Category Archives: Woodworking

Building a “Cat-Proof” Christmas Tree

For the first time in many, many years, we decided to forgo getting a regular Christmas tree and make our own…out of wood.  The reason became very clear as we watched our six month old kittens repeatedly try to climb an artificial plant in our TV room only to have it come crashing to the floor.  Now, we have had cats forever and we have witnessed them denuding the Christmas tree one or two feet above the floor, drinking all the water out of the tree stand and pulling the tree skirt out from under the tree to make a nest.  But this year we decided to surrender to the cats and make a cat proof tree, or as one of our sons calls it, a cat accommodating tree!

basic plywood tree jennyskip
basic plywood tree

I acquired three 2’ x 4’ sheets of ½ inch Baltic plywood, and using scraps of wood and green deck screws, fastened the sheets together to form a 6’ x 4’ pallet for my wife to draw a Christmas tree. The plan was to construct a tree that could easily be disassembled once Christmas was over and to store the tree in the attic. I asked Jennifer to outline the tree and locate two large openings for shelves and two smaller openings to use for hanging cat play toys.  When this was completed I took a jig saw and cut out the tree and large openings. I used an electric drill with a 4” diameter hole saw to cut out the smaller openings.

I painted the tree with forest green paint and took it inside for Jennifer to decorate the tree.  We covered the dining room table with brown paper and it became our inside work bench for constructing the tree. Jennifer will tell you that our dining room table is my favorite work bench!!

While Jennifer added snow, popcorn, holly and beads, I began construction on the boxes that were to provide the support for the tree. The plan was to mount a 5” wide by 10”  deep by 10” high box to the back of the tree at the center. Five inches of the box was left exposed from the front and would be decorated as the tree trunk.  Two boxes 12”x 12” x 10” deep would be constructed and decorated as Christmas presents, these would be attached to the front of the tree on the left and right side of the trunk. This provided a very stable tripod arrangement to support the tree. These were fastened from the back of the tree using the same deck screws used throughout the build. The boxes were constructed using ½ inch Baltic plywood. I used a skill saw to cut out all the parts since my table saw was still occupied by the Boy Scout Eagle project we are working on (Adirondack chairs for a homeless shelter in town. Maybe a topic for another blog… how to build chairs with 10 boys 13 to 14 years old trying to use electric drills and sanders!)

Two 12” inch deep shelves were cut from the same ½ “ Baltic plywood. These had their front corners rounded off with the jig saw and painted red. Later these had a wooden strip attached to the bottom which provided a bracket for attaching the shelves to the tree.

tripod tree base jennyskip
three wooden boxes form tripod base

The tree was moved to the TV room and placed in front of the fireplace. The backup plan for supporting the tree was to run a board between the tree and underside of the fireplace mantel.  We then loaded the tops of the boxes and shelves with treats and hung two catnip toys in front of the small openings and sat back to see what happened. Our 16-year-old cat and the two kittens immediately put the tree to use. They climbed the front, the back and in between. The tree did not even shudder! Success!

cat Christmas tree jennyskip
cats checking out the tree

Of course, after 30 minutes the newness wore off and they haven’t been near the tree again. However, my wife and I have felt stress-free! No broken glass Christmas decorations!  No throw-up from the cats reacting to the chemicals added to the Christmas stand water to extend the life of the dying tree (only kidding about the chemicals). No urine stains on the Christmas tree skirt!  No 50,000 pine needles all over the floor to clog up the vacuum!  And I figure that if I get one of those tree shaped things you hang up in your car that are pine scented, we can even enjoy the smell of a real tree! Next, we might even add LED lights, battery-powered so we don’t duplicate the cat-atrophy I saw on the movie Christmas Lampoon!

Planting Time

As you may have seen from our previous post, we’ve gone all out for planting a raised-bed winter garden. In the prior blog entry, we go through the process of building the planters out of wood harvested from our own back yard and bolstered with our daughter-in-law’s no-longer-needed bed slats, and filling them with nutrient-building amended potting soil. We have great hopes that the planters will make it easier and better on us oldsters, to be able to maintain a home-grown garden. The planters are about waist-high, so we’re saying “no” to back-breaking shoveling, hoeing, and bending over to weed.

