27
Dec 20

Gnome army

Saw Rebecca Degroot’s video on making a gnome:

Looked like fun, so I made one or two while messing about with decorations.

Then I thought they’d be nice presents for the other kids in Calum’s class, so batch work time. I didn’t have many blanks readymade for this though (I’ll have to remember to stock up in October for next year) so I took a standard CLS lumber 4×2 and cut it down the middle on the bandsaw into two 2×2 rectangles and used the roughing gouge to round them up.

Softwood in general isn’t generally recommended for turning but with sharp tools it’s fine for basic stuff like this. I had a very minimalist story stick with just two ticks on it to mark out the body and a length for the tenon, and marked off the blank with it.

Then stick the point of the skew into the lines to deepen them.

Then with the skew, turn the top and bottom corners of the body and smooth out the bit in between to a gentle barrel curve. Make sure to overexpose the camera if possible.

Then use the parting tool to turn what will be the tenon down past the shoulder at the top of the body, but not all the way as you need some strength left in it to sand the body.

Then swing in the dust collector and sand up to 240 grit. This is the secret to a beginner’s woodturning – buy 80grit sandpaper in bulk.

Dousing with sanding sealer before the last grit to stiffen the grain a bit.

Then hampshire sheen wax (because it’s now certified food-and-toy-safe) and buffing.

And now part the tenon down to 6mm (using the wrench-as-a-gauge trick which is complicated by me not having very many wrenches that small)

And part off and into the box it goes and we move on to the next section of the blank and repeat 19 more times…

Next, hats.

I didn’t have many blanks at all for this, so half were a glued-up blank made from walnut offcuts and half were stained CLS lumber. Again, very simple marking out, then use a spindle gouge to turn the rough shape, and put a tenon at the top using a skew.

This is why we prefer to use larger tenons by the way, a 3mm tenon with a skew is…. great practice for the skew 😀

Then sand, seal, sand again and wax…

Then part off, being careful to undercut as you part so the hat is concave underneath to match the convex top of the body. Then completely give up on turning and just cheat by buying several bags of wooden balls two years ago and forgetting what they were for and just using them here for noses and baubles and a 6mm dowel sanded down to 3mm to fit the noses. And drill holes in the body for the nose and under the hat for the body’s tenon and in the balls for the nose tenon and hat tenon, which is awkward till you realise you can hold the ball using mole grips rather than trying to clamp one in a vice or making a jig.

So 20 sets of these, and then a bag of faux fur…

And now under supervision from the 8 year old, who will manage the matching of bodies to hats to beards and specify beard length, assemble everything using a full bottle of CA glue…

And then packed up and sent off for delivery by Calum.

They were well received 🙂 We even got some photos of the gnomes in their new homes…

Overall, good skew practice and fun to make. Must do them again next year, but this time, get some blanks in around October and start making them in November 😀


31
May 20

More rough work

One of the steps up to the garden broke underfoot the other day. Just age and normal wear and tear, combined with the original carpenters cutting all the corners they could. So a trip to woodies had to be done to get some decking boards to repair it and, well, these days that’s not a quick evening’s browse in the car, it’s an outright expedition complete with mask and gloves. So you don’t buy the one decking board you would have bought, you grab two and other targets of opportunity as well becuase you already queued for ten minutes to get in, but since you don’t want to browse you kinda have to know where stuff is (I’m almost embarressed to know the layout of two or three Woodies like this, I’m much happier ordering timber from places like Quinns or Brooks). I grabbed some overpriced knotty 12x145mm 2.4m PAO pine as well because the blackberry plants I bought are still in their garden nursery pots and if we don’t move them soon they’ll get into trouble from lack of mass in the compost and root compaction.

After repairing the step (and all I’ll say about that is who uses indoor chipboard screws on an outdoor set of steps for pete’s sakes?) I spent all of about a minute sketching out what I wanted the bramble planter to look like (and two more minutes after I realised that steambending a trellis was overkill and just did a box instead) and then broke down the pine into rough cuts. I wanted to save two feet of it to make a new shelf for the lathe bits and pieces, and I wanted the planter to be at least a foot deep and everything else just emerged from that.

Brad nails, titebond, a few stainless steel screws here and there where a bit more strength was needed, and two shaped handles on the ends. Apart from handsaws, it was power tools all the way. But hell, it’s just a planter, it’s not meant to last more than one or two years. It only has a single coat of BLO to protect it from the elements.

That crossbar across the top is not a handle btw, it’s a tie-in point for canes because brambles like to climb:

And since all my basil died, I emptied the planter and refilled it with fresh compost and moved the strawberries to there.

So now we wait and either everything will die or we’ll have jam in a few weeks…


30
May 20

ex-Xmas Tree Xmas Tree Decorations

So a few years ago, some woodworkers on a podcast made an April Fool’s joke about how they always picked the same species of xmas tree so that they could mill it up for lumber after the holidays and make a chest of drawers out of them. Which was funny, until another woodworker went and actually did it (with small boxes not a chest of drawers, because there’s a lot of timber in a chest of drawers):

And this was important because until this point, the several xmas tree trunks in the back yard were just there because I had been too lazy to make a second trip to the recycling yard with them. See, after the holidays I take our now-long-dead-and-drying tree into the back garden and hack off all the branches with a hatchet and bag up the branches and the two kilograms of needles that have fallen off them on the ten-yard trip from living room to back garden. Those bags go to the recycling center because if you tried to just shove the tree into the car to bring the whole thing there, you’d be cleaning pine needles out of the car ten years later.

But now, there was a reason I was keeping those trunks 😀

And what better time than during a pandemic lockdown to do something with them? So, first up, take a glazier’s hacking knife and debark them and lop off the top foot or three until we get past the really bad shakes and checks on the surface (these things have just been drying outdoors untended for up to five years now).

Then I took the more manageable-in-my-shed lengths into the shed and cut out all the pieces that looked salvagable, trying to get at least one chunk from every trunk so we’d have every year represented. The bandsaw rendered the rest into firewood.

The oldest two trees just resulted in a handful of chunks but the most recent trees yielded a lot more material (that binbag is shavings btw, I had to empty the extractor that day)

Some of the smaller pieces turned out to be spalted when rough-turned, which is kindof pretty in a monochrome sort of way.

The shakes in this piece were just too large to ignore though, so out with the hot glue gun to make a dam and it’s resin time!

Daler-Romney pearlescent acrylic ink in sun-up blue, in case you’re interested.

It’s pretty nice stuff, and handles very well. I may need to get a few more of these. The resin pour proved messier than expected though…

And yes, the whole damn thing did in fact leak all over the live center, lathe bed and drive center and why yes, that was so much fun to clean up, how did you guess?

You couldn’t even really see the resin and its colour in the end. But it held the piece together while I chucked it up then put a jacobs chuck and 7mm drill bit into the tailstock and drilled out the center for an insert from a kit (bought mine from The Carpentry Store). I turned a small test shape to see how the wood handled, sanded it, sealed it, thought “no, that needs colour” and stained it then thought “wait, sanding sealer and stain should have gone on in the opposite order, oh bother”, and then promptly bent the ferrule learning how to get the head and ferrule into the tube running through the center.

Still. It’s only a test piece, I have three-and-a-bit trunks to play with still. And the stains don’t react too badly to pine (and it’s interesting to see how they react when you seal the surface first), and the buff-it gold compound I used as embelleshing wax works nicely (gold because, you know, xmas colours). So I learned a few things (like don’t try to pour resin into a crack in a piece while it’s still on the sodding lathe). Worth doing.

So there you go, an ex-xmas tree xmas tree decoration 😀