29 September 2009

Designing dilema

I'm continually puzzled by one aspect of woodworking and I don't know whether I should be...design!

Let me explain. I suspect that most people who are interested in building furniture of any sort like to have a go at designing something for themselves which has a unique 'this is me' feel to it, 'it's mine, I designed and made it, for better or worse' and if you don't like it...'well, you can shove it!' But I think that many (including yours truly) want to go some way beyond that and create something with a bit of a 'wow' factor, or maybe a piece that has a timeless, dateless quality...and that's where it starts to get really difficult, as those sorts of pieces can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

I would give my back teeth (if I had any) to create something like a Barcelona chair which is just about the sexiest thing on the planet on which to rest your bum (would you believe it was designed in 1929!) or even a classic Maloof rocker, not quite in the same league though. I would be more than happy as well to create a simple, beautiful cabinet where someone might say "Coo...fantastic, looks just like a Krenov piece"

And therein lies the difficulty, because no matter how hard I strive, my designs (and probably many other people's) are tainted (which seems a grossly unfair description) though coloured is more apt, by these fantastic, timeless creations that others have achieved. It seems to me almost impossible for a mere mortal woodworker to rise above this level of work because I find that all this wonderful stuff is continually kicking around inside my head so it's bloody hard to come up with anything that's remotely original, or perhaps I shouldn't bother... and that's the dilemma.

I want to.

Which then poses another question...how do I (or you, maybe) go about this nefarious and almost ethreal process of design?

Over the last few days, I've been pondering on just how to make this unit for the TV, a simple enough job, but one with a few considerations that have begun to surface. I've started off by looking at what's available on the t'interweb which is always useful and provides interesting comparisons, so now I've got lots of different sorts of images knocking around inside...all very confusing! The next thing I supose is the 'functional' element of the job...how big, what's going into it, what are their sizes?... after which I'll probabley get out the drawing pencils and a ream of A3 paper and start to scribble madly.

But, sadly, I know already... it's the 'form' part of the exercise that'll have the guys in white coats coming for me.

26 September 2009

Unbridled passion...

There are some things that irritate a little but have to be tolerated (such as car drivers with mobile 'fones stuck to their heads) and others that irritate a lot that you just have to do something about. As I get increasingly more senile (some might say that it's happened already) I find smaller things that I might have tolerated a few years ago now irritate me beyond belief.

One such thing is exposed and trailing cables...I hate them with an unbridled passion!

This has prompted the next project in the 'shop which I intend to start after I've finished the 'Blokeblade Special' (the handle of which was finished today...and it is rather tasty)
I won't have exposed or trailing cables either in the 'shop ('Elf & Safety rearing it's ugly head) as all my kit is permanently bolted down, so nothing on ghastly trollys with trip-upable cables trailing behind...even the tablesaur situated in the middle of the 'shop has the power cable running underneath the floor.

So the question remains...why oh why did I have to have bloody things trailing from the TV? If I'd had sufficient foresight when I decorated the lounge a while back to hide them somehow, I wouldn't now have to build this next project...a low unit to stand the TV on and store all the associated gubbins that goes with it, including the HDD player. Currently, all the cables are bunched up in an unruly mess behind the bookcase, but my cunning plan is to neatly coil them behind this new unit so that with a little bit of luck, nothing will be seen.

Much to my satisfaction though, there's a silver lining to this job as I intend to make this unit the full width of the red bricked up chimney breast so that the space either side of the TV will accommodate a small pair of good quality bookshelf HiFi speakers (which is the next project after this one) As well as the HDD player I'll need to build in sufficient room for the CD player and my old amplifier, though when I finish work in a couple of years I'd love to replace it with one of these bad boys but whether that'll ever happen remains to be seen...

