Friday, 18 March 2016

Dresser refresher...

Ours is a house that likes to rescue things, plants mainly, the ones that no one wants and that look half dead, but we also like to rescue furniture, especially old furniture.

We have a fair bit of old furniture rescued from people who were throwing it away or selling it cheaply just to get rid of it quickly and our latest item is an old dressing table, we'd been looking for one for our daughter for some time and finally found one that was low enough for her to use, but it did need a bit of tlc.

Here's the finished dressing table -

The wall colour was our daughters choice.
It cost us nothing, although we did need a lift with it (thanks for that) but it was in a bit of a state, the old varnish was knackered, so I set about giving it a new finish.

Before I attacked it with a sander -

The drawers were bad as well.

Knackered varnish -

This bit came off on our daughters hand when she lent on it.

More dodgy varnish -

Not much you can do once it gets like this, peeling off and such like.

Selection of sanders, the small orange one is great for tight spaces and corners -

They have served me well, not their first furniture job, and not their last either.

The minion wanted to help, after all as she said it's her dressing table -

You might have guessed, but she quite likes pink.

Carcass sanded, didn't take long, and no I didn't make my daughter do it all -

Next to put some colour back into it.

It didn't take long to sand all of it, about 2 hours of sanding in all, the old varnish didn't need much persuading, it came off easily, I started with 80 grit sheets and went down to 240 grit for the final sand, and then it was on to waxing.

I've done this to a few bits of furniture we have and although it takes time it does work well, the process involves using a coloured wax, one that more or less matches the wood (in this case Oak) and then waxing with at least 2 coats of clear wax, then over time with polishing it develops a patina that makes it look more natural, it's a slow process, but after a while it looks more like a piece of furniture that's as old as it is, with this dressing table that's about 65 / 75 years give or take.

We know it's about that old because of this - 

We have a couple of furniture items with these marks.

It's a cc41 mark, which basically stands for "Controlled Commodity" the 41 is because it was introduced in or around 1941 and ran until around 1951 and like a lot of things materials for making furniture were also rationed in WW2 you could only get new furniture if you had either been bombed out or been recently married, and as with a lot of furniture from that period it is very much a utility piece, which is why it's not very decorative as far as dressing tables go, although there was quite a good black market trade in more decorative furniture, but for us it was the mirror that made it, it's lovely old thick bevelled glass and is 75cm across (about 2 and half feet) it's a big bit of glass.

More on "Controlled Commodity"41 at wikipedia - (opens in new window)

Right enough about that, time for some wax - 

Great stuff and a nice colour.

I used Black Bison wax, it's great stuff and smells nice (my wife says it smells like a Bison, not sure how she knows that) I gave the whole thing a generous coat of wax and left it over night before adding the top coats of clear wax.

For any gaps that I couldn't get a rag into I used a small paint brush to apply the wax, you can see in the picture below the light colour where the 2 bits of wood meet.

A small brush works well for gaps.

Wax brushed in, looks better now -

You can clean the brush with hot water and washing up liquid.

For the top coat of wax I've used clear Briwax, again I've used this stuff for a while and I find it to be good, gives a nice shine and it's easy to use, just apply it liberally and leave it for a few hours before buffing, which does take a bit of effort, but the shine is worth it, and it's hard wearing, our stair treads are stained wood and Briwax does a great job of keeping them looking good.

Top coat applied - 

You can see the difference in colour.

While the wax dried I set about a couple of small repairs, one of the drawers had some dodgy hardboard on it which didn't fit very well and there were gaps, so I took that off and replaced it with some thin plywood, which I got from a scrap wood bin, the other repair was fixing the stop blocks, these are just small bits of wood that stop the drawers going in too far, just a couple of pins soon sorted them out.

New drawer base -

The colour doesn't match, but it's inside the drawer so not in view.

Stop blocks fixed down - 

Few pins and job done.

