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6 November 2016

It's all a matter of perspective

A couple of weeks ago I was taken by a couple of a new ideas for making pictures inspired by some fantastic work I stumbled across on the internet. Being the uneducated fool that I am, I don't really know what to call this new style, but I can certainly explain what I got up to in my experimentation...

First of all, let's give credit where credit is due. Here is the picture that inspired my adventures. It's a lino-print by London-based artist, Paul Catherall called Trellik Blue. He's done a series of print runs from this particular design but this one is my favourite. I love the colours; I love the simplified design; I love the geometery; I love this picture!

The subject is a distinctive housing block in a pretty distinctive suburb of London. Here's what wikipedia has to say on Trellick Tower:
Trellick Tower is a 31-storey block of flats in Kensal Town, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England. It was designed in the Brutalist style by architect Ernő Goldfinger after a commission from the Greater London Council in 1966, and completed in 1972. It is a Grade II* listed building and is 98 metres (322 ft) tall (120 metres (394 ft) including the communications mast).
I really do need to find out more about the wonderfully named Ernő Goldfinger! Althought the architecture might be described as Brutalist, I'm not sure that this picture warrants the same title.

5 November 2016

How to build a printing press in 460 easy steps

It's time I told you about my latest project. It sort of appeared out of nowhere borne out of my latest passion for lino-printing. I've been busy building a printing press! I haven't finished yet, but I'm so close, I've just got to talk to somebody about it!

WARNING! This post is a monster. Grab a cup of tea before proceeding any further.

What do I mean by printing press? Actually, I've made more of a nipping type of press of the sort used in book-binding. The #fingerart above is kind of the picture I had in my mind when I set out, only mine would be made of wood rather than cast iron.

I don't know if this will work, but I want to see if I can use it to print linocuts, That's my main reason for building this contraption but I'll admit that I'm also building it for the sake of building it. I'm exploring the Art of the Possible! :-)

When I looked on-line to see if I could pick up an old secondhand nipping press I found them to be in short supply, in the region of about £100-200. I'm not the first person to think of making one. Newly made wooden versions are even more expensive. I've seen some very basic "homemade" presses selling upwards of £300. Surely I could knock one together for a fraction of the cost? You betcha!

18 September 2016

Who Framed King Uke?

I've hinted that I'd been making picture frames in recent blog posts. It's time I gave you a little more info on my latest project...

Regular readers of this blog are sick to death of my lino-print obsession. The final piece of the jigsaw has been to frame a couple, just because I can. The first print I wanted to have a go at framing is this one. I call this picture "Midnight at the Alhambra" and is a firm favourite of mine. It comes from my latest comic "Locus Solus" which is still free to download and enjoy from all good bookstores... and a few rubbish ones too ;-)

11 September 2016

The Hunt for Blamire Young

Do you remember me talking about Blamire Young? It was Blamire whose wonderful Fawkner Press woodcuts inspired me to start capturing a few ideas for a new comic in a lino-cut style. With these two simple pictures, Blamire managed to poor petrol on the flames of my new obsession. Fantastic!

I knew of William Blamire Young as an Australian, but imagine my surprise to discover last week that he was born in Yorkshire in a town called Londesborough (in East Yorkshire to be precise). It so happens that I live quite near to Londesborough and you know what? I've never been there! That all changed last weekend.

Here are the Fawkner Press Prints I mentioned. Aren't they great!

You might think that the hunt for Blamire Young is code for a quest for lino-cut excellence, and it is, but it is also a quest for Blamire Young. I wondered if I would find any hints of his starting out life in Londesborough. Would one of Australia's most significant and influential artists have a gold letterbox on the high-street? Perhaps there would be a statue of him in the village green resplendent in a towering top hat, arm outstretched, pointing East?

There was only one way to find out...

3 September 2016

Have Router Table will Bevel

I'm terrified of routers... I mean really terrified!

My last one died on me and I couldn't have been happier to throw it away. It might surprise you to learn then, that I have bought another. I've had it for a month or so and it's never been out of the box. In fact, I really never had any intention of ever taking it out of its box.

