Friday 3 November 2023


I came across this ornate cannon, and others like it, when I visited the quaint and whacky village of Portmeirion in North Wales. Portmeirion sits in the estuary of the river Afon Dwyryd and it's cannons sit along a harbour wall guarding the village from attacks by boat.

Whether or not these cannons are functional or merely decorative is something I've wondered about because they wouldn't be very mobile without wheels, and I wonder how well those curved legs would withstand the forces of the gun firing.

For those who've never been, Portmeirion was built by an eccentric millionaire who shipped in unusual looking buildings brick-by-brick from around the world. They are painted in bright, vibrant colours and the village is more like Disneyland than a regular village of houses. There is a ship semi-built into the harbour wall, so there is no way it could float. The village is a fantasy land, and it is for this reason that I suspect the functionality of the cannons. That said, they are great to look at and made a very interesting subject to paint.

A litle more about Portmeirion


Friday 27 October 2023


There's not a lot to say about this one. It's from a photograph I posted in my forum as the Monthly Painting Challenge, and this is my attempt. Obviously it's a Turtle and I painted it using watercolours - what else can I say. LOL.

Sunday 8 October 2023

When is a stamp, not a stamp ....

.... when it's a Cinderella

Almost since the beginning of postage stamps, there have been 'stamps' produced that are not official Postage stamps. Often referred to as 'labels', these non-postage stamps became known as "Cinderella's". The term was introduced by early philatelists because, like the fairly tale character, these were downtrodden and inferior when compared to proper postage stamps.

Though Cinderella stamps have no intrinsic value, and are essentially worthless, they can still demand high prices by collectors if they are sufficiently rare. To many, like me, the interesting stories behind these 'labels', are what make them collectable. Here are just three examples from my own collection:-

1. Lundy:
Lundy is a small island that lies 10 nautical miles (19 km) off the coast of Devon, England. In 1928 the General post Office withdrew it's interest in Lundy so it's owner, Martin Coles Harman introduced his own service, carrying mail free of charge to the mainland. In 1929 he introduced the first Lundy stamps to offset his costs. At first the Lundy stamp charge, or Puffinage, only covered carriage to the mainland but since 1974 an additional charge has been incorporated and separate UK stamps are no longer needed. Lundy is the oldest private postal service operating in the world today.

2. Berlin Airlift:
 The Berlin Blockade (June 1948-May 1949) was one of the first major crises of the Cold War. The Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control. From 26 June 1948 to 30 September 1949, American and British air forces flew over Berlin 250,000 times, dropping essential food and fuel. The plan had been to drop 3,475 tons of supplies daily but by the spring of 1949, twice that was often being delivered. As an off-shoot, a concurrent Operation Little Vittles saw aircraft nicknamed "raisin bombers" dropping candy to generate goodwill among German children.

3. Republik Maluku Selatan: Labels inscribed 'Republik Maluku Selatan' are among the most well-known of all Cinderella stamps. Part of modern-day Indonesia, the 'Republic of the South Moluccas' was a self-proclaimed (and unrecognised) independent nation, established on 25 April 1950 from part of what had been the Dutch East Indies. Most South Moluccas stamps are known to be the work of New York stamp dealer Henry Stolow, and aimed squarely at collectors. Maluku Selatan stamps are therefore considered to be bogus or fantasy issues. I'm sure the very badly guillotined stamp in my collection would be worth good money if it were a genuine postal stamp rather than a worthless piece of paper.

Cinderella stamps .... of little value but far from boring.

Friday 29 September 2023

Artistic Licence or not?

My neighbour recently moved out of the area. She'd been here many, many years but we've only known her since we moved here, almost 5 years ago. I thought it would be nice to do her a drawing of her bungalow as a memento of her time here. I popped outside with my camera and took a photo to use for reference. It was a gorgeous sunny day and the sun was shining brightly.

Though I was initially quite pleased with my effort, the more I looked at it, the less I liked it. At first I was unsure why but then realised it was because of the shadows. The reference photo was taken on a very sunny day with strong shadows and, as usual, I stuck too rigidly to the reference. Those dark angular areas were spoiling the shape of her house. 

