About Me

I've been taking things to bits, and making things ever since I can remember, starting with dismantling knackered alarm clocks and watches and helping my dad fix the car. Now I have a well-equipped workshop and have aquired lots of new skills, so I can make better stuff. When they first appeared, I became involved with personal computers, and these and developments in electronics have increased the scope of the things that I can do. Just recently retired, so O yes, now I can make all sorts of stuff.....

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

August madness part 2

Ah.  Failure to engage brain before pressing button means that by now you will all have around 95 copies of Part 1.  oops.

Right, part 2.  More stuff for the arts week involves me trying to come up with some completely new ideas.  

I originally planned to etch a deep and meaningful text on to a sheet of glass, using a hand-cut stencil made from the thin plastic adhesive film that I use for airbrushing.  However, my early experiments proved that a) cutting a complex stencil in situ was a nightmare, causing my index finger to be numb for several days due to the pressure on top of the scalpel, and b) the etching fluid creeps under the adhesive, giving a slightly fuzzy edge.  I had planned for around 10 lines of text, and realised that it was probably going to end up being a lot of hard work with a poor result.

As you all know, I have played with the airbrush a number of times with varying degrees of success - its is both the most intriguing and the most difficult device I have ever played with.

So instead of etching the glass, I used the same process but used Tibetan writing rather than English (it looks so much better) and airbrushed it instead with a base colour of blue and a subtle shading of black.  The Tibetan is a famous buddhist mantra which translates as 'om mani padme hom'.

I was going to frame it, but this presents problems getting light to shine through,so it ended up free standing in a wooden base. The picture doesn't do it justice, it looks great and has already been claimed by 'er indoors.

This inspired me to do some similar airbrushing, but on card instead of glass.  By now I had discovered that if I wrapped the handle of the scalpel with gaffer tape I didn't end up with Artist's Numb Finger Syndrome, and cutting the stencil on card requires a lot less pressure than on glass.  A new blade in the scalpel didn't hurt either, although I had only had the old one for around 20 years and it should have lasted better.

I wanted to write a word in several 'pictorial' languages, and decided on the word 'compassion' simply because I came across it while rummaging through the buddhist stuff for the glass plate above.  I ended up with three of these in tibetan, japanese, and arabic.

The first two were easy to find the word for 'compassion', but I struggled to find the word in arabic - found sympathy and pity, but not compassion - so I ended up using a script which means 'compassionate', usually in relation to Allah, I believe. I also thought that I would try to portray the contradiction between the idea of religious compassion and Islamic fundamentalism by having the shadowy sinister figure in the background.

While I like the first two, I'm less happy with the last one.  The script has ended up a bit clumsy, and the shadowy figure is not as shadowy as I wanted so this one may finish up in the bin.

On a bit of a roll here, both the workshop and me splattered with paint but all fired up.  Took a day off and went to Wells, and in a shop discovered a water colour sketch that took my eye - this is it on the right.

I've never been much of a painter, but I can sketch a bit, so I thought I would have a go.  This picture is of buildings in Havana, so I started digging through my holiday pictures to see if I had anything similar.  I finished up with a wad of pictures, mostly of places in Spain, but nothing that took my eye, so I decided to get that nice Mr Google to take a look at Havana.

A couple of things emerged from this search.  First, Havana has tons of ornate old buildings from the days when the country was relatively rich on earnings from sugar cane, but while a few of these grand buildings are well preserved and looked after, most are a mess of broken windows and no paint.  A great shame, but given that they have been shut off from the world since the early sixties, hardly surprising. 

The second thing is the cars.  Car imports completely stopped in around 1962, and most of the cars that were on the roads then are still running today. With the recent re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the US (I guess the White House must have finally run out of cigars) the classic car boys in America are rubbing their hands in anticipation of getting their hands on a few pristine 1950s Chevrolets, Cadillacs, Fords and all the rest, and picking them up for next to no money.  I thought I would paint a couple of these old cars against the contrasting backdrop of the old dilapidated buildings.

It was while looking for suitable pictures that I realised that, although a few of these grand old cars are in almost perfect condition, most have survived the past 50 odd years being run into each other and the surrounding scenery; breaking down and being fixed with whatever parts could be scratched together, and going steadily more rusty and worn out.  Cuba is a small island, so high mileage is not a problem, but large numbers of bodies climbing in and out over the years have pretty much shredded the interiors as well.

