Friday, December 31, 2010

Year End

It has been a good year and I have learned a lot.  There were several projects that I completed and others that I am still working on.  Some things that I have learned:
  • Make sure you read the directions.  I am very much a novice at this and cannot assume that I know the best way to do it.
  • There are several ways to do the same thing in wood working.  Do not limit one self to just one way.
  • I could make money doing this but not enough to support a family.  My family is more important than my hobby.  On the other side I can fund my hobby.  I did earn enough to buy my band saw.
  • I don't make a very good business owner.  I tend to give away more than I charge.  
  • Fixtures make a task much easier and there are several fixtures that I should make.  Now where to store the fixtures.
Here were some of my favorite projects:
  • The desk.  Even though it was green and I did not like the way the finish turned out, it is still one of my favorites.  It is these projects that keep my mind sharp and thinking.  This is a project that I designed and had to work though design problems.  If you want me to make something, I love a challenge, but I don't buy the wood.
  • The dominoes were my favorite toy this year.  Fun to build and paint and finish.  Maybe some day I will make the box that goes with them
  • The model T series was also fun.  It was this project that convinced me I needed a band saw.  I am just pleased how they turned out.
Tools aquired this year was just a band saw. I think I am done for a little while (don't tell my wife).  I will still need odds and ends and bits but as for major tools, I think I am good.  The last thing that I think I would use is a lathe.  If any of you have any suggestions let me know.  I always like adding to my wish list.

Goals for next year:
  • I was given a book called Marvelous Transforming Toys.  I want to make everything in this book this year.  I think my skills and accuracy will improve with these projects.  It is going to take a lot of time and some money.  I am open to monetary donations to fund my wood working addiction.  
  • There are three other toys that I would also like to make this year.  Those will be shown when they are finished. 
  • Over the past year I have learned that kids really like to play with the toys I make.  I am humbled by this and also feel sad.  I would like more kids to be able to enjoy these unique toys.  I hope to be able to open my house to let more kids play with these toys.  I don't plan on giving them away, I all ready do a lot of that.
  • I would like to do another major scroll saw project even though I am not finished with this years.  I am still learning and have become more proficient.  I can almost stay on the pattern line some of the time.  
  • There should be at least one design project again this year.  I do not know what it is, but it is something I enjoy doing.  Any suggestions?
  • I plan on spending more time with my family.  There are several things that I can do at my house and don't need to go to may parents garage every weekend.  I might even take a few more tools home with me.
This year was fun and I hope that next year will be better.  I hope that all who read this blog has a happy and prosperous year.

By the way,should I keep the scrap block give away?  Sometimes I think it is the only way to get people to read this blog.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Desk Gone Green

It is done. I have completed the two projects I needed to get done before the end of the year. This last project was a desk for a friend. She wanted a big flat area with some storage that she could sew and do craft projects on. With her assistance we came up with this design. The internal pull out shelves were added later after I realized, and it was pointed out, that the pillars were very deep. The desk measures 50” wide 30” deep and 33” tall. The wood is birch construction with maple facing. The desk is finished with shellac and the green accent is Rit® fabric dye. Some of the key features are:

• Storage for large sheets under the table top

• Adjustable pull out shelves

• Completely modular (top detaches from the sides easily and assembles easily)

I already told my friend that I was going to do this problem/wish I did better section and she understands what I am going to talk about. I have to admit that this is her desk and this is what she wanted. Here are some of the things that I wish would have been better. First is the green. I was not a fan of it from the beginning because it is not me however it is her. I used Rit® fabric dye and will probably never use it again to dye wood. It probably would work well on soft woods but there was no saturation in the hard wood and I sanded some of the dye right off. I used shellac to finish which is oil based to seal in the water based die. I picked up eco-friendly paint thinner to clean my brushes. It said it works just as well as normal paint thinner but with less fumes. I was all for that. It didn’t work, gummed up the brush and I had to immediately get baby alcohol to clean the brush which did a fantastic job. I also tried some of the new finishing techniques I have learned. With toys I just wanted a smooth coat to protect the wood but on this desk I wanted to get a mirror finish on the top. Well, I need more practice.

I may have had problems with this desk but I am really pleased how it turned out. There are two adjustable pullout shelves! All the pull out shelves are on full extension ball bearing glides (two different sizes due to availability). It was one of those ideas that just click and made sense. I think I am going to keep the adjustible shelf design to myself though. Even though I did not like the green the finish came out really good. It is smooth and even. I was worried because I was using shellac. The reason I used oil based was because I used a water based dye. I was told that the water based top coat could mix with the dye and not completely seal the dye. I used a 3 pound cut of shellac and it worked fine. I just had to be careful to make sure I had plenty on my brush because it dries in an hour (15 minutes dry to the touch). It made finishing really quick. I am also proud that this is completely modular. I can make furniture tanks and super sturdy so they don’t fit into a door. The challenge becomes making a piece that can be moved easily and is still sturdy. It is a fun design challenge and it is this that makes a project fun.
To finish I put child latches on the doors.  Kyle was so confused when he could not open them anymore.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another Train

