Archive for September, 2008

As often seems to happen, too many urgent things are conspiring to make the pole-lathe take a back seat so far this week. I hope to change that before the week is out.

I like to make useful things. So I was delighted recently when Will, one of the stonemasons at the Weald and Downland Museum asked me to make him a mallet to use with his chisels.

Having some cherry with me I decided to make a 1/2 sized mallet as the head of a full size one is 6 inches and it would need a separate handle knocked in. This turned out very well, if I say so myself, and as Will actually wanted to use it with smaller chisels was a good size to choose.

To my delight Will started using it immediately and his stone carving is impressive as you can see.

I hope it gets used for years to come and I’m looking forward to the challenge of making a full size one.


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I’ve been scrumping (ie picking up the windfallen) apples for some time now. A plentiful supply this year. Partly due to a good crop from our own Tom Putt’s trees and partly to an invitation to gather apples from an old orchard outside Godalming. Once in sacks they will keep for a while but won’t wait for ever and so its time to get scratting and pressing.

Cider is very simple to make, you need to shred the apples and then press them to collect the juice. The traditional method then just allows airborne yeast to ferment the juice. Not being a purist I add my own yeast, thus ensuring a strong fermentation and reducing the chances of making cider vinager by mistake. Unless you have access to real cider apples its best to use a mix of dessert, cooking and crab apples so that the apple tannin , sugar and acid levels are reasonable. This year I have had enough of our Tom Putts to make 5 gallons with just this single variety, as its thought to be useful for cider was as being a cooker and an eater. In fact, the versatility of this Dorset apple gave its other name ‘The cottagers apple’. The rest have all been a mix of cookers (bramley and Howgate Wonder) and eaters (sunset, early worcester, cox and russet) as well as a couple of unknowns.

The apples are milled or ‘scratted’ into pea sized chunks called pomace. The scratter rips the apples apart rather than cutting them to release the juice without pulping them which can release the pectin. making the pressing more difficult and the cider rather cloudy. My scratter is a bit small and it helps to cut the larger apples down before milling them.

My press is converted from an old paper baling press. I use the traditional method of pressing, in which the apple pomace is formed into cheeses wrapped in hessian sacking and separated out by wooden slats. Here the base, slats and top for the press are made from birch which is a waste product from the restoration of the local lowland heaths. Once pressed the juice is collected into 5 gallon barrels and will stand outside over winter. The fermentation, initially fast will slow as the temperature falls. In the spring the cider will finish fermenting and if all goes well it will be followed by a Malo-lactic fermentation in which the malic acid (very sharp taste) will soften as it transforms to lactic acid, resulting in a more palatable, less rough, drink to bottle around May time.

I’ve been making cider in this way for 4 years now and despite the rudimentary nature of the equipment its drinkable, if not the best quality cider. This year I am hoping that a better mix of apples will improve the result. We shall see! In the meantime I still have some of last years to keep me going.

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Most of us will have a favourite wooden spoon that we like to use in the kitchen. Many of us will have a wooden lemon squeezer or a favourite wooden rolling pin. There is something about a wooden utensil that improves the cooking, and for me it tastes better as well.Treen is the collective word for all household items. It’s not so very long since many kitchen utensils were made from wood rather than the metal and plastic creations of Today that we regularly throw away. I like turning treen and I always try to have the widest possible range of items for sale, like the honey drizzlers shown here. They all sell, although being hand crafted they are more expensive than cheap mass productions. It seems that my customers agree with me that the choice of wood and individuality of each item adds something. I am encouraged that we may turn back to using wooden treen again. You know it makes sense.The honey drizzlers shown here are made from local wild cherry (or Gean) wood. It has a lovely two tone pink and cream colour which is always popular. The wood I am currently using came from Hole Hill Woods on the North Downs as a part of the coppice restoration.They are not particularly difficult to make although I use a narrow parting tool to make the deep gouges and you need to be careful not to break off the wood that is left. You can see more honey drizzlers here on the bodgers ask’n’answer forum.

I am away for a week and look forward to posting more when I return

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It’s taken a while to write another post, but last weekend I demonstrated pole-lathe turning at a local event, the Fernhurst Furnace open weekend, so here goes.

The site of the furnace is tucked away in secluded woods midway between Haslemere and Midhurst.

The Fernhurst Furnace was a medieval Wealden Ironworks which operated for over 150 years and included a cannon casting pit, the remains of which can still be seen today. The Iron Industry was a major influence upon the shape and management of woodland in the Wealden Landscape. The furnace would have used thousands of acres of coppices for several miles around to feed its enormous demand for charcoal. The invention of coke to fire furnaces in the 18th century spelt the end for the Wealden Iron Industry, but the size and extent of the coppice remains today as a valuable resource although much is neglected and unmanaged.

Despite downpours during the week soaking the site the weather smiled on us over the weekend. Chris Wool-Palmer, a local woodsman and charcoal burner made charcoal with his transportable metal kiln. Chris burns with Alder wood which makes large lumps of high quality charcoal. You can buy his ‘Didling woods’ brand of bbq charcoal around Midhurst.

Too many demonstrations to include them all in one post but Fergus from Butser Ancient Farm was demonstrating an even older technology by smelting copper in a small charcoal furnace. On Sunday Fergus had the opportunity to use the Alder charcoal made on site by Chris. Butser is a fascinating experimental ancient farm on the South Downs which you can visit online here – Butser.

Robert the blacksmith from the Weald and Downland Museum was forging all weekend with his portable forge, assisted on Sunday by fellow blacksmiths Nick and John from the Tilford Rural Life Museum near Farnham.

Stephen Allberry showed us how to adze the seats for his wonderful chairs. Stephen’s workshop in Fyning, near Rogate on the A272, is not too hard to find as his pole-lathe is set up in his front garden and clearly visible from the main road. It’s amazing how many people have mentioned Stephen and his pole-lathe to me when I am demonstrating at the Weald and Downland museum. Maybe we should all be out in our front gardens?

Resisting the temptation to write on all of the fascinating demonstrations over the weekend, last but certainly not least I have to include the Sealed Knot. Out on the field above the furnace the Civil War reenactors turned out in force to show us how the cannon made at the Furnace would have been used. The black powder charge uses charcoal, traditionally made with Alder as a key constituent, and it certainly certainly kept us awake all weekend as we were treated to cannon and musket fire together with the spectacle of skirmishing with pikes and muskets.

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