Category Archives: green woodworking

Bit and braces - black and white

Old Shed Treasures for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge

“Older than 50 years” is the topic for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week. Rather than root about in my photo archives, I decided to have a root about in the old shed in my new allotment garden. I found all kinds of old treasures and photographed them on the old cupboard that doubles as a bench and storage space in the garden shed.

The old shed - black-white
The Old Shed

The old shed itself definitely falls within this week’s topic. Originally, this building was constructed as a garage, probably shortly after World War II. I remember there were some old garages of this type near where I lived as a young child, back in the 1960s. The garage was probably saved from demolition and then transported to its current location and repurposed as a garden shed.

I love the smell of old garden sheds – the mingling aromas of musty dampness, machine oil and old creosote wood preserver, all mixed up together. Rust, dust and cobwebs cover the array of relics left behind from a by-gone age.

Old fashioned hand braces
Old hand braces and one complete with a bit

Before hand drills were made in moulded plastic and powered by electricity, these are one of the tools people would have used – a brace and bit. I know some woodworkers still use these tools today as we bought a brand new one for our woodworking son a couple of years ago. These old and rusty hand braces hang from one of the old shed beams. One of them still has its ‘bit’ in place – I wonder what it was last used for, and when?

Shoe maker's last - black-white
Shoe maker’s last for mending shoes

In years long gone, shoes were made of leather and people mended their own at home … or in the garden shed, apparently! This rusty old shoe last would have been used to support the shoe whilst it was re-soled, or re-heeled with new material. Here in our village, it’s very likely that the last was used to mend the pitmens’ heavy boots that they wore when working in the coal mines. Can you hear the ghostly echo of the shoe mender’s hammer as he taps in the new nails?

Hacksaw and Screwdriver with turned wood handles - black-white
Saw and screwdriver with turned wood handles

Wood turning is a heritage skill that we’ve learned a bit about in our family. Our youngest son went through a keenly interested phase and he and I ended up building a treadle-powered pole lathe from raw timber, which was a wonderful learning experience.

In the old shed, I came across these very old hand tools with turned wood handles and they reminded me of our wood turning project. You don’t often see tools with turned wood handles nowadays as moulded plastic has become the norm.

I had fun exploring in the old shed for this photo challenge … and it provided a welcome cool space on a particularly hot and sunny Summer’s day too!

Do take a look at what old treasures others have found for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

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Backyard baskets for Summer blooms

The closing of the month of May and the opening of the month of June for me marks a season change, as my gardening brain moves on from Spring to Summer. Although the deep temperature dips we’ve experienced this past week did make me double-check the calendar! But sure enough, it is June so Summer has arrived – and that means it’s time to spruce up my backyard and plant up my Summer baskets.

Willow basket planter and willow garden screen
My original willow basket planter and one of the two willow screens

I’m keeping my crochet jute and willow garden screens going for another year so that I can continue to make use of the vertical space that enjoys the best of the sunshine in my rather shaded yard. The willow basket planter I have on my wall needed a bit of mending too and at the same time I decided to add a few more willow rods at each end to hold the weaving in place. In my photo you can probably spot the new green willow that I’ve added.

This year, I’ve decided not to go with the same air-pruning plant pots as I’ve used previously because I found my smaller pots dried out too fast when they’re planted up with the climbing plants that I needed them for. Instead, I’ve made a new hanging plant basket from hazel rods and woven willow.

Willow and Hazel Plant Basket with Summer plants
The new willow and hazel plant basket

The new hanging plant basket is very similar to the original hazel and willow basket I successfully used last year for my Violas on my backyard wall. That’s last year’s Violas you can see on my Summer blog header at the top of the page. The new basket has a sturdy hazel frame. I made the frame a few months ago in early Spring as I used natural green wood hazel rods and I wanted to bend the rods into the basket shape whilst they were still very flexible. I then added the woven willow to form the full basket.