It has been a little while since I have posted a completed  project.  I have been busy doing a lot of things, however I have been asked to build a couple of trains for Christmas.  I just completed them after 4 months.  I can't say they were all that easy even though the design was fairly straight forward.  In all there are seven cars and and and engine.  Three of the cars are "learning  cars", pictured below.  There is one train in walnut (shown) and the second is in oak.  I was hoping there was a little more contrast between the oak and the maple but it still came out nice.  The plans came from Making Toys that Teach.  I have done a couple of projects from the book (my favorite the dominoes).
The first car is a fraction car.  This consists of four dowels: one full length, one cut in half, another cut in thirds and the last cut into fourths.  The shape care has three shapes that fit into cut-outs.  The last car is the color car.  This car consists of ten slabs of five different types of wood.  Each wood is a distinct color.  I am proud that I could do this without any stains or dies.  The woods in order are: Purple Heart (Purple), Walnut (brown), Poplar (green), Oak (light brown), Maple (white).  
I learned a few things on this train that I would not have expected.  First, I love my airbrush I bought a couple of years ago.  It made finishing these trains less time consuming and easier.  In the past I uses a 1/2" paint brush and finish toys because of all the small parts and crevasses.  Very tedious and a pain in the neck.  Second, wood swells in humidity.  I knew this, however while making these trains I drilled axle whole 1/32" larger than the dowel.  I was assembling them this past weekend when it was rainy.  To my horror the axles had expanded so the wheels would not spin.  Cars are no fun if the wheels do not turn.  Since I only had one set of wheels on, it was easy to re-drill all holes.
My son also helped my assemble the trains. 
There is a better video but apparently it does not want to load.
He also had fun carrying around the hammer and eat glue.  He is also apparently vary afraid of my cordless drill.

And as always, leave it up to the 18 month old to find the flaw in the design.  Who even said a round peg doesn't fit in the square hole.  After that discovery, the square peg didn't have a home and the round peg took up residence in the square hole.  It even looks like he is saying, "Dad, this is not suppose to work!"  Got to love kids.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Where is this molding from, answered.

In order to narrow down the countless places you would find molding you had to know one of two things.
1. I am currently employed at RSI
2. RSI sells a lot of things to Home Depot and Lowe's
That would have narrowed down the search to on of three web sites.  One molding is found at Lowe's and the other is at Home Depot. Here are the links to the products
Home Depot

Now, Because no one got the win it now question here is the other question:
How many CIRCULAR blocks are in this bucket of blocks?
Hints: There is less than 100 and there are at least two.

These are two circular blocks even though there are three circles in the picture

This is a block with a hole in it. does not count
This is a block with a circle cut into it.  Does not count

Happy guessing.  The rules still remain the same.  The contest goes for two weeks.  Every one gets two guesses.  Don't use them both at the same time.  This is open to all even if you all ready have a set of blocks.  All I ask if you do have a set of blocks from me and win this set please give this set away to some one else.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Random thoughts

It has been an interesting week.  I am in the middle of projects and so don't have a much to show.  There has been a couple things happen this week that made me think. 
I walked into a public restroom and the entire stall was tagged including the toilet seat.  I am no a tagger but I believe the purpose is to declare to every one their territory/property.  How low do you have to be to mark the place that people sit on to relieve themselves?  What it is saying when I am using the bathroom that some one has tagged?
I was at a home improvement store today buying some lumber. I also picked up some ruled squares.  I did not realize it had a security device on it.  This is not the my thought though.  As I was going to check out I noticed that there was only self check out registers open.  Shelf check out is very interesting business practice.  In short it took four cashiers and reduced them to one.  I understand the reasoning and cost saving that happens with self check out.  However I was purchasing two 1X12X8 boards and there was no lumber cart in the store.  Here I am in the self check out with these boards and my two squares.  I ring up my two squares and don't deactivate the safety device and then have to ring up the boards, not the easiest task but I was able to do it.  As I am walking out the alarm goes off.  I keep walking because I always do and they usually wave me through anyway.  The lady at the door stops me and asks to see my bag and receipt.  She literally takes three minutes to examine my receipt with four items on it!  Meanwhile I am still holding my two pieces of lumber. When she hands me back my bag she asks "Do you need any twine or a red flag?"  Nope but when purchasing large items a normal check stand would be nice. 
One of my favorite random events this week.   have a decent commute that is mostly in traffic.  I have a manual transmission so I don't like to shift a  lot.  I tend to go about 30mph when the freeway is averaging 25-35mph.  There are times where there is a decent gap between me and the next car 150-200 feet (decent when going 30mph).  There are people that think that is too much and they flip their brights on me.  It doesn't happen very often but when it does I have to laugh.  This past week had to be my favorite.  A PT Cruiser was following me and I was going 30 and traffic was ebbing and flowing like it normally does.  The Cruiser was getting really impatient and starting to tailgate.  She flipped on her brights.  The only reason I know she did this is because my side view mirror lit up.  I could not see here headlights in my rear view mirror.  So I being the nice person I am tapped on my breaks.  She was not happy with that move.  She flew into the next lane passed and cut back in front of me.  There she stayed for the next twenty miles.  Really?! Getting all bent out of shape over one car length?  If you don't like the traffic go some where else.  It is part of the lifestyle of southern California.  Patience people.

