Thursday, June 30, 2016

Two Tools

I was thinking about my tool collection and what tools were game changers for me.  I narrowed it down to two.
The first is the scroll saw.

I originally purchased the scroll saw to do my large nativity.  However my first attempt at using the scroll saw were not very successful.  I have now learned more and use more of the capabilities of this piece of equipment.  There are a few reasons for this tool to on the top tool choices for making toys.  The main reason is safety.  This is a tool that I can get my fingers close to the blade and not worry about serious injury.  Toys have small parts and they are easily cut on the scroll saw.  With the correct blade sanding is minimal on the cut surfaces.  The scroll saw can cut both tight curves and inside a part.  It has opened up several projects that would not be available to me otherwise like puzzles, ornaments, and fretwork. 

The second tool that has proved to be a game changer was the air brush.  I do not use the air brush to its potential.  I use it only to finish projects.  I still remember the days where I had a set of small paint brushes to finish a project.  It was time consuming and labor intensive.  It is now a lot quicker and I can finish more at a time.  My finishing has also become more consistent.

The next area I am going to dabble in is hand tools.  I feel the hand tools will be an asset in cleaning up grooves and saw marks.  First I need to learn how to sharpen them first.  It should be a fun adventure. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Fire Trucks are Red

My son decided some time ago that all fire trucks should be red.  So he colored one red that I had made before he was born.  It was a nice cherry and maple one.  Now all the maple parts have red crayon scribbles.  This time I decided to make it red.  I had some left over African mahogany left over that worked perfect for this.  This would be the second time that I worked with this species and realized more of its short comings.

 It is rather soft so it sanded and machined very well.  However it is also porous so when gluing in the dowels the squeeze out occurred at the end grain.  It also liked to split at the slightest of pressure.
I wanted to make an older style fire engine.  Honestly, the newer models offer more technology and are more equipped, they are a bunch of blocks.  That is how I settled on this design. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Twin Prop Airplane

I have always been a little bit apprehensive about making planes.  There are two main reasons for this.  The first stems from the first plane that I made.  It was delicate and I was never sure how to make it stronger.  I repaired it several times until the damage was too extensive and was thrown out.  The second is the whole shaping the part until it looks good.  I like straight lines.  I am not the shaping type of wood worker.  However I had a friend ask me to make a plane for her grandson and I am not one to shy away from a design challenge.  The first ting I did was look at pictures and found a twin prop that I liked.  There was some big unknowns with this project and a lot of them worked out easier than expected but not easily explained.  First is that I wanted angled wings.  Was not sure how to do this until I realized I could taper the bottom of the plane and the groove would follow the angle on the table saw.
Then I wanted a clean joint on the bottom of the plane where the wings came together.  When setting up the order of cuts, if I cut all the angles at the same time they would all match.  Since I wanted the plane to last, I wanted thicker wings than the 1/4" material that was on the last airplane I made, so I made them 1/2" thick.  That looked really weird so the wings had to also be tapered like a real plane.  That taper was not fun.  I cut the stop cut on the bandsaw, scored the waste piece and broke it off.  Then there was a lot of sanding.  After a lot of work and thought, the tapered wing looked good.
The landing gear was the part that always broke on the first plane, so I took the easy solution and took it off.  The tail section was the last challenge.  I wanted sturdy and doweled.  So I grooved the horizontal piece to accept the vertical piece.  Before I glued the vertical piece in, I drilled holes in the groove through the fuselage.  Then installed the vertical tail, drilled into the tail and installed dowels.
The propellers and engines were more of a challenge to cut than to design them.  I will be reinforcing them with pin nails just to be sure they will not fall off.  Glue usually holds very well but not during crash landings.
There are a couple of features of this design that I am proud of.  The first is that it is a solid design.  I want to see how my kids handle it.  I am pretty sure they will do their worst.  Besides the tapered wings the other design element that I though was clever was the thickness of the fuselage.  It is 1 7/8" thick. This is two pieces of standard 3/4" material and a piece of 3/8" thick material.  The tail pieces are 3/8" thick.  The stripe that runs through the plane was planned and designed in.
This is one of the projects were I enjoyed the design process more than the build.  This just was fun to figure out the problems.  I really didn't know if it was all going to come together the way I had planned in my head.  I am not sure if these plans will go up for sale.  They need a lot of refinement and I will need to add images to the directions.  It is too hard to explain the procedure.

