Thursday, 9 October 2014

Playing with pallets (again)

Everyone knows pallets are great,you can do so much with them,yes they may take a little extra work,but the end results can be brilliant and they are cheap (as in free) however more often than not they are made from pretty boring wood,which is okay for making chicken coops,tables and what ever else takes your fancy.

A little while ago one of our neighbours had some slate chips delivered on pallets (unsurprisingly) but rather than just strips of pine the wood on these pallets had a little character,so I asked if I could have them.

The reason I wanted them is because they were made from parawood (or rubberwood) and yes that is the same stuff you can buy as flooring,can't say I've ever seen pallets made from parawood before.

But it is quite nice to make things out of,like this -


A memory box I made for my wife,can you guess what it says ?

It can be a little tricky to work with on account of the wood being very roughly cut,it's not like stuff you can buy that’s been planed smooth,but it does have some interesting patterns and faults,which gives it a bit of character.

After I'd made the little box,I started to wonder what it would be like to turn some of it,which isn't quite as easy as it sounds,the blocks that pallets have are the best place to start,so after making sure I'd got all the nails out I made a few sets of tea light holders.

Here's the first set I made,which now sit on the sideboard in our front room,I quite like them,which is unusual for me as I'm my own worst critic.

 Tea light holders before -


Just blocks of wood,nothing to see here.

Tea light holders after -

They turned out quite nice,even if I do say so myself.

Now the blocks are pretty much ready made for turning,you don't have to do much,just stick them on the lathe and of you go,but what about something a little more creative?

As I like to experiment I decided I'd try gluing bits of wood together and see what happened,now this takes a little time as you have to wait for the glue to dry,so each block I made took 24 hours to make,I could have tried turning them sooner,but I didn't really fancy them flying apart on the lathe.

So from this (wood slices selected) - 


The tape is just to keep the wood in order.

To this (the wood glued and clamped together) -


I just used wood glue to stick the bits together.

And 24 and a bit hours later - 


Another set of tea light holders.

I'm quite pleased with them,they may not be everyone’s cup of tea,but as an experiment I think it worked out well,of course sticking bits of wood together and turning them isn't a new thing,but you can get some interesting results and it's always fun to experiment,I've seen some great things made from turned plywood,and just about everything in between.

Although it doesn't always work out,as this little vase / pen pot shows,I didn't want to waste the wood so I turned it anyway,but when I glued the bits together it wasn't all quite in line,so the slices were a bit skewed,but it's still quite nice,and it's given me another idea,that being what if I glue the bits together skewed on purpose and then turn it? 

The little vase / pen pot - 


Can you see where it's wonky?

It's fun to experiment,but be careful,especially when it comes to lumps of wood spinning at high speeds,I've been hit in the face before and whilst I only got a bruise for my troubles it still hurt,so take care,and if you happen to be in the market for some tea light holders,or anything else then check out my shop.

The Shed And Beyond Shop (Opens in new window)

Thanks for reading.



Homemade Thursday

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Plastic stencils...

If you have kids you'll know that these days the toys they all want for birthdays and Christmas all seem to come covered in plastic,I know the reason is most likely because the toys stand out when kids see them,then they'll plague their parents to buy them,but what to do with it?

When I was kid most toys came in boxes with nice pictures on them,seems they don't make packaging like they used,as well as everything else.

I'm not entirely sure you can recycle the stuff,although our local council have recently changed the rules as to what you can put in the recycling,but I've discovered it's quite useful.


This stuff -


I've got quite a stash of it.
I'm a hoarder of stuff,you know how it is,you look at something and think I’ll keep that because it'll come in useful,then you forget about it for a while,and then when you need something you'll come across it and think why did I keep that? I do this a lot (too much if you ask my wife)

As it turns out I've found a use for it,I had thought we'd use it for crafting in some way,but we haven't as yet and I needed a way of making some patterns (stencils) for various wood based projects,and this stuff is good for that,I'm sure I'm not the first person to figure this out.

What I did was to draw up the designs I wanted on graph paper,I was making some art deco type picture frames and wanted a quick way of replicating the patterns without having to measure them out every time.

So once I'd got my patterns worked out on paper I stuck them to the plastic with a bit of pva glue,and once it had dried I cut the patterns out,simple really don't know why I've never thought of doing this before.


Glued down and ready for cutting -


Just need a sharp knife and a ruler.


To cut them out I used craft knife (it has a very sharp blade) and a ruler to make sure I got the lines straight,the knife does need to be sharp,you can also use scissors,again as long as they are sharp,make sure you use a piece of wood or some kind of board to protect any surfaces,I use our wood chopping board for this type of thing.

I made a few and they all seem to be very good,the plastic is thick enough to give a good edge you can follow with a pencil,and as they are plastic they last a while,obviously the more they get used the quicker they'll wear out.


