Day 4 of crafting (16.07.15)

Mark Griffiths

Today will be spent forming the vessels underside and curved ends. Keeping the carving fluid, and the shaping symmetrical will require the vessel to be shifted around often on its wood chip blanket. The vast waste pile that we have created acts to cushion and protect our Pallasboy, and the wood wedges used originally to split the log now help hold it in place. The need to constantly re-position the vessel means I will work alone today.

Early on in the morning the wind chills and blusters, then the rain comes. Brian has been filming, photographing and recording the project from the start, crafting beautiful images in the gloomy light of the boat yard, and patiently capturing the ancient sound of axe striking timber as the noise of a modern day workshop rages on in the background. On this day his challenge is a deep grey sky devoid of any light, and the cymbal crash of torrential rain upon our corrugated roof.

Brian has an instinct for finding creative possibilities. After listening to my drum like beat while working on the upturned vessel, he decided to place his microphone on the inside. This then captured some truly primal sounds.

As I chip away Caitriona takes a keen interest in the crafting process. This is a rare opportunity to observe how Pre-history woodworking tools preformed, and how the power behind the blow, or angle of strike, can be read in the tool marks left behind. She is fascinated by the very impressive quantity of Alder chippings now lying about us, each one representing the single point of contact of axe and adze.

I set aside the axes and move on to using a chisel and mallet. With these I have more control when fine shaping. The replica chisel with its forged Iron handle is uncomfortable and heavy to use. Based on period tools it has been ground with a bevel on both faces, and works surprisingly well when struck with the mallet. However when used for making small, fine cuts, with just the pressure of a hand, it proves difficult to find an optimum cutting angle. Another issue with the Iron Age chisel is in the simplicity of the forging process. Unlike a correctly tempered steel tool the iron replica will not hold a keen edge, leading it to produce an unsatisfactory dull finish on the timber.

As the fourth day draws to an end I suddenly feel overwhelmed with fatigue, and a feeling of deep melancholy. Whether this is brought on by the physical demands of the past few days, the damp chill of the dark evening or maybe knowing tomorrow will be the final chance to get the Pallasboy to the point I need it to be? Too tired to eat I head back to my hotel to sleep, knowing that the last day is going to be a challenge.

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