Thursday, 6 December 2018


HI all,
My woodworking output is very poor at the moment. It is too cold in the workshop even though I purchased an oil filled radiator. The radiator is okay, perhaps not as warm as I would have liked, but it is slow to warm up, so if I am going into the workshop I need to switch it on about a hour before I go in there and stay for a couple of hours to make it worthwhile. The problem is, like everybody else I am very busy at this time of year so can only snatch small chunks of time for crafting. Having said that, I have managed to finish the carving of a fridge magnet Santa.
He looks quite good and doesn't suffer from the flat face that my other carvings have suffered from. I'm giving it to my wife for an extra Christmas present so I hope she likes it.

So my main creative time at the moment is going into drawing. I manage to snatch a couple of hours each evening before settling down in front of that hopeless little box in the corner. I started pencil drawing last winter and did some roses that I was quite happy with.

These are the roses that I did last year. The only issue I have with them now is that they were drawn with a plain white background and they look incomplete. So I am now experimenting with a dark background which I think gives an image a bit more character.

Here is the first of a series of pencil drawings of climbing plants. This one is a clematis, Montana growing on a trellis and was based on a photograph taken in our back garden.
I'm not sure if it is better than the roses but I think it is more realistic. I would love to know what you think about the two images. Which do you like best?

Besides the background colour there is also another difference and that is in the paper. The rose picture was drawn on Bristol board paper, which is very smooth and incredibly nice to draw on.
The clematis drawing was completed on Archie's hot pressed paper, which although smooth does have a bit of tooth. The reason for choosing the Arches paper was because I wanted a really dark background and after a few tests I found that it was possible to get a much darker black on the Arches than it was on the Bristol board.

Having finished the image I now realise the darkness came at a price. Because the paper has more tooth it does look more grainy and I'm not sure I like that.

My intentions are to do a series of 3 drawings with the theme of flowers growing on a trellis so I will use the Archie's paper for the next 2 to give the series some continuity. However, when they are complete I will probably go back to the Bristol board with some carbon pencil which should give me a darker finish.

In my next post I hope to be able to show you the second flower in this series complete and in its frame.

One really important tip I would give anybody who is is thinking of having a go at drawning. Please don't use cheap sketch pads or paper from your computer. The pads they sell in shops for sketching, are in my opinion, just not good enough for proper drawing. Give yourself half a chance and get a small Bristol board pad for about a fiver. That way you may find that drawing isn't so difficult after all.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Desk Pen

Hi all,
I managed to get into the workshop and turn the desk pen set I was making. Not only that, I also managed to do some pyrography on it and paint it.

Here it is in all its glory.
The pen is just short of 10 inches long but it really makes a statement.
I turned it from lime wood using three lots of tubes to give it some rigidity. The joints are obviously under the first three round bulges. The black line that has been burnt in, hides the joints.

I used the index facility on my lathe to allow me to produce a symmetrical pattern. It was then just a matter of carefully burning in the pattern with my pyrography iron. I used a spoon tip which is ideal for burning lines on curved surfaces like a pen.

Here's another picture.

In this picture you can see that the pen is powered by an humble Biro and that might be a disappointment to some people, but to me it makes sense.

The advantages of using a Biro are as follows.
The reliability of the Biro is amazing, the company has been making pens for years so they are very reliable. If it runs out of ink, all I have to do is take one from another Biro, so it couldn't be simper or cheaper.

 The other issue is that I have made a lot of kit pens, given a few away and have lots of others dotted about my house. Unfortunately, I have to report that a few of the kit pens have stopped working because the mechanisms have packed up. I probably got them from the wrong supplier and because I used several I don't know which ones gave up the ghost. Anyway, I have lost confidence in pen kits and I'm just pleased that I only ever sold one.

Not sure what I am going to do next, but please watch this space. Any comments on the pen are welcome.

Just one last thing, one of my fish books, "Learn From The Tips And Laugh At the Tales"

will be available for a free download from the 27th of November until the 1st of December. To go straight to amazon for the download please click here.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Another Santa

Hi All,
I thought I'd be showing you my latest woodturning in this post, but I'm afraid I haven't quite finished it yet. I've done the actual pen but it seems a shame to show you that without its base. I will endeavour to get it done in the next few days because I can't wait to show it off.

