Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Marquetry Box

Hi all,
I finally finished the marquetry box and although it came out okay I wasn't blown away by the results. The effort required doesn't balance well with the outcome. To be honest, I found the whole thing a bit tedious and anybody who can make complete marquetry pictures from veneer is a superstar.

In the box pictured below I only had to cut a few pieces of veneer but that was enough for me. I thought veneer would be easy to cut, especially as I'd forked out money an expensive craft knife, but it wasn't. I had to make several passes with the knife before the cut was complete.

Anyway here are the photos of the finished box.
In the photo above you can see the centre inlay which is a piece of 6mm ply wood which has had a light veneer stuck to it, I then used various other veneers to create the image of the fuchsia flower. Except for the stamen of course, which are marks made with my pyrography iron.

The box lid and base are Mahogany and the box itself is cut from a piece of maple.
The image on the underside of the lid is just plain pyrography and somehow I thing it's got more charm than the marquetry.

Sorry if this post seems a bit negative, but we all learn through our experiences. I thought marquetry was going to be a bit of a panacea but it wasn't to be. I'm not ruling out doing a bit more marquetry  in the future, not least because I've got a load of veneer to use up, but I won't be rushing to do it.

I'm not sure what my next project will be but I will bring it to you as soon as I can.

Monday, 19 January 2015


 Hi all,
Those who read this blog on a regular basis will know that I have done a bit of inlay work. I use the term inlay to mean cutting a shape out of one piece of wood and replacing it with the same shape, but cut from a contrasting bit of timber.

An example would be the tulips on this vase.
or the rose on this box.
Both are improved by the use of pyrography but there is a draw back with inlaying wood. The problem is that even with the finest blade it is very difficult to cut acute corners in hardwood especially with two quarter inch pieces taped together.

To get over this problem I  thought I'd have a go at doing some marquetry, which involves cutting out very thin pieces of wood veneer with a knife and sticking them together to form a pattern. I would also use my pyrography iron to draw on the veneer. I thought I would be onto a winner with this idea because people who do marquetry use hot sand to burn marks onto their projects. My pyrography might not be the best in the world, but it has got to be better than anything that can be produced with hot sand.

Anyway, for my first attempt at marquetry I thought I'd do a box similar to the one with the rose on it but adorn it with a fuschia flower.

I stuck a piece of light coloured veneer onto a piece of 6mm plywood and then drew the fuschia onto it. I then cut out the two petals and replaced them with a darker veneer with the grain orientated in a different direction. I then cut out more veneers for the bottom part of the flower and some darker veneer for the stem.

I now had a square piece of 6mm birch plywood upon which I had stuck several pieces of veneer to form a fuschia flower.

So far so good. In my next post I will show you the finished box and give you my thoughts on marquetry.

By the way, for those who are interested in my latest book, 'The Reluctant Pom' I have added some photos, taken while I was in Australia, to my website. Click here if you'd like to see them

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Peacock Prography

Hi all,
Things have been a bit slow in my workshop so far this year because the place is colder than an Eskimo's mitt. To pass the time I've been doing a little marquetry which can be done indoors. I've done a bit and I will show you that in my next post. In the meanwhile, I thought I'd show you what my wife's been up to.

We visited a small cafe before Christmas to have a little lunch. I won't go into the details but we weren't impressed, not least because the girl who was serving was the only person running the place. She did the lot, taking orders, serving, washing up and she did the cooking. The net result was that the food wasn't great and in the time it took to arrive I could have made a model of London Bridge from kangaroo teeth.

However, whilst trying to ignore the hunger pains we both noticed a nice drawing of a peacock on the wall. Wouldn't that make a nice subject for a bit of pyrography we thought, whereupon my wife took a photo of it with her phone.

