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On the road

When Des and Kath Thomson decided to take to the road in their retirement, they wanted a campervan that was comfortable. They didn’t want to be clambering up ladders, tangoing at tea-time in too-narrow aisles, or struggling to turn tables into beds at night. But nor did they want to trundle around the countryside in a cumbersome mobile mansion.
They wanted a small, manoeuvrable vehicle that had masses of space inside. Space for everything, including the kitchen sink plus another in the bathroom, a separate shower, toilet, cooker, microwave, barbecue, table and chairs, wardrobe, drawers, hot and cold water on tap, plenty of storage…oh, and a queen-size bed.

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A dream shed that came true

Gary Wells has a shed that isn’t quite your normal sheddie bloke’s shed. It is still a place of work but a recent extension, after a quick clean-out, now doubles as a well-appointed entertainment area complete with bar and luxurious sofas which Gary made from the backs of two Ford cars. It could also be the old 1950s petrol station at Makarewa, once a small township and now incorporated into Invercargill to the north. A quick glance around Gary’s shed at the old-style petrol bowsers, the weather-beaten, corrugated iron wall, advertising placards and oil dispenser puts you back in the days when petrol was actually served to customers.

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The right stuff – part 2

If you have followed our Metalworking Lathe 101 series in The Shed magazine, you will have a grasp of the basics, so here are some helpful tips to improve your lathe experience and make those projects a bit easier to do.
Quite often the material or item we need to hold in the chuck is delicate, either due to a fine finish that we do not want to put chuck jaw marks on or due to it being thin walled. For jobs with a surface finish that you need to protect it is handy to have some strips of aluminium to put between the chuck jaws and the job material. These are mostly used when holding in a 4 jaw chuck as the job will need to be “clocked up” using a dial indicator to get it running true.
The thickness of the aluminium strips cannot be relied on to be consistent as they squish up a bit with the tightening of the chuck jaws, so when using a 3 jaw chuck the auto centring effect is not so good.

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The right stuff – part one

These tips are a random collection of thoughts that I have grouped under the classification of things that relate to working at a bench using hand tools, rather than using a lathe, mill or other machine tool. So if you have only a workbench with some hand tools in your shed, this is meant to be useful for you too.

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Metal spinning lives

The exact origins of metal spinning are unknown but the craft can be dated back to ancient Egypt where examples of spun vessels have been found. Metal spinning today differs little from the past with the only real advance being that an electric motor is used to drive the chuck instead of manpower or water power.
Before the advent of power presses, metal spinning was used to make almost all round sheet metal objects such as pots, pans, lampshades and wheel rims.
The principle of metal spinning is simple: a disc of metal is clamped between the tailstock and a former or mandrel. The disc is spun and the operator then uses a lever to manually work the metal down onto the mandrel. The process helps maintain the structure of the material and does not stress it, resulting in a stronger and more stable product than if it was pressed.
While metal spinning by hand does not generally alter the thickness of the material, hydraulic-powered tools can be used to flow-form products making sections thinner where required.

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Hi-Q Components has it all tied up with their range of ties

If you’re looking for plastic cable ties and mounts, and cable management components, it’s hard to beat Hi-Q Components’ comprehensive range, which covers just about anything you’ll need for the job in hand.
Its selection of plastic fixings and fastenings includes standard strap-type cable ties, from 75mm x 2.4mm to 1500mm x 9mm; as a bonus, many sizes are available in weather-resistant black nylon for outdoor use. Hi-Q also has specialist ties covered, with stock including HVAC duct straps, heavy duty for hydraulic hoses, releasable, screw mount, marker, push mount, double loop mounting, hanking, and beaded ties. As well as cable ties, Hi-Q offers a great selection of cable tie mounts, such as quick and easy self-adhesive tie mounts, and push and lock clip mounts for through-hole panel mounting.

