Category Archives: Woodworking

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!

Everywhere a Sign

Remember this?

Yeah, that’s my sign from last month.

Skip wanted me to just do a makeover on this sign, or have some element that can be added and removed, to make the sign suitable for other times of the year.

Like one of those all-purpose calendars with a theme or motif rather than months and days.

Turns out, those holographic vinyl letters were very easy to pick off. And the boards themselves took quite readily to a new coat of milk paint and sanding and clear-lacquer spraying.

And the vinyl lettering took not much effort.


Now a Valentine’s Day sign.

I’m thinking of re-doing it with the font a little bigger. But as is, it sort of implies that love is more humble than a flamboyant flourish, just a simple statement that you might have to pay more attention to, to find it. Anyway, it’s been fun to experiment with!

The (Christmas) Party’s Over

We like to have our family Christmas party the Saturday before Christmas if possible, that way it won’t interfere with the grandkids’ celebrations at their homes. 

By way of decorations, we went with a Buffalo-plaid red-and-black check theme, which seems to be a component of the “farmhouse-style” ubiquitous scheme of holiday decorating this year.  Our contribution of craft to the decor was pseudo-barn panel painted and embellished with a holiday sentiment. 

Skip put together three boards that were lying around in the shop. I white-washed them with some white milk paint. 

After they dried completely, I painted over the boards with red milk paint. 

Once the red paint was dry, I “sanded” the boards with Abranet to make some of the white and bare board show through and thus give it a weathered appearance. 

Then I painted a rough image of pine boughs, pine cones, and gold ribbon, nothing very specific, using acrylic paint. 

We painted the whole surface with clear Danish oil mixed with a little bit of walnut Danish oil to seal it and make it look old. Then, after that dried, which took a really long time because it was cold — I actually blew the hair dryer at it for a short while and that did speed up the drying — we sprayed it with clear acrylic. 

Finally, we added a Cricut sentiment out of adhesive-backed shiny holographic vinyl.

There it was, hanging on the wall in the foyer, directing our party guests to the living room where the fun was about to begin! 

Santa Claus, the sequel
Us’ns
the newest baby
Sibling hugs

We’re done with this leg of the journey! 

Simplifying Holiday Decor

Decorating for the holidays: I’m all for simplifying!

Last year, the kittens were less than a year old at Christmas, and we knew that if we brought an 8- or 10-foot tree into the house, it would get crazy in here. This year, Ponyboy has beefed up to about 16 lbs and when the three cats go racing around the living, dining room, and kitchen, he can be a formidable projectile.  So we don’t think we’re ready to go back to a real tree, and got the plywood cat-loving tree we made previously, down from the attic.

The coffee table needed some bright color…lucky for me, I had a cache of remnants that would fit the bill.

I started out with a whiteish piece of fabric, which I thought might work for a center square to machine embroider something on. I ended up giving this Urban Threads design a go: it’s a dirigible-driven sleigh for a steam-punk Santa. Then I squared up the fabric to the design, trimming the block to about 9 inches.

design jennyskip
Santa’s dirigible, an Urban Threads design

Of all the suitable remnants I had lying around in the hoard, I chose a bright red glitter cotton one, a polyester plaid shot through with gold metallic threads, and a polyester shiny metallic green fabric with diamond-patterned raised stitching.

For the lining or backing…I thought something gold would be good–preferably something I had in the stash that was already wide enough so I wouldn’t have to piece it. I brought out several…

gold fabric jennyskip
gold fabric for backing

gold remnant jennyskip
or maybe one of these?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jackpot, of course I picked the one that was wide enough. I pinned it, right sides together, to the pieced and stitched top, sewed around the perimeter, leaving a fist-size opening, then turned the inside out and pressed the edges. Then I stitched around the edge of the finished square.

table cover jennyskip
this was the backing we ended up with

cat coffee cover jennyskip
coffee table cover being snagged by cat

cat-proof tree jennyskip
under the cat-proof tree

On the wall above the mantel in back, is what Skip calls…the Family “Palm” Tree.

