Thursday, December 24, 2015


Ball-point thing doodle.

I bought myself a new Parker ball-point because I thought it looked pretty, and drew this guy for no particular reason.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A New Spoon Sweeps Clean

I made another spoon out of a scrap of oak, because

  1. I had nothing better to do for a couple of hours, and
  2. You can never have too many wooden spoons until you have too many wooden spoons.

Something fairly important that I forgot until it was too late was that you should carve out the bowl of the spoon before you cut out the profile, not after. It really does make life so much easier when you remember that simple thing.

I need to get (or make) a curved scraper to smooth the inside of the bowl — it should be simple enough to make; it just needs a bit of 1 mm spring steel ground to shape and sharpened.

I could clean up the bowlwith sandpaper, but that's a great big pain in the arse. It's not that I hate having gouge marks left behind, but I would like to have the option not to.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Great Dunny Renovation of '15

"Before" shot — from back in 2011,
just after the Big Earthquake.
The time has come, after only 25 years or so of hating the terrible lino tiles in our toilet, to do something about them.

I figured, since I was going to be renovating the floor, I might as well gussy the whole thing up a bit, so that we can poop in style. Or at least, less squalor.

Tiles plus floorboards plus glue.
The blue thing is the door.
Here are the offending tiles. They're crap.

Underneath them is a disgusting black glue residue that needed to be removed as well.

The tiles come up easily enough with a plastering spatula, though they tend to break into pieces in the process, but that glue residue is a different matter. It needs sterner measures.

I hit it with a hot-air gun and a scraper; a stinky, smoky, unpleasant job. It didn't take all that long I suppose, but it seemed a lot longer because of the cramped conditions and the contortions required to work around the toilet bowl.
The floor, after initial scraping and sanding.

The floorboards are matai, which is a rather nice wood. It was much used for flooring back in the Olden Days, when New Zealand's native forests seemed inexhaustible, and it was usually called Black Pine. It's still used, but these days it's frighteningly expensive.

The old iron nails have rusted and stained the wood around them, but I don't mind that too much. When the wood is eventually finished, it will be a lot darker in any case.

Borer! Fucking borer!
Having taken the surface off the timber with a belt-sander and a 40-grit belt, it is revealed that borer have been having a fine old time munching their way through the innards of the planks. The little bastards avoid the heartwood, but most of these planks are sapwood and thus a prime borer target.

Well, worse things happen at sea. My lovely polished wood floor is getting to be more rustic and distressed by the minute. Hey-ho.

I was tossing up between polyurethane or an oil finish of some kind, but I now learn that the resins in matai don't work or play well with oils, so I suppose polyurethane it shall be.

The line of demarcation.
Eventually, I intend to get rid of the tiles from the rest of the laundry area as well, but for the moment I've just stopped at the border. First things first; I'll get the toilet finished first.

Beading, dado rail, light port, shelf.
In an attempt to make the fairly shonky tongue-and-groove panelling look a bit less shabby, I've added some 20 mm quarter-round beading in the corners to disguise the gaps where the boards were just butted up against each other. I've only added beading above the shelf thus far; I'll be putting in moulded skirting boards, so the lower beading will have to be cut to conform with those.

Oh yes, the shelf is new too. I added one from wall to wall to replace the ricketty little corner shelf that used to perch precariously beside the cistern.

I also added a dado rail, not for any particular functional reason, just to provide a three-dimensional accent at the line of division where the colours change. The lower part of the walls will be gloss white; above the dado rail the walls and ceiling will be a dark satin ultramarine blue.

And lo! There was light! Again! But more!
The original cut-out for the light which serves both the toilet and laundry was a miserable little affair; pretty much just a square hole cut in the wall. It didn't let in much natural light at all, and it was so small that it also blocked quite a bit of light from the bulb.

I extended the hole down substantially to allow a bit more natural light in when the light is switched off, and gave it a proper case and moulded frame. It's still a bit shonky in the top-plate, but I didn't fancy dealing with any rewiring, so it can stay that way until I get way more enthusiastic.

Ach! Rot! Maybe!
In the back left corner, there's a patch where the ends of the panelling boards got sodden when we had a leak. That was quite a few years ago, and the damage hasn't spread — I had a decent dig around at it, and the wood isn't spongy at all, which leads me to hope that it's just water damage and not a living fungal infection.

In any case, even if it is alive, if it progresses as slowly as it has over the last decade, I'll be long dead before it becomes a major issue. So, I just intend to paint over it, and will only go to the trouble of cutting everything out and replacing it if it shows itself to be worth it. Hopefully it will remain inert.

November 26th

The Beginning of the Blue
I've started painting the ceiling and walls above the dado, and have discovered just what an amazing pain in the arse it is to paint old tongue-and-groove panelling.

