Archive for November, 2009

Grim weather today. Wind, rain and hail. It went so dark this morning it seemed that night was falling. Just right for staying in doors and stoking up the fire, so I headed down to the Weald & Downland Museum to spend some time with John and Nick in the forge. They were having an away day from the Old Kiln forge at the Tilford rural life museum and doing a day at the Weald & Down instead.

My aim was to make a couple of new bowlhooks with John and Nick’s help. And thanks to Vicky the Range Rover I’ve just come into some rather beefy coil springs to use for the material – they even broke off at the right length to get started.

John got to work straightening out the length of spring steel for me.

I thought I’d managed to hide at the back and work the bellows but suddenly I found myself wielding the hammer very inexpertly.

and trying to get just the shape I was after for the hook end.

We had a slight technical hitch. After leaving the new hooks at the edge of the fire to cool slowly they should have been soft enough to file the new bevels onto them, but something went awry and the hooks using the range rover spring steel were still too hard to file! I managed to get one done by heating it to a very dull cherry and filing it hot, but the other one remained too hard to file. Very strange. At the same time I repaired a couple of broken hooks. So it’s back to bowls now.

Many thanks to John and Nick for allowing me to interrupt their day in the forge, as always I learnt a lot and I can’t wait to try the new hook out.


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I posted a couple of weeks ago on the chance encounter at the Burley Cider pressing weekend that led to a discussion of George Lailey and his workshop at Buckleberry green in Berkshire. The Butcher, the Baker…….the Candlestick maker? here. When I got back from Norfolk I found a small package awaiting me.

I am very grateful to Tony and Sheila Jacobs for sending me this George Lailey candleholder. I am used to seeing and hearing of Lailey bowls but had not stopped to think that the family might have made quite a range of items. In these highly specialised days of manufacturing and production lines , brain surgeons and rocket science, it’s very easy to interpret the past with our own values and experiences. How wide was their range of products? I am not an expert in either bowls or candleholders – is anyone aware of other Lailey candleholders? Or similar turned candleholders from other turners? If so, is this one typical of the type? I’d like to know as much as I can about this little wooden candleholder.

The bowl of the holder is about 5 inches in diameter with a roughly carved 3 inch handle. It’s interesting that only the bowl and the base have been turned. The edge of the holder has only been roughed at best, probably to avoid the section with the handle on it.

I suspect that the holder is made using an offcut from the bowl turning, maybe with the stub of a branch on it that made it relatively easy to make into a candleholder? Much in the same way as I use odds and ends to make light pulls, door knobs or other small items rather than waste partly processed good wood.

Apparently Tony acquired it whilst living in Buckleberry where he grew up, almost next to the Lailey workshop, most likely in 1946, as they moved in 1947. The date on the base, partly obscured by what appear to be 4 mandrel spike markings appears to be 1946. It seems clear that the spelling of the name is Laily, whereas references (for example Edlin ) typically spell it Lailey?

I aim to make at least one copy of this candleholder before too long, so I will be looking for suitable wood. I guess elm is a good choice as would oak, as they will smoulder and char rather than catch light?

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Deranged Rover

Warning – wooden content of this post is virtually nonexistant. There is a token piece of wood but you’ll need to get to the end of the post and it might not be worth it if you are not into landrover restoration.

It’s time to own up. There’s something lurking in my shed. It really is the elephant in the room. The No.1 distraction recently has been an old(ish) Range Rover. It went into the shed last October to be prepared for the MOT test. But the more I did the more needed doing and the pile of discarded bits and the list of repairs grew and grew. I’ve been working around the car rather than on it all summer and it’s started to submerge under a heap of tarps, sacks, hessian and a healthy covering of sawdust and shavings.

I am the Battersea Dog’s Home of old Landrovers. I don’t find them, they find me. The Range Rover (we call her Vicky) is no different. The story goes like this. I lent my engine stand to Victor, a friend of mine. Some time later, he returned the stand but there was a catch. The engine came too, with the car still attached. Victor had a new job back in Holland with a company car, and the Range Rover needed a good home Victor having just fully rebuilt the engine. So we installed Vicky on the drive – I called her a garden feature, I’ve heard the fashionable term is ‘drive art’.

Cue gratuitous photo of rust. I’ve forgotten exactly where this was but it’s fairly typical of a lot of the bodywork. It all looked quite good under a coat of underseal until I inadvertantly touched it with a wire brush. All the underseal fell off and the metal floor pan came with it. Not quite a religious experience but certainly very holy.

It all started when I tried to change a couple of rusted body mounts. Then I noticed the smell of petrol, so the fuel tank had to come off, the rear bumper and the exhaust followed.

Even changing the mounts turned into a struggle as I virtually had to rebuild them as well as fit the new mounts.

In fact it began to seem as if the body was melting away in front of me, the rear wheelarches were disappearing and the most of the outer sills also dissolved at the touch of a wire brush once the trim was removed.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that the coil spring mounts were gone, the springs broken and the shock absorbers rusting away. Starting to seem as if the pile of discarded bits outside the shed was getting bigger than the pile left on the ramps in the shed.

When I got back from Norfolk recently my friend and Landrover Guru Richard joined me to help put it all back together again with his monster mig welder and get her out of the shed. It’s been great to lie under the Range Rover all year, especially for a swift snooze, but I need room in the shed to get on with the next projects especially now that it’s winter and not so easy to work outside. I can understand why a lot of car restorations never make it, with just the odd hour here and there it’s impossible to start the job let alone finish it. So we’ve spent almost all of the last 2 weeks removing all the holes and rebuilding the car.

