Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Dealing a quick deck

The house we are staying in (well squatting if you ask my parents) has a short decked path way at the front.  This deck must have been laid when the house was built, and that must have been a while ago.  It was loose, broken, creaking and bouncing all at the same time.  After a large cracking sound was heard the other day as I floated across it, I decided it was time to re-surface it.
It was a simple task. I measured the current decking wood to see if there was a similar size replacement (90mm x 22mm) which I discovered there were two.  The choice was treated pine or Merbau, I went the Merbau, it has a nice reddish/brown colour, is strong and hard wearing.
I am un-imaginative at times so I just replicated what was there already,removing the old boards and replacing with the new.  I was going to rip the whole old deck of but decided I was likely to get bored, it rain or I get called to work and didn’t think only half a deck would be appreciated by the family.  Previously the wood was held down by nails, this has been replaced by stainless steel decking screws.  I left the boards long to cut the shape at the end.
Years of watching Better Homes and Gardens had paid off with setting out the spacing.  It is really simple, two nails to get an equal gap each side, magic.
A few hours later and was done.  With a Jig Saw I trimmed the edges to the desired shape.  Now the deck is firm, and looking good, all it will need is a coat of oil each spring and it will last forever (well at least long enough for my house to be built, me move out and be a long way away).

Monday, 12 November 2012

That will take two weeks

Sometimes you just feel like shuffling up to a sturdy, well constructed, brick wall and smashing your head against it.  Customer service in this country has well and truly gone down the toilet, and the lunatics are running the asylum.  If I did my job the way many I have dealt with lately do, planes would be falling out the sky, and I would have to explain over tea and biccies with the boss my abject failures, and to my wife our new found poverty.

I will back up my stance with a few examples.  Moving house we needed to change Internet providers.  Our national telco was the go, but after ten hours of phone calls, they decided they did not have the infrastructure to provide us with broadband.  They could however give us wireless at twice the price for a fifth of the data.  We asked another provider who after one call had hooked us up with broadband, using the national telcos infrastructure.

Then there was car insurance.  Having bought a new car I phoned my insurer, only to find them closed on a Friday, apparently staff training.  In fact it was not training but the staff Xmas party.  Having been closed all day I held for an hour on the phone as they had not thought to put on enough staff to cover the extra calls.  When I was told somebody would phone me back I cancelled my account there and then.

Finally, my current leading frustration, house building.  We seem to have been going for decades on this project, though only a year.  I look physically older every time I talk to our builders and we haven't even gone to council for permission yet.  Every time I ask a question there is a two week delay in receiving the changes.  A month after signing a contract, we still have not heard how much eight extra power points will cost (not hard to do 8xcost per PowerPoint).  We need a bush fire report, yet after asking a dozen times, a month after contract signing it has only now been ordered.  If this blog suddenly ends, it's because I have gone loco and either attacked a builder or started building myself.

All I ask is that people take some pride and do there job properly, and in a timely manner.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A present for myself

I love a bargain, who doesn't?  My wife has trained me to always be on the look out for a bargain, and she has trained me well (though not yet to her standard).  So there I was in the local hardware store picking up a shelf for the bathroom when I stumbled across "Clearance Items".  Not only clearance items, but clearance Kinchrome tool boxes!  Yes, I was excited, there may have been a quick deep breath and furtive glance to see if there was any competition around for them. 

I have wanted a new big tool box for ages, but had said I wouldn't do it until we got the new house.  However, with so much less space everything that had hung on walls is now stuffed over flowing into my poor tool box.  The little demon in my head said buy, buy, buy! But the good angle of conscience said no, wait, wait, wait.  Don't you hate that little conscience fellow.  Think of what that money could be used for.

I battled with my demons and decided that I would walk away, possibly trying to with-hold a sob and trying not to look back. I did say that if I went back and it was still there it was meant to be.  Three minutes later I was back. Okay it was three days later.  But there it was, and she would be mine, oh yes, she would be mine.

A quick rummage through the draws behind the sales desk to see if they could find the keys and I was the proud owner of this bad boy.  Reduced by over $200, I could nearly convince my wife it was a bargain and folly not to buy it (I said nearly).

Now I can have the fun of transferring tools from one box to another and getting rid of my old tool box, well not rid of, just a bit emptier.

How do you keep your tools warm and cosy?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A Quick Quartet


Having set up the new work shed today it was time to test it out.  Here was a quick quartet of acrylics.  Two Rifle Bullet pens in Australian camouflage, and green and gold Cigar and what I like to call the purple haze click. 


