Creature comforts, Self help on the food side.

Posted by tony on Apr 24, 2009

Well I feel that Spring has truly come at last after a week of glorious sunshine in Norfolk.
The only dark cloud on the scene, I nearly said horizon but it has been sitting overhead for the last few months, is the economic one.
To combat the cost of living many people are turning to their gardens and growing their own fruit and vegetables. Others are going that one step further and looking to put meat on the table. I don’t advocate a cow in the back yard but fresh eggs would be a great way to start. Keeping hens is moving away from a fashion statement and into reality for a large number of people.
I have been getting a few enquiries about building ‘boxes’ for livestock and have been happy to meet the requirements of the asker. In fact it has opened up a new line of business that I have found very enjoyable.
If you look back at my blogs you should see my first hen house. This turned out to be a little fanciful but does the trick and houses happy hens. I have kept my latest house (will house 2-6, buy cialis online hens are very gregarious so don’t get just 1) to the more traditional design and my last client was extremely happy with it. I left it in a natural state and she tells me that she has painted it a summer blue colour, I shall try to get a picture to include. Many sites offer hen houses and they look very nice, so do the prices. Being semi-retired I don’t look for maximum profit; I prefer to go for satisfied customers and thus my prices seem suicidal compared to commercial firms.
Each house is mounted on a separate base, has a 2 compartment nest box, pop hole with sliding door, a rear panel that is completely removable and a floor that can be taken out for easy cleaning. They are constructed in 25mm thick tongue and groove redwood so when painted or treated should last a good length of time.
Who knows, Rabbits could be next.
Get in touch and see what I can do for you.
The only thing I cannot do is deliver free. On items this size it is either collect or pay for delivery I’m afraid. I can deliver in person if you are within 40miles radius but there would be a fee of 50p per mile to cover fuel costs.

Help the World with your PC Box

Posted by tony on Mar 12, 2009

Have just recently been involved with a world wide group of people who help each other with the problems they have with their PCs (Personal Computers). The friendliness of strangers is amazing and contrary to what one reads in the press not everyone is out to fleece their fellow man.
What has this got to do with boxes? you may ask. Well most peoples computer is a box under the desk or on the table in the corner and boxes can be very useful for a variety of things. Inside this particular box is a processor that can be utilised for the benefit of mankind. Sounds very high and mighty I know but when you think about it you can be doing something positive for science without really having to do much at all.
I speak of the ‘World Community Grid’. Take a moment to browse to their home page and see what they are all about. Better still go to the PCHF ( and join our team. It only takes moments and is perfectly safe. Go on give it a go, it costs nothing and is invaluable.

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Summer time ends

Posted by tony on Oct 26, 2008

Well here we are once more at the end of a glorious summer. I don’t remember ever seeing so much rain over the summer months. One thing it has done is keep me busy inside the workshop. I had one very rewarding commision from a totally unexpected source, not financially but more in satisfaction. I was asked to produce some display boxes for the Garmin company ( and I was delighted by the reception they had, boosted my self esteem no end.
Another line of work was quite local and meant constructing a number of large external boxes for floral garden displays. These were well received and with luck could lead to more requests.
The terrible financial state of the country (world) will inevitably lead to a much harder task of gaining commissions but one can only plug along and hope that the downturn will not be too prolonged.
I have several items that I am working on at the moment, none are commissioned but I can’t stand being idle so I shall be firing up the old wood stove in the workshop and with a little diligence should be posting the items on the web


site in the not to distant future.
Stay warm and dry.

WWII Ammunition Boxes

Posted by tony on Jun 8, 2008

During the Second World war many prisoners, captured by our forces, were sent here to England and kept in in various camps around the country.

I can remember my Father telling me about this when I was of an early age. He became an apprentice carpenter when he left school but then of course got drafted to fight for King and Country. I know he hated every minute but still had a few tales to tell on the very rare occasions that he spoke of his exploits.

It seems that a lot of these prisoners came from the Italian army and quite a few of them were pretty good with the tools of the trade. A lot of furniture produced at the time was the handywork of these prisoners. Along with most everything else, materials of any kind were in short supply so, just as today, recycling was a must and, mend and make do, was the order of the day. One thing that didn’t seem to be too rare was the subject of this post, i.e. Ammunition boxes.

