Plush of the Month: Meet Archie O’Pteryx (and some personal updates)

Here we go again. The next pattern has already arrived and I finally finished my feathered dino baby. So no, I’m not dead, I’m just very bogged down. One part is work, where we’re now “catching up” on many things that didn’t happen during the school closings. And many things are happening. so many kids who need help, so few resources. I rarely leave school at the time that I should, and of course the work that would then normally be done at home like grading and preparing classes doesn’t do itself.

On top of that I’m still dealing with the fall out from Uli’s death. Not just the emotional part, but also dealing with many of her belongings. I have hauled off stationary, I’m in contact with charities, of course her sister (legally I have nothing to do with all of this), an asshole landlord, sorting through tons of clothing and trying to find people who will take it (and you still don’t see a difference, but I cannot personally carry all of it to the appropriate places). Yeah, you can rightly ask why I’m doing this, but to me it’s important that her life not be discarded, wasted, and it’s also a way to say goodbye and find closure.

Aaaaand, if that’s not enough, I’ve been having a ton of health troubles as well as regular check ups and cancer screenings. at least my teeth are done for the moment.

But I still got my baby done. It’s such wonderful self-care, it offers instant validation and provides me with a snuggly friend every month. As usually, the pattern was amazing, but like the deer on the complicated side. I’m afraid poor Archie will remain a single kid (though he’s already been claimed by Casey the Deer as her little brother).

©Giliell, all rights reserved

As you can see, Archie is tall, and such a tall plush brings its own challenges, mostly when it comes to stability. You cannot stuff such a narrow neck to the extent that it will hold the large head, so Archie’s got a heavy (1 mm thick) wire running from his head to his tail as a “spine”. The same problem happens with the wings: they’re large, they’re heavy. I tried the same wire as for the spine, but it was too heavy and the wings would just flop down. I used some thinner wire, and while the effect was better, it still didn’t work. In order to get them to stay up I needed to attach them to the head, but I didn’t want to stitch them to the frills. This would be fine If Archie was an collector’s item, but I make friends and therefore I didn’t want to risk tearing anything apart accidentally.

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The solution was extra strong crafting magnets in the wings and the frills at the side of the head. This way they come apart easily when being pulled without any damage to sweet Archie. If you look at the feet, I hate everything about them. Not the result, but everything about making them. The claws had to be sown individually and then sown into the seams of the feet and there was a lot of cussing involved. Nevermore!

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One thing I love about NazFX’s patterns (and the fact that I have an embroidery machine) is that the faces are so expressive. This little fellow basically spells “good natured mischief” with that look, as well as “please cuddle baby”.

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An Overabladeance

I have not made a knife for several months now, but that does not mean I was not working on knives. Below the fold is most of what I have done and also a bit about what I intend to do with it in the future.

BTW, I would appreciate it if you let me know something about your favorite knife if you have one. Almost everyone has, even when they are not “into” knives in particular.

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Women Artisans on YouTube – Woodworker – Ashley Harwood

I haven’t watched any other of her videos yet, and I must say that I do not like her choice of accompanying music very much*, but her handiwork is beautiful.

  • I do in fact enjoy woodturning videos most when they only have the sound of the lathe and the chisel crunching the wood. I do not know why.

T’was Tool Making Day

I did not feel like working on knives today, so I have decided to make the measuring pin from brass. It took me rather longer than I expected because I had to work out several things on the fly and there were therefore several failed attempts and repairs. But I managed it in the end and the result looks kinda cool. And it works just as well as the wooden one, in addition to being ever so slightly more precise.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The bent brass pin on the right is screwed and glued into the lower half of the pin and goes through a hole in the upper half where it has slight (several tenths of a mm) clearance.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Here you can see the upper jaw, where a ground wood-screw holds the spring tightly in place. In combination with the bent brass pin, this holds both jaws fixed against each other so the tips do not misalign (too much) when used.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

On the underside is no screw. Originally I thought that two bent brass pins in the back portion will do the trick. But it did not work at all, it turns out that make something like that precise enough by hand is impossible (for me at least). When you look closely at the pictures, you will see that there are plugged holes where that second pin was. If I were making another one, I would try to ditch the guiding pin altogether and fix both jaws to the spring with a screw. Whether it would work better or not I do not know, since I stopped tinkering as soon as I got a working product.

