Sunday, April 11, 2021

Smile Sketch


This is a sketch taken from a photograph of some guy that I found somewhere on the internet years ago and kept because I liked his smile. I don't know his name, nor that of the photographer.

Drawing is all done in Photoshop.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Plane Till


I may not have achieved much progress on the project I'm actually supposed to be working on today, but on the other hand I do now have a till to keep all my working planes in safely on my workbench, and that I can pick up and move as required.

I've been meaning to make one of these for ages, and though it's not very pretty (it's just cobbled together out of whatever scrap was lying around) it should do the job perfectly well.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Art or Trash?


If you can sell it, it must be Art.

If you can't sell it, it must be Art That People Just Don't Understand.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Router Lift Redesign


I've redesigned and rebuilt my vice-held benchtop router table to use an old scissor-jack for the lift, rather than the big bolt I had coming up from below (that's what's sitting on the platen in this photo). I've kept most of the old frame and just added some bits to increase the height enough to cater to the jack.

The scissor-jack is superior to the base screw in that there's little or no lateral pressure on the frame while the router is being raised or lowered, so there's less need for lateral bracing. I will probably add some anyway, just to make the whole assembly a bit sturdier, but there's not really any great need for it.

I cut down an 8mm screw-eye to use with an electric drill to turn the jack-screw, but I have no need to be raising or lowering the router that quickly, and it's a bit of a faff hooking up the drill every time I want to change the height. Besides, I'd need to do the final adjustment manually in any case, for accuracy.

So instead, I've just mounted the old hand-wheel to the jack's hook-tab with a couple of small steel brackets. I can raise or lower the router to its full extent with just six or eight turns, and maintain very fine control over the bit height as well. I've done a little bit of testing, and the screw doesn't seem to shift at all under vibration from the router as it runs; if it ever does, I guess I'll have to rig some kind of clamp to the hand-wheel, which shouldn't be difficult.

All in all, I'm very pleased with the way it's turned out. It all looks a bit shonky, but it works well. Now I should replace the MDF top plate with a nice slippy piece of laminate, or maybe even a sheet of stainless steel.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Busy Busy Spiders


The spiders that live in our firewood storage lean-to by the carport have been very busy indeed since we used up the last of the wood some months ago.

There will be more firewood going in there in the not too distant future, but I think I'll leave them and their webs alone until then.

I really don't mind spiders at all, as long as they're not crawling unexpectedly up my arm. Or as long as they're not White Tails; I hate those disgusting little fuckers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

New Year Booty


Some new stuff arrived in the mail for me today.

The book is by Paul Sellers, my favourite online woodworking tutor, and it's a cracker. The information in there is probably largely available from him on Youtube or his own website if you're prepared to hunt it down, but it's nice to have it all in one place, in a format that remains readable when I don't have internet access. I do like books.

The other new arrival is a set of small HSS push-graver blades from China. They were very cheap, though I don't recall the exact price, and they'll go into the little beech mushroom handles (also cheap, also from China) that I bought for that purpose.

I've mounted one of the gravers already, and given the handle a few coats of shellac — it looks like a toffee apple.

I've never done any hand engraving before, and I strongly suspect that it's not as easy as people like Uri Tuchman make it look. However, there's no time like the present for learning a new skill, and I'm always interested in finding new ways of making intaglio plates that doesn't involve messing about with acids.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Shoe Shine Box


Yesterday, I went to use our shoe-cleaning stuff, and finally got fed up with the ratty old cardboard box that we've been keeping it all in for the last thirty years or so.

So I whacked together this box out of scraps of 12mm pine plywood I had lying around, and a handle cut down from an old broomstick.

The little shelf is there to rest your foot on while you're brushing away at your shoe. It's supported underneath by a fairly hefty pine bracket, so it's a lot sturdier than it looks from above. The little curved cutout in the top edge of the divider serves no real function; it's just there because I think it looks nicer than a straight line.

If I had any self-respect, I'd fill all those screw holes. Maybe in another thirty years.

Friday, December 18, 2020

New (Old) Door Handles


I replaced the old knob-style door handles on the door between our kitchen and lounge with these brass lever-style handles.

I wanted levers so that I could open the door with my elbow, when my hands are laden with plates or whatever.

I think, though I'm not sure, that the handles are reproduction, not genuine antique. However, they're solid brass, not plated, and if they are reproductions they're good ones.

Unfortunately, the lock-plates from the old handles had marked the varnish and wood enough that I had to scrape them away. And that means that some time soon I'm going to have to dismount the door, scrape down the whole thing, and re-varnish it.