Today I picked out some winter veggies from our local Garden Center that are supposed to work for our growing season, although technically, I’m told the optimal time for planting the winter crop was last month. We will see if we can keep our little project going.

plants and herbs jennyskip
selection of winter veggie plants and herbs

We have a couple of strawberry plants, various herbs, lettuce, arugula, broccoli, and a couple of different types of cabbage. We like greens, which would be an acceptable winter crop, but for me, lots of collards, turnip greens and kale are a dietary no-no (kidney stones).

raised bed planters jennyskip
raised bed planters

Some sustainability experts say that it’s best that your garden is situated somewhere you’ll naturally see it and come in contact with it every day, like say, a spot you walk by on your way to go to work. These guys are out on the back patio, sort of hidden. If we open the blinds in the hall bathroom, we may be likely catch a glimpse of the planters if we happen to wander into that bathroom. Otherwise, it’s “out of sight, out of mind” for the garden. Maybe if we set the alarms on our cell phones each day to “go check out the garden” then our recent efforts won’t slide by the wayside. Sheesh! The ancestors had some valid motivations to tend to their gardens, such as “you want to eat some real food, don’t you?”

planters jennyskip
planting time

The weather report says we’re not supposed to have a freeze any time soon. About a week from today, it says, the temperature is supposed to go down to 35 F at night. The hay that we’re using for mulch will keep the moisture in the soil, and if it rains very hard, will prevent the dirt from splashing up onto the plants. Hopefully our shade cloth that is on order will get there by then so we can be ready to protect these little babies!

Building Raised-bed, Easy-water, Easy-weed Garden Planters with Family and Friends

garden planter jennyskip
garden planter #1

 

My wife and I have started gardens in the past with a moderate level of success.  We have picked out a patch in our back yard, tilled the earth, worked in some potting soil and then after germinating some seeds, transplanted the seedlings and then watered and watched the bed to see what happened.  We found that the bugs liked our tomatoes, but didn’t like our squash enough to pollinate the squash flowers. Our food production was minimal.  And we hated having to bend over in the hot sun to tend the garden!  So when I saw Jon Peters’ YouTube video on constructing a raised bed garden, I was inspired to build a couple of these beds for our future garden efforts.

Urban Lumbering and Photovoltaics

We were fairly true to Jon’s design with just a few variations.  I’ll cover these variations in the following paragraphs but first, a few words on urban lumbering.  About four years ago, I entered into a contract with my local utility company with what is called a feed-in-tariff  agreement. Basically if I purchased a photovoltaic system for my house, the utility company would meter my power production and pay me $0.32/kWh for the next 20years. I received a 30% tax credit and was able to write off the cost of the system over four years. [I won’t go into the political ramifications of this program. I’ll save that for another rant on another blog.] So what has this got to do with urban lumbering?  In order to maximize our solar exposure to the photovoltaic system, we had to cut down some red oak trees and some pine trees.   Since I am a woodworker and a wood hoarder, I couldn’t bring myself to the decision of cutting down these trees and having them hauled off to the local wood-burning power plant.  So I called Lumber by Lance and Phil the Tree Guy and had them come to my house and turn these trees into beautiful stickered piles of lumber.  I watched as 4/4, 6/4 and 8/4 slabs of beautiful heart pine and quarter-sawn oak fell off the portable saw mill.

wood pile jennyskip
Part of the wood piled up in the back yard

This project was perfectly timed, since one of my wood piles had air-dried for four years. We decided to not plane or joint any of the wood since, for this project, it was going to be used to hold a bunch of dirt!  

