Friday, 29 March 2019

Oak and Brown Oak Gate with Saxon Oak Rivets

I've just finished this Oak gate with Brown Oak rails. I like the colour contrast. I'm part way through making the other two gates for this commission. All are in the same style - a four bar gate with let-in dovetail brace.

Each of the braces has a kink in it, which I think adds a nice visual touch. These braces are riven from the 'nose' of a cleft. In other words they were the pointy bit of a 1/8 segment of a split log. This part of the log was laid down towards the beginning of its life. The kink was caused by the young Oak loosing its leader, possibly nibbled off by a deer, and a side shoot straightening out to become the new leader. This results in a 'dog leg' which fades over time as the tree grows. When we split a log open, the idiosyncrasies of the young tree become visible to us and we can also see the little pin knots which we one the side shoots of a sapling. When you put a log through a sawmill, these features are called imperfections, but one of the beauties of green woodworking is they can become features, as we can follow and preserve the grain rather than cutting through it. These 'noses' are too thin for gate rails but are perfect for the brace and add a bit of character to the gate.

These dovetail braces need holding on with more than just a peg, so I use an Oak rivet. It is a peg with a bulbous end. The other end has a slot sawn in it. After banging through the hole, a little wedge is inserted and the rivet is held fast. I saw this style of fixing holding together a door made of riven boards in the reconstruction Saxon house at the Weald and Downland museum.

The protruding wedge is then cut off. I believe that this method of fastening was used in Britains oldest functioning door, the Anglo-Saxon 'Pyx' door at Westminster Abbey, although I think possibly that those had wedges on both sides.