A little bit of Sign envy amongst friends…

GlastonBees (Ian) and Restless Landscapes (Kate) work together on quite a few projects.  We also attend markets and stalls to show to the world what we do.

A few years ago I needed to make some signs for a large project that I had.  This led me to find some plans on the internet to make a Pantograph.  It was a steep learning curve to get the desired results but after an ode to resilience, it was achieved.

A little while later I decided to make myself a sign which I would take with me to markets and stalls as a GlastonBees sign.  This created (or so I believe anyway) some sign envy.  It took some time for this sign envy to show itself but when it did, there were rumours of a sign as a commission for Restless Landscapes.

It took some time for a final design to appear, partly because the ideas that I heard had far surpassed all of my previous sign making projects, meaning that I was unsure of the physical limitations of the Pantograph.

Commission... making a sign, prep workThrough a little negotiation, the design was agreed.  This was going to be the biggest yet, and the most detailed.  My understanding of the limitations of the pantograph kind of had some influence on the size of the final design but this was going to the limit and maybe even beyond.

I really dislike laser cutting and CNC routers when used for craft, as I feel they take some skill away from creating beautiful items; however this project would have been no problem for either of them.  I prefer the pantograph as it will scale down to either a half or a third of the size of the given template; it needs a lot of setting up and excellent hand and eye coordination whilst using it.

Commission... making a sign with the pantographThe final design arrived and required printing out.  It took 24 sheets of A4 paper, which all needed laminating, trimming and taping together.  When it was assembled, the pure scale of the sign became even more daunting, due to the anticipation of repositioning the template and the piece of wood.

I needed a piece of wood to bring this design to life; it wasn’t just the size that I was thinking of but also the colour and markings of the grain.  Thankfully several months ago I purchased a rather large piece of Sycamore with plans for great things which have yet to come into fruition, this project seemed to fit this piece of Sycamore perfectly.

Commission... making a sign, painting timeThe Sycamore was too big a piece of wood for my tools, so after a couple of phone calls, me and the Sycamore were on our way to a timber mill to use their much more capable tools.  After a little time on the Band saw and Thicknesser I had two pieces of beautiful Sycamore to take home.

In my workshop I trimmed one of the pieces of sycamore down to the required size using a Radial Arm Saw and Table Saw before taking it back to the Pantogaph.

Commission... making a sign, painting timeThe actual set up took much thought.  As a child my father taught me to measure twice and cut once, but this job required measure twice, triple check and then after careful placement, check again.

The cutting out of the design took almost 5 hours; this was due to the constant repositioning of both template and Sycamore as I still had to work within the limitations of the Pantograph.  It worked better than anticipated; I pushed my known boundaries and ended up with an extremely beautiful half-finished project.

The sign required 3 different colours for the design.  So it was time to tape over certain parts and get the spray paint out.  To speed things along I used a hairdryer to dry the paint in between coats.

Commission... making a sign, sanding timeAfter all of the painting was finished, I needed to use a sanding machine to remove the excess paint.  It took a bench top belt sander, a portable belt sander and a palm orbital sander to complete the removal of the paint and to finish the surface of all sides of the sign to a smooth finish.

A truly momentous project which in total took me approximately 10 hours from printing out the design to the last bit of sanding, required the use of 3 separate wood workshops, exceeded and made new boundaries and no idea how much time Kate took with the actual design process.

Commission... making a sign almost finishedThe sign envy has shown itself again, this time on my doorstep.

50 Shades of Honey

I remember visiting a friend’s home when they were bottling honey from their beehives, the different colours of each jar was inspiring to me.

A few years later and it is my turn to harvest some honey.  I have only taken a little bit of honey from my hives in the past but this year was more than I was used to.

There are two hives at my workshop, one National and one Warre beehive.  After checking how much honey was there in September, it was decided to take 2 supers from the National beehive and 1 box from the Warre beehive.

Super frame

National super Warre box with honey comb

When the boxes made it home, it was decided to start on the National supers first.  From following the instructions carefully from various websites, we worked on one frame at a time cutting the honey comb out into a container and slicing it up into many pieces to help release the honey.  We then mashed the comb with a potato masher or a pestle.  Once the container was full of mashed up comb, we inserted muslin into the fruit press followed shortly after by our mashed up honey comb.  We continued this until the fruit press was full.

Slicing honey comb Mashing honey comb Honey Press

Before we even started pressing, honey began to flow through the muslin and was on its way.

We began to use the press and with the honey aided by gravity, it flowed through our 2 sieves before falling into a container.  We used sieves to catch any large bits that were not honey, this could have been wax, parts of bees or anything else, this process was repeated until both supers and Warre box were complete.

Honey Press Sieving honey

To my surprise, we harvested 10kg from super 1, 10kg from super 2 and 10.5kg from the Warre box.  What a fantastic surprise to have 30.5kg of pure honey from the most wonderful Honey bees living in Cwmbran, South Wales.

Now that we had a considerable amount of nature’s sweetener, it was decided to keep some and bottle some.  2 different types of jars were purchased and so began the bottling process, this was a most enjoyable experience on my senses.  The sights, smells and of course the tastes were fantastic, even awe inspiring and many other words that I would only find in a thesaurus, or that I make up like fan-dabbie-dosey.

