Apr 21

Turns out, you *can* make a rabbit from an egg…

I like a lot of Rebecca DeGroot‘s stuff, it’s very nicely weird and creepy.

So when she did a how-to video for making an easter rabbit, I thought I’d have a go.

So, first up, turn the body and head from some sycamore spindles I had after the snowman production line at solstice. The head and body are basically just eggs…

The ears are made as a long pointy egg as well, but from a blank which is a glue-up with a piece of paper between the two halves.

Similar to how you’d do an inside-out turning blank, but just two pieces here instead of four or more. Once the shape is turned, you just split the shape along the paper line and sand off the remaining paper (newspaper will do, but any heavy paper works well). These were just some oak offcuts I had to hand.

So with the head, body, ears and tail turned (the tail is just a chunk of old xmas tree trunk turned to a sphere with a tenon), you sand flats on the bottom of the body, on the bottom of the head and the top of the body, and you dremel the base of the ears to fit to the head (and I dremelled a small hollow into the ears as well because why not). Then drill between head and body for two dowels, and between head and ears for bamboo skewers (because I don’t have dowels that narrow). Glue everything up and…

That sanding wheel and platform are proving very useful for this sort of composite piece.

For a finish I just went with a coat of acrylic rattlecan lacquer.

Didn’t turn out bad at all.

Apr 21

Cheap pen press

Made my first pen a little while back, and while it didn’t turn out too badly, using a woodworking vice to press the pen parts together was a bit janky at best and I didn’t find using the tailstock on the lathe much better.

Thing is, dedicated pen presses are spendy. The basic axminster one is fairly straightforward:

But that’s €75 and that’s not a rip-off pricing either, that’s from the carpentry store and they don’t charge much more than you’d pay buying from the source and shipping it. And fancier ones get spendier – the “deluxe” one is 115 euro (and I can’t even find the basic one in stock anywhere right now). And going to China’s cheapest didn’t help – the lowest price I could find was $45 but with another $25 in shipping.

However. T-track is about $8 for 300mm on aliexpress, a t-track stop is $10 on aliexpress and a push-toggle clamp is about €14 on ebay (and I think I could have found that cheaper elsewhere).

Now I need a bit of scrap CLS 4×2 to mount it on, cut the t-track in half because cos I don’t need it to be that long (and yes, woodworking bandsaw blades do make for a clean cut in aluminium), and route out (ugh, power router) a slot for the t-track to sit into

Next, need a small contact block for the t-track clamp and for the end of the toggle clamp. I’ll just turn a scrap of sycamore to a gentle cup shape for both sides. I can drill a hole for the toggle clamp’s bolt and epoxy that bolt into place on the one side, and on the t-track side I can just replace the bolt that came with with a lag bolt and attach it that way.

I did have to put a small spacer under the toggle clamp so that the heights matched up but that’s what happens when you use too large a pair of offcuts for the contact blocks 🙂

Screw an eyelet into one end and then hang it on the wall out of the way and now the next time I make a pen, I’ll have a press and it’ll have set me back about a third of what it would have cost to have bought one.

It’ll probably fail in interesting and expensive ways, mind you, but still. Fun to make 🙂

Apr 21

Neoplastic fun

A while ago, Stewart Furini was playing around with colouring a wooden bowl in a neoplastic fashion (think Mondrain) using paints and stains. It looked like fun so I thought I’d give it a try.

Turns out, it’s a little harder than it looks. I started with a miniature bowl blank because it was the first thing to hand.

Very simple shape (the idea was to part off at that thin line about an inch in from the chuck jaws so the proportions of the final cup wouldn’t be horrible). The colouring should be simple – airbrush with the lightest colour, then mask off squares with masking tape and airbrush successively darker hues and finish off with black lines on top (you’d do it the other way round with paints, in the same way that the order you paint with oils is the opposite order to that for watercolours). And obviously, because we’re not limited to the three primary colours this isn’t really neoplasticism, but roll with it, I’m just having fun 🙂

Two quick problems – firstly on such a small piece the curvature on the surface is fairly tight and you might not know this but 2D geometry on a curved surface is non-euclidean (eg. the three angles in a triangle on such a surface do not add up to 180° but to more than that) – which means that masking off perfect squares gets a little weird when the square is large compared to the radius of curvature. But okay, I can just squint and ignore that.

The second problem was a doozy. Turns out, masking off spirit stain on a surface with cheap lidl masking tape is a non-runner. Does not work at all, and the darker stains for some reason show that up the most.

Bleuch. But I had some fancy frog tape, which is supposed to be the best thing ever for masking for painting.

Nope. Still no dice. I actually gave up on this blank at this point and just sprayed it with ebonising lacuqer and thought I’d just make a little cup from it with the red/black urushi colouring scheme and come back to the neoplastic colouring later on.

Yikes. Good news is, the faceplate still works. I still haven’t found the missing third of the piece though, it rattled off my head and went flying somewhere in the shed and has resisted attempts to be found since.

So if the small piece bounces off your head, the first thing to do is try again with something much heavier 😀

And this time I had much better luck, because I gave up on the tapes designed for masking when painting houses and switched instead to tape designed for masking when doing small scale modelling (you know, airfix kits and the like). Meet Tamiya tape:

Stocked in any model making shop near you. I couldn’t recommend it for housepainting unless you’re a millionaire, but for this sort of thing, it’s just astonishingly good.

Unfortunately, it isn’t perfect and there are things you have to do when using it.

So first off, whatever was in the black chestnut spirit stain, it just ignores tape entirely. No matter the tape, no matter how I burnished it, it wasn’t staying in its lane for anything. So I just didn’t use it after this (I turned off the surface on this bowl about four times trying to get it right).

Also, if you’re masking off a square with the tape, you’ll have vertical sides and horizontal sides and one of those is going to be going down over the other. You have to burnish both sides heavily, but you have to pay special attention to the point where the top layer of tape meets the bottom layer of paint. You have to burnish that like it owed you money, because if you don’t, you leave a very small gap where the horizontal line meets the vertical line and the tape has to rise up off the wood to layer over the vertical line’s tape; and the spirit stain will wick into that gap through capillary action and spread waaaaay further than it has any right to and you’ll have to turn off the surface of the bowl and start over again.

And do I even need to mention that you have to airbrush from a ways back, use light coats and take time to build up the colour you want because if you get too close to the surface the air will blow the stain into any little gap to get out from the tape otherwise?

However, with enough time spent burnishing, and some care airbrushing you can get nice results.

It’s still not perfect, but I like the effect. I might come back and use it for something else in the future. I also liked the simple shape and the foot that I got on this bowl, I must try to do that again but better.