Saturday, 15 October 2016

More pens

Hi all, I'm still doing pens. Well I purchased 12 wooden pen blanks when I got the pen turning mandrel, so I've got six more in the pipe line before I need to hunt out some more blanks.

The fifth pen I did was from a piece of purple heart. This is a strange wood, because although the wood was coloured purple when I did the turning, when I polished it the colour changed to brown. This was a shame because I like rather liked purple colour. I had seen a couple of videos on youtube where the presenter showed how it was possible to get the colour back by attacking it with a blow torch. Anyway, I didn't think it was worth the risk of putting the pen to the mercy of the blow torch's flame and decided to leave it alone. I'm glad I did because a couple of days later the brown faded to purple again.
The next one I did was a bit plain. The wood was sycamore and although it didn't look stunning it gave me a chance to practice my technique. I also acquired five more pen kits with chrome trimmings as can be seen in the pic.
After that I did another one in maple. This is another plain wood so I did some pyrography on it with the idea of colouring in the pattern with wood dy.e I did jut that and it looked quite amazing, a bit like a stained glass window.
I guess you will have to take my word for how good it looked because as you can see, the dye came off when I polished it. My own mistake, I used sanding sealer before putting the dye on so it didn't get chance to be absorbed into the wood. The rule, is dye first then sanding sealer. I will try again soon and see if I can get it right.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Pen Turning

Hi all,
today's post is about something completely different. Those of you who have been following my progress will know that I started off doing some pyrography, but finding that the sort of wooden blank I required was getting more and more difficult to purchase. Sure there are a lot of hobby shops selling blank wooden items just waiting to be decorated. I've tried them and I don't know what type of wood it is, but when you burn it with a pyrogrphy iron smells like a gone off kipper.

Anyway, I'd always fancied having a go at wood turning, so I though if I purchased a lathe I could make my own blank on which I could do some pyrography.

I have turned a few lidded boxes and done some pyrography on them like this.
I enjoy doing boxes like this and will no doubt do a few more, but recently I've become involved in pen turning. It was never my intention to become involved in this side of wood turning, but I think it might be more addictive than chocolate biscuits.
Here is my very first turned pen, it's made from a piece of zebrano wood.
How cool is that. In fact I thought it might have been a fluke, so I turned another from paduk wood.
Then I tried some wenge.
After that I did one in beech, which is a lighter wood so that I could do some pyrography on it.
So you can see that I'm getting addicted to this craft. The thing I like most about it is that each project is relatively quick. It's not that I'm in a hurry, but I do like finishing the wood with a bit of polish. The transformation of a grotty piece of wood into something nice to look at, and at the same time useful, is quite amazing. The pen parts are not a lot of money and the blank pieces of wood are also relatively cheap.

The time it takes to make a pen from start to finish is less than half an hour so it fits in nicely with my other duties of which there are many and varied despite my retirement.

In my next post, I will show you some more pens and the lovely pen collectors box I've purchased to keep them in. If you have any comments about the pens I have made so far I wold love to see them.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Turning Competition

Hi all,
 I have been a forum member of the Ukworkshop   
for a couple of years now. It is an interesting website with lots of content for those who are interested in wood working. It has several different forums within the website, which I initially joined because of my interest in scroll sawing. However, after buying a lathe, I began joining in the banter with the wood turning members. In fact, I go to the forum almost every day to see what is going on and look at pictures of what other members are producing. It is a very friendly site with lots of help and advice for those who want it.

Anyway, the wood turning forum has a competition every 3 months to see who can produce the best turning in line with the subject that has been chosen. The latest challenge was to produce a wood turning that had some pierced element to it. Most of those who entered just drilled holes in their turnings to comply with the competition requirements, but I saw it as an opportunity to use my scroll saw and pyrography iron.

Here is my entry. It is a lidded trinket box turned from maple.
I was very pleased with the result and I managed to come 5th. Which was very near to last, not because of my scroll sawing or pyrography work, but because my turning wasn't up to the required standard. I've only had my lathe since April, so I can understand that.

Anyway, the whole thing was a bit of fun and it's the taking part that counts not winning, he say's as another tears drips off the end of his nose.

I'm going to have a break from lidded boxes for a while, so if you want to see what I'm getting up to next, please watch this space.

Saturday, 24 September 2016


Hi all,
I like doing pyrography on wood, especially now that I am turning my own items. Dark pyrography, when done on a light wood can look stunning. However, I keep having these urges (settle down I'm OAP now) to put a bit of colour into some of my work. In the past I have tried watercolour and acrylic paints and met with some success along with some failures. There is something odd about the way paint lies on the top of wood that can sometimes can be less than appealing, or in other words, it can look a bit crappy.

Anyway, after seeing what some of the wood turners on youtube are doing with wood stains, I decided to have a go with them. To that end I turned a couple of boxes from lime wood and did a pencil design on the top of each. Before I used the stain to colour the designs I introduced them to my pyrography iron and used this to create a burnt border around each part of the design. The trouble with wood stain is that it sinks into the fibres of the wood so the edges are hard to control. By burning lines into the wood I was able to create clear borders and keep each stain within its allotted boundary.

Here is my first attempt of some primroses.
I think the stain worked well, but the composition let the whole thing down. A big blob of colour in the centre does not quite do it for me. I think I will stick this one back on the lathe and skim the image off and do something else on the lid.

