While I am waiting for some hardware to turn up in order to complete the carry bag, I have been working on a leather sleeve for my new Apple iPad.  The intention is that the iPad lives in the sleeve, which is in turn carried in the bag.

I started by selecting two pieces of leather and tracing the shape of the iPad on to these, adding a 5mm seam margin on one, and a 10mm seam on the other.  The smaller piece sits against the screen of the iPad, and the larger piece follows the curved contour of the iPad back, hence it needs to be somewhat larger.  I didn’t happen to capture any images of this stage – sorry.

The next step was to use some strong waxed linen thread and a sharp leather awl to double-needle stitch the two pieces together using two needles at once.  Start from the open end on each side and stitch down to the bottom corners first.  Then insert the iPad and use it as a former (carefully!) when stitching the bottom seam.  You’ll need to stretch the leather over the curved shape of the iPad to get a good fit.

I then hemmed the edges of a piece of left over canvas from the WWII bag to use as a flap.  The corners of the flap are also folded and stitched over.  Once again by hand because my sewing machine skills are non-existent.  When I get some time I will attach the flap to the sleeve – but another project has come up in the meantime…

Leather iPad sleeve

Canvas flap for iPad sleeve

Canvas flap shown in place


With the bag in pieces, the first step is to join it back together again. I employed a great tool here that I highly suggest everyone make use of (if you have access to it) – your mother. My mum is much handier with a sewing machine than I, and we just happened to be visiting 🙂

Here is the bag mostly stitched back together, with an iPhone for size comparison. My iPad turns up tomorrow, so I better get a move-on!  Shown with a beautiful piece of Andrew Muirhead Scottish leather found on TradeMe.  Just the flaps left to finish by hand before attaching leather and straps.

Stitched back together about 5cm thinner than previously

Fine Andrew Muirhead Scottish leather


On the mission to make the perfect iPad bag there may be no compromise.  Or something like that.  So instead of just adding leather to the ex-WWII haversack as it is (the easy way), I just had to make it narrower first (the hard way).

A lot of unpicking later, quick whip around with the scissors, and the bag is ready to be stitched back together again.

This bag is designed to replace my current bulky laptop and laptop bag that I currently use for business.  It will carry my iPad, iPhone, Livescribe pen and pad, business cards, and perhaps a few other sundry items.

Bag unstitched and narrowed by several cm

Front pinned back in place

37 pattern webbing

My laptop weighs half a ton.  Because the battery only lasts 2 hours, whenever I travel the charger needs to come along for the ride, which weighs another 100kg.  The bulk of the two means I need a whopping great laptop bag, which weights an arm and a leg. The end result is like travelling with an elephant.

So I have ordered an iPad.

Of course, the iPad is a magical device, and so requires an equally magical bag to carry it in.  One a lot smaller than the old laptop bag.

The bags from temple bags are amazing, so I looked around on TradeMe for a bag the right size and with the right look to re-purpose into my own iPad-carrying creation.  I found a British ex-WWII pack designed in 1937 that will make the perfect base (’37 pattern webbing small pack, or haversack).




The stripper incident

On a recommendation from a friend, I hired a stripper.  A cheap stripper.

Now, you would think that a cheap stripper would do a nasty job, but this one had no problem steaming up the windows.  Even the wife was impressed.  She had a go herself.

I am, of course, talking about a wallpaper steamer/stripper.  At first we spent way too much time fruitlessly scratching at the wallpaper removing tiny scrap by tiny scrap.  The steamer, on the other hand, made amazingly quick work of the job.  Next time there will be no hesitation – $28 well spent.

The stripper at work

I often wonder about fashion.  What is fashionable now will look dated in a few years, appalling in 10, hilarious in 20, and be right back in fashion again in 30.  At least for those of us that don’t have vivid memories of it – Remember the 80’s anyone?

Paying homage to fashion over the ages are the various layers of wallpaper lovingly applied over the decades, and brutally removed by me:

Ok, paint, not really wallpaper. Dated

Decades old, hilarious!

The original. Actually, not bad!

Pasquali Riscio electric

Electricity has it’s attractions.  Electric motors output maximum torque from 1 RPM, so you get maximum power from the get go.  This means acceleration off the mark, even if the vehicle doesn’t have a super top speed (well, not all are slow).  Electricity can be produced cleanly, especially in New Zealand, where hydro power is our major electricity source, and wind turbines surround the city in which I live.  Electric motors are also extremely quiet, and produce no pollutants.

Unfortunately, electricity also has it’s drawbacks.  Range is a big one, especially in New Zealand where population density and terrain mean things tend to be far apart.  Charging a battery also takes slightly longer than filling your average fuel tank.

However, sometime it just makes sense.  Take the Italian Pasquali Risció as an example.  A shade over 1m x 2m and only 1.5m tall, one- or two-seater options, 40km/h top speed and a 50km range. Considering it’s meant for urban commuting, this is quite ideal.  Even the 8hr (ouch!) recharge time isn’t too bad if you can just plug it in over night.

