Tag Archives: DIY

Passage tomb solstice allignment

Its the winter solstice coming up on the morning of the 21st. Solstice – sun stands still. Good way of putting it as it pauses before swinging back along the horizon towards its other point in summer. People are looking to sit in passage tombs (the properly aligned ones to be fair to them) and have the sun enter at sunrise. Cant do it. Don’t have the yearning for that mystic experience. If I want to be in a bunch of people huddled together waiting for the light to come in I can take a lift. I am interested in the people who built them though. I intend to get a compass point for sunrise on the horizon and use sticks and string to trace its shadow track. Plotting orthostats, galleries, etc. will be easy to visualise after that. Walking through it may give me some insights into the building of these truly interesting megalithic monuments. Did they possibly get construction quotes or permission perhaps? Were they built with a predetermined time in mind? How many people and how long? What did it look like as it progressed? Did they include parking? How would it be built? Fun aside it is interesting and may lead somewhere.


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Should I do this as a business?

Asking the question probably answers it to a certain extent. Its either do it or don’t. Making shelves for people in return for money is in theory easy. The issues are demand and supply. Firstly there needs to be the connection between people tripping across piles of books and getting shelves to solve this problem. Secondly there is the idea of the shelf. Primarily it should be furniture. My reasoning for this is it is the best return on investment. Anything stuck to the wall can not be rearranged and if removed leaves holes. Holes in any wall are not viewed as a positive feature and doubly so if the property is rented or you are thinking of moving on in the future. Shelves as furniture are an asset. They look well and if made well, they last well. They can be rearranged, moved, sold or given to someone who will appreciate good quality. On the supply side there are numerous sets of shelves and bookcases out there. The issues there are value for money too. You shouldn’t need a mortgage, nor should you be forced to buy low cost kits that after the slightest damage turn out to be temporary.

Reading Pratchett I find I agree with the character Vimes when he looks at the price and quality of boots. The rich pay 150 for a pair of boots that are waterproof and last for 4 – 5 years. The poor buy boots that cost 40 and leak almost straight away and buy a pair each year. So the poor pay more and still have wet feet. Good quality shelves or bookcases are in the same category. They look well and keep the books well. They last well and tag along with you through life. They are worth something if you want to sell them. I like value for money – either getting it or giving it, but I am living in a society where a company pays more for advertising than manufacture. Needs more thought.


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Buying petrol without having cars

I looked about on the net recently.

There seems a distinct disconnect between selling books and selling bookshelves. We have book supermarkets, bookshops and online traders. The online traders seem to have the closest relationship and have sections to sell shelves, yet there is seems quite poor uptake – ebay had no bids on any of their shelves listings that I looked at.

People do seem to get as far as books and leave it at that. I find it amazing. Why not pile the shopping in one corner and clothes in another?

It occurs to me that a closer link, done correctly might work, but the sellers and others may have to help people to see that books are more like food than shoes.

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Just a quick line or two.

Shelves to build – looks like Walnut, Beech and Oak will figure in them. Looking forward to that as both my sons will be involved.

Archaeology if working out very well – 1/4 way through the year now with some exams done. First trip today – Couple of megalithic burial sites (one urban, believe it or not) from the Neolithic and an abbey. The class I joined are a decent bunch which is always a wonderful bonus. Have to pack, and not sure what to bring – its my first trip!

Glad to be back.


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Timber in our weather

Starting the archaeology course soon so have been looking at, and relooking at texts and maps related. Here is the thing – I live in a wet country. The weather has been worse that usual this year (the facts match the feeling). I heard a bone digger a few weeks ago saying if this weather was 200 years ago people would starve this winter. Anyway – people “long ago” used stone in dramatic ways. I saw a single block stone that was used to cap a passage tomb – it was well estimated at 70 tons. The thing is – if they didn’t use stone and earth as they did for various rights and rituals we would never have thought of them – they are the only reminder.

The normal, everyday buildings were of timber. Enviromentally friendly, yes – it all fades away. The only exceptions to this are where air and or water are excluded – bogs and caves type of thing. Everything we have made of timber will go too. These were my rough thoughts as I looked at our garden furniture.

