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.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Homemade pantograph...

Recently I found myself in need of a way of enlarging a smallish item for a project (which I haven't actually got round to yet) my son has a number of those 3D wooden models, all of which are dinosaurs and I decided that I'd use some of the odd plywood off cuts I have lying about to make a large skull in the same style as the models.

The problem was getting the template to the right size, the template in this case is just a section of skull from one of his models.

Template -

He has loads.

It's a pretty simple shape, but I wanted it to be bigger, around a4 size the problem was how to get it to the size I wanted ?

So I made a pantograph (well I actually I made two, I'll get to why later) which is basically an old way of enlarging or shrinking images, artists and planners have been using them for years (since about 1600) yes I could have scanned the template and printed it out to the sizes I wanted, but to be honest this was quicker and printer ink isn't as cheap as wood.

Here's the second one I made - 

This one worked much better than the first.

Why did I make two ? simple really the first one wasn't as good as it could have been, it did work but due to some mistakes I made every enlarged image was slanted (think italic writing) and not what I was after, simply put I didn't take enough time on it and as a result it wasn't good enough, so I did more research and took my time with the second one and got a much better result, patience is a virtue.

The first one - 

Close but no cigar.

As you can see there is a difference between the two, but both are made in a similar way from strips of pine about 25mm wide and 7mm thick (left over from a project) the main difference being where they are connected and pivot.

So ignoring the first effort here's how I made the second one, I cut five strips of wood four to make up the pantograph frame and one so that I could clamp it to the table.

Here's a cut list, allow an extra 50mm on each piece for fixing -

Click to make bigger.

Here's what it should look like when done (red dots are where fixings go) - 

Click to make bigger.

Once you've cut your wood you should have five pieces, two at around 55cm long one at 35cm long, one at 25cm long and a short piece for clamping (around 15cm is fine) next you need to drill holes for fixings, on one of the longest pieces put a mark at 2.5cm and then measure 20cm along from that and put another mark then from that mark measure 30cm and make another mark, this is where you'll need to drill holes.

You can just tape the two longest pieces together to save putting marks on each bit, for the shorter pieces again measure down 2.5cm and mark, then measure another 30cm and mark and do the same for the shorter piece, measure down 2.5cm and mark then another 20cm and mark.

When you have your marks sorted then drill holes, I used a smallish drill bit (5mm) in my post drill to keep the holes nice and straight although you can do it with any drill, just keep the holes as straight as possible, once that's done fix the pieces together so it looks like the diagram above, I used small nuts and bolts, it's also a good idea to use some washers between the pieces of wood for smoother movement.

Nuts and bolts from a pound shop - 

Useful for all kinds of things.

I made some small plastic washers from a section of milk container using a homemade cutter, which is just a bit of steel tube with one end sharpened, a good tip is to drill holes in the plastic to the size you want and then cut them out, it's a nightmare trying to make small holes in small bits of plastic.

Homemade washers - 

Recycling is always good.

For the pencil holder I used one of my wood threading kits to make an adjustable holder from a bit of old dowel and plywood.

Making the pencil holder - 

You don't need a lathe for this, just a wood threading kit.
I turned a bit of dowel down to the right size and then put a thread on it, so it was like a wooden bolt, next I cut a section from the dowel so I had a flat edge for fixing to the pantograph frame, I also drilled a hole roughly the size of a pencil through the bit I cut a thread into.

Notch cut - 

I just used a coping saw.

For the part that will clamp the pencil I took a bit of old plywood which is good for this kind of thing and drilled a hole and using the wood thread kit made what is basically a wooden nut.

Making the nut, thread cutting - 

A bit of linseed oil makes for a smoother cut.

Marked and ready to cut out - 

I cut it out roughly.

Once I had the nut part cut out roughly I screwed it onto the bolt part and turned it until it was smooth(ish) and round, all this could be done without a lathe, but you would need a thread cutting kit.

The finished pencil holder - 

It works well.

The tracer is a piece of threaded bar with one end sharpened to a point and held in place with a couple of nuts, I made it slightly longer than it needed to be to allow for adjustments.

The tracer - 

Simple but effective.

I also made some small wooden feet to raise the frame up a bit this makes the movement of the whole thing much smoother when tracing, they're just bits of dowel stuck to the frame work and not essential.

Wooden feet - 

The feet are made from a scrap piece of dowel.

To stop it moving about a simple clamp is all that's needed to hold it down, this is where the short piece of wood comes in, it allows the pantograph to pivot but doesn't allow it to slide about all over the place.

The clamp - 

You could make a more permanent clamp.

And that's it, it works well and does exactly what I want it to, you can also use it for shrinking images as well if you use it in reverse (switch the pencil and tracer around) I did have to trace the image a couple of times to get it to the size I want, but this isn't a problem, obviously if I made it bigger the scaling factor would be bigger.

Success, no slanted images and the size I want and all from scrap bits of wood - 

Near perfect replication and to the size I want.

Thanks for reading.