Recently I was asked to help with our church Cub Scout pack’s annual Pinewood Derby.I also volunteered a woodworking friend of mine, Ray, and on a Tuesday night we had 8 Cubs and Dads come to my shop to cut out their cars. The Cubs aren’t allowed to use power tools so Ray, the Dads and I did the cutting with a small nine- inch bandsaw and then used a belt sander. The Cubs had drawn out their designs on the wood blocks so we just followed their outlines. The Cubs took the car bodies home to do more sanding, painting and decorating.
I had been involved in Pinewood Derby before so I knew that each Cub needed to take home a trophy, having been judged on racing and craftsmanship. In the past, I had seen, somewhere, an idea to make trophies out of 2×4 and 1×6 lumber. The base would be made from a four-inch length of 1×6 pine. The rest of the trophy was cut from a four-inch length of construction 2×4, with one end cut at a slight angle.
The bases were sanded, primed and painted blue. The 2×4 was sanded, primed and painted yellow. When the paint was dry, the base was predrilled to accept wood screws which were used to fasten it to the 2×4.
The Pack Master fashioned labels with the pack number to stick to the bases. The angled cut on the end of the 2×4 allowed the Cub Scout to display his car on the trophy.
Then the race was on!! Cheering was somewhat subdued because the Cubs found a dish of brownies and their mouths were full.
You can make a light switch plate with a CNC machine, and then engrave a decoration on the plate with a laser. I was inspired by Kenbo Studio’s YouTube channel A Cut Above, when he used a scroll saw to cut out a switch plate in the shape of Star Wars droid R2D2. My grandchildren love Star Wars, so I searched the internet for Star Wars images and landed on a cartoon image of R2D2, a good test image for my project.
Before I post the details of the project, let me digress into the history of the light switch, which is so cleverly hidden by this switch plate. Wikipedia gives a brief history:
“The first light switch employing “quick-break technology” was invented by John Henry Holmes in 1884 in the Shieldfield district of Newcastle upon Tyne.The “quick-break” switch overcame the problem of a switch’s contacts developing electric arcing whenever the circuit was opened or closed. Arcing would cause pitting on one contact and the build-up of residue on the other, and the switch’s useful life would be diminished. Holmes’ invention ensured that the contacts would separate or come together very quickly, however much or little pressure was exerted by the user on the switch actuator. The action of this “quick break” mechanism meant that there was insufficient time for an arc to form, and the switch would thus have a long working life. This “quick break” technology is still in use in almost every ordinary light switch in the world today, numbering in the billions, as well as in many other forms of electric switch.
The toggle light switch was invented in 1917 by William J. Newton.
“As a component of a building wiring system, the installation of light switches will be regulated by some authority concerned with safety and standards. In different countries the standard dimensions of the wall mounting hardware (boxes, plates etc.) may differ. Since the face-plates used must cover this hardware, these standards determine the minimum sizes of all wall mounted equipment. Hence, the shape and size of the boxes and face-plates, as well as what is integrated, varies from country to country.
The dimensions, mechanical designs, and even the general appearance of light switches changes but slowly with time. They frequently remain in service for many decades, often being changed only when a portion of a house is rewired. It is not extremely unusual to see century-old light switches still in functional use. Manufacturers introduce various new forms and styles, but for the most part decoration and fashion concerns are limited to the face-plates or wall-plates. Even the “modern” dimmer switch with knob is at least four decades old, and in even the newest construction the familiar toggle and rocker switch appearances predominate.”
This brought to mind a two-button light switch that I saw at my grandmother’s house when I was a child. At the time, I didn’t realize the historical significance of this type of switch!Today, a light switch takes on many shapes and types. We can control our lights remotelywith our smart phones. I have a lamp in my house that has a built-in speaker to play audio files, that can be controlled with my smart phone.We have light switches with built-in occupancy sensors to control the lights. I have even worked with light switches that provided a binary input to a microprocessor to control the air conditioning system at a laboratory. But enough digressing… back to the project.
Using Vectric software and the dimensions of a single switch cover plate, tap files were generated for the plate outline and the switch plate hole. The Shark CNC machine was fired up and a wall plate cut from1/4 inch thick Baltic plywood. After separating the wall plate from the tabs holding it in place, I set the plate under a store- bought switch plate, which was used as a template to drill the screw holes.I could have used the CNC machine to do this, but it would have meant a bit change.If I was making a number of these at one time, it may have been worth the extra step to change the bit. The wall plate was then given a quick sand, and then painted with a high gloss white primer, followed up with a clear coat of lacquer.
