The Coracle Files (3)

So, having eliminated the local timber merchants and sawmills as a source of green ash laths within about 20 - 30 miles or so, I was beginning to wonder whether it was really practical to make one's own coracle from scratch.

Graham Fisher had mentioned while we were at Braunston, that the Bewdley Museum (01 299 403 573) has demonstrations of coracle building. This sounded like an attractive alternative, except that the next sessions weren't until the beginning of August (3rd to 6th August 1998) which were exactly when we were booked to be out on Saros.

So I tried asking a colleague whom I knew was a keen amateur woodworker. He suggested a timber merchant down in Somerset.

Even if they had green ash, that was going to cost me more than eighteen pounds in petrol I reckoned. This didn't sound like the cheap option I had thought it was!

I phoned Graham. He tried to be very helpful, and described the small sawmills local to him where a friend was able to cut him suitable ash at sensible prices. But he added that, even if I could find this friend of his, he wouldn't necessarily be able to give me quite the same deal. Apart from that, these sawmills were some distance away as well, so that avenue didn't look too promising.

Back to the EYP (Electronic Yellow Pages). I widened the search area. Much longer lists of timber merchants and sawmills came up.

A couple of them had links to more detailed descriptions of their services so I tried them. One in particular looked promising:


This sounded promising, "ASH" & "GREEN" both mentioned. I tried the phone number - a lady answered.

"My son-in-law's not in at the moment I'm afraid. Can I take a message and get him to ring you back?"

This sounded even more promising. A small family concern, and in the same county as us, albeit about as far away as it could be while still in Gloucestershire.

He rang back in due course. I described the problem to him:

"Green ash laths, at least 17 good ones, let's say about 30 to allow for some breaking and my inexperience."

"Yes, I can do that. I've got a suitable green-ash plank that I could cut up. It'll probably make about 40 laths, twenty pounds, how does that sound?"

"When can I get them?"

The following Saturday was arranged. This was less than a week on from the meeting at Braunston - things were moving quite well really.

His description of the location was excellent - just as well as it wasn't the sort of place you'd find by accident. We were a bit late, but fortunately he had waited for us. We put the seats down in the car to get the 7ft. lengths in without undue bending and having given him twenty five pounds as I was feeling guilty about being late, set off for home.
 Collecting the ash laths
Once back home, I constructed a sort of paddling pool using a plastic cover from something, and bits of our scaffolding tower. The laths just about fitted in diagonally so I left them soaking.
The 'paddling' pool 

The following day I had to go to Stansted for a three-day course for my work, so all thoughts of starting the construction had to be temporarily abandonded.

Stansted is however quite close to Bishop's Stortford, and that is a big enough place to have a Do-It-All-Except-Coracles or whatever so I investigated the remaining items: gimp pins and paint.

"Gimp pins, Sir? Well, if we have them they'll be in the 'Handy Packs' section."

Fat chance! But at least they had a huge choice of bituminous type paints. Too big a choice! Ranging in prices from five pounds to twenty pounds, I had no idea which one would work best. Not surprisingly, none of them suggested 'coracle waterproofing' on their list of uses! So I picked out a tin that cost about £9 because it wasn't the cheapest - it seemed as good a reason as any!

Well, maybe a proper hardware/timber merchant would be better for gimp pins?

Yellow Pages to the rescue again! The map of Bishop's Stortford at the front showed the correct road. Can't miss it. Half-an-hour of driving around later, I did find the place. They even knew what 'gimp pins' were, but didn't have any. I settled for galvanised panel pins instead - they might not be perfect, but as long as the boat holds together .........

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