Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Basket Illusion

Hi All,
I don't mind admitting that I'm fed up with this hot weather. Throughout the winter my workshop was like a fridge, but for the last few weeks it has been like an oven. Needless to say this is curtailing my creative desires in a frustrating way.  I have to grab what time I can early in the morning, but that ain't much because life's other boring duties jump over each other to get in the way.

Anyway, that's enough moaning because it could be a damn sight worse. When I did get a bit of time to myself I thought I had a go at a bit of basket illusion. No, relax, I haven't taken up weaving of the willow, basket illusion is a woodworking term used when decorating a piece of wood to make it look like a basket.
Above is a picture of the one I did. It is very small and is turned from lime with an African blackwood knob. The horizontal lines were made with a skew chisel and then burn in with a wire.
The vertical lines were done via the indexing facility on my lathe. I marked each position with a pencil then drew lines between them. Once I was happy I carefully burnt them in with the pyrography iron.

The red and black colours were applied with Winsor and Newton pro markers which made it very easy. Regarding the pattern, I just experimented on square paper until I got something that looked half decent. After the colouring I gave it several coats of Chestnut melamine lacquer.

I'm quite impressed with the outcome and found the whole process to be very enjoyable. I have even purchased a Robert Sorby bead forming tool to make the line marking simpler and more effective. I am looking forward to making something similar, but slightly bigger. In the mean time, I've got to turn a couple of pens for gifts. So please keep an eye on this space if you want to see how they come out.

If you want to see more about basket illusion, here is s link to an expert on youtube

Monday, 2 July 2018

Another Duff Pen

Hi all,
Sorry it has been a long time since my last post. I've been trying to teach myself video editing and it has been a very steep learning curve. I will leave a link to show you my efforts later in this post.

So, following on from the disastrous eggshell pen project, what did I do next. Well silly me had the notion that I could get a decent effect by using small mosaic tiles. Without further ado here is what it turned out like.
Granted, it is better than the eggshell jobby but it still isn't what I was hoping for. The tiles, which I got off amazon, are 3mm square and 2mm thick. I stuck them on with PVA glue and grouted them with some grout also from amazon.

There are two reasons why this pen doesn't look as good as it was supposed to.

Firstly there is too much grout showing between the tiles. The gap between the tiles is as small as I could get it, but due to the small diameter of the pen the tiles just had to have big gaps at the top even though they were touching at the bottom. A thicker pen would have looked better because the angle between the tiles would not have been so acute. If I did another one I'd make the pen thicker and probably colour the grout so that it didn't stick out so much.

It was a tedious project because I had to do the tiles one row at a time, placing the tiny tiles with a pair of tweezers, then wait for the glue to dry before doing another row.

The second reason the pen looks wrong is because I put the nib end of the pen on the mandrel the wrong way around. This meant that because it is a modified slimline design, the tube that the nib fits into doesn't go all the way to the end. So when I came to assemble it I had no tube to press the nib into.

Ah well, you can't win them all.

Going back to the video. I fancy putting a few of my projects onto youtube so like I said at the top of this post I'm trying to teach myself video editing. I have had a practise run by videoing my garden, here's the link any comments will be welcome.

My next project is about basket illusion so please keep an eye out for my next post.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Failed Pen

Hi all,
Sometimes things go right and at other times they turn to a bag of crap. Let's start with the good stuff. I've done a bit of turning and made a couple of vases. The first of which I decided to colour up with a band of polymer clay. If nothing else it would be a change from pyrography bands. I shaped the vase then using my parting tool I turned a groove about 6mm deep. Then I mixed some blue and white polymer clay together and while it still had some separation I filled the groove in the vase with it. Then I fired it in the oven and then turned the shape and finished it.
The pound coin gives you an idea of scale, so you can see that it is a small vase. I guess the outcome was ok but nothing special. It was turned from a piece of sapele that was in the scrap bin so you can't expect too much from a bland piece of wood.

