Lay still whilst I measure for your Coffin!

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This week I spent two days at the Suffolk show a major rural show in the East of England, promoting my Wheelwrights Business.

As a modern wheelwright I am used to being a rare commodity. An educated guess would suggest there are approximately 30 wheelwrights left in the UK. But in the olden days every decent size village would have a wheelwright , and whilst we are going back into the 1800s you still meet folk, who can remember their grandparents as wheelwrights and of course are delighted for an opportunity to relive their memories.

In those days a wheelwright in order remain solvent would multitask, so as well as making wheels, they would also be the local carpenter, builders, and undertaker. Due to this multitasking in a small community they would know everyone, and everyone would know them. The first memory that was shared with me concerned a small village wheelwright who called to see a customer, in a house hold which included an elderly gentlemen relative, sitting in a chair by the fire. He perked up as the wheelwright comes into the room to say ” Oh your early I’m not dead yet”. It was rapidly explained he was here to discuss wheels not a funeral, when the old bloke insisted laying on the kitchen table so the wheelwright could measure him for his coffin, thereby saving him a journey in a few days time.

The second story I was told was a wheelwright who had just finished making a coffin, and laid the deceased inside. The lid was put in place and screwed down. No sooner had the last screw had been tightened when he became conscious of a scratching sound. In an effort to find the source our man puts his ear to the coffin currently residing on his workbench, and too his horror the scratching was undoubtedly coming from within. Uncertain what to do he went off and had a cup of tea, and on his return listened . There once more was the scratching. He calls for the boy to run for help, and starts to undo the screws. The local constable bursts in as he withdraws the last screw and together they lift the lid. A mouse scrabbles out.

For the last memory we come forward to be between the wars. Apparently Crematoriums were just starting to be built but were still a new thing, and mourners were very apprehensive about them. In this particular crematorium the cremator was situated in the basement, and to transport the coffin downwards the catafalque was a disguised lift operated by a winch in the basement. With great ceremony our wheelwright and assistants place the coffin on the plinth to discover the winch operator downstairs had forgotten to replace the locking pin in the winch mechanism, as a result the coffin descended unexpectedly, with great speed and a loud bang. The winch operator having a crafty smoke downstairs was shocked as his next customer came crashing down prematurely , causing him to shout and swear whilst at the same time exhaling cigarette smoke. The mourners upstairs who hadn’t quite known what to expect having never been to a crematorium before, were horrified to see the coffin disappear, into a cloud of smoke and profanity as they ran for the exit.

I am delighted to say as a wheelwrights these days don’t get involved in undertaking, having said that I have made some coffins but that’s a story for another day. Thank you the folk of Suffolk for two lovely days and sharing what are priceless memories.

 

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A Two Part Trilogy?

My latest video is now available on youtube. This one was  started August 2018 which in my terms is decades ago, but has been waiting for part 2.

If you look back across the range of 60 videos, I now have published on youtube you can see a pattern emerging. A new material or technique gets introduced, and you can see that sparks an idea further along. I first played with moulding in the Grand Romantic Gesture videos, I still think it was a good concept but you can see eyes roll whenever I try and explain it. Putting that to one side, moulding first surfaced then. In this video I take it a step further and create four Resin Panels with embedded foliage from the Garden.

In the next video published on the 28/3/19, I then take the four panels and build them into a Red Cedar wood Garden Table especially for my dearly beloved. Have a look, and remember to press subscribe it makes quite a difference to my life. In order to make this video I ended up polishing the resin, which got me thinking, so look for that linked to blacksmithed steel in a few videos time.

So the question your asking is how is this a 2 part Trilogy. Years ago I went on a retailers course, and I was told that in order to be successful you have to do what the big boys do but just scale it down to your budget. At the time I had a shop, and so took it to heart and built Father Christmas’s grotto in a corner shop, I quickly learnt that not everyone has a healthy relationship with the bearded one but that’s a story for another day. So as the Commercial channels love a Trilogy, I shall take a leaf out of their book and also call it a Trilogy but scale it down to 2 parts. That’s marketing.

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Would you buy one ?

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In a few days time I step out from the comfort of my workshop into that frenzied whirlwind  which is the Suffolk Show. The first of a couple of rural shows I will demonstrating at this year.

The Main Focus of my stand will be promoting  my Heritage Craft Wheelwrights business , with several examples of wheels and the miniature Cowboy wagon I recently completed as demonstration pieces. As I also like making rocking chairs, we will have a couple of those including the Rocking Garden Bench, that way when we get tired we can always get a seat.

In discussion with my dearly beloved it was agreed we needed a table, so a table was duly constructed. Which causes a problem in that what do I put on it?

In recent months I have been playing with the concept of clocks, and I have made several with Leather Clock Faces, and this week I made one with a Copper Clock Face as a prototype. I rather like it although I think I can improve upon it. I am assured by my style consultant ( otherwise known as a daughter) that copper is “on trend” and this is my chance to appear in Harpers Bazar and Vogues style pages.

The question is – Would anyone want to buy one?  Do I bother making a stock?

