Monday, 7 May 2012

A gift for a friend...

Word of my misadventures in crafting have spread! I was approached by a member of my 1812 re-enactment group with a piece of leather work. I was told the piece is intended to act as a handle for wine bottles. Now, to say re-enactors in my unit are found of Port, would be an understatement! So Carol wanted to make a gift of this device to one of the men in the unit, who hosts our Friday night "Port Night. I tried to simply stretch the piece she gave me, but due to the age and the initial cut of the piece that was not possible.

So here is my version of this clever little device! It provides a sturdy handle with which to dispense copious amounts of this delicious beverage!

I do need to note however, that this particular crafter of Port is sneaky. When I first completed this piece, I was dismayed to notice that for some reason one of my loops didn't seem to fit. At first I thought it was because I had made a mistake when cutting the loop straps, and had cut one longer than the other. On closer inspection, I notice that the bottle has a taper to it! Something I had not considered! When I measured the bottle to determine the lengths require, I only measured the top of the bottle. Whoops!

So, I will need to insert a shim in the bottom loop. Oh well, still a nifty little project!

It's been awhile...

Wow, time flies! I must admit, that I have not spent too long thinking of my blog during this absence. A lot has happened in the month's since I last wrote anything. I've started a new job, lost a grand-mother, and just been busy in general. Haven't had much opportunity to do any work out in the shop, and until today have only completed a few on-going projects. But to get caught up on what I've been up to...

This is the finished top to a games table I had started way back in October (I think...). I still need to add my personal signature to the middle of the knot in the center of the tabletop, but it's otherwise complete. It took a long time to finalize the type of knot I wanted on the table, and even longer to come up with a stencil that would translate the knot properly. I am quite pleased with the finished product however!  Initially, I was not going to outline the knot in black, but found that the knot lost it's consistency without that accent. More work, but well worth the time spent!

This next little piece came about out of necessity. My father spends a lot of time at his computer desk, and was always using the nearby paper shredder as a makeshift footstool. Knowing this, I decided to churn out something out of my shop for him. He was quite pleased (and proud!) of the results.

When designing this piece, I was envisioning the many camp stools I had seen while re-enacting. A lot of peg-and-post concepts, that allow for easy packing and assembly. So I decided to copy from that. Using some 3/4" pine plywood, I came up with a 4-piece design. The top is fastened to the sides with wood screws, but the stretcher joins the sides in a peg-and-post fashion

For the end pieces, I didn't want them to just be plain square boards. So for a little bit of flair, I crated a sort of 'X' pattern, by cutting recesses on 3 sides. I think the final look is nice, and my dad's eyes light up when I showed it to him, which made all the effort worthwhile!

Here you can see the pegs that hold the stretcher in place between the two sides. I will be adding a cushion and upholstery to the top, so no screw holes will be visible on the finished product.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Spindly thoughts...

I've become accustomed to some fairly out-of-the ordinary requests from my lovely lady. We think alike and have very similar interests, it's uncanny really. So when she showed me a picture of a drop-spindle, I knew where the conversation was headed! Now, I have no concept of how the spindle is used, I know it turns a sheep's fleece into wool, but that's about it. But, I thought that based on the photo Sam showed me I could put together a spindle for her. She recently acquired a big bag full of sheep fleece, that she plans on turning into wool for some project. I Love Her! So, not wanting to leave her spindle-less, I built this for her!

Simplicity was key here, but I am hoping that it will still function as it's meant to. I took a 1/2" dowel, and sunk it through a 2" disk cut from 3/4" pine stock. There is 6" of handle below the disk and 2" of dowel before ending with a hook.

I am sincerely hoping that this will end up doing its job properly, but if not, I'll have to try again! My lady deserves the best I can give!

Shop tidy projects

Having realized the other day that I haven't been out in my small shop much lately, largely because of the cold, I thought I should make the trek out and restore order in my cluttered space.

Although the overall flootprint of my shop is a a decent size (18'x20' two-car garage), a large portion of the perimeter space is devoted to a plethora of storage shelving. Because of my involvement in a variety of outdoor activities (camping, canoeing, re-enacting) I've had to devote an entire portion of wall space to shelving, in order to house all my hobbies' accoutrements. 

To make up for this loss of potential shop space, I've had to come up with a few creative storage options to maintain a good amount of free work space. Furthermore, because it is an amateur's shop with no current budget to speak of, I've had to scrounge through a large pile of older stock or reclaimed materials to construct my solutions. To me, it's function over style. If it works, I'm happy with it.

I found myself in need of a means to safely and solidly store a large amount of potential project materials. So, I devised what I'm calling my 'lumber coral'. Using a set of old 4x4's, I built a simple 4'x3' frame with a mix of 2x4's, 2x6's and some random boards. The end result won't win any awards for design or aesthetics, but it works!

Once I added a bottom shelf to my coral, to keep stock of the garage floor, all that was left was to fill it with all projects-to-be that used to lean against any available bit of space.

