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.

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.