Monday, 19 January 2015

First things first

It's frustrating not getting much time in the workshop. Amplified when I look at Instagram on a daily basis and see dozens of people busily working away at every thing from making furniture to building boats. But, I have to keep reminding myself of some priorities. Number one is putting a decent roof over my families head. Not to say that we don't have one at the moment, but this shoebox at the back of our shop ( about 5 squares ) is starting to wear a little thin after more than two years. This house will mean a big difference to our quality of life I'm sure. Just as it would have to William 'Pepper' Wright when he built it.

Final details are taking shape. Building a built in wardrobe in the Master Bedroom. 

The old doors are originals from the house. Unfortunately damaged and multi coloured, they'll be restored and finished a little later down the track.

Importantly the cast iron hinges, original to the doors were in good order and only needed a bit of a clean up. They've been re-used and the phillips head screws will be replaced with steel slot screws when the doors are taken off to restore them. A K & Sons is Archibald Kendrick and Son who were a huge Ironmongery in West Bromich. Founded in the mid 1700's they finished casting hinges like these around the mid 1880's, moving to pressed steel. On the rear is '3in' for the length of the hinge. I figuring that perhaps 59 may be the abbreviated year of manufacture? If anyone knows any different, I'd be grateful to hear about it.

We've also been busy in the kitchen too, the spotted gum floor boards are polished, we've installed the custom black carcasses and I've made, painted and oiled the Belgian Oak bench tops too.

It all looks very black at present, but the cupboard doors should fix that.

They are made from the original internal wall clapboards, which used to have hessian and wallpaper fixed to them. Planed and thicknessed, I've made them in the same fashion that the original surviving kitchen cupboard doors were made. That is they have batons fixed to the back by means of cut nails, clinched over in the traditional manner.

I've also copied the only handle left, which had not been replaced ( probably during the 60's or 70's ) from the drawer. I hand turned them from Huon Pine, which will turn a rich honey colour after a few years.

Here they are fitted to the doors and ready for sanding and oiling and fitting to the carcasses. They are simple I know. But that's what I believe this house needs. It is a simple house now and it was when it was built. Sure there are rooms that show the house had impressive elements in it's day, but those elements were in the main part of the house, in the sitting rooms and bedrooms, where there are marbled fireplace mantels and hand painted wall papers.

Not so in the laundry and kitchen. These rooms have bare brickwork and simple painted wooden lining boards, just as utilitarian rooms did in those days. After all, these were the rooms for the hired help,  scullery maids and the like. And so that is the styling cue we have followed. I think it will come up well.

So I think we should be in the house in about 4-5 weeks, after that it's full steam ahead to the Lost Trades Fair, but that's secondary at the moment. Family comes first.

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015 - day 1

The new year kicked off in country style this year with our first visit to the annual Glenlyon Sports Day. For those a little further away, Glenlyon is one of many little satellite Goldfield era towns, about 20 minutes from us in Kyneton.

Good friend Pete Trott had told us about the day and I'm glad he did. The event card went something like this.

Midday events begin - Cross country horse race
                                  - Pony and pony and cart racing
                                  -wood chop , underhand, standing block and tree felling
                                  -World Mineral Water Drinking Championship
                                  -Bull-Boar sausage eating competition.

Suffice to say it was a bit of good country fun. In fact Pete's wife Jess entered the mineral water drinking championship and downed her pint of murky local mineral water in a healthy 5.10 seconds, holding the lead for a short time until a newcomer came along and took the lead with an unbelievable 4.89!

Jess on the left, deservedly accepting her 3rd prize!

The wood chop as is usually the case, was a great competition too. But on the day there was one fella who dominated the Underhand Comp. My feeble old mind has forgotten his name now, but in the video below you can see him second last in the line, in the Green singlet. 

He even had time for a breather, before the last bloke is finished! 21 seconds through a 1 foot round Mountain Ash block. Impressive.

