Clog making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Clog making

 

The hand making of clogs with leather uppers and wooden soles. Soles are either carved entirely by hand (see separate entry on hand-carved soles) or a combination of band saw and hand tools. This entry does not include the production of factory-made soles or the assembly of pre-made parts.

 

Status Endangered
Craft category Wood, leather
Historic area of significance At its height it was primarily an urban craft, especially industrial centres in the north of England, but present UK-wide.
Area currently practised Cardiff, Herefordshire, Sheffield, Stockport, North Wales, West Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Origin in the UK Roman
Current no. of professionals (main income) 4
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
1-5
Current no. of trainees 1
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
1-5
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Traditional clogs developed as a strong type of footwear that was better in water and heat than conventional leather-soled footwear. They were often worn in heavy labour, but today the variants are considered for everyday wear. The interest in clogs ranges from the fashion industry to the general public and they are often still worn by factory workers due to their durability and comfort. One of the largest markets for clogs nowadays is as leisure wear for clog step dancers and Morris dancers.

 

Techniques

 

Local forms

In the UK, clogs always have a leather upper and a wooden sole. Any local variations were rather homogenized in the Victorian era, although a lot of Welsh slippers in SW Wales and toe shapes still varied. It was said that you could ‘tell a man’s village by the cut of his clogs’.

 

Sub-crafts

  • Pattern making

Ancillary activities including clog iron manufacture and toe-tin manufacture were once carried on as separate commercial operations: this practice is now extinct and clog makers have to make their own such items, or rely on old stock.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Supply of raw material (wood in the round) may be a little erratic if makers can’t find a reliable source – makers cannot afford to buy timber of appropriate thickness from timber merchants at marked-up prices, nor would this be at an appropriate moisture content for hand-carving.
  • Supply of components.
  • Skill shortages.

 

Support organisations

  • Association of Polelathe Turners and Greenwood Workers

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Jeremy Atkinson, Herefordshire (fully hand-carved soles) – was taught by Hywell Davies and has travelled in Spain and France researching European clog-making traditions.
  • Simon Brock, Sheffield (band saw cut soles) – uses a bandsaw to rough the shape, with stock knives for some shaping and all hollowing and a router to create the grip.
  • Mike Cahill (band saw cut soles)
  • John Fox (band saw cut soles)
  • Phil Howard, Stockport (band saw cut soles)
  • Trefor Owen, Cricieth, Gwynedd (band saw cut soles) – semi retired
  • Geraint Parfitt, St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff (fully hand-carved soles)
  • Robin Shepherd (band saw cut soles)

JoJo Wood, based in Birmingham, is learning the craft of clog making with hand-cut soles. Scotland’s last clogmaker Godfrey Wimpenny Smith died in 2015.

 

Other information

 

 

References

  • Clogs and clogmaking (Shire Album) – and associated bibliography
  • Dobson, Bob, Concerning Clogs
  • Vigeon, Evelyn, Clog or Wooden Soled Shoes

Wooden pipe making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Wooden pipe making

 

The making of smoking pipes from wood, typically briar (see also clay pipe making).

 

Status Endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance UK, with a focus on London, where many of the factories were based and the Dunhill factory still operates.
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK 19th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 7 plus unknown number of workers at Dunhill factory
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 1 – Paul Hubert is currently training his son
Current total no. serious amateur makers
2-3
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

While clay pipes have been made since the 16th century, wooden pipes are a relatively new introduction, with factories set up around London in the 19th century importing briar from the Mediterranean. Many classical pipe shapes such as the billiard, bulldog and Dublin were developed which are still followed today, either in strict accordance or as inspiration for more individualistic forms.

It has only been since WW2 that pipes have been commercially made by individual artisan makers. Some of these makers use components they buy in and combine with their own handmade parts to assemble what are known as hand finished pipes, while others make all of their components by hand from raw materials.

 

Techniques

The most common wood for pipe bowls is briar, but others such as bog oak, strawberry wood are also used. Pipe stems are commonly made from ebonite/vulcanite or acrylic, but alternative materials include polyester, horn, antler or amber.

Pipe bowls are turned on a lathe and then reoriented and turned again to form the neck. They are then hand worked using abrasion to form the finished shape, then married with the drilled stem and the transition is worked smooth. The pipe is then finished with either a high sheen or a texture created by sandblasting or similar method. Pipes can also include metal bands or inserts.

Today pipes are also being made by CNC machine, based on designs by master pipemakers. From the standard shapes, pipes can deviate to more uneven organic forms and highly individualistic shapes.

