Tuesday, June 28, 2022

New Old Disston


My friend Nick Turner (check out his knives, they're beautiful) gave me this old 26" Disston skewback. I haven't measured it, but it looks to me like about 10 tpi.

It was in pretty sad condition, but fundamentally sound — the plate was very rusty, but straight, and Disston's steel is (or was) excellent. No missing or misshapen teeth, which is unusual in a neglected antique like this. The handle was shabby and all the old finish was peeling off, but the wood is still sound.

I dropped the plate into a salt-and-vinegar bath overnight, and refined and refinished the handle. After it came out of the bath, I scrubbed the plate down with steel wool to remove the rust layer, gave the whole thing a going over with a wire wheel, and then wiped over a light coat of oil.

The plate went back into the handle again, and with a good sharpening it's cutting as good as new. Or as good as old, which is better.

I think this is going to become my favourite ripsaw. It cuts good and straight with a nice narrow kerf, and with no bows or kinks to get in the way.

It's pity that I didn't get a "before" photo; you'll just have to use your imagination.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

New Saw

I've been reshaping the handle of the Spear & Jackson skew-back saw I got from Amazon. It will have very little effect on the usefulness of the saw, but I'll like it better. I've given it a few coats of shellac, which should probably have been a bit thinner to get a properly smooth finish, but never mind.

The original handle is fitted with brass-plated locking studs, and they work just fine — if they ever get a bit loose, all you have to do is hit them with a hammer. However, it does mean that the handle can't be easily removed as they have to be drilled out and destroyed to do so. I replaced them with connector bolts and caps, since actual genuine brass saw nuts are amazingly expensive.

I had to anneal the saw plate around its holes so that I could drill them out to 8mm. I could have just drilled them out without all that faffing around if I'd had any 8mm cobalt bits, but I don't. As far as the saw's function is concerned, the discoloration is just aesthetic, but one side-effect of the annealing is that the plate got a bit deformed in that area, which makes it a bit more difficult to get the handle on to the plate. Not impossible, just more difficult.

The discoloration on the plate came away with a bit of scrubbing with emery tape, so that's all right then.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Oak Platter


Not very spectacular, but quite fun to make, this is just a platter turned from a grungy old oak off-cut. It's about 240mm in diameter, and about 25mm at its thickest. This is about the largest diameter my little lathe will handle.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Knife Re-Handling


This is my favourite kitchen knife. It's a very old freezing works butcher's knife, from way back in the day before they started using plastic-handled knives, and it's been sharpened and sharpened over the decades until now it's reached the proportions of a boning knife.

Its old handle was rimu I think, and it had suffered badly from years and years of being submerged in dishwashing water, and had warped badly. The slot cut to accept the knife tang had splayed open, creating a nasty place for dirt and fat and bacteria to collect. So I decided to make a new handle for it, to keep the knife alive.

I used a piece of oak, which is not an ideal timber for this purpose, but it's what I've got. It's not a fancy handle, but it is functional, which is all it needs to be.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Porridge Bowl


One sure way to find out all the cracks and flaws hiding inside a piece of wood is to put it on a lathe and try to make something nice out of it.

This piece of oak looked fine from the outside, but once the outside was gone, all of its cracks and things became glaring plain. Hey-ho, never mind.

The shape of this bowl is based more or less on a porridge bowl I had as a child. It flares out towards its flat base, so that it's harder for a toddler to up-end and get porridge all over everything.

The piece is 170mm in diameter by 45mm tall.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Oak Bowl & Spoon


I made this little bowl (it's only about 120mm in diameter) to try out my new hollowing scraper.

The spoon I made yesterday from a small scrap of oak, just because it was there and I had nothing else to do.

Hollowing Tool Saga

 After struggling with hollowing a couple of cups, I thought I should buy myself a proper hollowing tool set. And so I went and had a look on Bangood, where I thought I could probably pick something up.