Simple to use - 


It means I get the same shape every time.

Here's one of the picture frames I made using a different stencil - 


Meet my wife's great grandparents.

I also had some wood turning to do,I've been making spools and again using these little stencils I can quickly mark up the wood and I'll get consistent results,it's not perfect,but it does save time.


Spool patterns cut out - 


These where little bit fiddly to cut out.

The idea is I can offer up the stencil to the wood and easily mark where I need to cut with a pencil,as I said it's not perfect,there are slight differences from spool to spool,but for the most part they are the same.


Marking out - 


The patterns are numbered as I made different sizes.


The end result - 


They turned out quite well,good job really I have a load more to make.

There's no reason you couldn't use this plastic to make stencils for painting on walls,furniture or just pictures of what ever takes you,Halloween is coming up,you could make a couple of pumpkin shaped ones for easy replication,I have plans for some more creative picture frames and making patterns from this will help a lot as the designs aren't something that's easily drawn onto wood.

I might have a root around to see what else I've kept,you never know I might actually find a use for it.

Thanks for reading.



Homemade Thursday

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Allotment update (it's autumn...ish)

A so it's September and the bulk of allotment based work is over for another year,yes there is still plenty to do over winter,but it's generally not as hectic as spring and summer.

It's been another good year for growing things,the weather has been better than last year,at least in this neck of the woods,we got started early,and it looks like we'll still be getting veg of some kind or other for a while yet if the weather holds.

We've done well in runner beans,so far we've harvested and frozen around 11kg and there's probably a few more to come.

In total we had 38.5kg of spuds,about twice what we had last year so that was good,fingers crossed for a good spud crop next year.

We've had other things,beetroot’s,kale,chard,corn and carrots and onions,although the onions didn't do too well and we still have some leeks and other stuff,like pak choi to come,but it's squashes that have done the best this year.


Lots of squashes as it happens -


This is what our kitchen currently looks like.

Yes we now have loads of squash type things lying about the kitchen waiting to be eaten,we have already eaten quite a few,and some (like the courgettes) have been turned into relish,which is good because there are still more growing.

We've got all sorts,patty pans,courgettes,pumpkins,winter squash,spaghetti squash,and it'll all get eaten eventually,we'll most likely make more relish,and the pumpkins will do for Halloween carving (not all of them mind) and then they'll be puréed and frozen,this will be the first year we've had to use the small chest freezer to store stuff as the one in the kitchen is now full (mostly with beans it has to be said) once we've finished we should have over 20kg (nearer 30kg) of pumpkin purée,good job we like soups and pumpkin pie.

I was sure I was going to get the last haul home in one go,my wheel barrow was a little full by the time I'd finished.


We're going to need a bigger barrow - 


Luckily we don't live too far away from the plot,it was a bit heavy.

Unpacked and ready for washing - 


Some good Halloween pumpkins in this lot.

Some of the pumpkins were still a bit green in this picture,I picked them mainly because the plants had started to die off,but since they've been on the kitchen window sill the skins have hardened up and they are more or less a nice orange colour,squashes will keep for some time once picked,just keep them in a cool dry place,we kept ours on the kitchen window sill last year as well,they were still good well into February,four or five months after being picked,pumpkins tend to go orange in the sun we've found,which is why we put the greener ones on the window sill.


Pak choi seem to be doing okay - 


Slugs don't seem that keen on them for some reason.

Corn should be ready to pick when we next visit - 


Coming along nicely.

I'm pleased with the corn,this year we've used only saved seeds and to be honest it seems to have done better than the shop bought seeds we've used in the past,I don't know if this is down to the weather or what,but we've got a much better yield,at least 40 cobs.


Stuff that needs doing before spring,well there's a few things we need to do,firstly moving the strawberry bed to the top of the plot,it's become a bit overgrown and needs dealing with.


Yes that really is a strawberry bed - 


There's some in there somewhere.

I've already started on raising the boundary between the two plot halves,but I have also got to sort out some wood for an asparagus bed which will then have the asparagus plants I've been growing at home put into it,although it won't be until the year after next before they can be harvested,the down side of growing asparagus from seed I guess.

I've also got to sort out some kind of edging for the path,then I can mulch it with the shredded garden waste I've got in bags at home,it's from our privet hedges and wood shavings from my wood working,it works well on the path,I just need to contain it a bit better,hence the edging.

Apart from harvesting the last few squashes and the other things,leeks,corn etc and keeping the weeds under control that's about it from the plot this year,I'm already starting to think about next year,luckily I've got plenty of wood related projects to keep me busy over winter.


Here's the plot last time we saw it -

Runner bean,the plant that keeps on giving...and giving.


