A solid oak mantelpiece resting on turned oak supports, made to measure for my sister-in-law to fit above this small electric stove. It was based on a similar mantelpiece which I have in my own home.
The oak is in its natural colour, quite light, and there is a small amount of burr in the supports.
Everything was finished with three coats of wax, the final coat being carnauba. More
A lady who was retiring wished to donate a trophy to her school, to be awarded for leasdership. Discussion about suitable symbols led to a chess-theme, with four different sized pawns and a king or queen figure in the centre, The piece was made from olive ash and sapele, in recognition of the lady's name (Olive). Pyrography was used to add an inscription and a school badge. More
Another chisel as a resistant materials award for Northumberland Park School in Tottenham. Bubinga on an oak base. More
Another pentagonal trophy to be presented as a maths achievement award at a primary school in St Albans. The whole piece is made from sycamore with some lovely rippling, and is about 10 inches across by 12 inches high. Inscriptions are pyrographed onto the base and the centre of the trophy, and this year's winner is noted on the small pentagonal shield attached to the trophy at the top. More
Five more spalted beech acorn awards, this time for Atkins Aerospace company in Cheltenham. Some really nice spalting in this wood, with marked contrasts from creamy white to black. Pyrography was used to add the inscriptions on the trophy bases. Quite large, at 4 inches wide, by 9 inches tall. More
Six more flame trophies for kiln-dried wood providers Logs Direct. These are made in spalted beech, and are awarded to a wood fired restaurant each month as a "woody award". Obviously the design is made to match the context of the award.
Another unusual request. No woodturning involved in this one, just some general woodworking skills. This is a peg loom - wood is threaded onto each peg and then is woven to make a cloth. The block at the front of the picture was the model for the loom, the one at the rear is my copy. More
An unusual request - a "wedding log". The idea is that guests at the wedding all sign their names on the wood. The scale is lost in the photo - this is a slice of ash, 3 feet long, 1 foot wide sanded, sealed and inscribed.
This trophy was requested by a man in Cornwalll who wanted to present it to a former teacher who had led an expedition to climb the big peaks in Britain way back in 1973. This included Ben Nevis.
The trophy is made from olive ash. The plinth was made large enough to take a brass plaque which the customer was going to attach. More
A selection of acorn keyrings in different sizes. They all have the same gold key ring kit, but vary in width from about 7/8 inch to 1 3/4 inches. The ruler is in the photograph to give some idea of scale.
All are made from oak, with pyrography used to give the cup effect.
A child's four-legged stool with a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine pyrographed on the seat, similar to the Bertie Bus stool I made a couple of years ago. In fact this one is for the same family. There is also an inscription around the rim of the school, marking Thomas James' birthday.
The whole stool is made in ash, which adds an interesting grain pattern to the picture. More
A request for an acorn finial for a summerhouse. This is 12" tall overall, with a 9" base and 4" wide acorn. All made in cedar, used for its high resistance to the effects of the weather. It was left untreated as the customer is going to paint it to match his summerhouse. A roof boss was also made in the same wood, to fit inside the summerhouse at the apex of the roof.
A lady requested a money box in spalted beech, and particularly liked the more barrel-shaped versions. I confess I agree with her taste, and I will probably make all future money boxes more barrel shaped.
This customer collects small wooden items, and enjoys the spirituality of them, often taking a piece with her to the woods or the mountains for a quiet, contemplation amongst the wood still growing. More
I gave my first woodturning demonstration last week, to the members of Snainton Woodturning Club. A couple of hours showing how I turn trophies (using an individual disc trophy as an example) and how I add inscriptions using pyrography. There is a fairly full illustrated write-up of the demonstration on the Snainton Woodturning Club website.
A small stool made for my son as a step-up to allow him to reach books on the top shelf of the bookcase. All in oak, with Windsor style legs attached with wedged circular tenons to a rectangular seat / step. The legs are slightly splayed at angle of about fifteen degrees.
A picture of Carperby in the Yorkshire Dales, viewed from the path between Carperby and Aysgarth Falls. We spent a very enjoyable weekend there a couple of years ago, staying at The Wheatsheaf Inn. A plaque by the door said that Alf White (James Herriott) stayed there many years earlier on his honeymoon.
The picture is pyrographed on to a sycamore platter, about 12 " diameter. More
Some trials for cakestands for a catering company. In oak, with varying heights and diameters, and one version designed to take a cloche.
My brother asked if I could turn a new base for a carriage clock he has. The original base was a brass plate affair that had seen better days. The result is the olive-ash plinth shown here. Good strong grain patterns accentuated by the darker wood characteristic of "olive-ash", cut from the centre of the tree.
I have made a variety of replacement plinths for old trophies and ornaments, and now clocks as well!
