Thursday, 22 September 2016

I've been making tealight holders again...

It's well known that I will attempt to turn any old bit of wood I can mount on my lathe, recently I turned a couple of bits of pallet (there's a surprise) into tealight holders.

Here they are (all fourteen of them) -

As you can see they have cracks and nail holes and various other faults, some people like this kind of 'character' others don't but each to there own and I guess that's my point when it comes to turning.

I've been turning for a while and I've come across a certain shall we say snobbery when it comes to wood and turning, there are a lot of people who'll only turn stuff bought in as blanks, and then only certain types of wood, usually the more decorative stuff, like Zebra wood or Bubinga.

But I say all wood (no matter how depressed) deserves a chance, and I think that even the roughest piece of wood can look great if treated with a bit of care.

So here is what the tealights looked like before I started - 

Not the best pieces of wood in the world.

This a good starter project if you've just started turning, all I did was measure the width of the wood, and then measure out lengths the same size as the width, which gave me cubes of wood to work with, and I then marked the centre of each cube.

Wood marked, ready for cutting - 

You can just about make out the marks.

Once I'd cut all my blocks (I had fourteen to play with in the end) it was on to drilling out a hole so I could mount them onto my chuck.

Blocks cut and marked - 

More of the faults are visible after cutting.
Now on to mounting the blocks for turning, if you have an expanding chuck this is easy, using a 35mm forstner bit I cut out a small hole in each block, and then it's just a matter of sticking the block onto the jaws and tightening the chuck, you could also use a small screw chuck.

Mounting hole - 

Time to turn.

Block on the lathe ready for turning - 

Nice large crack bit of character in this one.

Now before I start turning I should point out that I've left the hole in the bottom of each tealight and turned out another hole for the actual candle, you could however just use a forstner bit or a spade bit and make a hole large enough for a tealight (around 40mm) and use that to mount the block, but sometimes I like to leave the mounting holes and such like on a piece, again this is something some people frown upon. 

And rather than leave just a hole in the bottom of each tealight holder I've turned a small three ringed detail into each one, I started adding three concentric rings to things I'd turned years ago for no other reason than it seemed like a good idea and now it's kind of stuck, and so I try to incorporate three concentric rings into every thing I turn where possible.

Here's a before and after type picture of a block and a finished tealight holder - 

I think they look good.

And here's another picture of the finished tealights again, the reason (in case you are wondering) why two are different from the rest is because one piece of wood split and a chunk came out and there wasn't enough wood left to turn a ball shape, so I made two straight ones, the perils of using gnarly bits of wood.

All done - 

And before I go here's a picture of a pen pot I made for my wife, from the top part of an old newel post, all I need to do now is figure out what to do with the rest of it.

Pen pot - 

It works well as a pen pot.

Any ideas ? - 

I have a few ideas.
Lastly here a short video of me making a tealight holder, some parts are sped up - 

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Chuck recycling...

I'm a habitual hoarder of things, I actually have a small three drawer unit in my shed that's full of stuff that 'might be useful in the future' so basically I keep a lot of crap stuff with potential  lying about, and needless to say I have a few old chucks that needed new purpose so I made handles for them and turned them into tool holders for turning wood.

Finished tool holders.
It's pretty simple to do really and you could easily do this without a lathe, all I've done is to turn handles for the chucks from the legs of an old stool.

Making the second one - 

Removed the bits I didn't need.
The black chuck is from a flexible drive shaft, I mainly use them for sanding pieces on the lathe, but every now and then they break and I tend to keep the chucks for things such as this.

Once I'd removed the old bearings (which I kept of course) all it needed was a handle, this was made easier because of the piece of drive shaft left on the back of the chuck, all I did was to turn a handle from an old stool leg.

I found a piece that was a nice size for my hand - 

That'll do nicely.

Handle turned roughly - 

I left the old pegs in, it adds a nice feature to the handle.

Now to fit the chuck - 

First hole drilled.

Fitting the chuck into the wood is an easy task, all I've done is to drill two holes, the first matches the smaller section of the shaft left on the chuck, the second hole matches the thicker part of the chuck.

