Thursday, 4 February 2016

Kids stocking fillers part 2 - Skittles.

I figured I'd better get this post done before the start of allotment season, so on to the second thing I made for the kids Christmas stockings (yes I know it's a bit late)

The finished article (again I made two of them) - 

All done.

I made the skittle sets in much the same way as the noughts and crosses boards, I used squared paper to work out where everything was going to go.

Marking out complete - 

I tried a few layouts before this one.

As with the noughts and crosses boards I laid the paper over the wood and marked the points with a scribe, once that was done it was onto cutting and drilling out holes, I used a forstner bit just slightly bigger than the dowel I planned to use for pins.

Holes drilled - 

Spot the mistake.
I ended up having to make another board because I drilled the holes too deep, so deep in fact that I couldn't knock the pins over with the ball, so remember not to drill the holes too deep if you make one, although it does add an extra level of difficulty to the game.

You can use any layout you like, and you can also add more pins or use less pins, I wasn't going for a traditional layout, just one that worked.

I had to add an extra piece of wood for the post the ball swings from, it didn't sit well in the hole I drilled, with the extra bit of wood it was more stable.

Extra support for the post - 

I used wood glue to fix it down.

The post that the ball swings on it just a piece of dowel, again you could use any size you see fit, I then drilled a hole through the dowel and fixed a thinner bit into the hole.

Posts done - 

Simple enough.

I used dowel for the pins as well, I just cut them with a 45 degree angle at the top, I had thought about turning a load of pins, but didn't really have the time, and besides this way is easier and doesn't require a lathe, I used a stencil to mark the numbers and then burned them into the wood so they don't rub off.

Pins - 

Obviously I made nine for each board.

I used a small eye screwed into the smaller piece of dowel for the string and ball to swing from, these can be bought for about 50 pence a pack, they're normally used with curtain wire, but they do well for things like this.

Eye eye - 

It works well.

For the balls I roughly turned a bit of scrap wood into sort of a ball shape, but you could just drill a hole through a bit of dowel, or use a bit of clay on some string.

Wrecking balls ? -

You could also use a drill press to make some balls.

And that's about it, I gave everything a good sand and then a generous coating of Danish oil, but you could just as easily paint them in what ever colours you like, I made the two sets from scrap wood I had laying about, but you should be able to buy everything to make at least two sets for under £5.

These like the noughts and crosses are an easy make, easy enough for kids to do as a project, and they are cheap as well as fun to play with, I do have plans to make a giant set for the kids to use in the garden in summer.

Skittles again - 

Fun for kids and adults.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Kids stocking fillers part 1 - 0's & X's

This is the first part of two makes I did for the kids stocking fillers for Christmas just gone, both makes are made from scrap wood I had lying about and they are both really easy to make, and obviously as I have two kids I made two lots of each thing.

The first is a small noughts and crosses game made from a piece of an old pine shelf and some cut up sections of a hardwood spindle.

Here's the finished article -

Quick and simple to make.
I marked out the game board using some squared paper, this is good way of making an easy to use template for simple things like this.

The game board template - 

Speeds things up a bit.

Once I'd made the template I laid it over the piece of wood I chose for the game board and using a scribe I marked the four corners of the board so I knew where to cut, and then the centres of the circles, these were to be drilled out so the game pieces fit into the board.

Using a forstner bit I drilled out the nine holes for the game pieces, then I cut nine slices from an old hardwood spindle, the combination of light and dark woods makes for a nice contrast.

Holes drilled out and game counters cut - 

Onto the x's & o's

To make the noughts (0's) I marked the centre of some of the hardwood slices, then drilled through them with a small forstner bit, for the crosses (x's) I made another template and pinned it to a piece of scrap wood I'd made a hole in, the hole was just big enough to hold one of the hardwood slices.

Template for the crosses (x') - 

Simple enough.

I then used the template to mark four points on some of the hardwood slices - 

It's not that accurate, but it works.
Once I'd marked up some of the hardwood slices I then set about joining the marks up to make crosses in the wood, I used the scrap bit of wood to hold the slice in my bench vice, so as not to mark the wood on the sides, then using a small saw I cut a cross into the wood and made it bigger using a small needle rasp.

