Keeping warm

It would be good to think that my absence from this blog was the result of intenive activity in the workshop.  Sadly that is not the case.  A focus on family issues including the birth of our second grandson, has meant a differnt focus on life for a while.  However lately I have found some time and energy to respond to  some commissions received lately.  Two of these are still in the pipeline owing to challenges in getting the materials I need, however a commission of some bellows for a chirstmas present was more successful.  It was also an opportunity to make a second pair for stoc

Three bellows drying after oiling with linseed oil. The cenral one was made earleir in the year.


The finished articles. The bird design was at the request of the client. The other bellows have a celtic deisgn detail.

With the nights drawing in and the weather getting colder these should help keep the fires and log burners going :-)

Oak Toy Chest

Not really green woodworking, but when family members make a commission one has to respond.  In this case my daughter requested a toy box intended for the new arrival expected in just over a month.  It will not be needed just then but as I had the time I pressed on with it.  Last year a I made one for our other grand child so this one had to be a bit different.  Its an indulgence but once it has served its purpose as a toy box it can fulfill its destiny as a storage chest.

As my daughter wanted a dark wood I chose Oak and my local supplier who sources hardwoods from within a thirty mile radius had just the material.  This was from the Duchy of Cornwall estates in Herefordshire and had been air dried for about 5 years.  To keep the cost down I was pleased to chose from the stack available and for once got him to put it through his planer-thicknesser to save time.  The rest has all be done by hand with only a little power sanding to reduce the time planing the flat boards. Although the final finish is done with cabinet scrapers which provide a much firmer finish.

Finished chest after first oiling

This is the almost finished article after its first coat of linseed oil.  Several more will be applied before finally finishing with beeswax that I make myself.

Although I could have used dovetailed joints they are not my forte and butt jointed and screwed joints are in keeping with this type of country furniture.

With her interest in folk music the environment and her partners Irish heritage she asked for a celtic design to be included on the lid.

Celtic pyrography design detail

It has been a real pleasure working with this particular oak which has responded so well to saw and plane that the joints are really tight.

The pictures below show the chest in construction.

Part completed Oak Toy Chest

Finished chest ready for oiling and handles



Clun Art and Craft Show

Well this past week has seen the Clun Art and Craft week that show cases local artists and craft folk.  All the exhibitors (over 20) come from within a few miles of the village.  This area really has many talented folk as I know quite a number who for various reasons did not exhibit.  Being in a beautiful area and in the school holidays there was a steady flow of visitors to the event.  The exhibition and sale included painters, photographers, ceramicists, jewelers, textile workers, spinners, herbal cosmetics,  paper craft workers as well as my wood work.

Clun Art and Craft Show

It was a good week for me selling some stools, taking a commission for another, as well as sales of quite a number of spoons and other items of treen.  I was about 3rd in the total amount grossed and obtained much warm feedback.  It has provided good insight to the level of knowledge about my type of work as well as the type of things people like and the price points for certain types of goods.

Display at the opening of the Clun Art and Craft show

The smooth texture of the spoons drew many to caress them lovingly.

The photo shows the display space which was small but being near the entrance created a considerable impact.

And I was pleased that the photo album, leaflets and business cards all worked well.

Visitors examining the exhibits

The Art and Craft show is a part of our Carnival week, which culminates with a procession and produce show.  There was a great turn out although activities did get cut short when we had a heavy rain shower later in the day.

There was a class for woodwork items and I was fortunate to gain second prize after a highly polished bowl turned on a pole lathe.  It would be good if a few more items were in the class.  Below are a few pictures of the event to give you a flavour.


Vintage tractor parade

The veg section

Appalacian dancers UK style

Some of the produce

Spoons, stools and honey

Well its been a while since I have posted here.  A number of family and other activities have kept me out of the workshop and directed elsewhere.  In this wettest June on record the workshop has been a welcome shelter.  I recently had small run of purchases by guests to our B and B so was prompted to get on and make some more spoons.  At last these are proving to have a better balance and shape.  I am not keen on using Ash for spoons as it can be hard to get a smooth finish but its all I had available.  Here is the outcome from a some hours over three days, although finished the spoons have yet to be oiled.  In the corner of the shot is a stool seat – see below.  These shots are taken on my mobile in due course I will get some better photos uploaded to the gallery.

Spoons in Ash before oiling

When at my daughters house recently I was rather taken by a small antique stool she has in her living room.  It inspired me to make one similar.  This required turning the seat on the lathe.  I took measurements and had a go. The result is is somewhat different with the materials I had available especially the thickness of the seat.  Never the less they are quite appealing although next time I may alter the height and splay the legs more.  I also managed to squeeze one more three legged stool from the beech board I had which has some of the waney edge and bark remaining.  I have found some customers do like this more rustic style, and to compliment this I have left the legs octagonal straight off the shave horse, and taken the leg mortices through the seat.  Do let me know what you think.

