Saturday, 27 December 2014

Happy New Year

Hi all,
Hope you all had a jolly good Christmas. Mine was good, not exciting but good not least because the eating was spot on. My wife does a delicious turkey dinner and the best trifle ever to find itself on a spoon.

I know we say it every year, but this year the television hit an all time low, in fact, it was nothing but repeats and rubbish. I tried to keep an open mind but the quality of some of the new shows was grim.

Ah well, who wants to sit in front of the box anyhow when so many crafts are waiting to be tried. I told you before Xmas that I was working on a automata and I have managed to cut out all of the pieces and start the assembly work.
So far everything has gone to plan even if progress is slower than expected. I should be able to show you the finished article in my next post and give you a report on how enjoyable it was project wise.

The reason the Automata didn't get finished in time for Christmas was the effort I had to put into making the two surprise boxes that I was making my wife for Christmas presents.

The first box was was cut form a block of maple and I used my scroll saw to cut our a heart shape in the middle. The base and the lid were both cut from a panel of 6mm thick walnut. Into the lid I cut out a shape of a rose and then inlaid a piece of 6mm Baltic birch to give it a light enough background for the rose pyrography. It was finished with three layers of varnish to give it a high gloss finish.
I was very pleased with the way it came out especially the pyrography. My wife was also pleased when she opened her present and she was impressed with the way I had used flocking to give the inside of the heart a nice feel.
Because the inlaid wood is solid and the same thickness as the lid it is seen from the inside and  outside of the box, so I had to repeat the pyrography on the inside of the lid. Obviously it comes out upside down but it gives a great effect.

My efforts to get a really nice gloss finish are finally paying off. If I look at the stuff I'm producing now it is much better and I would put it down to sanding. I used to just get some fine sand paper give it a rub and hope for the best and reap indifferent results. Now however, I am more disciplined, I start with 180 grit and then work my way through until I get to 400 grit which gives me a really good finish.

The other box I made for my wife centered around a hare that I had cut out of a piece of mahogany. This would form the lid if it came out okay.
It was my intention to fill the hare aperture with polymer clay and mould it into the shape of a hare, so that one half of it would be raised on the top of the box. The nearest thing I'd ever done to that type of moulding was with some plastercine when I was about 8 years old, so I decided to see how the lid progressed before I committed myself to making the actual box.

I will show you the finished article in my next post because I want to tell you all about it. I've had a few disasters when making wooden items but not nearly as many as dogged that box during the lead up to Christmas. If I don't catch you before let me wish you all the best for the new year and hope that it is an healthy one.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Lacquered Box

Hi All,
It has been slow slow progress on the pyrography and scroll sawing projects this week. I said in my last post that I was going to have a go at an automata but other than cutting a few pieces that hasn't gone very far either.
The main problem is that I have been suffering from a really bad cold. I'm not one to exaggerate the effects of a cold and never had time off work when suffering from one. However, the one that is currently giving me some gyp is wicked and I think I would have a had to have a week off.

The other problem I have at the moment is my workshop, it's colder than penguin's winkle. It used to be the garage, so the walls are only one brick thick and it is impossible to get it proper warm. I've had electric fire on but after a while the cold seeps out of the concrete floor and up my legs. Within an hour I'm walking like Douglas Bader.

Having said all that, I did manage to finish a box that I was making as part of an experiment. Getting a good high gloss finish is something that I really desire and I'm trying to find out how it is done. I've tried varnish, which is okay, but it doesn't give me the finish I'm looking for and it isn't fully compatible with polymer clay,

So, I have finished the top of a box using lacquer and the results are looking favourable.
The box above was given 4 coats of lacquer and now needs a week to fully harden before I take it a bit further. Apparently, I have to give it a rub down with some 1200 grit wet and dry and then buff it up to a glossy shine with car polish.

Applying a coat of lacquer is different from working with varnish because lacquer goes off almost immediately. If you wipe your brush over piece that you have already done you can get into a right mess. In my next post I hope to show you the box again and you can judge it the finish is better and who knows, I might get the automata finished.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Hi all,
In my last post I said I was going to try my hand at doing a bit of automata. For those who aren't familiar with the term here is a simple explanation. If you are anywhere as near as old as me you will remember wind up toys, well automata are like wind up toys that can be made from wood.

However, instead of having a clockwork mechanism they are usually powered by a hand turned crank, which activates a number of camshafts and gears that bring animation to the subject.

I was going to have a go at one where a man plays a piano, but decided to do that next because it also needs a musical movement. So,for my first automata I'm going to keep it simple and do one where a cat is trying to catch a mouse. I got the plans free off the Internet and I hope it will be a bit of fun trying to make it. That may be especially true for me because the plans are in German.

As you can see there will be a lot of cutting out to be done but it should be a laugh when it's finished. Perhaps I'm having a late mid-life crisis, other men by a motor bike and ride route 66 but I'm going into toy making. Contentment is a wonderful thing, if ever you see it passing by, get a rope on it and tie it to your bed post.

If you remember from my last post, my wife said she'd gone off my wooden vases. Well that state of affairs that didn't last long. She wanted another for a Christmas present so I just gave her one of my special smiles and obliged.

I have also started a new box in a heart shape. It is cut from Maple and will have a walnut bottom and lid.
The lid is going to have a rose inlaid into it using two woods, Baltic birch plywood and mahogany. When the inlay is complete I will do the rose with my pyrography iron.

It should be finished in a few days and I will let you have a look at it in my next post along with any progress on the automata. Over the next day or two I will be helping my wife with the Christmas deccies so I don't suppose I will get much time for wood working. At least doing some decorations will be warm, at the moment my workshop is as cold as an Eskimo's pantry.

Monday, 1 December 2014


Hi All,
Following on from my success with the inlaid poppies, I decided to make my wife another vase for her to put her clay flowers in. This time I would make a vase using the same woods; pine and mahogany for the vase and 6mm birch plywood for the inlay.

I had a bit of trouble with the scroll saw work on this one, and to be honest, I still can't get my head around what went wrong. Let me explain. To do an inlay, I tape two pieces of wood together and then cut out the design, once done, the inlay piece fits neatly into the hole on the other piece of wood. That's the theory, but in reality it isn't that simple because the blade of the saw removes some wood and therefore, if you just do a straight cut, the inlay fits like a sausage in shirt sleeve.

To get around the issue, the cut is made at a angle that is appropriate to the thickness of the wood and you then get a nice snug fit. Having said all that, I'm having great difficulty in understanding which bit fits into which bit and on my first attempt at doing the tulips I got it wrong. The plywood inlay fell straight through the mahogany without touching the sides, so I had to glue the original pieces back in. I did that and after using a bit of pyrography to disguise the problem it didn't look too bad.
In fact, it looked nice enough, but only good enough for the rear of the vase because I wanted an inlay on the front. When I did the front again, I went completely opposite to the way I thought it should be done and it came out perfect.
I think the pyrography really sets it off a treat.

My wife liked the finished vase, but there was a problem. She decided that wooden vases bring attention to the fact that her clay flowers aren't actually real, so she doesn't want anymore. In fact, she stuck the Icelandic poppies she'd just finished into a jug from a charity shop.

Ha well, at least I can get on with some of my own stuff now. I'm thinking of having a go at a bit of Automata, I'll let you know if it comes to anything in my next post.

By the way, if you would like to see some more of my wife's flowers here is a Link. She would be pleased with any comments about her work.