Friday, 13 October 2017

Yo Yo

Hi all,
The run up to Christmas can be very busy for a woodturner. Last year I discovered pen turning and gave them as gifts to most of our friends and family, mostly as extra gifts. It was very time consuming and took up most of November and December, so this year I'm not going to bother so much.

There is an old northern saying that goes, "If you are going to do owt for nowt, do it for thee sen."

Not very charitable and not exactly in keeping with the Christmas message that it is better to give than receive. But it is how I feel. I can't remember anybody taking the time and effort to make anything for me. The closet thing to it came several years ago when I unwrapped a Christmas present given to me by my brother in law. When I opened it I found it contained a cheap craft knife, a small block of wood and a drawing of a ship. Bloody hilarious I must say, especially when we went to the expense of getting him something proper.

Anyway, if you are thinking of spending the next 2 months making gifts that won't be properly appreciated, it might be time to think again.

Right, Mr Scrooge has now gone and I can tell you that I'm making an exception to all that I have said above. I have made my Grandson a yo yo, which he will get as an extra gift.
It is made from 2 pieces of maple and the turning went very well. The hardest part was getting the two sides the same, which they need to be to keep it in balance. A yo yo that isn't balanced, won't go up and down straight on the string, and is therefore about as much use as an ashtray on a bike.

The secret it to get them both to the same shape and then weigh each half on the kitchen scales. I was lucky and mine were only a tad out, so I gave the one which was heavier a few rubs with some sand paper and they were soon both the same.

Something else that need to be considered was the size of the gap for the string. I don't remember it being so small when I was a lad, but after looking it up on google I was informed that it should be between 8 and 10 playing cards wide. I settled for 8 and it works fine. Whilst looking up information about yo yos I also found out that there was such a thing as yo yo string. Up until then I was just going to use any old bit of thin string that I could find. Anyway, I purchased a pack of 5 off the Internet and the one I used works perfectly.

You can see in the picture that I burnt a couple of circular lines around the side. this was done by cutting a groove with a skew chisel and then holding a piece of cardboard in the groove as the lathe rotated. It's a bit of a tricky thing to do but it is well worth it. To give it that personal touch I also burnt his name onto the yo yo with my pyrography iron.

My only hope is that he treats it with respect and, after a couple of goes, doesn't chuck it to one side in a hurry to get back to his xbox or whatever the latest fad is that takes preoccupies so much of a young boy's mind. His Dad bought him a drone last year, so you can see what I'm competing with.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Free book

Just a quick one to let  you know that one of my books, "The Reluctant Pom" will be free to download on Amazon from the 10th till the 12th of October. It tells that tale of how my father dragged me to the otherside of the world in 1967. I became a reluctant pom and you can find out how I got on in this book.
Please download it, have a good laugh and find out what I thought of Australia.
A normal post will be along soon.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Death of a scroll saw

Hi all,
I had a bit of a disaster a couple of days ago when my scroll saw made its last cut. It hadn't been well for a while; a few months ago it jammed for a few seconds and then blew a fuse. I replaced the fuse, cleaned it and oiled it and it managed to struggle on for bit longer. However, it finally succumbed and whilst blowing a fuse it jammed again. I oiled it, replaced the fuse and unlinked the top and bottom parts of the saw to take the pressure off, but when I plugged it in there was a blue flash that scared the pants off me. It had blown its fuse again plus the house fuse in the consumer box taking out several other sockets at the same time. It also remained jammed. I had now had enough and chucked it outside for the next visit down our street of the scrap collectors.

Just a bit about the saw. It was an Excalibur 16 inch which I purchased about 6 years ago for around £400, so it wasn't cheap. However, I feel that it gave me good service even though I abused it by getting it to do stuff it wasn't designed for. I have never owned a table saw and, until a few weeks ago I'd never had a bandsaw, so all my DIY projects were done on the scroll saw, which was a lot of work.

It did give me a lot of pleasure and I made a lot of nice stuff with it. Like this box.
And this one.
I will miss it but I won't be replacing it. I will use my new bandsaw for DIY project and my creative vent will be serviced by the lathe. Should I need to do any small scroll saw work I will purchase a coping saw and do it by hand.

So what have I been up to on the lathe? Well not a lot really because my wife's had me decorating the bedroom which included removing the laminated floor and replacing it with carpet. I don't know who invented laminated flooring but I detest the stuff. Its cold, hard and noisy and deserves a trip to the tip to be with all the other rubbish. We inherited when we moved into our new bungalow and I've been slowly replacing it in every room. Here's what it looked like in the bathroom. A mess.

I made a bigger mess when I took it up.
 But it looked better once it was done.
Sorry that this post isn't very creative, but I did manage to finish making Xmas deccy blanks for my wife to decorate for the Xmas tree. Here is a few of the things I turned, that she has now finished.
Right that's it for now, I will be back on the lathe soon, poking a piece of wood with chisel and I've also got plans for my pyrography iron, so please watch this space.

