You can’t judge a tree by looking at its bark!

Ash trees in Meephill coppice

I had last set foot in Meephill Coppice in May 1999, when it was up for sale. It had been planted mainly with conifers but it also contained some fine young ash trees which were a mixture of coppice and natural regeneration. As it turned out, it was eventually purchased by my former colleague, Gudrun Leitz along with the much larger, neighbouring Childer Wood (see ‘Living Wood’ pages 41 & 42). As I started setting up for my fourth year of courses at Greenwood Cottage, very nearly 20 years later, Gudrun invited me to look through some of the ash logs that had been felled over the winter by our mutual colleague, Crunchie together with his wonderful horses.

Crunchie and Mike coming back from the woods in 2015

A collection of logs ready to be picked up

The logs loaded for home.

I measured the volume of each log and after arriving home and cleaving them, I sorted the good chair-making logs from the inferior wood, which was valued as firewood (there is no such thing as ‘waste’ in the greenwood world!)

A log with a rotten centre

This log looked straight with no obvious knots but was very slow grown (which in ash is a bad quality), so mostly went as firewood

wispy fibres – a sign of tough chair-making wood

These whispy fibres signified that this wood would have the elastic strength for which ash is renown. Because the pith was off-centre, it wasn’t ideal for cleaving the long slender back legs of chairs, so it was cut into shorter lengths for the other chair parts.

Good, straight, tough, fibrous ash-wood

a straight, symmetrical log, ideal for back legs of chairs

This log, wasn’t so fibrous but it was more regular in its growth and would prove good for cleaving in metre lengths for back chair-legs

half of each of these two logs.

Despite thirty years working with this stuff, it is still difficult to ascertain the specific quality of a log by looking at its bark.

The logs, cleft in half and stacked under cover by the stream

So, log by log, I stacked them in a cool, dry, shady spot between my workshop and the adjacent stream.

Since then, they have been used with varying success over seven 5-day courses to produce 27 unique heirlooms for their delighted makers.

May 24th

June 7th

June 26th

July 5th

july 19th

August 9th

August 23rd

That will do for the moment!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mike Abbott on August 29, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Thank you very much indeed, Roger. I’m certain that your skills as a doctor have had a far more positive effect upon the world but it is comments like yours that keep me running the courses.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Roger Durston on August 29, 2019 at 5:13 am

    Mike It is difficult for me to put into words the feelings of camaraderie, relaxation and achievement I feel from my time spent on your courses. That you have taken me, a complete novice and shown me that I have within me the ability to produce such an artefact is a skill indeed, thank you. Roger

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Reply

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