Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Hoping for a more settled 2011

Right so. The state of our family so far is that youngest DS has a nursery that he likes (at 2 1/2 he knows his own mind!) and goes there three times a week. Middle DS is going to his local primary and he can walk there with me which is lovely! But the eldest has so far failed with every attempt to get into school. Luckily he's happy about this adn we're going to start prepping him for the Kent Test.

This does mean that I need to carefully manage my time to get my creative projects underway. I'm about to book an Arvon course - a residential get-away for a week with other writers. This does mean that I'd like to get several thousand words under my belt - if not tens of thousands. That way I'll be able to use the course to do a major re-write and make the whole book hang together. But if I don't get enough written, I should be able to make proper progress on getting it written.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel

Well, middle DS starts school any day now and youngest is going to nursery three mornings a week, so hopefully I'll soon get a bit of time to be creative. I've got a couple of craft fairs coming up for Christmas so I'd really like to get some stuff made for them... I'm working on night-light holders at the moment...


Monday, 4 October 2010

Trying to be creative


At the moment I'm trying to find time at either end of the day to be myself and to be a bit creative. I went out to Herne Bay the other day and took photos just for the fun of it. And I've sat down here to write this. I've also made decisions about my writing and the direction it's going in.

So I do feel that there is some forward progress.


Monday, 27 September 2010

Home education

Well, a lot of water has gone under various interesting bridges. My LSW has been made redundant and has started contracting. This means, for the next eight weeks or so that she's doing a weekly commute of over 200 miles and I'm home alone with the boys. I'm also home educating the elder two boys (now aged 6 and 9) as they can't get in to their local school.

Anyway as part of my long campaign to try to get them in, I emailed BBC News on Friday and today a journalist with a camera came around and interviewed me for the local news station. I've been feeling a bit weird ever since and I realised that very literally someone came in from the outside to see how I live my life.

And that made me realise that a lot of what I take for granted is actually quite different. She only saw the home education side of things but in the background the home made wine was bubbling away nicely. And I run a compost heap and am strangely proud that with a family of five, including one in nappies, we can cope with rubbish collections every other week because of the amount we recycle.

Every day I see how other people live and realise that I am quietly forging my own path, from keeping slightly older, cheaper cars going to really wanting to walk my children to school.

Anyway, creative stuff I have done recently. I've had another go at some glass painting and am happier with the results. It's now autumn so I've been out foraging all sorts of berries to make into jam and wine and a new delicacy called Elder Rob. This is a home made cold remedy that tastes divine! And I've been slowly harvesting the garden into the freezer and planning next year's crops. And I even dusted off the chisels to give stone carving another go. I love doing this but hardly get the chance at the moment and it will eventually lead to some metal casting fun!

Anyway I've got to go back to being a full time house-husband-stay-at-home-Dad.


Saturday, 8 May 2010

My brother came down today and we got to messing around in the garage. This is the end result...

Here's a really odd star shaped light we got for Christmas.


It's plugged into this four-way under the stairs:


Note the bright orange lawn-mower cable. The other end of that cable is here, in the garage:


That weird silver thing is called an inverter and basically converts 12v DC into 240v AC. As you can see here, it's all hooked up and into the whole car battery that's permanently being recharged by a solar panel:


As you can see it's already working hard charging up digital camera batteries and mobile phones. Now it's also doing this:


That's being totally lit by the car battery in the garage that is recharged from the solar panel on the porch roof!!!

I know that there are in-built huge in-efficiencies throughout the system. In an ideal world I'd pipe in 12v and use a million and one different in-car adapters for the phone and the laptop and I'd modify the light too. But in a practical sense, having a normal mains 4 way that runs off the system is much more useful...


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

OMG one whole month went past!

There's a month just gone by. But on the plus side, the garden is well under control. And I am still writing, albeit quite slowly. And I've done the entire middle bit of the year planner for 2011. Except for the quarter days, but they can be done in the next couple of days. Either way it's a long way ahead of the game and the earliest I've every done it. And I got the glass paints out with the children and did some night-light holders too.

