Saturday, 23 June 2012

Third wedding anniversary present ...

Tomorrow is mine and my wife's third wedding anniversary, and the traditional gift is something made from leather, or involving leather and as we said we would try and make all our wedding anniversary presents I had to come up with something made with leather.

My first idea failed quite badly, it's funny how an idea that seems fantastic in your head actually isn't that great when it comes to actually making it.

I'm pleased to say that my second idea (plan b) actually worked very well, least I think it did.

Here it is -

It's written in runic in case you are wondering.

I've used the same sort of idea as I did with the valentines gift I made for my wife, that being a Buddleja frame, mainly because it is quite straight and it's easy to make it all fit together.

The writing says ' I love you ' and it's in runic (I know soft git aren't I) I basically stitched the wooden back ground with thin leather, all in all it didn't take that long to do, maybe two hours spread over a few days, I spent more time on getting the translation as accurate as I could, after all it should say I love you, and not be a recipe for pickled herring or such like, another reason for using runic was because the characters are easy to create as they are quite angular, I also like that it's an ancient language.

Here's the lettering - 

Pickled herring anyone ?

I printed the characters out on paper, then marked the points where the angles change on the wood, then I drilled holes at each point with a small drill bit, then it was just a case of threading the leather through the holes.

The frame is the same sort of frame I always use for this type of thing, mainly because it's easy to make a frame with Buddleja wood, then I used a clear varnish on the frame, and I gave the leather and the wooden back ground a coat of Linseed oil.

The frame with varnish - 

It has more of a shine than I intended.

And lastly I added a strip of leather to the top as a means to hang the plaque up with, I just used small tacks to hold the strip of leather onto the back of it.

The hanger - 

It was a bit long, so I added a knot.

That's about it, one wedding anniversary gift using the traditional leather, next year if we stick to tradition it's flowers I think (that's an easy one) or I might go for silk, which is also given for the fourth wedding anniversary.

Here it is again - 

I quite like it.

Happy anniversary to my lovely wife xxx

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Homemade spinning tops ... ...

After what seems like ages I have managed to use my lathe, after I pulled it apart and cleaned it, it was a little dusty.

No I didn't make a box or a pot, this time I thought I'd make something I've wanted to make for a while, spinning tops.

I've made 5 in all, the tops themselves have all been turned on my lathe, and made from odd little bits of wood left over from various other turning excursions.

These were the first two I made -

They are quite rough, but they work.

As I said I made them from scrap wood, if you look at the Birch one (on the right) you can see a large crack in it, the Pear wood one is okay though (the one on the left) I figured that because they are wood the ends would eventually wear down and perhaps stop the tops from spinning so well, so I used upholstery tacks on the points, I made sure they won't come out by gluing them with some impact adhesive, I fixed the tacks whilst the tops were still on the lathe to make sure I got them in the center.

The tacks - 

The tacks make them spin quite well.

Then, as is usually the case I started to wonder about designs and ways to actually get the tops spinning, and spinning fast, I've seen various methods for doing this, so I thought I'd try some out adding my own 'spin' (see what I did there) to them.

This next one is based on a similar spinning top that is some where at the bottom of the large toy box in the front room.

It uses a launcher and a bit of string to make it go, and it can get up some speed, as you can see from the short video of it in action.

The top and launcher - 

It's made from pine, and uses a tack in the base.

And here's a short video of it in action (no sound) - 

As you can see it spins quite fast and for quite a while, it would spin for longer if it was heavier, pine isn't very heavy and perhaps not the best wood for spinning tops, I have started planning a much larger version of this, maybe as big as 20cm across.

These next two tops are much more polished than the others, and although I made both of them so that you could use string to make them spin, only one of them works as well as I wanted.

More tops - 

They are both made from cypress.

They can both be spun quite easily using your fingers but I figured you could get them going much better with the help of a length of string, which is why both these tops have a large groove running all the way round them.

With the string wound round - 

The groove on the darker one needed to be deeper.

The idea is that you hold the top with your finger and then pull the string to make it go, another thing I changed was the end, the darker one as you can see has a flat end, this made it difficult to hold it and get it spinning, so the next one (the lighter one) I made with a slightly pointed end, you can see in the picture below what I was trying to do.

Ready to spin -

See the frayed string, I have a cure for that.

