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

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Make a chips & dip tray

I never know where inspiration will come from. Often I build projects based on a simple need I wish to fulfill. My silverware drawer organizer is a good example. Other times, I just happen upon items I see in stores or at garage sales and think, "I can make that!" Then it's a fun process figuring out how to "make it my own", varrying the design.

Lately, I've been in kind of a woodworking funk, not really having any project begging to be made. At least within the context of Mere Mortals; my big ideas would require a lot of time and money to make and are on the back burner.

John's chips & dip tray
Social networking for Mere Mortals

Facebook has opened up a new world of possibilities for ideas. I really like the informal nature of social networking that allows everyone to upload photos of projects and get feedback from lots of viewers. It's a treasure trove of woodworking ideas. Such is the case when John Henricks uploaded a picture of a chips and dip tray he was building. It had never even occurred to me to make one. Anyway, thanks for the inspiration John. It really helped me out of a rut.

To the right is John's tray, which I think is a far better design than mine. It just seems classier. He hadn't completed it yet in this picture, but you get the idea. John, send over a completed picture if you can!

Here's a video of my version. It's very simple, but I had trouble cutting the holes. It's made of 2x4 redwood studs from my neighbor's bathroom floor. And hey, if you aren't already a liker (is that what it's called?), head on over to the Mere Mortals Facebook page and "like" it for lots more great ideas!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

1907 Woodturning manual

As a follow up to yesterday's coping saw jig, Tim posted this on Facebook:
This is a page from 200 Original Shop Aids & Jigs for Woodworkers By Rosario Capotosto isbn 0-8069-8929-7 (c)1983 that shows the coping saw jig in use. Notice how it is clamped to the work bench. So if you don't have a scroll saw, there still is a way to cut small wood items. Enjoy.

 But wait, it gets better! Tim also sent over a PDF of a great woodturning manual from 1907: Elementary Turning, by Frank Henry Selden. It's a fascinating 208 page book that actually has some really good techniques and ideas we can still use today. Download it and check it out.

But the best part about the book is the pictures! Here are some of my favorites. I love the ties.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Coping saw jig

Everyone seems to be making Tim's three-piece puzzle. Dattatreya Parupudi posted his a few days ago on the Mere Mortals Facebook page. Dattatreya doesn't have a bandsaw or scroll saw, so he cut it using a coping saw and chisels.

He then posed the question: "How can I cut straight lines using a coping saw?"

Well Tim Sluder actually has a coping saw jig! This is pretty cool. If you like, here's a PDF version.

Here are his instructions: 

The jig, works best when clamped in a vice or screwed to awork bench. Coping is a two-handed operation that iswhere this jig helps. You have to keep turning your workback and forth to get a straight line as you saw. Well, asclose as you can get due to the blade flex. Make sure to lubethe saw blades to aid in cutting and preventing brokenblades. This jig can be used with a jeweler saw or files.These jigs are easy to replace as they wear out. I used thistype of jig when I was in high school(1975), we used ajeweler’s saw to make jewelry out of coins. Try cutting outthe face on a dime. Let your imagination be your limit.Enjoy.

Finally, there was a question about a couple dimensions in Tim's design. He has updated it. Here is the new plan.

Thanks guys!

Monday, April 25, 2011

My kind of cutting board

Lots of us make cutting boards, but why not do something unique? Carl Letts sent me this photo of one he made. I first saw this optical illusion at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. The bathroom walls are tiled like this. It's the craziest thing: all the rows of squares are perfectly straight! Hold up a ruler if you want. Or, if you look at it from an edge, it all straightens out. I guess since they are offset a bit, our eyes go buggy and can't really make sense of it. Too cool. Thanks Carl!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Make an itsy bitsy teeny tiny wood box...and earrings

Mothers' Day is approaching!

Well now that you have let that sink in and have entered into the panic stage, here's a project that is easy to make and will finally buy your mother's love.

Okay, that was a joke. Seriously, we all want to build handcrafted items for gifts. Why not use some of that special scrap wood you've been saving and make a little box. If you are ambitious, put some earrings in it.

