Charcoal ovens and witch charms (more stone than wood again)

We went to Skipton Castle last Saturday morning (cheapskates, there was a voucher for free family admission in the local paper – Craven Herald).  I was amazed to see how old Swiss army knives are – see them featured on the ancient coat of arms of the Clifford family above.

The castle is in very good nick to say its 900 years old, mind you the walls are 3 metres thick and it held out for 3 years under siege during the Revolution.  Part of the castle is still occupied by the Fattorini family, but the Clifford family managed to hold onto it for nearly 400 years.  Here’s a view from the back showing the occupied quarters (more like half – Ed.)

Anyways, the feature that struck me immediately was the masons’ marks on each window reveal:

It quickly became apparent that these marks are not only masons’ marks, but some are charms to keep something evil out of the castle by protecting the window openings and at least one doorway (couldn’t spot any on a fireplace though, but I’m told there is one such in the oak room above the shell grotto in the East tower of the gatehouse.)  Feast your eyes.  Apparently the genuine mason’s marks help to date similar parts of the castle and its additions and alterations.

This could be what we’re missing these days – perhaps we should get some of these in our house, workshops and woods to stop onslaughts from bankers, trolls, junk mail, deer, rabbits, squirrels and the rest?  I’ve got a glass rolling-pin I’m intending to fill with salt & hang by the fireplace which apparently has a similar preventative effect.

I guess these marks may have been made during the siege as the windows were added in Tudor times (before the Civil War) when they thought war in England was over (never mind, we’re all wise in retrospect.)

I really liked the roof timbers in this room (the kitchen I think, off the banqueting hall).  The room also has a garderobe just off, a view from the outside of which shows why it is also called “the long drop”:

There was a rubbish chute from the kitchen next to it.  This also shows what a good location for the castle was chosen in 1090 – just about impregnable up the North side cliff.

Another thing that caught my professional/businessman’s eye was this:

Any guesses?

I also liked the warm irregularity of this building in the courtyard.  Why don’t they build like that anymore?

Inevitably we had to do a little walk in the woods too.  Skipton Woods are owned by The Castle and managed by The Woodland Trust.  The ransoms (Wild Garlic) are just coming through.

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Five ton gates

This morning I went early to:

Five Rise Locks on the Leeds Liverpool canal where the lock gates have just been replaced and British Waterways (soon to become a charitable trust) held an open day to celebrate.  And what a thing to celebrate.  This is a section of the canal where the barges go through five lock either up or down using gates that weigh 5 tons each and are manufactured from green oak in BW’s Wakefield workshops.  The deal was a walk through the lock beds where you can only walk but occasionally, the gates are expected to last for 25 years, so I may not be around next time.  The turnout of people was impressive, a large queue had formed by the time I had chatted my way through attempting to make the many attendant employees’ day less than boring.

One of the otherwise hidden gems was the masons’ marks to show who had worked which stone and therefore needed payment:

See the two top stones with a half arrow pointing left and the star on the one below?  There were many different marks, it must have been a massive operation when they were first built in 1774.

There was a video playing at the canal-side showing in time-lapse photography the manufacture of the gates and their installation.  This is supposed to be on-line in April – watch this space!

I had today away from the woods, as I was there yesterday running a deer and fox making course: great fun:

 

Ah too much fun!  Back to felling tomorrow.

Working with the grain

We’ve had some rough weather recently.  Here’s the River Wharfe in spate, the bankside alders are getting rather more than just their feet wet.  But today the sun came out and gave me this sunny view of the river.

I think the little birds must be a bit happier without the wind and rain:

Here’s one of the many coal tits that come to eat the sunflower seeds from the workshop bird tables.  They are fearless these days and ignore my thuds and hammerings.  This table is about 6 feet away from the workshop stove.

I’m currently making another of my rustic-style garden benches, this one’s in oak, the shavings and the work are quite different from ash, which is what I mostly work in.

Oak is somehow brittler than ash, and the shavings oxidise a pinkish tinge in the air.

I’ve split out the legs from a single log:

They then have quite a growing form as the shape is dictated by the way the log split along the grain:

After splitting I axed off the bark and sapwood, then worked them smooth with the draw knife.  The tenons are made with a Veritas tenon cutter which makes a very sound 1 1/2″ joint into a mortice in the seat made with a scotch-eye auger.  Here’s the seat before the holes are drilled.

