Bench work

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Is this man: a) Sleeping on the job; b) dead in his own-made open-air coffin; or c) dreaming of his next blog post?

Well, in July about a couple of hundred highly motivated chaps mount their bikes (and sometimes fall off them) and race them for three weeks around Europe, and this year they came almost past my front door, well, within two miles of it.  It’s not every day the Tour de France comes up Skipton High Street on a warm Saturday afternoon.

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Yes, not a brilliant view, but the build up and atmosphere were great (Good view of Will’s hat – Ed).  In fact I nearly got caught on the wrong side of the road to my family whilst buying this book:

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At a real bargain price of £9!  It is a very good review of furniture as found in the less fashionable places such as houses of correction, cellar dwellings and bothies – gripping stuff.  The ale houses are my favourite.

Course my son and I have been avid followers of the T de F for many years, well since 1990.  So Will and his wife Eva came over for to see the tour (and a holiday in the UK too!) staying with us, which was great, but took a little time up.

We did however, venture into home territory – Lancashire.  Partly to visit ancestors’ graves, but also for a very interesting visit to Queen Street Mill in Burnley, now run as an award-winning museum.

And they use one of these

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To drive two of these

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Which drive these

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Yes a cotton mill!  My grandmother and my aunt worked at a weaving mill in the next village and I visited with my mother as a child and I was terrified by the deafening noise and the terrifying machinery.  The noise was bad enough at Queen Street Mill with just four looms running, never mind the 300 in the weaving shed. Almost as scary as the Thames Clyde express at the level crossing – but that’s a worse story.

Anyway, back to a spot of woodwork.  These large pieces of oak have started to reappear in the bodgery

SAMSUNG CSCDragged in by my powerful righthand man

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How Mr McKee does all the hewing he does, just beggars my belief (Oh, c’mon, the guy’s suffered enough, he’s obviously brain-damaged – Ed.).

I was wrecked this evening after just this little bit

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With a curly bench back like this one, holding the beggar still enough to work on leads to much improv, holds …

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And one day I’m just going to have to stop and fix that tail vice …

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Once sturdy beech joint opening up for the second time.

 

 

Where I’ve got to.

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I started my journey into green woodworking in 2008.  One of the early items I made was a thrown stool, in fact I made a few.  Here’s the my first stool, not turned at all, just branchwood fastened to the underside of half a log.  It’s actually a stock for use about the workshop – it’s still kicking about in the bodgery, had a few new legs etc.

stockThis was the thrown stool.

DSCF4079Can’t imagine how I managed it with no guidance, just working from a picture. Twenty four round mortise and tenon joints, twelve of ‘em at an unrightangle.  I don’t know why I didn’t either put three burnt rings on all the stretchers or one, two and three – lost in the mists of memory.

I copied a tiny stool we acquired in an old house we bought in Halifax.  This was one of my favourites.  Still have them both. Just the right size to sit a 5 gallon stockpot on whilst filling with water (or liquor as we brewers perversely call water).

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I upscaled the pattern of the legs and this is now incorporated into my stock children’s stools.

DSCF9228Back in those early days I also made this stool with applewood legs and a joined elm slab top, good job I put a spline in the slab joint – it has survived much brewing and welly-putting-on-sitting-on where it resides in our conservatory.

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Looks like I wasn’t so hot at getting photos in focus in that period.  Nor aligning the wedges in the leg tops correctly!

I’ve done a lot of turning over those years, but weirdly very little turning of coves, beads by the hundred, but hardly any coves.  It’s rather strange to find turning something hard after all this time, but the book rest project and the joined stool at the top of this post both required four coves, and I struggled.  At this time in an apprenticeship, I would be coming out of my time, so I was rather dismayed, but we never cease learning eh?

I was also rather challenged by the sixteen ‘proper’ M&T joints in the stool atop.  I started this project when I’d acquired Peter Folansbee’s excellent book “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree”.  I had done some beefy 3/4 inch M&Ts in my shepherd’s chairs which had their own challenges, but the nature of the beast allowed quite wide a leeway with accuracy:

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The planing was enjoyable too and that smell of green oak became addictive.

Then I started on the 16 mortises in the stiles (you may call ‘em legs – Ed).  I messed up on the first one and put the work aside, for quite a long time – too long really – much of the greenness was gone by the time I had time and determination to tackle them again.  This made the job harder – like the oak.  But I got there, made a few more mistakes, taught myself not to trust my setting out and to check it carefully.

Besides learning cove turning, I had to learn how to cut into square stock on the lathe – again made more difficult by delay causing unwanted seasoning (Do stop moaning – Ed).  Had to teach myself carving too, as well as sharpening gouges and V-tools.

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It’s been a good trip, but I think I now need to start over as a joiner/carver in place of a bodger.  Watch this space!  Back to the Future – say 1633?

Family Watkinson's pew dated 1633

Family Watkinson’s pew in All Saints’ Parish Church, Ilkley. Dated 1633