Sunday, 31 July 2011

Handmade mini dibber ... ...

If like us you grow a lot of plants you'll know that sowing the seeds is a bit of a chore, especially making holes for each seed, when the need calls for it.

I normally use a pencil for making seed holes, mainly for writing out the labels, but I've also found the end of a pencil makes for a good seed drill, however there is a down side, that being compost on the end of the pencil, and subsequently behind my ear seeing as that's where I keep my pencils most of the time.

So this morning I made a purpose designed and built mini dibber for planting my seeds. I just used a scrap piece of wood, I seem to have lots of these lying about the shed, used my recently built mini lathe to turn it, which is still working, and the mini lathe works much better now I've welded up the tail stock. 

Here's the mini dibber -

It's just about right for a pocket.

It's turned from a bit of pine, the dark lines are burned in, this is done by just holding another piece of wood to it whilst it's spinning, I wasn't going to add any type of decoration, but figured why not :-)

Another picture - 

Ta Da !

I made the end flat for a reason, that being once your seed is planted you need to tamp the soil down ;-) so it's a duel purpose dibber / pot tamper, it's small enough to be useful even with small cell seed trays.

Here's a picture next to a ruler -

Just about 9cm or nearly 4 inches in old money.

And there you have it, it took about 25 minutes to turn,sand and wax and will serve me well in my veg growing exploits :-) it's also a nice size for a child to use, so if the kids want to help they can use this to make nice neat seed drills at about the right depth, thanks to the markers on the pointy end.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Rough recycling ... ...

I've been doing a spot of recycling, all be it very roughly, well it's more of a trying to find a use for all the things I've kept exercise ;-)

The first thing is some where to put my scroll saw, so far I've used it on the floor, on the kitchen table (wife not best pleased about that one) and various other places, none of which are very good places to use a scroll saw.

So I recycled my old metal computer desk into a table for my scroll saw, I even kept the wheels on it for extra mobility, and as it used to be a desk it's about the right height already.

Here it is -

Not much to look at.

I didn't really have to do that much to be honest, basically I just switched the frame work about, the sides of what was the desk were placed on what would have been the front and back of the desk, I had to drill new bolt holes, and add an extra bit of support at the back, again using a piece of the old desk.

Back support -

Drilling new bolt holes was easy.

I did originally intend to just bolt the saw to the new table, but found when using the saw at high speeds things were a little less than stable, so I added a wooden top for a little less wobble, it works well and means I can now sit at a good height and cut stuff out of wood, which is handy as I'm planning to make a dolls house for my daughter and I'll need to do a lot of cutting out for things like windows and such like.

Wooden top -

Not very neat, but it works.

I even kept the bottom shelf, figuring this would be handy for storing stuff on.

The next little bit of recycling involves 2 hoovers (yes 2)

This is very much a hack, and had I spent more time I would have made something a little neater, basically I do a lot of wood turning and other very dusty related stuff in my shed and I decided I needed some kind of dust removal system.

I did have an old hoover which I used for cleaning up and clearing dust, but it was old and more or less knackered when I started using it in the shed, needless to say it didn't last very long, and until our last hoover broke it just sat in the shed waiting to be used for something.

Dust extraction systems can be quite pricey, so I figured building my own was the best way to go, all I really needed was a new motor to power the extractor, and as luck would have it we got a new hoover and so I kept the broken one, which wasn't usable in the house any more, but was perfect for what I wanted.

Here's the extractor set up (warning contains extreme hackiness) - 

Okay so I've basically hacked 2 hoovers together ;-)

The old hoover was a tub type effort, so I've kept the tub part and removed the motor and it's housing, then I basically made a lid for it that I could fix the hose from the other hoover to.

It looks rough (and it is) but it does the job, basically I'm using the tub as a storage bin for wood shavings and such like, and the other hoover is a replacement for the old motor, it works well because unlike the old hoover this still has some of it's filters intact so the motor doesn't get dusty and burn out like the last time (oops)

How it works is simple enough, hoover A provides suction and hoover B provides a storage bin, wood shavings get sucked into the bin and any fine dust is filtered out by hoover A's filters.

The storage bin -

The tub holds a fair bit of waste.

When it's full I bag up the shavings and I intend to use it as mulch on the garden and down the allotment, I've also discovered that the filter collects very fine wood dust, which when mixed with some pva makes for a pretty good wood filler :-)

The fine dust -

Very fine and great for making wood filler.

I've also found out that I can connect the extractor up to all my power tools, or at least the ones that have dust outlets on them, which may come in handy if I need to use them in the house.