23 September 2009

The Blokeblade 'Special'

Having returned from my hols, I got down tonight to starting the Blokeblade 'Special' marking knife that'll be one of the prizes in the UKWorkshop competition that I'm organising. Matthew Platt at Workshop Heaven kindly sent me a range of highly exotic timbers, all of which originated in the land of Oz and it's one of these (not saying which one though...top secret) that I've started to turn. I can't really say much more about it as someone reading this entry may be the owner one day...suffice to say that there will be one or two special features which ought to make it stand out from those I've done in the past. Provided I take it fairly steadily, it should turn out to be a real beauty...in fact I'm tempted to make one for myself as I don't yet have a decent dovetail marking knife. I've made these in small batches in the past and it's as easy to make two together as one, so I may well start the second knife tomorrow, using the second piece of the same timber.

21 September 2009

Holidays...you gota have a good storm!

Having returned safely from distant climes, herewith report from the last couple of weeks. After hanging around Gatwick for what seemed like an age, and an even longer flight, we finally made it to the accomodation in our little hired car at around 1.30 am, not being helped in the least by appaling directions on the instuctions from the rep which sent us off into the countryside past midnight on a wild goose chase.

About half the time was spent loafing around on beaches and coves, just swimming and snorkeling, in water that was as pleasant as stepping into a warm bath. Normally, I'm a little bit sensitive about these things, but I didn't have to worry at all in Cyprus. One of the highlights was a trip up the Akamas peninsula coast in a charter boat to go swimming in the Blue Lagoon where the water was a stunning, vivid turquoise...and there's no photomagic enhancement in the pic, that's how it is! My back paid the price though, so at all other times I wore a T shirt in the water. Offering bread to the fishes as well was a guaranteed way to get a huge shoal of them swimming around you...a few crumbs in the water and they were almost taking it out of my hand.

Another day was spent hiking into the Akamas (which is a national park) to find a secluded 'double horseshoe' bay for a bit of very quiet, relaxed snorkeling. The pic shows the bay but what it fails to show is the hugely depressing amount of rubbish that littered the undergrowth, including squashed water bottles, empty beer cans, remains of BBQ's, toilet paper strewn all around the bushes, used tampons and piles of what I assume was human excrement...not pleasant. In fact this is one of the things that we both found very disappointing about Cyprus (and Malta as well) namely that the locals (and possibly tourists) seem to have little regard for their environment and seem happy to pollute it at the drop of a hat. The other pic from the day shows possibly an extreme example...a beautiful cove with the remains of a beach umbrella that had just been tossed off the road onto the cliff face with no attempt made to recover it. At least they have proper transportation though in the Akamas...

One day was spent looking at the area on the west coast and one of the pics shows the regimented lines of beach umbrellas at Coral Bay, mostly filled with Brits (so it seemed) intent on massively duplicating their chances of skin cancer later on. I have no idea why people cook in the burning sun for hours as there's so much evidence now that it's one of the worst things that you can voluntarily inflict on yourself and besides, to me, that sort of beach is complete anathema. It's equally possible though to drive up to the northern coast through the lower slopes of the Troodos, around the Turkish enclave to Kato Pyrgos to find a totally deserted expanse of pristine beach, inhabited only by some Bloke in a blue T shirt waving his arms about!

We had a couple of days out in the mountains which made for a refreshing change from the heat (about 31degC) of the coast. We went initially to see some of the so called 'timeless mountain villages ' and I quote from the Olympic brochure, the writer of which ought to be nominated for a Booker prize for imaginative writing. Quite honestly, the villages were a shambolic mess of unfinished, drab concrete structures perched on the hillside, in many cases roofed in rusty tin. When there's so much good local stone to hand in the mountains, I found it incredible that they would instead choose to send a concrete lorry from the coast, up the tortuous mountain roads to build these sorts of houses.

In one of the villages though we came across the Kykkos monastery, which has to be the gem of the Toodos mountains. Each of us had to be decked out in purple robes as we had shorts on, but not withstanding that, the quality of exhibits in the church and museum were astounding.

We spent some time at the end of the holiday looking at the Tomb of the Kings, a huge necropolis north of Paphos dating from early Roman period. Vast burial chambers had been carved out of the soft sandstone and at some time in the past must have contained thousands of corpses. Alyson is shown standing by one of the underground columns and there's a shot of me sat in one of the chambers... this one though, above ground.