The first picture is just after glueing the legs and the second after finishing with linseed oil and beeswax.

Two small Ash and Beech stools just after glueing.

The finished stools, approx 9 inch diameter seat and 12 Inches high.

Finally despite the weather the bees made the most of the fine weather we did get in May and I was fortunate to get 70 lbs of honey.  Unless we get some good weather soon the normal larger harvest in August may be struggle.  However I am fortunate compared with some stories I have heard.

Liquid sunshine captured in a jar!

Learning from mistakes!!

At last the three chairs are almost finished all that awaits is a couple of coats of beeswax once the oil has dried a bit.  Its been an interesting journey making mistakes and trying to learn from them has featured highly.  However its been a very enjoyable trip. Here they are:

Three completed chairs

The hoop backed chairs are in beech and ash and the comb backed chair in poplar and ash.

The key things that have featured have been the selection of the timber to use – straightness of grain, age of tree and evenness of grain.  Getting these right makes it so much easier turning and especially in bending.  Even though you read all the texts there nothing like learning through ones hands.

However even if the result is not prefect the chairs are strong and have a unique character.  Not sure how it happened but despite constant checking on the final chair I managed to drill one stile hole about 22mm out of line with its partner.  Even though there is a lot of flexibility this was too much.  What to do!.  Well in the end and fortunately having a spare leg for this chair (too small diameter) I was able to turn the end down to an exact fit.  Glue and plug the hole and when dried re drill it (correctly this time).  The result is just as strong and the seat being light coloured poplar you hardly notice it.  In any event I realised that on many old chairs you find such corrected errors or repairs which seem to add to their character and value.  What do you think.

Comb back chair before finishing.

The other small project recently completed has been a number of natural candle sticks.  The fact they emerge from the log seems to have appeal.  In due course once they are dry I shall dip them in linseed oil.  Originally I made these without a brass cup to hold the candle but its easy to let the candle burn low and wax soaked wood creates a little more light than is wanted!

Candle sticks drying

Small things, natural things, oh yes and a chair!

Back on January 23rd in my blog post I mentioned Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful.  Well I did re-read the book  and it has been a most profound journey. Even more than I remember from 30 years ago.  It is amazing how much of what he observed has come true in regard to negative aspects of big business, resource depletion, pollution and the way economics as it is classically applied and has impacted society.  Here are a couple of quotes:

We…have to have the courage to dream if we want to survive and give our children the chance of survival….It will…end in disaster, until or unless we develop a new life-style which is compatible with the real needs of human nature, with the health of living nature around us, and with the resource endowment of the world.

Man is small and therefore, small is beautiful.

EF Schumacher – Small is Beautiful 1974

I have yet to make the drying oven mentioned in my last post so some of my delay has been waiting for parts to dry by the radiators and stove in the house which with the wet and cold have been running rather more than we hope for at this time of year.

Now at last the first chair is complete and now only requires a final wax and polish.  So here it is – click on the images to get full size picture. :Side chair in Ash and Beech Side chair in Ash and Beech

I have also had one or two small commissions which is rather nice.

Now it will be full on to finish the other two chairs for which all the parts are complete.

During this recent fine weather I have taken some time out to absorb the environment around here which I can share with you.  Despite the sun it has been cold and spring although beginning early now seems rather late.  Such a paradox and reminder how we need to get into harmony with our world.

Spring - oak leaves emerging

The town where we live.

The bees love this Oil Seed Rape but it also drives them crazy!

Chairs and things

Its been a good week I have now finished all the parts for two Windsor side chairs.  I have yet to make an oven to dry the parts in so it will be while before I can frame them up.  I need to price up a couple of metal dustbins so I can dry parts more quickly using the old method of a log fire in a vertical bin with the parts in a second bin situated above the first horizontally.  If I find a couple of cheap bins I’ll post up some pictures when its done.  I have also started on the seat for third side chair which I’ll sort next week all being well, this one will be a little quicker having fewer parts as it will be comb backed chair.

Ash spoons - from the same log.

In the mean time here is picture of the two completed spoons, both made from the same Ash log.  The ash was fast grown and it was difficult to finish as smoothly as I would have liked owing to the different hardness of the growth rings.

It’s been weird spring this year we now have very heavy showers and some sun in between, but it is so cold when the sun is hidden.  This is playing havoc with the bees as they don’t know whether to stay in and keep the brood warm or dash out to get much needed nectar and pollen for the expanding nest.  Hopefully it won’t be cold for too long so I don’t have to feed them.  I am off to the national beekeepers convention tomorrow to catch up some of the latest research ideas and to pick up few bits and pieces of equipment.  Its always tempting to spend at these events so I’ll have to keep my hand in my pocket and stick to the list!

