Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Lacquered Box

Hi All,
It has been slow slow progress on the pyrography and scroll sawing projects this week. I said in my last post that I was going to have a go at an automata but other than cutting a few pieces that hasn't gone very far either.
The main problem is that I have been suffering from a really bad cold. I'm not one to exaggerate the effects of a cold and never had time off work when suffering from one. However, the one that is currently giving me some gyp is wicked and I think I would have a had to have a week off.

The other problem I have at the moment is my workshop, it's colder than penguin's winkle. It used to be the garage, so the walls are only one brick thick and it is impossible to get it proper warm. I've had electric fire on but after a while the cold seeps out of the concrete floor and up my legs. Within an hour I'm walking like Douglas Bader.

Having said all that, I did manage to finish a box that I was making as part of an experiment. Getting a good high gloss finish is something that I really desire and I'm trying to find out how it is done. I've tried varnish, which is okay, but it doesn't give me the finish I'm looking for and it isn't fully compatible with polymer clay,

So, I have finished the top of a box using lacquer and the results are looking favourable.
The box above was given 4 coats of lacquer and now needs a week to fully harden before I take it a bit further. Apparently, I have to give it a rub down with some 1200 grit wet and dry and then buff it up to a glossy shine with car polish.

Applying a coat of lacquer is different from working with varnish because lacquer goes off almost immediately. If you wipe your brush over piece that you have already done you can get into a right mess. In my next post I hope to show you the box again and you can judge it the finish is better and who knows, I might get the automata finished.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Hi all,
In my last post I said I was going to try my hand at doing a bit of automata. For those who aren't familiar with the term here is a simple explanation. If you are anywhere as near as old as me you will remember wind up toys, well automata are like wind up toys that can be made from wood.

However, instead of having a clockwork mechanism they are usually powered by a hand turned crank, which activates a number of camshafts and gears that bring animation to the subject.

I was going to have a go at one where a man plays a piano, but decided to do that next because it also needs a musical movement. So,for my first automata I'm going to keep it simple and do one where a cat is trying to catch a mouse. I got the plans free off the Internet and I hope it will be a bit of fun trying to make it. That may be especially true for me because the plans are in German.

As you can see there will be a lot of cutting out to be done but it should be a laugh when it's finished. Perhaps I'm having a late mid-life crisis, other men by a motor bike and ride route 66 but I'm going into toy making. Contentment is a wonderful thing, if ever you see it passing by, get a rope on it and tie it to your bed post.

If you remember from my last post, my wife said she'd gone off my wooden vases. Well that state of affairs that didn't last long. She wanted another for a Christmas present so I just gave her one of my special smiles and obliged.

I have also started a new box in a heart shape. It is cut from Maple and will have a walnut bottom and lid.
The lid is going to have a rose inlaid into it using two woods, Baltic birch plywood and mahogany. When the inlay is complete I will do the rose with my pyrography iron.

It should be finished in a few days and I will let you have a look at it in my next post along with any progress on the automata. Over the next day or two I will be helping my wife with the Christmas deccies so I don't suppose I will get much time for wood working. At least doing some decorations will be warm, at the moment my workshop is as cold as an Eskimo's pantry.

Monday, 1 December 2014


Hi All,
Following on from my success with the inlaid poppies, I decided to make my wife another vase for her to put her clay flowers in. This time I would make a vase using the same woods; pine and mahogany for the vase and 6mm birch plywood for the inlay.

I had a bit of trouble with the scroll saw work on this one, and to be honest, I still can't get my head around what went wrong. Let me explain. To do an inlay, I tape two pieces of wood together and then cut out the design, once done, the inlay piece fits neatly into the hole on the other piece of wood. That's the theory, but in reality it isn't that simple because the blade of the saw removes some wood and therefore, if you just do a straight cut, the inlay fits like a sausage in shirt sleeve.

To get around the issue, the cut is made at a angle that is appropriate to the thickness of the wood and you then get a nice snug fit. Having said all that, I'm having great difficulty in understanding which bit fits into which bit and on my first attempt at doing the tulips I got it wrong. The plywood inlay fell straight through the mahogany without touching the sides, so I had to glue the original pieces back in. I did that and after using a bit of pyrography to disguise the problem it didn't look too bad.
In fact, it looked nice enough, but only good enough for the rear of the vase because I wanted an inlay on the front. When I did the front again, I went completely opposite to the way I thought it should be done and it came out perfect.
I think the pyrography really sets it off a treat.

My wife liked the finished vase, but there was a problem. She decided that wooden vases bring attention to the fact that her clay flowers aren't actually real, so she doesn't want anymore. In fact, she stuck the Icelandic poppies she'd just finished into a jug from a charity shop.

Ha well, at least I can get on with some of my own stuff now. I'm thinking of having a go at a bit of Automata, I'll let you know if it comes to anything in my next post.

By the way, if you would like to see some more of my wife's flowers here is a Link. She would be pleased with any comments about her work.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Inlaid Poppies

Hi all, after the hard work I put into the ebonized box with the inlaid polymer clay lid, I decided to do something quicker that would allow me enjoy a bit of pyrography at the same time.