That is until I got this crazy idea to make some picture frames. Perhaps, if I made a router table, things would be a lot easier? Perhaps I could tame the router? First things first... I needed to make a router table...

Before I go any further I want to show you this video of +Daniel Hulbert at the Utah Ukulele Festival. If you've ever watched any of Daniel's videos then you'll recognise the wonderful little tune he's playing; it forms a soundtrack to a number of his videos. What you have here though is a version that incorporates some words that I wrote. Yes... I did a rendition of Daniel's song (you can read all about that project and hear my version on this blog post) and now Daniel has done a rendition of my rendition. Wow!

Personally, I am in awe... What a beautiful version. Well done! 

28 August 2016

Methods of obtaining Registration

Don't go thinking that I'm over lino-cuts just yet. I've one more little development I want to share with you. This one is about obtaining registration.

You may recognise this lino-cut? Do you see the mess I've made of making the print. That is the result of very poor technique. I just plonked the paper over the block and... well... you can see that it's slipped and created a godawful abomination. This is not the look I was after, but how can I become a bit more consistent in my printing? Read on... 

15 August 2016

10 top tips guaranteed to improve your artistic composition

"The first 9 tips were amazing, but the 10th blew my mind!" 

Don't you just hate cynical blog posts that promise so much and then deliver so little!

We both know that there are no rules that guarantee better artistic composition. Where would the fun be in that?

Regular readers will have twigged to the fact that I have become obsessed with lino-cutting in the past month or so. It's literally all I think about at the moment. Ha ha. Such are the burdens of madness. In trying to learn this new skill it's made me think about all manner of things. I'm going to share some of my thoughts with you right now...

31 July 2016

Stepping out with the xiaomi mi band 2

Do you remember my posts on the Mi Band? It's been a while since I mentioned it. There was a time when it was all I could talk about. I bought one for me and loved it so much that I also bought one for Mrs Uke... whether she wanted one or not. Ha ha. She wore hers for about 3 months, but gave up in the end when it crashed and she lost her unbroken streak of hitting her steps target. She's such a terrible loser!

I've kept it up, but to be honest I'm struggling to get the steps in at the moment. Too much sitting on my arse writing blog posts! Ha ha. If only that was true.

About a month ago I was on the hunt for a replacement band for my mi when I discovered that there is now a newer model available. Can you guess what happened next?

 Here it is... the Xiaomi Mi Band 2. You'll have no doubt spotted one big improvement in as much as it has a screen.

The old Mi Band was pretty basic and in a way, this was it's strength. You got a daily step count and it counted your Zs while you slept. It even buzzed when you got phone calls, and could be used as an alarm. The upside was that you got a small, light band that lasted for an unprecedented month on a single charge... all for about 11 quid. Brilliant!

Can the Mi Band 2 live up to this?

Mitre-saw setup for monkeys

Following the Jorgensen Clamp incident, I felt the need to return to the carboot last weekend just in case there were more bargains to be had. The thing is... if you're at a carboot on the hunt for something specific then you're going to come home empty handed. You need to keep and open mind and your wallet will follow. I picked up something rather special...

Can you believe that this is a real advert? Sadly, it is, and not from too long ago. I wonder how many they sold?

30 July 2016

Misadventures in Lino-cutting

A couple of weekends ago I happened across a couple of art books in a charity shop that piqued my interest. One in particular has grabbed me like a fever...

"Melbourne Woodcuts and Linocuts of the 1920's and 1930's" was first published in 1981. It was put together by a gentleman called Roger Butler as he joined the team at the National Gallery of Australia. The copy I have here is a 2003 reprint by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery and it is BRILLIANT!

Inside is a taste of lino-cuts primarily produced in Australia in what appears to have been a renaissance of lino printing... a golden couple of decades. What I think I see here is a wonderful melting pot of techniques fed by immigrants to Australia from all over the world, traveling backwards and forwards with ideas, desperate to discover and create. I'm totally inspired! Ha ha.

It was maybe on my 50th reading of the book that I decided that I had to have a go at lino-cutting. How hard could it be? There was only one way to find out...

