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Free woodworking plans. Easy woodworking projects. Fun woodworking videos. Woodworking for Mere Mortals.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Green beer?

No, it's not St. Patrick's Day but I happened to notice something at Safeway this afternoon:

Is there really a market for organic beer now? Oh dear, dear, dear. Has it come to this?

I really want to open up a store called "Organic Green Planet" to get in on this craze. I'm not sure what I would sell, but the name is certain to draw customers.

As woodworkers, of course, we were green before green was cool, using one of the best renewable resources: wood.

Henceforth, I think it is time to make it official:

This web site is now certified* 100% organic.
And all-natural.

*Certified by M.M. Board of Certifying Things

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Woodworking in iambic pentameter

Just finished this weekend's project. I'm not sure what to call it, other than "clipboard box". This actually started out when I got the desire to do a woodworking video in verse (don't ask), then come up with a useful project. So this is the product of that design.

If you are interested in the verse, it's pretty strict iambic pentameter. Three, 14-line sonnets with rhyming couplets at the end of each. I really wanted to work in the line, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a sawhorse!", but it didn't work out. Haha. For what it's worth, and to appease your inner geek, here's the whole bit:

Begin with lumber begot from fine tree
Nigh but one and three quarter inch its heft
And about one half inch its thickness be
Ere ye sever a single kerf, be deft!
Nay, with readiness rout rabbets anon
One ledge for the top, one bottom indent
Mine eyes be pleased, but alas and along!
This is the splinter of my discontent!
Forty-five, forty-five angles abound
“Wherefore,” thou ask, “what folly hath he wrought?”
Maketh a frame, ample glue all around
This, thou already knew, that’s what I thought.
Two panels become a ceiling and floor
Say ye, “Wow. A box.” Say I, “Wait! There’s more!”

Ease the edges, nay so sharp as thy wit
Now for a test of bravery and guile
Aye, with a vorpal blade, one is now split.
A lid and its mate, it took not a while.
For thy clip: a block, chamfered on three sides
By heaven I think my love is as rare -
Earth magnets! They hold great strength in their size.
Glue them in pairs, two seated here, two rest there.
What is a limb, but an arm like a jib?
A thin strip and screw go forth and attach.
Bore a number of dimples ‘neath the lid
So when the arm swingeth thus, it will catch.
The parts are all done, thou art nearly complete
Fasten the hinges to where they will seat.

Friends, Romans, woodworkers: lend me an ear
More magnets ensure the lid will hold fast
A fortnight of sanding, then grab a beer
Bring out the grain; any hue thee may cast.
Lacquer, varnish: no finish is wrong
Protect thy project like a lover to woo
Polyurethane! (Fit that into song!)
And spread sev’ral coats, at least more than two.
This above all: to thine own shelf find glue
Affix thin plastic: smooth, firm and opaque.
Thy box is complete, now what to do?
Sit back, relax. “Til ne’er a muscle doth ache.
This project is done, it could have been worse
(I) thank ye for viewing this video verse.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Swearing off/at oak

Why do I use oak when I hate it? Well, basically when I want to get all fancy-like and build a project with hardwood, oak is the cheapest. I started working on a new project today, pulled out a length of oak from my bin, and began machining it. Okay, granted, my router bits are shit. but does a rabbet really need to come out looking like this?

Yeah, I'm sure my router bits and saw blades are too dull. Like I got bucks for a $60 saw blade. Seriously: I was at the hardware store the other day pricing them. They had $200 blades! WTF? That's how much I paid for the damn saw!!

I suppose it's the open grain of oak that contributes to the problem, but I experience frustration every time I work with oak...even with new blades and bits. It's rare when I can make a cut in which the edges don't come out "crumbly". And then I have to do even more creative sanding.

Ug. Well, I am here and now swearing off of oak. Well, at least until the next time I want to use hardwood and start pricing mahogany.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hauling lumber

I see a lot of truck commercials that really make me envious. I mean, check out this 2010 Ford f150 Raptor:

Seriously! It flies through the air! It has a cool paint job. It even has a cool sounding name. It's not just an F-150, but a Raptor. A predator!

