My Bed is Coming Along Nicely

DSC_0103 Well, I got to spend the day on the bed again yesterday but couldn’t get to the inlay work for several different reasons not the least of which was the castle alarm fire went off (which means mandatory vacating of the building), I did some clean up, took time off to go to the car boot sale, had my friend Allen Winter visit me from Argentina (this is John’s father who is a paediatrician) and I had to pick up some icing sugar for my wife who was baking for the Christmas program at Hope Church, Bangor. That said and done we also had a wonderful Christmas Dinner celebration at Bluesky Cafe in Bangor with everyone that works together to make everything happen from teaching classes, filming and editing, managing websites, taking care of IT, encouraging one another and everything else that makes for a real team. By the way, the meal was sumptuous, the Bluesky staff amazing and it was wonderful to be able to spend time with my friends and family in so fine and convivial an atmosphere. Thank you everyone!

DSC_0101 OK, the bed is coming along nicely. To deliver on time I have about 9 working days left to get it there in time for Christmas. The head board is about the same work as the footboard plus a little bit. It will take a full day to French polish. Then it has to be blanketed and shrink wrapped for transporting. In other words it’s going to be close, but my son Aber just came in for the holidays and he will help me so that gives me some extra days. He work at Rolls Royce and is a detail person. Did you know that this Great British company monitors every RR engine it makes after delivery and installation in every plane around the world – that’s most engines in planes – and that when you are sitting in your passenger seat the hub that monitors the plane here at Rolls Royce in Derby is keeping an eye on the engines of your plane to make sure its fully synchronised and functioning perfectly. Did you know that they can advise the pilots if anything goes wrong and can talk them through the issues to make certain you are safe. I think that that’s amazing!

DSC_0112 Now as of today my hands are doing great and I am monitoring them to make sure they are fully functioning and in control and they are not burning up on making these oak sticks into a thing of beauty and substance. I seated every tenon into its mortise and made certain every shoulder line on both ends of the pieces closed without the possibility of gaps. A machine would have done that in much less time probably, but then the machine would have done the work and not me. My customers pay me to do the work skilfully. They enjoy contributing to fine work and keeping my craft alive and well. They are not too interested in my using machines that always substitute for skill and dexterity. They like the fact that risk in my work sets my work apart from machinists who program inlay work that looks like a router did the work. Moreover, they like the fact that my work brings fulfilment to me and that they are supporting what is so infinitely enjoyable. I know these realms and am familiar with them.

DSC_0114 I have some highly figured oak that looks like an oak version of curly maple or burl. It was a board rejected by others because it was so highly figured. It’s a board I bought for peanuts that I would have gladly paid two hundred pounds for because it is so rare. You will see it soon as I progress the artistry in panels.

I hope you had a nice Christmassy day too!


  1. That bed is coming together nicely by the look of the photos Paul. English oak is so much more heavy and dense as opposed to North American oak. Our white oak is more light weight in my view having used both it and the English. If you used white oak in Texas it may have come from the great oak forest in the north east of Arkansas. I cut oak railroad ties there in the 70’s and we also hand split white oak into bolts for whiskey barrels back then. Really nice oak but I still prefer the UK grown.

    Looking forward to your inlay work coming up to see how you approach that aspect.

  2. Yes, it is indeed a beautiful project.

    You mentioned French polish. I’ve read about several different versions of French polish and am eager to learn about how you do French polish.

  3. Dear Paul, based on some bibliografy, tenons larger than 4 in. are subject to stresses due to the expansion/contraption because of water content change. The tenons of your bed look pretty wide and, if the aforementioned bibliography is applicable should had been split. Do you confirm this observation, based on your experience ?

    Thank you and congratulations for your extraordinary job.

    1. Well, the basis for such information covers generalisations for people more disconnected to the work, which can be the case with some companies using untrained or less knowledgable staff. Nit always, but often. In other words most companies buy their wood in the day or week before it’s converted into a product regardless of where the moisture content levels in the wood is. In the case of artisans making their own work and having materials in stock guarantees control. Weighing in a piece of wood when it arrives and testing in a humidity controlled environment as mine was there I know that the content is down to 7%. That means, work going then into a home, where the average moisture might ideally be around 50-55% with regards to humidity, the wood is only likely to expand and never shrink. Hence no problem can ever happen where shrinkage affects anything and no wood will split with these as parameters.

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