 I'm always getting annoyed at the ends of bits of string, some string is worse than others, but a little super glue on the frayed end will solve any threading issues you might have been having with it, just give the offending end a twist and then add one or two drops of super glue, just drop it on, and make sure the string isn't touching anything else, once it's dried you should be able to thread it easily, and if you should get super glue on your fingers a little warm soapy water should sort it out.

Like so - 

Super glue is great stuff, but be careful with it, it will stick fingers together.

Here's another video of this top in action (no sound) -

I didn't get it going very well in this video, but you get the idea, it will spin almost as well as the one that uses the launcher, all in all I'm quite pleased with the ones I've made so far, and my kids love them, in fact they seem to spend more time playing with the stuff I make than the gadgets we have.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The humble moth ... ...

To be honest I'd never really given much thought to moths (or butterflies) at least until my son was born, on the night he was born it was quite warm so we had the windows open, and the usual thing happened, open window + lights and in come the moths, but we only got one type of moth that night, they are known as old ladies, they are quite a large moth and although quite common I'd never seen one, and I haven't seen one since.

Here's a link to a page about the Old lady moth (Mormo Maura) - Old lady moth (opens in new window)

Anyway since then I've given moths a lot more consideration, seems when I read nature articles and such like they are almost always about butterflies, not that there's anything wrong with them, I just prefer moths I guess.

So last year whilst I was on my travels I found a caterpillar, it turned out to be a Lime Hawk moth caterpillar, here's another link to a picture of one - Lime Hawk moth (opens in new window)

As the little chap was heading towards the road I moved him back to some trees, and on my way back there he was again, so I took him home for the kids to look at, with the intention of letting him go, but shortly after he arrived this happened.

Not a caterpillar anymore -

The kids were fascinated.

Eventually the chrysalis turned brown, and for almost a year it has been in a jar, and the kids have been waiting patiently for it to change into a moth, and yesterday it did.

Here he is (we're pretty sure it's a he) - 

Isn't he great ?

Now we just need him to sort himself out so we can let him go, this is the second moth we've had hatch (not sure hatch is the right word) the first was an Angle shade, yes that is a real moth.

The Angle shade - 

Another great moth.

We also have another Angle shade that's still in chrysalis form, so the kids are eagerly awaiting it's hatching.

Moths I feel are some what over looked, but I think they are great, all the chrysalises we've found in our garden (apart from the Lime hawk moth) we also found a load at our allotment, so we plan to find some more and watch them change and have fun identifying them, I had hoped I'd catch the hawk moth as it started to emerge so I could do a little time lapse photography, but it beat me to it.

It's a very educational experience, for us and the kids, and now we are on the look out for a couple of these.

Cinnabar caterpillars -  

Tiger pillars ?

These are an interesting moth, usually people think of moths as a night time insect, but these are usually seen flying in the day (and at night sometimes) they usually feed on ragwort, which makes the caterpillars taste really nasty to predators, the moths themselves are a lovely black and red colour.

A Cinnabar moth - 

Another great moth.

As moths go these are quite colourful, and I guess that's why people prefer butterflies, they are after all better looking and fly in the day, but spare a thought for the humble moth, we did have a extra special moth in the garden last year, it was a humming bird hawk moth, these are becoming more frequent in this country, although as yet I haven't been able to get a good picture of one, I plan to sort that out, and we'll all be on the look out for other types of moth we might have in the garden and surrounding countryside.

I guess this is all about teaching kids about nature, so next time you dig up a chrysalis of some kind, why not keep it and let it hatch, then you can have fun finding out what it is, it's a good learning experience for the kids, just pop it in a jar on a bit of tissue, make sure to put a few holes in the lid.

Here's a few more pictures of our moths.

Lime hawk moth - 

He's quite furry.

Wing markings - 

Subtle colouring.

Front view - 

Awesome moth.

The Angle shade - 

It has a slight pink tinge to it in parts.

A close up - 

Looks like a leaf.

Release day - 

Hopefully it's doing well.

So next time you are out and about, keep an eye out for our humble moths, they are just as important as butterflies, some also pollinate our plants as well.

Thanks for reading, and I'll leave you with this quote, not a truer word spoken if you ask me.

Man's heart away from nature becomes hard.  ~ Standing Bear

Friday, 1 June 2012

Homemade lathe steady ... ...

