Category Archives: Toys

Restoring Raggy

Poor doll! He got involved in a fracas and sustained a few injuries:

Shaggy jennyskip
Seen-better-days Shaggy

His hands, neck and arm were shredded (dog bite?) and one arm was limp from lack of stuffing. And one shoe was beginning to separate from its ankle.

Job #1  was to repair the gaping wounds.

I’ve had plenty of time to think about it. This project has been on the docket for a pretty long time, but it occasionally got covered up by a pile of fabric or a stack of mail, so it was out of sight, out of mind. Finally I picked up a hand sewing needle and found some thread that was close to this skin tone, and went to work.

After I fixed up his body, a thought occurred to me. “Dude, what happened to your clothes?”  He had no comment. I figured, why not make him something to cover up with?

First set of pants bombed. The clodhopper feet were too big to squeeze through the skinny pant legs.  The revised pair had velcro closures on the inseams. These pants are made from the actual several inches of pants legs that I cut off a pair of Skip’s pants [see prior blog post from 2015: Modern Hemming].

all ready jennyskip
With some makeshift clothing…

I confess, I’ve never been a whiz at making doll clothes. This quick-and-dirty “minimal effort” little project had me grinding my teeth as the tiny seam allowances sent fabric down the throat plate hole into birds’ nests that had to be cut from underneath to extricate them. I had a feeling that the previous clothes on this toy had something to do with the gaping slash on his neck; that the simple task of playing dress-up resulted in the doll’s near-decapitation. But although I don’t have a workable intuition about making clothes for this guy, I admire the workmanship that must have gone into making him. The meticulously fringed, pieced hair style, his embroidered facial features and chin-scruff, and his slouchy posture all give true representation of the “real” character [You know he’s not real, right? He’s a cartoon]. And then again, he was mass-produced.

Somebody somewhere came up with a plan for toys like this to be created and then mass-produced. I imagine somewhere, a factory is probably humming with machines 24 hours a day, sewing goofy smiles and eyebrows lifted in surprise on cloth faces, adding darts on ankles and outlining fingers in little plush hands. The line supervisor gets an order from the shipping department saying: “Ten thousand more Shaggies” and proceeds to upload the manufacturing process specs.

I did find this enlightening video on You Tube about toy designer Longia Miller, who I now hold in highest esteem! From watching the video, I see that her sewing machine is making use of a throat plate that has a tiny hole, down which it would be fairly impossible for a fabric to slip.

According to Wikipedia, one of the first mass-produced plush toys in the US was the Ithaca Kitty, in 1892. And apparently it was a 3-piece printed pattern that the buyer had to cut out, sew, and stuff, herself. From reading the narrative on the patent, I see that inventor Celia Smith listed a few reasons why her stuffed animal design was “well-adapted to displace” the designs of some other toys that are made from  “a number of pieces of cloth (eight or more)” and could be “dragged about by a limb until they lose their original scanty ICO resemblance to an animal and fail entirely to appeal…”

You gotta love the visionary minds of the toy designers and makers,  demanding realism, durability, safety, and worthiness of entertainment value to be built into our children’s playthings.

 

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.

Snow-People Revisited

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.

Christmas Tree Puzzle

By now you bloggers and YouTubers are probably growing weary of the Christmas ornament challenge. We did our share by turning a snowperson on the lathe. After looking at all the YouTube entries up to now, I am totally impressed by the creativity and talent that has gone into these. From Sam the Wyoming Wood Turner’s beautiful inlaid globe with magnetic attachments to Mitch Peacock’s Incense smoking snowman to Mike Waldt’s snowman or Christmas man, as he called it for a while, with a red proboscis!

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 ……..

promot 2016
UK-Irish Woodturning Symposium 2016

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.

laser cut tray puzzle craftsbyjennyskip.com
tree puzzle cutting lines

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.

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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!

Christmas tree puzzle craftsbyjennyskip.com
Finished puzzle

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?

Christmas Projects: Wooden Tic-tac-toe Game

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. 

 

Snowman Ornaments of Wood, for Christmas

Christmas tree ornaments are favorites for lathe turning projects. Carl Jacobson and Alan Stratton are sponsoring their fourth annual Christmas ornament contest for wood turners. See their You Tube channels for details. Over the 15 years I have been turning wood projects, I have only turned Christmas ornaments once. That was after watching a video on how to turn a “fly house” from a branch out of the yard. This mini-birdhouse was a favorite with the grandchildren. Carl’s challenge reminds me that making Christmas ornaments for the grandchildren would be a good project this year. With 18 grandchildren, it may be a monumental project! To keep it simple and do-able in the time I have, I’ve decided to turn snowmen. This won’t win any competitions but hopefully it will be a winner with the grandchildren, especially if I put their names on the ornaments.
In preparation for this project, I referred to the “no-fooling-around” resource on the web, the Wikipedia site, to learn more about snowpeople.