And that was it, apart from buffing the wax to a soft shine and lugging it up the stairs that was it, in all it took about 4 hours actual work to get it looking better, and over time it will take on a nice look more in keeping with it's age, now all we need to do is get some fairy lights for round the mirror to add a bit of sparkle.

One last thing, if you have an old bit of furniture that's more or less okay finish wise but maybe has a few scratches don't bin it, get some Teak oil, it's cheap and works well for adding a shine and feeding wood.

Here's a few scratches on the tallboy that also lives in our daughters room, this was also made in or around WW2, but the front has a few marks.

Scratches - 

Only small, but noticeable.
After a wipe over with Teak oil -

The scratches are still there, just less noticeable.

So go forth and rescue stuff.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Handmade row marker (without a lathe)

I said in my last post that I'd write a post on how to make a row marker if you don't have a lathe, and so here is that post, in fact all you need to make this row marker (in terms of tools) is a drill, cordless or otherwise, some drill bits, a forstner bit (at least 16mm) if possible, a saw (handsaw is fine) a hammer and a sander although this isn't essential, it's just for aesthetics, a pencil and a ruler (or tape measure)

So here's the finished marker -

Doesn't get much easier.
This row marker is basic, and there a numerous variations on this, all are easy to make, for materials you'll need three types of dowel, 16mm, 9mm and 6mm and a bamboo skewer, or very thin dowel, you'll also need some tile batten (38x19mm) or similar sized wood.

First cut two lengths of wood, one at 5 inches (127mm approx) and one at 6 inches (152mm approx) these are just the sizes I used, you could go bigger, or smaller.

Like so -

Any wood of a similar size would do.

Next mark the centre of one of the pieces, I marked the longest length, mainly because you'll need to drill and extra hole in this bit.

Centre marked -

A centering tool is a good thing to have, and also easy to make.
Next you need to mark out where to drill your holes, this will depend on what size you decide to make your row marker, again using the longer piece and from left to right I put marks at half an inch, 2 and half inches, 4 and a half inches and then 5 and half inches.

Drilling points marked -

Now for drilling.

I drilled the largest hole first, this is where the spike for pushing into the ground will go, it's also the point at which the reel will spin round, I've used a 16mm forstner bit, if you don't have one then you can always use the largest drill bit you have and file / sand the hole to the right size.

You don't need to mark both bits of wood as long as you clamp the two together you should be okay, you can put them both in a vice, or if needs be use some tape to hold them together whilst you drill, do try to keep the holes as straight as possible.

First hole drilled -

Few more to drill.
Now for the next set of holes, these are for the pegs that will hold it together, take an 8mm drill bit and drill two holes, one either side of the larger hole.

Holes for pegs drilled -

It will make sense at the end.

You should have a mark left, this needs to be drilled out using a 7mm drill bit, this hole will be for the handle that you use to wind the string back up with.

last hole drilled -

Drilling done.

Take your 9mm dowel and cut two lengths the same size, I cut mine at 4 inches (100mm approx) for this next bit you may need to give each end of the dowel a bit of a sand because you need to knock the dowel into the 8mm holes you drilled and you don't want the wood to split.

Dowel cut -

Assembly can begin.

It's time to start assembling the row marker, knock the two bits of dowel into the holes you drilled on the pieces of wood until they are flush with the other side.

You should end up with this -

Not much left to do now.

Cut a piece of 16mm dowel, I cut mine at 8 inches, and I made a point on one end using a sander, but you could also use a sharp knife.

Put the dowel in the large hole you drilled and stop when it's flush with the top piece (the longer) of wood, then mark two marks next to each piece of wood and drill them out using a small drill bit, I used a 3mm drill bit as this was the size of my bamboo skewer.

Dowel in place and holes drilled out -

I know more drillling.

You need to cut two lengths of skewer (or thin dowel) these will go into the holes and stop the centre dowel falling out, they'll also allow the frame to rotate, if the skewer / dowel is too thick shave a bit off, and leave about 5mm sticking out of each side of the dowel.

