We needed a chair for the kids’ homework desk, so I found this – the varnish was flaky and old, and the cushions were worn out, and on top of that the joints were all pretty loose, so I fixed it all up. First I scraped the old varnish off, then I glued the old joints back together, and to finish the wood I went over the whole thing with a couple coats of boiled linseed oil – it feels a lot better now. For the seat, I picked up a nice blue plush material from a remnant shop and a foam pad. I cut a plywood scrap to shape, and stapled it all together. Original on the left, finished on the right.

Drawing unit

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.

Continue reading Drawing unit


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.

So what’s next?


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!