Despite the low number of makers, some of the pipes being made today are probably the best that have ever been made, thanks to developments in materials, tools and the heightening expectations of aficionados and collectors.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Meerschaum pipes – these pipes are made from the mineral sepiolite rather than wood, though they are rarely made in the UK due in part to the difficulty of obtaining the material

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The number of smokers is declining due to health concerns.
  • There are many poor quality pipes being sold at high prices – some customers aren’t educated enough to distinguish between high and low quality.
  • Social media is becoming increasingly influential, but not all makers have the ability to take advantage of it, hence the undue prominence of poor quality pipes from those who know how to exploit social media.
  • The US, one of the main markets for UK pipes, is currently becoming more protectionist. Tariffs have not yet been imposed but there is a feeling that Americans are less inclined to buy from overseas.
  • There are no apprenticeships as such – current makers are either ex-factory workers or individuals who have learnt through a combination of trial and error and seeking out help and advice from other makers.
  • Skilled factory workers focus exclusively on specific elements of the production process, so if that factory closed down it is unlikely that many of them would be able to set up as artisan makers making pipes in their entirety.
  • Pipe makers need to be able to talk to and see the work of other makers in order to keep quality at its utmost, and that becomes harder the fewer makers there are.
    Sometimes pipe makers are excluded from events and networking opportunities with craftspeople of other disciplines because of attitudes around tobacco use.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

Businesses employing two or more people:

  • Dunhill Pipes, Walthamstow

 

Other information

 

 

References

Withy pot making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Withy pot making

 

Making traditional crab/lobster pots from willow, called withy pots.

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance Along the south coast, especially west from the Isle of Wight, throughout Devon and Cornwall coasts, South West Wales and South West Ireland.
Area currently practised Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, South West Wales, Ireland.
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 0
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
6-10
Current no. of trainees 0
Current total no. serious amateur makers
0
Current total no. of leisure makers
1
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Withy pots have been recorded in old painting dating from 400 years ago, but the craft would go back further as humans have used traps to catch fish and crabs since we first inhabited our shore line. The problem with a definitive date is nothing was written down in the regions or families… it was learnt from father to son, although in some areas the wives also made them. Fish traps have been found in peat bogs.

This craft evolved over centuries from the earliest basket type trap used by wading into low tides and fixing traps to the beach. When boats evolved to go further out into the bays and open waters the ability to trap the catch in deeper water meant the trap also had to change – the ability of the trap to withstand the wear and tear tide and sea bed imparts meant it had to be big enough and strong enough, but not too heavy that you could not carry it and pull it up from the depths.

All of our coastline had these pots up until the late 1960s but demand for saving time in their making and needing stronger pots which could withstand attaching multiple pots together in a line (string of pots) which withy pots would not be able to withstand, meant changing to wire and net pots then the plastic ones you see today.

The withy pot had a life span of just over one season with ongoing repairs meaning every winter you started all over again. Unless you had a withy bed to cut your withies from you had to purchase them, normally from Somerset at great expense.

 

Techniques

The bending and twisting of willow to form the shape of an inkwell by hand. In South Devon the funnel is a paired weave that continues into bands of ringing (fitching) that hold the uprights or standards in an evenly spaces conical shape. The base varies regionally but is a continuation of the paired weave, sometimes finished with woven plaiting. The bait was attached with elm skewers or ‘skivers’ piercing the funnel and adding to the trap effect.

Willow was grown locally, mostly hybrids of Salix Vinimalis and Alba, more latterly, Salix Triandra or the Black Maul willow grown commercially in Somerset, which came back on the train to Kingsbridge before Beeching axed it.

 

Local forms

Various forms of withy inkwell were made from the Isle of Wight westward, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, South Wales and South and West Ireland, although there are some extreme variations there. There is also a connection to the Breton tradition in France as there was a strong connection between the Bretons and the South West fishermen.

All pots are made using fresh willow for the main frame although hazel was often used in the base. While the shape between regions may look the same the Cornish pot is very different in that it has a deeper curve at the top and the spiral binding goes anti-clockwise to the base, with three-and-a-half to four turns from top to bottom. The Devon/Dorset pot as well as all other areas that once practised this craft have a flatter top and more of a curve in the shape down to the base, and the spiral binding goes clockwise from the top to the base and is four turns in total from top to bottom.

In East Devon the base was put in by folding the willow from the centre to the outer rim but all other areas by folding from the outside to the centre.

