Thursday, 26 December 2013


Hi all,
I hope you had a very merry Christmas. We are still waiting for a house moving date so ours was a bit flat. Living without the internet is starting to irritate me something chronic. I am doing this post from a hot spot while I am balancing the laptop on my steering wheel so it won't be a long one.

I have just done a drawing for the top of a pencil box that I am doing for my wife. I intend to use my scroll saw to make the box from a piece of American cherry and  use a mixture of inlay clay work and pyrography to fill in the design.
Hopefully, I will have in done in the next couple of days and if I can hunt out a hot spot I will show you the finished article. My wife has also taken up the pyrography iron again because she has packed all her paints and clays a little prematurely. Anyway, I should also be able to show you what she's been up to in my next post.

If you don't hear from me before, have a cracking new year; I might even crack open a tin of cider myself and welcome the new year with open arms.

Monday, 23 December 2013


Hi all,
Sorry that my post have almost dried up but we are still waiting to move house. We cancelled our internet supplier on the 4th of December at our current address because the solicitors said we'd be moving on the 6th. They lied.

Well that turned out to be a load of rubbish and now it looks like mid January. The only good news on the horizon is that we decided to have BT for our new supplier and that is set up in the new house so when we get there all will be well. Going with BT also means that we can connect via some of their wi-fi hot spots and that is how I'm managing this post today.

However, it is very hit and miss because the hot spots seem to move or the signal drops out. We have system now where my wife sits in the passenger seat looking for hot spots with her kindle fire and when we find one I stop and log on with our old lap top. It is very slow and very frustrating but it's better than nothing. Having no proper internet connection is almost as bad as having a leg off.

I hope to get back to doing a bit of pyrography in the new year and hopefully will get my posts back to normal. 2013 was,'t a good year for me, so I'm hoping the next one will be better.

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, I hope you have a good one.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Hare Bells

Hi all,
Sorry it's been a while since I made a post but our house move is now a nightmare. Everything is a disaster because the solicitors and estate agents are a bunch of, well I won't say what until we are in our new abode. That is if it ever happens. We have had two moving dates that never happened and we are now waiting for the third. The phone line and Internet have been cancelled and our mail is being redirected. We still do not have a moving date and our solicitor can't even be bothered to ring us back.

Ah well, it'll soon be Christmas and if I'm lucky I'll get a turkey sandwich.

Needless to say, I haven't been doing much in the way of craft work. I did managed to do a small trinket pot pictured below with a small flower inlay.

I didn't make the box, I bought it. However, I am responsible for the hare bells on the lid. I drew the design onto a piece of paper and stuck it onto the lid with some temporary adhesive glue. I then used my scroll saw to cut out the pattern with a number 3 blade.

A lot of care was required on the pattern to make sure I didn't ruin it. Care was also required because when working on the lid the blade was very close to my fingers. One slip and my violin playing days would be over.

Once the pattern was cut out, I cut a small disc of plywood which I struck on the underside of the lid. The purpose of this was to stop the clay inlay from going straight through.

For the inlay, I mixed some blue and yellow clay for the stems and leaves and used two tones of blue for the actual hare bell flowers. The most tedious part was filling the design with the clay. I used the blade of a craft knife to make sure each part of the design was fully filled. Once that was done, I cooked the lid in the oven then gave it a coat of sanding sealer followed by a couple of coats of varnish.

This is only the third inlay I have done and I'm very happy with the results. I am desperate to get this house move out of the way so that I can combine scroll saw work, inlaying and pyrography in an artistic way. My head is full of ideas but I have decommissioned my scroll saw and other stuff is packed away in boxes.

Perhaps the new year will a change of circumstance and I can get stuck in again.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Bottle Kilns

I am still in limbo waiting for our house move. It has been almost 3 months now but still no confirmed moving date. There are only 4 people in the chain and we are moving to an empty house so how hard can it be?

Anyway, while sorting out the stuff I am taking with me I came to the conclusion that I needed a decent box to keep my blocks of polymer clay in. If you've ever wondered what a block of polymer clay looks like here is a photo.
These are sculpey polymer clays which come in a wide range of colours. Each block weighs 2oz and is an inch thick, two inches wide and 2.5 inches long. To keep them neat I decided on a flat box and I thought about making one, but then I remembered that I had just the thing. Many years ago when I was match angler, I kept my pole winders in a flat plywood box, so I dug it out and found it suited the blocks of clay perfectly.

Now seeing as I am kicking my heels waiting for moving day, which seems to be moving at a sloth's pace, I thought I'd brighten the lid up with a bit of pyrography. Those who have read my last post will already be aware of the design, but here it is again for anybody who missed it.
I live in Staffordshire so it seemed fitting to have have an image from the potteries on the top of my clay box. I also thought that it would be a change to do some hard landscaping because most of my pyrography work to date has been of flowers and items inspired by nature. This would be something completely different and a bit of a challenge. So, here is the finished article, I hope you like it.

I am very pleased with the way it turned out and I may do something similar in the future. Doing the brick work was slightly tedious, but at the same time it was therapeutic even though it did give my carpal tunnel some gyp.