So, all in all it's not so bad. I think given all the demands on my time, I'm doing alright in terms of my creativity. I really want to get on and do some metal casting which will mean making statues first of all.


Saturday, 27 March 2010

Different way to be creative!


I haven't made much progress on my many projects, but since the weather's improved in the last couple of weeks I have spent more time out in the garden. I think with three children to look after and three different jobs I've got to give myself a bit of a break and try to have a rest as well as getting on with writing and making things.


Friday, 12 March 2010

Past the block

I've been thinking over the past few days and I think I've worked what I'm not happy about in my main book that I'm writing. So I've amended a bit and now it feels much more natural and "right" so I'm making progress again. Hopefully I'll finish the Dark Age section and that'll be about 40% of the way through.

I've also made a breakthrough on writing stuff for eldest DS to read - I've come up with a good mechanism to introduce traditional British folk stories.


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Creative Writing

Yesterday I was walking up to the Post Office and I saw a CD lying in the grass. A recordable CD with "AC/DC Back in Black" written on it. I took it home and today on the way to school we had a bit of Hells Bells. Except when they came to the final few seconds I expected it to chew up and stop.

You see, what must have been 25 years ago my older brother went to University, taking his record collection with him. I bought a box set of 12 C90 cassette tapes - for the price of ten, with their own case. The case was black and shiny plastic with a clear window where you could see what was inside. Each of the twelve tapes I then used to record two albums by one artist. There was an AC/DC tape, and an Iron Maiden one, and Motorhead, and I really can't remember. Saxon, almost certainly and definitely Hendrix and Deep Purple. One artist had two tapes - maybe Iron Maiden? It had a beauty and a symmetry because each tape just had the name of the artist on the sleeve and on the tape the right labels were stuck on nice and straight. With the album names and track listings all copied out. And they all fitted into the box, arranged in alphabetical order. I can see it now as clearly as I could twenty five years ago.

Anyway, this was the middle of the eighties so we had a music centre, where you had to press record, play and pause, put the needle on the record and then take off pause. Once you'd wound the tape past the lead-in bit, with a biro. So when we did the AC/DC tape, Back in Black side, something went wrong with Hells Bells. About ten seconds from the end, the tape goes squiggly and Iain says something. It's just a syllable and only a second. But I listened to that tape so many times, especially once I'd learnt to drive that I still expect that drop-out to be there.

Even though I've lost the tapes, and can't actually remember the last time I listened to a tape instead of a CD, music still has the power to go straight to your subconscious and yank out some memories.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Now I'm drawing

I've started on the illustrations for my 2011 Lunar Year Planner. I always thought I couldn't draw too well but I'm quite chuffed with how it's been going so far. I'm away from my scanner so it'll have to wait until I can show what I've been up to!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Still here!

Just a quick post to say I'm still here! I work evenings for a printers that mostly does diaries. At first I thought it might slow me down a bit because I do sixteen hours a week with Quark so I'd be less likely to want to do any work when I was at home. But recently I've become fired up with the ideas for my writing.

Don't want to say too much til I've got something down on paper. But it does feel good that my creativity is still there. I wonder if it's seasonal as we're just past Imbolc and it does feel like spring is coming, even though the weather man says that next week will be wintry.


Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Behold the Chocolate Pyramid

Right well I've gone as far as I can for now. This is it at the moment. I'm still eating chocolate and my Mum and Brother have offered to post down some more wrappers so I can finish off decorating the sides of the pyramid. It's a bit frustrating as I know it'll look different with no brown cardboard showing. The top is glued on and appears to be very stable. I've covered it with sticky black plastic to keep it safe from spills.

