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.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Pyrography Box

Hi all,
Following on from the success of my last lidded box I thought I make another one while the going was good. However, this time I thought I do one with a bit more detail in the pyrography.

First I drew a design that I thought would suit a round box lid whilst making sure it was big enough to drape down the sides. When I was happy with the design I turned the box out of a piece of lime wood.

Once the lid was turned, I transferred the drawing to the box using tracedown paper, which makes life easier than using tracing paper. Having said that, the lid part went simply enough but draping the paper over the side was not quite so simple. The drawing distorted as it went down the sides, so I had to abandon the trace down paper and just simply draw the design on the sides by hand, whilst using the original drawing for a guide.

Here is a picture of the top of the finished box.

And here is a picture of the side.
I looks very nice and I'm very pleased with the result. However, I'm not sure that it is worth taking the design down the sides and taking it over the joint between the lid and the box in a mistake. Once you cross the join the user has to match up the position of the lid on the box to make it look right, and whilst this may be enjoyable on the first couple of occasions I guess it will prove to be tedious in the long run.

My next box will just have pyrography on the top so watch this space if you would like to see it.

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 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.