Friday, June 26, 2020

Digital Watercolour Painting

Krita, GIMP, and Inkscape have all undergone some major improvements lately, to the point where using them exclusively in a professional workflow is not unthinkable.

Krita's latest update included a whole new set of watercolour brushes, which I've been having a brief play with. The canvas texture and the vignette were added in GIMP (which, along with pretty much every other graphics app in existence, still doesn't recognise the native .kra Krita file format).

It's hardly a masterpiece, but then it was only about ten or fifteen minutes work. I'm not all that confident with actual watercolours really, but the digital version is a bit easier to work with (though much more limited, of course).
EDIT: I've just discovered that it's not actually possible to print direct from Krita, which I have to confess surprised me more than a little. You have to export the image to another format (.jpg, .pdf, or whatever) and print it via another application. That, to me, is a pretty big shortcoming in any graphics app these days.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Greater Lovecraft Hath No Man




I don't get the enduring appeal of H. P. Lovecraft.

There is no doubt that he was highly influential, but I find his own writings turgid, overblown, and not in the least bit frightening.

Plus, he was a terrible, awful human being. Not that an author has to be a good person to be a good writer, but it's helpful if you can read their work without thinking constantly about their appalling attitudes. Also, it's helpful if they're actually a good writer.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Book of Ten Thousand Things

Today we encountered a car-boot sale, where we picked up this book for a dollar: The Book of Ten Thousand Things, edited by Arthur Mee, famed editor of The Children's Encylopaedia and the Children's Newspaper. This is a supplementary volume to a series of twelve books called The Children's Treasure House.

Ten thousand things for a dollar is pretty good value for money, I think.

Arthur Mee was active at the end of the 19th century, and the first part of the 20th. He was quite unabashedly a British Protestant exceptionalist, and his children's books were full of inspiring patriotic and moral tales to make the youth of Britain ready for the administration of Empire.

He was not at all averse to explaining just how all the non-Christian, non-Protestant religions of the world were wrong and bad, and that Catholics (for example), while many of them good at heart, were basically poor deluded fools, while Buddhists, Hindus and the like were barely better than animals.

Although he didn't say so in so many words, one got the sense that he felt pretty much the same about anybody who had the misfortune to be non-British.

Anyway, here's a little sampling of this particular gem of a volume.

Fifteen BAD things

Beware of the hidden celluloid menace!

Carriage spotter's guide

A selection of colonialist exploiters

25 uses for asbestos (!)

Some science experiments for children

How things got their names

British Medals of the Empire

Badges of the Scouts and Guides

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

LED there be light!

I've replaced the fluorescent tube I used to have hanging over my modelling workspace with an LED lighting panel that I was given by my electrician friend, Dallas.

It gives me a nice diffuse, bright light. It's a little warm in tone perhaps, but it's an improvement on the weird greenish light I got out of the fluorescent.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Lockdown Doorway

I'm tempted to leave that poster on the door after all this is over.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Another Old Plane

My friend Nick yesterday gave me another old wooden plane to revive.

This one is a little smoothing plane. It's of a European pattern, as evidenced by the dovetail slot in front that would once have anchored a horn, about which one would wrap one's thumb.

That horn is missing, and I'll have to remake it.

Crack and Nail, all covered in filth

Crack with nail removed, a bit cleaner








There's a bad crack in the body, running back from the corner of the dovetail. A nail has been driven into the side of the plane body, which I very much doubt would have helped stabilize the crack at all.

I will probably carve out a channel along the course of the crack, so that I've got clean wood to deal with, and glue in a patch piece. I'll put in a butterfly across the body of the plane as well, which might be a bit of overkill, but what the heck.




Blade markings
The wedge is a little bit tatty, but fundamentally sound. I don't think I'll do much clean-up of it except to tidy up some edge-splintering; it fits its socket very well right now, and I don't want to change its geometry unnecessarily.

The blade is German, according to the markings stamped on its underside, and it's been forged with tapering thickness from front to back. I'm not sure what purpose that would serve, but I'm sure there is one. Maybe it's just to save weight. Or, as is more likely, it's a laminated blade.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Plough Plane Blade

The new blade (in the foreground) has a 5mm cutting edge.
I have an old plough plane (used for cutting grooves) that I bought via TradeMe several years ago.

It's not quite in tip-top condition; it's missing its depth-stop for a start, which is a fairly necessary component, and the rosewood fence is quite worn. However, it's still usable, but it came with only a single blade — 11mm wide, which seems to me to be quite an odd size: it would be about 28/64" if one were still using those archaic measurement units from Olden Times.

Anyway, when I was out exploiting the skills and labour of my friend Nick recently, he gave me a piece of 3mm 01 steel to have a go at making blades for it in more useful sizes, and I finally got around to giving it a try.

It was not difficult, and I whipped up this one in fairly short order — I wasn't timing myself, but I think it was about an hour. The steel is quite soft and easy to work at the moment, so it cuts easily with a cutoff wheel and hacksaw. It would be quicker still if I had a metal blade for my bandsaw, but never mind.

