Workshop Update

The enforced national lockdown back in March last year began just before we were about to travel to Jersey to see our daughter, so instead I had the added bonus of a week off spent in my workshop.

Having managed to get to grips with my newly purchased CNC machine by making some signs, clocks and a crib board for my dad, I was keen to explore new things to make. I’d also ordered a pallet of hardwood from eBay, which would give me plenty of material to use as well.

Firstly, I wanted to try to produce a brass stamp on the CNC which seemed quite a cool thing to try to make. I had already ordered some brass blocks from eBay and so set about designing the stamps on the Vectrix software. The plan was to make a stamp that could be used for embossing my woodwork pieces; my very own makers mark. What I didn’t realise was that cutting metal, even a soft metal like brass, isn’t as easy as you think. My first attempt caused the router bit to break but once I’d sussed out the correct feed and speeds needed I managed to produce a pretty functional stamp.

I then thought I’d have a go at making some cutting boards, again out of left over oak worktop, but this time I wanted to try engraving onto them using the CNC. I made three different sized boards and a stand and then used the CNC to produce some pretty good looking boards.

Having no use for the boards I stored them away after first sharing photos on Instagram and shortly after an ex-colleague reached out for me to see if I would make her a set. As they were not required at home, I duly posted them to her and are now regularly used in her kitchen. Another project successfully completed.

Over the next few months my CNC output increased as I grew more confident in designing and creating new things. I even managed to get a couple of commissions from a chap in Scotland having seen my photos on social media.

Firstly he asked if I could make him a sign for his newly installed hot tub and then a sign for a work colleague. He loved them, especially as I only charged him for the postage.

Ideas were coming thick and fast by the time we came out of lockdown, not before dabbling in making some keyring, nick-nack trays and boxes, more signs and BBQ trays.

As the workshop warmed up in the summer, my activity slowed as the temperatures got unbearable but I still managed to knock out some football signs for friends and family.

In my next blog post I’ll run through some other projects including making beer bottle openers, signs for the garden, a box for a baby and a clock for my dad for Fathers Day.

Making Stuff Part 7

9FDE377F-98C5-45F3-9DB6-F0E131B0E1D0_1_105_cHaving started my CNC journey in such a positive manner, it nearly all went up in flames…literally!

7CDE102E-C670-4749-8DA2-0C9301547E6E_1_105_cI’d continued to machine some of the designs I’d created in VCarve, inspired by ideas I’d seen in Pinterest and other online sites. As an avid Watford fan I had taken an image of the club badge and imported into the design programme, converted it to vectors and worked out the tool-paths needed to create a 2.5D version of the badge. I then set the machine up to create the model using a scrap piece of MDF, securing the wood down using masking tape and super glue (an idea I’d seen on YouTube).

Considering this was one of the first jobs completed in MDF, I was pleased with the outcome and spurred me on to produce more things. 4706B9E2-D1D8-43A5-A90D-891EB5D14EFF_1_105_c

Another one of the Pinterest ideas I’d seen was a wooden clock with the numbers cut out so I thought I’d give it a go. I used VCarve to outline the design and found a bit of pine which was an ideal size for the job. Again, I set up the tool-paths and sent the instructions to the machine. CF906E97-E64E-4B19-B2B1-9110A049033C_1_105_cI will admit that watching the CNC follow the paths is mesmerising as it slowly reveals the piece you’ve created. I also added some VCarve text to the centre and amazingly I had a completed clock.

I’d purchased a cheap quartz clock from Ebay and soon had a working timepiece hanging from my garage wall.


0C39D8C5-4994-4B7D-84D3-341E42A31342_1_105_cBuoyed on from the successes I’d had so far, I decided to try making a newer version of the joined hearts, using a slightly thicker piece of oak. I had changed the design in VCarve to improve the shape and make the base more sturdy. Again, I secured the timber on the board using my tape and superglue trick and set the machine going.

And then disaster struck.

569E0BE3-C5D5-48F3-A435-1D47A3AE10F0_1_105_c As the router began it’s second tool-path run, it suddenly veered off in the wrong direction, slicing through part of the work piece. I stopped the machine and took the wood off the spoil board.

I then ran the file again, without the wood, trying to understand what had gone wrong. This time the machine went haywire, with the router plunging straight into the spoil board. I sent the machine back to home but forgot to switch off the router and it cut a channel the length of the board below and then proceeded to start drilling into the MDF beneath, causing a small amount of smoke. I cut the power to the router, hit the emergency button, which switches off the power to the duet board and killed all processes running.

I then went about testing the safety switches, which should have prevented this incident from occurring and found that one of the wires to the Z Axis arm had been severed by the wheels. This meant the CNC couldn’t detect when the router had reached the bottom of it’s reach and tried to drill through the spoil board and, if I’d not stopped it, my bench too!

I soon repaired the wire, enclosing it in piece of sheathing for added protection and retested the switch, making sure it stopped the arm when it was closed. CB5F309B-7312-4EC4-A46C-BEB2D14FDF73_1_105_cDisaster averted.