Now here's a picture of another Ford F 150:

Yeah, that's my 1976 Ford. My dad gave it to me last year when my Suburban concked out. It's a great old truck...the kind that you have to come to an understanding about its quirks before driving. It won't jump through the air. But what it does very well is take abuse in its bed. There's something liberating about picking up a pile of used lumber and throwing it willy-nilly into the back without caring a whit about getting a ding.

And all of this was inspired by a little cartoon my dad sent me last week. My windows operate the a/c, too.

Hey guys, if you haven't already signed on to this web site (hit up the Follow button on the side) do so now! There is over a week left before the sweepstakes drawing to win awesome Mere Mortals swag and be the envy of the hood. And for those of you who have already bought stuff from the MM Store, THANK YOU! If you happen to win the prize, well, I guess you can re-gift the t-shirt to your wife/partner/significant other. Hey...Mothers' Day is near!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Staring at wood

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and planning projects. I get an idea in my head and end up staring at boards of various sizes, but I’ll spend the entire weekend not cutting a single board.

I always maintain that the number one consumer of time in the woodshop is sanding, but planning must come in a close second. My son is involved in all stuff Shakespeare, which inspired me for my current project, even if you can’t really get the connection from, once again, my lame-o sketches.

Again, I MUST spend some time learning Google SketchUp. Yeah I gotta fit it into my schedule somewhere. The problem is my short attention sp…

I have at least confirmed that I will be using rare earth magnets in this project. If you’ve never used rare earth magnets, go to your local craft store and pick some up. They are amazingly strong and can be used for lots of things. Plus, they are just fun to play with.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mere Mortals Sweepstakes! Hurry...contest ends May 1st!

You might have noticed the Mere Mortals shop where you can get your own MM stuff. Well, now you can win your very own t-shirt:

or shop apron...

or coffee mug...

To enter, all you have to do is click the "Follow" button (over there on the right in the "Become a Mere Mortal" box) by the end of the month. On Saturday, May 1st I will draw one random winner. If you win, I'll contact you and you can tell me which of these boss prizes you want and it will be delivered right to your door. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Kreg Keg Crate

The title is a bit of a tongue twister, but I like the alliteration. Mercifully, I spared us a cutsie — and unfortunate — spelling of crate with a K. And, well, it isn't even close to keg-sized.

After kicking around a number of ideas for my Kreg Jig project, I finally got my fancy sketches completed and everything measured out. Getting accurate measurements of various beer bottles was the trickiest part.

Typically, the Kreg Jig is used in furniture making and other large projects. What I wanted to show with this project is that the Kreg Jig can be useful for a woodworking hobbyist to make small things.

I encourage you to check out the videos on the Kreg web site and see some of the neat stuff you can do with it. I’m definitely going to be putting it to the test on picture frames.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Friday kickback: The press for fat tortillas

One of the advantages of being an amateur woodworker is that when things don't always work out, I am free to simply say, "Ah hell, it's good enough." Of course I strive for perfection but when things don't work out as planned, the recipients are none the wiser.

Every project I have ever made has had errors that I let slide. I think if I were a professional woodworker, I would go batty and lose sleep at night fretting over say, a gapping joint. As it is, I can pop the top off my Costco-sized bucket of wood filler, fill in those damn gaps and move on to my next project.

I made this tortilla press and posted the video on YouTube back in January. This is an example of a project with a serious functionality problem, not fixable with wood filler. I'm glad it was for me and not a gift. The problem is that somewhere on the internet machine I read that I needed an eighth-inch gap between the two plates of the press. The thing works great, but produces tortillas that too fat, more like gorditas or something. Tasty, but pudgy. And a large number of viewers were quick to point out this fact.

I really don't want to reset the hinges, and sometimes I like fat tortillas, so I've been toying with the idea of making removable inserts that would allow for multi-thickness tortillas. Hmmm...maybe I just invented a new product.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What the hell is that thing?

On weekdays, I don't have any time to build anything out in my shop. But I still manage to pop in from time to time and sort of plan out projects I want to work on come Saturday. Somehow, just being in the shop helps me to think a bit more creatively. I might just pick up a few chunks of scraps and start "assembling" them into something. Plus I just like to putter around, maybe clean up a bit.

