Thursday, February 9, 2017

Luminous Flash

I've had this guy standing on or about my computer desk for many years. I don't remember exactly where he came from; I may in fact have just picked him up off the street somewhere.

Today the morning light hit him just right to make him glow like Rudolph's nose.

Monday, January 30, 2017


 I made this little box (it's about 100mm long) to keep my sweetener tablets in.

It's made from a scrap of heart rimu, with a couple of strips of cedar inset.
Regrettably, the rare-earth magnets I used as latches aren't strong enough to hold it closed against the spring of the hinges, so I'm going to have to come up with some alternative means of keeping it shut. I have an idea, but whether it will work or not is yet to be seen.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Chip Rack

 Today I made a chip rack — a rack, for poker chips.

I don't use them much, but when I do, I always end up with a bunch of messy stacks. This will tidy things up a lot, as well as making the chips easier to handle.

It's all plain old pinus radiata, except for the thin cedar gussets in the bottom of each column. The bays are each made of two pieces of moulded coving — I was going to make my own until I found out how much a 20mm radius coving bit for my router was going to cost.

If I were doing it again, I'd plane down one of the sides of the moulding a bit to make the whole rack a bit more compact; I think they're a bit too far apart.

I made the rack and stand as two separate pieces. In theory, this should make storage easier. We shall see.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Some new earrings

It's been a while since I designed any jewellery.

Here's a new pair of earrings.

They're available for purchase, in a variety of materials, at

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Scrap Box

When we were clearing out the workshop at the end of our cabinetmaking course a few years ago, I nabbed a bunch of 70 mm by 9 mm thick pine tongue & groove that was destined for the skip. Not enough for a project of any size, but it's a useful board size for making little utility boxes.

Normally I plane away both the tongue and the groove, leaving me with about 60mm of width, but this time I got rid of the tongue entirely but just planed down the groove side enough to take out the bevel and leave me with a square edge. Then laps were cut in the ends of two of the pieces and the walls were glued, butted, and nailed. It's a very quick and easy way of whacking together a box that doesn't have to withstand a lot of stress. The bottom is just a piece of 3mm MDF.

Total construction time for a simple box like this is about twenty minutes, I guess. What I like about it is the visual effect of the groove running around the lip, and I suppose if I wanted to make it just a tad fancier, it would be a pretty simple matter to inset some darker wood in the groove and use something a bit nicer for the bottom.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Photoshop Brush Experimenting

I tend to collect things like brush sets for Photoshop and then never get around to actually using them.

The thing is, most of them are unlikely to be of much use, but buried in amongst the huge pile are some that I really like. I'm trying, therefore, to work my way through as many as I can, experimenting with them, to see whether I want to keep them or not.

This guy is a combination of two brushes: a very large textural brush that I used to create the canvas vignette effect, and a rough charcoal pencil brush that I did the drawing in, in pure black and white. It's about a five minute sketch, so not much of anything really.

I like these two brushes enough that they'll go into the "keep" pile.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

New Box Project — WiP

Project for the moment: a box cobbled together out of some old rimu tongue & groove and some 1/8" meranti plywood. Next step, after the glue has dried, is to cut some slots for pine corner splines to give the mitres a bit more strength. I appear to have run out of the wide cedar venetian-blind slats I like to use as box liners, so it may be time for another trip to the Eco-Shed.

It should be big enough, when lined, to take an A4 thingy, so it will probably end up being a document box of some sort.

It strikes me now that cutting this into two parts — box and lid — would be a good job for a kerfing plane. Perhaps I should make one.

Next day

I've got the corner splines in, and I've part-cut the lid off — I cut it on the table saw, leaving about a millimetre of wood holding everything together. I'll finish cutting it with a hand saw.

The table saw blade has a fairly hefty kerf, about 3 mm. However, I think I can afford to lose that much on this box.

I really don't like meranti at all. I don't like the colour, I don't like the grain, and I don't like the fact that you can never ever get its raggedy grain feeling smooth to the touch unless you cover it with about three millimetres of varnish.

