Several times a year I get to put aside my usual work, making wooden wheels and work on antique chairs. Most of the time this involves reupholstery but occasionally I get to replace a rush seat, something I particularly enjoy. Having recently completed a set I thought I would take the opportunity to film a new Heritagecraft Youtube video for your enjoyment. Just follow the link above.
Rush seating is one of the earliest forms of upholstery, in the earliest days this would be rushes picked and dried twisted together to form the seat, and whilst you can still do that, these days its easier to use Rush cord. There are various types available including a paper version, but I use the version which is real rushes twisted together to form a cord. Its harder to use and requires more skill than the other alternatives, but it looks far better, and its worth the effort to get it just right.
In the video I replace the seat in an Antique Carver Chair, one of a set which I am doing for a customer. The end result was very pleasing and I am delighted to say the customer was delighted. Which is what I aim for. Happy customers are repeat customers, and that’s what every business needs, however there is always room for new customers as well so if you have chairs ( or wheels) that need TLC get in touch.
Recently I had the opportunity to restore an original Tappy Market Cart. Historically Market Traders rent their stalls for the day from a local firm, usually a local family who had the rights to supply stalls for that market. The firm would have a local yard, from which each day the traders would pull the stall out to the market, and return them at the end of the day. In between market days the firm would maintain their fleet. So they could differentiate whose stall was whose the firm would carve their name and address onto the wheels, and on various mains beams of the undercarriage.
Tappy was a family of two brothers who supplied the stalls for the famous London Lambeth Walk Market in South London, from their base at 9 Great Newport St and ceased trading in 2001, but their carts keep turning up. This one came from a Client in Lincolnshire, but I do know of some in Canada, so they have spread far and wide. The Family moved to their premises in Newport street after Bomb Damage in the second world war forced them to relocate , so if you find a cart with Newport Street written on then your know its a later cart.
I originally thought each firm made its own carts but having now worked on a number of this type of carts, from a variety of markets whilst there are differences, there are a number of striking similarities, in design. There will have been a common dimension to fit the “standard Market stall Pitch”, The wheels tend to be common sizes which suggest mass production, but the most striking similarity is the font used for the carved hirers name. It is a very distinctive flowery script, particularly the letter H which makes me thing the carts all came from a specialist workshop, with the same carver.
Considering its age and life outside in all weathers this cart was in a fair condition. Two wheels had rotted, both on the same side, which isn’t unusual, so they had to be replaced but as I make wooden carriage wheels that’s not a problem. The issue was replacing the top.
The original top had been replaced by a previous owner with a series of Scaffold boards, which limits its use, so it needed to be upgraded with a proper fitted flat top with a scalloped edging. The top would have had a lip around it but it would have been plain, however the scalloped edge lifts the finish, and allows me to paint some highlights.
Finally the cart is repainted with a specialist High Gloss Enamel Paint, a very tough paint frequently used for steam engines and vintage cars. The traditional colours is Dark Green for the upper parts and red for the Lower sections and the wheels.
At the time of writing this cart is now looking for a good home. If your interested in this one or would like to talk about me making / restoring one for you do get in touch
My latest Video is now available on the Heritagecraft YouTube Channel, which is about the process of restoring a Costermongers Cart
It follows the progress of a Vintage Costermongers cart dating from before the First World War. If you have never come across the term Costermonger, they were effectively Market Porters, lively gregarious characters, who would transport goods from the wholesale markets to the retailers. For more information have a look at some of my previous posts
This particular cart belongs to a elderly gentlemen who before his retirement worked at Spitalfields Market, and it was a gift when he retired. At the time the market was moving from central London to a new sight on the outskirts and these carts were being burnt as they weren’t needed at the new sight. His family had been connected with the market for generations although he had never made it to Market Porter.
In those days jobs in the market were tightly controlled, and you needed a relative in the market to get you a job. Porters were paid by the parcel regardless of the size to take the goods from the wholesaler to the customers vehicle in the car park, they didn’t hang about, and god save anyone who got in the way. However I am told 30 years ago £1000 per week for a porter wasn’t unusual. No wonder the jobs were controlled.
