Ongoing Work

Page dedicated to ongoing work and minor projects


Akask sculpture with third coat background epoxy in black and deep blue

There were quite a few bumps and imperfections in the second epoxy coat, most from the underlying MDF. I sanded them smooth with a 220 grit random orbital sander and some hand detailing. This time I mixed almost 400 ml of epoxy and tinted it much the same as the second coat. Once spread out, I used a brush to randomize the brush marks. A heat gun took care of the air bubbles. There are still a few minor imperfections, but it’s all but impossible to remove them all.


Akask sculpture with second epoxy coat.

The shop has been too cool for epoxy work. The last few nights have been warmer, and this morning the shop was about 20.

This second layer of epoxy is mostly black with a small amount of EcoPoxy Midnight.


First layer epoxy on Akask MDF

The first layer of epoxy is on. I chose to add some black pigment. The first layer always soaks in. This was about 230 ml, with none left over.


2.5D CNC engraving of Earth, Moon, and ISS on machine bed.

The shop has been a bit cool for productive work. I only have a small roll-away heat pump of 10,000 BTU capacity heating a space of almost 70 sq. m. I aim to have a mini-split system in place this Fall.

Yesterday and today I had the CNC running for a total of almost 8 hours. The Akask piece is 900 mm vertical, requiring a tiled machining approach. The join line has a low ridge, which I will remove manually.

The vehicle model is also progressing. The mould produced a single epoxy model, which I will use for design and testing of the paint plan.


Akask model and split mould

This morning I decided that the mould was ready to be opened. I have no idea how many layers of rubber are on it, but I went through most of 2 tubs of liquid rubber. The model had cut lines from the utility knife, so I filled them in and am repainting it. The item in the clamps will be a holder for the soft rubber moulds to support them for creating casts.


Building a rubber mould on the Akask model

I’m not counting the number of coats of moulding rubber. I’ll keep going until there’s at least 1 cm on all surfaces. I have 2 full and 2 part containers of the moulding rubber. I’m doing a layer every day unless something comes up, so it will take a while.


Akask model in white

Some sanding, some spray painting, some more sanding, two more coats of artist’s water-based enamel. The model is almost ready for the first layer of moulding rubber. I’ll give it a few more days for the paint to harden.


Special Operations Force - Military Police Unit plaque

This was in interesting special request. It took 7 hours of machine time and several hours for design/finishing. It will be painted and mounted by members of the Unit in question.


Akask model 1

Although I prepared this model months ago, I’ve been avoiding the sanding and finishing. As usual, the first of those steps was much less onerous than anticipated. Next I need to find appropriate white paint. I plan to make a rubber mould for epoxy casts. Those castings will be the actual working pieces for the Akask sculpture, since I will need several for testing orientations.


RavenSong and ThreeTallTrees signs mounted on post

The sign post was finished recently and this was a warm clear day for installation. The PV module and wiring are temporarily strapped in place. They will be mounted more permanently and discreetly, eventually.


Three Tall Trees and RavenSong signs Lit
Three Tall Trees and RavenSong signs Unlit

The signs are done and ready for delivery. The back-lighting worked better than I anticipated. The total current draw is under 900 mA, easily within the specified capacity of the trail camera PV battery module I have on order. The PIR light sensitive switch isn’t working as hoped, but I won’t know for sure until I test it with the PV module.


For the past two weeks or so I’ve been working on an interesting little PTB project for a local couple. They commissioned two signs, one for their property and the other for their neighbours. They share a main driveway which splits at their properties, both of which overlook the Ottawa River.

I suggested backlit signs, which they approved. The backs of the signs will be planed off to allow light to transmit through the epoxy. There will be a light box integrated into each frame, powered by a trail camera PV charger. This is all experimental, using the specifications of the PV module and the LED strips to calculate how bright the lighting will be. The density of the epoxy tint will also contribute significantly to the perceived brightness. The ravens will probably remain fairly dark. As long as the lightly tinted text shows up at night, I’ll be satisfied.


Sink cover with Spalted Maple sides and dark blue epoxy main surface.

An interesting little project has taken up this past week. My neighbour has a travel trailer with a wet kitchen. The sink area would be much more functional with a cover insert. The fit is a bit looser than I planned, but with some rubber bumpers it’ll be fine, and hopefully rattle-free. The edges are Spalted Maple framing a plywood base. The centre area is epoxy in two dark blue shades.