Honey Jar

It was time to think about labels for these jars, it was quickly decided that we would design them ourselves and not pay for the quite frankly boring designs that are widely available or for the fees of a designer.  So after way too many hours learning about a certain design software, a design was chosen.  This however was not the end of the design story, as the printers who were to print them, needed slight modifications to the design for it to work.

Honey Jars

After many, many hours of work, from spending time with the Honey bees, research, cutting honey comb, using a press, bottling honey, tasting honey, designing labels and sending multiple emails to the printers.  This is something of which I thoroughly enjoyed, learnt so much, tasted so much, had so many headaches but would not change any of it.

Scroll Saw Madness

As a supplier to the beekeeping world, and due to its seasonality, there are times when I can focus on other work.

A visit to the 2014 Treefest event held at Westonbirt Arboretum was on the cards this year.  There were plenty of opportunities to see what other people from around the UK do with varying sizes and different types of wood.  There was an abundance of stalls, which to me personally, looked very similar but there were two stalls in particular which stood out.

These two stalls used a certain type of tool which is able to produce amazing results.  The tool in question is a Scroll Saw.  Seeing the work they produced inspired me to give it another go.

I already have a Scroll saw but it has been gathering a lot of dust, with offcuts placed on top of it in the workshop.  I retrieved it from the workshop monster and began to get to grips with it again.

I struggled to use my Scroll Saw previously, which is why it was put away, but seeing how it was done at Treefest helped me realise the potential these machines have, in the right hands that is.

After fighting with my Scroll saw recently and losing too many times, I decided to invest in another one; this was an outstanding decision and I have not looked back since.

So I purchased a Diamond Scroll saw, which is approximately 30 years old, probably the best machine to get due to its diversity in its use.  The blades are easier to change, it has the ability to use different types of blades if needs be, can work with much bigger pieces of work, has a variable speed motor but best of all, it has a foot pedal which when I use the machine, sounds like a sewing machine which I believe is just fantastic.

Scroll Saw

Scroll saw

For the upcoming autumn / winter madness of attending Christmas craft events and markets, whilst I wait in anticipation for the next surge in Beehive sales, it will be a very busy time for the new to me anyway Diamond Scroll saw, producing new and interesting craft.  The ideas are already starting to flow, just need more offcuts.  I will post more photos of my work soon.

Western Red Cedar Tree silhouette Western Red Cedar Wales Country outline Oak Elephant Silhouette Ash tree silhouettes

We’re reaching boiling point here…

 Something happens at this time of year in September and I’m not sure if I like it.  Christmas stuff and markets begin to appear everywhere I look.  This just happens to coincide with my removing of excess honey and wax from within the homes of the GlastonBees ladies.

This year I have decided (through help of a friend) to begin making wax products to sell when GlastonBees has a stall.  This has been an anxiety filled subject for me in the past, after hearing tales of kitchens on fire and visits to hospital, but belief was by my side to give it a try.

My research came mainly from youtube.  What a wonderful source of information, here I learnt how to melt wax, how to filter it and how to transform it into something else. Obviously safety is high on my list, but cleanliness tends to falter when my imagination and learning skills are given top priority.

A wonderful friend helped decide the best items to make, start off with a few different products I was told.

For the past 4 nights I have been slaving away at the cooker, melting and filtering wax to produce lovely smelling pure beeswax.

 

Night 1 consisted of finding the best utensils to use to melt and filter the wax.  

Night 2 consisted of continuing the melting and filtering effort with improvements made to the utensil list to make the whole journey more efficient.  

 

Night 3 was fantastic, finally got to use the moulds that were recently purchased.  A few more improvements have been decided for next time but the emphasis was on learning to pour liquid wax in moulds without making such a mess, afterwards they were placed in the kitchen over night to settle.

 



Night 4 was a chance to look at the newly made candles. I must say, they look a treat.

Me, Myself and the Trees

Mentioned in the previous post were a little about trees…  With a want, or maybe even a need, for me to expand in exploring and sharing their beauty.

I wanted to keep you updated and have found that, everywhere I have travelled during this winter period I have not been able to walk or drive past woodland, copse or single trunk without admiring their presence and structure and wonder how I can celebrate them better.

So with just a spare piece of wood and a pencil in front of me I began to look at a the trees that were around me.  After applying pencil to wood and just feeling for what felt right my hand began to draw.  

Immediately after the first one was drawn it was sent to the scroll saw to see what I can do with a blade, it wasn’t long until it was finished.

Marvellous, beautiful, proud, yet they will be soooo much better next time…  Thoughts of other types of trees with their differing shapes and sizes were springing to the forefront of my mind.    

Now into double figures with the amount of trees I’ve created, there are the beginnings of my own woodland… No two trees are the same, which in reality makes a lot of sense when thinking about what factors influence their growth.
When I was a young boy growing up, I was quite often found climbing up into a tree, I always loved sitting on a high branch and looking at the world around me, enjoying my new perspective.  Falling was seldom an issue, sometimes a branch snapped under my weight (sorry tree) but whilst reflecting upon this now, a respect for trees has always been with me.  
Trees are unbelievably multifunctional, They produce oxygen which gives life, they are homes to so much wildlife, they produce shade to keep us cool and can be burnt to keep us warm.  Their qualities can be realised in so many other ways, such as: bow and arrows to catch food;  guitars to entertain; furniture; building shelters; transportation, I could go on, but the list is exhaustive. 
Thoughts of different styles and how to present them are still running through my mind, so only time will tell what other creations will appear from me.

I promise to keep you posted.