Monday 30 December 2013

Wooden Toy Kitchen

This is a post of a toy kitchen I made for my daughter for Christmas and I've previously posted it on my other blog here. So sorry if you've already seen it!

 A simple design with minimal materials needed. Just a sheet of ply, a metal mixing bowl, some hinges and an off cut of perspex. I think the hardest bit was deciding what size to build it - I didn't want it too small, so she grew out of it too soon, but I wanted her to be able to use it straight away.
In the end I got the size just right, with enough storage to house all her toy kitchen bits and bobs.  
She loved it when she unwrapped it and started cooking on it straight away - I ate so much toy food and drank that many fake cups of tea I could barely move on Christmas day!
Hope you all had a good Christmas!

Saturday 14 December 2013

Funky Cupboard Doors

I fitted some cupboard doors that I made today. I was quite impressed with how they look.
 This is a simple set of three MDF doors, hung with kitchen hinges. The doors have lines scored across them that are 3mm deep, painted grey to contrast the white finish, each individual door has one line picked out in a different colour and some of the lines pass through two or three of the doors to tie them together.
What the doors are hiding
I think these look a little bit more like art than simple cupboard doors and I'm pleased with how they came out (I didn't do the painting).
This shows that a low cost material with a bit of time spent on it can give a great finish.

Monday 2 December 2013

Pre Finished Oak Floor

Last week we laid a pre finished oak floor from Travis Perkins and to be honest I'm quite impressed with how it looks when it's down.
 This is the floating floor type, laid on a foam underlay with the tongue and groves all glued together. Lots of beams and doorways to go round and oak skirting and beads made out of the same stuff, at the customers request but unfortunately the longest length was only 4ft so lots of joints!

The customer seems really happy with it. My only concern would be how long this "high" finish will last compared to my usual oiled finish, but when you're having to pay for labour this pre finish makes it a lot cheaper rather than having to pay me for a couple of days to sand, stain and oil the floor. Also it means that the furniture didn't have to leave the room whilst we were laying it, we did one half then moved everything over and did the other.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Tetris Style Shelves

Sorry I've not posted on this blog for a few weeks (I've been busy having more children!) So it's meant I've slowed down on the work front a little bit.
I have, however, just completed this shelving unit for a friend/customer and I'm rather pleased with the result.
The brief was to make up blocks in tetris style shapes and have a unit where all the blocks could be rearranged if you wanted to. Unusually I worked with the customer on this project and we got on like a house on fire.

The first step was to construct the bottom storage unit that would support all the blocks. We made sure this was really strong as there was to be a fair bit of weight above it.

The first blocks we made were in MDF. Once we made a few we decided that achieving a good finish was going to be a problem so we decided to switch our material to WBP ply, leaving the cut edges exposed.

The first unit we made like this looked good so we set up a mini production line

We made a total of 14 blocks, all joined together with biscuit joints and a PU glue

Starting to stack the blocks in the unit. They were all made with the measurement 265mm as the standard "unit" size, so that it's completely interchangeable

Brian using a homemade beeswax polish to finish the shelves. This picture gives a good idea of how big the units are.

The completed unit with storage cupboards underneath

The completed unit

Completely interchangeable and a really good fit

Three sets of cupboards under the tertis blocks make really useful storage. These doors will be painted white.

We made the doors and hung them on kitchen hinges so it gives a clean finish when they're all shut

Some interesting patterns

I'm lucky in my job that I enjoy what I do, but when I get a project like this I enjoy it even more. I've built some amazing things over the years but this is pretty near the top of the list!
I've still got a few more projects to do in this house so watch this space!

Sunday 6 October 2013

Walnut Drawer Dividers

Not many photos to show from the week but I did make some walnut drawer dividers (I didn't make the drawer)

They were all halving jointed together and then given a few coats of liquid bees wax before adding the blaize to the bottom. All cut by had with a tenon saw (it was raining outside and it was just as quick by hand.).

Saturday 28 September 2013

Finishing An Oak Floor

I remember pricing an oak floor, over a year ago now, and the customer said to me not to bother pricing in for staining and oiling the floor, they'd do that themselves. I cringed, as this can really make or break a floor. It's a shame to spent a lot of money on the oak and then skimp on the last bit.
 Last week I laid an oak floor, so all this week I've been juggling my week around sanding, staining and oiling it. Once the glue had gone off I filled all the deep knots, then spent a morning sanding all the filler off and any planer marks from the supplier (there were plenty). I sanded it to 120 grit as this is all that's needed for flooring.
I then spent quite a while cleaning it, making sure that there was no dust what so ever in the room before I set about staining it down to a medium oak colour.
The stain involved putting it on with a brush and then removing the excess with a rag (wax on wax off) and as the room was bigger than one pot would do, I emptied both pots into a container and mixed together so there would be no difference in colour tone.
This then took a day to dry before I set about oiling it. It took around two hours to apply the first coat of hard wax oil and this then took 24 hours to go off, I did set a large fan to blow over it to decrease the drying time.
I sanded lightly back between coats, hoovered it all again and applied the second (and last) coat of hard wax oil. I fitted the skirting in there yesterday and I'm really please with the finish. The floor has a warm even tone and is smooth to the touch. More pictures to follow!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Making Box gutters

This week I had to make up two sections of large box gutters to waterproof an area of a barn we're converting.
The roof used to run down into a wall with vertical cladding that had normal guttering at the bottom. This was fine when it was just a barn as the water could run down onto the floor and not cause any problems.
As we're now doing them up it need to be water proof. We stripped off the cladding and the first four or five runs of slates so we could see what we were working with.
I then started at the lowest point and made the first step. A 1.4m run of ply that had a good fall on it. I then worked my way back to the other end of the roof creating each 1.4m run of gutter with a 50mm step between each level Each bit has to be fully supported and built in such a way to take the lead.

