Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Little Vehicle Train

In addition to the cars I also made a train for this series.  Same design principles as the rest of the series.  It was basic enough to make several and just enough to challenge to learn and try new things.
The main learning came from the large dowels.  I needed to put a flat surface on them.  The last time I did this I attached it to a board and ran it through a band saw.  This worked ok. It did not remain as flat after I sanded away the tooling marks.  This time I had a plane, but I did not have a sturdy workbench or reference plane.  That is where the table saw came in.  it is a flat surface with a ripping fence.  It worked great.
The holes on the chassis for the cars also proved to be a challenge.  One is ¼” and the other is 9/32” both should be drilled at the same time.  I really did not want to guess which side to put the groove.  I ended up only drilling part way through.  This way the side that was not drilled, was the side I grooved.
I really liked how the train turned out.  It is 22 inches long and about 4 ½” tall.

Shrink Wrap

Just a quick definition, shrink wrap shrinks when in contact with hot air to keep things together.  Stretch wrap stretches and acts like a rubber band to keep things together.  The only reason why I put this in here is because I just learned it a few years back.  I thought the terms could be used interchangeably.  Last year I made several puzzles and used stretch wrap to hold them together (the stuff put on containers of food to put in the refrigerator).  It did not work very well.  This year I ordered some shrink wrap envelopes to play with on the puzzles.  It is amazing how much easier they are to work with.  I do struggle with a one thing, sealing them. I don’t have the correct tools to do it and I don’t feel like dropping a couple hundred dollars on one.  I have about a 75% success rate with a good seal.  When heat is applied the wrinkles form and then go away.  Now I know how to package my puzzles.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Little Vehicle Series

So I redid the idea of the build and grow and added a couple of more cars.  I tried to make them where kids can pound in the nails.  Honestly, that took way too much time.  Each unit had to be drilled together and packaged together.  I really did not trust myself to mix parts.  The precision was too much for the equipment I was using.  I turned and made a bunch how I would make them without nailing them together.  Here are some of the things that I wanted to do with this project.

First is the design.  This was all done without the need of a scroll saw.  This is unique for my toys.  The tools I used were a table saw, miter saw, band saw, drill press and belt sander.  I tried to limit the number or rip widths I used so that I could just rip a bunch of material.  This came in handy since I was making ten of each car. Everything but the cab is made from or can be cut from ¾ inch material and ¼ inch plywood.

The ease to make a lot at once.  I wanted to be able to make these in batches.  This was a reason for limiting the number of rip widths.  I also tried to standardize on the profiles so multiple parts can be made with the same groove or angle.  I tried to keep the drilling standard as much as I could but was not as successful.  This kept setups to a minimum and made it easy to batch out a lot of parts at a time.  I will admit drilling 140 holes in cabs did get a little boring (pun intended). 
Durability and Safety.  This is always important to me and the toys I make.  I want them to be played with and not be destroyed in a couple days.  My design limitations were the wheels needed to be at least 1 ¼ inches in diameter (choking hazard).  The toy needed to be big enough that little hands could still grab it and handle it.  It needed to be able to endure rough play.  There are a lot of glue surfaces for each part.  I am not a huge fan of plywood but it was the best material to use for the thin parts.  Plywood is a little more resistant to breaking when in thinner stock than wood.

Price.  I don’t usually talk about price because that has never been a focus.  This time is was.  I wanted the price to be $15 and still make some sort of profit.  I am not going to disclose how much each of the toys cost to make.  Just know that if I put in my labor I would be significantly higher than the $15 limit.  I did figure out the cost of each vehicle to the penny.  They also fall below the $15 mark.  The reason for the price cap is craft fairs.  The lower priced items sell faster than the higher priced ones.  Last year I had a lot of high priced items; this year I am changing it up.

Drawings. I draw everything out in a 3d CAD system.  These were done in Solid Works.  This was more of a learning experience for me.  I was able to design my own drawing template and learn more about Solid Works.  I am not sure how I am going to sell the drawings yet.  I am hoping to submit a couple to some magazines to see what happens.  I have the option to sell them as a complete set or individually.  I may try to mix up an offer on them.  Not sure how Etsy will handle an offer.  More learning on my end.

Bill of materials. With doing multiple sets I wanted to know how much I needed of everything.  This is where everything came together or fell apart and it did both.  I created an excel workbook with all the information in it about each of the projects.  Added a multiplier to figure out how much of everything I needed.  It calculated everything from linear feet of each rip width to purchased components.  It even spit out my cost.  I even figured out how to convert to fractions of a foot.  I know inches would have been better but I stopped at fractions.  It is setup so that a person can put in the number of each toy they would like to make and it will tell you the linear foot of each rip width, quantity of all the purchased parts, the length of dowel required.  It will also factor in the kerf cut and yield.  If you purchase any of these plans, email me and I will send you the excel sheet.  I will delete the plans that have not been purchased.  Sorry, if you have the dimensions of the parts you have the plan for these toys.
The build was pretty straight forward.  Did not have very many problems with the exception to my excel sheet.  I had a calculation error for the length of dowel needed.  I have fixed that and it works fine.  I have added a police cruise to the lineup.  This actually has the parts that I am looking for to make a semi-truck line.  This is probably going to happen next year though.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Next Twelve Months

