Oversize Music Box Dancer Base

round music box dancer base

Oversize round music box dancer base

This oversize music box dancer base was made for a show where a young ballet dancer, standing on the base, would dance when the handle on the side was cranked.

The base was made by routing rings of timber with different profiles and stacking them together to form the structure. It was hollow inside so a speaker could be installed to play music on cue when the handle was cranked.

Below are some photos showing the construction process.

Routing the profiles

Using a router to cut the profiles of the timber rings

Routed timber rings

Routed timber rings stacked to form the base section

Making the central core spacer

Making the central core spacer

Fitting the central cor

Fitting the central core to the base section

Fitting the top section to the base

Fitting the top section to the base and clamping in position

Cutting up a rubber door mat to make the trim

Cutting up a rubber door mat to make the trim

ready for painting

Central trim fitted and ready for painting

Completed music box base

Completed music box base painted gold


For stability the base was fitted with five legs instead of four. On a round object five legs look much better than four.

Custom Japanese Style Pillar Lights

Custom Japanese style pillar lights for driveway entrance

Custom Japanese style pillar lights for driveway entrance

A recent project required the design of a pair of custom Japanese style Pillar lights for the entrance to a rural estate. Commercially available pillar lights were too small as the sandstone pillars were over two metres high and 800mm square. To simplify constructing a complete electrical fitting (which includes electrical safety standards compliance and rating) a commercial fitting was selected which was of a suitable style and construction that could be adapted to a larger fitting.

The new Japanese style pillar lights are essentially a lampshade that fits around the commercial fitting. The base section is fastened to the sandstone top of the pillar around the commercial fitting. The lightweight metal roof section is attached to the top of the metal frame of the commercial fitting which has had its glass shade removed.

Below details the steps in building the fitting.

Steel frame of the pillar light

Steel frame of the pillar light. This will be fixed to the pillar top

Translucent acrylic windows fitted to the metal base frame

Translucent acrylic windows fitted to the metal base frame


Marking out shape of the galvanised iron roof

Marking out shape of the galvanised iron roof

Folding the roof cutout section

Folding the roof cutout section with sheet metal bender

Completed top roof sections ready for painting

Completed top roof sections ready for painting

View of the base set around the commercial light fitting

View of the base set around the commercial light fitting

Garden Bird Mobile

 bird mobile for the garden made in stainless steel.

Copy of a bird mobile for the garden made in stainless steel.

Several years ago on a trip through the Southern Highlands of NSW I saw this cute metal garden bird mobile which I thought would look great in the garden at home. It wasn’t expensive so I bought the item and put it in the garden and enjoyed it for several years. It was made from thin tinplate with a weathered rust-like finish like many similar styled garden decorations available at Garden Nurseries around Australia.

Unfortunately, being exposed to the elements, the painted rust finish finally gave way to very real rust and corrosion. Being made of thin tinplate it was reaching the point of falling apart and being useless as a garden ornament. Because I liked it so much I decided to resurrect it and make a copy of the garden bird mobile in stainless steel which would eliminate future corrosion problems.

I based the reproduction on commercially available stainless steel balls welded together. A variety of different thickness stainless steel rods and wires were obtained to make the feet and spectacles. The wings, tail and top hat were cut from a small sheet of 0.7mm stainless steel sheet. After all the parts had been made they were assembled, balanced on their perch and then placed back in the ground making a sparkling addition to the garden in the morning sun.

View of the original tinplate birds after several years in the garden

View of the original tinplate birds after several years in the garden

Detailed view of the male bird showing the onset of corrosion of the tinplate

Detailed view of the male bird showing the onset of corrosion of the tinplate

Comparison of the original birds and the stainless steel copies

Comparison of the original birds and the stainless steel copies

View of the new stainless steel birds back in the garden

View of the new stainless steel birds back in the garden

ODEON Art Deco Security Doors

Art Deco security doors

ODEON style Art Deco security doors on an Inner city semi.

These ODEON style Art Deco security doors make an attractive additional to this turn of the century Sydney Semi.

