Monday, October 1, 2018


I downloaded the latest version of Krita ( and gave it a very quick outing, mainly to see how my graphics tablet would treat it. Since I just saw a Childish Gambino video on YouTube, this popped out. I was going to do more on it, but I liked the simplicity of the chalk enough to stop right there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Training Tanto

I fished this scrap of ash out of the rubbish and carved this training tanto out of it, because I like the way the grain goes.

All the swirls of tan and cream make it look like toffee, to me. Yum.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Monitor Stand

Yesterday I set out to tidy up my workshop a bit. I didn't do much of that, because I got distracted, and accidentally built myself a new monitor stand out of some old rimu shelving.

It's taller than my old one, which is good: hopefully having the monitor a bit higher will help me to avoid slouching in my Kneely-Chair. Now the centre of the display is exactly at my eye-line, instead of me looking down at it.

An added benefit is that now I have a shelf to store my graphics tablet on, instead of having to leave it leaning up against the side of the monitor.

Quite apart from its better ergonomics, it's nicer to look at than my old one, which was just slapped together out of some bits of MDF and a vinyl cover stapled on.

There's nothing much to it in terms of woodwork, just a few housing dados, some glue and some screws. I could probably have got away without the screws to be honest; it's not as if it's ever likely to be under enough physical stress to make them necessary.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Judging. Harshly.

It both irritates and amuses me when the news media gets hold of the fact that some country's military has an invasion plan for some other country, and then they go completely doolally over the fact, usually presenting it as clear evidence that Country A is plotting some kind of surprise attack on Country B.

It's the job of armies to come up with plans for the remotest of contingencies, both for attack and defence. If the contingency should actually come to pass, it's far too late to start planning then. An existing plan may not be completely relevant any more, but at least it gives one a springboard to work from.

It's for this reason that I have no sympathy for EQC's excuses for their woeful performance after the Christchurch quakes. They claimed that the scale of damage was unprecedented, and therefore couldn't possibly have been planned for. But for decades, a significant part of their job was supposed to be imagining exactly this sort of contingency, and planning for it. It would have been nice if such a contingency plan had not been needed, but it was needed, and it didn't exist because the people whose job it was to make those plans DIDN'T DO THAT FUCKING JOB.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Jungle Bashing

Our back garden is a little bit overgrown.
I am waging a war with the ivy that I have let get completely out of control out in the back yard. It is proving to be bloody hard work.

Matters came to a head when one of our big trees, that had been strangled and killed by it, broke and fell into our neighbour's car-park. Fortunately the whole tree didn't come down, and there was nobody and nothing under the stuff that did, but it was a harbinger of things to come if I don't act.

I don't have the means to get right up to tree height to strip it off, so I'm cutting it back at ground level, and then will poison all the stumps and hopefully bring it under control that way. Judging by what I've already done on the fence on the opposite side of the property, it will take about five years of ceaseless vigilance and merciless brutality before I can start to relax again.

That patch of concrete wall at the back of the shot is the side of a carport next door. It's like uncovering the ruins of Angkor Wat, but with less sculpture.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Palaeolithic Barbie

Printed at 0.2mm layer height, eSun PLA+

I printed a dollie, Palaeolithic Barbie.

It's a piece that has become known as The Venus of Willendorf since its discovery in 1908; precisely what its function was, nobody really knows. Many guesses have been made.

I was originally planning to paint it all stoney, but now I'm tempted to just leave it in its shiny black plastic. The digital model has a pitted stone surface texture that doesn't show to best advantage when printed in relatively low resolution (0.2mm) as here, but as a Future Age representation of a Stone Age artefact, I'm not sure that's a really big deal.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Zig-Zag Hoops

Here's another pair of hoop earrings, a very simple geometric design this time.

These ones are designed to hang perpendicular to the ears, face on to the world.

They're available in bronze or silver at

Clockwork Hoop Earrings

I designed another pair of earrings to be 3d printed and cast by Shapeways.

The diameter of the main body of the earring is about 25mm.

They're available in raw or polished bronze or silver at

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Monogram Earrings

This is my first design for earrings in quite a while. I'm figuring out how build customized monogrammed pieces, within the printing, casting and polishing limitations of Shapeways' process.

It feels good to be back in the 3d-design mines again.

These ones are available at Shapeways at

Realistically, unless your initials, or those of you and your main squeeze are AF, they're probably not going to be quite the thing for you. I'm trying to figure out some method of making them user-configurable, but I suspect, considering the palaver involved in getting everything aligned and overlapped for printing, it will have to be done manually. Still, with two letters, there's less than a thousand possible combinations. How long could that take?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Spokeshave Modification

I bought myself a couple of spokeshaves  from China for very little money. They're not very good quality, but they do work OK with a little bit of fettling. The irons take a decent edge, though how long that edge will last is anyone's guess.

