Door Knocker for my Farrier Friend

20th Nov 2016

A House Warming Gift

For Steph & Jeramy

Made from Island grown Old Growth Fir

A young couple asked me to make them a door knocker for their new home on a their 5 acre rural property. She being a farrier gave me a horseshoe as a starting point . The farriers driving hammer was found on eBay . The anvil is a scaled down version of the one she uses every day in her business .

It is so good to know these enterprising kids !


Plein Air Watercolour- DIY Easel Kit

17th Oct. 2016

Plein Air Watercolour- DIY  Easel Kit


My Plein Air Kit

Crystal Cove – McKenzie Beach, Tofino


Making do using the Walkstool as a table 🙁

I occasionally , and usually while camping take along a small watercolour kit to do some travel sketching . Finding a spot where it is both comfortable to sit and have good sight of the subject is not easy .

On a recent trip to Crystal Cove on my first day found a conveniently sited picnic table . The following day I moved to the beach proper where I spread my stuff out along a beached log and impovised a table on my folding 3 legged stool . While this worked it was not very satisfactory as brushes rolled away my water pot slipped off which caused me to hasten my work and retreat thinking I needed to think of ways improve my setup .

The outcome of this is described  here.
“Light and Compact ” being the two main criteria .

Working Desk top

A compact camera tripod from a local thrift shop became the foundation.
First I made a work surface from a piece of leftover 3/8″ polycarbonate twin-wall greenhouse material by gluing a plywood block to it with a 1/4″ UNC threaded insert centred in it . This serves to conveniently attach the board to the tripod.

Kit Box


Lid opened ready to hang on tripod

That done I began to think in greater detail about how to have my painting gear arranged and handily accessible. I decided that a tray hung from the tripod legs was the best option – this idea grew, just like topsy, it evolved into a box with hinged lid and swing out extension on the right side on which I could mount my pallette and water reservoirs and magnetic strip to retain those errant rolling brushes.



Clasp Catch


Box joints & hinges


Pallette arm with imbedded magnets

I have two travel painting kits – One being ultra light minimalist one made from a VCR tape case . A more complete Plein Air kit was small video camera travel case about 12″ w x 10″ l x 3″ deep with shoulder strap and handle .


Ready to paint .

The two water reservoirs are a shallow a lidded tin & secured with magnets. The adhesive magnet strip in the center is to retain the brushes.


All Set!

My lightweight three legged alloy stool is from Lee Valley – called “WalkStool”,120,43456,65663
It is light and very stable and available in 3 heights.

All of this is very light and can be slipped into a small backpack making it both comfortable and convenient to carry a distance over rough terrain .


A Better Case for an Autoharp

8th July 2016

’70’s OS 21 Chord Appalachian

My OS 21 Appalachian Autoharp came with a battered case probably from Oscar Schmidt over 30 years ago .  Made from cardboard with simulated black leather finish it was showing serious wear and tear 🙁 .

Being a woody guy I decided to make a new one and asked around the harpin’ community for anyone with plans or drawing of one , finding none I committed to making one from scratch .

The materials I have on hand are Full 2″ x 4″ clear yellow cedar and 1/8″ baltic birch plywood .

First I drew on corigated box cardboard an outline of the Autoharp body and added 1″ all round for padding room to create  a template .

The idea was to maintain the 2″ thickness at the joints for strength and sculpt away the rest to  1/2″ wall thickness using my bandsaw .

The five legs join at inconvenient angles, I used a digital protractor to transfer these to the table saw to accurately cut the joint faces.

Case Frame Assembled

The joints were secured temporarily with finishing screws, these will be replaced with dowels in the final assembly stage .

The 1/8″ plywood panels will set in a 1/4 wide  x 1/8″ deep rebate set in from the inner faces. The enclosed box will then be cut in two  approx 1 1/4 ” down from the top face . Hinges and latches added and carrying handle .

The inside will be fabric lined and blocks of foam cut support the harp securely inside .

More to follow when finished  🙂

RV- Trail Lite 17 Cabinet improvements .

21st April 2016

Last fall we sold the Boler and purchased our 2nd Trail Lite 17. The kitchen cabinetry layout is economic and inefficient in using the space under the stove.

Taking a closer look I realized that by removing the two doors and making deep drawers on proper slides we could more than double the useful space and improve the access. Closer examination showed the opportunity to put a 31/2″ deep drawer immediately under the stove for cutlery etc.

