Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Old Romantic

It was my wife's birthday recently and because she has got most things that she needs, (and quite a few that she doesn't) I decided to make her a trinket box. I cut it out from a piece 20mm thick maple and added a couple of lugs on the back to take the lid.

However, the maple was a bit on the shallow side so I cut out a piece of 6mm mahogany to make it a bit deeper. The bottom, which was cut from a piece of 3mm plywood was then added. As you can see in the photo below I made the box in a rectangular shape to give it clean lines and because of that the lid was easy to cut out. It is made from a hardwood called obeche, which I like because it takes pyrography very well.

In this case, the pyrography that I choose for the lid was a fuchsia, which is one of my wife's favourite flowers. However, it wasn't all plane sailing because I drew it by hand before burning it in with the pyrography and that is when I discovered that I didn't like it. In pyrography terms when that happens it can be an absolute disaster, I did a lot of mutter and almost tossed it in the wheelie, but I managed to retrieve the situation by running the lid over my belt sander. A layer about a sixteenth of an inch was soon removed and I did the pyrography work again.
I was much happier with the second attempt. My wife was pleased when she took the wrapping paper off the box and even happier when she opened the box.
I guess she'd have been even happier if I'd slipped a diamond ring in as well, but you can't have everything.

I think the inside would definitely benefit from a layer of flocking but I ran out of time. Perhaps I will do it one of these days and show it to you again.

Anyway, I've done enough boxes for a bit so I'm going to try my hand at a bit of intarsia work with the scroll saw and pyrography iron. If you haven't come across the term intarsia, don't worry because up until a couple of months ago I hadn't heard of it either. If I've whetted your appetite, please watch out for my next post where all will be revealed

Friday, 15 August 2014

Pants Box

Hi all,
In my last post I showed you the latest box that I was working on. Due to pressures of tiling our kitchen it was a while ago, so here is the photo again to jog your memory.
When my wife saw the box she said the shape reminded her of a pair of y fronts and I have to admit that she is right. However, that isn't the only reason I have called it the pants box because the design turned out to be failure. When I cut out the lid and fixed it to the two lugs at the top of the box I found out that it wouldn't open.

With hindsight I should have realised that the top of the box would need to be at least square to allow enough clearance for the lid. Anyway, a box that won't open is about as much use as a concrete float, so I was more than just a tad fed up. To make matters worse, the box was sawn from a plank of maple which is a very hard wood to cut, so after I'd invested time in cutting out the shape I was extremely reluctant to bin it.

The only thing I could do was take the two offending lumps off the top of the box to allow it to open and that is what I did. I then did a drawing of some mushrooms on the lid and burnt them in with my pyrography iron. It was a simple drawing but seeing as the original design had been compromised I didn't want to spend my time doing anything too elaborate on it.

Here is a photo of the box which just needs a coat of flocking on the inside to finish it off.
 The lid is cut from a wood called obeche which is a light coloured hardwood that shows up pyrography well.
I am pleased with the box especially the hinge mechanism which, although a bit fiddly to make, works well. I shall use it again in my next box design, but the general shape will be less organic. Hopefully, when the grouting is complete I will find time to share the finished item with you.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Easy Boxes

Hi all, sorry that it's been a while between posts. I guess it will carry on being that way until this house renovation is over, so please bear with me.

In between knocking off the tiles in the kitchen and re-plastering the walls where they came from I have found, what seemed like a few nano seconds of time to do a little bit of craft work. I managed to finish making another of those small square boxes and even did a little bit of pyrography on the lid.

I sometimes get a little stuck when it comes to choosing what to decorate the top of a box with and this was no exception. In the end, I drew a heart shape and then just did a bit of a doodle pattern around it. I didn't bother pencilling it it first, I just let my instinct take over with the pyrography iron and tried to keep the design as symmetrical as possible. The thing with doodles is that you know each one is unique. This is the only box like this one and it will always be a one off.

I haven't made my mind up yet, but I might sell it on folksy to see if anybody else likes it. Usually, when I finish a box my wife bagsies it, but she didn't seem so keen to snaffle this one up, so perhaps it's not to her taste. If anybody has any view or constructive criticism I'd be pleased to hear any comments.