Unfortunately for my neighbour there were some delays with her move but that afforded me the time to do the drawing again. This time I used our old friend 'artistic licence' and I imagined the house without the shadows. That left too much white paper so I decided to draw in the brickwork, which I don't normally do other than a few small sections hinting at what might be there. Doing so has separated the house from the white of the paper and allowed the shape of the building to have more depth and dimension. 

I was much happier with the second version so that is the one I gave her, and she was delighted. I'll be really interested to hear how you all view the differences, and which of the two you prefer.

Sunday 24 September 2023

Log Cabin - Part 2

The restoration of my fathers Log Cabin was not going very well. My first plan was to glue the 'logs' to the roof with an all weather PVA glue but I hadn't split the branches accurately enough for them to lay flat while the glue set, and all attempts to weigh them down proved unsuccessful. 

My Plan B was to use fine panel pins to tack the logs into place, either instead of the glue or in addition to the glue. That didn't work either because the old roof was too brittle and weather worn and hitting the nail with a hammer simply made a hole in the roof. There just wasn't anything solid enough to hammer too.

So I moved on to Plan C ..... I removed the roof completely and made a new one.

Though this meant starting again, the decision to make a new roof was the right way to go. 

I cut some plywood to the right size and then nailed the branches to it. It meant I was working with a much stronger base so I was able to secure the branches quite firmly.

Once I'd trimmed the logs to give a nice straight edge to the roof it was only a case of fixing the new roof panels to the rest of the building.

So, the cabin itself was finally finished, however, there was also a small Well that was in a poor state .... and yes, the 'bucket' is an old toothpaste cap. My Dad was nothing if not inventive.  :lol:

Restoring the Well just involved some glue on the upright posts and a couple of small pieces of plywood to fashion a new roof.

To round it all off, the cabin itself was given a really thick coat of exterior varnish. It made it look wet initially but I knew that the weather would soon reduce the shine. I wanted to give it as much protection as possible from the elements. 

I found a nice spot in the garden for it and it's nice to have it back on show. In some ways it doesn't feel right leaving it outside in all weathers, but that's what it's made for. It's lovely catching a glimpse of it every time I wander down the garden and I can see it clearly from the sun room every time I pass the picture window. If I only get a season or two out of it, it will have been worth the effort.

Monday 18 September 2023

Log Cabin - Part 1

Another project that I completed recently was to restore my Dad's Log Cabin. He made it for me in 2009 when he was in his 92nd year. The above photo shows it standing in a small clearing beneath a  small pine tree soon after he gave it to me. My friendly Robin took to it immediately. 

So it stood outside in all weathers for over a decade and was now looking very much the worse for wear. As can be seen from the photo's, the 'logs' on the roof had rotted away and the wood underneath was far from good.

It had been suggested to me that it would be easier to build a new cabin from scratch, and it would...... but that's not the point. I wanted to keep Dad's cabin going as long as possible. It's not about the cabin per se. 

When I was packing our belongings at my last house I knew that one day I would be wanting to do this so I pruned my old Pear tree to get as many long straight branches as I could. It is the tree that supplied my father with the wood he needed to make the cabin in the first place. The furniture removal men couldn't believe it when they found a bundle of branches amongst the packing.  :lol:  

Having stripped the roof of the old rotten 'logs' the next job was to make the new ones. 

I cut 8" lengths of branches, finding the straightest pieces I could. One end of the branches was too thin, and the other end too thick, so only the middle section was usable. 

Next I had to split them all in half along their length and that proved much harder than I'd expected. I discovered that Pear wood is very hard (harder than cherry) and difficult to work with. The only way I found of splitting the branches was to use a very sharp knife and knock the blade down through the wood with a hammer. Annoyingly the knife blade often followed the grain so I didn't get an even split. 

Being unable to use the thinnest and thickest ends of the branches, and with the uneven splitting too, I had a lot of wastage and was worried that I may not have enough wood. My Apple tree began to feel worried too.   :lol:

Monday 11 September 2023

Shire Horse and Dray - Part 2

With the Dray and Horse in reasonable shape the next step was to repair and refit the harness and straps. 

They had already received a coat of cleaner/conditioner to make them more supple. I was delighted to find that what I thought were 'rivets' were actually brass Split Pins so I was easily able to straighten them out and remove them. This enabled me to completely take apart all of the harness so I could identify and repair the various breaks in the leather. I put each section of the harness into a separate container so as to keep my confusion to a minimum. Regrettably, several more breaks occurred as I was cleaning and handling the old, fragile leather. 

