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.

How do you break a little finger whilst going to tend Honey bees???

X ray of my broken little finger

I will tell you exactly how.

Kate wanted to check how much Honey was inside her Warre beehive to see if any could be taken out.  We got a plan sorted, put our suits on, got the box of beekeeping equipment and headed towards her Warre beehive.

I went first to climb over the wall to take the equipment over before we started.  As I grabbed hold of the stone wall, a large piece from the wall fell and landed upon my little finger


My instant reactions were to push the rock off my hand and take a quick glance, there was blood all over my finger, and pain was immediate and so very overwhelming.  Instantly I knew this was bad.

The pain levels and amount of blood took my mind back to a previous injury where I cut through the top of my thumb with a table saw. (you can read about how I done that in another blog “A constant reminder of the hazards of building beehives”)

I turned and ran to the house, running past Kate informing her of an injury and headed straight for the kitchen sink to clean any blood off my hands.

The pain levels were increasing, Kate came to see me at the sink to see what the urgency was.  Kate knew that at this very moment in time she needed to be very calm, to be able to help me.  Kate knows of my accident record, with multiple visits to Accident & Emergency, so anticipated the worst.

Broken little finger

Kate took a look at my hand to see what was wrong.  Thankfully the bleeding stopped quickly and Kate asked what happened.  Shock began to kick in quickly along with feeling sick and overheating.  I took a seat holding my finger wrapped in a clean tea towel whilst saying some expletive words that cannot be repeated here.

After some 10 – 15 minutes the pain subsided and I returned to some kind of normality.  A dressing was applied and we put the beekeeping kit away.  It was decided that a visit to Accident & Emergency was not yet required, but if the pain was still apparent the following morning, maybe then a visit was needed.  A couple of paracetomol helped to take off the edge and we carried on our day.

Later that day we continued getting ready for a Halloween party to be held at home the following evening.

The next morning the pain was still around, so I jumped in the car and paid another visit to Accident & Emergency.  After some 2 ½ hours, the conclusion was that the middle bone in my little finger was broken.

Broken little finger

On the following Monday morning at the local hospitals Fracture Clinic, I was seen to by two consultants, one was a hand specialist which was very fortunate.  He informed me that I had crushed the tip of the middle bone at the joint with the end bone.  Looking at X rays, showed the bone is now in six pieces.  The advice given was to see how it heals by itself with further check-ups with a potential operation in the future if the worst case scenario makes itself known.

The little finger now has a lovely little splint on it for the foreseeable future until they know more.

I am still amazed at how quickly a simple task can turn into chaos from a little accident.

Speech problems and talking Welsh…

2nd November 2012

When I was around 6 years old I began to develop a stammer otherwise known as a speech impediment. It was frustrating and exasperating. This continued and the annoyance in the lack of ability to talk fluently was reduced but stayed with me when I joined the Army in my teens. It became quite an obstacle for me, sometimes being too much to handle but had learned excellent avoidance techniques to counter act it.

In around 2004 the stammer returned, only for a few words in any one sentence but enough for it to be a concern. By 2006 it was spreading into many areas of my social and work life, causing mischief and mayhem along the way. At this point I decided to visit a Speech Therapist.

After some horrible sessions of purely analysing my speech by recording me talk, having mock phone calls and conversations to people it was concluded that my stammer was anxiety / stress based.

There was one conversation which I had with the speech therapist, where I showed an interest in learning to speak Welsh. I was informed that the sounds made by the Welsh language would be too difficult for me to produce. This was certainly deflating at the time and almost all hope was lost.

As time moves towards 2008, with help coming in the aid from a supportive boss and my partner, my speech began to return to a fluent manner (ish) but with some hiccups still occurring.

By 2011, I had taken a few unexpected detours on the ride of life. The best analogy that could be used is that my life, a giant etch-o-sketch had someone shake the hell out of it, leaving only a blank canvas to start over again.

So we enter the chapter of my life where I had lost most of what had been previously been achieved, but for me, it meant that there was nothing more to lose… and GlastonBees was becoming less of a fantasy as I made more realistic plans.  There were new challenges that were set and they were massive, but… they were broken down well into bite size pieces.

Times they are a changing…

In the pursuit of happiness, GlastonBees was founded and established. It needed a different me, change was required if I were to succeed.

As a matter of fact, changes were becoming noticeable, confidence was growing, comfort in asking for help was escalating, fantasies were transformed into plans and some of these plans were becoming achieved. This seemed to filter through my life into other areas, teaching me a lot more about myself and life.

A few months ago in 2012 a friend and I were talking about speaking Welsh, we discussed that we have both fancied learning but for me the words of the Speech Therapist were looming in the murky depths of my mind. Thinking back now… things began to become very clear to me.
Thoughts were that I am no longer the man I was back in 2006,

Look how far I have come since I couldn’t even call a taxi company and ask for a taxi… or when I couldn’t order drinks at a bar.

New additions have been made to my life, one of which was to learn to speak Welsh, no longer was I going to just accept what others told me, I needed to find things out for myself and see if it was possible to pronounce the Welsh language.

So, after enrolling on to a Welsh language course, there was a fear of public humiliation, but that was counter acted with downloading MP3 files for learning to speak Welsh. The thinking was that it would give me a boost in confidence and give me a head start. After some 6 weeks in, it is really enjoyable, there are some pronunciations which are troublesome but the anxiety / stress is just not there to give any grief.

After a short period of time, I am now well on my way to speaking a second language, Some days I ask myself, Why do I bother to learn to speak Welsh, when I live and work in an environment which speaks predominantly English? But my motivation is clear to me…

One of my dreams is to speak Welsh, Why?… So that I can watch the Rugby on S4C and understand what it is that they are saying, or that I would like to read and understand the road signs that I see here in Wales. Maybe it’s because I want the option to be able to speak Welsh if needs be, or that it is to prove a point (to myself) that I can achieve anything if I’m determined or passionate enough.

After reading back over this for the umpteenth time for proof reading it has finally became obvious why I am thinking this tonight.  To be honest with you, the message that I’m trying to portray for you tonight, that I hope is coming across, is that anything is possible, if you truly, really want something.  Do not let yourself or someone else diminish your dreams.