Walter’s Tool Library now open

WT123With the Walter’s Tools project now complete, we’re ready to start lending the refurbished tools to people who’d like to use them.

Step 1: View or download a copy of the tools database from the Library page.

Step 2: Choose which tool/s you’d like to borrow.

Step 3: Use the Request Form at the bottom of the Library Page to make a request.

Step 4: If your choice is available to borrow, we’ll arrange to meet you on site at Stott Park Bobbin Mill, nr. Newby Bridge, for collection. If you can’t make it to the Mill, lots of the tools can be posted (for a small charge).

The tools can be borrowed for a maximum of 3 months in one lending period, after which time they can be renewed or returned. Tools can be renewed up to 3 times.

There is a £10 deposit for the 1st tool borrowed, with an additional £2 per tool thereafter, up to a maximum of 5 tools. The amount of tools you borrow can be increased if you plan to use the tools to run a course, workday, etc. Deposits will be refunded upon returning the tools.

Borrowers must sign a simple disclaimer form before tools can be loaned.

All tools were refurbished as part of the Walter’s Tools project. You may find that some of the edge tools would benefit from a final sharpen with a sharpening stone before you use them.

Ready to Launch!

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As Spring splutters in so the doors open on the quiet industriousness of our amazing volunteers over the winter. More than 150 tools have been restored, catalogued, labelled and mounted onto shadow boards ready for borrowing by the public. Many more were catalogued and their uses documented while Walter is still here to tell us about them.

ag board

Before labelling, all the tools were divided into five categories: AGRICULTURE, GREEN WOODWORKING, FORESTRY, GENERAL & SPECIALIST, each of which has its own board of tools.

lib

It is extremely satisfying to see them arranged and installed in the boat shed at Stott Park Bobbin Mill – a year’s work made visible. The library will launch on Sunday 12th April at 3pm. The launch event is invite only but the mill will be open all day as usual, with demonstrations by blacksmith Shaun Bainbridge and tool handle maker Sam Robinson, and the library will be open for borrowing tools in the late afternoon. Enquiries to walterstoollibrary@gmail.com

Ready to Launch!

IMG_7084

As Spring splutters in so the doors open on the quiet industriousness of our amazing volunteers over the winter. More than 150 tools have been restored, catalogued, labelled and mounted onto shadow boards ready for borrowing by the public. Many more were catalogued and their uses documented while Walter is still here to tell us about them.

ag board

Before labelling, all the tools were divided into five categories: AGRICULTURE, GREEN WOODWORKING, FORESTRY, GENERAL & SPECIALIST, each of which has its own board of tools.

lib

It is extremely satisfying to see them arranged and installed in the boat shed at Stott Park Bobbin Mill – a year’s work made visible. The library will launch on Sunday 12th April at 3pm. The launch event is invite only but the mill will be open all day as usual, with demonstrations by blacksmith Shaun Bainbridge and tool handle maker Sam Robinson, and the library will be open for borrowing tools in the late afternoon.

Enormous thanks to all our volunteers, colleagues, artisans, tutors, workshop attendants and interested people far and wide for making this such an exciting and valuable project. We hope to see the library made good use of in this beautiful neck of the woods we live in.

Expert Labelling Advice

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We were very lucky to have expert advice given to the project by a conservator at the Museum of English Rural Life, about how best to label the tools, which we will outline here for the benefit of others who may embark on similar projects.

N.B. One thing that did not work for our purposes, in that the tools will be used rather than displayed in glass cases, was to paint the tools with a layer of clear lacquer before painting on the codes. Though it means the code will be removable without causing any damage to the tool, it is too fragile for regular handling.

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>> Labelling can be done using Tyvek labels, these will last long even in a damp environment. You’ll need to use a permanent ink pen as normal pens will fade over time and you’ll find it difficult to write on Tyvek with graphite pencils. Do not attempt to stick any labels on objects, as they won’t last, get separated from the object over time and might even damage the object (glue migrating into porous materials, corrosion from glue on metals).

Numbering is a bit more complicated as it involves many different options depending on substrate and willingness to go the extra mile.

If an object comprises of different materials, you’ll always put the number on the least porous material, so on a hand tool the number will go on the metal.

