Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Long Overdue Beautification


When we got our last clothes dryer, a long, long time ago, maybe fifteen years or more, (it just crapped out and has been replaced) I cut a hole in the wall of our house to run a vent through.

I fully intended to make it look a bit less shitty, but somehow I just never got around to it. Out of sight, out of mind.

We just got a new dryer, and I had to run a new vent duct. That put the full horror of the old half-arsed job right in my face, so this time I actually got off my arse and made this vent shroud to make it look a bit less like random vandalism.

It will eventually have a grille across the front as well as the bottom, to let the warm, moist air escape while also keeping rats and things out. I know that keeping rats out of a house is a futile dream, but that's no reason to make it easy for the little bastards.

If I can find some, I'll stuff the cavity around the ducting with insulation fluff, so minimise the chance of any of that wet, wet air coming back inside.

Friday, June 30, 2017

More saws for renewal

I got two more Disston saws from my friend Amie for renovation.

The uppermost is probably the older of the two, and the better quality. It appears to be a Disston D-7 panel saw, made between 1928 and 1955. All of the fixings are in brass. It has been sharpened in a sort of a crosscut pattern, but in rather a half-hearted way — it's very nearly a straight rip-cut.

The lower looks like a skew-back Disston D-23 panel saw, a very common model that was made from 1911 right through to 1990. The fixings are of galvanized steel. The handle is almost completely machine-made with very little hand-finishing, except for a desultory spot of decorative surface carving. It's a rip-saw. It has a very slight kink in the toothed edge of the plate, possibly too slight to worry about, but I won't know that for sure until I actually try to cut wood with it.


Less old
Both are missing fixings, to one extent or the other.

Oldest (left) is missing the stamped maker's-mark cap, but all the screws are otherwise present.

Less-old (right) is missing one of its cap-screws, and the handle is somewhat loose — most likely, it all just needs to be tightened up.

The plates have both suffered a bit from rust over the decades. I'll get them into a vinegar bath for a day or so of pickling and see how they come up, and then do a bit of polishing and sharpening.

The black spots are actually quite smooth and polished;
they look black due to the quirks of photographing reflective surfaces.

Coupla days....

This is the plate from the D7, after pickling and a bit of scrubbing with steel wool and various grades of wet-and-dry.

As you can see, the steel is quite badly etched by rust, probably beyond polishing with any reasonable degree of effort by me. I'd need to grind it right down on both sides, possibly reducing the plate thickness by as much as a quarter. There's a very clear difference between the areas that were exposed to moisture and oxygen, and those that were protected beneath the handle.

It doesn't make the saw unusable, but inevitably there's going to be a lot more friction on the plate within the kerf, and to compensate for that I'll probably have to increase the set somewhat.

Next day (July 3rd, 2017)

 All cleaned up, sharpened, and ready to cut wood.

This one, the D-23, has a handle made of apple wood. I noticed a bit of cell collapse when I was taking off the old dark varnish finish, so there are one or two soft spots — not rot, as such, but they could easily allow rot to start there. It may be worth applying a fungicidal coat to those areas maybe.
The D-7, with its woodwork cleaned up and brass polished, and its poor rust-etched plate. It's good steel and cuts perfectly well, though as I mentioned before I might have to increase the set a tad to keep it from binding in the kerf.

The teeth on this plate curve away from the edge towards the tip; I don't know if that's intentional, or a result of some over-enthusiastic sharpening — maybe at some point it lost a tooth there? Anyway, it doesn't seem to affect the cut, that I can can detect, and it's a very comfortable saw to use.

It's a pity it's lost its maker's medallion, but that has no functional effect.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wrinkly Eyes

Liquid ink roller-ball pen on hand-made paper, coloured in Krita

Blokey-bloke Bloke

TV-watching doodle. Liquid ink roller-ball pen and coloured pencils.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Saw Renovation

I inherited this Disston 10 TPI rip-saw from my friends Andrew and Helen. It's a good-quality make, and will eventually be very useful to me. However, first it's going to need quite a bit of care.

The blade is very rusty, especially on one side — the side that was exposed to sea air for some years. That rust will have to be taken off and any major pitting polished and smoothed out. The handle is split in a couple of places, and will need to be glued and patched. I'll re-shape the grip a bit at the same time, to better suit my hand. And, of course, it will need to be sharpened; I'm not sure it ever has been.

Next day

Here's the saw plate after soaking in a bath of white vinegar and salt for about 30 hours, and a quick scrub down with steel wool. It hasn't got rid of all the rust, but the improvement is marked. Some grinding with increasingly fine wet-and-dry paper will take care of the rest, and will polish out any overly egregious pitting.