Onwards to next year! and may all your growing exploits be fruitful.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Mini onager...

I have been meaning to write a post about the mini onager / catapults I made for some time,I actually made the first one last year as an experiment to see if I could make a small scale siege weapon,that would be a little easier to make than the others we've made.

There are some links to the other siege type weapons we've made at the bottom of this post and there's a short video of me making one of these (I was messing about with time lapse videos) and firing it in the garden as well.

Here are the finished onagers (one for each of the kids) -


Simple and cheap to make.

These are powered by a piece of slingshot elastic,but you could use large rubber bands,bungee cord or something like shock cord or indeed anything that's stretchy.

Construction is easy,it's basically a rectangle shaped frame with a few bits added for support and because these don't use the torsion bundle system like the larger onager we built,the throwing arm uses a pivot and a couple of bits of wood either side that act as guides,other wise the throwing arm would flap about all over the place,and even though these are small they can still give you a bit of a nip if you get your fingers in the wrong place.


Here's a picture with some of the parts marked - 


Click on the picture for a larger view.

These can be built in a similar way to the larger onager,but because of the pivot point I'd recommend making the frame first so that you can work out where you want the pivot point,and then drill it out before you make the other parts.


Quick diagram of the basic frame (sizes just for reference) -


There's no reason these can't be made much larger.

Once you've worked out how big the frame work will be and marked where you want the pivot to go you can take the 2 longest sides and drill straight through them both,this should mean the holes for the pivot will line up,I used a bit of 8mm dowel for the throwing arm to pivot on,but anything straight and round will do.


Below is a picture showing how the throwing arm pivots on the dowel - 


Simple but effective.

The guides either side of the throwing arm serve to keep it straight and they also help make sure it fires smoothly and doesn't twist,these aren't really needed but they do help keep everything in line when firing and they do seem to help with the accuracy of the onager.

To work out where to put the stop bar and other parts what I did with this and the larger onager is to work out the point at which the throwing arm is upright and at around 90 degrees to the frame work,from there you can mark the frame and work out where to put the stop bar etc,you'll also need to work out how long you want your throwing arm,I made mine about 20cm (8 inches) and from that I worked out the height at which to put the stop bar,which in my case is at about halfway up the throwing arm.

To stop the elastic from getting caught up and to keep it in line when it's loaded I've used some small eye hooks,this also gave me a point I can tie the elastic to,I also used an eye hook on the throwing arm to stop the elastic slipping down the arm when it's loaded.


Loaded - 


Ready for action.


Closer picture - 


There are other ways I could have done this,but this works.

The trigger is the same as the one I made for the larger onager,it basically uses 3 eye hooks and a pin and a length of string,again this one of a few ways a trigger could be made, but this works and it's simple to use.

What you use as a holder at the end of the throwing arm for your ammunition is what ever works I guess,you could use a sling type holder,like I've done with the larger onager,or a cup like I have used with the smaller onagers,I just used what I had lying about in my shed from various wood turning experiments,half the fun of making things like this is to experiment and see what works and what doesn't


The trigger (you can also see the eye hook that stops the elastic from slipping down the throwing arm) - 


Doesn't really need to be more complicated than this.

Video of it being assembled and fired - 




And that's about it really,these aren't super powerful,although it will depend on what you use as a power source,be it bungee cord or slingshot elastic,you can use variety of things as ammunition,I used a small ball of baking foil in the video,but almost anything will do,and I've since discovered that with a tweak to the elastic these are pretty good water balloon launchers.


Links to other siege type weapons we've made - 

How to make an onager (opens in new window)

How to make a trebuchet (opens in new window)

Hand held ballista (opens in new window)


Thanks for reading.


Saturday, 12 July 2014

Simple wooden picture frames...

As you may (or may not) know Game of Thrones has finished for another year,and while I'm waiting for the next series I decided to make a frame for my map of Westeros,which I got in the box set of books that my wife bought me for christmas (yes I've read the books as well) it's not hard to do,and I'm pleased with the end result.


Here's it is,in it's new place in the front room -


Winter is coming.

It was easy to make,although I did use a router,but there are other ways of doing this,the wood cost no more than about £2 the most expensive part of this was the clip frame I bought,which cost £3.50 I don't know how much a piece of glass would have cost,but the clip frame was cheap enough, I added some squares of wood to each corner with a Dire wolf burned into them for a bit of added interest.

I didn't take pictures while I was making this,but to give you a rough idea of how it's done I made a frame for a smaller clip frame,and there's no reason why you can't make picture frames for small photo's in the same way,and it's not just frames for pictures either.


Here's a clip frame - 


Nothing special,just a clip frame.