I'm not sure about what I will be doing next because with half my world packed away I feel like I've been dispossessed. Ah well, I guess it will all sort itself out soon enough.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Bits and Pieces

Hi all,
I was hoping to move house this week but it has all gone a bit pear shaped. The solicitor who is doing the legal stuff for the people we are buying from decided to go on holiday for a couple of weeks and left us all in the lurch. Ah well, I least it meant I could do a bit more crafty stuff before I had to pack my scroll saw and pyrography kit away for a couple of months.

One of the things that has been annoying me lately is the accessibility of all my bits and pieces. Scroll sawing, and the wood working that surrounds it, necessitates the use of a wide range of bits and pieces. Not least a lot of different sized drill bits and various collets for my rotary machine. Up until this week, I have been keeping all this paraphernalia in an old fishing tackle box, but because it wasn't fit for the purpose I was using it, finding the actual bit of kit I wanted was a frustration.

Anyway, I decided to make a small set of draws and have a place on the top where I could conveniently keep all the other stuff including pens etc. Below is a picture of the finished article.
I made it from various pieces of scrap wood, pine, tulip wood, beech and various thicknesses of plywood are all in there somewhere. I am particularly proud of the carcass because that was made from the lump of plywood that came attached to the bottom of my scroll saw. I just knew it would come in handy one day for something. If you are wondering about the draw handles. I pinched a large wooden bead from one of my wife's necklaces and quartered it. If it wasn't for the fact that she proofreads these posts she'd never find out, but I guess the cat is out of the bag now.

One of these days I might have a go at building the same thing but on a bigger scale, it might look nice in our new lounge if we ever get there.

On the pyrography front, I am working on the lid for a box to keep my polymer clay in. I live in Staffordshire, which is the home of the potteries, so I thought a nice pottery based industrial scene would look good. Here is a sketch of the image I have in mind.
It will take me a couple of days to burn it in with my pyrography iron but I'm looking forward to showing it to you in my next post.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Heart to heart

Hi all,
Due to my imminent house move I haven't been doing much pyrography or scroll saw work, but during the week I managed a couple of heart shaped boxes.

They were both cut with the scroll saw from a piece of maple and have plywood bases. The first box, which it the larger of the two, has the message "I Love You" burnt into the lid with pyrography.

I quite like doing text with my pyrography iron and find that it is easier than it looks. I always do the outline of each letter first and then do very closely spaced lines inside each letter to fill them in.

Sometimes I make stuff for myself and sometimes I make things to sell and this box fitted into the latter category. I will be putting it up for sale on Folksy in the near future and imagined somebody as romantic as me buying it to present a loved one with a ring or other piece of jewellery.

The top of the box is pine and although some people say that pine isn't suitable for pyrography I would have to disagree because it worked fine for me. With this box I have made a change from my traditional varnish finish and gave it a coat of wax polish to enhance the grain and I think that it worked.
The second box was slightly smaller and the top was cut from a piece of tulip wood. Tulip wood is very light and takes pyrography well.

The design for the top was done by scanning the box and then copying and pasting small and smaller outlines of the heart into one drawing. I then when around the lines with the pyrography iron before shading in the alternate hearts. I tried to give the pyrography work a walnut burr look because that is one of my favourite woods.

The pyrography work on both boxes was done using a spoon tip. If you do try to do any work like this box it is important not to have your pyrography too hot because if you do, you will get over burn and that will spoil the contrast between the light and dark areas.

Hopefully, I will get another post in before I move and have to set up another broadband package That is something I'm really not looking forward to.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Apple Blossom

Hi all,

I spent much of this week finishing off another box. This one was cut from a piece of mahogany and features scroll sawing on the ends.

And on the front and back.

Care was taken when cutting out each petal because the design I came up with needed only a thin piece of wood between each petal. The total number of petals to be cut out was 60 and I'm afraid that my concentration began to wain as I approached the end and I got a kick back. This incident broke the piece of wood that separated too petals. I swore a little when it happened, but it could have been worse, at least I didn't cut a finger off.

Kick backs are quite common when using a scroll saw and this is especially so when using reverse blades. Because the teeth at the bottom of the blade point upwards it means that the wood can be lifted by the blade and, if it isn't being held firmly enough, the wood bounces about on the table in an alarming manner. For this reason it is often referred to as table slap. To prevent table slap, all scroll saws are fitted with a piece of metal to hold the wood in place. The only trouble is it gets in the way so most scroll sawers, including me, end up ditching it.

Anyway, I was making the box for my own use so it didn't matter as much as it would if I was intending to selling it. This box was to be a prototype for my foray into inlay work using polymer clay.

The design for the lid of the box was cut out in much the same way as the sides and ends and the holes underneath were covered with a piece of 3mm ply wood. This was glued into place and clamped to make sure it was a tight seal. When it was dry I mixed up some polymer clay and pressed it into the holes in the wood with a craft knife.

For the branches I used white, translucent and a very small  amount of black clay. While for the flowers I used white, translucent, and pink. The make of clay used was sculpey premo. Once the holes had been filled with clay I baked the lid for 30 minutes following the instructions on the packet.
Here is the finished lid.

