Sunday, 29 March 2015

Oak Box Continued

Hi All, Continuing with the oak box, I cut a piece of 1inch thick oak to match the size of the piece of 6mm oak that I had for the lid and then drew the shape of a box on it.
I then drilled a entry hole for the no9 blade I would be using and then cut out the centre of the box.
Cutting oak is harder than cutting pine, so make sure you have a sharp bladed fitted to the saw or you will get burn marks on your wood. The next thing I did was to give the box a good sandpapering. I started at 180 and then went through all the grades to 240. I could have gone to 400, but oak isn't the best wood in the world for a fine finish. I've never been much for flogging a dead horse so a slightly more rustic feel was okay with me.

With the box done, it was time to concentrate on the lid. I stuck my oak leaf design to the the piece of 6mm Baltic Birch plywood that I was using for the inlay and then Sellotaped that to the oak lid.

Next I did a few test cuts to make sure I got the right angle for the inlay and then I made a start. I drilled a hole at the end of the stalk for the blade, this was a place that would be easy to disguise and it saved me from having to cut a very tight corner. Talking about avoiding sharp corners, you will notice that the black cutting line on my design goes through the acorns, this is done to avoid what would be a very sharp corner between them. The acorns, when I have made them, actually cover that part of the design so it won't be seen.

All was going well until I had the first of two disasters. The fine blade I was using snapped when I was almost at the end of the cut. The air in my workshop turned purple as I let out a string of words that would make a trucker blush.

If a blade breaks when you are doing normal cutting it doesn't matter because you just go back to the blade entry hole and fit a new one. When you switch the saw on, the blade almost follows its own way back to the point of the breakage. However, this isn't the case with inlay work because the work is being cut at an angle, when the blade retraces it steps it will inevitably take off some more wood and the inlay will become a sloppy fit.

I decided the best course of action was to drill a new entry hole at the point of the breakage and disguise it as best as I could. Here is the lid with the inlay in position. If you look closely you can see the entry hole where I started at the end of the stalk and another about an inch before the end of the cut.
Now you may be curious about the gap in the centre. Well, that was the second disaster. Despite doing some trial cuts to get the angle right, I cocked up again and the inlay would not go flush into the wood. I pushed it in as hard as possible but it was still sticking out by about 1mm.  I was now fed up and about to chuck the whole thing in the wheelie, but I decided to take a deep breath and try and rescue it. I used some 120 grit sandpaper to remove a very small amount of wood from around the whole of the inlay and took a bit extra off from the curved area. By removing more wood from that area it gave me a chance to get the inlay to fit something like decently while knowing the gap would be covered by the acorns.

The next thing to do was the pyrography on the leaves and to carve the two acorns which will sit above the leaves. I will show you how I got on in my next post. Just a reminder, if you want to see any more of my work or find out about my books, here is the link to my website.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Oak Box

Hi All
A few weeks ago, I was walking around a shop that sells bric-a-brac and I found a small plank of 1inch thick oak. The price was only £2 so I dug deep into my pocket and purchased it. At that time I didn't know what I would do with it but I thought it would come in handy some day. Well, that day has arrived.

I decided that I would make a small, rustic box from the oak and inlay a couple of oak leaves into the lid. I also thought it would be nice to carve some acorns from wood and stick them on the top. Carving small acorns will be a first for me, so if you follow the rest of this project you will see how I get on.

The first thing I did was sketch the oak leaves that would form the inlay on the box lid. I did the sketch in some detail because it helps with the pyrography work later on. By this I am referring to the shading, which I doubt I would get right first time. If I just jumped in and did the shading with my pyrography iron it would be a disaster especially after I'd cut the inlay. So I sketched the leaves in pencil first and this gave me ample opportunity to practise the shading. Below is the finished sketch.
To produce this sketch there was a fair amount of erasing before I was happy with the composition and the shading. If you look closely at the left hand side you can see some shadow marks where I didn't erase some of the pencil marks properly.