Now I just need to heat-treat the new blade to harden it, and then put a decent edge on it. If it works as I hope and expect, I'll go ahead and make several more in useful sizes.

Coupla days later....

I ended up making two blades, the 5mm I mentioned above, and a 3mm, installed in the plough shown here.

I took them out yesterday to heat-treat in Nick's Magical Oven of Wonder, and ground and sharpened them today for their first outing.

They work perfectly, so I'd call that experiment a rousing success.

I still need to sort out some sort of depth-stop, and a new nipper for the skate would be a useful addition too.

Something I hadn't really noticed before, not having actually used the plane to any extent, is that it's set up for left-handed use — the off-hand knob and the fence is on the right-hand side. I believe, back in olden times, cabinetmakers would have two of these planes, so that you could use one in either direction if, for example, you had some troublesome grain or something to deal with, or for when the geometry of the piece didn't suit a left-hand fence. I can still use it right-handed, it's just a little awkward.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

School Bag

This is, fundamentally, an old leather school bag, such as was commonly used by school children in New Zealand back in days of yore before Hello Kitty backpacks and the like became de rigueur. I've been using it as a utility bag (i.e. a handbag, only I can't call it a handbag owing to being a Manly Male Man) for quite a few years, but recently I've been tinkering with it to make it more convenient in use.

I had to re-stitch it completely, the old stitching being completely rotten. I added new, much longer straps, so that I can get a jacket or something in there. I added the handle, probably the single most useful addition. I added a little strap on each side to hang things off, and I also added a central strap that latches very quickly and easily on to a little push-knob thingy (I don't know the name of it) so that I don't always have to have the main straps buckled when I'm carrying it by the handle rather than the shoulder-strap. And, of course, I put my monogram on the flap, though that was done pretty much as soon as I got it, many years ago.

I don't know how old the bag is, but they had pretty much disappeared by the time I was out of primary school, in the early '70s. There's no reason why it shouldn't last another hundred years or longer, as long as it isn't left in a ditch out in the weather.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Pencil Case

I have been virtuously intending to organise my workshop for a little while now. Instead, one of the things I have done to distract me from that is to put together this pencil case, which I definitely needed.

The leather cover is something I did many years ago, in 2003. Now I've just added a couple of zips to turn it from a folder into a container.

At the moment it's just a disorganised mess inside. Maybe some day I'll get around to putting in some elastic loops and what-not to order things a bit more rationally, but at least I now have something large enough to cope with all the bits and pieces I habitually carry about with me.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

New (Old) Plane

I got distracted from tidying my workshop by rejuvenating this old beech rebate plane that Nick Turner gave me.

It wasn't in tip-top condition, but it wasn't too bad: a few borer holes here and there, and the handle is slightly loose, but nothing to prevent it being a usable plane. I trued up the sole, squared the registration side, and stripped off all its ancient oil, wax and dirt, and gave it a fresh coat of linseed oil.

The blade is a nice heavy one, with a chipbreaker. It had obviously made the acquaintance of a nail or two; I had to grind it quite far back, but now it's nice and sharp and polished again.

I would guess that it was used by a window/door maker, as the blade is quite wide for a rebate plane. Also, there was quite a bit of old paint ground into the sole.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Intaglio Press Enhancements






I made a good sturdy plywood base for the press, to which it is attached by cleats at each corner of the frame.

The advantage to this is that the frame is securely and evenly fastened, rather than being clamped directly to the benchtop on just one side, so there's less chance of racking the frame when it's under pressure. Also, the plywood base is easier to clamp (or screw) to the bench.



Also, my friend Nick Turner (https://heorot.co.nz/) helped me to swap out the crappy little hand-crank for this greatly superior wheel, a cast iron pulley wheel from an old pump.

And by "helped me" I mean Nick did all the work from start to finish, while I stood around and watched.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Long-Awaited Handbag

Quite some time ago, I said that I would make Annette a good sturdy leather bag to replace all her store-bought bags that had a distressing tendency to fall to bits after a year or two of use.

After literally years of procrastination, this is that bag.

It may have taken a while to get here, but it should last longer than either of us, and it's of a size that will make a useful work bag as well as a lollygagging-about bag.

It has a simple two-part buckled shoulder strap, not shown in this photo because it just gets in the way of the viewer's appropriately awed appreciation of its majesty. At the moment it's just a single gaping cavity, but I'll probably do something about making some modular removable pockets for its innards, for phones and what-not. However, as of this moment it's a usable bag, for the carrying of Needful Things.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stitching Pony

After many, many years of swearing and complaining about saddle-stitching, I finally got my arse into gear and made myself a stitching pony.

It is clamped by means of a simple bolt, with the head anchored inside a big wooden knob at one end, and the nut in a socket in the opposing arm. The jaws are faced with leather (flesh side out), both for added grip, and to make sure that the piece I'm stitching isn't marked. The pony itself is made out of a kwila fence slat, and the base is just a bit of plywood I had lying around.