Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Pyrography box

Hi all,
At last the weather warmed up enough for me to get into the workshop. I still had to have one bar on the electric fire, but at least I could manage some turning.

Here is the lidded box that I said I was going to make in my last post.
It is turned from a 3inch square piece of lime. I use lime because it is a light coloured wood that shows up the pyrography and it is easy to carve. After turning it I drew the flowers on the lid and then carved out all of the wood around them. I also did some shallow carving on the flowers to give the petals a fluted look. This stops them looking flat and helps the light bounce off the paint.

After carving the flowers, I burnt around them with my pyrography iron using a spoon tip. I then changed the tip to a wire point and burnt the large black areas between the flowers. For the paint. I raided my wife's craft cave and used some paints called "Sparkling H2Os" I used a white and pink and they came out very nice.

I then burnt a textured line around the sides of the main box before giving the whole thing several coats of  Chestnut's melamine spray gloss finish.

The box now sit alongside its little brother on the mantelpiece
Here is a picture taken from above. Here is a reminder of what its little brother looks like.
In the new year I'm going to do another piece in the same style to make up a trio, so please what this space to see how it comes out.

Currently, I am working on Christmas stuff which I can't show on here yet in case the intended recipients see it. I will take pictures when they are done and post them on here after the big day.

Anyway, I doubt that I will be posting again before Christmas so please let me take this opportunity to wish you well, I hope you have a merry but peaceful time and Christmas lives up to its promise for you.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Turned carved and burnt

Hi All,
I've given up carving the netsuke, not because I didn't enjoy the process or the results, but because it is so time consuming when I've lots of other projects I want to get on with.

The first of these projects was a little pot. The inspiration came from a small ceramic lidded pot that I found in a junk shop. It was only about 2 inches (50mm) tall but I just loved the shape. Anyway, I purchased the pot for £1.50 and took it home for reference.

Here is a picture of the pot after I'd turned it and you can see the flower design that I have burnt in with my pyrography iron .
Please note that the funny shape at the bottom of the pot is just for mounting it in the chuck and will be cut off when I'm happy with the pot. I have left it on for two reasons. Firstly in case I need to put the pot back onto the lathe and secondly it provides an nice handle for the carving work that will come next.

Here I have relief carved around the flowers to make them stick out in the final piece.
You will also notice the two black line that I have burnt around the pot to give a clean and neat border to the carving and the pyrography texture that I will do later.

In this picture you can see the texturing I have done with my pyrography iron and if you look really closely you will see that the petals of the flowers have also been carved.

Once all the carving and texturing was done, I painted the flowers and finish it off with a melamine spray.
Here is the finished pot complete with lid and a coin to give it a bit of scale.
I hope you like it, I thoroughly enjoyed making it and think it looks great sitting on my mantelpiece. The only problem is that it look a little lonely so I'm going to make it a companion. I like to have a decent idea about what I'm going to do so I have done this drawing of the lid of the box to give me a guide.
Now all I've got to do is turn it, carve it, burn it and paint it. If you would like to see how I get on please watch out for my next post. If you have any questions about this post or any others I will be pleased to help.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Wild Boar

Hi all,
This post is about my second, and probably last, netsuke carving. It is a carving of a wild boar, he doesn't look that wild I know, but that's because he is sleeping at the side of the river under a bunch of reeds. Things are much easier to carve when they are sleeping.

It is carved from lime wood, which is very similar to bass wood that is often used for carving in the USA.

Without further ado here is picture one.
I think he is kind cute, definitely better than Clarence the cross eyed crane from my last post.
Here is the other side.
I cheated a bit on the lines that are supposed to be the hairs. The book said to carve them with a "V" tool but my patience was running out so I did the hairs with my pyrography iron. Not brilliant but far better than I would have managed with a gouge and black ink.

Here is the view from the front.
Here is picture of the rear.
And finally, a picture of the underneath.
So there you have it. I did almost give up with it about half way through, but just like Earnest Shackleton I battled on. I'm pleased that I finished it but I won't be doing another, not carved out of wood at any rate. I have been dallying with the idea of making one in polymer clay and if I do you will be the first to see it.

