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Frustrations, false starts, restarts and new starts.

Not a huge amount to update on this week, lots of projects to start, lots of thinking and planning and still lots of false starts and failures. Quite a frustrating week really.


**EDIT** I started writing this blog 3 weeks ago when everything either seemed to fail or I just wasn't making progress on anything; pore filling, box making, doorbell fitting, planning benches, various other requests for cool projects that I just can't get started on yet and publishing this blog. Originally it was going to be a commentary on how when things aren't working it is good to have a different outlet, hence the random section about rugby. However, a few days on and I can see some light and things have started to progress a bit, so here is a bit of an update on 3 weeks of messing around.


Ukes

I'm still battling with the pore filling on the mahogany bodies. I think I have a decent fill and flat now so will leave it until I've sorted the neck and carved the neck join before doing any more.


But I got bored of seeing it sat on the kitchen table so decided to tackle the front. I needed to fill a couple of voids in the epoxy which had appeared when I surfaced the boards, so I tried to do a neat job with a little bit of thinner epoxy.


It didn't go well. Lots of sanding and scraping to get it back in shape and it has still left a bit of excess epoxy around the fill which will hamper the stain. Anyhow, I pressed ahead and did some staining. again I'm amazed at how a little stain/dye brings out so much figure in these boards. I went with cherry red, yellow, amber and brown in several layers. I decided I wanted to highlight the figuring and use a sunburst effect, so started off with a brown stain, which was sanded back heavily.


Next yellow was applied to the centre and then shades of amber, red and brown towards the edges.


Despite following various tutorials on using these stains I found that they act rather like a felt tip pen, with a very defined edge to the colour, and unlike on the videos adding water and blending was not really possible.


The hard edges lessen with sanding and natural variation from additional applications but I was still not really happy with it, so decided to dig out an old airbrush and compressor and give it a go. This is a test on the plywood dummy I made.

I'm much happier with the result of the airbrushing. I have now started the next step by adding a very thin epoxy coat. This will be followed by several thin epoxy coats before I flat it back, to ensure there is sufficient epoxy build not to sand through and alter the colour saturation. Sat in the sunlight the burst is very subtle but the depth of figure is very pleasing, the filled cracks really sparkle giving a 3d feel to the top.





Boxes

I recently had a request from a friend for a custom memory/knickknack box. Something nice to sit on a desktop, capable of holding A4 sized items and quite deep, 20-30cm or so. Making fine boxes is something I've been wanting to do and I have several ideas I want to try in this space (Pinterest is mainly to blame again). I also have another box that I need to make for a "returning customer" to replace a delaminating plywood box for an antique sextant. This particular one has been sat on my bench for over a year whilst I dithered over how to proceed. The existing box is custom-fitted to the sextant and has a sticker with its service history and a plaque so I didn't want to discard it and start again. Now that I have some decent hardwood to chose from I will try and re-skin the outside of the box keeping the original insides and hopefully make it look a little prettier in the process.

I have pulled out a couple of thinner and wider boards from my wood stack and have done some initial thicknessing and sizing. Because the timber had been stored outside before I bought it I need to ensure that these pieces are acclimated and stable before I start to work them. I want to try mitre or lock joint corners using the router table on these box sides which requires the boards to be dead flat so I need to make sure they aren't going to dry out and warp or cup etc.

For the memory box, I've got a nice thick Iroko board, which I want to combine with some Oak for the sides, and I have a nice book-matched Zebrano set which I will use for the lid. This is intended to be an "heirloom quality" box, something very special that is worthy of being passed on (even if is not intended to be passed on). So I'm using some high-quality timbers in this one. I've also got something special planned for the base but I will keep it a secret for now. So a start but not much more.



Bang bang

Another random project popped up a few weeks back, I was in two minds about posting it on here but I think I will. A friend had bought his son a set of Cowboy cap guns, overall the guns were good quality diecast items but were let down by cheap plastic handles. He asked if I could make a replacement set of handles. It just so happened I'd purchased a box of figured walnut scraps which I felt would be perfect for this so I started roughing out some shapes. In theory, this should be a relatively straight forward task but due to working with scraps and the dodgy way the guns are put together it's turning out to be more involved than I thought. Particularly the rifle butt, which has only a tiny contact point to attach to so this needs a bit of rethinking. Here are a few shots (see what I did there) as a teaser, I will do a fuller write up when complete.




