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

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The 10 cent labyrinth challenge

About a month ago I wrote about a book I picked up called Zany Wooden Toys That Whiz, Spin, Pop, and Fly, by Bob Gilsdorf. It took a while, but managed to get hold of Bob and ask permission to make one of his projects for a video.

Guys, this is one of the best woodworking books I have ever run across. All 28 projects are ones I would like to build. In most woodworking books, I'm happy to settle for a couple that look doable. These are so creative and clever! I wish I had half the creativity as Bob.

All the projects are designed for the total beginning woodworker: you can do them all with a few basic hand tools. But what's cool is that they aren't your typical boring birdhouses and the like. These all do stuff!

No, I'm not getting compensated in any way for all this praise. I just really like the book.

In exchange for using one of Bob's plans, Fox Chapel Publishing asked me to link to the book here. If you would like to buy one, they have also given me a discount code that will save you 20%. When you check out, enter coupon code zany20. It's good until the end of the year.

One of the projects in the book is a soccer player that you control. Using an ingenious rubber band system, his legs kick a ball, but I am making two modified versions that feature the heads of Chuck Norris and Mr.T. so they can have a fight to the finish. I have no doubt Chuck Norris will win. By the way, did you know that Chuck Norris can win a game of Connect 4 in three moves? Yeah man. But this ain't the only amazing Chuck Norris fact.

I digress. The project I chose to do for the video is the "10 Cent Labyrinth Challenge". It's really simple to make, but will drive people nuts trying to solve! Enjoy the video.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tool belt storage system

I thought this was a pretty clever way to store hand tools. Check out Sam's YouTube channel too!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The miniature James Hetfield guitar

What a fun weekend this has been in the shop. I've been working on the frame to hold Wyatt's autograph. I downloaded a picture of James Hetfield's guitar and set up a layout in Illustrator:


To start with, I've been working on and obsessing over making a miniature version of that guitar that will attach to the frame. What a blast! It's really fun to come up with ways to miniaturize components and try to keep it as accurate as possible. Here's what I've come up with. It's about 12" long:



It's cut out of MDF, and I've used a thin laminate of walnut for the neck. The frets are thin brass wire. The diamond plating was a bit of a challenge, but I ended up just downloading a photo and gluing it on.

I haven't figured out how to cut out the Metallica logo on my scrollsaw. Each letter is separate. I want it to stand out from the frame. Let me know if you have a good idea. I suppose, I will just cut it all out in one big blob. I'm afraid that might look goofy, though.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The tapestry holder

This project went through a lot of design changes.

I have a very old crib blanket that my grandmother made years ago and I wanted to display it. The challenge was to find a way to secure it without damaging the fabric.

First, I looked at commercial tapestry rods to get a sense for what is available and how they work. There are many methods used, most involving  spring-loaded mechanisms that clamp the fabric in place. I thought about using a system like that, but it became over-complicated and my designs looked silly.

Another method is to essentially have two parallel dowels that hold the tapestry into place with gravity. That might work, but I wanted something a little fancier.

I decided on a system using a dowel split down the middle which would then be pressure-fit into holes in the ends of the turned finials. This seemed like a simple, elegant solution, until it came time to drill one inch holes two or three inches deep into oak endgrain. I got about an eighth of an inch before deciding this was ridiculous.

I woke up that night with a plan that seemed perfectly simple. The next morning we got to work. Why "we"?  I had a special guest to help me out with this project.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

James Hetfield at the burger joint.

It's been a busy week, but I am settling down with an eye toward the weekend. So here's a fun thing that happened today.

My son and I went out for lunch at a local burger place called "The Counter", where all the burgers are custom made. It was kind of confusing: they give you instructions on how to order and then a checklist and a pencil. It was a pretty decent burger, though.

In the table next to us was a guy sporting multiple tattoos, who looked familiar. Wyatt joked, "hey, it's James Hetfield", Metallica's front man and guitarist.

I turned around and chuckled. Yep, it did kinda look like him. I looked again. Wait a sec; he looks a lot like James Hetfield. We sat eating our lunches and pondering if it was James or not. When we heard his voice, it pretty much confirmed it. Finally, I just decided to go up and ask. I mean, it can't hurt to ask, right?

Sure enough, it was him! So he sat and talked to Wyatt all about guitars! I gotta say, James Hetfield is just about the nicest, friendliest man a guy could meet. I mean, how often does a 14-year-old kid get a chance to talk to not only his idol, but the guitarist from one of the biggest bands in the world? Awesomeness.


He gave Wyatt an autograph. And this is where I come in. I want to make a really special rock and roll kinda frame for it. Maybe in a guitar shape or something. Maybe include the Metallica logo. I'm not sure, but it will be fun!

