Le Palais de Poulet

Le Palais de Poulet

C’est la fin!

I at long last completed construction of a lovely chicken coop for my 4 chickens. I started it last year at Easter time, and worked on it each school holiday after. It was a real education to build, and a test of my skills.

I used mostly materials that I scrounged, except for the chicken wire, the corrugated zinc, and the nails and screws. I’m really proud and take pleasure in the fact that I didn’t buy all the wood; as you can see above, the timber—mainly the reused fence palings—has such character, and is pretty sturdy, and didn’t cost me a cent.

The Rewards

We get a few eggs a day from our 4 girls, and they are lovely to eat, and share among the family. Part of the reward is financial, with the eggs saving us a bit of money here and there. It’s nothing that will pay off the home loan in 10 years, but it all helps. It is also rewarding being a little more self-sufficient, and relying less on the shopping markets. With our vegie garden, we can nearly eat whole meals where everything has been produced at home.

Our Ladies

Our lovely girls. L–R: Milly, Ethel, Black Betty, and Bethel

Meet the Ladies

We have four hens, two are about 3 or 4 months older than the other two, and we’ve had two die—one just dropped dead mysteriously after a week, and one died after an injury to its leg. We first got Ethel and Bethel at 16 or 17 weeks old. Then we had three 7-week-old chicks given to us by a friend. They all turned out to be roosters. We couldn’t believe it and were a little traumatised when we gave them away. We then got three new pullets from the hatchery nearby and now we have the four. Ethel is a Leghorn crossed with an Australorp and is a bully, Bethel is a lovely and gentle Australorp cross Rhode Island Red. Milly is a pure Rhode Island Red, and Black Betty is a pure Australorp.

If you’ve never had chickens before and are thinking about it, jump in because they are great fun, and you get more than you put in.

Giles’ Photo Album

Giles’ Photo Album: Spine Detail

My First Foray into Fine Binding*

I made my little godson Giles this photo album during a course in Bookbinding I did at Amazing Paper a few years ago. I had opportunity to create a leather-bound book, and I thought that I might as well create a photo album for my new nephew and godson.

To be different and get away from one of the standard paper sizes, I decided to create the album from 25 black A3 sheets (420 × 297mm) cut lengthways (420 × 148.5mm). The sheets were actually 25mm wider than standard A3 to allow a fold-over and still get a full A3 width. After scoring and folding each of the 50 pages, I placed each one inside the other to create 25 sections, which I then lovingly pierced and sewed with lovely red linen thread. Next I glued tracing paper, cut to give a 3mm square, into each section. After gluing, I rounded and backed, and created the hollow-back, and dressed the spine.

Giles’ Photo Album: Cover Detail

Because of the unusual size of the book, and because I was doing a leather binding, I laced the covers in with the tapes I had sewn on to. I then proceeded to cut the embossing for the front and back covers. The rest of the process was pretty standard, and I won’t go into too much detail.

Needless to say, Giles’ parents loved the photo album.

Giles’ Photo Album: Interior Giles’ Photo Album: Cover

* Insofar as any binding with leather is considered fine

A Simple Finishing Press and Plough

Side of the Press

…Finally!

I had wanted to make a finishing (lying) press for ages. In my dreams I was going to buy on of these wood thread tools, some dowels, and make some wooden screws. Because they are just so cool and I love the creaking sound you get when you turn them. That was a long time ago. I didn’t ever get around to it.

Then, the other weekend, I decided after a flash of inspiration to just make a very simple version with some long bolts with wing-nuts for ease of tightening. I never wanted to make one like this, because I wanted the beautiful wooden screws mentioned above. I also tend to have very grand ideas that I have to think about for ages and that are too hard for me to accomplish, thus they never get done!

To make the press, I cut two cheeks on the table saw out of 25mm MDF (while wearing an old pair of pyjama pants as a dust mask—MDF dust is bad to breathe in). Next I drilled holes through both cheeks, and finally made the holes on one cheek bigger for ease of movement over the threads. All I had to do was thread the bolts through the holes and tighten them until the square bit under the cup-head sank a bit into the MDF.

Plan View of Lying PressPloughing in Progress

Chisels into Ploughshares

Part of the reason that I made this was because I wanted to use one of my chisels as a sort of plough for finishing off the head, tail, and fore-edge of some books I was working on for Christmas gifts. After making the press as described above, I gave one of my chisels a sharpen and a strop on leather, then set about testing the setup. It worked very well, but with some possible areas of improvement. In thicker books, I found that standing with the press perpendicular to me and using a pulling motion on the chisel was much easier and safer than trying to push it through left-to-right or right-to-left.

The Result III (Fanned Edge)
The Result IIThe Result I

Improvements

After using the press and chisel–plough to finish the edges of some small books I was making for some christmas presents, there were some things I wanted to improve. I  got longer bolts so that I could make the press cheeks thicker, which I’ve done by adding on another bit of MDF to each side, doubling each cheek’s thickness. The 25mm by itself tends to bend under a lot of pressure, and also is not quite wide enough for the chisel to rest firmly and securely—on 50mm the chisel is much more stable, and doesn’t bend as much.

I also want to build a better plough, more like the traditional bookbinding plough. I have found that the results from the chisel are OK, but it tends to leave lines in the paper, where I might have moved the chisel slightly up or down between passes. I want to make a blade from some old hacksaw blades too—one that can be used pushing and pulling.