“A snowman (or snowperson) is an anthropomorphic snow sculpture often built by children in regions with sufficient snowfall. In North America, typical snowmen consist of three large snowballs of different sizes with some additional accoutrements for facial and other features. Common accessories include branches for arms and a rudimentary smiley face, with a carrot standing in for a nose. Human clothing, such as a hat or scarf, may be included. Low-cost and availability are the common issues, since snowmen are usually abandoned to the elements once completed.”
One of the first photographic records of a snowman was taken in about 1853 and is shown below.

snowman Wikipedia
Snowman 2

“The Snowman No. 2 (4095825226)” by Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales from Wales/Cymru – The Snowman No. 2. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Snowman_No._2_(4095825226).jpg#/media/File:The_Snowman_No._2_(4095825226).jpg

Evidently there is no clear record of when the first snowman was made. Maybe it happened when a Neanderthal decided to make one to attract and trap a wooly mammoth. Bob Eckstein, author of a book entitled The History of the Snowman, documented snowmen constructed during medieval times by studying artistic work found in European museums, art galleries and libraries. One of the earliest illustrations he found was dated 1380.

Snowmen have been thrust into the competitive genre of “who is the biggest?” A record was established in 2008 in Bethel, Maine with a 122 foot, 1 inch snow-woman. Prior to this in 1999, Bechtel, Maine produced a snowman named Angus, 113 feet, 7 inches tall weighing 9,000,000 tons!

Okay, way too much information on snowmen. Because making a snowman is a fun winter activity, and decorating for Christmas is also a fun winter activity, it seems logical that our next project will be a snowman ornament.

The Hallmark Information web site offered some historical insight into Christmas decorating. Christmas trees have evidently been a holiday practice as far back as the 15th century in Germany, appearing in the Americas in the 1700’s. Evergreen trees showed up in religious plays adorned with apples and were referred to as Paradise trees. Later they were used in homes, and ornaments of small pastries in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts and flowers were hung on the trees. The custom of having Christmas trees spread through Europe and eventually was brought to America by German mercenaries fighting in the Revolutionary War. By the 1800’s Christmas trees were very popular in the United States. Many of the commercially available ornaments came from Germany. F. W. Woolworth brought the ornaments from Germany into the Five and Dime Era, selling $25 million worth of Christmas ornaments by 1890. At this time the German-made ornaments were cast lead and hand-blown glass. Over time, ornaments became more elaborate and more expensive. By 1925 Japan had entered the market and was shipping large quantities of ornaments to the US. Czechoslovakia entered the market and by 1935 over 250 million ornaments were finding their way onto US Christmas trees. By the beginning of World War II, American companies entered the ornament market. In 1973 Hallmark introduced ornamental glass balls.

I couldn’t find many historical notes on when hand-made wooden ornaments originated but they must have been used on early Christmas trees. Christ-Kindl Markt mentions “shaved wood” ornaments created by farmers, in their essay on German Christmas ornaments history.

A wooden snowman seems to be an appropriate historical object to adorn a Christmas tree or a holiday table. But one last concern, since these are going to my grandchildren, who range in age from about one year to 17 years: safety. I don’t mean safety at the lathe, that’s a topic for another discussion, but safety associated with the ornament.
The ANSI/ASTM approved ornament would probably have to be made of surgical grade stainless steel, one foot in diameter and equipped with seat belts! It would have to comply with mechanical/physical testing (choking hazard), flammability testing (oops maybe I’ll need to soak the wooden snowmen in a flame retardant such as boric acid), chemical testing (oops again, the boric acid may be toxic and I guess lead based paint is out of question), electrical testing (check, we got this covered) and labeling (guess it will have to be 12 inches in diameter to accommodate all the labels or I could use the trick like they use on TV: ultra fine print to list all the side effects that can result from use of this ornament).

I think I’ll play it safe and make some wooden table snowmen ornaments and paint them with child-proof paint in case the grandchildren gnaw on them. I’ll provide a lengthy Christmas letter with the ornament gift, that enumerates in great detail everything our family has done over the past year and sum it up with a three page, ultra fine print disclaimer associated with the use of the ornament.

I chose Southern Magnolia, AKA poplar, to make these snowmen, primarily because I had tons of it and secondly, I was going to paint them. Maple would have probably been a better choice but all of my maple is 4/4. I cut 2 1/2 inch square blanks 6 inches long and mounted them on a midi Jet lathe between centers. I mounted a Stebcenter drive in my scroll chuck and used this to turn the blank into a cylinder with a tenon. The blank was then mounted in the scroll chuck with the tenon and I let the chips fly. I used a combination of carbide tipped tools, a bedan and thin parting tool.
I did do some planning before I started turning. I tried to adhere to the 1/3 – 2/3 proportions. I do have plans to make a Fibonacci gauge but in this case I relied on the good ol’ 1/3 – 2/3 rule.