Here's one of my favorite Metallica songs:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Magic gimmicks

You may not be aware that I have a somewhat "silent" partner behind many of  my videos. My son Wyatt turns 14 today and continues to astound me with his creative ideas. Without him, there might not exist Hell's Kitchen's Workshop, Man vs. Wood, and countless other crazy notions that find their ways onto video. Not to mention his ideas for many woodworking projects, themselves. And he's always there when I need a cameraman. So Happy Birthday Wyatt!

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The projects

This video has two quick, but amazing "magic tricks" you can put together in minutes. Michael McCatty inspired me to build the second one, The Snapper. He actually drew out this really cool design in SketchUp. Thanks Michael.

I ran across the Magic Propeller in a book on traditional toys. It's one of those tricks that will really bewilder people. I'm not sure how it works. It must have something to do with creating a harmonic motion. However it works, it's neat.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mammoth Kauri wood. What to do with it?

Some of you may know Bob, AKA TopamaxSurvivor at Lumberjocks. Well, he recently won a drawing at Charles Neil's web site and asked Woodcraft to just send the gift to me. Did any of that make sense?

At any rate, I received Bob's prize yesterday. Get this: it's a chunk of Mammoth Kauri wood. Never heard of Mammoth Kauri? Well, read all about it here.


So here's the deal. It's ancient wood from New Zealand whose trees were knocked down by a tsunami and left buried in peat bogs, thereby preserving them through the millennia. The piece I have is carbon dated at between 30,000 and 50,000 years old. Here they are retrieving these ice-age trees:


So I was thinking about drilling a hole in it, painting it neon pink and using it as a candle holder.

HA! But seriously, do any of you have any suggestions? I'm afraid to get it anywhere near a saw blade until I have a solid plan in mind. It's 2" thick x 6" square. (Half a board-foot?) What would YOU do with a small, but special piece of lumber? Any ideas? I want to do it justice. I've been tossing around an idea for a small accent lamp. Mainly I just want to show off the wood as much as possible.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Coffee table

A coffee table is one of those projects that has been on my to-do list for years now. The one we have now is a big monstrosity that actually came with a sectional sofa we bought 20 years ago. (Do they still make sectionals?) While it is ugly and dated, it has two features I do like: 1) It's on wheels, which makes it really handy to move around. 2) It's so old and ugly that nobody minds putting their feet on it!

Spencer Nugent sent over these pictures of a gorgeous black walnut and birch coffee table he just built. I really like this design, especially with the drawers. Coffee tables tend to accumulate clutter, so why not have drawers to pile it into when company comes over? Maybe I could even keep track of our remotes. Hmm...nah, I doubt it.

Thanks for the pics Spencer. Dovetails and all. That's some sweet work. But I don't think I would let anyone plop their feet on it.





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On an unrelated note, I was raking leaves on Sunday when my rake broke. I was just about to throw it in the trash when I remembered the suggestion for using the tines to make a kalimba! I can't wait to get started on Thumb Piano v2.0.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Create a patina in brass

I've had a roll of thin brass in my shop for years that I bought it to use in a pair of Mickey Mouse bookends. (I should revisit that project again sometime.) I recently ran across the remainder of that roll and decided to try something new: patina.

The process is really fun and creative. All there is to it is taking a hunk of brass or copper and exposing it to ammonia fumes. The end effect is an aged, tarnished look.

I attached adhesive lettering to mine.


Then peeled them off after exposing it to the ammonia process:


It's a neat effect. I like the random nature of the corrosion, but I think it would look better to use something other than those small letters. Maybe just cut out shapes and paste them on. So while this isn't a woodworking project, I'll bet some of you can figure out wonderful ways to include it in a wood piece. I was thinking maybe as door panels on a pie safe? Let me know if you have ever tried this or have any other methods for creating patinas.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

An update on SawStop and keeping us all nice and safe

Remember when that guy sued Ryobi and won $1.5 million? Well, our friends at the Consumer Product Safety Commission are once again trying to keep us all safe from our tablesaws.

I like the first line of the article: "As pressure to address table-saw injuries builds..." Pressure? By whom? Ah, I see...Stephen Gass, the inventor of SawStop. Follow the money trail on this one.

As an aside, I kinda think hammers should be padded. I've smashed my thumb a number of times. And think of the children we might protect.

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CPSC wants to stop daily table saw amputations


As pressure to address debilitating table-saw injuries builds, the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission says she will call in the power-tool industry and the safety standards group to find out why more hasn't been done to address the problemRead the complete article...