When it came out of the oven I was surprised to find that the clay had raised itself a little, but this was soon rendered flush by giving it a couple of seconds on my belt sander. I then finished the lid and the rest of the box with a wax polish.

All in all, I think my first attempt at a proper inlay was a a success. With hindsight I would have not made the flowers quite so pink and I would have mixed a little brown in the colour used for the branches instead of black.

In my next post I will show you a couple of boxes that I have made that have fallen to the heat of my pyrography iron. But for now I must get back to the packing. We will be moving house in a couple of weeks and a lot needs to be done.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Walnut box finished at last

Hi all, sorry about the delay in getting this post out, but we are hoping to move house soon and preparations for that are not only abundant, but they they also have priority.

Anyway, here's how I finished the walnut box. After sticking the fronts and sides together I did a design for the lid that carried on with the fuchsia theme.
I left a small space in the middle for a knob which I had intended to make from clay. However, rolling a small ball of clay into a perfectly round sphere is something beyond me, and, seeing as I wanted the box to look special, I decided to make one out of a tiny bit of scrap walnut.

Cutting the lid on the scroll saw required a lot of concentration because in some places the design called for narrow pieces of wood. Still it all went well and I was soon burning in the fuchsias with my pyrography iron. Once that was done I gave the whole box a rub down with fine sand paper and then a coat of sanding sealer.

The box was finally finished with three coats of varnish and some nice felt was stuck to the bottom by an expert box felter (my wife) who does a fantastic job.
Here is the finished box prior to the felting. I was going to sell it on folksy, but like a lot of stuff I have been doing recently, my wife bagsied it for the house. Ah well, you can't win them all. My next project is another box that will be made from Mahogany. It will have an apple blossom design and will have a lid which has been inlaid with clay.

If I can just get on top of these moving house tasks, I hope to show it to you soon.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Happy Little Pot

Hi all,
Sorry if you are expecting the last instalment of the walnut box, but there has been a change of plan. When I started doing pyrography I was pleased with how quick I could produce something that gave me pleasure.

However, I have recently been making my own boxes on a scroll saw and, although they do provide a lot of satisfaction when completed, they are quite a long while in the making. Depending on how much free time I have available it can sometimes take up to 3 weeks to complete 1 box and that is frustrating.

Over the years, I have often pondered the issue regarding what makes me happy. If you take away the thorny subject of money, happiness is an elusive commodity. For many years I thought the route to happiness was through contentment. If one could be satisfied with ones lot and not always be coveting what others had got, it should lead one to happiness. This theory is good to a point, but when one is sitting in ones chair how do you give yourself a little boost?

I don't know about anybody else, but for me it is achieving something or making something, and that is why pyrography is so good. I was 2 weeks into the walnut box and wondering if I'd ever finish it when I decided a quick shot of achievement would be good. So I immediately turned to my pyrography iron.

I looked at my blanks and found a small trinket box that I had purchased a few moths ago and set about creating a pattern on it with my pyrography iron. I didn't pencil it in first, I just went for it with the iron and hoped for the best.
One hour later, I had created something that I was very pleased with and that is where a lot of my pleasure comes from with pyrography. Now all I have to do is upload it to and see if anybody else likes it as well.

In my next post I'm looking forward to showing you the finished walnut box.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Walnut Box Part 3 and a free book

Hi all,
In my last post I mentioned the main difference regarding scroll saw blades and I will repeat it here just for the purpose of any new readers. If you are thinking of buying a scroll saw, make sure you get one that will take plain end blades. Pin end blades are useless for any detailed fretwork.

Besides various sizes of blade, mentioned in my last post, there are other attributes to consider when choosing a blade for a certain project. Some blades just a have a straight row of teeth, while others have every other saw tooth missing, these are called skip tooth blades. Then there are reverse tooth blades where the bottom few teeth point in the opposite direction. I use reverse tooth blades because they prevent tear out on the bottom side of the wood. If this is the case I can't think why I would want to use a skip tooth blade. Apparently they cut faster, but if you see how quick a decent scroll saw goes you may wonder at the logic in trying to go any faster, especially if it leads to torn out grain at the bottom of the saw cut. Saving micro seconds on the sawing and then having to spend a lot of time sanding the torn out grain on the underneath of the project doesn't seem like a reasonable payoff to me.

Anyway, back to the box. Here is a view of one of the ends after the scroll work has been done. You will also notice that I have used my pyrography iron to separate the flowers. 
Here is a little observation. When it comes to doing a bit of pyrography on most woods the smell that is created is what you would expect. It smells like wood burning, which thankfully isn't too unpleasant, that is as long as your name isn't Guy Fawkes or Joan of Arc.

Anyway, be aware that walnut smells pretty grim when it is being burnt with a pyrography iron. It has a  pong like gone-off kippers. Despite having my extractor fan on and the window open in my workshop, by the time I'd finished doing the pyrography, I smelt like an Arbroath Smokie.

