I finished off two projects today, so I came away with a bowl bench and fittings, as well as my cleft ash gate.

Completed bowl bench

Completed bowl bench

Having made the legs last week, and marked out the top, today I drilled the holes for the legs.  Angle these in towards each other at 45 degrees, and then drill the hole at a 70-75 degree angle.  If you’re working by yourself, maybe a mirror could help with this.  Otherwise, find a friend to sight for you.

The legs hammered into place, with a bit sticking out the top.  These are the very useful “dogs”; uncomfortable to sit on, but great for wedging a bowl against.  I drilled a series of holes along the bench to wedge the other end of the bowl.

Fixtures and fittings

A bowl bench is no use without some extras.  I whittled down a couple of pegs on the shave horse.  A spoke shave helped to get a nice fit in the hole – with enough sticking out the bottom to be hammered back out, and enough out the top to catch the wedges.

I sawed out the wedges from a plank of hard wood.  An angled saw cut gave the wedges a gentle matching slope.  And a plane corrected my dodgy sawing.

Cleft ash gate

In the afternoon we converted a pile of ash sticks into a gate.  I strived to achieve thin and elegant… and learnt that it’s far easier to do this if you start with much smaller diameter logs.  I had to shave an awful lot off.

Marking out the gate

Marking out the gate

Marking out

There are no hard and fast rules for what a gate should look like.  In general:

  • the rails towards the bottom of the gate are closer together – to keep livestock in, or out
  • the bottom rail is the thickest one – so it’ll withstand being stood on
  • the top rail is the prettiest one
  • the rails are oriented with the bark side down

Play around until you think it looks good, and then mark off where the round tenons will be drilled.  Drill through, and after that clean up any tear-out on the shave horse.  Originally the tenons would be oval, made by drilling two holes and removing the waste with a twybill.

Admiring the gate

Admiring the gate

The mortices on the ends of the rails fit through the heads by about a 1/4 inch.  Fit all the rails and then check to make sure it’s straight.  If necessary, you might need to rassle it to make it square.  Hammer a nail through each end of each rail.

Completed gate

Completed gate

Fix a diagonal strip of ash to brace the gate.  This will keep it square.  Bigger gates would traditionally have two diagonal gates and one vertical in the middle.  I just managed to fit two diagonals.  Again I nailed through each end, and bent over the back of the nail – in line with the grain so that it would embed into the wood.