Now I have another bucket of blocks to give away.  I am going to do the guessing game in the next post but I have a "win it now" feature I want to try.  This is not going to be easy.  But first a few guidelines.  This contest is open to all in the continental USA.  I will ship the blocks.  Last week I was cleaning up my parents garage after doing some wood working and my wife asked me why chopping blocks was part of the clean up.  It was then that she realized that these block I give away are my scrap.  Thus there is not a lot of scrap firewood.  This is not a block set these piece are random shape and size.  They are belt sanded and the edges broken.  They are finished with mineral oil (food grade safe).  There are hardwoods in this scrap block set.  If your child like to throw things they can potentially hurt.  Said another way, if there is an intruder in my house I am heading for my set of blocks.  Should you throw them at your child that is your issue.  Now for the contest.
 You have until Sunday morning to e-mail me a picture/link where one of these two profiles are used in the real world.  Here is a couple of hints:  You will not get any hints from reading any post in my blog.  Second if you don't have an idea where to look do not waste a lot of time.  You only have one guess.If no one guesses correctly there will be a guess the number of blocks later.
The blocks are not done yet but they will be by the time the contest is over.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The end of my soap box speech

In conclusion I have say that if I get hurt it is most likely my fault and I need to take full responsibility. There was a recent lawsuit against Ryobi where a man permanently injured three of his fingers making them unusable. Yes this is a tragic accident and could have been avoided. The short of the story is that he was free handing a cut on a piece of oak flooring with the blade all the way to the top. The board grabbed and his fingers got stuck. He won $1.5 million for being and idiot. If you want to see the article or related posts Google “man sues Ryobi for table saw accident”. He sued because the equipment did not have the flesh detection technology. This technology is out there but it comes with a cost. What this means to wood workers, Equipment will be more expensive and more safety standards on equipment.

Safety is all about what you are going to risk. There are many ways to minimize risk and make tasks safer. The man who sued Ryobi tried to take short cuts and he got away with it several times but in the end he lost the use of several fingers. He was willing to risk the setup to save time but he wasn’t willing to accept the consequences of his actions and we let him get away with it. I take risks when wood working and I am willing to accept the consequences. In life, what risks are we willing to take and what safety nets will we put in place?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Safety Equipment

Safety Glasses: They are a must when I am working. I only have two eyes and they are not repairable or replaceable. I use them whenever I am using fast rotating equipment. I have had one significant eye injury. I was making some rabbets in some birch for some train cars. A piece of splintered wood flew under my safety glasses and into my eye. In my attempts to flush it out, it embedded in my eyelid. Went to urgent care and they tried to flush it out and failed. The next morning my eye was swollen shut. The body is a miracle in itself and it expelled the splinter on its own. I still followed up with a specialist to make sure there was nothing in the eye. Are safety glasses important, Yes! Do I wear them every time a piece of equipment tells me too, No. If you look at flash lights sold in the cordless combo packs, they tell you to use safety glasses when using them. When using my drill, I don’t always put on safety glasses. When I am out working with my tools they are on. I have a couple of pairs just in case I lose or break one. My advice, find a pair that you like and buy a couple. It is very easy to find excuses to not wear uncomfortable or glasses that skew vision. Basic glasses will do for most operations. I do know that people use full face shields for doing turnings. If you are worried about your eyes at least get a basic pair of safety glasses. They are cheaper than losing an eye.

Ear Protection: I did not get ear protection until after I was married. I guess my wife always wants me to hear her. Well with the hearing protection it is hard for me to hear her. Prolonged exposure to loud noises will cause hearing loss. I have one of the higher rated ear protection and they are reasonably priced. I purchased my ear protection at Ear protection is based on the amount of they can reduce decibels. If my table saw has a 110 dB reading and I am wearing ear muffs with a noise reduction reading (NRR) of 30 dB I will only hear the saw at 80dB. There was an interesting article in Wood Magazine a little while back about ear protection. They talked about putting in the ear buds of an iPod is better than nothing just don’t turn the volume up when you turn on machinery.

Respirator: Another purchase after I was married. I cannot say I use it as much as I should. It is kept in my garage because that is where I do my sanding and finishing. Large amounts of sanding create a lot of fine dust. This dust is not good for the lungs. I also have an air brush and fine particles of finish are not good for the lungs. I have also used oil based finished that evaporate off chemicals not good for the lungs. I use the respirator for my major sanding projects and finishing. I have also used it when cutting into my few pieces of exotic woods as precaution only.