After all the sizes were cut, burnt and sanded I stuck the box together with wood glue and clamped them together

Here are the four sides complete.
The next step was to cut a piece of wood for the base and after that I started to work on the design for the lid. I will show you that in my next post.

By the way. if you are interested in a free book. One of mine called Bossyboots is available as a free download on Just click here and enter the following coupon code at the check out TK32S.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Scroll saw walnut box part 2

Hi All,
Carrying on from last week regarding the walnut box here is the next step. I took the image of the single fuchsia and copied it.
Then I pasted it several times into a new image and moved each one about until I came up with something that I liked.
I then printed off the image and made some more alteration by hand. For instance, the three fuchsia an the left would be left dangling once the wood had been cut away, so I joined them to the bottom of the wood via the stamens.

I find that when doing a pattern for cutting that it becomes a lot clearer if I colour the wood that is to be removed with the scroll saw. Please see the picture below; the areas in blue are the ones that will be cut out.
 The design is now stuck onto the wood with temporary spray adhesive and I have drilled the entry holes for the scroll saw blades. You can also see, on both edges, the markings for the box joints which I will cut out first.

I have also made some notes on the drawing regarding blade sizes and before we go any further this would be a good point to give you some information on scroll saw blades, especially if you are thinking of investing in a scroll saw.

Firstly, there are two types of scroll saw blade; plain end and pin end. Whatever you do, please make sure your saw takes plain end blades. Do not, I repeat, do not buy a saw which takes pin end blades only. The reason for this is when you are making inside cuts you will have to thread your saw blade through the wood via drilled holes. If you look at the drilled holes between the stamens, you will see that they are very small and a pin end blade won't go through small holes or even reasonably big holes.

The second thing you need to take into account when purchasing a saw is, how easy is it going to be to unclamp the blade and re-thread it through the wood for every section in the design you are working on. If you take the design above, the blade needs to be threaded through the holes 17 times and that is just for one side of the box. So, quick release clamps are almost a must if you are going to take scroll sawing seriously. Just imagine messing about with screwdrivers or other tools every time you want to cut a new section. By the time I have finished this box I will have clamped and unclamped the blade at least 80 times and that is without changing the blades to do the box joints.

Now you may be wondering at this point why it would be necessary to change the blade when doing the box joints because it looks like a straight forward outside cut. Well it is, but bigger blades cut straighter lines. Here is a picture of blades at both ends of the spectrum. A number 1, which is the thinnest and a number 12 which is the biggest.
So, when I make the horizontal cuts on the edges of the design I use a number 12 blade to give me the straightest possible line. And, to save me changing blades too often, I do the horizontal cuts on all four sides of the box while I have the number 12 blade in the saw.

Now here is the clever bit. When it comes to making the vertical cut I can get out of trying to saw around the sharp corner by using a number 1 blade. This blade is so thin that it will actually slide sideways down the space made by the number 12 blade. The result is that I can quickly make the vertical cuts without the need to cut any corners. Care does need to be taken to get the cut as straight as possible, but it is only a small distance so is pretty easy.

I hope all that makes sense. Please let me know if you need any clarification. In my next post I will tell you about the type of blade I prefer and will show you how I got on after cutting the wood. There should also be a bit of pyrography in there too.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Walnut Box

Hi All,
Firstly, regarding the title of this post. I'd like to point out that it concerns a box made from walnut wood and not a box to keep walnuts in.

Anyway, I had this idea to make a box with my scroll saw and decorate it with a design of fuchia flowers. I would burn the flowers into the wood with my pyrography iron and then paint them. The box would have fret work sides and top and as such should be suitable as a pot-pourri container.

One of the main reasons for purchasing a scroll saw was the scope it would give me in making boxes for my pyrography work and I thought this project would be good practice. Over the next three or four posts I will go through the process in detail, from the purchase of the wood to the completed project.

The starting point with any project revolving a scroll saw or pyrography is in acquiring some wood, so I purchased a small plank of walnut measuring 4inches by 18 inches from a company called The plank of wood is 6mm thick (about a quarter of an inch) and believe it or not but that is the largest plank of hardwood of that thickness that I can find anywhere. If anybody knows a source of bigger pieces of quarter inch hardwood please let me have the details.

By the way, this was the first time I'd worked with walnut and have to say I was a bit disappointed by its appearance. The tables and other items I've seen on the antiques road show that have been made from walnut always look fantastic and they made the piece of wood I'd received look some what dowdy by comparison. Perhaps it will look much better when it has been finished off. I do hope so because this sniffling little piece of wood cost me almost a fiver.

Once the wood arrived I designed the overall shape of the box on it. Once it was divided up into the six parts that make up a box I could then start working on the design. Here is the plank of walnut after I  divided it the parts for the box.
I would concentrate on the front and sides of the box first, so that was where my design began. I measured the size of the front and opened a new blank file in adobe photoshop to that exact size.
I then drew a image of a fuchia with a pencil onto a piece of paper. I used a pencil so that I could keep rubbing the image out until I was happy with it. When I finally had a stylised image of a fuchia that I thought would suit my needs, I went over image with a pen and then scanned it into my computer.

