Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Farewell Box


I made this box for Annette to give away as a leaving gift for one of her workers who is moving on to pastures new. The top is spalted beech, the sides are rimu, and the corner splines are ash. The cartouche is copper, etched with a design of the Manaia.

The inside is lined with cedar, and in the bottom is black suede leather.

Dimensions are 240 x 135 x 70 mm.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Yet Another Box


I felt an urge to make something, and for want of anything else to make, I made another box.

What I'm going to keep in it I have no idea, but no doubt something will arise.

It's made out of really terrible cheap 7mm and 9mm plywood that had become badly water-stained at some point, so I decided to paint it rather than staining it as I normally would.

It's large enough for A4 paper in the bottom, and its external dimensions are 345 x 255 x 90 mm.


Inside the inside

I included a partitioned tray, about 30mm deep.

The floors are all lined with self-adhesive 1mm thick foam. I had no pieces large enough to cover the whole floor of the box, so I cobbled it together out of pieces of whatever colours I had available.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

I came, I saw, I... sawed


Black & Decker BES720-XE

My terrible old Ryobi table saw shat itself fatally a few weeks ago, so today I replaced it with this — an 1800w Black & Decker from Mitre10 for a measly $299. (That's all my spending money for the next couple of weeks, but still pretty cheap for a tool like this).

Black & Decker have not really had a very good reputation over the last few decades, but the reviews on this saw are pretty good (for its place in the table saw hierarchy) and the B&D router I got for my birthday more than 20 years ago has run without issue, so maybe the sneers and jibes were all just snobbishness. I dunno.

It has no bells, nor any whistles, but it has good fences and a good cast bed, and it cuts in a straight line. The rip-fence gauge is pretty accurate, according to my initial tests: not sub-millimetre accurate, but certainly good enough for my needs. It has a much deeper bed than the Ryobi did, which will be helpful for getting the initial cut aligned.

The angling of the blade has no screw adjustment; you just have to push it over to the angle you want and lock it off. That will make cutting at precise angles a bit trickier. Also, the mitre sled's reported angle is unreliable, and will need to be set manually with a square or protractor, but to be fair I've almost never encountered a mitre sled that is properly accurate. I have a mitre saw for that sort of thing in any case.

It is much, much better than the saw it replaces, which was never much better than a hand-held circular saw.

It comes with a dust bag that sticks out the back, or you can use a vacuum on the dust ejection port, but I used some 40mm PVC waste pipe and connectors to redirect it into a plastic bin that sits underneath the saw on the trolly I made for my last one. It doesn't capture all of the dust, but certainly takes care of most of it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Shoe Patcher Enhancemets


I've made little use of the leather sewing machine I bought from China a couple of years ago, but enough to be able to identify some areas where it needs improvement.

I mounted it on a wooden base a while ago, and now I've shellacked it so it's all smooth and shiny. 

I added a wire thread guide to the spool stand — at the moment it's just held in place with superglue, and at some stage it will probably need some support at its base to keep it from twisting. Maybe not though; it's not as if it's ever under much strain.

I added a base to the small spool stand; just a nut and washer, again stuck in place with superglue. Without those, the cotton spool would just fall wonkily on to the cast frame, and would not turn freely as the thread is drawn out.

Finally (so far) I replaced the fairly terrible little plastic crank handle with a more substantial one that I turned down from a scrap of pine. Hopefully that should make turning the crank a bit easier.

The manufacturing quality of these machines is not high, but it does work. No doubt there's a lot more fettling that could be done, but we shall just have to see.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021



Being the dedicated clothes-horse and follower of fashion that I am, I bought myself this fetching little number for soirees out in the workshop.

It's made from a good heavy canvas, with shoulder pads and a crossover at the back, so there's no pressure on the neck at all and it's very comfortable to wear. The stitching and everything seems, at first sight, to be good and sturdy, and I think it should see me out.

It has a bunch of pockets and a couple of hammer-loops. It could do with a 300mm ruler pocket, and I might add one if the need becomes pressing: it would be easy enough to do. There's a narrow little pocket on the chest (there's a pencil in it in the photo) that is a good size for a 150mm steel rule though, which may be enough. The larger chest pocket has a retainer strap with a couple of snap-clips, which would be good for keeping your phone in so it doesn't fall out and smash itself to smithereens.

I don't think, being canvas, that it would be a permanent replacement for a proper leather apron for welding. It would do the job in a pinch, but it's likely that hot embers could burn their way right through if left unnoticed.

