Archive for July, 2009

I don’t much care for big crowds at shows and normally I try to avoid them, but the New Forest Show is an exception that proves the rule. It’s a small big show, by which I mean that it still has a bit of a small feel and a larger element of traditional and rural crafts than some shows. Though it’s still pretty big and there are many acres of trade stands. I was with the Hampshire Coppice Craftsmen Group and we set up our pimps, faggots and benders at the village green end of the show.

Traditionally benders were made using bentwood poles, scavenged from the roadside hedges and a tarp covering, often more tar than paulin. Our shelters are more conveniently made with straight poles and the Hampshire group pitch accommodated a range of polelathes, hurdle and spar making and not least the faggots and pimps, of which more later.

Just around the corner from the Hampshire group members of the Dorset coppice group were demonstrating. Terry Heard makes besom brooms under the awning of his fabulous living wagon. Living vans were similar to shepherd’s huts but larger and better appointed, being intended to be towed behind a traction engine.

Terry was also making tent pegs with a traditional stock knife and the rounds of ash quickly transformed themselves into neat stacks of tent pegs.

These treadle lathes were demonstrated by Rod Poynting.

This superb collection of bill hooks, axe heads and other greenwood working tools caught my eye. The collection includes billhooks from the Moss family of blacksmiths in Surrey and Sussex and some Somerset Fussell’s hooks.

Another tool handle takes shape on the horse

This display of woodsman’s tools included a very nice U shaped shave for shaving the bark from poles. It caught my interest as I have an almost identical one that a friend donated to me. They are all hand made, often from old files and I was suprised how similar the two tools were. As we chatted I learnt that the tool had belonged to his grandfather and despite many offers he is not selling it. Meanwhilst the net he is making will be used for working with his ferrets.

Back at the Hampshire stand Alan Waters was converting a trailer load of birch faggots into a load of pimps. The traditional Sussex oimp is a handful of birch spray and cleft branch wood, firelighter and kindling in a single bundle. Each bundle of birch is chopped to length using a pimp cleaver, a massive single handed chopper with the birch clamped on a purpose built stand.

Twenty five bundles are then tightly compressed in a pimping engine and then tied with cord to make the roll.

A brief rest from wielding the enormous pimp cleaver. The strange alloy wheel is the front of Allan’s new Mare. A mare is a traditional barrow for use in the woods with an open frame for carrying cord, poles and faggots and a much larger wheel for coping with the rough ground. I’ve been meaning to make one for some time. both for using at my charcoal site and also for use at shows so seeing Alan’s has spurred me onto another project.


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It rained a lot on Friday as a massive thunderstorm passed over and the view from my open fronted shed was impressive.

I looked in on this old fordson major which is a feature of a local woodyard. I tried to fit in my pocket to take it home with me for some TLC but failed. Clearly I need bigger pockets. I particularly liked the way the bramble is curling out of the engine compartment, but actually it’s all there and a lick of paint would do it wonders.

At the same time we were experimenting again with log candles, again with Scots Pine. The first one was not too successful though the smoke kept the midges away. This one lit very easily and before long it was roaring away. From the way it caught light I can see that the resin is burning before the wood does so it’s important that the log is not too old or too wet for the candle to work well.

I am away at the New Forest show all week, hence the sudden rush of posts. Hopefully Friday’s storm is not an omen for the show.

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The Log Loader

The hunt for tractor accesories has started well. My friend and Landrover guru Richard unearthed the remains of a transporter box from a scrap pile, the kind of thing that you used to see carrying a collie dog and a milk churn down the lane (at least we used to). At some point in its life it’s rusted through and been modified to serve as a platform for carrying logs, which is exactly what I’ve been looking for to extract wood to my charcoal site during the winter from fallen trees on the commons.

Although it seemed a bit of a mess at first it didn’t take long to tear out the badly rusted metal and weld up the broken angle irons. After a quick lick of red oxide primer, not quite good as new but certainly good enough to try out.

It’s already proving it’s worth and more versatile than I expected. At the coppice group open day it suddenly occured to me that I can use it for more than just extracting as it turns out to be the perfect hydraulic platform for loading logs onto the chainsaw mill. It really cuts down the time needed to move and load logs onto the mil, something I used to have to do with a combination of capstan winch, hand winch and cant hook.

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When a local scout leader from Liphook rang to ask about taking some birch wands for their scouts I was intrigued.

It turns out that the scouts are on a camp this weekend in the Wye valley and planning to hold a coracle race. When the scrub grows up very thick some of the birch is foreced to grow as long thin shoots which would be very suitable for weaving, quite like withies or hazel sun shoots.