 

 

 

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!!

 

Historic Overview of Stanley Planes: Stanley No. 1

 

Stanley plane jenny skip
Stanley plane

I became interested in antique tools in about 1983.  My interest narrowed to Stanley tools in approximately 1985.  At this time I was fortunate to become acquainted with Roger K. Smith and purchased his book entitled Patented Transitional  and Metallic Planes in America 1827-1927 published by the North Village Publishing Company in 1981.  This began a long period of communications and Stanley tool purchases with Roger. I vaguely remember him telling me that my plane purchases were going toward supporting his children’s college expenses.  Roger was extremely helpful in my passion of learning more about antique planes, their use and history.

The history of the Stanley Tools companies is well documented and I would encourage you to explore the details of the evolution of this company.

What I am presenting in this video is background information on the Stanley No.1 smoothing plane.  In future videos I will discuss the other planes in my collection.  I started out trying to collect one example of each Stanley plane type. This proved to be very difficult and extremely expensive, so I randomly added to my collection over a period of ten years.

In the photo below you can see the trademark on the iron of one of my Stanley No. 1 planes.  The video will show you more photos of this particular plane.  This V shaped logo on the iron is identified in Roger’s book as a Type 11-1910-1920.  There appears to be a ‘B’ on the frog and lever cap, a forging mark for an unknown foundry which showed up on Stanley planes from 1899-1902.  This would indicate that the plane may be older than the iron’s trademark would indicate.

The spring under lever cap became rectangular in 1869 and was banjo shaped prior to that.

The other trademark  showing on my other number 1 plane’s iron dates that iron from  1907-1910.  There are no other marks on this plane.

The Stanley no. 1 smoothing plane was manufactured from 1867 until 1943.  It is 5 ½ inches long with a 1 ¼ inch wide blade.  It is constructed of cast iron with a rosewood handle and knob.  The finish is generally Japanned.  These planes can sell for anything from $1000 to $2000.  There are counterfeit versions of this plane so the buyer must beware!!

According to the Hans Brunner website:

“Without doubt the most famous of all Stanley planes never had a lateral adjuster, never had any number markings. Some models have B or S cast into the bed, others have no markings whatsoever. Early types have a beaded rosewood front knob and a short handle spur. Later types have a slightly longer handle spur and a lever cap embossed with the Stanley name.

Problem areas: fork and (depth) adjuster nut damaged or not working. More obvious damages include: overhang under handle broken off; chipped or enlarged mouth, cracks and chips to sides, damage to top of frog. That one sounds obvious but I’m just as dumb as the next guy when it comes to checking a plane. No matter how good it looks: Always take the lever cap off and check the frog, always turn the plane over and check the overhang under the handle and the mouth.”

In Wood Magazine issue No. 1 Sept/Oct 1984, we find some additional information concerning the history of the number 1 Stanley plane:

“Stanley tools represent a major category of collectible tools, and can form the basis for a rewarding and stimulating hobby. One of the most desirable of Stanley tools for the collector is the diminutive Stanley No. 1 bench plane. This tiny, 5-1/2” long plane poses some interesting mysteries for the collector. First, what was it used for? It’s so small-that even a craftsman with a small hand finds it uncomfortable to use. And second, for a tool that was manufactured in abundance over a 73 year period (1870-1943), why should it be so scarce?
As to the first mystery-its size-the explanation is relatively straightforward. These planes were designed for use by elementary school woodworking classes, and were used in the introduction to the proper care and use of woodworking planes.
The second mystery requires a more hypothetical explanation. With the advent of U.S. involvement in W.W. II came the need for scarce raw materials by factories involved in the rapidly increasing war production industries. Those with memories reaching back that far remember that not only were civilians in general involved in paper and fat saving drives, among others, but schools and other institutions also were called on to collect and donate large amounts of scrap material.
The widespread draft also was a factor. Shop teachers, especially at the elementary school level, came into short supply overnight, thus freeing up the tools and materials formerly used in their courses as vital scrap. Since the majority of No. 1 planes produced were to be found in schools, a large number of these planes were absorbed by the wartime scrap drives.
In case you’re thinking of purchasing a Stanley No. 1, be prepared to pay between $400 and $650 for an example in good or better condition. Also be sure to buy from a reputable dealer who will guarantee the plane is genuine.”

