For a little while now Willow and Ash have been occupying my thoughts.  I’ve been looking at some rustic willow chairs, and also, since doing a days basket weaving, admiring the qualities of Willow – it’s pliability, strength and, once dried, it’s lightness.

The willow chairs I’ve seen were not made in the same way I make chairs – there’s usually a lot of nails involved.  I’m not a huge fan of nails, so I’ve been wondering what willow would be like to work with as a replacement for hazel.

I’ve been similarly contemplating Ash.  It’s one of my favourite woods, and I spend much time admiring the skill of the craftsmen who work it.  Chairs are usually made from green logs that have been cleaved and then worked on a shavehorse or pole-lathe.  I don’t have a lathe, yet, but have worked ash on my shavehorse – a very meditative process. Now, I want to try using it in its natural state.

So, this morning I spent 2 hours looking for Willow and Ash that I could use to make a couple of chairs I have in mind.  At about 8:30 am, if you’d been driving down the road running through my village, you may have seen an old blue landrover being driven by a grinning idiot, loaded down with willow and ash poles lashed precariously to the roof, as I headed home with my treasure.

Some of the poles:

I spent a little time selecting the bits that I wanted, cutting to required lengths, and drinking good coffee, while fending off chickens.  Once I had the pieces required for each chair, willow and ash, I set to peeling and scraping the bark off.  2 hours later I had a lovely pile of peelings and sore hands.

Peelings and Scrapings

Peelings and Scrapings

The chickens loved the thin scrapings, and had a blast scratching through the pile looking for the little stringy bits.  The main peelings will be dried and, later, used as bedding for the ladies.

The peeled willow is gorgeous:

Peeled and Scraped

Peeled and Scraped

I then set to work on the ash.  This was a lot quicker, the bark peeling easily and cleanly, which was handy as the day was drawing on, the sun setting and the cold creeping into my bones.

Tomorrow I’ll do a little more on the chairs – for now, a warming cup of tea.

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