The results are best illustrated with the pictures below.
The drawer dimensions are :
Lower – 24″ w x 12″h x 18″ deep.
Middle – 24″ w x 10 3/4″h x 18″ deep.
Top – 18″ w x 3 1/2″ h x 18″ deep

The lower drawer is stepped to clear the wheel arch and also has a sliding drawer insert approx. 23″ w x 4″ h x 9″ deep.



My WET WET Coast Bird Feeder

3rd Dec 2015

WET WET Coast Bird Feeder

My WET WET Coast Bird Feeder

The wind driven rain that rips up the Strait of Georgia and the Salish Sea in our WET season during November and December soaks the birds feed . The result is the soggy seed soon goes moldy and fungus may be toxic to the birds.  This means that one has to throw away the contents of the feeder very frequently and what follows is a not so pleasant messy business cleaning and sterilizing the feeder.

Thus far none of the commercial feeders have provided adequate protection against the elements. So I decided to try a few ideas of my own .

Here is the result mostly in picture form.

My design stars with a decent size tray 19″ square with a 6″ square hole in the middle.

The hopper has sloping sides and has a sloped top on which the roof cover is mounted. Inside the hopper is a mounted a rod to support the mesh sloping floor.
The purpose of this is to provide an opportunity for air to circulate helping to reduce the humidity in the hopper.

Sloped mesh floor – window screen


Many Drain Holes

Plexiglass panels were used for the two feed slot sides siitting on St.St screws to  facilitate adjusting the openings.

The roof/cover is relatively huge @ 30″ x 30″ 5 sided – point at the peak and made from twin wall polycarbonate the I had left over from the conservatory roof project. To provide an easy filling water proof access I used a 5″ dia screw top plastic pot with bottom removed and glued in place.

All the wood has been liberally coated with clear epoxy resin for weather proofing.

I have a 5ft tall 6″ x 6″ cedar post on which to mount the feeder which I intend to carve to add a decorative element to our Back-Beach garden 🙂


Not tested yet but will add more next month 🙂

Wee Nip RC Sailboat Build

Sept 24th 2014

WEE NIP – RC Sailboat for beginners



I chose this boat design because it looked to be easy for a novice builder which it was and on the strength of this experience plan to build this winter  my first IOM one meter class boat . The design chosen is again a hard chine and similar in hull construction to Wee Nip.

I have received two sets of plans from Cornwall boats in UK – “Box Kite” another Graham bantock design from 2001 and “Why Not” designed by John  Spencer dated 1999 . Neither of these boats will challenge a contemporary $300 to 5000 Kevlar hull but for that is not what it is all about. I feel that I learn to sail well with a more affordable easy to build boat and have just as much fun as the other guy.

Construction Video :

Wee Nip

A Wee Nip of history
The original Wee Nip, a una rig (single mainsail) design was conceived to fit into the Strathclyde 70 class, a modellers competition originally conceived and sponsored by Strathclyde University in Scotland to encourage students to consider a career in Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering..
The concept for this class is to make the performance of all the yachts the same. The Wee Nip is a very simple construction and most suitable for beginners to Model Yacht building. With a standard sail set on each boat it produces close and exciting racing for the more experienced skippers and allows skippers new to model yacht racing to learn the necessary skills at a low entry level cost.
The Wee Nip hull designer, Graham Bantock, who has been most helpful, assisted in putting together some formal class rules for publication. The rules and plans were finalised and the current number of Wee Nips either completed or under construction is far more than was ever envisaged.
The hull form is a bit of an “Ugly Duckling” but after a while it looks more like a yacht and seems to grow on you. Once on the water Wee Nips sail away right off the bank with only some minor trimming, and is a very forgiving yacht, easy to sail boat.


A further development was the one size Bermuda Rig. The class is intended to have standard boats to one design with a generous minimum weight with the performance difference between boats should be minimal. All this means that the racing is exciting and close, and skippers will also find it challenging and be able to use their ability to shine in the class.
That said, several variants have emerged. One of Graham Bannock’s concepts with this design is that it would be a basis for people to innovate and experiment around the original. The Abingdon MYC  UK produced and sail a Bermuda Rigged version on essentially the same hull. Whereas Australian and New Zealand sailors modified the hull slightly and adopted swing rigs similar to those found in the RG65 class another Strathclyde Class member.
I am building both the original with Una rig and a second hull capable of carrying three different rigs – The Abingdon Bermuda , The Aussie Swing , and Mc Rig.
The original Una Rigged boat is completed and two outings established that only two of the five mast locations are useful . ie Nos 2 and 3 from the front (Bow). So I suggest to others not to drill the other 3 holes in the deck unless need is determined on the water trials.
This hull was made with .043 Formica or Arborite  = cheap and strong easy to work with. The keel bulb was laminated from scrap sheet lead from a roofing supplier bonded with epoxy rough shaped with sanding disc then dip coated with more epoxy and finally painted after attaching to the .100 thick polished aluminium fin. The rudder was also made from the same material and mounted to a CF post.
The second hull is not yet finished. It is constructed from .040 sheet styrene and will I think to be lighter with wood fabricated Fin & Rudder and is MkII  version as per Abingdon MYC which can use either Bermuda rig or a Swing rig or a Mc Rig similar to :