The pieces produced were, I believe, known as wartime utility furniture. Utility they may have been but practical, strong, useful and attractive they certainly were, all-be-it they were generally a uniform dark Oak in colour.

I was given just such a piece, a drop flap desk, by an ex work collegue and friend several years ago and sad to say it has been moldering in the shed ever since. Regretably the lower section was infested with wood worm and had to be destroyed but I did salvage some good sized pieces from the upper section and both drawers from the centre piece. The latter now hold my planes in one and my toy templates in the other.

As the drop flap was quite nicely crafted with a central moulded panel I based my box on the dimensions of the flap. This has to be the largest box I have made (700mm x 300mm x300mm) and with the timber being 20mm thick it is quite heavy. One thing that has me puzzled is the wood itself. It

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looks like Oak, it is as hard as Oak (Oak gets harder as it ages) but it does not smell like Oak when it is cut. Fresh cut Oak, dried or green, has one of the nicest of aromas imaginable, to a carpenter anyway, this stuff has a most unpleasant pong, almost dungy. I can only think that it comes from the finish that was applied to the wood to stain and polish it. Anyone reading this with any ideas please let me know.

Anyhow, having sized and cut the various pieces, with breaths of fresh air every now and again, I have turned the drop flap desk into a free standing chest with lockable lid, or it will be if I can find a key to fit the original lock. One problem with using recycled timber, especially if it has been formed, stained and polished for a long period of time, is that it is fairly well set into its shape and in this case the pieces that formed the sides of the desk were very definitely cupped over their length. Getting the mitred edges to line up was quite a task as it just would not pass through the saw at a constant angle.

We crafters in wood now have access to many little tricks and compounds that conceal a lot of our mistakes so unless one examines the piece closely it looks just fine, after all everyone knows that a good painting or piece of art looks better from a distance.

Just to reassure you, now that it is finished, it has quite a pleasant smell to it. As a bonus I have had our local Locksmith make up 2 keys for it that will be supplied.

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Posted by tony on Jun 5, 2008

What have chickens got to do with box making? I hear you ask.

Well, my youngest son has got it into his head that if Mum says he can’t have a dog or cat for a pet then let’s at least get a pet that will give something back.

Many years ago when self sufficiency was all the rage (mid 70’s and ‘Tom & Barbara Good) I was hooked by it and have recently been telling Alexander about my various exploits and my first move to Norfolk with some friends.

I managed to buy a run down cottage with a large garden which took all my money and most of my time. I kept chickens, ducks, rabbits and my faithful old pooch Lindy, sadly missed and never replaced, she couldn’t be anyway.

To come back to the present, what we need now is a big box for the chickens to live in, hence the connection. I have to admit to wanting to cheat and save time by just buying a house for them but after a little research and huge intakes of breath through the teeth (remember the time you spoke to the garage mechanic when your car needed fixing) I knuckled down and got out the sketchpad for a little designing. One thing I discovered is that chickens seem to be the latest “must have” fashion accessory and believe it or not I came across lime green and purple plastic monstrosities that were selling for anything up to £800

As we have told him that 3 chickens will be more than enough to look after, it didn’t have to be of shed proportions. So together we sat down and designed his house and run. It is of typical ark construction made with 50mmx50mm and tongue and groove cladding, all left over from when I built the potting shed for the wife. I always say no piece of timber is too small to be of use and this proved to be the case here as the top of the arc needed parts less than 100mm wide. The hinges for the access flaps were recovered from an old pine display unit that I have just refurbished for a client, they were a little bent but nothing that couldn’t be cured in the vice with a few clumps from the old hammer. All in all I have only spent time so it has been a good project. The expense comes when the birds are purchased.

I worked for a couple of years in the poultry trade, back when birds were housed in cages, some still are unfortunately, so I am well aware of the horrors of battery farming. Not wishing to divert too much from the subject but I hope you will believe me when I say that all of us who worked on those farms spent a lot of time and energy on the welfare of the birds and a lot of the drama in the media was directed towards the horror sites which was a very small minority on the whole. I am glad it is now finished but if you want cheap eggs….. I shall now climb down from my soap box. There’s a thought.. make a soap box.

