Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Excavator

I was a little excited when I received the tracking update that my wheels had arrived at my house. My wife had other plans with my package that arrived. by the time that I arrived home she had opened it and hid the contents some where in the house. She thought it was great that she didn't have to go shopping for Christmas, packages just arrive. I told her that I had ordered wheels to finish this project. With a little coaxing she divulged the hiding place of the parts. Tonight my son and I finished this project by putting on the wheels. My son does not like the drill yet. I think it was a little to heavy for him.

This project came from the wood magazine. It is a companion to the wood crane that came out last year. I built that earlier so I was excited to see the excavator in the previous issue of Wood Magazine. The parts were actually stuff that I could buy from the hardware store except for the wheels and pegs. and it was easy to make. The only issue I had with the crane and excavator was that it was made out of 6/4 and 2/4 material which is a lot of planing and glue ups.

Both are made out of birch and walnut. The expensive part of these projects was the hardware but well worth it.

This project is where I learned how to make tight movable joints. My son had fun with it once it was completed

Monday, December 21, 2009

Teaching kids woodworking

Found this on the Wood Magazine web site and thought it was pretty interesting. I plan on continuing to follow his blog. Here is the link:
Hope you also find this blog interesting. I think if it would be fun to teach kids so if you trust me with your kids I would be more than happy to provide a class. It would have to be local only.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Helicopter

Well I actually was able to fix my mistake sort of. I am not happy about my screw up but grateful I was able to fix the mistake. On an earlier post I said that I used a table saw to cut the groove when I should have used a band saw. To fix my mistake I had to cut out the middle section of the helicopters and replace it with a strip of birch. I then re-cut the groove using the scroll saw (which worked much better). The wood was given to me from a coworker who likes to turn wood. He ordered some blanks on-line and gave me the "packing material". It turned out to be Huckleberry. It is a nice green grained wood that smells funny. (Each wood has a unique smell one of my favorites is walnut.) The picture doesn't show the beauty of the wood that well.

Despite my mistake it turned out good and I have patterns to duplicate them. There is a lot of angles on the helicopter which were not that bad, probably because I had done the bi-planes earlier. The only tricky part was the pontoons and cutting grooves equally spaced. Making Heirloom Toys does a good job on showing how to do this. They suggested glue and I taped the dowels together. I used a scroll saw to cut the propellers I am getting better but is is pretty obvious they are not balanced.

The Fire Truck

One of the latest projects I completed was the fire truck. This was a request from my wife. It is made out of cherry, maple and birch. The plans are found in Making Heirloom Toys. It was not an easy vehicle to make. In fact I would put it harder than the fairy boat. It is probably due to the fact that I did not have the correct tools. It would have been nice to have a band saw and a lathe on this project. The hose coils were the most challenging to do because I did not have a lathe. I ended up using a router to cut grooves and then chucked it in a drill press to sand the radii.

The fire truck does come with an extension ladder. It is actually pretty cool if it worked. The instructions say to use friction washers. These worked for about a day and then compression set in and it can not hold up its own weight any more. Other than that it is a pretty neat feature. If I build another one I would probably use threaded rod and acorn nuts to assemble the ladder. This way I could tighten it as needed.
The truck is made out of solid wood so it is very heavy. It will actually be fun to see my son play with this toy when he is old enough.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How do You Teach Kids Woodworking?

