Tuesday, 19 June 2012

How to Replace the Felt or Baize in a Toolbox Drawer, Engineer's Cabinet or Jewellery Box

I bought an old Moore & Wright engineer's cabinet the other day, in oak. It's rather lovely, but missing its door and handle, which is a shame, but neither is crucial in a private workshop. However, the old felt had been removed from the draws and so I set about replacing it with some new lining. Along the way I learnt a bit, so thought I would pass it on in the hope that it might be of use to others. Whilst the example here is a little draw from the cabinet, the same instructions would apply for a cutlery draw, jewellery box etc. - indeed anything where the sides were straight and there was no complicated structure.

The chances are that as you have found this post you already have something that needs a new lining, but you know almost any old box, chest or cabinet can be rescued with a bit of sandpaper, a bottle of wax and some new felt; it will almost certainly be nicer than a modern mass produced thing and will represent another bit of the past saved and used (which is the best way of saving something like this). Good for the object, twice as good for the environment and just as good for your soul. What more can you ask?

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Re-felt a Drawer or Box

Step 1: Here is the draw that I want to re-felt. It is important that it is free from any old lining or glue blobs, this is particularly true of the corners. If need be scrape these out with a craft knife.

We start by felting the sides and so measure the depth of the drawer and the length of the sides and front/back.

Step 2: Felt or baize is far from cheap and so it pays to think ahead as to how you are going to use your material. I did my first drawer, then once I was comfortable I cut all the sides out for the 4 identical small drawers, trying to make sure I had as little waste as possible.

You need to add 1mm or a slim 1/16" to the depth and 5mm or 1/5" to the width of each piece, to allow you to fit it exactly to the side you are working on - this is particularly important with old boxes or cabinets, where sizes might not be consistent. Indeed on a very 'rustic' item or large box you might need to add more than this.

Step 3: Once you have cut out your strip, mark with a pen what you intend to get out of it, this is particularly important if your cutting a number of strips in one go. Do this on the same side as you marked out for cutting, so you only have pen marks on one side. Here I had a piece that had 2 sides and 1 front or back piece in it.

Step 4: We start by doing the sides, rather than the front or back pieces. So take the right sized piece of felt and mark the side and the piece of felt with a number so that you know both which piece goes where and which way up it goes.

Step 5: Set the piece of felt in the drawer, so that the bottom sits on the bottom of the drawer. You should now see the extra width protruding from the top of the drawer (and it will show up poor cutting as it has here!). It is now a process of gradually removing thin slivers from the edge, until it meets the top of the draw. Try to do this from the top, so as to remove any final pen marks from marking out. Don't throw the waste slivers away - you might need these later!

As I say it is important that we go through this, cutting and matching each piece to each side, to ensure we get a good fit. The photo actually shows me fitting the back, but the process is exactly the same.

Don't worry that it doesn't look 'right' at this stage when you lay them in, they won't until you glue them.

Step 6: We now do the ends, again the photo shows me doing the back, but the process is the same for the sides. Quite simply reduce the length of the piece until it fits; do this in small steps. Obviously, as per the photo, you need to have the sides sitting there when cutting the front and back to length.
Step 7: How you glue the pieces in is really a matter of preference. You certainly don't want to get glue on the face side of the felt and, not being the most careful of people, I decided to glue the 2 sides, front & back and then wash my hands, before putting them in.

However, the inside faces of these draws are not sealed and the wood is very dry, so it was drawing the moisture out of the glue really, really quickly. For the larger draws I had to glue and place the four sides one-by-one. You'll just have to play about and see what works for you and the project you're working on. Whichever way you choose, a wet tissue and towel on hand it a good idea.

The most important bit of the face is the top lip and this will get the most wear as the drawer is used, so make sure you have plenty of glue here - I kept a thin dibber to hand so that I could add further glue as I was placing it.

I would like to have used a natural glue, but they are still on my 'to get to grips with' list, so this is simply PVA.
Step 8: Ensure that you have the right piece, the right way up and then carefully place the end into the corner. You follow the top edge, almost - but not quite - ignoring the bottom edge, smoothing it down with your fingers. You might well find that when you get to the other end the felt has stretched a little and that you need to trim it again. Do this for all four side pieces.

Step 9: With the two sides, the front and the back now done we turn our attention to the base. Either measure the internal area (again adding 1mm or a thin 1/6") or draw around the drawer. The only problem with the later is that you could waste quite a bit if the sides are thick. Mark one of the corners with an X and do the same on the back of the felt, so that you know what goes where. Fit the marked corner tight on both sides. You should be able to just push it under the felt on the sides, to give a nice tight edge - although don't worry too much at this stage as we'll be taking it out again.