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Remove corrosion or dirt first and apply a strip of consolidant using a brush. This strip needs to be slightly bigger than the number you’re going to apply. The consolidant is either Paraloid B72 in acetone or Paraloid B67 in white spirit. Neither of which come ready mixed. You’ll have to buy these in granular form and dissolve them. This takes some effort, but once you have the solutions made, they should last a long time. The B72 in acetone, is quicker to use as the solvent evaporates at a greater rate, the B67 takes longer to cure (depending on the temperature, sometimes up to a day as opposed to 30-60 minutes for the acetone). However if you are reluctant to purchase these ingredients, you could take the easy option and buy some clear nail varnish.  This obviously dries very quickly and will speed up the process considerably. Further advantages to nail varnish and B72 in acetone is that the solvent won’t penetrate far into the substrate, white spirit obviously does.

The reason for application of the consolidant is to prevent the ink from penetrating into the substrate. We normally use water based ink (like Daler Rowney acrylic artists ink), black or white, depending on the colour of the object.

Some people like to apply a second coat to seal the ink in, I normally don’t bother.

Porous materials like wood and leather need careful consideration as to where to put the number. On weathered wooden surfaces you may need to apply several coats of consolidant to obtain a smooth surface. On leather you apply the consolidant on the smooth skin side, not the rough flesh side.

Glass and ceramics are similar to metals.

You should not apply the B72 or nail varnish on painted surfaces as it may interact with this (dissolve).

Paper and card are numbered using a HB graphite pencil and no consolidant.

Plastics and rubber materials cannot be numbered, as no ‘reversible’ method has yet been devised. In that case you’ll need to attach a label or rely on a good database description.

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I would never number the metal part and the handle separately. It is one object, and whether the handle has been replaced or not is neither here nor there. You would note that down in the database or the object file including reasons for replacement.

Where you put the number on the tools is difficult to describe with a hard and fast rule. Obviously not where you will handle the tool nor where it will be worn through use. The reverse and in less conspicuous places are probably best.

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The code system is entirely up to you, though I recommend to keep it as simple as possible. The longer the number, the more work you create and the more space it requires on sometimes relatively small objects.  At MERL the number only consists of the year of acquisitions and a consecutive number: so 2014/1. If an object consists of several parts the numbering becomes: 2014/1/1 and 2014/1/2 etc. However (and this can easily be confusing) when does an object become a collection of parts? For instance a tool in a box: the tool gets number one and the box number two, and even when the box consists of two parts they get separate numbers.

With the collection of objects to be used,  you are pretty much distancing yourself to the longevity of the objects. Nothing wrong with that, but use means wear and tear and therefor loss of material. I would therefor opt for the easier method of numbering and not get hung up on very long term preservation.

As to conservation / restoration tips, this is where it gets even more complicated. In short: as you are going to use the tools and store them in a damp barn, you will need to opt for a belt and braces treatment as opposed to the gentle museum conservation route. Waxoyl and Shell Ensis fluid (commercially available) are good alternatives to 3 in 1 oil. The problem with 3 in 1 is that it remains sticky which will allow dust to adhere to the surface. Dust is hygroscopic and corrosion will form (but only in the long term). The fact is that you’ll probably have to introduce a rolling program of checking and re-applying preservatives.

If it is an open store you will need to guard against woodworm: we use Wykamol in the museum as it is one of the few insecticides you are allowed to use and is available without needing a license.<<

On film! Rusland Horizons

film crewFilm makers Tom Lloyd & Tim Fleming

Back in Autumn, on a volunteer work day when things really were in full swing – painting shadow boards, labeling tool handles, cross checking the catalogue , we had a visit from some film makers from Whitewood & Fleming  who were making a short documentary for the Rusland Horizons project, also funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Rusland Horizons project, based in the Rusland Valley which borders the location of the Walter’s Tools project, aims to “provide opportunities for people in the valley and beyond to learn about the heritage, to become actively engaged through volunteering across a range of activities, to acquire practical, saleable skills and to better understand, explore and enjoy the landscape.” So we made a rather good fit.

The film has recently been made public. Watch it here (we are at 05.40)

The Home Run

Bill Gilson

Bill Gilson

As we swung into the (very satisfying) final stages of painting up the shadow boards for displaying the tools, our volunteer writer Bill Gilson wrote this piece about the day:

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The billhooks, adzes, scythes, augers and other tools are cleaned and sharp now, many are shiny and with new handles of Chamfered ash. When I’d last attended a Walter’s Tools work session, in early summer, the tools had only recently been extracted from the barn, where they had rested, most of them for years, and were being sorted according to type and condition. Since then a group of volunteers has met for regular work and the collection is nearing readiness for long-term display at the Stott Park Bobbin Mill, each tool numbered and available for borrowing.

group scything

During the summer several weekend workshops were held – blacksmithing, handle-making, haymaking among others – and some of the tools were repaired then and used for the jobs they were originally made. I hadn’t been able to attend more than a few of the sessions but on Thursday the 25th of September a large group was at work and I watched with interest the final stages of cataloguing and preparations for mounting the tools on 18mm plyboard sheets (100cm x 190cm).