I was asked to help the cub scouts in our church to build tool boxes. It didn't seem that hard of a thing to do so I agreed. This project was to review the safety rules and basic use of hand tools. I pre-cut all the lumber for safety and speed reasons and even dry fitted them together. everything went together great in the garage. My grandfather taught me how to use hand tools and the first lesson I had was pounding nails into a block of wood. At the meeting I had one hour to teach every one (seven cub scouts) the basics.
I started with safety: safety glasses and hearing protection. I had enough glasses for everyone to wear so I felt pretty good about that. Then I had everyone pound four nails into a block of wood. This is when I knew I had a problem. None of the scouts were able to drive any of their nails in straight. They were all able to start them and then bent them. So we moved on to the tool boxes - I only had an hour.
I started by nailing the sides onto the bottom. I instructed the scouts that it is easier to start the nails in the side until the just started to protrude on the other side. This way it was easier to finish the hitting in the nail. Sure enough every single scout drove at least one nail all the way through and into the table. after the sides were put on I realized I made one small miscalculation. I was only using 1" wire nails on 3/4" material. The nails were not long enough. Lucky for me I had 1 1/2" nails in my car. These were a little bit thicker but they did the job, sort of. The thicker nails presented a new problem, they split the wood when they were used close to the ends. I didn't worry too much about it.
On to the sides of the tool box. At this point I was trying to hurry because time was running out. I did a huge disservice to the scouts by pounding in the nails with 3/8's of an inch remaining so they can pound it in the rest of the way. two philosophies emerged:
1. Aggressive: Beat the nail in and continue beating it until the wood cracks, gives way, and eventually spits in two.
2. Passive: Not finish beating in the nail and flip it over so that I can put on the other side and not have to beat in any nails.
The last part was cutting a dowel to size for a handle. They did all right with a box saw and a miter box.
I think there were more bent nails then there were nails that were driven in correctly. Overall the tool boxes looked like they made them because they did. Next time this will have to be a two meeting project. First to learn how to beat in nails. Then we will move onto a project.

If any one has any suggestions on how to teach kids wood working I am anxious to hear.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Band Saw or Table Saw

I hate making a mistake that completely ruins a project. What is even worse is when I knew better and thought I could do it anyway. I was working on the helicopter (I know not a winner on the poll) and was cutting the groove for the stabilizer wing. It should have been done on a band saw but I figured I could fake it and cut it on the table saw with the blade all the way up. I figured I would not have a huge arch on the groove and I could cover it up. No only was I wrong, I cut the groove 1/4" too deep and I failed to double check my set up and failed to center my groove. Lessons I learned before but thought I could get around them.

I am going to try and savage them but I don't think I can. The lessons learned:
Always check your measurements.
Table saws are great and can be versatile but don't try to cut a straight groove with a curved blade.

A note on the poll:
I really didn't want to make the fire truck. The more and more I looked into it the more and more complicated it seemed. There were board thicknesses that were dimensioned to a 1/16". I think they were dimensions down to 1/32". Lets just say my tolerance is about +/-1/8". The ladder is made out of 1/16" dowel. I have broken 6 rungs already and that is just a dry fit! Yes I am making it because my wife wants it.

The trolley car is something that my mother wants. I have to review the plans on it. It seems pretty straight forward. I have the wood for it.

I just received the plans on the backhoe and Katie has all ready cut most of the parts. I have to shape a lot of the small ones.

The helicopter I just screwed up and will have to try and fix.

The vintage truck is the only won that I haven't started and that one is for me. I wanted the challenge and most of the parts are 1/4" thick.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Where are the Fairy People?

I finally completed the ferry boats with all the cars. I am pleased on how they turned out. I took one of them over to my nieces to play with. After pulling out all the cars Sara continued to look inside the ferry and asked, "Where are the fairy people?"
Sara and Nora served as my "Toy Testers" for the ferry. If you are ever wondering why we have families over for dinner or dessert it is purely selfish reasons. I need to make sure the toys I make are safe for kids. This is definitely an older kid toy. There are several small pieces that can and do come off. A co-worker told me they expected the ferry to float. This is not a bathtub boat and it will sink and I don't plan to test that theory.
Here are the cars that go on the ferry:
The Woodie Wagon
This vehicle is made out of oak. Katie feels it needs a surf board on top. I really don't know why there would be a surf board so there is not going to be one.

The Sedan
The Sedan is made out of walnut and was the first car that I finished. The headlights were purchased. They do occasionally break off and this is a safety hazard. If I make this toy again I will probably leave off the headlights.

The Pick-Up Truck
The truck is made out of mahogany and poplar. Not much to this truck but I am curious how the center of the cab was suppose to be cut out. The plans say that the body of the cab is suppose to be hollow but gave no instruction on how to do it. I didn't think it would be worth the time so I left it solid. If any one has any idea how this is to be done please let me know.

