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.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Stanley Folding Knives

Top: Stanley 0-10-598
Bottom: Stanley 10-049

I have a couple of Stanley folding pocket knives. They're both roughly the same size when folded, about 110mm long and about 8mm thick. I use them primarily as marking knives, for woodwork.

Of the two, the 10-049 (the bottom knife in the photo) is the better utility knife. It has a slightly thicker, sturdier blade, and it folds much more easily, so it's a lot more convenient as a pocket-knife.

The 0-10-598 is more suitable as a woodworking knife because of its narrower, more sharply pointed blade, which will get into the inside corners of dovetails and what-not better. The ergonomics of the unlocking tab at the end of the handle, for folding the blade, are not as good as that on the 10-049, but it does work.

The blades on both knives are, in theory, expendable. However, they sharpen easily with the little EZ-Lap diamond paddles, and will last for many years before they need replacement.

Flash! (ah-ah-aaaah...)


Freshly arrived today from far, far away, I now have a TTL zoom flash that will work on my Nikon DSLR. It's a Yongnuo YN568EX, and it has many features that I don't yet know how to work, and a fat little instruction manual that I haven't yet read.

Many years ago, about 1990 I think, I bought a genuine Nikon Speedlight for my Nikon film camera, and managed to buy the exact model that won't work with any modern Nikon. If I'd bought the model immediately before, or the model after, either of those will work with a new(ish) DSLR, but not my one. It cost me about $800 then. This one appears to be just as capable, if not more so, and cost less than a fifth of what the Nikon flash cost me all those years ago — which is good, because I've got a lot less money now than I had then.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Marking Gauge


When you're making things out of wood (or out of anything really) you're going to be doing a lot of measuring and marking. This is a very simple tool, yet very useful for that sort of thing.

The bar is laminated from a couple of bits of oak, with a channel carved through for the steel rule to slide in. Any hard wood would do the trick; softwoods like pine would wear very quickly and get sloppy. The knob is 3d printed, and is glued to a bolt which screws through its nut, captive in a socket carved into the oak and epoxied in place, and the whole screws on to a presser plate that presses against the ruler to lock it in place.

The channel for the steel rule is square and tight, but not tight enough that the rule is guaranteed to be perfectly square to the bar; fortunately, for this tool, absolute squareness is not a necessity. If need be, one could reduce the play in the steel rule by increasing the width of the bar and channel, and still more by lining the edges of the channel with brass or something, but I doubt very much that I'll need to go to such lengths for the tolerances I work with.

The function of the tool is for making marks at a consistent distance from the edge of a piece of wood; I can slide it along an edge with a pencil held at the end of the ruler to make a continuous parallel mark. This is something that can be done with a combination square, of course, but this is lighter and handier, and the oak slides more easily than the metal frame of a combination square.

Monday, June 14, 2021


I have a sad case of Finish Regret.

I made this macrocarpa stool, and decided at the last minute to use polyurethane to finish it, instead of tung oil. I figured that polyurethane would be better for a piece of indoor-outdoor furniture; the finish wouldn't last forever out in the weather, but it would be a lot more resistant to occasional raining-upon than would an oil finish.

The theory is fine and dandy, but I failed to take into account the temperature. The coolness means that the polyurethane's curing was retarded, and it has slumped in places on the vertical surfaces. I'm going to have to sand it back and reapply, probably in several very thin rubbing applications, with about 24 hours between each.

So, poo bum wees.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Ye Newe Olde Sewinge Machyne of Far Cathay


I bought this machine a couple of years ago, and have only just got around to setting it up into a usable condition. I love its bare mechanical aesthetic, free of any sort pandering to convenience or fashion or manufacturing quality.

It tends to be labelled on Youtube and AliExpress and the like as "Chinese Shoe Patcher", and the same basic machine is marketed by a whole bunch of vendors, with variations in colour and quality of finish. I don't recall exactly who sold me this one; I got it via AliExpress, and it cost me a couple of hundred Kiwibucks including postage.

