Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Lowestoft Maritime Museum - Suffolk History Brought To Life !

When you first approach the Lowestoft Maritime Museum you see a small flint cottage set in the grounds of the Sparrows Nest park which is home to a bowls club, the Lowestoft war museum, the Lowestoft movie makers, Martellos restaurant & coffee house and Giardino Italian restaurant.
The cottage looks small from the outside and you struggle to comprehend how there might be a museum of any note inside, but the tiny entrance opens into a tradis-like series of ingeniously laid out rooms just begging to be explored.
There are a staggering number of model boats and ships of all types, and just as many paintings and works of art to see. 

You will also see many themed areas such as Lowestoft in World War II, and the RAF Air, Sea Rescue Service, alongside collections of thought-provoking ships in a bottle, oil rigs, coastguard and lifeboat service, to name just a few.

The museum is filled to the brim with tales of exploration and human endeavour, and there's always someone on hand to expand on the exhibits and answer any questions you may have.

 Learn about the Lowestoft fishing industry. For over 1000 years, local people netted herring in the North Sea and landed them on the beach. In 1832 Lowestoft people built a harbour, and from 1847 railway trains could quickly take fresh fish to sell across the country. 

View Sir Christopher Cockerell's fantastic design workshop where he invented the hovercraft
This has been laid out as close as possible to his original floor plan, and was gifted to the museum in 2009.

It's easy to see why the Lowestoft Maritime Museum was a finalist of the Suffolk Museum Of The Year, 2014. It really is a wonderful little museum to spend an hour or so looking round.
Admission is just £2, but bring some cash to spend in the gift shop afterwards.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

One Day In London - Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum is on most peoples 'must do' list when they visit London, and I think we all know someone who's been and loved it.
The museum opens at 10am, and you may be surprised to see that it's situated inside a park and has it's own beautifully landscaped gardens with roses, lavender, and carefully trimmed lawns. You will instantly know you're in the right place from the imposing double cannons that greet you.

The large main hall that you first encounter contains a 'heady' mix of vehicles and exhibits from a variety of eras, on the ground, hanging in the air, and even perched precariously through spaces in the walls of each floor.

On the floor stands an impressive Soviet T-34 tank, an army field gun, armoured land rover and even the mutilated shell of an Iraqi civilian vehicle destroyed by a suicide bomber on the streets of Baghdad and turned into an art exhibit to demonstrate the horrors of war. All have interesting history and stories surrounding them.
Flying over your head are various suspended planes including the iconic Supermarine Spitfire and Harrier.

Still on the ground floor, I head to the World War I area. It's only been very recently that I have developed an interest in this period, but I'm now fascinated to learn more. Who was fighting who? and why? How did the soldiers live and cope with the hardships they endured? What weaponry and tactics were employed?
 All of these questions and hundreds more are answered in the most engaging way.
I particularly enjoyed walking through a simulated trench with shadows of my comrades around me, a British MK.IV tank appears above me to my left, as a Sopwith Camel flies over all to the battlefield noises of explosions and shouts. It's hard to imagine how the soldiers coped with the noise, disease and horrors.
Moving up to other floors, the exhibitions appear to follow a chronological path. There are extensive  World War II displays. You will see exhibits as diverse as a Rolls Royce Merlin aero-engine, a 25-pounder field gun, BMW R75 motorcycle and sidecar, Clarkair bulldozer to name but a few.
Around the main exhibits are other displays such as photographs by Cecil Beaton, paintings by various war artists, and even a skull and crossbones flag with a homemade 'Shit or Bust' motto used on a Landing Craft.
Further floors have exhibitions of modern conflicts including Suez, Korea, Cypress, Falklands & Yugoslavia
On the forth floor you encounter the Holocaust exhibition. This is an experience you will take away and never forget, as the history of the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators is told with photographs, words, and film. The sheer enormity and evil of events is powerfully portrayed. Testimonies from survivors bring a moving perspective to exhibits. At the end of the exhibition, a model of Auschwitz-Birkenau demonstrates the extent of events that occurred.
This is but a taster of the Imperial War Museum, which has many more floors, areas, and exhibits that I simply don't have the time to catalogue here. You really do need a full day here, and even then I guarantee you will leave wishing you had spent longer in certain areas.
Also, there are different ways to view the museum. On this visit I photographed as much as I could, both exhibits and information cards so I could read and view them at my leisure at home on the laptop.
Next time though I might just leave my camera at home and copy the many students who were sketching and writing copious notes about everything that interested them. Photographs, of course, can always be found online. 
Oh and did I mention, admission is free.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The British Camouflage Tree Observation Post of WWI

This is a British camouflage tree observation post on display at the Imperial War Museum in London, which was used on the Western Front during World War I.

