Thursday, March 31, 2011

Something to lean upon....

So what is a man to do when the gloom seems to surround him and threatens to suck the last of his spirit Dracula like away leaving just a barren, unfeeling and empty husk withering away with just the dreams of what might have been festering in his empty brain cavity? Head for the bloody garage that’s what! Ok so my recent posts have not been of the general uplifting sort, I’ll hand you that. But, in my defence, life has bluntly been pretty crap around here of late and yes I’ve allowed it to get on top of me to such an extent that I really could not see the wood for the trees. Make no mistake my frame of mind has not brightened a great deal and I’m still disposed to retreated back into myself full of dark and brooding thoughts, but I am trying to remedy the situation a tad, knowing it’ll be a long journey and I still have no idea what I’ll find or become at the end of it.

But life has to go on regardless and, coupled with the kind support of fellow bloggers (more like friends me thinks), the escape I find when writing is beginning to help and these two things put together have become a staff that I can lean upon. So what finer thing to write about than project number 1, the walking staff. Yes folks, the grumpster has actually managed to finish a project to completion (please sit down at the back). So, begging your indulgence, I’ll take you through the simple stages of producing my latest walking piece of kit.

Some of you may well remember my reasons for wanting a sturdy staff after this post last year, not only was it for aided me over rough terrain and many miles of walking it was also there to give me a certain ‘piece of mind’ without attracting the attention of the old bill.

So to begin, stage one was obtaining a suitable piece of wood for the staff. Originally I was going to harvest some blackthorn during February with the intention of seasoning it over the coming months. You’d have had a very short post here then – found stick, now waiting for it to season, thanks for reading. But as luck would have it a few weeks ago whilst bringing order to my hallowed shrine (you know where I mean) I came across a long forgotten piece of apple wood that had been hidden away since god knows when. Initially I didn’t think that the piece looked to promising but after cutting the damaged end off the cross section seemed to show that all was well with the piece. A couple of hours of patient scraping with nothing more than my Opinel knife revealed only one potential flaw where a large knot had come adrift leaving a possible weak point (my weak point is cider). This I crudely filled with two pack glue combined with fine sawdust from earlier work.

Attention then turned to producing a suitable feral for the foot of the staff. I was fortunate to obtain some brass bar which was slightly oversize compared to the diameter of the staff, ideal then. So during one of my coffee breaks in the grind (honestly it was during a break, well sort of, oh bugger but it was on nights), I turned the piece of brass down and drilled it out to 25mm (about an inch). Once back home the end of the staff was shaped so as to be slightly oversize for the hole. The brass was then heated to cherry red, the staff pushed home and then the whole lot quickly submerged into water shrinking the brass to the shaft. Surprisingly this has proved an extremely secure join and I’ve sealed any slight gap between the brass and shaft with the two pack adhesive.

Then followed hours upon hours of sanding (which proved almost meditative), reducing the grades to achieve the required finish. Once done, I whipped the piece above the brass feral with twine, it just seemed to flow right, but of course that’s just my own feeling about it. Then came some carving, bugger I was not looking forward to this. But, fair play, following a design sent to me by my dear friend Leigh from across the pond I managed to make a half decent first attempt at this sort of thing (wetting my appetite for more, much more to be honest). After carving out the design I again filled the cut out with two pack, this time mixed with sawdust from some mahogany that I had lying around. Once dried completely again it took a couple of hours of patient sanding to reveal the design, which I think ain’t to bad at all, but then I am a tad biased. The hand strap again cost me nothing as I’ve utilised a dog leather dog lead that was not suitable for the warthog.

The final stage was the application of a couple of coats of oil followed by a couple of wax. The finish is better than I expected and the weighted end gives the staff a solid feel, one that should give me some support on the roads ahead. I have not yet tested the staff upon the trials; this will have to wait until next week now as the grind is calling tomorrow. I think that with time and use the colours of the brass, leather hand strap and wood will mellow and blend to a more pleasing look, well that’s the plan anyway.

At this point I’d really like to express my heartfelt thanks to Leigh; you’ve helped me far more than you could ever know my dearest of friends.

And as for what’s next from the garage, well work has already begun upon project number 2, can you tell what it is yet? (A clue, it’s going in the garden).