If you fancy having a go at carving a netsuke, I would encourage you to have a go, it is well worth the experience. Even though I won't be carving any more, I learned a lot from doing the carving and I'm sure that it will help me when doing something a bit bigger.

In my next post I will show you the small pot I turned recently. It has some nice pyrography on it and
I'm so pleased with it I'm currently doing another using the same theme. If I get it finished I will let you see them both.

My biggest problem at the moment is the cold, It's as cold as a polar bear's mit in my workshop. I've tried heating it with two bars on an electric fire but it isn't very effective and it's playintg havoc with my wallet. I wish I could find a nice creative hobby that I can do whilst sitting in my armchair in the warm. Just for the winter of course, I have loads of stuff I want to turn and carve when the weather warms up again. That's it for now, I you have any suggestion for a creative hobby that can be done from the comfort of my armcahir please let me know.

Thursday, 23 November 2017


Hi all,
I promised you in my last post that I would show you a picture of my first attempt at carving a netsuke. It took quite along while to carve it, but I finally got it done.

The netsuke is carved from lime wood, which is used by carvers because it is relatively soft for a hardwood, has a close grain and no knots. It depicts a crane with poppy out eyes guarding its egg, which it is clutching in one of its claws.
I think it came out okay.
Here it is from the other side.
I tried to get a bit of detail into the feathers, but left the top plain to give it that smooth tactile feel.

Here it is from one end.
The eyes let it down a bit. Firstly, they aren't level but also they just aren't very good. I think I will call this netsuke, Clarence the cross eyed crane.
According to the excellent book from which I was taking my instructions, the whites should have been done with faux ivory and the black bit in the centre should have been done with a bit of ram's horn. Anyway, seeing has I'm fresh out of both of these commodities, I decided to use Milliput epoxy putty and, although the product is very good, I failed to execute the eye making operation with any decent level of skill.

Here is view from the neck end.
Yes. those eyes definitely spoil it.
On the plus side, it gave me a good opportunity to have a go at carving, which I've always wanted to do. Working small gives one a real insight into the skills that are required and by comparison something a tad bigger should be easier.
The last view is of the underside. I didn't bother putting in the holes that should be there for the toggles because it will never be used as a netsuke.
I've signed it Sam, because that is what my wife calls me and George would be too big.
I think my biggest disappointment with the outcome of the netsuke is the lack of weight. I expected it feel good in the hand but being so light it doesn't amount to much. I made one a couple of years ago out of polymer clay and that felt much better and was far quicker to do.

Would I do another?
Well the answer to that is yes, but just one. I am currently doing the next exercise in the book and I'm about 75% done. So far I guess I've invested about 15 hours in it and that is far too long. I will finish it and let you have a look but after that I'm moving on to slightly bigger things. Please check out my next post to see how I get on.

Just one last thing. I am giving away free downloads of one of my books at the moment. It's called "A Staffordshire Boy" and is available free on Amazon until the 24th of November. To get a copy just click on the "book's" tab at the top of the page and then onto the book's cover and it will take you straight to Amazon for your free copy. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, 11 November 2017


Hi all,
 I mentioned in my last post that I was going to have a go a wood carving. Well I've constructed a workstation with dust extraction and I've purchased 4 gouges /chisels and whittling knife, so I'm all ready to go. In fact, I have made a start but the going is very slow. I thought I'd begin small so I've started carving a netsuke and carvings don't come much small than that.

For those who don't know, netsukes are small toggles used to grip a cord that is attached to  the belt of a Japanese kimono. Kimonos don't have pockets, so the Japenese would carry their tobacco and money etc in a pouch that was attached to a belt via a netsuke. Netsuke go back hundreds of years and the carving of them has become very fine, they are also very collectable.

Anyway, I've made a start and I will show you my first finished netsuke in my next post. One of the interesting things that came from the netsuke carving book that I am reading is a technique called ukibori. If you google it you will find out what it is all about. Briefly, it is a method used to raise bumps on wood. If you were carving a toad and wanted to depict the bumpy texture of its skin, it would be impossible to do it by standard carving methods, so this is how the Japanese netsuke carvers did it.

