31 January 2010

Golden Section

After my abject failure the other evening to make a decent colour washed sketch, I went back to the pad and did a quick line drawing of the media unit with the internal carcass members rounded over. The application of a little colour by means of my daughter's old secondary school crayons soon showed that all my concerns about the square edged members were well founded...I think the softer look as shown in the drawing is just about right.

I've also done away with the shelves, as they're not really needed, but I'll incorporate some adjustable fittings...just in case. I've also made each of the big spaces either side of the drawer unit slightly wider (450mm) and made the whole unit a little higher. Interestingly the drawer unit (now four drawers instead of three) conforms to the Golden Section, more by accident than design. It's always good to have this sort of element in a design anyway, but sometimes difficult to achieve. I've now also made a 1:5 detail drawing so all that I have to do now is to make a big 1:1 working rod on one of my whiteboards.

There's only one eensy weensy little problem...it's -4deg C in the 'shop at the moment, so that's a bit of a no brainer!

28 January 2010


I'm now convinced that trying to design something that looks even half-respectable has caused me more angst over the last few weeks than anything else. You see, the problem that's perplexing me at the moment is this media unit that I'm going to make later on.

The basic design (based on one of Alan Peter's chunky tables) is sound and one which I like very much in that the rounded forms of the main carcase construction, to me anyway, look good. As I keep on looking at the drawings and model though, the internal construction with square edges (even if they were to be smoothed over) seems to jar with the overall 'rounded' concept.

In fact last night, I was attempting to make a scale 1:5 isometric colour washed drawing of the unit and the more I looked at it, the more grouchy I was becoming with the design...it just didn't seen to 'gel', but it's good to be 'grouchy' and indulge in the odd 'senior moment' from time to time.

I guess the next thing to do is get out the sketch pad again and see what it would look like with the internal shelves rounded over. One thing I do want to develop is the idea of the lower shelf (the one stretching the full width) meeting the vertical ends with a scribed and mitred joint to match the construction on the top.

I'll crack it one day...just don't hold your breath!

24 January 2010

'Blokebox' and the Eagle's Nest

These pics show the first prototype 'dropbox' for extracting from the circular saw. It's made mainly from all sorts of gash sheet material cluttering up the 'shop and is appallingly put together...by far the worst thing I've ever made (If you have a really close look you ought to be able to see nails...EEEK!! coming through the sides)

However, for this application, the construction is appropriate, so once I've got some 63mm hose sorted out, I just need to hook it up to the tablesaw vac and see what happens.

The Handtool event at Rycotewood that I've been organizing for UKWorkshop members is also fast approaching. We're sharing a workshop with Tom L-N, Ian Styles from Axminster and David Charlesworth...elevated company indeed! Let's hope the UKWorkshop crew remember to doff caps and knuckle forheads in a timely manner...

...and finally, thoughts have been turning to our travels this year. We've already got an Easter sorted out with a short camping trip to the WWI battlefields at Ypres and then onto Brugges for a couple of days, finally ending up in Amsterdam.

What I'm really looking forward to is that yesterday SWIMBO, foolishly perhaps, asked me where I would like to go in September. It took me all of five seconds to let her know that I wanted to see the Eagles Nest in Bavaria and then drive back along the German Alpine Road into Switzerland, which is by far and away the best country we've ever seen...but I don't intend walking half way up this as I've done it twice already!

22 January 2010

The best laid plans...

I originally intended to finish the model of this latest project a couple of days ago, but a small item like my birthday interfered so it had to be put on the back burner.
It's made in pine, dowelled together, and painted in the closest colour I could find to oak, which just so happens to be an exact match for the paint on our bedroom wall...curious co-incidence you might say!

The construction will be in bandsawn English Oak over an mdf/ply core, with ebony (or similar) end caps and drawer handles (yet to be finalised) The main jointing is intended to be scribed and mitred with everything else being biscuited together.
It's had a reasonable reception on UKWorkshop but I must admit that it's quite difficult to visualise the final thing as the colour is nowhere near that of English Oak. If any Blog readers would like to comment, please do, as changes are easy to make at this stage.

Next step is to start to make some detail scale drawings and then one on my whiteboard which will be full size.

18 January 2010

Absynthe Gas Chamber...

The onset of the milder weather has meant that I was able to spend a little time in the 'shop over the weekend, where the main priority was to make a model of the proposed unit for the TV etc. I'd had a load of pine skirting boards left over from the recent decorating, so I decided to rip them down, re-glue and then plane down to the required thickness.

A small maquete of the design in balsa really doesn't give an accurate indication of the proportions so I thought that a 1:4 or quarter scale model would be much better. The other advantage of making this big is that it's far easier to shape all the pieces accurately and get the dimensions spot on.

One could also use a correct method of jointing, even with timber that's 4 or 5mm thick...doweling!

"Ah"....I hear you say "you can't get doweling that's really small, well, small enough for model making purposes."

Of course, you'd be wrong...cocktail sticks are ideal!

I hope to get the model finished tonight after which it'll be painted and then left to SWIMBO's tender mercy, eagle eye and critical appraisal for the final 'yea' or 'nae'. Should be interesting....

12 January 2010

The 'Drop Box'

One of my ongoing projects that's been put on the back burner for a while is making a 'drop out' box, specifically for the circular saw. The idea of capturing virtually all the sawdust is appealing, especially if it means that I don't have to clean out the paper filters in the vac.

