Thursday, 15 December 2011

Wooden christmas decorations ... ...

Been a while since I last posted, been busy making a dolls house and some furniture for it, for my daughter as part of her Christmas present.

Anyway I'll post about the dolls house soon, but for now have a look at these simply to make wooden Christmas decorations, they could also be made in thick card as well.

Stars -

Very festive :-)
After making the dolls house I had a load of scrap bits of wood lying about so I made some decorations to try and use some of it up, it's only thin plywood (4mm) so it's pretty easy to cut out by hand, although having a scroll saw or coping saw helps.

This wood make a great project for kids to try, with younger kids you might need to do the cutting for them, but they could do the painting and decorating themselves.

Basically what you do is cut out 2 identical shapes, I've done stars (above) to hang in our tree and I also did a Christmas tree for the mantle piece.

Then what you need to do is cut out a groove halfway down 1 piece and then on the other piece cut another groove, again halfway down, but in the opposite end to the first.

Like this  - 

I actually went a little over halfway.

Then all you do is slide the 2 bits together, and if you paint them before you put them together should be able to flat pack them when it's time to put Christmas back in it's box.

Assembled - 

1 easy to make 3d look Christmas tree.
 Now all that's left is to decorate it, you can use paints, or cover them in paper, or leave them plain, it's up to you, and if you let the kids at it you'll end up with all sorts of interesting designs.

I spray painted the stars silver, and the tree was painted in a metallic green acrylic paint, then I've added (badly) some detail in glitter glue.

The finished articles - 

In my defence I was in a hurry ;-)

And that's it, simple and quick, and they look pretty good, and pack away flat, you can use any shape you feel like, so if you have some scraps of thin wood about, or some thick card here's a good use for it.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Homemade dolls house ... ...

It's finally finished ! well almost, there's still some furniture and fittings to make.

This year we decided our daughter should have a dolls house, and after looking about at the various ones available and not really thinking any of them appropriate, I decided I'd make one, famous last words.

To be fair I could have had it finished months ago, but as usual I left it until the last minute, it's all but finished now, with the help of my most excellent wife all that needs doing is some extra fittings and furniture, but we intend it to be something that evolves and grows with our daughter, and hopefully in time she will feel like making her own things for it as well.

Here it is -

I built a house !
It's quite big as these things go, it's about 2 feet wide, 2 feet tall and a foot and a half deep, it has 3 floors and the entire front opens up for easy access, half of the roof also opens up, even the front door opens, but I've yet to make the shutters for the windows, or the window boxes.

It's made from a combination of different thicknesses of plywood, so it's pretty study, and in theory should take a good playing with, unlike some of the ones we looked at online and in toy shops.

Early stages of construction -

Just a shell here.

The 3 floors and stairs.

The whole house is made from a single sheet of plywood, the stairs in the picture are made from 4mm plywood, and built more or less like a real set of stairs, things like banisters will get added at a later stage if my daughter decides she wants them.

Some more early stage pictures -

I made the roof tiles, for both sides of the roof.

I decided to make roof tiles for the house, I used thick card and basically cut out a load of rectangles (546 of them) and approached fixing them in a similar way to a real roof, only I used pva glue instead of batons and nails, then I painted the roof in a dark grey colour, hopefully resembling slate

The mock stone work is also done in card.

I decided to do the stone window and door surrounds in card as well, I was going to use thin plywood, but after cutting some out it didn't look right, the window frames are made from 6mm plywood and inserted into the holes I made in the front.

We had to get creative when it came to decoration, we chose a plain cream colour for the internal walls, and the flooring is wallpaper, we used 2 different sorts, one of which looks a little like flag stones, and the other looks quite like the natural sea grass type carpets you can get.

The flooring -

We used this in the kitchen and bathroom.

This one is in the living room and bedroom, and the attic.

Once the flooring was in we coated it all in pva to make it a little harder wearing, it also means we can give things a wipe over if needed, we also coated the roof in pva after it was painted, and the paint for the walls inside and out had pva mixed in with it, adding pva to emulsion seems to make it a little more durable, and it can be wiped over with a cloth, with out taking the paint off.

The inside all done -

All done, you can see the roof lid as well.

