A Visit to the Leaky Mushroom Shed

Sunday saw the July meeting of the APT Northern England group at the workshops of Tessa Rhodes. Tessa had kindly invited us to visit her set-up in the outbuildings of Moorhouse Farm Shop, near Stannington in Northumberland. Tessa had previously described her worshops as the ‘leaky mushroom shed’ and when we arrived we understood exactly what she meant! The workspace was situated in an old mushroom shed which did indeed have a leaky roof, leaving large puddles across the floor. Still, it was a generous space that more than accommodated her pole lathe, steam bending cabinet and various willow, ash and timber materials for Tessa’s yurt building project as part of her BHMAT apprenticeship.

The set up behind the mushroom shed
Tessa and her mum had cleared a space behind the sheds to allow us to set up camp and to get stuck in to some green woodworking projects. The wind had done for the tarpaulin cover so we kept our fingers crossed that the clouds skimming overhead wouldn’t turn dark and threatening. The car tyre rim and willow offcuts made an excellent fire to boil our water and fortified with tea and cake from the farm shop we set to work.

Peter Wood had brought some beautiful planked oak, Dick Atkinson had a car full of augers and ash legs and I had a sycamore log destined to become a chopping block. Ken Surrey helped Peter prepare the plank to receive four legs to become a bowl carving bench. After careful measuring to get the right angles for a legs that would splay out to make a steady workbench Dick selected the right auger from his impressive collection to drill the holes.

Dick's amazing collection of augers
Meanwhile the sycamore log received three legs to lift it off the ground and Dick made clever use of a bottle of water to mark the top of the log for a flat surface. With a quick flick of the wrist (and a handy chainsaw!) Peter levelled the block and it was ready for immediate use.

Next up was to shave down some more ash legs for the bench, so that an inch or so of the leg stuck through the bench and could be used as a dog for bowl carving.. Here I’m afraid got carried away with the draw knife and allowing my leg to stick too much through the bench and hence be too short. Sorry Tessa!
Tessa and Ken

For lunch Tessa had promised us locally sourced sausages and, of course, mushrooms and she didn’t let us down. With the fire stoked up we were soon encouraged by the sound of sizzling and the sight of barbequing bangers. A delicious feast! We also had a very productive time planning the next twelve months worth of APT Northern England meetings. It was also really good to explore with Ken his knowledge of some of the woodlands around the North East that are managed by his employer, Tilhill Forestry, that our group could ‘adopt’ to keep an eye on in return for an occasional visit and access to some timber products.

After lunch the Tessa and her mum began the task of preparing some more of the planked oak to become the uprights and bars of a ??? cleaving break ???? whilst Ken and I began to dig the holes. A rusty old fence post (just what farmyards are good for!) helped to break up the subsoil to allow us to get down a good arms length.

Soon the uprights were in, rubble tamped down to support the legs and the holes drilled for the bolts to secure the cross bars.

It was really good to be able to help Tessa put in some of the kit to help build up her workshop as part of her developing green woodworking business. We all look forward to the next APT session planned for next year (and seeing the finished yurt!)

The finished cleave break
The finished cleave break
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