I’m back from teaching two classes with the New English Workshop. It was my first trip to England to do woodworking, my previous visits had been for furniture study. It’s an amazing place, a rural little island filled with hobbits and badgers and twitchers and train spotters.
The classes were held at two colleges, my first at Warwick College in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Jamie Ward of the College was very helpful and the students there were quite flexible as we worked out the kinks. The first of which was some oak logs that looked like bad firewood. Poor Paul Mayon – he picked me up the first morning, brought me to the school, and we’d known each other for all of 20 minutes when I was telling him that the oak bolts they had were next to useless. Undaunted, Paul trucked off in his typically British tiny car and bought a new section of giant oak (2 really, the 2nd arrived the next day.) installed into Paul’s car with a forklift, I wasn’t sure it would ever come out. Paul’s car was riding low, for a 2-plus hour drive. Meanwhile the students dove in & split what we had so we could get started at least. They were great.
Our class was at one end of the room, while Tom Fidgen’s was at the other end. It was diffuse porous vs ring porous (cherry v oak) all week. You could hear our shavings hit the floor, while theirs floated down to the bottom.
Lots of camaraderie in the evenings, we even had a token American who had been traded to the RAF…
Boxes got made, carving patterns all over the place. Tricia was adamant that she would finish her box, I think her first woodworking project.
The English oak,which by habit I kept calling white oak, was different than our white oak. I know it’s sacrilege to say it, but it felt lighter weight, a bit softer, and certainly easier to split. Even the better logs had knots in them and we were able to split right through them like I never can in American white oak (Quercia alba)
On the weekend, I met up w Mr & Mrs Underhill of Graham, NC, who were there for Roy to teach week 2 in Leamington. We had dinner one night, then the old switcheroo was scheduled for that Saturday – Paul was bringing Chris Schwarz who had been teaching down in Somerset up to Leamington, then turning around to take me down to Zummerzet so I could do week 2 there at Bridgwater College. A too-short round-table lunch was had by all before we headed south…the only other times Roy, Chris & I had all been together had been WIA events, in which case we never saw each other. Hand tool freaks unite!
Bridgwater also boasted a great & helpful staff…and a group of students who were serious about carved oak. Ringers Jon Bayes http://www.riversjoinery.co.uk/ and Richard Francis http://www.flyingshavings.co.uk/ represented England well… I barely had to teach this crew any English terms at all. Like rabbet/”re-bate” or clamp/cramp. The first group insisted that some are clamps, and I insisted that you’re British dammit, call it a cramp.
One thing I was missing was old oak carvings, and the students took care of that. Joel, hewer extroidinaire, scouted out several churches and even arranged for us to get in them after 5 pm…130-odd steps up a circular staircase afforded us a heck of a view of somerset. One pulpit wasn’t oak, I said I wanted my money back. we saw three churches, carved pulpits, bench ends, a chest, and who knows what else. This pulpit is oak:
Tim came down from County Durham, and lent me binocs and a good bird book…I had a simple little bird guide book with me…I saw some nice birds, some well, some fleeting. This’ll be the only time you’ll hear the word tit on this blog. As in blue tit, long tailed tit, willow tit, etc. I didn’t see a great tit. Then of course the day we drove over/down to Heathrow we saw several kites, much larger than I thought…musta seen 6 of them. No pictures, highway driving…
I was invited by Robin Wood to be part of Spoonfest, but that would have meant another week & 1/2 away from home. So, another time. Thanks to all who made my trip a success, especially the ones who waited at home. Why did it take me so long to get hip to Skype?
More photos here:
20 thoughts on “England 2015”
So Three Tennoners stormed England!
Great Blog, love the pics and some new patterns and designs.
Peter, it was really good to meet you two weeks ago. Would you mind pointing me in the direction of that 17th century ordinance you referred to (I confess I’ve forgotten what it was called)? Please do stay in touch.
You probably already know this, but anyway. In Spanish, dovetails are called “kite tails”.
Nope – I didn’t know that. I;ve seen them as “swallow tails” I think in French. thanks for the nudge.
Peter, I think your blue herons and our grey herons are different species. They look very similar – I struggle to tell them apart in photos – but yours are often half as big again as ours. Thanks for a very enjoyable course!
well, the web tells me the size difference isn’t that great. L: 38″-54″ w wingspan of 65″-79″ for the GBH and 33″-40″ and wingspan 61″-77″ – so not that different. I have seen so many GBHs over the years and can never tell is this one bigger or smaller than the last one…but the GBH could be a foot taller than the GH – but…hard to see…and often you don’t see the chestnut color on the GBH here…
Yes, they are different birds, but so close. Like the whole buzzard/red tail hawk thing – both buteo, but different individual species within the group. So Ardea cinerea v Ardea herodias.
Really jealous! It sounds (and looks!) like it was a great two weeks. Did you build & carve the same boxes at each school?
each student makes a box of their own – I encourage them to copy a period design, but some go so far as to design their own pattern. General size for the past two weeks was 15″ wide, 6″-7″ high and 10″ deep.
Hey Peter, welcome back!
Glad you had a good experience in the England! Looks like a couple of really good classes, and I’m sure everyone had a great time!
Q rubra v Q robur – no contest. See what I mean by real oak?
Hearts of oak, boys.
real schmele – give me straight oak, no branches. no twist. flat, flat flat. All the rest is just details. great to hang out together, thanks for coming down. or up as the case was…
Looks like a ton of fun! Any chance you’ll be back in North Carolina next year at the Woodwright’s School? I’m really hoping to work in a woodworking vacation.
whenever Roy calls, I say yes. that’s how it is.
That’s probably just good advice for life in general. 😉 Here’s hoping your phone rings soon.
If it isn’t oak, then what was it?
it was dark, smudgey, little “grain” – UFO wood.
Quercus rubra – Northern Red Oak
Quercus robur – English Oak (in the White Oak Family)
I always enjoy your blog though I’m not sure I recognise myself in your first paragraph, I’m well over 4 feet tall, and my own feet aren’t very hairy ;-)
Quercus petraea is also native here in the UK and typically has a longer, straighter trunk. Possibly less knotty?
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