Ready, Steady, Go

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Well, that’s it folks!  I did most of my setup yesterday with just a few extra tweaks this morning, so I’m now all ready for the show to start.  Doors open at 9.00 am here at RHS Wisley.  This is the first time that I’ve been at this event, so I’ve no idea of how busy it will be and whether I have enough stock.  I’m told it gets very busy and if the shelves are empty on Monday when we finish, then I’ll know better for another time!


It fits!

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After numerous attempts, it fitted!  And I didn’t have to resort to using my trailer.  I don’t normally need to use the trailer unless I am taking my own gazebo or I’m demonstrating (which requires a lot more than just a lathe), but this is a large fair and I have more stock than normal.  Another box, though, and it would have been a different story.  Must try to remember how it went in, so that I can pack it again to come home.

Just as well I’m not taking a passenger with me tomorrow!

Ready to roll, but will it fit?

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Well, I’ve burned as much midnight oil as I can to build up my stock and the moment of truth has arrived.  It’s now all boxed up and ready to go.  Alarm will be set for 4.00 am tomorrow for an early start to be at RHS Wisley by 6.00.  At least the M25 should be OK at that time of day!  Then all morning setting up ready for the fair opening on Thursday.  The only remaining question – will it all fit in the car?  It’s not just the stock (1st photo), but all the paraphernalia that goes with setting up the stall (2nd photo).

This paraphernalia includes (not an exhaustive list):
  • 6 heavy panels of gridwall (the square steel mesh) to help form the backdrop to my stall (otherwise known as a ‘shell scheme’), plus sheets to hang down behind the gridwall.
  • 2 large (6′ x 2’6″) tables to display the stock, plus table coverings and clamps to keep them in place.
  • Another table (3′ square) to use for wrapping and a general work-surface (changing watch batteries, carrying out minor repairs, etc.)
  • Shelves and shelf brackets to fix to the gridwall for extra ‘backstage’ display space.
  • 2 sets of acrylic display shelves and supports to give height to the main display tables (home-made, in the old burgundy curtains).
  • Another shelf (the long black box) that sits at the back of a main display table.  This is again to give height, but it’s open on the back to give me some hidden space for my phone, card reader, receipts, etc. – as well as my lunch and coffee!
  • Rolls of bubble wrap, plus a large home-made loo-roll holder to support it just above my wrapping table.
  • A box full of lights, spare bulbs, lighting cables and extension leads, all PAT tested.
  • Assorted old gazebo poles (I never throw such things away) that form a lighting gantry and help to support the backdrop.
  • A sack barrow to help move everything between car and marquee (not sure how close I will get).
  • And last, but not least, a bar stool – just in case I get time to sit down.

Not shown in the 2nd photo (simply because I forgot) is a large mobile tool chest that I take with me.  This includes such things as

  • Assorted wooden blocks for levelling the tables and the gridwall.
  • Cable ties to hold everything together.
  • Abrasives, oils, polishes and cloths for minor repairs.
  • Assorted tools needed for setting up.
  • Bungees, string, gaffer tape (never go anywhere without it)
  • Business cards, price labels, pens, receipts, chargers.
  • Spare batteries for my clocks, and a watch repair kit.
  • A document wallet with all my signs, insurance certificates, PAT testing certificates, etc.

And all this is for an EASY setup – I’m in a marquee provided by others and I will not be demonstrating.  If I was to take my own gazebo and lathe to demonstrate, then the list would double!

As to whether it will fit in the car – well, let’s go and try!!



Time for Wisley

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Less than a week to go to my first fair of the year – and probably the biggest, too.  I’ve burned a lot of the midnight oil making sure that I have enough stock and this little lot were finished last week (been too focused on making more items to post them on here).  I’m currently making some bigger clocks and some ballpoint pens, most of which will be finished today. Then it’s some fountain opens and rollerballs, plus some bottle stoppers.

The fair is at RHS Wisley starting next Thursday and going through to Bank Holiday Monday (see my fairs page for more details).  That means much of Tuesday next week loading the car & trailer and Wednesday setting up, so only a few production days left!

Hopefully see some of you there.  Entrance to the craft fair is free, but normal garden admission charges will apply if you are not an RHS member.

Making progress

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Finally feel I’m making some progress in respect of getting ready for my first fair of 2017.  After the busyness of the Christmas markets, my first fair seemed very remote and I probably dragged my heels a bit in terms of time at the lathe.  Two trips up north to see our new granddaughter probably didn’t help – but I wouldn’t have missed those for anything. Then I suddenly realised how close it really was and have been panicking over recent weeks, burying myself deep in shavings. But I’m now beginning to see the wood for the trees, if you’ll pardon the pun.  Still can’t afford to slow down much, but there is an end in sight, with the fair less than two weeks away,

Anyway, some nice bowls and more salt and pepper mills to add to my stock – they just need wrapping in bubble wrap and boxing up ready to go.  If you want to see these and more in the flesh, as it were, then come to RHS Wisley.  The fair runs from 27th April until 1st May. More details on my fairs page.