Next, I moved the plate over to the Full Spectrum 40-watt laser to engrave a cartoon image of R2D2.I’m still working out the details on how to line up the laser image on a project, so it took a couple of test runs to finally get the image centered on the wall plate. With the white paint and clear coat on the plate, it only took one pass with the laser to get a satisfactory image. I did reduce the speed to 80% and left the power setting at 100%.
I’m going to continue to experiment with this project using different types of wood.I may also try to not only engrave the piece with the laser, but also to cut out the shape using the laser. I also want to try to improve on the use of the CNC, to provide a profile on the border of the switch plate. I think for the time being the grandkids will be happy with an image of their favorite cartoon figure. I might make some switch plates with a feel-good motif for the parents, too… maybe a plate engraved with the words “When In Doubt, Turn It Out!”
Is it the wand of Dumbledore, or the wand of Mickey Mouse the sorcerer, or maybe the switch your Aunt Gertrude chased you around the house with? No, no, no it’s a nostepinne!
The first I ever heard of the nostepinne was a few years ago when my wife asked me if I could make a yarn swift and a nostepinne.Oh yeah, I can do that…. Sure… they are made out of wood, right?After some research I found out what these devices accomplish for knitters. In the case of the swift, it is a device to hold a skein of yarn while it is wound into a ball.The nostepinne is used to wrap the yarn into a ball that will feed yarn from its center (a center-pull ball).
Wikipedia says that:
“The nostepinne, also known as a nostepinde or nøstepinde, is a tool used in the fiber arts to wind yarn, often yarn that has been hand spun, into a ball for easily knitting, crocheting, or weaving from. In its simplest form, it is a dowel, generally between 10 and 12 inches long and most frequently made of wood, around which yarn can be wound. Decoratively and ornately carved nostepinnes are common. The top of the nostepinne sometimes incorporates a notch or a groove, which allows one end of the yarn to be held secure while the rest is wound into a ball”
If you go to Spinartiste , you will find some images of very ornate nostepinnes.This site states “The word “Nostepinne” has originated from Scandinavia and in Norway, it is actually called ”Nøstepinne” where the “ø” is pronounced like the “u” in the word “hurt”. In Sweden, it is often called ”Nystepinne.”
The traditions associated with nostepinnes in Norway were many… they were given as Christmas gifts, engagement gifts, or a gift from a boy to a girl to show her he was interested in her.The more accomplished wood carvers would hollow out the handles of the nostepinne with captive balls inside.These could also be used as baby rattles.
I have made my wife a couple of nostepinnes and even a swift. This time I decided to be a little more adventurous and add some carvings and maybe even some laser engraving to keep up with our theme of bringing 21st century techniques to 19th century crafts.
The design I lasered onto the handle of the nostepinne is derived from Norse Symbols And Their Meanings
A modern representation of the Web of Wyrd, the matrix of fate (wyrd) as woven by the Nornir, the fates of Norse legend. The emblem, nine staves arranged in an angular grid, contains all of the shapes of the runes and therefore all of the past, present, and future possibilites they represent. The web of wyrd serves as a reminder that the actions of the past affect the present and that present actions affect the future; all timelines are inextricably interconnected- in a sense, it is a representation of the tree of life.
Just a little quickie post to recognize some Christmas gifts that were given to us, that were crafty and/or homemade.
We don’t want to seem unappreciative of the not-homemade gifts that were given to us, but we are especially excited that some of our family members made things to give us, or gave us things that were crafts made by someone. Crafting is rather a new thing for us. We’ve always liked crafting in our spare time, but now we have more spare time. We can try to do crafts we never had time to do before.
This candy cane ornament was a hand-made gift from our granddaughter. It looks like plaster of Paris (?) or a ceramic or clay shape, painted, with a hole drilled in the top and a silver ribbon added for hanging from the tree. Lovely handiwork!
I was blown away that grandson “C” chose this crafty watch for Me! at his school’s Christmas craft fair. It’s got a red (his favorite color) leather band with beads and a burnished metal butterfly charm that matches the watch, with a snap closure. Love it!