Step 10: Once you have got it laid in tight use a ball point pen to mark off the excess. You don't want to push the tip into the corner, but instead rest the pen on the base. Try to mark it so that you cut on the inside of the line, removing all of the pen mark. Remove the base, cut and then do another trial fitting, adjusting as needed.

When gluing the base I found that it was helpful to put a piece of paper up against the sides to protect them from any wayward glue (or sticky fingers!). Smooth in the base felt, starting from the corner marked with the X. Push it under the sides with a finger nail or alike, to ensure a nice sharp edge. 

Step 11: Do you remember the little slivers I said not to throw away? Well just sometimes you'll find that the bottom edge of the side doesn't quite meet up with the base felt. In that instance you can carefully glue in one of these to hide it away. It's not perfect, but for 90% of jobs it will be close enough...

Finally sit back and marvel at your new draw lining! New baize really makes a huge difference and can transform a tired cabinet or box.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Nest Egg Basket & Pasta Making

The Pekin Bantams that we hatched towards the end of last year have now been moved down to the allotment and are laying well. We have 3 lavender hens and a lavender cock, as well as a black frizzle hen and a black/white frizzle cock. Most lay most days and it is surprising how quickly the eggs build up. The little egg holder we had in the kitchen was nowhere near big enough and we realised that we needed something else to hold them safe in.

Maybe it was too much Springwatch or seeing the birds at Katie’s school on their nest camera, but it seemed to me that the very best thing for the eggs would be a nest. We had in the garage some heather cut last year, as well as a little willow and birch. All of it had dried out and so I soaked in a warm bath to make it pliable (which made one of the biggest messes inside the house that I have ever achieved...). My intention had been to photograph the stages and provide a step-by-step photo blog on how to make one, but I quickly realised that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!

At first I started with two willow rings, made in the usual way by winding willow around in on itself, one smaller than the other. But these were green willow and I would never have been able to hide it within the darker material, plus how was I going to connect the two? So I abandoned the willow and went straight for the heather, again making a ring and then sort of building it up from there. I cannot provide any instructions – it was highly frustrating and fell apart more than once. In the end I used some fine brown cotton, which you can just about see looking at it, to bind it up a bit. It might well be that now it has dried you could cut this off and it would still stay whole, but I don’t intend to find out. I lined the inside with a mix of pillow feathers (much finer than I had imaged) and some craft feathers we had (look like pheasant to me).

What I took away from making it more than anything was a genuine deep respect for nest making birds. Here I was, with ten fingers and cotton thread, struggling to make something that they could construct, far more perfectly than I, with their beak and maybe some spider web or mud. It was only by actually trying to replicate nature’s craft that I understood just how hard it was and how skilled these birds are. It was an experience that has radically changed my perspective and I cannot recommend trying it highly enough – just be prepared to be very frustrated along the way... 

Making pasta

With 24 eggs needing to be used up we decided to have a pasta making session. 100g of organic Tipo ‘00’ flour per egg (or two bantam eggs), mixed and kneaded and then rolled out in the pasta machine. We made lasagne sheets, tagliatelle and spaghetti, drying the latter two on a long pine dowel we got from the ironmongery, suspended between two chairs. It dried over night and could then be wrapped up in brown paper for use over the coming days.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Age of Healing by John Seymour

 "The Age of Plunder is nearly at an end.
The Age of Healing is ready to be born.

And whether it arrives or not depends upon two people: you and me.

The Age of Plunder was the natural successor to the so-called Age of Reason: the Age in which humankind decided that it knew better than God. For 200 years now the greedy and ruthless have been plundering the planet but their time will soon be up. The whole thing is going to come crashing down.

It could not have gone on much longer anyway - because soon there will be nothing left to plunder. The forests have almost gone from the Earth, the fish of the sea are all but exhausted, the air surrounding us and the waters of the Earth will soon be able to take no more poisonous wastes and, most serious of all, the soil is going. For we soil organisms this could be terminal. As long as the oil reserves last agribusiness will be able to produce the agrichemicals needed to keep some sort of production of vitiated food going from the eroded soil, but the oil deposits - that Pandora's Box of evil things - will soon be exhausted and then the final account, long deferred, will come up for payment. The bailiffs who present it will have strange names, like Famine, Pestilence and War.

But, thank God, maybe the old Earth will not have to wait for this to happen. The whole great edifice of international trade and finance - the whole mighty plunder-machine - is quite likely to burst like a balloon that has grown too big. The whole thing is becoming unsustainable: it has grown too huge to manage.

Owing to the incorrigible tendency towards cannibalism by the huge industrial corporations - the tendency of the bigger ones to swallow up the smaller ones - these molochs are becoming too large for humans to control or the planet to support. Ten years ago no economist would have predicted the complete collapse of the mighty Soviet machine that had engulfed half the Earth. International capitalism will follow.

