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.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Growing twisted willow...

Willow is probably one of the easiest trees to take cuttings from, the cuttings will grow quickly and as such it's any easy way of increasing your trees, or making fencing / hedging with, or if you're feeling adventurous why not try growing it into a sculpture of some kind, you may be surprised at how versatile it is for making garden structures.

To take cuttings all you need is some sticks from a willow and a jar or bucket, depending on how big the cuttings are, in my case I'm using cuttings from our two twisted (corkscrew) willow trees (Salix Tortuosa)

Left over from a light prune -

Some good cutting material in this lot.

What I usually do is to cut up what ever I have into pieces about six to eight inches long, and I usually select pieces that are about half an inch thick for cuttings, you can how ever get pieces that are over an inch thick to root just as easily.

Cuttings prepared - 

Straighter pieces will fit into a jar better.

Next all I do is tie the prepared twigs together and put them into a jar of water and leave them some where warmish, a green house would do, or if it's summer they should be okay outside, if you use a glass jar keep it out of direct sunlight.

I do at the moment have some cuttings in a bucket in the garden that are about two feet long and over an inch thick and they have rooted well, so you can use a bucket and longer cuttings if you want larger plants quicker.

Cuttings in a jar of water - 

Just wait for a week or so.

After a week or so you may start to notice white bumps forming on the part of the cutting that's under the water, this is where the roots will sprout from.

White bumps, they soon turn into roots - 

Not the best picture, but you can see where roots are forming.

And in no time roots sprout - 

We have roots.

The temptation might be to plant once the roots start to grow, but I prefer to wait until the lateral roots appear, mainly because it's the lateral roots that help to anchor the plant, and because the more roots the merrier, in my experience they will grow better if planted once there are lateral roots on each cutting.

Lateral roots forming - 

You can just make them out on left.

You should also have some new growth from the other end of the cutting in the form of new shoots and leaves, this is good sign that the plant will continue to grow once potted up.

New growth - 

We have success.

Once I am sure that the cuttings have a good amount of roots and new growth I pot them up into plastic pots, I tend to use smallish ones because I have limited space, but medium pots would be okay, as for compost I mostly use a general purpose compost mixed with either some horticultural grit or a hand full of horticultural sand to help with drainage.

All potted up - 

Add caption

And then I leave them to see if they survive, generally speaking you can't really go wrong with willow, I have seen people just stick the cuttings straight into the ground and as long as they are kept watered they should grow, this is handy for making natural fences as you can place your cuttings in a line and let them grow into a fence.

Here are some I did last year - 

They are growing nicely.

These ones I'm attempting to turn into bonsai trees - 

I'll have to see if they work.

What could be easier ? you can use this method for other types of tree, I've read a lot of gardening related things and seen people do it with fruit wood cuttings (apples, plums etc) I have also managed to use this method to get holly cuttings to grow.

The only difference is that with willows you don't really need to change the water, maybe if it starts to smell change it but I've found you can leave it quite a while between changing, this is not the case for other trees, which seem to need a water change at the very least once a week, at least in my experience, this maybe down to the fact willows contain salicylic acid (think aspirin) and this may help to keep the water cleaner for longer.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Couple of sticks and a bit of string...

That's all it takes to make big bubbles, well that and a washer...

It's been a nice warm day today, and as is often the case the kids were in the garden blowing bubbles, so I decided to finally make a bubble wand and prove that a bit of string tied to two sticks makes bigger bubbles than they could blow with those little round plastic things, I know this isn't a remotely new idea, but my kids haven't seen one so they still think I'm a wizard.

Making one is easy, take two sticks and either drill holes in the end or you can just tie the string to the sticks, as I used some spare dowel I drilled holes.

Before you tie the string together slide a couple of washers onto the string, or a bead or anything that has a bit of weight to it, the idea being that the washer (weight) will cause the string to sag in the middle forming a rough triangle shape.

Here's a diagram - 

Here's a few pictures of the one I made - 

Washer - 
Any kind of weight will do.

End of left stick - 

Left stick.

End of right stick - 

Right stick.

The whole thing - 

That looks like it might work.

And that's about it, it's really simple and works well you can make it any size you want, obviously the longer the string the larger the bubbles you can use any old sticks as long as they are sort of straight I used the type of string that you'd use for tying parcels up with (it was the first thing I grabbed) and in all it took about five minutes (if that) to make and the kids used it until they ran out of bubble mixture.

Large bubble blowing commences - 

The cat wasn't as impressed as the kids.

Even bigger - 

They seem to be getting the hang of it.

It was good to see that something this simple can hold their attention for so long, I suspect that had we had a gallon or two of bubble mix, or let them use all our washing up liquid they'd still be out there, and that may well be the down side, it'll cost a fortune in bubble mix or washing up liquid, but it's worth it to hear them laugh and gasp in amazement at the size of bubbles they can make.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Bookmarks from a scrap bit of wood...

I have a lot of random bits of wood from various sources, left overs from jobs and projects, and also from keeping the garden in check, recently I cut a couple of fairly big branches off a Sycamore that over hangs our garden, most of which I used as poles for growing things up, I'm in the process of fan training some of our fruit trees, I had some left over and decided to make myself a book mark or two in much the same way as the one I made for my wife.

For a small Christmas present I made my wife this bookmark as she kept using random bits of paper, letters or anything thin enough to stick in a book so I figured she should have a proper one so I cut a slice of cherry root and made her one with an owl on the top.

This one -

Pretty simple, but it looks better than an old letter.

As it turns out I'm just as bad for using random things as bookmarks and I decided I should have a bookmark as well, so using a bit of the Sycamore branch I set about making some bookmarks, the first thing is slicing up the branch, this can be done with a hand saw as long as you're careful, a band saw would be better, but I don't have one so a hand saw it was.