The purple haze was bought from a bargain bin for about $1, it was brittle and nasty to work with. Every time the tool touched the blank it seemed to chip, but a sharp tool, slow speed, some sanding and patience paid off. I think it looks great.


Christmas is coming and some of these pens are available at my etsy store, get in quick or contact me direct.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

In the Beginning

In the beginning there was a yearning, a need for something creative, a need for a hobby, a need for something for me.  I had always had an interest in wood (i think I've said that before) but I needed a push.  My wife had been nagging me to get a hobby, but I had been putting it off. It was only after a trip to Tassie that I caught the bug (and it is a bug).  A trip to Strahan where I watched an experienced man turning wood and I smelt the Huon got the heart fluttering.

On return from that family holiday I scoured eBay looking for wood lathes.  Everyday I would log on and see what was new out there, but they all seemed expensive.  I didn't want to spend a lot of money, I didn't know if I would enjoy it, or be any good at it.  Then one day it was there.  It wasn't a great looking lathe.  It was a fairly common Chinese made lathe that seems to have been produced for GMC, Ryobi, Dynalink and many, many more (mine was Brook Crompton).

It was very simple.  Four speeds changed by a pulley, with a disc sander on the back of the headstock.  I loved this lathe for two reasons, it was local and came with some tools, plus it was cheap, I guess that's three things.

I paid about $150 for it which I thought was good, especially when I found it came with three Robert Sorby tools as well as a pack of cheap tools.  All I needed to learn and practise.  I bought some cheap pine to play with and I was off and running.

This was my first effort, its abstract but I just wanted to combine steel with wood and make shavings.
After a few months I had realised the limitations of the lathe without a chuck and bought one of those (I will review that later). Then it was a pen mandrel, and lots of pen parts!  But I needed to upgrade and after twelve months I did (I will review that to sometime).  This old machine went back on EBay, and sold minus a few of the tools for $100.  All in all I had found a hobby and a passion all for the bargain price of $50, I love bargain!

What was your first wood working toy?

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The vagabond traveller

I love Indian Jones, all the movies were great, well if you don't count the Crystal Skull.  Anyway I digress.  On Sunday we visited the local markets and I came across a fantastic stall selling leather goods. Not just leather, but goat leather.  On the stall were some great leather bound note books, something you could imagine Indian Jones sketching and writing in.  I immediately decided I needed one!

The books are beautifully bound with thick paper.  Now I am not sure what I will use it for, it's far too nice to write in.  I did however want to pull out a fountain pen and just write. Not a good idea as I'm told that my hand writing is like a drunken spider crawling across the page.  Instead at the moment the book will be used as a prop for pen photos, and to hold whilst running around the house avoiding cascading boulders and acient booby traps.

Their collection was not limited to books, they had some great bags. Maybe one of these for work?

If you love such great items and can't make Shellharbour market they also have a website to check out.

Just to keep everybody happy, I have no connection with this company, just giving another small company a plug. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

A useful mistake

A while ago I made a pen, not that unusual I guess.  I had bought a black acrylic with gold glitter in it from Gary Pye Woodturning Supplies and thought it would look great as a Cigar style pen with gold fittings.

All had gone well with the drilling and gluing of the blank.  I was ready to turn what I thought would be a great pen.  Unfortunately the fickled finger of fate hang in the shed that day and disaster struck.  A moments lapse in concentration?  A tool not sharp enough? A weak part in the blank? I don't know what it was, but I put a deep chip in one end.  It was not the life ending drama I had thought but enough to produce a few curse words and to kick the waste bin across the shed.  However I decided not to give in.  I took the blank of and re-squared the end with a pen mill and returned.

I knew that the pen would be too short for the cartridge, but had my fingers crossed I could modify it, or that by some miracle the pen nib would still retract enough.  I was wrong.

pen retracted

When the pen was fully assembled it did not retract all the way, not by a long shot, not even if I modified the transmission (something I have done before).  However I loved this pen.  It looked smart, had great balance of colour (something I haven't captured in the photo) and is extremely comfy to hold.

It may not have turned in to a sell able pen, or a display pen but it is my favourite everyday pen.  I use it when studying, writing lists and just leaving it lying around on the bench.  It may have been a mistake, but it has certainly been a useful one.  It also meant the pen got the use it deserved, not just sitting in the box with the rest of the pens.

Have you every made a mistake that worked out well?

Monday, 22 October 2012

A little shed is born

Those who have been following this blog (you are few and far between but are out there!) will know we have been moving.  It has taken a few weeks to settle in to our downsized environment but we are getting there.  My concern has always been space, it is limited.  With such limited space I was wondering whether I could even create a work space for me.  No lathe for twelve months, to scary to contemplate.  Unfortunately the garage was full from the move.