My sister-in-law asked if I would make a small casket for her pet cat's ashes, recently departed after a long and leisurely life. She wanted something simple and ornamental, and not too urn-like. As a result I came up with a simple small hollow form shape, and provided her with a choice of lids to suit her taste. The one shown here has an ebony finial - there are others on the full page description. More
More cricket trophies, this time for a club down in Cornwall. The smaller one is a full sized cricket ball turned in padauk on a spalted beech stand, with seam and stitching. The larger one is my standard wicket ball and bails design, in olive ash with a padauk ball. Incidentally the ball, bails and wicket here are totally out of scale - they would be too small and too thin if they were in proportion. More
Ten acorn trophies made from spalted beech, a repeat order for a forestry company who I made some for a couple of years ago. The variation in colour and pattern is shown by this line up. The trick is to get the colour and pattern without sacrificing the nature of the wood.
Two jewellery boxes, turned from sapele with a pyrographed rose stencil on top, and an ebony knob on top. The boxes have a shelf inside with six circular dishes turned to hold small items such as rings or ear studs. They are about 7 inches diameter, and about 3 inches high. Sapele is an African timber, similar to mahogany, not as yet on the endangered species list.
A trophy made for Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Alford, Lincolnshire, to be awarded to the best student of languages. The main trophy is a 10" diameter elm disc, on an elm plinth. The centrepiece is sycamore, which with finer, more even grain, allowed the detail in the school's coat of arms to be pyrographed with reasonable accuracy.
A trophy made for the Royal Marines in Plymouth, who are holding an orienteering championship. A similar design to other orienteering trophies made a couple of years ago. The piece is a 9 inch diameter disc in rippled ash, resting at a slight angle on an ash plinth. An inscription is pyrographed on a ring around the centre. An orienteering compass is attached to the centre.
A couple of months ago a lady called Helen asked me for five mice to go on a wedding cheesecake. She very kindly sent me a picture of the wedding cake, made from rounds of cheese, with the little mice in place.
Cheese cakes as an alternative to iced fruit cakes seem to have become quite popular recently. The mice will be having plenty to nibble!
Two more money boxes made from spalted beech. Slightly different profiles but the same height, the right being more barrel shaped which the slightly wider original blank allowed.
The boxes were made for two newly arrived babies, Jessica and Rose May. Their names have been pyrographed around the centre of the boxes.
An article about me and my work appeared in Woodturning magazine this month - that is, the Winter 2015 edition, Issue number 287 (not the December edition). There is a regular feature in this magazine called In the Workshop with ... and this month they look at my workshop, and feature some of the items I produce, through a series of interview questions and answers. Read the article ... Read more about Woodturning magazine ...
Two boxes, one ash with a walnut lid, the other turned from a piece of holly. More
Two pot pourri holders in different woods. The one on the left is elm, has a rich tone with some marked grain patterns. The one on the right is made from sycamore, with a creamy even grain, though it does have a burr oak lid with some interesting figuring in it. More ...
Two candle holders turned from slices of a yew log, with moulded beeswax candles. I have done so many of this type of thing now, either for candles or tea lights, that I thought it would be worth setting up a page with some examples on. There is also a new trio of acacia tea lights on the page. More ...
A large bowl turned from an even larger oak burr. The burr was cracked and pitted, but the cracks have been left unfilled to retain the character of the original tree. This is a sister bowl to the one made last year - from another burr on the same tree. More ...
A wall clock made from an unusual piece of burr acacia. Heavily patterned and pitted with cracks and inclusions, the clock perhaps has something of a symbolic representation of the ravages of time?
That said, the wood and the burrs have been stabilised using cyanoacrylate and cellulose sealer, and the whole was then finished with Tripoli wax and carnauba wax. More ...
A war memorial designed to commemorate students and staff of Malton Grammar School who died in service in the two world wars. Designed as a large walll plaque (24" diameter), with a carved poppy at its centre and the old Grammar School badge at its base, it lists all those who gave their lives in the wars. It was unveiled on 6 November, and is now fixed to the old grammar school wall. More ...
A small coinbox made for my nephew's youngest child, Luca. It was made to go with three others that I made a couple of years ago, for his mum, his brother, and his daughter. The wood is goncalo alves (South American) , and there is a 2015 penny attached to the lid to mark Luca's birthday. It is smaller than the moneyboxes that I often make - the 50p in the picture gives an idea of its scale.
Another cricket trophy made to the emerging classic design for this trophy. This one has a burr oak base, with ash wickets and bails, and a padauk ball. Made for Elsted Cricket Club in Surrey. It is interesting making the same trophy a number of times - they are never the same, and each creates its own style based on the nature and dimensions of the base and the wickets.
A classic solitaire puzzle made from oak, with glass marbles. This one, along with two others, was made as a prize for the winners of the 2015 Maths Challenge at Malton School, but obviously a version can be made with or without a dedication around its rim. More...
