Sunday, 14 January 2018

Earings and Pendant

Hi all,
The weather is still grey and cold and my workshop is still colder than a penguin's pecker. I haven't turned a stick since Christmas and I'm getting lathe withdrawal symptoms. I promised to show you a few of the jewelry items that I turned for my wife's surprise Christmas presents so I will do that shortly. However, before that I'll show you what I've been doing indoors to keep myself sane.

Some of you may already be aware that I like doing a bit artwork. Not that I'm good at it, but it keeps me happy and in the warm. I'm trying to improve my skills by doing a bit of a sketch everyday and here is one of the first that I have done.
It's a goldfinch painted using Winsor and  Newton water colour markers. I hadn't used watercolour markers before, and to be honest, I couldn't understand why anybody would use them instead of traditional watercolour paint. My wife gave me a a set of 12 for Xmas so I had to give them a go. Actually, I was quite surprised at how easy they are to use and so very convenient, especial if like me, you have a shortage of working space. All you have to do is put a bit of colour down and then blend it in with a waterbrush. They work like magic and I'm very pleased with them,

The reason I did a bird was, (if ever the weather warms up) I'm going to have a go at carving a bird out of wood, so I thought that drawing one or two would give me a feel for the shape when the time comes to get my knife out.

Right, back to the jewelry I made my with for Christmas. The first is a pair of earring, turned from a piece of sapele and burnt with a wire.
They came out quite nice although I did have trouble with the CA glue finish. I had to revert to friction polish to get a good shine.

The next thing I made was a pendant, which the photograph below fails to show properly.

Although it doesn't look like it on the picture, I can assure you that it is perfectly smooth with a CA finish that came out like glass. It is a really nice thing and just goes to show what can be turned by sticking a couple of pieces of 6mm plywood together.

I'll save the other two pair of earrings for my next post because I've seen this weeks weather forecast and it's going to be another cold one. Roll on Spring and I might be able to get some more turning done.

Sunday, 7 January 2018


Hi all,
Christmas is well and truely behind us now, where the hell did those two weeks go? It only seems like a few minutes ago that I was beavering away trying to get some surprise presents turned for my wife.

So what did I make her? Well, her main present was a box with a surprise inside. Here is athe outside of the box which is turned from a 3 inch square of lime. I carved the heart and then textured around it with my pyrography iron using a stippling method. Here's the top view. I know I'm an old romantic, but what can I do.
Inside I wanted to give her a surprise, so here it is.
A bumble bee in a box. You don't see many of those about. The bee is turned and carved from lime. It has wire for legs and wings made from a plastic tomato box. He is resting on the centre portion, or seed head of the poppy and he is well and truely fixed with epoxy glue, so he won't be coming out in a hurry.

I think it is a reasonable try for my first attempt. I might do another and make the bee smaller and more refined, but that will have to wait until I have some time and the weather warms up a bit. At the moment my workshop is colder than a penguin's pecker so I'm not getting anything done.

By the way, I was worried that when my wife opened the box that she might get a shock and chuck the thing up in the air, but she didn't. In fact she was quite overcome at the efforts that I'd gone to for her and it bought a tear to her eyes.

I did also make a few bits of  wooden jewelry for her and I'll show you them in may next post because if the weather doesn't improve I won't have anything new to show you..

I leave you with another picture of the bee in a box.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Pyrography box

Hi all,
At last the weather warmed up enough for me to get into the workshop. I still had to have one bar on the electric fire, but at least I could manage some turning.

Here is the lidded box that I said I was going to make in my last post.
It is turned from a 3inch square piece of lime. I use lime because it is a light coloured wood that shows up the pyrography and it is easy to carve. After turning it I drew the flowers on the lid and then carved out all of the wood around them. I also did some shallow carving on the flowers to give the petals a fluted look. This stops them looking flat and helps the light bounce off the paint.

After carving the flowers, I burnt around them with my pyrography iron using a spoon tip. I then changed the tip to a wire point and burnt the large black areas between the flowers. For the paint. I raided my wife's craft cave and used some paints called "Sparkling H2Os" I used a white and pink and they came out very nice.

I then burnt a textured line around the sides of the main box before giving the whole thing several coats of  Chestnut's melamine spray gloss finish.