Kids and grandkids played cornhole at our family Christmas party, using the set we made in a previous blog post:
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We were in awe at the crochet skills that went into this gift from our daughter-in-law! The intricate, perfect, and beautiful stitches make this an heirloom piece. I’ve always been fascinated by the serene symmetry of vintage crocheted doilies. The intense blue color of this one (in real life, it looks a lot more blue than in this pic) makes it modern as well as classic.
Here we are “creating” with one of our Christmas food gifts, apple cinnamon pancake mix. This couple sent us a breakfast food package and a treat basket from the oldest Candy Shoppe in America, Ye Olde Pepper Company.
Other crafty gifts we’ve gotten include artful photos, homemade sugared pecans, musical recordings, and gift cards at creative venues. It certainly is gratifying to see our posterity using their talents to create beautiful and useful things. And with this latest gift, we are reminded that…
In the previous blog, Snowman 2, we covered the design and production of a prototype snowman ornament for our 18 grandchildren. The next phase of this project involved the mass production of the 18 snow-people (politically correct for snow women and snowmen). Looking at the calendar, I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to reproduce the prototype snowman without some 21st century help. I had purchased a Vega lathe duplicator for my large lathe and my midi-lathe some years ago. So I pulled out the smaller duplicator and attached it to my Jet midi-lathe, worked up a template for the snowman profile and got to work.
Taking several 4 foot long pieces of southern magnolia of the proper dimensions (about 2 ½ inches by 2 ½ inches ), I cut 18 blanks, each 6 inches long. Then, sitting in front of the TV watching some old episodes of MASH, I marked the centers on each end of the blocks. A 5 gallon bucket worked well for transporting all the blanks around while I was processing them. Then off to the lathe. I have my midi-lathe on a roller stand, so I rolled it outside to take advantage of the wonderful Florida weather and natural daylight! Each blank was then turned into a 2 inch diameter cylinder using a roughing gouge. This went a lot faster than starting with the square block and using the duplicator to round off to a cylinder.
Once I had 18 cylinders turned, I then remounted each blank and with the duplicator, cut the profile of the snowperson. I then sanded from 80 to 400 grit using Abernet. There was a small base remaining on each of the turned profiles that I decided to leave. It actually looked okay when the snowpersons were finally painted. I sprayed each of the turned profiles with a white high gloss, lacquer sealer and then turned them over to my wife to add the final touches. She had gotten some snow acrylic paint that gave the snow-people a snow-textured look. My wife went with pink accents for the snow-women.
The next step was to add our name medallions with date to the bottom with the name of the grandchild. Then off to the mailbox.
Wow, that’s a tall order. I’m starting to realize that someone may have to wait til next Christmas to get their quilt.
I decided a few months back to get some precut fabric packages from Craftsy, in the form of Charm Packs. A Charm Pack is a package of 5″ fabric squares in coordinating colors. There was a sale of Christmas fabrics going on near the end of the summer, and I got Moda and Robert Kaufman packs in the Evergreen, Under the Mistletoe, Holiday Flourish, 3 Sisters Favorites, and French General Favorites collections. I also had a few packs I’d snagged at Cary Quilt shop a couple of years ago. Sorry I can’t remember the collection name just now, but here is a picture of the top I’ve been working on from that set.
I’ve found that the average Charm Pack has about 42 squares, which is not exactly enough to make a very big quilt. The quilts I want to make are mostly intended to be lap quilts, something you’d pull over you as you were lying on the couch watching TV or reading. And the ones I’ve made seem to end up a little smaller than most instructions I’ve seen for making lap quilts. If I use nine 5-inch squares for a block, and then sew together nine of those blocks, and then add a border strip around the outer edge, that’s about the size I want to make.
I used a pattern that I’d made once before, Eleanor Burns’ Tossed Nine Patch. I took a class on this pattern at a traveling Quilt Expo, and each of the students practically made an entire quilt top in the class, as Burns’ catch-phrase and company name says: Quilt in a Day. It really was a magnificent experience, an investment, because I knew I would try to reuse this pattern again and again.
Here it is again, using a charm pack of red and white squares.
And again, this one has charm squares of traditional Christmas colors, embellished with gold accents.
This is the one I’m about to square up and bind. Like the first one, it is made of reds and blues, along with the traditional pairings of red and green. But I’m loving the addition of light blue and turquoise as Christmas colors.