In stalemate, the war had become very long and slow. The armies had to begin to be creative with war tactics since neither side would leave their trenches.

A real tree in no man's land , with its branches blown off, was sketched by a soldier-artist from the Royal Engineers' camouflage unit.
A replica tree with a steel core was then made behind the lines. The real tree was removed at night and replaced with the fake one.
The observer could then crawl up inside it and watch the German lines.

These camouflage trees stood in full view of the Germans, but their secret purpose was never discovered.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Top Products For Artists And Craftists

There are many products that will make life easier and more productive for artists and craftists alike. A favourite item is the daylight lamp which is available in different guises; some with a magnifying glass, some folding or portable, while others clamp to a desk, or are floor standing.

The Lightcraft LED daylight long reach magnifier lamp provides a shadow-free, cool light which helps prevent eye-strain and is perfect for intricate tasks. 

Staying with the theme of lights, the Ultra-Slim Light Box by Lightcraft provides an easy way to trace designs and patterns. Use it for stencilling, embossing, quilting, calligraphy, lettering and even displaying slides or transparencies.


The Hobbyzone range of desk tidies and organisers have recently been introduced, and they are as good as they look. The Hobbyzone paint station is great as a portable workspace solution, keeping your table clean while you work, and keeping your paints and brushes together. Perfect for all ages of artist.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Hobbyzone Workshop Benchtop Organizer Review

Looking around my garage, I've got tools in a few cardboard boxes, there are screws in grubby Dolmio jars, and even an old bedside table stuffed with anything and everything imaginable (is that my old stylophone?). The point is, I've got a lot of odds and sods. However, for me, the fun begins  when I need to find something, like a 3 amp fuse, or a small drill bit, or even my brand new round nose pliers. Invariably I end up spending an hour rummaging and hunting through everything, getting covered in cobwebs, dust and oil before, in total frustration, I go off and buy something brand new that I know I already have... somewhere !
Nearly a year ago, Hobbies started selling a new range of organisers and desk tidies made by a company called Hobbyzone. They looked great in the photographs, and we were getting lots of good feedback from customers saying how pleased they were. I even started to recognise the same customers returning time and time again ordering even more new pieces. The best selling of them all is the Hobbyzone Workshop Benchtop Organizer, and I decided I needed one to save my sanity and to clean up the workspace in my garage. Here's how I got on.

The Hobbyzone Workshop Benchtop Organizer comes 'flat packed' for self-assembly, but do not fear. For those of you, like myself, who break out in a cold sweat at hearing the word 'flat-pack', because we remember frustrated evenings sweating over MFI wardrobes, thankfully, it's not like that anymore. All the parts are supplied in the box, the wood is precision laser-cut and it all slots together beautifully, requiring only the addition of some wood glue.

Looking at the instructions, I first laid out all the pieces and identified which parts went together.  

Looking like large jigsaw pieces, the three small drawers literally slotted together once PVA wood glue had been applied. 


The  large drawer has adjustable spacings which can be altered to suit your requirements or removed altogether.

 The upper roller is useful for hanging your scissors, tweezers, small clamps, etc.

The benchtop organizer has three shelves, each has different size holes which take small items such as drill bits, files, small paintbrushes etc.

Of course there's nothing to stop you from staining, painting, varnishing or customising yours to suit your tastes.

Once assembled, the Benchtop Organizer is ready for many years faithful service. You will definitely wonder how on earth you survived without one.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Building a Model of the Ulises Ocean Going Steam Tug

Creating a 1:30 scale model of the Ulises ocean-going steam tug may seem a daunting task, but Occre have provided a model kit with high quality parts and beautifully detailed instructions which just add to the enjoyment of building this impressive model.
The Occre Ulises ocean going steam tug model boat kit is a medium difficulty kit so some previous knowledge of model ship building might be required.
Follow the comprehensive step-by-step instructions and immerse yourself in this fascinating and enjoyable hobby, replicating a model which is faithful to the original tug boat, even down to the finest of details.

