Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Simple book shelf / rack...

My desk is next to a large window sill which I've discovered is a convenient place for books, however having piles of books all over the place causes problems when it comes to cleaning, and opening windows etc so I decided I needed a book shelf or rack of some kind to make it easier to move the books when I need to get at the windows or the blinds.

This is a really simple book shelf, it uses four pieces of wood and although I've made mine look a little arts and crafty there are numerous ways you could decorate a similar shelf.

Here's the finished shelf -

Pictures a bit dark, but you should get the idea.
I made it using pine shelves, but more or less any type of wood would do, pallets or sheets of plywood even the dreaded mdf (I really hate mdf)

The shelf is about 8 inches (20cm) in height and the same in depth this is just a bit smaller than the depth of the window sill, and it means I can open and close the blind without having to move the shelf every time, when I had books stacked they tended to get pushed right into the blind so I'd have to move them to open and close it.

As the window sill is quite large I was able to make my shelf about 3 feet ( 92cm approx) long  which is just enough to hold most of my books, well at least the ones I'm currently reading and using.

The bits - 

The sides need cutting.
Basically I took one of the shelves and cut it in half, the two halves will make up the top and bottom of the rack, the sides were made from a bit of shelf I had left over from another build.

The top and bottom parts are roughly 4 inches wide (10cm approx) and 3 feet (92cm approx) long but sizes will depend on where you want your shelf to go, so you may have to make it longer or shorter.

The two sides were made from 8 inch (20cm approx) squares of pine, I added a curve detail to mine, but you could leave them square or cut some other shape into them.

In order to stop the books from falling off I've put the top and bottom sections at an angle so the books will sit slightly tilted, this I've found helps to keep them from falling off the shelf.

Side parts marked up and ready for cutting - 

Simple enough to follow ?

To get the angle how I wanted I measured 3/4 of an inch (20mm approx) up one edge and measured 4 inches (10cm approx) along the bottom edge until I was flush with the bottom edge, and to get the marks for the top part of the shelf I used a large square, but you could use a large book.

Marking for the top part of the shelf - 

Seemed like the easiest way to do it.
Once I'd marked out where things were going to go on both sides I draw a rough curve on one piece and cut it out on my bandsaw, a jigsaw would work just as well, then using this as a template I drew a curve on the other piece.

One side done (apart from some sanding) - 

Getting there.

 Both sides done - 

Simple curve, but quite pleasing.
The book shelf is fixed together using glue and screws, for the screw holes I've used a bit with a built in counter sink (some times called a screw digger) this allows me to make little plugs to cover the screw heads, and I can either leave them proud of the wood, or cut and sand them flush, but seeing as I'm going for the arts and crafts type look I'm leaving them proud.

Screw holes done - 

I've used 8mm dowel to cover the screw heads.

Time to put it all together, bottom section on - 

Almost done.
Top section on - 

Finished apart from some plugs and a sand and wax.
To get the colour I wanted I used a homemade wood stain and then a coat of a dark oak coloured wax (the same method I used to make this clothes horse opens in new window) and for a nice shine I finished it off with some beeswax polish.

All done, time for a test - 

It works.
And it fits on the window sill as well - 

Much neater.
This is a simple project, one that could easily be done by kids and although I have bandsaws and other such tools it can all be made with nothing more than hand tools, so no special equipment is needed, and it's cheap as well, I used shelves bought from a diy shop (and some wood I had left over) but as I said it could be made from pallets or other reclaimed wood.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

When is a stool not a stool?

When is a stool not a stool?.....when it's a picture frame.

For a while now I've had an old stool in my shed, it's in bits as I figured it would come in useful and recently I decided to see what I might make out of the seat part, which was the largest part, the rest being made up of various turned parts, which I'll find a use for eventually.

I give you exhibit 'A' -

But what to do with it?
Not much to look at really, it's in a sorry state, so what to make from it? well I decided on a picture frame, I had thought about making one but in the end I made eight small picture frames and not square ones either, I made round ones, well I have a lathe so might as well go round.

So the first thing to do is cut it up, I flipped it over and marked out the largest piece I could get out of it, it was then I realised that I could probably make more than one if I made them smaller.

Wood marked up - 

Worked out at around 6 and a half inches (17cm)
Next I cut out the square on my band saw - 

Plenty of wood left over.
Onto to turning, using a forstner bit I made a hole so that I could mount the square onto my lathe using an expanding chuck, then I gave it a quick turn to mark out a circle so that I could cut off the excess, it saves time basically.

