Friday, 29 February 2008

Can't sleep

If the time's changed you'll see what an insomniac I am!

Yesterday we went over to our Plot (we can't seem to think of a better name than that)
Obviously the picture was taken last summer but there's a willow tree which was going to push the chimney over so I've cut that down and pollarded another. Hopefully that will give us a sunny space to the right of the shed for sitting out and having fires. There are two massive oil tanks behind there which we can't seem to get rid of except at great cost so we've just decided to put up with them.
Also cut down a dead wych elm witch seems to be attracting woodpeckers - not a bad thing you may think but they are also pecking into the beehive.
Anyway all that wood, we had a great bonfire . . .

Here's a posey pic of Rockstar in my new leather jacket!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Dates & Times

The last couple of blogs were all posted on Monday 25th February 2008 but because they are on "Amerocentric" Google look like they were done over a couple of days - the times are all wrong as well, from an English point of view.

Bonnie & Clyde

We had a good weekends business and came away Sunday night with a big, fat wedge of notes !! (The organiser, Marge, paid us in cash too as she had forgotten her chequebook).
Apart from those hobby horse grips I did manage to make other things :- babies rattles (which I don't really like making),

....lemon reamers from cherry ("What are Cherry Lemons?" an American woman asked!) The bead in the middle I keep and make a necklace when I have enough.

........and a load of ash dibbers and rounders bats, because we sold a load of them - didn't take photos though. Didn't manage to use the willow and the hawthorn turned out to be pretty useless when I split it - you never know what you're going to find inside.
I find it quite hard to focus properly and concentrate at these events as people are always asking questions and so much else is going on around you.

I try to keep up the stock levels of all the different items we sell - and Vanessa was selling HARD specially on Sunday.

We were lucky to be next to Wocko who's into coopering at the moment and gave us a small oak tub
I think we'll put a plant in it and have it in the bathroom.

Today Ness had her annual checkup at the National Hospital so it was a visit to "The Smoke" - they're going to give her an MRI scan and arrange some physiotherapy. I love the bus journey from Liverpool Street station....Bank of England, St Pauls to Holborn. People are in a strange state - nearly everyone's wearing an iPod and staring at a mobile phone. . . .

Woburn Weekend

A pretty horrible image I know but there's an interesting story behind it.
One of the "craftsmen" in the marquees (they pay to sell their "crafts" - we get paid to come) came to me in a desperate state. He'd bought the heads for his hobby horses but forgotten the handles. Could I help him out as I was the only turner there? I explained that I only had green wood and it would shrink. He reappeared a while later with some broom handles, could I make them from that? Well I'll usually help if I can and I like a bit of a challenge so I did ten for him. But my God, what awful timber - some kind of unspecified softwood - had to keep touching up the tool edges to razor sharp to get any kind of decent finish.
He offered me one of the finished horses in payment but I took the cash !!

Friday, 22 February 2008

First show of the year

I always feel excited and raring to go when it's the first show of the year. This weekend we're demonstrating and (hopefully) selling at a craft show at Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire.
Have spent the last couple of days building up stock levels (actually I've made a load of twig pencils and coloured crayons and some really nice milking stools with walnut seats), sorting out gear, sharpening tools and collecting my wood. Got a really nice selection :- Ash, Hawthorn, Field Maple, Cherry and Willow.
I never really know what I'm going to be making until I start work but I've got a few ideas and I do have some mallets to finish off.
Just hope the weathers not too wet or cold but I think the punters will come out as they're fed up being cooped up indoors.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Venerable trees

I love these ancient beech pollards. They have such wonderful characters.

Imagine seeing this Gryphon shape in the half-light or the moonlight! Like something from a Thomas Bewick engraving . .

As for "Knobby" well Nature has the truth, Art doesn't

The reason these beech are like this is because they were regularly pollarded by "the commoners" till 1874 or whatever when The Corporation of the City of London "rescued" the forest for the people from the encroachments and enclosures by wealthy landowners.
"Well done" . . . BUT . . . they then stopped all lopping rights ! Now you can't even take one log without being liable to prosecution.
Sometimes I do liberate odd bits I find. Today I saw loads of fresh-cut beech, oak, hornbeam and willow. But it's supposed to be left for some rare click-beetle they've found or "habitat" piles. Isn't man part of the equation? - haven't we always interacted with the woodlands and forests? Modern management is very unnatural and frustrating.

A Forest in Winter

I've had a healing walk through Epping Forest today. From Waltham Abbey to Loughton. Although I got the bus part of the way home I reckon about 6 miles.
It was frosty and bright and fairly deep in the forest found a chair ! so I decided to have a little fire.

