Friday, November 12, 2010

Still Got Wood....

Hello folks!

Let me start by saying I am ashamed. It's been two months since I blogged and for that I apologize profusely. I am blogging now so it’s all better now!

But on the other hand, I am kept very busy with orders for Yule and Christmas and will event get to vend at the Yule Craft and Spirit Faire in Ottawa on Dec 11-12th.

So, in my humble opinion, It's a fair trade off...

For quite a while now, I was shopping around for a small, solid and versatile lathe. Not having much room in my workshop, all 3 requirements are essential to me. The funny thing is I found the one I think will fit the bill by pure chance. Coincidence? Methinks not...

While being in a hardware store, a good friend mentioned he had seen one that might fit my needs so I went and had a good look at it. (see picture below)

The model above (HAUSSMANN 4-In. Mini Wood Lathe) looked ok, but I was not very enthused by it for a few reasons...

First, it was lightweight. I mean, VERY lightweight. to the point I would have been afraid of the whole thing shifting while turning harder woods. This would mean bolting it to the bench and take most of my workspace.

Secondly, you can only turn a 4 inch diameter piece on this one, meaning only very small pieces could be made and would restrict my versatility with my creative process.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it only has 3 speeds. This means I have to work within the confinement of those 3 speeds. I prefer to be able to adjust the turning speed of the piece so I can practice some techniques I read about....

I was about to walk away, after making all those mental notes, when I dropped my eyes to the floor and saw the one in the picture below:

Now this model pushes the right buttons for me! Comparing with the points above:
Firstly, the base is cast iron! Hea-Vy! I tried to lift it and I needed both hands so that was reassuring as I know it won't move around while turning.

Secondly, you can turn pieces up to 10 inches in diameter. Major improvement there and you can even buy chucks and faceplates and change them within 1 minute flat.

Thirdly, the speed is fully adjustable. Nuff said there.

On top of that, it has a small light you can flex where you need the light. Never hurts to see where you are removing material...

It also has a longer and better moving rest for holding a chisel, meaning this gives you more flexibility while turning. And it only costs an extra $100.00 for all those advantages. What's not to like, huh? *smile*

Now I just need to save enough money to go get it and start making bowls, plates, plaques, tea light holders, candle holders, boxes, and many, many, many more things...

Until next!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In the workshop now... And later!

Hello Folks,

This is a quick blog entry to once again to give thanks all my patrons and the ones who believe in me, especislly Wifey who put up with a lot of sawdust and the ongoing projects coming from my workbench. Without you all, my crafts would not be out there and I would not be pushing my limits on every project.
So for that a great THANK YOU! *smile* Also, please note that as of the 1st of January 2011, most of my prices will increase. Why, you ask? Darn simple reason! Complete strangers coming up to me and telling me I'm not charging enough for my crafts is one factor. Realising that I spent so much time making things that I was paying myself LESS then $5.00 an hour, before all costs were taken into account, being another good one. Now is a REALLY good time to place an order while the prices are still unchanged and Yule is coming fast! I will be taking my business to a new level in the coming year so keep an eye out! Herne

Monday, August 9, 2010

Another Festival come and gone...

Hello Dear Readers!

Another Kaleidoscope Gathering has come and gone and this means I have work, in the form of commissions, to do from talking to wonderful people that were present at the event. This year was different in a few ways:

1- Me and Wifey were able to rent a van to go to the event. The van was much needed as the quantity of things to bring was not small; vending tent, kitchen tent and of course sleeping tent, food supplies and kitchen implements, etc...

2- We were camping right behind our vending tent, which meant we saved ourselves the long and arduous packing of the stock at night and reinstalling everything in the morning right after breakfast. That one in itself was the biggest blessing of vending this year!

3- There were a lot of shaded areas, to my great delight. There was a great area filled with great pine trees which provided cool shade all day long.

4- Our new vending tent was put to the test and passed admirably. The only thing I will modify on it will be to add zippers to the back screen so as to be able to have a good airflow.