Coloured epoxy coated relief images of celestial objects

This morning I applied coloured epoxy to the test pieces I created prior to “Solar System Project 1”. They are of: L1527, Cartwheel Galaxy, Jupiter, Pillars of Creation. The colours are my loose interpretation of various spectra images.


Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation image in floor of bowl.

This is a functional piece, made for my mother’s 100th birthday. The bowl is 400 mm in the major axis, 250 mm in the minor axis, and 70 mm wall height. The base is layers of plywood and MDF. Design was done in Vectric Aspire and machining on a CanCam CNC router. There are 5 layers of EcoPoxy epoxy in various shades of blue. The CMBR (Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation) image is courtesy of ESA and their Planck observatory. The orange and light blue map colours were applied manually to the low-relief carving of the brightness map, with some visual interpolation. The final smooth overlayer is clear EcoPoxy with a minor addition of a pearlescent white tint.


Solar System Project 1 complete.

The Build Log of Solar System Project 1 has been moved to here.


Pillars of Creation and Jupiter plaques framed

With the PTB (Pay The Bills) project delivered and paid, back to the art. This morning I framed Jupiter. Here it is with the Pillars of Creation backlit as Lithophanes in my shop window. These are early castings, probably second pass. I have experimented with colouring in each pass. The latest are much more red-oriented.


Bed complete overview

With a couple of detours and “feature fixes”, the bed commission is done. The biggest “fix” was to replace the side frame members. I had cut the drawer fronts too small. You don’t get a second chance on cutting wood, even plywood. “You can’t stretch wood”, an old woodworker’s truism, applies here! That delayed the project a couple of days.

The frame is all made with G1S (Good 1 Side) plywood from Home Depot, to keep costs down. The side tables and headboard are wood from KJP. They had Ambrosia Maple on at a good price. The under-drawer slides are from Lee Valley. They are push-to-open and allow for a hardware-free face. They’re a very elegant and clean way of managing drawers, but man, are they finicky! This is the third time I’ve worked with them, and I think I finally have the best process figured out. One of the advantages of re-doing the side members was that I was able to try a different approach to mounting the drawers.

This time I worked from the drawers outward. The final step was to attach the drawer supports to the outside and internal frame members, allowing the drawers and slides themselves to set the alignment and spacing. Finally, touch-to-open drawers that work smoothly and reliably!

I’m pleased with how this commission worked out. I don’t want to do nothing but bed frames, but the occasional custom one would be very welcome!


Theremin Box
Side tables for Rose's bed

No, I haven’t been slacking off. My neighbour’s mom asked me to make a King bed with headboard, side tables, and under-drawers. The photo above is of the completed side tables. The frame is done, and the headboard just need supports and cutting to length. Tomorrow I’ll start assembling the frame, all the parts of which are cut to size and have 2 coats of tough finish on them.

The other project is a box in the style of Jayne’s needles box. This one is for a Gaudi V4 Theremin. I built a V2 but damaged one of the control potentiometers. Things have come a long way in the few years since V2, so I’m very much looking forward to this one working. It will be battery powered and entirely independent. Even Carolina Eyck recommends it!

The Kickstarter project did not reach the goal, but you can purchase two of the images at the Fabrikisto store.


It looks like my “3D Astronomical Images” Kickstarter project will not achieve target. One of the “rewards” was STL files of the 4 astronomical image casts. These files can be used to 3D print the items. They are sized 200×200 mm, but can be scaled to fit your printer. Expect each print to take about 10-12 hours, based on projections in PrusaSlicer. Here is the download URL for the Zipped files: STL File.


Needles Box Outer

This is Jayne’s belated Christmas present. It is made to her general requirements, with the overall size determined by the piece of Maple I had in hand. The lower three spaces are for packaged DMC needles, the upper space for “other” needles in packages.

The box sides are made of continuous-grain Maple. The top and bottom are of a spalted wood left over from the bed commission I did last year. I suspect it’s Maple as well, but is so spalted that it is half the normal density. The inner partitions are of Eastern White Cedar left over from the chairs I made a couple of years ago. The corner joints are designed using Tailmaker’s software, available here.

I like Soss hidden hinges, and I had 2 sets in inventory. Closure is with a small magnet and adjustable screw.


