Well it’s a fair time since the 2016 Bodgers’ Ball happened- to be exact it was held on the second weekend in May at Tyntesfield which happens to belong to the National Trust and a place I had never been to before. Took the MJ lorry with Gordon Averall as the co driver aka map reader. Somehow we ended up looking at the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol… we both looked at each other and went ‘gulp’- 7.5 ton was not going across a 4 ton restricted bridge and reversing backwards was out of the question. Just as well it’s an all terrain lorry, phew!
What a lovely landscape, the camping area had views over a beautiful valley and we could just see the house across another meadow. Hope the big tarmac parking area gets landscaped in with trees, looks like a runway for an airport at the moment! First port of call was the secondhand tool stall- loads to gander over and perhaps purchase…
Here are some photos from the weekend.
Well… I spied a great big box full of stone masonry tools- bought the lot as that’s what I’d like to have a go at!
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Tyntesfield also had a resident green woodworking group called The Somerset Bodgers and what a lovely setup they had.
They have been allowed to use the old barns right next to the entrance which means they get a lot of public interest in all things made from wood sourced from the estate.
Adjacent to the bodgers’ large set of workshops was a small children’s play area with plenty of interesting items for the kids to play with, all quite simple but effective.
The weather was not so bad (and in fact was pretty good considering the last few Bodgers’ Balls ) but even so the rain did make an appearance just when I was demonstrating blacksmithing… everybody ran away!!!! As luck would have it the evening was lovely and dry and SOME OF US were indulging in, no not linseed oil, but some rather good local scrumpy- how was the head afterwards Mr Averall?
As usual there were the competitions and we all peer-judged the individual items and, by God there were some very lovely pieces. For me the automaton with a bodger pole lathing with crows was the star piece but I did like the clogs and there were some mighty fine spoons. The automaton won overall.
For some time I have been a bit fed up that we have not put the larger timber from Wimpole Estate to good use. These days, unless you have at least a twenty ton load, nobody wants it (unless it happens to be a large burr tree). Most just ends up as firewood worth around £35 per ton roadside if you’re lucky. As we will have to source some elm beams for certain conservation jobs on the estate ( such as the Nag’s Stable by the Folly), and not able to buy a band saw mill I purchased an Alaskan milling attachment for our large Husqvarna chainsaw.
Took a little getting used to but, after the initial problems with setting up the first cut, it then worked a treat. At first we planked a very large olive ash, (olive ash is less valuable to the commercial sawmills as they want pure white but olive ash is far more decorative) then it was some walnut from the gardens- this didn’t have much heartwood but even so it was very pretty once planked. After that we planked the wellingtonia I cut down in the gardens quite a few years ago. It was so big the Botex crane couldn’t lift it so planking it allowed us to remove it from near the gardens. Lately we have started to plank and beam the old oak we have collected from the woodland floor. As it’s cracked nobody wants it unless for firewood and it is this timber we cleaved last year for fencing Long Ropes but now we plank and beam the best bits and cleave the rest for fence posts. So next year we’ll hopefully be selling the planks at around £20-£30 per cubic foot – a much better return for our labour.
So what have the Wympole Green Woodworkers been up to?
Springtime and it was up to the Gloucesters to fell some of the small elm so that we could use the elm bark for chair seating. Only hand tools were used which actually was much nicer because there wasn’t the roar and stench of chainsaws.
Once down it was time to remove the rough outer bark with a drawknife then carefully score the underbark with a knife. Make two scores around half an inch or more the full length of the pole and then pull from the bottom and, hey presto! you get a long strip suitable for weaving seats in ladder back chairs or stools. You can only do this when the sap is rising (so from late May ’til early July), after that the bark won’t peel off.
When the whole pole has been stripped we can either use it for firewood or for poles to build all sorts of things. Once the bark is off the wood usually lasts a lot longer than when used with the bark on.
There were many weekends that I have missed because of being away but recently we had a spoon carving course attended by eleven people. At all the last courses we have tended to start everyone off with a spoon shaped blank but this time I thought people should actually start from a solid piece of wood. They had to select and cleave until the right portioned blank was obtained then they had to use an axe to remove the large bits of unwanted wood. It was then down to the knife and spoon gouge knife.
Always a worry when using such sharp tools- should you wear a glove or not? It’s very hard to grip the wood blank with heavy gloves and one can actually have more serious accidents when wearing them. Cutting away from you is a must to begin with and then, when you master the techniques, the lighter, less powerful cuts can actually be cut towards you. A first aid kit is essential for all those minor nicks which unfortunately everybody at some time will have, including me.
All in all everyone made at least two spoons each, collected a few nicks and hopefully all enjoyed themselves.
Oh I nearly forgot the WGW meeting at Denny Abbey just north of Cambridge, quite a lot of stalls and some interesting rural bygones nicely displayed. For my part I started to have a go with the stone masonry tools I brought from the Bodgers Ball, it took me all day to carve the Celtic Knot, not perfect be not to bad for a third attempt.
We were also asked to provide some traditional skills for the Orwell bank holiday Chapel Orchard show, David started to make the parts for a chair so that he could use the elm bark cut in the spring. I did do a little stone masonry and the children were allowed to have a go, no sharp edges! but most of my time was spent on the forge demonstrating blacksmithing, a very nice day helping the local community plus we were given a few pints of beer to quench our thirst.