Wednesday 11 July 2018
When I went to interview him, he was busy polishing the stock of a hunting rifle; he had added some contrast timber strips to the butt so it was a better 'fit'. Bill will turn his hand to any woodworking tasks with skill and alacrity. His boyish, infectious smile and twinkle in the eye belies a huge amount of talent and knowledge built up over time. He and his wife Sam live in a delightful early 19th-century cottage, much extended and improved by Bill from its humble origins as a cobbler's shop. The kitchen with its raised, vaulted ceiling and oak truss is one example of his care and attention to detail. The – almost! – featherboarded garages built by him give no clue to the large cottage garden to their left complete with his new 'cold smoker' – Bill's other passion apart from hunting is trout and salmon or sea fishing – to be run on all the oak chippings and dust from the substantial workshop it sits in front of. Inside the building there is a true believer's array of the most heavy, cast iron machinery you are likely to see – not a bit of pressed steel in sight.
Among the kit is a Wadkin planer/thicknesser, Cooksley tablesaw, Smith chain mortiser, Wadkin crosscut, a large bandsaw and a recently acquired Viceroy lathe among other items. It is spacious with plenty of roof space, which is currently being insulated so he can get the best from the woodburning stove in winter. Bill Francis had three phase current installed at great expense and annoyance to other people when underground cable was installed across the busy main road outside!
Bill takes on a wide variety of work, recently he completed a very heavy butcher's block island unit which needed four people to carry it down a staircase to install, he also completely refitted the local village hall bar to a standard that would shame many pubs. However, he is really in his element doing first fix, e.g. putting up roof framework and the like. One thing is for sure, Bill is always busy doing something and doing it well.
Bill's Golden Rules
1. “Use a joinery ready reckoner; gone are all the headache calculations or having to climb back up a building to recheck measurements – just look up the correct span for rafters and get a quick answer.”
2. “Buy timber, especially oak and similar hardwoods, from sources you know and trust so you get the right thing for the job.”
“My Stanley No.7 jointer and No.10 carriagemaker's rebate plane – had them for years.”
“First fix work. Nothing quite like working on a roof, provided the bricklayer has given you a level course to work from!”
“If it's miserable weather, shutting the workshop door with the stove lit, busy making up joinery.”
“I'd much rather pitch a roof than fit wardrobes any day!”
“I hate hanging a run of doors, second fix isn't really my thing.”
“Sam and I won a village conservation award after we did the kitchen rebuild with the vaulted ceiling. Our village historian Tony Turk was appreciative of our efforts to improve the building.”