Green willow rods stored in a bucket of water
Sprouting green willow rods stored in a bucket of water

After harvesting them last December, I’d kept my willow rods green and flexible by storing them in a bucket of water in a sheltered part of the garden. The willow is now well-sprouted and rooted and I will probably plant a few of the cuttings out in a suitable spot. But most of the willow is reserved for basket-mending and making.

Which flowers have I chosen to go in the baskets? Building on my successful plantings from last Summer, I’m growing trailing, mixed colour Nasturtiums again. (You can see last year’s Nasturtiums in my header image on this post.) These flowers scrambled beautifully up the willow screens and they were extremely popular with the bees. As the Violas were also lovely last year (and admired by the neighbours 🙂 ), I’ve decided to grow them again too.

Violas, Nasturtiums, Marigolds in Willow Planter
Violas, Nasturtiums, Marigolds in my new willow basket planter

My new flowers for this year are bi-coloured French Marigolds in orange and crimson and a deep purple-blue compact Verbena. I’ve planted up both baskets with Nasturtiums, Violas and French Marigolds so far and left some space to add the Verbenas very soon. I’m sure I’ll be posting again as the flowers grow and develop their full Summer blooms.

Now all we need is some Summer sunshine 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

lashing together bean poles

A Tall Bean Frame Tale

Planning my new allotment garden space has been exciting. Last Autumn, as I pored over seed catalogues filled to the brim with tempting produce, I had some decision-making to do. Whilst the garden space available is quite extensive, I always manage to have more ideas than I have space (or time!), so choices had to be made.

I’m aiming to garden organically and I’m also planning on doing a bit of seed-saving. With this in mind, I sought out seed companies selling ‘old-fashioned’ open-pollinated varieties of vegetables.

A particularly useful online catalogue was ‘The Real Seed Catalogue’ as they only sell open-pollinated varieties. They also give lots of really helpful information about seed-saving. However, the best thing about The Real Seed Catalogue is their wonderful selection of heirloom and heritage vegetables that are not available in many (or any) other places.

‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ Climbing French Bean’

‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ Climbing French Bean’ caught my eye and my imagination. This was a ‘must have’, a real piece of history. I learned that in the 1830s after the US Federal Government introduced the Indian Removal Act, the Cherokee people took some of these beans with them when they were driven out of their Georgia homelands on the long forced march known as ‘The Trail of Tears’. This variety of bean has then been grown and passed on down through the generations. How fascinating … and amazing!

Cherokee Trail of Tears beans germinating
My first sowing of ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ climbing French beans – they’ve hatched!

“A very rare bean,” it says on the brown paper seed packet. The beans themselves are small and black and I am growing them as French beans – they are the tasty green, pencil-thick pods. But as well as eating them in their fresh green state, I will also grow them on to be fully ripe (hopefully!) and save some of the dried beans to sow next year as well as using them as dried beans for Winter soups. The Real Seed Catalogue describes this variety as “incredibly prolific”, so I am hopeful for a good crop. This is the plan!

However, to grow climbing beans, you need something for them to climb. I’d decided to build an old-fashioned tall bean frame from hazel poles. I built a similar tall frame for my very tall peas earlier this Spring – you’ll see it in one of the photos below.

I am anticipating the bean plants growing around 6-8 feet tall (that’s around 2-2.5 metres, if you’re metric 😉 ). Then I needed to add a generous allowance, for tying the bean poles together at the top and for planting deep enough in the ground at the bottom, for the bean frame to be wind-proof on our rather exposed northern hillside. The hazel poles I’m using are around 12 feet (3.5 metres).

Building a bean frame with hazel rods
Setting up the upright poles of the A-frame for the bean frame

I selected two pairs of slightly heavier-duty poles to make my initial A-frame – they’re around 2.5 inches (6cm) in diameter at the butt end. I tied each pair of poles together at the top, measuring and marking each pole at the 8 feet point. The poles are lashed together with thick cotton string. I used a figure-of-eight lashing to hold the poles tightly together but also allowing a degree of flexibility for manoeuvering the A-frame into place.

