Thursday, 23 October 2014


Hi all,
I have been deprived of crafting time for a long time but that is about to come to and end because my wife can't stand the smell of paint. This means that the decorating is being put on hold till next April when we can have the windows open to let the fumes out.

So, I'm like a dog with 2 bones at the moments and, because I was spoilt for choice and didn't know which project to do first, I have started 3 at the same time.

I will tell you about the others in my next post but first I will share my ebonizing project with you. I have always been keen on the look of pietra dura, which is all about using precious stones to form pictures. They are inlaid into other pieces of stone or sometimes inlaid into wood.

So I have decided to make a box, cut out some flowers on the top with my scroll saw and then inlay them with clay because I can't afford precious stones.

To get a good contrast between the wood and the stones, pietra dura artists commonly used ebony, which is a black wood that can be seen on the keyboard of a piano. Ebony is a very expensive wood so I decided to make my own, Obviously I can't make wood, but according to what I have researched it is possible to ebonize other woods and make them black by painting them with a special solution.

Oak is a good wood because it contains the right natural ingredients to  react with the special solution which is made from steel wool and white wine vinegar. No, I'm not making this up and if you manage to stay with me for a few post you can see if it works.

I rinsed the soap out of one of my wife's brillo pads when she wasn't looking and mixed it with some of the white wine vinegar she had lurking at the back of the pantry. I put the pad in an empty marmalade jar poured on the vinegar and, after drilling a few holes in the top to allow obnoxious gases to escape, I took it down to my shed to let it ferment. Here it is after two weeks brewing.
Tomorrow, I'm going to begin cutting the wood for the box and then I can see if this magic solution works, If it doesn't, I suppose there is always black paint.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Another Vase

Hi all,
Because my wife is knocking out clay flowers with some rapidity, I decided to make her another vase. This I hoped would keep her quiet for a bit and allow me the pleasure of doing a bit of pyrography on it.

I wanted it to be slender and elegant, so here is what I came up with.
It is essential a prototype because I was experimenting with the scrolled top and having a base to support it.

The centre is a piece of three quarter inch pine and the front and back are both cut from obeche. I cut each piece out and then glued them together like an ice cream wafer. Then I sanded the vase down to smooth out any lumps and bumps. I did the sanding on my oscillating drum sander and it didn't take me long to find my first problem. The curves on the inside of the scrolls were too tight to take even my smallest drum, so I had to do that part by hand. Sanding by hand is a bore so I won't make that mistake again.

Obviously the design also needs a base because it is top heavy, so I designed one in the shape of a flower. I cut it out on the scroll saw, did a bit of shaping with my rotary tool and then did a bit of pyrography on it. I also drilled a hole in the middle to allow me to screw it to the bottom of the vase.
Here it is.
Not to bad even if I say it myself. It didn't need to be a masterpiece because it was only going on a prototype. Anyway, I screwed it on the vase and it looked awful because the bottom of the vase was oblong. It would have looked great on a circular vase but it looked like a right carbuncle on the one I'd just made.

So I made a oblong base that was more suitable and screwed that to the vase and then set about it with my pyrography iron. Even though it is only a prototype I made a right pigs ear of the front,(not shown)  so I turned it around and did some more pyrography on the back, which now doubt will now become the front. Here is the finished article.
Not too bad, but it's a case of back to the drawing board because it could have been much better. Here it is with one of my wife's flowers stuck in it.
I am aware that of late my posts have been infrequent, but all of that is about to change. I'm about three quarters of the way through decorating the house but because we are both chocking to death on the paint fumes we are going top knock it on the head till next spring. This and the fact that my latest book, 'The reluctant Pom' is almost finished, means that I will have lots more time for crafty stuff.

My head is full of ideas so I hope to be sharing them with you all soon. They will include inlaying with both wood and clay and I'm also going to have a go at ebonizing. In fact, as I write this post, I've got some ebonizing solution brewing nicely in my shed and I will tell you what that is all about in my next post.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Wooden Vase

Hi all,
My wife asked me to make a her a wooden vase for some flowers, so I made her one using my scroll saw. The centre is made from maple and the front and back pieces are made from Obeche.

Now you may be thinking that a wooden vase is about as much use as a brolly in a bath, so I'll put you straight before we go any further. My wife has started making flowers out of clay and once she gets going she can be very prolific. The clay flowers are sticking out of every orifice we own and our conservatory is beginning to look like Kew Gardens. Okay, I've exaggerated a bit, but at her request I made a wooden vase for her and here it is.
It stands about five inches high and has holes drilled into the to recess to take the flower stems. I left the front and back plain and cut them from a light coloured wood so that she could do some pyrography work on it when she wanted a break from fiddling with petals.

I am pleased with the shape, which was my own design, and even more pleased with how easy it was to make. I cut out the main piece of maple and then drew around it with a pencil onto a couple of pieces of obeche  and then cut them out. All I had to do then was stick the fronts and backs on with some wood glue and drill some holes for the flowers.