Garden Bench - 7 years in the elements

Garden Bench – 7 years in the elements

Close up of the elements effects on timber
Close up of the elements effects on timber


Generally I have no problem with being enviromentally friendly, but I wanted to hang on to the garden furniture for a few years yet without the inlaws falling through it. I suppose its a balance between being careful with toxic treatments and not being wasteful and using up more timber every few years, replacing it as it rots.

I vould never use a treatment that contained VOC (volatile organic compounds) in any amount indoors, but I found a low VOC Danish oil for this one. By the way – VOCs do not improve the treatment of the timber in any great way – they are for the finish mostly – how smooth and how fast. They do however make the oil more viscous so it flows smooth and fast into grain and cracks. But thats the easy bit. It had to be sanded first. It took us (myself and my sons) some three hours to get it sanded down by hand. I dislike the use of power sanding tools (although I do have a small 82mm hitachi plane) as they throw up so much fine dust that is just not good for people. As I do not do this for money, it also is easier to control the results by hand, and there is no harm in staying fit. So sanded and then oiled. The oil cloths were hung on the line till dry and then disposed of (see previous posts on finishing timber and not burning your house down).

Result looks good.

All for less than €10.00.

All we need is the weather to use them now!


Filed under Books and their home.


I have to get them sorted.



Getting the angles to correctly match is for me the tricky bit. The sharpest tools I have are needed for a decent finish and I have to resist the temptation to force the last bits due to impatience. I like the idea of working with hand tools, but as I get older, I look more kindly on the dovetail machine cutter. May get one before I feel I have to get one.

This joint is liked by all who use it for strength and most who see it. I think it shows a delicate and refined touch to working with wood. It works well keeping two angle joints together where the force is from 90 degrees to a side. For any who may read this (including me in 6 months time) it means this. The force (pull or push) on the joint is head on from one side. The drawer is pulled directly out, the weight of the books pusk directly down. A dovetail joint does not work well when it is pushed or pulled by a force working at the corner. If you were to break the sides of a drawer with a hammer, you could hit it on one face or another till the timber itself broke, but tilt the drawer and hit it with the hammer down onto a corner (mind your fingers) and the joint will part. I think it is a good joint for the outside corners of a bookcase. Must get good at it.

I know I have posted links and this invites spam, but the links help.

Wait, wait, before you or I go, heres a picture of what I mean. A member of www.finewoodworking.com posted it as his work. Very nice it is too. The type of dovetail is a half blind as it does not show through the wood at the front of the drawer.



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This is rather a specific post, but It is on my mind. Have any of you encountered Poplar? Furniture makers – specially kitchen makers bless this timber. Why? It has very little grain to speak of – no hallmark lustre, depth or grain pattern.

Its as cheap as Finnish or Swedish red deal (pine) and it is classed as a Hardwood. AHEC have rebranded it as Tulipwood. It is soft, easy to machine and finish. So someone can now buy a Hardwood kitchen that has none of the qualities of a traditional hardwood kitchen, for the same or slightly cheaper than an Oak kitchen. The difficulty with an informed choice is who is informing buyers. Anyone interested in informing people on a good, long lasting, hard wearing kitchen is usually selling one. Vexing, but as it is progress, whats to be done? I’ll try and think of something, its just that free advice is usually valued at its cost.

I also like the idea of an environmentally friendly kitchen. Keep it in good shape and when it has eventually worn down beyond repair – bury it at the end of the garden and let it rot happily away. Keeping a kitchen in good shape can take some effort every now and again. Think of the formica surface as opposed to the hardwood worktop. Once the plastic coating is worn down or cracked, rip it out, dispose of it  and get a new one. Say it will last 5 to 10 years on average. Nobody says this when selling them. Oil the hardwood worktop every 6 months or so and it will last for longer than any of us here now. If it takes a knock, sand it down a wee bit and pop some oil on again. Ok, in another century or so, you may have an oil saturated wafer thin hardwood work surface, but it will look as well as it did 100 years ago and be part of peoples memories.

Its the same with shelves. A fine piece of furniture will pay for itself in the end. I agree with Terry Pratchett on this – spend 180 on boots and they will last longer than 2 pairs of boots for 100 each. Just buy the right boots. Where did I see the sentence – “Even if a mixed metaphor flies, it should be derailed”? Never mind. It pays people to get themselves informed.

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