A couple of days later she asked me to cut her a piece of plywood and, in that same afternoon, she did the pyrography picture of the peacock and painted it.
We got a frame from a charity shop and the picture is now hanging proudly on the wall. She said it was a changing from making clay flowers and she really enjoyed doing it. That's the thing about pyrography, it is a simple form or art that it brings quick rewards. I've been enjoying some scroll sawing and inlay work, but the biggest pleasure still comes from pyrography. To that end I'm going to do some marquetry but incorporate pyrography into it. I will tell you more about that in my next post.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Cat and Mouse

Hi all,
Whilst making the Hare Musical Box for my wife, I also carried on making the Automata that I started a few weeks earlier. In fact, I used it for an excuse for spending so much time in the workshop whilst secretly making her box. In my last post on the subject, I showed you the parts that I had cut out.
I was quite excited when the time came to build it and stick all the pieces together, but my happiness was rather brief. I thought I 'd done an excellent job when cutting at the parts and that the automata would work like a well oiled machine. To be honest, it didn't work at all. It looked like the dog's do dahs but mechanically it was crap.
When the crank is turned the mouse is supposed to go around on the turn table while the cat's paw goes up and down to try and catch him. To add to the effect, the cat's tale also goes up and down. That's how it is supposed to work but mine didn't. The turn table wouldn't turn and the cat's paw and tale didn't go up and down either. If you want to see how it should work or want a copy of the free plans here is a.

There were two main reasons why my automata didn't work. Firstly, the plans said that the parts should be cut from 4mm ply, but I hadn't got any so I used some 6mm off cuts that I had hanging around the place. After all, one of the main reasons for doing an automata was to use up some of the off cuts that I'd been accumulating. I reasoned that 2 mm wouldn't make any difference but it did. The other issue was that I wasn't careful enough when cutting out the cams and drilling the holes through the centre. The cams weren't smooth enough in profile and the hole through the centre was slightly angled.

The cat's tale and paws didn't drop after lifting either because they seemed so light. I fixed that issue by winding some fuse wire around the ends and painting it white and after modifying the rest of the mechanism as well as I could, I finally got the thing working, a bit jerky in operation, but working.
Here is a picture of the inner workings.

My conclusions regarding automata are as follows: Cutting out the parts and following the plans can be quite interesting and rewarding. It also provides an opportunity to use up some off cuts and examine how mechanisms work. However, making automata is time consuming and if done badly it can lead to frustration. There was a point when I felt like chucking my own do dah's at the clock but I got over it

Anyway, at some time I may try doing another one, but it won't be in the near future. By the way, I've change my free book offer, click here to go to my book website if you are interested.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Hare Musical Box

Hi all,
In my last post I showed you the first of two boxes that I secretly made for my wife this Christmas. The first was the inlaid rose box with pyrography that I showed you in my last post. I also mentioned that I had a bit of trouble (understatement) with the second box; here are the gory details.

I set out to make a box with a raised hare on the lid, which when opened would play a tune. It seemed to me that the whole project would rely on my ability to mould a hare on the lid of the box so I thought I'd do that first. If I couldn't do it I could just knock the whole idea on the head.

Here is how it went.

I cut a piece of mahogany and then stuck my drawing of a hare onto the wood and cut it out with my scroll saw. So far so good.
I then rook some white sculpey polymer clay and roughly pushed it into the hare aperture whilst leaving enough clay above the design to give it a raised affect. I wanted it to look as if half of the hare was above the surface of the wood.

At this point things were still going well and using a small knife blade and my fingers I moulded the hare into the shape that I thought a hare should be. This was the bit I was dreading because it was completely out of my comfort zone. However, I needn't have been so unsure of myself because a couple of minutes later the hare was done and I was well pleased.

The next thing I had to do was bake the lid in the oven to cure the clay and this was, I thought at the time, my last obstacle to success. Some of you may remember my previous disaster when baking the clay, here's picture for anybody who didn't see it in a previous post.
Anyway, with the previous burnt offering in mind, I was very careful when setting the temperature on my oven and I watched the oven thermometer throughout the backing process. It is a good job I did because I had to make a couple of adjustments to avert another disaster.

