Monday, 19 December 2016

Wooden star christmas decorations.

For a while my wife has wanted some wooden star Christmas decorations and to be honest I haven't managed to get around to making any until now, I always seem to be doing other things or time just seems to run out.

But I've finally managed it -

Very festive.

The lights on the right hand side one are brighter because I made that one last so the batteries are a bit fresher.

I did only mean to make one large star, but I ended up making two large stars, a small star and two small stars for the tree.

Rather than cut out a star shape from a sheet of wood I have made these stars in sections glued together, the three in the picture above also have lights in.

I spent a grand total of four pounds on lights for these, I bought the small sets of led lights you can get from pound shops rather than wire up a load of led's from scratch.

It would have only been three pounds but I forgot how to do maths and for some reason didn't realise that if you have five points and you want to put five lights in each point you're going to need twenty five lights, and not twenty, so I had to buy an extra set of lights.

First I made some templates of various sized star sections, and one complete star, which I didn't actually use, the idea being that I would draw round the templates onto some wood and then cut out the sections and stick them together.

Templates, just printed out and stuck onto card - 

You can find star templates online.

I decided to make a test star first, the main reason was because I wanted the grain of the wood to run in line with each point, rather than in the same direction over the entire star, this is why I made them in sections rather than cut them out of a sheet of ply or some other type of material.

Test star sections cut - 

They need to be sanded.

I cut each section out roughly using my bandsaw, but any type of saw will do and then I sanded each section to the pencil lines using my bench sander, you could just as easily use a block of wood and some sand paper to finish each section, it'll just take a bit longer.

Sanding each section to the pencil marks makes for a tighter fit with no gaps where the sections meet in the centre.

Once that was done I glued the sections together to see what the finished stars might look like.

Test star finished - 

Not bad.

Once I was happy with the test star and that I'd got the grain of the wood to run in the right directions it was time to make things a bit bigger, to make the larger stars I used some wood from an old pallet and in the end the large stars measure about 14 inches across, so they are quite big, I also used the off cuts to make the stars for the tree in the same way, just smaller.

Marking out the sections (using one of the templates I made) - 

Nice and easy.

Once you have five sections cut out and sanded all you need to do then is glue them together, I've used wood glue, but you could use epoxy or most other types of glue, the only difference really is the time you need to allow for the glue to set.

Test star, one large star and one tree star glued, ready for sanding - 

Nearly done.

To fit the lights all I've done is to mark out five points on each section of the star and drill a hole the same size as the led lights, in this case that was about 5mm and meant the led's were a snug fit in each hole.

Marking out where the lights will go - 

You can just make out the pencil marks.

A quick test - 

It works well I think.

As you can see I went for quite a uniform arrangement of lights, there's no reason you can't be more random, had I gone for a random arrangement I could have got away with just using twenty led's on each star.

Once I'd drilled all the holes I needed I sanded the pencil marks off each star and then gave each one a coat of clear wax to bring out the grain of the wood and then on was on to tidying the wires up a bit.

Now for some tidying up - 

Hot glue to the rescue.

Using a glue gun I stuck the wires to the wood to stop them moving about, I also stuck the battery packs to the wood as well, but in such a way that I can still get the covers off to change the batteries.

You can see in the picture above where I had to join the extra led lights, this was an easy job, all I did was cut of five lights and then join them to the other ones to make a string of twenty five.

Gluing done - 

Keeps the wires out of the way.

And that's about it really, there are numerous ways this could be done, I may end up making them into light boxes so that the wiring is hidden a little better, but as they are they look nice when lit up and we like them, and it goes with our tradition of making some kind of decoration for Christmas every year, I even used the test star and put some of the spare lights in that in a random pattern.

Waste not, want not - 

I'm actually quite pleased with them.

The small ones I made for the tree don't have lights, but there's no reason they couldn't have lights fitted, although you'd want to use smaller led's.

These I made in the same way as the light up stars, they're just smaller and I've used some natural fibre string to hang them on the tree with.