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Rolling stool build

My wife, Rosaleen, loves to cook, and will happily spend an afternoon in the kitchen cooking meals to be frozen and given to our daughters and their friends whenever the need arises or opportunity presents.
However, arthritis makes standing in one position for long periods difficult for her. She wanted a stool for the kitchen, but ours is a galley-style layout and quite narrow. It’s wide enough for one person to walk past another working in the space, but the presence of a stool would present a major obstacle. “Why don’t you invent something?” she said.
I love a challenge like that.

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Engines on the move

Something that many shed owners must face at some time is how to maintain their hobby if they have to downsize their property. Owen White is one person who has successfully achieved this by not only downsizing the house but downsizing the hobby. Instead of restoring old internal combustion engines he now makes scale models of them.
In the 1960s, Owen got hold of a 1930s 9 hp Briggs and Stratton stationary engine to restore and was bitten by the vintage engine bug. It sparked a 50-year passion for old combustion engines, and for repairing, restoring and running them at vintage engine shows. Owen joined the Vintage Engine Restorers Club in 1985 after attending their third meeting and remains an active member.

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The Shed magazine April/May 2024 issue 114 on sale now

When Athanasius (Athow) Santamaria made an “impulse decision”, to buy a pile of old Austin parts in 2015, he didn’t really have a project in mind.
But this young kiwi sheddie, with no car building experience at all, figured he would have a crack at building a car from this pile of parts. Now, he is well down the track to completing an authentic reproduction Austin Seven Ulster; a scratch-built, boat-tail, two-seater sports car.
Athow south guidance and advice from Austin and vehicle restorers far and wide and the result is really quite remarkable. There is still some way to go but the skills he has acquired on his journey is apparent for all to see.
“The Ulster body is shaped from 5005 aluminium, which is a little harder than industry standard 3003.

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Mr Fix it

Ian Chamberlain’s shed is upstairs in the second storey of his double garage in Whanganui. Ian certainly needs all the room on the ground floor to park just a few of the vintage and classic cars he has restored over the past 30-odd years. And while the styles of car evoke a walk down memory lane, the vehicles look brand-spanking new.
There’s a fire-engine red Mark 1 Zephyr convertible, a more staid looking green and black 1917 Buick, the red and brassy 1906 Reo, and its miniature look-alike.

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Make your own backyard forge

This is one of the very basic forges for heating metal bars. There are many other types of forge out there and Youtube can show you how to build and use them. My forge was made of scrap steel from my workshop and the local recycling centre.
The forge essentially consists of a fireplace or “bowl” in firebricks which are held firmly together in a brace or strap. They sit on top of a steel plate. Another steel plate sits on top of the bricks, with a large square in it to allow access to the firebowl.
A small, round, high-grade steel grate with several holes in it sits at the bottom of the brick bowl. Below this fireplace, a vertical pipe-fitting is welded into the supporting steel plate. The bottom of the pipe is an ash trap, and the ash can be dropped out by opening a small trapdoor.

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Size matters

Over the years I have bought three universal sockets from second-hand tool dealers. Only one has a name and the manufacturer stamped on it, the American made “Ultra Socket”, while another is obviously a close copy of the “Gator-Grip” which is advertised on the internet.
I think the real appeal of these mechanical curiosities is that they can grip fasteners for which purpose-made sockets can’t readily be purchased, and the reason for that is that the system of sizing nuts and bolt heads has changed more than once over the past 50 years.

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Rolling tool storage

The first law of shed dynamics is: The need for shed space will always grow to exceed the space available.
With space at a premium, it is incumbent to make the best use of it. So I evolved an idea for a modular set of moveable cabinets that could be rolled out for each job and configured as required. It means I could easily house my commonly used tools and still retain space in the shed.

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Carving out a career

Shaugn Briggs’ shed is a 6m x 3m pop-up gazebo and heavy-duty groundsheet. And that’s just on a bad day. When the sun is shining, the Christchurch limestone carver works alfresco, with the sky overhead and surrounded by trees and music.
The shedless sheddie’s “workshop” consists of a pile of portable Ryobi benches and an assortment of tools in stackable plastic tubes. When not stored in the single garage at the end of his drive, they are loaded on the trailer he tows around to various working and teaching venues.
Shaugn, who is also an accomplished painter, started his working life, somewhat reluctantly, as a painter and decorator. “The art thing was all I ever wanted to do but there is always that pressure to get a proper job,” he says.

