A Miniature Wagon


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.

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Shaker or Gothic?

IMG_2614 (3)

Everything made by Tom Green !

With a few days spare between projects I have been looking ahead to the summer where I shall be exhibiting at some Rural Shows in the East of England. I earn my living as a wheelwright, a maker of wooden wheels, and that’s what I will be primarily concentrating on. However in an effort to broaden my appeal I shall be featuring some of the other wooden items I make including my latest project.

Which brings me nicely to the latest item to emerge from my workshop, a rocking chair. Over the years I have made a number of rocking chairs including a double rocking bench for outside, and the common theme or style is the American Shaker style. I rather appreciate the elegant simple lines, and having studied a number of books on the subject I have come to understand the simplicity of design is matched with a ruthless efficiency designed to maximise the raw materials and reduce labour costs.

As a wheelwright I build the rims of my wooden wheels in sections, cutting them out of a solid plank, therefore when I was looking to make the rockers in the past I cut them out of a solid plank. The shaker method is too steam a straight piece of wood into shape, Cutting a straight piece  is much faster than shaping a curve, and by steaming it into shape you reduce considerably your waste material. So for this project out came my steam box for the rockers, the back posts, and the curved back sections.

For this project I have used Beech wood, an excellent wood for furniture and steaming, but if I am honest its not the most exciting grain pattern to look at, therefore a perfect opportunity to try Black Polish something I have had waiting on the shelf for the right project to come along.

The end result as you can see from the picture is rather smart but it could be suggested has strayed away from Shaker towards Gothic, or as my dearly beloved suggested a “Nervous Goth” ( shaky gothic).

So what do you think Shaker or Gothic?


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How wide is your Bum?


Shaker rocking chair – under construction in our workshop

I am a great fan of the shaker style of furniture. Its very elegant furniture, cleverly designed to maximise the strength of interlocking thin timbers to create a piece which is lightweight and yet strong. It could also be argued that the shaker designers were true ecologists making maximum use of these thin sustainable timbers, shaping the individual pieces with steam to bend them into shape rather than cutting the shape out of a solid timber which considerably reduces the waste.

So a perfect project on a cold day in an unheated workshop as it allows me to get out the steam box, to bend some wood., something I am always amazed when I do it as I never quite believe it will work. If you look at the picture above you will see I have bent the rear uprights, and there are a few extra components that have been bent but not yet fitted.

Which brings me to my problem. The design which is based on original shaker design from the 1800s when I suspect body shapes were different. The seat tapers from front to back. The measurement at the front is 20 inches (500mm) tapering back to 16 inches ( 400mm) at the rear, and its only when you see this in reality do you realise how tight this is.  I have then changed the design to incorporate shapely arm rests which cuts an extra 50mm out of the available room so it all becomes a bit tight at the back.

What I need is a representative sample of body measurement’s to work with, but there is a limit to how many I have access to in order to measure. Basically its me.

Therefore I would ask as many of you who feel kind enough to help an old man out. I need to know how wide the average bottom is. The easy way to work this out is for you to sit on flat surface and then put a solid object either side of your bum, then stand up and measure the distance between the objects.

With that information do I need:

A – 16inches (400mm)

B – 18 inches (450mm)

C – – 20 inches (500mm)

D – more than 20 inches



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Did I get my Doctorate?


The before. What does it end up like?

In an earlier post I recounted a tale that on a visit to the south coast I came across a “Chair Doctors” a term I hadn’t seen or heard of for ages. Its not quite as good as  a “sagger makers bottom Knocker”, which was a real job in the china clay industry in about 1700, but I like it and its a position I can aspire to.

I have looked and there doesn’t seem to be a formal training scheme, so  how does one become a Chair Doctor? Do you start of as a student Doctor, and hope one day to make it too Junior doctor, and eventually the lofty heights of consultant. Maybe its time to start the London School of Chair Doctors, I  shall appoint myself principal, finally I shall be an academic- My mother would have been so proud, “at last he gets a proper job”.

In my real job as a wheelwright there is with the assistance of the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights the re emergence of a formal training scheme. Something sadly absent for many years. But formal training has to be augmented with practical experience and I was told when I set out to make carriage wheels you cant consider yourself a wheelwright until you have made 50 wheels, until then your just practicing. It took me a while to get to that number. If we apply that logic to being a Chair Doctor it should be  easier as there are a lot more chairs about than carriages. But conversely you are more likely to have a wheel repaired than a chair, you can pop out a replace a chair, a carriage is slightly harder.

However applying the wheelwrights logic I must therefore have gained my Doctorate. I have made / repaired/ refurbished over 50 chairs. I am no longer an apprentice its time to move up to becoming a master chair doctor.

I therefore present for your consideration my masterpiece, the Victorian balloon back rocking chair above. This has been stripped, polished and caned, a sentence I didn’t think I would ever write.

If you agree I am worthy then I look forward now to henceforth being addressed as Doctor Green, and should I ever get invited to parties, drunken revellers will now tell me their medical problems in complete confidence (that I have no idea what they are going on about. My medical knowledge like my father before me consists of – Lemsip max strength cures everything).

best wishes

Dr Green



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