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 ūüėÄ

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 ūüôā 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 ūüėÄ


29
Jul 20

Ten Years

So ten years ago today…

Claire and me just after getting married!

The traditional gift guide says ten years is… tin. Hm. Really? Was tin some seriously sought-after material at some point in the last few centuries? Weird. But okay, tradition is tradition…

We can at least make a nice box though. I have some walnut and I still have some of that lovely rippled sycamore Custard gave me when I was searching for thick veneers…

Simple design from a joinery point of view, so just mill the components and cut to size to match the tin…

Grooves in the base of the front and back panels and in the sides will hold the base, which is 3mm boxwood (lovely material, it’s a shame it’s so hard to find).

It’s almost a single-use plane but it’s the best tool for this task really. The depth of the groove and the distance from the bottom of the panels is set using the boxwood base directly.

Then just groove away.

For the sides, because you don’t want to run off the ends with the groove, a different approach is needed; and at this point I discovered the narrowest of my usual chisels was 5mm wide and the groove is 3mm. A 1mm gap on either side would be a bit unsightly, so I was about to get out the grinder wheel and convert one of the older chisels to life as a narrower chisel when I checked the less-used ones and bingo…

3mm almost on the nose (actually a tad under). Hilariously, this wasn’t some engraving tool or fine work chisel, this is a morticing pigsticker designed to go through several inches of oak…

This gave me a giggle or two, but then on with chopping out the mortices for the base in the sides.

Tappy-tap-tap, as they say. Very shallow mortice, only one pass with light taps required, then a bit of scraping with the tip of the chisel to clean up and then check for fit.

The cross-grain mortices are less straightforward because they’re cross-grain and very narrow. You can’t really chop along the mortice for these. I tried cutting them like a housing dado but that wasn’t really getting it done, so I resorted in the end to knifing in the edges of the mortice rather deeply, chopping a little with the morticing chisel to a mm or so down to define the mortice, then drilling out the rest and cleaning up with the bevel-edged chisel.

Worked pretty well.

Then just repeat on the other side.

There’s a fair bit of fettling with all this as well but it got there in the end. I also drilled holes in the back panel and lid for the barrel hinges (butt hinges on this scale are something I still can’t get right). Then it’s time to knock it all back apart and sand the panels and the inside of the sides and the base and prefinish the insides because it’d be much harder later on, and then I gave everything a coat or two of poppyseed oil (it’s very light so it doesn’t darken the sycamore much).

And then glue-up. Just titebond here, no need for the hide glue and it was cold so it wouldn’t flow well without faffing about with hot water.

Along the way to here, the lid changed from rippled sycamore to more walnut because of a realisation about the size of the box and the lid (ie. that the lid was too narrow to cover from front to back unless it was sitting inside the box and I didn’t have the hinges for that). But the walnut had a knot so it was resin time again (I mean, it’s me, of course it’s resin time).

And that came out nicely after scraping and sanding down the lid. It’s a little beauty spot. But the box is a bit… chunky at this point. Not to worry, that’s part of the plan. And now I get to try to be delicate with industrial tools…

Angle grinder and a flap disk in 40 grit and one in 120 grit. It’s like using a power router only without the convenient handholds or the reference surfaces or the safety features. Exciting times

Worked though. And now a lot of handsanding with every grit from 80 to 240. The cloth-backed sandpaper from the lathe was very useful here especially with the parts in the carved grooves.

Okay, now for finishing. First off, wipe off all the sanding dust with a dry rag, then with kitchen paper soaked in isopropanol. Then two coats of poppy seed oil.

Makes a difference!

Next up, a new lathe toy, the burnishing wheel. It’s not a fancy one, it’s just the chestnut products basic one. Works well. I will say that I didn’t expect it to be quite so grabby though, and it did bounce my hand off the chuck which wasn’t fun. Be careful out there folks…

And yes, I mixed carnuba and beeswax at the final stage. Also, I was unprepared for the sheer amount of cotton fibres this thing throws everywhere. It looks like the spiders were working overtime in the shed.

Worth it though.

And after that, two coats of blonde shellac with another buff on the final wheel after each coat, and finishing was done. Final job was to epoxy in the barrel hinges (finishing was easier with the lid separate) which was a tad fiddly because of course it was, hinges are my nemesis. But it worked…

The resin dot glows in the dark!

Also, yes, that’s a tin of spam.

And also, no, I’m not that bad.

Tin is the traditional gift, but tradition can go jump in a lake.


12
Nov 19

More small stuff

More tidying up. It’s starting to get a bit neater…

Next job, tidy up the panel and grasshopper gauges and put up one of the five(!) magnetic bars I got for the shed walls (if you buy two and bury them in shavings, you’ll forget you bought them and buy them again when they show up in Lidl again).

Little better. Want to tape up the f-clamp handles as well.

It’s just hockey stick grip tape, but it makes it a lot easier to crank on those handles when tightening up the clamp.

Now, onto tonights little experiment.

Take one offcut of walnut, mark it up for some carved arcading and hack away at it as fast and as carelessly as you like.

Told you so, but that isn’t the point of the experiment. Now I resaw this board in half (I cheated here because this is just an experiment and used the bandsaw but you could do it by hand if you want. Me, the shed was at 4C so I was suffering enough).

And now out with the #05 and plane off the saw marks and get the backs all nice and clean.

So now I have thin stock with “carving” on one side. The idea being to see if you could do this and make a lightweight thin-walled box with this kind of carving in it. I mean, it didn’t shatter or snap on this try, so maybe this might work.

The acid test though, is whether or not these warp or twist or cup in the next few days as they air-dry. Have to check back in a few days…

Stay straight and parallel, ye little gits…