Saturday, March 2, 2024

Sanding on the lathe


I made this sanding bed to go with the wheel I re-did yesterday for my lathe. It seats pretty firmly against the ways of the lathe for the moment, but if it gets looser with wear I can easily hold it in place with a little g-clamp.

It's all perfectly square, both horizontally and vertically, which will be a boon when it comes to truing up frame mitres and what-not. Also, with the Jacobs chuck on a #2 morse, I could use it as a horizontal borer, with a bit of faffing about and packing and stuff.

Something I discovered in the making of this is that the ways of my lathe are not symmetrical — the near side splays out to its feet at 10 degrees, while the far side is only eight degrees. That was unexpected. That means that the sanding bed can only go on one way, though that's not really much of an issue.

The wheel was one I made a while ago to go on one of my faceplates. But bolting it and unbolting it again when I wanted the faceplate for something else got to be a bit of a pain.

So I bought a M30x3.5 nut and epoxied it into an inset on the back.

Inevitably it wasn't absolutely 100% square and true, so I had to strip off the old sanding surface, re-true the face, and then put some more sanding belt strips on.

I think it took me about an hour and a half to get a successful emplacement of the nut, and it's a little bit frustrating to think that it's a job that could have been done — and probably done better — in five minutes with a welder and a bit of steel plate. However, I don't own any welding equipment, nor do I have anywhere to store it if I did.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Turning Tool Rack


This morning I whipped up a little rack for my carbide turning tools, plus the centring drill I made the other day, and a couple of skews.

It's just 12mm plywood, but it will do the job and should last longer than I will.

The carbide scrapers are very easy to use, but they are not the greatest of tools for leaving a fine surface, and I pretty much use them only for rough shaping.

The majority of my tools — the ones I use, anyway — are hanging up beside the lathe.

They're very convenient there, but I've run out of hook space.

I've got a bunch of miscellaneous others stored in a drawer, but they are pretty junky and I seldom use them.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Front Porch Knob


I'm stuck at home waiting for firewood to arrive (some time between 0930 and 1530, they say). So I'm pottering about filling my time by building firewood-stacking things to make my eventual firewood-stacking more stable.

I whipped up that little railing extension beside the porch upright, to support the firewood stack so it doesn't all tumble out into the driveway. The decorative knob was something I did ages ago when I was just screwing around on the lathe.

I still haven't built my side-of-the-house firewood shelter, because I keep putting it off due to the cost of materials, and by the time I'm in a position to make a start on it, the materials are even more expensive. Doh!

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Depth Drill


In keeping with my tradition of spending more time making thing for making things than actually making things, today I made a hand-held depth drill, using a 12mm twist bit I had lying about, some oak, and a bit of copper tube for the ferrule.

These things are used to bore a hole to a given depth for lathe work. This both makes it easier to hollow out the form with gouges, and also gives a visual indication when you've reached the chosen depth for the bowl or whatever.

This particular one will go to a depth of about 105mm, which will probably be fine for most of the work I ever do on the lathe.

Bowl of Mystery


I don't know what timber this bowl is made from. Beech, maybe. It's small, only 160mm in diameter. I've polished it with beeswax.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Piercing Cradle


Made another job-doing tool — this time a piercing cradle for accurately stabbing the stitching holes in signatures for bookbinding. It's just MDF and hardboard, so nothing pretty, but it does the job well and makes the task 100% easier and better.

I've made it large enough to cope with A4 page signatures, though since I only have an A4 printer (and thus can only make A5 or smaller folded signatures) 99% of my work will be A5.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Little Rimu Goblet


For no particular reason today I whipped out this little goblet made from a chunk of a reclaimed rimu joist.

It's not very big, only 90mm tall and 65mm in diameter, so not much bigger than an egg-cup. You'd need a fairly big egg though.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Another Oak Platter


This is about as big a disc as I can manage on my little lathe, and it's only about 225mm. It absolutely maxes out at 250mm, and its motor is so gutless that it tends to stop a lot when I'm working out towards the perimeter. If I ever come into a massive bunch of moneys, I'd like to buy a bigger, fancier lathe. 

I normally try to aim to turn things pretty thin, but this time I wanted to go a bit chunky.  It's 35mm thick, and I've only gone down 12mm or so in the middle, so there's still a decent mass of oak left there in spite of the big knotty chunk out of the rim.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Kwila Thing


My latest attempt at turning some wood is a chunk of kwila, a very hard, brittle timber much used these days for decking. It's quite tricky to turn, and I found I eventually got the best results with scrapers rather than gouges.