To do the free-motion machine quilting, I had two options on my machine: spring-action or not spring-action. I had used the non-spring-action before when I finished up the quilt I made in the aforementioned class. I was pretty happy with it, but actually I have a slightly different machine than I had back then. I chose the other option, the spring-action one. Both options had specific presser feet to use. The non-spring-action free motion foot was just a small, clear, snap-on foot that looked like a regular embroidery foot except it had an open front. The spring-action foot was a complex item. I had to unscrew and remove the shank that was on the post, and screw on the spring-action foot to the post from the left side. At the top of the right side of the post is another screw that keeps the needle tightened up and ready to sew the fabric. The spring-action foot had a metal bar, kind of like a stretched-out heavy paper clip, that rested on top of the bolt that keeps the needle tightened up. Within the shank of the foot was a spring. So while you are free-motion quilting, the fabric gets moved about by your hands rather than by the feed dogs, because on this setting, the feed dogs are down. And this foot rolls with the punches, skimming over the fabric. After a quilt and a half, the little metal bar suddenly broke off, and I had to do something else.
Of course, the sewing shop didn’t have another one in stock. And they had never seen a foot part break like that. It wasn’t a clean break, if you look at the break closely, it looks like the metal fibers just pulled apart, if such a thing could happen. Anyway, I tried to finish using the other option, but my results really sucked doing it that way. Thread breaking, needle breaking, birds’ nests, ugh. Some days, sewing can be a real disaster.
The one that I finished, I bound using store-bought quilt binding tape that had been in the clearance bin. Since it is now December 8, I’m open to using short-cuts like that. Our foremothers in the 19th century couldn’t get store-bought short-cuts like that, and they did all the sewing by hand. I’ll close with possible reasons for not finishing a quilt project by a self-imposed deadline, then vs now:
Why didn’t you get your Christmas quilt finished (in 1850)?
2) We had to use the dining-room table for skinning a deer
3) Wanted to conserve the candle supply, so we slept instead of working by candlelight
Why didn’t you get your 10 Christmas quilts finished (in 2015)?
1) Ran out of backing fabric and wanted to wait until I got a new Joann’s coupon before I bought more
2) Sewing machine malfunction on orders from one to five, one being a broken part, five being a broken motor (in which there is no workaround)
3) Husband had to use the dining-room table to assemble a frame for a new display cabinet he’s making
These are just possible examples. I may actually finish this project…
Several years have passed since I took on the parental role of the Tooth Fairy, but now, with 18 grandchildren, my thoughts have turned back to this custom as I watch my children turn into Tooth Fairy proxies. I must say, I was a very clever Tooth Fairy protégé. I won’t share the details of the deception I practiced on this blog site in case some of my more tech-savvy grandchildren read this blog. I have sent my underhanded Tooth Fairy techniques to some of my children via secured server (the one in my laundry closet).
The history of children being paid for their lost teeth goes back to early written records of the Norsemen and Northern Europeans. In Northern Europe this tradition was called ftand-fé or tooth fee.
Wikipedia on dealing with the use of baby teeth:
“During the Middle Ages, other superstitions arose surrounding children’s teeth. In England, for example, children were instructed to burn their baby teeth in order to save the child from hardship in the afterlife. Children who didn’t consign their baby teeth to the fire would spend eternity searching for them in the afterlife. The Vikings, it is said, paid children for their teeth. In the Norse culture, children’s teeth and other articles belonging to children, were said to bring good luck in battle, and Scandinavian warriors hung children’s teeth on a string around their necks. Fear of witches was another reason to bury or burn teeth. In medieval Europe, it was thought that if a witch were to get hold of one of your teeth, it could lead to them having total power over you.
The modern incarnation of these traditions into an actual tooth fairy has been dated to 1927, 1962, or even 1977. However, there is an earlier reference to the tooth fairy in a 1908 “Household Hints” item in the Chicago Daily Tribune:
Many a refractory child will allow a loose tooth to be removed if he knows about the tooth fairy. If he takes his little tooth and puts it under the pillow when he goes to bed the tooth fairy will come in the night and take it away, and in its place will leave some little gift. It is a nice plan for mothers to visit the 5 cent counter and lay in a supply of articles to be used on such occasions. Lillian Brown.”
