Where I’ve got to.


I started my journey into green woodworking in 2008.  One of the early items I made was a thrown stool, in fact I made a few.  Here’s the my first stool, not turned at all, just branchwood fastened to the underside of half a log.  It’s actually a stock for use about the workshop – it’s still kicking about in the bodgery, had a few new legs etc.

stockThis was the thrown stool.

DSCF4079Can’t imagine how I managed it with no guidance, just working from a picture. Twenty four round mortise and tenon joints, twelve of ’em at an unrightangle.  I don’t know why I didn’t either put three burnt rings on all the stretchers or one, two and three – lost in the mists of memory.

I copied a tiny stool we acquired in an old house we bought in Halifax.  This was one of my favourites.  Still have them both. Just the right size to sit a 5 gallon stockpot on whilst filling with water (or liquor as we brewers perversely call water).


I upscaled the pattern of the legs and this is now incorporated into my stock children’s stools.

DSCF9228Back in those early days I also made this stool with applewood legs and a joined elm slab top, good job I put a spline in the slab joint – it has survived much brewing and welly-putting-on-sitting-on where it resides in our conservatory.


Looks like I wasn’t so hot at getting photos in focus in that period.  Nor aligning the wedges in the leg tops correctly!

I’ve done a lot of turning over those years, but weirdly very little turning of coves, beads by the hundred, but hardly any coves.  It’s rather strange to find turning something hard after all this time, but the book rest project and the joined stool at the top of this post both required four coves, and I struggled.  At this time in an apprenticeship, I would be coming out of my time, so I was rather dismayed, but we never cease learning eh?

I was also rather challenged by the sixteen ‘proper’ M&T joints in the stool atop.  I started this project when I’d acquired Peter Folansbee’s excellent book “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree”.  I had done some beefy 3/4 inch M&Ts in my shepherd’s chairs which had their own challenges, but the nature of the beast allowed quite wide a leeway with accuracy:


The planing was enjoyable too and that smell of green oak became addictive.

Then I started on the 16 mortises in the stiles (you may call ’em legs – Ed).  I messed up on the first one and put the work aside, for quite a long time – too long really – much of the greenness was gone by the time I had time and determination to tackle them again.  This made the job harder – like the oak.  But I got there, made a few more mistakes, taught myself not to trust my setting out and to check it carefully.

Besides learning cove turning, I had to learn how to cut into square stock on the lathe – again made more difficult by delay causing unwanted seasoning (Do stop moaning – Ed).  Had to teach myself carving too, as well as sharpening gouges and V-tools.



It’s been a good trip, but I think I now need to start over as a joiner/carver in place of a bodger.  Watch this space!  Back to the Future – say 1633?

Family Watkinson's pew dated 1633

Family Watkinson’s pew in All Saints’ Parish Church, Ilkley. Dated 1633



That chair again, and that time of year.


SAMSUNG CSCThis looks like a step backwards.  Well it is.  This chair is taking over my life.  In the last update it had taken on a vile Victorian upright habit to its back.  It was difficult to spt as the chair sat in the bodgery with that very uncertain floor, consisting of 18 inches of shavings.  Only when sat in the trailer again did the error become obvious.

Now, a comfortable chair has a relaxed back.  And a shepherd’s chair, which in theory was a chair where a shepherd could fall asleep at lambing time, should be so relaxed.  Straight backs to chairs do not induce, nor allow sleep.  Mind you, following the Law tradition I can fall asleep anywhere – sitting on two bricks (father-style), standing up, playing the clarinet (that’s me), whilst driving … (steady on – Ed).

Turns out that the straight back was a result of chopping the mortices in the back legs at  the mirror-image angle to what they ought to have been chopped. Doh!

Now it looks likes this:

SAMSUNG CSCThe back is relaxed.  Phew!  Dig those trailer side fastenings.

So apart from making an almost impossible (for me) chair, this is what’s been happening (omitting mundane things like: two swans with three cygnets on t’canal; Canadian canoe shooting The (very dangerous) Strid (twice); making animal courses (less internal organs); vegetable growing (especially that vertical pumpkin); scything (sorry Steve, a vast topic); and so on, (this has been happening) int’wood.


LOADS of fungi.  These are Black Bulgari.  They grow on dead oak, I keep on telling myself, “This is why we remove the bark and sapwood.”

Almost edible (but goes soggy when cooked):

SAMSUNG CSCRed cracking bolete.

Didn’t identify this one, but grows on oak roots:

SAMSUNG CSCLooks boleteous to moi.

Then, these guys appeared in the outfall of the lathe:

SAMSUNG CSCThis is Deer Shield “Edible. but not worthwhile.” It says here.  It’s a bit odd sharing your work space with flora and fauna. They shrews were suddenly very active a couple of days ago, rushing about every couple of minutes or so. I thought it was just me rushing about at this time of year – see you at The National Forest Wood Festival next Monday (if you don’t happen to be on one of my next three courses).


