Rake Maker

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Rake Maker

Postby Robin Fawcett » Sun Oct 17, 2010 7:33 pm

Stuart King has just posted his video of Trevor Austen making a rake on YouTube...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNv5FhFI3sU
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby SeanHellman » Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:20 pm

Thanks for posting a link to Stuarts video. What a lovely workshop.
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby robin wood » Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:07 am

Having worked alongside Trevor at many shows over the years I find it quite disturbing to see him in such a sad state of health. This was filmed as his Motor Neurone Disease was setting in and his speech and movement all but gone. There surely can be no worse end for a craftsman than having your body shut down whilst your brain remains intact. The rakeworks was the last in the country using home grown timber. I know there are plenty of folks that make a few dozen rakes but Trevor was a rakemaker, that was all he did and he made his living at it making thousands of rakes a year. I love this level of machinery, serious production capacity whilst still retaining a level of skill of the operator, genuine intermediate technology. There is one rakeworks left Rudd's in Cumbria I was told they used imported timber though this webpage seems to suggest it is local. http://www.thenaturalgardener.co.uk/han ... y_rake.php
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby woodness sake » Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:59 am

couldn't watch the film. I'm not the safest guy with a table saw but this was rediculous.
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby steve tomlin » Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:31 pm

As someone looking into rakes and planning to start making some, I really enjoyed this film and learned a few things too. Robin, do you know anything about the modern machine Trevor was using to round the stails - like an industrial rounding plane? A guy I'm working with is looking to get one..
I will try to pay a visit to Rudd's workshop - I've read that they use ramin for the stails and birch for the tines "for strength"
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby monkeeboy » Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:20 am

Ramin?!?!?!
The country's coming down with Ash!

I had no idea that the Rudd's existed, I must arrange a trip myself sometime.
I have a fair bit of decent Ash coppice round my way and more on the way over the next few years.
But I've never made a rake, so I need to make get making them I reckon.

I wonder if the slow-growing Cumbrian Ash is better for rakes, I find it's a lot less brittle than the fast growing Ash that I have in Manchester. It's definitely harder to cleave though.
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby robin wood » Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:32 pm

steve tomlin wrote: I've read that they use ramin for the stails and birch for the tines "for strength"


I was told by Owen that they used ramin and was surprised to see the link I posted seems to suggest otherwise.

monkeeboy wrote:I wonder if the slow-growing Cumbrian Ash is better for rakes, I find it's a lot less brittle than the fast growing Ash that I have in Manchester. It's definitely harder to cleave though.


That is exactly the opposite of received wisdom and the test data all of which suggests faster grown is better, slower grown more brittle. Without checking I remember about 4-8 growth rings per inch as optimum. Super fast grown (3 growth rings to the inch) seems to be more plastic than elastic but I have only come across that a few times.
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby monkeeboy » Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:42 pm

I have worked with a lot of Cumbrian/North Lancastrian Ash and it is very strong.
It seems to take a lot of bending before breaking, does that not mean that it is NOT brittle?
Small diameter long poles are especially "bendy"

The stuff I have in Manchester is very fast, about 3 rings to the inch, seems to break very easily when put under pressure. Very easily for Ash I mean, it's not more breakable than something very weak.
It cracks when you're sawing through it, causing grain to rip out and break not tear off in long threads, far more so than slow grown stuff does. It does not deform much before "cracking".

Does that not mean that it is more brittle?
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby robin wood » Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:38 pm

monkeeboy wrote:I have worked with a lot of Cumbrian/North Lancastrian Ash and it is very strong.
It seems to take a lot of bending before breaking, does that not mean that it is NOT brittle?
Small diameter long poles are especially "bendy"

The stuff I have in Manchester is very fast, about 3 rings to the inch, seems to break very easily when put under pressure. Very easily for Ash I mean, it's not more breakable than something very weak.
It cracks when you're sawing through it, causing grain to rip out and break not tear off in long threads, far more so than slow grown stuff does. It does not deform much before "cracking".

Does that not mean that it is more brittle?


3 rings or less to the inch is not common and as I said I have only used ash that fast grow a few times. Maybe if that is what you are used to then what you are calling slow grown perhaps fits into the 4-8 rings per inch ideal. Slower than 8 rings to the inch becomes more brittle and axe handles made with say 12 rings to the inch are likely to fail in use. (we had this happen with several from a batch of beautiful looking handles the German carpenters had made to take to Japan)
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby Brian Williamson » Sat Oct 23, 2010 9:47 am

There are a number of generalities in woodworking that are just that - generalities. They work well most of the time but let you down occasionally.

Broadleaves are deciduous. Conifers don't coppice. Those sorts of things.

I wonder if the 'fast is good' is another of these. Remember that 'slow is good for conifers', as well.

My experience of working hazel (which is large) is that there are amazing differences within the species. There is a perceived wisdom that hazel grown on chalk is the best for hurdle making. This may just be local predjudice - most of the countries hurdles were made around the South Downs for the sheep grazing the Downs and most of the woods were on chalk, ergo it grows the best hazel.

