English embroidered book bindings

Posted by jerry on January 26th, 2006 — Posted in History, Journal, Writing

I was having a quick browse of the Project Gutenberg top 100 books for 26 Jan and came across this one not too far from the top – It is the complete “English Embroidered Bookbindings” by Cyril Davenport. This is a fascinating look at embroidered bookbindings, and includes essays on the embroidery techniques employed. The language is a bit “Mr Collins” of Pride and Prejudice – a bit on the precious side, but the articles make great reading.

Embroidered book

Davenport categories the bindings into four classes: heraldic, figure, floral, and arabesque. He further divides the figure designs into three: scriptural, symbolic, or portraits. He then also categorises them according to the material on which they are worked: canvas, velvet or satin, noting that canvas was used from the 14th to the 17th centuries, but notes that velvet was most largely used during the Tudor period, while satin was the material of choice for the early stuart period.

embroidered book

The stitching techniques are illustrated, as are examples of embroidered book bags. There is a large number of illustrations – mostly in black and white, but it is clear that there is some exquisite work in these book bindings.


Assemble a garden arch – DIY

Posted by jerry on January 22nd, 2006 — Posted in DIY, Journal

At Christmas I bought a cheapie garden arch and had it assembled and in the garden in about half an hour on Christmas day. The Gardman Gothic Arch comes in a long flat box with clear instructions for assembly. But despite following the instructions carefully, on Boxing Day a strong gusty wind shook it apart. But not to dispair – it is just one of life’s challenges – here’s how I solved the problem so sucessfully that I bought another one.

Gothic Arch

Find a flat surface to assemble the sides and follow the instructions to the letter – it is very easy to over-tighten the screws that hold the connectors to the legs, so just tighten until it doesn’t move easily.

garden arch assembly

The side rails just push into the plastic connectors – so here is where I make an improvement. Carefully drill a small hole right through the connector and through the side rail, and do the same through the body of the connector and the upright leg, like this:

drilling the arch

Then cut a short length of thin galvanised wire – the sort you can buy for AUS$2.00 in Clints or Go-Lo – about 80mm, and feed it through the hole and twist it together. This will not pull apart in a wind!

garden arch wired connection

The thoughtful manufacturer provided a separate piece of rod to hammer into the ground to make holes for the legs. I quickly found that with Canberra’s heavy clay soil the piece of rod was not up to the task. Here’s a workaraound – take a short piece of galvanised water pipe and an end cap – this will fit neatly over the end of the rod and provide a good striking surface for a heavy mallet or hammer – now you can make holes deep enough for the legs so that the structure will be stable!

garden arch depth tool

So now you are all set – here is the completed structure is in the ground ready to grow a climbing rose or star jasmine over it 🙂

garden arch - gothic style

And here’s one I made earlier…

Garden arch



Canberra bushfires – three years on

Posted by jerry on January 18th, 2006 — Posted in Journal

With the drought beginning to break the garden is finally taking off and taking shape. The grapevine we planted two years ago is getting ready to yield its first crop of grapes, and the front garden’s architecture is finally becoming apparent.

Here is the front yard today:

18 Jan 2006

18 Jan 2005

18 Jan 2004

19 Jan 2003

The arch is looking good:

And the agapanthus is in full bloom

A day for reflection, and for celebration of our good fortune 🙂


DIY tiling

Posted by jerry on January 16th, 2006 — Posted in DIY, Journal

What’s so special about this tile and the one next to it? No cracks or chips – that’s what. The cracked tiles in the toilet had bugged me for ages – should I spend big bucks to get a tiler in to replace two tiles, and how difficult could it be anyhow?

bathroom tile

I looked on the net and found several sites – like this one – on doing whole bathrooms. Here’s what seemed to be in common – first, remove the grout (the mortar-like stuff surrounding the tiles) with a small chisel or steel shafted screwdriver and a small hammer. Then lift the tile and clean all the dust and grout debris from beneath the tile, the spread tile adhesive, lay the new tile and regrout. Sounds easy? Well yes it’s not very difficult.

During a trip to Bunnings for some grout, I asked one of the staff about tile adhesives etc, and he asked “how many tiles?” I said “two” – and he gave me the best tip ever: he suggested I use a Bostik product called “No More Nails” – that way I’d be spending $4.00 rather than $20. I looked dubiously at all the grout mixes and then found a great product called “Tile Grout” (duh) in a handy premixed squeeze tube from Red Devil. That was my level of technology!

I had some spare tiles of the same sort that had cracked, so I set to work on the grout. I chipped it out with a chisel – not too difficult as the stuff was brittle and it chipped out fairly cleanly. Actually it wasn’t easy to remove all the grout – so I removed enough to get a screwdriver under the cracked tile, and levering aganst a piece of wood (so I wouldn’t chip the adjacent one) gently prised the cracked tile loose with a gentle rocking motion. The offending tile came up easily without breaking further. I found it had been fixed with something very like No More Nails – but with blobs only at the ends – it had been unsupported in the middle – hence the crack.

Then, with grout brush, I carefully removed every piece of loose grout from the base surface, having chipped out the remaining grout, and then applied some blobs of No More Nails and positioned the new tile in its space. I left it for an hour to allow the adhesive to begin to set, and then went around the edges with the tube of pre-mixed grout ensuring that all the gaps were fillled.

After allowing fifteen minutes for the grout to begin setting, I took a damp cloth and ran my finger along the grout line to smooth the surface and to ensure all gaps were filled. I then rinsed out the cloth and carfully wiped up the excess grout from the tile surfaces. And there it was – a new tile – perhaps not a fully professional job, but certainly serviceable. This grout stays slightly flexible too – perfect for laying tiles on wooden floors.

I have a couple of cracked tiles in the laundry too – so I’ll photograph the whole process when I do those ones.


Varnish a table – with gel varnish

Posted by jerry on January 14th, 2006 — Posted in Woodwork

I love recycling timber – especially from old brick pallets. Some time ago I built a garden table from pallet timber – you can see the step by step instructions here.

garden table
I had finished it in oil as a quick’n’dirty finish as I was in a rush to take it to a folk festival the next day. Months later and several folk festivals later the surface was marked with cooking grease, soil, coffee and soot from cooking pans at the campsite. The poor old thing was beginning to resemble the original timber!

Time to re-finish it – this time with a durable polyurethane varnish. The thing about varnishes is that I’m basically lousy with a brush – everything I paint leaves brush marks, and that is why I mostly use a simple wipe on and sand-in oil finish.

That’s when I heard about a gel varnish (Cabot’s Gel Clear) – it doesn’t work like most finishes – you don’t stir it or shake it or thin it – you just brush it on and each coat is like 10 coats of normal varnish. That sounded like my kind of technology.

So after a thorough sanding to remove the grime, and de-nib the wood grain, I brushed it on and waited for it to set. Well, the grain came up and the brush marks stood out like Saharan sand dunes – I had over-brushed it. So it was back to the internet for answers. That’s when I saw some readers wood projects, and a few talked about the finish as gel varnish wiped on with a rag – just like French polish!

More sanding to remove my disastrous finish, and then a finish sanding to 1500 grit and a wipe with talc to fill the grain, followed by three light coats of gel varnish wiped on with a soft rag – allowing 6 hours in between coats, and given a light sanding between coats with 1200 grit sanding discs on my Triton orbital sanding attachment.

The final coat I applied with a rag and then wiped it over with a fresh rag dipped in turps to ensure a really even coat.

garden table
Now this is looking more like it – the white stripe is the reflection of the flouro light – and no brush marks!