A small metal rod with a ball shaped end is pushed hard into the wood wherever a bump is required. This leaves a dimple in the wood. Next, the wood is turned down so that it is level with the bottom of the dimple. Then, hot water is brushed onto the area and the dimples expand and become bumps, just like magic.

I had a thought that the method could be used to put a ring of bumps around a pen to provide a nice grip. So I had a practice on a piece of lime to see if it worked.
It was dificult to photograph but I think the ukibori lumps are clearly visible. Anyway, it didn't take long and I turned a pen using olive wood and used the same method to create some bumps,
Heres the pen.
Its a great looking pen but unfortunatly there isn't a bump to be seen. A bit of a failed exercise and I can only assume that the ukibori method works bettter on some wood than it does on others. I will try it again one day with a different spieces of wood.

The other thing I had quick go at was a pair of stud earings, just to see if I could do them. I turned them from the left overs of  a black palmeria pen blank.
The black dots in the end grain of the black palmiria give them a look of leopard skin and I quite like them. They were so quick to do I did some more in ebony and another pair in walnut. I 'd like to do some more but I've got lots of other stuff I want to do, including finishing my first netsuke which I  will show in my next post. Any questions or comments, please fire away.

Sunday, 29 October 2017


Hi All,
I've been doing a bit on my lathe although I have also spent some time making a bench to do some wood carving on. I like to keep learning new stuff, so although I will keep doing the woodturning, I will hopefully add a bit of carving into the mix.

I recently turned a small pot from a piece of rosewood. You can tell how it got its name because it has a beautiful dark red lustre.
I think it came out really well.

Regarding the carving, I have always been interested in the subject but have never been able to find the time to do any. Anyway, I recently came across a book about carving netsukes, which are very small Japanese carvings. Kimonos, the tradditional dress of the Japanese, have no pockets, so they used pouches that are attached to their belts via a netsuke. The carvings are very intricate so I thought I'd have a go and to that end I built this bench complete with dust extraction.

You can see the grid that is the intake for the dust that is sucked out via the camvac that also services my lathe. I have a quick grip connector that allows me to change the hose over very easily.
You can also see on the bench my dremel flexible drive which I think will come in very useful.

You may also be able to see under the bench a foot operated button, when I press that, it turns on the dust extractor and the dremel at the same time which is very handy.

Another reason for taking up carving is that I'm finding that come the afternoon my legs are getting tired from doing lathe work. I know I'm only in my mid sixties but I think the heart tablets are slowing me down a bit. Anyway, the plan is to do woodturning in the mornings and carving in the afternoon. I have sent for some woodcarving chisels so I will let you know how I get on, I hope I like it because the chisels ain't cheap.

My other bit of news is that the blade on my recently purchased bandsaw just snapped for no apparent reason. I was just sawing a very small piece of wood and it suddenlty went bang. The first thing I did was coun't my fingers and I'm pleased to report that I've still got a full set.

If anybody knows why a blade should just break I'd be pleased to hear about it. Bandsaw blades aren't cheap, so I don't want it to happen again. Keep tuned for my next post and I'll show you my first netsuke carving.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Yo Yo

Hi all,
The run up to Christmas can be very busy for a woodturner. Last year I discovered pen turning and gave them as gifts to most of our friends and family, mostly as extra gifts. It was very time consuming and took up most of November and December, so this year I'm not going to bother so much.

There is an old northern saying that goes, "If you are going to do owt for nowt, do it for thee sen."

Not very charitable and not exactly in keeping with the Christmas message that it is better to give than receive. But it is how I feel. I can't remember anybody taking the time and effort to make anything for me. The closet thing to it came several years ago when I unwrapped a Christmas present given to me by my brother in law. When I opened it I found it contained a cheap craft knife, a small block of wood and a drawing of a ship. Bloody hilarious I must say, especially when we went to the expense of getting him something proper.

Anyway, if you are thinking of spending the next 2 months making gifts that won't be properly appreciated, it might be time to think again.

