NB Birchills Oak and Gun Metal Premium Twist Pen
Price ~ £30
(A donation from the sale of this pen will be gifted to The Black Country Living Museum, the Custodians of NB Birchills)
EUROPEAN OAK - Quercus robur
Usually straight-grained, the heartwood of European Oak varies in colour from light tan to brown. Quarter-sawn pieces show attractive flame figuring. The wood is fairly hard, heavy and dense, clean but with the occasional knot. European Oak is a beautiful timber and with an oil finish, the grain will turn a deep golden brown.
This particular piece of oak (probably English rather than European) is just a little bit special though. It comes from the rear cabin side gunwales and roof hatch of Narrowboat Birchills. I was given a few off cuts by the superb craftsmen who were carrying out a little light refurbishment to this historic boat, in fact the guys had cut the whole back cabin off!
Birchills is an historic, ‘Joey’ boat with a small day cabin, built in 1953 by Ernest Thomas of Walsall, ‘Birchills’ it is one of the last wooden day boats made and was used to carry coal to Wolverhampton Power Station. This boat is double-ended and the mast and rudder could be changed from one end to the other. This enabled its use in narrow canals or basins where there was no room to turn the boat around.
The rotten parts of these rebuilt boats are usually used to stoke the fires that steam the new planks for bending to the hulls shape so half a day later this flaky gunwale would have been burned. I wasn't sure how deep the rot would have gone and how deep I would have to delve into this piece to find stable wood. The pens I make from historic boat materials have been thoroughly tested by me to make sure that they will give pleasurable daily use.
That old flaky gunwale went on to make a few very nice pens and I was lucky enough to be given some more wood by Ade at A P Boat Building in Alvecote. This time a piece that appears to be from the old red cabin hatch surround.