From time to time when I'm turning wood I've found that I get too much movement in what ever I'm turning, especially long pieces (like candle sticks) this can cause all sorts of problems, for a start the piece won't stay round, it'll go a kind of oval shape, and the piece can even break where it's held in the chuck, and you don't really want large chunks of wood flying about at 2000 rpm.

So I decided I needed a steady for my lathe, the only problem is that I couldn't find one that would A - fit my lathe in a way I want and B - the ones I did find where a little costly for my tastes, so I built one.

 Here it is -

I'll explain why there's a bit missing.

It's not a particularly neat job, but it was cheap and it works, and despite how it might look it's very sturdy when in use, which is what I was aiming for.

After looking at a few sites online that have similar devices I figured a big circle shape was best, and to be honest the simplest way to make it.
I got a sheet of 12mm ply and had it cut at the diy store, mainly because I'm lazy and couldn't be bothered to do it, and because they'll cut it for free and it was easier to get home on my push bike.

Firstly I cut out 3 identical shapes, circles basically with an external measurement of 14 inches and an internal measurement of 12 inches, rather than cut out a complete circle shape I shaped the bottom so that I could fix the mounting bracket to it nice and securely.

3 parts ready for gluing together -

In the end I screwed and glued them together.

To make the circles I used a piece of wood that I marked with the right measurements, I don't have a compass that was big enough, hence using the bit of wood, this is a good way of getting large circles onto bits of wood.

The make shift compass -


You can see how it works, once you have the centre of the wood you want to draw a circle on you can use a screw or a nail to locate your compass, and then all you need to do is drill holes at the right measurements for your circles, then just poke a pencil through the hole and there you have it, a simple, but accurate compass.

Once the 3 main parts had been fixed together I tidied them up with my homemade spindle sander, I'll put a link to that post at the end of this one.

Tidying up -

I've thought of loads of things I can do with a spindle sander.

Next I had to make 3 arms to hold the wheels I intended to use, the wheels came from an old set of roller blades that had been in the loft for years, the arms are also made from 12mm ply, I was going to make them out of a single thickness of ply, but they weren't as strong as I thought they should be, so I made them double the thickness.

The arms (which will support the wood in the lathe) - 

The groove is for the bolt that fixes the arm to the frame.

The wheels are held onto the wood with bolts and a small length of threaded bar, this was all I had lying about, otherwise I'd have used nuts and bolts of some sort, but this works just as well, the groove in the arm is was made by drilling out a series of holes and then using a rasp file I made the groove.

One of the wheels - 

Sports wheels no less.

Side view, with small washers added to make sure the bearings don't rub - 

I chose the smoothest wheels from the lot I have.
To fix the arms to the main frame I've used some long bolts with wing nuts, this means I can undo the arms quickly and make fine adjustments without having to undo things completely.

First I marked out on the frame where I wanted the arms, then I cut out the section of wood, I went down about 12mm, then I used a chisel to remove the scrap bit of wood.

The cuts already made - 

Just needs a chisel and then it's ready for the support arm.
I decided where I wanted all 3 arms, and about 5 minutes after I'd made all the cuts and chiseled out the wood I changed my mind, which is why there's a bit missing (now repaired) in the first picture.

The original placement - 

Not quite right.

As you can see the arms are more or less in the right place, I just wanted a little more support on the bottom of the steady, so I moved the arm on the right down a little, this way it will sit underneath what ever I'm turning slightly better than before.

Revised version - 

That's better.
Then all I needed to do was make a bracket so that I could fix it to the bed of my lathe, this was easy enough to do.
I cut 3 rectangles of ply, 1 to fix the frame to, and 2 others to make the bracket.

The bracket - 

Like a wood sandwich.

The smallest piece of wood sits snugly between the 2 parts of my lathe bed, the bolts then pull it altogether so that it's nice and secure and doesn't move when it's in use.
And that's about it really, it works quite well, all I need to do now is get into my shed and start turning a candle stick or 2 to see how it works on a long piece.

The steady on the lathe - 

You can see the bolts that hold each arm.

From the other side - 

You can see that 1 arm sits lower than the other.

And here's a short video (taken on my phone) of it working, it's noisy, but it does the job, this was with the lathe running at full speed, it holds the wood quite well I think.

Working (you might want to turn your speakers down a touch) ! - 

Here's the link to my homemade spindle sander -  Homemade spindle sander (opens in new window)

Thanks for reading.