Okay, so perhaps it isn't the most spectacular fuchia you ever did see and it won't win any prizes at the Chelsea flower show, but I have every faith that it will look good on the finished box. Once the fuchia was in the computer it was a simple matter of copying the image and pasting it into the the blank file I had opened earlier.

This is the way I do most of my design work and I will go on to explain the next steps in my next post.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Blade Draws

Hi All,
When I started scroll sawing, finding somewhere to store my blades wasn't an issue because I only had the few blades that came with the saw. However, every time I started a new project I had to purchased more and more blades to suit the size of the wood I was going to be cutting.So I soon had lots of blades ranging from size 1 to size 12 with 12 being the biggest. You may think it is obvious that size 12 is the biggest, but that rule doesn't alway apply. With fishing hooks, for instance, the higher the number is, the small the hook is. You could hang a dead pig on size 1 hook, but you could thread a size 26 through the eye of a needle.

Anyway, with my blades in danger of getting into a dire mess, I decided to make a small set of draws to keep them in. And while I was at it, I would include a draw for my junior hacksaw blades and my Stanley knife blades.

I cut the main structure from a piece of 15mm pine and made the drawer fronts and sides from 6mm pine strip. The bases of the drawers were cut from 3mm plywood. The wood I used was all stuff lying around my workshop, so I guess I made the whole thing for free. Everything was cut on my scroll saw so there wasn't any hard work involved in the project, which is great because sawing a lot of wood by hand is very tedious.

Originally, I had intended on using my pyrography iron to burn the blade sizes onto each drawer but I decided against the idea. The draw knobs were kindly made by my wife from clay and I painted them blue.

Here is a picture of the finished set of drawers.

Considering I didn't take too much time over making this item I am pleased with the results. It looks good and it is useful, so in my book that counts as a success.

Another good thing that came out of the project was my first encounter with 'sanding sealer'. I first heard about this product almost fifty years ago when I was a young lad who enjoyed making model air planes from balsa wood. The sad thing is that the only money I had in the world, in those days, came from my paper round, so I only bought necessities and 'sanding sealer' was deemed a luxury too far.

As it happens nothing much has changed in my life and I still don't like to fritter money away, but seeing as there was a lot of open end grain on the pine I was using, I decided to give it a go.

The result was brilliant. I used it after the final sanding, it really does improve the finish. If I'd known how good it was all those years ago I might have risked thruppence on a bottle.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Mighty Oak

Hi All,
In my last post I showed you an acorn snuff box that I had made with my scroll saw and decorated with pyrography. Well this week I made another box in the shape of an oak leaf.
Using my scroll saw, I cut it from a piece of solid ash about 1 inch thick using a number 12 reverse tooth blade to reduce any tear out at the bottom of the box. The inside cut isn't too difficult because I was able to follow the drawing that I had stuck to the front of the wood. If I wandered off course a bit nobody but me would know. However, when it comes to the outside cut extreme care is required. The wall of the box is only about 4mm thick, so any lack of concentration would see the thickness of the wall made either too thin or too thick and that wouldn't look good. Scroll saw blades move very quickly so errors can be made in a flash.

The other difficult thing with an object like an oak leaf, is that the irregular shape makes if difficult to sand. Square, round and even oval boxes can be easily smoothed on a belt or disc sander, but an oak leaf shaped box can't. So it is important to get a smooth as possible finish when the object comes off the saw because life is too short to be doing a lot of sanding by hand.

For the base, I just drew around the box and cut it out on my scroll saw with a number five blade. I used the same method and blade for the lid, but this was cut out of a piece of quarter inch thick oak, which I thought very appropriate for the project.

As with the acorn box, that I showed you in my last post, I used magnets to attach the lid to the box. These are both hidden under the stalk end of the leaf and allow the box to be opened with a swivelling motion.

I have used pyrography to decorated the lid of the box and I think it works very well. In fact, I am always amazed at how well pyrography suits organic pieces

Here is a picture of the top of the box and the pyrography.
I am currently working on a bigger project and will show you that in my next post. If you have any questions about pyrography or scroll sawing please let me know.

By the way, I know some of you read my books and you may be pleased to know that the follow up to A Staffordshire Boy is starting to take shape. It is called "Ten Pound Pom" and should be available for purchase early in the new year.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Acorn snuff box

Hi all,
At the moment, there seems to be a glut of of antiques programmes on the telly. The antiques road show, the antiques road trip, flog it and bargain hunt just to mention a few. I'm not moaning, in fact, I have to admit that I quite like these programmes because they are gentle and at times they can be very informative.

Anyway, at least once a week a snuff box will turn up on one of these shows because they are quite popular with the collectors. I like them too, so I thought I'd put my scroll saw and pyrorgaphy iron to work to see if I could make one.

Here is the finished result.

It is an acorn made from three pieces of wood. The top is cut from a piece of pine. I chose pine for the top because I knew it would need a lot of shaping. Pine is a soft wood and easy to shape.

