Christmas nibbles

A great Christmas tradition in the UK is the humble mince pie. I must admit I am very partial to one (or two) of these but unfortunately I have to limit pastry intake.

Not to miss out on tradition, I took some food safe silicon and made a chocolate mould to form a tasty alternative. After melting the dark chocolate I mix in a few drops of peppermint oil and pour into the mould.

Simple as that and then onto a plate together with a few small Babybel cheeses for a treat that sums up what Christmas is all about…

MINT SPies small

…Mint Spies and baby cheeses.

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Dad

Dad was a wonderful, caring man who always worked long and hard to look after his six children, of which I was number 5.

But for all his efforts, he could never find peace with his spectacles. He seemed to be stuck in a loop as he would complain that he couldn’t see a thing through the lenses. We would take the glasses from him, clean the lenses and hand them back. As he returned the spectacles to his head and realised the clarity of vision he would simply say, “Oh, that’s better” and all was well again.

We would all have a good laugh about it but it wouldn’t be too long before his oily fingerprints adorned the clean glass and the loop would run another cycle.

After he passed away in 2013, I took a pair of his glasses and set them in clear resin and aluminium for Mum to keep as a fond reminder of the man she had been with for almost 60 years. I added the inscription on the base that summed up the amusement and entertainment he had provided over the years.

                “All the things I might have seen, if only I’d kept my glasses clean.”

In addition to this I carved an anchor into a piece of mahogany to celebrate his love of the sea and his fond memories of his days in the Navy.

Wedding Cheese Board

 

In addition to the traditional wedding cake the mirror cake stand was made for, the happy couple also decided to have a wedding ‘cheese cake’. Not an actual cheesecake but a three tier cake of ‘cheese’. As a nod to the groom’s home county of Lancashire, the cheese was purchased from the Dewlay cheese producers based in Garstang, Lancashire.

The tiers consisted of a large wheel of Creamy Lancashire cheese for the base which in turn supported a round of Garstang blue cheese with a smooth, Brie – like Garstang White sitting on top.

To elevate the cheese so as not to look too insignificant beside the wedding cake, I though a fourth wooden tier of ‘cheese’ would be quite effective. This base tier was once again formed from solid oak pieces to match the wood of the wedding cake stand. 32 individual oak segments were assembled to form the circular cheese sides in a similar way to the sides of the SS Pegu Guitar.

The top of the cheese was also made from solid Oak with the inscription carved around the central, sunken, happy couple’s initials which were made from a dark Walnut. A square base board was made with the names of the different cheeses carved into three of the corners, leaving the fourth corner free for later. The round cheese wall was then mounted on the square base before resting the Oak top in place to form the cheese.

Finally, the small pine, leather – eared mouse was set just outside his mouse hole in the fourth corner with a couple of Oak cheese wedges to keep him from starving.

A false top was made to be used when the cheese was sat in place so the carved Oak top would not be obscured or damaged during the wedding display.

As with the wedding cake stand, the cheese stand was made to be used long after the cheese cake had been enjoyed. The removable top enabled the stand to be used as a wedding keepsake box to preserve the happy couple’s memories well into their old age.

To top the cheese off, a small column of Oak was made with ‘Garstang’ and ‘Lancaster’ carved into the front and back to complete the ‘nod’ to the Groom’s home county. This was finished off with an additional Oak cheese wedge and a small mouse carved from the block of Walnut used for the couple’s initials in the lid

A further Oak mouse with pine belly was made to sit on the middle, Garstang Blue tier.

Wedding Cake Stand

 

A very special wedding called for a very special wedding cake stand. A wedding cake provides a splendid focal point to help make that special day pass with a little class and elegance. To enhance the stature of the cake, it is usually mounted on a grand and elaborate stand provided by the venue.

However, whilst the stand might be grand it does not necessarily convey that personal sentiment, as it may have previously been used for several wedding parties.

With this in mind, I thought a personalised cake stand that could be retained and used by the happy couple for years to come might make the event that little bit more special.

Owls have a very strong and emotional tie to this particular couple and the invitations went out with their own two ‘owl’ thumb prints sat on a branch. The ‘owl’ theme followed through the whole wedding and it only seemed fitting to reflect this in the cake stand.

Owl thumb prints

I thought, therefore, that the best way to reflect the theme was to make the stand a mirror that could be wall mounted afterwards and used for years to come. (The bonus being a constant reminder of the date, so the groom should never forget the anniversary).

Having sandblasted the thumb print design on the back of the mirror, to remove the reflective coating, I painted the appropriate colours before setting the mirror in the frame. The frame is formed from solid Oak and sloped backwards to give the cake a lift whilst used as a stand.

The cake continued the ‘Owl’ theme with two iced owls sat on top and a stream of pine cones down the corner. The pine cones had become an addition to the theme as the planning unfolded and the cake captured this perfectly.

Well done to Lincolnshire based Tracey for the beautiful cake that not only looked stunning, but tasted divine with its’ four individually flavoured tiers that were baked to perfection.

SS PEGU GUITAR BUILD (part 5 – complete)

 

The Pegu Guitar is now complete (in build anyway). See where it started here.

The bridge is a temporary component and is not actually fastened to the guitar. As the bracing system is quite radically different to traditional acoustic guitar construction, the traditional bridge does not interact sufficiently to get the most from the bracing. I now need to experiment with numerous alternatives before I can settle on the best design to compliment the bracing.