You could also make a wooden box to do the same thing, you'd just need to make it so that you could connect your hoover to it, and it would need to be sealed as well, with some kind of removable lid for emptying it, which is what I would have done if I'd had a little more time.

And there you have it, even if something doesn't have an immediate use anymore (like an old pc desk) it may well have a use in the future, so it's worth hanging on to it for a short while.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Homemade mini lathe ... ...

In my wood turning pursuits I've discovered that having a smaller lathe might be handy for, well smaller work, I plan to make my daughter a dolls house and no doubt I shall want some tiny spindles, which might be a little difficult on my lathe.

I've tried to turn very small things on it before, but it's a bit large and in all honesty it's designed for turning rather large bits of wood, so I set about looking for a cheap mini lathe, they are quite expensive for what they are, so then I thought about making one, and after looking at a few homemade mini lathes I realised I had just about everything I needed to make a small lathe.

Here's the power plant for the lathe -

I knew I'd find a use for this :-)
It's what's left of an old bench grinder, I modified it a few years ago to run a sharpening stone for a while, then I got a drill to power it and built a proper system for sharpening things, so the old bench grinder was left on a shelf, until now that is.

As it's an old bench grinder it has 2 speeds, off and on :-) it spins some where around 2000 rpm to 3000 rpm (give or take) it handles the load when turning a piece of wood quite well, and doesn't get too hot, I may at a later date make some kind of speed control for it.

I spent some time considering how to go about making a usable head stock, and tail stock, in the end I decided to use old chucks from a broken cordless drills as the head and tail stocks.

A bit battered from removing it, but it still works.

The end of the drive shaft was ground down using a file while it was spinning to keep it centred, then I threaded it with a tap and die set and basically screwed the chuck onto the shaft, in much the same way as it was fixed to the drill, this makes for a very easy system for changing the way you mount wood to the lathe, you can use a threaded screw or you could trim down one end of the wood and fix it straight into the chuck.

I've basically tried to make a smaller version of my lathe, which can turn wood up to a metre in length and about 50cm in width, the mini lathe can go to about 30cm in length and about 10cm in width, I've already used it to turn a couple of things :-) it worked better than I expected.

The tail stock is built to slide back and forth, which makes it easy to accommodate different lengths of wood, it's kind of how my larger lathe works.

The tail stock -

It's a bit hacky, but it works :-)

You can see the idea, the tail stock slides back and forth along the 2 bars, and is clamped down with a bolt and a wing nut for easy adjustment, it doesn't look very pretty, but it doesn't matter as long as it works.

I've used another old chuck for the tail stock, I did this because it means I can use various things as centres, in the picture I've poached the revolving centre of my big lathe. The 2 bars that the tail stock slides on are as centred as possible, I used a pendulum to find the right line from the head stock.

The tail stock chuck -

Looks a little odd, but does the job.

I've fixed this chuck the same way as the head stock chuck, just threaded it onto the threaded bar, and used bolts to keep it from moving. The chuck is fixed to an L shaped bracket, which I thought would be okay, but it turns out it had a little too much flex in it, so I added the white coloured brackets to give it a little more strength.

As I mentioned I poached the revolving centre from my big lathe for this, but I made an adapter so that I can easily remove the centre and fix it back onto the big lathe should I need to.

The revolving centre - 

A little large for this lathe, but it'll do.

I did originally make a dead centre for the lathe, but I found this to be a little problematic because it moved too much in the end of the wood, this might be down to a few things, but I figured using this centre was better anyway, turns out it is much better, although if it's not tight enough into the wood it makes a horrendous squeaking noise :-/ This centre is designed to just push on and off a peg, so I made the adapter the same way, out of an old 8mm socket, mainly because is was just about the right size to start with, the socket is meant for using in a cordless drill, so it's ideal for this and when I need to use the centre elsewhere I just need to tap it off with a small hammer.

The clamp for the tail stock is just a bolt and a wing nut, I used this as a way to make things easy to move about, my big lathe uses a similar method, all be it a much larger nut and bolt.

The clamp -

Simples :-)

You can see the ends of the white brackets I used for extra strength, I will at some point weld these to the other bracket, although at the moment there is a certain amount of spring in the brackets which means that when the clamp is tight it works a little like a spring washer and keeps it from undoing :-) so I might just leave it.

Here's a picture of the tail stock as it was originally -

Probably a little weak for this, hence extra brackets.
Here's the original centre as well -

Just a bit of threaded bar with a point ground in.

