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Archive for April, 2010


A quick note to say that I finally seem to have finshed the marathon of brake and axle rebuilding over the last week. This turning blank is the pefect length for holding the brake pedal down – and all week it’s the closest that I’ve managed to get to working with wood.

At 8pm last night I discovered that the seals on a replacement wheel cylinder were leaking after only 3 days, though the seal probably leaked as soon as it was fitted. Despite the frustration I am relieved to have found the final fault,

Thanks to the practice over the last week it only took me about 30 minutes to strip off the wheel cylinder and contaminated shoes, clean, replace, pressure bleed and adjust the brakes to discover  – pedal perfection. Just in the nick of time as the retest has been fixed for today which is the latest I can do it and still get to the Weald and Downland on Sunday for the food and farming show. But all the messing around means that unfortunately I won’t make it to the Butser Beltain celebration on Saturday, which is a real shame.

Have to rush off now and start trying to catch up with the tasks that have been put aside for the orgy of mechanical work. Still don’t know if it’s passed of course!


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There is at least a piece of wood in this photo – even if its only holding up the landrover. The almost annual disaster with the brakes continues – the retest is tomorrow and after 3 solid days working on it,  last nights test drive ended with almost no pedal and binding brakes. In other words about as bad as you can get.  There is just a few hours left to find out what is causing this frustrating condition. I’ve resorted to reading ancient manuals (engineers almost never read the manual) and ferreting out old rover service notes on this particular (and rather nasty) brake system, but so far to no avail.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible – oh please!

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You don’t need a phd in physics to work out that time is not a constant. It speeds up and around this time of year it seems to speed up more than most as the Bodgers Ball is fast approching on the 8th and 9th May. This time it’s quite close to me so I’ve been roped into lending a hand with setting up.  We spent yesterday finishing the clearing of the woodland area for the campfire, camp cooking area, entertainment, bar, whittling corner and ‘gents strawbale toilet’ to take the pressure off the portaloos.

It’s a sizeable gathering, we are expecting 200 ( more if the weather is good) bodgers and bodgers mates to descend upon a field at Stratfield Saye near Reading. There should be 20+ polelathes working and many other greenwood demonstrations from rakemaking and spoon carving through to tool handles.

This year the theme is ‘back to basics’ and we will have demonstrations and workshops on sharpening, steam bending, chair assemblies and a local blacksmith demonstrating edge tool making as well as the competitions and races, the AGM and the tool auction (back by popular demand).

This area will be roofed with tarps to be the whittling corner. It’s the second time we’ve cleared the undergrowth so it should be just about right for the event. As you can see just about all of the clearance has been done with hand tools, including scythes, and we are keen to keep it that way during the ball, so no chainsaws this time.

There will be some cutting to be done, particularly the wood for the log-to-leg races and I am just wondering whether we could do this work with some cross cut saws. Perhaps I could persuade some of our talented saw doctors to bring their favourite saws along and we can form a Cutting Crew and  a saw challenge as well? Any takers?

Members of the APT&GW can book to attend the Ball by contacting the membership secretary by email at bodgers.membership@dsl.pipex.com and guests will need to be booked in by a member. It’s not open to the public this year, though I don’t think there is anything to prevent local visitors from popping in to see what’s going on as it is on the local recreation field – it’s not a Secret Bodgers Ball, at least I don’t think so.

I am looking forward to meeting up with folks at the event but there is much to be done before then, so it’s back under the landrover for me.

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….in other words I’m frustrated.  One of my old landrovers and unfortunately the only one on the road recently, isn’t any longer. It failed it’s MOT test in fine style yesterday.  Quite a long list –  more of an essay really.  It’s not like I haven’t spent the best part of the last week struggling with an array of holes, rusty bolts and old wiring., but it wasn’t enough to get through and I have a lot more work to do in the next few days.

All of which is conspiring to delay all of my greenwood work with deadlines looming. Panic stations!

I think it may have failed in a fit of pique at being taken for the granted over the last year as it has transported all my equipment to and from shows, and carried loads of wood around as well. On the short drive to the test garage somehow, mysteriously, amongst other things both brake light bulbs failed,  an exhaust clamp came loose and oil started leaking from various orifices! Possibly also because I failed to give it’s yearly wash and brush up before the test – instead I was struggling with the brakes and wheel bearings – none too successfully as it turns out.

The faded brown colour (yes it is brown, not just rust and dirt) is the original BBC paint job from 1960 when it was built as an outside broadcast wagon. The old insignia and painted over writing on the side are the BBC shield and logo. Some history to it, and I hesitate to repaint it and lose all of the history.

It, we call him, The Beast, which is short for ‘Beast of burden’ on a good day and ‘Bloody thing’ on a worse day – is 50 years old this month. Celebrations are postponed temporarily.  It’s not bad for a vehicle in fairly regular use, though I do intend to retire him to a less stressful routine of show duty for me and my polelathe as soon as possible. Though the plan involves at least one more landrover, a newer one – only 49 years old, so it may be a while before it happens….