To make the wooden frame all I've done is to get some tile batten and using a router I've made a channel down the middle of the wood about 5mm in depth and wide enough to fit the glass and the board backing of the clip frame into.


Like so - 


A bit tricky to do,but a few clamps help.

There are a couple of ways you can go from here,you can have mitred corners (angled) or you can just butt the bits of wood up against each other.

If you go for mitred corners then what I did was mark the back of the clip frame,to help get the wooden parts of the frame in the right place,otherwise the mitres will have gaps in them.


Like so - 


It helps to have a guide.
You can see that I've marked out each corner at 45 degrees,and I've also marked down 5mm (ish) along each side and from these marks I got the measurements for the bits of wood I needed to cut.

To cut the bits of wood I used a mitre saw,these are great for small jobs like this,they can cut a variety of angles and are easy to use,and cheap to buy.


My mitre saw - 


It's served me well,could do with a new blade.

Here's one piece cut,you can see it almost lines up with my marks -


Close enough.

To fix the pieces together you can use screws,or glue and clamps,either way works,but if you use screws you'll be able to change the picture,if however you go for glue then that's it you won't be able to get things apart without damaging things,as I'm not bothered about changing the picture I went for glue on the map frame.


Screwing together - 


It's easy to fill the holes,a bit of dowel will do.

Gluing together with clamps -


Don't worry I haven't glued this one together without a picture.

Using clamps like these can be a bit tricky when it comes to getting things lined up,you can buy a special frame clamp that will make life easier or you can make one,there are various how to's online.


Here's the back of the clip frame complete with the wooden framing - 


You get the idea?

If you don't have a router there is a little cheat, find some tongue and groove,you should be able to use the groove side to fit the clip frame into,you'll obviously need to cut the wood to size,but it does work.


Here's the glass from a clip frame in a piece of match board - 


Perfect fit.

In fact this is how I made the front of my wife's wedding anniversary present - 


Joins could have been neater.

If you don't fancy trying mitred corners you can just butt the bits of wood up against each other,in some cases this maybe more appealing,but I guess it depends on your tastes.


Easy way of doing things - 


More of a rustic feel,I may do this on the next one I make.

It's not just picture frames you can use this for,I made a cupboard for our keys in a similar way,only instead of glass I used a piece of thin plywood that I cut a heart shape into,and I also made a box for my son to keep some of his fossils in,kind of like a display case,I used the glass from another clip frame for this as well,I think they turned out well and they are cheap and easy to make.


The key cupboard - 

I like it,so does my wife,everyone’s a winner

The fossil display case - 


Keeps the fossils safe and shows them off.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, 11 July 2014

Allotment update (first harvest of 2014)

After the hard work keeping the weeds at bay comes the good bit,harvesting the stuff you've grown,it's then you discover that the aches and pains from the digging,weeding and everything else have all been worth it.

We dug our first lot of spuds up in June (this post is a bit late) and despite the plants looking a bit sorry for themselves we actually got a good haul of new spuds,12kg in fact,which is 3kg more than last year.


Spuds -

Not bad,should last a while.

I've already filled the hole where the spuds were with this years sweetcorn,and it won't be long before some of the other stuff can be dug up,like the carrots and possibly some of the onions.


Sweetcorn planted - 


More plants than last year.

Fingers crossed we'll get a crop of corn,these plants are all grown from seeds we saved from last years crop,kind of experimental maybe,but it'll interesting to see what happens.

We've also picked the broad beans and although we didn't get quite as much as last year this is because we've picked the beans a bit earlier while they are still smallish,even so we've still got over 2kg of broad beans,which have now been blanched and put in the freezer (by my lovely wife) for the winter,they are very good in stews.



Shelled broad beans ready for blanching -


Very tasty,and good for you.


I enlisted the help of some bean picking elves to help with harvesting -


Get yourself some picking elves,they come in handy.


The pea harvest was a bit of a non starter really, we got enough for a meal,but we would have had much more if it wasn't for the rodents,yes we've had a bit of a rodent problem on the site this year,we're not the only ones having issues with the furry buggers,and it has to be said some people aren't helping by giving the rats and mice places to hide,but enough about that.


Some of the squash plants are starting to show signs of fruits,hopefully the rodents won't get too them,we'll have to make sure they don't.


Baby squashes,they'll soon get big (if they don't get eaten) - 


I'm hoping for some large pumpkins this year.

And here's everything we got on the kitchen table,there's some rhubarb and a couple of beetroot's,but we've got more on the way,and even though we've got slightly less of some things we had extra spuds,and I guess that in years gone by this is something farmers and gardeners of old would have had to adapt to.


The harvest so far - 


Can't beat home grown veggies.


There's plenty more going on at the plot,and the council have seen fit to change the rules again so there's that to get to grips with as well,it's all good fun.


Thanks for reading.