Much of this month has been taken up with making 45 trophies for Malton School's annual Celebration Evening in November. These two are the George Hanson Geography Award, and the David Lloyd history award. More...
An altar cross commissioned by Caton Baptist Church in Lancashire, to give to a local school. This is a large piece, with the cross 18 inches high, standing on a base 9 inches in diameter. The piece is made from English elm, with some ash inserts to hold the three tea-lights, and ebony studs in the centre and ends of the cross. The pyrographed inscription on the base reads "The Lord is my light and my salvation" (Psalms 27 v.1) More...
More flame trophies for LogsDirect in Lancashire. who give them out to wood-fired restaurants that they supply. Made from spalted beech to enhance the flame effect. See the LogsDirect "Wood fired restaurant of the month" competition page.
A small kennel turned to house a pug dog. Made for my great niece, who very much loves her pug George. The kennel is turned from acacia. The pug is from the toymaker Shleich's range.
Another cricket trophy, this time for Spalding Town Cricket Club. The base, wickets and bails are all in ash, the ball is padauk, used for its reddish colouring. The club's badge is a very detailed heraldic affair, too small for me to pyrograph or paint. For this one I used a decal transfer method which seems to have worked quite well.
The headteacher at Temple Grafton Church of England Primary School saw the Maths Trophy and requested something simiilar to be presented as an annual Computing Award. The result was this rippled sycamore pentagonal shield on a plinth, with small pentagons to be added each year to record the winners. Unlike the maths trophy, this one has a flat front, to make it easy for the school to add the annual winners. More...
The Mirehouse is a beautiful light-filled country manor house near the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake. Frequented by Tennyson and other poets in the past. Today the gardens offer a pleasant walk through woodland, scented ornamental planting in the beehive garden (a rejuvenated walled garden) and other planting around the house.
The deep blue flowers of the Dalemain poppy, photographed on site at the impressive gardens at Dalemain House in the Lake District, near Penrith. Meconopsis grandis Dalemain grow in abundance in a semi-wild area of the gardens, two to three feet high.
Askham Hall near Penrith is now a boutique hotel, but the garden is open to visitors. And what a lovely garden, with meadow, woodland, long terraces, topiary, and a large, working kitchen garden. Providing food for a delightful cafe on site. Developing furhter, with new planting in evidence.
A visit to Lowther Castle near Penrith, where Dan Pearson has designed a garden around and inside the ruined stately home. Also in the woods are the remains of pleasure gardens and Japanese gardens - the outlines have been excavated, but not restored. A work in progress, it will be worth revisiting in a couple of years time
This impressive visitor was found resting on our front door one day. A little internet research on ukMoths.org.uk reveals it was a female muslin moth, diaphora mendica. Apparently the male is a dull brown in comparison. Described as quite common, but it is the first time we have spotted this one in the garden. I hope its caterpillars eat the dock and chickweed that the website mentions, and not our plants.
Columbine, Granny's bonnets, or aquilega. These plants have been with us since we arrived 30 years ago. They self seed around the garden, and come up in a variety of colours ranging from dark purple to white. We let them grow where they want to, occasionally pulling out the odd plant that doesn't fit with its surroundings.
The ferns have been unfurling in their almost primeval way. We have a variety of different types, but sadly I forgot to make a note of what each one was as we planted them. This one has a tall, erect habit and is one of the last to unfurl.
Almost the spring equinox, and a few days of sunshine (though not a lot of warmth otherwise) has brought out the catkins on the corkscrew hazel. This is a shrub for all seasons, with the contorted branches highlighted in winter, the catkins in spirng, the curious leaves in summer, and then the clusters of hazel nuts in autumn. Very popular with the birds as a perch..
I gave a talk to Boston Spa Gardening Society yesterday evening, entitled A Virtual Tour of Yorkshire Gardens, the first time I have given this talk for a few years now. Slides from the talk, plus a map of Yorkshire showing where the gardens are, and brief notes on each, are available in the Garden Talks section.
A carpet of snowdrops covers the ground in the woodland at Burton Agnes Hall, near Driffield. The grounds are open to see this spectacle, although the house remains closed for a few more weeks. The snowdrop coverage is really very extensive, not just a few patches here and there.
Very worrying bare patches have developed on two low growing box hedges in the last two months. I have seen box blight in gardens around the country. Is this it? I have a lot of box topiary in the garden, I hope it is not all going to be attacked. Other bushes are not showing symptoms as yet.
Watching Julia Donaldson's and Axel Sheffler's Stick Man animation over Christmas made me look in the stick basket (I save reasonable sized twiggy clippings to use as kindling). And look who I should find - a friend of Stick Man. To be honest he is actually two sticks glued together, but please don't tell my granddaughters that I have cheated. Having watched the film, I will probably now spend every visit to the stick basket looking for potential stick friends.