The Brain: This is probably the most important piece of equipment any one has. This organ in your body will tell you if what you are doing is safe. It also gives ideas and thoughts on how a project can be completed without endangering yourself or others. If there is one thing I have learned with wood working, there is always more than one way to do things. One may be more comfortable doing it one way over another. For example, I have the ability to cross cut on my table saw. However I chose to use the miter saw. The miter saw was also my go to saw for making all my scrap blocks. Now that I have a band saw I use it more for cutting smaller parts.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Safety: Over Rated?

I feel the need to post something on safety. There will be some that disagree and some that think that I am too strict. The company I work for in the recent past just hired a risk management manager. I am not sure what he does entirely except print out safety manuals, have safety award parties and implement safety rules. He is big on “Safety First” and just adopted the slogan from a company contest of “Make safety your first priority.” I say that is completely untrue and false security. If safety really was our first priority we would never leave the house. I would propose safety is all about risk management: What are you willing to risk and can you live with the consequences? For example, I work 30 miles away and have to go through one of the worst freeway interchanges in Southern California. I have been in two accidents in the area of the interchange in the four years that I have worked for this company. Neither were serious or my fault. If safety was first in my life I would not have taken that job because of the commute alone. I also would not work in a job that required excessive typing in fear of arthritis in my hands. However I feel the risk is adequate for my compensation. Let’s face it would any mothers have given birth if safety was first? Would men ask women out on dates in fear of being turned down(not a very good example in this day and age any more)? Would there be any progression if safety was first? So this post is going to be more on risk taking rather than on safety first.

In life we take risks every day, some have physical consequences and others are financial and some maybe psychological. We all put up safety nets to protect us from the potential dangers of life. It may be the car we drive, a savings account, our friends, or maybe it is sun block. The same applies with wood working. I am well aware of the dangers and risks involved in woodworking and I am willing to take them. I do have several pieces of equipment that are extremely dangerous and potentially deadly. I have some safety nets that I have when using the equipment. I will share a couple with you in the next few posts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My High School Cross Country Coach

I know this is not about wood working, but I found the blog of the King Cross Country team.  This may mean nothing to people that read this blog, but the coach is Brad Peters.  He was my coach when I ran at Ayala a few years ago.  I never had him as a school teacher and I think I really missed out.  He could motivate and inspire.  He never thought of him self first.  He will always be a better writer than I am.  I have attached the website to my friends list.  If you read only a couple of posts you will see what a remarkable man he really is.  It was my privilege to run with him as my coach.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Sample Shop

I had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in the sample shop at my work. We were in the process of quoting several vanities for Home Depot’s Martha Stewart line. They recently just launched their custom bath and kitchen line. We were working on the retail/in-stock line. These units were designed by Martha Stewarts’s design team and completely different than what we do now. The past two weeks were spent making the samples. I hate to say that the drawings made were rushed and not all clear to give someone to build. Our sourced parts were good but the assembly drawings were either sketches or drawings not updated with the new design changes. This is probably more information than you care to know so I will get to the point. To aid the sample shop in assembling these units as quickly and correctly as possible I was out assisting the build because I was the lead engineer on the project.

It was interesting to see how they put together these units. The most interesting fact is that they use one tool for 80% of the work. They have a sliding table saw for sheet goods. They use it for squaring board, ripping small strips, cross cutting and cutting dado grooves, rabbits, and tongue and grove joints. They have a miter saw and a cabinet table saw with a dado blade set. They also have two routers. It took a week to realize why the used this machine so much: setup. This machine was easy to set up and had a scale that was accurate to the blade. It would take several minutes to setup the other machines.

Setup was the second thing I noticed was quickened. Rather than set up stops and fixtures to drill holes or cut accurate dado grooves they would take short cuts that resulted in the same result. I am not saying to make shortcuts. They need to work fast and they have adapted. Why set up a dado blade when moving the ripping fence 1/8” at a time has the same result? A dado will have a cleaner cut however in particle board the result will be the same. It is also about tool wear, accuracy and precision. Their shortcuts will dull the table saw blade faster. The dado blade will also resist deflection.

What have I learned from this experience? Something I all ready knew: there are several ways to do the same thing. Am I going to change my practices? No, I am comfortable using my tools to do the assigned tasks. Am I going to use the shortcuts I learned the past two weeks? There may be a couple of situations I use the techniques I learned. I am not graded on my speed. I would rather take may time and not make something I enjoy doing a job. I am also grateful to have my own tools.  I do not want to trust some one else to the care and maintenance of the equipment.

Just a note unrelated to this post: I am sanding another bucket of blocks. So by the end of the month there should be another contest.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Twist to a couple of Projects

I was asked to make a couple of trucks for a friend of my mother's.  They were going to be for her two grand boys and they were going to be the exact same.  I changed them up a little and made the accent woods different.  One was walnut and the other was a red looking wood from my grandfathers scrap pile I inherited.  They turned out really nice and but I wanted them to be a little more different.  I asked the lady I was making these for if I could try to paint their names on them.  Anyone that knows me knows that I could not write these names free hand.  I do have an air brush and I knew if I did it free hand I would have to sand a lot of mistakes out.  So I opted to do it like etching glass.  My mother is a major scrap book person and a while back she purchased a die cut stencil set.  I cut my letters from that and put them backwards on a sheet of contact paper.  Then I put the contact paper on the truck beds and cut out the letters leaving behind the sheet of contact paper. The reason I did this rather than just tracing the letters  on the contact paper was because the paper stencil leaves a lip that is easy to trace with a blade.  I then painted the names on to the beds of the trucks.  They turned out really nice.  It looks a lot better than my free hand.  Here are the pictures of the steps.