Although the pots took on a common shape in the same region, each person’s pot would be unique. This is because makers all different in strength of hand and the way they work. Storepots were much bigger at 36-40 inches across the base and five to six rings high. They had woven or wooden lids to keep crab in while waiting for them to be sold or transported

 

Sub-crafts

The weave and use of a wooden mule is similar to some fish traps, and forms that are now used as plant supports.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • No one is taking this craft up because it is not financially viable to fish with willow pots and those making for stage sets, décor and souvenirs are part removed from the fishing experience and as they hand the knowledge on that relationship will be lost.
  • Those left still making these pots fall into age brackets 60-70, 70-80 and Alan Lander in his early 80s. The big problem is time and the ability to carry on. If makers’ hands weaken through arthritis etc or the public no longer support them the craft will become extinct within a very short time.
  • These pots were used up till the mid 1960s as the only way of catching crab etc. As modern pots made from synthetic materials came along the need for willow pots died out. These days members of the fishing families that keep the craft alive do so because of public interest and also the need for them in TV dramas such as Poldark where they are critical to that period in time.
  • Lack of demand means you cannot earn a living from making them, but you hope to sell some in order to buy the materials needed to make them.
  • Within the families no one wants to learn this craft which means it is dying. Those who come to make a pot often say how hard it is on the hands and although they enjoyed the experience they had no intention in carrying it forward.
  • The profit margin is small as pots use a lot of willow, which is expensive unless homegrown, and people are not willing to pay enough to cover the work of a heavy duty pot.

 

Support organisations

The only support as such comes from local events close to the coast where makers are invited to show off their craft, e.g. Salcombe Crabfest, Clovelly Lobster Days, Hope Cove Weekend, Brixham Crabfest, etc.

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Dave French
  • Nigel Legge
  • David Harrison
  • Richard Ede
  • Sue Morgan
  • Alan Lander
  • George Chambers, Porthleven
  • Steve Perham, Clovelly

Joe Hogan is a basketmaker who has knowledge of a range of Irish pots.

 

Other information

The pots vary regionally, and only those with direct knowledge from fishers know the dialect words and the reasons for particular variations in shapes and ways the pots are made. Those left need to have their own forms recorded.

 

References

Whip making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Whip making

 

Making whips for driving horses.

 

Status Endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance London
Area currently practised London, Wiltshire
Origin in the UK Middle Ages
Current no. of professionals (main income) Three companies (number of skilled makers unknown) and one individual
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 0
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Illustrations from the Middle Ages usually show drop thong whips (often with two thongs) being used for carriage driving. In the Luttrell Psalter (c. 1330) there are a couple of illustrations that show bow top whips. The history of whips seems to be similar throughout Europe and ancient Greek vases show several varieties of whip as does Roman sculpture.

The zenith of whip making was the mid nineteenth century. The use of baleen in the thong bow enabled a finer whip to be made that was controllable, the energy being transferred to the lash as the whip became both thinner and more flexible from the handpiece to the tip of the thong. The woods used for the stock largely remained those that had earlier been used for superstitious reasons though the ‘witch wood’, rowan, diminished in popularity as it was less suitable than holly, yew and blackthorn. English bow topped whips were exported throughout the world in the nineteenth century but they have largely been replaced by synthetic whips which are much cheaper but not as good to use. The drop thong whip has continued to be used when driving commercial vehicles. The stock of the best of these is baleen so recently fiberglass has replaced the whalebone. With new baleen being unobtainable many bow topped whips now use fiberglass and nylon in the bows. Postillion whips were traditionally braided in very elaborate patterns as they are almost exclusively used for ceremonial purposes. Modern postillion whips are much simpler in construction but I have made several of the complicated ones for export.

 

Techniques

The classic driving whip is the English bow-topped. Form follows function in the design and it takes years to master all the skills involved.

When there were several manufacturers of whips it was common for each part to have its own craftsmen. An English bow-topped whip has a stock made of a suitable wood which has been cut in winter and seasoned for at least three years (unless it is bamboo).

