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.

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.

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.