Friday, 2 June 2017

Knife Making!

I've always loved wood carving and whittling and have wanted to make a knife for myself to use for a long time. The light side of the knife (All pictures are of the same knife) is made from some Scottish drift (beech) wood I collected and the darker wood was taken from a beach I visited on Vancouver Island. (I spent a month volunteering on the island which is partly why there haven't been any posts recently!) Both hold a particular significance to me and so I decided to make something I would use and treasure for a long time to come.

 Here is the Canadian driftwood! The lowest, darkest piece you see in the picture is the one I used to make the knife. (I don't have any pictures of the beech in its raw state unfortunately).

I started by sanding one side so it was completely flat.

Here is the driftwood sanded smooth and ready for the template of the knife handle to be drawn on.

I also sanded the beech wood flat.

The template just fits!

I tried drawing around the template, but the pencil marks didn't show up against the dark wood. Instead I glued the template on and cut around it with my hacksaw.

I didn't try and cut close to the edge of the template as this would have been pretty tricky to do (and not very accurate). It would also make the gluing process a lot harder.

Both pieces ready for gluing, I used 5 minuet epoxy to glue the pieces onto the tang. I would have liked to have used one with a longer drying time, but this was the only one I had at hand. 

Unfortunately my phone broke after this point so I don't have any more pictures! Once both pieces of wood were glued onto the tang I used a knife and carved the wood until I had a general shape I was happy with. After this I switched to using sandpaper of various grits, starting with p60 and gradually just refined the shape. 
I was also left with some gaps between the wood and the metal tang (mainly because the wood wasn't entirely flat). To fix this I sanded some of the left over wood (of both types) which gave me fine dust.
I then filled the gaps with the dust and used superglue to lock them in. I then sanded this down to remove the excess wood and glue.  

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Working as a Theatre Technician...?

I worked as a technician (Light, Sound, Cueing) on a touring puppet show! Now as you have probably realised, this is not my usual modus operandi. There was a rather steep (and somewhat stressful) learning curve I had to go through. I had a few weeks to prepare for the job and used every second I had to make sure I would be fully capable of taking on the position.
Why? you may ask. Well I do love an adventure and am always looking for new ways to challenge myself. So why not?

The hardest part was setting up because not one venue is the same. One has to tweak the lighting/sound rig to make sure it's right for each venue while keeping the integrity of the original design. Learning how to setup the lighting was also... interesting. Making sure they all have sufficient power, the DMX was working correctly and communicating with the laptop etc. (the list goes on) were all new concepts I had to learn. The worst part was problem solving during the set up.. with the clock ticking, whatever issue there was had to be solved before curtains open. The first shows were pretty rough for me, but as I got used to the rhythm, the equipment and show, things got much easier (still not easy, but much less stressful.)

Life on the road is pretty fun, I saw so much of the county that I'd never seen before and got to meet many different people in many different settings. I'm also so glad I got to see this other side of production - theatre/film are and always will be collaborative projects and so I think it's so important that one understands and appreciates what other departments are doing.

Before Setup in a theatre in Stornoway

After Set up

Quick Photo during the show! (Break in the cues)

Life on the road!

A Chair for an Automaton!

Hello good fellows. I'm sorry It's been such a long while since my last post. I've had busy few months and am excited to share what I've been up to!

In the middle of the sword build, I was commissioned to make a chair for an automaton. The House of Automata are based in Edinburgh and they buy, sell, repair and supply the film (and lots of other industries) with automata. I was asked to repair a chair that belongs to a 100yr old gymnast automaton, much like the one you see in this video:

It was a fun project that required lots of precise and detailed work. 
 I started by visiting the House of Automata and saw the gymnast working, I was also given a tour of their huge automaton collection which was so incredible! The intricate mechanics behind an automaton's movements is something I find completely fascinating - an incredible feat of engineering and design. 
Once I had the specifications and measurements for the chair I began the build.

The chair had to be very lightweight as the automaton picks it up so I decided to use balsa wood as the construction material. I'd never really used the material before and I found it a joy to work with. Very easy to cut and shape and relatively strong considering how light it is.

 I didn't have any strips of balsa wood, only sheets. I was expecting it to be rather tricky to cut the long legs from the sheets, however the material is so forgiving and easy to cut through I had no problems at all.

Here you can see the back of the chair all cut and ready for gluing.

 The spindles needed to sit in the middle of the leg so I drew some marks onto the wood to help ensure I got them directly in the centre during the gluing process.

Here you can see I used styrene pieces to keep the spindles in the correct position while gluing. 

I made four of these 90° braces to ensure that the chair would be kept straight while gluing.

I gave the chair a quick coat of white paint (Someone at the House of Automata was going to spend some time directly color matching it with the other chair). I used wood glue to stick the chair together and I found this worked very well. I know you can buy glue specifically for balsa wood, but have never tried it myself. I do know that it's pretty expensive so was wondering if anyone knows weather it's worth the extra money?