Having produced the sketch my happiness was short lived when I realised that the wood I was going to use for the lid was only 4 inches wide, so my design was to big. The only thing I could do was start again and do a new design that would fit the lid better.
Now you may well be asking what the red dot at the top left hand side is for? That is where the blade entry hole will be drilled when I cut out the inlay. I have mention it before but just to reiterate, Scroll saws will cut sharp corners, but not as sharp as the corner on the end of the leaf stalk. So, by drilling a hole in that position I can cut all the way around the rest of the design without having to worry about sharp corners and end up back at the entry hole.

 You may have also noticed that there is a strange black line going through the acorns.This will be my cut line, and it saves me having to bother with the sharp angle between the two acorns. I can get away with this because I am going to carve two acorns out of wood and they will sit neatly above the curved line.

That's about it for this post, but in the next one the project will get underway and I will start cutting. In the meanwhile, if you want to see some more of my pyrography or scroll sawing work, or even find out about my books, including free offers, please pop over to my website.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Pyrography trinket pot

Hi all,
In my last post I mentioned the various reasons why people do craft work and one of them was to earn some money. Probably not stacks of money, but enough to a least pay for the material consumed by their past time. Some may make a bit more and I suppose it all comes down to a mixture of effort, skill and finding a product that people want to buy.

There has never been a better time for crafts people and artists to sell their work because it can be done over the Internet easily and cheaply. Of course, that brings more competition but if you can provide something unique that people like it is sure to be a decent seller.

I don't have time to make as much stuff as I would like too, and my wife always has first dibs on anything I produce, but every now and again I manage to put up something for sale in my on line shop on It is really easy to set up a shop and it only cost 15p to list an item for 3 months. There is a commission to pay when an item sells, but at only 6% it seems quite reasonable to me.

Anyway, if you have a pyrography iron and want to make something quickly that sells, here are the instruction for making this, "absolutely beautiful little trinket pot."
Those aren't my words, I took them from the review on Folksy that was left buy the purchaser of the last seed head trinket pot that I did some pyrography on. If you are interested in making one to sell or keep for yourself here is how to go about it.

Firstly, you will need a blank pot. These can be purchased from Wood work craft supplies for less than £2.00 each.

Step 1 The lid
Draw four curves on the top of the lid in a symmetrical pattern.

Then do the same around the sides of the pot. You should be able to fit six curves in.
Step 2
Using your pyrography iron, with a spoon tip if you have one, burn a small mark that will represent the seed. Then with the spoon tip inverted, burn the line that leads from the seed. Then, still using the pyrography iron spoon tip in the inverted position burn five short lines from the end of the line in a fan shape. I do the two outside ones first at about 45% and then burn another one in the centre. It is then easy to burn the last two lines between them. This needs to be done quickly on a medium heat setting. When making each burn, put your iron down onto the wood at the top end of the line and then move it away quickly thus making a burn mark that feathers away.
At this stage it looks a bit crude in places, but this project is a quick one and all will be well with the finished project. Once the sides are done it should look something like this.
Right, nearly finished already. With a small brush carefully paint the fluffy bits on the end of the seed heads. You can use acylics or watercolours, the only thing I'd say is this, if you use watercolours, make sure you use a spray varnish. If you use a brush-on type varnish the watercolour paint will come off very quickly.

I used some of my wife's watercolour paints on this pot and then sealed it with a spray varnish. I gave it two coats and it was done.
 My wife kindly put some felt on the bottom of the box and the whole thing was finished. In total, I would say that it took no more than fifteen minutes to create this little pot and I should be able to sell it for three times as much as I paid for the blank pot. I know it isn't going to make me a fortune, but the profit will go towards my next order of materials and that can't be bad.

I will put the box on Folksy in the next couple of days and see if anybody wants it.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Express Pyrography

Hi all,
Some of you may know that I've dabbled a bit in using polymer clay for inlay work to enhance my scroll sawing and pyrography. Well yesterday, I found myself browsing through the craft books section of Amazon and came across a title that made me smile. It was called "Fast Polymer Clay: Speedy Techniques For Crafters In A Hurry".

I couldn't help but grin when I saw the title, because to me, the whole thing about doing any sort of craft work is to take ones time and relax. I know people are in a hurry these days and want to get things done and out of the way, but surely true craft work shouldn't be like that.

