Sunday, 20 July 2014


Hi all,
Sorry it's been a while since my last post but I've been very busy on the house restoration. So far I've done the dining room, the bathroom and my mother-in law's room. I have also done the front and back gardens whilst the weather has been nice.

So, I only have our bedroom, inner hall, the living room, the utility room, the conservatory and the kitchen to complete before Christmas.

The kitchen is the biggest job, not least because the people who lived here before us wall papered over wall paper and I've had to get 5 layers off. It was stuck like a tic to a terrier and took most of the week to get it off. I tried a steamer once in a bathroom a couple of houses ago. All was going well, the paper came off a treat but unfortunately so did the plaster, a barrow load fell off the wall into my bath with a resounding crash. That was when me and steamers got a divorce.

However, that wasn't the worst of it. When I took took some paper off by the wall units this is what I found. I wondered why there was a bulge in the paper.
If you are wondering what it is I will tell you. It's the hole where the boiler used to be. When they decommission the boiler they stuck the lid off a biscuit tin in the hole and cemented it in with some rubber glue. If it had been completely covered by the wall units I could have forgiven them, but to put the wall cupboards half over it and paper over the mess is absolutely ridiculous and shame on the workman who did it. I know where I'd like to stick the tube of rubber glue.

Anyway, that's enough of that. I did manage to do a bit of scroll sawing and pyrography and combined the two on a practice piece. I had always fancied inlaying one wood into another and thought I'd give it a go. In my first attempt I used mahogany for the dark wood and tulip wood for the lighter wood to give it contrast.

The technique of inlaying two woods is simple. You wrap Sellotape around the two pieces of wood, with the lightest on the top, and cut the pattern out. When you take the Sellotape off, the centre of the dark wood can be discarded and the lighter wood from the top layer takes its place.

The only difficulty comes in judging the angle of the cut. Let me explain. If you do a straight forward cut with no angle at all, you will find that you have a gap around the inlay that is the width of your saw blade, which is undesirable. So you need to do the cutting at an angle so that the top piece slides neatly into the piece below with no gap. The tricky bit is finding the right angle because it depends on the thickness of the wood that you are cutting.

Anyway, when I cut out the letter "T" on my scroll saw, I used an angle of 1.5 degrees, and as the wood I was cutting was 6mm thick it was almost perfect but just a little tight. So, I made an adjustment of half a degree and cut out a poppy only to find that I'd made the adjustment the wrong way. The net result was a less than perfect fitting inlay. Still we all learn by our mistakes. I went on to do the pyrography work on the poppy and I'm pleased with how it came out. The next one should be much better.
The thing is, it must have looked quite good to my wife because she soon snaffled it and stuck it on the front of a box of candles that were desperately in need of cheering up.

I am working on the design for my next scroll saw and pyrography project and hope to show you it in my next post.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Box design and clamp

Hi all,
I was pleased with the box that I showed you in my last post and thought I would do another one with a couple of modifications. I also wanted to pass on any bits of knowledge that I learnt from the process.

The first thing I would say is that making the sides from pine is no good for pyrography because it is too difficult to burn with any accuracy. The second, is that once you have a design that you are happy with, make sure you get it down on paper. I have repeated the last box I did and before I glued it together I drew around each piece for future reference. I then scanned it and put it into my design files for future use.

Here are the parts cut out. The dark wood is walnut and the light wood is obeche.
And here is the design after drawing around the parts.

One of the main things I have learnt from making boxes is that they need to be square, especially if you want the lid to fit properly and look good to the eye. My early attempts at box making were good, but because they weren't exactly square they weren't good enough.

Anyway, here are two hints on making a box square. The first may seem obvious, but it didn't dawn on me straight away. To make a box square, the front the back and the sides must be exactly the same length so they are best cut in pairs.

I use clear parcel tape to bind the two sides of the box together before cutting them, this ensures that they are the same length. Likewise, I also cut the back and front of the box as a pair for the same reason.

You will probably notice that in my design, the back of the box isn't as tall as the front, but I still cut them out as a pair to make sure they are the same length, then afterwards remove 3mm from the back piece.

If you want to try building one of these boxes using my design please feel free and send me a picture of the results.

Besides making sure the parts are all cut to the same length, another thing you can do is invest in a box clamp. The one I purchased, pictured below, cost me £4.99 from Aldi when they were having a special's day.
It is very easy to use and a vast improvement than the quick release clamps that I used previously.
The box is held at the corners between the brackets as you can see with my box above and can be finely adjusted. I still can't believe how easy it is to use.

Finally, the box I made last time had pyrography on the lid and the sides and I was wondering if it was too much.
So, I am making the same box again, but this time with walnut sides that won't need any pyrography.
I hope to finish it soon and will show it to you in my next post

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Doodle Box

Hi all,
In my last post I showed you the box that I'd made on my scroll saw and I said I'd started to decorate it with some pyrography. To remind you what it looked like before the pyrography here is a photo of the bare box.
Now here is a picture of the box after the pyrography.
I'm pretty pleased with the result because I always wanted to completely cover an object with a pyrography pattern. Perhaps pattern is the wrong word because it suggests I worked to a plan which was not the case. I roughly drew in the checkered part on the lid and after that it was a matter of doodling with my pyrography iron.

It may look complicated but it was easy to do because it didn't have to look like anything in particular, just be easy on the eye.  Perhaps you can judge if I achieved that objective better than me. Any comments welcome

Anyway, I found the process of covering the whole box with pyrography very therapeutic. While I was doing the burning I was transported to a different place and forgot all my worries and woes. That's got to be good for the soul hasn't it.

One of the things that I did learn from this project was not to use pine wherever  pyrography is going to be used. The lid of the box was made from a hard wood called obeche and that burnt very nicely. However, it was a different story with the pine which was a nightmare. In fact, I am surprised at how well the sides of the box came out because they are all made from pine.

The trouble with pine is that it is inconsistent when used for pyrography. Between the grain lines the wood is very soft and burns easily, which leads to over burn while the grain lines themselves are very hard and take more burning. The net result is that burnt lines can look terribly patchy. Great care is needed to get the finer details looking anything like acceptable so I will be sticking to hardwood from now on wherever pyrography is going to be used.