6 feet in 1/16ths of an inch

I’ve been making informal seating from ash cheeses for a client.  I started with a sample one in the bodgery.


Bodgery cheese

I’m using a 1 1/2 inch auger to get some beef into the joints.  I don’t usually work with cheeses as they have a good chance of splitting and ash splits in spades (they don’t call it most excellent splitter for nothing).  However, the client wants it this way, the cheeses were there and I’ve explained about the splitting, and they are partly dry.

I’ve been having to use heavy smoke methods to deter midges, which have been a real nuisance recently.  It does give a moody tone to photos though.


Veritas, Veritas semper Veritas.

I use a tenon cutter for the tenons from those excellent folk in Canada, you know the one I mean.

Well the sample went down well, so yesterday and today I’ve been making the other 5 seats and a table.  Made the legs in Strid Wood, then moved to the client’s house today for mortising.


Hobbit stools

I had to rig up a temporary vice as there is a lot of torque involved in turning that auger 3″ deep.


Ratchet vice

I strapped each seat in turn to the underside of what would become the table top which is the biggest heaviest cheese.  Worked pretty well.



Notice the tiny one sitting atop a full-sized stool?  It for the toddler in the family.

I managed to avoid a few potential problems – nails


Hidden steel.

The tree was a couple of years older than I am.


67, born from an ash key in 1948.

So … today 5 seats and a table, four 3 inch holes each, 5 foot of hole, each shaving from the auger is 1/16th of an inch, guess what’s coming … 60 times 16 is 960 turns – very good for the pecs, but also rather tiring, especially as the seats and table had to be leveled and the edges chamfered.


Freehand draw-knife work.

No wonder then that I managed to cut a hole in my new work trousers (and my knee) with the drawknife. Well I was about finished and found a handy bandage in the ambulance  Land Rover, could have used a couple of Steristrips though.

Meanwhile, back in the woods.


That’s no dog’s bark

Someone had been eating the beech bark, well stripping it actually and not eating any at all.


Send them back home

Grey squirrels, they are no match for a 410 shotgun.



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.

New pencil sharpener

I thought one of these would come in handy for sessions with children or when time is too limited for learning how to make an accurate tenon the pole lathe e.g when someone wants to make a stool in a day. I bought mine here.

Veritas are renowned for decent kit. I already have a 1 inch and a 1 1/2 inch tenoner and they both perform really well. This little number does really work like a pencil sharpener, but on a larger scale and, of course, produces a tenon or a dowel. There are good instructions in the box, showing how to hold it without wearing out your skin on the sharp bits that hold the blade in place. It also shows how to use a drill to produce dowel. Nah! Blummin’ instructions, what is life if you can’t sort things out yourself. I sawed up some very dry straight-grained oak first to produce the blanks:

These are about 1/2 inches square and about 4 inches long, I sawed them with my trusty old band saw (powered by a 1960s washing machine motor). The cutter makes 7/16ths dowel so 1/2 inch is just oversize. At first it’s possible to turn the blank in the cutter by hand, but once the outfeed starts coming out the friction gets a bit of a pain, so I squirted some lube on and it turned OK. Helped my hands by using a spanner to turn the blank. Trouble then is the blank square end eventually disappears into the infeed of the cutter and there’s not enough on the outfeed to get hold of and turn the blank to finish the job. Here comes the solution:

Drilled an interference fit hole in a one inch thick beech block, the friction was not enough to hold the dowel while turning the cutter, so I drilled for a screw that can be tightened into the dowel to hold it from rotating. Now really easy to finish off, just turn the cutter and pull a bit until all the blank is done and the cutter slips off the end. Loosen the screw and knock the dowel out, quick rub on some sandpaper (recycled palm sander stuff) to put a bevel on the end and ready for whacking into the hole:

Mrs Law was not very impressed with the greenwood chestnut gate I’ve been making for the way into the field, too many bolts:

Well a mixture of coach bolts and coach screws actually, but I was inclined to agree, they did take something away from the handmade look. Much better now:

Just three bolts holding the brace in place that spreads the weight back to the left hand side where the hinges will be. I’ve sawn a disused electricity pole to length and split it in two to make the hinge post and sneck post. Digging them in and hanging the gate are tomorrow’s jobs.