Anyway, beside the square box I have started working on another of a totally different shape. My aim is to find a way to make boxes with lids that are easy to make. Not because I'm bone idle, but because it will allow me to spend more time on the decoration, be it either scroll work, pyrography or both.
The box above I am hoping will go someway towards achieving my goal. It is cut from a single piece of maple and the inside contours match the drum of my spindle sander. The two lugs at the top will take the hinges that will be pinned, just like those on the square box.

It is too early to say if it will be a success, but I will let you know in my next post.

Sunday, 20 July 2014


Hi all,
Sorry it's been a while since my last post but I've been very busy on the house restoration. So far I've done the dining room, the bathroom and my mother-in law's room. I have also done the front and back gardens whilst the weather has been nice.

So, I only have our bedroom, inner hall, the living room, the utility room, the conservatory and the kitchen to complete before Christmas.

The kitchen is the biggest job, not least because the people who lived here before us wall papered over wall paper and I've had to get 5 layers off. It was stuck like a tic to a terrier and took most of the week to get it off. I tried a steamer once in a bathroom a couple of houses ago. All was going well, the paper came off a treat but unfortunately so did the plaster, a barrow load fell off the wall into my bath with a resounding crash. That was when me and steamers got a divorce.

However, that wasn't the worst of it. When I took took some paper off by the wall units this is what I found. I wondered why there was a bulge in the paper.
If you are wondering what it is I will tell you. It's the hole where the boiler used to be. When they decommission the boiler they stuck the lid off a biscuit tin in the hole and cemented it in with some rubber glue. If it had been completely covered by the wall units I could have forgiven them, but to put the wall cupboards half over it and paper over the mess is absolutely ridiculous and shame on the workman who did it. I know where I'd like to stick the tube of rubber glue.

Anyway, that's enough of that. I did manage to do a bit of scroll sawing and pyrography and combined the two on a practice piece. I had always fancied inlaying one wood into another and thought I'd give it a go. In my first attempt I used mahogany for the dark wood and tulip wood for the lighter wood to give it contrast.

The technique of inlaying two woods is simple. You wrap Sellotape around the two pieces of wood, with the lightest on the top, and cut the pattern out. When you take the Sellotape off, the centre of the dark wood can be discarded and the lighter wood from the top layer takes its place.

The only difficulty comes in judging the angle of the cut. Let me explain. If you do a straight forward cut with no angle at all, you will find that you have a gap around the inlay that is the width of your saw blade, which is undesirable. So you need to do the cutting at an angle so that the top piece slides neatly into the piece below with no gap. The tricky bit is finding the right angle because it depends on the thickness of the wood that you are cutting.

Anyway, when I cut out the letter "T" on my scroll saw, I used an angle of 1.5 degrees, and as the wood I was cutting was 6mm thick it was almost perfect but just a little tight. So, I made an adjustment of half a degree and cut out a poppy only to find that I'd made the adjustment the wrong way. The net result was a less than perfect fitting inlay. Still we all learn by our mistakes. I went on to do the pyrography work on the poppy and I'm pleased with how it came out. The next one should be much better.
The thing is, it must have looked quite good to my wife because she soon snaffled it and stuck it on the front of a box of candles that were desperately in need of cheering up.

I am working on the design for my next scroll saw and pyrography project and hope to show you it in my next post.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Box design and clamp

Hi all,
I was pleased with the box that I showed you in my last post and thought I would do another one with a couple of modifications. I also wanted to pass on any bits of knowledge that I learnt from the process.

The first thing I would say is that making the sides from pine is no good for pyrography because it is too difficult to burn with any accuracy. The second, is that once you have a design that you are happy with, make sure you get it down on paper. I have repeated the last box I did and before I glued it together I drew around each piece for future reference. I then scanned it and put it into my design files for future use.

Here are the parts cut out. The dark wood is walnut and the light wood is obeche.
And here is the design after drawing around the parts.

One of the main things I have learnt from making boxes is that they need to be square, especially if you want the lid to fit properly and look good to the eye. My early attempts at box making were good, but because they weren't exactly square they weren't good enough.

