Sunday, 18 June 2017


Hi all,
Sorry that there haven't been any posts recently. The reason is that my computer decided it had had enough and did a terminal crash. New one coming on Thursday so normal service will resume as soon as I get it running.

I am doing this post on my kindle and it is a bit tedious.
Hopefully things will be back to normal soon.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Something Fishy

Hi all,
I have mentioned before that once I get an idea for a project I tend to draw it. Firstly, because I'm at that age where my brains cells are not at their peak, therefore I can forget any inspiration that comes my way in a flash. The other reasons I like to draw my ideas is to see what they would look like on the object I and doing and for a little practise in drawing the chosen subject.

Anyway, I had this idea to turn a small lidded box from lime wood and decorate it with a shoal of small fish. Here is my drawing, which I did to see how it would look. The box would have an inserted lid with a knob, so that the view from the side would be uninterrupted.
The waving reeds would be draw at an angle to give the impression that the fish are swimming against the current. I was pleased with the drawing, so after turning the box and lid it was time to set about the pyrography.

A problem soon arose; there are fifteen fish swimming around the side of the pot and, because it was supposed to be a shoal of fish, they would all need to look pretty similar in shape and size.To do this by drawing them onto a curved surface was not a good idea because of the difficulty it would involve.

So I took the easy way out and made a fish shaped brand out of some Nichrome wire.  It only needed to be the outline of the fish because I could easily put the fins on after. To make the brand, I drew a fish shape on a piece of cardboard then cellotaped it to a piece of wood. Then I knocked nails in on the corners to give me something to shape the wire around.
Here's a pic.
Once the brand was made, I screwed it into my Peter Childs pyrography pen and it looked like this.
Then I did a few test burns on a piece of scrap wood and modified the shape a little to fit the curved shape of the box that I'd turned.
So that was it, I then used the brand to randomly burn fish onto the box. It was quite satisfying, not only because it was saving me time, but it made me feel like I was a cowboy branding young steers somewhere in Wyhoming. Thoughts of Bonanaza, Waggon Train and Rawhide filled my mind.
 After the branding, I did the fins, then the reeds and the gravel bottom. This is how it looked.
Nice enough, but I wanted to give it a bit more contrast so that the fish popped out. So I burnt in the background which was by turns both tedious and therapeutic. Here is the finished pot, your comments are welcome.

By the way, if you are interested in fishing. One of my books, "Carp Rustlers"

is available for a free download from today, 7th of April until the 9th. Please grab a copy and have a laugh.

Friday, 2 June 2017

The Gift

Hi all,
Recently, I have been turning a few bigger things. Nothing gigantic, manly bowls that were much bigger than lidded boxes and pens. The most recent larger thing I made was a t light holder, which I made for my half brother from Finland. I am giving it him tomorrow when he leaves to return to his family in Helsinki, so he hasn't seen it yet. However, I'm sure he'll like it because it will come in handy on those days in the winter when, in his neck of the woods,  it virtually stays dark all day and he'd have a job to spot a moose in his own garden.

For the pyrography decoration I drew an oak leaf onto some paper and then transferred it to the wood using "tracedown" paper. If you haven't tried this product yet, I can highly recommend it. I wanted to keep the pattern simple and I think I have achieved that. The pyrography work was all done with a Peter Childs machine, which as usual, was equipped with a spoon tip.
Here's a couple of pictures.
The profile of the project didn't quite come out as I wanted it because it should have had more of an ogee shape.
I couldn't manage the ogee shape because the base part was too wide and that was caused by me choosing the large jaws for my chuck instead of the medium ones. Anyway, I was too damn lazy to change the jaws so I had to compromise on the shape. The things is, I reconciled my lazyness by telling myself that the wider bottom would be safer because it would be more stable. The last thing I would need was a phone call from Finland saying he'd knocked my t light holder over and burnt his log cabin to the ground.

I enjoyed turning this item and I enjoyed the simple pyrography, but I didn't like the dust that it created. So I am beginning to understand what type of item I like turning. My favourites are pens, but I have had to slow down on production because I'm getting over run with them. I did open a shop on, but their search facility doesn't work well with the items I was selling. The statistics for my shop showed that I was getting less than one visitor a week, if that's possible. So that enterprise was not a roaring success and I shall just let it wind down until all my listings have expired. I'm still wondering if it worth having a go on which also deals with handmade goods, I will let you know if I go down that route.