I'm not sure what it would be; a vase maybe? Or a cup? It will probably just end up having knick-knacks kept in it. It's just under 115mm in diameter.

I didn't hollow it out right to the bottom, because the piece of wood had some pretty bad checking, and I think it would probably just have flown to pieces if I'd tried to cut it around the cracked area.

A profile view
The nasty and dangerous cracks

I like the waisted shape of it, and I think I might try it again in some timber that's a bit easier to work.

I find kwila a very attractive timber, but it's not the most amenable.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Another Oak Platter


Sometimes things don't fly apart, and sometimes the centre can hold.

The bigger platter is still small, only 200mm in diameter. Like the earlier, smaller one, this one is also not suitable for oozy foods due to a dirty great crack. Also, I'm pretty sure the wax finish I used on it is not food-safe, so there's that too.

The one I did yesterday definitely did not hold.

It also had a large crack in it, and when my gouge caught as I was attempting to under-cut the rim, it flew into two parts. One of the parts stayed in the lathe, the other ended up down the other end of my workshop.

The catch would have ruined the rim in any case, but if it had stayed in one piece I could have trimmed it down and salvaged something of it.

And another...

This will be the last of them for the moment, until I can prepare some more blanks. This one actually has no cracks in it, so it could conceivably be used to eat from, so I just finished it with beeswax. The other two are done with a tinted Liberon wax finish, called Black Bison I think.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Oak Dish


On a whim this afternoon I turned a simple little oak dish from a piece out of the scrap pile. It's not very big, only 170mm in diameter, and definitely not watertight due to the knotty bits leaving holes through it. I haven't thought what I might use it for, probably nothing much.

Sunday, January 21, 2024



This weekend, on January 20th, we had a memorial gathering for my mother, Hilary, near Kawerau in the bay of Plenty. She'd stated that she didn't want a funeral, but she did want a good party.

Lots and lots of people obliged.

I made this casket for her ashes out of reclaimed rimu, and engraved the brass plaque with the aid of my friend Ozy's computer-controlled router thingummy.

My sister Leah, and Mum's oldest and best friend Colleen, gave beautiful and moving eulogies, and several other people spoke as well. The weather behaved, the food was plentiful and good, and the day went off very well indeed, not least thanks to the good offices of Ren & Maria who provided the wonderful venue as well as the lion's share of the organizational labour. Excellent people.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Trophy Chalice


Annette wanted a trophy cup for her work quiz champions, so I made her this chalice.

The timber is pink birch, and the cup stands about 200mm tall.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Mum Died Today

 My beautiful Mum, Hilary, died this afternoon.

Mercifully it was after she'd got back home to her own place, so it was in a much nicer and more loving environment, and with more loving people.

I had planned to fly up to be with her tomorrow afternoon. Too late.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Diamond Hones


I bought myself some diamond hones via AliExpress, and 3d-printed some double-sided holders for them.

They are about 20x150mm, on 1mm steel sheets.

I got 320, 600, 800, 1200 and 2000 grits.

The 320 holder (in the clips under the lid) is empty on the other side; I'll probably glue a strip of leather in that socket for use as a strop.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Pfeil Gouge Tray


On an extended trip away recently, it came to me that it would have been nice to be able to do a bit of block cutting. My turntable gouge rack, though convenient for the benchtop, isn't the sort of thing I can just slip into a bag and carry away. So I set to work in Blender and designed this little flat(ish) tray, and after a few test prints of an individual cavity, printed the whole array on my Ender 3. It comes out at 160 x 200 mm.

I'll make a shallow lidded plywood box for protection, and I'll probably just glue the tray in the bottom of it.

I've included cavities for 10 x 5 x 2 mm magnets to hold the gouges in place (you can see them in the plastic box at the top of the photo) but for added security I'll include a foam bar down the middle of the lid that will press down on the blades of the gouges when the lid is in place. The combination of the two, the magnets and the foam, should hold everything firmly in place.


I whipped up a little box from plywood and glued the 3d-printed tray in place. The magnets hold the gouges pretty firmly, but nevertheless I think I'll include a foam pad in the lid to hold everything down.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Sketchbook Miscellany


I scribbled this some time back in 2017-18, and just got around to colouring it with Faber-Castell aquarelle pencils.

The others (below) I did relatively recently, while up in the Bay of Plenty.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Heavy Load


This one is finished now.

I've added a flat desaturated blue, which both pushes the raindrops into the background and disguises to a certain extent the faulty printing in the centre area.