Sure enough, I found something that looked likely. This is what I thought I was buying:

This, however, is what I was actually buying:

I checked back on the page I'd ordered from, and after careful examination determined that they had not actually lied, they'd just presented the product in a very misleading way. So, that's it for me and Bangood; they've failed me one time too many, and I won't be doing business with them again.

Anyway, now my new hollowing tool needed a handle, and My friend Nick came to the rescue by turning a very nice brass (or maybe bronze, we're not 100% sure) ferrule for me.

The slot in the end supports the bar of the tool so that it can't twist, and the screws through the ferrule into the handle's tenon prevents the whole ferrule twisting.

I turned up a nice chunky, meaty handle and stained it. One of these days I probably should give it a few coats of shellac as well.

It got its first outing today, and I made this simple little oak bowl, about 120mm in diameter and 35mm thick, from rim to foot.

I foresee it getting quite a bit of use, so I'd probably better buy some more carbide cutting tips.

Not from Bangood though.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Long Spoon


On the principle that there can never be too many spoons, I made another spoon, out of a bit of rimu this time.

It's quite a long spoon at 420mm, but probably still not long enough to safely sup with the devil. However, my experience in that area is pretty limited.

Chaos Critter Doodle


This sort of thing is mindlessly recreational. It requires not much brain, since it's not representing anything recognisable, and there can be no mistakes really, since any and every little scribble can be absorbed somehow.

It's the essence of doodling.

Thursday, May 5, 2022



Since I had nothing much else to do, I made a spoon from a scrap of some unidentified wood.

It's about 170mm long and 70mm wide.

One of these days I must get around to making myself a round-ended scraper for smoothing out the bowls of things like this. But it is not this day.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Copper ferruled handle


I turned this little oak handle from a scrap fished out of the rubbish for no particular reason but to experiment with using some 15mm copper tube as a ferrule. It works pretty well for small pieces like this.

I might find a use for it some day, but it would be no good as a general purpose chisel handle or the like — the piece of oak has some pretty serious checking going on, so it probably wouldn't survive much mallet work. It might be okay for a paring chisel that wouldn't get much walloping. I don't have a suitable blade right now, but you never know what might turn up.

It's about 140mm long.


I put a chainsaw file in it.

Maybe it would have been a better idea to get a file that fits my actual chainsaw blade, but I'm not one to truckle to The Man like that.

Friday, April 29, 2022



Today I made myself a square awl from an old drill bit (4.4mm, probably some weird archaic Imperial size*), a bit of 9mm brass tube, and a bit of white oak.

I planed a facet on its base so that it will stand upright, as seen here, and another on one side so that it will rest on the workbench without rolling around.

The whole thing is about 110mm long.

I might sharpen it with a more acute point, but I'll see how it goes as it is for a while first.

* I'm told that 4.4mm is a #16 drill bit.

Monday, April 25, 2022



I don't know what this wood is, but it's rather nice I think. It might be black maire.

I did this mainly as an experiment in deep hollowing, and though it's not totally successful, it has shown me several things that I needed to know.

I don't know how food-safe or water-tight this would be, but that's not likely to be much of an issue.

The goblet is 160mm tall, and 70mm in diameter.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Evening Sky


Walking home from the Richmond Working Mens Club after a pint of beer and a few games of pool, and we were treated to this as a dusk sky.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Bell Jar Base #02


This is another bell jar base. I'm not sure what the timber is; I think it might be black maire.

If the first oak base was teetering on the edge of the envelope for my little lathe, this one is definitely over it. It can be done, but the vibration when spinning something this heavy is slightly terrifying.

If I ever win Lotto, I'll probably buy myself a bigger, meatier lathe. And also a new workshop to put it in.

And here we are with the bell jar in place.

The monkey is a very old, fragile doll that belonged (I think) to my great great grandmother. It's Victorian, though I don't know precisely how old it is.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Glass Dome Base


Some time ago I bought a couple of glass domes, the sort of thing that used to be used for amusing taxidermied dioramas of mice fighting frogs, or monkey skeletons, or that sort of thing. This is the taller of the two; the other is smaller in diameter and only about two thirds the height.