For reference I spent £2.99 on wood glue and used some black gaffer tape and sticky back plastic that I already had around. I used a pair of scissors, chisel, hammer, file and tenon saw. The rest of it is quite literally rubbish. Or more accurately recycling. It's just that I'm temporarily detaining it here before it goes on to be recycled. All the decoration is chocolate bar wrappers. Even the foil on the pyramid came from chocolate bars.

This is the pyramid face, eventually it'll go all the way up.


Here is the Chocolate Pyramid in all it's glory!


Here's the best shot I could get of the wrap-around recycling symbol in two tone foil on the centre pyramid.

Close up of the pyramid

So there we are. Comments please?


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Lots of tiny pyramids

Originally uploaded by graham_h_miller
This is some of them - I think the rest have escaped...

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Lots of tiny pyramids

See the top of the pyramid looks a bit scruffy because the cardboard is too thick to hold the detail. I can see in my mind's eye exactly what I want to do - make a mini-pyramid out of a Weetabix box and glue that over the top. But I can't quite make one that fits absolutely perfectly. And I know that if I have to sit there and look at it for months to come then it will just bug me if it's not as good as it can be. So I keep making prototypes. I think there's at least 5 cardboard ones around and a couple of paper templates... I'll have another crack at it this evening when I get a bit of spare time...


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Chocolate art - vote for me!


It's my Green & Blacks artwork!

Vote for me and I could win 700 bars of chocolate...


Final Mockup

Final Mockup
Originally uploaded by graham_h_miller
This is the final mockup before I breakout the wood glue and stick the top to the pyramid. I've borrowed a nice long spirit level so I can do it properly... then it's on to decorating it :D


Wednesday, 20 January 2010

I said it'd go quiet

and it has. Every evening I turn the framework round and glue and clamp another section. This evening I'll glue the tabletop onto it. I must clear up the table to let me do that safely and out the way of the boys!

Meantime I seem to have resolved my issues with my book. I seem to have found a way to write it naturally letting things develop and still keeping the big overall plot hanging itself together.

And I've started seriously thinking about a non-fiction childrens' book as well!


Sunday, 17 January 2010

Table-top mock up

Table-top mock up
Originally uploaded by graham_h_miller
Well. Finally I have come to the end of all the sawing and chiseling and have the framework assembled. It's all (roughly) flush. At the moment it's very slow as I only have three G-clamps, even with a bit of borrowing. So I'm using the work-bench to clamp one side at a time and using the clamps on the cross-pieces. If I leave each one to dry it will be Tuesday evening before I can glue the cardboard top on.

But I'd rather take a few days now to get it right rather than cut corners and regret it. Especially as the previous table lasted over a year and I think this one could last longer.

So it'll go a bit quiet now while I work on the decoration and wait for the glue to set and keep moving the clamps around!


Saturday, 16 January 2010

Another good day

Really making progress now. Got a lot of the woodworking done today. I think I have five more joints to cut and then I'll have to buy more wood glue and borrow as many G clamps as I can find to put it all together. Also put the chamfers on the edges of the beams and they seem to fit really well over the pyramid. By tomorrow I hope to have all the glue drying nicely ready for assembly on Monday.

And tonight while DS2 (aged five) is (not) going to sleep I've started writing my novel again. I seem to have got a bit bogged down in the Dark Ages section. It seems to be lots of bits that don't quite fit together yet and my plot is wandering off on its own which is a bit awkward as I'm now re-writing it on the fly!


Friday, 15 January 2010

The Equivalancy of Triangles

Well the cardboard pyramid is proving to be as strong as I hoped - the boys find it greatly entertaining as they find new holes through which they can poke things. The sooner I finish and seal it off the better.

