Category Archives: Toys & Games

Making a Board Game Console with a Digital Flavor

by Skip

My son approached me with a project: build a frame to fit over a flat screen TV with a plexiglass cover. The TV and frame would sit flat on a table. Okay…but why?
His answer: to play board games
I responded: so how does that work?
His answer: you connect a computer to the TV with an HDMI cable and view an image of a game board. Then you move your pieces around on the plexiglass cover.
My response: why not use the board that comes with the game?
His response: some games are completely digital and don’t have boards.
My response: so why not just play the game on the monitor?
His response: because with this method you can use customized game pieces that are scaled to show the difference in size between a scrawny little hobbit and a 20 foot tall orc. And you can hold the pieces in your hand. The game board can also have animations like a flowing river. It’s just a lot cooler than playing a straight up digital or board game!!
My response: Got you!!

So let’s talk about specifics. How big is the TV? Where do its cords come out? How is it vented for cooling? What is the distance from the screen to the plexiglass?


We got the TV out on a table and determined that if we used 2×4 lumber and made a frame 24 1/4-inch by 39 1/4-inch, that would fit over the TV. We would add 1/2″ thick plywood brackets at each corner with felt pads( to protect the table it sat on). The brackets would elevate the frame 1/2-inch off the table providing a 1/2-inch vent around the perimeter. We sanded the frame up to 220 grit sandpaper after filling some of the imperfections in the 2×4’s with wood putty made up using the sawdust from the sanding and Titebond II glue.  We painted the frame with a primer, two coats of black acrylic paint and topped it off with a clear coat of acrylic.

My son picked up a large sheet of 1/4-inch thick plexiglass from a big box store along with a plastic cutting knife.

The width of the plexiglass was perfect, but it was too long. Using a straight edge, we scored the plexiglass along a line to give us the 39-inch length we needed. It was recommended to score over the same line 7 times, but we went with 10 scores. We put a board under the plexiglass at the scored line and cleanly snapped off the extra length.


We drilled a 1/8-inch hole at each corner of the plexiglass, set the plexiglass on the frame where we wanted it, and using the holes in the plexiglass, drilled a pilot hole in the wood at each corner. Using some wood screws and fender washers we attached the plexiglass to the frame.

Close-up of plexiglass attached to frame at corner

My son attached some felt pads to the back of the TV to elevate it off the table for better ventilation and to bring it closer to the plexiglass. If this works, we are done. Later we may elevate the plexiglass off the frame with spacers at each corner and the middle of each side to provide for better ventilation.

felt pads attached to frame


I was concerned that all this plexiglass would be a static magnet for dust. My wife suggested that my son wipe down the plexiglass with anti-static dryer sheets and she retired to the sewing room (her woman cave) were she knocked out a large muslin bag with a draw-string closure to store the frame in.

muslin storage bag

In retrospect, you have to weigh the pros and cons: a really cool computerized playing surface weighing several pounds and costing several hundred dollars versus a 12-inch by 16-inch cardboard box weighing less than a pound and costing $70 for a pro edition. Cool wins!

your move!

Bats, Bats and More Bats! The Halloween Type!

by Skip…

Inspired by David Picciuto’s Rockler-sponsored video on making puzzles using a laser, we decided to download his puzzle template, fire up the Full Spectrum laser and make a puzzle. In the past couple of years, we have produced holiday-themed puzzles using the laser (2016 Ghoul,  2015 Christmas Tree, Thanksgiving 2016, Halloween 2015  ).  So with Halloween approaching, it was time to put out another puzzle.

Bat puzzle

 

I searched the internet and found a Halloween image with some bats, and sized it to fit in a 10 inch by 7 inch space. Then, using the laser in raster mode I burned a light image of the subject on a piece of 1/8 inch thick Baltic plywood.  I then loaded up the puzzle template, sized it to fill the 7 inch by 10 inch space, and in vector mode with 100% power and 60% speed, cut out the puzzle. Oh, before laser cutting, I covered the raster image with painters’ tape to reduce burn residue from collecting directly on the wood surface.  I peeled the tape off after the puzzle was cut.

So why did I pick bats this year?  I like bats. They are high tech, insect-eating machines.  If you get up close and personal, they are really kind of cute.  We have several bat houses on our UF campus and it is really fun to watch them come out at dusk to do their thing…. eat insects!