Yesterday before the heat drove me out of the corrugated iron workshop again, I managed to get a start on the cupboard doors for the kitchen. There were 2 original cupboards in the Pineville kitchen when we bought it. Both frames had been destroyed by termites, but the old doors were still in tact.

They are a simple but very traditional door. Hand-beaded panels, held together by back braces or cleats which have been clinched together with cut nails. Although they sound very agricultural, and they may be, they are still as solid as a rock. Part of the secret why is due to the nails allowing wood movement, flexing where glue and or screws would not. They are also very light in comparison to a frame and panel door of the same size. 

Here's the detail of the clinched nails and the bead, cut with a moulding plane.

For my doors I'm going to use the hardwood internal clap-boards I managed to rescue from the internal walls of the main house. They were fixed tight up to shoulder level then spaced out to the ceiling and were a fixing platform for hessian, which then had the wallpaper applied to it. A lot were turned to dust by termites but we still managed to retrieve a good pile of them.

You can see them here in the Study. Rough sawn they are about 160mm x 12 (6'' 1/4 x 1/2" )

The first step was to remove the myriad of fixings buried in them over the past 160 odd years. There were cut nails, wire nails, brass pins, large flat head steel tacks for the hessian and lastly gal. clouts where plasterboard was nailed on. I then had to pick through most of them to find a good straight section over 750mm (29" 1/2 ) long. Given that I had to joint and thickness them, there couldn't be too much curve or wind in them, as I still wanted to finish with at least 9mm ( 3/8" ).

With the stock docked to rough length, jointed and thicknessed, I wanted to make up a sample door to try on the carcasses we've already fitted in the kitchen. So I wasn't wasting stock I've screwed together the prototype, so we can pull it apart and adjust it if need be.

So here's the cleat fixed with screws and screw caps. I only used the caps as I didn't have screws on hand that were short enough not to poke through both timbers. As you can see I also made up a very simple scratch stock to put a bead on the cleat. It worked fine but was a time consuming process in this very hard old timber. I've ordered a 1/4" beading plane from Caleb James to do the actual doors, which is winging its way across the Pacific as I type. It's a terrible burden to 'have' to get such lovely tools to make a kitchen…….. =)

The handles for the doors will be a very simple affair and the shape have already been determined by the single remaining draw pull on the original kitchen cupboard. They are about 36mm round, quite shallow in depth and I'll through mortise & tenon, glue and wedge them to the doors and drawers.

Today is a day of rest I'm afraid, as the town and most of country Victoria braces itself for the possibility of bushfire. It's 40 celsius + here today, with strong winds too. Far to hot to get into the workshop. 

We've already had the usual nutbag pyromaniacs running around the outskirts of town lighting grass fires. Lets hope common sense prevails and the day remains uneventful. 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

You say goodbye, and I say hello...

To quote the Beatles above, goodbye 2014 and hello 2015. It's been an interesting year again as I sit on the couch and reflect about the year that just was.

A years worth of renovation on the old house at Tylden. I have to start referring to it as Pineville, as we've been reliably informed it was given that name due to there being numerous Californian Redwoods ( Giant Sequoias ) planted near the house and in the front paddock. They've long since gone, but we've planted a new one in their place. But it's a good name nonetheless.

 In fact here's the one that used to stand in front of the house. This was in the 1920's I believe. We've been given a lot of old photos of the house, which I'll try and post in the future. They are a great reference.

But although we didn't hit our goal of moving in prior to Christmas, we're not far off, essentially just waiting for the tiler to come in and tile the bathroom and kitchen before I can fit it off with the basin, bath, toilet etc. But to get to that point there was a heck of a lot of work to complete first. Including fitting new custom windows and doors throughout the house, patching termite eaten weatherboards, insulating every internal and external wall and cladding most internal walls with lining boards too.

Kitchen floor

 After getting it to this lockup stage we've also replaced most sub-floors throughout and obviously the floors above them. This included replacing the original baltic boards in the lounge and front room and installing new 180mm wide Spotted Gum boards in the kitchen and side entry. What we refer to as the study, the front room on the right, received brand new 22mm thick baltic boards to replace the originals which were completing annihilated by the termites. They are exceptional quality and were top fixed, 
( hand nailed ) as were all the boards we replaced, just like the originals.