I think the best thing I did with this project was take multiple photographs from every conceivable angle because putting the harness back together again, and figuring out which bits were broken, proved to be considerably more difficult than I had ever imagined.

The method I decided on for repairing the broken straps was quite unorthodox .... I used Garden Weed Suppressing Membrane. Though I'm sure there are plenty of 'proper' repair materials, this had all the qualities I was looking for .... thin, strong, doesn't stretch, and is easy to cut. 

Once I'd taken the harness apart it was a case of finding all the breaks and reconnecting them using the membrane. I cut small strips from an old offcut of weed membrane I had lying around, and glued them to the back of the straps using a contact adhesive. 

The final stage of the restoration was to carefully reconnect all the parts of the harness and refit it all to the horse and dray, giving everything a final clean and polish as I worked.

So the restoration is finally finished, or should I say, I've done all I can do. Parts of the harness are very weak and it wouldn't take a lot of handling for it to start falling to pieces again. Short of making a new harness from scratch I don't know what else I can do with it. But overall I'm pleased that it's all been cleaned and polished and that specific breaks in the leather have been repaired sufficiently for them to not be obvious. I've removed all old glue from the horse, none of the harness is now glued to it and the significant break in the leg is no longer visible. In my mind, that's not a bad result and is certainly a better result than I'd expected to get at the outset.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Shire horse and Dray - Part 1

This ornament of a Shire Horse pulling a Dray belonged to my parents and when I was clearing their house after they passed I decided I'd like to have it as a keepsake. Sadly, during their latter years they weren't able to give such things much attention and so it had been allowed to deteriorate quite badly.

There are many wooden elements of the dray that had come unstuck or had simply broken, but I was fairly confident I could bring them back to a reasonable condition.

What I was worried about was the bridle and straps on the horse. They had become so brittle that they fell apart as I touched them. I began by treating the faux-leather straps with a leather conditioner in the hope that they would then hold together better. 

As I began removing/dismantling the horses 'tack' I was very concerned to find that someone had attempted some repairs previously and an excess of contact adhesive had actually glued some of the leather straps to the horses body. Fortunately I was able to careful remove the straps by using a sharp modelling knife, but it did leave the horse in quite a state. 
I also discovered a repaired crack suggesting that one of the legs had been broken off and glued back on. It took quite a while to do but I successfully scrapped away all of the glue without scratching or damaging the body, and I also managed to remove the excess glue from the cracked leg. I touched in with a couple of dabs of acrylic paint just to hide a couple of very small chips and render the repair almost invisible.

Next task, to tackle the harness and straps.

Thursday 24 August 2023

"Maud": Finished for now

The new pieces I made for the bow and stern of the boat, together with the new Toe Rails have now been stained and fixed in place. 

The curved piece for the stern split as I was nailing it into place so I had to make a new one. This time I've not used nails but glued it in to place. The boat isn't going into water so there's no need to worry about it getting wet. 

The next step is to stain the whole thing and then give it a good waxing and polish. 

I decided to use a medium Oak stain because I didn't want the hull to be too dark.

The first coat of stain I applied with a brush and was a little disappointed in the brush marks that were visible once it had dried. 

After sanding the hull again, I applied a second coat of stain by wiping it on with a cloth. This gave me a smoother and more even finish.

To finish this stage of the project I applied a couple of layers of wax polish, buffing well between coats. I haven't achieve the mirror like finish I would have liked but the boat has a nice sheen to it, and looks good.

This project will be put away for a while now as I have no idea what to do next. Part of me wants to keep "Maud" as a wooden ornament, as she is now, but part of me would like to do some construction work and make her into a proper model boat. For now she sits proudly atop a cabinet in my study while I research my options and ponder my next step.

Thursday 17 August 2023

Model boat - starting the rebuild

I've been working on constructing some pieces for the deck. The originals broke and split irreparably as you can see from the first two photo's. I pieced them together and stuck them with masking tape so that I could draw round them onto a new piece of timber. 

I've cut them out and sanded them to shape and they're now ready for staining. On the original boat they were a dark wood and would have contrasted nicely to the light wood of the hull/deck. I've also made new 'toe rails' which also need staining.