Friday, 29 April 2011

Another Bench

Spent a few evenings this week making this oak bench

 Quite like the combination of cleft and sawn timber with this type of design,

A local garden centre is interested in selling them, just not sure what to charge for them really. anyone got any ideas?

Monday, 18 April 2011

Salad and a spade

Had to work this Sunday, starting at the hideously early hour of 6 (railway clearance work) but luckily we'd finished by lunch and I could spend the rest of the day in my work shop.

These are a couple of salad servers I was asked to make and have been meaning to do for a while now

Carved from apple, they came from the same log that had a natural curve in it, which is identical in both of them so they feel like a set. These I finished with Claphams Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish, which gets a nice shine to them and is food safe to boot.

Then in contrast to these I re handled and restored an old army shovel for bushcrafty purposes (digging fire pits, cooking on etc.) nice and small so as easily carried into the woods.

Instead of a T bar handle I opted instead to taper it up to a curved top, so as it can be shoved down the inside of a rucksack

A fairly simple job, the worst bit was getting the layers of paint off the metal so it could potentially be used as a make shift frying pan without tainting the food!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Feel good work

Got to spend the day doing one of my favourite activities today; planting trees, admitidely they are trees destined to be cut as a hedge, but still trees! about 700 of them, with roughly the same going in tomorrow.

It is a little bit late in the year to be planting bare root trees, but as they already been lifted we decidied to get them into the ground, they are being planted to fill in some pretty substantial gaps in a hedge round a small wood. With the idea of letting them grow up for 10 - 15 years before pleaching them.

The trees are predominently hawthorne, with hazel, field maple, spindle and sloe mixed in to add diversity. I get alot of satisfaction from planting something like this, I think in part its because you know its going to be there for a long time, If its well looked after then it will live for potentailly hundreds of years, also I always joke with people that it evens out my 'tree karma' i.e the number of trees I've cut down compared to the number that I've planted/helped!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Rustic Garden furniture

Had a couple of spare days this week due to a customer rearranging some scheduled work, so thought I'd have a play with my Alaskan mill and make some rustic furniture.

The oak I was milling was hardly green, been down for about 5 years and all the sap wood had rotted away, but the heart wood that was left was still solid as anything. Though that did make it quite hard work to mill.

Not wanting to restrict myself to just sawn timber, some bits I decided to cleave.

Really pleased with how this one came out, quite different to anything I've made before. 

Was even more pleased when I sold it this afternoon to someone we rent ground off down the road, must be the quickest I've ever sold anything! The seat and back to this one are ash by the way, not the oak I was milling.

This one has oak uprights and ash seat and back, the picture doesn't show the contrast very well.

Not quite finished yet, still needs a bit more work, smoothing corners and reducing the splinter factor!
Two quite different styles of bench here but I really enjoy playing round with the different techniques involved, still learning at the end of the day so its always good to experiment.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Billhook restoration

Whilst rummaging through some of my grandads old tools I stumbled across this little gem, Its an Elwell billhook that belonged to my grandmother, who used it for chopping kindling. The handle was held together with tape and very loose, the blade was blunt and quite chipped in places.

I never really knew my Grandmother, my only real memories of her are in her last few years in an old peoples home, so I really liked the thought of her as a young healthy woman out in the wood shed chopping away to get the fire going to cook tea for the family.

I can imagine that the tape was initially just a temporary measure and she would have had every intention of putting a new handle on it, but as with most things getting around to it is a different matter. So I decided to re handle it for her.

The blade still needs a bit of work, but on the whole I'm really pleased with the outcome, just a shame she never got to use it, but I'd like to think she'd be happy to see it being put to good use.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

An adze to grind

I brought a straight carvers adze off ebay a while back for about £20, It was very blunt and looking pretty tired. A prime candidate for restoration.

It was clearly a good tool at some point, anything that was hand forged in sheffield is going to have a certain quality about it. You at least know the steel is going to be good.

Unfortunately I think the previous owner had used it for maisonry work, as the edge that was on there would hardly dent wood let alone cut it. It was so rounded off it basically had two bevels,  so I refiled it down to a single bevel at a much shallower angle than it was before, for a better bite into the wood. Then spent considerable time shapening it up, I managed to get a decent edge in the end, will have to wait and see if it will hold it though.