For the front of the house we used plain white emulsion (with a bit of pva) and pink lacquer paint (Japlac) the white was for the walls and I used the pink to pick out the mock stone work around the windows, I also painted the front door in pink as well, but figured the door would stand out more if I painted the surround in a darker colour, so I used the same paint as I used on the roof, then we just added a handle so that the front can be easily opened and closed.

The front of the house again -

All done, sort of.

Of course every house needs furniture, amongst other things, so we've also been making furniture for the various rooms, this is another thing we hope will evolve as the years go by.
The furniture is simply made, but quite sturdy, and as our daughter gets older she can add different stuff, no doubt she'll be pestering me to make new stuff.

The 3 piece for the front room -

Easy to make, just needs cushions.

My wife has been making the cushions for the chairs and the mattresses for the beds, she even crocheted some small scatter cushions for each chair, it was my wife's idea to also use some small picture frames we had lying about to make some artwork for each room, and I have to say it was also my wife that suggested making a flat screen tv out of an old mp3 player case I had lying about, as you might guess my wife is in charge of interior decor, and it wouldn't be Christmas with out a Christmas tree, so my wife made one.

The chair cushions and pillows -

I think they look brilliant.

The finished front room -

We used pictures our daughter likes for the tv and wall hanging.

One of the beds (I think my wife has plans to make sheets for them -

Complete with Hello Kitty artwork.

We also have a small bench for the attic, or play room as it's now called, my wife added the heart decoration, and plans to do a similar thing to the beds.

The play room bench seat -

Fantastic isn't it ?

And for the front door my wife also made an excellent wreath, wouldn't be Christmas with out one.

The wreath -

Christmas is almost here !

And that's about as far as we've got, this will make up part of our daughters Christmas presents, hopefully she'll forgive me for saying it was a tool box ;-) not sure I fooled her with that anyway.

We have many more plans for things to make for it, including a roll top bath and a toilet, I have a load of miniature kitchen units to make as well, and I'll probably be making stuff for it for years to come.

I could have just gone out and bought one, but I personally think if you can make something like this (and mine isn't perfect) then you should give it a go, this actually worked out cheaper than a bought one of a similar size, and it'll last longer as well, but besides that it's a handmade gift for my daughter, and I know even at 3 she'll appreciate this more because mum and dad made it for her, than she would one from a shop.

This will most likely be my last post this year, so thanks for reading and we wish you all a happy Christmas and all the best for the new year.

Inspire Me Beautiful

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Getting organised ... Sort of ... ...

In a bid to be more productive I have come to the conclusion that I need to be more organised, so I've been trying to get my workshop (okay it's a shed) into some kind of order, especially now as I have a shiny new post drill to find a space for, well I have a space for it, it's just occupied by a load of crap.

One of the things I've found is that rolls of sand paper can get unruly at times, I have quite a bit of sandpaper, of different grades for wood turning and other stuff, so I normally get it on a roll rather than in sheet form, the problem with that is it gets all over the place, so the other day I figured I'd do something about the sandpaper.

And this is the solution, which would work for other things as well -

Scrap wood always comes in handy for this kind of thing.

Yes it's a big roll holder, and I made it from odd bits of plywood I had lying about, as I mentioned this would work for other things as well, rolls of material for example, although you might need to make it wider, rolls of paper and just about anything else you can get on a roll.

All you need is 3 bits of wood, and a length of dowel or an old broom handle or such like, I fixed this together with nails and wood glue, but you could use screws, which might be better for heavier materials.

I cut a strip for the back of the holder, this allows you to fix it to a wall easily, you just need to drill holes through the back.

The sides I cut at a slight sloping angle, but you could just leave them straight, I then cut slots into each side for the dowel, and I also made a small notch in each side so that when you pull on a roll the it doesn't all fly out of the holder.

The sides -

You can see the notch to stop the pole coming out.

I used my multi tool to make the notch.

And that's about it, you could probably pick up the wood to make this in the off cut bin in your local diy type shop, so it needn't be expensive, I used the same peg technique I used for the trug handle to make sure the pole doesn't come out of the holder.

The peg technique - 

Not very neat, but it's for my workshop.

And here's the finished article, it will hold a few rolls of sandpaper, and if I need a bigger one I can just root about in my scrap wood collection for the bits, the holder has now been installed in the workshop and it performs well.

Ta Da !

I have made a few other items for helping me to become more productive, and less chaotic, so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Homemade trug ... ...