No one needs to know that they were made with cutoffs that we considered tossing out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Astonishing illusion

Wyatt found this on YouTube this morning and I knew I had to post it here. This would be so cool to make out of wood! But I think it would be incredibly tricky.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The puzzle...all fancy-like

Laney made the puzzle from last week, but with three different woods. Cool stuff. And yep, still drove everyone nuts trying to assemble it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Doormat disclaimer

I have a lot of junk on my beer fridge. I forget some of it is even there. Last weekend I happened to notice this warning label that came with a door mat I bought a long time ago. I'm glad I incorporated MatStop technology into the one I made!

Important things you should know about your new doormat

Warning: Do not use this mat as a projectile. Sudden acceleration to dangerous speeds may cause injury. When using mat, follow directions: Put your right foot in, put your right foot out, put your right foot in and shake it all about. This mat is not designed to sustain gross weight exceeding 12,000 lbs. If mat begins to smoke, immediately take cover and shelter head. Caution: If coffee spills on mat, assume that it is very hot. This mat is not intended to me used as a placemat. Small food particles trapped in fibers may attract rodents and other vermin. Do not glue mat to porous surfaces, such as pregnant women, pets and heavy machinery. When not in use, mat should be keep out of reach of children diagnosed with CFED (Compulsive Fiber Eating Disorder). Do not taunt mat. Failure to comply relieves the makers of this doormat, Simply Precious D├ęcor, and its parent company, High Cotton, Inc., of any and all liability.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Home made TV bracket (er...no...speaker brackets!)

Update: I just got an email from Serge pointing out my gaffe. These are intended for wall-mount speakers, not a TV. The velcro on the last picture ensures that the speakers don't move. Of course, the same concept would apply to a TV bracket, but the wood would need to be hardwood and would require stronger anchoring into the wall.


This is really cool. Like me, Sergio Jimenez experienced sticker shock when he went to the store to buy a bracket for a flat screen TV. I was astonished to discover that fully swiveling brackets can run you over $100. Well, Sergio built his own for about seven bucks. Here's the whole process:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Make a wood puzzle

You might remember about a month ago when I posted a photo of a puzzle Timothy Sluder made. I finally got around to making one of my own. What I discovered after giving it to a number of people to attempt, is that it is really challenging to put together, even though it's only three small pieces.

I also learned that it is pretty easy to figure out how to take it apart, so my advice is to show someone the completed puzzle, then take it apart without him or her watching. Have them attempt to build it.

Here is a PDF of Tim's plan for the puzzle. You should definitely download it if you would like to build one: it makes it a whole lot easier, and his instructions for putting it together are clear. Thanks again, Tim.

In the video, I decided to try to add some class to the show. Wow, it's just like Masterpiece Theater.

Oh, and here's what inspired the video. This is a hoot:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


My son found this in a book today. You can't go wrong combining Garfield, woodworking, and lasagna!

And I found this and the grocery store. Beer and Monty Python! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More rocking chairs!

Jerry Wehnau posted his version of Alan Duke's rocking chair on Facebook today. I like how he modified it into a regular chair. It kind of looks like a throne even. 

Robert Bray designed and built this miniature chair for a school project using 18mm MDF. He was able to use the school's CNC router to cut the pieces, but they could be easily cut with a scroll saw, too. 

Here's a SketchUp plan if you'd like to make Robert's design.

Thanks guys!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bookends that actually hold books

I have a pair of bookends that are a constant source of frustration. They are the typical kind: ones that have a piece that slides under books. They work fine until you remove a book, then the weight shifts and they topple over.

I decided to make a book stand that will actually work.

This project is super simple, and gives you a chance to use up some of that scrap lumber in your shop. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cool rocking chair

Alan Duke sent me a really neat project. His great-grandfather was a master carpenter who built and designed some amazing things. This miniature rocking chair is a great example. It's made with plywood and fits together kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. I may try to make one of these: it's so clever.

Also, Alan has kindly made a few sketches you can download if you'd like to give this project a shot.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Woodworking tips with The Teen Woodworker

Meet  Alex Harris

A while ago I started watching woodworking videos by a kid in England with a really cool, but confined shop. Since then, his skills have been growing by leaps and bounds. At 15, Alex is on his way to becoming a pro. Check out his YouTube channel and subscribe! 

So we thought it would be fun to collaborate on a video and present you with some of our favorite woodworking tips: ones I am sure you have never seen before.