YouTube Video: Turning 2 hex nuts into a Diamond ring

Pablo Cimadevila Álvarez is paraplegic from childhood, after a car run him over at 4 years age. But his mother told him that if he cannot run, he still can swim – so he did. And he went on to  compete in several Paralympics and won several medals.

But besides sports he also designs and makes jewelry and had a smallish youtube channel where he shows his skill, which is really great.

This video of his went viral and his subscriber count exploded at the beginning of this year and very deservedly. Enjoy it – if you haven’t already. And if you had, it is re-watcheable (speaking from experience).

In which Marcus enters uncanny territory

It’s no secret that Marcus sends parcels of wonder across the globe, but by now I think he’s a mind reader. You all know that wood and resin is about my favourite combination ever, as in my latest necklace and earrings:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

But nothing surpasses the beauty of burl in resin projects, which I have been looking for for ages without much luck. You can imagine the look on my face when yesterday a parcel arrived and instead of being my husband’s new phone battery, it was these gorgeous pieces of burl:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

How did Marcus know? I have no clue, but I’m glad he did.

Thank you very much again, Marcus.

Even More Books…

Well, one more book. I have about twenty knife and swords books in the sights for future purchases, but I am still in the middle of reading the first seven I already have purchased. The flu-like illness that has been bugging me on and off for two weeks is unfortunately not very conducive to reading, especially to reading in a foreign language.

But Marcus was so very, very kind and has sent me this beauty, which I have not seen offered anywhere here. I must say it is a lovely book on first sight and it became a cherished possession instantly.

Now I had not planned on buying a book specifically about japanese knives, because I intend leaving making japanese knives to the Japanese, but there is no denying that they have a reputation of being superb tools so it won’t hurt to know about them. Quite the opposite, I am sure there is a lot of knowledge in this book that will be beneficial to me and I am very much looking forward to reading it.

However this makes me think a little – all the knives that I have made so far and that I intend to make in the future are my own designs and represent my aesthetical preferences as well as my style of using a knife. And whenever I look at works of other knife-makers (which I do not do very often), often I see that everyone develops a distinctive style. For example Bob Loveless has been renown for drop-point small hunting knives, Walter Sorrels sells mostly very pointy and straight, tanto-style all-purpose knives, Stefan Santangelo seems to like knives which have a slight forward angle between the blade and the handle with a little kink in it etc. I have no doubt that all these knives are perfectly functional and comfortable to use. There is no single “correct” knife design.

I find it remarkable how expressive can be a piece of craft that is essentialy just a sharpened sheet of metal with a piece of wood to hold it with, even when looking at just the outline.

Incidentally you can see two things in the last picture. Firstly, my left middle finger is nearly completely healed. There is still slight swelling and an area with tickling-burning sensation when touched, but it gets constantly, albeit very slowly, better. Secondly, in case you are wondering, that is my school pencil-case, about thirty years old by now.

YouTube Video: Tod’s Workshop

“You make one knife, you make another, and you never stop.” True words.

Tod Todeschini has put out a very short lovely video promoting his workshop.

I do not think that I will manage to pull it off with making knives for a living, to be honest. As in every endeavor, a bit of luck is required and the competition is tough. So even if I manage to do everything right (which I won’t, I never do), success is not guaranteed.  But I am definitively going to give it a try, because I am more than fed-up with being corporate drone.

And when I will be forced to seek employment again, I will do my best to avoid US owned shareholder companies like the plague they are.

Mould Making

Yesterday we saw the birth of a couple of little Mermaids, today it’s two steps back in the process: mould making.

I have long wanted some more natural looking moulds and with the mermaid moulds being so frustrating I finally decided to use the materials Marcus sent me last year.

I’ll only show the process for the pebbles, but describe the squares as well.

