Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Hawthorn & Elder

We were demonstrating at a show near St Albans on Saturday at the Woodland Trust's HeARTwood Summer Festival.  A young furniture maker (power tools) called Ben asked if I ever used Hornbeam.  "Only when it's really freshly felled," I replied, "or you find out why it's called Hornbeam!"  Apparently he'd been dropped off some logs by a local tree surgeon, didn't count on using them and offered them to me.  About an hour later he came back with the largest log which I could see straight away was actually Hawthorn.  Great, even better, I love it for turning and spoon carving - a very dense, hard and pinkish wood.
Jed added the tennis ball for scale
This is typical of the hit-and-miss way I source my timber - someone else also gave me a nice Hawthorn log only the other week (he also gave me a lovely piece of Apple and a Laburnum log - thanks Mark).  So now everything will be made of that for a while as it was from Catalpa earlier in the summer.  I've had a load of Sweet Chestnut for the courses this year but now I'm bored of that and fed up with cleaning the purple gunk off the tools.  I found a nice Ash log stuffed under a hedge in the Abbey Gardens last week but I would be happy if I could find a more regular, reliable supply.

I notice that in Mike Abbott's latest book 'Going with the Grain' he notes two suppliers of chairmaking Ash but only in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.  Wouldn't it be good if there was a nationwide directory of people who are willing to sell logs of different species of timber to green woodworkers?  I'm willing to compile such an index and would be grateful for the names of any woodland owners, tree surgeons, wildlife organisations etc that I could add.

* * *

On a different note this Elder tree doesn't seem to know whether it's coming or going at the moment, bearing both ripe fruit and fresh blossom at the same time...?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Devil Sticks

Instead of the usual rounders bat, candlestick or dibber, James decided to turn a Devil Stick from Sweet Chestnut on the pole lathe. 

Although he's quite an expert and we spent some time getting the weight and balance right I think the sticks used to manipulate it needed some rubber or silicone on them for it to work really well.
Could be a good idea for something different to make on the lathe?

Thursday, 18 August 2011


We were recently sent a copy of this letter of thanks by the organizers of an event that we did at the Sussex Showground called "Connect with the Countryside...

I specially like the young lady's drawing of herself treadling the lathe and the description of the "fanny mocine thing"!
It's always good to get a bit of positive feedback.

Monday, 15 August 2011


Some years ago when I used to deal in old woodworking tools we used to go to three or four boot fairs before breakfast on a Sunday morning.  Our expectation levels were high and quite often we were disappointed and didn't manage to find anything.
Yesterday we had a rare Sunday off and went to the local boot fair.  We paid £2 each to get in early to avoid the riffraff and netted this little lot...
for £9.10!

The augers are Ridgeway 1 1/4", 1 3/8" and 1 1/2" and cost £3,  just a bit of superficial rust removal and a sharpen and they work perfectly.  The drawknife is a Sorby Kangaroo and although a bit rusty didn't look as though it had ever been used - still had the factory grind and hadn't been honed.  The crosscut is in quite good nick and I'm going to have a bash at sharpening it properly.  The ladle will come in handy as we want to try casting some lead plugs for priests.  The two gouges in the middle of the chisels are Henry Taylor Acorn brand and have never been used.
The yellow stone below the drawknife is very hard like marble and polishes edges although it's a bit dished - perhaps someone can tell me something about it?

PS The drawknife and the Henry Taylor gouges were just £2!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Finally - The Slab has landed

The piling was done on Saturday - two at 7m and two at 8m.  Luckily we were away running courses and didn't have to hear the awful noise.

The guys came on Wednesday evening and worked till it was dark installing the shuttering and steel cage...

...and the slab was poured yesterday afternoon.

This afternoon, hopefully, our builder Terry is coming round to let us know when he can recommence work after only a 3 month gap!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Barefoot Beekeeping

Owen Jones recommended this book to me earlier in the Summer when I met him at the Royal Norfolk Show.  Having read it I would heartily recommend it to other beekeepers or anyone thinking of taking it up.
Check out the Biobees website.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London's Burning

This is the scene at the end of our road this morning.   A huge pall of black smoke coming from the burning Sony storage centre on the M25 near Enfield.  The motorway has been closed and I can't help thinking thank God for the North Easterly breeze or that lot would be blowing down our back garden.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Hazelnut Harvest

We had to pick all our hazelnuts yesterday.
We'd found lots of little piles of nibbled shells where the squirrels were tucking into them and decided that if we didn't pick them there would soon be none left.
We've put them to dry on a large wooden tray.

Are we going to have an early Autumn this year? There's already some colours appearing.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Jacks, Bombards & Lamhogs?

Finished off the formers for the leather drinking vessels at the weekend.
L-R Jack, 2 pint Bombard, 4 pint Bombard
 That was hard on the legs and as I was only getting one and a half revolutions each stroke I started to think about making a Lamhog.
This one is in Willow from Ireland, possibly late 18th early 19th century and recently sold at Christies for £2400.
You have to rig the lathe so that it only makes one revolution when you turn the handle area or you'll snap it off.