And so goes the creep of renovation.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Press Trolley


I've been pottering about the last few days making this trolley for my little etching press. It's mostly plywood, though the legs are salvaged from some pine framing timber from the scrap pile. I may, eventually, stain and varnish it, when I get up the gumption to do so.

It has lockable castors on one end only; whether it will need them all round is yet to be seen.

I'll use it to store all my printing clobber as well as the press — inks, brayers, barens, mixing plates and so on. And being on wheels, I can shunt it out of the way when it's not being used, which will be a blessing. Hopefully it won't get so heavy that I have to upgrade the castors; I think these ones are only rated for about 30kg  50kg.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Plywood Block


I thought I would give an ordinary old scrap of 18mm pine plywood a go as a printing block. Results were mixed.

Shown here are scans of the block itself (left) and a print taken from it (right). The print has been reversed horizontally so that it matches the image on the block.

You can see dark bands running from top to bottom of the block; these are from the growth rings in the timber the plywood was made from.

The density of the wood varies quite markedly between summer and winter growth, and that causes problems when cutting from one to the other, as the gouge can unexpectedly dive deeper into the surface, or skip up out of the wood.

Also, the variable density creates variable absorbency when the ink is rolled on to the block, and it swells unevenly across its surface. The effect is miniscule, invisible to the naked eye, but you can see the results in the right-hand side of print. I was using quite a hard brayer to roll on the ink, so it was quite unforgiving of any hollows. The printing issues are exacerbated by the uneven cutting caused by the density variations too.

Apart from the issues created by the growth rings, actually cutting the pine plywood was really quite easy. It was definitely more pleasant than cutting MDF, as there was no dust, and my gouges stayed sharper for longer. For simple prints without any complex line work, I think it would probably be fine. However, for anything other than that, plywood faced with a more homogenous, fine-grained timber would be much better — cherry, for example, or pear.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

New Woodcut, But Old


I started this woodcut quite some time ago, and the key block has been sitting around all that time (since 2017). Now I've also cut a bunch of colour blocks, and I don't think I'll be doing any more cutting, but I have to do some more playing around with the colours because these ones are pretty shite and I'm getting a little bit disheartened.

<< This is the original ballpoint pen drawing I did even longer ago, in 2012 I think.

Warm colour scheme

And this (right) is the latest colour scheme, which I like a lot better than the earlier one.

It needs a certain something, but I haven't quite figured out what.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Topical Woodblock Print


Colour mock-up
— will probably change a bit
Let's start from the end. This is the completed woodcut in three colours (four if you count the seal stamp). It was printed in "Flint" water-based relief inks on a registration stage, using one of my glass-bead barens.


The design is drawn on to 3mm MDF in Indian ink. That orangy-yellow is just there to make it easy for me to see where I have and haven't cut the MDF away.

MDF has its pluses and minuses as a woodcut medium. It has no grain, and it's easy to cut with sharp tools. It's like very hard lino in that respect, except that you can manage finer detail than you can in lino. On the other hand, it's a bit fibrous and fragile, and it's very easy for small details to be torn away by the pressure of the gouge. Also, the silica in it is pretty hard on edges, and you need to be sharpening a lot more than you would with proper wood or lino.

The wooden handled gouges in the stand (to the right) are all very cheap, and the steel is, frankly, not great. The blue ones in the foreground I got when I was at polytech; they were more expensive, though not desperately so — I think a set cost about thirty bucks — and their steel is much better, taking and keeping a much better edge.

Here's the first test print, to see if or where any more cutting needs to be done. Overall, I'm reasonably happy with it so far.

This is not, I should note, a good print, and it's intended solely for informative purposes. It hasn't been inked up evenly, and it should have more ink on it, but inking up will get more consistent as the old ink seals the rather absorbent surface of the MDF.

Once the key block — the main detail block, usually containing all or most of the outlines — is done, the colour blocks are created by means of an offset printing process.

The blocks are all placed in exactly the same position, kept in place by the black cardboard tabs you can see surrounding it, and the key block is printed on to (in this case) a piece of clear plastic, also locked into position with masking tape. Acetate is better, as it takes the ink better and is more dimensionally stable. Paper is usable, but because it is absorbent it makes the transfer on to the other blocks less reliable.

Once the plastic is printed, key block is removed, and another block is placed into the printing position. The plastic, with its printed image, is lowered on to the new block and the ink rubbed on to its surface. I use a rubber brayer for this.

The process is repeated as many times as is necessary, and now I have a reference image on the colour blocks, exactly the same as the key block, that I can use to exactly register the cutting for each new colour.