23 July 2016

The Magic of the Jorgensen Adjustable Clamp

I don't seem to be able to make the time to do any of my numerous woodworking projects at the moment. That doesn't mean that I'm not thinking about them or stockpiling. Last weekend I added two vital clamps to my arsenal. These clamps are special. I'd even go as far as to say that they're magic!

I first became aware of the magic of Jorgensen woodworking clamps perhaps a year or so ago. I knew of them, but I had never paid much attention to how they worked.

The picture above is from the patent that Hans Jorgensen filed for the design back in 1901..

I love elegant things and this is certainly elegant. The design is ingenious in its simplicity. What you have here are two wooden clamp arms joined by two threaded screws. The magic is that the screws are threaded in opposite directions at either end. They work very much like a car jack: turning the screw one way draws the clamp together; and turning the screw the other way, pushes the clamp arms apart.

The magic doesn't stop there: It's possible to adjust each of the screws independently as in the picture to pretty much grab a hold of any angle of wood.


16 July 2016

"Locus Solus" is published

Earlier this week I secretly published my latest comic "Locus Solus". This one really has been a labour of love. Let me explain...

Locus Solus... a study of despair

9 July 2016

I like Z Nation better than The Walking Dead...

"I like Z Nation better than The Walking Dead... and I'm prepared to fight any man who says otherwise" ~ King Uke
Them's brave words indeed and some might say, a little foolish. I've been absent from the Blog for a while now. It's not that I've given up... I've just been busy with real life. Time for a quick update.

This past month or so has been a bit of a milestone for me in as much as I've now officially joined the on-line revolution by adding Spotify to my monthly bill for Mrs Uke, and Netflix for my kids. So far, the experience has been costly, but good. I'll no doubt share more details with you in some later post. Today I'll share a few thoughts on a programme I happened across on Netflix called Z Nation.

It's all fun and laughter until somebody gets "piked" ~ Z Nation 

7 May 2016

Pimping my Mandolin

It can only have been a month or so ago that I found a mandolin at the tip. Yes... FOUND! Wahay! What are the odds of that happening? I was chucking some wood into the skip and something shiny caught my eye. It looked like a small guitar nestled amid the rotting timber. I plucked it out, and after a 2 second inspection I was marching it off to my car. I've wanted a mandolin for the longest time... and now I finally have my hands on one!

Here it is... an Eros M1 Mandolin. There's wasn't much wrong with it when I got it home; It had a few minor scuffs here and there, a missing fret dot, and the strings needed changing. The biggest real problem was that the nut had broken. My final assessment was that it wasn't going to take much to get this playable again.

3 April 2016

How to make digital calipers

Run, Forrest, Run!

There are callipers and then then there are calipers. The ones I'm interested in today are of the digital variety and used to measure things. Specifically, I want some digital calipers to help me get the thickness right for the top and bottom of my up-coming archtop guitar build project. The idea is that I can use my new tool to measure the thickness of the wood, thereby removing yet one more excuse for me buggering it all up.

Let's backtrack a little bit. This digital caliper project has been on the boil for quite some time. Remember when I made the c-clamps recently? I talked about how I thought that the comb joints I was using for the clamps would work perfectly for a digital caliper. And indeed it did. What I might not have told you at the time was that I cut the wood for the caliper project at the same time that I cut the wood for the clamp project. Crafty eh! Ha ha.

28 March 2016

I've started, so I'll finish

The attentive amongst you will have no doubt realised that I am on a mission to build a small-bodied archtop guitar. Note to self: I really need to give this project a better name.

There are about a million things that I'm going to have to master if I'm going to pull this off. It's all in the preparation. I'm not usually not one for trial runs, but I'm absolutely certain that I'm not going to nail everything first time round.

One thing that has been a bit of a mystery to me ever since I began Lutherie has been finishing. I really need to understand more about this before I have to do it in anger on the Archtop. Today's post is a sort of round-up of where I am in the process.

I hinted yesterday that I was in the middle of ruining by new mandolin. Here's what I was talking about. In an attempt to sort out the scratches and scuffs on the back of the Eros, I decided to re-lacquer. This photo shows me sanding it back down again for the 19th time.

I can do sanding, no bother. The bit that I struggle with is knowing what lacquer to use and how to get the best out of it. Enter Z-Poxy Finishing Resin in my latest experiment.