The reason I bought them was because I wanted to see if I could reshape one successfully into a bellied spokeshave for cutting an inside radius, and if it's feasible (and workable) then I'll risk doing it on a better quality tool. The spokeshave on the right has had its leading edge filed down and rounded off for that purpose.

It does work somewhat, but it needs a bit more shaping I think. The front curve needs to be taken right up to the edge of the mouth, and the back edge should be curved away as well, as far as it can be without interfering with the blade adjustment screws. The much reduced sole area in contact with the wood makes the tool a bit more difficult to control, but that's only to be expected.

Friday, June 1, 2018

(Slight) Buyer's Regret: Dowel-forming Dies

4-die set. The plate has screw holes
in case you want to anchor it permanently,
but it isn't really necessary.

The die in use (cutaway)
I bought a set of Veritas metric dowel formers from Lee Valley (for more money than I really wanted to spend, but it's done now).…

They're good quality, but for the money I think you'd be better getting a manufacturing engineer to drill and heat-treat a ¼" plate with a range of hole sizes.

The separate dies are all very well, but if you're hammering dowels you get much cleaner results if you can take the dowel down in 1 or 0.5mm increments, and with this system you have to swap out the die each time. Also, there are only 12, 10, 8 and 6mm dies in the set, and a 2mm step is too much between each step really. You can hammer the dowels through OK, but it has a tendency to tear the dowel surface instead of shaving it, especially in an open-grained timber like oak.

Thursday, May 31, 2018


Bit by bit I'm sorting out places for all my hand-tools so that they're all in easy reach. Well, easyish reach, because I am something of a short-arse, and reaching over the workbench is sometimes a bit of a stretch. But all within reach anyway, easy or not.

This most recent spasm of organisation has been prompted by making a standing rack for all my most-used chisels (front right, by the battery drills). Up until now they've either been in a chisel roll, or more usually, just lying on a shelf or scattered about on my workbench waiting for an unguarded finger to pass by. This should keep them a bit more out of the way and accessible. All of my gouges — all the decent ones, at any rate — I keep in that box in front; they don't get as much use, so it's not such a problem having them all away in a box on a shelf.

That all seems like a lot of clutter, but I use everything here quite a lot. There are more tools out of shot as well — half a dozen more planes and various machines. Strictly speaking, you could probably do satisfactory woodworking with just a few well-selected tools. Personally, I like having choices.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Stung at last

New plane to the left, old plane to the right.
 I have been mercifully lucky with my online purchasing. Up until now.

I bought a Stanley 78 rebate (rabbet) plane on TradeMe, with the intention of repurposing it as a scrub plane. I had bought one a while ago to use in its intended role, so I thought I knew what I was getting; both of them ended up costing me about fifty bucks each. The photos on TradeMe indicated that it wasn't in mint condition, but they didn't reveal the true horror of the situation by any means.

Old plane above, new plane below.
The new plane is.... let's say it's a bit of a disappointment.

It's missing the fence, and it may never have had a depth-stop or nipper. It's missing the lever adjustment for the iron. It has a bodged-together replacement screw to tension the iron against the cap. It has been so corroded that the body looks like it's got woodworm, an indication that the steel its cast from was never of the best quality. It carries a US patent number rather than the English maker's marks, so I assume it's a US copy — probably a licenced copy, since it still bears the Stanley brand, and I suspect it pre-dates my English one.  It's been covered in thick blue paint, probably to disguise the extent of the corrosion.

I will give it one thing: it's got quite a comfortably-shaped grip.

It is probably still usable as I intend, as a scrub plane, though with the pitting of the sole it will never really be as good a tool as I'd hoped. However, if I'd hoped to be able to use it for its original purpose as a rebate plane, I'd be pretty much out of luck without doing a lot of work on it. Probably more work than it warrants.

This is maybe worth five or ten bucks as a curio to put on a shelf to look rustic next to a vase of flowers. I feel that I've been well and truly ripped off.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


This double bead is done by means of a simple step-and-repeat using the basic single bead cutter.
This is the newest tool I've made for myself, a scratch-stock. It's made from oak, but just about any timber would do the job. I'd probably stick with a hardwood, just for durability.

Basically, it's just a holder for a shaped scraper. The scrapers can be shaped to produce beads, as shown here, or grooves for inlaying, or even complete mouldings. Usually a scratch-stock would be used for relatively small features, as the effort required to create the forms in the wood goes up greatly with the increase in the area of scraper in contact. In this case, the stock will take a maximum width of 35mm, and I doubt I'll ever get close to using that whole width.

