Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Mahl Stick


I lost my old bamboo mahl stick, so I made a new bamboo mahl stick. This one is nicer.

A mahl stick is used as a hand rest for painting. The end is covered in a soft material that won't (hopefully) damage the surface; in this case it's some of that sticky silicone shelf liner.

The shaft is a bit of bamboo from our garden, the knob on the end is turned from a bit of an old broom handle.

When you're finished painting, you can flourish it at people and cry out "Expelliarmus!" It won't do anything, but there you go.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

looking Back — 2006 Working Drawings


Study for armour movement

Technical pen (Rotring) and fibre pen/watercolour

Brush and indian ink

Design for the key-block of a woodcut

This is the completed woodcut,
with some additional watercolour

Small studies for a fantasy map illustration

Brush and ink

More map elements

Fibre-tip pen

Friday, November 18, 2022

End Trimming Jig for the Vice


This is a jig for planing thin bits of wood, especially end-grain, square in both directions. It's essentially a shooting board, but everything is held in the vice. It takes up no bench space, unlike a regular shooting board, so it means I don't have to keep an area of my work-top clear to use it.

The body of the jig is thick enough to keep the sole of the plane level to cut the wood square across, and the stop keeps it square in its other orientation. I just ride the back end of the plane along the jig until the plane blade just kisses the surface, and then I've got a nice clean, square end. Very simple.

It will need to be re-squared as it wears, but that's no big deal, and the stop is just held in its mortice by friction and can be renewed as required.

The idea comes from Paul Sellars.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

That Bloody Moon


We had a total lunar eclipse last night, which created a small amount of nerdish excitement. Apparently the next one isn't until 2025, by which time the USA will no doubt have descended into full-blown fascist repression and/or civil war.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Dice Tray


I made this dice tray out of laminated pine, stained and waxed. It's about 255mm in diameter, and 50mm tall.

The outer ring, as you can see here, is to keep your dice-in-waiting in, and the central cavity is for rolling them. The rolling pit has slightly undercut walls, to lessen the chance of dice leaping out.

Half way through turning this, I blew the capacitor on my lathe's motor, so that'll need to be fixed. I can still use the lathe, but I have to start it spinning manually, which isn't ideal.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Wood Pile


The fruit of my labour, the last few days. It looks a lot less impressive than it feels in my arm muscles. All that's left to cut up now is a bunch of skinny scrapply branches.

That Bahco bow-saw is excellent. It's not exactly effortless, but it really makes short work of cross-cutting even fairly hefty bits of wood. Green wood is easiest, but it'll tear through old dry timber pretty fast too. It's a hardened-point blade, so it needs diamonds to sharpen — in theory it's a replaceable blade, but I've never seen the blades alone in Bunnings or Mitre10.

One result of all this is that the eastern side of our back yard is now a lot sunnier than it has been for years and years. Probably decades.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Silver Birch Goblet


I finished off the silver birch goblet I started turning from green wood a little while ago. It's been sitting in my hot water cupboard since then, which was sufficient to dry out the thin shell of the bowl, and the surface of the thicker stem.

It did not go entirely smoothly. In the course of drying out, it bowed very slightly, which made it very difficult to remount on the lathe to turn true. Unfortunately I'd already turned the shell down quite thin, and truing it up on the lathe made it thinner still.

Never mind, lesson learned for next time.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Green Turning


I had my first go at turning green wood today, and cut this goblet rough from a bit of the silver birch I cut down and cut up recently.

It will have to dry out a bit before I do anything more with it. The green wood handles quite differently to when it's dry, and it's a lot softer and spongier. It means I get nice long ribbons coming off the gouge, but the surface doesn't get as smooth as on dry wood and I doubt that I could polish it very well. You can see that the lip of the goblet is a bit furry, where the fibres have torn rather than been cut.

It'll take a couple of months to dry out sufficiently for finishing (though I've read that you can microwave it for more instantaneous results... I might try that one day) and I'll just have to hope it doesn't crack while it's drying.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Lumber or Timber or Wood


This may seem at first sight to be a pile of junk, but to eyes that can see it's a goldmine.

I shifted a bunch of timber from a place where I couldn't see it or get at it easily, to somewhere I will see it every day, and still can't get at most of it easily. There's a variety of timbers in there: pine of course, and also some rimu, kwila, oak, sapele, ash, and even a little bit of cedar.