5- It was sunny until the very last day. No rain meant people moving about during the day. We managed to pack almost everything before it rained lightly on us.

6- People loved that I could make on the spot commissions, thanks to a very good friend of mine who gave me his pen torch which came with attachments. i was not willing to bring my wood burning machine and I had borrowed the pen torch as a trail this year. The pen torch will certainly make a comeback next year!

7- There was an interest this year for lower priced items. The economy being what it is this year, I had the forethought to prepare more of the smaller items like earrings, round boxes and kitchen utensils. This was very appreciated by all, especially with the introduction of signs with well known pagan quotes like "Witches are crafty people", "Pagan and Proud" and "Have you runed your day yet?". These signs were a great success and the positive feedback means I will produce more of them in the near future, so keep an eye out!

Now that all the camping and vending gear is put away, that my memories are filled again for another year of festing, I slowly make my way back to my workbench to clean it up and work on those commissions...

Until next!


Friday, June 18, 2010

The reason(s) I have not been present as much lately...

Hello Folks,

Boy, has it been a long time since I posted on here!

The reason(s) is/are simple: I am in a way, victim of my own success. *smile*

I have received, in the last few months, quite a few orders, both through my website and privately. This in itself is a good thing but what I need now is 48 hour days to have time to make stock for the KG festival coming in a few weeks time.

I am planning a few new items for this year as well a bringing back items I ran out of last year.

More likely after that festival I will be more able to write about my crafts...

In the mean time, be well, be good and be happy!


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What makes a good craftsperson, In My Humble Opinion

I have been so busy I have neglected to Blog. *slaps own wrist* Shame on me, I know. but I am making a slow comeback to it so keep watching.

There are people out there that look at my crafts and think "I wish I could do that". What they don't realise is that they can!
What I'll do here is give you tips and insights into how I got to my current level, which I don't even consider very high yet (I know I need to practise some more with new techniques and tools).

What you see above is a decorated chopping board I did when I first started my adventures in pyrography. Why a chopping board you ask? Simple answer to that one. I got it for a very low price, it was a flat surface and was large enough to do the project I had in mind, in this case a Greenman surrounded by oak leaves.Note that before I did this project, I had never done anything as complicated, having mostly worked with full lines, dark areas and no shading practice whatsoever. Gutsy, I know!

The first thing I did was to clean the surface really well. Any bumps or notches on the wood will come back later and haunt you good. I started with rough sandpaper and slowly upgraded to finer sandpaper. I usually go through 4 different grains before I deem the surface ready to work with.After I am satisfied I am ready to move on, I then measure the surface and print a picture that fits within those same dimensions. Depending on the size of the image, you may have to give this a few tries to get it right. Even after many years of doing this, I still have to make corrections. Failure is a good way to learn by the way. Once the image is done and printed in the needed size, I then transfer it with carbon paper by tracing the lines very gently. When using carbon paper on various woods, less pressure is a lot more later. Carbon can be difficult to remove from a surface as I discovered the first time I used it: I had to sand down the piece of wood for 30 minutes to remove the pattern completely. I have not tried it yet, but graphite paper, I am told by many sources, is a better way to transfer images and is a lot easier to remove.
Now that the lines have all been transferred, I go back to the printed sheet with the image and start adding shading with a pencil just to give me an idea of where I want to go with the burning. Then I get a pice of scrap wood (way too many around according to Wifey...) and practice the various lines and shading I will need to complete the project.

After I am happy with the practice run, I then go ahead and go lightly over the lines with a small skew tip to demark all the areas to burn. Only then will I get working on the shading. This will help me to not go over the lines I made and stay well within the areas. Now when shading, the key thing to remember, just like carbon paper, is that less is more. What I mean is that the more burned the wood is, the harder it will be to make a correction, especially on soft wood. The best way to remove a mistake is to use an exacto, chip carving or razor sharp blade and scrape the area in question. This will be cleaner and much faster then using sandpaper, which will be harder to control where it stops when going over an area.