Next, was to try the machine out in cutting acrylic (perspex) having bought a sheet of A3 from Ebay for £6. Again, I wanted to have a go at making a clock as I’d seen a great design on Pinterest and thought I could reproduce it in plastic. The router bits I’d bought from Oooznest were idea for cutting acrylic and make quick work of the design I’d created in VCarve Desktop.

56ECDE98-A980-4625-A16D-DF1D87ED4276_1_105_cI used another of the quartz clocks I’d bought from Ebay and presented it to Tina, as she’d said she needed one in her sewing room. I was pleased with the look, although next time I may try to add an LED to back light the numbers, to help them stand out a bit.

So I was really now progressing my designs into reality and getting pleasing results so I decided to get a bit more ambitious and create a crib board for my dad’s birthday, taking the idea from the Vectric website.

More of this on my next update.


gardenIt’s been a couple of months since my last post, with complete apathy taking hold and preventing me from sitting down and writing anything of note. Whilst there have been things happening; a garden remake and running a work-based trial taking me away from my normal day-to-day stuff in the office to name but a few, I really couldn’t be bothered to document these in my usual blogging fashion.

The garden remake came about following a decision to try to sort out an area adjacent the patio which had been left as the only part of the outdoors  that Rio has access to grass; except that he’d dug it all up and we had been left with a mud bath, which he regularly brought indoors. Eventually the area had to be ‘electric fenced’ off, something we’d had to do before when we realised Rio was a digger. Anyway, last month we got around to getting someone to sort out the patch and replace a wonky fence too and now it looks much better.

At work I’ve been busy helping to rollout a trial way of working, with lots of conference calls and a bit of travelling, keeping me away from my normal duties. It also gave me time to develop a method of capturing real-time overtime claimed by engineers which looks like it might get adopted nationally if all goes well.

IMG_2581But the main topic I have been meaning to write about but scared to do so in case of jinxing the team was to capture my thoughts and hopes with my beloved Watford Football Club. At the start of this season I wrote about the anticipation of the new season and in February about my thoughts around the surprise performance of the team up to that point. Since then there has been highs and lows, culminating in a visit to Wembley on Monday when Watford played in the Championship Playoff Final against Crystal Palace. Getting there was quite a ride though; with the team so nearly achieving automatic promotion on the last day of the season, losing to Leicester in the first leg of the playoff semi-final and then securing a dramatic win at Vicarage Road to send them through to the £120 million final this week.

IMG_2583Obtaining tickets to the game was going to be difficult, but with both Matt and I having seen the team a couple of times this season we had sufficient buying evidence to secure four tickets. With the game a sell out it was promising to be a fantastic end to the season, with the favourites, Watford, looking to round off an amazing, albeit, surprising season with promotion to the top flight.

Alas it wasn’t to be, with the best team on the day, Crystal Palace, gaining the victory that ensured a healthy bank balance for the club for the next five years or so. I enjoyed the day out though; my first visit to the national stadium and despite the result am looking forward to next season, where hopefully the team will learn from the experience and be mentally stronger to go for outright promotion.

Italian hornets

watford_badgeWhen the Pozzo family, the Italian owners of Seria A side Udinese and Spanish La Liga side Grenada bought Watford FC in the summer and then immediately sacked the existing fans favourite manager Sean Diche and replaced him with Chelsea old boy Gianfranco Zola I must admit I was a bit apprehensive over what was to come.

And then when we started seeing a number of ‘loanees’ brought in, there was much concern amongst fans and the wider footballing community as to whether it was good for the future of the football club and the game to see a squad built in this way. The family stated there was cash available for transfers but very little ‘bought’ talent was introduced. They also downgraded the Youth Academy, which will significantly reduce the chance of bringing on new players to play in the first team and beyond, although its good to see that players that have made it through have been offered longer term contracts.

As the team started to settle down and begin to string a few good results together, playing a style of football not seen at Vicarage Road for many years, fans were slowly coming around to the ‘Italian Experiment’ and observing some attractive, attacking football at the same time. Critics weren’t so complementary, stating the Pozzo’s had created a football factory and would become a feeder club to sell their players onto other teams. Fortunately that doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment, with only a couple of players who were in place before the new owners took over being sold in the January transfer window.

With a good run of form in the back end of last year and a number of wins so far in 2013 Watford are now up to fourth place in the Championship, one point off an automatic play-off position, things are looking ‘Pozzotive’ with the prospect of Premiership football becoming a reality next season. That might mean that some of the loan players may actually need to be bought if the team are to survive at the top level but at least they have indicated this will happen.

And so in the meantime, fans are being urged to relax and enjoy the ride as it could be quite an exciting end to the season.

New Season

And they’re off!

With so many changes at Watford FC I think there are a number of supporters (including me) who are apprehensive as to how the new manager and players would fare this season. Most pundits have written them off and with a poor pre-season campaign, only winning one game, the signs are not great. I hope that they settle down quickly, getting a few wins under their belt early on to ease supporters fears, but somehow I don’t think Watford will do so.