And the second tool that I have made today is a center scribe.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It is a piece of black locust wood onto which are fixed two small ball bearings. The axes are just press-fitted both into the wood and into the ball bearings. Black locust is strong enough to hold and if it splits, I will make the body from aluminium, this was just a proof of concept.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Here you can see the other side. The wood-screw goes all the way through and just the tip pokes out between the ball bearings. Should it turn out necessary, I will eventually replace the screw with a re-ground drill bit, but for testing, a screw was a readily accessible and easily applicable piece of hardened steel.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

To scribe the center on a flat bar (in the future on an outlined blade) it is simply inserted between the ball bearings so it rests firmly on both of them and on the screw tip. When dragged through (for example downwards on the photo, assuming the tip of the tang is down), the screw tip inscribes a line that is very close to the center. Not perfectly, but I can also scribe a second line by dragging the piece of steel through the assembly in the other direction (putting the tang up in the photo and dragging that way). These two lines very close to each other are sufficient enough for me to grind the blades symmetrically, after all, it is better than what I have used so far.


Borb: Plush of the Month

The August pattern for the plush of the month was a borb, a combination of bird+orb. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on fabric, but wanted to use up some of my stash and found grey and orange, so I decided to go for a cockatiel, which meant I only needed to order a bit of yellow plush. Also, cockatiels are cute and we used to have them when I was a kid.

I terms of sewing, this was much easier than the dearest deer. The only downside is that I looked like I’d blown up a chinchilla.

Welcome Fluffy!

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Full image of said plush. It is about 60 cm tall

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The eyes are actually made from epoxy resin. When the resin was nicely sticky I put two old buttons into it so I could sew them on. By the way, fluffy is filled with what used to be three 40×40 cm Ikea cushions (Cheaper than buying filling, because everything marked as “craft supplies” gets at least a 200% price hike)

Backside of the cockatiel (grey) with the tail (yellow)

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In these pics, Fluffy is sitting where Fluffy is supposed to be: on my couch so I can lay my head against her. But you are only allowed to guess once: She got borbnapped by a smart kid who knows exactly how to make eyes at her mum.

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At least she found a friend…

Caliper Pin – New Knifemaking Tool

When grinding blades, it is important to have the ridges, fullers, and similar as symmetrical as possible, especially before quench. An asymmetrical blade has a much higher probability of warping or bending in the quench.

On an unhardened blade, one can scribe markings with a scribing needle and/or compass, but once the blade is hardened, that is no longer possible. And I still want my blades to be at least mostly, even though not perfectly, symmetrical too.

I used to measure the symmetry with a help of a folded piece of paper that I have cut with shears so that it has two perfectly aligned points. When folded over the blade, I could easily-ish check if the points align on the ridge on both sides and thus check where I shall grind more during the polishing to keep the symmetry.

But the pieces of paper get wet and manky in the process, and I kept of course losing them so I had to make new ones over and over every day and sometimes several times a day. And today I finally got an idea how to replace them with something much better and hopefully permanent. I took one wooden clothespin and I ground it in about 5 minutes to sort of mini-calipers that can be clipped onto a blade

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This pin is made from softwood so I could not make the point too refined, but I do not need to. I want to make my blades mostly symmetrical, not perfectly symmetrical. And anyhoo, I shall, in the future, probably make a better and more precise one out of brass, this is just a proof of concept.

And it works well, here you can see it in use. It shows that the ridges on both sides are within few tenths of a mm apart, and that is good enuff for me, that is a difference that cannot be seen with the naked eye and is not easy to measure even with calipers.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.


Gotta Resin Some More: Pokémon Earrings and Pins

I did a bit of resin crafting, finally making use of the last batch of moulds I had ordered. These require quite a bit of secondary work, painting in the details, but I absolutely love them.

Head of Galar fire starter, next to a 1€ coin

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I first cast the blanks. They have all the outlines I need for later. Usually I use one colour only, but the scorbunny has the orange red ear tips. After that I paint in the details, using either acrylic paint or UV resin. Small lines like the nose are painted in with a permanent CD marker. I had to try some out to find one that doesn’t dissolve in the final layer of resin (mostly UV, epoxy only if I’m making some anyway, no use mixing up 5 ml of epoxy) . The hooks are sterling silver, the bead is some semi precious stone.

Head of galar plant starter

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I love Grookey. I don’t like its evolution that much, but Grookey is absolutely adorable. You can see in the top one where I didn’t wait for long enough for the acrylic paint to dry.

Head of the Galar water starter

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And Sobble. Sobble gets the coolest evolution, but as a baby they’re just a little Emo. I love Sobble.

Squirtle head earrings

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I also got moulds for the original Kanto starters. If you compare Squirtle to Sobble, you can see how much more complex they got. Here it’s just eyes and mouth, done.

Bulbasaur earrings

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Bulbasaur is the least favourite Kanto starters and I don’t know why. They’re so cute! Here I went from semi precious stones to a glass bead I had lying around.

Original Game Boy silhouettes with Galar Starters as earrings

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A bit of an anachronism: Original Game Boy design with Galar starters. Yes, making the tiny silhouettes is fiddly. I still have my Game Boy, btw.

Pins of the Pokémon

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And because not everybody has their ears pierced, I also made some pins. Bulbasaur is missing, because my friends nicked them.


Restorating the Kitchen Table and why “Sustainability” Can’t Work Within Capitalism

Everybody in a long term relationship knows the horrors of buying furniture. You may have been together for a decade, have basically the same interests, plans in life, you combined your families and friend circles, and then you need to buy furniture. Suddenly your beloved looks like a total stranger. How can the person you love more than anybody else like that couch? If your relationship survives the first round of furniture shopping, you may survive as a couple. And then you are together for so many years that you have to do it all again. Especially when you have children. Especially when your children are alien monsters in a cute disguise.

Last year around autumn the little one managed to actually break the legs off a chair. The other ones weren’t very stable either any more, so we needed to go out and buy new ones. And the table looked horrible as well. 14 years of eating, crafting, living had taken their toll on the plates. Nevertheless, while we could agree quickly on new chairs, we could also agree quickly that the tables were not an option. Our table needs to be large and extendable. For some reason, the large tables all had a plate that is split lengthwise, and at that point (apparently they changed since) , could only extended by inserting a plate lengthwise, which doesn’t make sense, since it doesn’t sit more people, but make sitting down and getting up  difficult since the table is too wide now.

The only one available at the big Swedish furniture shop that suited our needs was the exact same one we already had… so i decided to restore that one instead, which only took me about 10 month to get done.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is how the table looked before. The varnish has basically disappeared in the areas most used, there are big scratches and dents. I seized the opportunity to get a random orbit sander and got to work. I removed the old paint and nasty scratches at 60 grit.

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Then I did a second round at 150. In the image below one half is already sanded, the other half is not. People who work with wood can feel the image.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Last round was done at 220 grit and off we went for varnishing.

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I used varnish for wood floors/stairs, since that is the most durable, and you saw what already happened to the table once.

I applied a total of three layers of varnish, giving them ample time to dry in between.

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A first coat of varnish. I lightly sanded in between applying the coats, but by hand and with a 800 grit. One thing about the varnish is that it doesn’t “pull even”. It keeps a bit of a structure, and if you look closely, you can see it (though not in this pic). It also hides dirt until it’s dried and it’s too late…

The legs got some repairs where needed. Down at the feet, where you stub your toes, ant the bars where you put your dirty, sweaty feet. I had to do that inside, it was not nice.

Table legs in the kitchen

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Finally, here we are. The two plates have been sanded and painted. The middle extension isn’t done yet, but we don’t need it every day.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved With bonus husband running into the pic

Now, what does my little project have to do with capitalism? It’s easy when you think about it: Capitalism wants me to buy a new table. Capitalism needs me to buy a new table. Capitalism makes it impossible for most people to not buy a new table. A new table would have been around 300€. The materials for restoring the old one were 80 bucks for sanding discs and varnish and brushes, and 150€ for the tools (though I still have those, but they lost about half their resale value the moment I carried them out the door.) That’s 230€ with no guarantee that this would work.

It also took me almost a full week. I have an outdoor space for sanding, but of course that required the rain to stop occasionally, and an indoor space for painting and drying. Also a separate living room with a separate table we could eat on in the meantime. And most importantly: I had the time AND skills to do this and it’s actually something I enjoy. Nobody who dislikes crafting would do this to save maybe 100€. Unless you’re completely poor and have to hope that somebody else throws away their perfectly usable but pretty shabby table.