Today I've been thinking about the table top. I'm making up a frame that sits over the whole thing. If you look at this photo I think it may be the most over-engineered thing I've ever built! PICT1612

Anyway the insides of the hole where the pyramid sits will need to be chamfered so that it fits on the pyramid and is still horizontal. I've included some of my working in this post. At first I was thinking angles and tangents and working it out. Then I realised that the bit I need to remove from the edge of the wood is a congruent triangle with the whole pyramid taken in cross section. So the ratio of half the base to height is the same as x to thickness of wood. As I know the wood is 16mm thick and the pyramid is 570x690mm and 650mm tall it's not too hard to get to the answer, and more elegant than working out tangents, etc.


Anyway it's now the weekend and I'm hopeful of getting the woodwork finished so I can start on assembly.


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Cardboard Pyramid

Well I let the glue set for all of its 24 hours to be on the safe side, because I was nervous about folding it up into a pyramid. I could see that it would just want to spring apart and it felt very stiff. Luckily I had scored the tabs and it folded up really nicely. Here's an action shot of glueing the base on.
Setting the glue
The base is a rectangle of cardboard with tabs - like a very shallow box. It's actually the base bit of cardboard that the cooker originally came in. The top of the table will the top cardboard from the cooker wrapping. They were such perfect coffee table sized bits that they defined the size and shape of the whole table.

Pyramid and Table

Here you can see the pyramid next to our very untidy coffee table (with cat in background) and you can see that it's roughly the same scale. The top is going to be supported by the pyramid.

The edges look very rough but here is an experiment with a scrap of black gaffer tape which tidies them up very neatly. It looks like edging with black tape is become my signature whenever I make furniture!

Corner detail

That's all for now. I need to wait for me to either not go to work (Friday) or little 'un to have a proper midday nap so I can get on with the woodwork that will support the top.


Sunday, 10 January 2010

And in with the new!

Flat pyramid
Originally uploaded by graham_h_miller

Alternative Flat Pyramid
Originally uploaded by graham_h_miller
And here's Cardboard Coffee Table mkII - new and improved. I'm not going to reveal the design yet, but it's been in my head for a while. Somehow all the bits of wood will be incorporated into this one. Anyway, this is the base of the pyramid with the four sides laid out where they will go. Since i did this layout my LSW (being very LS today!) pointed out that it was a bad way to glue it together as it would be trying to spring apart.

So that's what the second photo is. Her cunning plan is to glue it together like this first, flat. Then when it's totally set, under pressure, bend it round into a pyramid shape and glue it to the base. I still think it'll need some black gaffer tape, but we'll have to see!

More tomorrow when the glue's set.


End of life coffee table

My Coffee Table
Originally uploaded by graham_h_miller

Ready for Recycling
Originally uploaded by graham_h_miller
If you look at the top picture you can see all the problems with the old one. First of all the top has creases in it, one right through central London, the other one a lot further to the West! Also the legs are very prone to twisting. It's the one direction they're not strong in and as weight and time have taken their toll, they've given up that way.

It started with the cut ends of the legs snagging on the carpet if it was pushed out of the way so I added some extra circular reinforcing bits but it still managed to twist.

The second picture shows what happened when I let my elder two boys (aged 5 and 8) loose on the table. We stripped off the map layer as that was covered in sticky back plastic and the rest is ready to go in the recycling. It's been Christmas so it'll go in the bin once its been emptied.

Strangely I don't feel that sad as it was never designed to last for years. I invested a few hours in it along with some old cardboard boxes. I learnt lots and I had well over a year's good use out of it. And now it's being recycled as was always the plan.


Saturday, 9 January 2010

Lots of progress

I'll upload the photos later, but I have made progress on my next cardboard coffee table. I have marked out the four big triangles and promised middle DS (aged 5) that we'll build the pyramid tomorrow. And I've cut the joints on another crosspiece. Because of the added wood this is shaping up to be a very strong table. I keep on imagining it in my head, trying to see where all the stress and weight will go - trying to see where the failure point will be.

I've also finally recycled my first coffee table. I made it at the beginning of August 2008 and from the start it had obvious flaws. So I'm quite chuffed that it's lasted well over a year. Especially as that was a year when our youngest learnt to walk. We have three boisterous boys so I think it lasted incredibly well.