Before my customer was given the cart its clear to see it was a working vehicle, and my customer has had it in his garden for years. So it was in a pretty sorry state.
I have made new wheels for it, repaired and where necessary replaced the rotten woodwork. Repainted in the traditional market cart colours of Red and Green, and added as a request from my customer an elegant touch of yellow in the form of a couple of pinstripes. As you can see from the picture below it came out well.
Once this one goes back to my customer, next is a Four Wheel Market Cart.
I am not the first to notice that everything is perfect in YouTube world. People lead apparent idyllic lives, and in my space its populated with magnificent craftsmen and women, with incredible skills, incredible tool boxes, and nothing ever goes wrong.
Whilst I have always been happy in pushing at the edges with my videos tackling things have never made before, I have always used materials and techniques I understand and where I have a modicum of skills.
In my latest video filmed during lockdown I am taking a chance and trying something very different. During lockdown I have been trying to improve my skills so when we come out the other side I am better equipped, however all the skills I have been working on are allied to my trade that of a Wheelwright / Wainwright. They are all skills I would use in making a carriage. However for this video I am pushing the boundaries, away from my normal work and using techniques and materials I have never worked with.
So I set out to make what I want to call a swinging bench, but that comes with connotation’s, so we will call it a suspended bench. Where I push the boundaries is the sides and back are constructed from woven willow, something I have never done before, and more worryingly something I cant find having been done before. It must be I just haven’t found it. Further in my research I came across a few swings and benches and one things I really hated was that they were suspended by chain or rope which had been knotted, not very tactile but I can understand why its done that way. I wanted something classier and so I also included spliced rope ends again something I have never done before.
During filming at the half way point it became very obvious I was not a master of weaving, or for that matter splicing rope. If you look carefully I only start to reach an acceptable standard at the end, and so I was in two minds whether to publish the video. It doesn’t show me in a Perfect light, as a master craftsman at the top of my game, but was persuaded by a few of my Instragram friends that it would be good to see someone pushing themselves. I can then making further videos in a few months showing how I have now perfected these skills, but as I am hoping for this to be the only lock down that might not happen.
So in that spirit enjoy the video. If you enjoy it – Marvellous, if you don’t treat me gently.
My Latest You tube video premieres today. If you follow the link it should take you straight too it.
Over the years I have built a number of outdoor ovens, many of which have made it too video. With each oven you learn a little more, refine the design, tweak, prod and poke.
I have been thinking about building a portable oven for some time. Having recently given up full time work I was convinced that a portable wood fired oven at a food market turning out Hot Sausage Rolls would make my fortune. I saw myself as a jolly rotund figure with handlebar moustache and a natty line in waistcoats , the market character, serving a long cue of loyal & patient customers, with a cheery smile and joke for all.
There are so many thing wrong with that portrait, I’m grumpy, don’t have a moustache, or a waistcoat, although I can manage rotund. However the main problem was a conversation I had with a local environmental health officer who explained to me the paperwork I would need to complete, and the equipment I would need to sell sausage rolls at a market. As I am trying to work smarter that did rather put me off, so the sausage roll company, and several other of my food based schemes fell apart. But I still liked the idea of a portable oven.
So finally the Portable oven project was borne, with two videos and a Heritage Craft Project book which gives you all the plans should you decide to make one for yourself.
When I did get to fire up the oven, you wont be surprised to know the first bake was sausage rolls. and the end result confirmed my belief that the sausage rolls would make a fortune. As a Home made Sausage roll they were always going to be good, but add wood smoke flavour and they move up to magnificent, the difficulty would be sharing.. The oven exceeded expectation proving to be very efficient and easy to control. I cant help thinking if we get any sort of summer its going to be busy.
The Final video of the Chair That’s Hugs You series is now available on youtube.
We are all dealing with the covid lock down in different ways. I am taking the opportunity to learn some new skills and improve the ones that I have. Now as luck would have it one of my daughters is moving home as soon as lock down finishes and needs a new armchair. Perfect she needs a chair, I can make chairs, I need to fill my time, and there is always a video to be made.
So the Chair that Hugs you project was borne.
Video No 1 deals with the construction of the wooden frame.