And here it is, drum roll please ;-) the Acme mini lathe -

Not pretty, but it works, bit like me ;-)

There are some things I want to add to it, for a start a tool rest, at the moment I'm using a block of wood, I'd rather have some kind of adjustable rest, but it'll do for now. I also need to work out an effective way to clamp it down to a work bench or even to the bed of my big lathe, but that's all for the future, at the moment things are screwed down and bolted but I will probably weld it where I can for extra strength, I want it to last as I have plans to use it quite a lot, for small work, like the light pulls I made to test it out.

The light pull -

Not a great picture.
Another light pull, made of Pear wood.

 My wife remarked that she didn't like the small plastic ends of the light cords in the bathroom so I made these to test out the lathe, one is made from part of an old towel rail and the other from a small piece of Pear wood, nothing special but it would have been a little hard to turn it on the big lathe, the light pulls are about 8cm long and about 1.5cm to 2.5cm thick, I could have turned them on the big lathe, but the tool rest would need some modification so as I could get it into the right place for turning small pieces, which to be honest I couldn't be bothered to do, and besides making this mini lathe was more fun ;-)

I've now added a rough tool rest to the mini lathe, and discovered the tail stock has a little too much play in it, so more tweaking is needed, I recorded a short video of the lathe working, it's quieter than I thought, I'm also using one of my haomemade Oland tools as well, can't be bad.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Pot project ... ...

This is the result of a little project I've been working on.

As I've been learning to turn wood I decided to have a go at turning some end grain, this is basically turning the wood at a different angle to the lathe.

This will hopefully go some way to explaining what I'm talking about.

The wood on the lathe is the lid.

So what we have here is a picture of the wood I used for the lid, in the picture I've marked the direction of the grain, the horizontal line under the wood is the direction of the grain for that piece of wood and the vertical line marks the direction of the grain when turning end grain.

One of the reasons for turning the wood like this is because it shows of the grain in a different way, but there is a down side (as I found out) the wood behaves differently, for example it tears at the ends, which isn't a big problem it does require more care and your chisels need to be razor sharp, and even then you'll have a fair bit of sanding to do, as it turns out I used my Oland tools to turn the pot and the lid, I seem to be bale to get them much sharper.

There are ways to combat the tear off like using oils,waxes and even water, but I still didn't have much luck, not that I'm that bothered by it as this was a voyage of discovery :-)

A picture of the lid on the lathe -

It has a nice pattern.

The lid is mounted on my screw chuck, whilst this is a good chuck there's a little waste which I wouldn't get if I used an expanding chuck, which I'm hoping to buy soon, they are a little pricey (about £100 for one that fits my lathe) but it will be worth it.

This next picture is the base of the pot, this is one of the reasons an expanding chuck would be handy.

Fixing holes from screw chuck -

Not a big issue, but not good if I wanted to sell it.
You can see the holes where I've fixed the wood to the chuck, whilst these can be sanded out and made less obvious, it would be better to turn them out, and that's where an expanding chuck would be handy because I could mount the pot the other way round and turn out the fixing holes.

A picture of an expanding chuck, this will be the one I get, each jaw moves independently, which will be very useful.

I will be adding this to my collection soon :-)

Here's a picture of the pot I took while finishing it, it wasn't going to have a lid originally, but I changed my mind at the last minute :-)

The pot -

I'm very pleased with the pattern, it looks great.

You can see where the wood has been affected by the fungus that causes the patterns in the grain, it makes for some interesting features, I'm lucky in that all the Birch I have seems to have this all the way through it, on the downside I'm not sure where I might find some more.

The pot looks a little orange, this is mainly because of the oil I've been coating it in to try and prevent any cracking and such like.

The remains of the tree trunk -

I still have a fair bit left, and there's always the Pear ;-)

And here is the finished article -

Not perfect by any means, but an interesting piece.

There's a lot wrong with it, for a start the pot rim has warped slightly and is now an oval shape instead of round, and the lid has shrunk a little so it's quite loose fitting, there are a number of things I could do to fix it though. I could re-turn the rim of the pot down to where the wood is slightly thicker, this would help prevent warping, and I could also make a new lid, but make sure it's a little bigger than it needs to be, this would then help the rim keep it's shape, but it would make getting the lid off a little hard, at least until the wood had settled down.

As it's my first pot type thing though I'm happy with it, and I've learned a lot so the next one I make I can approach it in a different way and hopefully I'll be happier with it.

From a slightly different angle -

I think the pattern of the lid works well with the pattern of the pot.

And another slightly different angle -

Shame about the lid, I may try and fix it, not sure yet.

And that's about it really, the pot has changed colour slightly and now looks a little less orange, it's worth giving it a good few coats of oil though as it keeps the wood in good shape.

The pot after a few days -

Still a little orangey, but it will fade as the oil soaks in.