Like so - 

Not quite central, but it looks like a cross.

And that's about it, apart from sanding and then a couple of coats of Danish oil the noughts and crosses games were done, besides waiting for the oil to soak into the wood it didn't take very long to make the two game boards and their pieces.

All done, just need some oil - 

Almost ready for wrapping.
A simple and inexpensive stocking filler, even if you had to buy the materials you should be able to find a flat bit of pine and some thickish dowel for a few pounds (it's worth looking in off cut bins at the local diy shop) you could always make it a small project for the kids to make themselves.

They do look better with a bit of oil, paint would work just as well - 

All done.
And if wood work isn't your thing (or even if it is) why not try your hand at a bit of sewing, my wife made these soft toys for the kids stockings, I think they turned out great and the kids love them.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Last allotment update of the year...

So that's it for another year, well a few months anyway, the weather is getting colder, certainly windier where we are, not much is growing now.

It's been a mixed year for us veg wise, we haven't had as much from the plot this year, but some of that was due to rodents and other things like the weather, we lost all our sweet corn, it got eaten, it was there one day and pretty much gone the next, the little buggers had the strawberries as well.

Exhibit 'A' your honour -

At least some one enjoyed it...

On the plus side our Asparagus seems to be doing well, it's been cut back now, but it has grown a fair bit and we'll maybe get some to eat next year, it's taken a while raising the plants from seed, but so far it's going well.

Asparagus - 

The picture was taken at the end of summer.
Spuds did well this year, we've had around 40 kg of spuds, double the amount we had last year, we also did well for beetroot which my wife was happy about (I can't stand the stuff) we got a fair amount of squash type veg, not as big as last year, but enough to keep us going for a while.

Some beetroot, spuds and beans - 

A small selection of what we ended up with.

We put two broad bean crops in, the idea being one we'd eat and the second we'd half eat and then save the rest for the seeds, the rodents got them too, they have been an ever present menace this year affecting some on the site worse than others.

Some of the squashes we got, some of which have been eaten or turned into things ready to be eaten, this year we grew some round courgettes, we only planted a few and they don't seem to put out as much as a normal courgette plant but they were very tasty.

Courgettes and other squashes - 

Round courgette to the left of the picture, lighter green than normal courgettes.

The round courgettes are good for stuffing, just open them up, like you would a pumpkin and scoop out the insides then fill with whatever takes your fancy and roast for a bit, very tasty, stuff you've grown yourself always seems to taste better.

Dinner - 

A great use for a round courgette.

My wife did the cooking, she used sausage meat, onions and garlic and some other things and the topped it with cheese and roasted it, tasted great and they are a nice size for one person as well.

And of course we still have a pile of squashes for eating through winter, some have been turned into relish and some have been turned into purée (pumpkin) for pies and soups.

Future meals - 

You don't have to keep your squashes in a cat bed.

And that as they say is that, another year done, I have some concerns about the soil on the plot, so over winter and into spring I'll be trying to improve it a bit, maybe invest in some manure and such like and no doubt there will be loads of small jobs to get done before growing starts next year, we still have some things in the ground, like leeks and swedes, but for the most part the plot is being left alone for a few months, I'll cut back any weeds and let them rot down, this may also help the soil a bit.

So for now we'll say bye to the plot and see you in the spring - 

Soon be time to start again.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

All hail the sin bin...

Most diy type stores have an area or a crate where they put damaged things, or random bits of wood, I (for reasons I'm not entirely sure off) refer to them as the sin bins, probably has something to do with what goes into them looking like mistakes made when cutting things for customers and such like.

I always look in them, sometime the bits of wood are free, some times they might cost 50 pence or maybe as much as a pound, they are handy if you're looking for a small bit of wood for a project, although sometimes you do find things like garden chairs in them, so it's well worth a look.

Most recently I came across a piece of Oak, which I rescued, most of the time these shops will just skip anything that's been lying around for too long at least this way there's one less bit of wood going to landfill or on a bonfire.

Here's the bit of Oak -

Any ideas what to do with it ?
Not much to say about it really, it's a random bit of Oak, about two feet long, I thought at first it was a bit of flooring, but it has no grooves or tongues and typically doesn't have any of the signs of it being a bit of flooring, so I have no idea what it was, or where it came from as the shop in question doesn't appear to sell anything like this.

