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Holiday, quarantine, award and export

Been a while since the last blog due to being away on holiday. 8 of us stayed in a villa on the island of Menorca. We arrived on the Friday then on the Sunday the foreign and commonwealth office advised that all but essential travel to Spain and the islands should be avoided. However they did state that anybody already away on holiday were safe to stay for the duration of their holiday. 

Where we stayed

Then 2 days later we received a text from our travel agent telling us our return flight had been cancelled and they would be in touch with alternative arrangements but in the meantime to enjoy our holiday.  After hearing nothing for a couple of days we were starting to have concerns, but then we received a call giving us details of our new flight home. On the Monday which meant our holiday was cut short by 4 days. 

We were also told that on arrival home we would have to quarantine for 14 days.  Fortunately we managed to get an online shop so at least we could refill the cupboards with food. 

We returned home on the Monday to begin quarantine at home, fortunately my workshop is at home so on the Tuesday I was able to go in the workshop. 
While I was in the workshop on the Tuesday I received a telephone call telling me that I had won the North of England Prestige Award 2020. This came as a complete surprise and for once I was lost for words. 

Just when I got over the shock of that, on Thursday I received my first order from America. All I have to do now is wait for my quarantine period to end so that I can post of my order to the USA. 

In the meantime I will be back in the workshop making sawdust. 

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Another lockdown funeral

Another difficult week. Less than a month after attending my grans funeral, this week I attended my grandads funeral.  

I used to work with my grandad when we both worked behind the bar in the local club. He taught me how to pull a pint and how to deal with customers. 

My grandad is also the person who took me as a 16 year old to my first ever rugby league challenge cup final at Wembley stadium in 1990 to watch Wigan beat Warrington 36-14. In front of a crowd of 78!000 people. That’s a day I’ll never forget. We went on the train from Leeds to Kings cross station and then spent the morning riding round London on the tube train visiting as many monopoly locations as we could before making our way to Wembley to soak up the Prematch atmosphere. Even though my team weren’t playing I had worn my Leeds shirt and I wasn’t the only one. There were people in shirts from every club in the league all mixing together in a very friendly atmosphere. I don’t remember much of the game except that our seats seemed very high up and we had a great view. 

My grandad was in the navy during WW2 and was one of the survivors of one of the worst disasters of the war when a lone German aircraft dropped a bomb on Bari harbour hitting a ship that contained a shipment of mustard gas which exploded kill and injuring hundreds. The incident was initially classified but has now been written about in the book “Poisonous Inferno ” by George southern. 

My grandad didn’t speak much about what he got up to during the war however he did used to talk to me about it behind the bar if we were not busy. He also let me see a copy of his naval record. Which made for very interesting reading despite having some gaps in it which he always brushed over. In later years he did tell me that he was on the naval vessel involved in the mission to rescue the leader of the Yugoslav partisan Josef Broz Tito, which would explain the gap in his record and the Baltic theatre medal he has for which there is no citation.  

Throught the duration of ww2 my grandad was rescue from the water after ships he were on were attacked on numerous occasions. Which considering he couldn’t swim is extremely fortunate. 

Seeing as my grandad was so at home behind the bar pulling pints, it was only fair that when we built our own home bar that we invited him to pull the first pint which turned out to be the last time my grandad visited our house. 

RIP Grandad. 

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Plans cancelled due to coronavirus


Well this week I should have been making final preparations for my annual trip to the Isle of Man for the TT races. 

The TT races are an annual pilgrimage for thousands of bike fans around the world. For two weeks of the year they flock to the island to watch some of the bravest and most talented motorcycle riders pit themselves and their machines in a grueling 4 or 6 lap race around a circuit that is 37.73 miles long.

The circuit passes through towns and villages between lampposts and drystone walls before heading up over the iconic mountain section. 

Residents of the island open up there gardens to allow fans to watch the racing, although there is no shortage of viewing points around the course ranging from purpose built benches in a church yard at Braden bridge, sat up amongst the trees on the banking at glen Helen to sat out in the open up on the mountain. 

The race is actually a time trial with riders setting off 10 seconds apart. The fastest riders lap the circuit in around 16 minutes which is an average speed of over 130 mph !!! Which considering the proximity of the walls and lampposts is incredible. 

My tattoo.
The Isle of Man three legs.
The text translates to
whichever way you shall have thrown [it], it shall stand”

The atmosphere on the island is one I have never experienced anywhere else. Fans of all nationalities mixing with each other to enjoy the spectacle.  One of the other nice things is the ability on none race days to take a walk around the paddock and see the bikes being prepared for the next race and it’s also a chance to meet some of the racers as they can quite often be found wandering around mixing with the fans and enjoying the atmosphere. There are no egos and most racers will stop for a chat, a picture and an autograph if you ask politely. 

Then when you’ve had a trip round the paddock then it’s time to go for a lap of the circuit at a somewhat more sedate speed, well through the built up areas anyway where a 30mph speed limit is strictly enforced. But once out on to the open road then there is no speed limit. The police will happily sit and watch as you pass them at whatever speed you like as long as it is safe to do so. 

For me though the best part is being sat at the side of the closed road with other fans listening to the commentary on the radio from the comments points based around the circuit as the riders past at incredible speeds so close you can almost pat them on the back and wish them well.