I left this area of scrub intentially a few years ago to provide a source of future birch products, rather than cutting (or even worse spraying) as soon as it appears I’m trying to introduce a rotational approach and its time for this area to be cut this winter. I will be cutting for besoms, bean poles, pea-sticks and faggots, as I have not use for these thin shoots it’s great to allow the local scouts to use the and it’s saving me some work as well.

I am very pleased at the way we are starting to find more uses for the birch, it all helps to raise awareness of how the commons would have been managed for centuries, promote local products and move towards a more sustainable management approach in the future. I look forward to hearing how the coracles perform and another use of birch to add to the list. I’ve been promised some photos of the birch coracles and we’ve invited the scouts to come out and do some conservation work on the commons in the future.

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I’m supposed to be preparing for the New Forest Show at the moment but other things keep getting in the way as usual. I spent most of the day repairing annoying electical faults on the big red 4wd tractor we use on the commons, and as a reward I treated myself to some more bowl turning afterwards.

This is one I finished yesterday and I quite like the way its turned out, despite the faults and knots in the grain which seem to add to the character with the spalting.

I want a couple more bowls to hold small turned items on my stand next week, so I prepared a couple more blanks and hope to find enough time to turn them before I leave on Sunday for a week in the New Forest – a bit of a woodsman’s holiday.

Also on the bowl turning front I managed to make a couple more handles for hooks at the show last weekend – just using up old blank billets which had dried out and were too painful to turn or had faults and had been put aside. I fit a piece of copper pipe as a ferrule and then part drill the hole into the handle before burning the handle onto the tool by heating ithe tang until it’s almost red hot with a blow torch.

Here are 3 more bowl hooks awaiting a sharpen and trying out. The shorter one is intended to be used for goblets and egg cups, at least that was the plan, we’ll see how it works first.

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Carrot cake has become something of a feature at some of my shows. I had some at the bodgers ball this May and it went down very nicely with the Raspberry Vodkin, not that they were intended to go together mind you, it just sort of happened that way. At the time I promised Fion that I’d let him have Alison’s recipe, but failed to get around to it until now.

So sorry for the delay and here goes with Alison’s courgette cake – made with carrots!

first batch of ingredients

8oz of caster sugar
6oz of soft brown sugar (made up as 4 of light and 2 of dark)
12oz plain flour
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tblsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1 heaped tsp baking powder
and sieve all the ingredients into a bowl

in a second bowl prepare
8 floz of sunflower oil
1 tblsp vanilla essence (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3 medium eggs

final batch of ingredients
8 oz of coarsely grated carrot (or baby courgette)
7 oz raisins
31/2 oz of chopped walnuts
the zest of an orange (a bit optional)

pour the oil and egg mixture into the sieved ingredients and then chuck in the final batch to produce the most unappetising looking mixture. It should fit onto a 9×12 inch baking tin and then cook for 40-45 minutes at gas 4 (180 degrees C). Take to shows and watch it disappear as if by magic.

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Last weekend was the Rare breed show at the Weald & Downland open air museum. The show is only one day but I decided to go down on Saturday and demonstrate as well to avoid the mad rush on Sunday morning. I’m glad I did as I had plenty of time to set up and a steady stream of interested visitors throughout the day. In many ways I enjoy these days more as there is more time to spend with visitors and less of an hectic feel but still a sense of anticipation of the show to come.

The weather was unseasonably cold and rather windy, so no sunny photos but the working collection of hand machines in the woodyard caught my eye. In the background is a monster bandsaw with the band running right around the smaller wheels whilst the large wheel is hand turned. I’m not sure of the other tools but I think one is morticer (chisel on a swinging weight) and a drill.

And there is the timber crane itself. With its massive post and jib you automatically expect it to need an enginer but it runs very smoothly and evenly by hand to lift large logs from the wagons across to either the racksaw or the sawpit.

In the evening the wind died down and I spent some time preparing blanks for the show day, just enough that I can spend as much time on the lathe as the demonstrating needs, and to speed up making replacement items as I don’t tend to keep any stock. My german bottle opening hammer came into its own – I forget the name but the translation is something along the lines of ‘friday after work hammer’ which comes with a bottle opener instead of a claw.

Had a very busy show day, after a downpour first thing in the morning the rain stayed away though the wind was gale force. I spent the whole day tied to the lathe with rounders bat’s being the top seller of the weekend. Then it was time to packup before the wind blew my shelter away though at least it was in the dry. As a result I had no time to see the show and totally failed to take any photographs of the show itself, except for this one of a half completed barn roof which caught my eye in the morning.

I also failed to sell any of my new shaving bags – though I came close on occasionk, and have managed to barter one for half a dozen free range eggs. Not dispirited though as the weather forced me to keep them under cover and I feel that they will start to sell soon.

My friends Robert and Carol were working in the forge next to me on Sunday. I took this photograph of a giant pair of log tongs as a record for Robert so that he can make another pair to the same design.

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