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Archive for August, 2010

This massive Cherry butt has been serving as a leaning post in Derek’s workshop for a couple of years but is now destined to serve as chair legs. Quite a few chair legs I should think, provided of course that we can split it at all. It was a very good leaning post and it will be a shame to lose it – I’m not quite sure how I got conned into helping to split this one as quite clearly it’s not going to be easy.

A roundup produced 5 metal wedges and a maul (or beetle) for driving them in. As it was a garden cherry tree it’s likely to be fairly twisted grain and being the base of butt of the tree this will be even more pronounced.  Losing 5 wedges without managing to split it open would be quite easy.

We managed to get 4 of the wedges in the top as first the crack ran to one side and then the other before finally splitting down one side.

It might not look like it but these wedges are completely jammed in and the maul just bounces off them.  Time for the last wedge and some more muscle…

As the split opens down the side we recover the metal wedges from the top

Almost there but it won’t give up easily – With wood nothing is ever quite that easy and the one thing  you can predict is that it will be unpredictable. It’s splits quite well ,  considering,  but there turns out to be twisted fibres and a knot right at the base of the butt which fights us all the way.

Until it finally opens up revealing quite a heavy wind. The problem with garden trees is that they are often overfed and over watered, branch out in all directions and are normally unsheltered so the wood is much harder to work with twists and knots than the equivalent woodland tree. If it does get turned into chair legs then at least they will be strong ones!

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Yes the Adze, Inshave and Travisher mean that I’ve made more progress with my chair seat. It’s turned out quite well as the weather has been awful so the workshop (in this case Derek’s workshop for most of the time) is the best place to be.  The Inshave is the tool like a curved drawknife in the bottom right of the picture (this one is Derek’s) and the Travisher is the one like a curved spokeshave in the top left of the picture (again it’s Derek’s).

It is fairly much the first time that I’d used my little hand Adze, let alone with Inshave and Travisher. The adze is one made by Mick Stanton (Fraughtwrought – he demonstrated edge tool making  at the Bodgers Ball this year) and I think Ibought it about 3 years ago. So thats how long it’s taken me to get around to shaping my first chair seat. But then I did have to plank the wood and season it to be fair! Anyway well done Mick  it’s turned out to be a great little adze, and although on the light side it is good for delicate work – though I am still getting the hang of it.

I haven’t finished the work on the seat, still have the final smoothing and some mistakes to cope with as well as the chamfering around the bottom edge, but it seemed best to get on with fitting the legs whilst I had the opportunity.

and then the stretchers as well. This is the centre stretcher of the 3 which forms the middle of the H shape between the legs.


At least it’s reached the stool stage which is a good step forwards. I haven’t made all of the sticks for the back yet or the comb (the solid piece of wood across the top of the back).

I have really enjoyed the work on the seat and fitting the legs somewhat to my surprise as it seems a little daunting at first.  But finishing the work on the seat and the components on the back will have to fit in around other work now – so the chair will be taking a back seat for a while (ooops) – and I need to find my Inshave and figure out what to do about a Travisher as I don’t have one and they don’t come cheap.

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On a gray drizzling Friday last week I ran my first course on Scything. A one day course for the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service and an opportunity to use the skills and knowledge I acquired from my Tutors course back in June upon my poor unsuspecting students – though in the end they prooved more than equal to the challenge and maybe I was the poor unsuspecting Tutor!

Having planned for poor weather we took advantage of shelter in the local barn to get through the intruduction and setup of the scythes. I had a range of blades on display and also old English and European varieties of scythe from my growing collection, I had hoped to be able to use one of the English Scythes but all the preparation time went on getting the 6 snathes ready for the course and sadly I ran out of time to prepare the English scythe for use – But that leaves something for next time.

There is only so much talking that I can do without getting down to doing something and so we went out into the drizzle to cut some rough grass. Despite the poor grass and the light rain the group soon started to mow quite respectably which was very pleasing for me as tutor.

In the afternoon we headed onto the Lynchmere commons (there are more than one) to try cutting bracken. After cutting the grass we blasted through the bracken and I need to remember to have more than a couple of pitchforks to keep up with the mowers next time. I think everyone was impressed with how effectively the scythes handle bracken and light scrub. The neat windrows of cut bracken also make it relatively easy to collect and pile it for composting

The last part of the day’s course was to try cutting along rides and paths with obstacles (trees, holes and dead wood) in mixed scrub and brambles. Again I think that everyone was impressed that with a little thought and a change in the stroke of the scythe it can effectively cut and clear brambles.