 This plane is made out of maple and walnut.  I still do not like the shape until it looks good but a plane with sharp angles looks even worse.  I will have to say that planes are a little less scary to design now.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Custom Puzzles

I was asked to do a couple of custom puzzles for some people.  It has been a fun little challenge to take either line art from a stock image or an actual picture and make it into a puzzle.  The baseball player came from line art.  The player itself stands about 12" tall.  I was originally just going to cut out the shapes but they did not look right.  Making them into puzzles slowed me to add the detail of fingers and pants.  It was a good challenge and one that I look forward to doing more of.

The dog is came from a picture sent to me by a friend.  From the picture the puzzle was made.  I think it is a nice way to remember a pet.  I am pretty sure that I can make a puzzle out of any side profile of an animal.  Faces would probably be a little more challenging.

Monday, June 13, 2016

More Puzzles

It may seem like I have only been doing puzzles for a while.  The truth is that they are things that I can work on in the evening after work.  The other reason is that I have a couple of spray cans of finish that I need to use before they go bad.  I have another big finishing day coming up but I am not sure when.  In the mean time I make puzzles.  The unicorn is from a book.  I just liked it, so it now sits in my office at work.
The two dogs (dachshund and corgi) are custom puzzles.  I took line art from the web and made them into a puzzle.  The neat thing about this is that I can make custom puzzles of items.  It is always fun to try new things.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Teacher Gift

 It is the time of year that we thank the teacher that put up, challenged, disciplined, and help teach our kids.  This year we planned a little bit earlier than previous years.  I found this in one of the puzzle books.  It came with 18 pieces and it was easy to modify to 14 so it was one per kid in class.  Each member of the class wrote their names on one side and drew a picture on the other.  My son's teacher didn't know what was going on even though she did a piece.  It was a nice little project glad we did it.
We did find out before finishing colored pencil does not run but marker (all including sharpie) ran when the finish was applied.  So the names got a several light coats.  In the future I would use a water based finish but still use colored pencils for the drawings

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

More Puzzles

A borrowed a book of puzzles from the local chapter of the scroll saw association.  There are still a couple more that I need to do that I picked out.  These are the ones that I have completed.  I have been doing a lot of puzzles lately.  I have forgotten that they take a little more care in the set up than the toys that I have been making.  When I first started, I did not set my table to my blade.  I don't usually move it out of square but for some reason it was about a degree off.  It took me an entire puzzle to get the blade right.  I was using the trick I learned but did it backwards.  There could be many reasons for this, one I am dyslexic so backwards comes naturally or I am left handed.
The phoenix made in cherry and poplar

Happy dragon made in purple heart

Hippogriff  made in maple

Griffon made in maple

Dragon made in cherry

Monday, June 6, 2016

Domino Set

I was asked to make a domino set sightly different than the one that I had previously made.  The main difference was the size.  This was 3/4" thick, 3 1/4" wide and 6 1/2" tall.  There was an additional inlay that I did on this set that was not done on the first set.  The horizontal dark line between the dominoes proved to be more challenging than I had planned.  I first cut the strips for the inlay and those were not all the same thickness even though the setup was all the same.  This was a good thing because my grooving in the to accept the inlay was not all the same either.  I am not saying they were off by a lot but it was enough that a snug fit on one was a loose fit on another.  Then there was the ones that I would not even be able to beat the inlay in.  Those are easy because I just opened up the groove.  I was not off by much, about a business card thickness.  I want to attribute it to blade wobble.  I use a standard blade but ran the part through twice to center the groove.  The second pass did not have a lot of meat to cut into so it may have taken the path of less resistance.
The specs on this project are pretty simple.  They are maple with a walnut inlay.  I finished them in lacquer.  I spent a little more time on these then I do on my toys.  Mostly for personal reasons.  I wanted to see if I good get a nice thick smooth film finish.  I did.  They looked great.  They have three coats of lacquer with sanding at 220, and 440 between the coats. 
I also made a box for the set.  I tried to make the length a close tolerance and the sides a little more loose.  In hind sight I should have done it the other way around.  The three coats of lacquer over 28 pieces made enough of a difference to make them tight.  They still all fit and looked beautiful but it was tight enough that if the wood moved a little they would never come out.  So I sanded the back side of all of them down and re-applied the finish.  Now they fit great.  Note to self:  Need to think about finish thickness items.

Business Card Holder

I was sitting in front of my computer at work and for some reason I was looking at my business card holder.  I thought it looked boring.  I had just finished the mini cars so I wondered if I could make a business card holder that fit me better.  It is designed a lot like my stake bed truck.  It was a quick project and took a couple of hours to design. 
I made it out of maple and walnut because they are my favorite wood combination in my price range.  It was a fun little project and would like to do more of these unique, one off designs.   Plans are available, just ask me and I can send them to you.