I’d measured out the row and marked where the frame was going to stand. I had to amend the exact position of the frame as I had been so busy looking down at the soil, I found when I looked up, my bean frame would have stretched half-way into one of the plum trees! Whoops! So, a bit of jiggling and re-measuring was needed.

tools for building the bean frame
Essential tools for planting the bean poles deep enough in the ground: digging iron and lump hammer

Using a heavy digging iron and a lump hammer, I made holes 18 inches (45cm) deep, then pushed the legs of each of the A-frames into place and refirmed the soil around the poles. Climbing very carefully on the step ladders, I added the ridge pole and lashed this in place at each end, making sure the A-frames were (fairly!) perpendicular to the ground. When you’re working with green timber, sometimes it isn’t always exactly straight, so allowances have to be made. These poles were all cut in late Winter, ready for use this Spring.

Next, came the side poles. The bean frame is 2 feet (60cm) wide and 7 feet (2 metres) long. The side poles are placed at 1 foot (30cm) intervals along each side of the A-frame. The side poles are thinner than the A-frame poles, only about 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3cm) in diameter. I didn’t tie the pairs of side poles together initially; I started off by leaning them in their places along each side and resting them on the ridge pole. Then it was back to the digging iron and lump hammer, as I made more deep holes to plant the side poles into.

Building a hazel frame for climbing beans
Arranging the side poles along the bean frame with the main A-frame and ridge in place

Eventually, all of the side poles were planted in their holes. Then it was back to climbing carefully on the step ladders to tie the side poles in place onto the ridge pole. To finish, I added a cross-brace through from corner to corner and lashed this in place at about 3 feet (1 metre) from the ground.

lashing together bean poles
Lashing the cross piece in place on the bean frame for added strength

It certainly seems quite a strong structure and I know the tall pea frame has stood up well to some strong winds already, so I am hopeful for my tall bean frame too.

Hazel frame for climbing French beans
The finished tall bean frame with the tall pea frame visible beyond it

Now it’s time to plant the beans ….

J Peggy Taylor

Crochet jute and willow garden screen - crochet close-up

Abstract views for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Spring is always the ‘busy’ season for those of us who enjoy gardening and for me this week has flashed by in a whirl. To capture my Spring ‘busyness’, I decided to browse through all of the photos I’ve taken this week and create an abstract vision of my week.

Abstract - crocus in Spring greens
Crocus in Spring greens

This image contains some of my Spring favourites. Some milder, sunny days have encouraged our crocuses to bloom this week. I love the contrasting colours – the purple and orange of the crocus against the new season’s greens. I love the heart shaped ‘wild food’ leaves of the Garlic Mustard with their energy-rich texture of veins. I noticed in my image the triangle shape of the crocus is enclosed and echoed by a larger green triangle, both pointing upwards in this picture as if towards the source of their renewed vitality, the sun.

Abstract - willow weaving
Willow weaving to tidy up my willow garden screens

My willow garden screens have survived well over the cold and windy Winter but before I put them to use again as climbing plant supports I decided they needed some aesthetic attention. Some readers may remember me writing about creating my willow and crochet jute garden screens last Summer. When I originally made the willow screens I left the tops quite wild-looking and unfinished but this year I’ve gone for a neater cottage garden finish.

In this project I have also been using some of my home-grown willow that grew on from last year’s willow cuttings. This week I have turned the tops of my two garden screens into willow arches and bound them in place with the home grown willow. I’m sure there will be a gardening post or two to come on this project 😉

Abstract - rustic wooden planter
Turned wood pegs in our rustic wooden planter

My plan from last Spring to build a wooden planter trough for my willow cuttings has finally reached fruition this week. The wooden planter has been a woodwork project that my son has worked on with me over the past few weeks. The idea was to build a rustic planter entirely from locally available raw materials and I have been really pleased that this was possible. The logs are pegged together with turned wood pegs that my son made on his pole lathe.