Saturday, 23 September 2017


Hi all,
Not every project I attempt results in success and this week I had a real failure.
It wasn't the turning or the burning, both of these elements went well. The problem came at the end during the finishing process. The green stain has run badly into the yellow stain making it look a bit of a mess. Some times it doesn't matter if colours blend into each other a bit because it can add to the charm. However, in this case I wanted the colours to be crisp and separate.

This isn't the first time Ive used stains and melamine finish, so what went wrong this time?

I think several factors came into play.

 1 I usually put a coat of sanding sealer on after the stains and in this instance I can't remember if I did put the sanding sealer on or not. If didn't use a sanding sealer it probably didn't help.

2 In an effort to get a really dark green colour I gave it three coats of the green. In hindsight this was probably a mistake. Stain usually soaks into the wood and by the time I applied the third coat it was probably already saturated so the colour just sat on the top. Then, when I sprayed the melamine finish it just jumped over to the yellow.

3 Another issue is the type of sealer and finish I've been using. I have always used a cellulose sealer  with spirit stains, but I have now been advised  that it is the wrong thing to do. This is because cellulose will readily mix with the stains and cause runs. Likewise, using a water based stain with a water based finish will have the same results because they readily mix with each other.

This was news to me because I was taught that  if you started out with water based colours you finished with water based colours. It just goes to show how wrong you can be. My excuse is that when I left school my first job was being a painter and decorator and during my training I was told that oil based paints like gloss, should not be used over water based paints, like emulsion. This has always stuck with me along with another thing that happened in my youth.

When I was about 14, me and a couple of mates bought a wreck of an old BSA Bantam motorcycle to scramble around the fields. When we were doing it up my mate took it upon himself to paint the tank. He borrowed some green Dulux emulsion paint that was left over from when is dad painted their lounge and it looked great. However, he wanted a big red flash like flames going along the sides and to do this he sprayed it with car paint. I can still remember the look of horror on his face when the green bottom layer erupted into great big blisters and ruined his paint job.

The paints were of course incompatible  so this was how my opinions were formed. Anyway, I'm going to get some acrylic sanding sealer and see how that works on spirit based stains.

On a more cheerful notem, my wife has been busy making Christmas decorations, all which I have turned. Here's a few of them hanging up to dry.
She's done a cracking job and I guess our tree will be different this year. A big change from the glittery one with the thousand lights that we usually have, that's for sure.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Harlequin Pens

Hi All,
I seem to have gone pen crazy at the moment. Following on from my last post, where I had one of my pens chosen for  the accolade of Pen Of The Week, I have done a couple more, but this time using a bit of colour.

Here is the first one I made, it is a multi coloured Harlequin design.

 The colours are Chestnut stains and each diamond shape has been burnt in with my pyrography iron. The pyrography is a crucial part because without that the stains would run into each other. Unlike paint, stains seep into the wood, so a channel burnt with a pyrography iron creates a nice barrier that the stain can't get past.

Comments have been made that I must have the patience of a saint to do this sort of stuff, but I find it very therapeutic. Each pen takes about 45 minutes to colour, but I'm not bothered, I just listen to Harry Chapin and all  is well with the world.

These pens are made from slimeline kits but I modify them by doing away with the centre band, which I don't find very attractive.

Anyway, for those interested in the process, post turning, here it is. The black bands at the top and bottom of each part have the pen should have been burnt in on the lathe and I will assume that the pen has been sanded down to 600 grit and no sealer has been applied. The whole process is done with the pen still on the mandrel so just remove it from the lathe.

Step one.
Draw a pencil line from the black line at the top of the pen to the black line at the bottom of the top of the pen. Rotate the pen slowly while moving the pencil downwards and you should get a spiral shape. Using this line as a guide, draw another line parallel with the first one, about 5mm apart, and repeat this process until you have lines going all the way around the pen in parallel spirals.
Step 2
Starting at the top, touching one of your lines, do the same again but draw the line in the opposite direction, then another parallel with it and you should finish up with a lot of diamond shapes.
Step 3
Using a pyrography iron, carefully burn it the lines.
Step 4
Using Chestnut stains, paint in the colours in a random pattern. they will need two coats to make the colours stand out. The good news is, that because the stains are alchol based they dry very quickly, so by the time you have done one set of colours from top to bottom you can start again at the top with the same colours. This saves a lot of time cleaning brushes out between colours.
Step 5
Coat with as many coats of melamine lacquer as required till you get the finish you desire.

If you have any questions on the process please let me know.
Here is another Harlequin pen with a different set of colours.
In my next post I will be making something completely different, so please watch this space.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017


Hi all,
I have only been woodturning for just over a year and I think I must be doing all right. As you probably know by now, because I seem to mention it in every post, I've decided to turn small stuff only.