My own project won’t be designed to run on electricity per se, but since it will be designed in such a way as to allow a wide range of power options I can’t rule out someone else being crazy enough to try it in the future.

Pasquali Riscio

Pasquali Riscio

Images sources: Lucarelli and Mallady.

The plan

Every project needs a plan, even if it’s just a sketch on a napkin.

Here is my design for the TV cabinet I’m making. It has been drawn up using Adobe Flash, to scale, so that if I need a measurement I can just click on a line and it tells me exactly how long it is. handy!

The middle section contains two shelves for the DVD player and Freeview unit, fronted by tinted glass doors.  On either side of the doors are what appear to be two drawers.  The lower drawer in fact flips forward to reveal a shelf for a game console, making it easy to keep controllers and other cords tidy.  The upper drawer is just a drawer to hold DVDs and games.

TV Cabinet plans

Forking out the hard-earned’s

Most of the time having so many projects isn’t a problem.  All they take up is time.  But there comes a point in most project’s lives where you have to fork out some hard-earned beans.  That is usually the point for me where a project goes from being fun to being… something else.

The trouble is that once money has been spent on a project there is an obligation to see it through.  It goes from a ‘waste of time’ to a ‘waste of money’.  And most people (including myself) don’t have enough money to take that sort of thing lightly.  And many people (like myself) have wives that don’t take that sort of thing lightly, either.

Lucky for me then, spending money on my TV cabinet project has one big bonus – there is a lot of visible progress, which is a great incentive to keep the pace up!

Even though I am sorely tempted, it is probably better to pay $100 to get this timber dressed than to spend $1,000 on a thicknesser and do it myself, right?  So really, I am saving money…

The TV cabinet is being built out of Macrocarpa to match the coffee table.  All the timber is measured and tallied ready to bring to the joiner later this week where it will be beautifully dressed.

Timber stacked and ready to go

Classic inspiration

In the early 50’s, when people were nuts, there was an Italian refrigerator-and-scooter manufacturer who decided they wanted to mass-produce a micro car.  The Isetta was born.  Designed and first produced by Iso SpA, variations of it were produced by many manufacturers in many countries.

This tiny egg shaped car was only 2.3m by 1.4m, and powered by a 236cc two-stroke.  To get in, the whole front of the car swung outward as the door, with the steering wheel and instrument panel attached.  It had a top speed of around 74km/h, but apparently took 30 seconds to reach 50km/h!

I love the this quote from Isetta Broker:

It is said that the stylists had arrived at the design of the Isetta by taking two scooters, placing them close together, adding a refrigerator and shaping the result like a teardrop in the wind.

At first I dismissed it as an ugly (but weirdly cute) throw-back, but the more I researched it, the more I have come to like it’s cute 50’s retro style.  Perhaps not a model on which to base my project, but a great early example of the species.

My favorite image has to be the Isetta pulling that tiny teardrop caravan. To really get a feel for how small that caravan must be you only need to take a look at the last image (with the family) to put the scale of the Isetta in perspective!

Isetta with door open




Image sources: Al & Ed’s Autosound,, emmiebean,

More information about the Isetta, visit: Isetta Broker

Setting the goal posts

I love projects.  I love the idea generation and nutting out the potential problems.  I love the dream.  I’m sure I’ll love the finished result too.  It’s the bit in the middle that worries me.

To make sure there is a finished result, I guess I need to know what I am working towards.  My wife will tell you – I am great at starting projects, but terrible at finishing them. To give me the biggest chance of finishing and preventing project blowout (also known as feature creep) I need to have some well defined goals.  To start with, that means some general guidelines:

  • At least one seat, possibly 2
  • Enough storage space for a few bags of groceries
  • Completely enclosed and weather proof
  • Comfortable at least for shorter trips (up to an hour)
  • Cheap to run
  • At least 50 km/h capable (70 km/h goal)
  • At least 100 km range before refuelling
  • Legal and road worthy
  • Suitable for general urban roads (including speed bumps)
  • Very small footprint (exact dimensions yet to be decided)
  • Drive train based on small motorcycle or scooter
  • Driver compartment able to accept different drive train options
  • Cheap to produce
  • Able to be reproduced
  • AND it has to look great!

It looks likely that the vehicle will be 3-wheeled.  2 steered wheels at the front, and a single powered wheel at the back.  The logic for this is that (hopefully) the drive train will consist of the back half of a pilfered scooter (125cc or 150cc for example).

The Malone Skunk is a stinkingly fast (sorry) example of a three-wheeled machine.  This car is available as a kit, based on a Yamaha 1000cc motorcycle donor.  Doesn’t quite meet my project goals, but a nice example of a ‘different’ form of personal transportation!

Malone Skunk