The box now sit alongside its little brother on the mantelpiece
Here is a picture taken from above. Here is a reminder of what its little brother looks like.
In the new year I'm going to do another piece in the same style to make up a trio, so please what this space to see how it comes out.

Currently, I am working on Christmas stuff which I can't show on here yet in case the intended recipients see it. I will take pictures when they are done and post them on here after the big day.

Anyway, I doubt that I will be posting again before Christmas so please let me take this opportunity to wish you well, I hope you have a merry but peaceful time and Christmas lives up to its promise for you.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Turned carved and burnt

Hi All,
I've given up carving the netsuke, not because I didn't enjoy the process or the results, but because it is so time consuming when I've lots of other projects I want to get on with.

The first of these projects was a little pot. The inspiration came from a small ceramic lidded pot that I found in a junk shop. It was only about 2 inches (50mm) tall but I just loved the shape. Anyway, I purchased the pot for £1.50 and took it home for reference.

Here is a picture of the pot after I'd turned it and you can see the flower design that I have burnt in with my pyrography iron .
Please note that the funny shape at the bottom of the pot is just for mounting it in the chuck and will be cut off when I'm happy with the pot. I have left it on for two reasons. Firstly in case I need to put the pot back onto the lathe and secondly it provides an nice handle for the carving work that will come next.

Here I have relief carved around the flowers to make them stick out in the final piece.
You will also notice the two black line that I have burnt around the pot to give a clean and neat border to the carving and the pyrography texture that I will do later.

In this picture you can see the texturing I have done with my pyrography iron and if you look really closely you will see that the petals of the flowers have also been carved.

Once all the carving and texturing was done, I painted the flowers and finish it off with a melamine spray.
Here is the finished pot complete with lid and a coin to give it a bit of scale.
I hope you like it, I thoroughly enjoyed making it and think it looks great sitting on my mantelpiece. The only problem is that it look a little lonely so I'm going to make it a companion. I like to have a decent idea about what I'm going to do so I have done this drawing of the lid of the box to give me a guide.
Now all I've got to do is turn it, carve it, burn it and paint it. If you would like to see how I get on please watch out for my next post. If you have any questions about this post or any others I will be pleased to help.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Wild Boar

Hi all,
This post is about my second, and probably last, netsuke carving. It is a carving of a wild boar, he doesn't look that wild I know, but that's because he is sleeping at the side of the river under a bunch of reeds. Things are much easier to carve when they are sleeping.

It is carved from lime wood, which is very similar to bass wood that is often used for carving in the USA.

Without further ado here is picture one.
I think he is kind cute, definitely better than Clarence the cross eyed crane from my last post.
Here is the other side.
I cheated a bit on the lines that are supposed to be the hairs. The book said to carve them with a "V" tool but my patience was running out so I did the hairs with my pyrography iron. Not brilliant but far better than I would have managed with a gouge and black ink.

Here is the view from the front.
Here is picture of the rear.
And finally, a picture of the underneath.
So there you have it. I did almost give up with it about half way through, but just like Earnest Shackleton I battled on. I'm pleased that I finished it but I won't be doing another, not carved out of wood at any rate. I have been dallying with the idea of making one in polymer clay and if I do you will be the first to see it.

If you fancy having a go at carving a netsuke, I would encourage you to have a go, it is well worth the experience. Even though I won't be carving any more, I learned a lot from doing the carving and I'm sure that it will help me when doing something a bit bigger.

In my next post I will show you the small pot I turned recently. It has some nice pyrography on it and
I'm so pleased with it I'm currently doing another using the same theme. If I get it finished I will let you see them both.

My biggest problem at the moment is the cold, It's as cold as a polar bear's mit in my workshop. I've tried heating it with two bars on an electric fire but it isn't very effective and it's playintg havoc with my wallet. I wish I could find a nice creative hobby that I can do whilst sitting in my armchair in the warm. Just for the winter of course, I have loads of stuff I want to turn and carve when the weather warms up again. That's it for now, I you have any suggestion for a creative hobby that can be done from the comfort of my armcahir please let me know.

Thursday, 23 November 2017


Hi all,
I promised you in my last post that I would show you a picture of my first attempt at carving a netsuke. It took quite along while to carve it, but I finally got it done.