The concept behind the videos was to make a series of short instructional videos each dealing with a particular aspect. Short seemed to go out the window as the time available allowed me to go into far greater detail, not only discuss how to do something, but also consider why do it that way and the alternatives. Video No 2 is fitting the webbing and springs. The foundations of upholstery
I see Traditional upholstery as a cross between craft and art. You need craft skills to do it, but the art is how you sculpt the chair to suit a particular body shape. My daughters are shorter than me , so they want a chair with shorter legs than standard, and both like to curl up and read in a chair, so its to allow for that. Video No 3 shows how to sculpt and change the dimensions to suit.
Video No 4 is really all about the back. As a someone who learnt upholstery through working on carriages I tend to Deep Button chair backs, that’s what my customers want. However I have always wanted to make a fluted back, an Art Nouveau style chair, and as I don’t have a customer to please, just a daughter looking for a chair, I can play.
The final video deals with the top fabric, and as a bonus the Secret compartment built into the body of the chair is revealed.
The Chair is a project I am proud off. Hopefully becoming a family heirloom, a gift from a father to his daughter and for generations to come. Designed to snuggle down into, to hug you.
Part 3 of the Chair that hugs is now available on youtube. What started out as a quick and simple video is turning into an opus, and I want to know how it ends, will it end happily or will he crash and burn? Is there romance or better still a fast car chase?
I set out to make a series of short videos documenting the progress of a chair I was making for one of my daughters, and its ended up as in depth instructional on traditional upholstery with humour (? you can make your own mind up about that).
My daughter wanted a new arm chair, and in these lock down days I have time to spare. She would be happy with just a chair, but I wanted to try something new and as a project its now rather run away with me, so even I now worry about the outcome.
Today’s video covers the foundations of the chair. The First stuffing, this is where you really get to sculpt a chair to the shape you want. Simple techniques that when mastered allow you to tailor the upholstery to suit you, with natural materials that will last hopefully several lifetimes.
The first Video in the “Chair that hugs you” series is now available on my You tube channel.
Amidst this coronavirus lockdown with real work cancelled I have the opportunity to do what I want, and I have always enjoyed making armchairs. But for reasons I don’t understand the videos are never very popular. Its maybe because there are lots of upholstery videos, although most of them seem to involve slabs of foam and staple guns. Whereas I prefer Hair and Tacks, the traditional method, which is in keeping with the projects I work on. You cant use foam in an 18th century carriage seat. I would also argue that this method is the most environmentally friendly as its all natural sustainable materials, which cant be said for the foam and staples method.
So here I am with spare time and a daughter that needs an armchair. She is happy with a comfortable armchair, she gets to choose the fabric, and like all my furniture its made to suit the customers body dimensions. I get to choose the style.
The style I have chosen to build is an Art Nouveau style chair with a fluted back, a style that not only looks good but puts its arms around you and hugs you. I have always wanted to make a chair with this style of back, but have never had the opportunity. Now I do.
I am taking the opportunity to document the process on video breaking it down into very small chunks, which then allows me the opportunity to explain in detail what I am doing, and the reasoning behind it. Part one concerns building the wooden frame, and future videos will follow on swiftly although I do see a delay in the offing. I have all the materials I need in stock apart from the finish fabric. For that I need someone to make a decision about fabric and then I have to order it, so there may be a delay on the last video.
At the moment I am resisting the temptation to build in hidden compartments but I can be persuaded if enough people are interested.
My latest Video is making a Traditional Market Cart, often referred to as a costermongers cart. If you would like to know the history of costermongers have a look at my earlier posts and you will find the complete potted history.
In making this all I had to go on is a picture, of an original cart, shown below. The traditional colour scheme is Green with Red Wheels, and the wheels are iron shod. I have chosen to adopt the traditional colours but have added considerable decoration, and the wheels, with advice from a fellow wheelwright, now have solid rubber tyres. The video includes a nail biting segment where I am pin striping the wheels and even I am on tenterhooks watching it to find out whether the lines join up.
These carts were once an everyday sight in their hundreds on the streets of London, but now have sadly disappeared from sight, good thing I am still making them.
Try the video and see what you think. If you would like a cart for you do get in touch.