All waiting patiently to be turned into something else.

It's not ideal; I really ought to get it all raised up off those damp bricks for a start. I have some pallets that will do that job, but that doesn't really address the access issues, which seem to be perennial with any lumber stack. I'll also need to think about protecting it from the weather, but a tarp or two will do that job, if in a fairly ugly fashion.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Rings of Power (so far)


I've made it through episode 4 of series 1 of the Rings of Power.

I think it's pretty clear already that for the sake of my own blood pressure, I'm going to have to get myself into the headspace of watching this as a very pretty generic fantasy show, written by some people who had been given a list of names out of Tolkien and a very abbreviated precis of the era they're working in... which they then mostly ignored. Because what the fuck did this Tolkien guy know about TV, huh? Nothing, that's what! He was just some kinda schoolteacher or somethin'.

On the plus side, I am very pleased that it's making the racists so enraged. I do like it when racists get enraged.

Also annoying a certain group of people is making the proto-hobbits cartoon Irish, but I note that those same people are entirely silent on the fact that the dwarves are all cartoon-Scots — I guess that trope has been well enough established by now. Though I do recall reading something from one of Tolkien's letters about his basing the clannish and secretive dwarves on  stereotypes of the biblical Jewish tribes (though he didn't use the word stereotypes himself, as far as I can recall).

If you don't watch it as an accurate retelling of the Akallabeth, but as a garbled and somewhat confused construction based on a fourth or fifth-hand hearing of some bullet points from that tale, it could be worse. The pacing isn't the greatest, but the acting is okay, and the design is spectacular.

The timeline is all over the place, and the dramatis personae are also rather shaken up — Galadriel, for example, has been given a pretty huge demotion, from one of the most powerful of the Noldorin from Valinor to what appears to be an insubordinate mid-level soldier with no people skills at all. The takeover of Numenor by Ar-Pharazon has been entirely ignored as far as I can tell, but maybe something of that sort will happen later on.

I'll keep watching, because if nothing else it is very pretty.


Having now watched all of season 01 through, I think that the word that best describes it as a whole is "unsatisfying".

The changes from Tolkien's original storyline and characters have not stopped being grating, and even if I try to watch it as a generic fantasy story with vaguely Tolkienish antecedents, there is a lot of  suspension of disbelief required.

It is pretty gorgeous to look at though. I'll watch season 02 in the hope that it will start to gel into a comprehensible and believable story.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

C13th Cistercian Numbering System


This is, apparently, a numbering system developed by a Cistercian monk in the 13th century that allows any number from 1 to 9999 to be written with a single symbol.

I haven't fact-checked this, but it's pretty nifty nevertheless.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Small Snow

 I thought it was a bit chilly this morning, and sure enough, when I looked out there was white stuff lying around all over the place. And just in time for us to run out of firewood.

It is spring, in theory.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Paper Towel Dispenser


We've been needing a paper towel dispenser for the back of the kitchen door for a little while, so I made one.

You don't think 32 years is too long to wait to get around to some household task, do you?

Anyway, we've got one now, so that's nice.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Kwila Truncheon


I had a piece of kwila about 400mm long, and I wanted to give myself some practice using the skew chisel, so i made a truncheon. I have no use for a truncheon, but now I have one anyway. Maybe I can use it for Victorian Policeman cosplay or something.

I believe that actual Victorian police truncheons were made from lignum vitae, which is exceptionally hard and heavy, but my desire for authenticity doesn't go as far as shelling out an arm and a leg for an expensive wood like that, so kwila will just have to do.

Saturday, August 6, 2022


 I was exposed to COVID-19 last Saturday, at Winter Weekend. RATs persistently returned negative test results until this morning, when it showed positive.

I've been experiencing quite mild symptoms since Thursday — sore throat and a slight cough — but the negative RATs let me believe, hope against hope, that it was just an ordinary winter cold. Alas, it was not to be; last night my symptoms suddenly became quite a bit more severe, and this morning's test, as I said, showed the dreaded two lines.

Now I'm in isolation in our spare room / library until next Thursday at least. It is lonely, boring, and uncomfortable. I'm hoping that Annette can dodge it, but realistically I don't think it likely.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Birthday Box

I made this box for my friend Irene's 60th birthday from an old oak board.

The plaque is brass, deep-etched in ferric chloride.

