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Canny lass

Conkers

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Not sure if I should be posting this here or in the hobbies section under sport. It was taken very seriously in Netherton giving it a status akin to top class athletics.

Who can remember gathering, preparing and taking part in the noble sport of conkers? It's many a year since I've seen any conkers (horse chestnuts to the uninitiated) as they are not too common here, but today I found lots of them. I can't remember playing conkers but I remember collecting them and threading them on string to make a necklace (yes, I know. Little things please Little minds). My older Brothers used them to play conkers and I remember many hours spent sweating over steaming kettles, Bowls of malt vinegar and knobs of butter in order to achieve just the right leathery texture and a shiny Surface - both of which were deemed to be of the utmost importance if the conker wasn't to crack on impact. I can't remember the exact procedure though and the rules of the game escape me as well. Can anybody help. I'm sure there must have been other methods of preparing a winning conker apart from vinegar, steam and butter. I thought I'd have acrack at it with the grand-children.

 

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We would steep in vinegar, for as long as the smell could be tolerated. Even those in the weshoose weren't allowed to stink it oot too long.

 

If no vinegar available, one had had ones chips, then it was the airing cupboard. We always worked on the theory that you shouldn't let them dry out too much as the inners would shrink and the outer shell would therefore have no support and crack easily when whacked by the opposing conker.

 

In the 60's one of the hobbies was model making with plaster of paris and often heard of kids boring a 1/4" hole in the top of the conker; scooping out the innards; make a small hole for the string/shoe lace/leather strip.... in the bottom of the conker; feed the string through and knot the end of the string on the bottom and then filling with plaster of paris. Rub brown shoe polish onto the exposed plaster of paris to camouflage it.

 

Our rules were - toss a coin to see who went first to belt the opponents conker - whoever lost had to hold his arm out straight, conker dangling from it's string from his hand - each player carried on swinging until he missed the dangling conker and then they switched roles. 

If any one of the conkers, dangler or basher, came off it's string then the other was deemed the winner and the winning conker was awarded a point to be added to the number it had already smashed. So after win number one your conker was a 'oneser', then twoser et.seq.

 

There were always arguments over conkers that had not smashed to bits but were just come off their string. Was it classed as a defeat or were they allowed to re-string the conker and continue the fight = local rules apply.

 

Another debate would be over how many wins were attributed to a winning conker. If a sixer beat a fiveser then did it become a sevener or were the two totalls added and the winner became a twelveser = local rules again apply.

 

Just for fun I Google the subject and the method of hardening from a 212evser was :-

 THE ONLY way to actually harden conkers, despite what many people say, is to store them in a cool, dry place for at least one year. It is best to store about twenty or more in a shoebox in a garage. Many of the conkers will go mouldy and the insides will become full of a green dusty substance, but one should survive. In play it is normal that the shell will break off - this is because the inside will have dried out and shrunk. Do not worry if this happens, as it is the inside that is the strongest. It is also helpful to have a good quality string. This should be an old shoelace, preferably a round one, with a small amount of give to absorb the shock. With your now invincible conker you will be able to defeat the unbeatables: the "oven-baked", the "vinager-soaked" and any other strange methods that your friends may come up with. Be prepared to destroy everyone else's conkers! N.B. It may be advisable to make holes in your conkers before storing them, as it will be extremely difficult to drill through your Super-Conker.

 

Sam Davies, nr Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

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Thanks Eggy!

 

The plaster of paris method sounds like blatant cheating so I won't be leading the grandchildren up that street!

 

I picked up loads of conkers the other day so I'll have a bit of an experiment with half of them in a shoe-box (any excuse to buy a new pair of shoes) and half in vinegar. We'll see how it goes. I must have got it all wrong as I thought the aim was to produce a conker with a tough, leathery skin rather than a hard, brittle Shell. The butter, I assumed, was meant to give a slippery Surface so that the attacking conker would shoot off at a tangent on impact thus causing less damage. I can't remember where the steaming came into the process - Before or after the soaking in vinegar. Oh happy Days!