I got it from TradeTested, and with postage it cost me about $90. 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Hanging Shelf (WiP)


Being accumulators of books and knick-knacks and things as we are, we have an ongoing need for more places to display that sort of thing, and this is another part of that process. It's the first of a pair of small hanging shelf units, made from recycled rimu.

In this picture it's just propped up on the end of a shinai, to hold it in place for fitting. I discover that I have not taken into account a notch in the lower shelf to accommodate the paneling batten, and I also need to make and inset a couple of hanging plates on the back of the stretcher. And looking at it now, I think it could do with some titivating of the leading edges of the uprights... maybe a relief bevel on the outside edges or something, though being at this stage of assembly I've made that sort of thing a lot more difficult for myself.

Also, before I finalize everything, I should probably make sure that it's not going to catch people in the back of the head, who are sitting on the sofa immediately below — if so, they'll probably have to go on the other side of the room. The shelves, that is, not the people.

Hopefully, having worked out all the quirks on this first one, the second should go more smoothly.

Next day:

As I suspected, it hangs a bit low over the sofa for head safety. It could go right up above the dado, but that's lath & plaster under there, and trying to find studs to hang it from would be a nightmare and would inevitably leave so many holes the wall would look like the site of a machine-gun massacre.

I'll just put it on the other side of the room, over the telly.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Don't Go Alone


This is a digital chalk drawing I did in 2009 in Krita.

I like the idea, in my AD&D campaign, of the darkness of the Underdark being an almost sentient thing that resents the intrusion of light-bearers into its domain.

The picture was published in Knockspell, S&W fan-mag of lamented memory.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Router Plane #03


Fancy-schmancy thumb rests at the back

Oak, all oak. Except the steel bits.

This is a more compact tool than the first two, and probably the last one I'll make (for a while, anyway). I have the hardware for three routers, and three routers are what I've made.

I wouldn't have thought I'd ever say this, but I think I now have more routers than I really need.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Knobs of Oak


Another couple of knobs for another router plane, turned from oak this time.

I just cannot turn consistent, repeatable shapes to save my life. Fortunately, for this particular project it doesn't really matter that much. If it did, I think I'd have to make a couple of profile scrapers to get myself into the ballpark, and then finish them off with a shameful amount of sandpaper.

For what it's worth, the one on the right is the shape I actually wanted, and it was the first one I turned. The other one is its hideous misshapen sibling that is kept in the basement chained to a radiator.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Router Plane #02


I've made some changes with this one after the experience of the first, the main being that I've lowered the cutter angle to 40° instead of 50° — as a result, it cuts much more easily than Router #01.

To accommodate the lower blade angle, I've let the superstructure down into the body of the plane by about 7mm, to keep the blade tip at a manageable distance. With my elongated hole, I've got plenty of room to see what's going on down in there.

I've made this one out of some Southland red beech. It's not as dense or close-grained as English beech, but it is a very nice timber to work.

At the moment I've only got one set of knurled elevated nuts to hold everything together, so I can't use Router #02 and Router #01 simultaneously. Hopefully I'll be able to get another set fairly shortly.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

The Paul Sellers Router Plane


I've finished building a new router plane, following along with the instructions on a couple of videos by Paul Sellers: Part one, and part two on Youtube.

Yesterday I finished shaping a pair of cutters with the help of my friend Nick Turner. I had to leave his workshop early, so he offered to take care of heat-treating them, and will drop them off here sometime. Then I can give them their final sharpening and try the whole thing out.

I don't really need another router plane, but I like the idea of using tools that I can make myself. And I also like the idea of sticking it to the bottom-feeding speculators who have driven the price of second-hand router planes sky-high over the last few years.

Knobs turned from beech

Knobs stained and polished, oak baseplate begun

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

E Pluribus, Unum


That excellent Mister Bain has given me a bunch of router plane bits, sufficient to put together one complete one, using one of my Veritas cutters.

As well as this, there are another two baseplates (another Marples and a Record 071), and another collar and thumbscrew. I seem to recall that the thread for the post and thumb-nut on these things tends to be some weird archaic type, but parts are still available for them if I want to build up another one.

Coupla Days Later...

I've tidied it up a bit. It didn't need a whole lot of work: mainly scrubbing everything down with steel wool, respraying the baseplate, and stripping down and repolishing the handles.

I'll hunt out a bit of ash or something and resaw it down to 10-12mm for a base. Wood-on-wood works better than steel-on-wood; it slides better, and it doesn't leave nasty black marks on the work.

At the moment it has a 5mm Veritas cutter in it; that's a bit narrow for day-to-day work, and I might see if I can rustle up a 10mm blade. It's not a high priority though.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Black Scale


We've been getting this nasty black scale on our little lemon tree for a while now, and I am informed by the Garden Centre Lady that it is caused by some little bastards of insects doing their bastardly little insect thing.