Right, Mr Scrooge has now gone and I can tell you that I'm making an exception to all that I have said above. I have made my Grandson a yo yo, which he will get as an extra gift.
It is made from 2 pieces of maple and the turning went very well. The hardest part was getting the two sides the same, which they need to be to keep it in balance. A yo yo that isn't balanced, won't go up and down straight on the string, and is therefore about as much use as an ashtray on a bike.

The secret it to get them both to the same shape and then weigh each half on the kitchen scales. I was lucky and mine were only a tad out, so I gave the one which was heavier a few rubs with some sand paper and they were soon both the same.

Something else that need to be considered was the size of the gap for the string. I don't remember it being so small when I was a lad, but after looking it up on google I was informed that it should be between 8 and 10 playing cards wide. I settled for 8 and it works fine. Whilst looking up information about yo yos I also found out that there was such a thing as yo yo string. Up until then I was just going to use any old bit of thin string that I could find. Anyway, I purchased a pack of 5 off the Internet and the one I used works perfectly.

You can see in the picture that I burnt a couple of circular lines around the side. this was done by cutting a groove with a skew chisel and then holding a piece of cardboard in the groove as the lathe rotated. It's a bit of a tricky thing to do but it is well worth it. To give it that personal touch I also burnt his name onto the yo yo with my pyrography iron.

My only hope is that he treats it with respect and, after a couple of goes, doesn't chuck it to one side in a hurry to get back to his xbox or whatever the latest fad is that takes preoccupies so much of a young boy's mind. His Dad bought him a drone last year, so you can see what I'm competing with.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Free book

Just a quick one to let  you know that one of my books, "The Reluctant Pom" will be free to download on Amazon from the 10th till the 12th of October. It tells that tale of how my father dragged me to the otherside of the world in 1967. I became a reluctant pom and you can find out how I got on in this book.
Please download it, have a good laugh and find out what I thought of Australia.
A normal post will be along soon.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Death of a scroll saw

Hi all,
I had a bit of a disaster a couple of days ago when my scroll saw made its last cut. It hadn't been well for a while; a few months ago it jammed for a few seconds and then blew a fuse. I replaced the fuse, cleaned it and oiled it and it managed to struggle on for bit longer. However, it finally succumbed and whilst blowing a fuse it jammed again. I oiled it, replaced the fuse and unlinked the top and bottom parts of the saw to take the pressure off, but when I plugged it in there was a blue flash that scared the pants off me. It had blown its fuse again plus the house fuse in the consumer box taking out several other sockets at the same time. It also remained jammed. I had now had enough and chucked it outside for the next visit down our street of the scrap collectors.

Just a bit about the saw. It was an Excalibur 16 inch which I purchased about 6 years ago for around £400, so it wasn't cheap. However, I feel that it gave me good service even though I abused it by getting it to do stuff it wasn't designed for. I have never owned a table saw and, until a few weeks ago I'd never had a bandsaw, so all my DIY projects were done on the scroll saw, which was a lot of work.

It did give me a lot of pleasure and I made a lot of nice stuff with it. Like this box.
And this one.
I will miss it but I won't be replacing it. I will use my new bandsaw for DIY project and my creative vent will be serviced by the lathe. Should I need to do any small scroll saw work I will purchase a coping saw and do it by hand.

So what have I been up to on the lathe? Well not a lot really because my wife's had me decorating the bedroom which included removing the laminated floor and replacing it with carpet. I don't know who invented laminated flooring but I detest the stuff. Its cold, hard and noisy and deserves a trip to the tip to be with all the other rubbish. We inherited when we moved into our new bungalow and I've been slowly replacing it in every room. Here's what it looked like in the bathroom. A mess.

I made a bigger mess when I took it up.
 But it looked better once it was done.
Sorry that this post isn't very creative, but I did manage to finish making Xmas deccy blanks for my wife to decorate for the Xmas tree. Here is a few of the things I turned, that she has now finished.
Right that's it for now, I will be back on the lathe soon, poking a piece of wood with chisel and I've also got plans for my pyrography iron, so please watch this space.

Saturday, 23 September 2017


Hi all,
Not every project I attempt results in success and this week I had a real failure.
It wasn't the turning or the burning, both of these elements went well. The problem came at the end during the finishing process. The green stain has run badly into the yellow stain making it look a bit of a mess. Some times it doesn't matter if colours blend into each other a bit because it can add to the charm. However, in this case I wanted the colours to be crisp and separate.

