September 25, 2011

The Coral of Life

I made a giant papier mache coral for the Exhibition in Braille – here are the creatures, plants, fungus and life forms in general that occupy it. (It was a take on the tree of life concept!)

Knitted coral, mushroom (not by me but by the lady who run the singing groups at Centre Arts), and rose.

knitted coral

Knitted Mushroom

Knitted Rose

Pompom pals made of pompoms, pipe cleaners and crepe paper – a ladybird, butterfly, spider and carrot.

Lady bird Pom pom and pipe cleaner lady bird

Pink pom pom butterfly

purple pom pom spider

pom pom carrot

Wooden carvings out of pine (done by my Leonard Pym – my dad), an egg, fish and hedgehog.

wooden fish

Wooden hedgehog from above Wooden Hedgehog

Turned wooden egg pine

A gypsum sphere I found – it is an evaporite deposite found in desert environments.

gypsum sphere

Fimo/polymer clay models of a shrimp and penguin.

Fimo Shrimp

Fimo Penguin from the front Fimo Penguin

Sugru (this is funky new stuff which air dries to a rubbery plastic)

Sugru critters

September 10, 2011

Wooden Hedgehog

Filed under: Wood Work — sarah @ 9:27 am

Wooden hedgehog from above Wooden Hedgehog

This lovely little hedgehog is one that my dad has carved out of a piece of pine wood – the denser variety – a lovely blonde wood. He starts by cutting out the basic shape from a block and then using a knife and then then chisels of various sizes. The pickle area is then stained and the face painted fallowed by a layer or two of yatch varnish.

I am going to attempt to make some of these myself – I have made them before but they always have wonky noses!

July 6, 2008

Russian Doll

Filed under: Wood Work — sarah @ 2:15 pm

Russian doll in half

Russian doll


I rather liked the idea of a russian doll. You know, the ones that open to reveal a smaller one inside. So I thought I might try making one.

I mooched out to my shed and scrabbled about in my box of bits of wood left over from other jobs until I found a nice piece of mahogany. Well yes it was a nice piece of wood even though it was a little on the thin side.

I attached it to the bowl turning plate of my lathe. That’s the gizmo, er plate, with the holes in to allow it to be screwed to the wood. Then I fitted it to the headstock, the bit attached to the motor that spins the wood, and tapped the tailstock into the centre of the wood and tightened it.

The large gouge is the best tool to make a square piece of timber into a round piece of timber. It’s the chisel with the half round blade. Then the skew chisel makes the round piece of timber into a smooth round piece of timber. That’s the flat chisel with the angled cutting edge.

Next I marked the workpiece with the measurements needed for the finished article. Nice and easy so far. Yes? Then I used the parting tool to cut the job in half, more or less. The parting tool is a chisel that is pointed if you look at it from the wide part of the blade so the narrow part of the blade has a fairly thin cutting edge.

Then came the interesting bit. Or the worrying bit. Or the frightening bit, depending on your point of view. Yes it was time to hollow out the doll. I moved the chisel-rest to the correct position and used the narrow gouge to make the hole and because it was the top of the doll I left the bottom of the hole curved. Then I used the parting tool to cut a recess on the inside of the doll to allow the top of the doll to be fitted to the lower part. I measured the recess with a ……… gauge.

I changed from the top to the bottom of the doll ie screwed it to the bowl turning plate and used the gouge to cut the hole. Then used the parting tool to make the bottom of the hole flat and the recess, on the outside this time, the same size as the top. Using the …….. gauge again.

Now the clever bit. I put the doll together and put the tailstock in place, making sure it was a tight fit. Then using the skew chisel I shaped the doll. When you make two parts of one finished article you find that when it is placed back in the lathe it will be out of line and the whole job will need to be reshaped. Allow extra diameter for the waste. It would probabably have been best if I had started with a thicker piece of tinber, as you will realise later.

When I achieved the shape I wanted, more or less, I used sandpaper to obtain a smooth finish. Then I used the skew chisel to cut the doll from the lathe.

Then all that was left to do was paint the rascal.

For the decoration I chose humbrol oil based model paint which is readily available almost anywhere. However most other types of model paint are also suitable for a job like this.

As a base coat I used yatch varnish which provides a really good surface for the model paint which is applied with an artists brush.

I started with the face, which is a vague face shape using a sort of beige colour quite close to the colour of my skin. Then I added the hair, eyes and nose in black, plus a line around the outside of the face. The mouth of course needed red.

The arms were simple black lines with the hands painted on the ends using the same colour as the face. The flower used green for the stem and leaves and red for the petals.

The bottom of the doll, or skirt if you want to be precise, I painted red.

Where did I get all the brilliant ideas for the clever and interesting style of decoration, heaped with the naive interpretation of the human form and the childlike simplicity of features such as the plain hardy face and the delicate detail of the flower.

