The New, Old New, Hand Tool Workshop

by | Jan 13, 2014 | 12 comments

We spent a lot of time over Christmas getting our new hand tool workshop ready for filming and so it’s probably time for us to bring you up to speed. The most obvious progression since our last post on this is that we’ve changed building!

Getting to know the property over the last month made us realise that our largest barn isn’t in anywhere near as bad a state as we first thought and unlike the smaller stable it’s already fitted out with electric. Realising this was particularly fortunate considering that our initial plans to use the stable were becoming hindered.

StablewindowA quick scout around the stable showed us a few obvious concerns but nothing that a couple of hours here and there couldn’t put right. We’d just block up the window and repair the areas of brickwork knowing that it would all be having a full overhaul in the not too distant future anyway.
It was the floor though which was causing the problems as it was horrifically out of level. This seemed to be done by design and was significantly raised at the sides and funnelled down towards the centre, and then down again towards a gap in the wall. It formed one oversized urinal and though it sounds grim it was the wobbly bench that was our main concern. At first we thought we could level a new floor over the top and be done with it for now but it was just too far out. Bringing it up to level would have meant our heads would be up in the roof and it was also a big job for something temporary.
The only practical way was down and so we both rolled up our sleeves and started shifting the concrete. As we broke through the concrete and removed the hardcore we found what we had expected underneath – a lovely brick floor. This had to come out too to allow us space for insulation so we continued down and underneath we found cobblestones …

It was during all this clearing that the larger barn came in to play and it was quite a relief to change plans since we would prefer to take a bit of time out and mull over all future uses and services before pouring in a permanent new floor. Not having to take electric to the stable right away is another big plus as the job would require around 100m of armoured cable underground and without knowing the full picture of our final plans just yet we’ve been reluctant to commit to it’s positioning.

broken bricksBroken upThe old floor’s all been cleared and is ready whenever we are but the filming is now being started over in the larger barn – all of the photos here are from the stable but I’ll bring you some more of the barn shortly along with a video of it being prepared.

I’ve just had Richard on the phone moaning that his kettle’s died so I must dash before things become serious!


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About Helen Fisher

About Helen Fisher

Helen seeks to explore ways to live with greater joy & sustainability for both ourselves & the planet. Concepts which have led to the launch of her second business We Are Carbon. As the producer of our videos, Helen brings a unique perspective & injects life to our education ensuring it is both a pleasure to watch & easy to follow & learn from. Learn More About Helen & The English Woodworker.


  1. Ian Watson

    Hi Helen/Richard,
    Glad things are progressing for you.
    It’s always difficult making those ‘once and forever’ decisions. Looking at your stable photos and the ivy growing inside reminds me of the day we arrived at our current house (which hadn’t been occupied for about 6 months). It took us some time just to clear the unwanted plant life from the conservatory and upper floor rooms.
    Good luck – we’re all supporting you from a distance.

    • Helen

      Thanks Ian, as strange as it sounds I’ve always found ivy growing in to building to be rather beautiful but I don’t suppose you can leave it when it’s in your bedroom! We really appreciate your support, it goes a very long way.

  2. Chris Buckingham

    It all seems too much until you get your eye in! We had exactly the same problems with the floors in our outbuilding, but once you have the right equipment to take up the concrete, that has been installed to create a slurry drain, you can do the work, and get rid of the farmyard smell at the same time, you should find a good readymix concrete supplier,this is far easier than mixing at home,you can also use the concrete rubble to fill holes in the yard, don’t even enquire about the cost of tarmacking it!

    • Helen

      Thanks Chris, your advice and experience is always valuable and you’re right, there’s a lot to be said for taking a bit of time and getting your mind on it.

  3. Pete Charlett

    Hi there!
    You lucky pair! What a great set of buildings to work in! Should do wonders for the mind set needed for creating ‘things with wood’ as I like to call it. Having such surroundings creates good ‘zen’ and calm which is just ideal for your line of work. I’m jealous.
    Great site, by the way, it makes for a lovely read each evening in bed and a great escape from the troubles of trying to run a business and care for a new born baby. Many thanks.
    Ps I’m also trying to get an old, leaky, cold, damp 1500 ft2 timber clad barn ship shape for furniture production… AAARRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

    • Helen

      Hi Pete, we do both feel very fortunate at the moment and even though there’s so much to do I’m still incredibly excited with the thought of it all each day. Thank you for your kind comments, it’s a nice escape for us to write so really nice to hear you enjoy reading. It sounds like you have a lot on but I hope you’re finding plenty of time to enjoy it all too.

  4. Gary P

    I can only assume, but I figure that “Kettle” is a pot to make tea in. Hearing about “TEA time from Richard a few times seems to be pretty important. If that’s the case I hope things worked out OK. Best of luck with all the hard work ahead of you both on that wonderful piece of property.

    • Helen

      No kettle equals no tea… and that could be fatal in Richard’s book!

  5. DenverGeorge

    Glad to see that you’re back writing on a regular basis. I missed having new posts from you in Nov. and Dec. That stable is still going to make a lovely space once you get it cleaned up. I fully understand about the tea. Without a plentiful supply of tea life is really not worthwhile.

  6. Drew

    Where there is tea, there is hope.

  7. Michael Forster

    Sounds like a good decision – anything that can be done to put off the ‘once-and-for-all’ decisions until the place has been worked in for a bit. When we moved into our bungalow we came within an ace of replacing the 30m armoured cable but found out just in time that it wasn’t necessary and were glad we hadn’t jumped in too soon.
    Kettle – ah, yes, a vital part of any workshop – although sadly I’ve got to move mine to the machine shop because it’s getting in the way of installing my new lathe.


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