Sunday, 7 August 2011

Potenstein ... ...

It seems my impatience has got the better of me yet again, but it's not as bad as it sounds... ...

The other day I decided I'd make myself a pen / pencil pot for my desk, so I have some where to keep my drawing pens and such like, so of to the shed I went to find a suitable bit of wood, I chose a piece of pear wood (which was a mistake if I'm honest)

I should have realised I'd run into issues later on down the line, but I set about turning the pot, I was going for a more natural look, and by that I mean keeping some bark on the wood, which isn't as easy as I thought it would be.

Here's the finished pot, still mounted on the lathe -

It's meant to have a bit missing from the rim ;-)

Needless to say I was quite pleased with the finished article, it was quite difficult to keep the bark, mainly because it kept chipping, I think I should have mounted the piece slightly differently on the lathe, that way I could have kept a slightly thicker wall to the pot, but hey ho.

Some more pictures -

Front view, I like the way the bark is cracked.

Here's a side on view -

I like the way the grain stands out.

And another -

I think it's quite organic looking :-)

And just to prove it works ;-) here it is complete with pens and such like.

The pens I use most, at the moment.

And that's that, well no it's not, see the pot sat on my desk for a few days and slowly started to crack, this is my fault for not leaving the wood longer to season, it developed a couple of nasty cracks on either side of it, and looked like it was going to split in half, I was a little gutted.

I've been researching ways to stop certain woods (mainly fruit woods) from cracking and warping so much, as it turns out there are a few ways this can be done, some work better than others, so I went for boiling the wood in the end, yes I did say boiling, and you'd be right in thinking a saucepan and a load of water, and a slightly concerned wife ;-)

Here's a couple of pictures of the cracks that developed - 

There's one on each side.

This one is the worst as it goes all the way through.

These pictures were taken after I boiled the pot, which technically should have been done before it was finished, I should have roughed it out, then boiled it, you may also notice a slight colour change, this wasn't from boiling it, it's from the small amount of red food colouring I added to the water. 

While I was reading about boiling wood, I found a small piece on whether it was possible to add food colouring to the water whilst boiling for different effects, as it turns out it is possible :-)

Another picture that shows the worst crack on the outside, and gives a better idea of the colour the pot went.

It's an interesting colour.

The cracks did close right up after boiling the pot, but they came back, but they don't seem to be getting any worse at least. So the pot sat on my desk, and I wondered what to do about it, I like the pot and didn't want to bin it, and that's when I came up with an idea that involved a small drill bit, some thin copper wire and a mattress needle ;-)

Yes I created potenstein muh ha ha ha ha ! 

I've seen similar things done to turned wood before, so I figured this was a good way to save the pot, and maybe make it better than it would be with a load of cracks, so I've kind of made a feature out of the cracks.

I give you potenstein -

Okay so Frankenstein was made up of different bits, but hey.

You'd be surprised how easy it is to sew wood with copper wire and a needle, of course pre-drilling the holes makes life a lot easier. This would be better if I'd used a thicker gauge wire, which I did try, but it kept breaking, my lovely wife suggested I get some thin leather for next time, which I will because I quite like the pot like this, and plan to experiment further with this idea.

Some more pictures of potenstein -

Side view.

The main split.

You can easily see what I've tried to do, the wire is unlikely to prevent further cracking (fingers crossed that there won't actually be any further cracking) but I like the way it looks, the wire is copper and will start to tarnish and go a slight green colour, which might be nice ?

Thanks for reading.

Inspire Me Beautiful

Friday, 5 August 2011

Simple wine recipes ... ...

Just a couple of simple wine recipes.

They are for plum wine and blackberry wine, both of which are really good, and easy to do, the only annoying thing is they take time, although this is the case for most wines.

Blackberry wine.

This is easy to do, and the fruit can be found growing in more or less every hedgerow in the country ;-)

Ingredients :

  • Blackberries, I use about 1kg of foraged blackberries.
  • Sugar, for our latest batch I've used 1.5kg of sugar, more sugar will mean a sweeter wine, less sugar and it'll be dryer.
  • Water, this depends on how much you plan to make, and whether you have a container for it, but about 4 to 8 litres of water (boiled) for this batch I've used 8 litres, which will fill 2 demijohns.
  • Yeast, now this is up to you, but I get my yeasts and other wine making stuff from the same chap, there are a lot of yeasts about and each will yield slightly different results, but a good general purpose yeast will do, they can be bought for about a pound.
Equipment :

  • Tub, bucket with a lid is best.
  • Spoon for stirring.
  • Demijohns or you could use large plastic bottles, but you'd need to cut holes in the lids to fit the airlocks.
  • Airlocks and rubber bungs (you can get these when you get your yeast)
  • Bottles for bottling up when it's stopped fermenting.
  • Steriliser, this can also be bought from the place you get your yeast, you should be able to pick everything up at the same time.
  • Straining bag (jelly bag will do) or muslin.