This isn't the first time Ive used stains and melamine finish, so what went wrong this time?

I think several factors came into play.

 1 I usually put a coat of sanding sealer on after the stains and in this instance I can't remember if I did put the sanding sealer on or not. If didn't use a sanding sealer it probably didn't help.

2 In an effort to get a really dark green colour I gave it three coats of the green. In hindsight this was probably a mistake. Stain usually soaks into the wood and by the time I applied the third coat it was probably already saturated so the colour just sat on the top. Then, when I sprayed the melamine finish it just jumped over to the yellow.

3 Another issue is the type of sealer and finish I've been using. I have always used a cellulose sealer  with spirit stains, but I have now been advised  that it is the wrong thing to do. This is because cellulose will readily mix with the stains and cause runs. Likewise, using a water based stain with a water based finish will have the same results because they readily mix with each other.

This was news to me because I was taught that  if you started out with water based colours you finished with water based colours. It just goes to show how wrong you can be. My excuse is that when I left school my first job was being a painter and decorator and during my training I was told that oil based paints like gloss, should not be used over water based paints, like emulsion. This has always stuck with me along with another thing that happened in my youth.

When I was about 14, me and a couple of mates bought a wreck of an old BSA Bantam motorcycle to scramble around the fields. When we were doing it up my mate took it upon himself to paint the tank. He borrowed some green Dulux emulsion paint that was left over from when is dad painted their lounge and it looked great. However, he wanted a big red flash like flames going along the sides and to do this he sprayed it with car paint. I can still remember the look of horror on his face when the green bottom layer erupted into great big blisters and ruined his paint job.

The paints were of course incompatible  so this was how my opinions were formed. Anyway, I'm going to get some acrylic sanding sealer and see how that works on spirit based stains.

On a more cheerful notem, my wife has been busy making Christmas decorations, all which I have turned. Here's a few of them hanging up to dry.
She's done a cracking job and I guess our tree will be different this year. A big change from the glittery one with the thousand lights that we usually have, that's for sure.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Harlequin Pens

Hi All,
I seem to have gone pen crazy at the moment. Following on from my last post, where I had one of my pens chosen for  the accolade of Pen Of The Week, I have done a couple more, but this time using a bit of colour.

Here is the first one I made, it is a multi coloured Harlequin design.

 The colours are Chestnut stains and each diamond shape has been burnt in with my pyrography iron. The pyrography is a crucial part because without that the stains would run into each other. Unlike paint, stains seep into the wood, so a channel burnt with a pyrography iron creates a nice barrier that the stain can't get past.

Comments have been made that I must have the patience of a saint to do this sort of stuff, but I find it very therapeutic. Each pen takes about 45 minutes to colour, but I'm not bothered, I just listen to Harry Chapin and all  is well with the world.

These pens are made from slimeline kits but I modify them by doing away with the centre band, which I don't find very attractive.

Anyway, for those interested in the process, post turning, here it is. The black bands at the top and bottom of each part have the pen should have been burnt in on the lathe and I will assume that the pen has been sanded down to 600 grit and no sealer has been applied. The whole process is done with the pen still on the mandrel so just remove it from the lathe.

Step one.
Draw a pencil line from the black line at the top of the pen to the black line at the bottom of the top of the pen. Rotate the pen slowly while moving the pencil downwards and you should get a spiral shape. Using this line as a guide, draw another line parallel with the first one, about 5mm apart, and repeat this process until you have lines going all the way around the pen in parallel spirals.
Step 2
Starting at the top, touching one of your lines, do the same again but draw the line in the opposite direction, then another parallel with it and you should finish up with a lot of diamond shapes.
Step 3
Using a pyrography iron, carefully burn it the lines.
Step 4
Using Chestnut stains, paint in the colours in a random pattern. they will need two coats to make the colours stand out. The good news is, that because the stains are alchol based they dry very quickly, so by the time you have done one set of colours from top to bottom you can start again at the top with the same colours. This saves a lot of time cleaning brushes out between colours.
Step 5
Coat with as many coats of melamine lacquer as required till you get the finish you desire.