I took the branch and clamped it in my vice and just cut down roughly in several places to create slices, the wood was still a bit wet and the centre piece started to split so I wrapped a load of tape round the end and left the wood to dry out (I left it about a week)

Branch sliced and wrapped - 

The cuts are straight (ish)

Split centre slice - 

Still got some usable bits.

After a week I cut the slices off the branch apart from the centre one they where okay and had no splits so it was on to making them a bit thinner.

Wood slices - 

Loads of bookmarks.

To thin out the slices I made a guide that I could clamp into my vice, it's basically a piece of wood with another piece attached to one end, but not flush so that it creates a crude height guide and stops the wood sliding off the wood, once I had my guide I started planing.

Planing (and some sanding) commences - 

Some nice green patterns in the wood.

Now I could have left it there, it would be fine as a bookmark, but i thought I'd add a bit extra to it like I did with the owl one, so I went with dragons.

To get the dragon design onto the wood I printed out something I liked and then on the other side of the paper I covered the design in pencil, once that was done I taped the piece of wood to the paper and using some embossing tools I went over the outline and transferred it to the wood.

Design printed out (this was one of two) - 

I liked it, but you can choose anything you like.

Back covered in pencil - 

Make sure it's all covered.

Wood taped on to stop it moving about - 

Taped down well.

Embossing tools at the ready -

Cheap to buy online, handy for all sorts of things.

To transfer the design is just a matter of going over the printed part, pencils will work fine for this, I use the embossing tools mainly for drawing on thin metal but with wood they tend to indent it which helps for the next step.

Transference complete - 

Time for burning.

Once I'd got the design transferred I got out my wood burning (pyrography) tool and set about going over the design, if you don't have a pyrography tool you could always try it the old fashioned way, ever heard of poker work ? 

It's what people used before pyrography tools were invented, basically as far back as the Egyptians (and probably further) people have heated up small tools and burnt designs into wood, a small nail would do, as long as you insulate the end you hold, you could try a soldering iron, or why not paint a design ?

Design burned in - 

I need a lot more practice.

And I could have left it there, but no I decided to partly cut out each design with my scroll saw, which could also be done by hand with a coping saw, you could probably carve them using a dremel type tool as well.

All cut out - 

Ready for bookmarking.

Better test one out to make sure it works - 

Road test results are in... it works.

And if you want something more simple you could cut out a basic shape and experiment with a bit of colour, but remember to seal the wood with wax or varnish otherwise the colour could leak onto the books pages.

An experiment in colour - 


Believe it or not I used printer ink from one of those refill kits you can buy cheaply, but wood dyes work just as well and felt tipped markers would probably give similar results once the ink has soaked into the wood.

I have used some tools that people may not have, but all you really need is a hand saw a wood plane and some sandpaper all of which can be bought for less than £10 and you can always prepare a load of wood slices and let the kids design their own bookmarks on a day when it's chucking it down with rain outside.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Growing horseradish...

A natural progression for most gardeners is to go from buying seeds and plants to propagating your own, this has it's rewards and it's down sides.

The rewards are obvious, you save money, you learn how plants work and you also learn what works and what doesn't when it comes to propagating, and therein lies one of the down sides, sometimes things fail, you can read all the books, you can read the internet but it doesn't always work the trick (in my opinion) is to not give up, try again and in all honesty if I hadn't adopted this way of thinking our garden would be concrete and devoid of any plant life, I have failed a lot.

So what's that got to do with horse radish ? well horseradish is an easy plant to grow and it's easy to propagate, this will be the first of many (I hope) posts on how we go about growing things from cuttings and such like, I won't say our way is the right way simply because different things work for different people, it's just the way we do it.

Horseradish is in the same family of plants as cabbage and broccoli and similar plants, but unlike those plants which are usually grown from seed you can usually find horseradish in root form, this is how we bought our years ago, we got a small bit of root in a plastic bag.

Here it is now -

I need to remove the flowers.

As you can see we grow it in a pot (probably needs a larger one) the reason for that is it will spread if grown in the ground and it'll spread a lot, this one needs the flower heads removing, as we want the root there's no need to keep the flowers, if left it will have small clumps of white flowers, however any seeds it produces will most likely be sterile and not grow, so root cutting is the best way to go.

Taking root cuttings is easy and this applies to other plants and not just horseradish, I took three sections of root from the main plant earlier on in the year before it had started growing, around March time.

When it looked like this - 

It's not some kind of demon.

I lifted the plant from the pot and took three longish cuttings, all three have a lot of thin roots on them, but it doesn't matter if there are no small roots, each bit was about four inches long.

Root cuttings -

Time for potting.

Then all I did was put the three cuttings into pots and filled the pots with a mix of compost from our compost bins and shop bought compost, shop bought compost will be fine if you don't make your own compost.

Ready for soil - 

It will grow quickly.

Time to wait and see what happens - 

Fingers crossed.

And a couple of months later we have signs of life - 

The largest of the three.

It doesn't get much simpler and now we have four plants with which to make our own horseradish sauce, or rather I have four plants I can make sauce from, no one else in the house likes it.

I will be planting these and the original plant into much larger tubs so the roots can get nice and long, now all I need is a good recipe for horseradish sauce.

There are other plants you can do this with both edible and non-edible, Ginger for one, just buy a bit from the supermarket and grow from that, although it does require a different approach, Turmeric is another one, if you've ever seen Turmeric roots in a shop you can also get these to grow in a pot, and again once the plants get bigger simply divide them up, take what you need and as long as you keep a few bits of root you'll always have plants so taking root cuttings is a good and easy way to propagate plants.

Our Turmeric is just starting to grow again -


Thanks for reading.