One thing I learned ealy when doing a proper image is that the tips you have may not seem like the right shape at the time. When you do dark images, it doesn't really matter. You burn a completely dark area. When you do shading on the other hand, you may need a variety of tips for each little areas you have to work on. The key is to practice with each tip in order to learn what you can do with them. You may start discovering new techniques from what you already know...
Once the project is now completed, you are ready to preserve it. I rarely use varnishes. They smell and can sometimes remain sticky for a long while. I prefer using linseed oil as it looks more natural and lasts a long time. Vegetable oil would be more recommended for things to use in the kitchen, like spoons and bowls.

After a few years of practice, I am now able to do something like the plate above with a lot more ease then when I made that chopping board over 5 years ago...

So, what will you practice on? *smile*

Friday, March 26, 2010

One of my dream tools...

My most sincere apologies for not posting lately but life has a way of happening. I find myself having more of a social life and as a direct result, I neglected a few things in return. My bad. But today I am making a come back and will endeavour to blog at least twice a month, if not more, on things touching my passion for crafting...

"One of these days, I'll buy myself a good lathe..." is what Wifey hears from me quite a lot. I am a dreamer. A BIG dreamer. I want to try everything that has to do with woodworking. Ok, almost everything. As much as I'd love to make my own lumber, I am not sure if I actually want to go down that route. Mind you, if I want to pick up wood turning as a skill, it might come in handy after all.

Old fashion pole lathe, made from what was available from the land.

A lathe is a tool that has been in existence for quite a while and can be used to make many things. The first thing people think of when I mention a lathe is furniture. Sure, you can make furniture with a lathe and I would like (eventually, one day, soon I hope!) to make our own dining set. But there are so many more possibilities. Let me give you a list of things that can be made with a lathe and hopfully this will give you an insight into the world of wood turning...

Round boxes available from Lee Valley. Made with a mechanical lathe

With the right amount of skill, round boxes can be made. I have seen them made out of pine, birch maple, walnut, even various plastic and metals. The great thing is you can make the boxes to suit your needs, meaning you can make them as big or as small as required. Or even go as far as making them stack on top of each other... You get the idea!

But better then that, you can combine various colors or materials and obtain some very unique results. Or you could go the traditional (some say purist!) route and use wood that has a very pronounced grain and let the wood speak for itself.

Candle holders

The possibilities are endless when it comes to candle holders. You can find (read make in my case, once properly equipped, of course) a multitude of them online, of various styles and materials. Some of them are made with multiple joined sections and reach over 6 feet in height!

ToysLathe made Wooden tops

A lot of folks forget that back in the old days (older then I am is what is implied here), all toys were handmade. Many of them had turned parts like car wheels and headlights. Others were completely turned, like tops shown above.


Many a tool requires a handle. Files, screwdrivers, chisels but to name a few. Handle making was a skill considered to be invaluable by many people who lacked the time or the right tools to do so.


The list goes on here: bowls & plates of all sizes, salt and pepper shakers, butter containers, etc... Too many things to enumerate really!


Legs for tables and chairs were made in various size and shapes, but most required a turned component. From sophisticated to rustic green wood pieces, a lathe can be a very valuable tool from which to make the lowly milking stool to the rocking chair as seen in the movie the Patriot.

Everything else you can think of!

There are so many things possible to be done with a lathe, I can't even think of them all!

But one thing I know: One day, hopefully sooner then later, we will have our very own Magical Cottage and when that happens, I'll start making things to decorate our place and things to use around the place....

One day!


Friday, January 1, 2010

I didn't get where I am today...

... by giving up after the first try. It is amazing what a person can do when they put their mind on something. Look at me as an example. A few years ago, I was struggling to make my very own rune set using only the knowledge imparted by my father (who was at the time a taxidermist and part time crafter) and the raw materials I had on hand. What I learned was to visualize what you want your project to look like, then to make it look like your vision.

No matter what the tool in your hand is, you will learn from what others taught you in the past but nothing will be as good as a first hand experience. My first hand experience at crafting properly taught me this; if the project feels hard to accomplish, I am doing it right! What I mean is, by making numerous mistakes I learned what not to do the next time. Like Thomas Edison said once, “There's a way to do it better - find it.”

