I am an Essex based WI approved speaker and give talks and demonstrations on an eclectic mix of subjects.
Following on from my last post, it was now time to start rebuilding the bench.
The first part I made was the back. I chose a lovely piece of oak, which I had in store for about 3 years since buying it at the Ickworth wood fair. It was felled from the estate, so has provenance, and I have the reassurance that it was part of an active RHS woodland management process.
The design is based on the script we made for our wedding party invitations, with added ribbons curling to the ends. Having cut the plank to the basic shape to fit the cast ends, I blew up the design, then stuck it to the wood before carving through it.
As an added touch I also decided to carve the back of this piece. Hardly anyone will ever see it, but that’s not the point.
I chose a sunflower design. It starts with a simple relief in a plate sized piece before carving out the detail:
For a while now I have been working on a special bench. A 25th wedding anniversary present to ourselves.
It all started with a chance purchase from one of our favourite junk shops in Hexham in November 2018. The owners were sitting outside the shop having a cup of tea. They were seated on a small Victorian cast end bench, which was for sale.
We had to buy it. 10 minutes later we were ‘feeding’ it into the car.
As we had assumed, all the woodwork was rotten, but the cast ends held much promise, and an opportunity for some wood carving.
Having borrowed some tools from the farm we stay at, the rotten wood was removed so that we could more easily load it into the car with all our other bits and pieces. My starting point was thus set, with an awful lot of work to do:
August brings the last honey extraction of the season and that means time for borage honey extracting. Borage is a beautiful blue flowered herb grown for its oil. It flowers over a very short period and, if you prepare well, and are lucky, your bees will bring it in as a single crop.
It doesn’t always work, but when it does, the honey is crystal clear and has a lovely delicate, light sweet taste, with a slight tang at the end. Its composition also means that it can take a year to set, compared to, for example, oil seed rape honey, which will set in a couple of weeks.
This year we had 100 acres of borage grown near to us, so we made sure we were ready for it. The first stage of honey extracting is to remove the wax capping over the honey, placed there by the bees to store it, and by default showing us that it is ‘ripe’.
The next stage is the extracting process itself. The frames are put into an extractor like the spokes in a wheel and spun. The honey simply flies out from the centrifugal force. No heat, no pressure, nothing unnatural.
The result from a little extra work is pure borage honey.
I jarred it up this morning and you can see the results below.
I have held up the jar of borage honey (on the left) against a jar our our regular mixed season honey, so that you can see just how clear it is.
We were lucky, in that 3 of the 13 supers we extracted were pure borage.
Last year we had none, next year who knows, but I love the ‘chase’ to get the purest of single crop honey. The fact that it is also my favourite tasting honey of all is a bonus. Get it while it lasts.
We have always solved the problem of differences in flowering times by planting in pots, which can then be moved around to maximise displays.
However, we now have a more permanent, and artificial, solution.
With electricity by the bucketful being generated by our solar panels, we are making as much use as possible, rather than just feeding it back to the grid.
The latest solution to both the lack of colourful flowers and the need to use excess electricity, has been a lot of experimentation in making fused glass ‘flowers’ in our kiln.
To the left you can see a selection of our, slightly over the top, glass ‘flowers’ in the sleeper garden.
Below are some closer pictures. They certainly don’t resemble any real flower, but that isn’t the point. They are just intended as a bit of fun and an interesting way of adding colour.
it was some time ago that I completed my carved elephant. It was always designed to stand on a glass platform, but the cost of running the glass kiln for a casting run has put me off.
That all changed when we had 25 solar panels installed late last year. They are currently generating around 20kW a day and so a 5 day kiln run using about 35kW doesn’t seem so bad.
I used the lost wax principle. This entailed first carving the base in wax. It was then used to create a mould from plaster and silica, reinforced with wire mesh. The mould is then inverted in the Aga to melt the wax out, leaving a plaster mould ready for the glass.
The glass comes in chunks and is simply placed in the mould at the start of the 5 day cycle, most of which is a very gradual cooling down annealing process to ensure the finished base doesn’t crack.
A few finishing touches and the elephant was glued to the base and stands proud as it was always designed to do: