Wooden circus stilts – 1.8m

Posted by jerry on December 16th, 2008 — Posted in DIY, Woodwork

This is probably about the tallest you can make them without seriously sacrificing strength or weight – any taller and you really want properly engineered metal or carbon fibre stilts.

This is basically making new legs for old stilts. You can read how I made the original pair here.

Here is the upper strap arrangement with padded shin/knee cup. The screws holding the shin cup go through the webbing for the straps – which are made from high quality seat-belt material.


The boots give the best support and hold for the feet, if the stilts are for one person and you can sacrifice a pair of sneakers or boots – boots are better for ankle protection.


Here is the underside of the foot plate – as you can see the main leg shafts are directly beneath the ball of the foot and quite central so the forces are mainly vertical.


And here is the finished set. The timber is finished with one coat of orange shellac and then wiped over with orange oil to feed the wood and keep out moisture. They are made from straight grained pine with no knots, and are 1.8m tall to the base of the foot plates. The leg timbers are 32mm x 42mm x 1800mm (1.5″x2″x6′)



Steam gramophone

Posted by jerry on October 22nd, 2008 — Posted in DIY, Music, Steam, Technology

Geoff Hudspith, UK inventor and steam enthusiast has built a steam powered gramophone to play records at the various steam fairs he attends.

Powered by a small Stuart single cylinder double-acting steam engine, the gramophone took four years – between other projects – to complete. Water is fed into the boiler by a hand pump and an injector, and then heated by kerosene. The gramophone is fairly standard with the speed regulated by spring weights and the exhaust steam is cleverly vented through the sound horn.

You can see more and hear the gramophone on the BBC website.

Here is another view of it at a steam fair in Denmark

This is the ultimate in steampunk entertainment!

Here is a different gramophone powered by a stirling hot-air motor. This one is a Paillard “Maestrophone No. 205” gramophone manufactured in Switzerland between 1910 and 1914.


Canberra Timber and Working with Wood Show 2008

Posted by jerry on September 5th, 2008 — Posted in DIY, Journal, Technology, Woodwork

The Canberra Timber and Working with Wood Show is on again this weekend, and here is a preview 🙂

This exhibition of the latest woodworking equipment, demonstrations and stacks of timber is one of the must-see events if you are a woodworker – whether hobbyist or semi professional.

As you arrive, there are demonstrations of the Lucas saw mill, and the Swedex Logosol mini saw mill. This latter made short work of a large log using a chainsaw mounted in a frame that holds the saw horizontal for cutting slabs. The whole thing is adjustable for slab thickness and slope of the log. Very impressive for such a small mill.

Logosol wood mill

Once inside I went in search of lumber – I have in mind to make a couple of musical instruments – another pochette fiddle and a travel mandolin. Trend Timbers was my first and primary stop as they had some lovely birdseye maple and rosewood. I also found blackwood, silkwood and purpleheart. But alas no spruce. It seems I have to go to Sydney for that, or order it on the internet. I also got the last piece of American sycamore in captivity in Canberra.

Trend Timbers

The guys there were very friendly and helpful – they even helped me carry my acquisitions to the parcel pick-up place. And I learned that Brazil is the only country to be named after a timber! Brazil wood was known before the country had a (Western) name.

There were great demonstrations and seminars – don’t miss the chair making one by Richard Vaughan titled ‘Seat yourself’. Richard Raffan and Bruce Bell did wood turning demos and Roger Givkin showed off his dovetail jig and demonstrated the art of small box making.

While there are many great new toys out there, one really stood out for me this year – the SawStop. This is amazing and will save countless fingers from being injured by table saws. A small electrical current passes through the saw blade, and trips a sensor as soon as the blade touches flesh rather than wood. Within 5milliseconds – ten times faster than a car airbag deploys in an accident, and seven times faster than we blink, a gas charge propels an aluminium brake into the saw blade and the whole blade drops below the table. I just had to film this demonstration:

I hope every educational institution teaching woodworking buys this as it will save countless hands from serious injury.

There was a great selection of books at the Australian Woodworker stand – and you could pick up any back issues you missed on the news stands.

Australian Woodworker

If you are into bush crafts there was Stan Ceglinski with his crosscut saw race – but he is also very skilled with a riving knife too!

Stan Ceglinski

There were also demonstrations of pole-lathe woodturning

pole lathe

and demos of chair making by a master bodger using green wood and a draw-knife


But in case you thought it was all about rough timber – there were excellent displays of fine woodworking from the ANU School of Art and Sturt universities and ACT Woodcraft. For example there was this beautiful cabinet…


If you are into boats – then the Cape Boatworks is a must visit – they are building a canoe from wood strips through the course of the weekend. It’s the first day and the canoe is already well advanced!

cape boatworks

And I came away with new knowledge – and a small stash of rather special timber

timber stash

And a couple of useful chisels…



Pochette – finished at last

Posted by jerry on March 13th, 2008 — Posted in DIY, Journal, Music, Woodwork

Many of you will have been following my progress on building a pochette or travel fiddle on my other blog
After a total of about ten days work spread over about six weeks I now have a pochette! They said it takes ages to learn how to make a violin – they were right – I must’ve studied violin making for at least three hours, reading the whole book from cover to cover (ok looked at the pictures…).

Bit of work on the bandsaw, the drill press and the angle grinder and there it was…

And quite suddenly the instrument was finished.

As I tightened the strings I could hear that at least some of my wild guesses were right, and I was rewarded with a warm sound almost as loud as a normal violin. In fact it is as loud as my Maggini copy. That was my first surprise. The second was that with the first tuning up the wood moved to accommodate the strain and the strings quickly went out of tune. But after a couple of hours it stabilised and I was rewarded with quite a reasonable sound at good volume. Not too bad for a first attempt!

Here is the instrument that inspired mine

And finally – what does it sound like? I’ll let you be the judge!


Seventeenth century room panelling installation

Posted by jerry on March 10th, 2008 — Posted in DIY, Woodwork

Not my room (pity) but I thought this was a wonderful challenge to set a woodworker. It seems that a person in the US bought a whole room’s worth of Jacobean seventeenth century English oak wood paneling at auction and has commissioned a woodworker to get it ready for installation. Trouble is, it’s been stored for years in separate components and needs to be re-assembled and adapted to fit a completely different room – for the second time.

William Randolph Hearst the eccentric publisher apparently bought the paneling from an old country estate in the UK and shipped it to the USA. When the Hearsts auctioned off a pile of stuff in 1998, the paneling was among the goods sold.

Enter Woodwkr blog – the author of which has been given the challenge (!) of fitting this paneling in a new setting. His blog describes the process of sorting, digitising, designing and where necessary making new components to match, and getting the whole lot ready for installation.

The latest post has a great story of how he came up with an idea to get the panels so sit flat for installation.