With the addition of the optional RC pack & motor kit, the Occre Ulises can be made as a radio controlled model.
Now this is a model that will turn heads and get people talking at the boating lake.

 Other model boat kits are available

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Magnificent Flying Machines

Take To The Skies Once More !
The new Magnificent Flying Machines range comprises balsa plane kits that actually fly !
Choose from iconic World War One and Battle of Britain airplanes, vintage civilian aircraft or even a couple of traditional sports fliers including a sports glider.

The Magnificent Flying Machines range has been created by design engineer and keen aero-modeller, Andrew Darby, all models in the range have real airframes, built up from laser-cut balsa sheet and strip parts, covered with lightweight model aircraft tissue to ensure the best possible flying performance.
Some older modellers will have great memories of building and flying rubber-powered balsa planes and this great new range will thrill and inspire a whole new generation to enjoy this fun, outdoor activity.


Model plane kits make terrific presents, they look great once built and offer hours of fun. As well as allowing you to learn new skills, you get a great sense of achievement when the model is complete.
 Just one final word of warning, they are addictive, and you may find you want to collect them all . . .

Thursday, 28 January 2016


In recent years many people who have never previously attempted to create or make anything have started to 'have a go' at various crafts and hobbies. 
Spurred on by TV series such as Great British Bake Off and Kirstie's Handmade Britain, men and women have been making bread and cupcakes, trying their hand at embroidery, making things for the home and garden and much more. 
Also, people are discovering websites such as Pinterest which show literally thousands of pictures of hobbies & crafts with inspirational ideas and new things to try.


Colouring In

Next we have adult colouring books (which sounds rude but they're not) with pages graced by exotic images of jungles, cities or mythical creatures for you to colour in with colouring pencils or sharpies, creating the most beautiful pictures, but, more importantly, they are scientifically proven to relax and de-stress you.

Drawing and Cutting

Just recently, papercutting seems to have caught a lot of peoples imagination. You might use a template that you design, copy or buy, and, quite literally cut a pattern using a sharp knife on paper or card.
The list of  things you can make go from basic birthday cards or bookmarks,  to incredibly detailed artwork.
People have claimed this craft to be addictive, as well as mentally stimulating and relaxing.
Again, a search on Google or Pinterest reveals a plethora of ideas for you to try.

Drawing, Cutting and Crafting

Taking this simple idea just one step further, many people are now rediscovering the forgotten art of scrollsawing.
Modern scrollsaws are relatively inexpensive, some excellent machines are in the £100 -£200 bracket.
They allow you to take a piece of wood, attach a drawing or template, and simply 'cut out' the design. There is very little effort involved - the scrollsaw blade does all the cutting and you just guide the wood following the lines on the template. Once again, a relaxing and mentally stimulating pastime. Once you get started you realise its actually not all that difficult, and skills can be built up quickly with practise.
Hobbies have a Pinterest page of Projects for the Scrollsaw, which is designed to inspire you to create your own projects. You can easily trace patterns and ideas onto wood and cut them out to make things as diverse as childrens toys, jewellery stands, home and garden ornaments, Christmas decorations etc.
Here's just a few ideas of what various people have made with their scrollsaw.
The limit, as they say, is your own imagination.
Once you have cut the shapes out of the wood, the edges can be sanded smooth and the piece can be stained, painted and finished off with a lacquer or finishing oil.

https://uk.pinterest.com/AlwaysHobbies/projects-for-scroll-saw/  https://uk.pinterest.com/AlwaysHobbies/projects-for-scroll-saw/
There are some great ideas for things you can make as gifts or even Christmas presents. A present that has been handmade is much more impressive and appreciated than anything mass produced or shop bought !
https://uk.pinterest.com/AlwaysHobbies/projects-for-scroll-saw/   https://uk.pinterest.com/AlwaysHobbies/projects-for-scroll-saw/
And if you enjoy quirky or alternative things such as zombies for example, why not create a piece to enjoy yourself ?
https://uk.pinterest.com/AlwaysHobbies/projects-for-scroll-saw/  https://uk.pinterest.com/AlwaysHobbies/projects-for-scroll-saw/
Some childrens toys are great fun for any age of child, even the grown-up ones.
https://uk.pinterest.com/AlwaysHobbies/projects-for-scroll-saw/  https://uk.pinterest.com/AlwaysHobbies/projects-for-scroll-saw/
Create wall art for your home, get ideas from magazines or the internet.
Above all, be creative and enjoy trying new things !