In the meanwhile, I've had a go at carving some faces that are not flat. I want to do a special Santa Clause for my wife for Christmas, so I need to get some practise in.

Here's arandom face I did to improve the shape.
It's a bit rough but I was more concerned about the shape than the actual finish. It's a bit bigger than my usual whittles so the next thing to do was something small. And, seeing as the whole exercise is based around Santa, I thought I try another small one and make it into a fridge magnet. My wife can have that at Christmas too as a little surprise.

He's not painted yet or finished good enough for my painting plans, but at least the shape is there. I especially like the hat.

Doing these quick carvings can be enlightening because although he is pretty good, I can see plenty of room for improvement. Here are a few things I don't like.
1 His nose is too big.
2 He looks a bit grumpy. (perhaps because his nose is too big)
3 The gap between the bottom of his moustache and his nose is fraction too wide.
4 His forehead is slightly too big.
5 His face is too long, Santa has a round chubby face.

Anyway, I'll give him a bit of paint and I'll show you the finished item in my next post.

The next thing I need to do is make a model of the Santa I intend to do for my wife. I will make one out of plasticine and then I can get on with the carving process. It's only about 5 weeks to Crimbo so I need to get on with it. I also have feeling that the weather is going to get much colder so I will be spending less time in the workshop. I have just remebered that I said I'd do a review on the oil fill radiator that I've recently purchased, well, it's beens so mild I haven't used it yet. Perhaps next week.

Anyway, we haven't had a bad winter so far so let's hope it continues. The last thing we need is another beast from the East like we had last year.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Wooden Vase

Hi all,
At last I managed to do a bit of woodturning, nothing very big but at least I produced something. Here it is.
Like I said it's not very big, approximately 6 inches tall. It is a new shape to me and I think it looks quite elegant. I'm afraid the picture doesn't do the wood justice but in real life the grain really pops. I know some of you will want to know what species of wood it is turned from but I' afraid I don't know. I purchased the wood some time ago and the bit with the label got cut off when I used it on another project.

This vase is the first of  several vases of a similar size that I'm doing for a display cupboard to heat my wife purchased recently. My plan is to turn vases of various shape, using various wood and I might even do some inlay work on some of them. It's nice to have a list of things in the pipeline, because it avoids procrastination. Having purchased an oil filled radiator to keep my workshop warm this winter I will have plenty of stuff to get stuck into.

Talking of heaters, I did say I would do a review on the heater mentioned above, but to be honest, I haven't used it yet because the temperature has gone up. As soon as we have another cold snap I will do the review.

On the lathe at the moment I have a long pen, (10 inches).

I'm still not sure what method of decoration to use on it. It might be pyrography, but there again it might be colour. I hope to put the finish pen up on my next post so we will see.

Last  but not least, I have reduced the price of one of my paperback books. It is the first one in the Fishing Detectives series and is called "Carp Rustlers". It's a fun book and you don't even need to be an angler to enjoy it. Here is the link if you are interested.

In my next post I should also have a bit of carving to show you, hopefully I will have solved the flat face problem.

If you want to see more of my stuff, woodturning, woodcarving, pyrography or art please take a look at my website by clicking here.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Father Christmas

Hi all,
I managed to finish the carving of the Santa shelfie and gave it to my wife to paint. Here is the finished article.
Front view
He looks pretty good from that angle even though I do say it myself. However, the side view isn't quite so clever. The sack is alright but the face lets it down again.
The problem is that once again I have carved a flat face. I know I've said it before, but a flat face is the trade mark of a novice carver. The mitt, the boots and the rest are okay, but the face lets it down. The strange thing is, I carved a really nice Santa face on a piece of scrap wood for practise, so I thought I'd got it sorted. To be honest, I think the problem arose because I put the face too far back on the body which didn't allow me to take off enough wood on the face.

Well that's my excuse we'll see what the next one come out like.

I said I was going to turn a vase and I've got one on my lathe, but it is so cold in the workshop I've abandoned the project in the short term. To resolve the situation, I've ordered an oil filled radiator and when that comes I'm hoping my workshop will be toasty. I will do a review on it when I've got it running because I know a lot of people have trouble with cold workshops at this time of the year.

I hate the cold weather so here is a clip to a nice warming video of my garden which I filmed earlier this year.

