Faffing about


Been a long time since I made a post.  January is a quiet month in Strid Wood, apart from the estate team carrying out annual track repairs – I’m glad I don’t have to work with a vibrating roller.  This January has been even quieter, El Niño has bent the Jet Stream and we have had quite a bit more than our usual share of rainfall, as usual the sun has kept to the far bank of the River Wharfe.  I’ve not had a big commission, nor a big tool project like making a bench.  However…

I have been learning power lathing – this is more unlike a pole lathe without a treadle, than a pushbike is unlike a sports car.  I’ve taken this up mostly to turn bowls.  I have tried making them on the pole lathe in the past, but I found the treadling rather hard work for an old boy like meself and quite a deal of input is required to get up to a decently salable standard.  Yes I know George Lailey carried on until he dropped

but I felt I would drop before his ripe old age, so bowls went on the back burner and I carved a few instead.


Double choc.

I also wanted to make honey drizzlers which I find are too small to take the strain of a full size pole lathe, as are lace bobbins.  You can’t make needle cases either on a pole lathe, easy on a machine.

So, I’ve been faffing about with the lathe I bought in Lancashire, and it’s just about set up now, complete with a new bench grinder, wooden jaws for the scroll chuck for bottoming, as I’m starting to call tidying away the spigot used for holding the work in the chuck.

It has been rather a steep learning curve, here are a few early days casualties:


Ready for the fire.


Good enough for a working man’s syrup tin lunch though.

A few tips: watch where your chisel end is, especially when you’re not cutting with it; if you turn a bowl in green wood it is silly to remount it when it’s dry (wobbly thin bowls at 400 odd rpm are terribly vulnerable, chisels are their predators); think about the presentation of the chisel to the work – you can’t just dig in like on a pole lathe;  always stop the lathe to check what it looks like motionless before parting it off – faults are hard to see in a fast turning bowl; use sharp chisels, I now realise I’ve been rather lazy in this respect and you can’t get away with blunt tools on a power machine, hence the new bench grinder.  The first morning with the latter I hollow ground a gouge and honed two tiny edges with about 6 strokes on the stone – I think this is the first time I’ve got that much read-about profile.  Anyway, sometime soon I’ll be making bowls fit for sale I hope (once I discover and sort out why the lathe motor has suddenly gone on strike (sorted, the wire fuse had burnt out, talk about retro, but I managed to get a card of fuse wire from Mortons of Ilkley)).  Here are some I’ve not completely wrecked in the chuck:


Hang on, there’s a ringer in there, left back is carved – Ed.

A drop of walnut oil does bring out the colour in the spalted beech I’m rather enjoying working with.  It is about 18 months down, but spalts very quickly in the wood.




After – baby you’re so square.

Of course the new luxury indoor workshop has had to be modified to take the lathe, special shelves for chisels, extra sweepings up and extra shavings boxes, more lighting.  And I must say, my Monday learning sessions in the workshop (AKA #2 Bodgery) beat puddling about in mud in the dark damp wood.

Also been faffing about coppicing and felling, breaking and repairing the chainsaw and Land Rover, trying to do steam-bending, which is a severe challenge if you only do it about once every two years, planting hops, processing bees wax, doing my  tax return.


Screw vice.

Ah yes, and making a bowl blank holder, whilst renewing the saw horse.  This rather unpretty device holds a blank while I saw the corners off …


Surely not a chainsaw carving bar on that lil Sthil saw? – Ed.  Oh no, just perspective distortion – FS.

Aha yes, this morning I collected new bandsaw blades.  Having watched an excellent video on The Physics of Bandsawyering I realised I needed a blade with less teeth for resawing (watch the video, it is very clear and informative).  Now my little old Halifax-made Whitehead Junior run by a washing machine motor nigh-on as old as meself has a new lease of life with  3TPI (that’s teeth per inch, no idea what the metric equivalent is), helped by the earlier addition of lignum vitae blade guides.

This isn’t mine:

bandsaweasy to tell from the guards (same model though).

Dibbers,tables, tips and squaring

Nothing too exciting to report at the moment so this is just a little update.  I’m mainly busy renovating the workshop during this quiet season, when I would really like to be felling (but waiting on others).  I’m making a new bench.  I must do a before and after shot.  The old one is so chronically bad, I hope it holds out until the new one is ready.  I have a lot of work to do to make the new ‘un including a lot of squaring of 3″ square stock as I am going to install a tail vice.  Here is the work in progress:

Reminds me of being at school, where I took woodwork class for a year in the first year at grammar school.  First lesson was squaring a piece of wood – I think it ended up as something for wrapping string onto. The bench is to be from a beech butt I’ve had kicking about for two years.  I milled it with the chain saw and the bench top should be about 15″ wide and about 3″ thick.  This will be luxurious compared to the half log I’m working on just now.  I also produced a new milling jig for the saw so the first slab is cut true.  The old ash one had developed a nasty and inconvenient warp.

Now here’s a little tip for people who have to take tools out of the workshop:

It’s a simple leather bit holder.  The bits are of the size that gets lost very easily, especially when they live in the cordless drill box, which occasionally lands on the floor upside down (there must be a host of things buried in the foot or so of shavings in the workshop, I’ll explain why they never get swept up one day).

For my birthday my lady wife gave me an unusual present (well actually it was a joke!)

Spot the present:


Yes it’s the orange one (why do people do that?).  I copied it a few times today in spalted beech.  It will be a cheap alternative to my T-handled de luxe models.  I know, rubbish eh, but you’ve got to keep the passers-by happy and I sell loads of these.  I suspect a lot of them are bought as presents, but probably don’t end up in cupboards like ours did to be discovered five years later!

I’ve been selling a few bird tables so here is the latest replacement. Ash shigles for the roof and a rather rustic feel (not like the orange ones to be had in DIY superstores)

I used to hate making these, but now I’ve got the production down to a manageable process it’s much easier.


And just to cap off this post here’s a modification to the stove flue outlet:

No more rain down the chimney!