For the entire fortnight of practice week and race week the whole island comes alive. With the island’s residents helping create a real community spirit which is even more apparent if the weather turns foul by opening their house to bikers to use facilities to dry wet kit and seek shelter. Especially the thousands camping around the island

Ah well never mind this year it’s not to be, however I have already booked for next year. 👍

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Mental health awareness week

Seeing as it’s Mental Health Awareness week, that’s seems like an appropriate topic for this weeks blog. Was just righting this blog when my phone pinged to notify me that I had just won the Theo Paphitis Small Business Sunday award and then my phone went nuts with twitter notifications. Still hasn’t fully sunk in yet so that might be a topic for the next blog. So back to the original topic of the blog. mental health awareness week. 

You may or may not be aware that I suffer with depression, but you probably do know somebody who suffers with it. What you probably don’t know is what it feels like to suffer from depression. I know not everybody who suffers it had the same feelings, but this is my personal experience. 

One minute your happily plodding along. Then all of a sudden something happens or someone says something and it’s like your stood at the top of a slide and somebody’s just pushed you over the edge.

Suddenly your sliding down the slide. You know your heading down but you don’t want to. You put your arms and legs out like a star fish to try wedge yourself against the sides. But it doesn’t work you can’t stop. No matter how hard you try. Your heading down to the pit of despair. 

Quite often something happens or somebody says something and all of a sudden you hit a ramp and the slide fires you back up to the top. 

Sometimes however you don’t hit the ramp and you keep going right to the bottom and then your stuck until you find the route out. 

The worst thing is knowing you on the downward slope but being unable to stop the slide even though you want to you can’t. And knowing that the people around aren’t aware of what is happening inside your mind and don’t see the battle you are fighting within yourself. They just think your being a miserable git and tell you to cheer up and that makes you feel like worse. The best thing people can do when your in that awful place is to just be there to offer a listening ear, a shoulder or sometimes no words are necessary just a hug or to know that your their for them can be comfort enough. 

Different people use different methods to help cope with the symptoms when they appear. Me personally I usually find that woodturning helps. However sometimes that’s not possible especially late at night or early morning, as my neighbours wouldn’t be impressed so in that case I resort to watching woodturning on YouTube or Tom and Jerry cartoons. 

Anyway enough of the depression. Time to go celebrate winning #SBS

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The difficult second blog

Well I’ve heard musicians always say the second album is the most difficult, and so it is with this blog. Thought the first was difficult, but the second even even more difficult. 

Where to start. Well Friday was my grans funeral, she was 92 years old, she had been in a home for dementia sufferers for the last few years. The attendance for the funeral service was highly restricted due to Coronavirus with only 12 family members in attendance. The outstanding memory every family member had  of my gran was when my grandad complained of not getting Yorkshire puddings for Sunday dinner, so she made him them daily with every meal for a week even on the night they had fish, chips & mushy peas 😂😂 he never complained again.

So back to the workshop, the latest project. A large vase made from a burr. 

I’ve had the piece in the workshop for quite a while, but haven’t known what to make with it. When I went in the workshop this morning I had a moment of inspiration. So I mounted on the lathe between centers and started turning. I turned a tenon on the bottom so I could mount it in the chuck. I then started to round the piece. 

 Once rounded off I then started to shape the outside of the vase. After shaping, the vase was then sanded to give a smooth tactile finish then wiped over with methylated spirits to remove the dust, next a coat of sanding sealer applied, then a layer of sanding wax applied to the surface  once the surface was smooth, the finish of several coats of friction polish was applied and burnished. 

Then inside was then hollowed out and then the same finishing process was used on the inside as the outside and so here is the finished piece. 

As you may have noticed most of my wood turning design process takes place during the make. 

Quite often I can put a piece of wood on the lathe and have absolutely no idea what I will finish up with and other times I may start with a plan of what I want to make,  but the plan may change part way through depending on what the wood looks like as it’s turned and design changes may take place to emphasize parts of the grain. 

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My first blog


Well I’ve had a blog page on my website for quite some time, but for one reason or another I have never got round to putting anything on it. 

I thought it was about time that did put something on this page so at least it’s not just a blank page. 

So what to write. 

I recently did an online course on finishing of woodturning products. The course was titled “The Extraordinary Excellence I’m Finishing” and was run by Martin Saban-Smith at Hampshire Sheen.  The course included the use of embellishing waxes to enhance the grain, to achieve my certificate I had to submit some evidence of my work using the embellishing waxes. 

Last week I received an email from the instructor with my certificate which I have uploaded to the awards page on here, I also received some fantastic feed back regarding the pieces I submitted. 

The pieces you’ve sent in for your home work are great. I very much like the oak plate. The finish looks spotless and with a good sheen to it, too. In fact, in all the pieces, I can’t see any tool or sanding marks at all. Great stuff! I like the embellishing on the last piece, too. If I may critique for you, I think either a bronze or black wax would complement the piece a little more than the blue, and perhaps a key line where the rim starts to dip into the bowl would clearer define the difference between the embellished part and the natural surface of the bowl. Just a thought for you. The sapele tealight holder is very sweet. I like the simple shape and the attention to the detail of the added rings. Top work.

Martin Saban-Smith via email 27 April 2020

Couldn’t believe the feedback.  As even though I have been woodturning for a few years I still feel like an imposter in the world of woodturning. 

In other news, I recently agreed to become a supplier. I agreed to supply my Oriental Lamp style bird feeders to Elizabeth at Hedge Buddies for the bird feeder and bird mix set on her website.
https://www.hedgebuddies.co.uk/product/bird-lantern-feeder-inc-in-1-bag-hbmix08/

Well that’s the first blog finally written if you’ve taken the time to read it all then thank you very much and if you would be so kind as to leave some feedback either positive or negative it would be appreciated as this is will help me make this blog better.