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!