As a result, the Cuban classic car is pretty much a bodged together piece of junk, only kept running by the ingenuity of the people and the fact that if the car breaks there is never going to be a replacement.  The pictures that I painted are therefore an attempt to try to portray these cars as they really are, rather than how we would all like them to be.

The fourth picture is of one of the few buildings that have been preserved better than most, in a street called the Paseo de Marti.  I spent too much time on the detail of this one, and it has ended up looking like a blueprint instead of a picture.  Oh, and yes, the buildings really are painted that colour.  I'm not much of an artist, but they havn't turned out too badly.

Other things this month include my new phone.  "Ooooooh," I hear you say " He's gotta new phone, one a they OiPhones or some such".  Don't know me very well, do you ? :-)

I'm sad to say that my old phone, which I inherited from Owen, finally gave up the battery ghost at least partly because the USB plug 'ole had gone wonky and wouldn't make proper contact with the charging cable.  A phone that won't charge is as much use as a useless thing, so it was time for a replacement.  Remember, dear readers, that the last phone that I actually bought was probably in around 1995 and all of my phones since then have been donated by Sean (thanks mate!).

I scanned the mighty ebay for a while looking for a slightly used brand name phone but soon realised that anything half decent went for a big wedge - in my retirement I don't use the phone much, so no point in spending loads on it.  Instead I started looking at new non-branded phones, and finished up with a Chinese Cubot S200 - full 1080p 5 inch screen; 13MP camera and various other goodies for around 70 quid.  Bit nervous in case it turned out to be a dog, but it is excellent with a capital X - the screen is great, its fast and so far glitch-free, and the only downside is that its BIIIIIG. 

And last, the 'Harmony' jewellery box that I made some time ago has finally been sold, hooray!  This means that I will not be able to show it at the Arts week, so boooo.  However, I had previously partly finished a new box which was destined to be spray painted, so I've dug that out and am planning to finish it over the next couple of weeks, hooray!  The only problem is what colour to paint it, and what kind of 'theme' to give it - suggestions on a postcard please.

Next update will be after the arts week when things should be returning to normal and I can hopefully re-start work on the engine and other stuff that's been put on hold for most of this year.  As always, I can't wait.

August madness

Well, its already September and here we are again.  Lots been occurring over the past couple of months, mostly to do with getting stuff ready for the Arts Week in October.

As you might expect, I have been trying to make a load of new stuff - I don't want to spend every day making some variation of the same box or whatever over and over again, so I have decided to just make things that I think will look good and see if somebody might buy a few.  If not, we're going to have a very full house in a few years.

For the Arts week, I have made a few new things from copper foil.  This foil is cut to shape with scissors; coloured over a small flame, and then fixed to some kind of a framework. The first of the new pieces is a good example - he's a chinese dragon, around two feet long, made with a coiled copper wire framework and individual copper scales fitted over the top.  The scales overlap each other from front to back, so I had to start from the tail and work forwards to the head.  Because the body is tapered, and curls in different directions, the scales need to vary in size as well as being fitted close together or further apart depending on the curves.

All this means that the beast has taken around three months to finish, and to be honest it hasn't turned out quite as well as I had hoped after all that work.  Ah well.

The next two were much quicker to make, and turned out much better as a result.  The first is a pot plant, consisting of a dead tree branch concreted into a pot, with a twisted copper wire 'vine' curled around it with leaves soldered on at random intervals.  It also has a pair of flowers, made from copper but airbrushed over the copper colouring to give a a more flowery effect.  I quite like this one.

The last one is a small bird on a wire, and was originally intended to be fitted into the pot plant so that the bird hovered over one of the flowers.  Good idea, but the mechanics of a surprisingly heavy bird balanced on top of a long wire, combined with the limited space available in the pot, meant that it was never gonna fly (hur hur hur, geddit??).  Instead, I made a mould out of MDF and melted some lead into it to form a square slab - the oxide film on the surface turned a very pale blue, so I sprayed it with laquer to try to capture the colour.  The lead was fitted into a wooden bas, and topped with a glass plate.

I planned to drill the glass to let the wire go through, but discovered that although drilling in a small bowl of water worked very well, as soon as the drill broke through the back surface it snatched at the glass and cracked it.  Only had one piece of glass, so I made a polished brass and copper ferrule for the wire to mount in and etched a small pattern on the glass to cover up the cracks.  It looks pretty good.