The stock is usually carved with knobs down to the handpiece. The knobs imitate the natural growth knobs of the wood and the number of knobs usually indicates the quality of the whip the cheaper ones just using the natural knobs. The knobs might be branded with a keyhole shaped iron to imitate the natural pattern. The wood is steamed straight before sanding and varnishing. The handpiece is usually made over a metal sleeve and any suitable leather is used to cover it. Antique whips may be sewn up to 16 stitches to the inch but as low as five to the inch can be found in some modern whips. The butt and ferrule (collar) are made to fit from brass or silver (sometimes gold or nickel). These can be cast, turned or made from sheet metal. The thong needs to be braided from a dense resilient hide such as horse or kangaroo and the tapered profile is achieved by braiding over a leather, gut or vellum core and varying the number of laces used from four to ten (postillion whips can be braided with up to forty-eight laces). The laces for the thong are hand cut and beveled and ideally taper. Inside the bow part of the thong the leather is braided over a core of baleen and vellum. The thong is joined to the stock with four prepared goose or swan quills which are bound to the thong and stock with linen thread. The place where the thong and the stock come together is indicated by a ‘knot’ where the thongs and linen are finished off.

 

Local forms

Ceremonial whips might use coloured linen for binding. Trade turnouts have their traditional whips such as brass bound. Coaching whips may have a thong of around fifteen feet in length as the lead horses need to be touched by the collar. There are numerous other variations such as four in hand whips combining a coach horn to entertain the passengers. The little lash on the end of the thong might be in coloured silk or linen to match the vehicle. In show classes conservative traditional whips are favoured. Split bamboo whips like old fishing rods are sometimes made for hackney drivers.

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The viability of the craft is severely compromised by the difficulty in obtaining the correct materials and the fact that good whips will last for well over a century and fill the need to supply a diminishing market for less than a whip can be economically made for.
  • Those with the knowledge of what makes a good whip are getting older.
  • Poor quality whips are being passed off as English bow topped whips and standards have fallen considerably in recent years.
  • It is difficult and time consuming and impossible to make anything close to the minimum wage.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

Individual maker:

  • Celia Blay

The best English whip makers such as Geoff Clothier and David Walmesley are now dead. Individual saddlers often do repairs but there is no source of bow topped thongs except the ones made by Celia Blay. Most repaired whips use a drop thong and pretend it is a bow top.

 

Other information

A good whip is well balanced with the point of balance coming a little above the handpiece. A well balanced whip will sit lightly in the hand and naturally assume the correct position.

Most whips made from natural materials are now imported from Germany.

 

References

David Morgan has written a book on leather braiding but there is no book on driving whip making. Usual leather working skills apply to the making of the handpiece. Books on stick making such as Walking and Working Sticks by Theo Fossel are useful for the handling of the wood.

Watch dial enamelling

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Watch dial enamelling

 

Making watch dials using vitreous enamel on a metal base.

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance Birmingham and London
Area currently practised Glasgow and Birmingham on a very small scale
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 2
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
5-10 fine art and jewellery enamellers who have worked on watch dials from time to time.
Current no. of trainees 1
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Enamel watch dials appeared in the UK in the mid-18th century, gradually gaining popularity over the earlier chased and repoussé and chased metal champlevé dials. The UK made most of the world’s watches until the second half of the 18th century, and the manufacture of vitreous enamel watch faces was a widespread craft. Today it’s a very highly prized technique amongst collectors but the only master craftsmen producing them are in Switzerland and Japan.

 

Techniques

There are what’s called ‘soft’ or ‘cold’ enamel dials, which aren’t enamel at all, they’re resin, and people make those in the UK, but it has nothing to do with enamel other than in name.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The watchmaking industry in the UK is tiny, so there is a limited number of watchmakers to sell them to. It is possible to supply overseas watchmakers, but historically enamelling would normally form part of a local watch part supply ecosystem. The Swiss make some amazing enamel dials so they probably wouldn’t source from the UK even if it were an option.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • anOrdain, Glasgow – the main company making vitreous (or ‘grand feu’) enamel watch faces in the UK.
  • Struthers Watchmakers and Deakin & Francis, Birmingham have worked together to make enamel dials but on a small scale.
  • Robert Loomes has made enamel dials on a small scale.

There is one maker in England who comes from a family of enamellers and has enamelled dials in the past, but he is no longer doing so due to illness.

There may be some ‘leisure’ dial enamellers, but it’s not something you can easily do well without investing more time than a hobbyist could (in my opinion).

 

Other information

The difference between watch dial enamelling and jewellery enamelling is down to tolerances. To fit within a watch the enamel dial needs to be perfectly flat, of a uniform thickness down to a tenth of a millimetre and have a completely consistent finish. The dials also need to be much thinner than that of jewellery enamel.

It took almost 4,000 hours over three years at the bench for anOrdain to perfect their first enamel dial.