In a September 2016 blog post by Christina Wang, Spooky Symbolism: The History and Meaning Behind Iconic Halloween Images, Christina writes

“Bats have long been associated with mystery, evil, death, and the supernatural. They’re only active at night, plus they live in caves (which evokes the underworld). Vampires are also often said to transform into bats, a connection popularized by Stoker’s novel and the many Dracula films.  One theory for the link between bats and Halloween has to do with the festival of Samhain. When the Celts celebrated the end of the harvest on October 31, they would light bonfires to keep evil spirits at bay. This practice would attract insects and, in turn, bats.

For some great Bat Facts (and to see baby bats in blankets) go to Brandon Keim’s Wired article, October 31, 2012 entitled: Tricks and Treats: 12 Amazing Things About Bats.”

Back to the puzzle: after removing all the tape and cleaning up the parts, I turned the puzzle pieces over to my wife for PLPPP (POST LASER PUZZLE PIECE PROCESSING).  I thought the image I laser-printed on the puzzle would make it easy to put the puzzle back together before painting…NO! It took my wife a couple of hours [days, actually…J]  to reconstruct the puzzle. The image was too light and the puzzle pieces are so uniform that it made it really difficult to put the puzzle together.

Once it was together, I sandwiched it between two boards and flipped it over. I covered the back side with painters’ tape to hold it together while my wife painted it, using acrylic paints and glitter. I followed this up with a couple clear coats of acrylic spray.  My wife decided to extend the challenge she had undergone, and painted the puzzle in a fashion to keep the difficulty at a high level.  Nobody is going to quickly solve this puzzle like a bat out of you know where!!

 

A Little Mermaid with Remnants

Google “Mermaid Blanket” and, would you believe, you’ll get way over nine million results!

Mermaid blanket jennyskip
results for Mermaid Blanket

Mermaid blankets were one of the “it” gifts for Christmas this past year, for a  girl toddler,  teen or tween relative. Some were knitted, crocheted, and sewn from fabric. I didn’t jump onto the trend wagon, but I saw on Social Media that many big and little girls were posing with their fishtail blankies for the camera.

I found a couple of remnants that might go together as a cute mermaid blanket. What do you think?

fish tail remnant fabrics
fish tail remnant fabrics

This size blanket is for a tiny four-year old. The blanket sheath is a polyester teal metallic mermaid fleece, 57 inches wide, remnant of .972 yard. The tail fin is from a remnant that I’ve had in the stash for eons, no idea where it came from. It’s a stiff, satiny, iridescent fabric that looks pink from one direction and purple from another. The saran-wrap looking flap on both sides of the tail is a Bumi Pearlized sheer lilac remnant just less than a yard in length.

fish tail jennyskip
fish tail

No pattern was used in the creation of this project. I just folded the pink/purple fabric, double,  in half and sketched a tail fin  shape on one side so that the fold was down the center of the fish tail, then cut it out. Thus, the tail was symmetrical on both sides. Then I unfolded it and seamed it together on all sides except for the opening at the top. Then I turned it inside out and pressed it, so that the edges carried that fishy curve.

It would have been perfect if the pearlized fabric was the same size, so I could have just duplicated it and made a casing for the purple satin. But the pearlized remnant was smaller than the finished tail. So I played with the idea of attaching the pearly fabric as a ruched flap on either side of the tail, so it would flutter and swish like a real fish’s tail swerving around in water. Maybe a hair-brained notion, but there it is.

plume-y tail jennyskip
the plume-y tail

After ruching the sheet of pearl in several places (centers, sides, and diagonally at corners), I cut a slit in the top fold, and since the slit ended up being a few inches longer than the tail side of the blanket, I sewed a basting stitch around the edges of the slit and drew it together, pulling on the basting thread, until it matched the size of the satin tail. Then I sewed the pearl fabric on to the satin tail at the top. Turning the blanket fabric inside out, and matching it up to the opening of the tail, with right sides of blanket and tail together (a fabric sandwich of blanket, wrong side up, on top;  pearl right side up, in the center; and satin, right side up, on the bottom) sewed tail to blanket in a 5/8″ seam, making sure the pearl material was lying flat at the seam line inside.