Now I am a packing master.  I have moved several times and fitted my whole life into a car.  Unfortunately with life comes family and lots of stuff.  I can no longer move in a car.  I knew that the garage could be salvaged to some extent but just opening the door was enough to make this grown man think twice.  Where to start? How top stack?  When was the last time i played Tetris?

As with any project a quick mental plan and empty out the space to start again.  The thought of removing every item wasn't pleasant and I had been putting it off.  This weekend I was off work so it was time to tackle the beast (and spiders, many, many spiders).  With my five year old daughter to help we moved, stack and re-arranged.

As there was some furniture being stored it had to be well covered to avoid too much wood dust.  It was surprising how much room was opening up.

It took most of the day, and of course I picked the hottest day for months, but it came together.  I finally had my space in the house.  It may not have been my best packing job but it was up in the top three.  It may not be large, it may not be complete.  I still have to arrange equipment and bolt it all down but my mini-sanctuary has been re-born.

Now I just have to find time to play in there!  Have you ever had to downsize your shed?

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Plywood Palace

We have a Guinea pig, well its my daughters pet but we all get the odd cuddle.  It is only a baby and still small, but lonely.  It was decided at a recent family meeting (well I was told it was decided) that Tickles needs a friend.  No problems with me, as long as it is male as I do not wish to accidentally enter the Guinea pig breeding business.  Anyway, to accommodate the new impending arrival we needed a bigger cage.  Being a red blooded male with a fetish for wood working I was excited about building the Guinea Pig Taj Mahal.  Even though I have no work shop at the moment I was not put off and started sketching up some ideas.

I had great ideas for multiple levels, penthouse and tunnels.  Obviously room in the house wasn't a consideration.  Unfortunately the operations manager had other ideas.  She had done her research and taken into account my love of over engineering things and lack of shed space, and presented me with a big box.

Obviously in the box was a prefabbed, do-it-yourself flat pack plywood palace.  It was a good price, made in China and broke my heart.  I soon put the disappointment that my palatial plans were on hold, and set myself to the task at hand.

I am not one for instructions, which real man is?  On this occasion this was of benefit as the supplied instructions, were poorly written and didn't really represent the bits in the box.  This just added to the challenge, as did the fact that pre-drilled wholes didn't line up, nor were they always completely drilled.

However perseverance paid off and before long the plywood palace was constructed.  It does however need a few modifications and a good sand before I'll be happy.  Mr Tickles however does like his new home.

Perhaps when this one falls apart, and looking at the quality it wont be long, I will be able to create the true master piece that is lurking in my head.  Do you think solid Mahogany would be too much???

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Spindle master

Occassionally I read something other than a work manual or Tom Clancy book.  I was checking out a book on pen making the other day.  One of the tools used was a Spindle master.  I had never heard of a Spindle Master.  I guess that is not all together surprising as I have only been turning for a short time.  Anyway a quick google search, and there it was, the Spindle Master.

It is a cross between a gouge and a skew, two of my favourite pen turning tools.  The only manufacturer appeared to be Ropbert Sorby, whose tools I love.  I had thought of ordereing one to try but decided to put it in the to do basket for now.  That was until I was at the working with wood show and saw one.  I had cash left over, so I just HAD to buy one.

Keen to try it out I needed a project.  Luckily I had to turn eight pens for a friend so here was my oppurtinity.  I found it easy to use.  Depending on the angle you can get rapid wood removal or twist and it has great skew action.  I found it a little easier to use than the skew as it didnt dig in if I lost the correct angle.

The best part of it is how simple it is to sharpen.  All you need is to run the flat side over a sharpening stone and hey presto it is done!

I am waiting now to try it out on a bowl or other project, but for pens it is now my favourite finishing tool.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Space, the final frontier

Ok, so it's been a while since the last post.  Last weekend was moving weekend.  It was a traumatic weekend of down sizing from our three bedroom house to a two bedroom town house.  I admit this is temporary move whilst the new mansion is built.  However it is amazing how much stuff accumulates.  My work shop (though my wife prefers to think of it as her car garage, such narrow thinking) is a case in point.  I have only been woodworking for 18months, maybe two years but I think it took me two solid days to pack and deconstruct my gear.  The garage looks so sad and empty now.