There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on what the Tooth Fairy looks like. Images range from dragons to little fat men, to little winged girls. The general view is that the Tooth Fairy is more like the little winged girl. This was the image that came to my mind when, as a child, I put my tooth under the pillow. Practically, this could have worked since the average tooth payout was a dime and I could see how a little winged girl might be able to sneak under my pillow, take my baby tooth and leave a dime. But with the 2013 survey by Visa Inc. reporting the average US payout as $3.70 for a baby tooth, I’m not sure a little Tooth Fairy could carry around this much cash. It may still be a bargain for the Tooth Fairy since adults probably paid the dentist several hundred dollars for the care of this tooth that ultimately fell out!
A few months ago I turned a small lidded box for one of my grandchildren to use as a tooth fairy box. I used pyrography to place her name on the lid of the box and some decorative piercing around the side. It was an ugly prototype but my son loved it and took it home to his daughter. The moral of this story is to never bad mouth one of your creations, no matter how ugly it may be, because in the eye of the beholder (my son), the pig’s ear evidently had a silk lining.
So, on to prototype two. I took a piece of southern magnolia, my favorite prototype wood, and turned a 4-inch long, 2 ¼-inch diameter cylinder between centers and then cut a ¼-inch long tenon on one end. I mounted the blank in a scroll chuck and used a 1 ½-inch Forstner bit to drill out the bottom to a 1 ¼-inch depth to accommodate an electric tea light with a fake flame. Originally I was only going to drill to one inch because I had some of the tea lights that light up on the inside and are flat with a little fake wick. The flame would cast more light above the tea light, which would better suit the purpose of my design.
I then sanded the bottom inside and outside of the box. I turned the box around on the lathe, setting the bottom of the box in the scroll chuck. I didn’t worry about chuck marks on the box because I had plans for dealing with that later. I then used a parting tool to form a 1 3/4-inch diameter tenon about a ¼-inch down from the end of the blank. This tenon would provide the socket fit for the lid. I then sanded and applied several coats of sanding sealer and parted off the lid.
Using a 1 5/8-inch Forstner bit, I drilled down to about ¼-inch above the hole drilled into the bottom of the box for the tea light. The ledge this formed would be used later to support a clear plastic disk. Then, using the tenon on the lid as a guide, I opened up the sides of the 1 5/8-inch hole for the lid tenon to fit. I used a parting tool to cut three decorative grooves in the side of the box just below the lid opening. Later I would drill holes around the box in the grooves to let the light through. I sanded and finished the top portion of the box.
Wrapping the top section of the box in paper towel to protect it from the scroll jaws, I turned the box around and secured it in the chuck. I didn’t worry too much about the scroll making marks on the sides of the box since the jaws sat in the grooves I had cut. I then turned grooves in the bottom section of the box where there were scroll marks, did some light sanding and applied another coat of sanding sealer to blend in with the top portion of the box.
I was going to laser engrave a cartoon figure of a tooth holding a toothbrush, with the child’s name on a contrasting piece of wood, and glue this to the top. This is why I only made the top ¼-inch thick on the prototype. However it was easier to just laser engrave directly on the lid, so in the final versions of this box, I made the lid ½-inch thick to begin with. Since I had originally thought of gluing on the engraved cap to the lid, I had used a pointed live center which left a divot on the top of the lid. This would have been covered up by the engraved cap. On the final versions, I used a cup center.
The laser engraving worked well on the sanding sealer surface. I didn’t fuss about centering the image on the prototype so it came out a little off center with the divot in one of the eyes!
I cut a plastic disk out of the side of a clear plastic container that rice came in. After drilling all the holes in the grooves, I placed the plastic disk on a bed of thick super glue applied to the ledge in the box. This let the light through to the upper part of the box where the holes had been drilled and acted as a bottom for the upper compartment holding the tooth and cash!! I must mention here that when the Tooth Fairy visited my house when I was a child, I received a dime for each tooth. This dime wouldn’t have much effect on the amount of light getting into the upper compartment of the tooth box. In testing the final version of the box, a paper bill was folded and inserted into the box and the tea light was turned on. The light seemed to still shine through the holes. If the Tooth Fairy decides in the future to use debit or gift cards, I’ll have to revisit the design!
If you were to use the other flameless type tea light, you could drill holes around the bottom set of grooves in the box to let the light through.
The most recent version of the fairy tooth box is shown below. I’m not satisfied with the proportions of this box. The height-to-diameter ratio is about 1.77 which should be pleasing to the eye, but to me, the box seems to be too tall. Maybe if the box was tapered with a larger diameter base it might be more esthetic. The location and the spacing of the grooves needs to be investigated also. I plan to work on the design and will provide a post in the future to describe these efforts.