 Help from Family Sustainability Experts

Our two sons from Puerto Rico came home for Thanksgiving and wanted to help build the raised beds.  Our older son is the director of an educational  non-profit organization based in Puerto Rico, focusing on promoting sustainability and ecological agriculture, Plenitud PR (www.Plenitudpr.org or Plenitud PR on Facebook).  Our younger son is an instructor and project manager at the Plenitud farm and teaching center. This was just the type of project they live for!

box components jennyskip
preliminary work on the planter box components

We used the same dimensions that Jon Peters used, 36 inches by 57 inches. The boys found lengths of lumber from my stash that were approximately 8 and 6 inches wide. These were cut to length, and using battens cut from old bed slats, they were fastened together to form 14 inch high sides for the boxes that would make up the raised beds.  Hardware cloth (purchased at a local hardware store) came in 3 foot widths in a roll 10 feet long, just enough to make two beds. This hardware cloth was stapled to the bottom of the boxes with crown staples. Then 1×2 slats of wood were used to frame the hardware cloth for additional support. Before adding the 1×2 slats, pressure-treated 2×4’s were used as cross pieces to add additional support to the hardware cloth. Jon Peters had suggested that additional support might be needed. In a kit-build, Jon Peters demonstrated that another way to construct the bottom of the boxes was to use slats spaced with gaps for drainage.

We took a different approach for the construction of the legs. Jon used 32-inch lengths of pressure-treated 4×4’s.  He removed half the thickness of the 4×4’s for a distance of about 14 inches from one end of the board. This formed a step for the box to sit on. My experience with the current method of pressure-treating 4×4’s is that the penetration of the chemicals into the core of the wood is not always as thorough as it could be. We decided to go with two 2×4’s, one 32 inches long and one 18 inches long, glued and screwed together. These legs were then fastened to the boxes with 2 ½ and 3 inch Robinson deck screws.

planter boxes jennyskip
attaching legs to planter boxes

The boxes were moved to the back yard deck. This kept the boxes out of the way of lawn mowers and weed eaters. Once located on the deck, architectural (weed prevention ) cloth was stapled to the inside of the boxes. This was to provide for a layer to retain the soil while letting water drain through.

planters on deck jennyskip
in place on the deck

Our Puerto Rico Sustainability Experts then stepped up and set about helping us put together a perfect growing media for the new raised beds.  The basic recipe for the soil mix was 40-50% organic matter, 25-30% perlite and 25-30% peat moss (not a sustainable component) or coconut fiber (a sustainable component). Our specific mix was comprised of Black Cow © (cow manure fertilizer as a source of nutrients), CocoLoco © (worm castings, coconut fiber, perlite and soil), peat moss, potting mix, and additional perlite.  This was mixed up on a tarp (see the YouTube video) and placed in the raised beds.

soil mix jennyskip
ready to mix the garden soil

After filling each raised bed with the soil mixture, we added a layer of hay to the top of the soil mixture. This layer of mulch slows down evaporation of water from the bed and protects new seedlings.

Additional Support System for the Raised Beds

The next day we acquired some 10-ft lengths of ½ inch PVC pipe and clamps and constructed a support system for each bed.  The support will provide for shade (50% black cloth) during the summer months and for cover during the winter to protect the plants from frost.

garden bed support jennyskip
shade cloth is still on order

Now on to the local nursery to pick out some fall/winter seeds and seedlings!

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!

Pick Your Passion, 2nd Year in a Row: Quilting, Woodworking, Football, and Bluegrass!

Last year about this time, I blogged about the local Quilting and Bluegrass Festival, here. This year it was very similar, but more so!

Similarities: the Festival was held on a day when our college town had a football game. The Festival showcases 100+ gorgeous quilted works of art. One of the bands that played last year came back:  Patchwork. The vendors and store owners in the center had cool crafty eye candy to ponder and peruse, and the quilts were truly marvelous to behold!

Skip was busy helping out with an Eagle Scout project, which consisted of building some chairs for a community group home (he loves it when the younger generation wants to do woodworking),

Eagle scout woodworking jennyskip
Eagle Scout woodworking project

so I sashayed up to the local shopping center to see some quilts.

quilt raffle jennyskip
I entered three raffles, hope I win them!

Several of these pics include an information sheet pinned to the quilt, so you can zoom up and see the details, thereby crediting those who produced these amazing articles.

Celestial Soda Pop jennyskip
Celestial Soda Pop
Gator Life jenny skip
Gator Life by Lucy Goddard-Teel
craft corridors jennyskip
cool crafts in the corridors
smaller quilts jennyskip
gorgeous smaller quilts
hubby quilt jennyskip
The Hubby Quilt

 

I learned there are several quilt guilds in the area, holding meetings at various times, day or night. So there ought to be one that fits the schedule of just about any quilter or  wannabe-quilter in town.