The yeast I use -

I used the red packet for the blackberry wine.

Method :

  • First make sure your tub is clean and has been sterilised for a few hours, or leave it over night.
  • Make sure you give it a good rinse out with cold water before starting.
  • Add the sugar to the tub.
  • Then you can either boil up the water in a saucepan or use the kettle (I use the kettle it's quicker)
  • Add the hot water to the sugar, and give it a good stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
  • Next add the fruit and give it a good stir, this will help get some of the flavour out of the fruit.
  • Now you need to let it cool down until it's luke warm, any hotter and the yeast won't work as well, and if you add the yeast while it's still near to boiling you'll kill it.
  • Once it's all cooled down get a small jug or a cup and add some boiled luke warm water and add about a teaspoon of sugar and give it a stir, next add your yeast (it will most likely have instructions on the packet) give it a good stir until all the yeast has dissolved and then leave it for about 15 - 20 minutes.
  • Once your yeast is ready you can add it to the mixture, and once again give it a good stir.
And now comes the first lot of waiting, the yeast will start to do it's thing and eat all the sugar, the by product is the alcohol you want.
Leave it in the tub in a warm place for a week, give it a stir from time to time (once a day should be fine) you'll notice it starts to smell a little alcoholic after a day or two.

Once the week is up you need to get it all out of the tub, hence the straining bag, make sure the demijohns have been sterilised and rinsed out with cold water before using them.

Strain all of it through the bag, muslin etc and place it in the demijohns, then fit the airlocks, I tend to add a little bit of the water from sterilising to the airlocks.

And now comes the next lot of waiting, basically you need to wait until the bubbles stop going through the airlock, this can take a few months. If I remember it took about two 3 months for our first lot of blackberry wine to stop fermenting (we started it in June or was it July) it was ready for Christmas :-) I remember that much.

Once it's finished fermenting you can go ahead and bottle it up, again make sure it's all been sterilised and given a good rinse before use.

We use old glass wine bottles and corks for our wine, I have a little gizmo that puts the corks into the bottles, if you do use corks you'll need to let them soak in steriliser for at least 24 hours prior to using them, you could also use screw tops bottles, or even plastic bottles at a push.

Now don't leave it a for a day or 2 then go drink it, leave it for a couple of weeks if you can, longer is better to be honest, and if you do drink some after a couple of weeks you'll notice the difference between that and the ones left for a few months, it's true that wine gets better with age.

The plum wine is done is much the same way, so you can just use the blackberry recipe but using about 1 - 2 kg of plums, shop bought are okay, but we try to use foraged plums as well, keeps it cheap.

The method for the plum wine is again the same, apart from a little extra ingredient, plums contain a lot of pectin and this can cause a wine to be cloudy, and although it would be drinkable no one wants cloudy wine, so get some pectolase (pectic enzyme) all you do is add this to the mixture (preferably when it's cooled and before the yeast) and it will help you get a nice clear wine.

Pectolase -

It's worth buying for a better end result.

And there you have it, it's easy enough to do, but it does take time and patients will give you better results, I tend to do everything in the same way when it comes to wine, chuck it in a tub and see what happens ;-) I've only had one failure and that was due to the airlock being knocked of the demijohn.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The benefits of a glue gun ... ...

Today the kids got round to making up some of the craft kits we've bought them, and as usually we ran into trouble quite early on.

Both my wife and I are pretty good at crafts in general, but when it comes to some things we always have the same issue, that being glue.

Kids and glue don't really mix well, and depending on the glue it can get quite stressful for the kids, mainly because they want their creations last week, and waiting for glue to dry doesn't always go down well.

So what to do ? you could use a faster drying glue (like super glue) but this isn't really good with kids about, and fingers stick together very quickly ;-) normally a half decent pva glue will be okay, but there's still a certain amount of waiting for it to dry, and when you get craft kits like the ones my kids did today then pva isn't going to cut it.

Here's the finished creatures -

My son did bugs.

My daughter did a polar bear and an elephant.

 As you can see these are basically pompoms and pipe cleaners, even super glue struggled to get these fixed together quickly, so we brought in the humble glue gun, obviously a glue gun needs care and attention when using it, because the glue can get very hot, so adult supervision is a must, but that doesn't mean you should teach your kids to use one.

My old glue gun -

A bit battered, but still works well.

The glue gun solves a couple of problems, the first being that it takes about a minute for the glue to cool enough for a good fixing, and the other is you get a strong fixing so what ever the kids have made should last a while.

You can get a glue gun from most diy type shops (B&Q Homebase etc) and the glue sticks are pretty cheap, the normal clear sticks can be found in pound shops, and you can even get coloured glue sticks and ones with added glitter as well, so they are quite versatile for any number of crafting jobs.

So get a glue gun, and as long as you supervise the kids and teach them how to use it properly you'll be on to a winner as you'll be able to get stuff stuck a lot quicker, from now on we'll mostly be using glue guns !

Thanks for reading.