Anyway, I have discovered that I have leaning towards turning small items and in my next post I will show you the smallest thing I have turned so far. My wife thinks it's cute and I guess she right.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Pear

Hi All,
My wife does a bit of pyrography from time to time and just recently she took interest in doing it on some gourds after seeing some examples on the Internet. For those who are not sure what a gourd is, it is a strangely shaped member of the squash family, which can be dried our after contents have been removed. This provides an hard shell upon which many types of art can be applied, including pyrography. However, there is one big problem regarding gourds in the UK they rarer than having two sunny bank holidays on the trot.

Have you ever noticed how much arty crafty stuff is easily available in the USA. Well it's the same with gourds, they are easy to come by at farm shops and the like over the pond. Anyway, after realising that it was futile to carry on trying locate a supply of gourds in the UK, my wife gave me a commission. "You can turn one for me from wood," she said, "make it roughly the shape of a big pear."

Well I did has requested and turned a piece of 75mm square of lime wood into a big pear. Upon this my wife did a pyrography design and commenced burning it in.

Here it is, the finished gourdy pear thing.
It came out quite good despite my wife's complaint that the shape was all wrong. "it's too big at the top," she said, "pears don't look like that."

"It's no supposed to be a pear," I said, "its a gourd made from wood shaped roughly like a pear."

I don't know if it not being the exact shape she wanted had a bearing on the situation, but after she got about a third of the way through the pyrography, she decided she'd had enough and was ready to toss it in the bin.

"I'll finish it off," I declared, not wanting to see my lovely piece of lime wood going to waste. When it was finished my wife decided it was good enough to go on a shelf in a lounge, but there was a catch because she had another request. "I want you to make a bit of stalk to stick out of the top and then it will look like a proper pear," she said. "I thought it was supposed to look like a gourd," I replied, but then she gave me that look, No need for more word, I'll just make a stalk.

By the way, one on my books can be downloaded free from a amazon, until and including Friday 19th of May.
Just go to the books tab at the top of the page, click on the cover and you will go straight to amazon for the free download.

If you fancy having a go at the pear, please feel free to use the design above. I would love to see how you get on and a picture would be nice.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Stained Pen

Hi all,
 I was very pleased with the needle pot that I recently made. The turning was nice enough, but the finish with the coloured stains really gave the project a lift. Here's a picture of the pot for those who didn't see it.
The stains I used were from the Chestnut sample range and I think it came out very nice. In fact, I became so excited about the colouring that I decided to see if it could be done on a pen.

I chose a Zeta pen kit from Taylors Mirfield because they supply top quality kits and I wanted to do the colouring justice. The wood I used for the blank was maple, which gave a nice light base colour for the stains to sit on. The turning went well and I sanded it through to 2000 grit and applied sanding sealer just like I did for the needle pot.

So far so good, but a sack load of crap was waiting around the corner. To apply the stains I rolled up some kitchen towel and taped it around the middle so that it looked something like a short pencil. I made several of these, one for each colour.

Anyway, I applied the stains as I had done before, working very quickly and to my horror the whole lot just turned into a brown muddy mess. I tried wiping some stain off and then applying some more but it just got worse. The whole thing was a bloody mess and if that wasn't bad enough, in my panic to sort it out, I knocked a bottle of orange stain all over my bench. More panic set in and I grabbed some kitchen towel to mop it up. Of course at this point I wasn't wearing any gloves and orange stain went all over my hands. It seeped behind my nails and went everywhere. I grabbed more kitchen towel and some methylated spirits to try and clean it off but all I manged to do was dilute it. Me and the work shop looked like we'd just been Tangoed

Anyway, after cleaning up the mess I'd made, I sanded the mucky stain off the pen and did it all over again, Only this time, I did it slowly and applied much less stain with each colour.
Here's the pen.
I think it looks great and I learned a lot from my mistakes. The first lesson was, when applying stains do it slowly and methodically and do not saturate the project.
The second lesson was, put the caps back on each bottle after applying each colour so that there will be no spillages. Lastly, always wear gloves when messing with stains.

