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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One more advent calendar and other gifts

Now this is a cool advent calendar. Every day, you pull out a peg and Santa works his way down the chimney. Dale Thompson built this for his granddaughters Sarah and Emily. They're going to have fun with it!

Here's an easy stocking stuffer to consider. Don Trust made these maple and jatoba tongs using some scrap lumber. Over on Facebook, he mentioned that they are great for removing toast stuck in the toaster!

One of the best gifts you can make for someone special is a keepsake or jewelry box. Our friend Laney over at A Simple Design of Ocala sent over this one with walnut splines and a scrollwork top. Nice!

Also over on Facebook, we have been watching Jack Read's progress on his jewelry boxes for quite some time. The one in front is actually the prototype he worked on a couple months ago before going into "mass production". There's a neat trick to these boxes too: they each have a hidden compartment. Nice work Jack...they turned out beautiful.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More gift ideas

In case you are thinking about making an advent calendar, well, there's only two days left of November. But a couple people sent over their versions.

Davide Righi from Italy made this clever calendar from MDF and cut out plywood discs. Each disc swings on a screw to reveal the prize.

Bill Wilson used real bulbs for his advent calendar, using bobby pins for hangers. And more flour for snow!

Here's one of the more unusual gifts I've seen. Ian Staley in the U.K. made his daughter a Dibber. It's a tool gardeners use for planting seeds. He turned it on a lathe and it has marks every 2cm. Great idea for gardeners.

Tony Biles had a good idea. Here's something that would be a great gift for woodworkers or non-woodworkers. A sandpaper holder/organizer:

Or modify it a bit and you've got a desktop paper organizer!

Chris Pawley in England built this utensil drainer/dryer using oak cut-offs. Kitchen projects always make great gifts.

Though not likely a Christmas gift, Chris also sent over this video of his beehives! Plus, you can check out his shop.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Make a jigsaw puzzle Christmas card

Last week I posted a jigsaw puzzle that Stephen Dickinson made. I think it's a really great project and an easy one to make for Christmas. 

Stephen sent over a complete how-to of the process. Thanks man! This looks like a fun project that anyone would love to receive.


I cut out some 1/8” Baltic birch plywood that will leave at least a quarter inch border around the card.  It is best to cut them a little large because you will need to even up the edges as one of the last steps.  Give them a good sanding with some fine paper and a coat or two of lacquer but no spray on the sides that will be glued together.

I cut the card in half, apply glue to the back of the front of the card and apply it to the plywood I have chosen for the puzzle. 

After the glue dries I put a tiny entrance hole for the scroll saw blade.   I use puzzle blades I buy from Mike at http://www.mikesworkshop.com/.  There are other suppliers but that is the one I use. 

I cut out the puzzle area with a couple of tabs to lock it to the frame.  These tabs also give the person putting the puzzle some Idea of the orientation of the puzzle to the frame.

Making sure the frame is right side up, I glue it to the backer.  In this case I use another piece of 1/8” bb plywood.  I have used thin masonite before and that works well too.   Trial and lots of error has taught me to make sure there is plenty of wood under the frame and to have the frame right side up.  It isn’t fun when you discover the glued up puzzle back is only going to end up with 1/16” border on one corner.  
Cut the puzzle and try to have a lock at each side that faces another piece.  In this case I didn’t do that.  I wanted the balls to be loose in these cards.  It’s your puzzle, cut it the way you want.  There are no lines to follow unless you want to.  It may not come out the way you had had it planned but the recipient won’t know that.  They will probably be pleased with a cool Christmas card.

After the frame part has the glue cured I use my 1” belt sander to even up the edges.  Don’t go too fast grinding off the wood.  It will come of real fast and you may find the border is getting real thin.  I’m not a perfectionist but I don’t like making mistakes.  I have to keep reminding myself that these can look home made.  They are.

Next I give the frame a couple coats of spray on lacquer front back and sides.

The backs of the pieces may have a little fuzz from the scroll saw so give them a little rubbing on some sand paper.  I glued a piece of 120 to some masonite and rub the back of the pieces across that in a circular pattern.

You need to assemble the puzzle in the frame to make sure you haven’t misplaced any of the pieces.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Make an advent calendar

An advent calendar is a classic Christmas project. Typically, they contain 24 numbered doors and beginning on December 1st, you open door #24 and get a small treat or gift. When you get to #1, it will be Christmas Eve, one day before the holiday.

There are many different ways to make an advent calendar. For an absolutely stunning version, check out the one our friend Marc (The Wood Whisperer) made last year. Even Marc struggled with a system to make 24 doors, something I don't think I'd have the patience for. Plus, well, my woodworking skills just aren't that good!

So after thinking about it for a long time, I came up with a very simple advent calendar that you should be able to make in a day. No doors! It does include all the interactive elements an advent calendar needs: a numbered system to count down days, and a place for a treat each day. I used Hershey's Kisses in mine because they fit nicely into the holes. Quarters might be another good idea: in 24 days, you'd have six dollars!

This is also a good project to get the family involved. My wife and son had a lot of fun painting all the ornaments.