While you can embed almost everything into silicone, if you want a mould that creates shiny resin pieces, your positive has to be smooth as a baby’s butt, so my first step was to cover some pebbles and pieces of wood in resin.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The problem with the wood was that the cut sides soaked up the resin, staying rough, so I decided to cover the whole thing again the next day. This times the sides became smooth, but the resin decided not to stick to itself on the top…

After I covered my pieces in resin I created the “mould box”. Marcus made those four pieces you can clamp to each other, allowing for variable sizes. You just need to put some putty into the cracks to seal it, something that worked well here, but not that well with the wood pieces, so I drowned my kitchen table in silicone and then had to somehow scoop it up again because I didn’t have enough to replace it.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The resin had created a flat foot on the pebbles that I worked a little with sanding paper, so i could put the flat on the surface and pour the silicone on top with little worries that they’d rise to the top…

©Giliell, all rights reserved

All poured, now wait…

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is the mould with the pebbles still inside. They came out nice and clean and I

really like that mould. Now for trying it out…

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The green one on the right was a different mould, one where I tried to make all round pieces. Those still need some working on.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

You can see that they’re really glossy while also really pebble-irregular.

The square ones are fine for making pieces that you sand down, but due to the issues with the resin not that nice and clean. Afterwards I remembered that Marcus had once sent me a “book club” block that would have made a nice clean mould…

I also tried some small globe shaped moulds, which still need some tinkering, so the next time I need to order resin I’ll also order some more silicon.

Why I (Almost) Always First do and Then Learn

I have an acute case of opinions, and I have a platform. Therefore I am going to inflict them on you. Lets get ready to ramble…

During my life I have learned a lot of different stuff – building and installing computers and programming in VBA as well as masonry, plumbing, carpentry etc. Jack of all trades and all that. That is nothing exceptional, most homeowners here have at least the basic of some of those skills. But some of the skills that I have tried or intend to try my hand on – like knife-making, leather work or wood carving – require not only a lot of finicky skill, but also a lot of knowledge.

My approach to acquiring said knowledge was, is, and will remain, maybe somewhat illogical from an outsider’s point of view, but I found out that it works the best for me. I hasten to add though, that I am only using it when there are not real stakes regarding safety and/or urgency to be had in the matter – if there are, I pay for experts and craftsmen to do the job quickly and properly the first time.

That approach is this – I start with some rudimentary knowledge and dive right into it, start big, fail on so many levels and end up with a result that has so many flaws that it is pitiful at best (like my first knife, that I regrettably lost).  Then I think about what went wrong, read some more information, try again, start again big, fail a bit less and get something that I need not be ashamed of, although it is of course still very short of being a masterpiece, even an “apprenticepiece” – like my second knife:

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

All those failures do not stop me of course from ramping up the ambitions for the next project(s), where I learn from my previous mistakes and boldly introduce completely new ones. Like in the knife I have made for my father’s fiftieth birthday and a knife I made for myself:

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


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

And so on and so forth. Only after each failure, will I really seriously start to research and read some serious theory on the things that I just tried to do and see what the actual craftsmen have to say. And through this process, where I first try, fail and then read, I eventually get to something half-decent, like Ciri’s dagger, which nevertheless is still somewhere in the middle of my learning curve (and probably everything ever will be).

One reason for this approach is fairly mundane – books are expensive, our local library is crap and internet with a lot of information freely available was not a thing for first half of my life. But I hold onto it even now – for example I will start reading on leather work only after I actually start to do some work in it, not before (I have actually done some small leather work – the two last sheaths shown, but nevermind). The same plan goes for engraving metal, or inlaying etc. Why do I persist in this manner of doing things, where I inevitably reinvent the wheel multiple times over? Could I not save myself a lot of trouble and time learning the theory first? After all, that is how a lot (not all) of our school system works – a huuuge chunk of theory upfront and then maybe some medium to big-ish chunk of praxis.

Well, even discarding the fact that reinventing the wheel for yourself is tremendous fun, and having fun is the whole purpose of a hobby, I think following chunks of praxis with theory and not vice versa has a practical advantage as well, at least for me.

I have read first three books out of my new purchases, those on the left in the picture. Most of the info in them was not new to me since I already tried like 90% of the techniques shown and I knew all the theory. So I only got about 10% worth of new knowledge, which does not seem like much – just a few tricks, really. But if I started with only these books without having any clue whatsoever about how thinks work in praxis, I would get a lot less out of them on first reading, most of the content would go over my head and I would forget it straightaway. And when later on trying to put the things into praxis, I would have to get back to them and re-read them, maybe multiple times, whilst trying the things and failing at them anyway. Whereas having a lot of failures and intuitive understanding as well as theoretical knowledge of the matter already has allowed me to read them fairly quickly and absorb the little info that I did not yet have much more permanently (I think) because it connects smoothly with my past experience and knowledge.