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Hi-Q Toggle clamps

Toggle Clamps
When it comes to clamping, lever-action toggle clamps offer excellent power from a quick and easy motion and they are simple to install for ready access. Toggle clamps have a multitude of uses in engineering, metal fabrication, and woodworking. Hi-Q Components stocks a wide range of high-quality Turkish-made Kukamet toggle clamps including horizontal and vertical actions, latching or push–pull configurations with different mounting options, and even pneumatic versions.

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Snack shacks for birds

Home handyman Rob Allison originally made his first birdfeeders as Mothers’ Day presents for his mother, mother-in-law and wife. Popular demand has seen his feeders, with a few modifications, hanging on trees in the gardens of friends and family around Christchurch.
“It’s a very simple design,” says Rob. “An ideal first project for a youngster interested in woodwork, and they will have the added pleasure of watching the birds enjoy their handiwork.”

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One for the birds

Megan Collings’ birdhouses tick a lot of boxes. Her quirky shelters are not only well-constructed and aesthetically pleasing, but they are indirectly providing food and shelter for more thanher feathered friends. Megan gives the proceeds from every birdhouse she sells to an orphanage in Nepal.
“The earthquake in Nepal hit me hard after our own quakes in Christchurch,” says Megan. “I couldn’t get it out of my head, there were so many thousands affected. I wanted to go over and help but felt I was just a nobody. I’m not a nurse, I’m not a doctor. I love making my birdhouses and thought it was a way I could create and sell for a good cause.”

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The Shed February/March 2024 issue 113 on sale now

This February/March 2024 issue 113, we visit a whole bunch of sheds around NZ and in fact all around the world. We start with a profile of the talented Auckland sheddie Chris Elliot.
Chris has a small shed in Central Auckland from where he restores Italian scooters and cars, well, cars that don’t take up a lot of space such as Fiat Bambinas. With a background in movies and TV set design, Chris is never idle and not only restores all the Italian autos he can but gets his creative side going with household artefacts as well. One talented sheddie.
Jason Burgess writes “A cinematic late-afternoon light pours through the corner window of Chris Elliott’s vest-pocket shed. The miscellany of collected artefacts, fabric, and vehicular memorabilia conjures up a neat yet cluttered bazaar in some exotic foreign land rather than an active workshop on the fringe of Auckland City. This concrete single garage is a celebration of creativity and productivity. Swinging a cat – or, for that matter, a hammer – might seem problematic in such confines but, when it comes to fulfilling a wide array of job briefs and cross-disciplinary commissions, Chris somehow makes things come together.”

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Customising your plane blade

In my previous article on sharpening a plane (“Sharpen up your plane blades,” The Shed magazine, Feb/Mar 2010 – also on this website) we worked on how to consistently produce a sharp, straight edge on our plane irons. Now that we have that skill in place it’s appropriate to look at how modifying that straight edge can allow us to achieve a range of differing results in our woodworking.
It is important to understand that what drives the modification of our cutting edges is what we want to achieve with them. Therefore after describing the shape of the plane blade, I’ve outlined four major tasks that we can achieve with the particular shapes our planes. Each requires progressive development of the edge “shape” so I recommend re-reading of the earlier article to get you on the starting blocks for this one.

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Locking in efficiency and innovation

In the world of furniture manufacturing, every detail matters. A new product revolutionising cabinet and furniture construction is the Peanut Connector. Available from Jacks, these unassuming yet highly effective furniture connectors are set to become an essential tool in the arsenal of modern cabinetmakers. Peanut connectors offer a host of advantages that speed up and simplify the assembly process, reduce material costs, improve the overall quality of cabinetry, and deliver a more contemporary slim-line look. Let’s explore these connectors and the numerous benefits they bring to the table.