Cast Set 3 as Lithophanes
Cast set 3

Again, a very different look. There’s about the same amount of the Jellyfish tint, and a bit of Dolphin. It’s almost too opaque. I waited a full day before applying the other tints. That may have been a bit too long. I want the tint to show in both Lithphane and normal modes.


Jupiter and Pillars of Creation as Lithophanes
Jupiter and Pillars of Creation

The second casts look quite different from the first ones. I spread the tint around, rather than just sprinkling it in. I also used more of the “Jellyfish” tint for the bodies, which accentuates the Lithophane effect.


Kickstarter POCs

I left the epoxy casts in the mould an extra day. They both came out of the moulds easily, with very little flash. That sanded off easily and quickly. The white tint is deeper in the Jupiter cast, and gives a better Lithophane effect. The frame fit perfectly.


Rubber mould casting
Rubber Mould ready for epoxy
Mould and Masters with Epoxy

The Smooth-On Mold Star 15 Slow claims a pot life of 50 minutes, which seems about right, and a Cure Time of 4 hours, which is very optimistic. After 4 hours it was still very tacky. My workshop is at 17c, and these specifications are at 23c, so I’ll blame it on that. This morning it had cured fully, even though my heater was acting up and the room was down to 15c.

Removing the cast rubber from the form was easy. I had given it a light spray of release agent, which was probably not necessary. No clean-up of the mould was necessary. I mixed 600 ml of EcoPoxy FloCast, gave it a couple of dashes of Jellyfish (off-white) tint, and filled the Jupiter cavity. Then I did the same with 550 ml and a single dash of tint for the Pillars of Creation cavity.

I put a bit of several blue tints in salt shakers and sprinkled them on the epoxy. Over the next few hours the tint will diffuse into the epoxy, hopefully giving some character to the off-white body. I chose colours vaguely similar to the JWST image originals, but am not going to fuss over accuracy.


Jupiter and Pillars of Creation masters

The brush-on multi-layer rubber moulds didn’t work. I did 6 coats, and the rubber certainly replicated the inverse of the master. I knew I would have to stabilize the rubber, so I cast Plaster of Paris behind it. Unfortunately the plaster is very brittle and broke into dusty pieces when I pried the mould off the master. I washed the plaster dust off the rubber and hung the two pieces out to dry.

Limp rubber moulds

Tomorrow I’m going to Sculpture Supply Canada, where I will purchase some proper casting rubber. When I get back Sunday I’ll make a proper production mould, and as soon as that is cured, the POC epoxy castings. Timing is very tight, so the project may go live with just the masters and the simulations, with the actual cast epoxy items added a day or two later.


Kickstarter presentation image

The Kickstarter project has been approved! It took under two minutes, even though the guidelines specify “up to 3 business days”. Clearly I didn’t trigger any algorithmic traps. Have a look, and sign up for “Go Live” notification.


Laying rubber

The first coat of moulding rubber is on, and drying. This is going to take a lot longer than anticipated. The layer is very thin, but even so wasn’t drying very fast.


JWST Kickstarter POC

For the past week I’ve been laying the groundwork for a Kickstarter project. Based on my work with “Cold Trap”, “Oh My Darling”, “Harsh Mistress”, and “Land”, I’m presenting a selection of 3D representations of recent James Webb Space Telescope images. This will be small-volume production, so making each on the CNC is a non-starter. Each of the templates in the photo above took over 2 hours on the CNC. They now have a seal coat of UVPoxy. Once they have 3 coats I’ll make rubber moulds, and from the moulds, I’ll make epoxy castings of the actual items. There are also images of L1527 and the Cartwheel Galaxy, which I will make later.

Go Live date is aimed for 7 December, with the project running 42 days. I’ll post the preview URL once the project is approved.


“Land” will have a good home. I’m suspecting it will be displayed next to a globe of “World”. It was an interesting project, and turned out just as I had envisioned.


Land done and ready for mounting
Underside of Land

There is a bit of clear epoxy dribbling down the sides, but you have to look closely to find it. Apart from that, I am satisfied with “Land”. I have mounted it on my office wall and will take archival photos of it soon.


Land coloured

The provincial borders are approximate, and I didn’t trace each side of each border. The Ch’mar and Boodskar volcanoes are nicely highlighted in red, as is the boundary of Capital Province. The white of glaciers in the high mountains is a bit muddied. Applying white over anything else is always problematic.