Then I thought I'd make another vase for the fridge, but a different shape to the last one. I thought a bit of segmentation might be alright so I did a couple of light wood bands in the middle.
I was going to flatten one side so that it could be stuck on the fridge but my wife said it was too nice. She stuck a viola in it and put it on the windows sill in the kitchen. So I'm not doing too bad overall, but here is the failure.
Inspired by something I'd seen on Youtube, I decided to have a go at eggshell mosaic. Further to that notion, I decide that it would look nice on a pen. Anyway, I turned a pen fro African blackwood and recessed it a little in the area where I wanted the eggshell. By the way, this project looks better with white eggshells which I didn't have, so after a full English I grabbed the brown eggshells, before my wife could stick them in the bin, and painted them with white acrylic paint.

I then stuck the eggshells onto the pen in a random pattern so that the blackwood would show up behind. It was a tedious, tiresome and frustrating thing to be doing but I perceived. Luckily I decided to do just the top first and finish that so not to waste time on the bottom part. Am I glad I did, because the CA glue that was supposed to seal the gaps between the eggshells and give me a crystal clear, glossy finish just didn't happen. For what ever reason it went all milky on me. So here is a photo of the mess.
The sad thing is, up until when I put the super glue on, it looked quite promising. So I won't be messing with eggshells again any time soon. It seemed like a cracking idea (pun intended) at the time but we all make mistakes.

To save me wasting the pen blanks and tubes I had another idea. Why don't I cover them with nano mosaics? I will show you how I get on with that idea in my next post.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A little Vase

Hi all,
I thought you might like to see this little bud vase that I made. I saw the idea in a woodturning magazine so I thought I'd have a go. Not only is it a small vase but it has a insert which allows it to hold water and thus keep alive any little flower that are put into it. Plus, I have flattened the back  and inserted a magnet so that it can stick on the side of the fridge.

The wood is sapele and I have burnt two circles around the vase. The flowers are fairy foxgloves and have been in the vase for 4 days now and don't show any sign of drooping. My Mrs is well pleased and wants me to make a load more.

It was easy to make and I enjoyed it, so I might just do her another couple.

By the way, one of my books, "Bun In The Oven," will be free to download until Saturday 9th of June. Please grab a copy and have a good laugh. To get the download just go to the book's tab at the top of the page and click on the cover. That will take you straight to Amazon for the download.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Carved Rabbit with Pyrography

Hi all,
I've just finished my latest carving. It's a rabbit and it was a little more difficult than I thought it would be.

I roughed it out first from a piece of lime wood.
At this point it is still attached to the main piece of wood. I do it like that so that I have something to hold on to whilst most of the material is removed. The rabbit was roughly drawn onto the piece of wood and then I carved away most of the material with a selection of Saburr tooth burrs.These are very good at removing a lot of wood quickly whilst still poviding some control.

The rabbit was further refined with diamond burrs, rifflers and various grades of sand paper.
Here is the finished rabbit after the details were burned in with my pyrography iron.
I kept the finish simple, using several coats of Danish Oil.

This will probably be my last carving for a short while because I have acquired a ganglion on my wrist. The doctor's advice is not to do much repetitive work for a while so carving is going to go on the back burner for a bit. I'm seeing the doctor again on Monday with a view to having said ganglion removed, but we will see.

For those who have not come across a ganglion before her is my description. It comes as a large swell on the wrist in the area wher it joins the hand. It looks like  a marble has got inder the skin. It's a bit like a cyst, with the cause being unknown. Generally it is not painful unless you knock it and then it is absolute murder. I also get pain when my hand gets into certain positions so I am learning to avoid them. It's a stange old world, one minute I've never heared of a ganglion and now I've got one, still i guess its better than waking up with a gammy leg.

I shall continue woodturning so please watch this space for my next post. I'm also thinking about doing some video work of my projects, but it is early days yet.