But there again, I suppose it depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you are a greetings card maker and think crafting is all about sticking a square of material and a button on the front of a birthday card, then that's great if it makes you happy, but please don't send it to me. Thankfully, those who are apt to stick a twig or a pebble on the front of a card and hand it over like its something special will soon get bored with that bit of crafting and move onto something else.

Having given the issue of speed and crafting a little thought, I believe there are basically three types of crafters and artists.

Group  1
These people do a bit of crafting because they thing they should. They fit it in between making the beds and doing the school run. Getting quick results is the paramount objective of these crafters who also have a tendency to flit from craft to craft, often depending on what is fashionable at the time.

Group 2
These individuals are in no particular hurry, they concentrate in making items for their own enjoyment. The doing is often more enjoyable then the end result. This is particularly true of artists regardless of media. If you want proof, take a look at any gallery and see how many works of art fit the following scenario. "It looks very nice, it is well executed, but I certainly wouldn't want it on my wall".

Group  3
They love making things or creating works of art, but the following thoughts are always at the forefront of their minds, "Will it sell and how much for."

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not making judgements about crafters and artists, I'm just categorising them and me a bit. In reality, we all probably belong to more than one group. I've tended to be a half group 2 and half group 3 type of crafter, but I'm moving more and more towards group 2. I also expect those who are now firmly in group 1,will move towards groups 2 and 3 when time allows.

Anyway, my next project will be a short one that will, hopefully, satisfy those in any of the 3 groups mentioned. It is fast, rewarding in terms of aesthetics and it will sell. I will leave you with a photo of the object and I'll show you how easy it is to create in my next post.

By the way, if anybody is interested in providing a suitable home for the rose box from my last
project, I have just listed it in my Folksy shop for a reasonable price.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Scroll saw box part 7

Hi all,
Hopefully this will be the final post regarding this scroll saw and pyrography project, but we'll have to see how it goes.
At the end of my last post I showed you my failed attempt at doing the rose inlay. We all have failures from time to time, but I'll show it again here just so that you can make a comparison with my second effort.
 The gaps around the inlay are just not acceptable so I did it again.
I've blown this one up slightly so that you can see that the inlay is a much tighter fit. This was done by getting the cutting angle correct. The blade entry hole is still visible, but this will be disguised by the pyrography work later on. More information about cutting angles can be found in part 6 if you haven't already seen it.

Anyway, its nice to get the inlay done so that the pyrography work can commence. The first thing to do is transfer the rose image that we started with, to the inlay on the lid. It can be done by straight forward copying, but the quickest and easiest way is to use graphite paper or trace it.

First you will need to print off two more copies of the rose design.
Here it is again to save you going back through the posts.
I cut around the outline of the rose with scissors and did the same with my graphite paper. It is actually called Trace Down and is available from amazon.

I place the graphite paper on top of the rose inlay than put the copy of the rose on top of that and stick them in position with masking tape. Then it is just a mater of drawing over the lines of the rose and this leaves a pencil drawing on top of the inlay.
If you look closely you will also see that I have added a stalk, which I did free hand with a pencil.
Okay, now it's time to get the pyrography iron out. I use a Peter Child's pyrography iron with a spoon tip, and set it on number five, which is a medium heat. I then burn in the pencil lines followed by some outlining around the rose. I leave some of the outline without burning because I thing this helps with the final look. The last thing I do is the shading and my tips for being successful with this part of the project are: turn the temperature down and have a little patience, plus, remember to put your pyrography iron down where you want your darkest mark to be.
So that's the pyrography work done. I have done the rose on the inside of the lid, in fact, I did that first so that I could practice my shading.

The next thing to do is fit the lid. We cut the wires that hold the lid on in a previous post, so it is time to find them and stick them in the appropriate holes. However, I don't push the wires right in,  I leave about 6mm sticking out and put a blob of glue on it.
Now I can push the wire fully in and the glue will be in the post end of the wire only. We don't want glue to go on the end of the wire that goes into the lid, because if glue goes there we won't be able to open the lid. I wipe off any extra glue and repeat on the other side. I use a glue called E6000, which was recommended by fellow crafter and it seems to work okay, To be honest, I think just about any glue you have at your disposal will do the job.

