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  • Three serpents – a musical instrument withdrawn due to …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:



Two stools

Coppicing, felling, tushing (pretending to be a horse dragging timber rideside) trying to do a little woodwork.  Today it was coppicing.  Finally finished off the monster stool – it’s about 4 foot across, and severely overgrown.  Nothing else was growing within the spread of its massive (for hazel) canopy.  But after four visits its all down:

SAMSUNG CSCI should have taken a picture of the huge pile of wood we got from it.  ‘All’ that’s left to do now is to get it down to this level:


SAMSUNG CSCA neighbouring, smaller stool we took down in one today, thanks David!




Harlow Carr and a new stool and … trees, mainly.

Just returned from two days at RHS Harlow Carr‘s Taste of Autumn show in Harrowgate (as we insist on calling it in Bolton Abbey).  It was a fine weekend with lots going on, from a celebration of a wide range of apple varieties, through Fungus for the Masses, to boxing hares:


Phil Bradley’s willow hares.











Phil Bradley was there chatting, and regrettably I didn’t get a chance to discuss things woody with him (he was busy chatting already and time away from my duties is limited):

Some of his wigwams were sitting pretty next to our workshop, they were very popular with young and old.

We were in The Glade.  The woodland area of Harlow Carr and the trees just blew me away, especially at this time of year.  It was foggy most of the day but the sun just about got through, enough to light up this sliver birch.

Look at the size of the beech tree we set up the workshop underneath (workshop is the tiny white bit bottom left.)

The fog came down again as we went home, and as we descended down into Barden Chase down towards Beamsley the fog rolled around:

OK so I’ve not just been driving around the countryside and turning spurtles from Chestnut (which at first seemed to be sycamore (Eh? – ed.))

I finished a little stool in richly coloured elm and yew, oh yes and an oak hand-carved bowl which includes the lighter sapwood.

The bull-nosing is free hand with the plane and the tenon wedges are bog oak.  The stool is sold but the bowl is looking for a home.

A grand day out gliding around North Yorkshire


Apart from the serious business of buying 5kg of dark rye flour from Food for Thought in Haxby, York, and visiting Ryedale Folk Museum, we had a bonus event watching gliders on Sutton Bank which overlooks the Vale of York:

Yorkshire Gliding Club operates from the top of the bank on a huge flat area, once an iron age fortress, thought possibly to have been used for herding cattle.  There is a rocky scar at the edge which creates an ideal up-draught for the craft, and incidentally an ideal nesting place for Peregrine Falcons – we saw and heard one cruising around Roulston Scar.

The mixed woodlands below and on Hood Hill (above) were full of song birds singing away, a great free entertainment:

Ryedale Folk museum had some interesting artefacts, these roasting dogs caught my eye:

There were a few stools, some original and some made for the museum.

The long low one caught my eye, it had a simple bead scratched along the top edge.  The legs are only splayed back to front and not to the sides as its length will give stability in that direction. Same principle as joint stools usually display.  I could imagine a couple of children siting on this and playing or, more likely, doing chores.  This was in a farm-house which had been rebuilt at the museum and had quite a good atmosphere.  Just needed someone baking bread over the fire.

Carsten and Derek managed to make a stool apiece yesterday, they were good students to complete this rather demanding task in a day with no previous experience of green woodwork.  The stools are for Carsten’s children so they are good and sturdy.  We used some of the black bog oak from the Bodgers’ Ball, makes a contrast with the lighter ash seats and legs.  I was particularly impressed by how ell they got the leg angles drilled – neat!

Back in Rydale, I was somewhat dismayed by what had been done to mange their little hazel coppice –

It isn’t as though they are short of a few good Yorkshire bills:

The Museum has a great collection of local buildings which have been moved and rebuilt there.  How about this photographic studio with its airy porch glazed with recycled glass photographic plates?

Meanwhile back at the beach near The Bodgery, we’ve had a visitor:

Hum, a web-footed visitor, hungry too …

That’s an American white-clawed crayfish, rather a scourge of our native ones as they are bigger and carry a pox (just like grey squirrels) that does for our little crayfish.  However, looks like an otter is finding them a tasty snack.

And finally a couple of new work items:

A wine valet, from an idea picked up at the Ball, and my current bench project, I’ll be finishing off the seat tooling today and splitting out some back spindles.

Smoke, mud, rain and joint stools.

Hi Folks!

This is your correspondent relaxing at The Commercial in London, an interesting pub:

Not at all like the old pubs of Keighley where I started drinking beer. The Boltmakers Arms, The Friendly, The Volunteers, The Gardeners, The Lord Rodney.  Ah, those past teenage days of Timothy Taylor’s ale and headaches.

The woody highlight of our trip to The Smoke (AKA London) was another visit to the Geffrye Museum.  In one of the period room settings was a stunning oak table with a set of 6 joint stools.