So on that rune set I wanted to make, I missed the mark on many, many occasions. Let me go into more details to make it more clear for everyone. The material I chose was a piece of antler. Hard material, can be polished to a great sheen with little maintenance can last almost forever. The idea was to make discs by cutting the antler transversally and then pyrograph the rune symbols on them. Sounds simple right? Not if you use the wrong tools. And I do like to try hard things first.

At first, I tried cutting the antler with a regular wood saw from a tool kit given to me by my wonderful in-laws. The first thing I realized was this; without a vise to hold the piece of antler, my hand holding the piece got cramped real fast. On top of that, because the piece kept moving in my cramped hand, the discs were cut VERY unevenly, to the point where you could see and feel all the teeth marks from the saw. That meant using more sandpaper to remove all the marks. To create a single disc took me an average of an hour using that method. After my fourth piece, I just put the project aside and reflected on how to accomplish my goal in a better and easier way.

That is how I came up with the brilliant idea of using a rotary tool instead. Great concept, once I discussed it with Wifey to convince her that the tool in question was a necessity. So off we go into town and get me that wonderful new toy. After a quick lunch, we rushed home so I can resume cutting discs out of antler and continue the making of my rune set. I set myself up with a cutting disc, got my antler, put on a face mask (Yes, I remembered that antler can cause a lot of dust that can be bad for the lungs and got a mask that same day.) and started to cut a new disc, in the high hopes it would be a smoother process. The amount of dust generated was phenomenal, never mind the smell produced by the antler being cut at high speed. I managed to cut about two discs when Wifey kindly asked me to stop using that tool, on pain of sleeping in the bath that night. Considering we only had a stand-in shower, I readily complied. Because I did not have anything to collect the dust properly, it was all over the room I had been working in. A good hour of cleaning was required to make peace that day.

The good news was that the newly cut discs were a lot more acceptable to look at. The really bad news was without a proper dust extraction system, the rotary tool was out of that picture. The next part nearly made me stop. To my consternation, when I attempted to use my soldering iron on the pieces of antler I had made, I quickly realized the tool was not hot enough to burn into the material. Another small failure on my part there to not verify how much heat was required to burn on antler. So instead of continuing with antler, I put the pieces away and made a set out of wood, which turned out to be a lot easier to deal with and a lot less messy.

A few years after this, I moved back to Canada (From England that is) and participated in my first outdoor festival selling my wares. I had the good fortune to be right next to a wonderful couple, Brad and Julie, who went to various events in their gypsy caravan in the back of their truck. That alone is a sight to behold! I must say I was (and am still) impressed by what Brad could make, from knives to besoms to various types of drums so I started to ask questions about everything he made, building momentum the more questions I asked. This is how I learned of a type of saw that could be used to cut antler easily. As soon as I could, I went and got the saw in question and lo and behold! The antler was cut very cleanly and without too much hard work or sanding to clean up the pieces. I also now had a small vise to hold the pieces of antler. After sanding and polishing the pieces to fine tune them, I proceeded to then burn the runes on the discs, with my new soldering iron that went much higher in heat then my previous one. It still took a long time but at least now I got the results I wanted and obtained a usable and great looking antler rune set.

Since I had a set made out of wood in the interim and was happy with it, I brought the antler set for sale the year after and quickly sold it to a gentleman who had been looking for a rune set that was different from the normal sets found in the area for a long time. I kept in touch with that person and the set is well cared for and appreciated by everyone who sees it in use.

The more research and experimentation I do, the better my project look. I often get told at events how much better I have gotten since the previous year and it is a nice reminder that perseverance pays. I now experiment with various materials and projects and try to come up with new ways of doing things. So far, I fail very few times. That is because I failed loads at first and kept trying.

I will leave you with the encouragement to not give up at anything you attempt, just persevere and a solution will present itself eventually. In my case, it took a few years. For you, it may take longer or shorter, but I can assure you the end result will be worth the wait.