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Getting up to speed

The ever rapid and constant development of electronics has had many positive effects for the sheddie, and one such example is the Variable Frequency Drive (VFD), which allows the speed of 3-phase motors to be electronically controlled with the bonus of adjustable speeds. Historically, continuously variable speed motor drives involved mechanical systems such as the Reeves drive, which is similar to a motor scooter CVT transmission where belt-drive pulleys can be varied in size “on the fly” and hence vary the drive ratio.
These and other transmissions were universally expensive, difficult to retrofit and inefficient. The increased use and falling prices have brought new and used VFD drives within the reach of the home user and have opened opportunities with industrial machinery that previously did not exist.

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Fun in the sun

When I made my first tambour door a couple of years ago, what immediately struck me was not the functionality of the door itself (although it is not without its aesthetics or merits), but that it would potentially make a really comfortable deck chair.
This project is the realisation of that idea. Using a long tamboured top as the basis for a piece of furniture, I decided to make: a tambour sun lounge.
I expect most people would be familiar with the classic roll-top writing desks, popular in the 19th century and a progression from the solid-topped Bureau du Roi, or “Secrétaire à cylindre de Louis XV” from 1769. The tambour form particularly suits itself to the ogee curves and it is that aesthetic that inspired the form of this sun lounge.

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The Shed magazine December/January 2024 issue 112, on sale now

The cover story in our 2023 year ending issue is on the jaw dropping memorabilia collection of Terry Dalton. This is not simply a small room filled with a few bits and pieces, this is an enormous cathedral-like shed, crammed with memories. The collection is truly varied but includes a huge chunk of 1950s American Graffiti Americana including the cars and diners from that decade. Our own Kiwana has not been overlooked and there is an enormous swag of that as well. You really need to see it to appreciate it. Terry’s shed probably houses the most significant private collection of memorabilia in NZ.
“Terry likes collectibles. He has several extensive collections of different sorts of memorabilia, much of which he has bought online. He collects, for instance, oil bottles and tins, 1957 Chevrolet memorabilia, F1 stuff, musicians’ autographs, and the picks of well-known guitarists.
One corner of the shed, furnished with plush theatre seats, is devoted to the display of his treasures. He likes the collectibles not only for their own sake but also because they have a known value and are readily saleable; there is a market for them. He says that most will be sold as he gets older.“

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Going glamping

What do you do if you want a caravan but drive a Mini? You make one to fit. That’s just what Michael Wolfe of New Plymouth did – turning out a real dinky little teardrop-shaped caravan that matches his 2004 Cooper S and has all the mod cons for a decent holiday.
Michael saw pictures of little campers on the net and decided that was what he wanted – a cross between a caravan and a tent.
“I got some ideas from little caravans online and decided to go a bit more high-tech,” he says.
He built it to have the same lines, wheels and colour as his car and it looks just the part.
“I never really planned it in detail. I sketched it out originally and a lot of the construction I worked out as I went along.”

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Cutting threads by hand

From time to time in the home workshop, you may need to make a new threaded hole for a bolt and create the threads on the bolt itself. It’s handy to know how to use the dies that are rotated onto a bolt blank to make these threads, and to know how to use the taps that create the threaded holes. This skill will be especially good for those interested in model engineering, go-karts or light engineering, but who have not been trained in the use of hand tools for making threads. 
There are many different thread sizes. These are made to international standards. In all cases, the size of a thread eg, 6mm or ½ inch and so on, is determined by the diameter of the rod or bar on which it may be cut.

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Video of the wooden fairground organ built by David Dilks

The 320-pipe fairground organ that David made from scratch is visually and acoustically impressive. The array of beautifully crafted pipes, different shapes and sizes, the accordion-playing monkey, and the drums make quite the show. It’s hard to resist jiggling — but then David and wife Joy, both ballroom dancers, kick up their heels and show their form. Music is a big part of their life.

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Electronics: Powerful stuff

Everyone who dabbles with electronics or even automotive stuff will eventually find a bench power supply very handy. When I first started getting into electronics, they were large, expensive beasts, and very much out of the reach of hobbyists. There were a few kitsets provided by some electronic parts suppliers, but these tended to be limited in voltage and current.
If a hobbyist wanted an affordable adjustable supply, they usually had to make it. We even resorted to designing and making our own when I worked for Telecom. Commercial units were available but they didn’t suit our requirements, or budget.