It is in the nature of a limited company that it can have no responsibility either to the environment around it or to the people who work for it. It is no use blaming the directors - if they do anything that might reduce profits for the shareholders they will quickly be replaced. And the shareholders not only have no liability for debts incurred by the company - but they take no responsibility for the world of nature around them. If the directors can secure bigger profits by dumping poisons into the nearest river - they have to do this. If they do not, they will very quickly be replaced. If they can make more profit by halving the work force - they will have to do so or again they will be replaced. If both shareholders and directors suffer from that most uncapitalist thing - a conscience - to the extent that it interferes with profits - that company will be swallowed up by another giant that has no such inconvenient scruples.

One of the most dramatic effects of the Age of Plunder has been to drive most of the world's population into vast conurbations. These huge assemblies of uprooted people, called cities, are not only ugly but also dangerous. The billions who live in them can only be kept alive by an enormous system of transport which brings water, food, power, fuel and all the necessities of life, often great distances. Any breakdown in the supply of all this would be disastrous. And the great plundering molochs of companies which run it all get fewer and fewer, and bigger and bigger, and more and more people find themselves out of work, not needed, redundant and disempowered.

And meanwhile the tiny scattering of people left on the land, which is the only source of true wealth, have been forced by their paucity of numbers to resort to more and more destructive methods of producing the huge amount of food needed to sustain these billions. They have been forced to ignore the laws of husbandry, which could have retained the fertility of the soil as long as the world lasted, and farm instead with chemicals and huge machines. The soil is becoming poisoned and eroded. The only beneficiaries of this have been the huge chemical companies but they will destroy themselves in the end because they are killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.

If we open our eyes, we will realize that all this is bound to come crashing down in the end. Then, in the ashes of the Age of Plunder, a new age could arise. The real New Age: the Age of Healing!

We will set about it, just you and me, to heal the ravaged Earth. If we do not - if we fail - then there will not be an Age of Healing: there will be an Age of Chaos and it will not be nice.

And we do not have to wait for the end of the Age of Plunder to start the work. We must start now.

And how can we - just the two of us, you and me, who are so few and disempowered - start this great work by ourselves?

Firstly, say to yourself, and I promise I will do the same, the following resolution:
"I am only one. I can only do what one can do. But what one can do I will do!"
Then consider what you can do.
Refuse to work for the plunderers. Refuse to buy their shoddy goods. Give up the ambition of living like a Texan millionaire. Boycott the Lottery, not because you think you won't win it, but because you don't want to win it!

Refuse to shop in the plunderer's "supermarkets".

Work, always, for a decentralist economy. Support local traders and producers - try to get what you need from as near your home as you can.

Take part in your local politics - boycott the politics of the huge scale, the remote and far-away. The current non-violent defiance of the law by people protesting against the export of live animals from Britain is a fine example of citizen-power.

Work for an economy in which land and property are fairly shared out among the people so that "everybody has enough and nobody has too much".

We must withhold our work, our custom, and our investment from plundering industry. This may cause us "financial hardship" : then we must endure "financial hardship" .

Road transport is the most destructive thing of all. If you live in a city, you do not need a car. (When you go to the country you can hire one - it's much cheaper than owning.) If you live in the country, you may need one - use it as little as possible.

Boycott most goods brought from far away. Take some trouble to find locally produced goods and buy them. Heavy road transport is enormously polluting.

Oppose new road building. Building new roads never relieves traffic congestion - it simply generates more traffic. The only way of solving the traffic problem is to have less traffic.

If you possibly can, do not work for huge organizations. If we withhold our labour from them, they will wither away. (Do not be afraid that this will lose "jobs". It will create more jobs - a multitude of small firms create more "jobs" than a few big ones).

Support local cultural activities. Boycott mass "culture" coming from countries far away.

Encourage, support, and initiate, local credit and finance organizations.

Buy, if you cannot grow, organically produced food. Thus you will help destroy the polluting chemical industry - and you will be healthier. Boycott, absolutely consistently, all products that have involved cruelty to animals.

Support the local and the small-scale.

I will do the same as I ask you to do.

The tiny amount you and I can do is hardly likely to bring the huge worldwide moloch of plundering industry down? Well, if you and I don't do it, it will not be done, and the Age of Plunder will terminate in the Age of Chaos. We have to do it - just the two of us - just you and me. There is no "them" - there is nobody else. Just you and me. On our infirm shoulders we must take up this heavy burden now - the task of restoring the health, the wholeness, the beauty and the integrity of our planet. We must start the Age of Healing now! Tomorrow will be too late."