The netsuke is carved from lime wood, which is used by carvers because it is relatively soft for a hardwood, has a close grain and no knots. It depicts a crane with poppy out eyes guarding its egg, which it is clutching in one of its claws.
I think it came out okay.
Here it is from the other side.
I tried to get a bit of detail into the feathers, but left the top plain to give it that smooth tactile feel.

Here it is from one end.
The eyes let it down a bit. Firstly, they aren't level but also they just aren't very good. I think I will call this netsuke, Clarence the cross eyed crane.
According to the excellent book from which I was taking my instructions, the whites should have been done with faux ivory and the black bit in the centre should have been done with a bit of ram's horn. Anyway, seeing has I'm fresh out of both of these commodities, I decided to use Milliput epoxy putty and, although the product is very good, I failed to execute the eye making operation with any decent level of skill.

Here is view from the neck end.
Yes. those eyes definitely spoil it.
On the plus side, it gave me a good opportunity to have a go at carving, which I've always wanted to do. Working small gives one a real insight into the skills that are required and by comparison something a tad bigger should be easier.
The last view is of the underside. I didn't bother putting in the holes that should be there for the toggles because it will never be used as a netsuke.
I've signed it Sam, because that is what my wife calls me and George would be too big.
I think my biggest disappointment with the outcome of the netsuke is the lack of weight. I expected it feel good in the hand but being so light it doesn't amount to much. I made one a couple of years ago out of polymer clay and that felt much better and was far quicker to do.

Would I do another?
Well the answer to that is yes, but just one. I am currently doing the next exercise in the book and I'm about 75% done. So far I guess I've invested about 15 hours in it and that is far too long. I will finish it and let you have a look but after that I'm moving on to slightly bigger things. Please check out my next post to see how I get on.

Just one last thing. I am giving away free downloads of one of my books at the moment. It's called "A Staffordshire Boy" and is available free on Amazon until the 24th of November. To get a copy just click on the "book's" tab at the top of the page and then onto the book's cover and it will take you straight to Amazon for your free copy. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, 11 November 2017


Hi all,
 I mentioned in my last post that I was going to have a go a wood carving. Well I've constructed a workstation with dust extraction and I've purchased 4 gouges /chisels and whittling knife, so I'm all ready to go. In fact, I have made a start but the going is very slow. I thought I'd begin small so I've started carving a netsuke and carvings don't come much small than that.

For those who don't know, netsukes are small toggles used to grip a cord that is attached to  the belt of a Japanese kimono. Kimonos don't have pockets, so the Japenese would carry their tobacco and money etc in a pouch that was attached to a belt via a netsuke. Netsuke go back hundreds of years and the carving of them has become very fine, they are also very collectable.

Anyway, I've made a start and I will show you my first finished netsuke in my next post. One of the interesting things that came from the netsuke carving book that I am reading is a technique called ukibori. If you google it you will find out what it is all about. Briefly, it is a method used to raise bumps on wood. If you were carving a toad and wanted to depict the bumpy texture of its skin, it would be impossible to do it by standard carving methods, so this is how the Japanese netsuke carvers did it.

A small metal rod with a ball shaped end is pushed hard into the wood wherever a bump is required. This leaves a dimple in the wood. Next, the wood is turned down so that it is level with the bottom of the dimple. Then, hot water is brushed onto the area and the dimples expand and become bumps, just like magic.

I had a thought that the method could be used to put a ring of bumps around a pen to provide a nice grip. So I had a practice on a piece of lime to see if it worked.
It was dificult to photograph but I think the ukibori lumps are clearly visible. Anyway, it didn't take long and I turned a pen using olive wood and used the same method to create some bumps,
Heres the pen.
Its a great looking pen but unfortunatly there isn't a bump to be seen. A bit of a failed exercise and I can only assume that the ukibori method works bettter on some wood than it does on others. I will try it again one day with a different spieces of wood.

The other thing I had quick go at was a pair of stud earings, just to see if I could do them. I turned them from the left overs of  a black palmeria pen blank.
The black dots in the end grain of the black palmiria give them a look of leopard skin and I quite like them. They were so quick to do I did some more in ebony and another pair in walnut. I 'd like to do some more but I've got lots of other stuff I want to do, including finishing my first netsuke which I  will show in my next post. Any questions or comments, please fire away.