Where I’ve got to.


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).


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.


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:


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.



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



Meeting Peter Folansbee


Other side of the fence

I have followed Peter’s excellent blog posts for some years, so it was an exciting prospect to be meeting up with him in he carriage house at Plimoth Plantation MA.  I can’t see the point of being on holiday if there is no contact with the natives, and woody natives are the best.  For those few who do not know, Peter recreates  17th century furniture from mainly green, riven oak.  Many items of his work can be seen around the houses in the Museum, darkened by wood smoke and slowly rotting away from the feet up as they sit on earth floors.  It was a blast to chat with Peter, and a little bizarre to be on the other side of the fence with the public, asking dumb questions like the others.


Peter showed me his stock of wood butts outside, beautiful straight-grained white oak is his favourite, and it is clear to see why from the quality of work he produces.  I had a quick lesson in the differences between red and white oak and English oak.  Of course I’ve read about the differences, but there is nothing like hands on experience.  There is English oak available in New England as the English navy used to plant acorns (see  Footnote 1).  Red oak is  only rarely grown in the UK, and mainly in arboreta.

On raw wood, Peter kindly gave me a couple of pieces of hickory for chisel handles, I’m looking forward to working these up.

I’d acquired a couple of books from Brattle second-hand book shop (more later) in Boston and we had a pore over them, as well as several that Peter bought off his bookshelf.


In the above we are discussing over-turned chairs and the thrown three-legged stool as often seen in Pieter Brueghel’s paintings e.g.In The Fight between Carnival and Lent, there are a couple such being carried aloft in top right background (the image will enlarge if you click on it).

But those ones have backs!  Peter tells me the 3 leggers never seem to pop up in inventories, so they are rather a mystery.  There is an excellent film here, of PF and the irrepressible Roy Underhill putting such a stool together.  I made one when I was just setting out, but I made mine up as I went along, and missed out on making the interlocking jonts.  It’s still in one piece despite that.

I hope to attend one of Peter’s carving classes, sometime soon, but in the meantime I have two of his DVDs on 17th century carving,  a heap of photos from  The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) and a whole country of English carved furniture to study.  Then yesterday I acquired the entire tool chest on a pattern-maker which has increased my collection of gouges by about tenfold (more later).

Drool, drool:


Admiral Collingwood, Rotheram's commander at T...

Admiral Collingwood, Rotheram’s commander at Trafalgar, who considered his subordinate “stupid” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Footnotes:1. Dudley Pope relates an aspect of Collingwood at the beginning of chapter three of his Life in Nelson’s Navy: “Captain Cuthbert Collingwood, later to become an admiral and Nelson’s second in command at Trafalgar, had his home at Morpeth, in Northumberland, and when he was there on half pay or on leave he loved to walk over the hills with his dog Bounce. He always started off with a handful of acorns in his pockets, and as he walked he would press an acorn into the soil whenever he saw a good place for an oak tree to grow. Some of the oaks he planted are probably still growing more than a century and a half later ready to be cut to build ships of the line at a time when nuclear submarines are patrolling the seas, because Collingwood’s purpose was to make sure that the Navy would never want for oaks to build the fighting ships upon which the country’s safety depended.”