 

 

Overshot jennyskip
This one features Overshot squares made with fabrics woven by the quilt maker
raffle Jennyskip
This quilt is to be raffled off in May…
australian dreams jennyskip
“Australian Dreams” by Charlotte Mason
hand quilted Lockward jennyskip
“The Bear Went Over the Mountain” HAND-QUILTED by Doris Lockward

 

Skinny Minnie jennyskip
Skinny MInnie table runner

I bought this cute mini-table runner from one of the vendors. It’s a great little project to place on a side table in the house during football season. Speaking of which, gotta go watch the game…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Display Cabinet Build #7

The display cabinet is finally (almost) finished! It’s been a long project, slowed down even further because of personal injuries, a hurricane, and multiple design changes during the construction, but we’re so happy with it.

display jennyskip
display

We ordered the glass for the shelves and mirror, and originally planned to pick it up ourselves with the help of our friend Ray and his truck. Then Skip wrenched his ankle, and we decided carrying glass around might not be a good idea, so we rescheduled the delivery and asked for the Glass Company professionals to install it.

Then—wouldn’t you know it—Hurricane Hermine blew in, and the delivery was postponed again.

display jennyskip
display
display
display

Once the mirror was epoxied in, we were able to mount the shelves on the brass rods.

display
display glass

We ordered the mirror backing to be 1/8 inch thick, and the glass shelves with a 1/2-inch bevel on the front edges.

case
case

We’re going to place felt dots on the undersides of the shelves at the points where they sit on the brass rods. And then Skip will add some molding to the outer perimeter of the mirror.

quilts jennyskip
displaying quilts

Shown above are some tentative display items. We’re enthused that we can vary the items we decide to display. According to proper fengshui, you shouldn’t place a mirror directly opposite a door, but I’m hoping that the friendly, creative, familial Qi of the objects we’ve chosen to feature  on the shelves will be retained in the home. Currently, nothing is on the lower shelf, because the kittens have been jumping up there and lounging on the shelf with great delight. They are able to reach their little paws up into the next shelf, so we must favor kitten-proof display items there.

display jenny skip
close up of display items

The lower shelf has two quilts my grandmother made, and an antique glass service plaque (see more about the origin of service banners and plaques here). BTW, we saw an awesome video recently  about making a wooden service banner, from Opa’s Workshop (click to watch!). As for the two quilts, the one on the bottom is chronicled here in a prior post. The top one is a Dresden Plate quilt that was probably originally made in the 1950’s or 60’s. I can see places where my mom tried to mend it with fabric that I recognize from my own stash, part of which I inherited from her stash!

The middle shelf has an antique quilt that my great grandmother made (see a prior post on this quilt here) to the left, and a woven pine needle mat that was made by my grandmother, circa 1960.

The upper shelf has several quilt mats hand-sewn by my mother during the last few years of her life, when much of her precise quilting skills and abilities were stolen by Alzheimer’s disease. But it is heart-warming to me, that she enjoyed piecing beautiful fabrics together into practical projects, even up to the end.

Here’s the You-tube composite of the whole process.

 

 

 

Early Morning Walking Before and After Hermine Made Landfall

Didn’t want to let a hurricane keep me from my morning walk, did I?

Yesterday morning as I walked in the neighborhood (Central Florida) it was sort of misty and drizzling–“mizzling” as they call it.

mizzle pre-Hermine
walking in the pre-Hermine mizzle September 1

We did all the usual hurricane preparedness things: (1) stocking up at the grocery store (other shoppers  were buying gallon plastic jugs of water and batteries, my cart was full of BOGO Klondike bars… #thugmormon) (2) making sure we had plenty of pop-top cans of Fancy Feast, the cats’ preferred food, and Super Clump litter, (3) located the car cell phone charger…

DSCN1657
pre-Hermine morning sun

Usually it’s a false alarm in our area, as we are sufficiently inland. But the power went off at two-something AM, and it’s still off at almost noon Friday. Rain bands are still swirling across the state. Right now it’s sunny; two minutes ago rain was pelting our roof like a barrage of bullets.