Some time was spent near Paphos looking at the Roman mosaics which I found remarkable. Even after 2,000 years the vibrancy of the floors was staggering and it's beyond me how the craftsmen in ancient times could have laid such intricate patterns. Many of the floors were not flat but had been deformed by earthquakes but even so, they were amazing to look at.

We also spent a disappointing day in Nicosia, where again, the Cypriots haven't made the most of the historical past...very ho-hum and touristy, something of a turn off. The thing that's always uppermost though is the separation of city into two sectors, the 'Green Buffer Zone' being now a magnet for tourists. It's very evident that there's still a lot of animosity and ill feeling...the Greek Cyriots call their bit the 'free zone' and refer to the Turkish sector as 'under military occupation since 1974' which to me seems futile as they're all Cypriots and have to live on the same island. Perhaps the most exciting bit of that day was a short lived but very nasty little storm with torrential rain and hailstones as big as my finger nail. In fact the wind was so violent that bins were blown over and many trees snapped in half...we saw one new BMW with a tree across the roof!

The last evening before retuning to Paphos airport we spent at Aphrodite's Rock, where the Goddess of Love was supposed to have risen from the waves fully formed and who was then towed to the beach in a giant seashell pulled by dolphins. All complete and utter tosh of course, but it's surprising how many folk come down to the rock and leave paper ribbons festooned on tree branches, supposedly to seek Aphrodite's help in affairs of the heart.

All told, a very good trip but there were things about Cyprus (and the Med environment in general) that we found slightly upsetting, so it was refreshing to get back to England where it's always green and slightly cooler...and somewhat cleaner!

06 September 2009

The Three Bears

This will be the last entry on the Blog as I'm off on my hols for a couple of weeks.
We have three matching suitcases, a tiny one, a medium sized one and a huge one. Always prudent to let SWIMBO have the biggest one...'nuff said.

04 September 2009

Incinerated nasturtiums

Having finished off the Teak table the other day, I'm at a bit of a loose end at the moment in the 'shop. I don't really want to start another major project 'till after I come back from my hols, but I did manage to earn a few quid by doing another water colour drawing (this time on dowel joints) for Michael that'll go into the mag in due course.

I also made myself an up-market bench hook, as the old one was getting a bit chewed up. This one though, was made with a replaceable slidy bit underneath the saw teeth, so that it can be made as 'good as new' when it gets munched away, simply by slotting in another length of timber.

Anyone who's been in this sort of situation will know how it is...one half of the 'grey matter' is starting to anticipate going away, whilst the other bit is casting an appraising look over the 'shop, with nothing really in mind, but trying to find something to do.

So there I am, scuffling through the shavings, hands in pockets, with an occasional 'oooing' or 'aarring' and much sucking of teeth, feeling a bit like Compo really... not finding anything useful to do, but hoping that with enough prodding and poking in odd corners, something will turn up.

Then I spotted something...something crucial.

Now I'm not incinerating anything, far be it from it from me to cast nasturtiums, but... my plane cleaning brush that was given to me by a pal is no longer residing it the Trekky pot on my bench...it's gorn, disappeared, shuffled and I've spent the last few days as Compo trying to find it!

I'm bereft of my brush, so if anyone knows where it is, answers on a postcard please.

There's usually always a silver lining though. SWIMBO's just rung up to say that my new shoulder plane has just been delivered, so I've got a new toy to play with tonight!

01 September 2009

Parcel of Lumpyness

The table was finally completed last night, so herewith a couple of pics. It's not the most impressive thing I've ever done but it keeps SWIMBO happy and that's the most important thing.
The more I look at the top though, the more I come to dislike it...it's a lumpy, mis-shapen thing that's been crudely churned out in some flea bitten, rat infested ally in the back streets of Tripoli (or somewhere similar) I found out last night that it's not even level, the thing is in 'wind' and it's also not a constant thickness all the way across...some bits of it are 2mm thinner than others. The only way that it can be secured to the top is by a copious application of Blu-tack which can then be squashed down by the offending 'sticky up' bits, so that it at least appears to be flat...ish.
However, it's all done and dusted now, so I'll be able to move onto the next project after I return from my wanderings in Cyprus, which I have to say, I'm rather looking forward to...