Continuing to play around, I hemmed the top edge with a rounded Short Serpentine stitch:

hemmed edge mermaid jennyskip
hemmed edge

It’s still a little chilly at night. This can be a toddler blanket or a grown-up foot warmer. Or maybe the kids can use it as a costume for Let’s Pretend, maybe a little kid version of  Cosplay.

little mermaid jennyskip
little mermaid

While technically not a quilt, it is a blanket that is pieced together so it’s pretty close…happy #NationalQuiltingDay and hope to see how others celebrated the day as well!

Thanksgiving Day

We have so much to be thankful for!

We’re having our big get-together tomorrow so all the kids involved can also celebrate the holiday with other family members as well. We are all pretty much in good health at the moment. We’re looking forward to a fulfilling future. We’re grateful for the ancestors who survived, in spite of many challenges, to extend the familial pedigrees up to this day.

A  recent tendency is to “boo-hiss” the Pilgrims who came to America and displaced (a generic way of stating it) the Natives.  I don’t think I have any actual Mayflower ancestors, but Skip does. Some of our ancestors may not have done the right thing. They could have stayed in England, or France, or Ireland, or Germany, or (according to Skip’s DNA map) an obscure island out in the middle of the ocean, but somewhere down the line they made a decision to come to the New World. Did they ever imagine a time when someone could record their thoughts and instantly project them, electronically, to folks around the world, without waiting months for a letter in return? Thankful for communications, media, technology. Even though it will, at times, make me totally crazy.

puzzle Thanksgiving 2016 jennyskip
Thanksgiving 2016 wooden puzzle

Here’s the panel I hastily painted for Skip to cut into puzzle pieces–about 120 pieces.

back of puzzle jennyskip
cutting pattern on back of puzzle

We’ve made puzzles before that have the pieces cut out first, then we painted a picture on top of the cut-out pieces. He likes it better to have the image painted on first, then he draws a jigsaw pattern on the back and uses the pattern as a guide for where to cut with the saw blade.

Prior to cutting, he masked the image on the front with painter’s tape. Then, after cutting out, he removed the pieces of tape.

tape jennyskip
painter’s tape

Cutting the pieces generates some dust and small fibrous pieces on the cut edges, which we will deal with once the puzzle is reassembled.

puzzle in box jennyskip
in a lidded plastic box for safekeeping

Next step: printing a copy of the subject matter to attach to the box so the kids will know what the puzzle is supposed to look like.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s no puzzle why ghouls like Halloween

by Skip

ghoul puzzle jennyskip
ghoulish ghoul puzzle

According to Dictionary.com :

“Come Halloween, miniature ghosts, ghouls, and goblins ring your doorbell. But each of the three freaky frights has a different history and personality.”

“One of the only features these staples of the supernatural share is their ghastliness. Ghosts are considered to be the souls of the dead. They are imagined as disembodied spirits, and are often visualized as vague or evanescent forms; hence, the white sheet routine. The Old English gast means “soul, spirit, life, breath.” A red blood cell having no hemoglobin is also called a ghost. ”

The details behind ghoul are far more malevolent and may have inspired a horror film or two. “

According to Wikipedia,

“A ghoul is a monster or evil spirit associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh.”

“In modern fiction, the term has often been used for a certain kind of undead monster. By extension, the word ghoul is also used in a derogatory sense to refer to a person who delights in the macabre, or whose profession is linked directly to death, such as a gravedigger or grave robber.”

This puzzle started with what I envisioned as a ghost.  However, my skill at drawing in a Word file is extremely limited. So, as you can see from the file I ultimately loaded into the Full Spectrum laser, this could have been anything; ghost, ghoul, goblin or even a skull.

After I cut out the puzzle, I glued on a back to make it a tray puzzle, and after sanding each piece, I put the puzzle together and gave it a white primer coat of paint.  I did have to sand each edge of the puzzle a little to loosen it up. The laser makes such a fine cut that it is very difficult to take it apart and put it back together.

After applying the primer, I turned the puzzle over to my wife to again use her artistic talent to make a pearl out of a pig’s ear, although a pig’s ear probably looks a lot better than my puzzle outline. My wife really got into this which really worries me about what goes on in her mind!!  After all, she use to work for the property tax collector’s office, so she is familiar with ghouls…which I think inspired her to paint such a ghastly figure!  Compare this to the sweet Jack o’lantern she painted last year for my Laser Jack puzzle.

