Woods across the border

I’ve been away in Cumbria for the day with Coppice Association North West in Moss & Heights Spring wood.  It was a good day, and good to meet a few more woody folk.  It was a bit damp at first and the fire was a bit of a challenge:

But it came good in the end:

How much woods vary, this one had a much more open feeling than Strid which lies in a steep valley.  Here the views were open up to the Lake District with its mountains (the lower southern ones in the top picture above)

Some coppicing was done, until Twiggy hit an unseen length of wire with her chainsaw.  She luckily escaped with a minor puncture to her face, could have been a lot worse (and yes the helmet vizor was down).

This was my first experience of proper coppice cutting for useful material.

Only a half-dozen members turned up so it wasn’t a lot of work, but some useful stuff was produced for working on.  I took away birch for elves, shrink pots and spoons.  Others were taking the birch tops for besoms.

Two dogs were out – Jim’s Tilly and Mike’s labrador dog. Tilly’s a typical Jack Russel – here hunting mice:

Reminded me of our old Spot the dog.  Tilly is very protective of her territory, and rather coquettish with Mike’s dog. Her she is reclining in her barge:

I’m hoping to be doing some coppicing nearer home next, fingers crossed.

A four-legged workshop

Today I ran a workshop for five people making deer.  I was ably assisted by my wife (chief photographer, waitress, tool mistress and adviser for the day).  Two of the chaps on the course shared today as their birthday and the course was a present from their wives.  Although we were surrounded by (melting) snow I managed to keep everyone busy and all went home with a deer (except for me, I’m more of a venison man):

Here are the youngest and oldest 15 to 62 (fortunately my insurance cover goes as low as 9 years old).

These gels had fun:

I should point out that the rips in the jeans were pre-existing and that no humans were harmed in the making of these deer.  The red stains liberally sprinkled around the middle work bench are just Flying Goose hot sauce stains caused during an eating incident at lunchtime.

There were actually six members of the course but the robin just didn’t seem to get the hang of things at all.  He seemed to enjoy the biscuits and home-baked bread nonetheless.

It has been very scenic in the wood this past week, if a bit chilly.  I’m surprised at the very low numbers of visitors considering the sights to be seen:

I think sometimes I like the shape of trees without their leaves better than with.  The shape is so much more clear and stark and beautiful.

Even the messy old bodgery looked not bad:

The sun did his bit too to make things look good:

These pictures take a bit of getting as the sun only shines on my side of the River Wharfe briefly in these short Winter days.

I feel so sorry for the wildlife living outdoors all the time, I know vaguely how they must feel, and they don’t have four pairs of trousers and five tops like me.  Earlier this week at home the temperature dropped to minus 13 centigrade – just how do you sleep out through that?  Maybe the cold is just another state to wildlife, but I guess they must enjoy warmer weather.

And another thing, why do snow pictures usually look as though they were taken on (almost) black and white film?

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.

Sometimes …

Sometimes you just get going and the whole thing stops, suddenly.  Never mind.  On Sunday I was just getting into a groove with bowl turning, having substituted a hi-tech strap for the cord I broke Thursday, when the strap snapped!  Boff!  Today I rigged up a leather strap, which probably won’t stand the pace for long, but may get me to the next recycled conveyor belt strap, which is supposed to be the business for bowl lathes.  Turning a bowl on a pole lathe is quite a high energy affair.  It certainly works up a sweat, even in the frost. The bowl has to turn quickly to get a decent finish and control of the cutting tool is vital, and like anything new takes a little getting used to and mastering comes later.

Sometimes the solution lies in wait and jumps out at you.  Again on Sunday (a good sunny day otherwise) all four wheels on the trailer (which is a mere six months old) were jammed as I towed it out of Strid.  The brakes were locked on, and as there are four of them, that’s quite some drag, even for a beefy Land Rover.  Three wheels were free by the time we got out of the wood, but the fourth just refused to budge.  After a lot of jerking, reversing, rocking, rolling, bouncing, decided to take the wheel off, go home on three and sort the prob out at home.  And then, sometimes this happened before, sleeping on it solved the problem.  Went out this morning, all ready to heat the blighter up, hammer it gently with a mallet etc, but it was free already.  Now I find this was another of those time machine problems.  Easy to solve if you go back and do something else in the first place.  What I should have done was time-travelled back and not applied the handbrake before laying the trailer up for a week.  So today I’ve fashioned a pair of wedges (well found them in the heap of logs I turned out on the splitter) drilled a hole in them and attached a rope loop  – stops them getting confused with the other logs if nothingelse.  Just like the chocks they used for aeroplanes, I can now leave the brakes off when the trailer’s parked up and use the chocks.  The problem apparently has become worse since asbestos is no longer used in brake linings  (of course it’s “a good thing” that we don’t use a deadly poison to stop wheels going round any more).  Modern brake linings bond to the brake drum and lock on.  Leaving them off avoids the problem.  So you see, not doing something is sometimes positive.

