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.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

trinket pot

Hi all,
In my last post I told you that I had a bit of pyrography on the go; I wanted to do something quick so I had a go at one of the trinket pots I purchased a while ago. I like these little trinket pots because they always come up nice with a bit of pyrography on them.

I had been mulling the idea of using my pyrography iron to make a trinket pot look as if it had been woven like a little basket. I had a couple of false starts when it came to drawing the pattern on the pot but in the end I came up with a method that worked for me. In fact, I did very little drawing and burnt most of the pattern onto the wood freehand with my pyrography iron.

Here is a picture of the finished pot, I hope you like it. I think it looks cute, but I'm probably biased.
At first glance, it probably looks like a big task to produce something like this, but the reality is, for anybody with decent hand to eye coordination, it is not as difficult as it might seem.

Believe it or not, but it took less than an hour to do the pyrography on this pot so it's worth having a try if you want to produce something fairly quickly.

The secret is to break the pot down into sections. I drew a line around the pot from north to south so that I had the sphere cut in half and then I quartered it. Once this was done, it was easy to mark the pot in equal parts. Just imagine a peeled orange with the segments running vertically.

For the horizontal lines, I just imagined the tropics going around the world and drew two lines accordingly. Once I had those pencil lines in, the rest was done with the pyrography iron. I burnt in two short horizontal lines on the tropics, then drew one in the middle which would be the equator and then another line between those two.

My explanation is probably as clear as a bottle of ketchup, so here is a picture showing the sequence of the line burning.
Once you get started you will find that it is all about burning straight lines which make little boxes. Two edges, one in the middle and two more to fill in the gaps.

I used my usual spoon tip on a medium heat to make sure I avoided over burn marks. The finish was three coats of Ronseal clear gloss varnish and I will flock the bottom and insides when I do some flocking on my next project.

Talking of the next project. I am finally getting around to making a box on my scroll saw and then decorating it with pyrography. I have made a start and will show you my progress in my next post.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Broll Box Done

Hi all,
Pass the biscuits around because I've finally finished my latest box. You may have noticed from the title of this post that I have called it a broll box. I've done that because I'm fed up with referring to it as a band saw box when I actually made it using a a scroll saw. I suppose I could call it a scroll saw box, but where is the fun in that.

I mentioned before that this type of box is usually made on a band saw by sticking all the pieces of wood together first then sawing them. However, because I haven't got a band saw, and the depth of cut is very small on a scroll saw, the procedure needs to be reversed.

So, to make a band saw type box on a scroll saw, you need to cut out all the pieces first and then stick them together. I thought the effort would be about the same but it didn't work out that way. Making a band saw type box on a scroll is much more time consuming. The cutting doesn't take too long, but the sanding does.

Anyway, here is a picture of the finished article.
You may notice that there is a small gap under each drawer. This was deliberate; it is where I drilled the entry point for the scroll saw blade. During the sanding process I smoothed out the hole and made it look like part of the design.

If you are wondering why you can see lines going around the box, unintentionally highlighting the laminated nature of its structure, it is because of the wood I used. I made the box from a support rail from my mother -in-law's bed, (there will be hell up if she finds out) and the pine had gone that orange colour that pine goes. I mistakenly thought it wouldn't show because I was sticking the pieces together but it just goes to prove how wrong one can be.

Here is a another picture with the drawers pulled out. They have dark insides because I used navy blue flocking on them. I'm pleased with the flocking because it is much simpler than using sticky backed felt and it looks better.
Overall, I'm very pleased with the end result but if I do another I will make a couple of modifications to make the box quicker to make. This will entail making a couple of changes to the design which will  make the sanding process quicker.

Firstly, I would change the contours around the drawers. The ones on this design are too tight to accommodate the narrowest drum on my bobbin sander. And secondly, I would remove two pieces which would reduce the depth of the box. This would mean that my bobbin sander would be able to do all the sanding from one end of the box.

I have just finished working on the design for a new box which will be more traditional in style, but adorned with a pyrography finish. I hope to show you that soon. Talking of pyrography I have just started work on a new trinket pot and it is going well. I will show you that in my next post.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Scroll saw box stage 4

Hi all,
Scroll sawing
In the last post I showed you how I went about sanding and gluing together all the box parts and the pieces that go to make up the drawers. Here is a picture of how it looks once that is done. Note that I have also made a couple of handles for the drawers out of bits of scrap walnut.

Special care needs to be taken when sawing small pieces of wood for the handles because you don't want to get your fingers too close to the saw blade. When I cut the handles for this box on my scroll saw, I held the wood in a pair of bull nosed pliers. Its a bit fiddly but I like my fingers and want to keep them in case I ever take up the piano.

 The next stage is to see how the drawers fit into the box and to do any sanding that is required. Take the minimum amount of wood off to just allow the drawers to open and close freely without snagging.

Here is a photo of the box now it is put together with the drawers fitted. The next task is to sand the outside to a pleasing shape and I will show you that in my next post.

In my last post I showed you a picture of the running hare that I'd drawn with a view to it being my next pyrography project. It described the shape of the hare in a number of elipses. Here is the finished hare after I burnt it into a maple plaque with my pyrography iron.

The result is quite pleasing but I think I should have made the dark parts even darker. The trouble is,  by the time I'd thought about it, I'd already given it 3 coats of varnish so it was too late. In the future I'm going to give all my work a couple of days grace before I do the finishing off.
By the way, if you are interested in the hare, I will be listing it in my Folksy shop in the next few days.