It's not helped by the fact that the colour I've chosen doesn't have spectacularly good covering qualities, so I expect I'll be needing at least three coats.

Peeing DENIED!
In addition, I'm having to pee out in the back yard like a primitive cave man, owing to the inconvenient barrier formed by my painting platform.

Mind you, though an inconvenience right now, this multi-section ladder makes life very much easier here than it would be if I were trying to maneuver a step-ladder around the toilet bowl to get at the high places. So there's that, I suppose.

Dang! More paint needed.

It would appear that hoping for coverage with as few as three coats was unwarranted optimism. It'll need at least one more, and possibly two in some spots.

Well, I have a little paint left, and when that's gone, that's it. If it's still blotchy then, I'll just have to rely on gloom and people not looking up a great deal while they're straining on the loo.

Later: one more coat did the trick, thank goodness. It's a beautiful blue, but I'm glad I'm not applying it in a larger area than this.

November 27th

A brief (I hope) hiatus occurs while I get a nasty painful infected finger seen to. My plans for the day included a fair bit of orbital sanding, and I very much doubt my finger would enjoy that much vibration in its current state. I will not include a photo of the finger, because bleeuch.

Looks like a mitre joint.... isn't.
In lieu of anything more vigorous, I just prepared the skirting boards, cutting them to length and cutting the ends with fake mitres.

Cunningly cut to fool the eye
To do this, you need to cut the end of one board to match the profile of the other. When they're mounted against each other, you get what appears to be a mitred joint, but isn't really.

It's actually a bit more troublesome than cutting a genuine mitre, especially when one has a nice Makita mitre saw which does that sort of thing easy-peasy, so why do it at all? There are a couple of reasons.

  1. Once a genuine mitred set of boards is locked in place and secured, you can't disassemble them without actually cutting or breaking at least one of the boards. With this system, you can simply remove the boards with a pry-bar or something with minimal fuss or damage.
  2. The cut profile disguises the end of the other board, so it gives you a bit of leeway in length, which makes it easier to get a board into a space that is blocked at both ends, as are most walls.

You'd think that cutting the matching profile accurately would be tricky, but it's not really. Here's how you do it.

Cut along the upper edge of the 45° bevel.
First, you cut the board squarely at 45° across its end, with the bevel running away from the moulded profile (i.e. the straight edge should be at the back face of the board). The resulting bevel will have a top edge that precisely matches the profile of the board.

I like to run a pencil along this edge to delineate it clearly; otherwise it can be difficult to see since all the wood is the same colour.

Then you just cut along that line with a coping saw or scroll saw. Easy as that.

The more accurate your cutting, the more seamlessly the two pieces will butt up together.

November 30th

The disgusting finger-full-of-pus having been attended to, and scary-looking antibiotics being swallowed, it's back on with the show. Now it's time to varnish the floor so that I can mount the skirting boards so that I can add the last of the corner beading so that I can paint the walls and then be FINISHED.

A place to stand
It's not quite as straightforward as it might be, because the polyurethane takes quite a while to cure, and I need to allow for access to the toilet during that time.

Therefore, I'm doing it in two stages — down the back and around the edges first, so that I'll have somewhere to rest the end of a temporary duck-board arrangement over the second stage, which is the bit of the floor where one's feet rest.

I could do it the other way around, but this way has the advantage that I can get on with fixing the skirting boards and what-not while the second-stage polyurethane is curing.

I think I'll be needing three coats, so that's quite a lot of curing time. You can see how much the varnish darkens the timbers.

Another place to stand

Several days later...

The floor ended up needing four coats of varnish, and to get at the toilet while the centre section was curing, I set up this causeway using my trusty wooden stepladder and a board to put one's feet on.

It worked OK, except that by raising me up 150 mm or so, standing while peeing felt like aiming for a bucket from on top of a high-diving tower. I don't know how tall guys do it without getting urine everywhere — just practice, I guess.

Anyway, I found it easier to sit down, though then I was forced into a rather uncomfortable squatting posture. They say that pooping in that posture is better for you, but I have to say it felt very odd.

Who'd have thought that six inches would make such a difference?

December 3rd

Almost there
Fairing in the beading
I've got the skirting fixed in place now, and the last of the corner-beading.

The beading had to be cut to match the profile of the mouldings supporting the shelf, and that proved to be a bit trickier than I had expected because the moulding is different to the one I used for the dado rail, and I had none left to use as a template.

Fortunately, I managed to make an acceptably accurate cutting template out of a bit of cardboard, and filler covers a multitude of sins.

All that's left to do now is to undercoat and paint the walls, and I'll call it done. And none too soon either; I'm getting a bit sick of it now.

Dunny done.

December 4th — Finished at last.