Working on the roof
 Bert the plumber then leaded these for me and we set about lapping the felt back over it to make it waterproof before we put the slates back on.
One stretch of leaded gutter
I've now got to reinstall the cladding and repair a section of oak frame that I exposed due to a high level of rot/woodworm on one joint.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Large Oak Frame

In what must have been a moment of weakness I agreed to make a green oak frame this week for someone that needed it asap. The frame was to measure 5m by 4.3m in a H frame with mullions on the top section.
Some big bits of wood. 5 of these were over 5m long and and so heavy that I couldn't even roll them over on my own
Looking at the plan it didn't seem too bad, just lots of mortise and tenons to cut, but the job was made much harder by the size of the timber. Some of it was 200mmx300mm section and I couldn't even roll it over.
Luckily I had a large work area as by father had cleaned out the grain shed ready for harvest but hadn't started combining yet. Also I had a forklift to help move the timbers around, but it was still tricky to move them round on my own and it turned out to be a really hard weeks work with some late nights chucked in to get it finished on time.

The A4 plan I had to work off

A homemade hook to roll the beams on my own

The chain mortiser didn't come with a clamp big enough so I had to improvise

Lifting one of the smaller timbers

Checking a mortice and tenon fit

The only way to move these beams

Chiseling up a tenon

Chain mortiser makes it a little faster but they still need a lot of cleaning out

My only worry with this frame was the fact that there are 4 mortise and tenons I couldn't check to see if they fitted. This was because they were far to big for me to handle with the forklift to get them to line up (you'd need a crane). I checked them load so times so there should be no problems.
I also drilled out for the pegs in the mortise side of the timbers only, leaving the hole in the tenons to be drilled on site. This means that if there is any discrepancy with the building it's being fitted to then it can be altered slightly before they are drilled (as the building it's for is a couple of hundred miles away there is no way I can check it myself).
I'm sure carpenters have sat like this for hundreds of years whilst cleaning out mortises
This was a hard week, back breaking week, and I can really feel it this morning. But the frames finished and ready to be shipped to it's new home. Hopefully they'll send me a picture once its been erected. Lighter work next week please!

Tuesday 20 August 2013

New Kit - Festool Plunge Saw TS55REQ

As stated many time on this blog, I'm somewhat of a tool snob.
I spend everyday working with my tools and I like to use the best.
I've been looking at buying a new circular saw for sometime now and I wanted one that would follow a guide rail for straight cuts when I'm building built-in units out of MDF or ply.
 I kept looking at all the different ones on the market and although I'm normally a Makita man I decided it was time to move up to the next level and buy a brand I've wanted to try for ages - Festool.
Anyone I've ever spoke to about these tools raves about them so I thought I'd suffer the cost and try it.

New saw - not for normal site work
I decide to go all out and bought the saw complete with two guide rails and the auto start midi extractor, which will be great on things like my mitre saw and sander as well as the circular saw.
Hopefully these tools will be a bit of an investment. The extractor should mean I breath in less dust during the day and make it easier to clean up when I'm working in someones house. The circular saw should make building things like fitted cupboards and wardrobes easier, faster and more accurate.
I'm looking forward to putting these through their paces! Anyone else have any experience using Festool kit?

Saturday 17 August 2013


The last week turned out to be a bit of an adventure.
After a few phone call, someone going to Liverpool passport office for me and a ferry ride, I ended up going with a friend to work in France for the week!
Leaving England behind
 The job was to fit a flight of stairs, handrail out a balcony and to second fix as much of the house as possible. We got loads done over some really long days.
Unfortunately the stairs were a nightmare to fit. Whoever had measured them to fit had given absolutely no tolerance to get them in. They had winders round a complete 180 degrees so things became a little difficult. It would have been much easier if they'd had gone in before the house was boarded or plastered. We got them in in the end but we did have to cut the wall in a few places to make them fit.
These stairs were the most awkward I've ever fitted

Not much space to get them in
 The balcony handrail also took some thinking about, this went in easy once we decided on our method and looked really smart when they were finished
Balcony to be hand railed off
 The only difficult with them was clamping the handrail to the newel posts as the glue went off. Tom and me managed to quickly knock together a wooden clamp that could be wedged up so the glue could go off over night, leaving a perfectly tight joint in the morning.
Clamping the handrail together with a quickly built clamp

The adjustable end of the clamp

Balcony handrail finished
 Tom and me worked really fast doing the second fit together, I think we were both impressed with the amount of work we got done in the time. We had a good system going and each stuck to a certain job to increase speed and keep the quality high.
Tom routing hinges out of the doors

Oak doors, pine linings and MDF architraves and skirting fitted.
All in all it was an interesting experience. I enjoyed working with Tom Weston again - who is an excellent carpenter (I think we both learnt a lot from each other) and made good friends with the plasterer, Rick, who came out with us. We worked hard and did a serious amount of hours, but I was missing my family by the end of the week so I was glad to come back to a rainy UK yesterday.
I learnt lots and got some good stories to tell, not much more you could ask for really!
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