A variety of colours

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I finished turning these large pepper mills (otherwise known as ‘mother-in-law deterrents’) yesterday and their first coat of oil has really brought out the variety of colours that result from the use of different woods.  The oil tends to darken and enrich the colours, but otherwise they are all natural – no stains, which I generally avoid using unless specifically requested.  From right to left, they are Sapele (a Mahogany substitute from Africa), spalted Hornbeam (local), Cherry (local), Padauk (also from Africa) and Elm (English).  These will need another 4 or 5 coats before they are ready to assemble.

The shavings are colourful, too!


Ready at last

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These mills and Spalted Hornbeam bowls have been on the go since mid-January.  They shouldn’t have taken that long, but life just seems to get in the way at times and other things take over – like becoming a Grandad!  Anyway, cuddles with the first grandchild over for a couple of weeks, so back the shavings…

The other bowl is a large piece of English Walnut that has sat on the top shelf in the workshop for many years just gathering dust.  A bit of a waste really, so decided to do something with it.  The fruit is supposed to give an indication of the size, which is 90 mm deep and 430 mm diameter – almost as large as i can turn with my lathe.  I think the knot in the middle makes a nice feature.

I’ve taken a few more pictures of the large bowl and some of the spalted bowls to go into my “gallery” pages, but that is going to have to wait for a day or three as the next lot of mills is already well under way and I want to get them oiled before my next trip up north to see our granddaughter.

All that remains now is to price them – something I find harder than the turning – ready for my first fair.



Almost there

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The mills are now all turned, so I’ve commandeered the spare bedroom to oil them.  They’ll need at least 4 or 5 coats, one coat per day and rubbed down between coats.  Then it’ll be time to assemble them.  However, this was the end of my kiln dried timber, so in between making these it was a trip to Leicester to buy some more.  It’s now stacked under the car port, having been cut to length to get into the car, awaiting transformation.  A mixture of Black Walnut, Oak, Ash and Sycamore.  I have also bought some Cherry and some exotics from elsewhere, so watch this space…


Mills this week

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Blanks cut to size
Turned to round and parted

This has been a week for salt and pepper mills.  My first fair is only a couple of months away, so getting a few of these made and ‘under my belt’ is long overdue.  The first picture is simply the blanks cut to length and the centres marked on each end. You may also note that they are no longer square (although that’s how they started). The first thing I would normally do is to mount them on a lathe and turn them to round.  However, when I do a large batch, I set up the bandsaw and take a few of the corners off before I start.  Not only does it save time, but it also saves a few bags of wood shavings and makes a bag of kindling in the process!

The second picture shows the same blanks turned to round and parted into two.  All the dark mills are Black Walnut, the lighter mills are a mixture of Ask and Sycamore.  I will be making others in different timbers, but this was the end of stock of kiln-dried timber (more about in my next post).

Holy Mills!
Our fierce dogs in my workshop

The third photo (of mills!) may look much the same as the second, but this is after a couple of days of drilling on the lathe.  This is the time-consuming part, with 5 different sized holes to be drilled in each mill.  But they now have holes in for the full length of the body and part length of the cap to receive the mechanisms.  Many thanks to the APC driver who braved our ‘fierce’ dogs (well, their barks are) when delivering them this week.

Making progress

The last picture shows progress at the end of the week – not as far as I would have liked, but I did have to take a couple of days out. Main turning is now finished – just have to finish the caps. The caps of the small mills (foreground) have yet to be turned to shape as with this particular style (my snowmen) the cap is turned separately from the body. The larger mills in the background will be swept top mills. I have finished turning these, but the caps need shaping on the bandsaw and on the belt sander.  Should complete these early next week.

Bowls, bowls and more bowls

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I spent a good chunk of January wielding my chainsaws (we all need more than one, don’t we?), and have now cleared the carport.  Some timber has gone back down to the bottom of the garden, where it will sit for a few months or years, and other smaller pieces are drying on the shelves in my workshop.  However, much has been rough-turned into these bowls.  By rough-turned, I mean they have only been part-turned, as the timber was still not sufficiently seasoned.  They have been left relatively thick I’ve not bothered to get a smooth finish on them.  They will sit in the spare bedroom for a few months (don’t think we have any visitors coming to stay) to finish drying – much quicker than if they had been left as a solid piece of timber.  They’ll warp slightly as they dry but then I’ll turn them again down to the finished thickness and profile.  If they warp too much, then I won’t be able to and they’ll just be more firewood.

Many will hopefully be ready for this year’s fairs – a good selection of Elm, Cherry and Hornbeam (much of which is spalted).


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