We are almost there now. I give the whole box three coats of Ronseal, quick drying gloss varnish, which gives the box a lovely finish. The last job is to put a bit of felt in the bottom of the box and a piece on the base. The alternative to felt is flocking, and that is what I used. Here is a picture of my flocking kit, which can be purchased from Turners Retreat for about twenty quid.

By the way, they also have a good range of pyrography blanks it you don't want to be bothered making things with a scroll saw.

Flocking involves putting a layer of glue on the area you want to flock. Then a pump action applicator (the yellow thing) is used to blow flocking material over the glue. Full instructions come with the kit.
Here is the inside of my box.

And here is the finished box.
I hope you've enjoyed following me through this project and I look forward to doing another one. Just a reminder  if you want to see more of my pyrography and scroll saw work or you want find out about my books including free offers, please click here to go to my website.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Scroll saw box part 6

Hi all,
This project is taking longer than expected; I thought it would be done in three posts but I'm up to six and it might even take a couple more. The thing is, I don't want to rush it and miss out any vital information for those who might want to have a go at making a scroll saw box.

In this post I'm going to be concentrating on the inlay, for me, this is the most challenging part. It is easy to make a mistake when cutting an inlay and I'll show you one of mine later in this post.

The essential thing to do before cutting out the inlay for the project is to cut out some test pieces. I have already explained that if you just put one piece of wood on top of another and cut the design, the top piece will just drop straight through the bottom one because of the material taken out by the saw blade. That is the gap that is left by a saw blade, which is known as a kerf.

The way to get around this is to make the saw cut at and angle. In the rough drawing below you can see two pieces of wood from a side view. Imagine that the blade is cutting out a circle and you can see how, that when the circle is cut, the piece of walnut at the bottom can be removed and the piece of BB ply at the drop will drop down into the void cut in the walnut.
It's a bit like a stopper going into a wine bottle, but to be successful you need to get the angle spot on. If you cut it too shallow, the BB ply will drop too far into the hole in the walnut and, if you cut it with too sharp an angle, the BB ply will fail to go right into the walnut so that it finishes up flush.

Here is a photo of some test pieces that I cut to show how different cutting angles can make a difference.
It took four attempts to get it exactly right.
I started at 2.75 degrees but the BB ply only went a third of the way into the walnut, so I reduced the angle and tried again and then again. Eventually, with a setting of 2 degrees the ply wood fitted tightly into the walnut and that is exactly what I was after.

Now you may be asking how the angle is changed. Well, luckily for us, most scroll saws come with a table that will tilt all the way to 45 degrees, which makes the job quite easy. The tilting function was important when I purchased my scroll saw so I went a step further and bought an Excalibur, which allows the saw to be tilted instead of the table.

Above is a photo of the tilting mechanism on my Excalibur saw and the saw bent over to 45 degrees. I certainly wouldn't want to cut at that angle, but for 2 or 3 degrees it works great and I'm sure it gives me more control than would be the case if I was using a saw with a tilting table.

Okay, I hope that's explained how cutting at an angle allows us to saw a tightly fitting inlay. It is important to take ones time when cutting the inlay to avoid breaking a blade. Breaking a blade doesn't matter on normal scroll saw cuts, but when cutting at an angle it is almost impossible to change the blade and successfully get back to the cutting face without making the kerf wider, which will lead to a loose fitting inlay.

You also need to be aware that the thickness of the wood you are using and the thickness of the blade will alter the angle at which you need to cut. I made this mistake myself when doing the current box. I had a number 7 blade in the saw when I did the test pieces shown above, but then I changed it to the finest blade possible before I cut the rose inlay. The result was that the inlay only went three quarters of the way into the walnut.

