Archive for March, 2010

Cranking on the Automata Praying Machine

Posted in Automata, Toy Making on March 29, 2010 by Jim

I am starting to think through how the gears are going to move in the Praying Machine.

I made a jig that lets me try out moving gear ideas.

Gear tester for Automata wooden toy

Last time I posted about automata, I mentioned Dug North. I have found another maker that is also incredibly inspiring. Take a look at the work of Keith Newstead.  He has a blog here. Just looking at his work  makes me happy.

The process of making my machine is as enjoyable as any thing I have ever made – probably better.

I will keep you posted on the progress. I plan to sell this piece on Etsy when it is completed.


Hunting Knife Filework – Vine pattern

Posted in Forging, knifemaking, metalwork on March 27, 2010 by Jim

I do not seem to be able to tie this one down and get a handle on it but here is the vine file work I put on the spine of my latest knife.

Knife back with vine file work

Six Micro carving chisels for 20 dollars

Posted in Carving, Forging, Tool Making on March 21, 2010 by Jim

While working on the Praying Machine, I ran into problems carving the wings. I just can’t get up under the edges of the small feathers with the chisels that I have. I looked at Woodcraft and saw that I was going to spend $35 apiece for good carving chisels that would do what I needed to do. Instead of buying those, I made my own.

I got w1 (water hardening) steel rod in 1/16″ and 1/8″ from Speedy Metals for just over two dollars per 3′. I heated the pieces with a torch and pounded the ends out thin. Next, I made the two bends with needle nose pliers. Nearly done, I rough shaped the chisels with files and a grinding wheel:

dog leg micro carving chisel

Here are all the chisels after heating and quenching in water:

handmade micro carving chisels

After quenching, the steel is too hard – brittle like glass really- so I put them in the oven at 450 for a couple of hours to temper the hardness some.  With the steel I used, that should bring me to a hardness that will hold an edge but not break.

Next step was to polish them on a felt wheel with a little rouge:

Polished Micro Carving Chisels

You can see that they are all dog legged.  I made a center v cutting chisel, a right cutter, and a left cutter in each size rod. That should let me get to each part of the feathers on my project.

I heated the handle end of each rod hot again and pressed them into tightly drilled holes in cherry handles:

Micro Carving Chisels cherry handles

I am really pleased with how they turned out and I saved myself quite a bit of money. Shipping included, I spent  20 dollars in total. With the small sized steel I was using, I was able to do the forging with just a hardware store propane torch and I had scraps in the bin for the handles.  All in all, it was a productive Saturday.

Happy Making,


Go Kart or Summer Sled

Posted in Toy Making, Woodworking on March 20, 2010 by Jim

Wooden Go Kart Summer Sled

Go Kart, Summer Sled, or ‘big wooden thing that is more fun than you can shake a stick at’…

Holy cheese Batman, this thing is waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyy more fun than I expected. We will not have to wait for snow to go sledding anymore.

The idea came from ‘The Dangerous Book for Boys‘ which I cannot recommend enough.

Automata! Automata! Automata! – who knew?

Posted in Automata, Carving, Toy Making on March 14, 2010 by Jim

Oh man, everything else in the shop has come to a screeching halt. Chips are flying, brass is being milled, gongs are ringing! I discovered automata.

This idea stopped me like a ball bat to the forehead. Specifically, take a look at Dug North’s website.

Here is a preview of my first. It should be quite handy. When it is done, it will be a praying machine. I mean really who doesn’t need one of those? I will take all the help I can get!

Automata praying machine

I cannot stop thinking about this thing.  I will post more as I begin to rough in the mechanism.

Book Review: 20 Folk Bird And Fish Patterns

Posted in Book Reviews, Carving on March 11, 2010 by Jim


Who carves a wooden catfish?  I do, and I loved it. The first thing that caught my eye in this book was a wooden catfish. I knew right away that it wanted to be on wheels and be a toy – hence the birth of Captain Catfish. The pattern in the book was fun and the instructions were great. I really enjoyed carving this fish.

I was a little less happy with the bird patterns though. The birds all had side view patterns but no top view.  There was only one photo even that showed a top view during the patterning stage.  All 0f the fish had both top and side patterns to use.

I wanted this book specifically for the birds, the fish was really just a bonus for me. This makes the book less desirable to me.

The Author published his phone number and address in the back of the book but the phone number was no longer valid when I called. I emailed the publisher to ask if there were side patterns to have and did not get an answer.  If you are most interested in the bird patterns on the cover of the book, I would not buy this book.

If on the other hand, you are into Captain Catfish! (hehe), he is probably worth the cover price alone.