The chuck up close - 

Note the handy hole.

I made the respective holes slightly smaller than needed and then with the lathe spinning I pushed the chuck into the wood the friction causes the inside of the holes to burn slightly and this helps to keep things nice and tight.

This chuck also had a useful hole in it, this I've used to push a split pin through so that the chuck won't spin inside the wood.

For this tool holder I used a piece of 22mm copper tube to make a ferrule for the end, to stop the wood from splitting, this was done by cutting a piece of the pipe and sliding it onto the handle.

Ferrule cut, needs tidying - 

A bit wonky, but we can clean that up on the lathe.

Ferrule fitted and tidied up - 

Looks much better.

And that is about it really, I used some two part epoxy glue to hold the chuck and the ferrule in place, although I've kept things quite tight so I could have not used the glue but I figured it wouldn't hurt.

I drilled through the ferrule on both tools holders so that I can use a split pin to stop any twisting as these make handy screw driver bit holders as well as turning tool holders.

Here's one and some of the adapted Allen key turning tools - 


I've found these little tool holders to be quite versatile, handy as a screw driver as well as a turning bit holder and all from stuff I had lying bout, I have used this tool recently to turn some captive rings which you can read about here - captive ring tool (opens in new window) the plan now is to make a few more bits for turning, small scrapers and such like.

These could easily be made without a lathe and if you're like me you're bound to have enough bits lying about to make something similar, so why not give and old chuck a new lease on life?

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Homemade moth trap...

We like to spend a lot of time in and around all things nature, be it the local woods (we have a few) the beach and anywhere in between and one of the things we like to look at are moths, the problem however is that most moths (not all) fly at night so we usually try to attract some using a sheet and a light, this doesn't always have a lot of success, so we built an upgrade.

Here's the old sheet and light bulb (it's not the best, but it does work) -

Doesn't get anymore basic.
What we've done is to build what is known as a 'Skinner moth trap' you can buy these and various other types of trap, but we managed to knock one up using things we had lying about, so our cost nothing, not a single penny (to build anyway) it's basic so can be built easily no matter what diy skills you may or may not have.

Here's the finished trap set up and waiting for it to get dark - 

Basic indeed, why the egg boxes? read on.

It's basically a wooden box, in our case made from what was left of our daughters old wardrobe, we've recently (after three years of looking) bought her an old antique one, this seemed as good a way as any of recycling the old one.

The glass was from an old fish tank which I broke, most traps of this type use perspex, but we were building it as cheaply as possible, and the glass is toughened which is handy.

The bulb holder and wire I had lying about in the shed and the bulb is just an energy saving one, you can however buy lighting kits (that use mercury vapour bulbs) online specifically designed for fitting to your own moth traps, these can be pricey though, but may yield better results.

Sides roughly marked up - 

The diagonal lines are where the glass will go.

All you need to do is make a box with four sides and a base, we had to make this to a set size because of the glass, so we went with a box just wide enough to fit the glass in, if you use perspex you can always cut it to size.

The glass just sits at a 45 degree angle (roughly) so all that you need to add to the box is a couple of wooden blocks to stop the glass falling into it and to create a gap at the bottom, so it's basically a funnel, the idea being the moths will see the light and then fall into to the trap.

Wooden stoppers to hold the glass - 

Rough, but they work.

Stoppers and glass in place - 

Just needs a base.

For the light I used a random fitting I had lying about, this I fixed to a wooden bar that runs across the trap, it also acts as a carrying handle, the flex for the light runs under the bar and over the side.

Fitting the light - 

You can see where the glass stops a little clearer.

Testing, testing - 

Let there be light.

And that was it, as I said it's basic and as it's hobbled together from essentially scrap material it cost nothing, the only other you'll need is some egg boxes to put inside it, this gives the moths good places to hide, we did also fix a black umbrella to one side of the trap, this was to diffuse the light shining into windows as we didn't want to upset the neighbours.