I did do one of my garden to see how it went. I know next to nothing about video editing but here is a link to youtube and my first decent attempt. It's even got background music

Monday, 21 May 2018

Torquise Inlay

Hi All,
I have been meaning to have a go at a bit of inlay work for a long time. I have done a bit with polymer clay a couple of years ago. Here are some hare bells an the lid of a box.
And, I have even done a few bits with wood. Here I inlaid some tulip wood into the top of a box with a mahogany lid.
However, I haven't tried inlaying gems stones even in dust form. So, I turned a small lidded box out of what I think was rosewood. I bought it over a year ago so I can't remember, and I'd already used the end of the blank with the identification label on. Whatever it was, it turned very well and provided the perfect background for the turquoise.
It turned out very well, in fact, I was pleasantly surprised how simple it was. After I'd turned the lid of the box I used a thin parting tool to make a groove a couple of mm deep. Then I carefully poured the turquoise dust into the groove and soaked it with thin CA glue. Once it had dried I used a round nose scrapper to smooth the turquoise so that it was level with the wood and then I sanded it in the usual way by going through all the grades. I then gave it a coat of wax and polished it up. I'm afraid the pictures don't do it justice because the lid is super glossy and super smooth.

On the carving and pyrography front, I'm having a go at a small rabbit. I'll share that with you in my next post. If you have any questions about any of the inlay stuff above, I'll be happy to answer any questions.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Wise Owl

Hi all,
Ive finally managed to get a couple of projects underway. For a simple start I thought I'd turn, carve and burn a small caricature of an owl. Here is Oliver, or Olly if you want to shorten it, he won't mind.
He looks kind of cute and I quite enjoyed burning the feathers on. It will be good practise for when I try to do a realistic bird in a few weeks time. If there is one think about it that I don't like, it's the beak. Especially from the angle I've photographed it from because in the photo it looks more like a pig's snout. Perhaps I should have called him Porky.

Anyway, for those who are interested, this is how he was made.

Step 1:  I made a rough model out of Plasticine.
This gave me something to follow when removing wood. You may notice that the finished article is a bit taller and on a plinth. The reason for that is, the plinth is actually the bit that the wood was mounted to the lathe with and I kept it on during the carving process to give me something to hold on to. Anyway, I like  the look of the plinth and decided to keep it.

Step 2: I took a square of lime wood and turned it to the overall shape of the owl. By doing this I removed a lot of wood which saved me time when doing the carving.

Step 3: I roughed out the shape.
Once I was happy with it what I'd done, I refined it and sanded it to the final shape.

Step 4: I drew on a few feathers with a pencil and once I was happy with the style I did the rest with my pyrography iron. I also burned the plinth to give it some texture and some colour.

Step: 5 I wiped it down with rubbing alchol to remove any surplace carbon/soot that was created by the burning process. Then I gave it seveal coats of melamine lacquer.

My next project is a small box with a turqoise inlay. I've not done this before so I'm waiting to see how it turns out. All will be revealed in my next post.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Slow Start

Hi all,
Getting going again after the long winter is turning out to be very difficult. Eventually the weather has warmed up enough for me to get back into the workshop, but there was a list of things to be done in the garden so I have been delayed.

Anyway, to get myself back into woodturning mode I made my wife some earings so that she could decorate them. She has started making paper beads and wanted to have some earings so that she could make a set. She decorated a couple of bangles and made some beads for a neckless and then decorated the earings I made her.
I think she has made a really good job of them. The trouble is that she now wants more earings so that she can make other colours to go with her many outfits. Hopefully, I will be able to do something fo myself soon.

I have a small wooden owl in mind and I should be able to show you some progress in my next post.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Mr Snuggles

Hi all,
I'm slowly getting back into doing a bit of woodwork. My first project for the year was very small but it involved a little bit of turning, some carving and a touch of pyrography. Here is the result, nothing sensational but he's kind of cute.
He's supposed to be an hedgehog that is all snuggled up for the cold weather. I've called him Mr Snuggles and my wife thinks he's lovely. He is very small, about 40cm tall and he is carved from a small block of lime wood.

The thing is, I really like carving these small pieces. Not as intricate as doing a netsuke, so they don't take up so much time. I intend to increase my skills in woodcarving to the point where I am able to carve a realistic bird but that might take some time. I have purchased a book about the subject called "Carving Realistic Birds" from amazon, written by David Tippey. I got it second hand for 1p plus P&P. I think it is a real bargain because it is a great book.