Taking what I have said above into account, my second item was better. I drew some harebells, which gave plenty of space around and within the image.
I think this is better and, although I think stains are better than paint, I think most of my pyrography will be left plain in the future. Which box do you prefer?

My next project involves me making an item for a wood turning competition. It will include a bit of pyrography, so if you are interested please watch this space.

Saturday, 10 September 2016


Hi all,
Summer is over and autumn's chill is in the air. I don't mind because it is the second best season of the year for me, a close second to spring. I'm not sad that summer is over, especially August, which is my least favourite month of the year. I guess I can almost hear some of you sun lovers call out in horror, but there are good reasons why I think August is grim.

Firstly, even though we are talking about England here, I do find that some days in August are too hot. When is too hot creativity goes out of the window and so does a good night's sleep.

Secondly, August is too busy with the kids off school and people on holiday.

Thirdly, I can't stand wasps and August is the peak time for the little blighters.

Lastly, I don't know why, but August seems like an angry month to me, people, insects and even the traffic seems more aggressive.

So Autumn is here and we can enjoy some of its pleasures like the colours of the trees and picking nuts from the hedgerows. Conkers and acorns are beautiful and everywhere. Talking of acorns, you may have noticed that it is the title of this post, so I'll get to the point.

In April when I bought my lathe, my wife said she would like me to turn her a bowl full of wooden fruit for her birthday in August. In April, August seemed a long way off so I thought I would be okay with meeting her request, however, I never got close to making a bowl or any fruit, so I turned her a selection of acorns with the promise of a bowl to come later.

Here are the acorns.
I turned them from various species of spindles that were 2 inches square and did some pyrography on the thick end where the wood was a light colour.
The one above is tulip wood.
This is walnut
This is sepele
This I think is beech
This one is tulip wood which I stained a dark colour and I did a different pyrography pattern on the case, which I think came out well.
Lastly, this one was turned from sepele and tulip wood. I did a spigot on one and a recess on the other and joined them together with a bit of glue.

They are nothing to get excited about but my wife liked them and it was all good practice. I will get around to make a bowl to put them in one of these days and I might even make another bowl full of them, only this time I will make them much small. In fact, I will probably make them the same size as real acorns. To do that though I will need some smaller jaws for my chuck and that will mean another trip to Axminster and spending more money.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Grinling Gibbons

Hi all,
I think Grinling Gibbons is our most famous wood carver and his work can be seen in many stately homes across the country. Well, I decided to do a bit of wood carving myself and make something nice for my wife's birthday. I will of course buy her something proper, but I know she likes me to put some effort in and make her something special just for her.

I decided to turn a small trinket box from lime wood, but I needed something special to decorate the lid with, just a bit more plain pyrography would be nice but not special enough for the big day. Anyway, she admired a few things I'd done recently that were based around oak leaves and acorns. I'd used my scroll saw to make a plaque for a gate in the garden and I also made a house number plaque the same way.

To make something for the top of a box that is less than three inches in diameter would mean working a little bit finer but I was up for the challenge.

First, I turned the box and then drew around the lid so that I could draw my design of three leaves and three acorns to the right size. Then I cut out the acorn leaves on the scroll saw and shaped them using a Dremel. I then burnt the pattern into the wood with my pyrography iron.

The next thing I did was to carve the three acorns and then stick the leaves and acorns to the lid of the box with wood glue. I used clamps to hold the parts in place while the glue dried to make sure it all came out flat. Once the glue was dry I used my pyrography iron on the acorns and touched up a few places on the leaves. The lid was then given 3 coats of gloss varnish to give it a bit of shine.
Here is the finished box.
I was pleased with the way it turned out and my wife liked it too. I was going to have a go at a bowl next but I have been informed that my woodturning skills would be better served if I did a bit more spindle work first.

In my next post I show you something different.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Pyrography Rose

Hi all,
I think that the plan to buy a lathe and turn my own boxes is beginning to pay off. I have done 6 boxes now and each one has become a little bit easier than the last. Being able to buy wood and make my own boxes means that I am in control of all of my materials and my head is full of ideas. Pyrography is always my first choice and I will show you my latest pyrography project shortly.

Besides pyrography I have also thought about doing some mosaic work on a box which should be interesting. I also like the idea of inlaying patterns into a box with resin. I have also seen some fantastic wood colouring work on You tube and would like to explore that a little more.

I'm full of inspiration at the moment but lacking in the time to carry some of it out. There are so many jobs to be done about the house. When I think I've got them all done the management comes up with another. A couple of weeks ago we had 6 storage heaters replaced because the ones that came with the house purchase were on their last legs. Anyway, storage heaters are full of bricks and I was left with a stack of them to get rid of. I was going to take them to the tip but my wife had another brain wave, she said I could incorporate them into a water feature for her.

To cut a long story short I had to dig up an area of lawn
and replace it with a water feature and the bricks from the storage heaters. I also had to purchase  a number of alpine plants which I planted and dressed the whole thing with golden gravel.
Here's a closer picture.
It came out pretty well, but it hasn't half cost me a lot of time which is why it's been a long time since my last post.

Anyway, here's my latest turned box complete with pyrography rose.
I hope you like it.
By the way, for those of you who are interested, one of my books, "Carp Rustlers" is free on Amazon for the next three days. Please grab a free download while you can by going to my website and clicking on the books details. The theme is fishing but you don't need to be an angler to enjoy it.