I haven't put sizes because I worked to the glass sheets I had, and if you're not confident with wiring then you can either buy a kit or you can buy clip on light fittings so all you'll need is a bulb, we used a low energy bulb mainly because they are cheap to run, and they aren't as bright as incandescent ones.

Did it work ? well yes, although we didn't catch much, but weather conditions may have been a factor and we do have a lot of bats that fly over the garden, that and the fact that dad accidentally let the ones in the trap go before we got a good look at them, but we did manage to get a picture of one moth we caught.

Here it is, it's one we haven't seen before - 

Ennomos alniaria - Canary-shouldered Thorn moth.

If you don't fancy building a moth trap you can try baiting (sugaring) guides can be found online, lots of flowering plants in your garden will also attract moths, moths are pollinators, we usually get loads on our buddleia plants (especially the white ones) and failing that keep an eye out for caterpillars roaming about, you can take them home and watch them change or let them go we currently have two large species in the pupal stage.

Lasiocampa quercus - Oak Eggar moth.

Caterpillar - 


Pupal stage - 

Cocoon also fuzzy.

Mimas tiliae - Lime Hawk moth.

Caterpillar - 

Kind of sausage like.

Pupal stage - 

The dried up thing on the left is what's left once it turns into a chrysalis.

I wrote a post a few years back on 'The Humble moth'  there are pictures of a Lime hawk moth we hatched out, along with an Angle shade moth in that post.

And if you do find any bugs and you're not sure what it might be then uksafari is a good site for identifying bugs of all kinds and for moths specifically we've found this site useful Ukmoths

We will be putting the trap out again soon, which is the good thing about it, it's easy to set up and leave for a few hours, just bare in mind that the lights are bright but you can shield the light easily with a sheet or put the trap at the bottom of the garden so as to not upset your neighbours.

And always let the moths go when you're finished looking at them, it's also advisable to not use the trap two or more days in a row, leave it a good few days between using it.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Turning captive rings...

lately I've decided I should have a go at turning some pieces with captive rings, the only problem was I don't have a tool for turning captive rings, so I made a rough one from an old chisel, and one from an allen key.

Here's a goblet I made with a captive ring -

This was my third attempt at a captive ring.
Technically you don't need a special tool (which can be quite pricey) for turning captive rings, you can make one quite easily and if you look online you can find numerous different ways of making tools that will do the job.

I made mine from an old wood chisel which cost £1, all I've done is to sort of mimic the way a captive ring tool looks, which is kind of like a chisel with a hole drilled into it.

Here's my cheap chisel - 

Now for a bit of shaping.

To get the shape all I did was ground out a hole into the end of the chisel using a small grinding bit in my multi-tool and created a kind of hook shape.

One captive ring tool - 

Didn't take long to do.

And that's about it, now it's not perfect and needs some tweaking but I am able to turn things with captive rings quite easily all be it small pieces, for larger pieces it's just as easy to use a small gouge as you have more room to work.

Here's what I meant about it not being perfect, it's not sharp enough - 

The inside is very rough.

As you can see it leaves quite a ragged inside to the ring, and as I've discovered it's not that easy sanding the inside of the rings, at least not on small pieces.

The other thing I've tried is grinding the short end of an allen key to give is sharp edges and using that held in a chuck with a handle, this so far is much better as I can get right behind the ring, even on small pieces and I'm able to get much sharper edges on the allen key than I can with the modified chisel, probably due to the steel being better.

Here's one of my holders made from an old hand drill chuck - 

Quite versatile as it happens.

Here's a goblet I made using an allen key held in a chuck to make the rings - 

A vast improvement on others I've made.

So far I've made seven pieces with captive rings (and I need more practice) the latest being a fairly large goblet with two rings made from a piece of ash I chose for it's cracks and imperfections, you can watch the short video (about nine minutes, no sound) of me at various stages of turning, or if not just skip to the end of this post for the picture.

Video - 

Finished goblet - 

I'm pleased with it.
It's not the best way of doing things, but it works for me and it's something I intend to tweak and make better, it's always worth seeing if you can make your own tools, shop bought turning tools can be expensive and more often than not you can make something that works just as well for a lot less and I feel it gives you a better understanding of how things work.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Allotment update - May to July...