Cyclones do the same sort of job, but are costly and difficult to make...this sort of approach does the same sort of job, can be built for a fraction of the cost, and is slightly easier to construct.
If you're unfamiliar with the way these devices work, it's simply a box, made from whatever gash sheet materials are loafing around in the 'shop. The dust is drawn in by the suction of the 'shop vac and is directed around the interior by cunningly placed baffles, such that the air flow is slowed down and in doing so, deposits the sawdust at the bottom of the box, or in a suitable container. If the box is made correctly (ie there's a long enough passage for the air and it's slowed down sufficiently) then in theory, all the dust is captured and nothing escapes into the vac. The critical thing is that the box needs to be sealed effectively, so there's no loss of suction.
The hold up for me, apart from the lack of heat in the 'shop, is sorting out the pipe work, but I have an idea that by using plastic rainwater down pipe I ought to be able to rig something up.

That's the theory...practise might be different.

09 January 2010

The road to Hell...

Full of good intentions, I said to myself last night..."Robert, it's a day in the 'shop for you tomorrow, my lad, freezing cold or nae...don't be such a bloody namby!" However, a quick peek out of the bedroom curtains this morning only showed that the weather situation hadn't improved one iota overnight and was confirmed when, on going into the 'shop this morning, the thermometer read -10degC!

At one time, such a mere trifling variation in the temperature wouldn't have bothered me, but as I get increasingly geriatric a few creature comforts, such as a bit of warmth, become slightly more crucial...

Having decided to forgo the delights of the 'shop, I thought I could do a little more design work indoors on this unit for the TV. I sorted out some scale rules and did a couple of 1:5 drawings on A3 paper, firstly having made some card shapes of the frontal footprint for each piece of equipment being racked out. Once the drawings had been made, I was astonished to see that the proposed thickness of the material for the top and rails (initially around 24mm) didn't look at all good...far too skinny! By increasing the thickness to 40mm and having a re-draft, it started to look much better.

I should add that the design is based on one of his simple, but chunky stool designs, that can be seen on page 112 of his book (and if you didn't get it for Christmas...you should have!) One feature of these designs is that they are made from solid timber and whilst I have a decent quantity of English Oak in stock...I haven't got that much, so I'm going to make much of it using bandsawn veneer over an mdf core.

Now the problem is the top, as the (mitred) end lipping will cause a glaring problem when the shaping is done, but after some deliberation, the solution is was blindingly obvious! As AP himself said many times..."make a feature out of problem and it ceases to be a problem."

Make the end lippings from ebony, or some other contrasting timber.

The bonus side of this type of approach is that it would enable me to make the drawer pulls from the same material.

That's the theory...practice might be slightly different.

06 January 2010

Chill out!

The recent cold snap has meant that it's been far too nippy to get out into the 'shop of an evening after work. If I put on the heating at 5pm, it's generally around 8pm that's it's anywhere near close enough to do some work and by that time I'm almost ready to come in again.

With the lapse in practical activity, I've started to get some ideas together for a new project to hold the TV and associated boxes. To that end, I've got a few initial sketches lined up after having re-read the late Alan Peter's excellent book 'Cabinet Making - the Professional Approach.' My idea is based on one of his signature pieces which is the long low table with what I'd describe as Chinese mitred joints between the top and rails, with a couple of movable shelves for the equipmentt and two or three drawers. I've got a decent quantity of very pleasant air dried English Oak and some lengths of 18mm mdf, so the main sections will be constructed using bandsawn veneers.

I spent a good portion of last night measuring the various bits and pieces that have got fit in it, so the next job is to start to firm up the design with one or two scale drawings.

I also fully intend to take the excellent advice of one of the readers of this Blog and make a 3D maquette in balsa and if that looks good I'll make a decent quarter scale model in mdf.

It's strange, but I often 'put off' this aspect of making and try and sort all the details out in my head (not the best idea I've ever had) but after a while, it becomes so much easier just to get out a few pencils and a bit of paper and start to sketch.

03 January 2010

Demise of the Doctor

All good things come to an end, including the much loved and last Dr, who met an untimely and ghastly end in the current series the other evening. Anyone watching it (and there were at least 10 million) will have seen a huge, volcanic explosion of flame and fire erupting from him inside the Tardis...all gripping stuff.

SWIMBO of course, was watching it enthralled, but I'd decided instead to have a quick, nonchalant peek at t'interweb. After all, when you've hidden behind the sofa in abject terror countless times as a lad whenever the Daleks were doing a quick bit of exterminating, the antics of the current incumbent seem pretty small beer...I could hear the sound though, so the agonized death throes of the Dr came wafting through.

It was at that precise moment that my computer coughed and died, ceased to be, shuffled of this mortal coil, joined the choirs indivisible...this computer is definitely deceased...it's passed on, it is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet it's Maker. It is a late computer, it's a stiff! For the rest of life it rests in peace. If I hadn't nailed it to the table, it would be pushing out the daisies!......... this is an ex-computer!' (with apologies to Cleese and Palin)

Who knows, call me an old cynic if you like, but I'm absolutely convinced that these two, seemingly unconnected events were in fact closely linked as the disintegration of the space-time vortex in the Tardis must have shot down the wires at Warp Factor 9 and nuked my computer!

It was with some apparent dismay then, that I mentioned to SWIMBO later on that the 'puter was no more...

"Well...it's just after Christmas, we haven't got any money, so you'll just have to wait 'til we have to get a new one"

I did though, have a little private wager with myself as to how long it would be before a visit to PC World was on the cards...

...about 8 hours.