Saturday, 30 March 2013

Week 21: Greenwood working Cousre


We spent 4 days in the woods this week and were joined by Holly. Lee and Gary on the short course in green woodworking. They all 3 elected to make shavehorses – a wise decision because to make a shavehorse involves using a shavehorse!  But it also involves most of the processes used in green woodwork so is excellent learning.

On Monday, whilst Nick and Martin started the 3 new people off on their course I finished the 4th tenon for my seat frame. Then Martin helped me sort out the components I had made and suggested that I concentrate on making the arms which I hadn’t started. We went down to the plot and found and cleft a curved piece of Ash to give 2 short planks. I had to use the side axe to smooth the face and work them to a suitable thickness. I am still not very god with the eide axe but by the time I had finished and also shaped them a bit I was improving and only had to do a small amount of work with the drawknife. I had a spare piece of  wood which I had already shaped to an oval cross-section so I cut it in half and made tenons on the end to fit holes drilled in the front of the arms. That took me the rest of the afternoon.

Kieron finished his 2 gates today. They are beautiful – simple but elegant – and for his hen run which is complete apart from them so he will be staying home tomorrow to hang them and, if his apple trees arrive, we will not see him again until next week as they will need planting.

Tuesday I started to make the seat back. I shaved the bark of the top rail. Then I made motice and tenon joints at each end of the end spindles which were cleft from curved pieces of bird cherry from my garden. This may not sound much for a day’s work but the 4 joints were fiddly because nothing is straight or square and the 2 bottom ones were made like conventional carpentry ones with sawn flats and a pin – another new technique for me. When we put it together we realised that the sides were too tall for the other spindles so I need to lengthen the tenons and then cut the ends off. We were just about to pack up when I realised that I had made a mistake – what I had thought was the outside edge of the frame was actually the inside! With Nick’s help I tried to find a solution and after a while he suggested we try turning the top rail around and seeing if it would still work with all the curves and angles. It did. PHEW!!! But tomorrow I need to check the spindle lengths again because the rake of the back is now greater which may mean shortening the sides more.

After a night when I kept waking up trying to think how to manage the spindles and their angles into the frame and top rail I had to face doing it for real! It seems both Nick and Martin have been giving it a lot of thought too! This project has posed challenges for us all. I worked the end spindles to length, then marked the frame with equidistant holes and drilled them. Martin and Nick told me to do them vertical as the spindles should have enough flex to bend to the rake. Then each spindle had to be shaved down to fit its own hole. Then I had to assemble it all again, mark the top rail, take it all apart and shape each spindle to fit its top hole. I made 2 mistakes on the top rail – one hole was too near the edge and the top of the spindle shows through and another was slightly out of place. Nothing I could do about either after the event. Then Nick helped me put it all together one last time. I was so relieved when it all went in! And despite the mistakes I am pleased with the design. Quirky and solid frames but the plain spindles make it quite light and delicate at the same time.
It is getting crowded in the shelter now as we all begin to lay out our pieces and fit things together. My bench and David’s bike trailer are both quite big, Andrew and Penny are needing to build up their components into gates and 3 shavehorses are standing around waiting for the vices to be fitted. Only Stef is being compact – he has spent hours on the pole-lathe turning the legs and spindles for his stick chair and is now adzing the seat. He is hard at work when we arrive and continues until it is too dark to see.



Stef hard at work on his chair seat


Kieron's rustic gates complete and looking brilliant.
My job on Thursday was to attach the arms. A simple cut out at the bottom of the support will sit on the inside of the frame and be held with a screw but the back of the arm had to be connected to the end spindle with a complicated sort of cross halving joint in the side and front of the spindle. But these are curved and bend in both planes! I managed something which will be strong but has more gaps than I would ideally like. However Nick and Martin were pleased with my efforts and very reassuring. I must say I am pleased with the overall effect – just don’t look TOO closely!  By way of light relief and a change I finished the afternoon by going to the plot again and finding pieces that would make the seat planks. Martin came to help and we halved some straight lengths of Ash. I shaped them with the side axe and then started to smooth them finally and flatten the ends with the draw knife but ran out of time. With one day next week to complete the job I think I will get it finished – just!

Sue's swing seat approaching completion
 Words and photos by Sue Laverack

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