Another Day in Penrhyn Castle

Today the winds are ripping through North Wales from the Atlantic and the rain is lashing the trees relentlessly. I hear our cat outside by the cat door and Liz let’s him in. The castle walls will be dark, depressing grey when I arrive, but once I’m inside 3′ of solid stone all sound and sense of outdoors is gone. My shop is cheery to me. Lots of colours and smells others might never know in their lifetime. Coloured woods and tools, textured surfaces, the essence of pine, oak, walnut and elm all subtle in themselves become a single hybrid smell of its own. A bit like the mechanic’s shop that maintains the steam trains and exhibitions next door to me.

This is how it looks on a bright day

DSC_0103I drove Phil into town last night to deliver the sign he just finished for the Bluesky cafe. Though he has made and sold several pieces now, this was his very first commission. Today’s weather will be a true test for its stability on Bangor High street. Phil once worked at the Bluesky as cook and bottle washer. I think that that’s were he learned to keep calm under pressure and respond when needed to become the solution to any and every problem. DSC_0113We’ve worked together for a couple of years now and he is becoming a furniture maker in his own right. Some of you will remember John Winter from Argentina. Well, he will be joining us again for three months to help us progress new designs and to develop more intensive training starting mid-January. So we are all looking forward to his coming back. Don’t know if you remember but John entered a rocking chair in a furniture making competition a year or so ago and took second prize against professional furniture makers. These were longstanding professionals using all kinds of equipment and machines. John used only hand tools.

DSC_0106The spoons are all coming along and soon I will be boxing them up and sending them to the USA. It’s been fun making this batch and using woods I might not have used normally. I have been using the Hirsch #7 gouge I bought from Highland Woodworking for  several months now and I must say it is the single most bestest gouge I ever used on spoons, chair seats, bowls and ladles. DSC_0164I love picking it up. It keeps its edge like no other, takes an edge like no other and, more importantly, keeps an edge like no other and feels just right in my hand. I would like to get some others made by them. I also used a Swiss gouge with a violin-makers handle we added when we made Josephs cello in 2005. This narrower more deeply swept gouge helps in the deeper hollows of dippers (ladles). It’s a number 8 sweep, 30mm wide.  This gouge too has proven itself over the years, but doesn’t quite have the finish I found in the Hirsch. Anyway, today I will likely forget the world as I carve my remaining spoons and get ready to ship on Friday.

Well, off to work! It’s tough having to drive the one mile in heavy traffic through the grounds and woodlands to the Penrhyn Castle workshop. I have to drive 500 metres on the public roads before I get to the private road to the castle. Once I met another car coming the other way and had to stop. That’s a couple of years ago now and I got over it pretty quickly.

6 comments on “Another Day in Penrhyn Castle

  1. i understand you commuter wows i feel the same about my treck across the lawn HaHa ,all joking aside working from home is not always a benefit , and that text could not have come at a better moment it was from my daughter asking to be picked up because its too windy to push the pram , but any excuse to see my grandaughter is always good with me

  2. Paul I feel for your drive. Must be tedious at times… I work from home most of the time but unfortunately it’s not woodworking. However it does allow me to slip out to the shop sometime to work a few minutes on some of my projects or try out something new I’ve learned. Have a great day and don’t worry to much about braving the drive home later today. :-0

    • I felt bad after the post because not everyone can do what I do. My craft has always enabled me to make my living and I will always be grateful for what I have. That said, this year I waited long periods in airports for my next plane or for them to change a light bulb in the cockpit. I once waited seven hours for US Airways to change a tyre and sat on the runway for five hours after a six hour delay only to be told we were out of time for the crew and get booked into a hotel that took three more hours to get out of the lobby. It’s nice being at my home workshop. I look forward to traveling but long haul flights are more unpredictable than people realise.

    • I don’t know if they are even available in Europe. You can get just about everything you need from Dieter Schmidt Fine Tools usually and they are in Germany where the gouges are made. So it saddens me that we cannot buy them here. here is the link for Fine Tools. They stock Two Cherries Kirschen which is the leading german maker and these are highly polished like the Hirsch and then Stubai from Austria also. These are good too. Both these companies are high quality makers.

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