Thursday, 25 October 2018


Hi all,
In my last post I showed you the model of Shelfie Santa thatI had made from Plasticine to aid with the carving of one from wood. It has been a bit of a long haul, but today I finished most of the carving.
I've still got to texture his beard with a vainer and the wife is going to paint it. Overall, I'm very pleased with how it has gone even though it was hard work. I started with a square piece of lime wood and due to the odd shape I had to remove a lot of material.

Here is a picture of the Plasticine model and the carving side by side.
The only thing I don't like about the carving is that the face came out a bit flat. This apparently is the hall mark of a novice carver so I'm running true to type.

I have done several carving now and I'm quiet surprised to find that I enjoy carving with a knife, more enjoyable than power carving. I do use a Dremel in a flexi-shaft for a bit of sanding and, tidying up with diamond burrs, but I prefer not to use burrs for major material removal. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I don't feel as I have half as much control when using the burrs and secondly. there is something deeply satisfying about removing wood with a knife. Perhaps it is just instinct, or an urge from our predecessors when a knife was used for many thing, not least survival.

The biggest problem with knife carving for me is that if I do it for too long my wrist begins to ache so I have to limit my carving to about a hour a day. No matter there are plenty of other things to get on with that keep my creative juices flowing.

While I was resting from the Santa, I was doing another egg for my collection. This one is meant to be a bit like cherry blossom. I drew the flowers and leaves on by hand and then outlined them with my pyrography iron using a spoon tip. Then I painted the flowers using Derwent Intense blocks. I used Inktense because they have a brilliant range of colours and when they dry they are permanent.

After the painting, I gave it several coats of melamine lacquer to protect it and give it a bit of shine.

Just a reminder, if you want to see more of my creative work, which includes, woodturning, woodcarving, pyrography and artwork, please visit my website and take a look at the galleries.

Not sure what will be in my next post yet, but I feel the need to spin some wood so it might be a vase.

Thursday, 18 October 2018


Hi all,
I haven't done much turning lately due to a succession of jobs that the wife wanted me to do, including the sighting of a freestanding cooker, but more about that later.

First I would like to show you my new shelfie.
I carved it from lime and allowed my wife the pleasure of painting it. She did a good job eventually. I say eventually, because her first attempt was dire. She did it in dark green and red which made it look glum. I had to sand all the paint off and let her do it again. Anyway, all is well that ends well and it now looks very nice in the bathroom.

My next carving is going to be a Santa shelfie but I have a feeling it is going to take quite a while to do it. I've gone as far as making a model from Plasticine.
If you are thinking of doing any carving I can tell you that making a little model is invaluable.

I've also got it in my mind to turn another long desk pen that I have just started so I will show you that in my next post as long as my wife doesn't come up with too many jobs.

Last week saw me fitting a new freestanding cooker. The old one was built in with a separate hob which meant that I had to cut the work surface. I didn't fancy the task one bit but had no choice because the electrician, who was disconnection the supply to the old cooker and wiring up the new one, said he didn't cut work surfaces in case something went wrong.

The jig saw that came with my second wife 25 years ago didn't look like it was going to do a good job of cutting a straight line so I shelled out £40 for one from Screwfix . It said it had a laser light for accurate cutting, I thought this was just a gimmick but it worked well beyond my expectations and the job was a success. The only sad part was the fact that I purchased 2 metal strips to go on the ends of the work surface between cooker and the work surface. I paid £8 each for them from B&Q which I thought was a bit steep for a very thin piece of metal.

Anyway, I cut them to length, smeared them with a bit of sealant and screwed them on. I then found out that the gap where the cooker was going was now too narrow to accept it. I do wish designers would get their act together. The cabinet carcass I took out was 600mm wide and the cooker I purchase was 600mm wide which meant there was no space between for the metal strips which were only 1mm thick. If I was designing a cooker to fit in a 600mm gap I would make it 595mm wide to give the customer a couple on mm to play with.

Ha well, it's in now. If anybody wants to buy a couple of work surface endstrips in black, please let me know.

Lastly, I just want to let you know that I have revamped my website. It was very confusing before and now I have made it better. It is now easy to find pictures of my work in galleries. If you go there you will find galleries for my woodturnings, pyrography, artwork and carvings. Here's the link please take a look an let me know what you think.