I am struggling to keep up with my wife's requirements for wooden vases, especially as we are coming up to Christmas. She has decided to give bunches of her clay flowers to a couple of her friends and she has commissioned me to do the vases. No money is involved, but I find it is always best to keep on the right side of cook.

Here is a the front of the first vase. The vase is made from a piece of pine which, after doing the inlay work shown below, was  sandwiched between two pieces of quarter in thick mahogany. The inlay is done from quarter inch thick Baltic Birch ply wood, which I have chosen because it is great for doing pyrography work on.

Cutting out the flowers is an interesting task especially where there are tight turns. Even when using the smallest blade I can buy, sharp turns are very difficult. You can see in the photo above where I have drilled the hole to pass the blade through the wood to cut out the flowers. I like to position the hole on the inside of the tightest bend because that saves me having to do a sharp turn. I just saw my way out of it, go around the flower and back to the hole. The holes at this stage may look like they will stick out like a sore thumb, but they will be disguised in the finished product.

The rest of the cutting went very well and you can see that there aren't any gaps around the edge of the flowers. This is done by sawing with a slight angle on the blade. Most scroll saws allow the user to change the angle of the scroll saw table, but I have an excalibur saw which allows me to change the angle of the saw which makes angle cutting much easier.

If you are going to attempt to do any inlay work I suggest you cut a few test pieces before you try in on your project. The angle needs to be set relative to the thickness of the wood. If you don't have enough angle you inlay will be a sloppy fit. On the other hand if you set the angle too acutely your inlay won't fit in the hole at all.

For this project with quarter inch thick wood I set the angle a gnat's nudger under 2 degrees, so I suggest you use that for a reference point when doing your test cuts.

Anyway, here is the vase once it had been stuck together sanded and had the pyrography work done.
I like it and my wife seems quite pleased too. Notice how the blade entry holes have been disguised with a little saw dust and pyrography.
In fact, she wants the next vase to have tulips on it, so I will probably have that to show you in my next post. Then I'm done with vases and I'm going to have a go at something completely different

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Ebonized Box Finished

Hi all,
I have just finished the ebonized box project. It has taken a long time and it hasn't been one of my best experiences.  When the lid came out of the oven burnt it, still wasn't the end end of the problems but I'll tell you about that in a minute.
 For those who missed my last post showing the burnt lid here it is again you save you looking back through old posts.
I did try removing the burnt clay with the hope that it might save me the trouble of cutting the wood, again, but a stick of dynamite wouldn't shift it. The thought of going all that sawing again gave me the gyp so I modified the design to make it a bit quicker to cut. The other thing I did differently was to fill the cut with the clay before painting it with the ebonizing solution.

I noticed that on the first version, that I ebonized first, some of the black was coming off onto the clay so it made sense to fill it first. It was a bit tedious painting around the inlay work with the ebonizing solution but it was the best option.

Anyway, without further dalliance here is the finished box. Any comments would be appreciated.
It doesn't quite have the wow factor that the one in my head had before I made it but it is good enough for a first go at ebonizing. I will have another go at something similar but not just yet because the end result did not match the time and effort I put into it. When I found out that I had made another silly error and cut the lid 6mm too small the thing almost went into the wheelie.

I suppose it worked out well in the end and I have a new box for my bed side table. Every night I will deposit my rings, keys and loose change into it, so it will be very useful.

So what for my next project. Well, I have just done a bit of wooden inlaying on a vase, and I will be getting a result much quicker. I am doing a bit of pyrography on it as well and will show you the finished thing in my next post.

By the way, my wife is doing really well with her clay flower making. In fact, she is getting fed up with having nobody to show them to. I set her a blog up a few months ago and I think she is going to start using it. If you are interested in clay flowers or know anybody else who is that way inclined here is the link. I will leave you with a vase full of her latest creations.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

A Disaster

Hi all,
I've just had a disaster, so I thought I'd share it with you. I said I was going to rescue the ebonising project, but it has gone down hill faster than a fridge strapped to a sledge.

I have done a bit of inlaying with polymer clay before; here is a photo of one I did earlier. The pound coin just gives you an idea of the scale.
Anyway, I inlaid a load of polymer clay into the lid of the box I was working on and stuck it it the oven to cure. Thirty minutes later this is what I came back to.
I felt like weeping buckets but being a male I hung onto my tears and went into a sulk for a couple of hours. I over it now and trying to figure out what went wrong.

If I find out I'll let you know in my next post.

Thursday, 6 November 2014


Hi All,
My wife asked me to make her a small wooden planter for a cyclamen plant that she was making out of clay. So, being a good and dutiful husband, I dashed into my workshop and knocked her one up with my scroll saw from a piece of reclaimed wardrobe. I didn't gain any brownie point though; when I gave it to her she burst out laughing because it was too small. However, it didn't take her long to fill it full of clay flowers of unknown species.
Undaunted, I returned to my workshop and made something that was of a size more in line with her requirements. With this she was very pleased and, as a reward for my efforts she baked me a delicious raspberry jam and butter cream swiss roll.

Here is the planter with the cyclamen.

While I'm winning, I'm going to make her another wooden vase and do a bit of inlay work and pyrography on the front. I will let you have look at it in my next post along with the progress I've made regarding the ebonizing project. It isn't going to plan, in fact its turning into a disaster but I'm hoping to rescue it during the next couple of days.