Just a note:  Push down the contact paper after cutting out the letters.  The lip that helps you cut out the letters will let the paint bleed if not pushed down.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Band Saw

I did a mail order band saw from a company called Grizzly Tools.  It came with a high recommendation from our sample shop manager at work.  They only do mail order and they are the manufacturers of their equipment so I am not paying a middle man.  I have been looking on their website for a while and the the plan was to earn the money from selling my projects (I am about half way there).  They introduced a new series called the Polar Bear series.  The only difference was this series was all white.  They were doing and introductory offer on them.  With the promo price I was able to upgrade for free.  I couldn't let that deal go by.  I don't know what the extra 1/4 horse power gets me but I got it for free.
It came via FedEx freight and because a semi truck might have trouble on my parents street and there would be no one there to sign for it; I opted to pick it up at the terminal.  Set up was not as bad as I thought it would be.  It went together very well, even thought the directions were a little weird.  I had to know the bolt classifications and everything was in metric.
When I first turned it on nothing happened.  The motor hummed but the blade did not move.  Customer was very helpful and quickly identified the problem as the start up capacitor.  I think they had a bad patch of motors because they were really quick to state the problem.  They sent me a replacement which was smaller than the original.  Now it runs great. I just did re sawed some lumber.  I am very happy with the purchase.
Now this means I do not have to use the work band saw that is extremely dull and burns the wood .  I am also in control on how the equipment is treated.  There is a definite advantage of owning your own tools.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Construction Set

This has been about two years in the making.  I downloaded three of the plans from the Internet.  They were free and here is the link. Later I purchased the Reader Digest book of wooden toy plans.  It had he road grader and the larger bob tail truck.  Then My wife purchased Norm Marshshall's book of Wooden Toys.  This had the bulldozer and the tanker.  So I just finished those two pieces.  There is a Crane but I need to catch up on current projects.  I feel bad because there are people waiting for projects, some I still have to design.
The Bulldozer
Cab-over with low trailer
Simi with Trailer
Road Grader
Tanker truck
Steam Roller
Most of these are made out of Poplar.  It was cheap and clear.  However the bulldozer engine is out of a maple foot.  It was a project I was working on at work and it was a failed first article so I took the decorative profile off and squared it up.  Over all it looks pretty good.
Slow down the speed of the drill press when drilling large diameter holes.  The first two trucks were made while I was taking a wood working class.  They had a 2 1/2" forstner bit that cut through wood like butter.  I don't have that tool because I would not use it very much and they are a little pricey.  I had to use a hole saw(it can also make wheels).  I tend to burn wood when using a hole saw.  I took some advice and slowed the speed down and did not try to cut the hole in 2.4 seconds.  It was a little rougher then the other bit but it did the job.
Don't try to carry too many things at once.  I was putting all the parts back into my car to take home after some time at my parents.  I accidentally dropped the tanker truck cab and the top broke into 5 pieces.  With a little glue and sanding it all worked out.  I was lucky this time
Look at previous items made in the series.  If you look at the engine for the tanker tuck and the other two you will notice that the head lights are different sizes.  The tanker has 3/8" dowels for lights and the other two have 3/4" dowel for lights.  It was a combination of not reading the drawing completely and not having going back and looking at the other trucks in the series.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Since my last post was about the set up of the dominoes I guess I should finish the story. But first a note about my brilliant son!

