Thursday 25 February 2010

Bringing Bernard out of the Winter

It's getting around to that time of the year again - Bernard is going to need his annual Spring clean and restoration. We start his engine and run him around every fortnight or so during the "off season" but with all that has been going on for us lately, we forgot for a few weeks.

So last weekend when we started him up he bumbled into life happily as usual, but when we tried to move him  there was no chance - his clutch had seized and he wasn't going anywhere. We bounced him, put him in gear and turned the starter motor, everything, not easy with a 5 ton truck,... and then suddenly... thank goodness, the clutch made a loud PING noise and freed off! This was such good luck, because the mechanic that knows our truck well  and has even made a special tool to free off the clutch because it happens so often, is currently living and working in Antarctica with a team of scientists and won't be back until next year! Phew, another sobering lesson learned, don't ever forget to exercise your truck.

The weather hasn't been kind to the woodwork this year, so we really have our work cut out to get it up to perfect standard again. All of the finish will have to come off  the wood and the blacking caused by oxidization will need to be removed before we can put on a new finish. Bernard was made by a company called Oakley who still make horseboxes today, except they're a bit more luxurious than Bernard to say the least! Have a look here. Last year at the Game Fair we met Mr Oakley and three of the workforce when they came onto our stand - they were so lovely, they liked what we'd done with Bernard and wanted to take a photo!! It seems that they still have some bits and pieces in their workshops that we desperately need to restore parts of Bernard, so our first task is to speak to them to find out what they have and if they can help us. I have a feeling that this may be a long job.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Clearing the decks....(again)

We've spent the weekend trying to reclaim space.....again. We seem to do a declutter about every three months or so but somehow never seem to make any headway. At least this time we can see a difference, one box of various bits for the local charity shop, three boxes of "stuff" for auction, three items on Ebay and one box of "don't quite know yet". The medallion cane back chair has gone home, six cane panels are boxed ready to post next week, two Wegner chairs went on Friday and joy of joys, the huge caned French bed parts will leave on Monday morning!

This bed has been with us for a long time, we had to make some pieces of missing carving, restore the whole frame, gild where necessary and then re-cane/tint the mainly double sided panels - it took forever of course. The owner lives in England and Australia, so this added to the problems. I don't think we will be taking on another project this big anytime soon.

Friday 19 February 2010

U3A course update

The sun came out for us on Wednesday and warmed up the workshop nicely, which was just as well because four of us were squeezed in there working on various projects.

It was a follow up to the U3A course we held back in November at the local library, three of the people wanted to learn more. So we spent a couple of hours cleaning and preparing the surfaces of a table and the top of a chest of drawers for refinishing. We ran out of time before the whole job was done, but even so made a lot of progress removing stains and uneven colour!

Thursday 18 February 2010

The Rattan processing video is live on You Tube and here on the Blog!

At last, it is done! You can either see the film of our visit to Asia here on the blog (right hand side under Bernard's picture), or on You Tube.

Hope you enjoy it - all feedback welcomed and encouraged!!!

Monday 15 February 2010

Medallion back and a metamorphic desk

It's finished!

So now I can get on with the backlog of work. Today was spent re-gluing 11 wonky chairs so that their seats can be replaced, 8 rush and two cane. Then we prepared a very unusual metamorphic table desk for re-finishing, it is one of the most unusual we have ever seen. The top is in two sections and opens on hinges to reveal a full writing slope which rises by a connected mechanism from the interior. There was a problem with one of the top hinged sections, it wouldn't go down fully, so we had to remove the bottom boards to find out why. This is what we found.....

A hundred years or more of lost items hidden away and jammed in the lifting mechanism. Postcards and photos from the turn of the 20th century, pencils, invoices from the 1950's, business cards, all sorts of ephemera, but the culprit for stopping the top from closing properly was the wooden support from the base of the inwell. How it ever found its way below the writing slope we shall never know!

A real treasure trove of history which we shall return to the owners of this beautiful desk.

Thursday 11 February 2010

Medallion cane back - nearly finished

The second set of diagonal canes are nearly woven, so only another few more hours work left now....

It's driving me mad!! Thank goodness there are other things to do inbetween.

Monday 8 February 2010


Saturday night and it was our eldest sons birthday. An urgent phone call comes through....."...your mum's house has been burgled"! What can you say, "It's empty because she's in a dementia care home"?

Apparently the place is trashed - upturned drawers, the usual mess made by someone looking for items that are easy to sell. Luckily there is nothing there of any value to some "Herbert" looking for an easy sale. The lady is 75, there are no laptops, mobile phones, flat screen TVs or jewellry. As our youngest son said, "I hope whoever was responsible for this suffers". What can anyone say? I'm with our youngest on that vote.

So yet again we need to dash up to the Midlands - 3 hours, 150 miles. But we won't be allowed into the house until the police SOCO department have done their bit. Let's hope they catch them.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Medallion cane work

It's been a very busy week but I am finally getting on with some of the outstanding work in hand - that'll teach us to take time out of the office! Medallion cane work is satisfying, but very time consuming. I't's always pleasing when the "circles" are in because you know that the diagonals will seem to go in much quicker and at least you can feel like you're getting somewhere.

In between times cane panelling has been the ideal "fill in" job, so at the cost of catching up with the rushwork at least six more panels have been finished. Luckily none of them needed to be tinted.

Nothing could be done on Friday, we needed to make another trip to the Cotswolds to see Mother in law and make sure she is settling into the nursing home. The staff have been so wonderful, we're certain that she is being really well cared for.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Chinese baskets and Banyan trees!

For anyone interested in baskets, here are a few pics of some in use.

A beautifully crafted shallow basket full of dried fish.

The cat in the basket had no tail!

And I fell in love with the Banyan isn't difficult!

Tuesday 2 February 2010

The Asian Rattan Adventure - part four

The first four stages of weaving cane panelling are done on a loom much like fabric or carpets. The looms are quite small and operated by one person monitoring the whole process. The working area is full of bobbins of cane ready to use on the machine to replace any of the numerous strands should a join break or a bobbin run out. It is noisy, but not as bad as you might expect, we could still easily hold a conversation despite the fact that three machines were working! This part of the process produces the base four way "chequerboard" weave.


The rolls of four way weave pass to another group of workers in a large bright open area. Lengths of pre-cut cane about 30" long lie in large bundles alongside each workstation. Each station has a wooden workbench with an assortment of corkscrew tools.

The corkscrew tools are amazing! In the picture you can see the assortment of different sizes used. They are fed through the four way weave diagonally with incredible speed and dexterity by the workers, on the end is a metal "eye" for the cane which is on a kind of gimbal allowing full rotation. The cane once threaded into the eye is pulled through the weave with ease. A wooden guide is clamped to the bench holding the panel in position to keep the weave square and true.

Once the weaving is finished the rolls go for quality control inspection before being packed. The whole process is very impressive, the level of skill, attention to detail and efficiency of the workers is amazing. It was a privilege to meet them all.