Skewer pins in place - 

Now all we need is a handle.

To make the handle take a piece of 16mm dowel and cut about an inch off, then mark the centre of one end, what we're going to do is drill into it so that a bit of the 6 mm dowel fits tightly into it, so use a 5.5mm drill bit if possible, if not use one as close to the 6mm dowel size and sand things to fit.

Dowel cut and marked -

Guess what ? More drilling.

Cut a piece of 6mm dowel long enough to fit into the hole you drilled in the 16mm dowel and through the frame work with about half an inch poking through.

Handle almost done -

Nearly done.

I also used a bit of skewer to fix the handle together - 

You could glue it together.
All that's left is to make a cap for the handle, to do this I drilled into the end of the 16mm dowel I had left and then cut it to the size I wanted, I found it easier to do it this way, then I drilled a small hole so that I could use a bit of skewer to stop the cap coming off.

Handle done - 

A bit of sanding to tidy it up and we're done.

I used the last of the 16mm dowel I had left to make a peg and drilled a hole through so that I could fix some string to it, and that's it, after a bit of a sand it was done, I've used no screws, nails or glue to make this despite that it's quite sturdy and it works well, it works so I'm happy with it, there are numerous ways you could make something similar to this just as cheaply.

All done -

It works, not much more to say.

Here it is next to the one I made on my lathe - 

Spoilt for choice now.

Thanks for ready.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Handmade row marker (with a lathe)

Whilst waiting for things to warm up weather wise (it's been quite cold here of late) I decided I'd have a go at making a row marker for the allotment, normally I use two sticks and a bit of string but thought I'd make an upgrade.

Not that there's anything wrong with two sticks and a bit of string.

So after a root around in my wood pile (which is quite large) I found an old pine bed leg and thought that will do nicely, basically my aim was to make a spike (kind of like a dibber) with a reel for the string on the end, easy enough if you have a lathe, but fear not if you don't have a lathe I have also made a row marker without a lathe, which I'll write another post about.

So here's the line marker -

Basic, but functional.
I cut the bed leg down into chunks, rather than put the whole thing on the lathe, using the first section which was already shaped as the spike for the reel.

Wood sorted -

I used this bit to save time.

I marked the centre of the wood -

As you can see it's actually two bits of wood glued together.

And after a short while on the lathe I had my spike, I turned a thin shaft for the reel to sit on, and also drilled out the end so that I could make a cap to hold the reel on with.

Basic shape done - 

Mini jousting anyone ?

Hole drilled for cap -

Probably not the best way to hold this in the lathe.

I used the waste wood from making the spike for the end cap, I made sure the fit was tight enough to hold the reel in place, but not too tight so that I could get it out if needed.

Wood for end cap -

Could have used a smaller bit.

End cap done and in place - 

The cap fits all the way into the spike.
And so onto the reel, using the other part of the bed leg I first cut it into two parts, one part for the reel and the other part to make the peg for the other end of the string.

Wood for reel and peg - 

Plenty big enough for what I need.
Reel almost done -

That knot will cause problems.
Reel spike done -

Not the prettiest thing ever made.
I figured the knot I found whilst making the reel would cause problems, and it did as I was left with a chunk missing from the bottom of it, but it still worked, so I cut a small groove into where the knot was for holding the string, rather than tying it on.

Knot problem sorted -

Similar to cotton reels that have the little slit in them for holding the cotton.

The other chunk of leg was turned into a peg, the idea being you stick the reel end in the ground and the other peg goes at the end of where ever your line finishes.

Wood for peg ready -

Soon to be peg like.
Peg done, I added an eye at the end for the string to attach to -

All done.

Ready for action -

I should have nice straight rows of veg this year.

And that's it, the reel is quite tight so that there's some tension in the line when marking out, this helps keep things straight, I didn't really work out what sizes things should, just worked from eye and made something I know I'll be able to use.