They came without bases of any kind, so today I turned one out of some laminated oak.

This is about the largest diameter my little lathe will handle, both because of the distance between the head and the bed of the lathe, and because the lathe's motor is pretty puny. The turned oak base is about 230mm in diameter, and roughly 40mm thick.

Sunday, April 10, 2022



I am somewhat challenged when it comes to reaching high shelves and the like, owing to being what is technically known as a shortarse.

For that reason, I made this little footstool out of some very raggedy bits of gnarly, knotty oak off-cuts.

It's about 300mm (12") tall, so not too high to easily step up on to, but high enough to get me within reach of the top shelves in the kitchen.

It's pictured here on the hearth, in the warm, so that its coat of linseed oil will cure within my lifetime. The weather is starting to cool down a bit now, and out in my workshop the oil would probably take about three days to go off.

I really should do something about cleaning up that hearth a bit too.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Plinth (video experiment)

I turned this little plinth from a piece of cherry that I chopped off one of our trees in the back yard, and stained and waxed it.

While the timber was drying out it became infested with borer, so it's not a great piece of wood, but I was interested to see how this cherry would respond to my manipulations. I rather like it; it looks rather like a piece of lignum vitae I once had.

I edited the video down from its original 250 megabyte size using Windows 10's internal video editor, which was pretty simple to use for my very basic requirements. Unfortunately I couldn't find any way to crop the frame, so all the background clutter on the photo stage is still in shot. Blogger's video handling is pretty basic.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Mezzotint Scraper Handle


I made a set of mezzotint burnishers and a scraper many years ago, about 2005 I think, out of some silver-steel rod.

Up until now I've been using them in a graphite-stick holder, but I thought I might as well get on to making some permanent handles for them.

The scraper is the first out of the gate. I turned the handle out of a bit of beech dowel; it was once a broom handle I think.

This one is a burnisher, for polishing the scraped copper. The smoother the metal, the less ink it holds, and the whiter the resulting tone in the print.

Another burnisher, with a curved blade (that needs a bit of polishing, by the look of it). This time the handle is ash.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Mortise Gauge


I ordered this mortise gauge maybe a month or so ago, and it just arrived. I got it via AliExpress from https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005003389703825.html and it was pretty cheap; about thirty bucks including postage.

It's well made with no slop in the bars. The circular blades need a bit of sharpening, but that's easily done. The bars are graduated, though I think that's likely to be of limited use as the fence has a cut-out to house the blades, which means that the graduations will only ever be an estimate as there's no hard-cut-off to read them against.

The blades don't roll on their shafts, so the blades act just like a normal knife.

It's a decent enough piece of kit, but I don't like it as much as my traditional pointy beech mortise gauge. The lines left by the rollers aren't as definite or easy to see as those left by scratch-points or blades.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Sword Stand


I made myself a sword stand for my iaito.

It is oak, coloured with a walnut spirit stain. It's had its first coat of oil, and it will need a couple more and then some wax to finish.

I could do with some better tape for the sageo (the binding around the scabbard). The stuff I've used is just flat lanyard tape, and it's okay, but it's a bit narrow. I could do with something about half an inch wide, and neither too flimsy (like ribbon) nor too stiff (like nylon webbing). The genuine silk article from Japan is fairly pricey, and I'm not keen enough to spend that much money.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Iaito Tip Reshaping


I reshaped the tip of my el-cheapo iaito to give it a more curved profile, rather than the fairly angular pointy-stabby tip it had before, as can be seen in the shot of the sword on the bricks.

It could probably do with a bit more polishing, which I might get around to one of these days. But the blade is just stainless steel (440 I think) so there's not much point in getting too precious about it.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Very Tall Steed


I bought a box of cheap black roller-ball pens, because I like drawing with roller-balls.