Lights on

It took almost all day, but the LEDs and Arduino are mounted, soldered and… working! Working on the first power-up, no less! Of course the prototype board worked fine, but there’s always a chance of incorrect wiring when transferring to the real article. All that remains is to apply the final clear-coat of epoxy to embed the LEDs, then “paint” in the coloured features such as ice fields, volcanoes, and provincial boundaries.


Land back side

A single coat of epoxy should suffice on the back. It just needs to seal the MDF and stabilize it.


Green Land

The green went on very nicely. There were a few minor dribbles, but a small brush took care of most of them. Later, while getting my flu shot, I found that makeup applicators are sold in bulk and are cheap. They have firm shaped cotton swabs at both ends of a stick. They don’t shred like regular cotton swabs.


Ocean layers done

I wasn’t sure about doing a third blue layer. Once I had done the sides though, which did need the additional coat, I had lots of epoxy left. So I kept going, and I’m glad I did. The colouring is more consistent and has a deeper sheen.

Once that was done I machined the back cover from an off-cut piece of white MDF hardboard.


Second epoxy coat

After a light sanding I applied a second epoxy coat. This may be sufficient coverage. I won’t know for sure until it has cured. There was very little extra epoxy, so the green for the land of Land will need to be a separate coat tomorrow.


First coat epoxy on Land

This time I mixed exactly enough epoxy – 200 ml. The colour is a mix of Sea Foam and Navy. Once this is set enough, probably tomorrow, I’ll apply another blue coat, and maybe start on the green for the continent.


Land machined blank

Yesterday and today I did the machining for Land – the single continent on the inhabited moon in Robert J. Sawyer’s “Quintaglio Ascension” trilogy. I have Rob’s permission to create this piece based on his maps and concepts. The exact locations are my contribution, as are the mountainous regions which are hinted at on his maps. Twelve principal locations mentioned in the novels will be highlighted with coded LEDs.


All progress updates on the “Harsh Mistress” project have been moved to here.


Solaris Completed

I added more weight to the clock mechanism. The darker items at the top of each weight are cut from a large burl I picked up a couple of years at at KJP. They are routed out and filled with lead shot. I haven’t measured the additional mass, but estimate it to be about 2 kg each. The total mass is 7.8 kg now. The lower humidity has also helped free up the mechanism. Now I need to regulate the pendulum.


Ongoing work - Trinket Tray

Labour Day was a very productive day. The most immediately important task was to laser-engrave my favourite urn box for a friend of Jayne. The second-most immediate was making the trinket tray in the photo above. The design file is from Beki at Vectric. It was last month’s Monthly Project file. I ran it unmodified apart from the dedication on the base.

I also successfully uploaded an Arduino sample file to the breadboard circuit for Harsh Mistress. I had to revert to my old Surface Pro 3, since my Surface Book wouldn’t recognize the Arduino Nano. The sample file works great! Now I can start modifying it to give the patterns I want for Harsh Mistress.


Scrap Bin

For several years I’ve been using a cardboard box for wood scraps. Meanwhile, I had some leftover flooring taking up space. Both situations are now resolved. The bin has skids on the bottom, and is quite heavy. It’s not something one would try to pick up when full.


Oh My Darling!
Cold Trap

My challenges with Solaris continue. I’ve spent some time almost every day working on it, and am now getting close to calling it “officially done” whether it works or not.

I did achieve another goal though. It occurred to me that the “Oh My Darling!” and “Cold Trap” sculptures would work just fine as ceiling lighting fixtures. I modified their bases, made a support frame, and suspended each in turn. “Cold Trap” is now re-posted on Etsy as a Chandelier. “Oh My Darling!” is the new light in my office.


Solaris clock

Solaris is “done”. After quite a few disassembly/reassembly cycles the parts work fairly well together. I had to sand the gear wheels again, but even so there is still too much friction and stiction. It free-runs fairly well, but adding the escapement and hour/minute wheels causes it to stop at certain points. I know that part of the problem is that the hour/minute wheels are too tight, and the main drive gear appears to be overloaded. I’m also pretty sure that the weights should be a little weightier.

My conclusion after uncounted hours of fiddling and fettling is that designers and makers of wooden clocks have more ingenuity and patience than I do!


