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.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Pyrography Jewelry

Hi All,
In my last post I told you about how I was going to cut out the middle man when it came to buying my pyrography blanks by getting a scroll saw. Well it arrived on Monday and that is where the fun started. Although the saw comes almost ready to use it does need to be mounted onto something strong. Unfortunately the bench that I had earmarked for it wasn't quite right because with the scroll saw having a raised table it was too high.

This meant a rethink and I came up with the idea of using a good quality bedside table. Armed with this idea, I ventured out to a couple a charity shops in our area that have units full of furniture and in the second one I found just what I was after.

The scroll saw instruction said that a rubber mat should be placed under the saw before it is bolted down, so I popped into homebase and bought a carpet tile that did the job very well and damped out any vibration that there might have been.

Anyway, I drilled four big holes in the table and used several angle brackets strategically placed to make sure it didn't collapse under the weight of the saw which weighs in at a massive 60lb. The whole operation took the whole of one afternoon, but I was pleased with my work when it was all bolted down securely and ready to use.

I think I should mention at this point that, according to the books and the experts, a dust extractor should always be used when scroll sawing. I use an extractor when doing my pyrography so that seemed quite reasonable. Well it was to a point, but the extractor that is used for pyrography is a completely different kettle of fish to the extractor that is used for scroll sawing.

So with my saw all set up, I just awaited the delivery of the dust extractor so that I could get sawing and at that point I will leave the second part of this story to my next post and get back to the pyrography.

Well I say get back to the pyrography; it's my wife's actually because I haven't done any. At the moment she is knocking all sorts of crafty stuff out. If William Morris was still about I'm sure he'd sent her a telegram and ask her to knock up a few rolls of wall-paper for him.

On the pyrography front, she has made herself a gorgeous necklace with some wooden beads and used her pyrography iron to burn a hare into a wooden pendant. She then enhanced the pyrography with acylic paints and the results are quite stunning.

I will leave it there for now and in my next post I'll let you know what happened with the extractor from hell.

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Hi all,
When I started doing the greenman plaque, that I showed you partly complete last week, I didn't realise how big a project it was going to be. There was so much detail in it the whole thing took ages and it set my carpel tunnel syndrome off something shocking. That meant I had to keep stopping to give my wrist a break. Still it kept me busy and contented for a week and that's not a bad thing. If somebody is willing to pay me for my efforts that will be even better. I have just listed it on Folksy so we'll see how it goes.

I guess you are just aching to see the finished article so here it is in all its glory.
In last week's post I described how I went about creating the pattern for the image, so please check that post out if you interested. With regards to the burning process, the image was all done with a spoon tip. Care was taken to keep all the contour grain lines of the wood close together but not touching. When shading the leaves I did them slowly on a low temperature and blew cold air on the tip every tip I reconnected the tip with the wood. If you have done a bit of pyrography you will know that this is when you can get some horrible dark spots.

I particularly like the way the grain contours have turned out and the glint I have manged to capture in the eyes, which was done by very careful shading.

Now then, I said earlier that the pyrography had given my carpal tunnel some gype. Well I've decided to do something about it and hopefully kill two birds with one stone.

If you have been doing any pyrography you will know that wooden blanks can be expensive. Boxes can be found cheap but there is a reason for that, they are made from cheap wood. So, I have invested in a scroll saw and I'm going to start making my own wooded items, many of which will be decorated with pyrography.

If all goes well, I will get to create my own blanks and boxes and also give my wrist a break from repetitive strain. In my next post I'll show you the scroll saw and what I've done with it so far.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Something Different

Hi All,
It has become apparent to me that I have been letting my pyrography slip a little lately. Not that I've been doing any bad work but I seem to have been recreating and replacing stocks and generally treading water.

So it's time to do something a bit different and here is what I have been working on during the last week. It is only about 50% complete so a lot of work still to do.
At this point Rolf Harris would probably say "Do you know what it is yet." The answer of course, is a green man.  So why a green man you may ask?

Well my step daughter is getting married later in the year and is having a 'Pagan Handsfasting' ceremony in a barn. She and her friends are decorating the barn and she asked my wife to help. Anyway, to cut a long story short, my wife started looking at Pagan symbols and became intrigued. She showed me a few and that is where the inspiration to do a green man in pyrography came from.

The design is done to fit a 10 inch diameter plaque and this was quite a challenge. The main issue being because my printer and scanner are only A4 size and I wanted to make the features on both side of the face symmetrical. So here is how I went about it.

I lined up the centre of the plaque with the left hand side of a piece of A4 paper, so that I could get one side of the face completely on the paper. Then I did the design in pencil with lots of rubbing out until I got something I was happy with. By the way I know I've mentioned it before, but when doing a lot of line work like this, an electric eraser is almost essential.

I then scanned the image into photoshop and saved it into a folder. Next, I printed a copy of the right hand side of the face and then I flipped the image through 180 degrees and then printed the left hand side of the face.

Then I stuck the two sides of the face together and cut around the edge of the image which gave me the face to transfer onto the plaque in the normal way. I am hoping that it will turn out as well as expected and in my next post I will show you the finished article.

If you have any question please feel free to e-mail me or put a comment on here

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Cumbria Way

Hi All,
I haven't managed to get my pyrography iron out this week because I have been working on a sketch for my next personalised plaque. Those who have been following my pyrography blog for a while will know that I have done four plaques so far.

Three of these are aimed at those who see the long distance footpaths that are springing up all over the country as a challenge. I envy these people and if I was younger and in different circumstances I would love to have a go myself. What could be better, now that the weather is warmer, than to be walking through the majestic countryside and discovering a breathtaking vistas around every corner.

Alas it is no to be, so I will have to content myself by researching each walk and then doing a plaque that will hopefully do it justice. Originally, it was my intention to do a plaque for every walk, but I don't think that is going top be feasible, so I am going to concentrate on completing 10 of the walks and will do anything else via commissions and then add that design to the ten originals.

So far I have done.   The Coast to Coast walk
Hadrian's Wall Path
The Pennine Way
The plaques are 10 inches wide and have proved to be popular.

Anyway, this week I have concentrated on a sketch of a plaque for the Cumbria Way.
The Cumbria Way may only cover 70 miles on its journey from Ulverston to Carlise, but it passes through probably the most scenic part of the United Kingdom.

The biggest problem for me and my pyrography was the sheer number of Lake District icons that I could have included and I was very much spoilt for choice. In the end, I settled for the beacon that dominates the skyline at the start of the walk in Ulverston and a typical Lake District bridge. These would sit in front of the Langdale Pikes which are two of the highest peaks in the county. I did of course add a signpost and a rucksack just to give it a flavour of walking.

So here is the sketch. Please let me know what you think.
The top three plaques are available from my website, so if you are interested please Click here
 or  they can be purchased from

The Cumbria Way plaque will be available from my website in a few days at a discounted price for the first person to buy one.