Finally I'm sterilising some bottles so I can get a demijohn clear for the damson wine. That might happen tonight or tomorrow - not sure yet!


Thursday, 7 January 2010


Originally uploaded by graham_h_miller
A couple of weeks before Christmas we got a new cooker. Luckily for me when it arrived it came wrapped up not only in poylstyrene but also some cardboard and packing wood. Once I realised that the cardboard was about the right size for the top of a new coffee table, it was a short step to using the packaging wood to reinforce it.

Despite not being very good or liking woodworking in school I managed to cut these joints into the wood. There's about another 21 to go so it might take a while to finish it off. I think I'm enjoying this more than at school because I've got an idea in my head and I'm kind of working it out as I go along, not drawing it accurately but just using the wood itself as a measure. If you see what I mean.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Sunday, 3 January 2010


Well after a good few days off, what with Christmas and school holidays I have finally got back into it. Wrote nearly 1,000 words this evening while waiting for middle son to go off to sleep. I've been writing the Dark Ages bit of my novel, which is starting to come together now!


Well had a good day today. Helene came over today to learn about winemaking. Together, we bottled up the elderberry and blackberry. And we got the rowan berry wine strained off and into an air-locked demi-john. While this was going on I was simmering four pounds of damsons which are now sitting in a brewing bin with some yeast, tea and lemon juice, bubbling away nicely. So Helene got to see all stages of the process and I got some help and motivation to get on with all my wine making.

Next stage is to scrounge post-Christmas wine bottles and bottle up the remaining seven demi-johns into bottles to clear the decks ready for the spring flower wines. Oh and I need to check through the freezer for anything else I can turn into wine :D


Saturday, 2 January 2010

Hello and Welcome

Well this is my wife's idea - one blog to bring together all my creative projects in one place. To be honest it's because I have such a butterfly brain that I'm always working on lots of projects at once.

Today I've been trying to replace the cardboard coffee table. When we moved house I turned some of the old packing boxes and a couple of road atlases into a coffee table. Now, 16 months down the line, it really is not working any more. So I'm going to do what I said I would and recycle it. But now I need to make a new one. It's not so bad as we just took delivery of a new cooker, and as well as cardboard packaging, the polystyrene was reinforced with bits of wood. I'm in the process of turning the bits of wood and cardboard into a coffee table, but at the moment I'm stuck as I can't lay my hands on a chisel.

I'm also writing a book. I have been working on my latest novel all last year, and am perilously close to the 40,000 word mark which is really encouraging. Bizarrely, it's a historical novel that's set in a post-apocalyptic future. The mechanism that holds it all together is reincarnation and past life regression. Basically the main characters get regressed back and the stories are told in different historical periods. It's primarily an exploration of warfare and warriors from different points of view and at different times in history, but mainly focusing on how the characters develop over the different incarnations.

And, when I figure out how, I'll import my other blog about the Goddess of Recycling. This documents my attempts to melt down aluminium and make a cast statute of a prehistoric Venus type figure. I'm doing everything from scrap for as little cost as possible. I have many lovely people who collect cans and foil containers for my project. At the moment I'm making small model goddess figures. They should be called "masters" as when I get it right I'll be able to make many copies, but somehow that seems wrong when dealing with the goddess!

I also make wine and jam and with my lovely three children I'm developing a game called "The Most Complicated Game in the World Ever!". And doing a bit of small scale cardboard engineering. Which reminds me that I ought to be making a cardboard homework desk for my eldest at some point. Oh and then there's the Hornby set that we've just started and will be gradually updating and modeling for.

Aside from my interest in runes and Viking myth, which I need to explore more deeply, I think that's about it for the moment.

I'll post up progress on any of my projects and cross-post pictures of them from my Flickr account (oh yes, photography too).