Spent the weekend on a yurt building course with Canterbury based organisation, Sacred Energy
Amid a lovely coppice woodland we learnt the delights of green woodworking.
After the tree was felled. I enjoyed the delight of peeling the bark using a sharp, two handled knife that slipped beneath the bark like butter and ripped the strips off with a noise like peeling sellotape. I think peeling bark has got to be up there with the joys of life and would be the ideal therapy for stressed out office workers.
following this the tree was split into half, quarters and eights. Each division a little more tricky than the last as you had to carefully watch that the split stayed central and compensate for what the tree wanted to do, working the split around knots and little abrasions called by rabbit damage when it was young.
Doing the work by hand gives you a real appreciation of these old skills and also helps you see each tree as an individual, worthy of your time and attention. You work with the tree to turn it into something not impose your will upon it as is the way with modern power tools.
Following the splitting we all headed for our shave horses and spent a few hours turning the stakes into rounded poles which will be used to make up the trellis work of the yurt.
The highlight of the workshop was the chance to steam bend wood. Something even the instructor Mark had never tried with chestnut before. The veneers for the roof circle were easy but the roof beams were a different matter.
After an hour in a long steam box we quickly pulled each beam out and bent it round a slightly heath robinson contraption of an oil drum and a piece of Perspex. We all expected to hear splitting and cracking, but no, the plans of wood, each at least half an inch thick, bent easily into shape.
I look forward to seeing how the yurt takes shape and visiting it once it is finished next year.