Time for the token piece of wood. The door trim on this Range Rover is still wooden well something like wood. Damp has taken it’s tole so today I’ve finished sanding it down and I’m trying a quick coat of varnish to renovate it.

I still have a list of 20 things to do today, but these are minor items, we’ve finished all the welding and hammering (hopefully) and the last one is to ring the garage and arrange an MOT.

Finally looking a little different. All back together again and almost ready to leave the shed and reinstall the ‘drive art’. Shameful to admit it but I might enjoy using a landrover with a real heater and that keeps out most of the water this winter.

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I think the Lynchmere Society volunteers may have invented a new Olympic sport on Sunday – Extreme Scrub Clearance. The photos don’t really capture the full force of the storm.

But it may not have a very wide appeal as the rules of the game are to clear a 15m x 15m patch of birch rhoddie and gorse scrub using hand tools, light a fire and burn the scrub in the presence of continuous storm force wind and rain.

The weather lulled us into a false sense of security when we arrived to clear scrub on Marley common. I think most of realised it wouldn’t last but noone wanted to be the one to back out. Almost as soon as we got a good fire going the wind and rain arrived at storm force, peppering us with hail as well. It was too severe for the scattered trees to provide much in the way of shelter and the fire blew horizontally for a while.

Amazingly we got the job done. Probably due to nobody wanting to be the first to abandon. But we managed to retire in good order whilst the wind and rain abated for a short while.

Many thanks to Chris Pooley for staying beyond the call of duty to tend the fire. One extreme sport that may not catch on – even within the volunteers of the Lynchmere society.

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Pickling Sad Onions?

Alison took this photo of an Sad Onion in my giant pickling jar. By some fluke the pickling spices formed a face on the onion, strange as I don’t think of onions as being sad to be pickled, perhaps it’s all those tears shed in peeling them?

When I make pickled onions I need a good supply of small onions. I use English cooking onions and keep an eye out for bags of small ones which happens now and then. It’s a good way of using up onions that are a bit too small for anything else and it can be very cheap to make as a 1.5kg bag of small cooking onions is often less than a pound. Before putting the onions in vinegar I wet brine them in a salt solution using about 2oz of salt to a pint of water and leave to soak for at least 24hours.

Once drained and dried I pop the onions into vinegar (malt vinegar of at least 5% acidity) and I have a giant jar for this purpose. As the onions are often quite large for pickling they need to be soaked for a few weeks before they are ready and I add the pickling spices to the vinegar and oniona in the jar. It’s a bit variable but I normally throw in mustard seeds, peppercorns, a few cloves, part of a crushed stick of cinnamon or whatever is in the spice cupboard.

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Every second weekend in May the Association of Polelathe Turners & Greenwood Workers (aka the bodgers) get together in a field somewhere in the country for the annual general meeting, or as we know it the Bodgers Ball.

For 2010 the venue is the village playing field at Stratfield Saye on the Hampshire/Berkshire border. There is a small sports pavilion in the field and that’s about it, we will be providing the rest. Weather permitting we’re expecting it to be a popular event so the size of the usable area is important.

Behind the field is a woodland area which needs clearing but would be useful extra space to use for the campfire, bbq area and perhaps the bar. We are planning to suspend tarpaulins from the trees to form a covered area for whittling and maybe other demonstrations. I am also keen to put in a ‘pee-bale’ (see here for Wipole Hall’s recent innovation in composting) if I can persuade people to let me, though a full composting toilet might prove a little too radical for this year. So on a windy, rainy, Friday Alison and I went over to Stratfield Saye to help with clearing the woodland area. It’s all of 28 miles by the back roads, or as the ‘landrover travels’, but it takes at least an hour normally and a lot of the single track roads were flooded which doesn’t make it faster!

Since it was last used for greenwood courses (at least 10 years ago) the underwood has become untidy and brambles spread over the floor. By the time we arrived the last of the rain made itself felt and an enthusiastic team of Derek, Jim, David and Sue, Veronica and Alison and I set to clearing the hazel, hawthorn, brambles from the woodland floor.

The team did and excellent job and by the afternoon we’d made good inroads and with a fine fire the debris was soon consumed. We managed to do all the clearance with hand tools, bill hooks, loppers, slashers, hand saws and scythes. I thought this appropriate as the theme for the weekend will be ‘back to basics’. The petrol powered monsters stayed in the landrover. The two scythes I took were particularly good for clearing the brambles fitted with ditching and bush blades. I might have converted a few more folks to modern scything and I took a rake as well which was much admired, though I broke a weak tine on the woodland floor.

In the playing field was an amazing circle of fly agaric mushrooms, I’ve never seen fly agarics form a circle before and I’m told this was a good omen. I’m looking forward to the bodgers ball at Stratfield Saye, the site has a good feel and I think it will be a great success with or without the assistance of mushrooms.

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Way back at the end of July I helped the Liphook Scouts to cut some birch rods on Stanley Common, one of the commons I help to manage, from a patch of scrub I’ve been leaving intentionally to harvest at a useful size. The scouts were about to go on their annual camp, this year on the river Wye (just down from Symonds Yat) and their aim was to make coracles and race them on the river.

I know this part of the river Wye (just down from Symonds Yat) having been camping and canoeing there since I was young, so I was keen to help their plan. Very kindly the leaders sent me some pictures of the scouts making the coracles and the race on the river. The coracles only needed to work once so a light birch frame sufficed covered in plastic sheeting.

The coracles look quite ungainly out of the water but once in it they seem to do the job nicely.

Though I think I might need a slightly larger one these days. In these days of health and safety paranoia it’s good to see that the scouts are still allowed to make and do things, so well done the Liphook Scouts – and I look forward to getting them to do some more scrub clearance on the commons as well.

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