Barn beam bench

A week or so ago I was asked by my neighbour if I could make a rustic bench. The wood was reclaimed from an old barn, and must be well over 100 years old. There were mortises cut into the beams, which I made the undersides. Smaller wood timbers had tenons cut at the ends, which fit into the mortises very well. Being able to repurpose the work of craftsmen working in the late 1800s in Lanark County was rather inspiring. I also reused the dowels, which only required cutting to length and bevelling with a hand plane. The original barn builders would have used pull shaves. In order to protect the wood but keep as much of the original character as possible, I only did a light sanding, then applied rattle-can polyurethane.


Solaris is partly assembled. There are some alignment issues, but the main problem is the idler wheels for the weight lines. I turned them from dowel stock. The instructions suggest patio door rollers. I will have to purchase a set and retrofit them. The friction is too great with just the dowels, even though I waxed them. Once that is done and the main bolts are tightened the mechanism should run more freely – hopefully well enough for this to be a clock, rather than a semi-mobile sculpture.


Solaris weights

After 3 months hiatus, I’m working on the Solaris clock again. I had cast the epoxy into the acrylic tube for the weights months ago. Clearly using the dregs of my bulk epoxy supply wasn’t the best idea, since the bottom of the tube had not set fully. Cutting the sections made a royal mess of my mitre saw, which took quite a while to clean up. I also had to make a new pair of bottom supports because I considered the originals too fragile for the weight.

The left weight in the photo has the bottom at the top, showing the Walnut plug covering the knot in the fishing line.


This presentation box is for an old friend. He will mount his father’s and grandfather’s military service medals in it.


This was a fun little project. The client wanted to permanently mount a gift hammer. His wife saw the gift box I made for the live-edge furniture and liked the knot effect. At KJP I found a perfect piece of Walnut, and purchased the two feet with the knot. The greenish epoxy holds the hammer securely.


This project took longer than I thought it should. Now that it’s done, it satisfies all my requirements. The hinges are repurposed from Xplornet satellite dishes, the aluminium tubes were once parts of a vertical-axis wind turbine (my University degree project), and the pulley was intended to control a storage unit in the shop. Even the wood was left over from other projects. The only purchased component is the sun screen sail itself.


Parts box on Patio table

The build log for the live edge furniture project has been moved to a dedicated page.


Weights for Solaris

The baby gate is done and delivered, so back to Solaris. I had a clear 50 mm diameter Acrylic tube that’s been moving with me for decades. The ChemTec epoxy Part A had crystallized again, but a half hour in a warm water bath liquefied it again. At first I mixed a small batch to test the hot melt glued end block I had put on the tube. There were no leaks, so I mixed a larger batch and poured it in.

From prior experience with shallow pours, I delayed adding the tints, because they tend to settle over a few hours. So I added the remaining Part B to the Part A jug, mixed thoroughly, and poured it in to the top. There were of course a lot of entrained air bubbles. Then I added the first tint colour. It started to settle, but not very quickly. A few hours later I added a second colour, then eventually three more. The epoxy is of course slowly setting, even though the mixture was about 4:1 instead of the specified 2:1. (Clearly I haven’t been measuring the ratios properly, since I did it by weight instead of volume.)

This morning the original colour had only settled about half way down, and very tenuously at that. Only the top has a strong tint. Lesson learned – do staged pours if filling a column. However, the air bubbles never cleared from the lower part of the column, so the end result will be a clear bubbled cylinder for one weight, and various shades in the other.


The upper image is more or less how it would appear to an adult from the top of the stairs when it’s closed. The wall will be at the left. The lower image is the opposite view, from the stairs when it’s closed. The wall will be at the right and the stair banister at the left. When not in use, a magnet at the end of the latch handle would engage with a steel plate on the wall.


Baby Gate 2

Aaaron got renamed Walter Miles by the time he entered the world yesterday. The gate will be ready for him. After working most afternoons this week on it, all that remains is the hinge post and the latch post. The Maple for those is at the top of the picture.

The Walnut trim wasn’t planned. It hides various “oopses”. I clearly need practice with half lap joints. Mind you, these are the first ones I’ve made… probably ever. The depths are near-perfect, but the lap dimensions don’t match as well as they should on the diagonal ones.

The latch is a steel rod and the handle for it is a repurposed bottle stopper. The magnet at the end will hold against a wall-mounted steel plate when the gate is open.