This next storage solution was built a few months ago, and came about thanks to a constant need to store a least one set of car tires. When I first began to take-over the garage as my workshop, I took down a old set of shelving that was dangerously close to falling apart. The bi-product of that demolition was a set of pre-built shelves that only needed a framing system before being useable again.

After fastening two whole shelves to a set of 2x4 legs, I strung a pair of 2x4 across the bottom section, creating an off-the-ground storage space for tires. Recycle bins are kept at a good height for filling and removing, and the top shelf serves as a storage medium for little used items, or things waiting for the next trip to the town dump.

Lastly on the agenda for the day was a few separate ideas for storing commonly used tools/accessories in an easy-to-reach place.

Just a silly little project, more to keep my hands busy for a time that any urgent need. But, this shelf-mounted roller holds a thick roll of 35" heavy paper that I use to trace out engraving patterns and leather project patterns. The holders keep it free from the shelf surface, and also keeps it from falling off the shelf when I pull out one of the leather hides stored behind it.

 Next up, a clamp rack and jig shelf. Nothing ground breaking, I know. For my clamps, I went for pure simplicity. I screwed two 2x4 together, then mounted them to the wall. For my workbench jigs (PT lumber, bottom-center of shot), I attached 2 shelf brackets to  wall cleat. Masterwork crafting here! 

Lastly, I built a glue/paint station. Complete with paper-towel dispensing, this was just a neat idea to keep things within easy reach.

To the left is a view of the top section of my glue/paint station. I've divided the top compartment into 4 sections to help organize their contents. To left, I have a couple bonding agents. In the center, paint and stain brushes in the back, with marking tools in the front. On the right, scrapers, trowels and utility knives. Simple, easy to make, but makes work the shop a little easier!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

In the meantime...

Seeing as I currently don't have any projects on the go, it's a little cold out in an uninsulated garage workshop during a Canadian winter, I thought I'd throw up some of my previously completed projects in the leather world. 

A Practical Carrying Device
The following is the construction of a leather 'haversack' or shoulder bag for Sam to use when we do our 1812 Re-Enacting (more on that to follow). I modeled the design off a sporran that I've had for years, and simply enlarged it to suit the purpose.

Here are all the pieces cut out. Fairly simple in design and execution. Simple, but sturdy and functional.

Before this piece, the only dyeing of leather that I had done was with extremely dark dyes, black mostly. So being unfamiliar with the finer points of application it's no surprise that the dye dried a little streaky. But I like to think that if it were made by a farmer back in the early 1800's, it wouldn't have been perfect either!

Here's what the finished product looks like. Yes, I know the direction of the dye on the flap and main body run in different directions, and it drives my OCD crazy each time I see it! I added a brass buckle, for adjustment over heavier clothing in cold weather, and the piece of glazed pottery on the front was Sam's choice for a closure. The leather cord attached to the flap is wrapped around the disc to fasten the flap down. As with all my pieces, I find many points for improvement but Sam likes it and wears in around camp proudly, so what else can matter?


Among my Lady's many amazing qualities, is an attraction to activities some 'modern' people would call unusual. A long-time enjoyment of archery is one of those activities (I know, I found me a great woman!). Knowing this, I thought back to when I had made myself a quiver for my own archery dabbling. Working with a pattern I had devised, I made some alterations to make the quiver more functional for Sam.

With this piece, I decided to go use regular stitching to fasten the straps to the body and to anchor the buckle. For the body and bottom piece, I opted to use leather lacing to 'lace' up the bottom and side. The only considerations when apply this process is to ensure that you punch and space out an appropriate number of holes in the pieces to achieve the look you're going for. 

To finish this piece, I decided to apply a simple black dye. For a utilitarian quiver that will see plenty of use and abuse over the years I felt that black was the best option. To compliment the lacing binding the body of the quiver, I continued it up along the rim of the top portion. It ties the whole piece together nicely, and adds a somewhat decorative touch to an otherwise martial item. As you can see, the quiver easily houses Sam's compliment of arrows, as well as her hand-made bow. Overall, I'm very pleased with how this project turned, something I very rarely state!

Happy V-Day

St Valentine's Day has come and gone, and I don't think my fiancee and I shall ever have another one like it! All the paperwork went through okay on Sam's first car purchase, we picked up from the dealership yesterday evening and I must say that I am extremely jealous of her set of wheels! For a first car, it doesn't get much better! She got a fully loaded (and I mean loaded to the teeth!) Nissan Altima. Great buy! True, it has a good amount of mileage on it for an '06, but it runs beautifully and is in absolute mint condition, someone took very good care of the vehicle previously!