Boler RV Trailer Refurbishing

7th August ’14

We have missed our camping or Glamping as my daughter calls it., since we sold our last RV a  small  hybrid trailer with tent push-out at the front a couple of years ago. I can no longer obtain medical travel insurance to venture outside of Canada . Hence the notion of making a trans Canada camping trip next year.

With that in mind we rented a Boler to see if it would meet our needs. We were well satisfied and purchased on our way home this a 1974 Boler 13oo . This has had significant upgrades :
Body off and a new frame and suspension automotive grade paint job and most of the interior cabinets replaced. However, it has also been abused it had severe gravel rash on the front face and an improperly fitted Door. and the lighting wiring is haywire 🙂 etc etc etc.

Given a couple of weeks and a few $$$ all this can be remedied. Well ! it tool over a month 🙂

15th Aug
One week on !

The most obvious issue with our Boler and most 40 yr models is an ill fitting door. There is lots on info on the web for remedies. The easiest of these , moving or spacing the hinges improved the fit but it was still kicking out at the bottom front edge. Clearly a far more drastic step was needed. I cut through the inside panel in multiple places from the bottom up to the lower hinge area this enabled me to easily flex the door to attain a profile that came close to my cardboard templates. To do this I used a combination of pushing and pulling with spreader bar and tie-down straps. Then relaid fibre glass over the mess which in turn will be covered to match the planned cork flooring.

Measurements of the gap taken with the door insitu.

Tensioning the door


Matching the door curve to the wooden template


Using braces to modify the curve apex

Next a pair of scissor jacks from a Honda Civic were obtained from a wrecker and installed under the rear frame on bolts tapped into the main rails.


The spare tie carrier was remover from the rear bumper and mounted under the the “A” frame tied into the propane carrier plate.

Moving inside –

The Furnace and  Cook top had been removed but the Icebox needed cleaning and minor attention so out it came. Then I could see that there was plenty of room to add more insulation around it so cut panels from a sheet of 2 1/2″ thick R12 foam sheet and created a box into which the original icebox would slide. I also added an HD Alum foil skin to the original insulation.

Adding HD alum foil wrap to the Icebox


Making Better Blue Ice

It is all very well increasing the insulation to keep heat out but there is the other side of the equation too.
Water is one of the planets special materials. to convert 1 lb of ice to water requires adding 942 btu that is a lot of energy now if you can lower the freeing point of water it takes even more heat to melt. Add 1/4 cup of rock salt to a Quart of water in a suitable container and some food colouring and freeze it you now have super ice for your ice box 🙂


Sliding table top


Table centered

I have now removed all the wooden cabinet doors and fixtures for clean-up sanding and refinishing.

Laid carpet across the front dinette section to replace the ribbed rubber.

Games Drawer under dinette

The front & rear tables were made from MDF which is very heavy so I am replacing the them with lighter plywood all in birch to match the cabinets.

Dry goods drawer and Wine rack where the furnace was


30″ x 40″ Drawer 12″ deep under bed also supports N-S bed extension when opened

Like Topsy the project “Just Grew & Grew”

Having replaced or rerouted most of the wiring and installed a new vehicle to trailer connection.

I repainted the interior before re-installing the furnishings and cabinets.

Ready for our first shake down trip . The 3 days up island was a great success and generated a “to-do list” of course 🙂

Must do included :
Further adjustment of the door fit
Turn bed to N-S for a more convenient exit to the pee bucket
Buy and install a propane stove top
Provision of a Toilet – l

Additionally I had booked the trailer in for a wheel bearing service and found a sign shop willing to cover up the battle scarred front with mock carbonfibre vinyl  I followed that with masking a line at the side markers lights below which I applied “Rock Guard” from Cdn Tire. This pretty much completed the exterior appearance upgrade.