She sold us some oily goop to spray on it, on top and bottom of the leaves, to put a stop to their shenanigans. Hopefully that will mean the tree will start producing a decent amount of decently-sized fruit again, rather than the few rather pathetic specimens it's making right now. I might have to set up some sort of drip-watering system for it though; I don't think it's getting enough water in the fairly sheltered spot it's in.

I like lemons, and I use them a lot. It would be good to be able to get back to using our own rather than buying them from Australia.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Archimedes Screwdriver


I found these tools today in a local antique/junk shop and bought them for myself as an anniversary present.

The long one is an Archimedes Screwdriver, something I've long wanted. It rotates by pressure on the helical lands you can see in the shaft, against spring tension that keeps it extended. It can be latched closed so it doesn't take up so much room in the toolbag. It takes interchangeable heads, though it came with only one, and finding more these days might be a bit difficult. It's in very good condition apart from the finish on the handle; its obviously been kept well lubricated and not been used as a hammer.

They've been largely superseded these days by electric drill-drivers.

The smaller one is a little screw-awl, excellent for creating the tapering holes you want for old-style wood screws. It has a nice boxwood handle.

The two of them together cost me about $25, so a steal really.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Blue Folk Revival CD Cover Painting


This was a painting I did back in 2004 for a CD cover for my friend Peter Gatonyi's band, Blue Folk Revival. Or maybe the CD was called Blue Folk Revival. I don't remember.

Anyway, I just found some photos I took of it at the time on the fairly shitty digital camera I had at the time.

If I recall correctly, it was about 800-900mm square. Acrylic on unstretched canvas.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Spring 2021


This time of year, when it's sunny and the cherry blossoms and new toon foliage bloom together, our rather shabby back yard starts looking almost pretty. Though it would still set any proper gardener's teeth on edge.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Camera Stand


I had a spare Beike tripod head hanging around, so I whipped up this little wooden base for it and put my old Lumix bridge camera on it. It's a lot less adjustable and flexible than a proper tripod, but for copy work or the like, it's actually a lot more convenient.

The Lumix is a decent camera of its type, with a nice Leica lens of reasonable speed and quite a wide zoom range, but it only uses a motorized zoom, and it doesn't take interchangeable lenses. It'll do auto-bracketing, which can be very handy for miniatures photography. I was actually trying to sell it a while ago, but got no interest at all, so I figured I might as well get some more use out of it.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Art Appreciation

Many years ago, I went to a travelling exhibition of Modern Art from the collection of some stupendously rich person, I forget exactly who.

There was a wide range of stuff there, from the late C19th impressionists up to the action-painters of the 1950s.

In almost every case, seeing the works in the real, rather than in a photograph, was absolutely stunning — the colours and textures shone out, effects that a photograph simply could not catch.

The exceptions were the action-painters like Pollock and De Kooning. I understand the ideas, the concepts behind the movement, but to me, in real life, the works themselves were just... meh. There was nothing about them that moved me any more than a photograph, except maybe their scale — they were pretty big. But they affected me no more than wallpaper in a hotel lobby.

This interests me, because I haven't been able to pinpoint exactly why it is that they don't affect me. It's not because of their extreme abstraction — Rothko's work, for example, is profoundly abstract, but I absolutely love it.

It's a puzzle.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Table Saw Stand


I have a little old Ryobi table saw that, until very recently, has been attached to the end of Workbench #02. That's mostly been fine, but my workshop is very crowded, and if I wanted to rip anything more than about a metre long, I had to do a lot of moving and shuffling of other equipment to make room.

It seemed to me that it would be easier if I could just move one thing, the saw, so I made this little wheeled stand for it. The wheels are n the right of the saw; they're not really visible in this photo. The wheels are unbraked, but the legs on the other side seem to serve to keep everything pretty stable, and if need be I can always whip up some chocks or something.

The joinery is pretty simple; it's all bridle joints and half-laps, with a lot of glue and screws. It's all pretty solid, nevertheless.

Because my workshop floor is very far from flat, I've added a levelling foot to one of the legs. I'll probably need to put one on the other leg as well, but I'll wait and see.

Another possible accessory would be a hinged flap at the back, so I can extend the table if I want to. That should be pretty straightforward. I'd really like to replace the platen entirely, but all the guts of the saw are bolted directly to it, so that would not be straightforward.

It's not a very good table saw, but it's better than nothing, and now it will be easier to use for ripping long stock, which is what it's mainly designed for.

Squatty Bloke


Photoshop doodling.