The box part is cut from a piece of maple, which is a very hard wood and one that I won't be using again in a hurry. The shape of the box has sloping sides, so I had to cut them at a twenty degree angle which made the sawing task more difficult than normal.
The fact that I have an excalibur scroll saw however did make it slightly easier because of one of the unique features of the saw is that sawing at an angle is facilitated by angling the blade and not the table as is the case on other scroll saws.

The base was cut from a piece of 3mm ply. If you are wondering what the black circle is, I can tell you that it is a magnet and it is used to attach the lid so that it opens with a circular motion.  Another magnet is positioned in the underside of the lid and it holds the lid in place.

I tried using magnets on this project because I dislike using miniature hinges, but to be honest, magnets turned out to be just as big a pain in the butt. The magnets are 12mm in diameter, so I purchased a 12mm forstner bit in the expectation that I would get a snug fit after drilling the holes. How wrong can you be, either the magnets are well over 12mm or the forstner bit is well under. Getting them to line up was also another headache. I finally overcame that particular hurdle with a tube of water colour paint, but I won't go into that now.

Here is the finished box.
The pyrography was a pleasure to do. I used a spoon tip as usual and a high temperature setting to do some arcing lines for the acorn cup. I then finished it off with three coats of varnish.

I hope you like my little pyrography acorn box, now all I need is some snuff.  By the way, I will be continuing the oak theme in my next post as I am doing something else in oak. It will require some nice pyrography work and I am looking forward to sharing it with you.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Pyrography flower pot

Hi All, I was busy with the scroll saw and pyrography iron last week and here is what I came up with. I designed it myself and being a prototype it came out very nice.

Now you may be saying to yourself what the hell is that? The answer is a vase.
At this point you may have started laughing to yourself because a wooden vase is about as much use as a chocolate tea pot; they are both apt to go a bit soggy. By now you are probably thinking that I've lost the plot and spent a lot of time doing scroll and pyrography work on a doomed project.

Well I haven't really, and here's why. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that my wife had taken to making flowers out of clay, so I thought I'd make her something to put them in. Yes I know it is hard to believe that they are not real, and even the insects have been fooled. We've had all sorts of bees banging on the window to get at them. Here's a closer photo.
The crazy thing is, she makes it all look so easy, so it isn't any wonder that her pyrography work is so good. Anyway, I'll have to leave it there because my computer is playing up and I don't want to lose everything I've written. Please excuse my spelling if it is worse that normal because the spell checker isn't working either. My next post will contain more original pyrography.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


Hi all,
It was my wife's birthday last week and I bought her some presents in line with her requests. We both hate receiving useless gifts of which we have both been the recipients. Somebody once decided it would be nice to knit me a bag to keep my electric tooth brush in. I appreciated the effort, but after a decent amount of time had gone by I'm afraid I succumbed and banged it in the wheelie.

Anyway, I got her a load of stuff that she wanted for her new hobby, making flowers from clay, but I wanted to do her a surprise. It was hard work making it in secret, especially as my workshop is next to the kitchen, but here it is.
I cut it out with my scroll saw from a piece of American cherry and used box joints on the corners. I think the red of the wood gives it a rich look and surprisingly it worked very well with the pyrography.

Here is the top.
Those of you who have been following my pyrography blog for a while will probably recognise the design because I have used it before on a previous box. That one was done with pyrography only but I thought the design would lend itself well to being cut out with a scroll saw. One of the good things about doing your own design work is that you can adapt it for several projects. All I had to do in this case was find the file on the computer and tweak the size and shape to fit the panels on the box.

Here is the front
After I'd done the pyrography work, I painted the damselflies with some of my wife's special paints. They work extremely well especially on the wings. I then sprayed the whole thing several times to give it a good protective coat of varnish. All that was left then was the worst bit. I love scroll sawing and I love doing pyrography but I hate sticking felt inside boxes. My wife usually performs this hideous task for me, but seeing as the box was for her, I had no option but to do it myself.

When her birthday arrived I don't know who was the most excited as she unwrapped her present. I hoped she would like her surprise and I wasn't disappointed, she loved it.

My only problem now is finding time to do some scroll work and some pyrography that I can sell, perhaps this week I will be lucky.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Berries And Flowers

Hi all, In my last post I said I'd show you what my wife has been up to with her pyrography iron. She completed this 10 inch plaque during the heatwave. It was too hot to be inside the house, so I ran an extension down the garden and she plugged her pyrography iron in under the shade of our willow tree.
I think it is very nice and so different from the stuff I do. I'd love to hear what you think.
 The bad news is that it might be a while before my wife's fine  pyrography graces these pages again because she has taken up a new craft. She has always had a passion for flowers and is now making them out of clay. I've been stunned by how good her first attempts have been and will show you one of them in my next post

I also said in my last post that I'd run through the method I used to create the box I showed you last week. To save you going back,  here is a picture of the box again.
 I decided on the size of the box and then cut out the 4 pieces for the front back and sides and once the size was decided I could then do my design to suit.

I chose leaves because I could use the tendrils between each leaf for bridges when doing the fret work with the scroll saw. The bridges are the bits that connect the wood together and without these it would all just drop into the box.