I decided to use up some of the bits of plywood I have lying about, and so I made a trug, it's actually a prototype for a potential future shop item, I do tend to build these things at least once before I decide to sell them, just like to get the method down so I can make them quickly.

Anyway it's pretty easy to make your own trug, although it's not the traditional type made of thin wooden strips, but even so they can look quite nice.

To make a trug you basically need 5 bits of plywood (that's if you got for sheet material) you need 2 ends and 2 sides and a base, you'll also need something to make a handle out of, a piece thick dowel is ideal for this.

I haven't included any plans, mainly because it's a preferential thing, I made mine to suit us, but you can make yours to how you want, I'll give you some pointers though.

Here's what mine ended up looking like -

Perhaps a little larger than it needed to be ?

You can get an idea of how it's built, it's basically a fancy box. I cut the 2 ends to a nice shape, but you can just make the ends square, you will need a way to cut the shape out though if you choose to go down that road, a jigsaw will do well enough, or if you have a scroll saw it will do just as well.

Some other things you will need are some glue, nails and sand paper, as well as something to make the handle from. This is unfinished, it's got to have a paint job, but you could just varnish the wood, it's up to you.

 If you use angled sides, like I have you might want to sand the bottom of it flat, it makes it easier to fix the base.

Another picture -

It looks a little thin, but it's quite sturdy.
I fixed it all together with small brass pins and a good quality wood glue, making sure the base is well fixed, you don't want the contents falling out all over the place.
The handle is just a bit of plain dowel that I've fixed in place using 2 pegs, one on either end.

Brass pins and pegs to hold on the handle -

I shaved a piece of dowel down for the peg.

Brass pins.

 And that's about it really, not the most complicated of projects, but the result is quite pleasing, and it's also functional, but you could make one just for decoration, the method is the same, obviously thicker wood will mean the trug is heavier, and when you have it loaded up with goodies it'll be heavier still, I used 6mm plywood, which I feel is plenty strong enough, so why not make yourself one out of some bits of scrap wood, might come in handy for blackberry picking or for freshly dug up spuds.

Inspire Me Beautiful

Monday, 7 November 2011

Experiments with dead wood ... ...

I'm sure people are beginning to wonder about me, seems every time I hear a chain saw I'm off looking to see what's being cut down, although it is paying off, just the other day I acquired 2 large sections of Silver Birch, which was going for fire wood, it'll be a while before I can use it, but even so.

I will also (fingers crossed) be getting some Holly and Apple in a few days time, which will further expand my collection of logs.

A few weeks ago I did a shrub removal job for a friend and I decided I'd have a go a turning some of it, I asked if I could take some, which receive a slight raising of the eye brow, and a look of "what on earth do you want that for ? " but I took some of the more usable pieces home.

It turns out it's some kind of Cypress tree, but because it had been pruned on a regular basis it wasn't very big and as a result of the pruning some of it had died, and it's the dead bit's I took most of, mainly because I figured I could turn it straight away, if it's dead it won't warp or crack as there's no life left in the wood.

Even wood that's been cut down still has life in it, it will shrink and grow with the temperature and humidity of the air, but dead wood won't, at least not so much.

So this is what I made from one bit of the dead wood - 

It's an interesting colour.

It turned pretty well, and I managed to get a great finish on it, and even though it didn't appear to be very hard wood, it is, even though it's a small pot it feels sturdy, and the point on the lid is quite sharp.

Another picture -

With the lid off.

You can't really see it in the pictures, but in some places it has a kind of pale pinky colour to it, which is quite nice. I burned the dark band in while it was on the lathe, this is an easy way to add a little detail to an item, you basically hold a piece of wood to the piece whilst it's revolving and friction does the rest, although if you hold the wood to the piece for too long you'll get fire !

I've found this technique is a good way to add a little extra interest to an item, but it works better on some woods than others, I've also found that it's best to use a piece of the same wood, rather than a random bit you might have lying about, you can also use a welding rod or even one of those ceramic tile saw blades, the ones that you hand cut tiles with.

The Apple tree I have my eye on is also dead, so I hope to start turning that more or less straight away, so I'm quite looking forward to turning a load of new stuff.

Thanks for reading.

Allotement update ... ...