More progress on the green oak story teller’s throne.

SAMSUNG CSCAll the members of the front and back frames are now prepared, subject to sawing off some horns on the crest rail and the tops of the front legs.  I’m afraid the floor level in the bodgery is rising alarmingly, and I don’t expect these oak chips/shavings to rot away quickly.  I’ll have to bring some home to burn I think.

I’ve done a couple of scratch stock mouldings on the front rail and rung.  I’ll be adding some patterning with a gouge later.


SAMSUNG CSCWhile planing up the side rails I was struck by a thought that the ray patterning reminded me of bees in flight:



Mortise and tenons

The storyteller’s throne is beginning to take a recognisable shape.

SAMSUNG CSCAt the moment it must weigh about an hundredweight, but the crest rail is way oversize and will be thinned and shaped to ape the ERH shepherd’s chair crest.  It has a very worn  effect to the middle of the shaping and I’m unable to suggest any reason why this section of the top of a chair should be so worn. it’s the centre section – no photo from the front where it’s more obvious – a mystery to me:


I’ve made 4 and two half mortise and tenon joints, and realised that I can half the time of making, following Peter Folansbee’s method with joined stools.  There’s no need to make side shoulders on the tenon – just the front and back.  The next 14  M&Ts should be much quicker, and a neater fit.  Funny how you can read a book several times and miss such an obvious method.

I’m using this chisel which is really good for scraping out the loose shavings, and tidying the corners in the mortises.

SAMSUNG CSCI originally acquired it to use as a rat tail for making captive rings n the pole lathe, but never got around to it.  Now I know it’s real use I can see that the handle must be a replacement as there’s no way it should be struck!

I’m also using this handy shoulder plane for tidying up the tenons.  Quite good for final adjustments.



Rather warm here still, but on Monday evening we took to the cool of the canal on two narrow boats for our Dales Jam band rehearsal and had a jacob’s join meal moored near Bradley.  Here’s our boss conducting from the drums:

DJ boat trip IMG_5212

Ta dah – the story teller’s seat’s tale.

I’ve been at Allerton Primary School finishing off the storyteller’s seat.

This was the set up

Hey, you can tell it’s a school! First aid box, double ropes, tools to the rear, visitor label blowing in the breeze.

I’ve been working on this chair for a few days in hopes of getting it finished today.  It took ages to fix those seat slats, two oak dowels at the back and one at the front, all at opposing angles to make sure everything stayed solid.  I jokingly thought I was going to bore those 15 holes 3 inches deep with a 3/8ths spoon (piercer) bit in a brace.  Bearing in mind this is drying oak, I pretty soon gave up on that and drilled large pilot holes with the anabaric* drill and just finished them with the brace and bit.

Once I’d got them all settled and one of the back pieces mounted and started on an arm rest, interest from those attending the school’s open day started to grow – well it started looking a bit like a chair.

“Are you going to leave it here?”

“Is it hard work?”

“Would you like a cup of tea?” Came the questions thick and fast.  Thought I’d left the armrest risers behind, but then found them in the Land Rover.  Time was ticking by only 12 noon ’til 3pm to get it all done.  Fastened on the second back board and the crest rail, and then the decorative top bead (where I used the only four 3″ rose headed nails in the job) and finally the finials.

Ah all was calming down now, I was going to get it finished and two ladies who attended the school in the 1950/60s (when I was at primary school too) took up seats to watch the finishing touches – fitting the second arm rest, knifing off any remaining rough bits, axing the armrests to size, shaving off pencil marks … all whilst discussing wood types, treatment of outdoor furniture, screening materials and the evils of carbon miles on imported wood.

At last it was finished and everyone had to have a trial sit …

“Comfortable, if I win the triple roll-over lottery tonight I’m having one!”

“Before you put your tools away, you’ve missed a rough bit on the right hand armrest.”

“Let me home to that cold, Rose Cottage beer.”


Hot or what?

So hot today the cattle on Silsden Moor were cooling off in the flood water left over from two weeks ago! Crazy weather, but I suppose the English weather is a bit like that – it was no more than about 9 centigrade at Otley Show on Saturday, but today it’s been about 24.  Very hot and sweaty for hewing oak into a storyteller’s chair.  Here is the progress so far:

Today I hewed some arm rests and turned three finials so my hands are black as the fire back again.  I’m aiming to get most of the parts finished in the trailer/workshop and then the kids at the commissioning school can help to put it together on Saturday.  Tomorrow I need to turn another riser for the second arm-rest and make 8 one inch x 6 inch oak pegs and cut the bottom two back boards to size.  The style is inspired by the 16th century great chairs, but of course is nothing like one!