Saturday, December 27, 2014

Green Oak

Having recently sold the vibrant little Blue and red Vase, I found a nice piece of Oak in the log pile that I decided to have a go at colouring and make a replacement.  It didn't turn out quite as I imagined, but then that is about par for the course when it comes to using colour with wood. Still, I do like the end result. How about you?

This was a very tricky subject to photograph too, the way the open grain has picked up the colour is very striking in the hand, but the light and reflections made that hard to capture well, plus it has a very glossy finish which required direct rather than the diffuse light of the first two images to bring out, all in all though I think the shots do the item justice.

Monthly Challenge

I missed the last two, this is December's subject, a Pestle and Mortar. Soon to be posted in the UK worshop forum which hosts the challenge. Visit the forum here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Blue vase

Pressing on with the goal of getting a shellac finish onto coloured pieces this is stage two, multi coloured, the main difficulty with this is that the shellac is a solvent (well the meths the shellac is in is a solvent!) to the colour, so applying the shellac with a rubber as per french polishing carries the risk of moving the colour about and even removing it, so not an easy task.
Why bother when I can use a rattle can lacquer? Well, I find the spray lacquers very good IF you get it right, but getting an even spray, avoiding bloom and the considerable amount of effort it takes to buff it up to a gloss, as opposed to the rather more straightforward process with shellac means that the shellac system offers a faster, more reliable and easier means of achieving the desired result.

On top of that the shellac is a bit easier to repair should you have a small accident.

Finish wise, the shellac, if applied with care, needs a minimal amount of buffing to get it to a superfine gloss, this vase is as close to a perfect finish as I have been able to get so far, I am very pleased with the gloss, in the hand it is glass like, all over (the outside, the inside has shellac to about a third in and ebonizing lacquer for the rest).

Height is 115mm width 100mm  Made from Sycamore, coloured with Chestnuts spirit stains and buffed with their wheel system for the finish.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Natural edged in colour.

This started as a commission which was canceled, no problem though as it was something I had in mind anyway.

The bowl is is Ash and has some nice feather features that the colour works really well with, the finish is shellac and the bowl is 9.5 inches wide.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Persuaded by my charming daughter in law, Jen,  to join her in entering the craft section of the local county show I put in 4 items, 3 in the faceplate section, a neat little sycamore bowl, a coloured hollow form and the very large coloured hollow form.

Having last months entry for the challenge to hand I though I would put that in the "turned between centres" section.

First in this group was a spalted pedestal bowl.

The small Sycamore bowl took third

The small Hollow form took second in the same group

And the challenge entry "Essence of Egypt"  took first in it's class!

And the icing on the cake was that Jen, also won two first prizes with her entries as well!! :)

Posterity project.

This old gun stock came from a double barreled (side by side)  Elephant rifle, hammer action and made by Cogswell and Harrison, the London gun makers, probably about the 1920's (that is a rough guess) I am pretty sure the guns calibre was a 500 express.
The gun was given to my father by a German count who was a family friend and at that time even, the stock was already broken, the gun being something of a curio. No one ever got round to properly fixing it (in fact it really needed an entirely new stock, an expensive item!) and the gun has long gone, but the stock turned up recently as something to be disposed of, so I picked it up and will make something of it as a kind of momento, I don't know what yet. I am pretty certain it will be Walnut, but how figured I don't know.

As far as I remember (the guns history in the family goes back over 45 years) the gun did not have any great monetary value despite the prestigious name on the side plates. There is no name or other marks on the remaining original stock fittings, that is the small plate under the half pistol grip. The butt of the stock has a steel plate that may have been original, but it looks kind of rough for a C&G piece of workmanship, the steel strap extending down the grip is an attempted repair of the stock, not a success.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Preseli Laburnum

Back in the spring I received a call from a farmer in the Preseli mountains who had seen my work at an earlier craft fair and who had offered me some Laburnum when it was felled, the felling had been done and so we went to collect the prize. As always when anyone offers me wood, I always make them something from it as a thank you and as a memento of the tree etc. The big problem this time though was not realised until later, once I started to prepare the wood for storage it became obvious that it would not really be much good for anything of any size, the timber was pretty old for it's size and had shakes all through it, no doubt from the harsh conditions up the mountain, but there should be sufficient to get a piece or two out.

First task then was to at least sort out a piece for Richard, the farmer. He and his wife had recently refurbished their house, utilizing a good amount of Ash from a tree felled outside the building, widow sills and various beams and shelving had been made and there was a considerable usage of the more rustic parts, nice looking it was too. So in keeping with that theme I went for a somewhat rustic piece (not that I had a lot of choice!)