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I doubt whether kids can play conkers these days with all the ridiculous 'Nanny State' Health & Safety rules. Even if they were allowed, they'd probably need safety glasses and protective gloves as a minimum! There'd be no point anyway as most schools won't allow a pupil to 'lose' in case it affects them mentally for the rest of their lives.

 

How the hell did we all survive then? :D

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I used to dip the conkers in varnish. It seemed like a fool proof method of achieving conker world domination. Problem was that there was no conker safe enough from the fool (me) and as much as I tried I never seemed to get beyond a tenser. A tenser being a conker that had achieved 10 glorious wins for all the philistines out there.

 

So sadly I never joined the British sporting elite but I had plenty of fun trying. Well apart from when my mates used to take massive swings trying to shatter my varnish infused masterpiece and used to whack me over the knuckles with their conker!

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Monday 12th October 2015 - the 50th World Conker Championships were held in Southwick, Northhamptonshire, a village in Northamptonshire, where spectators watch competitors from 10 countries do battle with a nut and a 12in piece of string

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/gallery/2015/oct/12/50th-world-conker-championships-ashton-conker-club-southwick-in-pictures

 

post-3031-0-09346800-1445111712_thumb.jp

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My eldest Son lives in North Finchley,in London.

The first time my Wife and Me ["I"..!] visited him,we went for a walk through the local park.

Aaa was amazed!!....conkers like tennis baals lying aal owa thi gruund,and the schyuulkids..[little apple-crunchers!],were just kicking them aal aboot..a nivvor IVVOR saa any kid pick any up ti play conkers....that was 26 years ago approx.

Aa browt a greet big carrier bag full,back yem,and gie aal thi kids in wor pit raas,a few each.

AA was a local hero ti thi kids!!...nae brokken windaes,nae impitince,just aal gud friends![whey it WAS a pit community..wi aal knew each other and worked doon thi pit tigitha...! ....not thi kids like!]

These kids had nivvor seen conkers as big,and every year they used ti ask if a was gaan doon ti London ti see wor Dazza!

We pitmen doon the three-quarta drift,at Bates pit,used a product caaled "Selfix", in conjunction wi wood dowels,[bIG ones!.....nine feet lang!],

ti help control the badly-broken roof strata..

Selfix was like big sausages,aboot a foot lang,and an inch-and - a - half thick,and consisted of a flexible paste resin-filler with a catalytic hardener stripe

along the length of the "sausage" skin.

When you mixed the two together by inserting the sausages into a drill-hole in the roof,and "drilling " a wood dowel in,using a big hand-held "bulls-head" driller,the Selfix used to harden in seconds,binding the broken roof,and helping to control it.

So whaat's this got ti dae wi conkers?

One day,when a had fetched a saasage yem,ti fix thi holes in me exaaast pipe,on me aad car,me aadest Son,[then aged aboot 11yrs],cut a conker in haaf,emptied it oot,filled it wi Selfix paste,[ similar ti plastic padding type o stuff],and clagged thi two haafs tigitha again,wi thi string in place.!!

NOBODY could beat THIS conker......until...one day....the shell eventually shattered!!

...Whey,thi Selfix was White,sumtimes,other times it was Grey,but nae way did it luk like thi proper colour of wat thi inside SHUD have lukked like!!

It was fun while it lasted![thi sort of trick aad Sym wud hae done....a imagine!!.....are yi in there Sym?!!]

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We used to put our conks in the airing cupboard to dry out and become harder but you eventually came up against one that would beat you.  The string was also an important element ... the only stuff that seemed to be readily available snapped fairly easily so we used boot laces which because they were plaited never broke.