So, it's done. All bar putting the door back on its hinges. The paint needs a day or so to harden properly, then the shelves can be restocked with books.

I had to stitch a couple of photos together to get everything in. Regrettably, that makes the architecture look a bit German Expressionist, so you'll just have to imagine that the walls are actually vertical and (reasonably) straight.

We might possibly have to get a new cistern, because now the old one looks even more yellowed and scungy than it did before. But that's not a very high priority for me right now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I am become as Death, destroyer of back yards...

I spent this morning turning lush, rich verdure into a barren wasteland, because a barren wasteland is preferable to the sort of lush, rich verdure that was there before, which was a whole lot of creeping ivy and what-not.

Now I shall have to sow some grass or something.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Phone Stand

I was tidying up my workshop a bit and found a bunch of small off-cuts of ash. I was going to toss them, but I started playing around with them like toy blocks, and decided instead to put them together into this, and show off the end-grain patterns.

It's a little stand for my phone, set up high enough that I can leave it with its charger cable sticking out the bottom without risking crimping the cable.

I can't say I'm a big fan of ash as a Thing-Making timber (it's mainly the colour I don't much like) but it's not the worst that there is. It's quite hard, and very unforgiving of even the slightest bluntness of one's tools, but then I hate blunt tools myself, so I sympathize.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


In an attempt to make our frontage less bland and bleak, I've planted an infant hedge with some vaguely pointy conifers to stand guard over them.

It's been two days, and they're not dead yet, and show no immediate signs of distress. It's probably a good thing that the promised hot, fine weather has actually turned out to be miserable, grey and cool, but I installed an irrigation hose along the front just in case.

I really have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to planting things, so if this works out it will be pure luck.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Productivity for today has been one more step in trying to make the front yard look just a little bit less scruffy.

Having cut down almost all the foliage along the footpath, removed the detritus after leaving it to lie for months, and pulled up the ivy that had grown over it in the interim, now I've laid a little treated timber border along the edge to delineate it.

The supposedly 5-metre lengths of edging I bought were actually about 4 and a bit metres, so I had to fill in the last section on the right with some old stuff I had out the back, but it will all weather to much the same colour in a year or two.

The next step will be to plant some hedging plants of some sort, and then to wait until they turn into an actual hedge.

It would all be a more fulfilling exercise if we weren't living right next to this feculent eyesore, but que sera sera. I really do wish they'd do something about all the shit left out on the street.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Test Box

I have an old counter-top that I intend to turn into a document box for Annette. I didn't know exactly what timber it is, or how it would be to work, so I made this little box — it's only 140 mm square — as a test piece.

I had thought, when I first looked at it, that the piece of wood was a single slab, but as I got rid of the horrible dark varnish and smoothed it, it became apparent that it's been laminated out of a multitude of small pieces. That's OK, though a bit of a disappointment.

The project showed me a few things: first, that I'm way out of practice with my dovetails, and second, that I should have allowed more for the saw kerf where I split the lid from the body of the box. Also that my Ryobi table saw is pretty shit, but then I already knew that.

I'm not much closer to determining what the timber is. It's quite fibrous, and tends to saw rather ragged. I think the most likely candidate is sapele.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Impromptu Road Trip — Wanaka

Since Annette is on holiday at the moment, we decided to drop everything and head off on an overnighter to Wanaka. It's about a 450 km drive from Christchurch, so not an extreme day's driving, but significant.

We hadn't booked anything, so we went into the first waterfront motel we saw with a vacancy sign showing. The view from our balcony was this:

Click to embloaten
It cost about average for a motel studio room, but it was a bit nicer than average, so that was nice.

One thing though: it had a great big mirror facing one right where one gets out of the bath, which makes it very difficult to maintain one's carefully nurtured illusions. Alas.

We had dinner (and quite a few drinks) at the Speights Alehouse, for two reasons:

  1. It was really close, and
  2. The motelier gave us a voucher for 10% off food and drinks there.

The food was... let's call it inoffensive and unexciting. Call me a snob, but I do believe a red curry should at least have some chilli waved in its general direction before sending it out to be eaten.

Anyway, it was all OK, if not a taste sensation, and it was pretty cheap. We were pretty knackered, so we went back to the motel fairly early and went to bed.

The view from our balcony the next morning was this:

Click to embloaten... you know the drill.
Then we had a nice breakfast at a nearby café, and then started off home.
Just an aside: pretty much everyone we mentioned it to found it quite incomprehensible that anyone would drive all the way from Christchurch to Wanaka in one day, which I found a bit odd. They were even more surprised to find out we were only planning to stay one night, and were going to drive all the way back to Christchurch again in only one day. Huh.
Anyway, just outside Wanaka is a truly amazing place: The Transport & Toy Museum. It really has to be experienced to be believed, there's all kinds of stuff just kind of shoved in together like a gigantic cabinet of curiosities. There are many, many, MANY model aeroplanes. There are many, many cars and motor-bikes and mobility-scooters and vacuum cleaners and old cash registers. There is a full-size replica of a Renault FT-17 made out of plywood. There is a fibreglass Gloster Meteor. There are shelves full of creepy dolls. There's a Morris Minor covered in teddy-bear fur. There are cabinets overflowing with Smurfs and Star Wars toys. And so, so much more.