Tree star, I made two of these - 

These go well with our other homemade decorations.

And there you have it, a cheap and simple Christmas decoration, that could also be used in a kids room on a dressing table or chest of drawers as a year round decoration.

Merry Christmas - 

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Hanging bowls for plants...

It is safe to say that we like plants, in fact of the nine windowsills we have in the house only one of them doesn't haven't any type of plant on it, and that's because it's full of books instead.

My wife has been collecting cacti and succulents for a year or two, and we've always had house plants of various sorts, but the cacti have kind of taken over, so much so that I've been making hanging bowls for them to live in.

Like this -

This was the first one I made.
This one was kind of an experiment mainly to see how I might go about constructing such a thing, it works well and can hold about three small pots (three 7cm pots) it also has a plastic drip tray in it to catch any extra water and protect the wood.

I have since been making smaller ones for single plants, the big one was made using small lengths of cls timber glued together and turned into a bowl, the cost of the wood was about £3.90, the smaller ones are made from Leylandi logs.

This is how the large one started out - 

Lots of glue needed.

Basically once the glue had set I roughly turned the larger and small blocks and then stuck those together, and then turned the final shape.

During turning - 

I applied some stain while it was still on the lathe.

As I've used a similar method to make the large bowl and the smaller ones from here on the pictures are of the smaller ones (because I forgot to take pictures of the larger one being made) the smaller ones were easier to make as I didn't have to glue blocks of wood together.

So once I'd hollowed the log I tested to make sure a small drip tray would fit into it, you could use a polyurethane type varnish or water proofer on the inside to protect the wood, but I just went with a drip tray, it's simple and it works

Checking the drip tray fits - 

It fits.

Next thing is to make the holes for the string (you could use chain of some kind) so you can hang the bowl, to do this I used three small clamps placed around the bowl roughly the same distance apart, I placed the clamps on a pencil line I'd made that was about half an inch down from the edge of the bowl.

Like so - 

Roughly the same space between each clamp.

Drilling points marked - 

Next up some drilling.

I've used small eyelets in each hole for decoration, and to make sure I drilled the right sized hole to make the eyelets fit tightly into the wood I used a small forstner bit.

Eyelets and forstner bit - 

It's just about the right size for the eyelets.

Holes drilled - 

Now to finish the bowl.

Once I'd drilled the holes I gave the bowl a sand to get rid of the pencil marks and then flipped it round so that I could shape the bottom, I fitted the eyelets once I've sanded and waxed the bowl.

Bowl done - 

I'm calling it 'Rustic finishing'

I haven't finished the bowl as finely as I would normally as I wanted a slightly rougher look, I used a clear wax on the smaller bowls, but there's no reason you couldn't stain them, use a wood dye, or even if you're feeling adventurous add a different type of wood for the shaped part for a two tone effect.

To get the bowl to hang I've used braided jute string, again keeping with the slightly rustic look, but you can get some nice decorative chain from a lot of diy shops and I'm thinking that I may use chain of some kind on the next one I make.

Once I'd braided the string I tied each piece to a small brass curtain ring - 

Perfect for a hook or a nail.

I tied small knots in the other ends of the string and then threaded each one through the eyelets I'd fitted to the bowl, and used a small piece of garden wire to make sure the string doesn't pull out.

Like this - 

A simple solution.

And there you have it, one hanging bowl ready for a plant - 

The first of many I feel.

Plants that have a tendency to hang are better suited to these types of bowl, but there's no reason why you can't put any other type of plant in one, I have made three of the smaller bowls so far and my wife really likes them so much so that I plan to make a few more, and maybe a couple of the larger ones.

They do look good with plants in - 

I'll have to make one for the monkey tail in the plastic pot.

If you don't have access to a lathe why not convert a wooden bowl of some kind, whilst I was researching hanging bowls I found a few tutorials where people had converted wooden bowls into hanging bowls for plants, all you need is a drill and some string.

Thanks for reading.