This has been a project with a strong sense of salvage and marine theme. All the woods used have been gathered from stock that has been sidelined for many years. The Cedar front was abandoned long ago due to it being too thin in places. The Honduras Mahogany neck and back and Ebony fret board were gathering dust on the shelves of a retired local Luthier. The aluminium parts were salvaged from the stand of my old fish tank (which appropriately housed marine fish) and of course, the Teak sides were salvaged from the SS Pegu after spending 94 years on the sea bed.

The initial reason to build a guitar was to use the Cedar that had been sitting at the back of a cupboard for over 20 years. Although not the perfect example, I thought it a shame if this wood did not get used. This led me to think about using it for an experiment or two which in turn led me to consider an alternative method of guitar side construction – hence the ship’s decking idea.

As the tone of the guitar was not likely to be its’ best feature, the Teak from the Pegu proved to be ideal as it was authentic decking timber and had such a rich history behind it. This also allowed me to experiment with my idea for the alternative bracing which I’d originally tried in the past with the Pentagon guitar. As the Pentagon guitar is now over 20 years old and has stood the full tension of strings throughout its’ life, it provided a lot of information as to the longevity of the system.

Together with the Pentagon guitar, I also made a guitar body with the bracing system which was left incomplete and has gathered dust ever since. These two provided invaluable information regarding the effect of full tension and no tension.

As a result, I have been able to modify the bracing to overcome slight problems discovered from the originals.

Woods used in the construction include: –

  • Cedar
  • Honduras Mahogany
  • Oak
  • Wenge
  • Purple Heart
  • Walnut

Plus an amount of aluminium and a small strip of copper.

SS PEGU GUITAR BUILD (PART 4)

 

 

The 8th July 2017 marked the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the SS PEGU. Although I had hoped to complete the Pegu guitar on this date, unfortunately, time (and other jobs) have beaten me. However, I have managed to complete all parts with the final piece being a small chromed anchor set in clear resin within an aluminium sleeve.

Although the guitar was not completed, the final part was fabricated on this day and all parts were placed together to give an impression of the finished product.

I managed to salvage yet more aluminium from my former fish tank frame to make the tail piece for the guitar. As the job of the tail piece is to anchor the strings to the base of the guitar, I thought (as there is a nautical theme going on here) that I would make this to resemble the shape of an actual anchor.

This also means the guitar sits between an anchor at the top and bottom with the tension of the strings seemingly holding them together.

I have designed the top of the fret board in an unconventional manner incorporating a ‘Zero’ fret in place of the usual nut and an aluminium name plate which the stings pass through on their way to the machine heads. Above the PEGU name plate sits the truss rod cover which I have made from the mahogany offcuts from the neck. The cover is fashioned on a yacht‘s decking to go with the theme of the main body sides.

With all parts completed, I now have to glue it all together and affix bindings etc to make the finished product at least look like a professional job. Hopefully, this will not take too long…

Next Part 5 (complete)

SS PEGU GUITAR BUILD (PART 3)

This section of the build sees the initial development of the back, neck and fret board. In keeping with the ‘salvage’ theme that seems to be growing as the build progresses, I have managed to find some more excellent pieces that have been sitting waiting for this guitar.

Just a couple of miles from where I live is a wonderful semi-retired luthier (Fred Laugharne) who had some well aged and seasoned timbers that had been in storage since the early 90’s. Fred had some Honduras Mahogany pieces perfect for the back and neck and also some wonderful Ebony banks for the fret board. The beauty of this ebony is that it is from the time when ebony was still uniformly black.

In addition to the timber from Fred, I found a Wenge turning blank 50mm x 50mm x 200mm hidden away in my garage that I had forgotten I had. It has been there for at least 20 years so that had to be used somewhere on this guitar. I sliced it into several thin sections and used this to face off the head-stock and to make the bridge.

Progress: –

Back

The two pieces of the back have been joined and smooth sanded to the desired thickness and cut to shape. I have also inlaid a decorative Satinwood binding down the centre.

Neck

So far I have shaped the head-stock and roughly cut the neck to shape. The strip of Oak running through the centre of the head-stock and into the neck is to offer strength to the scarf joint at the head and also to give a little decoration to the rear of the guitar.

The oak towards the heel will also serve for strength and decoration when the rest of the heel and body joint is built up.

The Copper logo inlaid in the Wenge head veneer is shaped from a single strand of copper wire from 30amp cooker cable. Each wire strand is approximately 1.2mm thick so the lettering groove was cut out to a depth of 0.6mm and the wire strand glued into position. Once firmly set, the protruding face of the wire was sanded flat to the face of the head veneer. This gives the effect of the Copper inlay being cut from a flat piece of Copper and is quite effective when it catches the light.

The fret board has been slotted for a 640mm scale length (approximately 25.2 inches) and has been radius shaped to 250mm (10 inch) at the nut through 291mm (11 ¾ inch) at the 12th fret (and so on). The current plan is to use a ‘zero fret’ instead of a traditional nut but that may change in the near future.

Bridge

The bridge is shaped from the Wenge to match the head veneer and will be complemented by an aluminium tail piece as the next part of the build.

Next Part 4

Handmade creations