He has become quite the climber in his day. There is nothing that he cannot get around or over. We have found him on top of the dry sink playing with the blinds, on top of the hutch of the toy stove, on the dinning room table standing and proud of himself, on the computer table laughing at the fish screen saver, and 0n the living room widow sill. This picture is from him climbing on the cupboards that hold his toys. My wife tried to block his path from the couch to the top, notice the stuff on the right. That worked for about five minutes until he figured he can use the drawers as steps. He really wanted those crayons.
Back to the dominoes... This past week I was able to paint the shapes on the backside and put in the inlay walnut pegs in the front. This is just a fancy way of saying I filled the holes with walnut dowel and sanded them smooth. I don't have the patience or the talent to do detailed inlay work. This past weekend I was finishing them. I started by filling the shapes with polyurethane and letting them dry over night. I had never done that before but I am glad I did. It smoothed out some of the paint lines and it dried thick enough to hide the lines left by the router.
After the shapes had dried I put a clear coat of finish on the rest of the pieces. Now for all the mothers and wives that read this blog, which I believe is only family, this statement might shock you. Yes I am finishing these pieces on the dining room table. No I did not have my wife's permission. However it was convenient and close. I did at least cover it with cardboard. I used cardboard because I could stick push pins in it to keep the the blocks from sticking to the drying surface. By the way my wife did not kill me. I also washed my brush in the kitchen sink.
So here they are. I still have to sand the sealer coat and put another layer of polyurethane on.
Now for the lessons. I have been looking for a glue bottle to use because I got tired of buying the largest bottles of glue so I bought a gallon of wood glue and was filling the other bottles up when they ran out. Well that lasted about three times before the push tip on the glue bottle on one broke off. Good thing I had a spare but that tip was also in bad shape.
While making the dominoes I needed to go to Rockler for wood dowels. I would not suggest going there to buy wood unless you really have to. They are pricey. I looked at their glue bottles and they were $5 for the cheapest. These were the ketchup bottles with the pointed tip. I was not going to spend that much money. Well one day I was working over at my parents and there was a bottle that would work on the half wall. Knowing better than to just take it I asked my sister where she got it and how much. It is a bottle for coloring hair and costs less than $2. Sold. The bottle works great and with the pointed spout I can have better control on the amount of glue and where it goes.
Lesson number two: Polyurethane ages. I have been using the same gallon of polyurethane for the past couple of years. I purchased a gallon for the kitchen set I made thinking I would use most of it. I used about half of it. Well I was going to run out so I finished the last of the sewing boxes with it and bought a new one to finish the dominoes. When I opened the new can to my surprise it was a creamy white color. Scared, I made sure I did not get the oil base because my old can was a transparent amber. I had gotten the correct stuff. It is supposed to be creamy white. The directions on both cans state that. All my projects up to this point have had a nice amber stain to them which isn't a problem. I just didn't think polyurethane aged.
More to come of my latest projects.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Drilling tip

I finally broke down and made myself a make shift drill press table. There was a couple of reasons behind this. The first was the book my wife gave me says that I need to drill accurate holes and some of the parts are quite large so I needed a bigger table than the one that came with the drill press.

A little note on a drill press: If you get into making toys the main thing you will be drilling are axle holders. I can drill a hole 2 1/2" deep. most toys are about 3-4" wide. This takes a couple of setups to drill all the way through the board. When looking for a drill press look for one that can drill a deep hole.

The other reason I wanted to make the table was to make dominoes. The original plan for the dominoes was to take and draw out where all the holes were supposed to go and then drill each one. My philosophy is that if I am making one it takes just as long to make a second. For all the math geeks that is 56 tiles and a hole lot of holes. On the other side of the dominoes were going to be shape dominoes. After about marking holes on 20 of the tiles I hoped there was a better way and there was. It is called the spacer block method. Basically blocks are used to determine the distance between holes. In the dominoes I needed to have holes 3/4" apart and 3/8" from the edge. I set up my stops which are the speed squares and then made 3/4" blocks from oak to be my spacers. The setup took about 30 minutes after all the materials were assembled. This setup is a good example of why you can always use more clamps.

This is the setup for the domino drilling.

The spacer blocks did a wonderful job locating all the holes so that the dominoes did not look like they were hand drawn out and hand drilled. They all most look like they were done on a production line. I am very pleased how they turned out.

The second part was to put the shapes on the back. I got the idea from Making Toys the Teach. They cut pieces of veneer into shapes, painted the pieces and then glued them to the board. Of coarse, me being an over-achiever, that was too easy. Actually the real reason is that I have never been very good with veneers and I wanted these dominoes to last. I could see pieces of the veneer flaking off, chipping, or causing splinters. I wanted to route in the shapes. I made templates to follow. The routers have a bushing accessory that allowed me to plunge into the wood and follow the template. I think this was the first time in 25 years this bench vise was used. Good thing my father bought it to make my 4th grade science experiment.

A couple of notes on pattern routing: I noticed the bushings for the router are set up to be mounted on a table. I was using them with a plunge router. Every so often I would have to make sure the bit was centered (or close) or the bit would hit the bushing. I also purchased the Bosch set, RA1125 (it fits my router). The bushings are saudered together. good for limited use. I was doing 112 shapes. The sauder melted and the bushing came off. Not too happy with that design. I had to use my father's brass set and reset up everything. All said and done, I need to put in the dowel plugs, paint and sand and this project is done.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Glue: The only fastener REAL carpenters use

