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

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Viewer projects: workbench, compass and puzzles

Andrew Manzie in Australia sent over pics of his first project. Naturally, a workbench! He based much of it on the one I built last year. I really like the addition of the peninsula on one end. That can come in very handy when planing or working on projects that require you to easily access all sides. Looking forward to see what Andrew makes next, now that he has a workbench.

Bill Wilson is always coming up with something clever. Check out his homemade compass. It began as a friction fit, but he's refined it using a wing nut.

Now these look fun. Bill made these tanglement puzzles. The first one he made for his grandson who requested a Batman theme! 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A wood shop ghost town

Not a bit of woodworking accomplished today. I'm kind of thinking about a Valentines Day project. I did see the most awesome wood shop today, though. And it is completely unused. See video below.


I want to apologize for the random pre-roll ads YouTube is now running on my videos. Apparently, this is something new the YouTube is testing. They call them "skippable" ads: after a few seconds you can click the ad off. I suppose it's similar to the little overlay ads that we had to click off before, only more annoying. They don't seem to run each time on every video, only randomly.

I don't make an enormous income off the video ads that I have always had,  but it's enough to help defray a lot of my expenses. So it appears I have no choice but to either accept the "skippable" pre-rolls or opt out of monetizing my videos. I'll keep an eye on this and see what develops. I hope you will bear with a few seconds of these ads. At least they are skippable.

Mere Minutes

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tricked-out BBQ caddy

Over a month ago, Warren and I started brainstorming ideas for an Australia Day project. I learned a lot about the customs and traditions associated with the holiday. Ever heard of a Pavlova? It's a dessert commonly served on Australia Day. I thought about making a special cake box for one, but the thought of making an actual Pavlova to put in it seemed daunting.

But really Australia Day sounds a lot like the 4th of July here in the U.S. Lots of backyard activities, but mainly barbecue and beer. So I came across the idea of combining the two into one BBQ caddy. But not just a serving tray: a totally pimped-out, over-the-top caddy.

Naturally, a campy extravaganza of a video was in order.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Australia Day!

Hope you folks down under are enjoying your holiday. Tune in tomorrow for the Mere Mortals Australia Day Extravaganza. Make it a four-day weekend!

For those of you elsewhere, here are a couple of informative videos to watch before the Mere Mortals Australia Day Extravaganza. Think of it as your homework.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Australia updates

Bob Wiseman from Ulverstone, Tasmania just completed his first box, all made with Aussie wood! It consists of  Huon Pine mitred sides, with a  Blackwood  veneered lid and River Red Gum keys and removable divider. Beautiful wood. Nice work Bob!

Now, Paul Homes  in Perth, Western Australia tells me it is not a very comfortable time to be working in the shop. Check out these temps. (38 C is the same as 100 F.) Yep, there are guys in Minnesota right now having the same problem with their shops being too uncomfortable to work in!

Mere Minutes
Handy Australian table saw jig from Warren

Monday, January 23, 2012

More woodworking from Down Under

How 'bout those championship games yesterday? Good games: I really thought San Francisco could pull it off right up to a fumbled punt return at the worst possible time ever.

In Australia, cricket is very popular. I don't know much about the game, other than it employs the use of a flat bat. And when I see a cricket bat, I think of Shawn of the Dead.

Brenton Rawlings describes cricket this way: "A sport that most Australians will play in the backyard pretending to be good at it with only a select few who make a career from turning professional."

Here's a set of cricket "Stump Shelves" he made.

And look: a picture frame with Brenton's family pictured. It's made of Oak with a Jarrah inlay.

Finally, he sent over a picture of an awesome looking go-cart he made with his nephew for Christmas. I so want to ride this!

John Steele works in the tech wing of a local school and tells me that my iWood video is compulsory viewing for all new wood working classes. Uh-oh! 

John describes his gorgeous turnings: 

"The motif is a gum leaf - inlaid into some random eucalypt hardwood. Commonly called Victorian Ash (gum trees from Victoria). The inlay is redgum burl. 

