Friday, 15 October 2010

I made these for my wife ... ...

My wife has recently started to crochet again, but she only has small hooks (some of which came from freecycling) so I decided to make her some new ones from wood, I've used various types of wood, and I am also experimenting with other types of wood.
I know it would have been easier to just buy some, but where's the fun in that, and besides isn't it better to make an effort now and then ?

Here's the first one I made -

It's pretty basic.
I basically carved it from a piece of wood I had pruned from one of the trees in our garden (it was birch I think) I used a stanley knife to do it, I know it's not perhaps the best tool to use, but it suited me.
Why bother some might say ? well it's simple really I made it as a gift for my wife, I sanded it, made sure the hook part was smooth so as not to catch on the wool, I then used some linseed oil on it, and then waxed it with a lavender scented wax to make it extra smooth, she has used it and she says it works well.

My point I guess that in today's way of doing things people don't do a lot of this sort of thing any more, when it comes to birthdays and such like we tend to just go out and buy things, which let's be honest doesn't require much effort, you just go to a shop hand over some cash and there you go, you don't even have to wrap present yourself either, some shops do that as well.

It's a shame really, this small wooden crochet hook means more to my wife (and to me) than a bought one ever could, why ? because I took some time out from the things I wanted to do so I could make something special for my wife for no other reason than I could, it wasn't for her birthday or any other special occasion, I just did it, and it's not like it took me days and nights of carving either, all in all it took about four hours (split over two days)

I have made two more since (one was more for show than anything else) and they have taken less time because I know how to get the hook part right now, this is what took most of the time, it has to be right or it won't work properly.

Here are the tools I used to make all of the crochet hooks - 

A strange mix ?
Perhaps not the most practical of things to use for this, and in case you are wondering the funny wire thing next to the saw is another saw, it's actually a pocket saw I use it when I'm out when I find interesting bit's of wood that have fallen off trees, or indeed fallen trees, I don't cut down anything specifically for these projects, the purple thing is a very fine sanding pad, gives a great smooth finish to wood.
The needle files helped in getting the hook part right, and after that I used sand paper to get it as smooth as possible, my wife says that the wool doesn't get caught up, which is good, means I got it right :-)

Here are the others I have made - 

Two of the hooks are made from the same bit of wood, the curly one is actually a piece of willow from one of our twisted willow trees, I just thought it would be fun to try and make a hook out of a bit of it, it actually turned out pretty good, and oddly it is quite ergonomic, it fit's quite well in the hand, and yes it is usable too :-)

Here's a picture of my wife holding the curly hook - 

As you can see it kind of curls round her hand.
It may not be the most practical crochet hook ever, but it was a bit of fun, below are some more pictures of the ends of the hooks, the hook part is the hardest bit to get right in my opinion.

More pictures - 

The first hook.
The willow hook, the smallest hook of the three.
The largest, this one is 14mm, for chunky crochet.
As you can see I have changed the hook slightly on each hook, and I'm also working on a fourth hook at present, it will be more decorative than the others, I recently bought some small carving chisels for this and other projects, very good, and they give more scope for designs.
My wife wanted the larger hook for chunky crochet, like woolly hats and such like, I measured each hook with my vernier callipers to get them accurately sized as some patterns require a specific size of hook.

All in all it was good fun, and it gives you a great feeling when you make something with your own hands, and we should do more, we should make the effort for our loved ones, make a card instead of buying one, craft things are cheap and it's not hard to do, if you need pointers you can google card making, or hand made crafts, have a go, who ever you make the gift for will love it, and it may not be shiny and polished, and precision made by some robot controlled machine, it will be unique to you, a one off, never to be repeated in the same way again, and that's part of what will make it special for who ever you do it for, they will know that they are the only person who has one quite like that, and seeing the smile you get from doing something like this is priceless.

If you want to make your own crochet hooks then here are some pointers - 

Find a straight-ish piece of wood, not too thick, it will take forever to get it to the size you want, I've so far used, birch,cherry,willow and even a bit of ivy.

Use a sharp knife, a stanley knife is good, or a craft knife, but be very careful these types of knife will cut to the bone, I know I've done it more than a few times over the years.

For the hook part I use a saw to make a 45 degree cut, put the wood in a vice or clamp it to a flat surface, it doesn't need to be exactly 45 degree's as long as it's close, I have drawn a small diagram.

Diagram -

Another dubious diagram :-)
Once you have got this far you can start shaping the wood, you may want to look at pictures of crochet hooks to get the rough shape of the hook, but that's about it, and as long as you leave an inch or two at the hook end smooth so that the wool doesn't get caught up you can put ever you like on the other end, do a google search for hand made crochet hooks for inspiration and to see how others have done it.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 1 October 2010

When is a drill not a drill ? ... ...

When is a cordless drill not a cordless drill ?