Now imagine we built our world not around consumption, but around community. Imagine community repair centres. There are tons of people, especially elderly people who can’t / don’t want to do a full work day, but who will happily work a few hours a week. Imagine such a centre where you can go and together (or without you) you can restore your furniture, repair your bike or learn how to fix your leaky sink. Imagine having the time to do so. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

My Dearest Deer (plush of the month)

I made another plush from NazFX Studios, just in time before the next project is looming around the corner (yay for holidays).

This one is a cute little fawn, with true Bambi vibes.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I changed my deer a bit from the original version. I used tan instead of white, left off the antlers, and moved the ears to a more natural position. Isn’t she cute? And I’m never going to make another one. Really. You’d have to pay me serious money, but this won’t become a “you remember it’s my birthday” pattern. It’s a good pattern, and it’s a lovely plush, but it’s also a hell lot of work. But I’m glad I finished her and she’s already been adopted by the other plushies.


Mirror, Mirror…

I have finished the two fullered blades that I intended to mirror-polish for research purposes. It went reasonably well, I must say. The new jig helped a lot to smooth out and polish the fullers and although I had to resort on occasion to my old method of wrapping the abrasive around a bottle cork or popsicle stick, my fingers were spared or the worst of the worst. They are not perfect, but they are good enough for it to take some time to spot the irregularities and imperfections.

I think that next time I will do even a bit better because I did not have the jigs from the start for these, I have developed and tinkered with them during this project. One such tinkering that I forgot to mention in my previous post was to coat the idler wheels on my belt grinder with PVC flooring offcuts. That has reduced the chatter when grinding and polishing the fullers on the belt grinder, so I could actually use the belt grinder for polishing, and the handmade jig was subsequently only used to remove the perpendicular scratches and replace them with longitudinal ones. And because next time I will have all this equipment and the knowledge already, the results should, at least in theory, be better and with less work.

So here are some pictures containing the main things that I am writing about – blades, flowers, and insects.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The pumpkins are flowering nicely and there seem to be enough solitary bees around to pollinate them.

The blade on the left is the one that I have almost tossed. The fullers align well near the hand, but they diverge towards the tip quite noticeably, at least a few mm. Both fullers on both blades are a bit irregular.

I have a love-hate relationship with mirror-polished blades. They are very difficult to make, it is a lot of hard manual work that busts fingers and back so I hate doing it because I am tired and I do not recover as well as I should from physical exertion. But I also like doing it because it is very rewarding and satisfying to see the gradual change with each step as one progresses from 40 to 7000 grit and then to the buffing compound.

But they are never truly finished because the mirror polish exacerbates every minute irregularity to an absurdly high degree. A few microns deep divot will be seen at a certain angle. Also one thinks all scratches are removed and then, a few days later, you look at it at a very specific angle in a very specific light and suddenly you see that some gossamer-thin scratches are still there.

Then there is the practical side of course – although the steel is hardened, at mirror polish you can literally scratch it if you cut cardboard or office paper with it. They are very precious flowers indeed – basically, the wind blows a speck of dirt on the blade, you wipe it off and it leaves behind a scratch that will be visible in some light. That was one of the main reasons why I have decided to make a tumbled finish for my friends’ knife and why I am going to use it for most of my knives because that hides all but the most egregious scratches.

All in all, although these two blades are not perfect to a degree that I would be perfectly content with them, they are good enough that I shall go on and finish them with high-end fittings.

Eye Got May Lie Sense!

When I have started building my workshop in 2009, I did not seek a building permit and I had no project. I was just winging it.

For a building of this size (25 square meters, single story), that was perfectly OK and legal, especially since it was build in place of the previous much bigger wooden barn that I have torn down because it was becoming unsafe. The new workshop is not a workshop per see, it has two rooms, one half is made from bricks and is the workshop and one half is just a storage of gardening tools and materials. It is a combination of a small workshop, garden shed, and whatever.

I was quite happy with it for a few years, but when I decided last year to start a business and went to the business registration bureau, a problem arose. I was told that since I intend to do at least some work in my new workshop, I have to register the building in the land register/cadaster. For which I needed a project and some other paperwork.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

So I had to pay a surveyor and a project architect to get the building surveyed, measured and a proper drawing made. Which I did. And then pandemics started. That has delayed the rest of the paperwork quite significantly. The whole summer and fall of 2020 I got an answer every month that “maybe next month it will be done”.