In my abstract image of the new wooden planter I have exaggerated the contrast to show the turned wood pegs in the hand-hewn timber.

Abstract view - solar eclipse
Friday’s partial solar eclipse – our pinhole image at 9.40am

The partial solar eclipse on Friday was one of those phenomena that should not go by unnoticed. We have been preparing for the eclipse during the week and then on Friday we were ready with our pinhole projectors to observe the moon passing between Earth and the sun. For us this was between 9.15am and 10.00am. ‘Pinhole projectors’ sound very scientific don’t they? Actually, they were simply small squares of cereal box card, about 8cm (3″) across, with a pinhole approximately in the centre. Whilst we didn’t enjoy constant clear skies during the eclipse, there were enough sunny spells to be able to observe the moon’s movement. The sky noticeably turned darker and the air colder during the eclipse.

The abstract image I have chosen of this event is one of my son’s photos of the eclipse projected onto another piece of card.

I hope you have enjoyed my week in abstract images. For more abstract images please do take a look at other entries for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

sprouting acorn in fallen oak leaves in black and white

Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge: Wood

I love natural materials and wood is one of my favourites. When Cee asked us to focus on wood for her Black and White Photo Challenge this week, I knew this was a perfect challenge for me. Wood is such a natural part of my life and I find it is an amazing and beautiful material. Let me share with you some of the ways I enjoy wood in my life.

The entire lifespan of wood, from tree seed to decayed wood, is a story of life-giving processes and for me these processes provide endless inspiration. The sprouting acorn I used to open my post is for me a symbol of the birth of something new, perhaps a new project or venture that I want to nurture and grow to achieve its aims.

Sunlit woodland in black and white
Sunlit woodland in black and white

We live surrounded by woods and walk there often, so we experience all of the natural world’s seasonal variations that woodland has to offer. One of the many pleasures of a woodland wander is wending our way homeward along the old railway with the afternoon sun of early Autumn filtering through the trees, casting lengthening shadows across our path. The wooden bench at the edge of the track offers the opportunity to sit and take in the calming atmosphere of the wood.

fallen oak branch in black and white
Fallen oak branch and wooden fence

The wilder weather of recent years has taken its toll on trees in many places, including here in our woods. This substantial limb from an oak tree has been ripped away by the wind and now lies on the edge of the horse field. Fallen timber provides an amazing habitat for a whole array of creatures. The process of wood decaying is helped very much on its way by the many mini-beasts that live on dead wood. The wood of the oak branch may be dead, but it is still teeming with life.

working in wood in black and white
Working in raw wood – shaping a tenon on an ash pole with the axe

As well as walking in woods, we also enjoy working with wood. My son is shaping a tenon on one end of an ash pole as part of his pole lathe project last year.

 turned wood candlesticks in black and white
Learning to turn wood – some early candlesticks

When the pole lathe was completed, it was time to practice turning green wood. The candlesticks may not quite be a ‘pair’ in the traditional sense, but they did demonstrate a certain level of success and dexterity with the turning chisels. I love the way wood turning brings out the grain and other points of interest in the wood.

hand carved spoon in black and white
Cherry wood hand carved spoon

I was delighted to receive this hand carved spoon in cherry wood from my son as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. The carving has revealed the varying tones in the cherry wood. This wooden spoon has a special role in my utensil jar as my morning porridge-stirring spoon.

Decaying log monster in black and white
My Decaying Log Monster complete with fungi ‘teeth’

I laughed when I first loaded this image onto my computer. While I was out in the beechwood composing the shot, I never noticed the grinning monster. I only saw the sunlight picking out the rough textures in the decaying log that contrasted so well with the smooth fungi growing on the wood. I hope it makes you smile too.

If you too delight in wood, take a look at Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week for more inspiring wood images.