The most enjoyable of the small projects is pen making. You start off with a piece of wood about 5 inches long and 1 inch square and an hour later you have a beautiful pen in your hand. These make wonderful gifts or you can just put them in a display box and admire your own work for years to come. I even sold on once.

Anyway, just before last Christmas I came across a forum for pen turners. Here is the link

It is a very good forum which is populated with extremely nice woodturners who are all passionate about turning pens. Woodturning is a bit of a solitary hobby because most of the work is done on ones own in a shed or workshop. So this forum provides a place where people with similar interests can swap information etc. One of the most import things about the forum is it gives each member a chance to show off their latest creation. I must admit that that is why I joined up, I simply wanted to see what sort of pens other people were making. I can tell you now that in the last 9 months I've probably seen some of the best pens ever made.

Anyway, every week one pen is singled out to be declared pen of the week. I look forward to Monday mornings to see if the pick of the week was the same as the one I would have chosen. Well perhaps you can imagine my surprise when I found out  on Monday that my pen had been chosen.

Here it is, my pen of the week
 It is made from a slimeline kit with the centre band omitted. The wood is ebony and the white bands are Milliput, which is an epoxy resin. Ebony turns well but is a bit on the hard side so I had to sharpen my gouges several times. The grooves for the Milliput were cut with a thin parting tool. It was sanded down to 400 grit with the lathe running, I then swithched it off and went back through the grades, sanding with the grain up to 600 grit. I then gave it a rubdown with a tack cloth to get rid of any dust.

I followed that with 8 layers of thin CA (superglue) before caressing it with my micro pads all the way up to 12000. I then gave it a last polish with some Chestnut burnishing cream and it came up a treat.

This pen went well, but sadly not all projects go that way. I was so pleased with the way that the Milliput had worked on this pen I thought I'd go one stage better and make a black and white pen that had lots of stripes like a Zebra. I didn't want the white bands to go all the way around the pen, I wanted them broken, so Instead of using a parting tool, which would cut a groove all the way around the pen, I used a saw while the lathe was stationary.
The rest of the turning and finishing was the same. Here is the result.
I don't blame you for laughing. Not quite the Zebra effect I was looking for. I guess I should have made the bands wider. Ah well, some you win and some you lose. I'm having a go at a whistle next, so I'll show you that in my next post even if it does turn out to be a duffer.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

New Toys

Hi all,
I managed to sell the old big lathe for a very fair price so I'm happy about that.
As you can see in the picture above, it had its own stand and was quite a beast. It was a very good lathe and served me well until I decide that I was at my happiest doing small projects. Pens, jewelry and lidded boxes etc. I was sad to see it go but it at least it has found a good home in Cornwall.

Anyway, I decided to change it for a small bench mounted lathe. This is it, the AH1218VS from Axminster.
As you can see it is much small, but it is more than adequate for my needs. Another reason for the change was to free up some space for a band saw. I have never owned a decent saw; all my woodworking to date has been by hand, a jig saw or my scroll saw, which is great for cutting curves but crap when it comes to cutting straight lines.

After the old lathe went, I had a bit of a change around in the workshop and built a new bench for a bandsaw. Again I chose Axminster, I trust them and their customers' service is very good indeed.

Here is a picture of the bandsaw sitting proudly on its new bench.
I haven't had time to try the new lathe out in anger yet, but I managed to make a pen. It is turned from ebony with white inlays, which were done with Milliput. I guess most people know what Milliput is, but for those who don't know, it's an epoxy putty that can be used to fill cracks and then sanded. It dries very hard overnight and is used a lot by woodturners.
I really like how this pen turned out. It is made from a humble slimline kit which I modified to do away with the narrow centreband.

In my next post I'll hopefully have some more stuff to show you.

One last thing. Do you have a lawn and do you have gravel in your garden? If you do here is a word of warning. Last Sunday, I was mowing our lawn and the mower picked up a small piece of gravel and fired it into our conservatory door. There was a loud thwack sort of noise and there it was, one smashed door pane.
I have been mowing lawns for more than yonks and did not think this could happen to double glazing. In fact, I have always been under the impression that double glazed windows are unbreakable. Years ago I saw a man on the telly showing how tough they were by try, without success, to break one with a sledge hammer.
Anyway, I was fooled so don't get into the same trap as me. Replacing the glass is going to cost me a pretty mean £170 which is only just a few quid cheaper the money I've just lashed out for the bandsaw.

So check your lawn for stones  and small pieces of gravel before you mow it and always mow with your back to the house. The reason for this is that most mowers throw stones out of the front or sides because the grass box on the back helps to prevent them coming out that way.

I did think that to break one's glass with a mower is a vary rare occurrence, but not at all. I googled it and it is very common, this fact was also confirmed when I rang the glaziers to arrange for some new glass. It happens all the time they said. So, now you've got the heads up, there is no excuse for breaking your own windows and forking out loads of dosh for replacement glass.

Any comments or questions are welcome.