The double doors stand three metres tall and mirror the arched entry to the verandah. The high centre opening doors create an impressive and expansive entrance to the house.

The top and bottom drop bolts used to secure the left hand side door have been fitted inside the door frame and operate in a similar manner to a rifle bolt with the operate knobs fitted near the centre of the door. With the right hand side door locked the drop bolts are also locked as they can only operate with the right hand door open.

The all steel framework is painted a metallic grey and fitted with plain dead lock. The ODEON is one of several designs unique to DecoWorks Pty Ltd.

Another view of the ODEON style Art Deco security doors

Another view of the ODEON style Art Deco security doors

The silhouette of the ODEON security doors

The silhouette of the ODEON from the hallway of the house

Stainless Garden Armillary Sphere

Stainless steel armillary sphere on front lawn

Stainless steel armillary sphere on front lawn

This DecoWorks stainless steel garden armillary sphere fitted to a sandstone column adds a unique and interesting feature to this front garden lawn.

The armillary sphere is 70cm high with the central sphere itself being 45cm in diameter. The finish is raw brushed stainless steel which will last many years exposed to the elements without any corrosion problems. The armillary sphere was shipped to an interstate client who arranged the cutting of the sandstone support column and the fitting of the sphere itself.

More information on armillary spheres can be found here. The sturdy base on the sphere can be easily attached to a support pillar such as this sandstone block or a custom structure.

Stainless steel garden armillary sphere

Stainless steel garden armillary sphere

Another view of the armillary sphere showing its solid construction

Another view of the armillary sphere showing its solid construction

Custom Front Entrance Gates

Custom pillar lights and stainless steel entrance gates with Art Deco palm leaf motif

Custom pillar lights and stainless steel entrance gates with Art Deco palm leaf motif

These front entrance gates incorporate a stylised palm leaf design that DecoWorks produced for the entrance driveway to a rural estate which was lined with mature palm trees. The design also reflected the diminishing perspective of the palm trees as seen looking down the driveway.

Due to the size of the sandstone pillars custom light fittings also had to be designed to compliment the gate installation. Commercially available fittings were too small for the 800mm square pillars which made building the large light fittings a necessity.

The front entrance gates were constructed using stainless steel to ensure a long and corrosion free life. Adjustable stainless steel hinges were used to compensate for any construction and installation irregularities and also allow for future adjustment if necessary.

The custom pillar lights were constructed around a commercially available pillar light to simplify the requirements of making an electrical fitting. The custom fitting is essentially a *lampshade* fitted over the top of the commercial fitting. Details of their construction can be found here.

Silhouette of front entrance gates with palm leaf motif

Silhouette of front entrance gates with palm leaf motif

Detail view of custom pillar light fixtures

Detail view of custom pillar light fixtures

Making Foam Wings

Completed wing

Completed flexible wing covered in fleece fabric

The recent Wayside Chapel winged heart project had two large wings that flapped up and down under the control of a pneumatic cylinder. For safety reasons it was decided to make foam wings so they would be flexible enough to prevent someone getting their head taken off if they happened to contact a wing when it was operating.

However part of the wing had to be structural for the correct flapping motion to be achieved. This was solved by making the bottom section of the wing with a plywood core and the rest from a sandwich of 5mm closed cell foam. The steps of the construction are shown below.

Clicking on an image brings up a larger image.

Plywood and foam wing core

A 12mm foam core extension is glued to the edge of the lower plywood core

Perspex stiffener for foam wing tip

A polycarbonate stiffener is glued to the foam to hold it straight while still being flexible

Front and back foam cover sheet

A 5mm sheet of foam was glued to both sides of the plywood and foam core for strength.

Foam covered wings

Both wings have the front and back of their ply and foam cores covered in 5mm foam.

Another sheet of 5mm foam was cut out to the wing shape and the lines of the feathers were cut. Narrow strips of foam were then glued along these cuts so that when it was turned over there would be a raised feather line in the foam.