A special thanks to my friend Adam and one of his relatives for the wood.
We love the holidays! Some of our recent holiday get-togethers sported a theme: Mexican Food Christmas, one Thanksgiving dinner featured barbecue from a local take-out restaurant, one time we had a British Christmas lunch with a standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding and mince tarts. One time we made our own turducken, stuffing a chicken inside a duck, then stuffing that inside a turkey. Fun, but labor-intensive! We like to have food for vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, diabetics, gluten-intolerants, appetizers to hold off appetites until late-comers arrive, buffet service, and of course, desserts. Some of the kids like whatever we offer for dinner, but some desire Thanksgiving fare to be traditional: turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pies.
Although Thanksgiving was celebrated in America in various states prior to the 19th century, it wasn’t an official holiday until President Lincoln declared it so in 1863. A Native American Iroquois traditional feast was observed at the end of the harvest season, with cornbread and giving thanks; corn being the chief crop for which they were thankful.
This year, we’re not only going to have dinner, we’re going to play with food as well. We’re gearing up for an afternoon game of Cornhole, hopefully sitting around a fire pit and making roasted marshmallow S’mores for an evening snack.
First, the Cornhole game boards. There are several plans available on the web but generally they can be made with a 2 ft. by 4 ft. piece of 1/2 inch thick, pressure treated plywood, a couple of 8 ft. lengths of 2×4’s and some carriage bolts.
Now for the bags. I’d seen a set of 8 corn hole bags, with the UF gator logo on them, at the Book Store, but they were about $50. I found this set at Wal-Mart for only about $15 so I snapped them up, thinking what a bargain I got. When Skip saw them, he asked “Where’s the rest of them?” I didn’t realize I’d only gotten one set; you need to have 8, not just 4 bags.
But not to worry, I had some duck canvas remnants in the stash to make corn hole bags, so I thought I’d give them a try. Corn hole game components must adhere to strict regulations. The bags must conform to size and weight specifications, and the type of fabric for the bags is also specified.
According to specs, they can be filled with dried corn, beans or some other approved substance. My store-bought bags are filled with plastic pellets. After filling and sewing the edges of my home-made bags, they weighed 15.7 ounces, the same weight as each store-bought bag.
The bag seams are sewn at the bottom and sides, then the bags turned inside-out and filled. The remaining opening edges are turned under, and pinned, leaving a wide enough edge for the seam to be sewn. I used a narrow zipper foot, a versatile attachment I’ve found useful for many sewing tasks. It’s reversible, so you can clip it on so that it flattens either the left edge or the right edge of the seam as you’re sewing.
Just found this web site that show what a store-bought corn hole set might cost: https://www.victorytailgate.com/cp-23710-Florida+UF+Gators+Cornhole+Game+Set+Onyx+Stained+Stripe+Version.html. Oh, and this is on sale, with a set of bags included, which are a $50 value (it says.)
As opposed to our set for about $20 apiece. I bought half the bags. The ones I made may have cost about $5.00.
By the way, some woodturners across the pond are cranking up a wood turning symposium! This is fantastic! I know how much trouble it is for my wife and me to host our 10 kids, spouses and 17 grandchildren for Christmas…. But a symposium for the British Isles and Irish ……..
I regress…. Anyway we wanted to make another project for the holiday season, so I proceeded to draw (my 1 year grandson could have probably done better) a Christmas tree flanked by candles, with a star topper and a banner at the bottom to date the drawing, using Microsoft Word. You can see from the photos below that this was crude at best, but after all, Grandma Moses got away with primitive art work! I saved the “artwork” with Word in an XPS document format, loaded it into the Retina Full Spectrum software and cut out what was to be a tray puzzle featuring the tree. I used 1/8 inch Baltic birch plywood with a laser power setting of 100% and a speed of 100. My laser is a 40 watt laser.