Baby Gate Parts Layout

Our friends Aaron and Cory are having their baby Aaaron today. They asked me to make a gate for the top of their stairs, in anticipation of an active child. They have several cats so they of course need open access through the gate. Aaron took the measurements and made a sketch. Yesterday I planed some cedar left over from my Kitchissippi chairs to a consistent thickness. Today I cut out the frame and slat pieces. As you can see, I cut the central diagonal slat slightly short, so I had to stretch it. I used a scrap of Walnut. It’s a feature! Tomorrow I plan to cut the half lap corner joints and glue together the first half of the frame. The slats will be centred in the frame, so they will be cut and lapped next. That’s where the “feature” comes in!


Parts finished
Solaris pendulum

There’s been a lot of work between the last Solaris progress photo and this one. Most of it involved sanding, not one of my favourite activities. Many of the parts have been assembled, such as the lantern and frames. In the lower photo is the completed pendulum. It’s a little askew, but only the distance of a pendulum’s centre of mass to the pivot is important, not its’ straightness or mass.


Drill Press Gauge

Last Thursday evening I participated in the Kingston Wood Artisans’ Zoom meeting. The featured speaker was David Bedrosian, a very well known engineer and woodworker based in Waterloo. His talk was about the use of machinists’ gauges in the woodworking shop. One in particular got my attention – using a cheap digital caliper as a depth gauge on a drill press. I happened to have a no-name caliper I had never used. I made a wooden block to act as a carrier clamped to the spindle. I cut off the unused jaw of the caliper and chiselled a recess in the wood block to support the remaining jaw. The body of the caliper is attached to the drill press frame with a 3/4″ super magnet, and the jaw is epoxied into the wood block.

It works great. My concern that the magnet wouldn’t hold the caliper body firmly enough appears to have been a non-issue. This will vastly simplify accurate depth drilling. Thanks David!


All Solaris parts

Today’s machining took about 3.5 hours. These were all the hardwood half and quarter inch thick parts. One of the clock hands broke while I was removing flash. It’s in the small table clamp. Next is many hours of detailed sanding.


About 6 hours of machine time, I have the plywood and 3/4″ stock parts cut. They will require considerable hand work to clean up, sand, and drill. I had the CNC make marker spots for the drill locations, but for the most part did not have it drill the holes except where locations are critical. Tomorrow I’ll do the remaining parts. Then over the coming week I’ll do the manual work while power is at mid and peak rates.


Solaris Parts

Several months ago I purchased Clayton Boyer’s plans for his “Solaris” clock. It’s a followup to the “Woodworkers’ Hygrometer” that I built in 2020. I got the metal parts a couple of weeks ago, and this morning I flattened the hardwood planks. Tomorrow I’ll dimension them, then start the CNC work over the weekend. This is my first clock build.


View from TDIS

This is the view today from my Door Into Summer. Soon I will be able to sit on the adjacent deck and enjoy the green version of this.


Scraps can find unexpected value. I’ve been redesigning the CNC portion of Fiddle #9 and realized that the wood blanks need to have a consistent reference height. That’s a problem, since they are both tapered side to side. So I’ve glued together most of the thick maple off-cuts I had lying around. I’ll run them through the jointer/planer tomorrow to get the piece to a consistent 25 or so mm thickness, then cut out a series of reference blocks. I’ll glue those to the edges of the blanks, which will not only make mounting easier, but give me a consistent height reference outside the cut areas.


Terry’s salt cellar is ready. We decided to apply the Livos finish to the inside as well, since it is food-safe. The inside has 3 coats, the outside has 4. A final buffing this morning and it’s ready for use!


A friend who now lives far away asked if I could repurpose an earlier piece as a salt cellar. She uses high-quality flake salt in her gourmet cooking and needs a dry but attractive storage vessel. I designed this piece based on the Kdat series. I enlarged the lower cavity to 150 ml with a smaller upper cavity. This determined the overall size, which is about 190 L x 90 W x 100 H mm. It has a single outer coat of Livos and will get a couple more.


Kdat2 is done and looking for a good home. Overall size is 200 mm long, 75 mm at the widest, 90 mm at the thickest. Weight is 360 g. There are 3 coats of coloured Livos finishing oil, and 2 clear coats. The magnetic latch works very well. Both the inside and outside have sensual shapes that are clearer to the hands than to the eyes. The inner shapes follow the lines of the outsides, but have their own distinct characters. The Livos finish is EU Food Safe, and will develop a nice patina through handling over the years.


Jayne was very generous on my birthday. Several items from my Lee Valley wish list arrived. This miniature vise was on the list as a potential “self-indulgence”. After 2 days work making the maple jaws and fitting everything, it’s now installed at the end of my large assembly table. For scale, the jaws are 20 cm in length.


This one will be called “Kdat2”. The Kdatlyno are an alien race in Larry Niven’s “Known Space” series, known for their touch sculptures.

The inset is a knob which actuates a magnetic latch. Although it would be possible to open the sculpture without using the knob, it would be difficult and likely to damage the seam. I’ve applied a first coat of coloured Livos finishing oil. It showed some areas which need some additional sanding, which I will tackle tomorrow. Then I’ll apply several more coats of finishing oil.


I tried to sell my old U-shaped office desk on Kijiji. Out of 100+ views, there were 4 responses. 3 dropped out when I told them where I am. The 4th low-balled me by half of my already low asking price. So yesterday Jayne helped me bring it to the shop where I partially disassembled it and rebuilt it. Here’s the result. It has wheels and bracing, and 2 shelves. The upper one uses the hardware from the keyboard shelf and the base of the U. The other is the cross brace from the left U arm. There are only 4 panels left over, which I will use for other shop projects. And yes, it’s heavy and solid!


I was sufficiently pleased with my 3D test item that I made 2 more. The red one was #2, the blue one #3. The red one is a minor modification of the first one, with additional bumps and protrusions. #3 is a separate design from a similar outline. It has a dorsal ridge and a ventral groove. They both are very tactile. Both are held together by embedded magnets and have a small cavity. The blue one will be listed on Etsy and in the online store here.


This was a project for my friends at Nine45 Designs. It’s a commission with a very general guideline of “Cribbage board with PEI”. I took an existing PEI GIS file and generated the track markers in Vectric VCarve Pro, then used the “Copy along vectors” tool to generate the peg holes. Mitchell and Liana will pour green epoxy in the PEI area, sand smooth, and finish with their special Board Butter. I am sure the new owner will be thrilled.


Jayne reminded me a few days ago that her mother’s birthday is imminent. So last night I designed a simple 3D form, almost on a whim. This morning I put an offcut from the thermo-kinetic sculpture on the CNC and cut out the pieces. I had to resize to fit the materials, but otherwise there was no problem. At least, until I noticed that the 3D Roughing on the second part was cutting through to the inside cavity. I finished everything anyway, then took a while to analyze the error. I suspect that I didn’t fully recalculate all the toolpaths before saving them. In any case, the second attempt was successful.

There was quite a bit of sanding, some of it by hand. The hollows are still not as smooth as the convex areas. In any case, there are now 2 coats of Livos oil on the “good” pieces. The “mistake” piece will join my learning gallery.


This is a set of files from Michael Tyler on the Vectric site. It took most of 2 afternoons to cut the parts. The wheels and features are two-sided. I used pieces of pallet wood that my neighbour Grant gave me earlier this year. I have no idea what the woods are. Being pallet wood, there are many imperfections, which I left where they occurred. The wood is unfinished. My intent is for Grant or Melissa to finish them if they choose, then give them to their 2 kids as presents from all of us.


Christmas presents! Both designs are courtesy of Vectric. The “Sporktulas” are by Tim Sway, and the “Catch-all Tray” is by Todd, a regular contributor to the “Project of the Month” at Vectric. With those complete, my Christmas “shopping” is almost done.


Here is the parent, and the 4 descendants. Each of the smaller Cold Traps is numbered and signed. I think the official name of this limited edition is “Cold Trap DISPSY x/4” where x<=4.


The limited edition of the smaller Cold Trap sculpture, “DISPSY”, is ready. Each has been tested and set for random light play. The colouring on each is different in detail, but all with the concept of yellow for areas that might be permanently in the sun, blue for possible permanently shaded areas holding water. Green and orange are randomly applied, signifying possible mineral deposits. Tomorrow I’ll take presentation photos.

In this morning’s news was an item that the presence of solid CO2 has been confirmed in some extreme cold trap areas, mainly in the Amundsen and Haworth craters. Both are featured on these sculptures. Amundsen is just to the right of the green area in the lower right image above.


Livos finishing oil makes the Walnut quite a bit darker, producing a rich contrast with the Maple. These were quite a bit more work that I anticipated, and they could certainly be a better fit, but overall I’m satisfied.


The second iteration is much better fitted. This time I resized the drawer outlines instead of offsetting them. And the resize was a fraction of a millimetre inward. Then I sanded as lightly as possible, just to remove tool marks. This one is usable, ready for the Livos finish.