In our neighbours hedge there is long tailed tits nest.  Its an amazing construction, the out side been made up of lichen.  Totally enclosed except for an entry hole near the top.  The picture below does not do it justice, but I could not get closer and it would not be right to cut back the vegetation.

Nest of Long Tailed Tit in neighbours hedge

To watch the birds going in and out is amazing, they only just fit the hole.  Hopefully the site is well out for reach of our cats and in time we will have the joy of seeing the nestlings.

In the mean time here is picture of the two completed spoons, both made from the same Ash log.  The ash was fast grown and it was difficult to finish as spoothly as

Nothing is so beautiful as spring

Since my last post we have had more sun, snow, frost and rain all the seasons except autumn all in a fortnight.  At least there is little time to get bored and the spring weather does lift the spirits when the sun shines.

Nothing is so beautiful as spring – when weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush; Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring the ear, it strikes like lightning to hear him sing.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

I have had another go at the steaming the chair backs and this time with some success.  My son wanted to steam some hazel sticks for a project he is working on so it was a good excuse to have another go – fortunately with more success this time.  As well as the hazel I managed two chair hoops and a back for comb back chair.  Despite some rather sever splitting on one piece both hoops are proving usable now I have shaped them with the drawn knife and spoke shave.

Its all a learning experience and now I have a clear idea of the the type of wood I need, the size to use and the degree to which it needs preparation. The set up is a bit ‘Heath Robinson’ but it does work and for now will have to do.

Finished hoops drying out.

It takes a while but the hand crafted look I hope will appeal as much as the pleasure of  making them directly from the log.  So while all the parts dry its time to press on with other projects.  Yesterday I completed a couple of spoons for a friend and have made a start on the next chair.  In the mean time our cat seemed to think she wanted to leave home!!

Well what am I worth then!!



The good the bad and !!!

Well its quite a while since I visited here – laziness, exhaustion and a sick parent have all conspired to keep me from the key board.  Shaving laths Its not been an idle time in the workshop either and with this spring weather it has meant quite a time in the out doors as well.   I have posted a lot of new photos in the gallery so do go and have a look.

As well as a commission for bellows and a step stool another stool has sold too Small foot stool which is great.  I have found new way of uploading pictures and in this post if you click the image you get a full size picture.   The legs were a trial idea, I’m not sure they fully work but the client likes them and that’s what matters.  The bellows are a bit of side line but folk seem to find them attractive.

I finally got the steamer up and running.  Its a bit Heath Robinson at present but will do for now once I get a new seal for the old pressure cooker.  Steamer in action We hope to move soon (its a long story) so it will have to do for now.  Its always tricky bending wood and sadly this time I did not make it.  Ah well that’s the way it goes sometimes, so next week I shall have another attempt with hopefully more success. I think part of the problem was getting the laths a little too thick. Cleaving laths It seems to have been a full time with two long trips to parents but I did find time to try out my new Ben Orford crook knife.  Sycamore spoon In making a spoon, my focus was in getting used to the new tool so the design went a bit awry so perhaps this is might replace the exclamation marks in the title – I’ll let you decide.  It was great fun an so much easier then using the swan neck gouge I used before.  Sycamore was a new wood for me and very pleasing to use.  I am very pleased with the knife and if you are interested you can find a link to Ben’s site from my links page.


News and strugle for old style parts

I have not posted here for a while.  Trips away, basic tasks in the workshop and the distractions of the apiary means that things have been bumbling along.

Bees around the hive entrance - you can see the pollen

Checking the bees at the weekend shows all 4 colonies are doing well, although two are rather smaller than I anticipated.  As many of you know bees have been struggling in recent years with disease and other impacts so it is pleasing to find mine getting ready for the new season.  They will need some attention in the next week or so to make life more straightforward later in the season, although hopefully the improving weather will ensure they continue to find adequate supplies of pollen and nectar to to ensure they hit the main season with strong numbers.


Boring mortices for legs in stool seat

In the workshop I have been working on a couple of small simple stools.  One is a commission and the other conveniently used up a small piece of poplar for the seat.  They are really foot or step stools so the seats have been left flat.  The one in  the picture has a cut out in the centre at the request of the client.  Once complete I’ll post better quality pictures in the gallery.  In the picture I am using a modern version of a scotch auger to get a larger hole, normally I use a brace and bit.

Quite a bit of time has been taken up trying to source brass nozzles for bellows.  These are not my main interest but seem to be popular.  The only supplier I could find on the Internet had sold their last and discovered their foundry brought them in from another foundry who have ceased production. A low priority for them it could take months to get a new line underway.  Another foundry wanted a lot of money to develop a mould and to cast from an existing pattern, so I am now in discussions with a heritage museum who seem keen.  For now I will use a brass light pull which does the job but is just a little short.  So if anyone knows of suitable supplier do let me have their contact details.