Monthly Archives: June 2014

Whitby with the Regional Furniture Society

We went to the seaside yesterday, stopping for a swift coffee (from the flask) on the green at Great Ayton where Captain Cook RN was a boy.


We passed by Roseberry Topping, which has a very distinctive shape, rather like our own Sharp Haw beyond Skipton, but with steeper sides.  Apparently it used to look more like a sugar loaf, but there was a collapse in 1912, partly due to local alum mining.  What a coincidence, the hill next to Sharp Haw is called Sugar Loaf.

English: Cows Grazing under the shadow of Rose...

Wikipedia Commons.

We were on our way to Whitby, where Capt. Cook served his apprenticeship with the Quaker Walker’s shipping business.  This was our first venture out with the Regional Furniture Society, and certainly won’t be our last.  What an excellent collection of friendly experts.

The Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby is very well worth a visit, with high quality exhibits and much original fabric of the building carefully preserved.  I was particularly impressed by the pastel portraits of Captain William Bligh (commanding lieutenant, HMAV Bounty) and of his wife with her truss of red currants.  We need to return there and take a more detailed look at everything.  I was magnetised by the Resolution model with it’s cut-away side and comprehensive and detailed array of the ship’s contents and crew, including the hen coit!  We spent quite some time in there enjoying an excellent description of the exhibits by Dr Sophie Forgan.

It is an intimate museum, being housed in a former dwelling plus storerooms.  I did notice in the attic where the young Cook slept and studied (along with a hoard of other apprentices), that some one had used a very blunt axe or adze to do some hacking on the roof timbers.  It was over the staircase head, so maybe modern.


Sometimes, I know my tools are blunt, by by G** not that blunt!

The highlight of the visit was Saint Mary’s church on the cliff top next to the abbey ruins.  It is hard to do justice to this church, the interior and fittings in particular.  Nikolaus Pevsner says of it, “It is one of the churches one is fondest of in the whole of England.”

Doesn’t look extraordinary from the outside, except it’s squat, but you wouldn’t build a tall steeple on a cliff top next to the sea now would you?


Good gargoyle.

Two clocks.

SAMSUNG CSCAnd a great view of Whitby harbour entrance.



Inside the church is where the fun really begins.  Triple decker pulpit, box pews by the score built over hundreds of years.


Even box pews in the galleries upstairs.


Get that lack of uniformity. Thank Goodness the Victorians didn’t get a go at their ideas of how it should be remodelled.

We were lucky to be allowed into the galleries which are normally open only for services.  It feels like being below decks in a ship with the shallow support arches and the light filtering through from what seem like skylights from above deck.  Little wonder really as the church had extensive building work done by shipwrights, Whitby having been a major ship building centre with up to 20 ship building yards.  Little wonder then that the galleries are held up on wooden pillars that look remarkably like ships’ spars.  And little wonder that the graffiti in the back-most pews tends to have a nautical flavour.

SAMSUNG CSCThere is also some more considered carving to view, how about this box?


You really must go and see this building for yourself, and afterwards there are a host of things to do including Whitby jet shops, old shambling streets and donkey rides on the beach.SAMSUNG CSC



Seven inch knocker


(Whoops!  Thought I’d pressed publish on this one, but obviously didn’t.)

This post is mainly about blacksmithing of which I worked two shifts yesterday.  One in the woods and one at Craven College.  The latter was on a beginner’s course and will be the last one there ever as they are closing the metalworking facility, it seems like to make more courses for nail clipping and painting courses, etc. No not iron nails, but the ones that ladies wear.  I think we are rapidly losing our sense of reality.

Here’s my door knocker ready for its back plate and hinge to be finished next week.


It has its faults, but there are some useful techniques in there.  It reminds me of Mint Sauce, a great cartoon that used to appear in a mountain biking magazine my son and I used to read when we were full-on mountain bikers.

Copyright MBUK

My friend David make a great little bucket forge from the expansion tank used in a domestic central heating system.  It makes a good midge repeller too when topped with shavings


He also built a box bellows, operated by hand.

David aka Bellows Boy

David aka Bellows Boy

It works really well using the hardwood charcoal I make.  I finished the initial twisting of the ram’s horns above to save time at college.  (It’s a double helix, tha knaws.  Of course rams don’t have double helix horns, the horns have rings, and then they are curly, small point, but I s’pose blacksmiths are allowed artistic licence because they are wizards really).

Then we started manufacturing tangs for holding bowl blanks to the mandrel in the pole lathe.  We used silver steel to make a centre and two driving teeth, a bit like on a power lathe. (When is a pole lathe like a power lathe? -Ed.)

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This is what I was bashing away at – round to square taper:


Here’s the hardening colours, from shiny through straw to blue:


I wanted to make a confining collar to stop the wooden mandrel from splitting and David took over opening up some iron piping on the anvil beak and then truing it on an ash former turned to finished size …

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Shrinking onto the mandrel:

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Here’s the partly finished mandrel.


We found the tangs were sticking out too proud and a combination of too blunt angles on the drive teeth and length of centre stopped the mounting of a blank.  This is work in progress, lower mounting and a couple more tangs needed.  And I’m intending to turn the mandrel core again, shorter and from rocky-hard hornbeam.