Hermine fallout
tree debris this morning, September 2

We drove around town charging our cell phones and checking to see which McDonalds’ were open, and saw lots of tree fallout and a fallen tree blocking a side road.

The mirror and glass shelving were supposed to be delivered today to finish the display cabinet, so we don’t know if the glass company will chance it.

display cabinet
display cabinet waiting for its final accoutrements

Hoping everyone is safe and weathering the storm as it makes its way north and east.

 

Display Cabinet Update #5

by Skip

Another display cabinet build update!  I’ll be so glad when this thing is done!

display cabinet jenny skip
major design changes

From our last update, there have been some major design changes. First, I decided to add lights to the underside of the cabinet top. I used a combination of LED light strips and LED puck lamps. Using a remote control, the LED light strip can be turned on and off, dimmed and can change colors. The pucks are controlled by a switch but I plan to add a remote control to these.

I then installed glass keepers on the inside perimeter of the cabinet upper rails and cut and installed a plastic lens from a fluorescent light fixture.

display cabinet lighting
lighting in the top of the cabinet

Second, I added foam weatherstripping to the top edge of the cabinet so when I added the top and fastened it down, it provided a light tight joint.  Third, I decided to add additional brass trim on the top rails and add corbels at each corner of the top. Fourth, I decided against adding glass to the cabinet sides. As I mentioned before, the design of this cabinet evolved during construction, bad idea usually.  Looking at the support rods for the glass shelves, it was going to be just too tight to try to install the glass panels with keepers in the existing 5/8 inch space.  Using 1/8 inch thick glass over the vertical span with no muttons was risky, in my mind. This change was also reinforced by the fact that I have many (emphasis on many) young rambunctious grandchildren.  Not sure the glass would survive a visit. So I punted and decided to go mission style and add vertical slats to each side of the cabinet, pinning them top and bottom with brass pegs. Maybe too much brass!?!

The cabinet has been moved to its new home where I will add the slats over the next few weeks. I’m going to wait to add the glass shelves and mirror after the grandchildren visit next week.

Display Cabinet Update

by skip

It has been several weeks since the last update on the display cabinet. Lots of other projects have taken me away from this project but I’m back at it again.

Since the last post, I have finished staining and top coating the cabinet framework, trying to give it an antique distressed look.  I planed the boards for the bottom shelf and cut notches on the corner so it would sit on the bottom framework of the cabinet.  I oversized the notches a little to allow the wood in the shelf to move.  This left some gaps which I plan on filling with black foam rubber to hide the gaps but allow for expansion.  When I had this tweaked and fitting in the cabinet, I then installed the leather veneered panels. Once these panels were in place, I set about cutting the brass rods to form a sort of molding around each panel. The addition of this metal was to complement the brass rods for the shelf supports.

The brass rods used for molding were set in place using thick CA glue.  I was going to try to miter the ends of the brass rods, but life is too short for this so I set the vertical rods first and then butted the ends of the horizontal rods into the vertical rods. To hold the bottom shelf in place, I used L-brackets underneath the shelf to connect the shelf to the bottom framework. Since I was too lazy to flip the cabinet on its side to set the L brackets in place, I used thick CA glue to set the brackets in place and when the glue had cured I could reach into the bottom cabinet cavity and secure the brackets with screws. Less frustrating than trying to stand on my head and hold the brackets with one hand while trying to navigate the screw in place!

display cabinet in progress
cabinet

I had originally thought of making the bottom shelf removable or on a hinge so that we could access the bottom cabinet cavity and use it for storage. But knowing our habits, I knew that whatever we stored down there we would never see again, so I scrapped that idea.

My wife would like to have a mirror back on the cabinet instead of wood, so I purchased some ¼ inch birch plywood to screw onto the back of the cabinet, to support the mirror back.

I called a local glass company to get some suggestions for the glass shelves. Looks like 3/8 inch thick glass will work for the shelves. I am going to install an extra set of brass bars next to each of the bars shown in the video just to provide a little extra strength for the shelf support.  I can also get the shelves with beveled and polished edges.  The mirror and glass sides will be cut to size.

The next step is to make the top of the cabinet, allowing for surface- mounted LED light fixtures.  I need to cut the molding for the side glass panels.  Hopefully by the next post, the cabinet will be complete!!