I'll do as many blocks as I think I'll need, plus one or two more in case of fuck-ups.

In this case, I'm expecting to want two colours in addition to the key block, and I've done three colour blocks. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Plane Repair

Stanley Part No. 12-005-8_3-1-03
Blade adjustment thumbscrew bolt

Thanks to my friend, Bob Bain, who provided the necessary bit from an old plane that was getting binned, my beloved Stanley #3 is back in action.

It's one of my favourites, being very light and handy: though too short and narrow for straightening boards, its diminutive size makes it great for getting into slight hollows, and being so small and light it's not very tiring to use.

It was the very first plane I bought myself, and it needed quite a bit of reconditioning then — it had obviously been pretty roughly handled at one time, and both handles had bits smashed out of them, which I patched.

Also, the blade adjustment screw bolt had had its threads munched up, and the brass adjustment thumb-screw itself was very stiff and difficult to use. I used it in this state for years before deciding I really should do something about it.

Stanley use a weird semi-proprietary format for this bolt: it's a left-hand 9/32" 24 TPI American unified form, for those who need to know that sort of thing. Good luck laying your hands on one of those at your local hardware shop, or a tap/die to make your own. Stanley do still sell them as a kit with the knurled brass knob, but they're not cheap, and by the time postage from the USA is taken into account, they're way too expensive. 

Fortunately, they're interchangeable between all Stanley (and Record, I believe) Bailey-pattern planes, and they're so common you're very likely to be able to pick up a junker second-hand for less than the price of the bolt/screw kit and cannibalize its parts. Which is essentially what I did, except that Bob provided the bits for free. Good man.

For what it's worth, I got the new (old) screw out of its housing by cutting a slot in its end with a hacksaw and just unscrewing it with a screwdriver. You could probably do it by grabbing it with vice-grips or something, with some kind of padding on the jaws, but I didn't want to risk damaging the threads.

Friday, October 23, 2020


320 x 260 x 160 mm

I made a box for keeping some gaming stuff in out of some bits of scrap pine tongue & groove and a couple of bits of 4mm plywood.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. It's more of a utility box than a piece of heirloom furniture, but it will do the job I want it to do without looking too much like an old beer crate or something.

I used a piano hinge for this box. I'd bought the hinge quite some time ago for another project; I don't even remember what any more, but whatever it was, I didn't use it then.

It should make for a good, long-lasting lid that can take a bit of abuse. Not that abuse is very likely, but you never know.

[NOTE]....... I ended up using the box for my relief printing stuff (inks, brayers, baren, palette knife etc.) instead of gaming doo-dads. So I suppose I'll have to make another one.

Monday, October 19, 2020


Here are some bits and pieces from one of my most recent sketchbooks.

I like to write little notes to myself, aides-memoire, about new tools or media or whatever, and my impressions of them.

I also write quite a lot of absolute bullshit.

Brush, fibre and ball-point pens

Parker ball-point

6B graphite pencil

Ball-point birds (mostly)

Another Dresser


On to the next project, another dresser restoration.

I've stripped the old varnish off the cupboard door on the right, and the little top curved-faced drawer, and given them a coat of finishing oil. It brings up the colour of the rosewood veneer beautifully, and the whole thing will look pretty luscious, I think, when it's all done. The old varnish is pretty faded and stained, so good riddance to it.

It's going to be a bit trickier than the last restoration though, as there are quite a few fragments of veneer missing, and I'm not sure where to go for replacement stuff. The handles will need attention too; there's only one of the drawer handles that hasn't been broken in the lifetime of this piece, and there's absolutely no chance of being able to buy exact replacements. I'll probably have to make something.

The mirror from this dresser has been transferred to the one I just finished. Whether it gets transferred back again is an issue for a future time.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Recent Productivity


I inherited this old rimu duchess from my friend Sarah. It had had a pretty hard life; the old finish was pretty beaten up, and there were quite a few stains and things that penetrated quite deeply into the wood, but the fundamental structure is still sound. I stripped it down with card scrapers and re-stained it dark to hide as much of the crap as possible, and I replaced the old handles with these ones that I found in amongst my clutter. They're nothing fancy, but I think they suit the form of the thing quite well.

I also scraped down this little side table, also rimu, that Annette found. She has plans for it, I don't know precisely what, so this is as far as I will take it, and the rest is up to her.

I put together this cradle for my Makita electric planer, so that I could lock it into the vice and use it after the fashion of a jointer. It's too small for real accuracy in that respect, but with the addition of a fence I'll be able to use it to get board edges square and that sort of thing. I've used it very seldom, so maybe this will make it a bit more useful.