It came with three spindly little pipe-legs that are supposed to screw into its base, but frankly I don't see how it would be possible to use it on them. They'd be wobbling all over the place, and the pressure on the hand-crank is sufficient to move the whole shebang around even with the solid block of macrocarpa I've got it screwed to. It really needs to be clamped solidly to the bench or table I'm working at.

As well as a decent base, I also had to make a bobbin stand because the little rod sticking out of the frame provided for the task is entirely inadequate.

It came with a few spare bottom bobbins and a spare bobbin-shuttle; the bobbins are a non-standard size, but spares are available on Amazon and elsewhere if you know where to look — I don't, but various Youtube dudes do, and have provided appropriate links. There is no way that I can find to wind the bobbins automatically, as I could do on my Pfaff sewing machine, but my usage is light enough that winding them by hand isn't overly onerous. It only takes five minutes or so, and would be quicker still if I rigged up something less intrusive than my sausage-fingers to hold the bobbin while I'm winding. (There's a mysterious sprung rubber wheel on the back of the machine that doesn't seem to do anything, and maybe it's part of a bobbin-winding system? If so, I can't see how it would work.)

The instruction pamphlet that came with it is laughably bad. Even taking into account the problems of translating from Chinese to English, the content is both irrelevant and obscure. It doesn't even include a threading diagram or guide. Fortunately, the machine is popular enough with American leatherworkers that there's a decent amount of instructional content about it available on Youtube.

It creates a decent seam through three or four layers of fairly soft furnishing leather; I haven't tried it yet on anything more resistant than that, but it should be okay I think. It is a bit difficult to control, as one hand is always engaged in turning the crank, while the other has to manipulate the work piece under the presser foot. However, that should be just a matter of practice. I won't be using it on anything that needs neat, straight seams just yet, though there's no reason why it couldn't produce them if I knew more about what I was doing.

It's certainly a lot faster (though as yet, less precise) than hand-stitching, though not as fast as an electrical machine. I have seen modifications to this machine that add an electric motor and foot control, and they seem to work well, though at the price of portability.

Apparently it will handle fairly heavy thread, though the nylon thread provided with it is quite light. It's adequate to my needs for the moment; I don't foresee having to sew draught-horse harness or anything any time soon.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Bandsaw Upgrade


I have a cheap, small bandsaw. It's not the greatest bandsaw ever made, but it's not the worst either.

The worst thing about it has always been its platen.

It came with a cast aluminium platen (which you can see in this photo discarded on the shelf beneath the saw) which was never even remotely flat. Nor was the surface very slippery, so it resisted pushing the work through the blade a bit. Not much, but perceptibly.

I've replaced that cast aluminium piece with a piece of nice smooth, slippery, and most importantly, FLAT melamine. It's also a tad bigger than the old platen, which is all to the good — though that's not saying much; there's only about 250mm between the blade and the pillar anyway.

It wasn't quite as straightforward as cutting a bit of melamine and slapping it on the bracket — it needed a couple of packers to fit. But it wasn't a difficult upgrade at all, and it will make the bandsaw so much better and easier to use.

There's a possibility that it might need a joist underneath to help keep the front-right corner from flexing under the weight of a wide work piece, but I'll wait and see about that. It may well not be necessary.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Book Stand Double-Stacked


I made this little bed-side book stand some years ago, but I recently conceived a desire to be able to stack two things on it, not just one.

The main body of the thing is made from pink birch. The added tabs on the front, allowing for double-stacking, are some spalted beech I've had hanging around forever.

It's a handy thing. It keeps my Kobo ready to hand when I'm in bed, and the legs mean that I can keep the charging cable in the Kobo and still have the book the right way up for reading. Now I can also keep a sketchbook there as well.

NOTE TO KOBO: put the charging port in the top or side edge of the device, not the bottom where it just gets in the way.

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.