Peeled posted and wrung

Here’s a post and rung stool I’m working up for an exhibition coming up in April (Ah, joyous month!) at Farfield Mill at Sedbergh.  The event is Working Woodlands and is intended to show the range and quality of products that come out of coppicing woodland.  There will be a special section devoted to products made from Moss and Heights Spring Wood timber.  I’m making my stool above with peeled oak from there, and it will have an elm bast seat woven from bark from Strid Wood (West meets East kind of style!).

Do call in if you can get there.

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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?

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!

But always at my back I hear / Time’s wingéd charriot hurrying near.

Spring is well under way now in Strid.

The bluebell leaves are everywhere, and where they’re not there is wild garlic:

Most people will see these two easily, but if you look more closely there is an abundance of other plants shooting up.

Wood anenomy, one of my favourite Spring flowers:

Dogs mercury, as it’s name suggest, poisonous and very thickly spread in Strid:

Even the wild strawberries are back:

Down by the River Wharfe the butterburrs are sprouting through. I think they look pretty alien, I assume they are of a very old genesis:

The dipper now is separate from its mate who is presumably nesting. You maybe able to make out the white spot of his breast feathers at the far side in the river, standing on a semi-submerged stone:


Detail:

I’ve not just been idly snapping photos either. Yesterday I made this bowl (not quite finished yet):

And today I need to get more felled wood back to the woodpile and sheeted before, the plants are too tall, the birds nest, the wood starts to spoil … and people start making shelters & bridges with it or chucking it into the river. Cleared most of it now with the help of some asylum seekers from all the trouble spots in the world.

On with the work; load of logs to make, shift wood, get ready for the Knaresborough Castle medeval do on Saturday, edit bowl carving video (watch this space), chop, chop!

Spring in the air

The crows have been paired up for a couple of weeks now, the pairs above were taken on 6th March. Now I’ve finished felling, phew! I’ve a bit of time to look around and get sorted ready for Spring.

But first a brief return to wintery weather for a hedge-laying competition. I won in the speed stakes (no prizes there then!) mainly because it was raining the whole time and as I am normally hiding under the tarp in Strid Wood, my outdoor wet weather gear just wasn’t up to it. I decided to dash home and return in time for the judging, hypothermia could have set in if I’d hung around a couple of hours wet through (well, not really; my feet were still dry). Here’s my length:

I won second prize – a bill hook, lost to the winner because I’d left a couple of gaps at the bottom. It was rather wet:

This guy’s wringing out his gloves.

Earlier in the week I had a chance to tidy up the workshop in Strid, moved the sales booth to the side and raked out some of the two foot of shavings. I think it looks a lot more open:

There are a couple of bowls I’m working on, the far one is a bird bath in chestnut.

I’ve felled an alder tree, that should make some good bowls too – watch this space!

Felling

Sorry, so busy no time for picture taking. I’ll try get some today as the weather is superb. My brother and I are carrying out heavy thinning work in Strid Wood. Only done two days and already lost count of the number of trees downed. The effect is really good though. There’s an old saying that you can’t see the trees for the wood, which is applied to overcrowded growth. These trees just don’t behave when left to their own devices you know. They just seed everywhere, even where they have little chance of growing to maturity. The beeches are the worst, they would take over the entire wood given the opportunity. However Strid is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and designated as “recovering”. This designation is explained as management of introduced species, like poplar, and reduction of species which are not in the SSSI designation e.g beech. The thinning reduces the call on sunlight, water and nourishment by weedy trees to favour big oaks and ash. This also opens up the ground so that the flora and shrub layers benefit and thus insects and birds and vistas appear between the big trees.

So next time you see a man with an orange hat and a chain saw have a think about what he’s doing, and it may not be a case of “Woodman spare that tree!” so much as “What a good job!”

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 …