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His worship – the shed and vintage cars

The morning we visited this particular sheddie, the bloke was under fire. In The Press, he was being slagged off on the front page. Inside the paper, a swag of writers was pinging him this way and that in letters to the editor. Christchurch is a hotbed of political discontent these days and the buckshot stops with the mayor Garry Moore.
So he’d be in no mood to spend a lovely spring Saturday morning talking to a complete stranger about something as mundane as his not-quite-finished shed? Wrong.

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Up the wall

A friend loves gardening and has always wanted a vertical garden or ‘living wall’. She has been pestering me to build one ever since I started doing the welding articles for The Shed. I looked at a few and developed a simple concept that is simply an angle iron frame with a wire lattice.
I measured the wall it was to fit on and arrived at a final size of 1m x 1.6m. I
happened to have that on hand in 3mm angle iron. The vertical garden needs
to be offset to the wall to allow for air circulation and watering. I decided to offset it
by 60mm so that required 100mm feet.

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Video of Austins Foundry’s final pour

This is video of a family firm that has provided a good living for at least two generations, building up an impressive skills base while manufacturing essential farm machinery for more than 90 years. The Austin family has run a foundry in Timaru for 93 years. Ken Austin, grandson of the founder, says the business has faced increasing headwinds since the Covid-19 pandemic, so he has tested the winds of change and decided to close down. The Shed visits to celebrate their technical foundry skills, the likes of which we may never see again in New Zealand.

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Life in the fast lane

He might describe himself as a larrikin biker, but former world motorcycle racing champion Graeme “Croz” Crosby is really more of a modern Renaissance man.
Put simply, a Renaissance man is defined as a very clever person who is good at many different things. So check the Croz record thus far: Champion motorcycle racer, commercial pilot, successful author, businessman, house builder, skilled motorcycle mechanic, enthusiastic cook, raconteur – the list goes on. He can speak a little Japanese, bake a soufflé or lace up a wire-spoked bike wheel. And even though he turns 62 this year there’s still quite a bit of the larrikin left.
It almost goes without saying that Graeme has a shed. Well, it started out as a hobby shed, somewhere to tinker with old bikes and other motorised toys. In typical Crosby fashion, though, it has become the headquarters for a thriving business restoring and exporting classic Japanese motorcycles. Graeme and his wife Helen bought a 12 acre (4.8 ha) block in the picturesque Matakana countryside an hour north of Auckland more than eight years ago, built a spectacular house, the shed and, across the road, Helen’s The Vivian art gallery.

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The Shed magazine October/November issue 111, on sale now

Headwinds in the foundry
The end of an era for Austins of Timaru
Our cover feature this issue is the story of a family firm that has provided a good living for at least two generations, building up an impressive skills base while manufacturing essential farm machinery for more than 90 years. The Austin family has run a foundry in Timaru for 93 years. Ken Austin, grandson of the founder, says the business has faced increasing headwinds since the Covid-19 pandemic, so he has tested the winds of change and decided to close down. The Shed visits to celebrate their technical foundry skills, the likes of which we may never see again in NZ.

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Size matters

Back in the carefree/careless days we took a drive up to the Hokianga harbour, mainly for a fish and chip meal at the legendary Omapere pub, and promptly fell in love with the place. It’s New Zealand 50 years ago: clean, uncluttered with houses and people and just plain beautiful on any given day.
The harbour simply sparkles on a sunny day and the dunes on the north head are nothing short of spectacular. The views coming over the ridge from Waimamaku and the Waipoua forest are breath-taking. We still stop and try to take it all in.
Everything moves at a leisurely pace up at the “Hoki”. It is still a hidden gem, but not for long I feel. We have a few celebs up there now and there are more and more serious homes going up, but it still has that laid back feel to it. Opo the dolphin is the only thing that has happened to the area and that was 60 years ago.