And then the bad news came. To register the building in the category “production and storage” It would need to have running water. No matter that the house with running water is literally two meters away. The office worker who issued the decision knew the law is stupid, he even said so. But his hands were tied, the law is written for corporate buildings and does not differentiate between a one-man small workshop and an airplane-building workshop. And the law says that every workshop in a production and storage building must have running water (period).

After some back-and-forth I have decided (on advice) to let the building register as a hobby workshop and garden shed within the category “building with other purposes” with the reasoning that the purpose of the building before during and after I run a knife making and leatherwork as a business will remain the same, it will always be a part small workshop, part garden shed and part whatever. Now the only requirements were that I have to have a fire extinguisher and certified revision of electric installation, which I both had because unlike running water these both make sense and I was expecting them.

That went through at the cadaster this spring, but at the same time the pandemic was roaring in CZ, the offices had limited hours and the country was in lockdown again. It was only last week after my mother had both doses of the vaccine and both my father and I were two weeks after the first shot that I felt safe enough to visit the business registration bureau in person again and apply for the license.

And it went well. The type of building the workshop is registered as was not seen as a problem for intended purposes and today I got my official papers. So as of this month, I am officially allowed to charge people for my work – and I have to pay taxes accordingly of course. I have to contact a tax consultant and research some things that I have neglected to do while the whole thing was in limbo, but that is not a legal problem anymore, that is just learning the ropes of a new business.

In other good news, today was also the day that I got my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine. My shoulder hurts like hell, I cannot use my left arm, but I feel quite happy nevertheless.

Look What I Have Cobbled Together

I have applied for concessions/licenses for several categories of non-protected trades. There are about 80 of those in CZ, knifemaking is only a part of one of them and the fee is the same whether one applies for one or for all of them. There are some really, really peculiar things in this system – knife-making is in the same category as welding and making of steel constructions, and knife-sharpening is in a different category that includes repairs of non-electrical house appliances. So in the course of applying for some of the crafts that I actually intend to do I also automatically will (hopefully) get a license to do a lot of other completely unrelated stuff that I do not intend to do. Shoemaking & repair is one of those things.

But even so, I was pretty fed-up with buying a pair of slippers every year (at most) because they start to fall apart and become actually dangerous to wear at home since I live on the first floor and have to walk the steps several times a day. Last week the approaching-end-of-usability slippers combined with other factors and I fell rather badly. So I have decided to at least once do some literal cobbling and make myself a pair of leather slippers.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It was a learnign experience and there is a lot that could be done better and/or faster. The stitching on the belts is needlesly fine for example and thus it took me forevah to make.

Unlike the cheap ones that I was wearing until now, these should hopefully last for many years and if the sole gets worn through, I will be able to re-sole them in a day or two at most. Based on my experience with leather goods, I think I shall die before that will be needed since they only will be worn indoors. And they are made from natural leather and wool-felt, so if they become unwearable and un repairable, they can be thrown on the compost heap. They feel comfy and pleasant even against naked skin and the natural leather sole does not slide on the floor more than rubber one, so I am very pleased with the result so far.

I had huge fun with this break from knifemaking so I shall make at least two more pairs for my parents. I expect those to take significantly less time than these did, although still not time that would make it potentialy profitable business – these took me a whole week, so if I were intending to sell them they would be ridiculously expensive, at least 30-40 times of what slippers typically cost. But my plan for next few years is not to make things in order to sell them – it is to sell things so I can continue making them so maybe I should consider them as an option for my repertoire if I could optimize the time to one-two days per pair, perhaps three with some fancy leather carving for decoration.

Why Grow up When you Can Be an Axolotl Instead?

Axolotls aren’t just every cool animals, they are also extremely cute, so when the author Seanan McGuire posted the current project of a Patreon creator whose monthly pattern was an axolotl, I couldn’t resist. Also, 7,50 each month for a sewing pattern including machine embroidery files is dirt cheap. I know I’ve paid three times that money for some. I also like the idea of having a new small project every month. So please meet Seanan, named after the lady whose fault it is.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved Bulbasaur approves!

I’ll have to make a second one for my sister, but not in black, because tracing a pattern on black minky is a job for people who murdered mother and father. If your sewing fingers are itching, give NazFX Studios a try.