The paint had to go, I'm not a fan of painted tools. Tools were generally painted to hide mistakes and flaws in the manufacturing process, but I think they add character, especially on a hand forged tool such as this.

I also dislike varnished handles, If something has a wooded handle I want to feel the wood. So I sanded it down with 40 grit, working up to 180 grit and finished with linseed oil. I didn't want to make it too smooth and reduce the grip on the tool.

The finished article

I'm definately pleased with the end result as I've changed what was essentally a paper weight into a quality working tool.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Questionable trees

A couple of sketchy trees so far this week whilst freelancing for a local firm, one was this ash (stem on the left) that was very much dead, rotten in the base and leaning towards a large very old farm house, with a deer fence directly underneath. We could not drop a single branch on the fence, and the estate manager was there to 'help' us i.e make sure we didn't break anything! Luckily there was a fairly tall sound tree next to it that I climbed up and put in an anchor point to allow me to climb the dead one with relative piece of mind that I was attached to a sound tree.

The initial plan was to use this anchor point to remove some of the overhanging branches, thus reducing the weight of the tree so we could then fell it into the field away from the house and fence. but at this point the wind picked up and my anchor tree was swaying around pulling me away from the dead tree, which was also moving in the base a substantial amount.

We both came to the conclusion that it was getting a bit silly to be attempting to remove any of the overhang as I would have had to have gone out quite far to avoid hitting the fence. So instead we decided to put a rope up as high as the sound wood went (pretty much where the branches fork off) with this we then had enough leverage to pull it in the opposite direction in one go (with the aid of a landy)

Fortunately it came down as sweet as a nut, with a couple of wedges in the back cut to stop it sitting back, I aimed the felling cut directly against the lay of the tree as its often easier to pull a tree the opposite way to the way it wants to fall rather than at an angle to the lean, when it it will often fall away before you have chance to pull it over.

After all the head scratching and adrenalin of the dead ash I was looking forward to something a bit safer and a bit more straight forward. Which is what this horse chestnut appeared to be...

Until I got closer and discovered this is what the base looked like! The wind had died down and after a few minutes poking around trying to discover the extent of the rot I decided that it was safe enough to climb, especially as the crown was not to spreading and it would be a pretty simple spike up chog down job. (this is where all the branches are removed on the way up and the stem is reduced in sections on the way down, as simple as a take down gets really.)

Sorry for the quality of the photos, only had my phone with me.

Saturday, 2 April 2011


I've cut down alot of trees in the last month or so, and as part of the job I've ended up with most of the wood, some I've sold in cord length straight off the field, and some I'll be stacking up to season in the round for a while (untill i get around to it!) and some I have cut and split by hand where the trees fell and then loaded staight into the trailer. I've done it this way to reduce the amount of times i have to handle each log, also when the logs are on the ground all lined up freshly cut I recon I could almost keep up with a log processer!

My first boss always used to say to me 'you'll make money doing firewood, not alot, but you will make money' Selling firewood isn't something I ever intended to do alot of, but with fuel prices as they are its at a real premium, and I've got alot of wood so I may as well sell it! especially if I try and do as much as I can out of my normal working hours.

Fortunately living on a farm I've got the space to store it to allow it to season, as this will not be ready to sell for 12 months or so.

Over the years I've split alot of logs, My first propper job was cutting and splitting firewood in the woods, with the odd bit of agricultural fencing here and there, I did this for almost 12 months untill I passed all my climbing and chainsaw qualifications and moved on to a larger tree surgery firm. So I've used a few differant axes to split wood, from cheep fibreglass handled mauls to traditional english felling axes and I can say with some confidance that the Gransfors splitting maul puts them all to shame.

Its built with the usual quality and care of all there tools, and feels very solid, almost indistructable, the steel collar to protect the top of the handle works really well, as this is always the bit that suffers when splitting alot of wood. The handle length is just about right, could maybe do with a couple more inches if I had to find fault with it, but the weight and balance are perfect. So much so that after a couple of days splitting with it I was able to split pretty well left handed with it, something I'm not normally very good at, although I did this partly to allow my hand to recover from a sore spot that had developed from excessive splitting!

Looking forward to some climbing jobs I've got next week, feet have been on the ground too long!