Cee's Black and White Challenge Featured Blogger Award

J Peggy Taylor

Raw timber pole lathe - header

Green woodwork project: building a pole lathe in raw timber

By Matt Taylor & J Peggy Taylor @ OakTreesStudio.wordpress.com

We became interested in green woodworking when we saw a demonstration of this old country craft at a festival a couple of Summers ago. Green woodworking means literally working with wood that has been freshly (or fairly freshly) cut from the tree, rather than dried and seasoned.

After initially building an experimental pole lathe, powered by a 4 foot bundle bow, Matt decided he wanted to build a larger pole lathe so that he could begin to learn wood turning. The lathe project has taken a number of months to complete as we chose to build a Viking-style lathe from raw timber. We looked around the internet for ideas of how we would approach this project and took our inspiration from raw timber pole lathes that we saw in use, including the one being expertly used in this video by green woodworker and tool maker, Ben Orford, as he demonstrates bowl turning.

To make his new pole lathe, Matt hewed and shaped each piece by hand, learning the various woodworking skills needed as we progressed. My job was supervisor and general labourer rolled into one!

This is Matt’s illustrated description of the lathe-building process:

TOOLS

Some of the tools used
Some of the tools used

The tools we used to build the lathe were: a hand saw, hatchet, general purpose knife, (cheap) 12mm and 18mm joinery chisels, wooden mallet, spirit level, pliers, Dremel multitool, power drill with wood bits and an angle grinder [thanks Dad 😉 ].

TIMBER
Almost all of the lathe is built with locally sourced timber, mainly sycamore.

THE LATHE BED

Sawing the log for the lathe bed
Sawing the log for the lathe bed

Building the bed was pretty simple but took a while because of all the sawing. We started by cutting the 7 inch diameter log to length (43 inches) and flattening the sides with a hatchet.
Sketch plan of removing the lathe slot
Sketch plan of removing the lathe slot

We drilled a series of holes at the grey circles to give access for the saw, then cut out the white area.
Starting to remove the slot in the lathe bed
Starting to remove the slot in the lathe bed

Lathe slot and poppet tenon
The lathe slot is complete – now checking if the first poppet tenon will fit through it

It was important to make sure the top face of the lathe bed was as flat as possible, around the slot, so that the poppets sat steadily and didn’t rock from side to side. A little extra paring with the chisel was later needed to make sure this happened.

POPPETS AND PEGS
Several thousand years later(!), when the slot was finally sawn out, we moved on to making the poppets. Making the poppets was probably the part that took longest.

Sketch plan of poppet tenon preparation
Sketch plan of poppet tenon preparation

The grey lines on the above sketch represent saw cuts made to improve controllability when I chiselled the sides off the lower part of the poppet to make the tenon. It took a long time to finish the tenons because after removing the larger chunks, I was shaving the wood rather than chipping it since the width of the tenons had to be fairly precise to fit through the lathe slot properly. The poppets need to be repositionable inside the slot for lathing different lengths of wood.
Paring down the poppet tenon with the chisel
Paring down the poppet tenon with the chisel

Each poppet has a square peg hole in the tenon, positioned just at the point the tenon exits the bottom of the lathe bed.
Making poppet peg hole
Chiselling out a peg hole in the poppet – the pencil line marks the point where the tenon exits the lathe bed

Completed poppet peg hole
Completed poppet peg hole

I made a couple of suitably-sized pegs that are driven into place in the poppet peg holes using the mallet. The pegs keep the poppets fixed in place when the lathe is in use.
Poppet pegs in holding the poppets in place on the lathe
Poppet pegs holding the poppets in place on the lathe

SPIGOTS
The spigots fit into the poppets and hold the workpiece in place at either end for it to be worked on. Mine are made from short lengths (approx 2 inches) of threaded 10mm steel rod with the ends ground down to a point. Making them was simple but took a while. First the steel rod was cut to size with an angle grinder. Then I began the laborious task of grinding down one end of the spigot using a Dremel multitool. It was slow but effective.