 Later on

Finished. Sort of.

I didn't notice when I grabbed them off the shelf at the shop that they'd shelved two different types of latch together, so I accidentally got one of each.

Not to worry; I think I'll be replacing those latches in any case.
I ordered some hinges and box-latches from China, and these are the first to arrive. They're very cheap — they work out to about $NZ 1.50 each, and they just some sort of brass-plated zinc alloy. This particular latch isn't at all secure; it prevents the lid being opened, but the latch just hangs in position over its studs, there is no spring action or anything like that. So it's more decorative than functional, but that's OK for this box. It looks nicer than the latches I was using before, and that's its primary purpose.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Desert Rocks

Ball-point pen and aquarelle pencils on A5 cartridge

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Technical pen & coloured pencils on A5 cartridge paper

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Project #01 — Shedlette

My first project for 2017 is the building of a little shedlette or shedling or mini-shed or whatever you want to call it. The first stage is complete, the clearing of the ground — in the foreground you can see about a quarter of the pile of crap that came out of that little area by the fence.

The space is an odd shape, because of the tree that's grown up over it. That tree prevents the left-side door of my workshop from opening right up, which is no big deal from my point of view but it does mean that the building will never again be any use as a garage.

My intention is to build it as simply and cheaply as possible, probably out of treated exterior plywood with just enough framing to join it all together and to hang the doors, and sitting on a couple of ground-treated wooden skids. What I haven't quite decided yet is whether to build it in situ, or to build it and then manhandle it into place — probably the latter, since it won't be very big or heavy, and that would ease construction enormously.

More than a week later....

Rain (or forecast rain that never eventuated) prevented any progress until today. However, now I've got some framing and a ground-treated fence post to cut up for skids.

Here's the state of play when I packed up for the day:

The floor area is 2000 x 600 mm, made of 18mm strand-board, and you can see pretty clearly here the carpenterial gymnastics I'm going to have to perform to work around that tree.

I kind of wish I had access to a Paslode gun, or at the least, a framing nailer I could use with my compressor.

I was originally going to make the walls of treated plywood, but I find that I've got about a dozen old sheets of roofing iron out the back (currently hidden behind a wall of ivy) so I'll probably use that instead. It means the framing will have to be a bit more involved, since the iron will provide no real structural strength, as plywood would.

Next Day

I've completed the back framing. I compromised on the joinery: rather than going all-out with mortice & tenon joints, I settled on quicker nailed lap-joints throughout. It's not a strong joint, but it does provide a bit of torsional support.

Now I will have to wait until I can afford to buy more framing timber, since I gravely underestimated how much I'd need.

The vertical section on the right will have a roof sloping up and forward, more or less following the line of the garage's roofline. The lower left hand side will slope down to the left, to avoid the tree.

Some time later

Having bought some more framing timber, the box is more or less complete except for a few more cross-pieces. It's threatening rain, so I've cleared up for the day.

Next stage will be to clad the sides that aren't accessible in place, then lift the whole shebang on to its floor and nail everything down.

After that, the remainder of the cladding is finalized, and the doors get made and hung, but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

Owie on my fingy
I managed to skip off the head of a nail and smoosh the side of my finger. Which kind of hurt. There was swearing.

Coupla days....

Translucence abounds
I've clad the top, back and sides in gossamer sheets of only the finest plastic.

The sheets of corrugated PVC are cheap, but it cannot be denied that they look pretty crappy. However, little of it will be immediately visible when everything is in place, and the front will be in proper lumps of wood.

Now I have to get it on to its floor-pad. It's not amazingly heavy — one of the advantages of the PVC — but it's awkward, and I'll have to enlist some muscular help to get it shifted. Once it's in place, it will be usable to an extent, even without the doors.

Coupla hours....

Well, I managed to manhandle the thing into position and secure it on its base. No easy task single-handed, I can tell you.

Still, it's done.

