There was a chill in the air as I set up on the very first steaming day of the season at Combe Mill. After a successful session at the Christmas fair making hazel flowers with children (and the odd adult!) I thought I would run a similar session but rather than hazel flowers I would try my hand at offering younger visitors the chance to make magic wands. The design is very simple, using a 15 inch hazel rod, around 3/4 inch thick. Using a drawknife, bevel down, the bark is peeled off, leaving a 4 inch handle with the bark remaining. This is an easier technique with the drawknife than making hazel flowers and something that folk find deeply satisfying to peel off the bark and expose the blond wood below.
The hazel was harvested from the Blenheim Estate Woodland that adjoins Combe Mill and is being managed by volunteers from the Mill to bring a woodland pond back to life by letting more light in. This involves coppicing overgrown hazel stools. One of the main problems in the woodland is deer grazing and so we have been building four foot high fencing around each stool to protect any new growth.
Suitably togged up with a leather apron and protective glasses my young charges mounted the shavehorse, the only restriction being whether their feet could reach the lower bar. The drawknife is a great tool to use with youngsters because it is very difficult to cut yourself with. The biggest risk is that the blank slips out of the shavehorse head, but the apron then provides protection. Close supervision made sure that this didn’t happen and a little judicious leaning on the head for some youngsters minimised this risk.
My shave horse is based on the lumber horse design from Mike Abbott in his book Going with the Grain; Making Chairs in the 21st Century. It may not be very rustic, but it is nice and solid. I made my version so that the seat and back legs are removable and the main body folds down for transport, all with the use of a 13 mm ring spanner.
As the temperature warmed up and the visitors started to flow I realised that my marketing ploy, with a nod to JK Rowling was misdirected. Most of the children I attracted to my shave horse were too young to know who Harry Potter was, although their parents or carers were usually fans. So, next time I do this I need to reference Winnie the Witch to attract the right demographic.
I do hope the trading standards inspectors don’t check up on my claims that the wands will turn any vegetables into chocolate. Many thanks to all who visited me at Combe and generously donated to the Mill funds in return for their unique magic wand.