... I can't possibly go wrong with my trusty Black & Decker can I?
We chatted to Graham Fisher at Braunston for a long time, asking all sorts of questions about the hows and whys and wherefores of coracle building. After a while he realised that I might actually be serious about making one, and suggested that in return for a donation, I could have a copy of his article 'Of Coracles and Coracle Men'.
He gave us all sorts of useful little tips, like blunting the nails with the hammer to help prevent the ash laths from splitting. Quite why blunt nails should do this he couldn't answer, but who am I to argue with the generations of coracle builders who have passed on their experience of such things?
I've since been enlightened by correspondents from the Yacht-L newsgroup who tell me that a blunt nail will cut through the fibres in the wood, rather than pushing them apart which can promote a split in the lath.
He showed us how bendable the ash can be, even when dry, and how light the finished boat is. I was convinced; a coracle would be just the thing to have with us on Saros for those awkward times when all the mooring space for the pub is taken, and the opposite bank is free, but there's no bridge. Not to mention just having fun at the end of a day's cruising.
So we left Braunston on the bike feeling much wealthier in spirit, determined to do our bit to preserve the ancient art of coracling.
We had a rough idea of what's required:
Well, I had some 48" x 9" planks of pine so I reckoned one'd probably make an adequate seat, and the pack of 2 x 1 PAR pine I already had should do for the legs. Barbara said that we could buy the calico in the local materials shop, and so that just left the paint, nails and green ash to find sources for.
The green ash laths sounded like the most difficult item - probably not something you'd find in Do-It-All-Except-Coracles! In fact Graham had already said as much; "just find a proper timber merchants or sawmill" he reckoned.
So I think that it was the same day, Sunday, when we got home that I logged on, found the EYP (Electronic Yellow Pages) and searched for timber merchants and sawmills around Swindon. Loads of numbers came up - I printed the list with a view to ringing around on Tuesday, after the bank holiday on Monday.
The timber merchants that had some ash were quite enthusiastic about cutting it into thin strips for me.
"No problem Sir, just a moment while I run that through the calculator and get you a price",
... brief pause
"Right Sir, that comes out at two hundred and thirty one pounds!"
"Hmm, and VAT?"
"Not included Sir."
"But I was told that the ash and everything else I needed should only cost about eighteen pounds!"
"Oh no Sir, not ash, and then there's the sawing, etc."
"Okay thanks, I'll get back to you if I don't find anything better."
So much for timber merchants! On to the sawmills...
"Seventeen Sir, is that seventeen hundred or thousand? And was that one and half by quarter metre planks?"
"Seventeen bits of one and a half INCH! by quarter INCH!. Sorry Sir"