This figured walnut will look amazing once sanded and oiled




Murphy bar

Another request that has come in, is for a Murphy bar for a friend's new beach hut (I'm very envious). These are very popular at the minute, with plenty of people selling them on Facebook, Etsy etc. Even so, I think I can put my own spin on it and produce something a little different. I've not had much chance to work on this yet but I've started some rough design plans and have pulled out a stack of oak to start working up for this and the boxes. Picture for reference





Priority 1

One of the reasons that I've not made a huge amount of progress on anything else is a "high priority" project for my wife.

Tracey Underhill Printmaker Artist and Illustrator (www.traceyunderhill.com ) has a commission for a large print that needs to be completed by a set date and in order to meet said deadline she needed a new larger printing press. Well, that printing press requires a work table to hold it, so I have a commission for a custom workbench! Unfortunately due to the timelines required, I don't have time to make the bench from my hardwood stash so had to buy new clean regular softwood timber from Wickes. I also don't currently have space to build a bench using full 8'x4' sheet material so had to borrow my Dad's new shed.




All legs and support rails cut to size.

Plywood worktops being cut to size.


Everything gets glued and screwed, the bench is turning out to be somewhat overbuilt (what a surprise!) however it needs to be sturdy and the next size down in timber just felt too flimsy.

Test assembled to check for fit around the roller press.


Hopefully, with the kids back to school and nursery following the Easter holidays, I can make a bit more progress.


Ring my bell- or in this case maybe not

We have a Ring video doorbell, we bought it 5 years ago so that Trace could work in her studio and still "hear" the front door. It has sat in the box in the garage unfitted for all that time because I couldn't find a suitable place to run power and a new ringer. Well, fast forward to now and I finally decided it would be useful to fit it, so I dug it out and ordered a Ring wireless chime and plug-in transformer. With the new chime,

I didn't need to run power and cables to a chime and the transformer could plug into a wall socket. Amazon prime delivered and the next day I was ready to start. A quick read of the instructions, followed by some Googling and it was plugged in and powered up. The Ring software is pretty user friendly walking you through each stage until it's ready to go. But it didn't work, it would connect and do everything except show live video and allow intercom to the door (which is the main point of it). So I spent a day re-doing it, Googling some more and repeating over and over. Nothing seemed to make a difference, it's connected and sends notifications and record video but just wouldn't show live video reporting that the unit is offline. The only clue I could get was maybe based around the BT router and opening some specific ports. Well, that is about my limit so I asked one of my more tech-inclined friends to have look at it for me.

He spent a couple of days messing with it, took it home and tried it on various network configurations opened all ports etc etc and still the same issue. The transformer from Amazon (well probably from China but via a sponsored ad on Amazon) hummed louder than the doorbell rang and had the whiff of electrical burning so that went back for a refund. 3 days into a simple 10-minute task, and I have a "working" chime and that's about all.


**Update** now a week later I have managed to make it partially work, downloading the Rapid Ring app, now means it functions in live view once a ring or motion has been detected so it's 2/3 working. I also dug out the transformer I bought at the time and have got that wired up (without humming or burning smells), I just need to finish fashioning the wooden corner mount and then I can finally mount it outside!


**Further update** a few more days on and it is now completely installed, using the original mechanical bell and transformer that I bought 5 years ago. It still doesn't fully function but it's workable. Because our door is on a corner I made a little house for it so that it gets a better view of the close. An offcut of some interesting hardwood from my collection, I believe is satinwood or something similar, with some dye and a bit of varnish. So a 10-minute job ended up taking 3 weeks, well 5 years and 3 weeks but who's counting!





Rugby

With lockdown easing again we are back to rugby training at Harwell RFC. It's been 5 months since we were last training and over a year since our last game. It was good to get back out there and despite "keeping fit" during lockdown it really shows that there is no substitute for real training, Zumba is not a suitable alternative!


As well as coming round to sort out my Ring doorbell, now that we are allowed to gather in gardens we thought we'd have a few beers and watch the rugby. The weather had other ideas, however, a bit of tarp and some impromptu rigging provided a functional if somewhat unsightly solution.

I guess a sun-shade/temporary shelter is on the cards for the summer.

Heating courtesy of UCC offcuts. The irony of the BrewDog "Kill Carbon" message is somewhat tongue in cheek since these are genuine 3rd or 4th use offcuts and hence are probably much "greener" than a lot of the biomass wood chip that is burnt. Also, the carbon offset by not driving to the tip versus walking to the shed must count for something!

The Weber "smoky Joe" certainly lived up to its name, my coat still smells of smoke now. So I guess a smokeless fire pit is also on the cards for the summer.


Hold the press.... news just in.

I have a new paying customer! Unfortunately, it's only a commission for a small sign so I'm not actually going to make any profit but it widens the circle a bit further.



That's all for now, I will endeavour to make the next one shorter and sooner.

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