I have to do the front now, and hang the doors. That'll be for another time though; I've already spent quite enough money on this little project.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

She'll be right, probably

This bit just fell off my lawn-mower.

Do you think it's important?

Also: Steel-capped boots, kids. They're not just for weddings any more.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Folding chair up-cycling: Number 2

This is the second of a pair of cheap and crappy folding chairs we bought some years ago to have something to sit on while we were camping.

The first is here.

This one is just done in treated pine, with a very light oil stain. Unfortunately one of the seat boards split when I was screwing everything together, but that's not disastrous — I just softened all the edges and called it "rustic".

Friday, December 23, 2016


Here's a couple of doodles I drew while I was watching TV. Both are in black ball-point pen.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Router Lift

It's up-side-down. It normally goes the other way up.
I have a Black & Decker router that I was given as a birthday present quite a few years ago. It's not the worst router ever made, but it's not great. It came with a 3/8" head, and fortunately I found a 6mm collet to fit it, because 3/8" cutter bits are pretty bloody thin on the ground in New Zealand.

I have a much better Ryobi 12.5mm plunge router, so I stripped the Black & Decker down and attached it to a small table that clamps in the bench vice.

The other day, its depth-lock broke. This was a blessing in disguise, because it forced me to build this, which I should have done ages ago. It's a lockable router-lift.

What it does is lift the router up and down by means of a threaded spindle, which I made out of a 10x130mm hex-head bolt. I couldn't find one that was fully threaded right up the shaft, so I cut a new thread for it. The head of the bolt is buried in a plywood disk — you can see it in the picture — with a big bead to act as a winding handle. I may have to put a plywood cap over the bolt-head, just to ensure that it doesn't work itself out.

The bolt passes through a nut buried in the top of the frame, and on to a plywood cushion on the router itself. When I turn the handle, the router goes up or down, and can be locked firmly in place by means of the locking-nut. It will make my routing very much more precise than was really easily feasible when trying to hold everything in place against spring-pressure while fumbling around for the depth-lock.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Shelf Building

Stage 1 — 2016-12-06
Note: Those aren't the shelves.
They're just braces holding the plywood in place
while the glue cures.
We have an ever-increasing need for storage space, owing to the ever-increasing amount of stuff we just can't bring ourselves to throw away. Therefore, I am filling up some dead space with some shelves. It's over some older, larger shelves I put in many years ago to take our TV and video stuff, but that's all been moved elsewhere now.

The dead space in question is the niche between an old fireplace (long walled over) and the exterior wall. This creates some issues when it comes to making built-in shelves.

The fireplace is brick, behind the plaster-board, and thus would need rawl-plugs to anchor the shelf supports. That's not a big deal, but it's kind of a pain in the arse.

More troublesome is the right-hand side, the exterior wall. It's lath-and-plaster, which is pretty much just fancy-schmancy wattle-and-daub. It has no structural strength in itself, and to cap it, it makes it really hard to locate the studs and dwangs.

So, to make life a whole lot easier for myself, I'm lining the cavity with plywood, which will take nails and screws perfectly well. The pieces are just glued to the walls with construction cement (No More Nails); I'll put a couple of screws through each for a bit of extra earthquake insurance, but the shelves themselves will provide all the bracing they'll really need.

Note: the glue has to set for 24 hours before I can take the braces away, so this will be slightly drawn-out project.

Stage 2 — 2016-12-07
Small display shelves


It's the next day, the glue has cured, and Stage 2 of the shelf-building project is underway.

This bottom space is quite tall — 700mm — to accommodate a decent-sized TV, just in case that becomes relevant again some time in the future. At the back of this niche I've put a grid of quite shallow (140mm) shelves to display knick-knacks and what-not. The higher shelves won't have this feature; they wouldn't be visible. At the moment it's just held in place (fairly firmly) by friction, but I'll add a few screws just as insurance.

All of the shelves above this are quite deep (400mm), designed for storage, not display. If I get really carried away I may install cupboard doors over them, but not just yet.

Stage 3

Stage 3

The first of the big shelves is in.

They're going to take a bit of fitting owing to the un-squareness of the surrounding house, but this one at least is very, very nearly square on the left hand side, which eases matters a bit. The situation gets worse as I get higher.

These shelves are just 18mm MDF, so I've added a strengthening member underneath which also adds a bit of a curve to soften the otherwise rigidly straight (but not square) lines.

This is all going to be painted white, so I don't have to be all that careful about hiding screw-heads — I just make sure they're well below the surface, and then cover them up with builders' bog. It's excellent stuff, though it does reek a bit while it's curing.

Stage 4-ish, I guess

2016-12-08 — Stage 4

Second shelf is in, and I've jumped ahead a bit and started adding the trim. Things will get a bit cramped up the top when the last shelf goes in, so I thought it would be easier to do the trim first and then the shelf.

The trim serves no structural function at all. What it mainly does is disguise all the gaping gaps resulting from the chronic unsquareness of my house.

I have learned that the existing shelf is not quite strong enough to stand on, and there was an alarming noise from underfoot when I did. I'm going to have to fix that now, whatever it is that made the noise.

About done

Stage 5

The construction is done and done now; all that's left is paint.

I think I have some leftover flat white somewhere — I hope so, because paint is ridiculously expensive.

I might put a strip of LEDs behind the lowest shelf's brace. I'm not at all au fait with electrics though, so I might enlist some aid to wire it up. I'm sure it's quite simple, but imagine how embarrassed I'd be if I burned to death in my bed because my shonky wiring set the house alight.

Painting begins

Stage Whatever

I can't say that I'm all that fond of painting, but painting is sometimes a necessary evil.

Still, it is tying it all nicely in with the surrounds, so that's nice.


We're Done.

I'll want to leave them unoccupied for a couple of days to let the paint harden properly, but that's it for this lot.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Iaito Refurbishment

Some years ago I bought a fairly cheap, fairly crappy iaito, which I decided to make a bit less crappy.

I started by grinding out the fake etched hamon on the blade and polishing it back to a plain, un-fake finish. Then I put it aside and more or less forgot about it.

I revived the project a few days ago and got to work on making an oak tsuka (grip) to replace the extremely shitty plastic one it came with. I've given it a dark rosewood-ish stain.

I'll replace the original nasty nylon webbing binding with leather, just as soon as I get some to make some 10mm lacing with. That'll be a bit of a job; I'll have to rig up some sort of strap-cutter to make sure it's cut evenly. I'll need about four metres, I think. A strip of grip-tape along the top and bottom will serve to keep it all securely anchored.

Wooden tanto - leather binding
This is some that I did on a wooden tanto about twenty-five years ago, for aikido training. This lacing is only 5mm wide, which is fine for such a small hilt, but a sword requires something a bit meatier.

The fittings — tsuba, kochira, fuchi etc. are all pretty ordinary. They're cast in some sort of zinc-based muck-metal, and have been plated in copper. They all had fairly prominent mould seams left, which I ground out, but of course that exposed the zinc base metal. I originally planned to re-plate them, but in the end I just used some patinating solution (intended for stained glass leads) to blacken the zinc wherever it's exposed, and that will serve well enough I think.

I made a new seppa (the washer between the tsuba and blade) out of a bit of copper. I left it bright, and I'll just let it age to whatever colour it eventually chooses to adopt.

Once the binding is on, it will be functional again as an iaito, and it should look a lot less cheap and nasty in spite of still being pretty much as cheap and nasty as it ever was.


Well, it's done. In the end I used the same leather lacing I'd used on the tanto, first because I already had it, and second because leather lacing — especially wide leather lacing — is ridiculously expensive and I didn't want to spend any more money on it.

It's certainly not a good sword, but it's a better sword than it was.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


I'm trying my hand at kintsugi, though I'm using epoxy resin rather than lacquer.

We have a few bits and pieces of ceramics that have suffered due to the earthquakes over the last few years, and that I'd like to bring back to life. I think this might be a good way to do it.

The small crack to the left has been finished — the resin ground down, polished, and over-painted with gold. The long transverse crack's resin has gold mixed in with it, but hasn't yet been finished off.

And by "gold" I mean "gold-ish", since actual gold dust is a bit beyond my means.

For this small test piece, I'm just using Araldite two-part epoxy. It's strong and durable, and will probably be quite adequate, but I'm keeping my eye out for an epoxy that cures to a harder surface — Araldite remains kind of "plasticky". That may actually not be much of an issue, but we shall see. I'm also trying out both quick-cure and slow-cure epoxy to see if there's any benefit to using the slower, stronger formulation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Scrap Box — Complete

I finished off the little box I was making for Annette, and I'm reasonably pleased with it.

Dimensions are 175 x 110 x 55 mm.

I inlaid a bit of copper I'd etched with my logotype a couple of years ago into the lid; it's quite corroded (that's the black bits), and I'm not sure quite how it will age, but we'll see.

One thing I'd like to do is find some more attractive latches and hinges. These ones are OK, and they work well, but they're pretty uninspiring.

The inside is lined with cedar from some old venetian blinds. It's very soft, and not very strong, but for this purpose it works very well. The bottom is a piece of 1/8" sapele plywood set into a rebate in the walls, so there's a couple of millimetres clearance underneath.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Scrap Box

Being something of a hoarder, scrap wood tends to build up. So, from time to time, I make something out of it.

This time, it's a small box. The body is some laminated fake-mahogany (sapele) that used to be a counter-top, and the top is some spalted beech that I've had sitting around for a few years. I have no particular purpose in mind for it, but I quite like making boxes, and Annette likes collecting them, so it works out quite well.

The carcase is just mitred together, which is a very weak joint — it's held together only by glue; it has no mechanical holding power of its own. So, to reinforce that join, I'm adding splines at the corners. These are just tabs of 3mm (1/8") plywood glued into slots that run through the mitre to give it a bit more strength.

I'd normally cut the slots for the splines on the table saw, using a jig to hold the box at 45°. Once the jig is made, this is a pretty quick and accurate way to go about it. But for this one, I wanted to stick to hand tools exclusively, so I cut the slots with a dovetail saw and remove the waste with a little 3mm chisel.

I didn't actually own a 3mm (1/8") chisel, and getting hold of one proved to be harder than I'd expected. My favourite 2nd-hand tool shop has closed down, and none of the local tools shops stock anything much even the slightest bit unusual. So, I took a chisel from a cheap set of carving chisels and ground it down to 3mm, a process that took quite a bit longer than I anticipated due to the puniness of my bench grinder. Still, it got done eventually, and now that it's been shaped, polished and sharpened, it works pretty well.

I also had to do some surgery on a throwaway 500mm Bahco panel saw to turn it into a rip-saw for resawing thick boards down to thinner ones. I ran out of lighter fluid for my little pencil torch with about a fifth of the teeth still left to anneal, and the set of the teeth isn't that great, so up to this point that hasn't been a completely successful conversion. I'll finish off annealing and reshaping the remaining teeth, but I don't have a saw-set, and haven't been able to find one. Googling has shown me a multitude of sets of saws, but nothing for setting saw teeth.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bissel vacuum — buyer's regret

A few months ago I bought a Bissel Cleanview Compact upright bagless vacuum cleaner.

Its suction is certainly good, but it's less convenient in almost every single way than a regular vacuum with a hose and what-not.

It doesn't get into corners or edges or under furniture as well and it's much less convenient to store, not to mention being so noisy that I have to wear earmuffs when I'm using it.

Also, the build quality is not stellar — if I pick it up by its carry-handle, it falls apart, and there's no straightforward way of fixing that.

D-, would not buy again. If I could find the receipt, I'd be taking it back for a refund.