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262841 Darrell & Kathy <larchmont@s...> 2017‑08‑13 woodworking at Pennsic

My most recent missive was about a set of folding shelves,
which were modelled after the shelves Roy Underhill showed
on one of his campaign furniture episodes of the Woodwright's
Shop.  I am happy to report that the shelves were well received
and SWMBO likes them.  It was a nice useful place to store all
the small commonly accessed items for the camp kitchen that
would otherwise necessitate taking the lid off the kitchen box[1]
and  rummaging around for said item, and then replacing the lid,
and subsequently trying to figure out where you put that item
down whilst shutting the kitchen box.

This year at Pennsic I brought along my portable pole lathe.
It's based on a design by Mike Abbott called "Pole Lathe 2000".
This is a lathe for the modern itinerant turner.  It folds up into
a small pile of parts, and is easy to move even when assembled.
The medieval nitpickers can complain if they wish, but I can do
period work on this lathe - a reciprocating work piece mounted
between dead centres qualifies that aspect.  The only part that
may warrant discussion is the bungee cord used instead of a
pole for the spring.  Since I am dragging this across an international
border, having what appears to be a small tree strapped to the
roof of the vehicle would draw a lot of unwanted attention to us
as we passed through customs inspection.  So a bungee cord
is a good compromise.  We did find a Pennsic merchant who
stocks 22 foot bamboo poles, so next year I will buy one of those
and give it a try.  They seemed to be reasonably springy.

On our first day at Pennsic I enlisted my son to help carry the lathe
parts to the Aethelmaerc Royal encampment for the "Artisan's
Playtime" event.  There were some woodworkers, some fibre
artists, and a few others, all plying their trades.  We entertained
and educated and were in turn educated and amused by our
passing guests.  I lowered the lathe bed and let a couple of
young people have a go on the lathe.  They seemed to enjoy
turning, so maybe we have a few new woodworkers on the way.
During the course of the playtime I made a few chair legs, of
the same pattern the Bodgers use for their Log to Leg Race
(see youtube for examples).  When I left the activity, I picked
up my tool box in one hand, put the lathe over my shoulder
and wandered back to camp.  Yes, it is that portable.

At the Thescorre Baronial Camp, where we camp with Esther,
I set up the lathe on the edge of the site, right along the main road.
This gave passers-by a good view of the action, and allowed
me to engage them with cheerful banter when they paused
to watch.  This banter was ably assisted by Esther, who is
a very good preacher of oldtools.   We may have a couple
of new members if the application of grease to their boots
was sufficient.  Over the next couple of days I worked and
chatted with passers-by when I had time, and by lunch time
on Monday I had 6 chair legs finished.  Not very fast as the
bodgers measure productivity, but good for the short shifts of
time and very hot weather we had.


Then we heard rumour of impending Royal Visitors.
The Thescorre Baronial Court was scheduled for Monday evening
and Their Majesties were trying to visit each group during the
week we were there.  Our Baroness did not even have her own
throne at camp, let alone anything for visiting royalty.  A dearth
of seating.  But wait, I have enough chair legs for two stools!
I can make something for them to sit on.  But I do not have a
large enough auger bit for chair legs, only a little #10 bit (5/8
inch diameter Jeff).  If I had a tapered reamer I could re-turn
the tenons and use them, but alas, I had not thought to bring
my reamer.

Esther said that she had an old hacksaw blade, and maybe
I could turn a wooden reamer.  I had a random turning on the lathe
(one that I was using for passers-by to play with) so I proceeded
to turn an appropriate taper on that.  Then I used a small saw
to cut a slot to fit the broken piece of hacksaw blade.  I reamed
a test hole in some firewood, and split it off to provide a sizing
tool for my leg tenons.  I turned the leg tenons down to match
this gauge and then started rummaging through the firewood
pile for suitable seat blanks.

I found two pieces of slabwood that were thin and were flat
on one face.  I had not thought to bring a plane, so these
are rough sawn, edges trimmed out with a hatchet.  I hope
that the Royal Behinds are impervious to splinters.  The
holes were easily accomplished with the brace and bit, with
rake and splay determined by eye and by random chance.
The reaming was slow, but the makeshift tool did work
and all the legs were kerfed and wedged into place.

Here is the tool I made for reaming the holes:

And here are the stools.  Note the flats on the sides of some
of the turnings.  This is the hubris of the woodworker.
"I can split this one more time and get two blanks"
This is what Roy calls the Workmanship of Risk I guess.

One of the legs was so poorly split out that it is a plain
mostly-just-a-cylinder, without ornamentation.

When their Majesties arrived I presented them with seats
and regaled them with a short story about the origin of
the stools.  Their bravery and sophistication were very
evident when they gamely took their ease on furniture
that was, until very recently, residing in the firewood pile
beside the entrance to our camp.


When the visitors were taking leave of us, our Baroness
reminded them that they must not forget to take their
new furniture with them.  Luckily they had an entourage
and a couple of retainers/lackeys/minions were weighed
down with the stools I had made.  I don't know what
became of the stools, perhaps they will end up returning
to the firewood pile, and serve their new owners twice!

Esther and my daughter Michelle took a wire-ring making class
and they had a sudden need for ring mandrels.  A decent
hardwood is sufficient, metal is not required.  I found what
appears to be a piece of cherry in the firewood pile, so that
was roughed out with a hatchet (no shaving horse being
available) and chucked in the lathe.  Esther and I took turns
on shaping the mandrels, and proselytizing oldtools to the
passing folk on the road.  Nearly all who wandered past
stopped to watch and ask questions or comment on our
industriousness.   In the end we had a couple of people
who may build a lathe and/or join the Porch, and a pair of


Someone scheduled a "how to build a pole lathe from home
center supplies" during the week, so I dropped in just before his
class to say Hello.  His design was the one Roy U uses, with
the spring poles underneath and an overhead arm that pivots.
It is another popular and portable design.  I suggested that the
class could drop by our camp, just a 2 minute walk away, right
after the course.  They could then compare the two designs,
and give mine a try too.  Pictures and measurements are free
for the taking.  Sure enough a gaggle of very interested people
showed up and we spent some time playing with and discussing
pole lathes.

Somewhere along the line some tales of high adventure must
have reached the ears of my kingdom's monarchs, because I
was called into court and given an award for my woodworking
skills.  It's a pretty cool event, with all the pomp and ceremony
one would expect of a royal court, but also with a hint of whimsy.
These guys like to have fun.

So that's what I did on my summer holiday.
It was a load of fun, and will generate fun for others if we
do indeed pull a few new people up onto the Porch.

SCA Iohn Spooner, itinerant treenmaker, arms TBD.

[1] camp furniture from 2015, see https://swingleydev.com/ot/get/255563/single/

Darrell LaRue
Oakville ON
Wood Hoarder, Blade Sharpener, and Occasional Tool User

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