If you'd like to give this a try, here's a cutting template you can download and print out. Just hold the pages up to a window, line them up and tape them together.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Hey guys...Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the U.S. It's the day for overindulging in turkey. Or crab, which is somewhat traditional in San Francisco. As for us, we're having turkey; crab is a bit pricey. Last year, my neighbor gave me a live crab for Thanksgiving. It was really tasty, but it was also the first time I ever had to kill a crab. I really felt sorry for the little guy. He squirmed around on ice in our sink with his little claws all bound together for a couple hours before I boiled him. I think I could easily be a vegetarian if juicy animals just didn't taste so darn good.

Finishing up the advent calendar today. Check out the video tomorrow. I'll include a cutting template, too, in case you'd like to make one. It's quite different from your regular calendars, but one that is a lot of fun and can be made in a day. Plenty of time before December 1st.


Mere Minutes

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More homemade Christmas gifts from viewers

Stephen Dickinson is making jigsaw puzzles out of Christmas cards. Who wouldn't love an interactive card?

Walter Melis, from Antwerp, Belgium made this nativity scene using empty wine boxes.

And speaking of wine, Alan Falk makes some really nice bottle stoppers. (Check out his web site for more!)

Here's a gift almost anyone could use. Jim Jarvis made this step stool with a storage area.

This one falls into the "aww" category. Winnie the Pooh made by Desri Dean. My favorite Pooh quote: "If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

Easy Christmas woodworking projects

You just gotta love this little reindeer Robert Flores made. Plus, he was kind enough to draw up a sketch if you'd like to make your own. (PDF) I may give this a try.


Have friends or family that use those K-cup coffee makers? Randy Dressen made this slick looking dispenser.


Michael Dower had the suggestion to make a spice rack. Well, Michael, here's one I made quite some time ago. It's keeps the spices really handy and out of the cabinet. (I hated having to fish around for them.) The most expensive part was buying all the jars. But they are all labeled and in alphabetical order!

Over on Facebook, Peter Van Winden posted this really great idea. It's a greeting card he made for his wife. Pretty cool...a card someone will want to actually save!

Keep those gift ideas rolling in!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas projects?

With that title, you would think that I have a bunch of ideas for woodworking gifts. I've been stumbling around the shop this weekend trying to come up with something. So let me know what you are making. Send me pictures of your gift projects so we can all steal them!


 Mere Minutes

Friday, November 18, 2011

Make a wood candle holder

Have you started making Christmas gifts yet? The countdown is on. I think the key is to make simple projects, ones that can be made in a day.

I set out to make something for Thanksgiving Day, prowled through my scrap bin, and ended up making a simple Christmas gift. Lots of ways you could enhance this candle holder, but here's the basic construction.

What are you working on? Send me pictures of your gift ideas!  zrammedia (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dowel center-finding jig and some Christmas woodworking ideas.

Here's a quick little jig that Bill Wilson (the Cajone king) made for centering dowel holes on the edge of a board. Just two dowels and a hole all lined up. Place the dowels on each side of an edge and drill through the center hole. VoilĂ !

And since it's gift-building season, Bill also sent over a picture of a project he built. The snow is flour.

Here's another gift idea...a slit drum. Dave Hecker says his biggest woodworking challenge is getting wood into his basement...it has to go through the house to get there! Slit drums are fun projects.


Kenneth Hockenberry posted this most incredible video over on Facebook today. (If you're not signed up the the Mere Mortals Facebook page, check it out. Lots of really cool discussions, sometimes about wood, sometimes about football on Sundays. Plus, if you aren't there, we talk about you behind your back.) 

At any rate, there is so much that is cool about this video, I won't spoil anything before you watch.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More from around the globe

I always love to hear from folks who have made versions of my projects. A year ago I made a little swing to hold a couple of small potted plants. I gave it to someone as a Christmas gift and haven't thought about it in a long time.

Gaetan Montenot is the first person I've met from Mauritius! (I had to Wikipedia it...it's an island east of Madagascar. Interesting fact: it was the only known habitat of the dodo bird!)

Gaetan made a bigger version of the swing and managed to slip in the little ladybug. Nicely done.

Let's head east of Mauritius and jump over to Australia. Long-time viewer Steve Johnson cranked out this cool barbecue trolley. Naturally: I isn't BBQ the national pastime in Oz? Mmm....grilled shrimp. (I still haven't used my refurbish grill. Must test out this weekend.) Nice work Steve. I really like the slide-out tray.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Woodworking around the world

When I posted Alain's French/English clamp rack video last week, I mentioned that there seemed to be serious lack of woodworking on the web in French. Well Nicolas, set me straight and let me know about his French woodworking site "Friend of Woodchips". Some cool stuff and some really fun videos!


Then I heard from Manuel in France. Check out his web site too. (I use Chrome, and Google seems to to a pretty good job translating web pages, BTW.)

Manuel also clued me onto this spectacular router table video from a Russian woodworker. It even converts into a horizontal router table!


Speaking of routers, it's always fun to hop over to England and see what Alex Harris is up to. Check out this router lathe he made. The whole project is simply beautiful.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Model ships

Check these out. Dave, a retired sailor, made these ships for kids and grandkids. I love wood models, and it's kind of unusual to see model ships. Thanks Dave!

Mere Minutes