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.

Hole filled

Here’s a (rather blurry/soft focus phone) photograph of the peeled oak gates installed.

I’ll take another when I return with the oak drop bolt with renewable pin.

Many thanks to Dave for his sterling help – it was definitely a two-handed job to get everything looking good when there are no right lines to follow.

I delivered this renovated bench today too:

It’s another hand tooled finish in chestnut.

Wild About Wood coming up this weekend at Castle Howard.

Workbench Book

Working with wood has a prerequisite of holding the wood while you work on it, even if the holding mechanism is your hand or another part of your body.

I’m currently reading this book:

It was written by Scott Landis and published in 1998 by Taunton Press (funny, I seem to be building up a collection of their books). The book sets out the development of the woodworking bench and then looks at a large range of benches currently in use in some detail.  I’m looking to rebuild my workbench in Strid as it’s a bit too rough and ready to work the tail vice properly, and I have a very tempting half butt of beech just asking to be milled for the job.

My old one (unmodified) was like this .

I’m also hankering after a dumbhead shaving horse, which get some good exposure in Landis’ book.

But first:

two more chestnut benches;

4 walking staffs;

internal dog gate and panel;

mend a Suffolk trug handle;

possible bike shed;

more dibbers;

more bowls;

more stools;

High Head green gathering ;

Get charcoal forge in operation;

harden and temper Bohemian bearded axe;

chopping boards;

and so it gos on …  makes me tired just thinking about it!

A noisy start to the day

There a few visitors to Strid Woods early morning, especially if the weather is dull like today, so I spent half an hour making big noise.

I was using the newly hardened and tempered cold chisel to change a disused oil drum into a mini charcoal kiln. First job is to remove one end which will become the top of the kiln, and the removed end will be the lid. I cut three nicks in to stop it falling back inside. Then three holes in addition to the existing one in the other end for air intake.

I should be using this kiln at a couple of shows this Summer, but I’ll need to trial it first.

I then turned my attention to the drain pipe bird table project. A customer asked if I could mount one of my bird tables on a pipe that grey squirrels can’t climb. This is my solution to boring a 2 and 1/8th hole with a 1 and 1/2 inch auger so the pipe will fit in a heavy log enabling it to stand on a patio without permanent fixing.

Rather tricky drilling overlapping holes, but the little inch and a half oak insert was a great help. I then just enlarged the center hole with a chisel leaving three places around it where wedges can be hammered in to stabilise the job. This is what it looks like finished:

It is far too tall, but I’ll let the client decide what height they are happy with.

I also finished off the bench a couple of days ago and delivered it today:

Another long horn beetle got in on the act. I like this finish and I’m doing a repair to two benches for another customer and they also liked this finish, so it will be much knifing in the woods for a couple of days. I now have both handed crooked knives too, so I’ll be able to switch from left to right a bit and rest muscles alternately.

Hanging around the kiln

I’m going to have to change my charcoal regime.  I set it alight on Wednesday morning about 10:30.  It wasn’t quite full so I expected less charcoal.  I closed it down to tick over at 5pm and at 9am the next morning opened the air supply up again.  The smoke still looked pretty dirty, with maybe a hint of steam still in it.  However, I was able to ignite all three chimneys which I think should have been a warning that it was nearing time to shut down completely.  Well, I decided to go down to the workshop with the air on about half cock.  Stayed down there for lunch and when I got back to the kiln at about 12:30 there was no smoke! Bad sign.  Closed down double quick.  This morning (Friday) opened up, and nasty white ash at all three inlets – the charcoal had been burning.  However, got out 22 10 kilo bags, and as it was a smaller charge that was not too bad, but I reckon about 2 or 3 bags were burnt.  Next time I’m going to stay with it the morning after, I’ll have to bring some bowl or spoon work to do while I monitor the smoke.  On the positive side there does seem to be a growing demand for the stuff.  Now I need a market for the fines (dust and small charcoal) which are rejected at bagging. It’s supposed to be a very good soil improver.

This was supposed to be a day off, but the charcoal bagging took a big chunk out of the morning so I did a bit more on the chestnut bench (which needs a remake of one leg), washed the Land Rover and mended it’s driver’s side step which I smashed on a rock (and nearly punctured the diesel tank) while reversing the trailer in the woods.

I also shafted the second of three bill hooks I’m doing for a customer.

Pictures to follow.  Tomorrow I’m brewing and playing at the Rough Beats Festival at Clapham – our band is Dales Jam.

Still Springy here but the Hawthorn May blossom is just going over, one last look:

You can see other bushes further away on the hill in the background which is known as The Gib.

This morning I planted a small elm and smaller oak in the corner near the new gate to replace the silver birch, the stump of which is still to be reduced to ground level.

Chopping a bench

Hi again!  Still Spring here with Red Campion, Ramsones and Corn Cockle blooming away.

So, today I’ve been making a bench as ordered.  The top is from the chestnut I bought from the estate.  As mentioned before,it typically grows with a twist in the grain so is unsuitable for splitting and so I milled it into planks with the chain saw.  This left me with a stack of slabs – the outer round sections from squaring up the butts.  One of these will be the bench seat:

Rather rough looking.  The first job is to hack away the first three or so rings of sap wood which, as in oak, is unsuitable for long life, being prone to attack by fungi and insects.

The sap wood is the light-coloured stuff.

Now I’ve cut it to length (4 foot 2) so it’s a bit lighter to work on.  The off cut will make a table, I’ve decided.  It’s light enough to go on #4 chopping block for the bottom section. Cutting off the sap wood from the edges needs consideration to be given to the direction of the grain twist; I need to chop down along the grain as it rises out of the twist, otherwise the grain splits into the body of the timber – bad thing! Chop from one end at one side and from the opposite end on the other side.

Done!  What a lot of shavings:

Some people ask if I ever sweep up – silly question!  This stuff is too valuable as an insect repellent – when smoldering in the stove.

OK there are a couple of faults, dead knots:

The end one would annoyingly very nearly do as a hole for a leg, except it only slopes back and not sideways too as it should.  I think I’ll make a dummy leg to shove in there and see what it looks like.  The surface is fresh off the chain saw mill.  This will be an out door bench so that may be the way to leave it, or maybe plane it  .. or adze …

Decisions decisions …

Here’s the log for the legs (and a spare pair for the table):

Lucky people there’s also a view of a couple of drumsticks (honest – that’s how they were specified) and a bag of my charcoal.

And here are two of the legs:

Sorry, they’re out of focus.

Watch this space for more, interesting assembly line production of – the bench!  Coming soonish to a blog near you (well not before Saturday.)