Anyway, one of the things he advocates in the book is to make a model of the bird in Plasticine before carving any wood. So I tried it on Mr Snuggles, I got a block of newplast modelling clay off
amazon for £3.65 and gave it a go. It was funny to be working with Plasticine again and it took me back about 60 years. Actually, I think this newplast stuff is better than the Plasticine we had in the old days, it models very easily.

I was well pleased with doing the model first because it only took a couple of minutes yet it gave me so much confidence before I carved it in wood. Having something in 3D to referr to made the carving process so much simpler.

For my next carving project I'm going to do a small owl before moving onto something bigger. Any comments or questions are welcome.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Just Plain Ugly

Hi all,
I'm still struggling with the cold in the workshop. Not that it is cold everyday, but as soon as the weather is nice I have other tasks to do in the garden. No matter, over the past couple of weeks I have managed to complete a project. Probably the most ugly project I have ever done, but at least I managed to accomplish something.
 So without further ado, here is a picture of the ugly bugger.

Have you ever seen such a monster of a mechanical pencil? The whole thing was an epic failure at least from an aesthetics point of view and here is how it came about.

I like to do a bit of drawing and have spent many pleasant hours during the cold winter do just that. It was while looking at pen kits on line that I saw some  mechanical pencil kits for sale on a website called Prokraft .The price looked good at £3.30 a pair I thought I give them a go and make myself a couple of really stylish pencils to do my drawing with.

I watched a you tube video  to see how it was done and found the instruction very simple. The only difficult bit is in the drilling of the hole through the centre. Not only did it need to be straight, but drills of three different thickness were needed to accomplish the task and the depth of drilling needed to be pretty accurate especially at the nib end.

This is where I came unstuck. Because I intended on doing some carving on the body, I choose a piece of lime wood and mounted it via a collet chuck.
Step one was to drill a 4 mm hole straight through the blank, this I did, using a Jacob's chuck in the tailstock, quite easily. Now here is the hard bit.
Step two required me to drill through the blank again with a 5.5mm drill, but this time, instead of dilling all the way through I would need to stop it 3 mm short of the end. Now if you can see where the end of the hole is going to be it isn't too bad, but I was dilling blind. I marked the drill bit and hoped for the best. Then another bigger drill bit, 6mm in width, was put about 75% of the way down the same hole. This gives clearance for the top of the pencil to work.

Anyway, I parted it of and found that the pen would not assemble because I hadn't got enough thread sticking through the nib end to allow me to screw the nib bit on. The reason for this was that I hadn't drill the 5.5 mm hole quiet deep enough. Easily cured I thought, I put the 5.5mm bill back in the hole and gave it a couple of twists by hand. Perhaps if it had been a harder wood I would have been alright, but because it was lime it came straight through the end.

At this point I was a bit miffed to say the least but I was not going to be beaten. I decided to make it a pencil of two halves. I would carve the back end and do some pyrography on it and make a new piece for the front. I would stick them both together and it would look great. Has you can see it didn't. The carved flowers are horrible and the sapela wood at the front end doesn't go with the pyrography at the back. The kits are great, and very inexpensive it is just my skills that are lacking. Doing a carving on something this size is out of the question beacause it make it too chunky.

However, I will not be beaten. Two kits came and two pencils I shall make. Please watch this space to see how the next one comes out.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Mirror Carp

Hi all,
 At last the weather has warmed up a bit. For a few days I thought a second ice age was upon us.
A couple of post ago I shared with you the first stages of a mirror carp that I was carving. Well I am pleased to confirm that it is finished.
I'm very pleased with the outcome. It was carved from a piece of lime using hand tools and a Dremel. I then used my pyrography iron to burn in the details. The biggest challenge was the eyes, which I made with some punched card using my wife's leather punch. It worked really well. I glued them on using Superglue and also used that to seal the cardboard. I wanted to keep the painting subtle because I didn't want it to look like plastic, so I used some diluted inks The only exception was the large mirror scales which I did with a metallic acrylic paint.

