Leather pincushion and sheath

Experiments with wet-moulding leather, using pricking irons and stitching with proper waxed cord.

I’ve been using a jury-rigged back-of-the-hand pincushion for many years, and finally decided to make a proper one. The dome is wet-moulded – stretched over a thermoplastic form and stapled down to a piece of scrap wood. Once it was completely dry I was surprised by how strong then resulting dome was. The punched holes are backed with a piece of linen, and the dome is stuffed with synthetic stuffing fluff. Using pricking irons to make the holes made life a lot easier than last time I did any leatherwork, and doing proper saddle-stitching with waxed cord was also a revelation.

I was concerned that it would be annoying to find the holes when replacing a pin, but I haven’t had any trouble, and the pincushion is very comfortable and convenient to use.

The second piece here is a sheath for the knife I made at a Green Wood Guild workshop, which includes a wooden liner tray to stop the blade cutting straight through the sheath. Cling film to prevent rusting from the wet leather and a LOT of clamps made the exercise pretty straightforward.

Bench upgrades and free* standing desk

I got out the power tools yesterday! My workbench received an additional shelf, which allows me to stack various boxes and tools underneath the really useful mini Ikea drawer units. I also carved a recess to accept my bench peg, giving me a firm, accessible holding point for delicate work. The pegboard I mounted onto some bed-frame parts I scavenged, raising it to a height where the tools are visible and easily accessible. I’m contemplating the next upgrade, which I think will be creating some rails beneath the pegboard for my pliers, freeing up the magnetic rail for other small items.

The other part of my home-working setup is a standing desk, which I built from scavenged adjustable clothing rails and a picture frame. My laptop happily sits atop the picture frame, and a shelf underneath on swinging arms holds keyboard and other inputs. I can easily change the height of both using the locking mechanisms they came with. I want to make it completely self-standing, but for now it’s braced on the drawer unit underneath – a great place for my printer and packaging supplies.

One thing I’ve decided is lacking in this desk is an easy way to take paper notes, so I’m trialling using my portable easel as a supplement to the standing desk – if it works well, I will likely incorporate such a thing into the next iteration.

I stand on a contoured cushion made from layered yoga mat pieces covered with fleece. This gives a pleasingly squishy surface with enough variation that my feet and legs don’t get too fatigued from standing at the desk. Also it looks like a tropical island so I can pretend to be Godzilla.

All the materials used have been scavenged from various places, so for the cost of a few screws, glue sticks and some electricity I’m really happy to be able to make changes like this to my environment.

Tiny epiphanies!

I was looking at exciting jewellery techniques, tools and benches, and came across this tip that blew my tiny mind…

Using a cone-ended rod to center a sheet with a hole in it within the round of a disc cutter, in order to make perfectly aligned washers! So much easier than lining it up by eye! I’ll definitely be making a tool for this for a batch of earrings I’m planning.

See the photo above and read more about disc cutters over at “Kelsi’s Closet Jewelbox”.

Workshop upgrade

I think today’s been well spent, cutting a semicircular divot into my jewellery workbench, adding a shelf and storage, and arranging things to suit.

As I contemplated returning from my Ugli adventures to my workshop, I was daunted by the amount of construction mess on my desk. This made me realise I hadn’t been using my workbench for its intended purpose – making jewellery – but instead had been treating it as a rather unwieldy set of shelves. After some contemplation, and ogling some of the gorgeous benches on Ganoksin’s Bench Exchange, as well as these two fantastic Pinterest boards of bench and workshop inspiration, I decided it was finally time to commit to the bench, and cut out the semi-circle that distingishes a jeweller’s bench from an oddly tall workbench.

Some jigsawing and jiggery-pokery later, I have one semicircle of heavy beech block-wood, and an exciting-looking new benchtop.

I’ve also repurposed my desktidies into tool-and-material tidies under the surface of my workbench, so I can keep supplies and commonly-used tools to hand but off the surface of the bench. I’ve replaced them on my desk with a set of component drawers that I’d underused for storing supplies. Now my desk is much tidier, and hopefully it’ll stay that way as it goes back to being the counterpart for my jewellery bench, not its reluctant and unergonomic substitute.

I have it set up with a soldering station on the lower surface, and I look forward to using it for a while to find out how best to improve it in future, with drawers, shelves, cubbies, tidies and so on, as well as with a chair with a back to replace my stool.

For now though, I have a lot of copper to etch!

Copper Etch film – a beautiful process

Working with members of the great Tortoise Butler (Alia Sheikh and Andy Vine), I was filmed making a sample etched copper piece, and the whole thing set to a lovely piece of music by Roger Paul Mason.

As always, I’m stunned by their arcane mastery over lens, lighting, camera and editing, and this time was proud to add my own touch in the text and credits.

If you can watch HD and full screen – it’s worth it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired! I use the technique (along with a little sterling silver magic) to create some of the jewellery in my Etsy shop.

My third hand’s a tweezer

It might not quite be the first time ever, but today I used a Third Hand for its intended purpose – soldering! In the past I’ve melted or otherwise fragged many of the standard crocodile clips that come with these useful devices. This sort is modular though, and I persuaded it to holda pair of locking tweezers. Now I can hold parts for soldering with my blowtorch, without worrying about the holding device being destroyed in the process! It does look a little silly though.

Speaking of setting yourself up for success, I used the tail of the evening to tidy away the chaos of a week’s making, lined up the photo booth, props and subjects, and otherwise got everything together to shoot the finished products tomorrow morning: earrings, cufflinks, and a lovely delicate necklace. I can’t wait to share!

Thermoplastic tools

A custom doming block and bench peg for metalworking, made from thermoplastic.

The failure due to metal fatigue of the jaws of my ball vice may have been very disappointing, but dismantling the device revealed an opportunity to create my own components to mount on the remaining shaft. In this case, a domed bench-peg to support the underside of curved sheets of metal without distortion while I saw out intricate details.