If you have any questions on the process please let me know.
Here is another Harlequin pen with a different set of colours.
In my next post I will be making something completely different, so please watch this space.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017


Hi all,
I have only been woodturning for just over a year and I think I must be doing all right. As you probably know by now, because I seem to mention it in every post, I've decided to turn small stuff only.

The most enjoyable of the small projects is pen making. You start off with a piece of wood about 5 inches long and 1 inch square and an hour later you have a beautiful pen in your hand. These make wonderful gifts or you can just put them in a display box and admire your own work for years to come. I even sold on once.

Anyway, just before last Christmas I came across a forum for pen turners. Here is the link

It is a very good forum which is populated with extremely nice woodturners who are all passionate about turning pens. Woodturning is a bit of a solitary hobby because most of the work is done on ones own in a shed or workshop. So this forum provides a place where people with similar interests can swap information etc. One of the most import things about the forum is it gives each member a chance to show off their latest creation. I must admit that that is why I joined up, I simply wanted to see what sort of pens other people were making. I can tell you now that in the last 9 months I've probably seen some of the best pens ever made.

Anyway, every week one pen is singled out to be declared pen of the week. I look forward to Monday mornings to see if the pick of the week was the same as the one I would have chosen. Well perhaps you can imagine my surprise when I found out  on Monday that my pen had been chosen.

Here it is, my pen of the week
 It is made from a slimeline kit with the centre band omitted. The wood is ebony and the white bands are Milliput, which is an epoxy resin. Ebony turns well but is a bit on the hard side so I had to sharpen my gouges several times. The grooves for the Milliput were cut with a thin parting tool. It was sanded down to 400 grit with the lathe running, I then swithched it off and went back through the grades, sanding with the grain up to 600 grit. I then gave it a rubdown with a tack cloth to get rid of any dust.

I followed that with 8 layers of thin CA (superglue) before caressing it with my micro pads all the way up to 12000. I then gave it a last polish with some Chestnut burnishing cream and it came up a treat.

This pen went well, but sadly not all projects go that way. I was so pleased with the way that the Milliput had worked on this pen I thought I'd go one stage better and make a black and white pen that had lots of stripes like a Zebra. I didn't want the white bands to go all the way around the pen, I wanted them broken, so Instead of using a parting tool, which would cut a groove all the way around the pen, I used a saw while the lathe was stationary.
The rest of the turning and finishing was the same. Here is the result.
I don't blame you for laughing. Not quite the Zebra effect I was looking for. I guess I should have made the bands wider. Ah well, some you win and some you lose. I'm having a go at a whistle next, so I'll show you that in my next post even if it does turn out to be a duffer.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

New Toys

Hi all,
I managed to sell the old big lathe for a very fair price so I'm happy about that.
As you can see in the picture above, it had its own stand and was quite a beast. It was a very good lathe and served me well until I decide that I was at my happiest doing small projects. Pens, jewelry and lidded boxes etc. I was sad to see it go but it at least it has found a good home in Cornwall.

Anyway, I decided to change it for a small bench mounted lathe. This is it, the AH1218VS from Axminster.
As you can see it is much small, but it is more than adequate for my needs. Another reason for the change was to free up some space for a band saw. I have never owned a decent saw; all my woodworking to date has been by hand, a jig saw or my scroll saw, which is great for cutting curves but crap when it comes to cutting straight lines.

After the old lathe went, I had a bit of a change around in the workshop and built a new bench for a bandsaw. Again I chose Axminster, I trust them and their customers' service is very good indeed.

Here is a picture of the bandsaw sitting proudly on its new bench.
I haven't had time to try the new lathe out in anger yet, but I managed to make a pen. It is turned from ebony with white inlays, which were done with Milliput. I guess most people know what Milliput is, but for those who don't know, it's an epoxy putty that can be used to fill cracks and then sanded. It dries very hard overnight and is used a lot by woodturners.
I really like how this pen turned out. It is made from a humble slimline kit which I modified to do away with the narrow centreband.

In my next post I'll hopefully have some more stuff to show you.

