Monthly Archives: May 2010

Chopping a bench

Hi again!  Still Spring here with Red Campion, Ramsones and Corn Cockle blooming away.

So, today I’ve been making a bench as ordered.  The top is from the chestnut I bought from the estate.  As mentioned before,it typically grows with a twist in the grain so is unsuitable for splitting and so I milled it into planks with the chain saw.  This left me with a stack of slabs – the outer round sections from squaring up the butts.  One of these will be the bench seat:

Rather rough looking.  The first job is to hack away the first three or so rings of sap wood which, as in oak, is unsuitable for long life, being prone to attack by fungi and insects.

The sap wood is the light-coloured stuff.

Now I’ve cut it to length (4 foot 2) so it’s a bit lighter to work on.  The off cut will make a table, I’ve decided.  It’s light enough to go on #4 chopping block for the bottom section. Cutting off the sap wood from the edges needs consideration to be given to the direction of the grain twist; I need to chop down along the grain as it rises out of the twist, otherwise the grain splits into the body of the timber – bad thing! Chop from one end at one side and from the opposite end on the other side.

Done!  What a lot of shavings:

Some people ask if I ever sweep up – silly question!  This stuff is too valuable as an insect repellent – when smoldering in the stove.

OK there are a couple of faults, dead knots:

The end one would annoyingly very nearly do as a hole for a leg, except it only slopes back and not sideways too as it should.  I think I’ll make a dummy leg to shove in there and see what it looks like.  The surface is fresh off the chain saw mill.  This will be an out door bench so that may be the way to leave it, or maybe plane it  .. or adze …

Decisions decisions …

Here’s the log for the legs (and a spare pair for the table):

Lucky people there’s also a view of a couple of drumsticks (honest – that’s how they were specified) and a bag of my charcoal.

And here are two of the legs:

Sorry, they’re out of focus.

Watch this space for more, interesting assembly line production of – the bench!  Coming soonish to a blog near you (well not before Saturday.)

Shavings that have flown

I often tell visitors that the best part of my job is making shavings, so here is a little collection of current shavings.

These are axed shavings from the chestnut slabs I’ve made into a gate and fence at home:

These are classic ash shavings from the pole lathe, could be from stool legs, rungs or the various treen I make for passers-by:

Here are some shavings from the shave horse:

They are ash mainly.  Yesterday the horse broke, honestly they don’t make stuff like they used to!  The top turned member of the frame that grips the work snapped.  Seemed to be made of beech or sycamore.  It had weakened where the thin part meets the thick, always a weak point.  Mind you it has spent nearly two years out in all weathers so the 1/2 hour turning a new oak one wasn’t too bad an imposition.

The next lot are more chips than shavings. They are made when I reduce a split log to a billet with my axe.  They are good on the fire, but the horse shavings make the premium quality kindling.

And thank Goodness I willn’t be making any of this today:

This is the dust produced when I’m milling.  A nasty mixture in this case of cooking oil, moisture and chestnut.  It sticks to everything and makes anything metal turn black because of its high tannin content.  It is so fine, unlike the chippy normal chainsaw shavings because I use a ripping chain in the mill to cut boards.  Well that’s all done for now.  I even quickly milled some stickers to space the boards as they air dry.  I’ll put those between the boards today.

Main job today is getting ready for Otley Show on Saturday.  Make sure there’s a light shelter frame in usable condition (for a sun shade hopefully!), more stools, dibbers, cockerels, busy busy!