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It’s been a while since my last post (summer, new job …) but today’s a public holiday and it’s beautiful outside. Perfect conditions for cleaning wooden chairs with some home-made furniture cleaner. This is yet another tip I picked up during that French polishing course I mentioned in my post about applying beeswax.


all four chairs dirty

I made these chairs back in the 1990s. The wood is Australian ash and I finished them with Danish oil. I’m pretty sure today is the first time I’ve given them a good clean. They’re not really that dirty – except for all the spots where they get handled a lot, in particular the back rails (as you can see in the photo below).

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Are wetsuits REALLY meant to be this hard to get on? My new wetsuit (can I discuss it if it’s not Christmas yet?) is unbelievably tight. But it passed the comfort test last Sunday at an open water swim session hosted by Masters Swimming Victoria at Elwood beach.


Last year my swimming career peaked spectacularly (relatively speaking) when I competed in the Waikiki Roughwater Swim. I say ‘competed’ but that’s overstating it. I jumped in with the rest of the swimmers and hoped I’d make it to the finish line in a time that wasn’t too embarassingly close to the slowest.

I really only need a basic wetsuit – one that keeps me warm and provides some buoyancy so I can pretend I’m faster than I actually am.

Out with the old …

old wetsuitFourteen years is, I think, long enough to remain faithful to a wetsuit that’s looking a bit chunky and tired. I bought this one from Rip Curl in Torquay in 1999. Yes, it’s still working well enough, and the black does go perfectly with my coloured lycra rash vests. And, as I’ve discovered in the last week, it’s a hell of a lot easier to pull on than a fancy thin-skinned, long-sleeved suit.
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Do you ever look at your boxes of family photos and despair about when you’ll ever get around to sorting them out? You know, writing names and dates on the back, putting them in albums, chucking out the ones you look ugly in …? How about scanning them all? Sorry but this post might put you off doing anything.


What started out as a smallish, one-off photo scanning job morphed, over a period of 5 years, into a large, complex project with no end in sight.

edith and loyIn January 2008 I scanned about 200 family photos for my mother’s 80th birthday party to create a slide show. It was a huge success – everyone loved reminiscing over images of weddings, Christmas celebrations, beach holidays, babies and grandchildren. Except I ended up with such a sore arm from all the repetitive work that I needed a long mental break before I could face switching on the scanner again.

I made another start in 2011 and then ran out of enthusiasm as the pile of photos and old documents grew. There was only a bit more progress in 2012, and finally a serious amount of effort this year.

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OK, so it’s another story about paint stripping. If you can’t be bothered reading it, at least enjoy the slideshow at the end.


red stool in original conditionI seem to have picked the simplest job ever for demonstrating how to strip paint off furniture. This old stool had just 1 coat of red paint. That’s it. Not even an undercoat.

I bought it from Bay Country Antiques in Waipawa, New Zealand (and got it home in my suitcase). The wood is probably rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum), according to the guy in the shop. Don’t ask me, I only know kauri.
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I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a ‘how-to’ post or a show-and-tell story.*

We’re getting four of our five leadlight windows completely replaced in a few weeks, and the existing window ledges all needed to be stripped, sanded, filled, sanded, undercoated and sanded ahead of the new windows going in.


Our leadlight windows are lovely – from a distance.

leadlight-window_original-state

Up close they’re a mess. That’s why we’re paying someone for new ones.

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[read Part 1]
Here are my instructions for making rash vests. There’s nothing too complicated about them.


What you need

snorkelling in a rash vest in hawaii

  • A piece of lycra fabric (two-way stretch fabric with 75% stretch)
  • A pattern (see Part 1 for details)
  • An overlocker (mine’s a 4-thread machine)
  • Two reels of woolly nylon thread and two of normal polyester thread

I’ve added this photo to show how brilliant a rash vest is when you’re snorkelling in tropical waters. Actually I’ve really only used it to add some colour to the page; the rest of the photos are all very duotone.

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I really don’t enjoy getting into outdoor swimming pools on cold mornings – winter or summer. So I wear tight-fitting, long-sleeved lycra rash vests over my bathers, at least until I’ve warmed up. 

I started making my own about 13 years ago. One or two a year, plus quite a few for friends … maybe 25–30 so far. Therefore, speaking as the expert I obviously am, let me tell you a thing or two about sewing rash vests. 


This part is a bit of an overview. In Part 2 I walk through the steps for making a rash vest.

The aim

The rash vest needs to fit really firmly through the wrists, arms and the bodice so it doesn’t create a lot of drag in the water while you’re doing laps. It doesn’t matter so much if it’s not tight around hips because it’ll ride up a bit no matter what.
my current rash vest collection
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