Three duff drills and a soldering iron stand

New use for firewood and a coathanger

Mitre saw My crafting in the last week has been more at the hard end of the spectrum than needlecrafts. First, I made a stand for my soldering iron because I was sick of trying to make it stand up with a bulldog clip. It was only a matter of time before I burnt the kitchen worksurface, something had to be done. I had a look in Maplins and wasn’t impressed by the quality of their soldering iron stand that costs, I think, £8. So, on a rare sunny day I decamped to the garden (aka my workshop) and took the mitre saw to a block of hardwood I’ve had lying around since I rescued it from my brother’s logbasket. Someone near him is selling offcuts from a window frame manufacturer as firewood and honestly, many of the pieces are far too good to be burnt. But I digress.

Having cut a suitable length of wood, I measured the diameter of both the business end of the soldering iron and its handle and then looked around for something with an intermediate diameter. A cooking spoon was perfect, and it even had a hole in the end to anchor the wire. I just used a coathanger for the wire, bashing it flat with a mallet before wrapping it around the spoon handle. It took all of my strength and I was glad I hadn’t picked a beefier coathanger.

Wrapping the wireFilm canister lidThen I needed to make a hole to take a little dish to hold a damp sponge. We only have one Forstner bit – they’re expensive, and it was bought to fit the hinges into the kitchen cupboards. I searched the house for something of the same size as the bit that would serve as a dish and eventually discovered that the lid of a 35mm film canister was a good fit.

I bent the base of the coil to the right shape, trimmed the excess wire and filed off the sharp edges, then screwed it into a pre-drilled hole. For the sponge, I cut a circle from a washing-up sponge.

The finished stand does the job perfectly. It looks good after a coat of linseed oil, and I can’t tell you how much easier it makes a soldering task.

Soldering iron stand

Drills that may become a spinning machine

Another success has been an advancement in my plan to make an electric spinning wheel similar to the Electric Eel Wheel. I decided a while ago that trying to source all the components in the UK was going to be too difficult – it is US-designed – and I might do better to put together my own design from readily available parts. Playing around with a cordless drill seemed a good place to start, seeing as they come with a DC motor, power supply, switch, gearbox and other useful components that could be repurposed. After asking around, a friend-of-a-friend told me he had three old drills in his garage looking for a new home. He makes heavy use of his power tools and, when the batteries fail (as they all do, eventually), he buys a new one because it costs little more than a replacement battery. As a result, I am now the proud owner of three cordless drills that I can experiment with.

Drills

All the drills you could wish for

I started by stripping an 18V model. As usual, finding all the screws was the hardest part of the task – why do manufacturers go to so much trouble to hide them? Once I was in, I found: a cheap (but hopefully still serviceable) Chinese motor; a trigger switch / controller which I’m guessing contains a pulsed width modulation circuit; a neat planetary gearbox; and a clutch mechanism to protect the motor from excessive torque. I can’t see why this lot couldn’t have a second life as a spinning machine. I reckon I’ll need a different power supply because the one supplied for battery charging is only rated at 400 mA and I’m guessing that the motor will pull a lot more than that, although spinning shouldn’t be as power-hungry as masonry drilling. But I’m conscious that I know next to nothing about spinning, and it’s perfectly possibly that I’ll blow a few motors, power supplies and other components in finding out. I have 3 drills to play with though, which didn’t cost me a penny, so I can afford to experiment. Now all I need is some warmer weather because for some reason my dear husband has banned me from doing such experiments in the house.

Local yarn shop move

Knitting-wise, I paid a visit to the new Baa Ram Ewe shop with a couple of friends shortly after it opened. The Chapel Allerton shop is larger than the one it has replaced in Headingley and it even has a small café area. I resisted buying anything, although my companions weren’t so restrained and a few skeins of the lovely Titus yarn came home with us.

I’ve finished the first sleeve of the Natalie sweater. I was thinking of joining the shoulder seams and knitting the neckband next, but then came the realisation that I have already washed the grease out of the back and blocked it, whereas the front is in its greasy, unwashed state. I can’t see that I could have done anything else, because I needed to know that the fabric of the back looked alright and that it was the right size before I embarked on the front, but I hadn’t considered the difficulty that presents for the neckband. I’ll obviously have to wash and block the front first, but I can’t sew up the shoulders and knit the neckband with unwashed yarn, can I? I’m assuming the tension will be all wrong if I do.

My plan is to work out how much yarn I need for the sewing-up and the neckband, take it off the cone and skein it, and then scour it when I wash the front and sleeves. At least then I will be knitting a neckband onto a fluffy, clean jumper using similarly fluffy, clean yarn. I must remember to measure 10m of yarn off the cone while I’m knitting sleeve no. 2 and then count the number of stitches I get from it.

About yorkshirecrafter

I live and work in West Yorkshire.  I've always enjoyed crafts of all types, from woodwork to lace-making.  I also enjoy anything mathematical, which makes knitting a favourite pastime, especially complicated designs.  I've been advising businesses and industry on environmental matters for 30 years and also have an interest in green living, especially where it saves me money. I live with my husband and our Maine Coon in a 100-year-old cottage that constantly needs something doing to it.  Fortunately, I enjoy DIY too.
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