My wife has asked me to turn a pear for her next so that she can do some pyrography on it. I will show you that in my next post.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Coloured Needle Pot

Hi all, I have been watching a lot of woodturning on You Tube recently and was amazed by a video by a Scottish woodturner called Gary Lowe. It wasn't the actual woodturning that caught my eye, but the result that he got from using wood stains. If you have ever tried using wood stains you will know that they are a a difficult medium to use, especially if you are mixing colours.

Anyway, Gary amazed me with the finish he got on his project, which was as delightful as the best Moorcroft pot I've ever seen. Here is a link to the video, it is about 20 minutes long but worth every minute.

After I'd seen the video I decided to try out what he'd explained on a small project, one that I hadn't invested much time in, so if it went tits up, which some of my projects are apt to do, I hadn't wasted too much time.

So, I turned a small needle pot and sanded it within an inch of its life. Before starting this project my finest sandpaper was 600 grit, which is a bit like the stuff you put in the bottom of a budgie's cage when compare with the 2000 grit I was about to used. I think the fine sanding is one of the key points to make the colouring a success, so if you want to have a go, persevere and make that wood shine like a mirror. Go through all the grits all the way to 2000 and don't miss any out.

The second key point is the use of sanding sealer. After sanding, give it a coat of sanding sealer then give it rub down with some 2000 grit, and then give it another coat of sanding sealer. Now, some of you may be thinking that wood stain should be put on before the sanding sealer, and indeed, that is what it says on the instructions for the stains. The reason for this is that under normal circumstances you want the stain to be absorbed and sink into the wood. However, in this project, we require the stains to lie on the top on the sealer to allow each colour to be blended with the next.

Here is my finished pot.
I used  stains from the Chestnut sample range and applied them with a small pieces of scrunched up kitchen towel. A fresh piece for each colour and to hell with the cost. They were applied in this sequence.
The idea is to dab them on and let them mingle together. You need to work quickly and methodically and not get the whole thing too wet. If you do get it too wet all the colours will mix together and you will finish up with a brown pot. Ask any artist and he will tell you the easiest way to mix brown is to just add a lot of different colours together. Those of you who are old enough to remember, Plastacine (a modelling clay) will recall that when a lot of colours were mixed together the result was brown and that is the colour that most kids finished up with in their Plastacine box.

After the colours had dried I finished the pot with several coats of high gloss melamine lacquer and it came out really well.

Having been successful with this pot I thought I'd try out my new technique on a pen but that certainly didn't go to plan. I will tell you about that episode in my next post. and give you my thoughts on using melamine lacquer for a finish.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Colouring Pyrography

Hi all,
Adding colour to pyrography is not something that all pyrographers agree with. Some say it spoils the whole concept of pyrography while others see it in a different light. It is the same with wood turners. While some purists only like wood finishes that show off the grain, there are others who like a bit of colour.

To be honest I'm not bothered either way, I certainly would put colour on wood just for the sake of it, but there are times when it can bring a piece to life. So, such was my dilemma when I recently turned a "T" light holder. It looked pretty good just with the pyrography on it, but I was desperate to colour something with the airbrush that I had for my birthday.

Anyway, the need to colour won and I gave the leaves a quick spray of yellow and another of orange to represent autumnal leaves. I didn't have to mask the leaves off because the stains I used came out of the airbrush in a very fine mist so they could not be seen on the dark pyrography background.

Here it is with the colouring on.
My wife preferred it with out the colour and so did a few members of the Pen turners forum
I'm on the fence, I liked them both, but in my mind, if you don't try anything new you will stay ver much stuck in the rut you started off in.

Just a word on the finishing of this piece. I used a high gloss melamine spray and although it does put a shine on the wood. Be warned, it needs to be used with a safety uppermost in you mind. The vapours are very strong so only use in a really well ventilated room, outside would be even better, and wear a mask that is rated for fumes. The mask you use for dust will be about as much use as tits on a bull.

In actual fact, I don't like using spray finishes at all, but it is the only way to get a seal over the colouring that would otherwise wipe off if a normal wax finish was used. I am going to invest in a can of wipe on melamine finish so that I can use the spray just to seal my work with one coat and any susequent coats will be the wipe on stuff.

Anyway, at the moment I seem to have got the colour bug and in my next post I will show you my next project which involves 6 different colours.

If you have any questions or comments they are all welcome