Apple wood and vintage beer

I want to make a scratter and the plans I found on the net call for an 8″ diameter cylinder of apple wood, so I called on a retired orchardist who is shrinking the size of the orchard to match the retirement lifestyle.  I’d hoped he’d have some wood in a firewood heap that would do, instead he said “I was going to cut that tree out, will that base do?”  As I looked at it I realised it had a heap of wonderful crooks in the branches, just the thing for making wooden spoons in the manner of Peter Follansbee, and apple is one of the recommended woods.  Follow the link to Peter’s blog and if you want to know more then click on the ‘spoon carving’ tag after you’ve read that page.  What I love about Peter’s method is that he lets the wood guide the form and considers the knife cuts to be part of the finish, and to be frank I don’t have the patience to sand and sand and sand.  Anyway I got greedy and asked if I could have the whole tree.  All I can do right now is secure it from checking, but I’m looking forward to seeing what I can get out of it in the time ahead.


one apple tree retrieved

one apple tree retrieved


Next is to trim off the greenery and seal the ends to prevent them drying out in the meantime and prevent checking in the end grain.  I left the branches as long as practical  to help with this too.

I’ve been learning how to do this for a while using what ever is to hand, alder, pin oak, birch, and in the photo below, Banksia.

A pair of spoons in Baanksia

Work in progress, a pair of spoons in Baanksia

Vintage 1987

Vintage 1987

As it turned out, this was the hottest day this spring (23C in the shade).  This called for a beer, just the opportunity to test the ancient beer I’d found on the bottom-plate, behind a tea-chest, in my fathers garage.  I know these were purchased in or before 1987 and Lion being a continuous brewed draught, expectations weren’t great.

Colour good, carbonation – a little fizz left, natural cork seal looking worse for wear but better than the outside of the cap.  There was a dark layer on the bottom so I decanted it into a jug.  Flavour: I reckon it was better than the fresh stuff, being dry rather than sweet, all that time had allowed the sugars left in a continuous brew to be digested by a little remnant yeast.

Not the best head but OK on the tongue

Not the best head but OK on the palate


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3 Responses to Apple wood and vintage beer

  1. Hi Graeme,
    The best stuff for sealing end grain like that is a thick coating of sheep’s fat. I guess you’ve got plenty there in the New Zealand. Then you might want to split some of those branches right down the middle to break the intact structures binding the pieces and free up space to allow for that movement as this wood dries. Apple can be difficult and I’ve found splitting it early on helps.

    Regards, from near the old Zealand,



    • graemeu says:

      Thanks Ernest,
      I’ve been away for a week, no power, no phone, bliss. Downside – rats had broken into the hut, messy and kept me awake, 6 days of cleaning and blocking holes, errch!
      Mutton fat, I’ll keep that in mind, however as I have the Mobil-Cer, otherwise known as end-grain sealer I’ll keep using it. It is not a complete seal being formulated to reduce end-grain drying. In this case, I want to keep it from drying so it is easy carving for the roughing out. It will be interesting splitting those crooks as they are the result of pruning rather than natural form, if it goes well I may have to enter into negotiation with the orchardist as there is another 30-40 trees like this to come out after summer.


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