These ones have a much thicker nib than I'm accustomed to though, and I'm not sure I like them.

Still, they were cheap.

This quickie sketch is about A5 (210 mm tall).

Monday, February 14, 2022



This Zona razor saw arrived in the mail for me this morning. I had completely forgotten that I'd ordered it.

It's very fine toothed (42 teeth per inch) and with a very thin plate. It would be quite impossible to resharpen, I should think.

I don't recall how much it cost, but it was not expensive.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

El-Cheapo clamps — usability modifications


I have some bar clamps that I bought years ago from the Warehouse. They have the single virtue of being very cheap.

They're perfectly functional, but they do have several issues: the jaw pads were never much good, and have all fallen off and been lost. I've replaced the screw-jaw pad with bits of plywood, and I'll have to do something similar with the fixed jaw as well.

The main thing that dissuades me from using them is the handles, which are both thin and smooth. They're difficult to get a good grip on, especially for me now that my hands are becoming more decrepit.

I've modified them by planing the grips down square(ish) and glueing ribs of scrap wood to the facets. Just making the handles square would be a great improvement, but adding the ribs increases the diameter of the handle as well, which will make them easier to turn.

The amount of work required to make these clamps usable means that even though they're cheap to buy, they're really not cost-effective. Still, since I've got them, I might as well be able to make use of them.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Impromptu Moxon Vise


This is a Moxon-style vise, whipped up out of a couple of bits of 6x2" treated pine, a bit of decking timber, and some bar clamps. I suppose it would be nice to be able to make it out of nicer timber, but this stuff is perfectly serviceable.

Some day, hopefully, I'll be able to sort out a pair of hand-screws to provide the clamping force instead of the bar clamps. The clamps do a decent job, but they're more awkward to manipulate.

A Moxon vise is excellent for furniture making, as there's no obstruction to the work piece in the middle of the vise, allowing it to accommodate quite long bits of timber vertically for dovetailing and the like. Also, because the front face is more or less free-floating, it can clamp as evenly on tapered stock as on straight, and there's no risk of racking the jaws. This one has a gap between the clamp bars of about 600mm, which is quite a lot for my purposes.

This is a portable version, and it's just attached to the bench by a pair of clamps on tabs extending out the ends of the rear jaw. I'd normally mount the clamps with the handles downward, to keep them out of the way, but it is easier to mount them as shown here. If need be, I guess I could use a pair of long carriage bolts with hand-screws, for the lowest-profile attachment: it would be easy enough to arrange, since it's unlikely to be mounted anywhere but where it is right now.

The back jaw has a sturdy brace out the back to resist force pushing against the vise; it's probably not necessary, but it makes me feel happier.

Coupla Days Later...

The woodwork of the vise is essentially complete, and I've given all the non-meeting faces a few coats of shellac.

The photo demonstrates how it holds a tapered work piece; this would be about its limit in that respect while it's being held together with clamps. A proper screw system could probably manage a little more.

The threaded rods, when I get around to mounting them, need to be able to move a bit laterally to enable this tapered-thing-holding, but not vertically, so that they hold the jaws in the right position relative to each others' top edges. I have some ideas about how that might be able to be managed.

I think the holes in the wooden jaws through which the screws pass will need some sort of bushing, as otherwise the screws will chew the crap out of them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Farewell Box


I made this box for Annette to give away as a leaving gift for one of her workers who is moving on to pastures new. The top is spalted beech, the sides are rimu, and the corner splines are ash. The cartouche is copper, etched with a design of the Manaia.

The inside is lined with cedar, and in the bottom is black suede leather.

Dimensions are 240 x 135 x 70 mm.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Yet Another Box


I felt an urge to make something, and for want of anything else to make, I made another box.

What I'm going to keep in it I have no idea, but no doubt something will arise.

It's made out of really terrible cheap 7mm and 9mm plywood that had become badly water-stained at some point, so I decided to paint it rather than staining it as I normally would.

It's large enough for A4 paper in the bottom, and its external dimensions are 345 x 255 x 90 mm.


Inside the inside

I included a partitioned tray, about 30mm deep.

The floors are all lined with self-adhesive 1mm thick foam. I had no pieces large enough to cover the whole floor of the box, so I cobbled it together out of pieces of whatever colours I had available.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

I came, I saw, I... sawed


Black & Decker BES720-XE

My terrible old Ryobi table saw shat itself fatally a few weeks ago, so today I replaced it with this — an 1800w Black & Decker from Mitre10 for a measly $299. (That's all my spending money for the next couple of weeks, but still pretty cheap for a tool like this).

Black & Decker have not really had a very good reputation over the last few decades, but the reviews on this saw are pretty good (for its place in the table saw hierarchy) and the B&D router I got for my birthday more than 20 years ago has run without issue, so maybe the sneers and jibes were all just snobbishness. I dunno.

It has no bells, nor any whistles, but it has good fences and a good cast bed, and it cuts in a straight line. The rip-fence gauge is pretty accurate, according to my initial tests: not sub-millimetre accurate, but certainly good enough for my needs. It has a much deeper bed than the Ryobi did, which will be helpful for getting the initial cut aligned.

The angling of the blade has no screw adjustment; you just have to push it over to the angle you want and lock it off. That will make cutting at precise angles a bit trickier. Also, the mitre sled's reported angle is unreliable, and will need to be set manually with a square or protractor, but to be fair I've almost never encountered a mitre sled that is properly accurate. I have a mitre saw for that sort of thing in any case.

It is much, much better than the saw it replaces, which was never much better than a hand-held circular saw.

It comes with a dust bag that sticks out the back, or you can use a vacuum on the dust ejection port, but I used some 40mm PVC waste pipe and connectors to redirect it into a plastic bin that sits underneath the saw on the trolly I made for my last one. It doesn't capture all of the dust, but certainly takes care of most of it.

Problem! Big Problem!

The saw blade will not set to 45°, the closest it will come is 46°. I think there is sufficient travel on the bearers to get that crucial last degree, but the dust collection shroud appears to be coming up against the shell of the machine somewhere.

I may be able to ameliorate the issue with a bit of surgery, but this is a major failing of quality control.


I may not be able to get the blade to 45°, but I can get it to 90°. So I whipped up this mitre sled out of scraps of MDF.

It works okay, though it's one more jig I'll have to find somewhere to store.

Mitre cut successfully

As it turns out, the backing board on the sled is more of a nuisance than anything, but I can't be bothered disassembling it to take it off now.


After poking around in the guts of the machine, I think I've identified the block point that is preventing the blade tilting right over to 45°. Unfortunately, I can't come at it to try some surgery without disassembling pretty much the whole thing, so there's no easy fix.

I don't know if this is a design flaw integral to the model in general, or whether I just got a lemon. I've contacted Black & Decker NZ about it, but whether anything concrete will come of that I have no idea. I guess for the moment I'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Shoe Patcher Enhancemets


I've made little use of the leather sewing machine I bought from China a couple of years ago, but enough to be able to identify some areas where it needs improvement.

I mounted it on a wooden base a while ago, and now I've shellacked it so it's all smooth and shiny. 

I added a wire thread guide to the spool stand — at the moment it's just held in place with superglue, and at some stage it will probably need some support at its base to keep it from twisting. Maybe not though; it's not as if it's ever under much strain.

I added a base to the small spool stand; just a nut and washer, again stuck in place with superglue. Without those, the cotton spool would just fall wonkily on to the cast frame, and would not turn freely as the thread is drawn out.

Finally (so far) I replaced the fairly terrible little plastic crank handle with a more substantial one that I turned down from a scrap of pine. Hopefully that should make turning the crank a bit easier.

The manufacturing quality of these machines is not high, but it does work. No doubt there's a lot more fettling that could be done, but we shall just have to see.