I’m drying the leg tenons a little at home before fixing and wedging them into the mortice holes as the seat had been milled for a couple of months whereas the legs have been left “in the log”.

I also milled some ash today with some very colourful decay.  The two inch slabs must be good for table tops I reckon.

At last the days are lengthening again, and I was surprised by my own shadow as I was milling after luncheon, the sun shone through the leafless trees to the West.

“Out of the strong came forth sweetness” Judges 14:14

Huh?  What going on here?

Making glue or summat?

Nah!

Just lunch – a shallot and a baked potato, soufflé next!

This is an adaptation of my informal firebrick rocket stove, sometime steamer engine, sometime midge repellent, handwarmer, crowd pleaser, but I must say oven is a great hit with me!

Anyway, as we approach the depths of Winter and the shortest day can I offer you this picture?

This is a hazel at the entrance to Strid Wood.  It is showing budding catkins at the same time as a few of last Summer’s leaves still cling on, just what the Heck is going on?  The birds will be making snow nests next!

I can’t resist giving you a link to this video of Susan Greenfield’s sermon on Storytelling.  It’s not about storytelling, but blogging does get a mention – and now read on/watch it.

 

Deer me, what fools these humans be. Free etching …& bonus quizzes.

Deer course yesterday, photo report.  Above Harvey learns the old art of releasing the hodfast.  Like the nu mallet, WW1 style?

The soup and home-baked roll went down well. Yes some work was done too and everyone went home with a new pet:

But how it will fit in Harvey’s bedroom alongside his 6 foot t. rex head, I’m not sure.

David put a nose on his deer.

So these were sensible people spending a wet Saturday under cover learning hand drilling and round mortise and tenon joints and designing to their taste.  Some space still left on next Saturday’s course and a Christmas present one coming up in January.

However, blimey, sometimes people just are too difficult to understand.  Like the ones who use a flail machine to “trim” hedges, which involves thrashing small saplings half to death. O man! this really hurts me having to drive past the results every day.  I’ll spare you a picture.

Then there’s the ones who just don’t put the right values on stuff.  I found this in a skip.

I used to pass this house name when I was a boy, and at some point it was replaced by a pottery one.  OK I don’t care for the pottery one, but why throw away this old etched and enamelled one? Really, I’ve got to find a home for this without either confusing the postman or changing the name of my business.  If anyone wants it, drop me an email.

I’ve been having a little exchange with Tico Vogt about yew, its sources and uses as I’ve recently acquired a quantity of this poisonous stuff, I had a walk up to see what the grove of yew looks like at the top end of Strid Wood, where I rarely go.

(OK, there’s a massive oak mixed in there too.)

There are some that would be suitable for making longbows, I think, not that I know much about that, but again, why is this nice butt wasting away?  And it will take some time!

Doh!

Anyway, there are some good vistas up at that end of the wood, no wonder people are always coming here for walks.  Here is a view of ruined Barden Tower, once the home of the Shepherd Lord.

Spot the fisherman.

Also there are some softwoods up there, which are getting to look rather majestic.

Also up there is this building:

I’m glad to see the roof has recently been repaired – but riddle me, riddle me, what was it for?

Have a think and I’ll edit the post with a clue tonight.

OK, above’s the clue.

This is m’new tool’s use.

Pretty simple really, but very useful.

I print my own business cards on shavings from the shave horse ops.  I get as many as I can on each shaving (sometimes as many as four).  I then have to chop them to single cards. In the old-fashioned days, before the advent of The Super Card Holder Downerer, the cards flew around when chopped and the loss rate amongst the other shavings on the floor, was quite high, and even when stray cards were retrieved it involved bending – yuk!

M’new tool holds the cards in place and on the first run of about 50 only two managed to escape to the floor.  It works more or less with its own weight and the slot allows the axe to do its job and is wide enough to see that the axe is in the right place between stamps.  I don’t need to be an ace at aiming the axe as I use a maul to drive the axe, unless they are very delicate shavings in which case I just lean on the axe.

I’m posting this in the line of “Ugly jigs that work” that Peter Galbert runs on his excellent blog.

(Still waiting for developments on the mystery fungi front I’m afraid.)