This year has had a couple of twists to it already and I am finding there are things that I need and want to do in the next 12 months.  I am writing this because, in part, I need to get it out on paper.  My company was purchased at the beginning of the year.  I am currently in a role that I am trying to create.  I have several people supporting and pushing this position, however I am not confident the new leadership wants to create the role.  I have several other plans that I am also pursuing.  One of which is relocating to the new corporate headquarters in Virginia.  That may happen in a year or I may move to the CAPEX engineer that I am trying to create or move to a project engineer in the Anaheim or be an engineer at another facility which would require me moving.
What does this all mean?  First I don’t want to move a bunch of supplies.  I am trying to reduce the amount of wheels and other parts that I use on toys.  Most of the projects I am doing now, have that goal in mind.  I will need to make one more wheel purchase this year and then I plan to run out before doing a major stock up again.  I also have a lot of donated wood.  This wood is all going towards toys that are going to be donated.  I also have several projects that are half way complete, I will need to put a fire under those to complete (Probably the wrong saying to use for wood projects). I do like that I do not keep a lot of inventory at the end of each year.  Most of my toys are donated.
There is another thing that I would like to do in the next twelve months and that is teaching a basic wood working class.  I have a lot of the elements planned out and the projects drawn up.  The concern is the time.  It is a major time commitment. It is a 14 week course and two hours each week.  It goes through the basics of hand tools and design.  It will not teach the major power tools.  I am excited to try, I need to commit to the time.  I am thinking about doing this Friday nights starting with the beginning of the school year.  If you are interested, you can view the syllabus here.  Please email me if you are interested.  I am asking for a $30 donation for supplies. If you are just interested in learning please let me know.
There is change in my future and I am ready to roll with what I know.  It is the unknown that worries me a little.


After several months I finally finished the Jeep.  To be honest, I am a little disappointed in the design.  I will need to redesign if I am going to sell the plans.  The top portion was fragile and broke with putting in the dowel cross members.  The fenders were all right but were more challenging than I would like to admit.  The wheels seem too small for the size of the vehicle.  I would have to lose the back spare if I was to grow them.
I do like the overall body of the Jeep.  The design did look good on the computer.  I like the taper on the engine but it made the front fenders difficult to make.  I also thought the seats and the open back was a nice design detail that came out really well.
The project was fun even though I was not all that happy with it.  This is the fun part of prototyping a project, now I can redesign it better.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Early this year, I decided to make a bunch of puzzles.  I had a lot of ¼” and 1/8” ply wood so the plan was to put them on boards.  I painted 5/8” thick poplar on one side with the primary and secondary colors.  On the other side I painted them black.  Anyone that has done a wood puzzle knows that it is a pain because there is no real indication which side is the top.  Then I adhered all the patterns to the colored board.  I cut them all apart making sure that I need not cut on the lines.  I needed to tape them on to the ¼” plywood to cut out the negative space. Once the negative space was cut out I took a piece of 1/8” ply and painted the puzzle color on that and then glued the ¼ and 1/8” pieces together.  In the end I had a puzzle that had a place on board with its matching color.
The main lesson that I learned is never trust only double sided tape.  Sometime it moves and my double sided tape left a residue.  I fixed that by putting painter’s tape where I taped it.  I also taped around the part to make sur  Over all I did not screw up on too many.  I think I did around 90 puzzles on 34 boards. 

e it did not move.

Monday, June 11, 2018


So I just completed a lot of projects.  My wife came up to me after the second day of finishing and asked, “So are you now done with working in the garage?”  My response was, “Yes, I am going to be assembling all these projects for the next month.”  She responded asking if I was done, done like never going back to woodworking.  I guess she fears that one day that I am going to just burn out and never want to do this again. She is afraid that I am going to burn out.  I can see her point of view.  I just spent two 16 hour days finishing projects.  These projects included 70 cars, 10 trains, 20 tug boats, over 30 puzzle boards, 11 Christmas ornaments, two boxes of donation cars, and miscellaneous projects for friends and teachers.  It was a tough couple of finishing days and it used an entire gallon of shellac.
The question of burnout is real.  I don’t ever want to be done with woodworking.  There is going to be a time when I am going to need to take a couple of years off from the craft show circuit.  I find that more grueling than the woodworking itself.  When that is going to happen, I don’t know yet.  Here are some of the things that I do to keep from burning out on something that I love to do.
·         Keep learning – Don’t be afraid to try something new.  I find challenge keeps the passion and the enjoyment alive.  There are a lot of times that I have projects that just sit around because I am not sure how it will turn out or if I can even perform the task.  If it does not work out then I have created artisanal firewood.  I also find that it is not as bad or tough as I had imagined. 
·         Thinking ahead – Have a new idea being generated as you are working on a project.  It keeps away the idea that there is nothing to do or what to do next.  Some of these ideas will never come to pass but the idea is still there.  I have a notebook where I keep my ideas and I usually have a couple of projects being drawn while working on others
·         Bring it to a new platform – There are now many ways to share your passion.  I have chosen to blog and put items for sale on Etsy.  Last year, I took my projects to local craft fairs.  It was a blast meeting people and talking to them about what I love doing.  There are groups on social media.  Open up and be venerable to comments and critique so that you grow.  
·         Set goals – make sure there is something you are reaching for.  They don’t have to be great just something that you want to do.  Reward yourself when it is reached.  This year was my “build and grow” series and I have these jewelry boxes from last year that I want to get done. 
·         Focus the work load – Don’t take on too many projects or have several going at once.  I know I listed off a lot of projects at the beginning.  These were done over a four month time.  I did the scroll saw work on the week day and the other stuff on the weekend.  Once it was complete it was set aside in a box to finish.  I know now that I need to have more finishing days
·         Engage other people – I have a club that I go to.  There are people that inspire me to do more and improve my skills and there are those that I can help improve and inspire.  Passions don’t become dull and lost when there is a support team helping you and others learning from you.
·         Give – Donate either time or product to others.  Nothing is more inspiring than seeing the joy, awe, and gratitude from someone that you have shared with.  I may be an extremist to this, but I like helping people.  It is part of my woodworking business model.
Burnout is real.  I hope this have given some ideas.