I have now completed a new illustrated garden talk about maintaining the garden throughout the year. The first presentation of this talk was today, to Nafferton Gardening Club. There are 143 slides illustrating aspects of gardening, which are available on this site.
A fine specimen tree standing in the front garden of Levens Hall in Cumbria, more famous for its topiary specimens. This tree was flowering in September when we visited, and this is then followed by a show of foot long pencil thick pods, giving it the name Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa bignonioides). More ...
The late flowering sedum spectabile attracted a slightly more unusual visitor this week, although I don't know how common Speckled Wood butterflies are in the north. It was nice to see something a little different in the early autumn sunshine.
Another leylandi felled and tree stump removed. This has allowed more light to the top of the garden, and taken away the competition with the spiral beech topiary. The bed will be dug over, compost added, and planted with herbaceous perrenials next spring. More ...
Hemp agrimony is not the most attractive of plants, and is a bit of a thug if seed heads are left to blow around the garden and colonise. However, they are as attractive to butterflies and bees as buddleia, so the colour comes from their visitors more than from their flowers. The one shown here has a Painted Lady visiting.
Montbretia (crocosmia) is a common plant, considered a non-native weed when it escapes and colonises hedgerows and other wild areas. I cannot remember such a good year for them in our garden as this one. We also have the bright red, increasingly common, lucifer, which has also done well.
Well, the RHS advice appears to be correct. The gall midges have limited their infestation of the day lily buds to July, and into August we are finally getting flowers opening. There are lots of long, pointed buds following, so hopefully there will be a reasonable show during the rest of the month.
A magical garden with paths leading in all directions through drifts of colour. Some of the avenues of plants remind me of Monet's Giverny garden. Beautiful combinations of plants, set amongst walls and hedges, and a stream. A garden where you just want to walk around again, perhaps taking another path.
A visit to Brodsworth Hall on a sunshine and showers day. A few years since our last visit, and the regeneration of the garden is progressing well. A lot of clipped yew, holly, laurel, ivy and box across all areas, the quarry fernery has matured, as has the rose garden and herbacious beds. Very nice.
Our day lilies have not been opening, and some research reveals that they have been attacked by the Day Lily Gall Midge. The fattened buds are stunted and rotting before opening. The RHS site says look for tell-tale minute white maggots inside, and sure enough they were there. Good news is their breeding cycle finishes about now so we may still get some flowers.
Topiary clipping season. The front garden box was planted two years ago and is beginning to shape up. The box in front of the summerhouse is a mix of 25 years old and 1 year old. All shaping up. More
On the road to High Force and Low Force in the Tees valley, an exceptionally large nursery inside an old walled garden offers a surfeit of unusual varieties of plants. For a £2.50 donation in the honesty box, you can walk around a trail and see many of these planted in the surrounding grounds.
Just across the Tees near the village of Staindrop is the home of Lord Barnard (of Barnard Castle). The gardens were a real delight, with all kinds of planting in good order, maintained by just two full time gardeners. The abstract clipped yew hedges which split up the gardens are over 200 years old.
The fine tulip displays at Constable Burton, near Leyburn, were virtually all gone, but there is still lots to see for the £4 honesty box admission. A tranquil garden of woodland and streams planted along their banks. Some specimen trees, and most of the plants labelled for visitor's reference.
We couldn't believe the car parking when we arrived on spec at Newby Hall. Fields and fields of cars - it was Tractor Fest, with hundreds of tractors on view. Thankfully the garden was more peaceful. We were a little early for the herbaceous border display, but there was still lots to take the fancy.
The season for visiting other gardens - easier than tending your own, but often leading to envy and the purchase of a plant that catches the eye. This lovely rambling front garden is in the quiet village of Bolton by Bowland, which used to be in Yorkshire until Lancashire stole it in the 1974 boundary changes.
Early flowers and blossom brought out by the higher than seasonal temperatures this week. Miniature daffodils, and the first flowers on an ornamental black cherry plum (prunus cerasifera nigra), which appear before the leaves.
The frogs have been gathering in the pond over the last week. Spawn appeared at the weekend, and there have been a number of frogs gathered around jostling for position in the recent warmer weather.
Three pictures of winter flowers in the garden. If only the scents could be transmitted on the web! The witch hazel - hamamellis - has a gentle sweet fragrance. The sarcococca confusa (Christmas box) has a much more pungent forceful scent, not as pleasant on the nose but very distinctive. The skimmia is here more for colour than scent - often sold as small plants in winter mixed planters, but if you pot them on they will keep for future seasons.
I have added 130 slides from my talk on the development of my garden in Thornton le Dale. These are the slides used in the talk, usually shown using a data projector.
The slides cover various projects from 1986 to the present day.