One of the other down sides of wood turning is the mess, I've been bagging the shavings up so I can use them as a mulch either in the garden or at the allotment, or both :-) it gets very dusty so I've had to come up with some kind of extraction system, which I made using 2 hoovers, I'll write a post about it some time ;-)

Here's a picture of the mess, I have a lot of spiders in my shed, which is why some of the shavings seem to be stuck to the wall :-)

It gets every where.

Hopefully I've solved this little problem now :-) we shall see.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Practice makes perfect, well almost ... ...

Since I've had my lathe I've been trying to get my hands on interesting bits of wood, for a couple of reasons, mainly because each type of wood is different in terms of how it looks when it's made into something, whether it's turned or carved.

But apart from the aesthetics of the wood I've been learning that each wood behaves very differently when you stick it on a lathe, there are factors like age of the wood, how long it's been sitting about before you turn it and such like.

Take these 3 items, all of which I've turned on my lathe, using the same tools and same techniques.

From left to right, Pear,Ash (or maybe Oak) and Spalted Birch.
I turned the Spalted Birch candle stick a while ago, but had to wait to see if I could stop it warping and cracking before I sealed it, it's now had a coat of sealer and a good polish. If you look at the top of the Birch candle stick you can see where it's warped a little, this is mainly due to the thickness of the wood, it's quite thin.

I got the Birch from a chap who lives down the road from me, he's had a load of Birch logs in his drive way for ages, so I asked him for some (he intends to use it in a log burner, a waste if you ask me) I got a length about 8 feet long in the end, I still have quite a bit left. What's good about it is that because it was chopped down a while a go it's okay to turn, although it may still warp a little.

Here's the Birch one, it's called Spalted birch because of the way the grain has gone, the dark ragged lines are caused by a fungus, the lighter patches are also a result of the same fungus.

The Birch candle stick (probably the first of many) 
I was pleased with it, even wrote a blog post about it ;-)
The next thing is made from the off cut of a fence post, a few weeks ago we went to visit relatives and on the way there a couple of workmen were fitting new gates to a house, so on the way back I asked for the offcut, I'm still not 100% sure what sort of wood it is, but either way it made a nice candle stick.
Here it is - 

It's either Oak or some kind of Ash.

I have to be perfectly honest I'm not sure what this is, I should have asked the workmen, as I've mentioned it's either Oak or Ash, although as it was part of a fence post I suspect it's Oak, never known anyone to use Ash as fence posts, but I could be wrong.

This was interesting to turn as the wood had been dried before hand (probably kiln dried) and as such it was a very different experience, I was hoping to get it a little larger but it kept loosing parts where the wood had shrunk, in the end I decided I would keep going until it stopped loosing bits and although it's quite small I love the grain in it, even more so as it was destined for the bin being an offcut.

Here's a different view of it - 
Stripey :-)
The last thing I have to show you is a small goblet, yes not another candlestick but a goblet, although it's not any good for drinking out of because of the way it's warping and cracking.

The goblet - 

Made from part of a 60 year old Pear tree.

Yes this too is made from rescued wood, although I'd have to admit I was the one who cut the tree down, in my defence it was in some one's garden and they had offered it on free-cycle, if I didn't take it, it would have been burned. It's lovely wood, but very green and it maybe some time before it's really ready for turning.

I just couldn't wait, it's been sitting in my shed for months and the other day a chopped a small piece off and stuck it on my lathe, and as with the other items it was again an interesting experience, being green wood it's very soft (even though Pear wood is quite hard) and because it's green wood it's still quite wet, which means depending on the way it's kept it may or may not crack and warp, if it's kept in a dry warm environment it will probably crack, and that's what has started to happen with the goblet, whether it will get to a point and stop I don't know, Eucalyptus wood is the same if not worse.

It's an interesting learning curve, but one I'm enjoying and even though some of the things I make suffer from warping or cracking it is a little sad because I spent the time on it, but it helps me to understand what's going on with the wood and the next time I try I will know what to expect and how to prevent it or slow it down.

Here's some more pictures of the things I've mentioned - 
A closer look at the grain.
I'm pretty sure more of the Birch I have will have more of this type of pattern in it, I'm hoping to turn some plates and small pots out of some of it, should be fun.

A closer look at the Ash / Oak candle stick - 
I'm going to keep my eyes open for more fence post offcuts :-)
  Unfortunately I don't have any of this left, so I will keep my eyes open for some more, maybe even a whole fence post or 2, I think I could make some interesting objects out of it.