I also chose leaves because I wanted to do something different. If you look at most fret work, you will find that it is symmetrical and I wanted to get away from that.

Once the drawing was done, I transferred it to the wood. This was done by sticking the drawing onto the wood with some temporary adhesive. I then drilled pilot holes between the leaves and tendrils. The pilot holes are there to allow me to thread the saw blade through the wood. By the way, if you are thinking of getting a scroll saw, make sure you get one that takes plain blades. Pin end blades do not allow you to do fine fretwork.

Once the drilling was done, I carefully cut the design out of wood and then burnt in the pyrography pattern.

Then came the really tricky bit; I had to make joints for the corners. At this stage of my woodworking career I decided that dovetails were well out of my league, so I thought I'd have a go at mitre joints, which I would make on my disc sander. I'll cut a long story short, they came out crap. In fact, they looked like I'd done them with an axe. The joints needed to be hidden so now you know why there is a column on each corner.

The next thing I did was cut out the base. I put a curvy design into it to match the columns on the corners. Once all this was glued up I did another design for the lid, which I then cut out and did the pyrography work on it.

The lid was then attached to the box with hinges. these were glued on with epoxy resin and pins. I hate fixing hinges to anything because they seem to have a mind of there own.

I then gave the box 3 coats of varnish and stuck some felt on the bottom and the base inside.

The whole thing was time consuming and took a lot of concentration, but the end result was worth it. Being able to create something pleasing out of a few bits of wood is good for the soul.

Having done one box I thought I'd do another and I'll share that with you in my next post.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Pyrography and scoll saw box

Hi all,
In my last post I told you I was doing something special with my scroll saw and my pyrography iron, well here it is.
This is the first box I have made with my scroll saw. It is my own design and I'm very pleased with the results. The best part is that I no longer have to search high and low for boxes made from decent wood. Being a pyrographer who likes to decorate boxes I have been constantly surprised by the poor quality of wood some manufacturers use to make boxes, some of it is little better than cardboard. I don't know where they get it from, but it is soft, the grain is rough, it is impossible to sand to a decent finish and it smells of fish as soon as my pyrography iron gets anywhere near it.
This front back and sides of this box are made from quarter inch thick oak and the top and bottom are made from quarter inch ply. I would have liked to have used oak on the top and bottom but I have been unable to source any timber wide enough. Three inches seems to be the limit at quarter inch thickness, but if anybody knows where I can get flat panels of that thickness but wider I'd be happy if you could let me know.

By the way, I have lined the insides of the box with 3mm ply wood to make sure any contents can't escape through the holes made by the scroll saw.

The box measures 3 inches tall, 4 inches wide and is 7 inches long. I made it to go on my bedside table where I deposit the contents of my pockets every night. Car keys, loose change and that sort of stuff plus my rings. I'm sure it would have been very handy, but my wife decided that it was too good to spend its life in the bedroom and found a perfect place for it in the living room. Ah well, I guess I will just have to crack on and make another one.

In my next post I will show you what my wife has been up to with her pyrography iron and explain how I designed the box that is pictured above.

Monday, 22 July 2013


Hi All,
Last week wasn't very productive because of the heat wave. Several days of temperatures around 30 degrees sapped my strength and motivation. Having my computer workstation in the attic room, which is the hottest room in the house, didn't help.

We actually spent most of the week encamped under a large willow tree at the bottom of the garden, which was the only place we could get some slight relief from the sun. Some may think that sitting in the shade on a hot summer's day is heaven, but I'm afraid I found it rather boring. In the end, I ran an extension down the garden so that we could at least do a bit of pyrography.

It never ceases to amaze me that people will pay good money to go  to hotter places and sit in the sun all day. Ah well, it wouldn't do for us all to be wired up the same, so let's get back to the pyrography.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was doing a dragon, well here he is in all his glory.
  I used my scroll saw to cut the dragon from a panel of 6mm plywood and then burnt in the scales with my pyrography iron. Cutting it out was quite enjoyable even though it was time consuming. Great care needed to be taken in places where fine accurate cuts were needed.

Originally, I was going to do every scale with my pyrography iron, but I decided to just do a few here and there to give it a reptilian flavour. I did this because I didn't like the design of the wings. The harp shaped cut out on the back of the dragon would have looked better if left whole and I had drawn some wings on it with my pyrography iron. If I could buy hindsight I'd lash out a few quid on a bucketful, even though I'm generally as tight as a chub's bum.

Anyway, the dragon provided me with enough cutting practise and I feel that I am now ready to do my own thing. In fact, I have made a start and hope to show you something special (he said with his fingers firmly crossed) in my next post.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Stag Do

Hi all,
I have been busy this week working my way through the exercises in the book that I bought about scroll sawing. My aim, if I can avoid sawing my fingers off, is to become proficient enough to be able to make boxes which I can decorate with my pyrography iron. Amongst a few other things I did a moose on a stand, which I cut from a piece of three quarter inch pine.