The Suburban two burner stove from arrived and I installed it this week having removed all other gas lines do a soapy water test on all joints I await a service tech coming to do a certification pressure drop test on the system .

The door has been refitted . The picture below show a change of method :

Felt covers the cutting The tie rods and the Braces control the contour


Turning the bed to N-S

This was made easier by the fact that I had made a large Drawer to fit under the rear table when lowered to the bed position . By pulling open the drawer it supports the N-S bed extension and of course is retracted during the day.


1/8″ Baltic birch skins reinforced and filled with 1/2″ rigid foam cladding


Completing the sandwich

Bed Turn Around Drawer

Bed in Travel/day position


Drawer partially extended to show how it supports the platform


Drawer fully extended to sleep position

Now Those Bloody Windows

I think all the Boler family’s window mechanisms fail but then I am sure that Ray Olecko never thought they would be still as popular and functioning 40 + yrs on. I took mine apart it was easy and cleaned and polished the em but the crank mechanism is cheap potmetal crap and the worm drives were damaged from over tighten them. I tried Vitage Trailer but they are all out of RH 🙂 the ones used on Bolers . I think I have found a substitute at I just hope I can make them work.

A Tote Box for the rear bumper

Update : 29th July 2015

Swapping the Icebox for a Fridge

The improved insulation around the icebox appeared not to have worked to my satisfaction. so after a few trips I decided to look for a fridge to fit in its place.
Koolatron, a Canadian company which makes a 1.7 cuft fridge in two variants . My first choice was for a model # CR 48 Thermoelectric 12/120v
 which does not have a compressor . However when I tried to purchase one  They had mysteriously disappeared ? . Instead I settled for the compressor version


BC 46 – 120v from Sears.
It was necessary to widen the cabinet opening an inch to slide the fridge in place and there was a 1 1/2″gap at the top to allow the necessary adequate air circulation.

Update :

We sold the Boler in Fall of 2015 to some nice folks from Duncan BC having decided that the Trail lite 17 we previously owned was a better suited to our needs .
We camp mostly in the off season so a heater and a toilet are significant requirements .

See Trail Lite TXL 170;postID=8111746065339835662;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=4;src=link

Love Bird or Comfort Bird carving

12 June ’14

Today I was introduced to “Comfort Birds ” by Jean at my local hospice society .
Believed to have originated with Frank Foust and written about in Woodcarving Illustrated  Christmas Edition 2011. Frank himself has made and given over a 1000 birds. They have been widely distributed to people in need, bringing peace , joy, comfort and strength knowing they are loved and cherished by someone.

I found the best place to learn more and get a pattern is here

So lets get carving and join me in bringing joy to others with our skills.


What every woman Wants ! – A ladies Bling Thing

28 th Mar ’14

This project grew out of carving a lovespoon as a parting gift for a fellow hospice volunteer.

I was asked to make something unique in wood for OHS’s upcoming fund raising silent auction.  The idea for this design was derived from a similar one found at Google Images which I modified by making the shape of the base compliment the upper tray.

A drilling template was made and used to achieve equi-spaced holes around the perimeter of the upper blank before turning the bowl.

To ebonize some of the finials I used black ink jet cartridge refill ink which produced an excellent solid black.

A major challenge with this design square meets curve is the fragility of the concave cross grain edges even the gentlest of tool contact is likely to tear out small but conspicuous pieces along the edge profile. This was made even more apparent with the spalted red alder and yellow cedar.

To resolve this I used the 10″ dia sanding disc on the Shopsmith to ease away edge material on 4 sides until I had 4 equal solid sharp edges. For the next ones I will try simple round turned discs in which case I should be able to achieve a much thinner and more delicate edge in which to set the ear decor. Alas, sans the lovely curves generated by the square format.





Tree of Andry – Lovespoon

25th Feb 2014


I was asked to design and carve a wedding gift by friends for a long time friend of theirs who was getting married in Australia. The groom is a Canadian Orthopedic Surgeon and the bride an Australian Operating Room nurse also specialising in orthopedics. The symbol of orthopedics is “The Tree of Andry” A branch of medicine founded by Nicolas Andry in Paris 1741.

My idea was to combine the tree with Australia by having its roots embedded in a replica of Australia forming the bowl of the spoon. The binding is made with 20 guage sterling silver.

The presentation case is a composite of Tassie Oak and Yellow Cedar a history of lovespoons was attached to the underside and a presentation card created in iStudio on my Mac mini.










Tom T