Saturday, 30 July 2011

Piglet's Big Day Out

In which Betty and Piglet go for a Real Ride

Piglet, all excited at the prospect of a real ride
‘Oh bother,’ said Betty. ‘It’s been such ghastly weather since I picked up Piglet from the Harley shop, I fear we haven’t really bonded yet.’

That was an understatement. Piglet’s very first ride from the showroom in Fyshwick was in horrid rain. Poor Piglet (so named because he/she/it is a baby Hog) sat in Betty’s shed through nearly a week of shitty weather, and Harley ventured out at all until the beginning of school.

‘A commute is to riding as Mcdonalds is to fine dining’, said Betty grumpily. She felt a certain disturbing ambivalence towards Piglet, although riding to school in temperatures of minus 5 and minus 6 was rather bracing. By about Tuesday Betty was feeling quite fond of Piglet, and was also delighted, the following Saturday, to note that she still had all her fingers, despite the freezing weather and the lack of heated grips.

It was important, because Saturday was to be a Very Special Day. 

After Stupidball, Betty and Piglet sallied forth on their first proper ride. It was a little ride by anybody’s standards – only about a hundred kilometres all up – but it covered urban roads, highway and some sort of countryish roads.

What a fabulous ride it was, too. Piglet had plenty of grunt (or should that be ‘squeal’?) Very torquey down low, and Betty was very excited to actually get into top gear for the first time! On the run to school, poor Piglet is lucky to make it into third gear!
Piglet waits patiently in Bungendore while Betty has a hot chocolate

Piglet looks so tiny - but packs a punch!

Piglet waits patiently outside friend Trace's place, back in Canberra after a fab first ride
For the first time, Betty felt truly comfortable on Piglet – the week of commuting had given her a bit of practice with the ride position and the controls, so that today she was far more confident, and actually rode Piglet like a motorcycle should be ridden. It was lovely.

On the on-ramp to Parkes Way from Northbourne Avenue, on the way home, Betty laughed maniacally inside her beautiful new Arai helmet as she twisted Piglet's throttle. Piglet responded beautifully, making Betty shriek her head off with delight, and they went home the very best of friends. 
You can't see the grin inside my fab new helmet, but it goes from ear to ear!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Chairbodgers R Us

From this:
 To this:

in 10 days - what an adventure! 

My beautiful double bow Windsor chair began its life on the woodpile of Rare Chairs, at Moonan Brook in the Upper Hunter (NSW). It was hand made (by me, with a little help from my friends) using traditional tools and methods that involved no electricity, under the tutelage of Howard Archbold, and in the company of some truly fabulous people with levels of woodworking/tool-wielding experience that ranged from zero (me) to extensive (Karl, Ed and Rusty are builders, Michael's a keen hobbyist, Mark has a machine workshop and Fiona has done some silversmithing). Chairmaking the traditional way, however, sans power tools - was new to all of us except Rusty. The 10 days absolutely flew by - and apart from chairs, great friendships and memories were also made.

Here’s a pictorial and a bit of bush poetry to go with it.

The workshop 

The Forestry Cottage at Moonan Brook - our home for 10 days
Fifty five kilometres from Scone in New South Wales 
There's a sleepy little valley full of trees
With a woodpile and a workshop where you make a chair by hand, 
And it's strictly people-powered if you please!

A hardy group of chairmakers withstood the winter chill 
With gloves on hands and beanies on our heads
We brought sleeping bags and pillows and a vast supply of food, 
And some booze to stop us freezing in our beds

There was Kiwi Rusty, who had come to make his seventh chair,
There were Ed and Karl, who knew a thing or two
And Michael and Fiona, making Dad and Daughter chairs,
And Mark with his enormous 'Yeeeeaaah!' and Sue.
Mark on the shave-horse, with his trusty drawknife
The support troops at the cottage, Marjorie and sleepy Liam
Kept the fires alight and brought us daily treats
And the scent of baking 'Ed-bread' and the nightly Happy Hour
Kept us going, even though dead on our feet

Guess which lucky chairmaker had a birthday - thanks heaps for the surprise celebration, folks!

'Ed-bread', baked fresh daily
Every morning there was groaning as we nursed our swollen hands,
Aching shoulders, tired feet and creaking bones
And the plaintive cry of Michael - 'I need mothering!' - each night
Rang throughout the valley on our journey home

But the lovely chairs we crafted with our blood and sweat and tears
And the pole-lathe and the adze, the scorp and saw
Will remain long after all the niggly aches and pains have gone
To be precious heirloom chairs forever more

To our host and teacher, Howard, we extend a hearty thanks
Even though he worked our fingers to the bone
We will leave the place far richer than we were when we arrived
At Moonan Brook, just fifty five from Scone.

The results of more than a day's hard work - robinia wood, shaped by drawknife and destined to become chair legs and arm posts
Turning the legs on the pole lathe - great leg exercise - who needs gyms?
The scorp - most of us declared this to be our favourite tool, used to sculpt the seat from slabs of deliciously-scented camphor laurel
A shy baby echidna who lives under the workshop and who visited us occasionally. Wildlife in the valley includes dingoes, wallabies galore and an abundance of feathered critters.

L-R: Windsor chairs by Fiona, Sue, Mark, Michael.

Delicious Chairmakers' dinner - a final-night tradition at Rare Chairs
Getting ready to take our precious artisan chairs home on Sunday morning. Nobody wanted to say goodbye!