Welcome to Woodworking for Mere Mortals.

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Felix the Cat miniature guitar.

Bill Wilson sent me some pictures of a miniature model he made. It's a hollow-body Felix the Cat themed guitar. Not only that, but he built a case to keep it in. I love working on miniature projects. Nice work Bill! Here's his process:


First I made two copies of the guitar one normal one reversed. Glued them both on the walnut, one on each side. I used the reversed picture as a guide line to hollow out the body

Using the fret board picture for a pattern of the frets, I glued it to some thin walnut. Then, using a spiral blade, cut the grooves for the frets. I glued the fret board to guitar and bottom to guitar base, then cut out guitar shape.

I used guitar strings and lock tight gel glue for the frets, and used nail heads hammered flat for the tuners and screw heads. Push tacks were used for the guitar strap holder. Gold thread for strings.

I used wax to finish guitar. Some shaping was done for the neck and bridge. I tried to make this as close as possible to the origanal all the way down to the sound hole label.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Japanese influenced lamp

Back in February, Bob Zimmerman sent me a chunk of Mammoth Kauri wood that he won in a Charles Neil sweepstakes. I've been pondering what to do with it ever since. I decided to make a lamp. I think it is a pretty good use for the wood; I wasted very little of it.

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that the reason I didn't have a video to post last week was because I screwed up this project and had to completely rebuild it. I got sloppy and my first lamp was completely out of square. I am still trying to figure out exactly where I went wrong, but the lesson to heed is this: always double (or triple) check your glue-ups before you glue up.

I'm happy with the way this turned out, though. I haven't made a lamp in years.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

And even more on the 3-piece wood puzzle!

You will recall a couple months ago when Tim made this cool little puzzle:

And then I made one.

And then Tim supplied a measured drawing.

And then someone had a question about a certain dimension, so Tim added it and supplied the PDF.

And then world was a happy place and we all made puzzles and rejoiced.


Ludovic Lemarinel wasn't content to leave well enough alone, so he designed the puzzle in SketchUp! This version is especially handy for you Europeans, because it is in metric, which frankly seems easier to use on very small projects. He calls it the CGO puzzle because, well the pieces spell out CGO when you stand them on end. I think COG would be a better acronym, though. Or maybe OGC, which in the case of my recent projects would stand for "Oh God, Crap".

Here's a picture of his plan if you are not SketchUp-minded. So Ludovic: thanks man! Soon, every household will have a CGO.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Build a better mousetrap.

There must be more mousetrap designs than any other contraption. Stig Schjervheim from Norway made this mousetrap with hand tools. Patterned after an 18th century trap, he says he's already captured eight mice. Thanks for the video, Stig!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mobile workshop

Sure, food trucks are all the rage these days. Gone are the days of the roach coaches. Today's wagons offer gourmet cuisine on wheels. In San Francisco, many are announcing their daily whereabouts on Twitter minutes before people start flocking to them.

So why not a mobile wood shop? Stephen Willner (AKA, "Willie") has been a shop teacher since 1985. Now he has converted a bus and put his classroom on wheels: Willie's Woodshop.

Operating out of the Sacramento area, he offers woodworking classes for kids ages 5-14. They are one-hour sessions in which students get to learn some basics and actually produce a project. He's even available for birthday parties. What a great idea!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Contest winner!

Congratulations Lee Minton for your winning entry in the haiku contest!

Lee's entry was very clever and funny:

Fingers! Five each hand. 
Keep them there with Grr-Ripper, or 
Use toes for zipper.

Lee wins a brand new Grr-Ripper for his entry. Thank you all for participating. And thank you for voting for your favorite, too. I hope to run another contest soon. Oh, and thanks MicroJig for playing along.

I had someone on YouTube ask if I would buy the Grr-Ripper if it hadn't been given to me. Absolutely. It's a great safety tool, but most importantly for me, it ensures really tight cuts on my table saw and other tools. Check it out guys. It's kind of pricey, but most definitely worth the investment.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Electric cigar box ukulele

I've been watching Jack Read's progress on this for while on my Facebook page. He and his son Gabriel just completed this totally cool cigar box uke. Plus it's electric! I asked Jack to compile the history of this build, so here it is in his own words. Thanks Jack. 


1) The build begins. Gabriel (my son the musician) coping the head piece from a piece of 3/4" oak.

2) We glued two pieces of the same oak for the neck and cut them to a taper 1 1/2" at the top to 1 3/4" at the bottom. 

3) I built a jig from Charles Neil's website to make the cut 

4) The neck was too thick so we lopped off 1/2"

5) Then came some sanding.....lots of sanding. He asked 'bout how much more sanding dad? I replied 'just a little more'. I said that about ten times one day.

6) I got in on the sanding act.