See more images in the video:

In my next video, I will discuss the Stanley No. 2 plane.  I will also discuss the January 3, 1985 letter I received from Roger K. Smith detailing his approach to restoring and caring for transitional and metallic planes.

Prototype Walking Stick

 

We have planned our annual family reunion [aka get away] for this year to be Rumbling Bald at Lake Lure.  From what I understand this is where parts of the original Dirty Dancing movie were shot. Anyway since there are several hiking trails and lots of scenic spots to walk, I thought it would be a good project to make everyone a walking or hiking stick.  This meant mass producing 38 walking sticks!!  These would break down into two sections and fit into a carry bag which my wife would sew together from canvas.  Well the reunion is fast approaching and I just finished the prototype.  So maybe next year!! They might still work if we have a beach get away!

After some investigation, I found that the ideal length of a stick suitable for hiking and walking should be a length determined by holding your arm at your side at a right angle and measure the distance from your out-stretched hand to the floor. I made a cartoon illustrating this measurement and sent it out to all the families. Fortunately for this year, very few people responded.  I picked one of the kids that did respond who also loves hiking and camping, and used his measurement for the prototype…. 41 inches.

The design was comprised of a decorative topper with a lanyard and compass, a wood upper section 1 1/8 inches in diameter with a standardized length of 24 inches, a wood bottom section with a length customized to the user, a brass coupling to connect and unconnect the two sections, and a brass fitting on the bottom section to accommodate an interchangeable tip, a stainless steel point and a rubber point.

hiking stick jenny skip
Finished hiking stick

The topper was padauk cut to a 6 inch length, a hole drilled for the lanyard and then turned on the lathe to a pleasing shape.  This topper tapered down to 1 1/8 inch diameter to mate with the upper section of the walking stick.  The topper was sanded up to 320grit and then friction polish applied. For a finishing touch, I laser engraved the user’s name on the topper.

cane topper jenny skip
laser engraved topper with leather lanyard

A 2 foot length of 6/4 mahogany was ripped to a square cross section and then turned on the lathe to 1 1/8 inch diameter using a spindle roughing gouge.  The spindle was then off set from center slightly and grooves cut at the upper end to enhance the grip on the stick.  The spindle was sanded up to 320 grit, given two coats of dark walnut stain followed up by friction polish. This resulted in a beautiful finish. However for a walking stick with a lot of outdoor use, maybe a wiping polyurethane finish may have been better.  We will see as my son is going to give this prototype a good working out as a test.

hand grooves jenny skip
Grooves cut into the walking stick where the hand grips it

The topper was attached to the upper section of the walking stick with a dowel. The bottom of the stick was drilled with a 3/8-inch bit to a depth of 1 inch so that one end of the brass coupling could be inserted with epoxy.

The bottom section of the walking stick was produced much like the top section, only cut to length to provide the overall 41 inch length.  Two distinct differences, however, in its construction. On one end of the spindle a 1 inch long 12.8 degree taper was turned using a bedan.  The other end of the spindle was countersunk with a 7/8 inch Forstner bit and then a 3/8 inch hole drilled in the center. This allowed me to insert the other part of the brass coupling in the recess so when the two parts were screwed together, you would not see the brass coupling and the joint would be difficult to discern.  I could have done this drilling on the lathe but the bottom section of the walking stick was too long for me to mount a drill chuck on the lathe with a bit with the lathe bed I was using.