Circle marked - 

Chop off the unwanted bits.
The fist thing I did was turn the back of the frame in order to make a rebate for the hardboard backing to sit in, then I realised I didn't have a chuck large enough to hold the frame so I could shape the front, to solve that small problem I made a chuck out of some old chipboard (parts of an old wardrobe) fixed to a face plate.

Chipboard chuck - 

Simple, but effective.

Frame mounted onto chuck, held in place by friction - 

It's a tight fit, so no danger of things flying off.
Once I got down to the smaller sized pictured frames it was easier and I didn't need to make chucks as I have various different sized jaws for my expanding chuck.

And when I'd finished making the frames I used a bit of dark oak wax (Liberon black bison, good stuff) it was on to figuring out how to make them hold a picture.

For the back of the picture frames I used some old hardboard that came as packing material in something we ordered, I cut circles out that fitted inside of the rebates on each frame, and fixed the hardboard into place with some small screws.

Backing cut out and small screws - 

Simple solution.
Backing fitted into one of the frames - 

One screw would do just as well.
And that's more or less it, apart from the glass for the front of the frame to protect the pictures.

Obviously you could make some of these and get small glass circles cut, not sure how much that would cost, some other options are thin perspex, one of our local diy type stores sells a large sheet of perspex for £16 and it would make a load of picture frame fronts.

For the time being however I've used a very basic solution, and that is a plastic laminator sheet, the sort of thing you would normally use to protect documents and such like, it turns out that if you run a sheet through a laminator a couple of times it makes a thin clear sheet of plastic, which is easy to cut into circles and works quite well in picture frames, you could also use the clear plastic that usually comes in the packaging for kids toys (I've used this to make stencils before - opens in new window)

Laminator sheet ready for cutting - 

Works surprisingly well.
I will probably, depending on how well this laminator sheet plastic lasts upgrade to clear perspex at some point, but for now my main problem is what to put in the picture frames, I'm thinking I might make some cyanotypes for them using the light reactive paper I have.

I ended up with eight in all, some are small enough that with a magnet glued onto the back they would stick well to metal notice boards, or even fridges, do people still have fridge magnets? and I need to come up with a way to hang the frames from walls and such like.

The finished frames - 

Not bad for an old stool.
So when is a stool not a stool? when it's eight turned picture frames, and making this has given me another idea, kind of a variation on this so look out for that at some point.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

First allotment update of 2017...

I had intended to do some more work on our new plot this weekend, but the weather had other ideas, so here's an update on where we're at with it all.

This is what the our new plot currently looks like -

Much improved.
Since the third of December I have mainly been sorting out fences and gates and a few other things, I'm almost ready to begin the task of digging it all over with the view to planting things in spring.

3rd of December trip.

New gate (which I made at home) fitted -

Not very pretty, but better than what was there.
I made a new gate, and I can now lock the plot up with a length of chain I found and a padlock I bought, given the choice I would have left the old gate where it was, but as I had to cut my way into the plot a new gate was a good idea.

Whilst sorting through the undergrowth I found some (very heavy) concrete slabs, there are just about enough to make a base for the shed that currently lives on our other plot, so I roughly laid out the slabs, although I'm still debating the best place for the shed, so this may change.

Slabs roughly laid out -

Subject to change.
Fixed up the back fence where an old gate used to be, I used what I had and what I found on the plot rather than buying new stuff, so it's not very nice looking, but it serves a purpose.

Old gate patched up -

I did say it wasn't pretty.

I've decided to grow blackberries up the back fence, along with some dog roses for two reasons, firstly there will be blackberries for jam and such like and the dog roses will produce rose hips which can then be turned into rose hip syrup which is very rich in vitamin c, we use it to help prevent colds, it was something people living in the country used to do in ww2 as a way of getting extra vitamins and dog roses also have nice flowers that bees and other bugs love.

The second reason is that brambles and dog roses tend to be a bit prickly and as they grow into the fence they will hopefully provide a bit of a deterrent to anyone who tries to climb over it and so to that end I've been relocating all the dog roses I've found to the back fence, along with any brambles.

Onto the next trip (10th of December)

This was just a short trip to add a bit of height to the back fence, I had a roll of old chain link fencing that I decided to use, so all I did was fix it to the fence posts at the bottom of the plot, this has raised the height of the fence to about nine or ten feet and once the dog roses and brambles get established should provide a nice sturdy growing frame.

Bit hard to see in this picture, but you can just make out the chain link - 

It was a very gloomy day.
I did a bit of clearing around the apple trees as well - 

Starting to look better.
And that was that, a week later (17th of December) I was back sorting out the compost area.

I ripped out the old pallets that were a bit worse for wear and using the parts from the other plot I set about making a new compost area, and once that was done I did a bit more clearing.