More in tune with the 'spirit' of this little holiday, one which I must say I've never been a huge fan of. It seems to me V-Day has just become one more over-marketed event, used to pry people away from a little more of their money, I thought I'd make something a little more personal for my special lady. Be it that this was our first V-Day experience together. So I perused the stock in my shop for a suitable piece of wood to accept the design ideas I had floating around in my noggin'. Low and behold, I found a piece of 1"x8" pine that would do nicely. I have been experimenting a lot lately with rotary tools, mainly with the idea of adding celtic knotwork inlays in future projects, and although that skill is coming along slowly, I have had a modest amount of success with engraving celtic lettering. So, I wanted to add some lettering to the project. On an occasion such as this, only a message of love would do (sappy, I know, but what can I say? I'm a bit of a sap!). To add a different touch as well, I decided to write out the message in Scottish Gaelic. Seeing as both our family backgrounds extend back to Highlands, I thought it most appropriate!

After a bit of searching, and translation attempts, I settled on the phrase "Goal Gu Brath", which translates into "Love Forever" or "Eternal Love" (depending on which English/Gaelic dictionary you use). With the message nailed down, I thought the plaque was missing something. Too much space left empty. A simple recessed border helped solve that a bit, and with the addition of the carving out of a bear's paw along with a wolf's paw (my and her favoured animals, respectively) the gift was complete. It took me about 4 1/2 hours to complete, not including the time to varnish and dry. I think it turned out alright, though there are numerous spots I am not pleased with. Sam tells me I'm too harsh a critique on my own work. She has a point, but if I don't find things to improve upon no one will, or simply won't tell me!

Above is the finished product, the lettering is taken from an a book printed in 1711, in Irish Gaelic. As I said, all-in-all I'm pleased with how it turned out. More importantly, Sam loved it, which is all that matters to me! The piece is already hanging up on her wall, for her to see everyday, with a message that will always ring true!

Monday, 13 February 2012

One of many...

One of the main reasons for starting this chronicle, was watching a following my fiancee's blog. It's fun to follow all her exploits and experiments, and I thought that seeing as the bulk of the projects emerging from my workshop at the moment are either inspired by, or made specifically for, her this would be a good way to showcase them!

Here is one of the first completed project on behalf of my beloved. It was made as a Christmas gift for her mother. We had seen a similar table runner at an aunt's house when we went over for thanks giving, and because her mother liked it so much, Sam (my aforementioned beloved) thought it would make an excellent gift!

It seemed like a simple enough project. Step 1: Acquire an assortment of birch logs. Step 2: Cut the logs into a sufficient amount of 'biscuits' to cover a piece of felt sized to cover a table appropriately. Step 3: Glue 'biscuits' to felt. Step 4: Present as gift. Simple, right? While it is simple in principle, it is also fairly time consuming!

Never gave much thought to how time consuming cutting several hundred 'biscuits' to the same width on a mitre saw could be. Oh the things we do for love!

Let the adventure begin!

Welcome!! While plying my hands at a variety of, what some would say, different crafting disciplines, I found myself searching for a means to share my successes and failures. I've never been one to have any success in keeping any sort of diary or even a cohesive set of notation. So, this could get interesting!

Over the years I have dabbled in several domains of crafting: Carpentry, leather-work, chainmaille, jewelery-making, to name my more recent exploits. All involve a level of creativity, but it's the completion of a project with my own two hands that really makes these hobbies satisfying. I was introduced to woodworking at the solid age of 4, in my grandfather's home workshop. A hobby carpenter himself, I watched him bring to life countless decorative and functional pieces, often having my little hands in the projects as well (a bent nail here, or just a hammer dent there). As I  grew, so did my contribution to the pieces emerging from the workshop. The joy of bringing a project to life in the warm pieces of lumber is something that is deeply rooted in me. Today, my grandfather's shop is little more than a storage area for a plethora of tools, many older than me. His advancing age has made his eyes unreliable, and his hands too unsteady to work the material he loves so much. But I still visit that well-known place for advice on my projects, to borrow some specialty tool, or to just look over previous completed projects fondly. It his with a picture of my grandfather and I working together on the wall of my rag-tag shop that I hope someday to develop the skill he tried to impart to an impatient grandchild.

As I grew up, my interests branched out to more unconventional hobbies. My high school years brought about a fascination with Medieval arms and armour. Chainmaille weaving took up a great deal of my 'study' time in high school, and the completion of my first 'Armour T-Shirt' did nothing to dim my interest. Leather-work came next, naturally, to compliment the steel ring armour I had made. After all, there are some instances when chainmaille is just impractical!

Some day...I will put my family and their patient smiles to rest by building my dream workshop, which will included a coal fire blacksmith forge. Blacksmithing has always been a dream of mine, possibly because I have been repeatedly told I'm built like one, or more likely, because my great-grandfather was a blacksmith and wheelwright in Nova Scotia. Either way, I will have my forge!!

So! This will be an on-going chronicle of my trials and errors with many hand-crafted projects, and I sincerely hope someone, somewhere will take enjoyment out of it. Because typing to myself repeatedly might start to affect my frame of mind after a while!