Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A bit of pyrography

Hi all,
Having done a 3 lidded boxes and a goblet made from mahogany on the lathe, the time came to be a bit more adventurous. Turning plain items in dark wood is pleasant enough, but I bought the lathe to enhance my pyrography. The problem up until now is that the only hardwood that I have had at my disposal is some mahogany that was given to me by a kind soul who has a shed full of the stuff. He isn't using it because at the moment he is making a Sterling engine from metal, cutting all the parts out himself using his metal lathe. The chap is in his mid eighties so he is an inspiration to me at least.

Anyway, I needed some light wood so I made a 100 mile round trip to ockenden-timber.co.uk/ on the Welsh border. I suppose I could have bought some wood on line but my wife decide a nice run into the countryside would do us both good. We took  the dog and had a picnic and it was a very pleasant day.

The man at ockeneden timber couldn't have been more helpful. They were out of stock on a square end scraper that I particularly wanted, but he said he would send me one by post. It arrived the very next day so how is that for service.

Regarding wood, the lightest colour wood they had was lime and maple so I bought 2off, 75mm square spindles of lime and another the same size made from maple. The spindles are 300mm long and I reckon that I can get 4 lidded boxes out of each spindle. With each spindle costing less than 8 quid it means I can make a blank box for less than £2 each. Below is a picture of one of the lime spindles before it has been introduced to the lathe and the roughing gauge.
He it is again after I'd turned it into a cylinder and cut it in half.
Eventually, and it is probably quicker to do than you think, I made the box and did a quick leaf pyrography design on it to see how it looked after it was polished up. Until now most of my pyrography has been covered with several coats of varnish or even lacquer, so a bit of polish would be different.
So there you have it, the finished article. I very pleased with the result and I think that from here the world is my oyster. I can't wait to get back on the lathe and see if I can do another or was it just a lucky fluke. I know one thing, turning round boxes on a lathe is easier and quicker than building square boxes. Trying to make perfect joints, keeping the thing square and dealing with the vagaries of hinges are now thankfully in the past.

Monday, 11 July 2016

A Goblet

Hi all,
After having an almighty catch on the lathe, a catch is when the tool digs into the wood and either damages it, throws the wood across the room or both. Anyway, I was about to make another lidded box, the fourth in total since I took up woodturning. Here's a picture of the first 3.
The problem was that after sorting out the catch, which meant the wood had to be smoothed out again, and after that there simple wasn't enough diameter left to make a decent box.
You can see in the picture above how much damage was inflicted on the wood. I didn't want to throw a good piece of wood away, so I decided to have a go at making a goblet. It wouldn't be a thin stemmed goblet like the ones seen on youtube of which this is a great example of the wood turners skill.

There are two reasons why mine wouldn't look like the one in the example. Firstly, I have only just started wood turning and can only dream of having the skills that are required to make such an item. Secondly, call me a bit of a miser if you want, but it seems to me to be a waste of good wood. I purchased the lathe turn pieces of wood into nicer looking pieces of wood, I didn't buy it to just turn wood into shavings.

An hobby where you pay good money for a piece of timber 2 inches square, then shave it down to the size of a drinking straw just to prove you can do it is a strange things to do. Mind you, if you just want to convert money into wood shavings it is a good way to go.

Does it sound like I'm jealous? Well perhaps I am, but I'm happy enough with my progress so far. Here's my fat stemmed goblet, lovingly turned from the piece of mahogany on which I had the catch.

 Perhaps it could have been a bit thinner, but after the catch my confidence was low.

Once the goblet was finished it was time to see if I could source some lighter wood so that I could do some pyrography on it. Now you might think it would be easy to source some decent light coloured wood turning blanks in my native Staffordshire but you would be wrong. I think that it is ironic that Staffordshire is billed as, "The Creative County" when nothing could be further from the truth. To get some wood, I would have to go to Derbyshire, Warwickshire or Shropshire/Wales border so that is what I did. The shop was great and I am more than pleased with the results of my trip, which I will relate in my next post.


Saturday, 2 July 2016

Spice of Life

Hi all,
I was just beginning to get going with my wood turning, but there is always something to get in the way of progress. The garden seems to need a constant amount of tending and I am also the chief bread maker in our house. We finished up making our own bread after a failed mission to our usual local artisan baker, who for reason known unto them, thought it was acceptable to have a snot laden lad with a heavy cold doing the serving. My wife watched as he licked his fingers to open the plastic bag into which he deposited the loaf for the customer who was being served.