Once again my friends thank you for your support and I hope that you’ve found some enjoyment from this piece. It is true that I’m not yet healed of my woes, but every little step helps.

As always, your friend,


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A question for you....

Mmmm same old story at the moment folks, no words to lighten your day I'm afraid, me thinks that you'll soon be switching off sooner rather than later if this state of play persists! So here's a question for you, has anyone got any sensible suggestions as to where I could drag the Warthog to over the next few weeks, a change of scene may well help lift my mood a tad, then again it may not. So guess what guys n girls just more pictures of today's walk for you to hopefully enjoy. And remember 'sensible' ya buggers...

Till brighter days, your friend,

Friday, March 25, 2011

This afternoons walk...

Short on pleasant words I'm afraid so just pictures of 7 mile walk around Moel Famau this afternoon:

Well, when in Wales...

Mmmm another possible Bog Monster
Till next time (maybe with more words, well maybe), your friend,


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No silver lining here...

             My spirits, mood, zest for life call it what you is, to honest at an all time low at the moment so please forgive my wallowing in self pity. It feels that my life is a state of flux at the moment and there is bugger all that I can do about it. Today was the first opportunity for me to hit the trails with YLB after her first (and last!) season had finished.

            To be honest the walk was fine, bathed in glorious spring sunshine we wandered the trials following no particular route, just where my feet felt at ease. The trees afforded plenty of shade and Willow seemed to get great pleasure from being able to stretch her Bambi like legs. One thing you realise when in contact with Mother Nature is that nothing stays the same forever; everything that seems solid and permanent is in a state of continuing change – it’s quite a sobering thought isn’t it? I did manage a few pictures so I hope these give you some relief from my glum words;

Unfortunately the state of melancholy that seems to be the order of the day for me of late has not truly lifted and to be honest I cannot see an end to it in the near future. Yes I have personal issues at home clouding my life at the moment but hey, don’t we all? To go into these would not make enjoyable reading for you folks and after all it’s not what you want to hear from the fish here is it? I was thinking of not bothering to enter a post, perhaps for some time, perhaps for good, considering my present disposition, but honestly it does help a little to put my thoughts in some kind of order instead of the emotional and erratic mess they’ve been in of late. So I offer you my humblest apologies for this piece of self indulgent musing and I promise you that when I post again the reading of it will be far more enjoyable for you all.

I’ll go now and sit in the garage, hopefully working upon the staff will let my mind drift and find a little sanctuary from dark thoughts.

Until better times brighten my writing – your friend, John

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Clearing the mind

There’s bit a little bit of an odd feeling been coursing through my limited thought processes over the past few days of late. Now don’t be getting me wrong here but maybe it’s just a small attack of ‘mid life crises’ ooh such a blanket covering description that, and why does it only seem to apply to us blokes? Personally I thought I had my mid life crises when I wanted a new rubber duck for bath time, and that was years ago! But getting back to the point at hand, lately I’ve been feeling disconcerted at my life some what, not in a ‘oh my god what’s the meaning of it all?’ sort of way, just….oh I don’t know…. Just as if something was missing or I could have done more with it. True there are some personal issues going on in the Wooldridge household of late (notice the word personal, so don’t even think of asking ya buggers), work has been even worse than the usual grind and there has been a couple of close friends who’s lives have been turned upside down at the moment and all I can do is just be there to listen when they need to rant or pour their hearts out and I so hate being powerless like that.

So I felt the time had come to take stock a little, to try and rid myself of the malaise which seems to have smothered me of late rendering me extremely open either to long periods of doing nothing or opening the door to the Grumpster once more. It seemed to be the ideal opportunity, what with the warthog coming into season and Clare working these last few days,  it gave me a little ‘me time’. So there would be now trail breaking, I mean to say a lone man walking with his dog is not given a second glance upon the walks that we’re doing at the moment, but take the hound away from the equation and in most peoples eyes you become a harbinger of evil, met with down cast eyes instead of the usual smiles and left with audible sighs of relief as you pass on by. I’m not a people person as you all know too well but I do not like making people uncomfortable upon the walks, well unless they really deserve it that is. So tacking back to the thread, here’s me now with some considerable time to contemplate life, the universe and everything or at least try to get my head around what’s the matter with me.