I thought I'd do a quick update on our allotment, to be honest not much has been going on, just keeping it clear and getting it ready for next year.

We didn't get as much as we had hoped for, but in all fairness it did take some time to actually get it into a usable state, so fingers crossed for next year.

The pumpkins we grew did okay, not massive but usable for both eating and carving.

Pumpkins -

And some lettuce, in October ?

My wife part cooked the flesh for use in soups and anything else we can think of cooking with it, by the way roast pumpkin with your Sunday dinner is very good, just cut it up and chuck it in with the roast spuds.

I have a variety of projects on the go at the moment, the most important is the dolls house I'm building for my daughter, fingers crossed I'll get it done before Christmas, but I have plans for sorting out the allotment plot and making it look a little tidier, for a start I need to build a proper compost bin system, I have the wood, just need an extra hour in the day.

However I did manage to get the strawberry plants we got from freecycle planted in their own raised bed.

New strawberry bed made from floorboards - 

It's bigger than it looks.

I had planned to use the runners from the plants we have in the back garden to start a strawberry bed going at the allotment, but our strawberries didn't do so well this year, not sure why, but as luck would have it someone on freecycle offered a load of plants, free to a good home, so I jumped at the chance, and as it turns out I got 80 odd plants for the price of a push bike ride, and a bit of digging, 80 plants is a lot, but it didn't even make a dent in the strawberry bed they came from, and I was 1 of 8 that was lucky enough to get some plants.

So I trundled down to the plot the next morning and set about clearing a space for them, and building a bed.

The bed close up -

They look a little sad, but they'll soon perk up.

So I have a fair chunk of the plot cleared, just needs some feeding, I have a load of homemade compost to go into the ground, which now feels much better than it did when we took the plot on, although a bit of rain has helped that.

And that's about it really, it seems as though the weeks spent weeding are starting to pay off, and with some careful planning next year we will get the most out of the plot, more of everything, least that's the plan.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Weave your own web for halloween ... ...

With Halloween just around the corner I thought I'd share something we did last year, but have expanded a little on this year.
Last year we did a load of Halloween based crafts, conker spiders and such like, and we also made spider webs from pva glue that we stuck in the windows.

This is a really easy thing to do and all you need is a smooth flat surface, flexible if possible (I use a laminator sheet) as it makes it easier to get the web off once it's dried, pva glue and you can add glitter as well.

It's really easy to do, but it will take about 24 hours for the glue to set completely.

This is what you end up with -

The picture doesn't do it justice.

To make your own webs all you need to do is draw a web shape on your smooth surface with the glue.

Drawing the web - 

Web weaving.

Start by drawing intersecting lines, until you have as many as you want, this depends on how big the surface is and obviously how big you want it, I find a tube like the one in the picture is best as it is easy to draw neat lines with it, and this would be better for kids to use.

Easy really.

Once you have enough lines, I find 4 is enough, this will give you 8 spokes to your web. Then all you have to do is draw a line in a slight curve in between each spoke, and keep going until you have filled it all up.

Like so -

Complete with purple glitter.

And that's it really, you can add glitter, or leave it plain and you can use paint to colour the glue, but you'd need to get all the glue out of the tube and then put it all back once you've mixed in the paint, I guess you could also use a piping bag for this as long as you don't mind having to throw it out after, but use a fine nozzle.

You can make a web like the one above and place it anywhere on a window, if your surface was nice and flat and smooth the web should stick with no trouble, I find the laminator sheet is handy for this for a few reasons, one being it's nice and smooth and you can move the web out of the way of little fingers while it dries, and with a flexible surface it's easy to peel the web off once it's dried.

Here's another one, this one is for a corner of a window - 

We used silver this time.
Complete with bat :-)

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween.

Classified: Mom

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Latest wood turning project ... ...

Apologies if you've been waiting for a post, seems we are currently in a situation where there really aren't enough hours in a day (or days in a week for that matter)

Due to other things I haven't been able to spend as much time at my lathe as I would like, although I'm hoping to sort that out soon.

I have managed to experiment further with the cypress I've recently acquired, I have just the other day got a load more of this type of wood, which to be honest I'm liking a lot, it's easy to work with and even though it's very green I seem to be having a lot less trouble with it in terms of warping and such like.

Latest piece -

Do you want soldiers with that ?

