Tibet Almond Stick

Here’s a great “off label” use of an old product for a completely different application that a guitar player turned me on to years ago. The Zenith Tibet Almond Stick is an oil- and cleaner-impregnated plug that comes as a tightly rolled up cloth in a metal can. Its original use is to “efface 1,000 scratches from pianos—radios—furniture—etc. It’s amazing!” I use it to refresh old strings on guitars, banjo and mandolins. Just swipe the stick along the strings, then pinch each string with a rag and slide along its length. All the nasty bits of rust, dirt, and finger cheese come right off. It’s especially good at helping to remove the crud that get trapped in the coils of wound strings and restores that brilliant “new string” sound. I also like the art deco inspired litho steel tube it comes in.

By the way, it will last forever: my 40 year old stick is still going strong!

-- Bob Knetzger  

Tibet Almond Stick
$6

Available from Amazon



Create Your Own Stage Effects

I worked on the stage crew for a local community theater and the old timers there had a bottomless inventory of quick and rough tricks for most stage effects. They would immediately say, here’s how to make a clouds move across the moon. Or get the sound of light rain on a roof. Or make a character fly, safely. At no cost. This book is chock full of a zillion little rough and ready, low-cost effects for local theater. And enough inspiration to create your own.

-- KK  

Create Your Own Stage Effects
Gill Davies
1999, 160 pages
$4+, used

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Rain
Buckets of water to pour into metal containers below
or
Dried peas for rain – in a tin or rolling in a wire sieve
or
Sugar poured down a grease-proof paper chute for an alternative rain sound effect.

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To make a twinkling starry sky, attach lengths of strong black thread to the stage bar. Create a galaxy by twisting aluminium foil around these threads and then make a pleasing random effect by looping up the threads to crisscross so the stars are scattered.

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A fan rippling water and the right lighting angle will make the ripple effect reflect onto the stage.

Rain
Simulated rain effects are achieved by a disc that is largely black but with a few scratches in the black surface to let light through. This effect is best confined to a small area.

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Fast changes with flats

Rotating flats
These are flats that are hung and so they can swivel. If they are fixed only at the top and hung from sturdy timber or onto an industrial track, as shown in the illustration, flats can be spun around very quickly indeed for a most effective fast change.

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Art of the Basket

Baskets can be magnificent. There’s a thousand ways to weave strands into objects, for art or for use. This absolutely stunning catalog of traditional basketry from around the world can guide you to what is possible. All materials, all shapes — 800 amazing basket-y artifacts here! You’ll not think of baskets in the same way. What else can be woven in 3D?

-- KK  

Art of the Basket
(Paperback version called Basketry)
Bryan Sentance
2007, 216 pages
$7+, used

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

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Baskets, from the Philippines, made using fibre from banana stems.

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Fish creel worn at the hip by fishermen from Lombok, Indonesia.

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The Basket Book

One of several books that can teach you elementary basket weaving. This one’s particular virtues are that it has very clear instructions for a large variety of baskets you might actually use (more than other guides), and that it can be had for a few dollars online, used.

Beyond the standard ” flat reed” rolls, its hard to find unusual weaving fibers — unless you make your own. This source, V. I. Reed & Cane, has a few other natural fibers. Anyone know of a better source?

-- KK  

The Basket Book
Lyn Siler
1998, 144 pages
$2+, used

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

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Cuttlebug

The Cuttlebug is a non-electronic die-cutting and embossing tool for paper crafts. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and able to use embossing folders and dies from most manufacturers. I am an avid papercrafter and scrapbooker, make all my own greeting cards, and I use my ‘bug more than any other tool.

Youtube shows lots of ways to use it for various techniques, including letterpress. I’ve had mine for about 10-12 years, use it at least weekly, and am still using the same cutting plates it came with. It’s more intuitive to use, more compact when folded up than competing brands I’ve tried and works just as well. Dies and embossing folders are available in any craft store, but you can also create your own embossing designs with leaves, lace, etc. using rubber mats made by the Spellbinder and Scor-Pal companies.

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Card made from Cuttlebug by Paris Estates

-- Polly Robertus  

Cuttlebug Embosser and Die Cutter
$60

Available from Amazon



Yes! Paste

For pasting paper to paper (or other materials to paper or cloth) Yes! Paste is economical and does a good job. A plastic pot of this will last most of us for years. It’s water soluble so clean-up is easy, and if, over the years, it gets thicker than you want, it can be thinned with water. Spread with a finger or brush.

I’ve used it for mounting paper items for public display, and appreciate that it doesn’t wrinkle even on large items. Glue sticks are handy, but one pot of this has as much goo as 57 glue sticks at .28 oz, and saves all the plastic waste of the sticks.