Yeah, you guessed right, I copied my daughter’s russian doll.

Sadly, I made the thing a bit on the slim side. In other words, its a tad narrow to put another doll inside.

Never mind it can still be used to hold, needles, long pins, short cocktail sticks er um oh tooth picks.

Note : I actaully use it to store errant beads I find lurking about whilst cleaning etc…

April 27, 2008


Filed under: Wood Work — sarah @ 10:01 pm


My dad made me this lucky mascot hedgehog during one set of my exams. This is his write up on how he made it:

Some years ago I made a hedgehog for my daughter. Not a very interesting one in my view but she seems to like it.

I started with a thin flat piece of apple wood, left over from another job. It was about two inches (50mm) long, one inch (25mm) wide and one quarter of an inch (6mm) thick.

First I drew a sort of cartoon hedgehog shape on the surface. Then I took it to my bandsaw where I very carefully cut off all the bits which were not part of the hedgehog shape. I said “very carefully” because the thing I was cutting was very small and the blade on a bandsaw is very hard on fingers that get in the way. Don’t try and rush the job with any power saws.

If you do not have a bandsaw or jigsaw then a hand-held fretsaw works just as well.

I sanded the little rascal first with medium and then fine sandpaper before giving it a wipe over with white spirit to remove any dust. Then it received two or maybe three coats of yacht varnish to help keep it clean.

The realists among you may be tempted to add eyes, mouths and little black shiny noses with some black paint and an artist brush before the yacht varnish.

I say “go for it matey”.

(He forgot to paint the face on it before yacht vanishing and is therefore in crisis about it!)

January 20, 2008

Cherry Wood Chalice

Filed under: Wood Work — sarah @ 9:39 pm

Wooden chalice

When I was about ten I helped my dad make this wooden cup. I then used it to drink mead from at our wedding and it sits there on display in our living room to this day. I couldn’t remember much of how it was made other than that it involved a lathe so I’ve again asked my poor old dad to write how it was done for me – here is what he’s done for me:


For turning you will need a lathe, which is a machine for spinning a piece of wood fast enough for you to use a chisel to cut parts off. OK I simplified it a bit (alright a lot).

First, select a suitable piece of timber.

I was lucky as I had been given a piece of cherry wood that had sat in a garden for several months seasoning.

A piece of wood from a tree comes complete with bark which has to be removed before you can start turning. This is easy if the timber is seasoned.

First make one end flat and about 90 degrees to the edge, i.e. the ‘sides’ that had the bark on. A hand saw is the best tool for this job.

Then draw some lines across the end to find the centre; you will also have to find the centre of the other end.

My lathe is old and cheap, so if yours is new and/or expensive some of the following may not make sense.

Place the log on the bowl turning plate. On my lathe this amounts to a plate with holes to enable you to attach the wood with screws. Once the timber is attached use the plate as the headstock. That’s the part that is fixed to the motor and spins the wood.

Next, slide the tailstock up to the log. This is a single point and should be pushed into the centre mark of the log and tightened.

At this point you are ready to start turning.

Start the lathe and begin turning using a large gouge. That’s the half round jobby, er, chisel.

The big gouge will remove the bark and enough wood to make the log round even though it will be a bit on the rough side. Regularly check to make sure that the tailstock is tight in the wood, otherwise whatever you are turning will tear out of the tailstock. Don’t ask how I know this will happen.

10 year old girls and even younger children quite enjoy this part of the process as it throws rather a lot of wood chips in all directions. Yes it is quite safe for children to do this, providing that you never ever leave them alone.

When there are no low points on the wood you can change to a skew chisel, which will enable you to obtain a much finer finish. A skew chisel is a flat blade with a cutting edge on the end that is angled.

Once you have achieved a smooth finish, stop the lathe and mark the dimensions of the chalice i.e. depth of the bowl, length of stem and the depth of the base, with a pencil. A short pencil mark is all that is needed as, when you start the lathe, they will appear as feint lines around the wood which can be drawn completely round by holding the pencil on the mark.

Now using the bottom point of the skew chisel you can begin to shape the piece by moving it either left or right and pressing the point to get a deeper cut and a nice smooth curve.

When you have achieved the desired shape for the chalice it should be completed with sandpaper. Medium rough texture first and then fine to give a very smooth finish. I chose a simple design suitable for a 10 year old. Sadly she thought it was far too simple. So I advise you to talk to your children and listen very carefully to what they tell you, then talk it over until you find out what they really want.

Remove the tailstock and place the chisel rest in the correct place and you are ready to shape the inside of the bowl using a small gouge. This is done by placing one half of the cutting edge close to the edge of the bowl and moving it to the centre. Do this until the required depth is reached, making sure that you do not cut the wall of the chalice too thin. Finish with sandpaper as before.

Finally I gave it two or three coats of yacht varnish so that it could be used as a drinking vessel. It seems to have worked.

Enjoy your turning.