The last one American Ash- Fraxinus americana, and an Australian redgum burl shaped again as a gum leaf.  This could be seen as a symbol of the connection between our two countries (or it could be that I was given a few offcuts of American ash.)"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oz projects

No yellow brick road. Better: Australian projects!

Chips Harbour from Brisbane made this jewelry box for a friend who wanted something "a little larger than normal". (Fun fact: all Australians are loaded with precious jewels.) The top is cut from a "silky oak" log  with timber inlay, the rest is made of Merbau, which he resawed and dressed to size. This is really stunning. This is what I can an heirloom piece.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's Australia week!

A lot of cool woodworkers down under. Crazy, because they don't have shops. They have "sheds". And there's your first lesson in speaking Australian.

Here's some pictures of Stephen Paris's shed. Steve lives in Tropical Cairns, Queensland. He's one guy who has no problem remembering his wedding anniversary. It's on Australia Day! Pretty nice set-up you've got there, mate.


And a bit more about Australia:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Make an end-grain cutting board

One of the most popular woodworking projects

It seems that at one time or another, all woodworkers try their hands at making an end-grain cutting board. It's easy to understand why: cutting boards are useful, durable, allow you to really get creative on the design, and are simple to build.

Built by Mike D. (RetiredCoastie)
 on LumberJocks.com
And I have never made one. It's one of those projects that's been on my to-do list for a long time. As you may know, I love to cook and have been getting by for years with one of those thick plastic ones. It's built into my counter and slides out for use. The problem is that it gets mangled pretty quickly and doesn't clean well. After a while is begins to take on a permanent onion odor. Yuck. So I have to replace it every year.
Built by Jeff (jonasramus)
on LumberJocks.com

Wood cutting boards, on the other hand, will last nearly forever. The end grain of wood is very forgiving on knives and is actually more sanitary to use. The wood tends to heal itself. And if, after a lot of use, it starts to look really ragged and scratched, you can renew it just by resanding the surface.

I wasn't sure what more I had to offer in the way of a video, though. There are lots of cutting board videos. If you decide to make one, you definitely want to check out The Wood Whisperer's video. He really takes you through every last detail and consideration.

Cutting Board Designer

Last month, Jeremy Greiner sent me a copy of a program he developed called Cutting Board Designer. After playing around with it for a while, I discovered how handy it is. It lets you lay out some complex patterns and get a good indication what your board will look like before you cut any wood. Check it out!

My first cutting board:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Australian Woodworkers

Australia Day

One week from today is Australia Day. I'm working on a special project for all you folks in Oz.

So why not get started early! If you live Down Under, send me some pictures of your shops (sheds), yourselves, your favorite projects, your favorite beer, your favorite Drop Bear. Show me Australia!

I'll start posting them here next week, or maybe this weekend. There. I didn't once say "G'day."

zrammedia (at) gmail (dot) com.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chess boards

Seems a lot of people have been making chess boards lately.

Bill Wilson is such a prolific woodworker. I'm always impressed at the volume of projects he cranks out. Here's his multi-use chess board: chess, checkers and dominoes. I love the chess pieces.


Jim Allgeier from Cape Charles, VA built this chess board based on my design from a few years ago. He used Maple and Cherry (I like that combination for a chess board) and gave this to his ten-year-old son for Christmas.


Over on Facebook, Bert Collett posted his chess board made with black walnut and curly maple. The box is black walnut. The base and drawers are old heart pine. Just gorgeous.

Unrelated to chess (but using a similar technique to create the grid pattern) I just completed my first cutting board. I kind of screwed up the alignment of the pattern, but I'm still fairly satisfied. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Clock update

I've been in the shop today working on next week's video. Very distracted watching the 49ers-Saints game. San Francisco always seems to capitalize on lucky plays and turnovers, but I suspect New Orleans will pull this one out.

Working on a cutting board for next week. Yeah, I know, yawn. I hope to bring something new to the myriad of cutting board videos. Plus I really need one.

About the clock...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Make a wood clock

A video from the Non-Yankee Workshop.

Let me give you some back story on this project.

Last weekend, I started tossing around ideas for a BBQ caddy and planned on building it for this week's show. You may be wondering why I would build a barbecue project in January. Well it is Summer in Australia and I have been working with Warren Downes to develop something for Australia Day coming up at the end of the month.