I didn’t tempt fate with putting Watford in my top or bottom three of my league predictions; a mid-to-top placing will be fine.

One thing I am looking forward is the banter Matt and I will be having with Abby’s boyfriend Loz, who is an ardent Birmingham City fan; that should give the season some edge.

As I type this Watford have just drawn 2-2 in their first game of the Championship, after initially leading 0-2; two goals by two new boys is an encouraging start.

Birmingham lost 🙂

Father’s Day

20110629-041854.jpgWhat do you get a dad who has everything?

Well from Matt I got a bit of a surprise in the form of a gnome. But it was no ordinary gnome; it was a Watford FC Hornets gnome. It now has pride and place in my study.

From Abby I got something a bit different; a iTunes voucher. And with the iTunes voucher I purchased a copy of the latest version of a application from Apple called Motion 5. This editing software allows you to create special effects for videos. And it is fantastic. It is so flexible you can create some excellent clips to use in your movies. In fact I believe many professionals use a version in conjunction with Final Cut Pro, a high end video editing package.

So armed with iMovie, Motion 5 and a few photos and videos of Tina I remade the classic part of the film in Love Actually where Mark creates a video of his secret love Juliet, played by Keira Knightley.

A bit soppy but a great way to show my newly made titles sequence made in Motion 5 🙂

I did try to upload it with the Eva Cassidy track ‘Songbird’ as that was the song used in the original film but it looks like YouTube’s copyright policy wouldn’t allow it.

So you will just have to hum it instead!

Watford Clearance Sale

It was pretty obvious with the club in such a precarious financial state the inevitable end of season sale was going to happen and today, with the loss of Manager Malky Mackay to Cardiff City, it looks like things have really gone from bad to worse.

Last week’s transfer of the season’s Championship top scorer Danny Graham to newly promoted Swansea City was always likely to happen, but it was hoped that our young Manager would stick with the Hornets, especially as he signed a new three year contract in March.

I do wonder if the new incoming Manager, whoever is appointed, will be able to continue where Malky left off, especially with such a young and inexperienced squad. Clearly Malky had a way of motivating beyond the expectations of most supporters, and critics, which I guess is why he was poached away.

I think for a Watford supporter it is going to be a long season.

I was chatting to a fellow Watford supporter I have known for a long time today and he was telling me about how he enquired about selling his Watford shares he bought about twelve years ago. He said he had fifty thousand shares at a penny a share and thought it would be a good time to cash them in, giving him a nice five hundred quid. When he rang his broker he discovered that since purchasing his shares there had been many share options since he bought his, meaning he actually only had the equivalent of fifty shares rather than fifty thousand. A quick calculation and the realisation that the value of his shares were now worth only fifty pence meant that he decided to keep the shares after all.

I guess promotion next season might help them increase in value, but I don’t think that is very likely!

Slippery Slope

Watford FC suffered another defeat last night, what a contrast to two months ago when they beat club records in winning seven games on the trot. The hornets are now eight games without a win and sliding rapidly down the league table.

Matt was unfortunate enough to go and watch them last night the text he sent me after the match summed up his frustration “Absolutely awful!”. I listened to the commentary of the game and it sounded like they are a team lacking confidence and some experienced defenders. Unfortunately, with such a youthful side, it was always going to be a tough season and it looks like the critics are going to be proved right.

Another massive disadvantage is the Vicarage Road pitch, which by all accounts,  is very poor. The main reason for this is that Saracens Rugby Club share the ground at present, hopefully things will improve next season when they move away to another venue, leaving the pitch solely for football use.

I hope Watford have secured sufficient points to stay out of the relegation zone as at present I cannot see them winning too many more games based on their current form.


Geordie lads bring their Tyne fog with them!

Matt & I drove down to see our beloved Watford play Crystal Palace last night, except for most of the second half we didn’t see due to very foggy conditions.

The first half was fairly even with Watford getting the upper hand, only for Palace to equalise shortly before the break.

Then on came the half time entertainment; Ant & Dec recording a piece for their TV show. There was some sort of penalty shoot out against ex-Wales keeper Neville Southall, who had obviously put on a few pounds since retiring form between the sticks.

The crowd had great fun in ribbing the two Geordie lads with chants such as “You dir-ty nor-thern bastards, you dir-ty nor-thern bastards” and ‘Andy…Andy Carroll’; a reference to the ex-Newcastle player who transferred to Liverpool this week. This amusingly chant this led to a reaction from Ant pretending to cry towards the crowd!

And no sooner had they departed the pitch then the fog descended!

In fact it got to a point where we struggled to see the beyond the half way line and if it had got any worse there was a real danger of the game being abandoned.

When Palace were attacking up the other end, it was left to the crowd to sum it up by singing “we can’t see a fuck-ing thing, we can’t see a fuck-ing thing”.

So in the end the game was drawn; a fair result, meaning Watford keep their 7th place in the League, but I do feel it was a missed opportunity as they should have won the game.

Still we would probably have missed any further goals anyway, judging by the amount of fog towards the end of the game!