The CoupeThe coupe is made out of maple and mahogany. The headlights still create a choking hazard. The angled front end made it very difficult to put on the fenders. I learned to make things very much over sized and then sand down to fit.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Train Series

Below are all the trains that I have made to date. The sad thing is there is still one more train that I would like to build. I don't know when I will start it. Hope you enjoy the trains

My First Train

This was the first time I had ordered plans from a catalog and it was worth it. The plans are from Playstar but I found them on Meisel Hardware. The plans are copy righted so I will not be posting them. I made these a while back because I thought they would be good Christmas gifts and I could donate some to toy drives at Christmas. Well it was a large project to make five of these and it took longer than I thought it would. All the sets were donated mostly to family but I only kept the one for myself. One day I will probably make more.

The plans were great. Full size and all dimensioned. Most of the lumber is standard and can be purchased at a local hardware store. The wheels can also be purchased from Meisel Hardware but I prefer Bearcraft. The only tricky part was the groves for the linking pins. This was done on a table saw with a dado blade. I needed a reason to buy some more tools and I got one.

To let you know a time frame, I made these when my wife and I were dating. She may have applied the finish to these. I would consider these great baby toys. They are big to grab, no small parts and easy to make. One note: there are pegs on the flat bed to rubber band logs to, don't put them on and don't make the logs; kids put their toys in them and haul them around.

There are also two truck series that go with this train. I personally liked some of the trucks but some of them seemed a little plain. These will be on another post.

The Desiel Train

This is the first train and second toy that I made after I started only making toys. I still make other stuff but found a real niche in toys. Toys also don't take up as much room as furniture. The interesting part of this train is that I did it during an adult woodworking class. Last year I decided to take the adult woodworking class at Chaffey High School. Basically I had access to all the tools and was under the super vision of a teacher. This train actually changed my view on toys.

I will talk about the boring stuff first though. It is 54" long and is made out of walnut and pine. It was mostly scrap from previous projects. The plans came out of the Toys, Games , and Furniture book by Reader's Digest. The book has some good ideas but I really was not impressed with the drawings and dimensions.

I don't see this train as a toy. It is more of a model. I see an eight-year-old playing with this train and it was around our tree at Christmas because it looks really good. I don't say that to boast because it really is not to scale and has some blemishes. This train is more of a showing piece. Two of the cars have small ladders. The wheel coverings are thin and can break easily and the box car door really moves. The links are wire hook and eye screws. I read an article in The Wood Magazine about toy making that I have embraced. A toy is something that you take to make well and may only last the amount of time that was put in to make it before it breaks. But it brings a smile to a child's face and a glimmer to their eye. I would be disappointed if this train broke therefore I do not see this as a toy.

Interestingly enough I gleaned a fair amount of knowledge from this project. I learned how to use a band saw to re-saw wood (take lumber and cutting it to different thicknesses). A lot of the parts to this train were 3/8" thick. It would be a huge waste of wood to plane 3/4" wood to half it's thickness. This is where the re-sawing comes in, I cut the standard lumber in half. Please also note that I could not do this without being in the class because I had access to an industrial band saw and an industrial planer. This project is also where I learned that a little bit of color goes a long way. My accent wood is walnut and it makes different details stand out and the entire project look that much better. The walnut used was all considered scrap. This was also a project that was a confidence builder for me. It was fun to make but I don't know what I am going to do with it. Right now it is sitting on a shelf behind other toys so that when children come over they don't see it.

The Passenger Train

This train was made along side the train mentioned below just that this finished first. This one really tested my skills at the scroll saw (and I am still not very good). All the windows and doors had to be cut out using a scroll saw. I thought it was a clever idea to double stick tape the faces together so that I was cutting two pieces instead of one and I have matching parts. I did not realize how much of a pain it was to remove double stick tape. However I would do it again. I made two of them, the picture below shows all six cars and has a walnut roof. The one above has mahogany roofs.

If you are wondering why I make multiples of projects it is for this very reason: It is just as easy to make one as it is to make two or three. I can always find some child to give the extra to (Lately it has been for baby showers).

Here is a note on the materials used. The sides are made out of a veneered MDF which is why I am hesitant to give this train away. Some MDF contains chemicals known to cause health issues. I typically don't use MDF but I received this for free so I wasn't going to waste it. I am sure it is fine but when purchasing furniture and wooden toys for kids try to stay away from MDF and particle board. As long as the children don't eat this train it is fine and will cause no problems.

This also came from the book Making Heirloom Toys.