I've made the scraper here out of a saw plate. I would have used an old plate, but I don't actually have one that's unusable as a saw and a pair of brand new throwaway saws only cost twelve bucks; they'll supply me with metal for scrapers and what-not for years. The steel is good and hard, but not so hard it can't be shaped with a file as long as you stay away from the edge with the hardened teeth.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Small Thing, But Mine Own

I found some old steel mapping pen nibs in the bottom of a little box of crap that had been lying around for decades untouched. I have no memory of when or where I got them, but they're of very limited use without a holder.

Now, you can buy a plastic holder for not much money at all, but why buy one when you could make one? So I made one.

I have no idea what the timber species is. It used to be a mop-handle, I think. Now it's a pen handle.

I do like the vibrant and responsive line you can get with a mapping pen and Indian ink, but it takes a little bit of practice to learn to control it well — the tines of the nib are very springy, and the nib is very sharp. You can't treat it like a pencil or a ball-point pen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Stool Time

Here's yet another stool, a very simple one this time, made out of reclaimed rimu.

The pieces of wood I had to work with were full of old saw kerfs and screw holes. I cut around the old kerfs and plugged some of the holes with dowels, but I see one that I missed — I'm not really sure that it's worth the bother of revisiting it, but we shall see how much it preys on my mind.

I do like rimu as a furniture timber, but it does have its issues. It can have a tendency to warp, but this timber is so old that I don't expect that. As it ages, it gets harder and more brittle, which isn't usually much of an issue when using it to make things, but it means that it tends to split and splinter when you're de-nailing recycled wood, and you'll probably have to be sure to pre-drill every screw hole.

I would have liked to have tapered the legs a bit to make it a bit more elegant, but by the time I'd cut the baulks down I only had 30mm square sticks to work with. Maybe a bit of tapering would be all right, but I worry that it might have made the legs too delicate for the hurly-burly of day to day use.

Friday, April 27, 2018

All Dogged Up

I have a very basic, and not very good, vice that I installed as a tail-vice on the end of Workbench #01. Today I added some dogs — a hefty chunk of steel in the vice itself, and some sprung wooden dogs to go in the bench.

The steel dog would have been better in brass or copper, as it would be safer if a plane should hit it. However, I don't have a piece of brass of the required size, so steel it is. It's a piece of 1" x ¼" bar, so somewhat over-engineered for the purpose, but again that's what I had.

One advantage of making a housing in the vice-jaw for such a hefty piece of metal is that I could use a piece of wood in it quite safely — a quarter-inch thick stick of oak or ash should be quite strong enough for the job, and if the steel dog ends up making me too nervous, that's probably what I'll do.

The dog-holes in the bench-top go right through, so sawdust and crap will just fall through instead of clogging them up, and thus far I've bored pairs of holes out to about 450mm from the vice. If I need any further away, they can be bored as and when they're required. The springs in the dogs themselves aren't very potent, but sufficient to hold them in place when they're not under tension from the vice, and that's all they need to do.

Phone Camera — Accidentally Artistic Piece of Crap

My phone is a cheap Huawei of some description, and apart from the fact that Huawei never updates the OS on their phones, it's been an OK phone. However, its camera is complete garbage.

I took this while waiting for some friends at the Blue Duck cafe on Waitangi Day. I've cleaned up the sky a bit, but left everything else untouched. If you look at it full-size, the compression artifacts means that the pine tree foliage has been rendered in quite a painterly fashion, which I quite like.

That doesn't change the fact that the camera is a piece of shit.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


I inherited this nice little guillotine from my friend Robin Sutton, who was doing a great clear-out in preparation for shifting. I believe it was made by his father, or maybe grandfather (?)

Anyway, now it's mine. I've wanted a paper guillotine for years, but have never found one that I could afford.

It was a bit sad when it came to me, but a bit of cleaning up has made it quite cheerful again. I cleaned and polished all the metalwork, sharpened the blades, took a card-scraper to the platen, planed off all the edges of the platen, gave it some feet so that the blade doesn't hit the table when closed, and gave all the woodwork a few coats of shellac and/or oil.

Now it's as good as new (or old). It's much cleaner now, but it still has that patina of use that I like in a tool.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Knobby Knobs

I've been getting some practice on my little lathe, turning some drawer-pulls for my little chest of drawers. I actually ordered some cast metal ones, but those cost very little so I figured that I had nothing much to lose by making some of my own, and it would be nice to have a piece of furniture in which every single component was made by hand, by me..

There are enough here for all ten drawers, plus some spares so I can discard the crappiest ones. They're made from beech, from an old broom handle.

Some of them are fairly similar to some others, but none are identical — I have real problems with control and repeatability on the lathe. I decided that since I was unlikely to get them all very similar, I wouldn't even try, and made each one an individual.