I started a new woodwork project last month – an oak sidetable, straight from the tree. Here’s the first leg, right before I took the bark off and planed it to shape. Once they’re finished, I need to cut some flat boards for the top and cut some dovetails – I’m aiming to get that done in the next month or so.*
So I work from home, and one of the big problems there is that I have to keep my work from just spreading all over the house like a terrifying art-based lifeform, so like an idiot I decided to make a custom unit where I can stash all my paper and ink and paint and rollers and lino and brushes and cutters and scalpels and tape and card blanks and string and wrapping material and blank canvasses and shut the door on it all.
So far this year I’ve managed a whole rack of woodwork projects, including a chessboard and pieces, a bike shed, a hefty big workbench, and some storage for all my paper, so I decided to take it easy for a bit.
No I didn’t! I realised the paper storage needed a friend. My drawing board is just too big for the room it’s in, and my art supplies are taking over the place, so I reckon a storage box with a smaller tilting desk on top will do the trick. So, I’ve got the plans, and I’ve got a big stack of timber. Step one: cut everything to size. Step two: realise the standard timber measurement is 2.4 metres. This includes my 2.4 metre shed, giving me immediate storage issues:
You might have noticed the footprints there – I have exactly enough space for myself there, which means the plywood there is going to have to bunk up in the bike shed while I build the frame because Scottish October says everything needs to stay under cover at all times. More updates soon!
It was my partner-in-crime’s birthday recently, and since it was her Big Lockdown Birthday I decided to try my hand at something different – a great big portrait. But what pose should I use? Is there some way I can do this without her finding out? So I went trawling up in the loft and, I’m going to date myself here, I found our ancient actual-film-in-the-camera photos of ridiculous drunken nights and holidays and lazy Sundays from the early 2000’s, including the very first picture of us together, added in with our more recent landmarks, and assembled the best of them into a loosely cubist collage.
This is my single favourite playlist in the whole of youtube – a series of short films of Japanese craftspeople fixing various treasured things. No subtitles, no translations, but absolutely perfect and calming.
So I seem to be scaling up my woodwork projects, and last year I was pruning a big branch out of our apple tree when I thought it would be nice to save the bigger pieces, let them dry out and see what I could make. Eventually I figured, why not give a chess board a try? With just hand tools? And a titchy workmate-style thing for a bench? That I have to set up in the back garden because my next project really needs to be Clearing the Shed… that’ll all work really well, right?
Four months later: February me was an idiot. But I did get there.
Did I mention I carved the pieces as well? Yeah I did that too, and hopefully without any further bloodshed here they are:
And I’m going to show off the inside because I’m nice and pleased with that too:
The hinges and spine of the ‘book’ are from an old bedside cabinet, and the rest of the frame and the black squares are oak from the shop. I didn’t have any dark stain, and can’t go out to buy any, so I ended up using shoe polish – I’ll have to see how that stands up to repeated handling. The pieces are all chiselled from apple branches, which I formed in an old worn benchhook and finished in a £5 bench vise from the supermarket. And the rest of the wood, including the white squares and pieces, were rubbed down with beeswax for a really nice finish before I finally got to break out the power tools to, uh, drill the screwholes.
Next time I will try and get time with some kind of table saw and powered sander, because hand-cutting 64 individual squares and then sanding every single one was the particular step that came nearest to breaking me. Unseasonal warmth to the rescue! February and March were dry, April was dry enough, and early May I was doing the finishing touches inside so that was fine.
These are free to download, print, and colour in: feel free to pass them on too. For enormous stacks of bonus points, write a story about what’s going on – who is everybody? where are they going? What are they going to do when they get there? Why are they living up a great big tower? What do the robots do all day? Let me know!