Here’s the You tube video that shows some of the process details.

I installed the coupling, the brass fitting for the walking stick tip, the leather lanyard with a nice silver bead on the end [compliments of my wife’s bead stash] and glued a small compass on the top of the topper.  DONE!!  And maybe done for a year.  It will be mailed off to one of my sons for testing.  I am also concerned that the coupling between the two sections of the walking stick may be a weak link. We’ll see if it holds up or if my son ends up careening down an abyss later this summer.

compass on top jenny skip
compass on top

People and Things From the Past

Long time, no post!

We’ve each been sucked in to pursuits other than Crafting in the 21st Century recently: Skip has been moving wood into a new woodshed and pondering a new series of lectures he wants to do involving some of the many antique tools languishing about the place. Check out the trailer:

I’ve been consumed by my OTHER hobby, family history.

My mom passed away a few years ago, and although I’ve looked through the several boxes of her family history files here and there, it was just a few weeks ago that I felt that I should really get into it and do something with all the data that she collected during her lifetime.

In the boxes, I found letters to and from people who gave her pedigree information, notes from Historical Society meetings, receipts from Vital Records bureaux, from back to the days when first-class postage was 2 cents. She would go to a county courthouse or a library, and copy passages from books in long-hand, because there wasn’t a photocopy machine back then. [And her handwriting wasn’t the easiest to decipher, but who, besides me, can decipher it?]

She compiled a book about one of the ancestors, born in 1740, and now I have her notes and correspondence from that. Sometimes I’ve looked up things on websites, and been ecstatic at the new data I found about one of the ancestors, only to go to her files and discover that she already had that piece of information, for which she actually paid money to a record researcher, but somehow the information never got recorded on a chart  or got lost.

She wrote out reams of family group sheets and pedigree charts. At the bottom of each one is a list of her sources. I can now look up some of the books she found, in Google, and many have been digitized and are available online for free. Awesome; if I can’t read her writing, I can sometimes look up the source and the page number, and voilá, it comes up online, like magic. I just copy and paste the URL of the source document on my online pedigree chart, and it is there for another cousin to search up and collaborate with.

Probably the site I love to work in most, is Familysearch.org. I love the Sourcelinker, the Search Records functions, the Wiki. And the site is free. How in the world can so much information be available to the public for free? I know, because I served as a volunteer support person for the site for 3 years. And, in that role, I became aware of the fact that the site carries a global tree, seeing as how we are all part of one big huge family, and anyone can supplant your data with their data, and you can’t cry foul about the outcome. So I’ve been transferring lots of the information I have into some of the other sites that have individual trees, which can’t be changed by anyone but the owner. Those sites are excellent, too. Family history has become such a popular hobby, and more records are being added all the time to help with the ongoing research.

It’s been great to find that some of my female progenitors also sewed, quilted, and crafted during their time in mortality.

gggmother jenny skip
Maternal great-great grandmother

This female progenitor grew up in New Brunswick, the daughter of a Canadian and a Scottish immigrant. She crossed the border  to work at a textile mill in Maine, where she met her future husband.

grandma, Marg jenny skip
my grandmother (on the right) and her sister

These sisters came to the US with their family in 1912. They came equipped with phenomenal knitting skills!

grandad and mother
grandfather and his mother

I have the remnants of a crazy quilt made by this great-grandmother, in beautiful mauves and beiges and indigo fabrics.

Family history: another “craft” using 21st Century Technology to document and delve into the past! Amazing, isn’t it, how clear and beautiful are these photographs that have survived many decades!