One last thing. Do you have a lawn and do you have gravel in your garden? If you do here is a word of warning. Last Sunday, I was mowing our lawn and the mower picked up a small piece of gravel and fired it into our conservatory door. There was a loud thwack sort of noise and there it was, one smashed door pane.
I have been mowing lawns for more than yonks and did not think this could happen to double glazing. In fact, I have always been under the impression that double glazed windows are unbreakable. Years ago I saw a man on the telly showing how tough they were by try, without success, to break one with a sledge hammer.
Anyway, I was fooled so don't get into the same trap as me. Replacing the glass is going to cost me a pretty mean £170 which is only just a few quid cheaper the money I've just lashed out for the bandsaw.

So check your lawn for stones  and small pieces of gravel before you mow it and always mow with your back to the house. The reason for this is that most mowers throw stones out of the front or sides because the grass box on the back helps to prevent them coming out that way.

I did think that to break one's glass with a mower is a vary rare occurrence, but not at all. I googled it and it is very common, this fact was also confirmed when I rang the glaziers to arrange for some new glass. It happens all the time they said. So, now you've got the heads up, there is no excuse for breaking your own windows and forking out loads of dosh for replacement glass.

Any comments or questions are welcome.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Wooden Jewelry

Hi All,
My wife's birthday came and went last week. I bought her a few presents that she'd ordered from me to save me getting the wrong thing. I remember once buying my ex wife a tartan shopping bag for her birthday and she wasn't impressed, in fact, she was a bit rude about my efforts. Who knows, it may have even started the slippery slope towards our divorce.

Anyway, my new wife isn't taking any chances with my present buying skills so she put her orders in and I just buy as I'm told. However, I do like to give her a bit of a surprise, so this time I thought I'd made her some wooden jewelry. She doesn't do sparkling bling stuff, which really suited me because I'm fresh out of diamonds.

I did her two jewelry sets, which consisted of a pair of earrings and a matching pendant. Here is my first effort.
They are turned from lime with burnt lines top and bottom. Between those lines I used my pyrography iron to burn some chequered squares which I then coloured in with Chestnut wood stains. They were then finished with several coats of melamine lacquer. As with the next set, I presented them with just the eye on top of each piece so that she could add her own findings.

The next set featured more pyrography with a leaf design on the front and back of each earring as well as on the pendant.
She was well pleased with my efforts which is a plus because I enjoyed making them. Turning small items really suits me so I've purchased a book with more wooden jewelry project in it. I won't copy them exactly, but adapt them for decoration with pyrography and stains.

Before that I'm going to get back to making some pens to get a couple of ideas out of my head.

Buy the way, there is more excitement because I have sold my big lathe and a smaller one is stiing in my workshop ready for setting up. It should be done in time for my next post so I will show you some pics of it then. Along with a couple of pens I hope.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

An Egg

Hi all,
I've been creating a bit of a theme recently regarding my woodturning and pyrography. First I turned and decorated this little pot.
I was so impressed with the way that it turned out that I did a vase using the same method and colours.
Again, I was very happy with the result so it should come as no surprise that when I did my next project I would decorate it in the same manner. The object that I turned was an egg, which I quickly put to the pyrography iron before colouring it in. It looked very nice when I put it on the mantle piece next to the two items above, but there was a problem, it kept rolling off.

It didn't take me long to figure out a solution because the egg cup had already been invented, so I stuck another piece of beech on my lathe and made an egg cup for it and decorated it in a matching fashion.
 The colours, for those who haven't read my previous post, are from the Chestnut range of wood dyes. They are great colours and only one application is required to get a well saturated result. Using pyrography between each colour keeps them separate and stops them from seeping into each other.

If you have any question about the processes used above please let me know.

Lathe For Sale
If anybody is interested, I am selling my lathe on
You may remember a few weeks ago that I said I was going to concentrate on turning small items. Well I'm getting a smaller lathe that will do everything I want to do and allow me to free up some space for a band saw. I get the new lathe tomorrow so I'm looking forward to that.

I am now about to make some wooden jewellery for my wife's birthday and I will show you them in my next post.