What to do with it ? well there are numerous things you could do with it, make some book ends, coasters, a nice shelf for some plants maybe ? I however went for the easiest thing, cut it in half and make a couple of chopping boards.

All I did was measured it and marked the centre, then rather than cut straight through I made a kind of curved design and used my scroll saw to cut it out, bit more interesting than a plain old rectangle.

Centre and curves marked - 

Now for cutting.

Once I'd cut the boards I gave them both a good sanding and made a hole in each one so they can be hung up easily.

Cut and sanded - 

The shape reminds me of a bird.
Now for some oil, as these are meant for chopping and will come into contact with food I've used pure Tung oil, it brings out the colour and grain of the wood, it's highly water resistant (more so than other oils) which is great for use in the kitchen, it's much less likely to go mouldy like Linseed oil can, and it's safe for food use.

Although you do have to be careful as not all Tung oils are the same, some have had things added to them, like solvents so read the labels carefully, it's also used to make Danish oil, one other thing to remember with Tung oil is that it takes a while to dry, even after a couple of days I was still getting traces of oil on my hands after touching the boards.

Tung oil - 

You can buy it online or in your local diy type shops.

One board coated in oil, looks much nicer than the bare wood one - 

Almost done.

And after about a week of waiting for the oil to fully dry I had two nice very usable chopping boards, Oak is very hard wearing and using the Tung oil means these boards will last a long time, not bad for a bit of wood that may have ended up on a bonfire or on a land fill site going to waste, all it took was some cutting and sanding to give it a new use, so 'All hail the sin bin'

The finished boards - 

Added a bit of leather cord for hanging.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Smelly wooden pumpkins...

It's that time of year when I'm left with less to do gardening wise at least, the allotment has wound down, the garden as well, I do have a load of jobs to do over the winter in the garden in the shape of some trellis for training fruit trees and other plants, I also plan to build a seated arbour for the bottom of the garden, but as for growing things, not much is going on so I'm now working through some of the other things I've been wanting to do, one of which is make some wooden pumpkins for Halloween.

To be honest I'm not sure they are very pumpkin like, but they look okay and they have the added bonus of being smelly, I shall explain.

The pumpkins -

Pumpkin ish ?

I made them from an old fence post, I haven't finished them as well as I usually do, as I was trying to retain a kind of rough / rustic sort of look, they were easy enough to make.

I took an old fence post and cut some blocks from it - 

Blocks cut and centres marked.

I drilled a hole in the centre for mounting onto my lathe using a woodworm screw - 

Ready for the lathe.

Block mounted and ready for turning - 

These are rough and ready pumpkins.

As you can see I haven't taken too much care, and to be honest the wood wasn't great but didn't cause any major problems.

After a minute or two of turning - 

Sort of pumpkin shaped ?

After a bit more turning and a bit of a sand - 

Ready for a bit of detail.

At this point it kind of looks like an onion, to make the lines that pumpkins have I used a couple of needle files to make some grooves into the wood, I did try using my multi-tool with a small sanding drum on it, but I thought the grooves where too wide, you can tell which one it is in the picture at the top of this post, after I'd made the grooves I used a bit of sand paper to smooth things out a bit.

Needle files - 

Easy to use and cheap to buy.

Grooves started - 

Slightly less like an onion ?

Grooves done - 

Almost done.

Once I'd done the main part of the pumpkin I gave it a quick coat of Teak oil and then it was onto the stalk, to make this I raided my supply of random sticks and twigs, I chose some twisted willow as this looked more stalk like.

Stick chosen - 

Just needs a bit of trimming.

I cut the stick where it branched off into two parts, then trimmed it a bit, the next thing to do was sand one end of the stick so that it made a kind of stopper shape, this I figured was an easy way to hide the hole that was left from mounting the wood on the lathe.

Trimmed - 

One stalk.

Sanded and now ready to be a stopper - 

Just needs stuffing into the pumpkin.

Pumpkin done - 

One pumpkin ish pumpkin.