…and in the meantime I need the beast for wall-to-wall shows next weekend. Bustser Ancient farm Beltane celebration (complete with giant wicker man) on Saturday followed by a two day show ‘food and farming’ at the Weald and Downland museum.

Yes I am mad. I do realise that a 50 year old landrover is not the most efficient way to run my greenwood working business,  but by and large these vehicles give sterling service. They don’t make them like that any more! and I can’t quite face a modern faceless eurobox instead.  Besides, despite the appalling fuel consumption it saves me a fortune in buying newer vehicles and helps the environment as well. So I need to get motivated to do the work and get it in for the retest booked for Wednesday.  Iit will be  nose to the wheel bearings and brake drums tomorrow once I get back from working on the bodgers ball site at Stratfield Saye today.

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* Warning,  writing a blog can seriously damage your sense of humour!

……Of course there are no engines on these planes to be affected by ash clouds.  Recently we went round to help friends, Andy and Susie, tame their overgrown garden. They have just moved into a house about 15 minutes walk  away. Under clear blue skies it was a great day, and Andy showed me some of the carpenters tools that he has been rescuing from his late grandfathers house.

I was particularly taken by this Stanley plane with a variable profile to the base. Although well used it is in good condition and the mechanism feels very firm and well made.

I think Andy is doing the right thing in taking on all of these tools, even though he’s a software engineer (at the moment) rather than a woodworker – it amazes me how often people tell me at demonstrations that they or ‘uncle Tom/Bill/Harry’  used to have this, that or the other tool but it was dumped or skipped.

Not really a ‘What’s my tool’ as it’s pretty clear that they are all variable planes in one sense or another,  but if anyone can fill in details on what they were used for or knowledge of using them, please do comment below.  Particularly erudite posts will be rewarded by a bottle of my ‘Bodgers Gold’ delivered at the Bodgers Ball (aka the AGM of the association of pole lathe turners and greenwood workers) which is only a few weeks away now.

On the walk back through the woods along the burbling stream that is the beginning of the River Wey (or one of them) we cross the site of another old tool – in this case a hammer, from which Hammer, our part of the parish,  the lane and the hamlet on the other side of the valley in Hampshire take  their name.

The hammer at pophole was a water powered medieval hammer forge, the only remains of which are part of the water management. The sluice gate is imprssive

And next to it is the remains of the waterwheel channel  I don’t know if much is known of the history of the site, but everytime I pass I am intrigued by the remains.

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I admit to feeling a little smug. Working with greenwood in the tranquility of the woods is very therapeutic (and mildly addictive) at all times, but with the sun shining and no planes to get in the way there is just the sound of axe, drawknife and chisel upon wood. The air travel chaos doesn’t seem to be much of a problem from here, but maybe I just don’t understand why it’s so important – maybe somebody can put me right?

One of the fallouts from the BBC mastercrafts series is the great interest in trying greenwood working. I’ve heard that course numbers are up a lot. I don’t really do courses. I find that they take up a lot of time and at the moment I prefer to leave it to those who are good at it, but some friends from Fernhurst managed to persuade me to let them try polelathe turning.


The new horse got used in anger alongside my original horse. The new horse is nothing special, particularly as it’s been made in such a hurry, basically a sturdier copy of my first horse, but I think I will get used to it very quickly.

Cameron decided he would make a charcoal burners stool and he seemed quite pleased with the result…..

….while Katrina managed to make a captive ring on a ‘thingy’ – she prooved to have a delicate touch – very impressive for a first try on a lathe.

I think my friends enjoyed themselves, but I’m not used to so much company in the woods……

so at the end of the day I went for a short walk in peace and quiet……

….surrounded by the afternoon chorus of birds. There are more flowers out every day and I noticed these tiny pink  wood sorrel in amongst all of the white flowers.


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No I’ve not been studying form on the turf, it’s not that kind of horse.  I’ve been meaning to make a new shave horse for years. My first greenwood project was to make a shave horse. Despite it’s shortcomings it’s done me well for a few years but it’s showing it’s age and I am aware that others find it very hard to use.

As some friends have talked me into giving them an introcuction to greenwood work  I’ve finally decided to make a new horse (Mastercrafts strikes again). Luckily my brother-in-law was around for a day or two and luckily he helped me get started with the legs  –  but I need it quickly and as usual, it’s a case of using what’s lying around the shed. An oak offcut plank and some hazel for the legs.

The clamp frame is a seasoned sweet chestnut pole cleft in two with a turned top and bottom of ash.

I only  turned the top and bottom because it was the quickest way to make them;

As usual fitting the frame on the body is a process of trial and error – mainly error.

The result is nothing special. but it  performed well on its first outing on Wednesday. It’s a lot better house trained, though with the oak plank body it is considerably heavier than my original little horse built with softwood salvaged from a skip.

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