So the first step was to totally ignore the ‘to do’ list provided by my beloved Clare (oh I’m going to pay for that, I just know it!), I sauntered into the inner sanctum and man’s last refuge, the garage and realised that somebody has not finished tiding it up fully, that’ll be me then. In the past I admit that I’ve guilty of suffering from the butterfly effect when it comes to my many, many projects taking more on, flitting from one to another and never completing a damn thing, and here was proof positive that I’d done it again, a half tided garage. So with a steely glint in my eyes I headed straight for the kitchen and made myself a steaming mug of tea (using the big mug) and realised that the scamp formally known as Willow, but hence forth known as ‘you little bugger’ had herself felt the urge to be constructive and had rearranged the freshly delivered free newspaper to her own high standards.

Sigh, after clearing up YLB’s little bit of fun, mug in hand I returned to the inner sanctum, steely glint firmly ensconced in my eyes. Obviously the first task was to make a clear plan of action and follow it through to the bitter end, this was easily done as the CD player was devoid of debris and was soon belting out Iron Maiden for all and sundry to enjoy (of course my elderly neighbours like it, I have to have it really loud so that with their limited hearing they can enjoy master Dickenson’s lyrics to the full). So with the plan made and then completed, whirlwind like I spent the next eight or so hours furiously tiding the garage. Two fully laden trips to the tip and mission impossible was, well possible to be honest and the garage is now once more that bastion on meditation and manliness that it deserves to be. Funny thing is as I was beavering  away for those hours a calm came across my simple mind and the inner turmoil that had been so disconcerting had faded somewhat.

The dawn of a new day and steely eyed John once more headed into the garage, steaming mug clenched tightly in hand. Failing to notice the complete absence of the dismembered trunk of a man in his late fifties John gazed at the two projects that lay now if front of him now the clutter had been banished from his holy shrine. There in the lower half, waiting like a long forgotten lover lay Carpe Diem, her gently flowing lines calling for my tender touch.

Bugger need to order marine ply, stalking out of the garage once more a couple (well ok several) phones calls to obtain the best price for a piece of marine ply to be delivered post haste were made and the wheels for the boat renovation were once more in motion. Once again I returned to the garage, fresh steaming mug in hand (I like tea, ok?) not failing to notice how little interested YLB appeared to be, she’s got a lot to learn about garages that one has I’m telling you.

So the second project was undertaken, now you may remember a much earlier post by yours truly about the disconcertion and apprehension when meeting a certain type upon isolated trials and the conclusion being made that a walking stick made from blackthorn would be a suitable… er…. friend to have with me upon the trials. Well with my usual laid back attitude I’d done bugger all about it but now here, the answer lay before my very eyes; a piece of apple wood that I’d plum forgotten about for eons (did you like that, apple, plum?). A quick waying up and yes it would certainly fit the bill for a walking staff. So without further ado the piece was cut to a comfortable length and I proceeded to remove the outer bark. And here’s the rub, the final piece of the jigsaw that brought my roving mind back to earth, so to speak. It was whilst working this staff that I began to see the world through different eyes. It’s funny, but this type of work is alien to what I’m use to; after all I’m just a grease monkey use to spanners and metal in my hands, but working with wood id a whole new ball game, there’s so much more thought required, so much more of a connection with the work. I even found that I just had to sit there a while and ‘feel’ what the wood was telling me for want of better words. The work takes so much longer and yet there’s a rhythm to it that allows your mind to drift and set itself in order. I came to realise that my worries were just dust on the wind, after all I’m the most fortunate man in the world; I’m loved, healthy, have simple food on the table and good ale in my belly, my face is kissed by all the seasons and I have some damn good friends. It was a feeling akin to that felt in my previous post and it looks as if I’m beginning to see the light and become at one with who I am.

I’m just a child when it comes with working with wood but I’m learning and although my early efforts may be shoddy they are bringing me piece of mind, plenty of work left in the staff but Rome wasn't built in a day. Not my usual musings I know, but just something that I wanted to share. At this point I’d like to give a huge and heartfelt thanks to my dear friend Leigh from across the pond, it’s her encouragement and enthusiastic love for wood work that has made me take an interest in it, without her I would never have discovered the joy of working with wood, thank you Leigh.

If you’ve managed to read this far then thank you for persevering with this ramble, next post will be back to normal (well as normal as I can be) – honest.

Take care for know, your friend,