27 March 2016

Vice and the Cult of Woodworking

I am absolutely knackered... in a good collapse-into-bed-and-sleep-like-the-dead sort of a way.

This weekend I've been sorting out my garage in preparation for embarking on some projects over the Summer. I've taken four car-loads of crap to the tip with another waiting to go! At the same time I've been putting together my new workbench and this is what I'm going to talk about today. I think that I'm in love!

I've found all sorts of things this weekend squirreled away in the dark recesses of my moldy garage. Take a look at this unfinished picture that I started sometime in the late 80s. I wonder if I'll ever finish it?

12 March 2016

How to make wooden C-Clamps

The title of this post sounds like madness of the highest order. Can it really be a good idea to try and make clamps out of wood? Surely not.

I had to give this a go!

Let me start by showing you what I made: 2 x deep-throat c-clamps. In this picture I've clamped some wood to my workbench from either side to give you a better look at the top and bottom of the finished clamps. It's taken me about a week to put these together, but that was mainly because I was experimenting along the way. How about I explain...

28 February 2016

Finger Joints and other Gateway Techniques

It's such a lovely day today. The sun is shining and all is good with the world; A perfect time to hide myself away in my garage for a little while in the pursuit of joinery excellence.

Yep... I have more experimentation to share with you today, and once more my trusty table-saw is right at the heart of it. Step this way...

I plucked up the courage to delve inside my table-saw this morning and I removed the the riving knife. The riving knife is that attachment at the back of the blade (to the right in the picture) that moves up and down with the blade as you adjust the blade height. It's primary function is to prevent kick-back which is where the spinning saw blade will send loose bits of wood flying up and back at the operator. The top of the rivening knife is slightly thicker than the cut made by the blade which prevents cut wood passing over it. The second important purpose of the rivening knife is to act as a splitter and guide, keeping the cut straight and preventing the hole from closing in on itself.

I've wanted to remove the rivening knife for a long time but I've held off knowing full well that it is there to stop me killing myself. Today, I wanted to try a technique that just wouldn't be possible with the knife fitted. It turned out to be a really easy thing to do. I was able to unscrew a panel that runs next to the blade and there you can see it in the picture: the rivening knife is held in place by a single bolt.

14 February 2016

Spool Clamp Inferno!

Last weekend I talked about some investigations I was doing into making spool clamps to aid me in my lutherie. This weekend it was time to put my ideas into practice and start the production line. I learnt a few more things along the way. All is captured below...

Do you remember me frying my drill last weekend? Yep, well I did get it working again and changed the brushes on it. I don't think it has much longer for this world. Here's a picture of my cheapo spare drill and my new drill-press. I've learnt that this new set-up is actually far more accurate than my old 80s set-up. Who'd have thought?

I learnt quite a lot fixing my old drill, but I'm not going to mention any of that right now. Instead I want you to pay attention to that odd jig I've knocked together to get a centre hole in my spools.

7 February 2016

Experiments in making Luthier Spool Clamps

Yesterday I was desperate to do something... anything. It seemed like a good day to start my spool clamp project.

In case you're wondering what a spool clamp is... Take a look at this picture of Bill Loveless's spool clamps from Jake Jacobson's wonderful book: Hearts & Hands. A spool clamp is basically a couple of wooden spools on either end of a carriage bolt.

6 February 2016

How to make Sushi

I've been threatening to have a go at making sushi at home for a while now. Eventually, after many false starts, I can finally say that I've done it and it was a roaring success! I think this might be my first ever post on food. Ha ha! Let me reveal the secrets to my sushi success...

Somehow, in my sticky-fingered state, I managed to switch my camera to taking square pictures. How Arty! Here is some of the sushi my daughter made to her own special recipe.

17 January 2016

Dreaming of building an Archtop Guitar

I know, I know... I haven't been very active on the blog this past couple of months. I've been busy! Time for an update and a little bit of dreaming about a project I've been scheming up for 2016. Grab a cup of tea... this is going to take a while...

Inspiration is a funny old thing. You can spend your life looking at something and never fully appreciate what you're looking at... and then one day... bang!