 

In the Karting Club run by Edgar 'Taffy' Williams at Westridge School we used to make the kart seats out of fibreglass;  the various resins came in blue gallon cans (I still remember the name of the supplier - Trylon) and when mixed with the catalyst would go 'rock' hard.  My Mum was a great home baker who had one of those icing syringe sets which I 'borrowed' and filled with some of resin during a club session in the school workshop and then injected a hollowed-out conk to fill the void.  When the stuff set a hole was drilled (on Taffy's drilling machine) through the conk for the lace ... and a champion was born.

 

My Mum never did find out what happened to her icing syringe ... all clagged-up with resin residue and dumped in the workshop bin.

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It seems my varnish tactic was very much amateur hour compared to some of the machiavelian masterminds who inhabit these forums!

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We used to put our conks in the airing cupboard to dry out and become harder but you eventually came up against one that would beat you.  The string was also an important element ... the only stuff that seemed to be readily available snapped fairly easily so we used boot laces which because they were plaited never broke.

 

In the Karting Club run by Edgar 'Taffy' Williams at Westridge School we used to make the kart seats out of fibreglass;  the various resins came in blue gallon cans (I still remember the name of the supplier - Trylon) and when mixed with the catalyst would go 'rock' hard.  My Mum was a great home baker who had one of those icing syringe sets which I 'borrowed' and filled with some of resin during a club session in the school workshop and then injected a hollowed-out conk to fill the void.  When the stuff set a hole was drilled (on Taffy's drilling machine) through the conk for the lace ... and a champion was born.

 

My Mum never did find out what happened to her icing syringe ... all clagged-up with resin residue and dumped in the workshop bin.

You have a way with words  :)

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Anybody got any idea how long I should let my conkers soak in vinegar? The grandchildren are nagging me to get on with the competitions.

Never a defined period for conker hardening via soaking in vinegar so I would say soak for a couple of days and then allow to dry out. If you haven't drilled a hole in, for the string, before soaking then don't even no if the vinegar would soak through to the nut.. If you have drilled hole then I guess the drying out of the nut.

According to  http://www.worldconkerchampionships.com/html/conkers_about.html in the section 'All about conkers' one of the weirdest methods of hardening is :- 

 

"There are many underhanded ways of making your conker harder. The best is to pass it through a pig. The conker will harden by soaking in its stomach juices. Then you search through the pig's waste to find the conker.â€

 

No photos of this method.

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Never a defined period for conker hardening via soaking in vinegar so I would say soak for a couple of days and then allow to dry out. If you haven't drilled a hole in, for the string, before soaking then don't even no if the vinegar would soak through to the nut.. If you have drilled hole then I guess the drying out of the nut.

According to  http://www.worldconkerchampionships.com/html/conkers_about.html in the section 'All about conkers' one of the weirdest methods of hardening is :- 

 

"There are many underhanded ways of making your conker harder. The best is to pass it through a pig. The conker will harden by soaking in its stomach juices. Then you search through the pig's waste to find the conker.â€

 

No photos of this method.

 

 

 

 

Hmmm ....

 

Maybe David Cameron is the best to ask about that method. I believe his own 'conkers' received much the same treatment! :D

Edited by webtrekker
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I knew we could rely on the old wise owl again for conker enlightenment!

 

We used to put our conks in the airing cupboard to dry out and become harder but you eventually came up against one that would beat you.  The string was also an important element ... the only stuff that seemed to be readily available snapped fairly easily so we used boot laces which because they were plaited never broke.

 

In the Karting Club run by Edgar 'Taffy' Williams at Westridge School we used to make the kart seats out of fibreglass;  the various resins came in blue gallon cans (I still remember the name of the supplier - Trylon) and when mixed with the catalyst would go 'rock' hard.  My Mum was a great home baker who had one of those icing syringe sets which I 'borrowed' and filled with some of resin during a club session in the school workshop and then injected a hollowed-out conk to fill the void.  When the stuff set a hole was drilled (on Taffy's drilling machine) through the conk for the lace ... and a champion was born.

 

My Mum never did find out what happened to her icing syringe ... all clagged-up with resin residue and dumped in the workshop bin.

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