Tuesday, January 29, 2008


As the saying goes, "to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail". I was inclined to think that to the traveling woodworker everything becomes woodwork-related. Yes, so the reason for this peak off-peak travel was to say goodbye to a woodworker, but it seemed to go a lot further than that.

It seemed to be a Good Omen when the customary stop in Devon had a couple of Snow's Timber lorries loitering.

All well and good, but my mind was occupied with more accessible timber - at Yandles. If you cast your mind back to June last year and the Mini Bash you'll recall that a stop at Yandles for lunch was, quite literally, a stop at Yandles for lunch. Your intrepid correspondent didn't see so much as a chip of wood. Well that wasn't going to happen again - this time I lined up a picnic lunch, so while the seekers of Yandles cakes and ale filled their faces (okay, strictly speaking cakes and soup), I was drinking in the joys of the Woodworking Centre.

Just my luck that the shop is undergoing some refurbishment and is subsequently in something of a pickle. The wood sheds, on the other hand, were unharmed. I've come to the conclusion that not having the exposure to stacks of boards, like wot Yandles provides, is three-quarters of the reason my strike rate is so slow. You only need to look at the stacks of Sapele, Yellow Pine (by gum, I think I've fallen in love with Yellow Pine. That's what pine should be), European Walnut (ooo, there was a slab there that I'd have loved to have taken home. Stupid small car...) Anyway, you only need to look at the wood to be itching to go and make something. I was beside myself with self-pity that I didn't have any means of getting any of it home. Instead I made do with exchanging an arm and a leg for a spindle blank each of She Oak and Tulipwood. Not for proper furniture making of course, but idle tool-related naughtiness. Would have liked to have taken advantage of the price on the 8" grinder, but stupid small car... There was a nice offer on some small packs of veneer too, which greatly tempted me, but as I haven't done any veneering for so long, I decided to be good. It made me think of Christopher and the reason for the trip though, seeing as he it was who gave me my first veneers. Sort of comforting somehow.

Anyway, as is our custom, an overnight stay at Salisbury followed - Salisbury Cathederal spire above. Apologies, btw, to everyone who I blithely drove past without so much as saying "hey, we'll be passing on X-day" - it just wasn't that sort of trip. If it's any consolation, I waved in the appropriate direction whenever I passed near the known abode of a woodworker... Indeed I wasn't sure I'd even get to Pennyfarthing Tools, such was the schedule. As it was, it required an effort of will to foot slog across Salisbury and darken their doors. I devoted myself primarily to the books, but managed to resist. Naturally had to check out the tools too, and my wondering eye beheld the very Yankee 41 push drill that I'd failed to purchase back in June. Wonder of wonders! Well the rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights reaction to real tool dealers must be wearing off with familiarity, 'cos I actually bought it this time. Not all the bits, but about six of them iirc and I think it'll work okay. 

Next morning, dressed in best going-to-a-funeral garb, off to Croydon. Found the Crematorium okay, but also needed to find lunch, so dropped beyond into the delights of Thornton Heath. I confess, at this point I was undergoing a severe bout of homesickness. That is not for for Cornwall, but homesickness for South London and in particular the red, double decker London bus. When I saw a #109, a bus number that had taken me to school for many a year, albeit not as far as Thornton Heath, well I was a nostalgic wreck. Luckily others are not so romantically rose-spectacled about these things, and concentrated on finding hospitality in The Wheatsheaf. Is it very bad that I told myself, as we entered, that everybody has to die somewhere? Nothing would have got me into a public house in London while we lived there, but needs must.

As it was the lady behind the bar was a proper "sarff Londoner, love" and all was well. It was also bizarre. Sitting down to await the arrival of jacket potato and cheese, I looked out of the window and saw the premises of Jeffrey & Collard. Now a gentleman from same emailed me a year ago to say they had an email address now - and I've yet to edit my page to include it - but I had no inkling I'd find myself sitting right opposite it! Naturally the potato was dispatched at speed and there was time for a quick glance round. In essence it's an old fashioned ironmongers (anything and everything hanging from every available surface) but with an area stuffed to the ceiling with old hand tools. Old as in rusty. There are genuine old tools, but also newer ones that are just unhappy. The better ones are in a couple of stuffed glass cases. Not perhaps a place worth making a deliberate trip for, but if you're passing you might get lucky. Whatever, it's nice to know such places still exist.

The funeral was, well, grim. 'Nuff said. We weren't able to stay long afterwards, but I did have a good long look at a couple of Christopher's pieces (I may be in love with Black Bean now as well...). One item was a curiosity - a "rackett". Only about 8in tall, but apparently there's 5ft of passages in it?! Turned (beautifully, of course) in Mulberry with a Cherry base and Ivory top (reclaimed billiard ball). I hasten to add that I wasn't peering at these things against the wishes of his family; his sister and only relative, G, also a good friend, was very keen that his work should be appreciated. The whole house, as indeed is hers, is like one of those better class of curiosity cabinets with something amazing that they've made on every surface and every wall. Fabulous.

Entirely unexpectedly, G had set aside some books from Christopher's library for me. I've been prevaricating over buying a copy of Joyce for years now, but now I'm so glad I didn't. A new copy or one owned by any old person just wouldn't be the same. I was within an inch of buying the Workshop Devices book in PFTools the previous day too. I'd a thousand times sooner have the man himself, but, well, it's the nearest to a next best thing...

I'll have to see if Phil wants that, now spare, copy of Goodman I talked him out of last year!

Anyway, then it was on to Kent to stay at my bro's - and give some advice about the new oak floor, or rather the mouldings round parts of the edge. Hopefully I've saved them some grief in spotting the steel pins before they apply any finish... They were advised to use one of these wax poly finishes that seem to be "in" at the mo'. The one everyone seems to favour is Osmo Polyx but they've used one from Fiddes that seems to be identical. I'm supposed to finding out if one is better than the other now! I've not been there in the winter before, and I have to say their various trees look rather good when you can see the "bones" of them.

I also renewed acquaintance with something I made some years ago - the stand, not the salt and pepper. Not great, but not bad considering I didn't have the tubes at the time I made the stand.

Of course, after all this I was in prime mode to be in the workshop - and wasn't. Oh well, you can't have everything. We made our way back to Salisbury on Sunday and had a look at some possible alternative accommodation for future use, although certain persons seem to think the view outweighs the lousy service. Hmm...  

Oh yes, anyone visiting PFTools should definitely pop into The Red Lion Hotel just down the road. They have something of a wood carvings fetish as regards decor, and there's a long case clock that has to be seen to be believed. Don't think we'll be staying there though, despite the obvious convenience...

So after all that, and well done if you got this far, we returned home via no woodworking sites of interest whatsoever, and found Popular Woodworking on the doormat. The hammer is put away now, until the next venture out of The Land That Wood Forgot.


  1. Well, I read it all, Alf. Very interesting because I used to live in Thornton Heath till I got married, then back there a few years later for about 16 years. Pity it's gone down hill because it was a very nice place once. I also used to know the bloke who ran Jeffrey & Collard, although I doubt that he's there now. If it's the crem down the road from the Wheatsheaf, my Mum, Dad & brother's ashes are there and lots of mates from school and my old woodworking teacher are buried there (a tragic air crash in 1961).

    It's a small world, as they say.


    Paul Chapman

  2. Roof rack is a must for the stupid small car.

    Enjoyed the read. SDP

  3. Paul, good lord, a small world indeed. Little did I know I was surrounded by Chapmans!

    SDP, stupid small car'd probably buckle under the weight of the rack, never mind any content... ;)


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