This was unacceptable, so my wife walked out and ordered a bread maker from Amazon. That was in December last year and I've been making bread ever since. Lovely stuff it is too and thoroughly recommended.

Anyway, I was about to turn another lidded box when my wife decided that she wanted a small spice rack making. I set to with the scroll saw and knocked her something up from bits of scrap wood I had lying about the workshop. I also carved some leaves to differentiate it from a shop bought spice rack. The leaves were also decorated with some pyrography.
My wife thinks it is super, so I gained a few brownie points. After the spice rack I was free to get on with my next box but I'm afraid I had a bit of a catastrophe. I had a catch of mega proportions because I was a bit clumsy when approaching the wood with my skew chisel. The result was that, as well as almost giving me a second heart attack, it took a great big chunk of wood out of my project.
Ah well, we all learn by our mistakes, thankfully the wood didn't come flying out of the lathe and break my nose or knock some of my teeth out. Hopefully I have learned a lesson and will be more careful in the future.

Unfortunately, by the time I had turned the wood down to get rid of the marks made by the catch it was too small for a box. so I would have to turn it (no pun intended) into something else. All will be revealed in my next post.



Thursday, 23 June 2016

Lidded Boxes

Hi all,
I've been doing a bit more work on the lathe and have managed to turn three lidded boxes, which I am very pleased with even though I do say it myself.
Here is a picture of the first one I did.

The wood is mahogany and I finished it with sanding sealer and black bison wax polish. Actually, the polishing up is better than the turning for me I just love the way the wood comes to life when it is polished up. Obviously mahogany is too dark for doing any pyrography on, but the wood was a free from a friend so I thought it would be good to practice on. Once I get a bit more confidence I will buy some lighter wood which will take pyrography well.

Here is a group picture of the boxes I have done so far.
I guess any seasoned turner seeing these can pick them to pieces, but seeing as prior to these I had only done 4 practice spindles, a candle stick and a rolling pin (see previous post) I think I've done pretty well. However, having said that there were several issues mainly concerned with the hollowing out. I tried doing it with a spindle gouge but after several catches, one of which saw a lid destroyed and another where the wood almost went into orbit, I resorted to using a scraper. Using a scraper to hollow out isn't ideal because, not only is it a slow method, but it also creates sack loads of dust. By the time I finished doing a box my workshop looked like an explosion in a paprika factory.

 Dust is something my lungs can do without, so I'm in the process of making a dust catcher for the lathe out of some guttering. I let you know how I get on with that in my next post.

To improve my skills I'm going to try and master hollowing out with a spindle gouge and I will again let you know how I get on with that in another post. I need to stop getting catches otherwise my confidence will never grow.

By the way, for those of you who read my books, I will have another free download coming shortly, so watch this space if you want to take advantage. In the meanwhile, if you are turning wood, cutting it with a scroll saw or decorating it with pyrography, I hope you are having fun.


Monday, 13 June 2016

The Candlestick and the Rolling Pin

Hi all,
Taking up wood turning at my age may have been a step to far because the learning curve is very steep. Not only does one have to come to terms with the lathe itself but also the many ways of holding wood onto the machine. Suddenly my world was populated with scroll chucks, chuck screws, steb centres, live centres and faceplates. Then there's the tools to consider, things like bowl gouges, spindle gouges, scrapers, roughing gouges, parting tools and the dreaded skew chisel.

When I was considering buying a lathe I didn't know that it could be quite a dangerous hobby. Okay, perhaps not as death defying as skiing down the side of the Matterhorn or base jumping, but people have been injured and others even killed while operating a lathe.

Getting ones clothing or hair caught in the spinning machinery are two of the main causes of death along with being hit by a lump of wood that hasn't been secured properly to the chuck or face plate. The other thing that can can go wrong is when the gouge or one of the other tools is presented to the wood incorrectly and it digs into the wood. This has happened to me a few times now and it doesn't half give me the gyp. I keep having visions of the tool spinning out of my hand a stabbing me in the chest.