Anyway, here are two hints on making a box square. The first may seem obvious, but it didn't dawn on me straight away. To make a box square, the front the back and the sides must be exactly the same length so they are best cut in pairs.

I use clear parcel tape to bind the two sides of the box together before cutting them, this ensures that they are the same length. Likewise, I also cut the back and front of the box as a pair for the same reason.

You will probably notice that in my design, the back of the box isn't as tall as the front, but I still cut them out as a pair to make sure they are the same length, then afterwards remove 3mm from the back piece.

If you want to try building one of these boxes using my design please feel free and send me a picture of the results.

Besides making sure the parts are all cut to the same length, another thing you can do is invest in a box clamp. The one I purchased, pictured below, cost me £4.99 from Aldi when they were having a special's day.
It is very easy to use and a vast improvement than the quick release clamps that I used previously.
The box is held at the corners between the brackets as you can see with my box above and can be finely adjusted. I still can't believe how easy it is to use.

Finally, the box I made last time had pyrography on the lid and the sides and I was wondering if it was too much.
So, I am making the same box again, but this time with walnut sides that won't need any pyrography.
I hope to finish it soon and will show it to you in my next post

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Doodle Box

Hi all,
In my last post I showed you the box that I'd made on my scroll saw and I said I'd started to decorate it with some pyrography. To remind you what it looked like before the pyrography here is a photo of the bare box.
Now here is a picture of the box after the pyrography.
I'm pretty pleased with the result because I always wanted to completely cover an object with a pyrography pattern. Perhaps pattern is the wrong word because it suggests I worked to a plan which was not the case. I roughly drew in the checkered part on the lid and after that it was a matter of doodling with my pyrography iron.

It may look complicated but it was easy to do because it didn't have to look like anything in particular, just be easy on the eye.  Perhaps you can judge if I achieved that objective better than me. Any comments welcome

Anyway, I found the process of covering the whole box with pyrography very therapeutic. While I was doing the burning I was transported to a different place and forgot all my worries and woes. That's got to be good for the soul hasn't it.

One of the things that I did learn from this project was not to use pine wherever  pyrography is going to be used. The lid of the box was made from a hard wood called obeche and that burnt very nicely. However, it was a different story with the pine which was a nightmare. In fact, I am surprised at how well the sides of the box came out because they are all made from pine.

The trouble with pine is that it is inconsistent when used for pyrography. Between the grain lines the wood is very soft and burns easily, which leads to over burn while the grain lines themselves are very hard and take more burning. The net result is that burnt lines can look terribly patchy. Great care is needed to get the finer details looking anything like acceptable so I will be sticking to hardwood from now on wherever pyrography is going to be used.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

New Box

Hi all,
Sorry it's been so long since my last post but I've been busy putting the finishing touches to our new back garden. I have also built a 6 foot by 3 foot garden gate because the one we had was as rotten as a pear. The new one is very sturdy and would take long boat full of vikings to knock it down

Anyway, in my last post I said I'd show you the progress I was making on a new box that I'd just started. I'm pleased to report that I finished making the box and I'm very happy with it. The design needs a bit of tweaking but all in all I'm pleased.
The top and the bottom of the box are made from a hardwood called obeche, which comes from Africa. It is light and has a fine grain which is just what is required because I am going to do some pyrography on it. The four sides are made from 6mm x 45mm strip pine from B&Q, again it is cheap and, because it is already planed all around, I figured it would be easy to work with.

The thing that makes this box different from the ones I've made before it the lid. It is hinged, but doesn't have hinges in the usual sense. I have tried using very small hinges on these boxes and  it's a nightmare to fix them to the box so that the lid closes properly.

If you look closely at the box in the picture you will see that on the corners at the back there is a little raised portion. Through there I have drilled a small hole and inserted a thin metal rod straight through into the lid. The lid pivots on these two pins as can be seen in the photo below.

You will notice that the lid is cleverly standing up by itself. This was achieved by sanding the back edge of the box at an angle so that it was allowed to open just past the vertical.

I can also report that the pyrography process is well underway. I was hoping to have it finished in time for this post but it wasn't to be. I still have one side left to do, but it is going well. It is a little bit different from my usual work and I'm looking forward to showing it you in my next post.