Once the snowman was parted off the lathe, my wife took over and turned this lifeless chunk of wood into a lively snowman.

I also wanted to provide my grandchildren with another memorable gift for the Christmas holidays, so in spite of my wife’s advice, I decided to add my Annual Christmas Satire to this blog. I must add a disclaimer that all figures in this essay are fictitious and any resemblance to anyone alive or dead is coincidental. It does answer the question….

Does Snowman 2 have a sibling and if so, what does he or she do?

By Solaroller (my pen name to protect me from the CIA, NSA, IRS, SPCA etc.)

Yes, Snowman 2 has a brother by the name of Shaved Ice, who is a gangsta’ rapper. They are actually step brothers, having been adopted by the same parents, Elmer and Madge Goldberg, both activists in the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The boys’ parents owned a large produce distribution company which gave them access to several large walk-in freezers, necessary to provide a comfortable environment for Snowman 2 during the spring and summer seasons. Their produce business also gave them a constant supply of carrots necessary to maintain Snowman 2’s proboscis (not to be confused with a worm’s proboscis, a long tubular sucking organ.)
Snowman 2’s birth parents had long disappeared sometime during the 1950’s while extensive above ground testing of the hydrogen bomb was taking place in New Mexico, Snowman 2’s birthplace. All that remains of Snowman 2’s parents is the Hot Mud Spa at the New Mexico Talladega Spa and Resort.
Snowman 2’s brother Shaved Ice was adopted by Elmer and Madge while they were on a trip to Havana, Cuba for their annual attempt to smuggle Cuban cigars into Miami, Florida. The cigars were painted yellow and shipped out of Cuba in crates of bananas in keeping with their produce business. Shaved Ice was found living in a dumpster behind a Cuban tattoo parlor, where, as a 10 year-old child, he would perform customized raps for tattoo parlor patrons. When they heard him sing “Elmer and Madge done outfoxed the Badge” to the tune of the Tiny Tim favorite “Tiptoe through the Tulips”, they knew that they had to have this little boy as part of their family.
Shaved Ice grew up to become a famous rapper at night while running the cigar smuggling business for Elmer and Madge during the day. All this went on year after year without Snowman 2’s knowledge. Snowman 2 did follow Shaved Ice’s climb to success as a rapper but was not aware of his nefarious cigar smuggling activities. It was only many years later that a series of events drove a wedge between these two loving brothers.
While on a gig at a Walmart parking lot in Carson City, Nevada, Snowman 2 encountered a young undisciplined boy by the name of Sheldon Wanarski, who grabbed three of Snowman 2’s buttons, typically made of lumps of coal, and ran off to a waiting car. Later it was learned that this little fellow was actually from a very disadvantaged home where the family barely had enough money to eat, much less pay to heat their home in the bitter Nevada winters. The little boy had taken the buttons to burn in their stove for space heating and to warm their porridge for dinner. Regardless, Snowman 2 was left buttonless, standing in the Walmart parking lot surrounded by hundreds of laughing, unsympathetic children.
Elmer and Madge were infuriated and spirited Snowman 2 off to their walk-in freezer while they figured out what to do. They contacted Santa to see if he could supply new buttons of coal, but were disappointed to hear that Santa had moved over to penguin poo as a substitute for coal. Elmer and Madge could not bring themselves to a decision to make this substitution for Snowman 2’s buttons. Upon hearing of this tragedy, Shaved Ice had a suggestion. He knew that Cuba still had connections with Russia. After the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 60’s Russia had begun to smuggle pin ball machines into Cuba. The Castros did not support any activity that brought joy to the Cuban people, so pin ball machines were outlawed. Over time, the unlawful entertainment machines advanced from pinball machines to Play Stations. As energy supplies in Cuba were strictly controlled by the government, the Cuban people had to pay exorbitant prices for energy. A black market developed, with the Russians smuggling lumps of coal into the country disguised as power supplies for Play Station games. Shaved Ice contacted his Russian customers for Cuban cigars and struck a deal. Russia would skim off some of the coal disguised as power supplies and divert these to Shaved Ice where he would paint them yellow and ship them into the US as bananas. All of this worked very efficiently until Snowman 2 happened to look more closely at one of his buttons and saw it was marked “made in Russia at forced labor camps”. He immediately went to Elmer and Madge and demanded to know what this meant. Elmer was never one to keep a secret and spilled the beans, telling Snowman 2 the whole history of his step brother and their smuggling business. Snowman 2 and Shaved Ice have since made peace with one another and now Snowman 2 uses penguin poo for buttons.