I save more crap than you can imagine. Today I decided to crack open one of my ancient coffee cans of stuff. Maybe something there would inspire me.

Well, let's see. There's the lamp plug that looks like Thomas Edison designed. One plastic caster wheel. A tail light bulb from a car I probably sold 20 years ago. An eraser that still has the smiley face I drew on it in 6th grade. It no longer erases. A 12" length of chain. A couple of enormous wing-type toggle bolts. Just the wing parts...the bolts don't fit.

And this:

This is a connector to a Coca-Cola Machine I have left over from when I was 18 and did maintenance work for a chain of movie theaters. WTF? Why in the world do we keep this stuff? What kind of bizarre things are in your shop?

Then again, someday I may want to build some sort of lighted soda dispenser that can be rolled around on one wheel. I better put everything back in the can.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Kreg Jig

Okay, so one of the perks of making YouTube videos is that sometimes major manufacturers send you free stuff. Last week the folks at Kreg Tools sent me a Kreg Jig and asked me to make a video using it.

If you are not familiar with Kreg, it seems their flagship product is the Kreg Jig. Basically, it's a pocket hole jig, but it's really cool. It makes me think about retiring my biscuit joiner.

So I've been trying to come up with a cool project using it. I mean, aside from building cabinets and the like. My woodworking process is a hit-or-miss proposition. I have an idea for a gift project to make, but am struggling with the design. Here's an example of my preliminary work:

As you can see, I really need to learn some sort of CAD program. Maybe Google Sketchup? What I think I will end up doing is just cutting wood and haphazardly start putting it together.

Well, here's a picture of the jig and perhaps why I'm not getting anywhere.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Welcome to Mere Mortals!

Thanks for dropping in to take a look at my new blog. I hope a lot of you have come over from my YouTube channel to see what I've got going on over here. Welcome also to you LumberJocks and Wood Magazine folks who follow me at those sites.

I have been woodworking off and on most of my life, just for fun. I spent years watching Norm Abram (the God of woodworking) as well as other professional woodworkers on television and always envied their skills. I subscribed to magazines and read woodworking books endlessly. I scoured web sites. I learned how to do even the most complex procedures — in my head. But book-smarts is one thing, actually building any of those projects was another.

Suddenly, I found myself faced with a couple of disheartening discoveries: 1) I can't afford fancy, expensive tools and wood, and 2) as much as I would like to, I have neither the time nor dedication needed to become a master woodworker, or even a semi-skilled professional. My skills are always growing, but I know my place in the real world.

But one day I realized that I don't have to be a woodworking god! I don't have to build a complete set kitchen cabinets to feel worthy as a woodworker. I can head out to my garage on weekends, use my cheap tools, get free wood, and have a ton of fun making simple projects and gifts that anyone can make!

So who are Mere Mortals?

There are millions of woodworkers around the world. It's a little-known fact that less than .01% of them will ever make a complete set of kitchen cabinets. (Well okay, I just totally made up that figure.) So why are so many woodworking resources devoted to building projects that most people simply can't do or have the patience to take on? Well, there are a few reasons. With Norm's show, I could always draw on individual techniques he used, scale them down and use them in my own work. Plus it is just fun and fascinating to watch a master of any craft working at the top of the game. He just seems like a nice guy. And he wears plaid. But Norm is the exception. Much woodworking instruction seems somewhat pompous or self-indulgent ("hehe, look what I can do, you fools!") — or worse — just tedious and boring. I actually fell asleep watching a woodworking DVD once!

So I decided to start making entertaining videos that show fun projects that regular people can make at home on weekends without thousands of dollars invested in tools. You know, stuff for us non-gods: the Mere Mortals.

So if you are like me, join my army of Mortals! Follow me on this blog and subscribe to my YouTube channel. We have the power to take back Olympus and make the hobby of woodworking fun again.

Watch this blog for my videos as well as pithy insight you won't find on my YouTube channel alone.

This is a new project so I don't really know where it is headed, but check in from time to time in the coming days for some for some fun announcements.

- Steve in Marin

Friday, April 2, 2010

Privacy Policy

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