By the way, the second book in The Fishing Detectives, series, "Bun In The Oven" will be free to download from Amazon from the 9th until the 11th of August. Please grab a copy while it is available. Just go to the BOOKS tab at the top of the page then click on the cover. Please enjoy.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


Hi all,
Yesterday I received an exciting new bit of kit, it's not what most people would call exciting but it was for me. Some of you may recall that I had near life ending experience recently when a large spindle left my lathe at 2000 rpm and tried to club me to death. After picking myself up off the floor I decide that I would stick to small projects in the future.

I don't mind telling anybody that I've lost my confidence with big pieces of wood, so it was to be small stuff in the future. The trouble with small stuff is that when using a conventional 4 jaw chuck, one often finds oneself working too close for comfort to the spinning jaws of the chuck. This is not good for a woodturner who is but a few shakes away from being a quivering jelly. So, what I got from Axminster, (brilliant service by the way,) was a collet chuck. It is much smaller than my 4 jaw chuck and has made turning more comfortable. Work projects are mounted onto this chuck via a 12mm spigot and it works just fine. The price was reasonable and I'm well pleased with it.

Anyway, to try it out I decided to have a go at a pen but using the collet chuck instead of the usual pen mandrel. And, instead of using a pen kit, I decided to use the parts from a bic biro. I reckon most people know what a biro looks like, but for those who don't, here is the shell of the one I pinched the gubbin's out of.
I took a normal pen blank, not sure what the wood was because I got it from a bargain bin somewhere, and drilled a 3.8mm hole down the centre to take the nib and tube. Then I put a 12mm spigot on the end and mounted it into the collet chuck.

I did a few beads and some pyrography on it and then painted it with some acrylic paints that I nicked out of my wife's arty crafty mountain of bits. I then gave it 2 coats of medium CA for a finish and here it is.

Not bad for a 25p blank and an inexpensive biro. If it runs out of ink I will just stick another nib and ink tube from another biro in it. Not that I will get the chance because my wife's face lit up like Blackpool illuminations when she saw it. A few seconds later she was busy practising her signature in a note book. "What a lovely writer," she said, "I'm having that."
She was stunned when I told her that it was just a biro, so perhaps perception goes a long way even in the pen turning world.

By the way, I am giving away free downloads of one of my books on the 27th and 28th of July.
It's the first book in the Fishing Detectives series called "Carp Rustlers."

 To get a free copy just click on the books tab at the top of the page and then on the cover.

It is a good laugh so I hope you enjoy it. In my next post I will show you an acorn box that I have just started

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Stained vase

Hi all, to make a change from pots and pens I thought I'd have ago at turning another vase. I would be using stains again like I did on my last vase, but instead of mixing the colours up, like in the vase below, I would keep them separate.
I would also change the shape to make it bottom heavy. And before you ask. no it isn't hollowed out because my skills don't run that far. I have drilled a token hole in the top to show willing but my take on hollowing is that only woodturners are bothered about hollowing. Most people just want to look at the shape and the pattern, they are just not bother about wall thickness and the like.

Anyway, I turned the vase from a spindle of 3inch square sycamore and sanded it down to 400 grit. Then I  cut some rings around it with the tip of a skew chisel and used a wire to burn lines into the grooves that I made. Once I knew exactly what the shape would be I did some sketches on paper to work out a pattern. These were then burnt into the wood with my pyrography iron. It is important when burning the lines to go deep enough to create a seal between areas of different colour. I used chestnut stains for the colour and these can seep quite deeply into the wood. If you don't burn deep enough you will soon find that the edges between two colours will mix, blue and yellow for instance, will soon turn green and that doesn't look very nice.

I did the colours in a random way trying to make sure that the same colour didn't finish up in adjacent areas. Once the staining was done, I brushed on a coat of cellulose sanding sealer, which wasn't 100% successful because it made one or two of the colours run slightly into each other. Next time, I will use a spray on type of sanding sealer so not to repeat the mistake. I then let the sanding seal dry before giving it a couple of coats of Chestnut melamine lacquer to give it a bit of a shine.
I hope you like it, any comments would be appreciated. Next week I will be giving away another free book so please come back for that.