Sunday, 26 September 2010


I have struggled on long enough now without a Shavehorse but enough is enough, time to make one. First job is to split out a large log for the bench of the horse. I suspect mine will have to spend most of its time outdoors , so I have elected to use Oak with its high Tanin content. I enjoy using hand tools as much as possible so I crosscut a 6ft log with a handsaw, split it with wedges and a mallet, and flattened the top surface roughly with an old British Rail Adze I was given. I am interested in texture in my woodworking so took the opportunity to experiment with Knives, an Adze and Gouges whilst smoothing out the surface. Working at dusk on a nice sunny evening is great with the low light for showing up any imperfections.
Next job is to source some suitable material for the legs. Again I will be using either Oak or Chestnut for durability. The leg tenons will be 1 1/2". There are many patterns of shavehorse, dependant on the primary function it will be put to. I intend to make something similar to this one I used recently on a course with Owen Jones- the cumbrian Swill maker

Blackthorn Pt1

This year seems, like last year, to have yielded a bumper crop of Sloes on the Blackthorn bushes here in Yorkshire. Unlike last year though I have harvested some to make my own Sloe Gin. Sloes are like small plums slightly smaller than black grapes that are extremely bitter to taste straight off the vine, as it were, but are used to flavour Gin for a warm winter hip flask filler. There are many fancy recipes on the internet for Sloe gin involving the addition of Cloves and other aromatic herbs and spices, but I'm sticking to basic advice from friends who have made Sloe gin for years. I will be adding 1/3 by volume of Sugar, Sloe berries, and cheapo Gin from the local supermarket, Into an air tight container.

It is important to prick the skins of the Sloes before they are added, which is a rather tedious task. The advice is to pick your Sloes after the first frosts, but the ones I picked yielded very easily so I think they are nice and ripe. Once the ingredients have been blended together, the containers should be stored in a warm , dark place such as an airing cupboard. The mixture should be agitated every day for the first week , then once a week there after to mix the sugar. If the Sloe Gin is made now it should be ready for Christmas, when the container contents are strained through muslin before the gin is ready to drink. I am going to make 3 or 4 batches to experiment with sweetness ie:- sugar volumes. I'm sure none of it will be wasted because my son starts university next month!!
I'll blog more soon about other uses for Blackthorn,

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Recent work

Well I,ve been away for a while during the holiday season but I have been busy making woody stuff when I've had the time. I'll make a post on my holidays and some of the places I've been to (including some enjoyable but costly days at the races) anon ; but for now I'll update on some of the things I've made.
Firstly, some bowls i've made just for the hell of it, from logs I had laying about the place. The large one on the left is about 14" long and is in Sycamore, the smaller one on the right is Blackthorn. I deliberately made these with rounded bottoms so they would find their own central gravity point. To my surprise they are actually quite stable; even when you start loading them up. One of the lads at the Stickmaking club said the Blackthorn one reminded him of a freshwater mussel;- I can see what he means. That particular bowl was carved extremely thin (about 1/8th inch) and done green. Just after it was finished it was very pliable but now its like a nutshell.

Apart from messing about with those bowls for fun I've had a couple of commissions to make. First is a bench I promised my gaffer at work for the locker room for us to use whilst getting ready for pt etc. He was quoted £250 for a nasty plastic thing, so I fished out this scabby looking Elm plank which I paid £4 for. Ok it needed at lot of work doing with it but in the end the grain looks stunning for a coat or 4 of Teak Oil. The legs are Oak by the way. I chose these timbers because the bench will be in a potentially moist atmosphere and both contain a lot of Tannic Acid.

Finally for now another job that I got because of my inability to say no. I'm no woodturner but I do have a lathe and dabble. Somehow I ended up making some stair spindles for a friend of a friend of a friend. It took me ages measuring and turning to end up making these 3 copies from an original broken Victorian spindle- I'll get a pint out of it if I'm lucky!!