 

 

Kitchen Redo with Stone and Wood

 

Recently my wife “suggested” that it might be time to upgrade our countertops from 25 year old grey Formica to granite.

old Formica countertops

So off to the big box store to look at granite samples.  Way too many choices!! But we found a sample we liked so we pulled out the check book and started what turned out to be a very efficient process, unlike any I have ever experienced.  Soon after selecting the sample, someone showed up to develop a template for cutting the granite.  A week or so later we got an email inviting us to go to Tallahassee to inspect our granite slabs. In lieu of making the trip we asked for photos and got a gallery of shots showing us what our slabs looked like. Once we approved the slabs, we soon got a call to schedule the installation. Two very experienced installers showed up, removed the old countertops in a manner so as to not damage them, so they could be recycled to a friend’s home needing new countertops, and installed our new countertops and cleaned up before leaving for home.  The next day a plumber showed up to reinstall the kitchen sink.

sink jennyskip
Same sink

This is when I got the bright idea to “upgrade” the kitchen cabinets by adding some wood trim to the cabinet doors.  The cabinets, despite their age, are in great shape.

new, old jennyskip
new counters, same old plain cabinets

I picked out some red oak from the shop and milled out a piece about 3/16 inches thick, 1 ½ inches wide and long enough to fit on a cabinet door.  I then picked out a couple stains which I thought might match some colors in the new countertops and passed this by my wife.

woods finishes jennyskip
some of the various woods and finishes

She picked the golden oak stain as applied to the red oak, two applications followed by a clear coat.  After the selection of the stain, I showed my wife a selection of cabinet handles in the Lee Valley catalog.  A copper and bronze handle seemed to be the best selection for working with the wood, countertops and existing cabinet finish.  The wood strips would be applied to the opening edge of each cabinet door as an accent to the cabinets linking them to the colors in the granite.

After the handles arrived it was time to get to the wood working. Pieces of red oak were cut and milled to size, sanded and finished with stain. The plan was to fasten the handles to the wood strips and then fasten the wood strips to the doors.  Of course the screws which came with the handles were too long, made for ¾ inch thick doors and not 3/16 inch thick trim.  Off to Ace Hardware, where I found 8x32x1/2 inch machine screws to fasten the handles.  Since the wood strips were to be fastened to the cabinet doors, the screw heads had to be recessed in the wood trim.  I used a Kreg cabinet jig to drill the mounting holes in the wood trim for the handles.  Using a Forstner bit set to drill to a depth approximately equal to the screw head thickness, I lined up the mounting holes with the Forstner bit and drilled a countersink for the screw heads.

attaching handles jennyskip
attaching handles to wood strip

After mounting all the handles, it was time to start applying these to the doors.  I marked and drilled two holes on each door to allow screws to be inserted from the back of the door into the wood trim. I then applied thick CA glue to the back of the trim, sprayed the door with accelerator and applied the wood with clamps. When the glue had set, I drove screws from the back side of the door to further secure the wood trim.

wood accent with handles jennyskip
wood accents with handles

We were both happy with the outcome.  Now, on to the kitchen drawers, wood trim on the top edge of the drawer fronts with a matching bronze/copper knob.

Here’s a You-tube of the whole process so far:

 

Raised Bed Garden Love!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Our garden is about 3 months old now, so we wanted to post a little something to show the progress.

It’s exciting to roll with the possibilities, puzzling to respond to the problems!

Possibilities:

Fresh, wonderful, veggies and fruits

Interesting new recipes, tried-and-true old recipes

Reading about gardening, talking about it with friends

Combining rows of plants that are compatible

 

Problems:

Something has been nibbling on the cabbage leaves

The Savoy Cabbage died off for some unknown reason

What to do when it gets cold enough to freeze

 

Here’s a tiny documentary of our progress:

Meanwhile, we’ve been enjoying the fruits of our labors.

broccoli jenny skip
fresh-picked and lightly steamed broccoli for dinner

quinoa burgers jennyskip
Quinoa burgers with fresh parsley from our garden

The quinoa burgers recipe came from the cookbook Eating the Alkaline Way. It has some unusual ingredients, but we found it to be very tasty! (Even Skip! Normally he can’t even pronounce the word “quinoa” without a smirk, haha!)