painting display boards

These will eventually hang on display at the Stott Park Bobbin Mill, where the tools will be easily viewed and available for use, for free. It was a damp day with possible rain; under the tarps Sarah Thomas, the project co-ordinator, and Roger Cartwright, chairman of the Woodmanship Trust, and Martin Foley, a volunteer from Buckinghamshire, were bent over a bench painting each tool with a small white number consisting of eight or nine letters and digits (for example: WT253/F001) indicating its type, use, and place in the collection. Isabelle Foley, a designer from Buckinghamshire, stood at a laptop typing the numbers into a spread sheet.

stencilling

Three men – all regulars at the sessions (David Pilling, Graham Fell and Philip Hine) – were figuring how best to mount the tools on the plywood sheets. Stencilled names of categories were painted at the top, tools were laid out and their outlines drawn. The problem of how best to attach each tool so as to make it secure yet easily removable required considerable discussion and was eventually solved.

layout

Walter storying tools

Photo by Sarah Thomas

The key to this whole operation of course is the founder of the collection himself, Walter Lloyd, age 89, healthy and alert, who lives in a caravan only a few yards from the workshop, and his presence provides good-natured inspiration for the volunteers. A question regarding a tool, such as where it came from, or how it was properly used, gets answered in a way usually involving a story. Walter’s memories are detailed and each one invariably calls up another; questions get asked, further explanations are necessary, and eventually it is time for a coffee break. Sometimes Sarah needs to remind everyone that there remains work to do.

 coffee break

Photo by Sarah Thomas

Two film-makers, Tom Lloyd (one of Walter’s sons, who lives with his family nearby) and Tim Fleming of the Whitewood and Fleming Arts Company, arrived and began shooting a short documentary about the project. At that point I happened to be talking with Walter, who was telling me how some years ago, when he’d been farming and selling milk, he had switched to milking a breed of cattle called “Welsh Blacks,” and how the change had brought his agricultural economics from perilous into profitability. The two film-makers asked Walter and me to keep talking but to move to the right to improve the background of the shot.

film crewTom Lloyd and Tim Fleming shooting for their short documentary – Photo by Sarah Thomas

A photographer, Davye Ward, of Ambleside, has been documenting the project from nearly its beginnings – recording the volunteers at their tasks, as well as making a picture of each tool. Since there was such a large gathering on this particular day he climbed a stepladder and took a group photo. The Walter’s Tools project is not finished but it is well on its way.

team photo

The last thing I did before the day’s work ended was to interview Sarah for the website that she has built to document this unique undertaking. In describing how she met Walter and how the Woodmanship Trust succeeded in raising the money needed to build a “library” of agricultural hand tools, she described her vision of the collection as something that might help all of us “re-educate ourselves in the old ways because they make sense,” and thereby contribute to freeing us of our addiction to fossil fuels. That’s a noble ambition, and deserving of thanks.

 All photos by Dayve Ward except where stated otherwise

Weaving Willow

basket &bodkin

One of the workshops being run by the Walter’s Tools project was in willow basket making by tutor Helen Elvin. She popped over before hand to hook out some basket making tools from the collection, including a knife, a reindeer antler bodkin, and a rapping iron. She also discovered a wool gathering basket that Walter had made years ago, lurking in the depths of his old barn.

Friends of the project and workshop tutors in tool handle making and blacksmithing, Sam Robinson and Shaun Bainbridge, had kindly sharpened up the tools so we could use them in the course. At the start of the course, Walter talked us through his small collection.

Then 6 of us set to making a round willow basket over the course of the weekend, that Helen had grown herself in her woodland in Wasdale. The variety of colours were beautiful – greens, yellows, browns. It was very physical work and totally consuming.

We learned a fair few new words in the process too ~

Structure/ process:

slath – the cross structure made at bottom of basket
staking up – when you put the side stakes into the base and bring them up into the pyramid
waling (wale ) – weaving 3 or more rods in sequence for the start of the sides
randing – weaving with a single rod at a time on the sides

Tools:

rapping iron – to make weave tighter
bodkin – to make a space to weave through
slype – a slanting cut made on rod to ease threading it through a gap
border – weaving the stakes along top of basket to finish top.

Helen teaches

It was interesting to see the different forms each basket took, despite our making it from the same basic pattern and principle.

Tim basket making

Janet basket making

A finished basket

a finished basket

 All photos ©Dayve Ward 2014

basket cases