Heavy Load

Linocut 150 x 150 mm

Flint water-based inks on unidentified heavy hot-press paper

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Press Issue


My nipping press has a slight hollow in the middle of the plate, so that it doesn't print properly in that area. It's a very common issue with presses of this type, which aren't strictly speaking designed for printing. It's a persistent irritation.

I've been trying to figure out how to fix the problem. I thought at first a shaped caul might do the trick, but a wooden caul would very soon be dented by the pressure on the plates, which would lead to worse printing issues. Maybe a couple of progressively smaller thin felts might help.

Or, and this is the most likely reliable fix, I might just have to rub in that area with a burnisher before the paper comes off the block.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Linocut with actual lino


I found some actual real lino to make linocuts with. I've had it sitting there for years, and just found it when I was looking for something else entirely. So, I thought I would cut some lino with it.

This is the inked-up block, after its second inking. It's 150 x 150 mm.

Printing was not very successful at all.

The print on the left was printed in my nipping press, and then rubbed vigorously with a baren because I suspected that the ink transfer wasn't entirely successful, as indeed it was not.

The one on the right was run through my little roller press.

Neither of them are very good at all, due I think to a combination of factors.
My workroom was pretty cold, so the ink was very stiff. I rolled up the block with a very hard EssDee brayer, so the ink wasn't pushed down into any unevenness in the surface of the block, of which it seems there are many in this natural lino. The lino itself is very hard, so it doesn't squish at all. And the paper surface is also quite hard, so it doesn't conform well either.

I think the extra-hard brayers would be better suited to wood engraving, or maybe relief inking of intaglio plates, than to the sort of thing that I do. I prefer something with a bit more give in it.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Tree Plain Man

Tree Plain Man

Linocut, 107x147mm

The final print was done on Fabriano Tiepolo paper, which is a smooth-surfaced 290gsm stock, very well suited for printmaking.

If you compare this one with the test print below, which was done on ordinary desktop printer paper, you can see how much better the Fabriano paper takes up the ink.

Blind Stamping

I've included my seal stamp by Blind Stamping, in which the block is impressed into the paper without any ink.

It's different from watermarking, which you can also see an example of in the bottom right: a watermark is laid into the mesh that the wet pulp is laid on to make the sheet, and the resulting pattern shows in the finished paper.

Tree Plain Man test print

(90gsm printer paper)

I've experimented with the blocks a bit in this one.

The key block (the outlines) is in no way unusual. It was printed in burnt sienna.

The background (the sky and plane) had the foreground silhouettes cut out, and then the block was cut in half along the horizon line and inked up separately. I cut a horizon line before I decided to cut the block in half, which is why there's a white line there.

The sky block was inked with a red-yellow gradient, the plane with a simple solid chrome yellow.

The blue block was quite straightforward. I had to do quite a bit of cleaning of the block before printing to avoid printing-in, and I'll probably end up cutting all those open areas away completely.

The last block, with the colour areas for the man's face and trousers, was cut only locally where there was detail. I inked in the face area by dabbing ink on to the block with my finger, and the trouser area was inked up through a paper stencil.

2023-08-07 — The importance of paper

It comes as no surprise that paper quality affects print quality, but this I didn't expect to such a degree: the Winsor & Newton cartridge paper gives a perceptibly fuzzier and chalkier print than the Fabriano drawing paper. The difference is even more apparent in real life than in the photo.

The Fabriano is smoother and stiffer than the W&N for a start; I suspect that it's been sized and polished, so the ink sits more on the surface and sinks in less. That would certainly explain the crisper edges.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Pfeil Gouge Rack

I designed and printed a rotating turntable holder for my Pfeil palm gouges for lino and wood cutting. It holds up to nine gouges, and when assembled it stands about 170mm tall.

It requires a 22mm skateboard bearing for the turntable, and I added a couple of disks of baking paper under the cap to provide a low-friction surface.

I'll probably turn a wooden base for it to stand on at some point.


I turned a base for the turntable from an old lump of rimu.

It's a raggedy, split bit of wood, and not a great piece of wood turning, but it will do the job.

I've also put the gouge number and profile on the top of the wooden mushroom, so that I can distinguish between them at a glance. It's not difficult to tell them apart by the blade when they're of a decent size, but the teensier tinier gouges all look quite similar to my tired old eyes.


I made another one.

It's fundamentally the same as the first, just different in detail (and colour).