Sorry about the lousy picture, it’s not a brightly lit place The Geffrye, but well worth a visit, with a beautifully calm herb garden (well more like the size of about 4 allotments) at the back.  I liked this green window:

Nim & Jane

But, back to the joint stools.  We met up with my son Will in London, over from Brooklyn, and he brought with him Peter Folansbee’s new book Make a Joint Stool from a Tree.  An excellent book.  I will be making a joint stool using the guidance in said book and I already have the green oak lined up.  Unfortunately, I have now got a bit of a thing going about these stools and I’ve gone and ordered another book:

This has a whole section on period joint stools, and further along some chair leg turnings which are uniquely Yorkshire, so I may be using them as a base for the stool legs.  One of these stools would look well in Skipton Castle or indeed in any other castle which is short of furnishings.

We did quite a lot of culture in London (That’s what London is for innit? -Ed) including a visit to 18 Folgate Street, Dennis Severs’ House.  If you visit London, and don’t visit anywhere else, visit this house – cost £10, you can’t take photos or speak.  It is an experience in warping of reality, history and your senses that you will not forget.  And, a great bonus, you can have a pint of Meantime beer in The Commercial afterwards.

We also did some mudlarking too.  My brother-in-law lives in Deptford in what was once the naval victualling yards, quite near to Drake’s Steps

Hardly now in fit condition for a queen to ascent prior to knighting her circumnavigator. When I went out for a walk on the Saturday the prospects for mudlarking were rather off-putting:

A fine coat of silt over everything.  But by Sunday morning propspects were much better:

London is so old the flotsam and jetsam are very diverse. anything from printed circuit boards to flint arrow heads (I searched for the latter but didn’t find any).  The oldest natural thing I found was a fossilised sea urchin, the oldest man made thing also flint, with a hole in it, but unrecognisable (by me at least), I think I’ll have it as a charm.  It was a good Sunday morning out for all the family:

From here you can see the three-masted Cutty Sark tea clipper which was due to open a couple of days later

On the Monday we saw the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery practicing for a royal salute as the queen shall have been re-opening the Cutty Sark after long and extensive refurbishment.

Typically, as it started raining in Greenwich we headed indoors, and both father and son’s beer noses detected a mash in progress – hah, it was the aforementioned Old Brewery who produce Meantime bitter beer (Geddit Greenwich meantime?)

Well it was back to work on Tuesday and it’s been a rather wet week, to say the least.  Tuesday wasn’t bad, in fact Theo and I dined in the luxurious outdoor canteen in Strid Wood, with view of nesting Mergansers.  Theo finished off his coat rack with double wellington rack – rather impressive I’m sure you’ll agree.

It is surrounded by this week’s paying project – 4 off 8 foot bike racks for The Cavendish Pavilion.  I was working outside The Bodgery, and it was a very pleasant change, the sun even shone a bit.

By Wednesday the weather had turned nasty and I had a course running with a NE wind gusting rain into the bodgery.  I’d advised Bob to wear layers and he had taken my advice – I wish I had taken it in spades.  Anyway, despite my almost catching hypothermia, Bob had a good day and we had some very interesting chat to boot.

This is one of the unfinished bike racks, I was in no mood for taking photos by the end of Thursday’s installation, but ~ I’ll get one on Sunday, hopefully with a few bikes as serving suggestion.

The logs for the base were rather heavy, and I bust the guide bar on my milling saw last week so I had to split the first one:

They were still heavy after splitting as I found to my discomfort when I managed to trap my finger between one and the trailer, doh!

Ah well, after a heavy week I’ve been relaxing today, making beer, granola, shopping for brill and jacket lining repair material, planting beetroot and lettuce seeds, launching a new Twitter account (@FlyingShavings funnily enough) and dreaming of joint stools …


Peeled posted and wrung

Here’s a post and rung stool I’m working up for an exhibition coming up in April (Ah, joyous month!) at Farfield Mill at Sedbergh.  The event is Working Woodlands and is intended to show the range and quality of products that come out of coppicing woodland.  There will be a special section devoted to products made from Moss and Heights Spring Wood timber.  I’m making my stool above with peeled oak from there, and it will have an elm bast seat woven from bark from Strid Wood (West meets East kind of style!).

Do call in if you can get there.

Oh no, not another grand Yorkshire day out!

Last week we had yet another day off and set off into North Yorkshire heading for the coast. On the way we stopped at Hackfall wood which has been a pleasure wood since 1731 complete with follies, waterfall and fountain. More here. A very peaceful day on a beautiful sunny morning, set in a deep gorge:.

The fountain was not playing, only works on Sundays apparently, worth going back for.

We went next to Shandy Hall, Coxwold, which is where Laurence Stern lived and wrote some of Tristam Shandy (available in audio at Librivox. This is another hidden gem, the house only opens twice a week, not on the day we were there, but the gardens alone are worth the visit. Very quirky indeed, lots of nooks and corners and hidden delights and shady seats.

I fancy making a copy of this simple stool, it is four-legged actually, but one was missing. The benches were rather unusual too:

The planting was beautiful, this bunch reminded me of oriental warriors:

Having had a look at the church in the village, we noted a stylish gravestone, unusual in having decoration on the reverse side.

Finally we visited Bempton Cliffs on the East coast, very busy with thousands of nesting sea birds including gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, guilemots, and puffins.