I've cut hazel on Oxford clays and Devon valley slopes and Cotswold limestone brash and I would tend to the opinion that the chalk grown stuff is best. I've always wondered whether this is because it grows more slowly on the free-draining, almost drought stressy, chalk. Certainly I have found that first cuts from derelict coppice grow very quickly and tend to be brittle.

One thing with ash that I'm fairly certain of is that in small diameters it is brittle. Twigs and small branches break very easily with no sign of a fibre. I think that the same is true of very young ash coppice (first couple of years?). Perhaps there is a size thing going on here? The quality of the timber changes as the tree tree grows? However, by the time you get to rake handle size (6 years plus?) it doesn't seem to be a problem.

Going back to the differences within the hazel species (speci? What's the singular?) You can pick up very distict genetic variations in hazel just by looking at the bark. (Purple/reds bad, silver/greys good, though it is actually more complicated than that).

So might Mike be picking up a local genetic variation within his Ash population rather than a rate of growth variation?

Another thing to bear in mind is the effects of the site. Windy sites will tend to produce more spiraling or more interlocked grain than you will find in less exposed ones.

There may be a number of factors at work, some complimenting each other, some being antagonistic.

I think that the morals of this tale are probably two-fold. one, know your material and be more confident in that knowledge than in generalisations. Two, avoid extremes (unless they produce some wacky effect that can be used to youe advantage!).

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Re: Rake Maker

Postby robin wood » Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:11 am

Good points Brian. I am often asked what my favourite timber is to work and I always reply that trees are all different and I would not want to categorize all beech trees or all sycamore trees together. I even come across beech trees that work beautifully at one end of the but and are a swine at the other end. I remember one hurdle maker I used to do shows with would say any fool could make a hurdle out of perfect material the real skill lay in making a good hurdle out of mediocre material. When he trained in the 50's his dad told him every piece of hazel in a coop had to go into a hurdle, that was the only way to make it pay in days of expensive raw material and cheap labour.

Some of the old wisdom is useful and some is tosh. Lailey would argue that it was only possible to make a good bowl from elm whilst 100 miles away Jordan would swear by sycamore. I had Gwyndaff Breeze swear to me that alder was too soft for making bowls yet the vikings made 70% of their bowls from alder. Craftsmen tend to learn something that works for them and then just keep doing it. The most open minded will be game for experimenting or at least listening to other experiences, some will work up stories to support the way they work being the best or only possible way.

Another route to analysing wood is the objective technical testing that went on in the early 20th C, I have an excellent little book called "home grown timbers" highly recomended which has tables of test results showing differences in hardness and toughness of radial and tangential faces, resistance to splitting etc of many timbers. It also gives notes on bending abilities permeability, durability etc. I imagine the tests pieces were likely to be larger timber trees rather than underwood but still interesting.
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby monkeeboy » Sat Oct 23, 2010 3:46 pm

Slow grown Ash on the North Lancastrian limestone pavements is probably about 12 rings per inch on average.
I once felled a 15" Ash tree that was at least 150 years old, the most recent rings were so tight that I lost count at 150.

But the Ash I cut in Manchester is about 7/8 years old, and is about 3 rings per inch, it is slightly funny stuff though.
It is growing on a former landfill site, which had all the Blitz rubble of Manchester tipped into to it in the 60's.
The top soil does seem to be quite fertile though, with high-phosphorus and nitrogen indications, but that could easily be from industrial contamination!!!

It wouldn't surprise me if the particular variety and it's conditions are what make is so fast growing and brittle.
The self-seeded Ash around Manchester does seem to be rather closer to the national reasonably-fast average in growth rates.

But from experience of actually working these two extremes of Ash, the limestone-grown stuff is harder/stronger and more likely to bend before breaking. The city stuff is far softer and more likely to break/crack without much deformation.
I have made most of my Ash tool handles form the slow-grown stuff...only time will tell how it lasts!
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby steve tomlin » Wed Feb 02, 2011 10:40 pm

hi,
been watching Stuart's video again, i seem to learn something each time. at 9:13, Trevor dips the head in a bucket before knocking in the tines. i'm guessing this is water; is it supposed to swell the head with such a short immersion or provide lubrication? love the way he holds the head while he works - pure genius.
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby jrccaim » Fri Feb 04, 2011 4:12 am

According to Drew Langsner, the Finns made rake tines out of lilac, of all things. Well, the Finnish climate is very similar to that of Alaska, and I have a lilac "bush" (actually a major tree) that was threatening to invade the house, so I pruned it. Made some rake tines out of the prunings for experimental purposes. I must say that I was amazed. I thought lilac was a wishy-washy wood, you know, "perfume of lilacs" and all that stuff. But no. When it dries a bit, it is hard as nails. I have used it in a couple of my miniature projects and it is a champ. You can plane it down to 2mm thickness, remembering to get rid of the pith. The jury is still out, however; I need to make a full-scale rake with it and try it on real raking, a real stress test. And, of course, the flowers do smell very good. Like the Finns, I would make the tines out of lilac and the rest out of birch. So label me a temporary lilac convert, at least for rake tines.
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Re: Rake Maker

Postby robin wood » Fri Feb 04, 2011 8:52 am

Sadly Trevor Passed away on December 26th. I did not make it down to Kent for his funeral though I know a good few of of our woodland crafts friends did. A sad loss.
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