As we started hashing out ideas, I began to realize that this could make for a really fun video...especially since he offered to shoot some stuff Down Under. So I have tabled that project until I can come up with something good. That video and project will be on the 27th, just in time for the holiday.

New project

So I needed a project for this week. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been saving the clock for this project for a long time. I started playing around with various pieces of scrap wood and sketching out a bunch of different designs. Eventually, the concept of a "floating" clock struck me. From there, it was actually pretty simple to execute. My main concern was how to make the holes in the circle perfectly straight and perpendicular. Boring them before cutting the circle is the solution.

I shot the video without any sound so I could add a soundtrack of some sort. It seemed simple enough that it didn't require me babbling on. After I edited it together I wanted to tack on an introduction and thought it would be funny to do it as a real woodworking show, complete with safety warnings and overly long instruction. I put on my Roy Underhill mustache and a ridiculously bad Southern accent. Then it hit me to include an incredibly verbose soundtrack on a video that needed none!


Now the strange part. After I posted the finished photo here and on Facebook a few days ago, a couple of people mentioned that it looked like one that Marc Spagnuolo made. My first thought was one of amusement: I couldn't imagine Marc making something so simple!

Well, more people mentioned the same thing, then a viewer sent me a link to The Wood Whisperer's video. Yup. Sure enough, back in 2008, Marc made a clock that looks very similar to the one I just made. It is eerie: he used a dark wood for the frame and light wood for the floating center. Mine even has double splines on the corners, just like Marc's.

So wow. I guess I should familiarize myself with more of Marc's projects. Perhaps this is a design I've seen somewhere before and was in my unconscious mind, just waiting to come out? Well Marc, sorry about the similarity. If I had seen your clock I certainly would have come up with a different project. But as it is, enjoy my take on the "floating clock".


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Clock project

I just finished up this week's project.

A few years ago we had some sort of clock that broke. Not the clock itself, just what is was in. I can't even remember exactly what it was. At any rate, I saved the clock itself with the thought that someday I might make something for it.

Here's the design I came up with. I used maple and walnut and the clock is suspended from dowels. It was really a pleasure working on this after fussing so much over the Kindle case. As it turned out, this was incredibly simple to make.

Video on Friday.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Kindle / iPad case and stand

Got the Kindle Fire case done!

It's funny how sometimes the simplest concepts can pose the most challenging problems. This project began by just wanting to make a stand for my wife's new Kindle Fire. She reads constantly: several books a week. An e-reader saves me a lot of trips to the library. But I noticed she had to prop up the tablet to read while sitting at the table.

Keeping it sleek

After playing with a lot of ideas for a stand, I realized it would be nice to make a case that converts into a stand. My criteria was that it would look sleek, like the Kindle itself, and wasn't complicated to build.

As it turned out, this case is very simple to build and is infinitely adjustable as a stand.

WWMM viewers

But I struggled with it and could not have built this without your help. You guys are incredible. Earlier this week I asked for some suggestions on the design and solutions to problems. I received over a hundred emails. I am continually amazed by how creative you all are! Some outstanding ideas that got me thinking maybe I ought to revisit this project and make another case eventually. I got a lot of ideas incorporating a swinging lid. The idea of a modified cassette case is intriguing: that's a perfect stand. Anyway, THANK YOU all for your help. I couldn't have built this without you.

Simplicity is hard

If I had a mantra, it would be, "keep it simple". I force my brain to tell that to me all the time. We all begin new woodworking projects with complicated ideas that work themselves into complicated designs. Funny how our brains work like that. It's only when we take a step back and maybe sleep on it, that we discover simplicity.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

More candle holders and a Kindle update

Wow...I can't believe how many people responded to my Kindle case/stand problems and questions. Some really incredible ideas. I am now thinking about making two in a couple different styles. Thank you all for your help!


In my last post I mentioned some of the many versions of my candle holder that have been build. It's really inspiring to see how people re-interpret a simple design.

Wanted to show you some of Alex Busado's work. Alex is 12 and has some really creative ideas. I really like natural-wood projects.


Kindle case update.