And so how time flies, it's now almost the end of July and things are moving along at a fair rate although it did take while for things to get going, so here's what's been going on since April.

Here's the plot as of the 7th of May -

Not too bad.
Things are starting to happen, including the usual weed growth, but this year we haven't been quite so ruthless with removing them, instead we've been letting them grow up a bit and then cutting them back and allowing the cuttings to rot down.

We noticed the soil isn't a good as as it could be so this year as well as cutting the weeds back and then digging it all in we are going to have a go with some green manure to help improve the soil, it's always good to try new things.

The relocated Rhubarb is doing okay in it's new spot - 

Well it hasn't died so that's good.

The strawberries are growing some flowers - 

You can't beat freshly picked strawberries.

The Asparagus is starting to grow as well, although it did bolt (as you will see) - 

It's taken a while to grow from seed.

Broad beans showing signs of life - 

A few haven't germinated.
Spuds are sprouting as well - 

Here's to hoping for some nice spuds.

So apart from general weeding and tidying up not much else happened in May, we did more digging over and we also added another water butt to the shed for extra water storage.

More water storage - 

It's a bit of a squeeze.

And that was May done with, here's how we left the plot - 

Ready for next time.

A few weeks later it was June and here's what greeted us - 

More weeds to deal with.

The main jobs this time were to contain the weeds (as usual) and then prepare the ground for some corn and squash plants, so out with the fork and rake and off to work we go.

Corn plants in - 

Looking a bit better now.

Squash plants in - 

Almost all the plot is planted up now.

And that's how we left the plot, we've planted two lots of corn, the main crop being Wilkinsons sweetcorn (Incredible F1) the second lot of corn is from seed we saved and then sowed directly into the ground as an experiment.

We've planted a mix of squashes, courgette (Black beauty), patty pan (Unwins patty pan mix), pumpkin (Johnsons Rocket f1), Wilkinsons pumpkin (Jack o lantern), Wilkinsons butternut squash (hawk f1), Johnsons world kitchen round courgette and various squashes from saved seeds.

So onto July, and as you can see things have taken off some what - 


So the main job is weeding, to be honest it wasn't actually that bad and didn't take us long to do and once that was done we had a look at what the plants were doing.

The spuds I threw into the compost were growing quite well, so we left them and will dig them out when they're ready.

Spuds in the compost - 

Extra veg is always good.

Raspberries growing - 

Summer raspberries.
It's good the raspberry plants on the plot are fruiting as this means we'll get raspberries for longer than usual, we have a load of autumn fruiting plants in the garden at home.

Rhubarb seems to like it's new spot - 

Ready for picking.

As I mentioned we had sown some saved sweetcorn seeds directly into the ground and they have grown well, just as well as the ones we started off in the green house in fact.

Small sweetcorn patch - 

Could do with weeding.

Here's the other patch of sweet corn (started off in the greenhouse) - 

It's about the same height as the corn sown directly.

Nice fresh strawberries for picking - 

Mice have left them alone this year.

Remember the Asparagus ? - 

It bolted.

As you can see the asparagus bolted, but we're okay with this as next year the crowns will be bigger and we'll get more of a crop, and plus we'll now have more seed with which to start growing more.

Onions doing well, for a change - 

There be onions here !
We have already been harvesting various things from the plot, we've had strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries, turnips, and both round and normal courgettes and there's still a lot of things to be harvested including the spuds, onions, garlic, shallots, chard, more turnips, more rhubarb and there are a load more squashes growing and various other things.

So despite the slow start to the year things are going well, some things failed to germinate, but we've been able to sow more, we did also lose a few squash plants, but again we started more off and those are now in the ground playing catch up so it's not too bad, and we've started off some more veg for over wintering in the greenhouse at home.

The plot as of 25th of July, less weeds and more veg - 

A productive plot.

So until next time intrepid growers, thanks for reading.