There is of course one trapping to this “try first” approach, and a big one, that should be avoided – developing bad work habits that have to be un-learned. The distance between trying something and learning the accompanying theory should not be too big either way, because it is detrimental to learning both ways.

The Plural of Mermaid is Moremaids

After the little mermaid in the last craft post, I decided to use that idea some more and insert them into landscapes.

To do that you need some larger moulds and tools to shape the result afterwards. I built my single use moulds with thin wood and popsickle sticks, lining them with tape. This worked half- well.

One came out quite nice and shiny, which was lucky, but the other one not so much, which meant sanding. To give you an idea what that means here’s a series of pics demonstarting the process:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is after sanding with a 120 grid to make the surface even.

[Read more…]

A little project on the side

We haven’t had a craft post in a while, and I know some of you are still waiting for your horses (they’ll come). I do have a larger work in progress that I can hopefully show you soon, but for most of this year I hit a creative dry spell with just being too exhausted after work.

Well, I got holidays and I used them for a little fun project. I wanted to do something with wood again and if you hit youtube, you’ll find dozens of “secret wood” tutorials (though why they’re called “secret wood” is a mystery to me, it’s quite obvious, isn’t it?), but I wanted to do something a little different:

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

For these I used an old stick that was lying around and cut off some pieces. The bark had already withered away so I only cleaned them up lightly, leaving all the natural signs of withering in place. I then drilled a hole down the middle, starting with a size 5 drill and then going up to 10 over 8. After that I started to make the cuts with my little Dremel tool. In the green one I first tried to make two parallel cuts and then take out the wood in between, but that didn’t work that well, so I just make the cuts as wide as possible and then used other tools to define them. I think it will take a few more goes before I really get the hang of this.

Though this project showed again that my BFF J and I are actually one person leading two lives. I showed here these and said “I’ll need to ask your husband a favour” and she replied “you want to used some thicker wood and have him drill out the middle so you can insert some lights”, which is exactly what I’m planning to do.

And here’s one more thing, a leftover mermaid:

© Giliell, all rights reserved

I still had some green and blue resin left, so I made a pretty pendant. One of the easiest things to do with resin is to print out stuff on a transparency (got to be a laser printer, though) and then insert the result into the resin. Because my resin was starting to cure I couldn’t get the bubbles out, but for once I think they’re actually adding to the whole thing.


Marcus has mentioned Alec Steele a few weeks ago, but at first I did not like his over-the-top presenting style. Well, he is young and full of vim and vigor, and I am getting old and full of bile, what can you expect.

However Alec seems to be a genuinely likeable guy – his career is essentially built on helping others to learn the blacksmithing trade. And that is something I really cannot object to. I got over my initial dislike of his whooping and now I am binge-watching his videos and learning new stuff. Maybe I get to try some of it in real life.

I am a bit envious that he has found a job he loves, is good at it and it puts bread on the table at mere 16 years age, I managed only two out of three when I was twice that age. Grumble grumble grum….

Making Kitchen Knives – Part 10 – Shaping the Outlines

I have not forgotten or discontinued this project, only when it is cold I have to first heat up my workshop before doing any work – which wastes a lot of fuel and a lot of time. Therefore in winter I never manage to do as much work as I would like to. But I managed to do something in the last two months – like building the tumbler (that has run for five days straight by now btw. and it has made a very nice satin finish on the broken blade).

But I could not do much actual work on the knives themselves, because first I must focus on making the necessary improvements. I managed only one step in the process and one failed improvement in the next one.

The step that I have managed with success is shaping the outline of the blades. Last time I ended up with three stacks of blanks held together with screws. So I took them to the belt grinder and ground the outline of all three stacks. After that I disassembled the stacks and cleaned up any irregularities, burrs etc.

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

I ended up with a stack of 12 knife blanks. They are not all identical, but in three shapes – next time I will have to think a bit more about how to get reliably reproducible results. To save my self trouble when cutting the handle scales I have marked the blanks in each group on the tang with letters T, V and X. Why these letters? Because they are easily distinguishable from each other and can be scratched with just two lines.

This step was not actually very time-consuming before – just 10 minutes per blade, or 1, 55% of the whole process. Theoretically not worth improving. But I hope that having three groups of four reasonably identical handles will save me some time when shaping the handle – which took 110 minutes per handle, or 17% of the whole process.

Nevertheless, shaping four blades at once did bring some minor time-saving in itself – I have spent only 5 minutes per blade now, so I have saved 5 minutes from my process. This has confirmed that this was indeed low hanging fruit – it was a very easy improvement.

Next step is basic grind of the blade – and this is where I have my first failed attempt at improvement to share in my next post.

Lets Get Ready to Tumbleee!

I hope this will work. If not, I am determined to fiddle with it until it works.

I found an old asynchronous motor in our cellar. It is a small thing, mere 140 W, and it lacked wiring, any elements to fix it to something and cam wheel completely with wedge. But I have managed to convince my father to connect a cable and a switch to it, and it was working. So last few weeks, whenever I have got an hour or two, I was building a tumbler. I did not document the building process, because there is not much to it, really.

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

Just like with my belt grinder, I started with a particle board leftover from kitchen renovations, which was the base for my old drill press. It is a nice >2 cm thick board, covered with waterproof plastic on the upper side. Stable, strong, simply ideal as a base for a machine. Because the motor lacked any flanges or wings or whatevers to fix it and only had 4 M5 threaded holes, I took two pieces of steel that had 90° angle, straightened them to about 120°C angle and screwed them onto the motor. This provided me with two ears, that could be screwed on wooden blocks connected to the base plate. The switch was attached to the plate by its standard holes, plus two wooden pieces to better secure the cable.

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

As I mentioned, the motor lacked cam wheel. So I stood in front of a choice – to buy V-belt cam wheels and V-belts, or try something else. I tried something else, because I deemed it easier and cheaper. I bought two PP furniture wheels of different sizes. One got attached onto the motor in the standard way – with a steel wedge ground from a piece of spring steel and a lot of cursing. The diameter of the axis was slightly smaller than the inner diameter of the wheel, but I was able to fill the space with a piece of steel pipe. For the bigger wheel I had more luck – it had inner diameter 15 mm. So I could just buy a 15 mm steel pipe and further I could put to use two old ball bearings that also had 15 mm inner diameter. With a bit of banging and a lot more cursing I was able to fix the two ball bearings and the big PP wheel onto the pipe (the PP wheel is further fixed with a nail, so it dos not hold on only by friction). Next step was to fix the ball bearings on two wooden blocks onto a separate particle board plate.

At this stage I also took a strip of leftover flooring PVC and glued it onto the PP wheels for better traction. It is actually nearly impossible to glue anything on PP with reasonable strength, but there are adhesives on the market that manage this task strong enough for this kind of application (I think). If it goes pear-shaped, I can always screw it on later.

For the tumbling drum I took a 100 mm diameter PP pipe and again I glued on it a few layers of PVC for better traction. The PVC lays directly on the steel pipe in order to reduce the fast rotations of the motor as much as I can.

Two small furniture wheels aid in keeping the tumbling drum in place whilst allowing it to freely spin. The tumbler thus lies between the axis and the two wheels and holds in place purely by its own weight.

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

Last week I cut a piece of thick leather 1 m long, 3 cm wide, and I cut the ends at an angle so they overlap whilst the overall thickness remains the same, and I glued it together with epoxy. Hide glue would probably be better, but the weather was way too cold for messing about with hide glue. Today I took last few hours in adjusting the positions of the two wooden plates against each other to have adequate tension on the belt without it wandering in one direction or the other. As of now, it has been running for an hour without problems.

It has about 120 rotations  per minute, which might be a bit too fast. I put in shredded walnut shells, a soft coarse polishing compound and a broken blade from my failed machete build.

We will see what comes of it.