7) The neck and head are nearly complete. They each got a 5 degree bevel on the end grain to produce the set back. They were bored for dowels, glued and clamped. This worked very well on the previous build. 

8) The neck is finished. The cigar box body is in the background.

9) The first fret board glue up. I ended up botching this fret board cutting the frets. I botched up one more, before cutting the frets first then gluing to the neck.

10) I ended up buying a new saw to cut the frets. This produced perfect frets (.023 kerf in 3/16 ply)

11) Gabriel is setting the frets into the fret board.

12) The tuning machines were installed.

13) Nearly complete front of the Uke

14) Nearly complete back.

15) This is the under saddle pickup. It is soldered to the endpin jack. The amp cord is plugged into the endpin and to the amp. Gabriel got a little belt amp that allows him mobility.

16) The Ukulele is finished. It needs to get strung, but the bridge and saddle are freshly glued. He can string it on the cruise ship. He leaves for Alaska tomorrow. Done in the nick of time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More on the ladder flipper toy

More than you ever needed to know about the ladder flipper! Bob Rhoads made the ladder and supplies these actual dimensions:

  • Rungs are 8.5mm each
  • Rungs are 61 MM apart at center
  • Ladder uprights are 36MM 's apart on insides
  • Toy hole is 9mm
  • Hole is centered 15.5 mm down from each end
  • Toy is 28 mm wide and 66mm long

When the toy rests on a rung, you should have a 6mm gap in between it and the edge of the rung above it.


The "Toy-Making Dad" has detailed instructions on his web site. I really should have put a few minutes of research into this project before I started!


Lane Steinsultz clued me in on this site that has an actual diagram.


And Finally, Rance Rupp, over on LumberJocks, shot this video:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grr-Ripper contest finalists

Vote for your favorite haiku!

Thank you all for submitting your poems into the haiku challenge. I am astonished by how good they all are, and picking out the finalists was not an easy task. My crack team (wife and kid) and I read through them all and each chose some favorites. Then I combined those results, and using a complex algorithm came up with these seven.


For all that you do,
Grr-Ripper, to keep us from harm:
haiku very much.

At age fourteen I
Need to stay safe so I want
a new Grr-Ripper now

Grr-Ripper straight and true
It saves my fingers oh phew
Now I am not blue

Saw Teeth Make Hands Cringe
Grr-Ripper Appears, Danger Wanes
Fingers Fing Freely

Grr-Ripper what a name
Prevent kickbacks all the same
Safety is the game

Fingers! Five each hand.
Keep them there with Grr-Ripper, or
Use toes for zipper.

Lumber freshly cut
Kicking back into my gut
Alas! No Grr-Ripper!


Now it's up to you!

Take a moment to head over to the Mere Mortals Facebook Page and vote for your favorite. I'll keep the poll running until next Sunday. Whoever receives the most votes wins the Grr-Ripper. Good luck!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A working ladder flipper!

I asked and you responded! Here are two videos from jpheisz on YouTube. It looks like my block actually needed to be much longer! Thanks man, a Mere Mortals t-shirt goes out to you. Great for wiping up spills in the shop.

Friday, June 10, 2011


A couple weeks ago I set out to make a really fun and simple wooden toy. It's a little ladder on which a block flips all the way down the rungs.

I fussed with it for the better part of two days before finally admitting defeat.


Here's my challenge for you. Shoot a video showing me how to make this and get it to work. Show me where I erred and things to look out for. Post your video as a video response on YouTube. I'll send out a Mere Mortals t-shirt to the first person to do so.

My apologies for this lame video, but here's how far I got. I hope it's enough to get you started:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Curly redwood!

Reminder: you have until Friday to enter to win a Grr-Ripper. Get those Haikus in. The ones posted are outstanding! Also, if you posted one, make sure you included a email address! If you forgot, go back and add it in somewhere, okay?


Last week, Rick Beale dropped off a bunch of wood in my driveway at 2:00 in the morning while on his way to the airport. What a crazy thing to wake up in the morning and have a load of curly redwood waiting in front of my garage!

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet, there are some beautiful pieces here.

There are two I like the best. I think I want to make something that shows off the bark on this big piece.

And this monster. I've never had such a huge chunk of redwood. Or any other wood for that matter. I don't want to saw it into boards...it's too cool like this. Just need to come up with something substantial. Milling it is going to be tricky. I might decide to turn pieces of it. Ideas?

Thanks again Rick!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A magic box...with help from the Grr-Ripper

Contest time! 

Microjig sent me a couple of Grr-Rippers recently and asked me to try them out. They improve not only my safety, but the cuts of my wood. Here's the best part: Microjig is offering up a Grr-Ripper to one lucky Mere Mortal. Entering is simple, but you have to get a little creative.

Get to it quick. Enter by next Friday...the 10th!

