Welcome to my blog, the story of my continuing journey into the World of Zombie Wargames.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Spills, Tapers & Stirrers

Pipe Spills
Given a comment made about the use of coffee stirrers on another blog I'd thought I'd respond with a post about said stirrers.
I first came across these sort of things being used by my Grandad using them to light his pipe from an open coal fire, in those days they were called spills !

A Bunsen burner, not just a muppet
It wasn't until I became a teacher and spotted the familiar spills (now called tapers) being used in our science labs to light Bunsen burners, they were very rough, showed the texture and grain of the wood and ideal for planking, being easy to cut and glue they are about 8" long (yes I still have some).
The lab tapers came in bundles of a 1000 and I could buy them via the many educational catalogues myself for
personal use.
The great advantage that I found with these other than those mentioned above was their ends being cut square. (the occasional splinter in the finger from them didn't detract from their usefulness.

  The difficulty of getting further supplies of these became apparent when I left teaching and my small hoard of them became ever more valuable to me at least)
 Enter the age of the Coffee Stirrers (we're talking wood here, not he plastic variety); I'd never thought of using these until being hospitalised in 2011 and realised their worth as a fair substitute for my dwindling supply of "the real thing".
Coffee stirrers
They can easily be found in many Cash and Carry stores and your local barista may also be able to help supply you with them.
They do come in several lengths but the ones I currently get are about 5" long (125mm). They generally have have rounded ends and are as smooth as a very smooth thing.

Spills, Tapers or Stirrers, call them what you will, all share a very useful common characteristic in that they can be cut very easily. (Unlike the typical hobby lollipop sticks which can double as support timbers in mines and require power tools to work on - rant over).

The fairly boring lesson chart
So here's a few things I've learnt from their use.
As can be seen  from the above (non professional) helpful chart, not all coffee stirrers are created  equal.
Stirrers #1 is a typical stirrer and you'll find that you'll use more of these that you ever estimate you will. (I guessed I'd use about 50 for my Water Tower model and ended up using about 90).
Nos. 2 and 3 are mutants, due to their twists and deformities, these are mostly useful; for cutting bits from or making some form of mutant ice hockey stocks for a Barbie doll (maybe)
Sticks #4 are two sticks that I started to make usable for modelling by cutting one end off. I tend to do about twenty or so before turning them all around and cutting the other end off if I'm using single sticks.
#5 is two sticks being glued together, notice that at this stage each stick has only one end cut, when the stick is glued (I use Evo stick wood glue) I then cut the extra bits off the ends, using the already !square cut" as a guide. If you stuck two sticks together that had previously had both their ends cut off,
 Picture #8 is four sticks gluing together and held by clamps. This can be used repeating the above, gluing two sticks either side and cutting off afterwards, or by gluing two sets of two together and clamping in place. I use both , but the latter does leave you with a cut through a double thickness of stirrer whilst the former doesn't.
 Finally Picture #9 shows a finished piece useful for a beam etc. It has had it sides filed flat and the ends squared off a bit, but little else has been done to it.
If I were to use this and had to cut the piece again then I'd be using  either a hacksaw or razor saw.

In other news I read two very interesting old posts on Kieian B's blog Do you have a flag,
The first that caught my eye was this Beating-hobby-burnout... which although the post is nearly a year old, it did address many of the thoughts I've had lately.
The second was a much older post, (by nearly three years)  entitled Blogs v Forums. It also gave clarity to apparent malaise or apathy on one of the forums I currently visit.

That's it for this week.


  1. Good to see a post from you Joe! The secrets of the coffee stirrer have been revealed thanks for that. Never read Kieian B's blog but his musings are very interesting.

    1. Thanks Robert, I found a lot to interest in Kiera's blog too (I luckily found the blog itself by accident).
      I wrote this post for my own amusement really and can't be held responsible if you get hooked on using them too btw

  2. They are very handy things those coffee stirrers, I've got a lifetimes supply out in my shed, they fell off the back of a lorry, so to speak!!! I'm on book 4 now of the Dead series, can't put the bloody thing down gggrrr!

    1. Having coffee stirrers and using them are two entirely deifferent things, but I've got garden canes and all sorts of other things "just in case" too.

      You think you've got problems with Dead ? I've got to wait until bloody April for the next volume ! Glad you're obviously enjoyng the series (I think it gets progressively better)

  3. I just mad a Wood fence for my zombies apocalypse....made of coffee stirrers ;)

    1. Great ! I'll be looking forward to seeing the pics !

  4. Great post Joe! Teaching us dumbasses how to make beams from coffee stirrers was an inspired idea for a post. Good to see you haven't given up on the blog just yet, I'm sure you have many more lessons to impart some of your wisdom.

    1. Thanks Bob, glad you liked it, I'm going to be posting more for my own benefit in the future, continuing really just for completeness of my my zed project.

    2. It was my original intention that this blog was really just a means to get what I was doing on record.

  5. This was a great post slightly tongue in cheek but brilliant none the less. Nice one mate.

  6. Joe, I'm glad you've continued to post - you're inspiring me to (almost!) get my finger out and start posting again myself - as well as carry on turning my coffee-stirrer mountain (should that be forest? ) into useful terrain

    And thank-you for sharing those posts from 'Do you have a flag?' - I found them interesting and accurate!

    1. Thanks Colin, I continue to have spurts of enthusiasm, but I find it really difficult to maintain without the input of others. I find re-reading though old blogs and newly-found blogs can be quite inspiring, even if I'm not completely, 'into' their particular subject matter. (It's how I came across Kieran's blog)
      I'm pleased you read through the two posts, I related to them both immediately and decided to follow up on some of the points to try and boost my own efforts.

  7. Hmm, perhaps you should publish some plans/blueprints for models to make from coffee stirrers? I love the articles that you have published, but maybe people would like something they can replicate directly. Mind you, now that I've got the idea into my head, I'm wondering if I should describe my own "plank bridge" made from stirrers and woodworking dowels in such a manner? Hmm.

    I plan to have a good look at the linked articles on apathy - thanks for these. Probably won't have time to comment on them, though.

    1. The plans/blueprints/instructions ideas is an interesting one, but as I really make things "off the cuff" I doubt I could. Sketches on hte other hand are a possibility, but I've always thought my stuff (and my "sketches") is merely a possible route to inspire thers into trying their own ideas out. After all, I really doubt if any of my stuff is original.
      Your plank bridge is a pretty good example of a model that wouldn't really need plan imo but a sketch would work - and of course the finished model's photographs.
      The articles aren't really aimed at apathy (but I did get it0.

  8. I found a bag of coffee stirrers at a shop the other day but didn't get them as they looked just like lolly sticks so it's interesting to know that they are easier to cut. I have found that cutting lolly sticks to be a real pain...... I will maybe try them out or just get a few bunsen tapers from school to try out..

  9. Lolloy sticks are indeed a real pain to cut, I always use a saw these days on the rare occassions I use them. Coffee stirrers can be cut easily with a pair of good scissors ( I use craft things).
    In scale terms (at 1/60th for example) a stirrer would be " thick and 12" wide, whereas a lolly stick would be easily double that.
    I'd much rather cut and glue stirrers to get the thickness I want.
    Now get yourself back to that shop and buy those stirrers !

  10. Neat tutorial, plenty of thought there.

    1. Thanks Irqan, it was brought about over some chance remark on another's blog. It wasn't really meant as a tutorial, but I'm happy enough if anyone see it that way, rather than the tongue in cheek tone it is meant.