This fault wasn't apparent from the outside of the wood.
Usually Pear wood has a subtle grain and unless it's polished it doesn't seem to show it, the Pear I have must have had a hard life as it has quite a few faults with it, not that it's a fault as such, I plan to incorporate these faults or natural quirks into some of my designs for extra interest, that's when I know what I turn isn't going to warp and crack apart, although I've seen warping and cracking incorporated into other wood turners designs, which is something else I might try.

All in all I'm enjoying the experience, all of it I've even started to make my own tools for turning, this as I've found is something a lot of other wood turners also do, it means you have a greater range open to you and you can make some tools that do really interesting things, from a wood turning point of view :-)

Thanks for reading.

Inspire Me Beautiful

Monday, 4 July 2011

Allotment update & a homemade hose reel ... ...

Since we had our allotment, and actually got it into a sort of usable state we haven't visited it quite so frequently, I went down today to have a look at things, and as usual I was presented with a sea of green, although this isn't a good thing, most of the green is weeds, but as I found out last time it doesn't actually take that long to weed it (about 3 hours)

Here it is - 

A lovely shade of green though it is, most of it is weeds.

I know 3 hours is a long time, but I've found that it's 3 hours every 2 weeks or so, which isn't that bad, although today's trip was just to give it a water and check to see what I'd need to do, as well as the weed issues I have to clear a space at the top for a poly-tunnel, but I could most likely get this done on a Saturday morning and still have most of the day left for other things.

Having an allotment is a lot of work, especially with a garden like ours as well, but the rewards are more than worth it, food you've grown yourself tastes so much better, I'm sure part of that is down to the fact you grew it.
We got the allotment a little later than we would have liked and as such we had already planted our main crop in the gardens (front & back) but even so we planted loads of stuff at the allotment, and today I was presented with what I can only describe as monster radishes, well perhaps not monsters, but a lot bigger than I've seen in supermarkets.

Here's a few of the largest ones, already topped and tailed -

As you can see the largest is 4 inches long !
These were grown from a cheap packet of seeds from B&Q I think they were a grand total of 49 pence for a hundred or so, not bad really and I didn't really expect that much from them, so I was pleasantly surprised, and I picked enough radishes today to make up about 2 - 3 quids worth, that's if you bought them from our local supermarket, not bad from a 49p packet of seeds, and there's still a load to come, I'm thinking I might leave some to go to seed.

Just in case you missed it, here's the beast again -

I love gardening :-)

There's loads of other stuff growing, I noticed the courgette plants had a few baby courgettes on, which is good as my wife makes a great relish from them, which if you want the recipe you can find here (opens in new window)

Well enough about that, onto the hose reel, which if I'm honest was down to me not measuring the distance between our plot and the nearest tap :-( as it turns out it's about 50 metres, which means a fair length of hose, oddly enough about 50 metres ;-) and a little extra.

Keeping that much hose in some kind of order isn't easy without something to wrap it round, so I made a hose reel out of odd bits of wood and some other stuff I had lying about.

First I fixed some wood together in an x shape (I made 2 of them)

The wood was left over from another project.
To fix these together I found the centre of each piece and marked it, then I place the other bit of wood on and marked either side to get the right width.

Like this - 

Blurry picture, but you can see what I'm getting at.
Then what I did was chop out the wood between the 2 outer lines, I did this on all 4 bits of wood, this is so I could fit them together.

Chopped out section - 

This cut out needs to be half the thickness of the wood.
Side view so you can get an idea of the depth I chopped out - 

I wasn't trying to be accurate ;-) roughly halfway is okay.

You can then fit each piece of wood into each other and fix them together like this, you can use screws or nails.

Drilling pilot holes will stop the wood splitting.

Next I cut some lengths of wood to fix between each cross shaped piece, I made them long enough to allow for the amount of hose, then I fixed them with screws to make a rough reel that I could wrap the hose round.

Here it is - 
You can see where I fixed the parts to make the reel.
Now this was okay, but to be honest it was hard work wrapping the hose round this thing, and my lovely wife pointed out that it would be better if I could make it spin so that I could let the reel do the work, like the ones you can buy (I think they are about 20 quid or so) I sat and wondered how I might go about this.

After rooting about in the shed for bits and bobs I found some old steel tube and some threaded bar, this would do for the reel to turn on, I just needed to make a frame for it all.

And here it is -

It works very well, even if I do say so myself

Front view of the completed reel -

This piece stops each side from moving about on it's own
And there you have it, it cost next to nothing, and cleared a little space in my shed as well (extra space is always welcome) and solved the problem of how to keep the  massive length of hose in check, makes rolling it up a load easier as well.

Thanks for reading.

Wedding ring modification...

Like a lot of married people I wear a wedding ring, and if you've ever worn a ring you'll know that whilst it might have been a goo...