Action shot of using Dremel to shape spigot spigot
Fuzzy action shot of using the Dremel to shape the end of the spigot – that’s the other spigot in the background waiting to be shaped

Preparing the spigots
You can see the spigot gradually taking shape

Making the spigots was the easy part! Next we needed to fit the spigots into the poppets so the workpiece would be held exactly horizontal. This was the only part of the lathe building project where absolute precision was essential. If the spigots didn’t line up exactly opposite each other, the turning workpiece would not turn true. Lots of careful measuring was done and a small area on the facing sides of the poppets was shaved using the knife and chisel. More careful measuring was done and the points marked for the spigots, including using a scrap of planed timber and the spirit level to check for horizontal accuracy. This part had to be done carefully to make sure the spigots stuck out at the right angle – which wasn’t quite a literal right angle due to the general variations introduced by the hand hewn lathe bed and poppets. The two holes were drilled using a 9mm wood bit – i.e. one millimetre less than the diameter of the steel rod, to make sure the spigots could be very tightly fitted. To avoid damaging the threads on the steel rod when inserting the spigots into the poppets, I wrapped a scrap of leather around the threads and held the spigot tightly with pliers for this stage.

Inserting the spigot into the poppet
Inserting the spigot into the prepared place on the poppet

POLES AND BUNGEE
The poles that take the bungee cord are 65 inches long and around 3 inches in diameter, with about 54 inches of the pole protruding above the lathe.

Shaping the pole tenon with the hatchet
Shaping the pole tenon

The poles are just straight lengths of ash with a square tenoned section at the bottom and a shallow notch at the top to stop the bungee slipping down.
Pole notch to hold bungee in place
Pole notch to hold bungee in place

Making sockets for the poles was fairly easy. I chiselled a hole through each end of the bed then gradually expanded them to fit the square sections of the poles.
Chiselling the pole socket
Chiselling the pole socket – a 1″ hole was drilled through to make this a bit easier

The completed pole socket
The completed pole socket

The bungee mechanism attaches near the top of the poles. This started out as a recycled cycle inner tube and when that gave out we adopted a short elastic bungee cord that we’d found lying in the road one day and added some cord extensions to make it fit between the poles.

CORD MECHANISM
The cord that drives the work piece is made from a length of polypropylene washing line. When we made the experimental lathe back in 2012, the lathe cord was one of the parts we experimented with. We tried cotton string, jute string and paracord but we found none of them lasted as long as the washing line. The lathe cord is attached to the bungee via a small karabiner.

Annotated image - cord to bungee and poles connection
Here in my improvised workspace you can see how the cord attaches via a karabiner to the bungee and the bungee attaches to the two poles

TREADLE

Annotated image - lathe treadle
The captions explain the treadle details

I made the treadle in 2012 for my first lathe. It’s 3 planks of rough sawn pine. The T-shape on the bottom provides stability and is hinged to the actual treadle board which has a scrap of 2″x2″ timber added on the free end. There’s a hole drilled vertically through the 2″x2″ timber, close to the end, with a screw on the underside to hook the cord onto the treadle.

Lathe set up showing cord from treadle to bungee
Lathe set up showing cord from treadle to bungee

Treadle showing lathe cord attached
Treadle showing lathe cord attached

Annotated image - Cord to treadle connection
Cord to treadle connection

LEGS
Although they are not currently in use, the lathe also has removable legs. The legs are simple 2 inch diameter poles with tapered tenons at one end that fit into round mortices, drilled at a slight angle on the underside of the lathe bed. When fitted, the legs splay out a bit to give stability to the whole lathe structure when the poles are in place.

Mortice and tenon for legs
Mortice and tenon for legs

TESTING THE LATHE

Testing the pole lathe
Testing the pole lathe

The pole lathe is now completed and is working well. Matt has begun practising his wood turning skills, learning to use the various turning chisels and gouges.

Turned wood candlesticks
Turned wood candlesticks made on the pole lathe

I am sure you will be hearing more about our green woodworking projects in future posts 🙂

Matt & J Peggy Taylor