The final epoxy coat went on the DISPSYs today, along with random colour inclusions. There’s no obvious difference from the previous photo. After that was done I tackled a small project based on a recent post on the Vectric forum. Member “zaxis” posted about CNC versions of band saw boxes that allow design options not otherwise possible. I examined her/his file, then designed my own. I missed a critical factor though. Doing a pattern offset doesn’t accurately reproduce the shape, it loosens the curves. I didn’t realize that until I fitted the drawers in their cavities. The fits are very loose. Maybe I can cushion them with felt runners. but the shape still isn’t exact.

The other issue is that a single box took all afternoon. This is not something I plan to make in volume!


The second black tinted epoxy layer made a vast difference. I added some red sparkle as well, which will give the finish a texture and red highlights. The third layer will have random coloured areas in some of the craters and highlands.

Each light cylinder has 1250 mm of colour-chasing LED ribbon, activated by a controller in the base. Each has been tested before final assembly.


The first layer of black tinted epoxy always soaks in to the point where you think that maybe more tint would have helped. It probably wouldn’t. The variations will even out with additional coats. I had hoped to apply a second coat a day later, but the surfaces were still quite tacky. As it turned out, Tuesday was very busy with other priorities. The original “Cold Trap” will be on display at the Nine 45 booth at the Toronto Cottage Show / Seasons Christmas Show at the International Centre 12-14 November.


I decided to make some smaller versions of “Cold Trap”. The image is from Clementine, the same as for “Oh My Darling!” but otherwise these will be a limited edition of the “Cold Trap” style. The bases are 350 mm diameter. Each will have a single light cylinder with a total sculpture height of 490 mm. Yes, they will be “49ers”. Over the past few days I’ve machined the undersides, then the top sides in 3D. I received the LEDs and other components this past week, so now have everything needed to complete this limited edition. Each of the 4 will be numbered and signed. They will be priced very attractively, just in time for Solstice/Saturnalia/Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Festivus/Why not? shopping!


The “Erbschaft/Nahrung” Thermo-Kinetic sculpture project has moved to a dedicated page here.


Jayne asked for this for her birthday. I fit it in while waiting for epoxy to cure on the sculpture parts. The top and base were cut out on the CNC, as were the holes for the dowels. The shaft and details were done on my old machinist’s lathe. The top and bottom are Maple, the shaft is Roasted Maple. The shaft has a buffed-on layer of turner’s polish, then everything had a single coat of Livos Natural Oil finish.

Yes, she liked it!


A few days ago my neighbour Albert called to tell me that the Deli he owns with his wife Sandy is to be used as a movie location, and if I could make a 70’s style sign. He provided me with a couple of photos. I took them and created my own version using Affinity Photo and VCarve Pro. This is the result.

There are now 4 urn (or memory) boxes available. The green tinted one is at a retail establishment. I have added one with a blue tint. They are all in the 175-225 lb capacity (for ashes from a person). I am pursuing an opportunity with a retirees organization which will hopefully lead to ongoing work.


I keep making more urn boxes. These are all in the 175-225 lb capacity range. They all have magnetic releases. The one in the upper left has two magnets hidden in the front, they are released with anything ferrous. Canadian quarters work well. There is a retaining lip at the other side. The other two have four magnets each. The one in the front has a light green tint added to the finishing oil. The Spalted Maple took up the tint more than the Sugar Maple of the walls. The box in the back left has a top of lovely Tiger Maple. The corners are either FingerMaker CNC-cut finger joints or mitre joints reinforced with thin Walnut splines.


With both “Cold Trap” and “Oh My Darling” finished, I have gone back to a few smaller projects. Some time ago I did a proof of concept of a Tensegrity sculpture I called “Cat Tails” at Jayne’s suggestion. This morning I completed a nicer version, which I call “Cat Tails 2”. The bottom block is leftover Ash. The top block is leftover epoxy from the last few coats on the two LED sculptures. It is quite massive, so I was concerned about finding fishing line strong enough to support the weight as well as the tensional loads. The best I found is rated at 30 lb (14 kg). So far nothing has broken. The guitar tuners make adjustments easy.

Over time the epoxy “cat tails” have distorted slightly, putting the top off-centre. I doubt I’ll use epoxy for stressed components in any ongoing work.

Note the fly for scale.