Category Archives: Woodworking

a Wooden Root Beer Tote

As we experiment with 21st century technology, we find that unless we put a lot of our 50-year plus brain cells to work, this new technology will often move us backward, in lieu of forward, with our craft. In keeping with our blog’s theme, we decided to take a 19th century brew and apply a 21st century twist to it.

We love root beer. One of our children really loves root beer (at one time he actually placed 99 bottles of root beer on a ledge in our kitchen). Another son spent 2 years in the UK, where there’s not much root beer for sale. We bought some 2-liter plastic bottles of Mug Root Beer from Wal-Mart and spent about 10 times the price of the soda to ship it over to him. While my wife set out to explore the history of our favorite root beer, IBC root beer, I set out to construct a beer-of-the-root tote.

Many of my favorite You Tube woodworkers have designed and produced beer totes on their channels. Not being a beer drinker, in the purist sense, I’m not sure why you really need a beer tote. From what I have seen, beer bottles usually come from the store in a nice cardboard tote. In fact, even our IBC root beer comes in a nice cardboard tote. But I digress… on to the application of 21st technology to construct a wooden root beer tote.

As luck would have it, I found a CNC model of a beer tote on the Vectic web site. The model was complete and provided the g-code to run our Shark 3.0HD CNC machine. The model called for a 24-inch x 24-inch board, in my case a piece of 0.45 inch thick Baltic plywood. I anchored the board to a sacrificial board on the CNC machine, loaded the g-code and pressed go.

Shark CNC making beer tote jenny skip
ready to be cut out

As a side note, I did check out the tool paths to make sure I had the correct router bit installed, a ¼-inch end mill, and that I had the right cutting depth set for the plywood used. When the CNC machine had done its job, I separated the pieces and performed a dry fit.

beer tote parts cut out by CNC
parts and pieces cut out

This is where my lack of close attention to details caught up with me. First, I had somehow neglected to include the cutouts for the wedges that were designed to hold the tote together. This problem could be overcome with some strategically placed glue. So after a dry fit , I added a little glue, sanded the tote and applied a coat of white primer in preparation for my wife’s 19th century enhancements.

parts of beer tote
parts prepped for assembly

However (the eraser word) another synapse short-circuit became apparent when I tested the fit of the IBC root beer bottles. They didn’t fit!!! Evidently they are larger in diameter than an average beer bottle. After some serious hammer applications and some significant trial and error with the oscillating spindle sander, the bottles fit. The tote was reassembled and a coat of red, white and blue paint was applied. My wife added the finishing touches.

CVC root beer tote jenny skip
the tote

Root beer was popular in 19th Century North America. A tourist back then could find root beer throughout the country, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the same drink from town to town. The root used to make the concoction might be sarsaparilla, burdock, dandelion, or sassafras (real sassafras roots and bark were banned by the FDA in 1960 so now artificial sassafras flavoring is used). A foaming agent could be added, along with spices such as hops, anise, ginger, or many other choices or combinations (see Wikipedia’s article for the whole story).

We remember having homemade root beer at Halloween parties in the days of our youth, made memorable with the addition of dry ice, so it looked like a smoky, spooky potion! If you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to try Dr. Fankhouser’s Homemade Root Beer tutorial. It’s powerful stuff, so take care!

Root beer? Check. Root beer tote? Check. Now we have to figure out where to tote the root beer.

Making Flying Objects to Help Make-a-Wish Foundation

One of my YouTube heroes, Steve Ramsey of Woodworking for Mere Mortals, has just started a campaign to support the Make-a-Wish Foundation, entitled Makers Care. This campaign was inspired by the need to provide transportation for children to support their wish. Steve will donate $5 for every picture submitted of an airplane made (up to $2000 I think), to MakersCare.org. Corporate sponsors are matching his donation. In addition, the website also provides a vehicle for anyone to donate to this cause, and offers random prizes for participation throughout the campaign. Thanks, Steve, for all you do to inspire woodworkers and for supporting our many ill children that have so many needs!
Our submittal is shown below. They aren’t planes but they do represent a method of transporting not only corporate executives (even presidential hopefuls), but also our troops, rescuers, medical transport, etc. So hopefully Steve will accept our photo contribution. Just in case, we are making a donation through Makers Care. If you are reading this blog, please support this effort… you will bring so much joy to the lives of these children!!

wooden toys
helicopter toys made from wood scraps

The wood for these toys came from my cut-off bin, and I used non-toxic acrylic paint. These toys are for designed for kids age 4 and older.

More than One Way to Make a Bench

This project started over a year ago with a call from a dear friend, Dwayne Barber, who has a company that specializes in supplying large renovation projects with unusual sizes and species of wood.  Dwayne calls me regularly to tease me with special deals on wood, like 16/4 slabs of air-dried perfectly clear cherry or 14 inch wide 8/4 slabs of perfectly clear air-dried padauk

A year ago it was a load of walnut including 16/4 and 12/4 air-dried boards. Included in the stack of this walnut were two beautiful 12/4 natural-edge slabs about 2 ft. in width and 10 ft. in length.  What immediately came to mind was a trestle table to replace our 50 year old colonial maple table, which had suffered years of functioning as the children’s layout table for science projects or Dad’s assembly table for woodworking projects. But I ramble…. Following the construction of a new natural-edge walnut table (which by the way is now functioning as an assembly table for a new display cabinet), the decision was made to start replacing the maple side chairs with benches, a more reasonable solution for supplying seating for our 18 grandchildren when the swarm attacks our home for holiday meals.