Hope you enjoy the outcome!  Subscribe to our YouTube channel and our blog for more projects.

 

The Summer of Other Crafts

Summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime…

We haven’t been blogging as much this summer, because we’ve gotten wrapped up in grandkids and other fun stuff.

So the whole genre of “crafting” has taken on some new meanings for us.

Nana (in need of a hearing aid): Did you say you want to play Minecrap?

Grandkids: Noooooooo, Minecraft!

Grandpa: Why do you like Minecraft?

Grandkids: It’s a fun game.

Grandpa: Oh, you’d like anything that had craft in it. How about poopoocraft?

Grandkids (chorus of giggles): Nooooooo!

And then, for the older grandkids, and their parents, who still have the kid mentality, there’s Pokemon Go, or as a daughter explained, “It’s the best of both worlds, a video game and an outdoor game!” Carl Jacobson made a pokeball on the lathe for a recent project, even though he said he had no idea what it was for, it was still a fun project! See his video-post here.

I took Art History from Jack Thursby, back in college. One thing I remember from his class is that studies show during times of war and uncertainty, art in those periods tends to be more into escapism and fantasy. The models’ beauty or resemblance to animals or mythology is exaggerated. When civilization is stable and people are doing well, art tends to be more realistic. Maybe we’re going through another wave of Romanticism vs Realism, as in the second half of the 19th Century. We’re hoping some of the turmoil all around us eases up in time. After the national election maybe? Doubt that.

doll head jenny skip
doll head

This is the head of a Joey Stivic doll. I once bid on a miscellaneous lot of dolls and doll accessories on eBay, and ended up with this and a few other creepy dolls: a Cabbage Patch Kid in a T-ball uniform with yarn hair and a plastic ball cap, a Napoleon Dynamite dancing figure, a couple of doll chairs. If you remember the 70’s sit-com All in the Family, Joey Stivic was the child of Meat-head and Gloria, and grandson of Archie Bunker and Edith. The doll was “anatomically correct” and had a handkerchief pinned on it as a diaper. The grandkids pulled its head off and every once in a while I find it kicking around the house. I had to hide the Cabbage Patch doll deep in a closet, because one of the grandkids couldn’t sleep in the playroom as long as it was in there.

Whether you prefer art and leisure activities to be on the Romantic end of the spectrum or the Realistic end, let us not be paralyzed by the uncertainties and chaos going around us.  Hoping our families and communities pull together and can anchor us, so we can feel inspired to continue to exercise our creativity.

Time for Wood to Meet Wheels

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.

trophy pieces jennyskip
trophy components

PInewood Derby trophy jennyskip
trophy prototype

Pinewood Derby trophy side view jennyskip
trophy prototype, side view

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. 

Pinewood Derby display trophy Jennyskip
trophy with Pinewood Derby car

Then the race was on!! Cheering was somewhat subdued because the Cubs found a dish of brownies and their mouths were full.

Thanksgiving Food, Fun and Games

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.

glue-up craftsbyjennyskip.com
glue-up

corn hole game board craftsbyjennyskip.com
assembling and clamping the corn hole board

cornhole craftsbyjennyskip.com
drilling holes for deck screws to reenforce the corners

nailing craftsbyjennyskip.com
adding pin nails to aid in fastening the plywood to the frame

legs craftsbyjennyskip.com
pieces that will become legs of the game boards

board legs craftsbyjennyskip.com
board legs rounded to make them retractable

bolt holes craftsbyjennyskip.com
drilling the bolt holes for the legs

board with primer layer
corn hole board with Kilz primer

game board craftsbyjennyskip.com
painting the board

game board
masking the board for painting

craftsbyjennyskip.com
finishing the blue part

cornhole craftsbyjennyskip.com
painted Cornhole game board

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.

gator cornhole bags
the store-bought 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.

beans
bean bag filling, from beans dry-pack canned in 1996

filling for the bags
15 ounces of dried beans

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.

seam
seam using narrow zipper foot

corn hole
ready to play? Three woodies and one throw to go…

 

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.