All in all it was a satisfying process and outcome and I may well do another spiecies. Now that the warmer weather is here I should be banging away at another project but it will have to wait a few days. We have just had some new garden fencing and my wife wants me to make trellis for the top so she can train some roses up it. So she has put an order in for 50 feet of the stuff, which means I'll be busy for a while. Who knows perhaps we'll get some rain and I can get back into the workshop.

By the way, 2 of my books will be free to download from Amazon over the next 3 days. The first is called "Fishing, Learn From The Tips" and the other is, "No Fishing In Here, Just Short Stories."
Please download a copy and have a laugh. All you have to do is, click on the books tab at the top of the page and then on the appropriate book cover. That will take you straight to Amazon for the download. Please enjoy and I will be back soon with another project.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Hip Hip Hurrray

Hi All,
At last it looks like the cold weather is finally going. It's been a very cold and long winter, I'm in my sixties and can't remember a worse winter than the one that is just ending. There may have been of course, but I can't remember weather like we had last week.

The only good thing that has come out of my cold enforced with drawl from my workshop, is the fact that my art work is getting better. I have been experimenting with acrylic inks and pencil sketching.

The image above is a clematis that I did with acrylic inks. I use them like watercolours but find that the colours seem much brighter. The downside is that they dry very quickly and once dry you can't do anything with the pigment because it is permanent. That is why most watercolour artist stay away from them. To me it is a blessing, because once they are dry and permanent I can put another glaze over the top and be sure that the layer underneath won't be disturbed. In the past, when I've done this with watercolours, the bottom layer has mixed with the new layer and the whole thing turned a bit muddy. This doesn't happen with acrylic inks.

Here's a couple of anemones also done in acrylic ink.
I have also been doing a bit of sketching with a pencil.
These are fritillaries and were quite fun to do.

So I have enjoyed the benefits that the cold weather bought, but I am desperately hoping to get into my workshop this week to make some shaving. Please keep come back to see how I get on.

Sunday, 11 February 2018


Hi All,
Sorry that it's been so long since my last post but this damned cold weather just won't go away. I know it's winter and cold weather is expected but we should have a had at least one or two decent days this year. I guess I've spent about three hours in the workshop since Christmas and I'll show you the results in a minute.

You may be wondering how I'm spending my free time while I'm not turning, carving or burning wood. Well the answer is, I've been concentrating on drawing and painting. I'm getting old now and unable to stand at the lathe all day so I need a hobby which allows me to be seated. My thinking is that over the next few years I will do less turning and more artwork.

Anyhow, let me show you a couple of the arty things I've done while taking advantage of the cold weather. Here's a couple of tulips that I did recently and I'm quite pleased with them.

The tulips are very colourful but sometimes it is nice just to do a sketch using graphite and pencil. Here's a couple of fritillaries done using that medium.
Right, going back to the three hours that I managed in the workshop, here's what I've got to show for it.
I'm having a go at carving a small wooden carp that is about 2.5 inches long.
Here it is after cutting it out on my new scroll saw.
After that I managed to carve the main shape and sand it down a bit. I have also marked out the space for the eye.
For those of you who don't recognise the shape, it is going to be a mirror carp and I' hopefully going to do the scales with a gilding past. Not sure how that will work out and I'm not sure about the eyes either. Should I buy some, try making some out of resin or just paint them in? I'm not sure myself yet so please watch this space to find out.

I've got lots of projects waiting to be tackled as soon as the weather warms up, I'll keep my fingers crossed, perhaps it will be next week.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Last Earings

Hi all,
You may be pleased to note that this will be the last earring post for the foreseeable future. Not that there is anything wrong with earrings, but I need a change.

Here is a pair I turned from a walnut pen blank.
They came out rather well and look quite nice on my wife. I also made a pair out of an ebony pen blank; I love working with this wood. I wanted a white band in the earrings to contrast with the black of the ebony, so I cut a thin groove with my thin parting tool and filled it with white Milliput. Milliput, if you don't know, is a two part epoxy putty. You simple mix equal amounts of the two parts, fill the hole, or in this case the groove. Then leave it overnight to let it set, then you can carry on turning in the normal way.

Here are the finished earrings.

They look quite classy even though I do say it myself. So that was it for the end of the year and since then I've only managed one other items. It has taken the best part of three weeks to complete because the amount of time I can spend in my igloo cum workshop has been hampered by the ridiculously cold weather we have had this winter. Or am I just getting nesh?

Anyway, I decided to have a go at turning a pen and carving a snake on it.
The markings are done with my pyrography iron and I think it came out well. I'm not sure about the head of the snake, I think that could have been better, but for a first attempt it isn't bad, certainly a change from earrings.

By the way, the inspiration for the snake came from a You Tuber called Mike Stinnett, who carves snakes on walking sticks. Here's a link to one of his fantastic videos

So that is us up to date. Rumour has it that we might be getting some warmer weather this week so I might be creating something. Not sure what yet but if you come back in a few days who knows what you might find.

If you've got any comments on the snake or anything else please let me know.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Earings and Pendant

Hi all,
The weather is still grey and cold and my workshop is still colder than a penguin's pecker. I haven't turned a stick since Christmas and I'm getting lathe withdrawal symptoms. I promised to show you a few of the jewelry items that I turned for my wife's surprise Christmas presents so I will do that shortly. However, before that I'll show you what I've been doing indoors to keep myself sane.

Some of you may already be aware that I like doing a bit artwork. Not that I'm good at it, but it keeps me happy and in the warm. I'm trying to improve my skills by doing a bit of a sketch everyday and here is one of the first that I have done.
It's a goldfinch painted using Winsor and  Newton water colour markers. I hadn't used watercolour markers before, and to be honest, I couldn't understand why anybody would use them instead of traditional watercolour paint. My wife gave me a a set of 12 for Xmas so I had to give them a go. Actually, I was quite surprised at how easy they are to use and so very convenient, especial if like me, you have a shortage of working space. All you have to do is put a bit of colour down and then blend it in with a waterbrush. They work like magic and I'm very pleased with them,

The reason I did a bird was, (if ever the weather warms up) I'm going to have a go at carving a bird out of wood, so I thought that drawing one or two would give me a feel for the shape when the time comes to get my knife out.

Right, back to the jewelry I made my with for Christmas. The first is a pair of earring, turned from a piece of sapele and burnt with a wire.
They came out quite nice although I did have trouble with the CA glue finish. I had to revert to friction polish to get a good shine.

The next thing I made was a pendant, which the photograph below fails to show properly.

Although it doesn't look like it on the picture, I can assure you that it is perfectly smooth with a CA finish that came out like glass. It is a really nice thing and just goes to show what can be turned by sticking a couple of pieces of 6mm plywood together.

I'll save the other two pair of earrings for my next post because I've seen this weeks weather forecast and it's going to be another cold one. Roll on Spring and I might be able to get some more turning done.

Sunday, 7 January 2018


Hi all,
Christmas is well and truely behind us now, where the hell did those two weeks go? It only seems like a few minutes ago that I was beavering away trying to get some surprise presents turned for my wife.

So what did I make her? Well, her main present was a box with a surprise inside. Here is athe outside of the box which is turned from a 3 inch square of lime. I carved the heart and then textured around it with my pyrography iron using a stippling method. Here's the top view. I know I'm an old romantic, but what can I do.
Inside I wanted to give her a surprise, so here it is.
A bumble bee in a box. You don't see many of those about. The bee is turned and carved from lime. It has wire for legs and wings made from a plastic tomato box. He is resting on the centre portion, or seed head of the poppy and he is well and truely fixed with epoxy glue, so he won't be coming out in a hurry.

I think it is a reasonable try for my first attempt. I might do another and make the bee smaller and more refined, but that will have to wait until I have some time and the weather warms up a bit. At the moment my workshop is colder than a penguin's pecker so I'm not getting anything done.

By the way, I was worried that when my wife opened the box that she might get a shock and chuck the thing up in the air, but she didn't. In fact she was quite overcome at the efforts that I'd gone to for her and it bought a tear to her eyes.

I did also make a few bits of  wooden jewelry for her and I'll show you them in may next post because if the weather doesn't improve I won't have anything new to show you..

I leave you with another picture of the bee in a box.