The screws were stuck well and truly into the wood of the handle, and with the existing cracks that meant that it pretty much fell to pieces as I disassembled it. I've glued all the bits back together, and I'll see if that will serve along with some judicious reinforcing, but if I have to make a new handle it's not the end of the world.

Some time later

Owing to various impediments, it's been nearly a week since I've been able to do anything more to the saw.

Today I've filed down the teeth on the plate to even them out before sharpening, and I've started reshaping the handle to fit my hand more comfortably.

Most of the reshaping is done with rasp, files and sandpaper, but I've also gouged out hollows for my finger and thumb.

It's been glued back together almost like a jig-saw, so I don't know if it will last forever. I'm using good glue though, so I'm hopeful. I may inset some reinforcing panels if need be.

One more day

Well, it's done. Not quite as good as new, but almost.

It has sharpened up well, but there's a catch about half way down the blade that I haven't tracked down the cause of. There are no kinks that I can see*, and no missing teeth. It doesn't seem to affect the quality of cut, so I'll probably just ignore it unless it gets too annoying.

I might possibly, at some stage in the future, take it up to 12 teeth per inch, but that's a job for another day when I'm feeling a bit more enthusiastic about filing.

* [NARRATOR] There was a kink.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bedouin Sheik

This was drawn from an old photograph of a Bedouin sheik in the Lebanon. I think it was dated about 1912, but I'm not really sure.

It's all done in Photoshop.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Suwariwaza Shomen-uchi Gokyo
I passed my yondan grading in aikido today, with the aid of huge doses of decongestant to keep the nose-slime from my head cold from flying all over the place.

My three uke, Colin, Peter and Justin made me look a lot better than I deserved, for which I am truly grateful.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Spokeshave Sharpening Grip

This is a design by Paul Sellers for a simple sharpening grip for a spokeshave blade.

It uses the spokeshave's own cap iron to hold the blade firm while it's being sharpened, and the length of the wooden grip gives me much more control and power than I can achieve with my fingers alone.

The body of this grip is an off-cut of laminated bamboo, but just about any wood would do. The little brass locating lugs are a pair of brass screws with the heads cut off. The cap iron screw is a 25mm pan-head No.10 screw with its point ground off. The front end of the grip is bevelled at 25°, leaving about a millimetre thickness in the front and with its heel rounded off. The but-end is rounded and bevelled for more comfort in the hand.

It only took about ten or fifteen minutes to make this little thing, and it's improved and eased spokeshave sharpening enormously.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dice Tray

An issue that arises from time to time is that of keeping dice from scattering all over the place, knocking around playing pieces and disappearing off the table and rolling away under bits of furniture, never to be seen again.

To ameliorate the problem, I knocked together this little dice tray. It's about 180x200mm with an oak frame and a cork inner, flat enough to make dice like the d24 readable and soft enough not to knock the corners off them. It's compact enough to not take up too much table space, but large enough to allow reasonable freedom in rolling the dice, and the frame is deep enough to keep them in (as long as you don't get too enthusiastic with your throwing) while being low enough to see them clearly from any angle. The feet aren't really necessary, but they're decorative and I had them hanging around, so why not make use of them?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Krita includes a tool they call Multibrush, which repeats strokes on a user-selectable number of axes. By default, the centre of rotation is the centre of the image, but that too can be changed. This image uses 16 axes throughout, but the number of axes can be changed on the fly.

It makes the creation of kaleidoscopic mandala images like this one very simple, but I don't really see much use for it other than that. Still, it's a fun toy as far as it goes.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Bamboo eHDD rack

I'm making a little rack for my external hard-drives, of which I have several in action.

I was originally going to make it out of 12mm untreated pine plywood, but for some unfathomable reason Bunnings doesn't have any in stock. They did have some 16mm laminated bamboo boards though, so I thought I'd give that material a go and see how it is to work with. The individual shelves are just 7mm ply that slide into housings in the walls of the bamboo shell.

This is by no means a complex construction job, and I haven't attempted any dovetail joinery or the like; I tend to suspect the bamboo laminate wouldn't particularly suit that sort of thing. However, it cut, routed and planed easily and cleanly. I think it would be quite unforgiving of tools that aren't absolutely sharp; being bamboo, the long fibres are quite tough and stringy, and if they're not cut cleanly they'll tear. Likewise, the arras needs to be taken off the edges or else the fibres will start to fray and tear away from them in use.

It's quite a heavy material, a lot heavier than pine or birch plywood of equivalent thickness. The laminations are a lot thicker than traditional wood ply too, which I rather like — I find the porous-looking end grain quite attractive. So far I've just oiled the inside and the top and bottom, and the oiled colour is quite attractive. I don't know how well it would accept stain, but my gut says it should be OK. I have no idea about its stability versus warping or cupping; in a piece of this size and conformation that's unlikely to be an issue in any case, and laminated materials, in my experience, are fairly reliable as far as that goes.