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Replacing floorboards

Lift the carpet or lino in an old villa to prepare the floor for polishing and you are bound to reveal the gaps or rotten bits in the floorboards.
So how to get them up and insert a tongue-and-groove board into an existing layout? First, work out where the joists are. If you’re lucky, the piece you want to remove will begin and end on a joist, or at least one end will. If not, find the joist nearest to the point you want to cut, usually by tapping the floor.
Often you will see the old nail holes, a good guide to where the centre of the joist might be. Next, scribe a line across the board you want to cut. I use a Tajima knife.

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Video of the Ghent Makers Faire

For our electronics features in issues 110 and 111 of The Shed magazine we stepped away from a build project and instead head to a makers’ fair in Europe, this one in Belgium. Young and old were there, keen to display their electronic creations as well as to learn, share and to just enjoy fellow electronic sheddies’ skills.
“Compared to other more famous maker faires events across Europe – Brussels, Rome, Hanover, to mention just the most renowned – the Ghent Maker Faire is considered a minor event. However, it still played host to thousands of visitors and is well worth attending because of its very special character.
As you may have already read in the “News” in The Shed issue 109, the faire hosted the first European power tools racing along the lines of New Zealand and USA competitions. It was organised by the effervescent Henk Ryckaert, who was also the man behind the scenes for the power tools racing on the first day.”

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The Auckland Blade Show is back

After last year’s awesome success, The Auckland Blade Show is back again! Come on down to the Guineas Ballroom at the Ellerslie Events centre on 23–24 September to see the finest hunting and kitchen knives, handmade swords and axes, and all the supplies and tools to get into the craft yourself! With more than 50 exhibitors, there will be so much to see!
Tickets are $10 and valid for both days, available on our website and socials. All online ticket purchases go in the draw to win one of several amazing knives!
Follow us on @theaucklandbladeshow on Facebook and Instagram, and see more on https://www.aucklandbladeshow.nz/the-auckland-blade-show

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It’s all a matter of scale

They say variety is the spice of life. So it is in the shed. For Taranaki mechanical design engineer Michael Wolfe this means working on projects as diverse as rebuilding a high- powered 1970 American muscle car through to intricate work creating a model of a classic Swiss 1960s train.
Michael re-builds and maintains full-size classic cars and in his spare time model railway construction keeps him busy.
“The skills needed are much the same,” said Michael. “It’s really all a matter of scale.”
His hand-made creation of a replica of an iconic Swiss electric train, the RAe TEE II, is unique – probably the only one in the world.
Panel construction, lathe work, welding, woodworking, and even creating parts with a 3D printer have all been part of the job. In the world of model trains, this is a big one. Each of the six cars that make up the luxury train is about 800mm long.
Michael started off with some plans, photographs of full-size trains, and books, all of which he used to create initial drawings.

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Make yourself a decent chef’s knife

Coromandel knife-maker Lloyd Franklin forges his knives from the raw material of coil spring steel rather than cutting or grinding the blades from existing metal shapes. His high-quality knives are sought after by chefs nationwide and by those who appreciate a well-balanced hand-made tool.
Coil spring steel is easily confused with spring steel that we know from a car leaf spring, says Lloyd Franklin. But, he explains, coil spring steel is a high-tech, shock-resisting tool steel from which you can happily make stone-working tools, woodworking chisels or even knives.

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The perfect desk job

The desk that is the subject of this article was made for one of my grandsons and is made in a similar style to a bed I made for him several years ago (see the article in The Shed, issue 43, June/July 2012). Like the bed it is made out of beech and finished with Danish oil.
While I have been able to undertake almost all of the processes in my hobby- styled workshop, I want to stress that this desk could be made at home with just a few hand tools. For example, you could ask the timber yard to dress the timber for you; all cutting could be done with a handsaw or a coping saw for the curves; the mortises and tenons could all be done by hand. The process would take longer but you would certainly enhance your skills.
The design process is always interesting for me and, with some initial design concepts in my head, I sit at the drawing board and draw out to scale two or three 2D versions of what I think the final product will look like.

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