We figure we should be in the house in the next month or so.

Hoo roo little house!

But restoring a house like that does not come cheap and was certainly more than we could afford, so that resulted in another change of direction last year. We sold our little Shaker style cottage, 1774, which was the first place we had renovated when we moved to Kyneton. That sale has allowed us some capital to continue with the house and also focus more intently on our core business, making chairs and teaching too. It was a little bitter sweet, as I was quite fond of the place, but it's all about moving forward so I'm told…..

Photo by Ian Hill

So with all the renovations and action out at Tylden, I have to say, there was diminished time in the workshop, which certainly didn't make me happy. Commissions for chairs, I often worked on whilst teaching chair making classes, and used the chair I was working on to demonstrate. Although not ideal, it did allow me to make about a dozen chairs and stools for the year. Which although not a lot, I'm still a firm believer of quality over quantity. 

Chair, stool, shaker oval box and bucket making classes were all a blast and well attended, for which we are really grateful too. This year is proving to be busy too with most classes booked up already. Another great addition to our business is that Brodie, who has worked for us in the shop for some time, is now also teaching the Shaker Oval Box Class too. She's a great talent and is proving to be just as capable an instructor too. I'm looking forward to working with her more in the workshop throughout the year.

A highlight of chairs I made this year, was a Marigold Yellow Continuous Arm Rocking Chair I made for our very good friends, David and Claire who live here in town. The chair was made for nursing their second daughter, Ella who was born late last year. It's a great thing to visit and see the chair in Ella's room and know that it's being used to rock her off to sleep most nights.

In fact I'm finding that more and more parents are ordering that chair for that very reason. 3 or possibly 4 of them in 2014. Including the last one I just finished off a few days ago.

Photo by Ian Hill

There was also a very tall four legged bar stool I made for a local graphic designer. Designed to sit him at the same height or line of sight as when he's standing, it was a stool that I made a prototype of first, just to ensure we got it right. Unlike a standard barstool which has a fairly flat seating platform, this stool also had a seat which was raked forward, like the 3 legged Perch. This was due to the client having a bad back and wanting the benefit of the Perches ergonomic seating position. So there were a lot of prerequisites, but in the end the client was thrilled and I'm pretty pleased with the end product too.

All buckled up and ready for the voyage….

Then there's chairs that have travelled a little father abroad than Kyneton too. This Continuous Arm Rocker was crated up and sent across Bass Straight to it's new home in Launceston. 

Photo by Ian Hill

And here's the pair of Continuous Arm chairs from the last post. They ended up in Victoria's Western District.

And lastly the thing that has occupied a lot of mine, and almost all of Lisa's time, is the impending 2015 Lost Trades Fair. Only 60 odd days away on the 7th & 8th of March, there's still a heck of a lot of work to do but it's shaping up to be something quite exceptional. Last count we have over 70 demonstrators that will be there for the weekend, all working at or demonstrating their unique and mostly rare trades and crafts. We're really quite excited about the whole thing. Another exciting development is the ability this year to book on line and avoid the long queues of last years Fair. 

You can follow the link here and follow the prompts, there's also family tickets at reduced rates. The response so far has been great, so if you know or think you'd like to go, grab a ticket on line and save the possibility of it being sold out…..

You can also follow Lisa's Facebook page dedicated entirely to the Fair. She posts every few days about various demonstrators who can be seen at the Fair this year, and the following already is immense.
Click here, Lost Trades Fair to have a look! 

I know I've said it a lot of late, but I do intend to post a lot more content on the blog this year. And the Lost Trades Fair will feature pretty heavily too in the lead up.

But for now, I wanted to say thank you to all who have followed the blog ( and Instagram - Rundellandrundell ) over the past year and longer. Your support is valued and I hope you enjoy following along with myself, Lisa and Toms' journey here in Kyneton and about the place. Happy new year and I hope 2015 is a great year for you all.