Here's my video about the Grr-Ripper. Not only that, but a cool magic box you can make in your shop in a day. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Learn a trade? Yeah right, that's so 20th century.

I've noticed something strange within the past ten years or so. Often, when I meet someone and we discuss our careers, I am left with no clear idea what that person does for a living. Sometimes it's even difficult for him to describe. My brother, for instance, has worked for the same company for years and I really haven't the vaguest notion exactly what he does. It used to be something with computers, now it's something to do with business. I think.

There was a time  when a man could sum up his job in a few words. A coal miner. A plumber. An electrician. A cabinet maker. A chef. A lumberjack. A baker. A blacksmith. A cooper. Until recently, a guy could even call himself a computer programmer and most of us knew what that meant.

Make money. No skills necessary.

Today, people get MBAs and find jobs working for companies that only insiders can understand truly what they do. A lot of data is exchanged with other companies who, in turn, sell that data to other companies who outsource their end of that data to middlemen in India who then somehow manage to massage it and most likely get someone from the original company to buy it. At least that's how I think it works. Is anything really produced? Does it matter?

On the plus side, most of these companies have really cool logos and techie-sounding portmanteau names.

Let's try one. I am going to start up a new company called CollaborLife (TM). As the name suggests, and our mission statement reflects,
We aim to expedite labor in a collaborative environment while enhancing the lives of not just our associates, but the life of our planet itself. 
So, if you have an MBA degree, I'd love to discuss our future together. Your responsibilities will include managing innovation-flow and strategizing problem-solving techniques for the 21st century. Salary starts at $95K.


I'm having a little fun with this, but it illustrates a disturbing trend. The world runs because of people who are actually able to produce things. Without skilled workers, eventually the -ahem- planet will grind to a halt.

Children are rarely taught basic skills needed to make simple repairs, or worse, the critical thinking needed to even comprehend how such tasks might be performed. Chances are, even their dads are unable to provide simple instruction anymore.

Shop class? What's that? Ewww...

For the most part, schools have eliminated vocational training and shop classes. Kids are unable to even try metalworking or wood shop to see if they might find it appealing. When was the last time you saw a kid working on a car in his driveway? Or even a bicycle for that matter?

All of this comes on the heels of the generally accepted belief that All Kids Must Go To University. It's drummed into every child from an early age. Parents panic if a child's math grade falls to a B.

By no means do I intend to disparage the value of education. It is always wise to pursue the highest goals possible, but education and schooling are two separate things. The mistake many "educators" fail to address is that a Ph.D is not a reasonable goal or even a desirable goal for many (very bright, I might add) kids.

And where does this leave them? Well, these kids used to have the option to learn a trade. One that might fit their interests and abilities perfectly. Sadly, without even the opportunity available, they are left with a high school diploma, which is worth the paper it's printed on. They have no university prospects and have had no chance to learn a meaningful trade. We are left with two classes of workers: unskilled laborers and pencil pushers with master degrees.

So when an assembly-line worker discovers a leak under his sink on a holiday weekend, he has to scramble to find a plumber. When the IT Tech breaks the leg of his dining room chair (no doubt from obesity due to lack of exercise) he is clueless to repair it. Likely he will just buy an entirely new dinette set.

The revenge of the tradesmen

Carpenters are often looked down upon by "educated" folk as unintelligent people who never studied in school. Plumbers have been the butt (pun intended) of many jokes. Auto mechanics are typically thought of as rip-off artists who always tack on extra charges to the customer. Nothing like the honorable laborers who toil away on Wall Street.

Teachers discourage learning trades. Parents are frightened of the prospect. Even recent U.S. presidents continually prattle on about learning nothing but "math and science, math and science, math and science" and getting a university degree. The elitist implication here is that people who choose different paths are worthless to society.

More and more, job openings for skilled tradesmen are going unfilled. The irony to this is that we are headed to a day when people who have manufacturing and repair skills are going to be some of our most sought-after citizens. We have always complained about the high cost of hiring a plumber. Well, imagine having to double that fee due to lack of people willing to get dirty. It may get to the point where a guy who can hang drywall and cut a decent cove moulding can demand fees as high as a stock broker. That will truly be the last laugh.

Mike Rowe addresses the senate

Mike Rowe is one of my favorite people. Sure he's a celebrity, but he understands this problem well. He recently addressed the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, hoping to enlighten them on the dearth of skilled labor. It's a spectacular speech. And your homework. Take a few moments to read it here or watch the video here:

I hope that some time in the future, adults will finally begin to allow kids to explore opportunities available to them and stop micro-managing their futures. We can certainly begin to present these options once again. It would also be nice if Dad would pick up a hammer once in a while rather than a phone to call for help. At the very least, kids might begin to understand that anything is possible if you learn to live to your own standards and not someone else's.