After 30 minutes the hare was removed from the oven and all seemed well, so the project could move on. I measured the lid again and made a box that it would fit from quarter inch thick oak.

I had decided to use conventional hinges on this box so I purchased some from Hobbies when I also purchased the musical movement that would go inside. I cut the recesses to accommodate the small hinges and drilled out eight tiny holes that would take the pins to help keep them secure when they were glued in place.

I mixed some araldite quick setting adhesive and after I'd glued the hinges and lid into place, I clamped the whole thing up and left it for 24 hours to set properly.

Disaster 1 The following day I took the clamps off, but when I opened and closed the lid one of the hinges came loose. This was a pain in the butt because Christmas was drawing nearer and there was still a lot of work to be done. I cleaned off all the araldite and decided to try gluing it with another glue that had been recommended by a friend. Once glued, I clamped it up and left it for anther 24 hours.

Disaster 2 The following day I removed the clamps and found that neither hinge had stuck securely. By now I was fed up with conventional hinges and decided to use the post and pin method I'd been using recently. There were problems however, to use the post and pin method the lid would have to sit a little bit further back and I would lose the lip at the front. I would also need to get rid off the recess that I cut for the hinges and fill the drilled holes.

There were no other choice so if I wanted to delight my wife at Christmas I'd just have to get on with it. After sorting out the recesses and holes I made two posts and fitted the lid and kicked myself for not going down that direction it the first place.

Next, because I wanted the white hare to stand out against the wood I decided to ebonize the wood with the solution that I made a few weeks ago.

With the ebozing  a success, I decided to try and work out how to fit the musical movement. No instructions came with it so I was on my own. It didn't take much to work out which way it would have to go in the box because it would only fit one way if the mechanism was going to operate when the lid opened. Sorting this bit out was difficult because the haunting sound of Greensleeves would be produced every time I opened and closed the lid. If my wife opened the door to my workshop whilst it was playing the tune my surprise would be ruined.

The orientation of the mechanism meant that the key would protrude through the bottom, so I had to make some legs for the box to sit on so that the key could rotate freely when the tune was playing.

Disaster 3 When I was attempting to clamp the feet on, I dropped the box onto the concrete floor of my workshop and there was a loud crack as one of the hinge posts snapped off and damaged the lid.

To say I was frustrated and angry with my self was an understatement. The only good news was that the hare itself was undamaged.

At this point I showed some of the determination that the British are known for and soldiered on. I redid the hinge post, fixed the lid and successfully fitted the feet and musical movement. Christmas was now but a few days away and I still had a lot to do.

Because the inside of the box was going to be flocked, I had to box in the musical movement and that took another few hours. Trying to flock something in secret is very difficult, with glue and flocking material getting every where. Still all I had to do now was varnish the box and wrap it up for Christmas.

Disaster 4 When I went to give it the first of three coats of varnish I noticed that there was a large crack running through both back legs of the hare and at that point I could have wept. However, I'd come this far so I wasn't going to be beaten now. I squirted a blob of decorator's caulking onto one of my fingers and filled the cracks with it.

At last I could do the varnishing. The first coat was applied and the box was placed under my work bench, out of sight of my wife, while the varnish dried.

Disaster 5 After giving the box its second coat of varnish I again placed it under my workbench, but I pushed it too far and it took a dive off the back. The air was now blue and I could hardly face picking it up in case it was damaged. At the very least I knew it would be covered in sawdust and other bits of rubbish that must reside on the floor where the hoover rarely goes.

Thankfully, it wasn't too bad, nothing was broken so I cleaned the rubbish off the varnish and reapplied some more. A couple of hours later I applied the last coat and the Musical Hare Box was finally finished.
My wife opened it on Christmas morning and after admiring the hare on the top she opened the lid and heard the tune which brought a tears to here eyes. All the agonies I suffered making that box had turned out to be worthwhile, but I will never forget the trials and tribulations of making that box.