As a side note, someone on the laser forum asked if this laser could cut paper. Ummmmm…I could see an experiment formulating! I took a stack of 8 sheets of standard weight copy machine paper and placed it in the laser. I grabbed my fire extinguisher, and with the laser still set at 100%, “fired” off the laser. I let it cut out the flame over one of the puzzle candles (an interesting choice for the graphic) before turning the laser off. The top sheet of paper was cut neatly with a little brown around the edges, but by the time I got to sheet eight there was nothing but ash. So I set the power at 20% and left the speed at 100. This time I let it cut out more of the puzzle image. When I stopped the laser, I wasn’t even sure it had cut the paper. There was a faint black line outlining the image. On close inspection, I found that the laser had cut through the top sheet of paper as if it had been cut with a razor! The second sheet was partly cut, and the third sheet only had what appeared to be a printed image. None of the other pages were affected.
Once the puzzle was cut and sanded, my wife applied her artistic skills and turned a disaster into a beautiful Christmas tree scene with presents and all!
The tree that my wife depicted on the tray puzzle represents a modern-day American Christmas tree. The history of the tree as a symbol goes back to the time of the Egyptians, but the evergreen tree really only became a Christmas symbol in the 15th or 16th century. It was introduced into American culture in the 18th century. Google history of the Christmas tree for some very interesting history of this tradition. What does the use of a tree symbolize? Why an evergreen tree? What does the triangular shape of the tree symbolize? What does the star tree topper symbolize? Why put presents under the tree? What are the symbols of other winter holidays, such as the menorah of Hanukkah and the kinara of Kwanzaa?
Looking for CNC projects to do for Christmas, I came across the Vectric Labs Blog where several ideas for Christmas projects were posted. One of the projects that caught my attention was a Tic-tac-toe game by Beki Jeremy in a 2014 blog post. This looked like something I could handle. I could use some ½ inch Baltic birch plywood and a couple of bit changes on the CNC machine and produce one, maybe even two or three.
Tic-tac-toe has always been a fun and often spontaneous game for children and adults alike. Children want to challenge adults to a game; that is, adults who can figure out how to lose, to make the children look good!
According to Wikipedia, a form of Tic-tac-toe may have been played during the time of the Roman Empire, first century BC. The game played at this time went by the name of Terni Lapilli. It is reported that the grid for this game were found chalked all over Rome.
In Claudia Zaslavsky’s book Tic Tac Toe: And Other Three-In-A Row Games from Ancient Egypt to the Modern Computer it is indicated that Tic-tac-toe may have had its origins in ancient Egypt. More recently, the game has taken on several different names including Noughts and Crosses, of British fame (1864) and Tick-tack-toe (1884). The American name of Tic-tac-toe didn’t come about until the 20th century. Wikipedia also reports that “In 1952, OXO (or Noughts and Crosses) for the EDSAC computer became one of the first known video games. The computer player could play perfect games of Tic-tac-toe against a human opponent.” By 1975, MIT students used Tic-tac-toe to demonstrate how a computer made almost entirely out of Tinkertoys could play the game.
Often the best outcome for two good players is a draw. If you really want your head to spin on your shoulders, delve into the combinatorial of Tic-tac-toe, the possible board layouts and game combinations. Look at the strategy of winning or obtaining a draw by choosing the first available move from a list in Newell and Simon’s 1972 Tic-tac-toe program. See more Newell and Simon here. But if advanced calculus is not your thing, get Newell and Simon’s list and challenge some unsuspecting five year old to a game of Tic-tac-toe. Or if you want to engage in an experiment to use Tic-tac-toe as a pedagogical tool to teach this five year old good sportsmanship, you could just cheat and beat the five year old.
For this project, I mounted a 2 foot by 2 foot piece of ½ inch Baltic birch plywood on the CNC machine’s sacrificial board. I pulled up the Tic-tac-toe file and checked the various tool paths to make sure it would work with my plywood. I did have to change the cutting depths to 0.51 inches to insure that I could cut all the way through the plywood. As it turned out, it would have been better to set this at 0.53 inches for my set up since the 0.51 inch setting was a hair short of cutting completely through my plywood sample. Other than this change, I used the original settings.
I loaded up the g-code for the profile cuts first and used a 1/4 inch shank 90 degree engraving router bit to make these cuts. Following all the profile cuts, I changed the bit to a ¼ inch shank 0.25 inch spiral up cut end mill to make the pocket cuts. Following the pocket cuts, I loaded up the various g-codes for cutting out the game board and X’s and O’s. These cuts provided tabs to keep the parts together until the parts could be separated with a sharp chisel.
All that remained then was to sand, seal and paint. Oh, and then to challenge my wife to a Tic-tac-toe game. Of course I would go first.
Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts