’m taking care of this baby, it is china apparently – rather posh for a man o’ the woods (even if it is a second), but what the heck, you have to take those opportunities when they arise – I can’t be doing with a tin mug with a picture of flocks on the outside for aye.

Woody stuff

Return of the killer oak shrink pots.  Three more, all from the same branch, they are now awaiting blackening with vinegar and iron.

Like the back drop?  It’s from m’new pattern book bindings.

Shows at the National Forest and Kilnsey coming up over the Bank Holiday, busy, busy. Elm to dig out from store for a stool, gates to hang, bench to fit with new boards, phew, makes me feel tired even on my day off.

Shrinkburkar super cutter

If you are not of a technical woody bent click here now, but if you would like to find out about the industrial making of shrink pots, read on …

Once we’ve got over the tedious parts of making a green wood tube

And smoothed down the rough edges left by the gouge …

(Here I’m using the knife in the vice technique), OK all done, ready for the groove for the base:

And now … the Sean Hellman shrink pot base groove cutter kit (I’m sure he’ll have a snappier name for it!)  Sean will be supplying a knife blade, handle and nut (or the complete croze, I read), check this out here: Sean Hellman: Shrink pot, and a shrink pot croze.  All you need to do is to mount the knife on a baton and the handle in a base board, thusly:

The idea is that the cutter can be moved up and down by loosening the handle and then tightening it in place so that the top of the base groove can be cut accurately.  Traditionally this is done with a knife, which works, but is slightly hit and miss and a little slow.  If you offer up your shrink pot tube and rapidly whizz it round against the knife, so …

an accurate 90 degree cut in the inside of the pot results.  You can see from this photo that I used a conventional screw to fix the knife blade and two of the Manchester variety.

I then used a converted marking gauge to enlarge the cut into a groove

The end is a cross-section of a cuboid and more like a turning chisel than anything:

And the result is a square ended slot with a sloped profile to help with inserting the base:

And here’s the base with is a loose fit here, but this morning is tightening up nicely.

The base is ash and the main tube is sycamore, I’m not sure sycamore is my preferred option – I bust one while doing the final inside smoothing.  I think the radial strength is a bit lacking as there are many small medullary rays.  On the other hand silver birch can be carved much thinner and is really strong.

And now as a counter stroke to the horrible green shades of the workshop – thanks to the green tarp I was obliged to swap for the white one – a gratuitous frothy picture of the Wharfe


Whilst I was dinner monitor last evening, making pizza, I noticed on the olives packet a note that a cocktail stick is included.  Funny, you’d think more than one person would be eating them – surely not meant to share the cocktail stick?  Anyways, it was a nice turned stick, I wonder if it’s bulk production from Mark Allery’s contact in Vancouver?

Another pot, baluster style and Alan

I’m getting a bit obsessed by shrink pots, especially now I’ve discovered turning them.  It’s possible to make vessels that would not be possible using a foot-powered bowl lathe as there is no requirement to leave a core in the work so the mandrel can drive the work round.  So this is the almost latest (made another couple since this one!)

(Sorry slightly out of focus – but he back board isn’t – doh!)

It looked a bit like this when turned except there’s a rebate at the bottom of the lid which is now inside the pot to retain the lid.  Lid and pot were turned in one, which helped retain the figure of the wood which is 2 year old beech , mellowed in the log, hence the brown colouring.  It also has a little linseed oil on in the picture to retard drying which has suddenly become quite a problem during this Spring drought (rain forecast for Wednesday though).

After turning, I sawed off the lid below its rebate and hollowed out the pot.  First with an inch and a half auger:

The new bench vice is really helpful here, it grips so hard I soften the jaws:

After drilling right through – a pleasant task where I either count the turns (about 10 per inch), day-dream, or drink in the view – I chisel out the remainder of the inside using a gouge with an inside bevel.  This is a bit nerve racking, if I get too greedy with the amount of wood I incorporate into a cut I split the whole thing.  Getting better at this now though, and no probs with this one.

The remainder is smoothed of with a long-handled crooked knife and then a rebate is set in to take the bottom:

I’m hoping to improve and speed up the rebate process, watch this space.

The bottom is made to be a loose fit as the pot, being quite green (unseasoned) will shrink onto it and make a tight, but not water-tight, fit.

Yesterday Alan called around for a little therapeutic woodwork:

he went home with a couple of items he made, as well as the spatula he was working in the picture above.

Well done Alan, good work!

Pots, sweet and savoury

I’ve been working on shrink pots. These are pots which are made as hollow cylinders and then a dry base is inserted in a rebate.  As the pots dries and shrinks it tightens onto the base.  Unless some kind of caulking is applied a waterproof fit is unlikely, but they are fine for dry goods etc.

Here is some work in progress.

The sycamore one on the far left is carved from a whole log, as is the brown birch one.  All the others are turned, some from a branch or whole stem like the barrel-shaped ash one and the two small birch ones.  The two tall ash ones at right are turned from quartered logs and I think that makes for a good pattern in the grain.  While the pot itself can be a fairly simple shape the tops can be more imaginative.  I’m working on some lumps of burr birch to make tops for the small birch ones, and I turned another quartered ash one yesterday with a top that looks a bit anthropomorphic.  I think these should be quite saleable as they are easily portable and shouldn’t be too expensive.  They will make good presents, which a lot of my sales become, seeing as many people who buy are on holiday.

I made stir-fry for tea last night and topped it with freshly home-roasted buckwheat.  I had the leftovers on my cereal.  I must get a wooden spoon and bowl made for eating breakfast!

And today another load of logs to the yard for maturing into firewood and charcoal.  First burn coming up next week.