Sometimes if you leave something it works out while you’re not thinking about it.  This is a piece of tested wisdom, oh yes.  Doesn’t work for everything, of course, but sometimes …

Made it.

The six chairs are now united in their new home on the moors above Bolton Abbey.

My customers are very pleased, especially with the little table

It was rather a struggle to get up there, even with snow chains on the Landy.  I kept thinking, well I’ll get up there, but maybe not get back.  But I was accompanied back and two shovels came in very handy clearing 3 foot drifts of heavy melting snow that the Landy kept on bellying on.  All the snow’s gone from down in the valleys round here, but at 1,600 feet up where the chairs now live it had only just yesterday got above freezing, first time in weeks, and my customers had not had their 4×4 car down to the village since New Year’s Day!

The package in may last post was a 2 1/2 pound Kentish pattern axe that I’m now making a new handle for. It looked like it was going to be a cleaver from the package!  Photos to follow when it’s re-shafted.  It’s an old War Department one in good nick.  I do wish, however, that people who sell tools on eBay would resist the temptation to ‘sharpen’ them.  Which usually just means putting a shiny, inexpert edge on with a grinding wheel.  Fortunately on this one they had not over-heated the edge and lost the metal’s temper as can happen with a powered grit stone.  I’ve just about restored a better smooth edge with my treadle-powered grit stone that runs in a bath of water keeping everything cool.

Course coming up tomorrow over at York with Paul Atkin.  I’m getting a couple of hook tools for bowl turning, and a half day on their use.

Fire burns hotter in the cold

Especially if you use petrol as a fire starter.  Lovely smooth hands now, and no bobbly bits on my fleece.

I took a spare length of stainless flue liner in today to improve the draught on the new bodgery stove.

The difference it makes it very noticeable.  The stove now roars.  The firebricks are steaming out the summer rain, hot enough to dry more wood and gloves round the outside.  And the added luxury of a wooden door (soak before using!).

OK, so now it stacks up like this:

1. A large stone half buried in the ground.

2. Rusty old wagon wheel.

3. Centre hole covered with the flue blank from the new RC wood burning stove.

4. Firebricks, dry walled, air ingress where they do not sit tight to the wheel.

5. Wooden door.

6. Flue liner.

7.  At the base of the flue liner an old chain to weigh down the flue.

8. Drying fire wood.

It is a really good hand warmer.  Standing with your back to it it also warms the parts other stoves are too civilised to reach. Possibly the best stove in the word.  Definitely carbon neutral.

And when accompanied by fine food it completes an abode of bliss:

Also featuring in the picture is my lunchtime work.  A new small ladle from the silver birch we took down at home.  Safely stowed in a plastic bag so it does not dry between times working on it.  I know I should have taken a photo of the fantastic crook I’ve taken it from, but then …

Being snowy it was surprisingly quite in the woods, I guess people are busy getting festive.  They certainly don’t seem to want to buy Christmas tree decs anyway.  It was rather cold:

I had rather a lot of snow shovelling to do as the NE wind had brought a lot of snow inside under the short tarp.  I spent some time doing a Winter solstice clean up.  The off cuts and failures accumulated over a year had become an unmanageable pile leaning against the  back of the sycamore tree.  In fact I had to walk round it to get into the workshop.  OK so now it’s all reduced to logs and sitting in the trailer waiting to come home for the ever hungry  RC stoves.  It’s surprising just how much there was.

The new Landy is becoming a more familiar tool.  Needs WD40 in the locks to stop them freezing up.  Back window heater is bust, needs to be fixed under the guarantee, along with a couple of other niggles.

It takes me great places though.  Look at this.  The view’s been featured before, but it’s worth it:

What a commute!

Messing about.

Oh no! not the spare wheel now!

Oh phew!  It’s inside to lighten the back door:

It takes up quite a bit of room in the back, but I can use it as a shelf with the help of some ply.  I’ve also started replacing with proper rope the naff rotting tapes that are supposed to hold the seat swabs folded up.  Found out why the courtesy light switches don’t work too – part of the circuit has rotted away.  Easily fixed though as it’s within the light unit.

What with the pre-snow sleet and NE wind, spent a bit of time in the back of the Landy making rope stuff.  I spliced a logging loop to hold logs onto the Lift and Shift, then moved half a dozen beefy beech logs out of the wood into the wood pile.  That was the second warming from them after felling last winter.

I wanted to do a bit more on the small ladle I’m making from some of the silver birch from home, and as it was really rather chilly I set up an impromptu stove from some fire bricks that may one day become a forge.  It worked rather well, once I’d salvaged some foreign language instructions from the Landy handbook as fire starter.

It is stable and draws air from below.

I’ve made a wooden door that’ll need soaking before each use.  There’s about a metre of flue liner at home that will now come in useful as a chimney/hand-warmer.  All it needs now is Mr D’s patent blower to help get it started.

Oh yes, and the deer are back: