Category Archives: Green woodwork

My day job.


It’s all connected up you know.

Someone ‘liked’ my little Instagram picture of straw skepmaking in the Strid Bodgery.  Just an aside, I wish they’d used other words than ‘like’ and ‘friend’ on the Big Imaginary Tree of Knowledge.  The thumbs up is more like it.  Anyway, the liker (we don’t have friends on Instagram, but scary ‘followers’.  Just another quick aside, I do find it hard in my dotage to distinguish in my memory the difference between following and followers – who is following whom?) ahem, yes the liker was erthewoodworks.  Well she’s really known as Susan (much more friendly name!).  I had a look at her pictures and then her website.

Susan’s not been posting on her blog for long, but there is great potential so I’m adding her to my Netvibes dashboard.  She’s interested in old oak. Like Rivers Joinery and myself.  We should form a club of oakies, there seem to be few of us in the UK with a working interest in our carved oak heritage.  Any other UK oakies, please get in touch by a comment below.

OK the connection came from Susan’s blogroll (list of interesting twigs on The Tree (Bitok)) link to Tools and Trades History Society. As I examined the leaves on the TATHS twigs I fell upon an amazing resource:

This 1988 issue of the TATHS Journal contains an article by Ray Tabour on The Craft of Riving Wood.  The article is the best resource I’ve found on splitting or riving hazel rods.  Ray wrote the article from the knowledge of the remaining skilled workers.  Here is the prophetic end-piece:

“ln the last 40 years woods, woodmen and the craft of woodmanship have declined at a rate unparallelled in their 3,000 year history. Mass production has little place for variable raw materials whose variable conversion needs skill, judgement and adaptability. Another generation could see woodmanship consigned to the history book.

Of the three woodmen who have taught me their craft, and whose skills I have tried to reproduce faithfully here, only one is still at work in a Suffolk wood. One has since died, and the third retired, neither having been replaced by a younger man.”

There has been something of a revival in The Woods for example The Bill Hogarth Trust in the North West of England.  Only just in time though!  And the problem of skills ceasing with no replacement followers-on is being addressed by The Heritage Crafts Association. And it was the HCA selfiday on instagram with the tag #HCAworkspace for which I posted my own straw skep making instagram.

Half a hedge is better than too much

SAMSUNG CSCI’ve been laying the hawthorn hedge at the bottom of our garden.  This is a management method to fill in the bottom of a hedge and control the height.  I layed it 18 years ago and the bottoms of the oak 2 x 2 stakes have rotted away – but they’re only needed for the first couple of years to keep the cut hedge in place while the new growth comes on.

This is what it looks like before laying (you may be able to make out the remains of the old layer in the bottom of the hedge):


That’s the new workshop towering over the garden. Just needs windows, doors, plumbing and electrician. Waney-edge green oak cladding, and then fitting out by Joe Soap.

It’s with a little regret that I’m getting rid of the bobbles that are reminiscent of guardsmen in bearskin hats (or ‘busbies‘).  My father served in the Coldstream Guards, but never wore a bearskin I fear, he was too busy driving around in the Italian mountains in a bren gun carrier.  However, it is rather a teetery job, standing on the top step of a tall pair of steps to trim them and I’m not getting any younger, and down they must come.  I left the bobbles last time.  Once layed it looks like this:

SAMSUNG CSCNew hazel stakes from Wood Nook and hazel binders to hold the top down too.  The uprights are cut about 7/8th through and then bent over.  As some of the bark and wood is left on the pleachers carry on growing in their new position.  The pleachers are woven around the stakes.  The material was a little sparse at the left so I’m weaving in a bit of hazel to make out until the regrowth gets going.  I think that, while it would win no prizes at a hedge laying competition, it is stock proof and will keep the sheep out.

Look what turned up in the ashes.

SAMSUNG CSCThis came from the sycamore logs I obtained a couple of years ago from along the road, when a big tree was taken down.  This must have been embedded in one of them.  No sign of it from the outside.  What do you think it is?

The results of the skep making at East Riddlesden Hall are in:

skep making 2015

Yes Linda, although you’re but small, you were obviously just too big for your skep!

It was a good course.  Bring on the swarming season – not until May :-(  .