Yes I've made an egg, an egg box actually, again this is made from the cypress I got through freecycle, I'm going to get some more of this, but much larger pieces which I'm hoping to make some much larger pieces from, and perhaps some bowls.

Like most of the boxes / pots I make this is turned from one piece of wood, and I've applied the same logic to turning this as I did with the other cypress pot, that being I turned it a little (roughed it out) and then left it for a week or so then finished it off, this approach seems to be working, but I need to test it on some of the more difficult wood I have, mainly the fruit wood.

This piece isn't perfect, there are some small cracks on the top part (the egg) these I can easily turn out as they aren't very deep, this usually happens around knots in wood, least it does for me.

Some more pictures - 

Lid off, you can see the small cracks in the egg part.
Not as bad as they look.

I have been in some what of a dilemma about these cracks, I have to admit I quite like them, they seem to fit seeing as it's meant to be an egg, so I've wondered about making a small feature of them, however this may not be to everyone's liking so I'm not sure whether to as I intend to sell the piece in my shop, technically it's probably not a good idea to sell things with cracks in them, these won't get any worse, but as I said some people may take a dim view of the box being for sale with defects, I guess if I do decide to leave it as is and put it in my shop I'll find out.

The next thing I'm going to try with this wood is turning it end grain on, mainly to see what patterns appear as often a dull looking piece of wood yields some very interesting features when turned slightly differently, so keep a look out for that.

A few more pictures showing the grain -

The grain seems to suit designs like this.

I may turn the egg part from a different wood next time.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Leyandii ... ...

I don't consider myself to be an expert in all things wood, in fact more often than not I find I'm left puzzled by the way some woods behave, despite my best efforts to prevent said behaviour, I do learn though, probably learned more about different types of wood in the last few years than I have my whole life.

And  few weeks ago I got another lesson, in Leyland cypress which is also known as Leylandii, yes the scourge of the neighbourhood, in fact there was a program on the BBC the other day all bout this particular tree ---> Hedgewars (opens in new window)

I know that these trees have caused endless arguments all over the UK, there's a good chance that when you look down your street you'll probably see some, I always liked them when I was a kid as the larger tree's are pretty good for climbing, if you don't mind getting covered in the sticky sap that is, and now I have an new appreciation for them, in a slightly different form though.

I've been on the look out for new supplies of wood to turn and I put an e-mail out to my local freecycling group and I got a surprise in the form of a chap who had just cut down a load of them, in fact there were quite a few and some as tall as 40 feet or more, so I now have a pretty large pile of wood, and I've only made one trip, got loads more to go.

This is the first thing I made from it (which actually took 3 weeks to make) -

I was surprised by the grain.
It is still very green wood (which just means it hasn't be cut down for long) and I was a little worried about cracking and warping, turning exposes the heart wood and forces the wood to dry out faster than it would do normally, but this pot has been in the house for a few weeks and so far it's fine (it's now in my shop) I do this with all my turned stuff, once it's finished I bring it in the house if it cracks it's no good for selling, if it doesn't it goes in the shop, kind of like quality control :-)

Having this wood has also changed the way I approach turning, hundreds of years ago people didn't dry wood out in kilns, they just cut it down and turned it roughly and then left it for a few weeks, then they finished it off.

This is how I'm looking at the wood I use for turning, I cut it to a good length and leave it for a week or 2, then I turn it roughly, then leave it for a week or 2 then I finish it, and it seems to work, not sure this would work with some of the fruit wood I have, but it's worth a try, yes it takes longer, but I'm getting less failures, and it's still quicker than leaving a bit of wood for 2 or more years for it to season.

So if you happen to notice your neighbours hedge growing a little tall, just take a minute to think about how nice looking this wood is, and instead of cutting it all down and burning it, why not try your hand at carving or turning it :-) and if you don't want to, some one else might want it, maybe your friendly neighbourhood wood turner.

Interesting stuff - 

Leylandii can grow 1 metre a year, and no one actually knows how tall they will get,some have speculated that they may even get as large as Redwoods, which is huge, Leyland Cypress (Leylandii) are actually a hybrid tree, their parent species being Monterey Cypress and Nootka (Alaskan Cypress) at least that's according to this page on Wikipedia - Leyland Cypress (opens in new window)

I'll leave you with a few pictures, thanks for reading.

Pictures -