The reason I chose to make a stopper is because this wood is quite soft (it's Pine) it soaks things up quite well, especially oil, so I figured that they'd make interesting air fresheners, the idea is that the hole that I used to mount the wood on the lathe becomes a reservoir for the oil and it slowly soaks into the wood and the stopper stops it spilling, it also soaks some of the oil up, kind of like a wick and there you have it, smelly pumpkins, I used Lavender oil, but any essential oil would work, and after a while you can change the oil for  a different flavour.

In the end I made three pumpkins and filled them all with way too much oil and stunk the living room out, but everyone in the house likes Lavender so all was good and it was a better use for an old bit of fence post than the fire.

Smelly wooden pumpkins, what more could you want ?

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Bowls from pallets (and a bit of scrap wood)

Now that the weather has turned a bit colder (and wetter) I've been experimenting with various wood turning projects I have wanted to try for a while.

Having seen similar things online I decided I'd have a go at making some bowls from some scrap bits of wood, in this case the scrap wood is bits of pallet, and some old lengths of pine (the sort of thing used for stud work) I mainly used the pine as a filler for the pallet wood (which is a type of gum) because I didn't have that much of it.

Here are the bowls I've made so far -

They turned out good.
These are quite large bowls (about 30cm across) and about as big as I can turn with my current lathe, they take a bit of prep work to make in the form of gluing the wood together, but they do have a nice look to them once turned and given a good coat of oil (Danish oil in this case)

To make them all I've done is take a load of wooden planks and glue them together, by arranging the wood in different ways you can create some interesting patterns in the finished piece, although these bowls are pretty simple compared to other segmented items I've seen.

Cut your planks to roughly the same size, and try to get an equal sized square, so if your planks are 20cm long then arrange enough planks to give you a finished block of 20cm by 20cm, it's best if you can use the same width of plank, but if some are a bit bigger than others its not a problem.

My planks arranged in a way I was happy with - 

I marked each bit so I could remember which way up they needed to be.

You can see the wood isn't all the same thickness, but by lying them all on a flat surface I was able to create a nice flat face, which helped when it can to mounting the face plate for turning, I've also tried to get the grain of each bit of wood arranged in a more or less symmetrical way, it's easier to see in the turned bowl.

Now onto gluing, I glued each piece together and made sure that each bit of wood was nicely coated with glue, I used a paint brush to apply the glue, I'm using a good quality wood glue for this to make sure it's all stuck together, really don't want it falling apart when I turn it, big chunks of wood at high speed, not great.

Once I'd glued all the pieces and stacked them it was time to add some clamps, the more the merrier to be honest, I clamped the wood together as tightly as possible, I put a clamp on each corner and used a ratchet strap for the middle as I only have four of these clamps.

Wood clamped - 

Just go to wait for the glue to go off.

Although this glue takes about 24 / 48 hours to set fully I waited a week before removing the clamps to make sure that all the glue had set.

Once the glue was set taking the now solid block of wood I marked it out to find the centre and using a make shift compass I marked a circle onto the block making it as large as possible, this way I figured I'd have guide so I could see how much wood to take off before it was round, the idea being that I could take off the bare minimum and keep the bowl quite large.

Centre marked out - 

Quick and easy compass, just a flat bit of wood with a few holes.

Face plate mounted, one more thing to do before turning - 

More or less centred.

To save a bit of time I cut some corners - 

Not the best picture, but you get the idea.

On to turning, didn't take long to get it to this state - 

Bit of a sand and this side is done.

Slight oversight on my part, bit of wood missing, but left it as it is, we'll go for the rustic look -

It adds to the character.

Now for the inside, I'd turned a recess so that I could mount the bowl on my expanding chuck -

Looks like a bowl, so that's good.

And here's the bowl after some sanding and a bit of an oiling - 

Bit more oil and it's done.

Hopefully you can see what I mean about arranging the wood so that the different grains make different patterns, the other thing I like about these bowls is that I can make them using one tool, I've made three so far and for each bowl I've only used one of my Oland tools to make them all.

Okay so they aren't fancy bowls, but they are very sturdy and not bad to look at, they make great fruit bowls and I'm quite happy with them, considering it was a bit of an experiment I think it worked out okay, which is not always the case for some of the ideas I have.

The three bowls - 

Better than chucking the wood on the bonfire.

Thanks for reading.