Monday, 4 March 2013

Week 18: Ladies day on the horizon

After a week off for half term we began by replenishing the firewood pile in the shelter. The fire is lit each day at the moment so that we can keep warm during breaks. Stef has assumed the role of fire monitor as he usually arrives first and, if he has camped overnight nearby, is keen to get and stay warm.

We then sharpened our tools and went down to the plot. Martin and I cleared the remainder of the large tree I had helped to fell last time we were there. This involved using the two-handed saw to cut the trunk into more manageable pieces which was more good practice for me.

Once that was done I looked around for another tree to fell and Nick suggested that I do a nearby thorn. We are trying to work fairly methodically down the plot now to clear the remaining trees before we stop felling by Lady Day (March 25th) which is traditionally when the coppicing season ends. The thorn was quite a challenge for me because the wood is tough and it was two stems so close together they had to be treated as one large one and with the tops very tangled together. It took me some time but I succeeded in the end without needing to send for reinforcements! The work I did on my own garden over the half term break means I am a lot more confident with the axe now but I wish I was 30 years younger with all the energy, strength and stamina I had then! Snedding occupied me for the rest of the day.

Sue's hawthorn

Part way through the afternoon David was felling another tree with Nick helping him on the two-handed saw. Although David had made a directional cut with the axe Nick had foreseen that it might tend to rock backwards and trap the saw so had thrown a rope round it high up. It did and wedges were hammered in but still it would not fall. David, Nick, Stef and I all pulled and managed to set up a rocking motion which eventually brought it off the balance and down in a controlled fall just where it was meant to be.

Rope set up ready for the two handed saw

Wedges going in to encourage the tree to fall where we want it to
Bruce came to see how we were all getting on and has asked David to make a short video with each of us saying something about our experience of the course maybe interspersed with footage of the work we are doping. Watch this space for more news and links!

Thursday was, as usual, green woodworking. I found a lovely curved piece of thorn to make the top rail of the back of my bench and some more willow for spindles. By lunchtime I had prepared all the blanks I need for the turned spindles and in the afternoon, with Nick’s help set the first one up on the pole-lathe. By the time I got it roughed to a cylinder and started smoothing I was finding difficulty. Nick came to help and at first thought it was just that I was being impatient and that one of the centres had worn a bit which was making the piece wobble. He trimmed that end, remounted it and I tried again. It turned out that whilst those had definitely been factors the spindle was also too long and thin so flexing and the wood was very soft. I could not remember if it was a piece from the wood or one I had brought from a tree I had felled at home. Either way it seemed almost inevitable that others I had prepared would give the same problem. I decided that I either began again with no certainty of success  or went back to my original plan of shaping them all with the drawknife. I decided to do the latter. I was sorry to lose the chance of playing on the pole-lathe but as I am building one in my own workshop there will be plenty of opportunity to do more at home.after the course ends. And because I live fairly locally I will volunteer as I did before joining the course so I will still have access to the tools and expertise here.

Barbara helping Penny perfect basket weaving

Barbara helping David bring his cart together

A refurbished two handed saw being put through it's paces
 Meanwhile the others are making good progress with their projects too.

Words by Sue Laverack
Photos by Sue Laverack and David Hunter

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