I included some countersunk holes around the bottom this time, so that it could be screwed to its wooden base instead of being glued.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Etching Press Modifications

A few years ago, after a small windfall, I bought myself this little intaglio press. It's sold by an Italian company called RGM, and it's fundamentally identical to the Fome portable press available from Jackson's. So similar in fact that I strongly suspect that they're all just pumped out of a factory somewhere in China and re-badged by the end sellers. It's a decent, fairly well-engineered, entry-level press that doesn't take up a lot of room, but it's not without its issues.

The hand-crank supplied with the press is just stamped from a sheet of mild steel, and it's not nearly strong enough. Mine started to bend when the press was under even moderate pressure. I replaced that with a cast iron pulley wheel taken from an old pump, and that works much better, although its spokes can interfere a bit with the pressure adjustment screw on that side.

The other major issue is the bed, which was just a piece of 270mm wide 3mm stainless steel. It was adequate, but the felts and paper and everything tended to slide on its surface when they came up against the roller. I replaced that with a piece of 12mm plywood, a bit longer than the original bed. The knurled lower roller grips the wood very positively, and the felts stay in place on top. There's a possibility that it may end up being warped by the pressure of the rollers, but if that happens it's a very cheap and easy thing to replace.

The third issue, and it's one that I don't think I can do anything about, is the diameter of the rollers. They're only 34mm in diameter, and ideally I'd prefer them to be at least double that. The small diameter means that there's quite a steep angle of attack when the roller meets the plate, which is not ideal. However, they do work, and the press will produce pretty good prints, up to about A4 in size.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Print Drying Rack


I got sick of having fresh prints lying around all over the place, so I whipped up a drying rack for myself at long last.

It's just some lengths of 3mm MDF glued into angled slots in a couple of battens, and the battens glued to a bit of 9mm MDF. I put a couple of hooks on it to hang it, as shown here, or else I can use it down flat, with the prints resting on edge. The hanging version is more convenient, as it keeps the drying prints up and out of the way.

This rack will cater to up to sixteen prints, which should be plenty. I seldom do more than eight or ten at a time. It handles A4-ish paper fine, and should be able to support larger sheets as well, though that would depend on the weight of the paper. Anything more than about A3 would probably tend to droop at the ends, I would think.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Land of the Blind — Colour Test


I've completed my first run of colour tests for this print. It's six blocks (or seven if you count the one that was printed in two colours). The key block is EssDee Soft lino, all the others are 3mm MDF.

I don't know what this paper is; it's a scrap I fished out of a pile of scraps. It feels like about 240gsm or thereabouts, and I think it might be a hot-press  watercolour paper.

There's a tiny bit of cutting left to do, and then I think it's about done and ready for a proper print run.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Land Of The Blind


Land of the Blind

"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king"

Linocut, 105 x 150 mm

I have not yet decided whether or not to add a second or third colour block to this. I probably will, eventually.

Later on...

I bought myself a little Esselte lino cutter and a couple of blades, because I wanted a narrow U-gouge that I didn't have amongst all my other cutter profiles. It was cheap. Something I didn't anticipate is that the blades for these are sharpened with an inside bevel, unlike my woodcut gouges. That makes them quite a bit harder to sharpen, and also they tend to dive into the carving block rather than rising out of it — something to watch out for.

Next Day...

Starting to play with colour blocks now.

The registration isn't great, but that's not hugely important for this purpose.

Next Next Day...

I decided that I want the body of the king to be a different colour than his crown. But rather than cut a whole new block, and cut out the body area on the crown block, I just cut out the body with a jeweller's saw to make a sort of jigsaw arrangement.

This way I can ink up the two areas separately and then reassemble them and print them simultaneously, or else I can glue the body bit to a piece of paper the same size as the other blocks so that it will fit into the registration jig and be printed separately.

The jeweller's saw gives me a kerf of about half a millimetre, which would be enough to show up in a print as a perceptible white line, but it will be underneath the key block so it shouldn't be too obvious.

I transferred the image of the key block to the colour blocks by means of the offset transfer method, which is quick, easy, and effective. However, the black ink I used for the transfer is reactivated by the coloured inks on top of it, and a shadow image of the key line is printed along with the colour.

I expect that if I waited long enough the ink would cure enough to not be reactivated, but that would be a faff. Alternate strategies might be to do the transfer using a very light, transparent mix of ink, just visible enough to act as a cutting guide, or else to do it using an oil-based ink that would not be affected by the water-based inks going on over the top.

In truth, the shadow printing shouldn't affect the final print to any great degree, since the key block will be printed over the top of it. But I would quite like not to have it happen at all.