 

References

 

Wainwrighting

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Wainwrighting

 

The making of horse-drawn wagons, including ship wagons, bow wagons, bowtop wagons and gypsy caravans (see also wheelwrighting and coach building).

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category Vehicles, wood
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK Bronze Age
Current no. of professionals (main income) 3-4 businesses
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Four wheeled vehicles have been made from the first days after the invention of the wheel, that is in the region of 5,000 years. The earliest British representation of a four wheeled wagon is probably the one in the Bayeux Tapestry, a special vehicle carrying a large barrel. This has wheels of equal sizes on the two axles, which suggests that it may not have had a turning forecarriage, the earliest four wheeled prestige carriages in this country, such as that in the Luttrell Psalter, were certainly made without one, in spite of the invention being known to the Hallstatt wagon builders and the Romans, though the Roman archaeology is a bit arguable, backed by some oblique textual references.

The farm vehicles of Britain in the dark ages and middle ages were mostly two wheeled carts and carts continued to be the main farm vehicles right up to the introduction of tractors.

Turning forecarriages had been introduced into British carriages by the end of the 16th century, and in the 17th century wagons were being built with them, but there is no clear evidence for their use in Britain before then, though continental ones seem to be attested by legislation and literature. The idea seems to follow the development of late medieval vehicles on the near continent, arriving in England coincidentally with industries like brickmaking and it has been said that immigrant workmen from the low Countries brought the idea. The strongest evidence suggests that wagons started the development into their final form in the Eastern counties, for use in road transport. Wagons grew in popularity with farmers through the 18th century, presumably because they could demonstrate their prowess by displaying a fine wagon. Strong local design traditions grew up and became a leading expression of the country’s craftsmanship. Wheelwrights’ workshops could demonstrate a flair for making them and some would grow to specialise more than others in producing wagons and carts. Some firms that grew in this way still exist, grown into modern agricultural engineers. Most are now gone.

The economy of a wagon making workshop ran better in the larger workshops. Wagon making was a collaborative enterprise, which is not surprising, at the very least a blacksmith needed to work with the wheelwright to make a cart. Apart from this kind of enterprise the usual route for wagons to be built was that a wheelwrights shop, busy with repairs through the summer months was gainfully occupied in the winter making a wagon or two.

In the Victorian period firms acting as factoriess grew up, supplying parts to wheelwrights much as motor factors do to garages today, and this enabled them to make a range of vehicles with fittings such as springs. Hovewever, specialisation was no new thing, as in the 15th century there were 10 or 11 or so wheelwrights shops in Lullingstone, Kent, selling wheels at a rate which apparently undercut rivals.

 

Techniques

 

 

Local forms

Wagon and cart builders from one county to the next would have made distinct designs, which were locally acceptable.

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Market issues: Changing tastes – in the 1980s there was a demand for brewers drays which has now disappeared.
  • Market issues: Farm wagons are not worth the amount they cost to repair (value of £3,000 – £4,000 compared with £7,000 – £8,000 to repair), so very few people are repairing them and so there aren’t many wagons left. This will eventually turn a corner and wagons will become so rare that their value will increase and the demand will rise.
  • Loss of skills: The skills that are most in danger of dying out are those needed to make a new vehicle from start to finish. The main market for wagon making is in restoration – very few people buy new English vehicles, they either buy English vehicles to repair, or new Eastern European vehicles. Most wheelwrights can repair a wagon (how it always was), but there are perhaps 3-4 places who can make wagons from scratch.
  • Dilution of skills: Anyone can buy a workshop and call themselves a wagon maker, without necessarily having much experience or skill.
  • Business rates: Need big workshop to fit the vehicles in, so business rates are very high.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

  • The traditional progress of the craft was from wheelwright to wainwright to coachbuilder. The work of a wainwright is not as fine as that of a coachbuilder, with fewer trimmings etc.
  • In the 1960s/70s wheelwrights were principally wainwrights as well but this is no longer the case as wagons are rarely built, certainly not new and restoring an existing vehicle/wagon is far easier than building from scratch.

 

References

Information provided by Robert Hurford.

  • Jenkins, J Geraint, The English Farm Wagon
  • Arnold, James, Farm Wagons and Carts
  • David Viner, Wagons and Carts
  • Sturt, George, The Wheelwright’s Shop
  • McNeill, C A, (1978) Technological Development in wheeled vehicles in Europe from prehistory to the sixteenth century (unpublished PhD thesis, Edinburgh University)
  • Museum of English Rural Life, Wagon Walk