I'd say that so far I like it as a construction material. It's not especially expensive, and from what I hear it's pretty hard-wearing (I think it's used as flooring) so it would probably work well as desktops and the like.

Next Day...

Well, here's the finished article.

It just needs time for the oil to dry and then I can fill it up with hard drives.

In retrospect, I'm thinking that maybe I should have stained the shelves, but I think I can live with them as they are.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Modular Sharpening Station

I recently bought some 80x230mm diamond lapping plates in 100, 180, 320, 800, 1500 and 3000 grit. They're on steel, about 2mm thick, so they need some support to make sure they stay flat and still while I'm sharpening things on them.

I've mounted them with silicon on individual bits of 18mm MDF, sealed with acrylic varnish, and rebated down the long edges underneath so that they'll sit handily in a vice for use individually, or in the four-plate station you can see here — the blocks sit snugly in cavities in it.

With the blocks in place, the sharpening station probably has enough mass that it's unlikely to move around under normal use. However, I might add a tab underneath that can be gripped in the vice, just to make sure. Or maybe a non-slip rubber mat will be sufficient — I'll try it and see.

I was originally going to make a station that would take all six blocks simultaneously, but that would be rather unwieldy, so I settled for four. The blocks in place now are the ones I think I'm most likely to want most often, and if need be I can swap in the 100 and/or 3000 grit plates, or just use them individually in the vice as and when I need them.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

New earrings, in the flesh

These just arrived on my doorstep from Shapeways — my most recent earring design.

These ones have been produced in their Raw Bronze material, and I'm pretty happy with the way they've turned out.

They can be had at https://www.shapeways.com/product/KPPBBKAES/filligree-cone-earrings

Friday, March 10, 2017

Stanley 45

The Stanley 45 plough plane I bought on TradeMe just arrived.

It seems to be complete, except for the cutters (there's just the one, a ½"), but it's going to need quite a bit of TLC.

At the moment I just have CRC soaking into all the joints and threads to loosen it all up before I get in there with the steel wool and what-not.

Judging by the price people are asking for fairly basic sets of cutters on Ebay and the like, I'll be better off getting some tool steel and making my own.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Filigree Cone Earrings

Here's a new pair of earrings I designed.

They're available for sale in a variety of metals at my Shapeways shop.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Narsil Reforged

OK, maybe not Narsil.

This is an old dinner knife, one of a bunch that we've picked up over the years. It originally had a casein handle that was supposed to mimic ivory, but at some stage of its life it looks like it had been left to soak for too long, and the casein had gone all woogly and disgusting looking. The blade was a bit misshapen too, from some inexpert sharpening back in the distant past. Nevertheless, the steel is good; thin, flexible, and holds an edge. I like these old dinner knives.

So I thought I'd renovate it a bit.

The casein handle was stripped off and replaced with a piece of ash, a bit longer than the original handle. It's not one of my favourite woods, but that's what I had to hand. I re-shaped and re-sharpened the blade, so now it's scalpel-sharp — which is maybe a bit of overkill for its intended purpose, but I feel you can never go wrong with a really sharp knife.

So, now I have a knife that will definitely cut steak.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

First Order Retrievability

There is not much space here.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I'm getting my workshop organised to the point where I can be productive in it without having to constantly climb over things to get at other things, or fossick around in drawers and cupboards to find the things that I was sure were there but turn out to be somewhere else entirely.

Today, that has mainly meant hanging things up on walls so that I can see them and get at them easily. There's still a bit of space available on my bit of plywood for some more Useful Things, and I'll add hangers for them as and when I need them.

Wall-based tool storage

The next stage will be to move the right-hand workbench out into the middle so that I can lay a brick and concrete floor under it. At the moment it's resting on ancient semi-rotten floorboards on ancient semi-rotten bearers on ancient semi-rotten dirt, and that does not make for a particularly solid or stable work surface.

It's going to be a pain of a job; I shall have to unload all of the drawers and what-not to make it light enough to move, and find somewhere to store all that crap while I'm doing the concreting. Then I'll have to practice my contortionism to get the new solid floor down in a fairly constricted space.

Still, once it's done, the workbench will be much more pleasant to work on, and that's got to be a good thing.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


Much fudging going on here. I got the hands very wonky.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Stacks of Stacking

Today is the day when our firewood for the next winter arrives.

Now I have to stack it all. That pile is about 9m3, and on past performance, it will take me about three days of intermittent activity. Naturally, the next three or four days are forecast to be stinking hot.

I may need beer. Quite a lot of beer.