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Bar Skittles

The video on the skittles game

I’ve always wanted to turn a chess set, but the idea of making so many identical pieces just doesn’t seem that appealing to me. This got the little gears in my head thinking of other games with matching pieces, that don’t necessarily have to be identical. I also wanted to make a game my 4 year old son could enjoy.

I finally landed on bar/table skittles which has 9 pins that are usually identical. My twist on it was going to be to make each pin from a different wood species.

I turned a first pin freehand, deciding the shape on what looked good while I was turning. That first pin became the “master” to serve as a reference for the other pieces. Mainly the height of the head and body would have to be relatively close to look nice. This master was turned from an unknown wood, that looks like walnut when finished. I call this type of wood chunka wood.

The next pin I turned was in Wenge. This is quite a dense and heavy wood, so when I had a pin about the same size as my master I realised it would be much heavier. and so I had the brilliant idea of making each pin roughly the same shape, but make the ones from heavier wood skinnier so the weight would be approximately the same.

I continued to do this for the rest of the pins, purely guessing the needed width of the pins to get similar weights. I thought that would make the game more fun as it would matter where you put the pins on the board.

As it turns out, my non-scientific guesstimation wasn’t very accurate. The lightest piece wieghs 43 grams and the heaviest comes in at 78 grams.

By now, you probably realised I like experimenting and making things up as I go along. Sometimes that works out and sometimes it’s a bust. the end cap that goes on top of the post was made from a mystery hardwood, that started out as part of the leg of a garden table. It was meant as a practice piece, but I liked the look of the wood when I was done, so it became another example of protoduction (where a prototype ends up as a “production” piece).

the knocker is made from either Japanese cherry or a species of plum. Those two piles of branches got mixed up, when I reorganised my workshop. the design of both pieces was again some protoduction, were the only constraints were the size of the holes in them and a groove in the end cap to attach the string to.

The last piece of the puzzle is the base. I didn’t have a nice bit of timber, so I glued up some pine beams I had laying around. these actually were supports from a delivery that came on a pallet. With this one I didn’t spend as much time finishing as I want to make a new one in a better quality material. If you finish it nicely I might never replace it…

the base is around 40cm in diameter and 5cm thick. In the final version I will cut out, burn or inlay a grid to place the pins on. All in all, I’m happy with this result. It’s not the best looking but it’s functional, so my son gets to play with the game while I look for a nice bit material for the base.

finally for the post I used a piece of dowel I had and rounded off one end so the end cap can turn on it loosely. All in all I’m very happy with how it turned out and it really is a fun a simple game for the entire family.

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A beginner’s guide to pen making – part 3


Now that you know how to make a basic pen, it’s time to discuss how we can add a little extra bling. Personally I like the elegance of a simple design in a pen, but there are many options if you would like to try something different.

side note: these examples are merely to show techniques. they aren’t made to look beautiful and aren’t finished to a high degee. Some pictures will have some dust or paper particles in them.

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Turning segmented birds

My latest youtube video shows how I turn my segmented birds. This certainly wasn’t my idea, I found pictures of this online while researching project ideas.

I immediately fell in love with these little creations and found they’re a great way of using up scraps. The idea is to glue up a blank where the sides and top are of a contrasting wood to the main body. The main body blank should be around twice the thickness of the side/wing pieces. This will ensure that most of the material being turned away while shaping is taken away from the wing parts. It can be a bit hard to imagine what the end product is going to look like, so I will demonstrate with a few diagrams.

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Turning nesting dolls (Matryoshka dolls)


Find and prepare a template you like. Print and cut out a template of each doll so it has a quarter of the final shape. The easiest way is to cut out the individual dolls from the full template and glue them to some cardboard. Then cut out half of each doll, so you end up with negative template you can hold to your work piece.


In case you are planning on carving, the dolls after turning you might want to scale each doll (template) a bit. That will give you more wall thickness so there is material to carve.

Refer to images 1 and 2 for examples of the nesting doll templates. I found this image via a quick google search, but you can easily make your own shapes and templates.

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A year in review – 2019

As the year is nearing the end it’s time to look back and reflect. 2019 was a productive year. I made about 8 bowls, 9 segmented birds, 2 bottle stoppers, 2 dozen pens and Christmas ornaments, a handful of snowmen, trees and mushrooms and 1 light up maleficent staff.

At the beginning of the year I wanted to hone my skills, making one bowl per month and perhaps try selling at a market. I found a few colleagues from my woodcarving class to join me and at the end of the year we were present at 4 markets. This was another push in the back to make more (and more diverse) things as I didn’t want to be the one with the least amount of work. The friendly rivalry really helped me to push myself.

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bowls, birds and ornaments

As I was rounding of the year I started organizing my photos and realized I hadn’t shared some bowls I created this year.

These three bowls were quite popular. the laminated wenge and oak bowl was a gift for my mother, since the oak came from and old dining table of hers. the elm bowl was claimed by my wife and the spalted beech bowl was sold.

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Candy dish and bolt action pens


For my latest bowl I used ash wood and played around with a UFO shape. the size and design remind me of a candy bowl so that’s how I decided to present it. As it is the week before Christmas at the time of writing, I’m guessing this will be the last bowl of 2019. It is still available for purchase should anyone be interested… the m&m’s are already gone I’m afraid.

As for the pens I’ve wanted to make some bolt action types, but until recently I could only find ones with a bullet shaped tip. As I’m not a hunter, these didn’t speak to me so I waited until more kits were available.

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State of the inventory

As I was taking pictures of the inventory I took to the craft market, I realized a number of the items weren’t shown on this blog so far.

I guess I was too busy making them and forgot about sharing.

As sharing is caring I’ll add a few image galleries of the items for sale on my etsy. The first one shows the bowls I have in stock.

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First craft market

Together with some fellow woodcarving students I set up my first stand at a craft market yesterday. Even though sales weren’t fantastic to say the least, it was a great day.

I met a lot of nice people and had a blast talking about our hobby and demonstrating some carving.  Many people were interested in the work pieces and the process.

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Segmented pens

I’m really enjoying working on segmented pens lately. They provide that something extra that really makes the pen stand out.

I’ve finished two of these lately one with oak and wengé used in a straight and one which started life as an olive wood blank and was cut at a 45° miter for some accent segments.

the hardest part about this is selecting the wood species with regards to grain density. For instance the oak has a pretty coarse grain and the wengé a very fine grain.

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