Thursday, 14 February 2008


We've got a lovely hot fire tonight - here's a photo to warm you up if you're feeling chilly. Yesterday in that restaurant where we had our lunch there were two flat-screens showing a log fire but with hardly any FUEL on !

I like to see the flames

TORMEK Grinder

Had a stroke today . .
When I was demoing at Didcot turners I mentioned that I was saving up for a Tormek. One of the club members said he'd bought a load of gear from the estate of a old turner who had recently died, and so he had one for sale. I went and picked it up today for £60 with a full set of jigs! and he threw in a ring tool as well - apparently he tried one and snapped the ring off. It involved a bit of driving but I consider that a right result. Only thing is the water bath is missing - but . . I've discovered a dealer near here AND downloaded the manual. Anyone out there got any tips ?

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Rochester, Kent

We've been there today with my mum. Had a really nice meal of guinea fowl, buttered kale and giant chunky chips mmmm + raspberry cheesecake ice cream
Then we looked around in Baggins bookshop - the 'biggest' 2nd hand bookshop in England. Got "Made in England" by Dorothy Hartley for a couple of quid ! - a book that I've heard of and read about a lot but never actually seen
Also got Collins Guide to Tree Planting by Herbert Edlin - one of my heroes.
I love looking at books in the flesh rather than online although we have had some success recently selling books on Amazon.

It's a beautiful town on the River Medway with a proper castle and a cathedral and tons of interesting buildings of all eras - some great timber framed ones.
Also a very strong Dickensian connection and loads of antique and junk shops.

The website's been updated with this years diary dates & some stuff and pics about chaircaning.

Have a look

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


O.K. In non URL terms :-


No - they only show when they want to

Porno sites

They seem to have got rid of the junkier blogs - but i still have trouble publishing URL's on my blog.

CLICK the pics and they blowup

Here goes..


Does size matter . .

I'VE ONLY GOT A LITTLE ONE, but... it's quite powerful.
Chainsaw that is - what did you think I was talking about ?? It's a Stihl 020T the light, one-handed arborists saw. Which I think you can only buy if you can produce an NPTC certificate.
I must get round to getting a decent ground saw but this one has earned me a lot of money in the last ten years.
This is in response to a post about big, hot-rodded chainsaws on the Bodgers website . I couldn't seem to post my reply so I'm just rambling on here . .

Went up to The Estate today to scrounge some chestnut. A bit of a challenge what with
broken down 4WD's etc but finally managed to get a load of really fresh cut butts.
I love it - it's got a very long "best before" date and really good acoustic properties and its SMELLS great. I've got to spend a day making musical instruments at a school soon so it will be perfect. (Drawback is the massive amount of tannin in the wood which builds up a purple gunk on the tools).

Got my 2008 Diary Dates up on my website now

Also some more info on chairseating under "Wares"

Check it out


Monday, 11 February 2008


This good old chain hoist is our first transaction on Freecycle - an organisation well worth Googling and finding out about. The way I came by it was quite funny. I was at a country auction in Suffolk and put in a £1 starting bid. Well I ended up buying it for £1 ! The guy who took it is going to use it to put in engines and bodies on cars which he is restoring.

Got a whole load of that cherry from Kent yesterday. It's a bit cranky (what can you expect from orchard trees) but it's just about my favourite wood for spooncarving so I'll be making plenty of them and spatulas etc. The orchard was a scene of absolute devastation - all the trees uprooted by JCB and left for dead. They'll probably be shunted in to a pile and burned.

Saturday, 9 February 2008


My website doesn't seem to want to come up as a clickable link so visit


!st course of the year

Had a father and son here for the Intro course today. First of the year. And it's Spring - what a lovely day !
The crocuses are all out, the quince has a few flowers and I think the first daffs may come out tomorrow. I think they had an interesting day.
Tomorrow we're off to Faversham in Kent to get some bits of big cherry trees that have been cut down in an old orchard (they're going to replant it but on dwarfing rootstock)

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Didcot Woodturners

First real outing of the year yesterday evening to give a demo and talk to the Didcot Woodturners just South of Oxford. I had badly misjudged the distance and time it would take to get there so despite leaving at 4.30 only just arrived in time to set up and start at 7.30. It's these motorway trips (M25,M40) they're just a nightmare - you'd be quicker walking sometimes. Still, at least the adrenalin was flowing for the talk and demo. I showed them how to make a spinning top on the pole lathe, talked and showed the principles of bowl turning and demonstrated the bow lathe (as in photo).
They were a lively, friendly bunch and quite enjoyed it I think. I did too.