The next part is the run. I know it sounds very romantic to have chickens wandering around the garden and yes they eat lots of insects and creepy crawlies but they will also devour just about anything that is green and we would like to have the vegetables on our plates next to the chicken not inside the chicken. Woops!!  horror story, no no I am not going to eat his pets they are for the eggs not the table. Besides which Mum will be even less keen if they ate all her flowers as well. I remember a goat we once kept that managed to get into the next door neighbours garden and ate all his onions. We milked her the next morning, as usual but had to throw it away as it tasted, you guessed it, of very strong onion.

Back to the run. A very simple construction of 3 triangular shaped sections covered with chicken wire and simply attached to the chicken house

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with a couple of quick release clips to assist in easy moving. This will be part of Alexanders routine husbandry to give them a fresh patch of grass every day. It remains to be seen when the novelty wears off but I am hopeful he will stick at it.

 Awaiting Livestock

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Build a Box

Posted by tony on May 5, 2008

Just thought it might be interesting to show the steps taken for construction of my Maple and Yew box.

First, cut your timber. I show it here as the pieces ready for assembly.

Obviously there was a fair amount of preparation before this stage as I started out with two very rough lengths of timber. These had to be sized and planed. The Maple for the main body was squared, but as the Yew lid is the guide for the box contours and it has such a nice waney (yes waney not wavy, woodworkers term) edge to it, I just cut it to length.

The next step is the glue up. For this I used beech biscuits. These are not for eating but are oven baked. They are let into pockets cut into the timber and when glue is applied, they swell up and give a really strong joint with invisble fixings. No nails or screws in my boxes, unless for hardware fixings.

Glued and cramped

You can never have too

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many clamps.

The next picture shows the lid just resting in place before the hinge is attached. If you enlarge the picture (click on it) and look closely you can see where I have contoured the edges to follow the natural curves of the lid.Yew Lid

I always have problems with hinges and this was to prove troublesome as well. Because the lid is angled from back to front at 10 degrees the hinge had to be let into the back at the same angle. The difficulty was getting it to lay correctly, otherwise the front of the lid sits up off the front and the hinge acts a bit like a spring. Being a power tool junky I prefer to use as little effort as possible in making cuts (keeps down costs and prices), but this little devil proved that hand tools were to be the only way; 20 minutes of careful work with a sharp chisel.Hinge in place

With the hardware in place we are ready for the finishing. I have decided to forgo my usual choice of beeswax and instead will apply several coats of Danish Oil. This should bring up the colours of the wood, especially the Yew. Before that however comes the sanding, down through the grit sizes to give the smoothest possible surface, I normally end up using 0000 gauge steel wool; just have to be extra careful on the Yew as there are cracks and knots that could trap the steel fibres. If you ever try this on Oak the trapped fibres turn the wood black.

Have a look in the ‘Boxes’ section to see the finished article.

Dust and Safety

Posted by tony on Apr 15, 2008

I have always been very aware of the amount of dust created in the workshop. This is very apparent when the cobwebs become visible up in the rafters. Read the rest of this entry »

Spalted Hornbeam

Posted by webmaster on Apr 15, 2008

I found a source of a very interesting timber from a company called Stiles & Bates several months ago and thought I’d have a try at working with it. I have not seen it available before so was intrigued to see what it would look like. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by tony on Apr 9, 2008

Took delivery of my new thicknesser this afternoon from Axminster Power Tool Centre ( For those of you not in the know, it is a very useful device for ensuring that the timber thickness is uniform for the whole length of the piece. Read the rest of this entry »

Masking Tape jointing

Posted by tony on Apr 4, 2008

I dare say that there are many woodworkers out there that have their own tried and tested ways of assembling multi-sided boxes.

I have seen all sorts of different ways to draw all


the pieces together once glued but I have always found that, unless you have at least six hands, the pieces slip slide all over the place with the glue acting more like a lubricant than a sticky surface. Read the rest of this entry »