And keeping to the same theme, I cut a stag out of 4mm thick plywood. The background is watercolour paper painted with a mixture of black and midnight blue. The dark background helps to highlight the scroll saw work. I did think of doing a bit of pyrography on this picture because I think some of the cuts that were made with the scroll saw would have looked better if they had been done with my pyrography iron. The features on the stag and the marks on the birch tree would all have looked better if  they had been burnt in. I could have also used my pyrography iron to put some fur on the deer and emphasis the grasses in the foreground, but I decided against it in an effort to reach my goal.

For those who haven't seen a scroll saw here is a picture of mine.
It's a funny looking bit of kit, but it does an excellent job of sawing wood, which needs little effort in finishing because it doesn't rip out the grain of the wood. During the next few weeks I will add a page to this blog that will cover what I have found out about scroll sawing and the choices I have made. Now I must get back to the dragon, it is the last exercise I am doing and it will have a bit of pyrography on it. I look forward to showing it you in my next post. By the way if you have any questions about pyrography or scroll sawing please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Selling Pyrography

Hi all,
I like being creative and I like some of the things I've made so much that I couldn't bear to part with them. It would be like offering my first born up for adoption. However, even if you have no intention of trying to make money from your creations you will have to find an outlet  for your work, or rent a storage unit because the stuff builds up very quickly.

Those who have been following me for a while will know that I have used two methods to sell my pyrography wares. I have had my own website for a number of years, which not only provides me with a way of selling some of my pyrography work, but also enables me to give information about my books to those who may be interested.

The other channel I use for selling my pyrography work is It is easy to set up a shop on Folksy and nice to know that customers can find your work at any time. The fees are reasonable and I would recommend them to anybody.

Having said all that, there is a new option which I tried once and dismissed. I am speaking of e-bay,  which didn't produce any buyers when I first tried it for my pyrography, but I still had to pay my fees. However things have changed and with free insertion week-ends every one is a winner.

When a free listing week-end comes around, I pop a couple of my pyrography items onto e-bay and see what happens. If they don't sell it doesn't matter because there is an option to automatically re-list them again for free. So unsold items just keep going around and around until they sell, once they do, you just pay the usual commission to e-bay.

This week, I sold the pyrography picture below.
It took two weeks before it got a bid, but it went eventually. Which brings me to anther issue when it comes to selling pyrography. I have analysed the items I have sold and found that the most popular are the items that also provided function. Boxes, rolling pins and bowls have done very well in comparison with pictures and plaques. The fact that I have just sold a picture is ironic given what I have just said, but take it from me pictures don't sell so well when compared to boxes.

That is one of the reasons why I have gone down the scroll saw route, about which I will explain a bit more in my next post. Here is a Scotty dog which I have just completed for one of the exercises that I am doing.
I painted it black because that is suits the breed of dog. I thought about doing it with my pyrography iron, but I would have needed a blow torch to get it that dark.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Extractor From Hell

Hi all,
In my last post I promised to tell you about my experience with the extractor from hell, but first I thought I'd show you what my wife has been up to with her pyrography iron. She  managed to get her hands on three quaint wooden hearts and has decorated them with a rustic theme.
Heart 1 some honey bees
Heart 2 Acorns
Heart 3 a red apple
They are very good and I think you will agree that she has a unique skill when it comes to using colour in her pyrography.

Right, let's get back to the extractor from hell. After setting up the scroll saw and reading the instructions it was obvious that some sort of dust extraction would be required before I commenced on any serious sawing activity. I purchased one from a vendor on Amazon and it was delivered quickly. So far so good. However, when I read the instructions that came with the dust collector, I was totally dismayed.

It said in at least two places in the instructions that the unit was not to be used for dust collection and also went on to say that it was to be used for shavings only. At first I thought I'd dropped a clanger and purchased the wrong item. I am close to "that age" so nothing would surprise me.

Anyway, I looked at the front page of the instructions and sure enough they were for a dust collector. Further more, it said in large letters on the top of the unit that it is a dust collector. This was a bit like buying a teapot and finding out it wasn't suitable for making tea.

To resolve the issue I contacted the vendor by e-mail and they said that it was an error in the translation of the instructions and I was only the third person who had ever mentioned it. I think it is a disgrace that companies can be so cavalier when it comes to matters of health and safety. In fact they couldn't give a monkey's uncle once they'd got my hard earned in their little piggy bank.

If it wasn't so big and so much hassle I would have sent it back, but I decided to attach it to the saw and see how I got on. First the good news; the dust extractor is very powerful. When I switched it on for the first time, it dragged the saw, which weighs about 60lb, and the bench it was on that weighs about the same, across my workshop. The bad news is that it is extremely noisy, something on a par to being in the same room as a Vulcan bomber.

There was no way I could use the saw with the extractor running so I connected it to the sander which will only be run for short bursts. In the mean while, I have connected the saw to a vacuum cleaner. It isn't ideal but it will do for now.

So have I produced anything with the scroll saw yet you may well be asking. The answer is yes; I have cut out a fish and done simple pyrography on it.

 It isn't going to set the world on fire but it's early days yet and I reckon he is kinda cute. Hopefully, I will have something new to show you in my next post.