I had roughed it out back in the spring, and even that proved tricky as one of the shakes broke clean away and had to be re-glued into place, I used gorrila glue as it filled the rather gappy crack where the wood parted.

It was not until I got to work finishing it though that I noticed that it had burrs, I have not seen a Laburnum burr before, but combined with the already complex Laburnum grain, the burrs look very nice. I have included a couple of close up images of the Burrs.

There were quite a few drying cracks as well that did not really enhance the piece, I decided on a colour fill for these, I took a couple of pictures and opened them in photoshop, then inverted the image, this gave me a colour, the exact opposite of the wood, I blurred this to get an average which was a mid Grey-Blue, this would be the best contrasting colour. To get the colour, I used some Ash sanding dust (I save lots of dust in little bags) and mixed up some stains to get the colour as close as I could, I dried it, then mixed the coloured dust into an epoxy resin and used it to fill various gaps. It actually ended up a bit darker than was ideal, but it works for me anyway. Plus it was an entirely new idea as a way to get the colour, next time I will make it lighter (it goes darker when it gets mixed with the glue)

Here then is the completed piece, I hope Richard likes it, it should fit in with his new house very well I feel.

Friday, August 1, 2014


A week or so back I was very pleased to see I had sold one of the Olive Ash Boxes,

once it arrived at it's destination in Canada, the customer was more than pleased, so much so she wanted another in the same wood, did I have any?

Just one reasonable piece left!

After several different designs were considered, she settled for this one.

 Which has resulted in this Olive Ash version.

The lid fit is very smooth and nice, having sufficient suction to hold on despite any shaking, yet easy to remove, (you don't want your customers to be wresting with the lid!)
This was met with the very favourable comment " Absolutely gorgeous!!!! I love it! "  

New box sold!! :)

Monday, July 28, 2014

July Challenge

I was more than delighted to win the June challenge, Mr Pot Pourri was a winner all round!  The prize plaque was very nice too.

This months challenge has the theme, Artistic.  With a very broad spectrum of possibilities.

My eventual choice was to go with ancient Egypt as an inspiration for this oval finial box.

The final image is of an actual (or possibly a reproduction) Egyptian Artifact that has some similarities with my entry.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


I need to start taking before and after shots, the lump of timber this hollow form / vase what have you came from was not something for the fainthearted, 18" long, a great black hole with water and soil and whatever else found sucour in there surrounded by the remains of long gone branches, one of which had been sawn off years ago, the black wood still bearing the saw marks.

What to do with such a thing? I sawed off the other end to make a flat and square base and screwed the faceplate to it with 6 2.5" screws, about half the wood was punky, the rest sound, if spalted.

Roughing was a very slow process as the torque was very great, the old branches being hard like old knots, it took an age to render the thing cylindrical, but eventually I manged it and also turned down a tenon with sufficient material left for a bowl later too.

The shape was not something I planned, I just went with what leaving the natural edge and gaining something vaguely pleasing in form from the rest of it.

After hollowing, during which my primary aim was to maintain a constant wall thickness, which I almost managed, but it is a little thin at one point,  I went over the outside with a single pass using a small spindle gouge to get a decent "off the tool" finish which is what it would be left with, no sanding at all, (definitely not inside, no way was introducing anything other than a hollowing tool to that shape, it looks scary enough stationary, spinning, it does not invite you to attempt any kind of abrasive treatment!) David Ellsworth might be able to handle it, but not me. :)

I then coated it with several coats of finishing oil and a single coat of hard wax, then buffed it a little to give it a nice patina.

I like it because it made something of a truly rotten piece of timber, which nontheless has some very redeeming features as regards grain and colour, if not so much from the form. It was also quite fun to do as it was completely unplanned.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gorse Candlesticks

Sometime back my son Richard brought me a large stem of Gorse, the bark is particularly interesting in that it is deeply fissured and angular making for a most interesting texture. Having already asked what He and his wife Jen would like me to make them, Candlesticks were settled on and I decided to use the gorse for the job.

In drying the wood split considerably, so a colour fill seemed a good option, having been employed several times before I was confident it would look OK. I also got some pearlescent powder which leaves a nacreous sheen, it works OK, but unfortunately part of the process is to heat the powder up upon the surface it is adorning to a pretty high temp with a heat gun, experiments proved that this darkened the wood (reaching a scorching point) and also caused further splitting, so I had to abandon that idea.

The bark, while looking great as a texture, was also pretty flaky and messy looking, I gave it a scrub with a brass brush which did improve it some, but it still had lots of tiny flakes hanging off, so I used this extremely fine gold powder and brushed it into the bark, then sealed it with an acrylic sealer, I finished the stems with shellac.

I also incorporated some of the gold dust into the dark blue to make it look like Lapis Lazuli.