Since our move was a little complex, stuff going to the new town house, some to storage and some to the in-laws house I decided it was easier to rent a van for a few days rather than hire removelists.  I am stupid.  Four hard days in the van with several in the car as well got the job done.  Now I do have a few friends, not many but a few, but as it was a long weekend most had much better plans than helping me avoid bodily injury or heart failure.  However a few hung around and my dad did a great job in lifting heavy stuff.  My wife was a packing whizz while mum patiently tended the children, and we got the job done.

Now we are in the new house there is still much to be done.  Everything put away, a place to be found for everything that needs to be put away.  Most of all I need to set up a new workshop.

This could take some time.

Hopefully the builders will hurry up and build our new dream!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Sorry about the delay folks...

It's been a busy day at work, and at the end of four flights I thought two things.  One, four flights in a day can be a bit tiring. Second, we were delayed on all departures, and none of them were mine (or El Capitanos) fault.  This led me to thinking more about the nature of delays.

Now delays are just as frustrating for crew as they are for passengers.  To us they mean being late and having to worker harder to try and make up time.  Often it is a cascading event, and frankly I just want a peaceful day when I go to work.

Delays can occur for numerous reasons, and often occur spontaneously when you least expect them.   They can be roughly classified into four groups; passengers, technical, weather and air traffic control.

Passengers, a necessary continual problem causing entity.  How hard is it to be in the departure lounge at boarding time. Missing passengers can usual be found in the frequent flyer lounge or wandering the shops, occasionally in the wrong terminal.  Seriously, airports are not that confusing.  What is worse is checking in your bag then deciding its all too hard, best leave the airport and go sight seeing.  The other common passenger delay is the "I left my phone, laptop, brain at security, shop, car" delay.  Passengers are the number one cause of delay, and there is a simple solution...shock collars.  Fit all passengers with a shock collar that will induce a mild tingle if the passenger is not at the gate twenty minutes prior to departure.  This shock gets stronger the closer we get to departure. Some would say this is cruel, but frankly so is letting your fellow passenger stew in their own sweat on the aircraft.

Technical delays.  Anything that can go wrong will.  Walking onto the flight deck to find it full of engineers scratching their heads is never a confidence boost.  It's a fact of life things break.  Fixing things takes time, but of we tell you the engineers say it will be five minutes you can bet it will be twenty.  Other technical delays are late cleaners, caterers, fuelers, the list goes on and often there is no reason.  Once you accept everybody else is lazy or incompetent, your hair will grow back and you can be at peace with the world.

Weather is always a concern. Rain, storms and fog slow everything down.  You can't fight mother nature but she is easy to blame.

Finally ATC.  If you can't find anybody else to blame, the faceless people in air traffic control are the perfect victims.  Often it is their fault. Why use two runways when you can make everybody hold and use one instead.  Even on a good day their instructions to slow down, speed up, and turn around in circles are often incomprehensible.  At the end of a long day, when you have got the plane back on time you can guarantee they wont let it happen.

So that's all the delays you will see, and certainly never caused by this great people on the flight deck checking their emails or having a coffee.

What delays do you hate?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Flying and wood turning

Ok, it's not as crazy as it sounds.  Yes unfortunately I have not come across a mini lathe that I can fit on the flight deck.  I'm sure if I did management would not appreciate the mess.  Neither have I come across a lathe and tool combination that security wouldn't have a melt down with when going through the X-ray machines.  It would be handy to be able to spend those wasted hotel hours knocking out a few bowls.  Perhaps a bow operated lathe maybe?

Anyway I digress.  Being away a lot I do sometimes get a day off in a different part of the country between red eyes.  Yesterday was one of these days.  Often the days are spent killing time, writing blogs, seeing movies and pretending to study.  Occasionally I use this time to check out woodworking shops.  Yesterday was Carbatec in Perth.  I have done this trip before, but had learned from last time.  This trip involves a walk to the station, train, bus and more walking.

Last time I did this it was summer and I walked from the station to the shop as I didn't want to wait for a bus.  This was about thirty minutes in 35 degree heat.  Didn't have this problem yesterday.  It is however a much shorter walk than the journey in Brisbane which was over an hour each way (looked shorter on the map).

Anyway the trip had a purpose to pick up some pen cases for an order. Whilst there talk shop and check out the machines for the new work shop (when the house gets built).

Now I have the problem of over purchasing and now having to carry everything around for the next four days until I get home.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Mystery Box

It's Mystery Box time of the year, a fun time for us pen makers on the woodwork forum.  Yes we are a crazy wacky bunch that live on the edge.  Contrary to popular belief we are not all old, glasses wearing, appron wielding wood lovers (some of us are actually young glasses wearing, apron wielding wood lovers).