My wife was well pleased too and soon began filling it with flowers.
She also did a bit of pyrography work on the front panel. It hasn't been varnished yet, but I think it looks pretty good and displays her flowers nicely.

The only issue I have now is that she is going to want a more making and if I'm going to keep pace with her I will be very busy. In fact, I've already started the next vase and I'll show you that in my next post.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Intarsia Finished

Hi all,  In my last post I left you with a picture of the intarsia project that I was working on. Here it is again just to jog your memory.
At this stage it looked like a kid's jigsaw puzzle, but there was still a lot of work to be done. After cutting the pieces out they had to be shaped to give the fish a realistic look when it is glued together. The shaping was done using various bit of kit in my workshop. A disc and belt sander was used to make sure the back of the pieces were flat and the edges were rounded over with my oscillating drum sander. I also used a rotary tool in places where the drum sander wouldn't go and then stuck the fish together on a backer-board that was cut from a piece of 3mm ply.

The whole thing was then sanded by hand, down to 240 grit and then given three coats of gloss varnish. Finally, I put a hanger on the back and stuck it on the dining room wall for my wife's approval. Here it is complete with a pyrography eye that I forgot to mention.
My wife liked it and asked me to leave it exactly where I'd hung it, so I did and now it stares back at me every morning while I'm eating my toast.

So what are my views on intarsia?
Well,to be honest, they are mixed. I enjoyed shaping the wood and the end result is reasonable, however it is very time consuming. In other words, the amount of effort put in was beyond the amount of pleasure I derived from the finished product. Having said that, I learnt a few things while creating the fish and will use my newly gained knowledge on future project  even if they are not intarsia based.

If you fancy doing some intarsia, please have a go. I can recommend the book I used by Kathy Wise, it is informative and well written with clear photos of the processes involved.

For my next project, I will be doing a couple of commissions that came from my wife. I will show you them in my next post. I will have to ask you to be patient because time will be tight. I have just started decorating the living room and I promised a few people that my latest book, 'The Reluctant Pom' would be published buy the end of September. It looks like that might have to slip a few days; still, it's good to be busy.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Reluctant Pom

Hi all,
I thought I'd just share with you the cover for my new book 'The Reluctant Pom.' My father dragged me off to Australia when I was an impressionable 16 years old. Having just started work, purchased my first motorbike and discovered girls, moving to the other side of the world was the last thing I wanted to be doing. This book is the follow up to 'A Staffordshire Boy' and is my recollection of the  adventure.
Any comments would be welcome. Scroll sawing and pyrography posts will be resumed shortly.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Hi all,
In my last post I mention that I was doing some intarsia. Well today I'm going to show you how I'm getting on. But before I rush in, perhaps I ought to explain what intarsia is because until very recently I'd never heard of it either.

According to those who know, intarsia was probably practised in Italy and it is the the name given to pictures made from various pieces of solid wood that are hung on a wall for decoration. To me it seem to be a mixture of, sculpting wood, marquetry and a jigsaw puzzle.

The intarsia process involves sticking a pattern onto one or more pieces of wood and then cutting them out with a scroll saw. Each separate piece is then shaped by sanding and or carving  before they a stuck back together. One can use different types of wood and also grain direction to produce effects like those found in marquetry. But other mediums can also be incorporated to good effect, these include pyrography, stains or paints.

 I've always fancied having a go at sculpting some wood, and this seem to be the easiest option because it is only two dimensional.

I guess my description of intarsia is about as clear as algebra was to me at school, so it might be better for you google some  'intarsia' images and you will see what it is all about.

So far I have managed to cut out the pieces for a fish of the carp family.
At the moment it looks like child's jigsaw puzzle, but I'm hoping to bring it to life with some delicate sanding and then finish it off with some pyrography. Please watch this space if you want to see how I get on. It will get better, I hope.

By the way, for those interested in my books, my latest  offering to the proofreader. It is called 'The Reluctant Pom' and should be available soon. I will give you more details in my next post.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


Hi all,
Apologies again for the lack of posts, but the house renovation is taking top priority at the moment. I hate the smell of paint so I want to get as much as possible done while the weather is warm enough to have the windows open. This means the intarsia project went to the bottom of the pile.

Talking of paint, what the hell's happened to it? I am using major brands but my experiences are nothing short of terrible. I purchased yellow emulsion and it took four coats to get the walls to the colour on the tin. I could understand if I was trying to cover some black paint but the colour I was painting over was a light shade of pink. Also, the brilliant white gloss I used on my bathroom door has gone yellow after only three months.

The scandalous thing is that I'm paying a fortune for this paint. Does anybody know a brand that doesn't let the side down. I don't mind paying for quality stuff but paint I'm using is a rip off.

That's enough moaning for now, let's get back to the intarsia. I have actually made a start by sticking the pattern onto some wood, so bear with me and in the next couple of days I promise to share my progress with you.