The nails are square copper nails, and don't really serve any structural purpose; they're just there for decoration.

It's roughly 110mm square, 300mm tall.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Tale of Tuan Mac Cairill

 I've shown these before, but I thought I'd get them all into one place. They're a series of illustrations for the Tale of Tuan Mac Cairill, a very ancient Irish origin story about the coming of the first men to Ireland. Tuan does a lot of transforming into animals.

Standing Stones


0.2mm fibre-tip pen, coloured in Krita

Friday, July 15, 2022

Fence Post Vase


This is a nice piece of wood from an old fence post. I don't know for sure what the timber is, but considering its age, I'd suspect it's black maire, since that was extensively used for such purposes, as well as for flooring. Back then, a hundred-odd years ago, when our house was built, New Zealand native timbers were not valued as they are today. Nowadays it's far too expensive to waste on a fence post.

It's 110mm tall.

Alas, it's not much use as a vase, not only because there are various holes and cracks present, but also...

...because I delved too greedily and too deep, and burst through its bottom into the tenon.

When I sawed the tenon off, it left this gaping void in its bottom.

It could be fixed, but I'm probably not going to.


I've found that one of these disposable plastic tumblers is almost exactly the right size to fit inside the wooden shell.

I'll add some open-cell self-adhesive foam tape (the sort of stuff you use for sealing windows and the like) around under the rim of the tumbler. That will keep it centred within the vase, stop it from rattling around, and give it a bit of grip so that it won't just fall out while still being easily removable.

It's not 100% perfect as far as shape goes, but it will make the vase somewhat usable as a vase.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Footed Oak Bowl


Another little bowl, turned from another offcut scrap of oak.

This one is 125mm wide by 40mm tall.

I like a foot on a bowl; I think it gives it a better visual connection with the ground than just curving away into nothing.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Scrap-Wood Platter


This is a bit of wood I pulled out of the firewood stack a while ago. It had split along one of the growth rings to create a smoothly curved piece.

I just adzed out the inside of the curve and smoothed out the rest of the contours, and flattened off the bottom so that it would sit a bit more stable.

I don't know what you'd do with it. Put a couple of bits of fruit on it maybe, or use it for change and keys and what-not. Whatever.

It's just a piece of pine, stained, oiled and waxed.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Another Little Cup


Turned from an offcut of oak this time, this little cup is about 85mm in diameter and 45mm tall.

Little things like this are handy for using up scraps of wood that would otherwise just go to waste, and at the same time they teach me things. So, win-win!

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Lathe Extension


A little while ago I ordered an extension for the bed of my little lathe, to enable me to turn spindles longer than about 400mm.

What I had failed to take into account is that then I would have a much longer lathe to accommodate in my fairly teensy-tiny workshop. Ah well. So, now instead of a lathe that is a bit cramped, I have one that's probably going to be too long 99% of the time.

I knocked up a side table out of crappy, soaking wet fence rail and plywood. It does the job, and as an added bonus, there's space underneath it to store my car-jack router lift. The minus is that I now have to find somewhere for some other stuff, but no doubt that will be resolved eventually.

The lathe bed extension just bolts to the end of the original bed, but there are no positive locating lugs or anything, so it's just held in place by tension on the two bolts. It doesn't match the corresponding surface exactly in dimension, so the tail-stock and tool rest don't slide smoothly across the border; there has to be a certain amount of jiggling to get them past. Still, it's workable, and possibly the connection could be fettled a bit to make things work more smoothly.

Next up, I really need a wider tool rest. The one that came with the lathe is only 150mm long, and that's just too claustrophobic. Fortunately, a tool rest is a very simple thing to make for anyone with welding capabilities.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Sketchbook Critter


Fibre-tipped technical pen and coloured pencils.
Approx. 100 x 120 mm.

Approx. 120mm square

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Little Pine Cup


I turned this little pine cup (only 70mm in diameter) as an experiment in two things:

First, in using a Forstner bit on the drill press to cut the small 28x7mm mortice to hold it in my small chuck jaws, and

Second, in applying beeswax directly on the lathe without any other finishes (like oil or shellac) and to polish straight over the wax by friction with wood shavings.

I'd call both of them a success. Drilling the mortise on the drill press rather than cutting it on the lathe really sped things up, and the friction-finished wax gives a very nice smooth surface, very pleasing to the touch.

So now I know that.

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.