 

 

 

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A Miniature Wagon

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This summer I have decided its time to come out of my workshop and go and meet people, so I have taken a stall at a couple of country shows, starting at the suffolk show in May.

Whilst at each show I will be demonstrating how to make a wheel, I need some “product” to show which has caused me a problem. As a rule I don’t have any, everything I make is for someone, I don’t have demonstration pieces lying around, therefore I needed to make some.

In between other projects I have made several wheels, different types and sizes, which I will augment with a couple of rocking chairs, and then I decided to make a miniature wagon. Starting with a set of four traditional wheels, the smallest of which is 12″ ( 30cms). The manufacturing method is to first make the wooden wheel and then you fit a steel hoop tyre. In order to get it too fit, you first heat it up in a fire to approx. 300 degrees to expand the steel and then whilst hot, slip it over the wooden rim, shrinking it back to fit with cold water, amidst great clouds of steam. When it works great fun, when it doesn’t …….. The problem with small wheels is there isn’t sufficient length of steel in order to get significant expansion so life becomes a challenge.

However as you can see from the picture at the top I made it, a miniature wagon very loosely based on an American Conesta Wagon. I started with a plank of wood and strips of steel and I am very proud of the end result, it even comes with white pin striping. I can see it being used as a drinks trolley or even ferrying a grandchild about, and is now looking for a good loving home but not until after the Suffolk Show.minature

 

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When the steel is hot!

My latest video is posted today which takes me back to my roots. The majority of my work is as a wheelwright, a maker of carriage wheels, but apart from the very first videos, I haven’t made any wheel videos since.

When I made the original wheel videos we were blessed with “Uncle Len” alas no longer with us and who is sadly missed. A lovely man who if you watch wheel video no 3 you can see his unerring talent to stand, or worse bend over, just in the wrong place for every shot, when were fitting the tyre, but when the steel is hot you have to keep going. In this video I reprise his performance, not deliberately but again – when the steel is hot.

However I was recently asked to make a wheelbarrow wheel, which for me is quite rare so I decided I would also make a video about it. As this summer I am too be found at several rural shows, for which I need a few demonstration pieces. So I made a second one as well, which will give me an opportunity to try coach painting and pin striping – something to practice on.

 

Enjoy the video

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Old Father Time

My latest Video has just been posted on Youtube. Following on from the modern briefcase in this one I make use of the left over leather to make some clocks and a belt. Help an Old Mans viewing figures along and have a look.

I have made a number of leather clocks recently from all manner of different leathers including Black Patent Leather, to see them all have a look at the Fitzrobbie website. But of them all I prefer the textured leather ones. Having said that it was a most unusual Leather and was horrible to stitch. The texturing process in the tannery leaves the surface very hard, which makes it very hard wearing, but also hard to work.

Now in England we have a law called the trade descriptions act which stops retailers making false claims regarding their products. However I have it on good authority from those scientist’s who make up those fictious names of serums used in Beauty Advertising that giving a Leather Clock as a present will make you the beneficiary of unbridled lust and passion (so be careful who you give it too). It may, or may not be true, but wouldn’t you like to test the theory, and so buy one today.

 

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I used to have hair!

Today I have posted my latest video. By luck I managed to purchase the most superb piece of textured leather and I agonised over what to make. The leather was so good I didn’t want to use it. Then having made a briefcase it was so good I don’t want to sell it, but then that doesn’t pay bills. ( available at http://www.fitzrobbie.co.uk).

The video takes you through step by step from the initial hide to a finished briefcase, a subsequent yet to be posted video then uses up the leftover piece of leather. Have a look and let me know what you think. I am very pleased with the end result.

I shot part of the video last week in Norfolk where the temperature in the daytime got to double figures, causing me to cast aside the winter strong coloured tartan padded shirts, in favour of a light blue light weight fleece. I wasn’t quite ready to throw caution to the wind,be reckless and get to shirt sleeves.

Now I wouldn’t consider myself as someone who is particularly body conscious, and if you have seen my videos you will understand I am unlikely to win “The UKs best dressed man” unless Bib and Braces get adopted by hipster fashionistas, in which case I will of course lead the race. I could pretend its just a rural look put on for the camera, designed to suggest my working class trendy credentials,  but as my dearly beloved maintains I smarten up on video days. I  look in the mirror once every day to comb my hair in the morning, a man must have standards, and that’s about it, until the next day.

However editing your own videos forces you to confront your own appearance, its there on the screen in front of you for several hours, often viewed from the most unflattering camera angles. If you think I look rough in the video you should see the edits.

What I take from this is, if you look back over the now 57 videos I have posted is : I had hair when I started, and what I had was coloured when I started !

Now when you look at the latest video of me in my light blue fleece all I see is grey hair. I don’t care enough to do something about it, but if I am wearing a hat in the next video you know why.

Posted in art, beauty, craft, design, Diy, family, fashion, gift, hair, handbag, heritage craft, heritagecraft, hipster, hobby, home, humour, Leather work, leisure, old bloke, saddlery, style, tom green, tradition, trend, Uncategorized, video, wheelright, work, youtube | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment