Sunday, July 23, 2017

Enoch the Omnipotent

Here's the little idol I carved, Enoch the Omnipotent, all stained and waxed.

I've named him after a Small (but willing) God who once saved our D&D characters by manifesting a handful of pennies in front of our pursuers. He also made us a picnic feast once. We returned his service by evangelising constantly, in the hope of expanding his worship base, and getting in on the ground floor when it came to handing out divine favour.

Enoch has a butt, but NO GENITALS, because he's not that kind of god.

Total height: 250mm.
Material: pine.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


I've been doing a spot of knife-carving on a scrap of pine. What I've found from this is that a scalpel, while nicely sharp and flexible in the blade, is bloody uncomfortable to use for this sort of work; my hands have gone all quivery from gripping its pathetic skinny little handle. I really need to make myself some proper carving knives with decent, meaty handles.

I don't really know precisely how this little fetish is going to end up, but I've got the general masses blocked out. Though I appear to have forgotten to give it any arms. Fetishes don't really need arms, right? Whatever would they use them for?

Enoch the Omnipotent

Later on...

I think I'm about done with this, except that I'd like to stain it and have a go at aging it a bit.

I shall call him Enoch the Omnipotent, after a Small God who once saved our D&D characters by manifesting a fortuitous handful of pennies in front of our pursuers. That, as I recall, was about the apogee of his divine powers.

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night.....

It may be particularly nasty out there, but it's rather nice in here.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Long Overdue Beautification


When we got our last clothes dryer, a long, long time ago, maybe fifteen years or more, (it just crapped out and has been replaced) I cut a hole in the wall of our house to run a vent through.

I fully intended to make it look a bit less shitty, but somehow I just never got around to it. Out of sight, out of mind.

We just got a new dryer, and I had to run a new vent duct. That put the full horror of the old half-arsed job right in my face, so this time I actually got off my arse and made this vent shroud to make it look a bit less like random vandalism.

It will eventually have a grille across the front as well as the bottom, to let the warm, moist air escape while also keeping rats and things out. I know that keeping rats out of a house is a futile dream, but that's no reason to make it easy for the little bastards.

If I can find some, I'll stuff the cavity around the ducting with insulation fluff, so minimise the chance of any of that wet, wet air coming back inside.

Friday, June 30, 2017

More saws for renewal

I got two more Disston saws from my friend Amie for renovation.

The uppermost is probably the older of the two, and the better quality. It appears to be a Disston D-7 panel saw, made between 1928 and 1955. All of the fixings are in brass. It has been sharpened in a sort of a crosscut pattern, but in rather a half-hearted way — it's very nearly a straight rip-cut.

The lower looks like a skew-back Disston D-23 panel saw, a very common model that was made from 1911 right through to 1990. The fixings are of galvanized steel. The handle is almost completely machine-made with very little hand-finishing, except for a desultory spot of decorative surface carving. It's a rip-saw. It has a very slight kink in the toothed edge of the plate, possibly too slight to worry about, but I won't know that for sure until I actually try to cut wood with it.


Less old
Both are missing fixings, to one extent or the other.

Oldest (left) is missing the stamped maker's-mark cap, but all the screws are otherwise present.

Less-old (right) is missing one of its cap-screws, and the handle is somewhat loose — most likely, it all just needs to be tightened up.

The plates have both suffered a bit from rust over the decades. I'll get them into a vinegar bath for a day or so of pickling and see how they come up, and then do a bit of polishing and sharpening.

The black spots are actually quite smooth and polished;
they look black due to the quirks of photographing reflective surfaces.

Coupla days....

This is the plate from the D7, after pickling and a bit of scrubbing with steel wool and various grades of wet-and-dry.

As you can see, the steel is quite badly etched by rust, probably beyond polishing with any reasonable degree of effort by me. I'd need to grind it right down on both sides, possibly reducing the plate thickness by as much as a quarter. There's a very clear difference between the areas that were exposed to moisture and oxygen, and those that were protected beneath the handle.

It doesn't make the saw unusable, but inevitably there's going to be a lot more friction on the plate within the kerf, and to compensate for that I'll probably have to increase the set somewhat.

Next day (July 3rd, 2017)

 All cleaned up, sharpened, and ready to cut wood.

This one, the D-23, has a handle made of apple wood. I noticed a bit of cell collapse when I was taking off the old dark varnish finish, so there are one or two soft spots — not rot, as such, but they could easily allow rot to start there. It may be worth applying a fungicidal coat to those areas maybe.
The D-7, with its woodwork cleaned up and brass polished, and its poor rust-etched plate. It's good steel and cuts perfectly well, though as I mentioned before I might have to increase the set a tad to keep it from binding in the kerf.

The teeth on this plate curve away from the edge towards the tip; I don't know if that's intentional, or a result of some over-enthusiastic sharpening — maybe at some point it lost a tooth there? Anyway, it doesn't seem to affect the cut, that I can can detect, and it's a very comfortable saw to use.

It's a pity it's lost its maker's medallion, but that has no functional effect.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wrinkly Eyes

Liquid ink roller-ball pen on hand-made paper, coloured in Krita

Blokey-bloke Bloke

TV-watching doodle. Liquid ink roller-ball pen and coloured pencils.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Saw Renovation

I inherited this Disston 10 TPI rip-saw from my friends Andrew and Helen. It's a good-quality make, and will eventually be very useful to me. However, first it's going to need quite a bit of care.

The blade is very rusty, especially on one side — the side that was exposed to sea air for some years. That rust will have to be taken off and any major pitting polished and smoothed out. The handle is split in a couple of places, and will need to be glued and patched. I'll re-shape the grip a bit at the same time, to better suit my hand. And, of course, it will need to be sharpened; I'm not sure it ever has been.

Next day

Here's the saw plate after soaking in a bath of white vinegar and salt for about 30 hours, and a quick scrub down with steel wool. It hasn't got rid of all the rust, but the improvement is marked. Some grinding with increasingly fine wet-and-dry paper will take care of the rest, and will polish out any overly egregious pitting.

The screws were stuck well and truly into the wood of the handle, and with the existing cracks that meant that it pretty much fell to pieces as I disassembled it. I've glued all the bits back together, and I'll see if that will serve along with some judicious reinforcing, but if I have to make a new handle it's not the end of the world.

Some time later

Owing to various impediments, it's been nearly a week since I've been able to do anything more to the saw.

Today I've filed down the teeth on the plate to even them out before sharpening, and I've started reshaping the handle to fit my hand more comfortably.

Most of the reshaping is done with rasp, files and sandpaper, but I've also gouged out hollows for my finger and thumb.

It's been glued back together almost like a jig-saw, so I don't know if it will last forever. I'm using good glue though, so I'm hopeful. I may inset some reinforcing panels if need be.

One more day

Well, it's done. Not quite as good as new, but almost.

It has sharpened up well, but there's a catch about half way down the blade that I haven't tracked down the cause of. There are no kinks that I can see*, and no missing teeth. It doesn't seem to affect the quality of cut, so I'll probably just ignore it unless it gets too annoying.

I might possibly, at some stage in the future, take it up to 12 teeth per inch, but that's a job for another day when I'm feeling a bit more enthusiastic about filing.

* [NARRATOR] There was a kink.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bedouin Sheik

This was drawn from an old photograph of a Bedouin sheik in the Lebanon. I think it was dated about 1912, but I'm not really sure.

It's all done in Photoshop.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Suwariwaza Shomen-uchi Gokyo
I passed my yondan grading in aikido today, with the aid of huge doses of decongestant to keep the nose-slime from my head cold from flying all over the place.

My three uke, Colin, Peter and Justin made me look a lot better than I deserved, for which I am truly grateful.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Spokeshave Sharpening Grip

This is a design by Paul Sellers for a simple sharpening grip for a spokeshave blade.

It uses the spokeshave's own cap iron to hold the blade firm while it's being sharpened, and the length of the wooden grip gives me much more control and power than I can achieve with my fingers alone.

The body of this grip is an off-cut of laminated bamboo, but just about any wood would do. The little brass locating lugs are a pair of brass screws with the heads cut off. The cap iron screw is a 25mm pan-head No.10 screw with its point ground off. The front end of the grip is bevelled at 25°, leaving about a millimetre thickness in the front and with its heel rounded off. The but-end is rounded and bevelled for more comfort in the hand.

It only took about ten or fifteen minutes to make this little thing, and it's improved and eased spokeshave sharpening enormously.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dice Tray

An issue that arises from time to time is that of keeping dice from scattering all over the place, knocking around playing pieces and disappearing off the table and rolling away under bits of furniture, never to be seen again.

To ameliorate the problem, I knocked together this little dice tray. It's about 180x200mm with an oak frame and a cork inner, flat enough to make dice like the d24 readable and soft enough not to knock the corners off them. It's compact enough to not take up too much table space, but large enough to allow reasonable freedom in rolling the dice, and the frame is deep enough to keep them in (as long as you don't get too enthusiastic with your throwing) while being low enough to see them clearly from any angle. The feet aren't really necessary, but they're decorative and I had them hanging around, so why not make use of them?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Krita includes a tool they call Multibrush, which repeats strokes on a user-selectable number of axes. By default, the centre of rotation is the centre of the image, but that too can be changed. This image uses 16 axes throughout, but the number of axes can be changed on the fly.

It makes the creation of kaleidoscopic mandala images like this one very simple, but I don't really see much use for it other than that. Still, it's a fun toy as far as it goes.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Bamboo eHDD rack

I'm making a little rack for my external hard-drives, of which I have several in action.

I was originally going to make it out of 12mm untreated pine plywood, but for some unfathomable reason Bunnings doesn't have any in stock. They did have some 16mm laminated bamboo boards though, so I thought I'd give that material a go and see how it is to work with. The individual shelves are just 7mm ply that slide into housings in the walls of the bamboo shell.

This is by no means a complex construction job, and I haven't attempted any dovetail joinery or the like; I tend to suspect the bamboo laminate wouldn't particularly suit that sort of thing. However, it cut, routed and planed easily and cleanly. I think it would be quite unforgiving of tools that aren't absolutely sharp; being bamboo, the long fibres are quite tough and stringy, and if they're not cut cleanly they'll tear. Likewise, the arras needs to be taken off the edges or else the fibres will start to fray and tear away from them in use.

It's quite a heavy material, a lot heavier than pine or birch plywood of equivalent thickness. The laminations are a lot thicker than traditional wood ply too, which I rather like — I find the porous-looking end grain quite attractive. So far I've just oiled the inside and the top and bottom, and the oiled colour is quite attractive. I don't know how well it would accept stain, but my gut says it should be OK. I have no idea about its stability versus warping or cupping; in a piece of this size and conformation that's unlikely to be an issue in any case, and laminated materials, in my experience, are fairly reliable as far as that goes.

I'd say that so far I like it as a construction material. It's not especially expensive, and from what I hear it's pretty hard-wearing (I think it's used as flooring) so it would probably work well as desktops and the like.

Next Day...

Well, here's the finished article.

It just needs time for the oil to dry and then I can fill it up with hard drives.

In retrospect, I'm thinking that maybe I should have stained the shelves, but I think I can live with them as they are.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Modular Sharpening Station

I recently bought some 80x230mm diamond lapping plates in 100, 180, 320, 800, 1500 and 3000 grit. They're on steel, about 2mm thick, so they need some support to make sure they stay flat and still while I'm sharpening things on them.

I've mounted them with silicon on individual bits of 18mm MDF, sealed with acrylic varnish, and rebated down the long edges underneath so that they'll sit handily in a vice for use individually, or in the four-plate station you can see here — the blocks sit snugly in cavities in it.

With the blocks in place, the sharpening station probably has enough mass that it's unlikely to move around under normal use. However, I might add a tab underneath that can be gripped in the vice, just to make sure. Or maybe a non-slip rubber mat will be sufficient — I'll try it and see.

I was originally going to make a station that would take all six blocks simultaneously, but that would be rather unwieldy, so I settled for four. The blocks in place now are the ones I think I'm most likely to want most often, and if need be I can swap in the 100 and/or 3000 grit plates, or just use them individually in the vice as and when I need them.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

New earrings, in the flesh

These just arrived on my doorstep from Shapeways — my most recent earring design.

These ones have been produced in their Raw Bronze material, and I'm pretty happy with the way they've turned out.

They can be had at

Friday, March 10, 2017

Stanley 45

The Stanley 45 plough plane I bought on TradeMe just arrived.

It seems to be complete, except for the cutters (there's just the one, a ½"), but it's going to need quite a bit of TLC.

At the moment I just have CRC soaking into all the joints and threads to loosen it all up before I get in there with the steel wool and what-not.

Judging by the price people are asking for fairly basic sets of cutters on Ebay and the like, I'll be better off getting some tool steel and making my own.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Filigree Cone Earrings

Here's a new pair of earrings I designed.

They're available for sale in a variety of metals at my Shapeways shop.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Narsil Reforged

OK, maybe not Narsil.

This is an old dinner knife, one of a bunch that we've picked up over the years. It originally had a casein handle that was supposed to mimic ivory, but at some stage of its life it looks like it had been left to soak for too long, and the casein had gone all woogly and disgusting looking. The blade was a bit misshapen too, from some inexpert sharpening back in the distant past. Nevertheless, the steel is good; thin, flexible, and holds an edge. I like these old dinner knives.

So I thought I'd renovate it a bit.

The casein handle was stripped off and replaced with a piece of ash, a bit longer than the original handle. It's not one of my favourite woods, but that's what I had to hand. I re-shaped and re-sharpened the blade, so now it's scalpel-sharp — which is maybe a bit of overkill for its intended purpose, but I feel you can never go wrong with a really sharp knife.

So, now I have a knife that will definitely cut steak.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

First Order Retrievability

There is not much space here.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I'm getting my workshop organised to the point where I can be productive in it without having to constantly climb over things to get at other things, or fossick around in drawers and cupboards to find the things that I was sure were there but turn out to be somewhere else entirely.

Today, that has mainly meant hanging things up on walls so that I can see them and get at them easily. There's still a bit of space available on my bit of plywood for some more Useful Things, and I'll add hangers for them as and when I need them.

Wall-based tool storage

The next stage will be to move the right-hand workbench out into the middle so that I can lay a brick and concrete floor under it. At the moment it's resting on ancient semi-rotten floorboards on ancient semi-rotten bearers on ancient semi-rotten dirt, and that does not make for a particularly solid or stable work surface.

It's going to be a pain of a job; I shall have to unload all of the drawers and what-not to make it light enough to move, and find somewhere to store all that crap while I'm doing the concreting. Then I'll have to practice my contortionism to get the new solid floor down in a fairly constricted space.

Still, once it's done, the workbench will be much more pleasant to work on, and that's got to be a good thing.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


Much fudging going on here. I got the hands very wonky.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Stacks of Stacking

Today is the day when our firewood for the next winter arrives.

Now I have to stack it all. That pile is about 9m3, and on past performance, it will take me about three days of intermittent activity. Naturally, the next three or four days are forecast to be stinking hot.

I may need beer. Quite a lot of beer.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Dovetail Gauge

Today I made myself a 7:1 dovetail gauge out of a small scrap of oak I had picked out of the bin, using only hand tools. It's a simple little thing, but it requires a high degree of precision in marking and cutting to work properly. It has a raked edge and a square edge on both sides, so it can be used for marking both the faces of the pins and their ends.

The hardest part was getting the blank absolutely flat and square on all its faces. My hand-planing skills are still fairly rudimentary; I just can't seem to master planing square. If the blank isn't square to begin with, then everything that follows will be subtly out of whack.

Once that was (eventually) achieved, the initial marking and cutting went smoothly enough, but carving out the body of the gauge so that the faces were smooth, flat, and even was trickier than I'd anticipated. I'd thought, when I started it, that I could flatten them with a router plane, and I could have, but I'd have had to make a jig to hold it and provide surrounding surfaces for the router to rest on. If I was making several, that would be worth while, but for this one I just finished the faces with a chisel.

The oak made that slightly problematic, because the grain made it difficult to see precisely what was going on with the surface, and it tended to either catch the edge of the chisel or deflect it. It would be better to make something like this out of beech, I think; absolute smoothness isn't strictly necessary on the faces for the tool to function correctly, but my perfectionist soul would prefer it.

Next Day

I made another one, this time out of a wood I can't positively identify. It may be a species of beech, or possibly pink birch, or even a pale mahogany, but I just don't know. It was originally part of a bit of furniture.

It's smaller overall than the oak one, though neither is particularly huge.

I cut it out of a longer piece, which allowed me to carve the valleys flat with a router plane with its plate resting on the thick bit in the centre and the sacrificial horns on either end. Then I cut the horns away.

As I suspected, that made getting the valleys flat and even a hundred times easier.

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.