Anyway, I persevered and, with one eye on safety at all times, I managed to turn a couple of things. The first was this small candle stick, which was turned from a very boring piece of practice wood. It had no grain patterns of any consequence so I went over what was there with my pyrography iron to liven it up.
 Not bad for my first attempt at turning something proper.
The second thing I turned, this time from a piece of square beech, was a small rolling pin. The greatest part about this was that I used the dreaded skew chisel to get the thing round, and I did it  without hardly getting a tool mark on it. I tried my best to turn both ends so that they looked the same and I don't thing they are too far out.
My intention is to do some pyrography on this rolling pin, but I haven't come up with a design yet. When I do burn it I will let you see it on here.




Thursday, 9 June 2016

House Number Plaque

Hi all,
It is a couple of years now since we moved into our present house and I'm pleased to let you know that most of the renovation work is now completed. However, there was one last job that needed attending to. The house number plaque on the front of our house was in a sorry state. It was made of ceramic and had a very faded painting of a badger on it. Anyway, my wife said it needed to be replaced with a new one which she suggested we made ourselves.

She went on to tell me that she thought that she could make one from air drying clay. I said I had my doubts that anything thing made from such materials could be expected to last in our climate, but she insisted it would be alright with a couple of coats of exterior varnish. Seeing as she was going to be making it herself, I didn't want to discourage her too much and let her get on with it.

The following day, she got on with the job and produced a lovely little plaque complete with acorns and oak leaves. It's very nice I said, I just hope it doesn't come a cropper and break. At this point she accused me of being the world greatest pessimist and I was sent forthwith to buy some strong varnish. I purchased a tin of yacht varnish from B & Q and gave it three good coats.
Once the varnish was dried, she stuck the plaque to the front wall of the house with some exterior sticky pads we'd used before to stick tiles to an outside wall. The were still stuck to the wall outside when we left our previous home, so she said they would be alright.

Two days later, when I was taking some rubbish out to the wheelie, I found the plaque face down on the paving slabs and it was found to be damaged beyond repair. It looked like it had committed suicide. She wasn't best pleased when I showed her the sad sight, but before I could even thing of saying, "I told you so" she said I would now have to make her one from wood.

I cut some oak leaves from plywood with my scroll saw and carved a couple of acorns with my Dremel and then set about it with my pyrography iron.


The best thing about my plaque is that I could drill a couple of holes and screw it to the wall. My wife said she liked it, but something about it was slightly askew and offended the eye. She was right of course, so I said that I'd take it down and see if I could level it up, but I haven't bothered yet and I thing she has gotten used to it.

On a completely different subject, I mentioned getting a lathe in my last post, so I bet you are wondering how I'm getting on. Here are some spindles I've turned in an effort to get control over the tools.
The piece of wood I used are pine and actually came from the legs of my mother -in-laws bed. Her bed was too high she said, and asked me to cut a foot off each leg. I saved them because you never know when a wooden leg will come in handy and I'm glad I did because they provided for some great practice. They look good to me even though I do say so myself.

I'll let you know more about my wood turning efforts in my next post.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

New Toy

Hi all, in my last post I mentioned that I was getting a new toy. Well it has arrived and after rearranging my workshop here it is.
Yes it's a lathe, bought from Axminster tools for a sum of £350. For those into wood turning you might be interested to know that it has variable speed and a headstock that swivels. A bit cliche I know because lots of old men take to woodturning to see them through their Autumn years. In my case it slightly different because I have purchased the lathe to supplement my pyrography.

Over the years I have purchased a lot of wooden items on which to use my pyrography iron, like these little trinket boxes.
I also used to be able to purchase small wooden bowls like these until the supplier gave up. I scoured the internet for days looking for another supplier but it was like looking for hen's teeth, so I gave up too.
Anyway, I always wanted to have a go at woodturning so this is my big chance. I don't think it will be easy because I've never had a go on a lathe, even at school, so it is going to be all new to me.

My aim is to make my own wooden items and decorate them with pyrography and perhaps a bit of carving. Stay tuned into my posts if you want to see how I get on with my new machine.

By the way I am offering free downloads for one of my books on Amazon. It is called "Bun In The Oven" and is free to down load until for the next couple of days.

 If you would like a free download, just click on the books tab at the top of the page and then on the book's cover. It's meant to be a fun to read so I hope you enjoy it.