New compost area and some more clearing - 

Much better.
That was the last trip in December as it was nearly Christmas and as is usually the case we were very busy trying to get presents and such like sorted out, and we all came down with the flu so we had that to deal with as well.

So onto the first (frosty) trip of 2017, just about recovered from the flu (or what ever it was) on the 6th of Jan I decided to move one of the grape vines, it wasn't really in a practical place so I made a new frame for it to grow along, now runs parallel with the larger one that's growing along the front of the plot.

I used the two posts from it's old frame and added another post and fixed a few rows of garden wire between the posts the frame itself is bigger than a usual grape vine frame, but I want to encourage it to trail along the entire frame.

Moving the vine itself wasn't as hard as I thought, after some reading I had figured I was going to have to do a lot of digging in order to get the entire root ball out, but in the end the root ball was smaller than I thought it was going to be given the size of the plant.

Frame done and vine replanted - 

You can't see the wire, but it's there.
I also added a couple of rows of wire along the very bottom of the frame so that I can grow french beans along it as well, these won't interfere with the grape vine, if for some reason the vine doesn't survive it's relocation then I've got a nice big frame for growing runner beans up.

Extra wire for beans - 

Seemed like a waste of growing potential.
And that's it so far, I will keep an eye on the weather for next weekend and hopefully I will be able to carry on and get it in better shape for spring, but it's come a fair way since we took it on in November last year.

November last year - 

Slightly over grown.
January this year - 

Getting there.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Wooden star christmas decorations.

For a while my wife has wanted some wooden star Christmas decorations and to be honest I haven't managed to get around to making any until now, I always seem to be doing other things or time just seems to run out.

But I've finally managed it -

Very festive.

The lights on the right hand side one are brighter because I made that one last so the batteries are a bit fresher.

I did only mean to make one large star, but I ended up making two large stars, a small star and two small stars for the tree.

Rather than cut out a star shape from a sheet of wood I have made these stars in sections glued together, the three in the picture above also have lights in.

I spent a grand total of four pounds on lights for these, I bought the small sets of led lights you can get from pound shops rather than wire up a load of led's from scratch.

It would have only been three pounds but I forget how to do maths and for some reason didn't realise that if you have five points and you want to put five lights in each point you're going to need twenty five lights, and not twenty, so I had to buy an extra set of lights.

First I made some templates of various sized star sections, and one complete star, which I didn't actually use, the idea being that I would draw round the templates onto some wood and then cut out the sections and stick them together.

Templates, just printed out and stuck onto card - 

You can find star templates online.

I decided to make a test star first, the main reason was because I wanted the grain of the wood to run in line with each point, rather than in the same direction over the entire star, this is why I made them in sections rather than cut them out of a sheet of ply or some other type of material.

Test star sections cut - 

They need to be sanded.

I cut each section out roughly using my bandsaw, but any type of saw will do and then I sanded each section to the pencil lines using my bench sander, you could just as easily use a block of wood and some sand paper to finish each section, it'll just take a bit longer.

Sanding each section to the pencil marks makes for a tighter fit with no gaps where the sections meet in the centre.

Once that was done I glued the sections together to see what the finished stars might look like.

Test star finished - 

Not bad.

Once I was happy with the test star and that I'd got the grain of the wood to run in the right directions it was time to make things a bit bigger, to make the larger stars I used some wood from an old pallet and in the end the large stars measure about 14 inches across, so they are quite big, I also used the off cuts to make the stars for the tree in the same way, just smaller.

Marking out the sections (using one of the templates I made) - 

Nice and easy.

Once you have five sections cut out and sanded all you need to do then is glue them together, I've used wood glue, but you could use epoxy or most other types of glue, the only difference really is the time you need to allow for the glue to set.

Test star, one large star and one tree star glued, ready for sanding - 

Nearly done.

To fit the lights all I've done is to mark out five points on each section of the star and drill a hole the same size as the led lights, in this case that was about 5mm and meant the led's were a snug fit in each hole.

Marking out where the lights will go - 

You can just make out the pencil marks.

A quick test - 

It works well I think.

As you can see I went for quite a uniform arrangement of lights, there's no reason you can't be more random, had I gone for a random arrangement I could have got away with just using twenty led's on each star.

Once I'd drilled all the holes I needed I sanded the pencil marks off each star and then gave each one a coat of clear wax to bring out the grain of the wood and then on was on to tidying the wires up a bit.

Now for some tidying up - 

Hot glue to the rescue.

Using a glue gun I stuck the wires to the wood to stop them moving about, I also stuck the battery packs to the wood as well, but in such a way that I can still get the covers off to change the batteries.

