Archive for May, 2010

Somehow working on the polelathe is never the most urgent thing to do so I am quite pleased I’ve managed to spend some time making bowls with my new bowlhooks. I am going to suffer for it as the urgent things haven’t gone away and now I have less time to do them.

But I don’t regret working on the bowls as the finish is gradually improving and finally I’ve managed to make a few bowls which I am prepared to sell.

A mixture of bowls with Wild Cherry or Gean (and yes it has cracked slightly), sycamore along the back, black walnut (unusual for me to turn a non-native wood) and spalted birch.

Turning the spalted birch was surprisingly hard and it almost did me in, but the effect was worth the effort I think.

I tried taking some pictures of the bowls under artifical lights but it didn’t work particularly well. As it happened the late afternoon sunlight hit them and did a much better job for me.

Back to the real world with a thump now as it’s the Surrey County Show today and I’ve been booked to appear on the Merrist Wood college stand and an early start at 6am to get there and get setup.


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I am remiss. I have been intending to post on the greenwood chairs that my friend and neighbour Robert has been making recently, but the pressure of work has made it hard to get posts out and somehow it never quite happens. Robert made his first chair this winter (I posted on it here) and since then he has been busy in his tiny, but purpose built, shed making a succession of chairs. I’m delighted that he’s been bitten by the bug and seeing him drive by with a couple of chairs in the car  reminded me that I’d forgotten to post.

This is one of a set of six chairs (I think) which are made with cleft hazel and the components are shaved rather than turned – he’s squeezed a lot into his shed but not much room left for a lathe. Making a set of six is a big commitment but I think it’s also been a key to developing his style and skill which is coming on in leaps and bounds.

Here Robert is starting to assemble a half size version.

and here a couple of frames awaiting assembly  – though there is no room in the shed for both working and storing chair parts.

before long it’s in the back of the car on its delivery run. The shaved components retain an element of the natural shape of the wood which Robert has used to good effect in these chairs.

and now he’s branching out   – ooops, sorry couldn’t resist it – into roundwood(branchwood) designs.

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OK perhaps the title is a bit of an exaggeration. They aren’t monsters – but the rest is true. It’s cool today. But a couple of days ago it was blazing hot sunshine and I opted for mowing the bracken through the fringes of some of the trees on the Lynchmere common rather than working in the open on the fields or heath with my scythe. It wasn’t long before I brushed up against some silky strands and thought I’d encountered a spidersweb, but couldn’t find it.

The further I went the more I encountered until I found a caterpillar on my shoulder. Hmm. something strange going on here – and then I noticed hundreds of silky strands fall from the trees with caterpillars on their ends. Small brown and/or green caterpillars – but I have no idea of the type. Most likely will result in lots of moths rather than butterflies. Not easy to get a photo of lots of tiny caterpillars blowing in the breeze on their silk strands.

or to find the right angle to catch the silk left festooned over the tree canopies while dodging more of the caterpillars lauching themselves down from the trees

Looking upwards rather than downwards the effect upon the trees, particularly the birch, is striking with many trees stripped of leaves. Hopefully they will releaf as soon as the caterpillars move on.

The food chain in action, as the avalanche of moths provides food for the birds – a buzzard is attracted and turns slowly in a spiral awaiting it’s chance to strike.

I decided that the combination of sun, temperature, silk and caterpillars was all to much and left the commons to the tree eating caterpillars for the rest of the day.

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After last weeks session at the forge I’ve put handles on the two new hook tools and now have 6 tools from the landrover coil spring material. As the material seems very hard (doesn’t file even when normalised) I have not tempered the last two hooks yet, and if I do I will do so to a fairly soft temper, as they seem to be very high carbon to start with and the last thing I want to do it break them.

The first hook works well, it’s a good shape and the (relatively) large size makes it both easier to sharpen and easier to take off larger amounts of wood from the bowl – here a lump of sycamore from the churchyard at nearby Blackmoor.

I thought I’d try a couple of small sycamore bowls just to get the handle of the new tools and compare with the existing ones.

When I got a handle on the final and biggest hook I was amazed at how easily it shaves the wood from the bowl – stepping up to another gear in comparison with my earlier hooks – and the one I originally bought from Gavin some years ago I have recently given away to a friend to use on rings (for model wagon wheels).

The ability to take off a bigger shaving seems to be related (as you’d expect) to the radius of the curve on the hook, similar to a roughing gouge and both of these hooks have the bevel on the outside of the hook – but it certainly doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Here the finished bowl is translucent where some flaws in the wood make an attractive grain – I’ll post pictures of it (them) once I’ve finished soaking them in our local cold pressed linseed oil from Durwin Banks at High Barn oils. It makes a very nice salad dressing as well!

I got carried away and put this larger lump of spalted birch on the lathe after the sycamore and almost gave myself a hernia – it’s very dry, hard and knobbly, a lesson in improving the shape of my blanks is required I can see.

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On the Ball

Caption please?

Answers on a postcard or comment to this post. Most erudite caption will be awarded a bottle of bodgers gold from this years ball, providing I haven’t drunk it all by the time we meet!

As I spent a lot of time working on the Bodgers Ball this year, I’ve now put another page of photos from the ball onto the gallery page, mainly to remind me of the weekend events – not because they are great photos. So beware, these pages come highly recommend for insomniacs who count polelathes and chairlegs to get to sleep.

The first page is found here:  Gallery photos from the bodgers ball 2010

and the second page – if you are still awake – can be found here : yet more photos from the bodgers ball 2010

Now onto the next bodgers ball – or for me time to start thinking about the upcoming scythe festival in somerset this June.

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A couple of weeks ago I was demonstrating greenwood work at the Weald & Downland museum and fell into conversation with a chap who asked if I was the ‘official bodger’. Though official bodger seems something of a contradiction in terms to me, I sort of knew what he meant and remembered a conversation with him the previous year about his grandfathers tools. I often have these sort of conversations with people and think no more of it.

But having been assured I was the ‘official bodger’  and we’d met before, he went back to his car and returned with a plastic bag containing the parts of an old frame saw or turning saw as they are often called in England  Apparently he is slowly disposing of his grandfathers tools in various directions and chose to pass the saw in may direction.

It’s particularly appropriate as it turns out that the saw was his Grandfather’s, a Master Wheelwright in South London in the early part of the last century. My grandfather was also a Master Wheelwright though in in Bolton rather than London and I never knew him, but  I will enjoy using this little saw and through it feeling a small connection to the master wheelwrights of London and Bolton.

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While I was at Tilford, Andy showed me a tool he’d found while clearing out the garage and asked if I knew what it would have been used for. I have to confess that I don’t. It looks to be some kind of mini-mattock.

The handle is fitted into a small socket but also has two metal straps and rivets to hold it rather like some of the small hand adzes I’ve seen.

There appears to be a metal spike on the end of the handle.  So if anyone has seen one of these before and/or knows what it’s intended to be used for please let me know.

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Omubazi Mike

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