table
natural-edge trestle table in use as assembly table for display cabinet

For inspiration, I turned to Fine Woodworking Winter 2015 Building Furniture edition. The bench I selected was the one included on page 112 described by Daniel Chaffin in his piece entitled “Trestle Table with Modern Appeal.”

plans from the article
plans from the article

I was fairly true to the design, but since I had to glue up two ¾-inch thick boards to get the bench legs up to thickness, I felt I needed to cover up the joint, which would be exposed in the final construction. To accomplish this and to add a contrasting accent, I decided to ebonize strips of cherry with black India ink and use these to cover the joint.  In addition, I added ebonized strips to the seat edges.

bench
first bench: note ebonized wood accents
bench
second bench

Two benches down and six to go.  In order to move this project along, I decided to make a significant leap into 21st century technology and use a CNC machine to cut the bench legs.

So in lieu of the conventional shop equipment I used for the first two benches: table saws, drill presses with large diameter Forstner bits, and routers, I turned to a machine which, when programmed with the proper software, and loaded with a solidly anchored piece of wood, would cut out the legs. I place emphasis on the anchoring and software because it took several unsuccessful attempts to finally cut out the legs. 

wood for CNC machine
positioning the wood to be cut into a bench leg

My learning curve was sharp, and the project required a few support phone calls and trial/error attempts before I was done.

CNC
bench leg cut from CNC

Somehow, pushing the go button and watching this machine carve out the legs was awesome to witness, but I missed finessing with the more conventional tools, to shape the legs.  I’ve done projects totally with unpowered hand tools, and I appreciate the feel of the wood fibers surrendering to a sharp hand saw or chisel. But at my age, sometimes I have to succumb to more modern approaches to get the job done. After all, there is always the satisfaction of sanding and finishing!!

Give That Man a Cigar (pen)–Part 1

Not that this was planned to go along with WordPress’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Grid…but there is a grid included in the project…

craftsbyjennyskip.com stabilized cigar
grid inside the vacuum chamber

For more Weekly Photo Challenge: Grid click here.

Not being a cigar smoker, I don’t fully appreciate the culture of cigar smoking but I do have a relative that does. I thought I’d see if I could take a cigar (in this case, one that was made in the Dominican Republic) and make a ball point pen out of it by turning the cigar on a lathe.  In order to accomplish this, I considered two alternatives; stabilize the cigar with some kind of resin or grind up the cigar and mix it with a resin to cast a pen blank.

The option I chose was to stabilize the cigar with resin and use the stabilized cigar as a pen blank.

stabilized cigar parts
stabilized cigar parts after undergoing the treatment listed below

As I prepared for this project I couldn’t help but reflect on the memorable times my family spent visiting Ybor City near Tampa, Florida and eating dinner at the Las Novedades or Columbia restaurants.  I can remember the waiters having fun with my brother and me by seeing just how much Cuban bread we could eat at one sitting.  I can still remember how fantastic that bread tasted once we had lathered it up with (what seemed like) a pound of butter!

The history in this area is steeped in the manufacture of cigars.  I learned that in the cigar factories, a hundred or more (it seemed like that to a 10 year old) Cuban immigrants sat at tables rolling cigars while a man sat at a lectern in the middle of the room reading aloud articles from the newspaper.  Ybor City’s cigar history goes back to the 1880’s.  By the 1930’s there were 150 cigar factories in this area and Tampa was referred to the Cigar Capital of the World. For more history of this era of cigar manufacturing visit Save Cigar City’s page.

Dominican republic cigar
cigar made in Dominican Republic

Taking the cigar, I used the pen kit tubes for the Roadster pen to measure off the lengths of cigar I needed for the pen parts.

Note: If you go to the Craft Supplies web site to check out the link, you may see another link for a “Cigar Pen” kit, too. But don’t be fooled, that kit is for making a pen that faintly resembles the shape of a cigar, not a pen from a real cigar like we’re making here!

I wrapped the cigar at the cut point with blue painters tape to help support the cigar when I cut it into two parts.

prepping cigar for pen kit
cutting the cigar into lengths that will fit the parts from the pen kit

The two cigar sections were then placed in a Turn Tex Woodworks Juiceproof vacuum chamber for the stabilization process. The chamber was supplied with a plastic grid called a pressure fit submersion plate that can be used to anchor the cigar parts in the chamber when the Cactus Juice is added.

vacuum chamber
placing grid on top of cigar parts in vacuum chamber

Enough of the Cactus Juice is added to completely cover the cigar parts with an additional inch or so to allow for the Cactus Juice to ultimately be absorbed by the cigar parts.

adding Cactus Juice to vacuum chamber
pouring the Cactus Juice into the chamber

The lid is then placed on the chamber and the chamber is connected to a vacuum pump.  As the vacuum pump runs, it evacuates air from the chamber and the voids of the cigar parts.  As the air leaves the voids, you can see the Cactus Juice “boil” as the air bubbles up through the resin.

bubbling
bubbling in the chamber

After about 20 minutes, the bubbles stop, indicating that most of the air has been removed from the cigar samples. The vacuum is then released and the cigar parts are allowed to soak in the Cactus Juice for about 20 minutes.

Following this soaking period, the cigar parts are wrapped individually in aluminum foil and then baked at 220 degrees F for two hours.  

cigars stabilized with Cactus Juice
stabilized cigar pieces ready to go in the oven

Next post: Part 2, turning the stabilized cigar on the lathe and turning it into a pen…