My latest train

This is the last train I made. For the most part there was nothing that was really complicated except that I was making very small parts. The wheels and smoke stack were purchased; thank goodness for that. The pattern came from the Making Heirloom Toys. I did however learn how to cut a flat bottom on a dowel. That was interesting. It is outlined in the book but essentially glue the ends of a dowel to a scrap block and run it through the table saw. The other way is to hand plane it. My nephew picked this train out for Christmas last year.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pictures for the Poll

I was was told that I needed pictures for my poll on the left so here they are:
1. tolly car
2. vintage truck
3. fire truck (sorry the picture didn't come out well. It is in the upper left corner)
4. helicopter
5. the backhoe - I don't have a picture because it is coming out in the next issue of Wood Magizine. For those of you who have seen my crane, it is the the matching piece

I am disappointed that I can not see who voted for what on my poll. I guess that is how it works. If you would like me to let me know I would be grateful. I am not one for guessing.

My video

I was sent this e-mail at work and I have to post it for all the engineers out there

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Grasshopper or Cricket

In "Making Heirloom Toys" it is called a grasshopper but I called it a cricket and I don't remember what I called it last. This is what I though I was going to be making for Nora (See ferry post below) but her sister Sara wanted it. It is an interesting toy that can pretty much be made out of scrap. In this case it was poplar. The hardest part about the grasshopper was the eyes. It is 3/4" dowel that should be rounded on a lathe. I don't have one so I used a drill press.

When I make more I will not be putting on the antennas because it is not easy finding glue that attaches plastic to wood. I found some model glue but I don't trust it. The antennas present a severe choking hazard if they come off. I will be making more because they come from scrap lumber and they will make great presents

This was also where I learned how to make my own wheels. Purchased wheels are still easier and better to use. To make the wheels I used a hole saw in a drill press. Then put the cut circles on a bolt and secured it using a wing nut. The bolt was then attached to the drill press and I could sand the wheel smooth. I had to do this for the back wheels because they are not a standard size.

The Bi-Plane

This is another project from "Making Heirloom Toys" book that was given to me for Christmas. I guess this is the toy that caught April's attention when she bought it, so I had to make it. All I have to say is thank goodness for a belt sander. There was a lot of angled cuts I made with a band saw that needs a new blade. My cuts were not pretty and needed a fair amount of sanding to look good.

It has been fun flying it around my son's head because he likes to track it, but he does not like it landing on his tummy. Overall the planes tuned out well. They did remind me of a few safety rules.
1. Belt sanders and thin parts are not meant for each other. It is easy to get manicures trying to hold down the thin part. I tried to sand the wings on the belt sander and it slipped and embedded itself in the dust trap. This resulted in a nice sanded half moon in the wing. So I promptly removed the dust trap and continued sanding the wings letting them fly into the wall when they slipped. It is better than getting a manicure from a belt sander!!!
2. Make sure you keep your hands clear when machining small parts. The engine cowl was made with a lot of luck, but there is a radius that is put on by a router. To do this I put the part in a clamp. It is better to loose a clamp then a finger and I still have all ten of my fingers.

The Ferry Boat: The Last of the Christmas Projects

This is one of the latest projects I have completed and probably the largest toy. This came out of the "Making Heirloom Toys" book and I like how it turned out. There are four cars that also go with it, but they are not quite done. Making wheels is a pain so I would suggest buying them. Unfortunately I don't have that option with these cars.

Just to put this in perspective the ferry is two feet long. My wife will probably point out that this is the one with the mahogany roofs. I made two. The other has walnut roofs and we are keeping that one. I was originally planning on building one, but last Christmas my wife (yes I will blame her) decided it would be fun for me to have all the nieces and nephews pick out a toy from the toy books that I had received. Well Nora was commenting on a grasshopper pull toy that she like and I thought I got off easy with her, but as we were closing the book she said, "But what I really like is the fairy." So out of the six Christmas project I had to do, here has taken the longest and is the last to complete.

I learned a lot about templates on this project. The sides were made using a router and template. The templates was made out of hardboard and I new if I messed it up I could make another one. The other way of making the sides would have been to drill holes and cut the centers out with a scroll saw. The template offered more uniformity to the sides.

For those of you who picked up that there are still five other project that I have made, I will also post those also. Unfortunately I have all ready finished and given the others out so it is going to take a little bit of time.