Usually I post about what I have made or current projects, but today I think I will talk about one of the major non-wood products I use.  Glue is a very important part of a project because I rarely used mechanical fasteners on toys because they inevitably loosen or come off.  There are several different kinds of glue.  I will go over the glues that I use:
Wood glue:  There are many different types of wood glue and for the most part the general wood glue will work.  There are water proof and stainable wood glues also.  I have never used the stainable one but I can't imagine that it is very "stainable".  The problem with glue is that it does not finish well. The good thing about the basic wood glue is that it is nontoxic.  I was asked once what the difference between Elmer's wood glue and the glue used in schools.  The answer is a little bit of dye.  This glue has about a 5 minute open time and will set in about 15 minutes.  After about an hour it will have reached 90% of its strength.  The cool thing is the glue bond is stronger than the wood itself.
Spray adhesive:  I use this to attach my patterns for scroll saw work.  The important things to remember about spray adhesive is that it is flammable, fumes are not healthy and to read the directions.  Most spray adhesives must be sprayed to both sides and let dry for the bond to be permanent.  I don't like my patterns to to be permanently adhered to the wood so I only spray one side.
Epoxy:  This is used to adhere non wood parts to wood parts.  It is usually in two parts and once mixed it will dry and can not be used again.  The microwave trick will not work on epoxy.  I don't use epoxy a lot because I don't like it and it is relatively expensive.
A little note on a couple of other glues:  Super glue is great for a quick bond but it is very easy to destroy a project because there is not a lot of open time.  Meaning once the two pieces touch they better be in the right place.  Gorilla glue is another super strength glue that cures with moisture.  Don't let it touch your skin.

Here are a couple of tricks that I have learned:
When you are ready to glue up a project, dry fit it together first.  It is never fun to have glue on all the parts and realize you forgot to cut a part or a groove is too small.  It is also a good time to find out how many and what size clamps are required.
Clean up the excess glue with a wet towel before it dries.  I don't care if the glue says it is stainable.  It will not stain the same as wood.  Cleaning up excess glue makes sanding a lot easier.
Since I work with a lot of small parts this next trick has come in handy several times.  Put a little bit of glue on the parts and gently rub the other part on it spreading the glue evenly over both surfaces.  After a little while the parts will become harder to move around.  slide the pieces in there correct location to each other and let dry, no clamps needed.  This only works with small parts so don't try it while building a cabinet.
Glue is a fantastic fastener, however if you need to use a nail or a screw sometimes to hold things together while glue dries use it.  The title is in reference to what some one told me when they saw I was using nails.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The tug boats

Well I have made enough of these tug boats I should probably write about them. This is the last set I made. I am working on some scroll saw puzzles that are proving to be more trouble than I imagined. The cool thing is I was able to purchase some exotic lumber. Yes, I did cause some deforestation.
The exotic woods are displayed above: purple heart, lace wood, lypus, yellow heart, and walnut (not an exotic but my wife likes this wood). I will probably never buy this wood again, except the walnut. They are all really nice looking woods with good color. My favorite is probably the lace wood. The yellow heart was definitely yellow but kind of plain, but had an interesting smell. Yes, woods have distinct smells. The yellow heart smelled like pepper when cutting into it. This wood is also very hard. It actually destroyed the template and bushing guide I used to cut out the center of the tug boat. Now I have to make another template.

The story of the Tug Boat
This was one of the first projects I made from the Making Heirloom Toys book. It was a pine base with a poplar scrap header from work planed down to 3/8". I made three and I don't think I have any of the originals. I have had several people come up to me and ask how much they cost and to this day I have not sold one. I think my price is too expensive or too cheap. For the most part you have to go though child birth (it is received at the baby shower). Or I have given them away - right place right time sort of thing. They are usually made out of scrap wood or planks that are too short to be of any use. I have been having fun making them and will continue to do so. I also put an extra coat of polyurethane on them so they slide really well on carpet. They are not balanced or finished for the water, but sand is ok.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The microwaves saves me again

I have a couple of projects in queue that people would like me to build for them.  It is nice to see that people appreciate the work I do.  I hope to complete my current projects before I start on the others however time will tell.  This past weekend I was working on the trains and I glued the cab on the chassis completely crooked.  I was completely upset and then my wife said "Why don't you microwave it?"  45 seconds in the microwave and the parts came a part with a little TLC.  I think this is my new favorite trick.

The other story of my life is that I am trying to earn enough money for a band saw.  I need re saw capabilities and be able to cut gradual curves for some toys.  This is one of the main reasons I am selling my toys.  I know which band saw I want and I am about half way there.  Well my wife through in an interesting twist.  I now have to make room in my parents garage for this band saw.  Most of my tools are at my parents because I only have a single car garage.  I had just cleaned out may parents garage and had plenty of room for a couple of tools.  Then my father found an excellent deal on a hybrid table saw and bought it.  I would have done the same.  However I have no more room in the garage until some of the stuff that was not planned to be in the garages is moved out. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

And the answer is.....

20.  My wife actually won, but I told her "You can give the blocks to the next closest person or you give our set of blocks to the next closest person."  She is going to pass the bucket of blocks to the next person which happens to be my mother-in-law.  I will have to say that I am disappointed in the response I received from the contest.  I guess I will do one more bucket of blocks and then start donating them to a local charity because no one seems to want them.  Interesting couple of weekends of wood working.  If I have time I may share.

Friday, May 28, 2010

More blocks

It has been a tough week, but I have another bucket of blocks to give away.  I am going to put down a few new rules for this give away.  First I am not going to have people guess the number of blocks because I have already done that.  Second the contest will last two weeks.  Everyone will have two guesses, one per week.  I wouldn't want you to put both guesses down and then be boxed in.  No taking back guesses, once it is posted it sticks.  Third if you all ready have a set of scrap blocks please don't try for another.  Fourth these are for kids so if you don't have kids to play with them why do you really want a box of blocks to take up space?  I am going to condition this rule: this could be grand kids, cousins, nieces, nephews, or kids.  I really don't want toys I make to sit on a shelf as a display.