You can see in the picture above where I had to join the extra led lights, this was an easy job, all I did was cut of five lights and then join them to the other ones to make a string of twenty five.

Gluing done - 

Keeps the wires out of the way.

And that's about it really, there are numerous ways this could be done, I may end up making them into light boxes so that the wiring is hidden a little better, but as they are they look nice when lit up and we like them, and it goes with our tradition of making some kind of decoration for Christmas every year, I even used the test star and put some of the spare lights in that in a random pattern.

Waste not, want not - 

I'm actually quite pleased with them.

The small ones I made for the tree don't have lights, but there's no reason they couldn't have lights fitted, although you'd want to use smaller led's.

These I made in the same way as the light up stars, they're just smaller and I've used some natural fibre string to hang them on the tree with.

Tree star, I made two of these - 

These go well with our other homemade decorations.

And there you have it, a cheap and simple Christmas decoration, that could also be used in a kids room on a dressing table or chest of drawers as a year round decoration.

Merry Christmas - 

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Hanging bowls for plants...

It is safe to say that we like plants, in fact of the nine windowsills we have in the house only one of them doesn't haven't any type of plant on it, and that's because it's full of books instead.

My wife has been collecting cacti and succulents for a year or two, and we've always had house plants of various sorts, but the cacti have kind of taken over, so much so that I've been making hanging bowls for them to live in.

Like this -

This was the first one I made.
This one was kind of an experiment mainly to see how I might go about constructing such a thing, it works well and can hold about three small pots (three 7cm pots) it also has a plastic drip tray in it to catch any extra water and protect the wood.

I have since been making smaller ones for single plants, the big one was made using small lengths of cls timber glued together and turned into a bowl, the cost of the wood was about £3.90, the smaller ones are made from Leylandi logs.

This is how the large one started out - 

Lots of glue needed.

Basically once the glue had set I roughly turned the larger and small blocks and then stuck those together, and then turned the final shape.

During turning - 

I applied some stain while it was still on the lathe.

As I've used a similar method to make the large bowl and the smaller ones from here on the pictures are of the smaller ones (because I forgot to take pictures of the larger one being made) the smaller ones were easier to make as I didn't have to glue blocks of wood together.

So once I'd hollowed the log I tested to make sure a small drip tray would fit into it, you could use a polyurethane type varnish or water proofer on the inside to protect the wood, but I just went with a drip tray, it's simple and it works

Checking the drip tray fits - 

It fits.

Next thing is to make the holes for the string (you could use chain of some kind) so you can hang the bowl, to do this I used three small clamps placed around the bowl roughly the same distance apart, I placed the clamps on a pencil line I'd made that was about half an inch down from the edge of the bowl.

Like so - 

Roughly the same space between each clamp.

Drilling points marked - 

Next up some drilling.

I've used small eyelets in each hole for decoration, and to make sure I drilled the right sized hole to make the eyelets fit tightly into the wood I used a small forstner bit.

Eyelets and forstner bit - 

It's just about the right size for the eyelets.

Holes drilled - 

Now to finish the bowl.

Once I'd drilled the holes I gave the bowl a sand to get rid of the pencil marks and then flipped it round so that I could shape the bottom, I fitted the eyelets once I've sanded and waxed the bowl.

Bowl done - 

I'm calling it 'Rustic finishing'

I haven't finished the bowl as finely as I would normally as I wanted a slightly rougher look, I used a clear wax on the smaller bowls, but there's no reason you couldn't stain them, use a wood dye, or even if you're feeling adventurous add a different type of wood for the shaped part for a two tone effect.

To get the bowl to hang I've used braided jute string, again keeping with the slightly rustic look, but you can get some nice decorative chain from a lot of diy shops and I'm thinking that I may use chain of some kind on the next one I make.

Once I'd braided the string I tied each piece to a small brass curtain ring - 

Perfect for a hook or a nail.

I tied small knots in the other ends of the string and then threaded each one through the eyelets I'd fitted to the bowl, and used a small piece of garden wire to make sure the string doesn't pull out.

Like this - 

A simple solution.

And there you have it, one hanging bowl ready for a plant - 

The first of many I feel.

Plants that have a tendency to hang are better suited to these types of bowl, but there's no reason why you can't put any other type of plant in one, I have made three of the smaller bowls so far and my wife really likes them so much so that I plan to make a few more, and maybe a couple of the larger ones.

They do look good with plants in - 

I'll have to make one for the monkey tail in the plastic pot.

If you don't have access to a lathe why not convert a wooden bowl of some kind, whilst I was researching hanging bowls I found a few tutorials where people had converted wooden bowls into hanging bowls for plants, all you need is a drill and some string.

Thanks for reading.