In  Traditional style we celebrate the end of the day’s course and thank Dan (promoted from Tea Boy number one to Student) for mugs/buscuits and taxi service etc, and Rich who coped admirably with promotion from Tea Boy number Two to Tea Boy number one and making tea and coffee for us.

The new scythe snathes held up very well, coping with both the grass and the harder work of bracken and scrub.  I do need to modify the way that I attach the lower crank handle to the snathe as with force being used it does soon start to work loose. We used almost entirely Styria blades and the new ones were not peened fully, which made the grass cutting much harder but left the blades less vulnerable to damage in the work on the commons.

I think the course went very well (I will welcome feedback both positive and negative) and with some slight improvements (more milk and more pitch forks) I’m looking forward to running the next course in the new year.

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Last year I asked ‘What is the collective noun for shave horses?’. The answer for this year, at least, is a Stable of shave horses.

With so many other project on the go, I had abandoned (but not intentionally) my copy of ‘Auntie Gertie’s chair’ back in February when it became clear I could not finish it for this years Bodgers Ball. I am very pleased to be making some progress again this week. Mainly on the seat which is now drilled for the legs.

With some basic adzing of the seat, using a hand adze. The first time I’ve hand adzed a seat and it’s not the fastest or neatest job but I am learning a lot.

Derek has an interest jig that places the chair seat vertically for adzing rather than having to bend over and adze between your feet. Certainly easier on the back. It’s actually the top of the workbench (an old kitchen worksurface) which slides off to stand almost vertical for the adzing with the seat clamping between the two angled pieces of wood.

It’s is thanks to Derek  that I am making progress. There is always plenty going on in Derek’s workshop to distract me, and I got slightly caught up in helping to assemble the bow back onto one of Derek’s signature bow back windsor arm chairs.

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There is nothing like a deadline to make things happen and I am not short of deadlines at the moment. With my first scything course only a few days away I needed to finish off the scythe handles (or snathes). I’d made up 6 of them and I needed the best 4 for the course to add to my original 2 handles (imported from Switzerland) so there would be a scythe for each of the participants.

Making a couple of prototypes has given me the opportunity to improve my design – though there is scope for plenty of further refinement yet. The handgrips, or nibs, are adjustable to cope with different sizes of user and accurate drilling of the holes for securing the grips meant I had to make a jig up. There is a lot of force acting through the nibs in use and on these European style snathes the lower one has a cranked (extended) nib as the snathe itself is almost straight. Getting the handgrips to fix securely onto the snathe has been the biggest problem so far.

I’ve made the nibs in pairs on the polelathe which seems to work well and results in a fairly simple but goodlooking handgrip.

Final assembly of the scythes went well though, as always, time had flown and there was no time to test each one – so they went straight into the course for their first testing.

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Straight from one show to the next at this time of year. By the time I was set up at the Weald and Downland museum last Friday night it was almost dark.  The steam festival is always busy and  great fun so its a good show for me. The museum has a great setting and the engines slowly puffing around the tracks seems to add to the effect.


The Steam engines were rolling in all evening and more arrived the next morning before the show began. Having been in woodsmoke all week at least it made a change to be surrounded by steam and coke smoke.

Steam enthusiasts can be a very anorak brigade, but this bunch don’t always take themselves too seriously as the steam bicycle and steam gramophone on display prove. One of the best events in the arena is when 50 odd parents and children attempt a tug-of-war with a 10 ton steamroller. Ebenezer the steam roller eventually lost, but mainly due to the surreptitious use of buckets of water under the wheels to help it lose traction.

There are always plenty of engines parked around for the crowds to mingle with and admire.

Having spent the week working with bowls and needing to do some treen for sale I went back to my old spindle lathe for this show.

Nothing like some hard work to make the time fly and suddenly it was a spurtle past dibber o’clock and time to stop work again. Though working in the evening was made more enjoyable by the lights of the fairground engines.

I think this one ran by the bar all evening aside from the odd run to the bowser for more water.

This old besom broom was found in a cottage in Midhurst when it was cleared recently. Apparently 3 old sisters had lived there and amongst the remains of many years of life were two of these clamps for making a simple besom.

Clearly home made and just nailed onto a broom handle. I wonder whether anyone has seen anything similar? It seems that they would probably have been used in the kitchen/scullery or on the cottage yard/paths rather than for the lawns and would have had a more rectangular shape than the normal besoms. Thanks to Dave for bringing it along for me to see. I took plenty of photos and will aim to make a replica soon (at least it’s in the list of projects to get around to).

Before I knew it, the show was over and time to pack up and go home again – sold out of rolling pins again.


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