Friday, November 16, 2018

Clog Makers

April 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Bygones

An article on television about the making of clogs on the banks of rivers, where the Alder trees grow brought back some pleasant memories of times past.

In my school days and teenage years it was quite normal to see teams of two or three men working along the river banks in the spots where the Alder tree flourished. I speak of the 1920’s and 30.s in the mid Wales area of Montgomeryshire.

They came from the northern cities where the wearing of clogs was traditional, visiting the same areas each year, coppicing the Alder trees, ensuring they had a continous supply of timber. It appears that the Alder wood is a good type of wood for clog making. The men arrived, and set up their camp, sometimes in a tarpaulin tent, and occasionaly in a wooden caravan the old square box variety.These were used in many industries prior to W.W.2, shepherds, construction workers all used them, there was even a version used as a guards van on goods trains, and the old steam rollers always had one in tow.

Well rehearsed methods soon had the camp fires going, and the sound of axe and saw ensured a quick start to work.

Occasionaly the whole family would accompany the workers, the wives cooking and helping out, even the children worked picking up the odd bits of wood, filling old sacks which would be taken back to ensure a supply of winter fuel.

The only tools necessary for this old trade ws an axe, a saw, and a big draw knife.

The timber would be chosen of the right thickness was felled and sawn into correct lengths, split in two, then the draw knife used with great skillshaped the wood into different sizes of clogs,occasionaly the draw knife would be worked by a primitive foot lathe.

Watching the operator use the draw knife was fascinating, with a few deft pulls and pushes, whilst sitting on his stool (rather like a carpenters stool)produced a wooden sole of the correct size and thickness, each one perfectly formed.

When the soles were finished they would be stacked in a sort of honeycomb pile which allowed the air to circulate, thus slowly drying out the green timber.

Nothing was wasted in this old and venerable trade. The chips of wood were collected to ensure winter fuel. Sometimes the bark would be stripped off and put into sacks for use in the dying of fabrics.

No doubt this was a hard life, but the scene was one of great beauty, men busily working on the banks of the river, the curling smoke of the camp fire as the old black pot filled with rabbit stew gently cooked the evening meal.

A memorable site now gone forever.

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