Friday, March 16, 2018

Knobby Knobs

I've been getting some practice on my little lathe, turning some drawer-pulls for my little chest of drawers. I actually ordered some cast metal ones, but those cost very little so I figured that I had nothing much to lose by making some of my own, and it would be nice to have a piece of furniture in which every single component was made by hand, by me..

There are enough here for all ten drawers, plus some spares so I can discard the crappiest ones. They're made from beech, from an old broom handle.

Some of them are fairly similar to some others, but none are identical — I have real problems with control and repeatability on the lathe. I decided that since I was unlikely to get them all very similar, I wouldn't even try, and made each one an individual.

Monday, March 12, 2018


My little chest of drawers is about done now, except for the drawer pulls, which are coming from Far Cathay and won't be here for a few weeks.

All in all, I'm fairly happy with it. I'll be happier still when I can actually use it.

I'm kind of curious to see how the colour of the sapele alters as it ages. Will it darken, or will it fade? I'm all agog. I guess I'll find out in ten or twenty years or so.

In retrospect, it might have been better if I'd made it of such a size that the drawers could accommodate an A4 sheet of paper, but alas, I did not. I guess I'll just have to make another one.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Back in the olden days....

I was browsing through some ancient photos and found this one of me during my short but illustrious military career. It was taken on my crappy old Instamatic camera, which I think took a tiny 9x9mm negative, and had three aperture settings: bright, normal, and dark.

This would have been 1980, on exercise with Bravo Company just outside Whakatane. I was a platoon signaller at the time, which is why I'm carrying an M16 instead of an SLR — it should have been a Sterling, but I don't think we had any in the armoury.

The radio was an ANPRC-77 set, a heavy and clunky old piece of VietNam-era American kit, as was almost all of our equipment at the time. It had a pathetic range, and coped not at all well with things like hills and dense forest, two things that I'm given to understand are quite common in VietNam, as they are here in New Zealand.

Thursday, March 8, 2018


A few years ago I got a bunch of free reclaimed timber from an organisation that was clearing out its workshop. Among it was some laminated sapele, which appeared to once have been a counter-top.

It's taken a while to get around to using it, but finally I have, and over the last couple of days I've put together the carcass for a little chest of drawers. Now I just have to make a bunch of shallow drawers.

It's about 600mm tall, and the drawer spaces are only 25mm (35mm for the bottom two), so very shallow. I'll be using them to house my 6mm micro-scale models, so they don't need to be any deeper than that — in fact, deeper drawers would just be more difficult to use for the intended purpose.

The runners are ash, so should be tough enough to stand up to plenty of wear, though in truth they won't have to carry a lot of weight.

Sapele is quite nice to work with, but it does tend to have a bit of interlinked grain which can make planing a bit tricky — the issue is exacerbated by the fact that these boards are laminated, so fairly often there are strips of wood right next to each other with the grain running in opposite directions. I have to make sure my planes are super-sharp, and taking super-thin shavings. Even so, I was still getting the occasional tear-out, but it's pretty minimal.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Hexapodal Cyclopean Tongue-beast

The latest major update to Photoshop has made a lot of changes to the way brushes are handled, and I've had to do a bit of playing around to get back a group of brushes that I like, and that will react the way that I expect. I've recently changed my graphics tablet too, which might also have something to do with it.

This thing is done with a pencilish sort of brush that I'm finally more or less satisfied with. I have no idea what it is, but I expect it will probably end up in my D&D game in one way or another.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Winding Sticks

 This is a very useful tool, designed to determine if a piece of wood has any twist, or wind, along its length. They're called winding sticks.

I've been making do with bits of scrap wood, and you can get by with them, but these make the job a lot easier and more precise.

I've made these out of rimu. The white tabs are bits of PVC, inlaid into the body of the stick and planed flush; they're intended to be very easy to see. Back in the old days, they would probably have been bone. The black strip is just paint; I would have liked to use an ebony inlay, but that would really just be fanciness for its own sake, and the paint does the job perfectly well. The centering dots are bits of 5mm pine dowel, glued into holes drilled right through both sticks.

Using the sticks is very quick and easy. They're laid across the plank at either end, with the dot at the centre — that ensures that there isn't inadvertently more of the stick on one side than the other, which might unbalance it and give you a false reading.

You lower your eye-line to level with the front stick (the one with the black line), and so that you can just see the white tabs on the back stick. The black line isn't absolutely necessary, but it does give you a very clear reference horizon, differentiating the top of the front stick from the top of the back one.

If there's a difference in the amount of each white tab you can see, then it means that the plank is twisted. In this case, the right tab is higher than the left, which indicates that the rear right corner of the plank is higher. The piece of wood will need to be planed to bring both tabs to level.

The length of the winding sticks exaggerates the degree of twist due to their length, and makes it really obvious. There's a difference in height here between the two tabs of just a few millimetres, and the sticks are about five times as wide as the piece of wood, so that means the difference you see is actually about five times the actual height of the corner. This would only need a few strokes of the plane to bring it back into level.

"Owl Sense" Cover

I've just received a copy of a book called Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington. It appears to be about owls. Definitely owl-related.

The reason they sent it to me is because I contributed graphics to the cover art. The tree in the background is a lift-ground etching I did some years ago.

It's nice to see one's work in published form.