So here it is.  Last time there there was 102 blocks.  How many TRIANGLES are in this bucket (it is the same bucket as last time just different blocks).  Here are a couple of hints:

These are not triangles
This is a triangle

Second hint: there is at least one triangle in the bucket and I wouldn't guess more than 102.

Happy guessing and I will mail if needed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the model T series

Here are the model T cars/trucks. There are three in the series and they were a a lot of fun to build. They are larger than I had originally thought. The tanker truck is about 8 inches long. bodies are made out of poplar and the fenders are made out of random other species of wood. One complete set is made with walnut fenders. Walnut is the dark wood.

I know I swore I would never make wheels again, well I made these wheels. Out of all the things that could be a choking hazard I think the wheels concern me the most. The headlamps have at least 3/8 inch of glue bond but the wheels are only 3/8 of an inch and they are over two inches in diameter. I fear they may break. They were not too bad to make. I think it was largely due to the fact that I just purchased new hole saws

I had to turn the tank because dowel does not come in that large. They suggested to use a wood rolling pin if a lathe was not available. Good thing I was able to use a lathe. The cabs were the hardest part but once I had the blocks cut to size it was all about laying out lines a drilling holes and using the band saw. Sanding was the hardest part It was a fun project. I might make more if time permits.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Finishing Day

I was finally able to have my day of finishing. This is a day of minimal interruptions to put a clear coat on all the products that I have completed.
In other words it is taking:

and turning it into this:

Yes I had a little bit to do. I usually add two coats of polyurethane and each coats takes about two hours to dry. Between each coat is a sanding process and it is all hand sanding. I will be posting more detailed pictures of the projects with a little more description. The only one that will not be shown again is the middle truck with the boat on top of it. That one has been sold.

In honor of finishing day there are a couple of things that will be coming out of it. The first is that I am giving away one of my tug boats. Of course it is free if you have the correct answer first. They are small enough to ship so anyone can answer (pun not intended). Please answer on the blog. Here is the question:
What is the name (common) of the yellow wood used on this tug boat?

I know that the pictures are slightly yellow but it is a good representation of the color. If you also look at the top picture on the right side you can see it in it's natural state. This yellow wood is the accent wood and is found on the top of the body and cabin. The other wood, white in color, is alder. It came for some shelves that my grandfather made. To help you guess here are a couple of hints:
You will not find this wood at your local hardware store.
It is a very hard wood. It thrashed my bit and broke my template that I use to make these boats.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The kids furniture

The children's furniture that my wife and I made last year was fun to have displayed in our home. Here they are the units in no particular order of favorites:

The Table and Chairs
This unit is made out of solid pine and finished in a clear coat of polyurethane. There are four chairs with this table and it also comes with a leaf. It has been used at family functions. There are a few notes I will make. The table top does move because there is a leaf that goes in it. I have an idea how to lock it in place and I will add it to the table before it is delivered.

The Dry Sink
Fun little sink that lets kids use their imagination. It is made out of solid pine (except for the back is ply wood) and has a clear coat of polyurethane. This was made right handed by request of my wife. If it was up to me it would be left handed. Do not be fooled this sink will NOT hold water, however the pump does move up and down. There is plenty of stage in it. we used to keep the baby stuff we were collecting in it until some kids got into it. They used the shampoo as lotion because it smelled nice. We had a good laugh. This was also the unit I tried my luck with a tap and die set. The pump is attached with real wooden screws.

The Wood Stove
One of the more challenging pieces but it was fun. The unit is made out of solid wood (Except the back panels is plywood) and finished in polyurethane. There is a lot of little places to put things and I will even include the pan set that we have with it now. I can't say it is all there but it came from Ikea. The burners are removable and all doors and drawers work. The hutch is removable and is located by dowels. The only concern I have with it is the corners on the base and stove top are not rounded. It is not a huge issue unless if it is thrown around. I will point out that I do have a glaring mistake. When I was routing out the back center burner the bit shifted down and eventually punched through the top. The mistake is covered by the burner but it is very much visible if the burner is removed.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Random Things

Since my weekly project updates are complete I don't have an update this week, just some random things. 

While I was driving down the freeway on the work I saw truck with the advertisement "Husband for Hire". I thought this was a interesting.  It turned out to be a handyman service.  I couldn't see the rest of the ad because the bed was full of stuff.  It brightened my day.

The other random thing is about some grasshoppers I made.  I tried to make them less of a choking hazard and I do not like them.  They are originally suppose to be a pull toy so I removed the string and the antenna.  They did not turn out as well as the original ones.  I do not what to do with them so I think I am just going to give them away.  I have two of them so the first two people that want them get them.  I  am not going to post this on facebook.  One of the originals is up for sale on the right.