I have added an upholstery pin to the bottom of each peg / spike to protect the wood a little, but to be honest it probably doesn't need them, in my humble opinion it's a good use for and old bed leg, better than chucking it on the fire, I may at some point add a handle to make winding it up easier.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Burning your turnings...

It's not a post about what to do with stuff you've made that your not happy with, although I'd have to admit I've made things and thought 'There's another piece for the fire'

No this is about adding a bit of detail to turned wood using some wire and a bit of friction, sometimes having the contrast between light and dark is a nice addition to a piece and an easy way to make wood dark is to burn it.

I've dabbled with pyrography and sometimes it's worked and sometimes it hasn't, recently I made a book mark for my wife from a piece of Cherry root, it worked quite well, and I'm happy with how it looks, and my wife likes it as well.

Bookmark -

Not the most complex design.

The detail on the bookmark was made using a pyrography tool, a handy thing to have and they can be picked up quite cheaply, the one I have is useful as I can also use it for soldering just by changing a tip, saves having several tools lying about.

Pyrography kit -

I'm still experimenting with it.

However this is about turned wood as I said, now you can add some detail by holding a bit of wood to your turning whilst it's spinning, hardwood works best, but a burning wire is also good for adding a bit of detail, and they are easy to make, and it's fun experimenting with different types of wire.

It's not a garrotte - 

It's not for cutting cheese either, although it would work.
The idea is simple, with the wood spinning on the lathe (higher speeds are better) you hold the wire to the wood and friction does the rest, the result is a nice dark line in the wood, yes rings are what you'll get, but sometimes they are enough, a couple of dark rings on the head of a wooden mallet make it more than just a tool for bashing things.

Here's a couple of pots I made with the same kind of wood, I've added some rings to them using one of the burning wires I made.

Pot 1 - 

Not sure about this one to be honest.

Pot 2 - 

I prefer this one out of the two.

As you can see it does add a bit of extra interest, and it's something I plan on experimenting with more, but for now here's how I made the burning wires.

Choose you wire, I've used fairly thick copper wire, steel garden wire and the kind of wire you get in those picture hanging kits, the twisted steel stuff, this works really well.

What do you need ? wire and a bit of wood, I used dowel -

easy ingredients.

Cut your wood in half, then find the centre of each bit and drill a hole, not too big, but big enough to get the wire through at least twice, that's the handles done.

Dowel cut and drilled - 

Easy enough.

Next take your wire and cut a length of it about 12 inches long and thread it through the holes in the wood, then loop it round and thread it back through the hole, try and leave at least 8 inches between each handle.

Like so - 

I find it stops the wire coming out of the wood.
If any wire is sticking out of the wood cut it off, I also used a staple to add a bit of extra security, you do have to apply a bit of pressure to the wire and you don't want it slipping out of the wood and wrapping round the lathe.

Staple for extra hold - 

Better safe than sorry.

And that's it really, not very complicated, I'm sure there are other ways of making something like this, this is just the way I do it, I haven't looked to see if you can buy purpose made burning wires, but I'm pretty sure you can make one for less money, I've made 3 now, all from scrap wood and wire.

All done, now to burn - 

Ready for burning.

When it comes to using the wire I like to make a small groove in the wood, just a slight mark so that the wire will sit in it, I just find it helps to stop things slipping about especially if you're adding detail to a piece that has a curve to it.

Grooves marked - 

Higher speeds work better as the heat builds up quicker.

And that's it, I've found that after a couple of uses the wires blacken and this helps to add a nice even colour to the wood, I would also advise wearing a mask and eye protection as it can get very smoky, ventilation is also a good idea.

So far I've found that it's a nice a simple way to add a bit of interest to a piece, even if it is just a Pine tea light holder.

Slightly more interesting than a plain one - 

Better make another one.

Thanks for reading.