-- Lynn Nadeau  

Yes! All-Purpose Stik Flat Glue, 1-Pint
$11

Available from Amazon



Prop Builder’s Molding & Casting Handbook

Meant for prop builders in theater or film, this how-to book is the best overall guide for making molds and castings for any reason. Casting is a handy skill for any craftsperson — dollmaker, restorationist, Halloween fan, furniture maker, or handyman. This guide treats the many different modern substances you can use (about 30), educating you on what’s good for what, and taking you through the particulars for each kind of casting process. The guide assumes an ease with general shop skills and a willingness to deal with messy chemicals (and clean up!). Once you are comfortable with making molds and casts, you’ll find all kinds of creative problems can be solved with it. (Watch an episode of Mythbusters.)

-- KK  

The Prop Builder’s Molding & Casting Handbook
Thurston James
1989, 238 pages
$16

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

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The mold-making materials include plaster, two kinds of alginate, two forms of silicone rubber, latex, and hot-melt rubber.

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Moulage is a better molding material than plaster for this job because it is flexible. A hard plaster mold would most likely break — either when you attempted to remove the original pattern, or when you tried to release the copies (also made from a hard material).

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We added Plasticine, sculpting the pattern to make it look a little more like an oil lamp and a little less like a teapot. The addition of the pedestal to the finished casting will also help to convey this illusion.

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Hot-melt glue (ethylene vinyl acetate or EVA) is a thermoplastic with qualities much like those of other hot melts: it becomes fluid when heated, and is ruggedly solid when it cools to room temperature. In fact, it has enough of the “right” characteristics to make it a useful casting material. We will demonstrate casting with hot glue as we construct a crown from scratch.

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The filigree headband of this crown was made of a standard lamp part, called “brass banding.” The finials are twenty repeated castings of EVA (hot-melt glue).

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When you can use an authentic item as a vacuum forming mold, the thin plastic casting will be very realistic. This mold is a pattern of real roofing tiles, caulked with plaster.




Taurus 3 Diamond Ring Saw

I own two of these saws — one at my home in upstate New York, the other at my winter home in Jamaica. A diamond ring saw enables me to cut intricate shapes in ceramic tile, and allows me to create wonderful mosaics. I’ve been using my Jamaican saw the longest, spending a good part of my winter on the endless project of tiling the entire outside of my house.

The saws are mostly sold to stained glass artisans, and using it to cut heavy tile pushes it pretty hard. The ceramic dust is quite abrasive, and wears out the bearings in the saw fairly quickly. Fortunately the replacement parts are readily available, and regular cleaning of the saw keeps it in tip-top shape.

They sell a variety of blades for the saw — my favorites for tile work are their mega-blade and the recently added speed-cut blade.

-- Tom Dimock  

Taurus 3 Diamond Ring Saw
$377

Available from Amazon



Make a Chair from a Tree

When a tree is felled, its green wood is wet and easy to work with simple hand tools. As the wood dries it becomes hard and difficult. Old timers would shape chair parts from green wood cut from a small tree nearby, assemble them without nails, and as the wood dried it would shrink into a tight, strong, beautiful chair. This lost art was rediscovered by the author of this book, John Alexander. But now the book itself is long out of print, and used copies go for $350.

In the 35 years since the first edition of the book, the author has kept refining his process (while undergoing a gender change; John is now Jennie) and has produced a video of her highly refined process. In many ways the video is even better than the book. Sample excerpts of the video can be seen here. Alexander promises a third edition of the book.

If the idea of making a chair from a tree interest you, the Greenwoodworking website is worth checking out.

-- KK  

Make a Chair from a Tree DVD
$28
Available from Greenwoodworking

Sample Excerpts:

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Making Handmade Books

While traditional paper-book publishing declines, personal paper-book making ascends. Books have gone from industrial commodity to precious hand-made artifact. There’s a renaissance of handcrafted book-making by enthusiasts and Alisa Golden has played a key role in documenting and teaching this makers’ art. I have a number of book-making books, and this one by her is by far the most complete and thorough. Her diagrams and instructions are very clear. This hefty how-to manual gives directions for creating over 100 different types of books, book bindings and book-ish things. It incorporates her previous two how-to manual, adds new material and will guide anyone through the process of making a paper book by hand. Even better, it will prompt you to experiment with your own book-making designs.

-- KK  

Making Handmade Books
Alisa Golden
2011, 256 pages
$10

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

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Top:
Watercolor pencils

Second row:
Colored waxed linen, natural linen thread and bookbinding needle, beeswax, binder clip, Japanese screw punch

Third row:
Bone folder, archival superfine black pen, pencil, stencil brush, assorted papers, craft knife, awl, scissors

Bottom:
Metal ruler; cutting mat under all

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