At this point I was quite upset, I had put a bit of work into the lid and if I had to sling it in the bin it would be a waste of a nice piece of wood. So being the twit that I sometimes am, I decided  to rescue it by giving the inlay a light sanding all the way around so that it would fit. I really should have know better, because after five minutes vigorous work it still wouldn't fit. However, I'm British so I was about to give up and I kept on giving it a good thrashing with the sand paper until it jolly well did fit.

below is a photo of the inlay after spending about an hour sanding the hell out of it.
I've made it larger so that you can see the gaps. What a mess, I should have whacked it in the wheelie straight away. Ah well, we all learn by our mistakes. In my next post I will show you the replacement inlay that hopefully won't have any gaps big enough to drive a ski-doo through.
Meanwhile, don't forget, if you want to see some of my scroll saw or pyrography work you can visit the gallery on my webs site by clicking here.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Scroll saw box part 5

Hi All,
This project is getting more exciting now because it's time to make the box lid. I use a piece of 6mm walnut that is readily available from always I just lay the box on to of the walnut and draw around it to get the size, then lay the lid on the top of the box so that I can mark out where the hinges need to go.
With that done, I can now drill the holes in the top of the hinge posts that will take the wire that supports the lid. To do this, I slide the lid into position and then clamp it firmly in place so that it can't move during the drilling process.
 A steady hand is required during this drilling operation, so  I take my time and ensure the drill bit is in the right place before I make the holes. I drill straight through the hinge posts and carry on drilling until I've gone about 10mm into the lid. The size of bit I'm using is 1.5mm. When the drilling is complete, I leave the clamp in place while I cut the pieces of wire that the lid will rotate on. I use some wire than I pinched from my wife's crafting stuff; she makes clay flowers and uses various sizes of wire to support he blooms. However, a bit of wire from a straightened out paper clip would work just as well.

I poke the wire through the hinge post hole and as far as it will go into the lid and then cut it off with 5mm sticking out of the hole. Cutting it flush is a mistake because it will be difficult to get out and we have to do other things to the lid before we finally stick it in place. Now that the wire is removed from the hinge post, I cut 6mm off it so that when it goes back in it will be recessed into the hole and out of view. I do the same with the other side and put both wires somewhere safe for later.

Right, its' time to sort out the inlay. 
Because the walnut wood is dark, I am going to use a lighter wood for the rose inlay, not only to give a contrast to the walnut, but because the pyrography will stand out better on light coloured wood.

It's possible to get several light coloured woods that are 6mm thick from always including obeche and bass wood, but I prefer to use Baltic birch plywood which they also stock. I like using plywood for pyrography because it holds a fine line and over burn isn't so much of a problem.
A word of warning, don't go down to your local DIY store and buy a big sheet of plywood because the quality isn't good enough for scroll sawing or pyrography projects. It's okay for building dog kennels and lining the walls of an outside cludgie, but not for craft work.

Here is a picture of the rose I'm going to be using for the pyrography.

I cut a piece of 6mm Baltic birch plywood to roughly match the size of the lid, then I cover the top surface with a layer of masking tape. When that is in place, I smear some glue onto the back of the rose picture with a Pritt stick and then position it onto the plywood. Next, I place the ply wood on top of the walnut lid and wrap Cellotape around the whole thing. The Cellotape serves two purposes, firstly, it holds the walnut lid and plywood firmly together whilst the sawing takes place. Secondly, Cellotape or any other clear parcel tape helps to lubricate the scroll saw blade so that it cuts more easily.

Now the entry hole for the blade can be drilled. If you look at the photo above you will see a red spot; that is where the blade entry hole will be drilled. I have picked that spot because it is the sharpest corner and therefore would be difficult to cut. Drilling the hole there means I can cut away from sharpest part of the the design and work my way back around to the hole without having to actually negotiate the corner. By drilling it on a joint between two petals, the hole will also be easier to disguise with the pyrography.

Okay, before cutting out the rose inlay something else needs to be done and it is very important. For an inlay to look good, it obviously needs to be a tight fit. To get a tight fit it is of no use to just cut around the rose and expecting it to drop nicely into the piece of walnut underneath because it won't. In fact, you will find that the ply wood just drops straight through without even touching the sides.

The reason for this is that when a saw cuts, it removes material which is called a kerf. The thicker the blade on the saw, the thicker the kerf. So that is why the plywood would just drop through the walnut if we didn't do something to negate it.

So how do we get a tight fit, you might ask.

Well it's all a matter of angles and I'll explain more about it in my next post. In the meanwhile, I'd just like to remind you I am giving away a free download of one of my books on my website. Why not go over there and grab a copy now.