The answer is simple, when it's a whisk of course :-)

This is just a bit of fun I guess, but earlier today my lovely wife was making a Dutch apple cake and part of the recipe involves a fair amount of whisking, which is a pain, especially when you have to do loads of it, and seeing as today I decided to help her I came up with a bright idea (okay I'm lazy) I got one of the whisks we have and pulled it apart (it was already loose) and I stuck the whisky part in the end of my cordless drill, and hey presto instant electric whisk :-)

Improvisation - 

Quick thinking ? Not really.
Now there is a point to this post, apart from if you get stuck for an electric whisk and you have a hand whisk and a drill your in business. The point being that I thought about it, not for long granted and it seems to me that there's not enough thinking going on these days, maybe it's because we aren't taught or encouraged to think any more. We should do more, and yes this isn't the best example of thinking a human has ever done, but it was a thought none the less, and it's thought that put a man on the moon (if of course you believe that actually happened) it's thought that created the internal combustion engine and it's thought that set humans at the top of the pile and if want to stay there then we need to keep thinking.

By the way the make shift electric whisk worked very well :-)

Thanks for reading.

Fluid design... well sort of... ...

I'm the sort of person who spends a lot of time thinking about things, all sorts of things, like how can I make this or that, what's the best way to fix this, and loads of stuff in between.
Building things makes me happy, and I think you get a grate deal of satisfaction when you find a problem and solve it, or when you build something from scratch.

With that in mind I have had to re-think the towing hitch for my bicycle trailer, I hadn't really considered it much before because what I had worked reasonably well and so I decided why fix it if it isn't broke ? that is until I realized it could be better, and because what I had was actually causing damage to my bike.

The first trailer hitched to my bike the same way as the second trailer, but it wasn't until I built the second that I decided to re-design the towing hitch, the trailer and the way it attaches to the bike are constantly being reviewed by me, hence the "Fluid design" post title. Basically I used a u-bolt to attach the trailer to my bike by way of a couple of d-shackles, these were the best option for the first trailer, and they work well for this one.

Here's a u-bolt -
U-bolt, which you can find in most hardware/diy shops.
What I did was to buy 2 of them and use the metal plate from 1 on the other, so I had 2 metal plates which I could use to clamp the u-bolt onto the bike frame, it was a pretty easy way to solve the problem of attaching the trailer to the bike.

Here's a very crude diagram of how I did it - 
Not the best technical drawing in the world.
As you can hopefully see I clamped the u-bolt to one of the rear forks of my bike, this was okay for the most part, but I started to notice that after time the bolt wouldn't stay in the right place, and it eventually moved quite a lot, especially when I had heavy loads in the trailer.

Here's a picture of the damage it has cause to the forks - 

You can see all the paint has gone, down to bare metal.
I had attached the bolt to the higher of the 2 forks, and it eventually started to move up and down, the damage on the lower fork was caused by the end of the trailers tow bar moving more than it should have been.

So not so long ago I set about re-designing the towing hitch, and I think I came up with a pretty good solution, I have managed to make a hitch that is easier to use, stronger and most importantly is very stable, it allows parts to move, but the right parts.

Here's the new hitch - 

It's a little rough, but it works.
As you can see by the picture above I still use d-shackles to attach the trailer, but the hitch is much better, I have re-used the u-bolt and the 2 metal plates from the original hitch, but I have added a strip of metal and 2 bolts, the new hitch now fixes to both of the rear forks (on the left side of the bike) the u-bolt makes up part of how it fixes to the bike. It is stuck where it is, it doesn't move in any direction, and hopefully it will stay that way, I just need to patch up the damage, I may just re-spray the whole bike.

Here's a picture of the back of the new hitch - 

The other side of the hitch.
So basically what I've done is to use the 2 metal plates to clamp the hitch to the forks, the u-bolt is in the middle of the large metal plate and using 2 extra bolts I have managed to make a much more secure fixing, which means increased stability when I have the trailer attached, it still moves a little, but it's the right kind of movement.

A picture with the trailer attached - 

I will explain the blue bar.
As you can see the shackles work well, and allow enough movement to be able to hitch and un-hitch the trailer easily. You can also see that I've used and eye bolt in the end of the towing bar and the shackles basically join the 2 to each other, you may also notice the cable that goes through the eye bolt, this is a safety and security measure, it provides a way to padlock the bicycle to the trailer, and should for some reason the towing hitch fail there is a back up, you may have also noticed the towing bar is bright blue :-) this is because I broke the original bar, and had to use this as a replacement, it's an old part of a climbing frame, very strong, but light weight (don't worry I didn't dismantle the kids climbing frame to build this)

And that's about it really, I had to find a better method, and this is it, well I think so, I have used the trailer several times since I made the new hitch and I have noticed a difference in the way the trailer behaves, it is much more stable at speed (not that I go that fast, but it wobbles less when loaded)
I will spray the hitch when I get round to spraying the rest of the bike, so it doesn't rust.

Now for my next trick....... finding a way to get rid of the bike and hitch the trailer to the dog, like a sledge :-) Just kidding.

Here's a pick of the dog -

Meet Pepper, the family mutt :-)

Thanks for reading.