Yes once a year we send a cardboard box from state to state full of wonderful pen making goodies.  A few days I got an email from the last recipient saying it was my turn.  I was excited waiting for the box of wonders.  What cool things would be inside?  What would I take and what would I leave for the next person?  The rules are simple, take out whatever you want and replace it with other things pen makers would like.  It could be wood pen blanks, acrylics, pen kits, something for casting, the choice is yours. The only rule is the box should way under three kilos and be posted on to the next on the list as soon as possible.

Now I can't show you what dark secrets lie within, that would spoil it for everyone. However I can show what I took out.

Having taken my goodies the box has been topped up and is ready to continue its cosmic journey.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Engineers flow chart

I am at work early, far too early.  They changed my start time whilst on my way to work, so I will share this gem with you.  I saw it on Facebook and need to share.

I have spent a lot of time talking and working with engineers in my flying career and this is so true.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Selling Houses Australia

As I lie here watching Selling Houses Australia I thought it was a good time to blog about our recent house selling adventures.  As you already know we about to build our new home and I'm sure there will be lots of blogs about that as we go on.  To do this we have had to sell our humble abode, the house we have been in for the last six years.

Selling has been a nervous process. It all started a few months ago with an attempt to de-clutter the house.  Our early efforts were not enthusiastic, and there was always an excuse not to do it.  I'm good at excuses to put things off.  The best way for us was to get some real estate agents in to check out the house, give us a valuation and get us working towards a deadline.

Over a few days we had six local agents through.  Unfortunately the house looked like a building site.  There were holes in the walls where I had de-constructed the picture wall.  There were boxes full of junk waiting to get to the tip or storage and the garage was hard to enter for more rubbish.  Luckily for us these realty experts could see through the mess to the gem beneath.  We found it hard to pick an agent but one felt the best fit for us, and he turned out to be great.

Now we had an idea of value it was hard to work, prepping the house for sale.  We painted one wall, this led to another, then another.  This is the problem with open plan houses, once one wall gets painted you need to do the rest! Luckily I had assistance from my wife who loves getting out the paint roller.  We emptied the house of clutter, culled clothes and toys and filled four of my neighbours  green rubbish bins as well as a tip run to empty the house and garden. We were ready!

A good clean and scrub and the house was photographed an inspected and ready.  We were nervous about the open house.  To sell in Australia you have open for inspection times on a Saturday.  We had been keeping an eye on how many page views the house had on line (dorky I know), so thought we should get a few.  We had eleven groups through during the 30 minute open house and a few had a good vibe according to the agent.  That afternoon the phone rang and we had two offers of asking price, fantastic.  Some quick negotiations and two days later the house was sold. 

With the shock of selling so quick, we now have to pack up and move. Exciting times!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Stylus Streamline for fathers day

It's fathers day tomorrow in Australia, but as usual it's the question of what to get a Dad who has everything.  Both my Father and Father-in-law love their IPads, so I thought why not knock up a stylus.  Now the stylus kits are Slimlines, but I wanted something a little more, what's the word, refined maybe.  So I decided to make a one piece Streamline, and a One piece Slim, both are essentially the same.

While I am showing the off, here is the quick tutorial! Firstly select a long enough blank, as there is no centre band this needs to taken into account when cutting.  I cut the blank to about 118mm and trim to 113mm when I stick in the tube.

You need a long drill bit (7mm).  As it is a long blank you can drill it on the lathe or drill press.  With the whole drilled we need to glue in one of the two brass tubes that are found in the standard kit.

Put the blank aside, let the glue dry and then trim the ends with the barrel trimmer.  Now it's time to turn!  Using the pen mandrel use the Streamline/Slimline bushing at one end, slide on the blank from the glued tube end.  Then slide on the spare brass tube and insert it into the blank on the mandrel.  Fix the other end bushing and secure the blank with the brass nut or mandrel saver. 

Turn the blank to the required shape. I like to leave a little curve in mine.  Once turned wet sand the acrylic from 150 wet and dry paper through to 800, then micro mesh.  For a real shine I then give it a rub with Brasso and then car polish.

Next step is to remove the barrel from the mandrel.  Now remove the lose brass tube.  Get the pen kit and squeeze the nib and mechanism into the lose brass tube with care.  

Fix the stylus and clip to the clip end where the brass tube is glued in.  Screw in the pen refil to the mechanism and push it into the barrel.  The glued brass tube will grab the end of the refil, to extend and retract the pen just twist the nib end.

Now the pen is ready to give dad

What gift are you giving dad?