There's sort of an organisation to the place, but not a lot, and unfortunately a lot of the stuff is showing signs of neglect and decay. Apparently the guy who collected all this stuff — just one guy — died very recently, and I wouldn't lay too much money on the museum being around for very much longer unless something miraculous occurs. So, go and see it while it's still there to be seen.

I don't know that I'd call the experience educational, but I did find myself often making a slack-jawed what-the-fuck face a lot, which I rate as a plus. Whatever the experience is, it's definitely an experience.

Overall, I'd rate Wanaka as better than either Queenstown or Tekapo. It feels friendlier and like less of a tourist-mincer than Queenstown, and classier and less transient than Tekapo.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Some time ago, we bought a couple of cheap shitty $12 Warehouse folding chairs when we were on a road-trip and realised we had nothing to sit on while drinking our wine and slapping at sandflies. They were functional enough, but nothing to write home about.

As it turned out, they're not made of the sort of materials that appreciate being left outside in all weathers, and the MDF that provided their main structural sitting-resistance has become soft, spongy, and unreliable as a sturdy sit-upon. So, I decided to do something about it, and slapped on a new seat and back-rest made from macrocarpa.

From this....

To this.
It's not best-quality macrocarpa, but it's not too bad. Knots aren't entirely avoidable, but I managed to keep them away from any edges.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Playing with some textural ink brushes and what-not in Photoshop over a scan of some brown canson.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bleary, fatigued

We had a power cut last night at ohforfuckssake o'clock, which I wouldn't even have noticed except that when the power goes out our alarm/smoke detector starts peeping annoyingly. Which it did. Until I got up out of the warm into the freezing fucking cold to make it stop. Which it did. Until I was juuuuust dropping off to sleep again. When it started again.

Repeat until ready to kill oneself.

Friday, July 10, 2015


Fibre-tip pen and coloured pencil on very soft fluffy annoying hand-made paper.

About 130 x 165 mm.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Here's an illustration project from '05. It's about 280 x 380 mm.

It's supposed to be Beowulf hanging up the arm of Grendel in the hall Heorot, having ripped it off with his bare hands. That's pretty fucking hardcore, not to mention a bit gruesome. I guess it was a simpler time or something.

This was my first major effort at a completely digital illustration. I'd done a lot of digital stuff before, but up until this point it had always started with traditional media.

It's mostly Painter VIII, with some support work from CorelDraw and Photoshop. The files no longer exist; the disk they were stored on corrupted and they were unretrievable. So all that's left is a single laser print-out, of which this is a fairly poor scan — there's a lot of reflection screwing with the tonal values in places.

One of the perils of doing (what was then) large-format digital illustration on the weak and puny computer I had at the time is that I hardly ever saw the image as a whole, but only in disassociated tiny areas. That's mainly why Beowulf's proportions are so out of whack, with his tiny short legs and his busted-looking right knee.

It's much easier now; I have a machine powerful enough to be able to work fluidly with the whole image displayed. I haven't approached its performance limits yet; the largest pixel dimensions I've worked with is about 10,000 by 10,000 pixels (which, at 300dpi, would print an image nearly a metre square), and the largest file size has been about a gigabyte. Neither of those seemed to cause any slow-down issues — except that it did take a bit longer to save the images. Now I just want a couple more monitors. Maybe some of those nice 4k jobs that are starting to appear now.


Here's a charcoal sketch I did back in '06 to fill in a bit of vacant time.

I scanned it mainly to try out Photoshop's Photomerge feature, which I have to say works pretty well. I wish I'd known about it sooner, it would have saved me a lot of effort.

Actually, now that I come to think of it, I did know about it, but ignored it because I could never get it to work in my old version of Photoshop.


These are the double-page spreads for a children's book without words, an illustration project I did back in 2005 or '06. I haven't done anything with it since then. It's a simple story about the trials and tribulations of being a friendly but big and scary monster in a world filled with prejudice and fear.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Somewhere in Africa

These are a couple of drawings from photographs from Africa. Africa is a pretty big place, and I have no idea where, in all that space, either of these exist. or even if they exist anywhere near each other. I think not.

Friday, June 12, 2015


This is the sort of doodling I do to occupy my hands and back-brain while I'm watching old TV shows.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


TV-watching doodle. Ball-point pen, A5.