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.....

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Last posting from 2015

Right.  This is the last post from this year, together with a resolution to post more frequently next year.

The big event of the year was the Somerset Arts Weeks malarkey.  Yours truly and an artist (Simon) from the village set up shop in the church and waited for the punters to arrive, which they duly did - not in huge numbers, but we saw around 150 over the two weeks, not bad considering we were only there 4 days of each week.  Various items of interest to note:-

- Churches, especially old ones, are cold with a capital F. Sitting around waiting for the crowds was not much fun, even with several layers of fluff to keep me warm.  Unfortunately, Simon had hung all of his pictures off the radiant heaters in the church using nylon fishing line (heat and nylon don't work well together) so we only managed to reorganise things to get them working at the end of the last week.

- We managed to blag a climb up the tower on to the roof, some spectacular views from there if you like heights and very narrow and dark spiral staircases.  On the way up, we had a look at the church clock, which dates back to the 1700s and which can still be persuaded to work - the main reason it doesn't run is because it has to be wound up every day, and nobody wants to climb the stairs every day.  An ideal opportunity to install a Grizzly automatic winder.....

- Most of the people who turned up were other artists who are not interested in buying stuff, only seeing what everyone else is doing.  This is not a Bad Thing, met some really interesting people but unfortunately none of the interesting ones spent any money.

- Met some nutters as well.  The arts festival covers around 200 different locations, all spread across the county, and a printed brochure means that you can choose the particular artistic medium that interests you.  One elderly gent proudly told me that he had already beaten his previous record and was well on the way to seeing the best part of 100 different sites.  He showed no interest in any of the stuff on display, just wanted to tell me how many places he'd been.  Another lady appeared, walked briskly around the church, and whisked out again, all in the space of 30 seconds, so she was really interested in our stuff.  Not.  And finally, my favourite, a very truculent old trout who was determined to have a full-on loudhailer argument with me about whether my copper 'Bird on a Wire' sculpture was a kingfisher, when I said it was a hummingbird.  It matters not that I designed it and made it, it would seem : "I know a kingfisher when I see one, young man" she hooted.  Best part? She wanted to buy it, but I had sold it only about half an hour beforehand.  Hur, hur.

Blue Bamboo box with copper foil feature on front
 A last minute addition to the exhibits was another jewellery box.  All of my previous boxes have been solid wood, but I have wanted to do a painted one for some time and this is the result.  Its called 'Blue Bamboo', painted in a deep blue metallic colour, with bamboo leaves airbrushed on the lid in several different overlaid colours. The box has three lift-out trays and is lined inside with a deep pink silky material. It didn't sell at the show, and I've since replaced the copper foil bamboo leaf motif  on the front which (was prone to getting knocked about) with a more robust etched copper plate arrangement. I'm really pleased with the end result, so much so that I plan to do more stuff in paint in the future.

Bamboo feature replaced with etched plate
Inside the Blue Bamboo
 All in all, the show was OK, sold some stuff and got back around double what it cost.  However, it seems to have taken over the entire year, and  doubt that I shall do it again. My feet are only now starting to thaw out as it is.

With all this excitement, progress on the engine has been a bit patchy this year, but I have finished the supercharger, which was one of the parts I was concerned about.  I'm not sure how much blowing it will actually do, but when I spin it at around 2000 rpm with the electric drill you can feel a fairly brisk breeze blowing out of the ports so that's a good sign.  It will be geared up to run at 3 times engine speed, so it should be spinning at maybe 10 000rpm when the engine is running.
Dummy assembly of the engine so far

The body is bored from a solid chunk of alloy, and the rotor is also alloy with slots cut with a milling saw and carrying four Tufnol sliding blades. I had to construct a board to fit on the milling table so that I had enough room to cut the slots, a bit tedious as I had to take hundreds of very fine cuts because the whole setup wasn't very rigid - not helped by the chinese cutter going dull after the first slot had been cut.  Grump, grump.

The blades are supposed to be flung outwards under centripetal force to contact the bore, but I don't think it will manage that reliably, so I fitted some slim leaf springs  underneath each blade and that seems to work.  More recycling, the springs are cut from the old broken mainspring from my Omega watch.

The last parts to be made are the pistons and rings, and the last set of small connecting rods.  Once New Year is over, I plan to order the materials for these and make a determined push to finish the beast.  Stand by with the ear defenders.

I also recently finished what has to be one of the best projects ever when it comes to that elusive WAF (wife acceptance factor).  Its a shoe cabinet, made to match the existing chest of drawers in the main bedroom, so its made in MDF and veneered in a wood called Wenge which I've never used before. The front of the top drawer is airbrushed to match the cherry blossom on the wall in that room, and the drawer is lined with rectangular patches of brocade, all offcuts from the ring boxes that I have made.

Shoe rack with tip-out bins
The shoes are held in tip-up bins, three rows per bin, and the cabinet will hold around 30 pairs of shoes when full.  None of the shoes will be mine, as I only have one pair and I'm wearing them.

Drawer lined with offcuts
The veneering was a nightmare - the grain of the wood is very coarse, and runs in all directions at once, so trimming it is tricky to say the least.  It also splits every time the wind changes, and because its so coarse it is really difficult to get a smooth finish. Shan't be using that again, even though it has a very nice warm dark chocolate colour when finished.  To add to the fun, I used iron-on adhesive the same as the stuff I successfully used on the grandfather clock re-build of a few years ago.  Unfortunately the latest batch of adhesive is half the thickness of the stuff I used before, and has about ten percent of the stickiness, so this made a tricky job about twenty times more difficult.  Shan't be using that again either, and shan't be buying from that supplier again either.  I find myself getting more and more cross about not being able to buy stuff that is properly fit for purpose - whether its screws, glue, paper, or whatever, the only emphasis seems to be making it as cheaply as possible rather than making it to do its job properly. I'd rather pay double and get something that works. oops, sorry, rant over.

Despite the problems, its turned out fine and the proud owner loves it.  Hooray, brownie points all round.

And the last news is that we are booked to go visit Sean and the gang in Oz in late February.  We are stopping off for 4 days in Singapore on the way out, and again for a day on the way back, just to break up the tedium of the flights. Lots to do before we go, but we are both really looking forward to seeing them all again.  Whoop, whoop!

I will try to get the engine finished before we go, can't take it with us but a vid of it running would be good to bore people with, no?