Feather line cutting

Here the foam has been cut following the line of the feathers

Raised sections on feather lines

The strips of foam glued along the feather cut lines to make raised sections

Rasied feather lines

Raised feather line foam layer glued to a wing showing the raised outline of the feathers

More raised detail added

More raised foam detail is glued to the front wing surface

Next ivory coloured cotton fleece fabric was glued over the foam wings. This gave the wings a softer look and highlighted the raised feathers and other detail.

Glueing fleece fabric to wings

Glueing cotton fleece fabric to the foam wings

Feather detail of completed wings

Completed wings fitted to the wing mechanism showing the feather detail

Making a Giant Heart

Completed giant fibreglass heart

Completed giant 3D fibreglass heart

The making of a giant 3D heart for the recent Wayside Chapel winged heart project was a great exercise in how to sculpt large objects for armatures to make large fibreglass moulds. The heart had to be made as quickly and cheaply as possible so some shortcuts were made that had both positive and negative consequences.

Instead of making a two piece mould it was decided to make a perfectly symmetrical half mould so both front and rear sections could be cast from the same mould. This was achieved by first drawing half a heart on a piece of plywood. A second piece of plywood was fastened under the first and then both pieces were cut as one on a bandsaw. After sanding the the edges smooth the plywood *sandwich* was split and fastened together, side by side, making a perfectly symmetrical heart shape.

Heart outline in ply

A symmetrical outline of the heart was made from ply and fastened to support table

making armature with ply strips

Building up the heart profile using templates and ply strips

Heart shape in ply strips

Rough heart shape defined by ply strips

Hessian covering over ply

Ply framework covered with hessian

Plaster applied over hessian

Casting plaster was applied over the hessian covering to make it rigid.

second layer of plaster and hessian applied

A second layer of casting plaster and hessian is applied over form work

To smooth the heart shape a thick layer of Gyprock top coat filler was applied using a spatula taking care to make the layer as smooth as possible.

Applying Gyprock

Applying the Gyprock top coat filler over the plaster form. It was carefully filled out to match the heart outline defined by the base ply template.

Smoothing the form

Form ready for smoothing after the Gyprock dried

In the rush to get the mould made I decided to save time by not making the heart form super smooth before applying gelcoat and matting. Instead I would apply a double thickness of gelcoat when making the mould and then sand any irregularities from the mould directly. A quick coating of wax mould release was applied before applying the gelcoat and fibreglass matting over the heart form. This was a big mistake. The wax soaked into the not quite dry Gyprock allowing the gelcoat to stick firmly to the heart form making its easy removal impossible.

Mould completion

With the fibreglassing completed the mould was ready to be removed from the form but it would not budge.

Removing the heart form

The mould was firmly stuck to the heart form. Weighing in at over 100kg the mould had to be lifted from the work table so the form could be cut out from underneath the mould

Removing formwork

Once the bottom of the mould was exposed the timber formwork could be dug out

Plaster removal

Removing the plaster and hessian reinforcement

Once the ply form work and hessian had been removed there was still a thick layer of plaster and Gyprock stuck firmly to the fibreglass. The only way to remove it was to use a hammer and chisel. The chisel had its corners rounded and the cutting edge dulled to minimise the inevitable damage that would be done to the mould interior surface.

Removing the plaster and Gyprock

After 4 hours work only half the mould had been cleaned.

More plaster removal

About 8 hours later the last of the plaster and Gyprock was removed from the fibreglass surface

Cleaning mould

Wet’n’dry was used to sand the irregularities and scratches from the mould inside surface

Waxed mould ready for use

The mould after being cleaned and waxed ready to have a cast taken

Red gelcoat in mould

First layer of gelcoat with red pigment applied to the mould. This was followed by two layers of matting.

Fibreglass casting from mould

The first fibreglass heart shell removed from the mould. It popped out very easily because the mould release was applied correctly this time.

The shell of fibreglass was very flexible and had to have bracing fitted inside to make it rigid. This was done by hot glueing pieces of cotton rope on the inside and applying fibreglass matting over the top. The front shell also had a steel framework fitted so it could be attached to the wing mechanism.

Internal bracing of heart shell

The internal bracing in the front heart shell showing the cotton rope before being fibreglassed.

Completed 3D heart

Heart shells join line covered with cloth tape and polished