Saturday, December 26, 2009

Update from My Santa's Workshop 09'

My workshop was quite busy the week's before Christmas making gifts for the family. Money was a bit tight this year but I figured handmade gifts would be the best anyway. I like to feel they are priceless but I certainly know how much work I put into each one and truthfully it was a joy to be able to make my gifts.

 Now top of the list was for our 10 year old Caity. High on her Christmas list this year was dolls. Lou being a great mom found an American Girl Doll and a Best Friends Girl Doll. Now Lou suggested I build a bunk bed for both of them since they are both the same 18" Tall. I searched the web for plans but I really didn't find much that looked nice and could be finished in about a week. So I ended up drawing up some plans with my favorite design tool Google Sketchup.
After playing around with some designs I came up with a fairly simple one that used hardwood dowels for the headboards. I chose hard maple to build the frames and cut some 1/2" birch plywood for the bed boards. I orgainally wanted to finish with ArmorSeal but I know I wouldn't have enough drying time so I ended up using clear shellac. I was able to easily put on 3 coats and finished off with a polish coat of Johnsons paste wax. To make the mattresses I cut up some NuFoam pads and even made pillows.

The Bunk bed turned out to be quite a project because I really was building a miniature bunk bed with lots of pieces. It was fun but I started getting worried on my time schedule. But as you can tell I finished and Caity quickly put her new dolls in their comfy new beds.

Next on the list was for our oldest daughter Lauren who is now living in Texas and setting up a new apartment with her boyfriend whilst she is attending  Nursing college.Lou and I talked about what I should make her and we both agreed a nice cutting board would be great. I chose the contrasting woods of hard maple and black walnut. I cut strips varying between 1/4" and 1 1/4" The wood was buffed to a fine finish and pure mineral oil was added. Lauren said she loved it.

Next up was our middle daughter Amy. I remember Amy was  fascinated with some puzzle boxes a vendor was selling at the state fair this summer. Naturally my first though was to make her some kind of puzzle box for Christmas.I saw a post from the Wood Whisperer describing his design for a puzzle box and I went out and got some Mahogany wood to make it. But because of the last minute opportunity to vend at the Pop Up Shops I lost a couple of build weekends which put me on a tight schedule.Then a week before Christmas my new Boch router decided to break down on me. Marc's design called for routing the cavity out which was going to be a bit hard without my router. I thought about for second and realized I could pretty easily cut out the cavity using my bandsaw by turning the design into a bandsaw box. Marc' inspiration was to make the box from a solid block to help with the illusion but what is a routerless woodcrafter to do but improvise.

Another change from Marc's original design was he suggested a single sliding dovetail in the center of the box to hold the lid on. Unfortunately for me I didn't leave enough room on the center edges to allow for a dovetail. But I did have enough room on either side for a pair of dovetails. As it turned out I rather like it better for a couple reasons. One I think it looks better and secondly I was able to hide the key into the dove tail. This turned out to be a cool feature because the first thing Lauren tried  was to look under the lid for some kind of key sticking down. I think she would have been able to see the lock key in Marc's design but she could not see it in mine since it was buried in the dovetail. It was fun seeing everyone in the family struggle to try to open the box especially Amy who could hear the something Lou slipped into the box before I wrapped it up but was unable for quite a while figure out how to open it up.

The main box was cut from some 8/12 Mahogany with the lid from another section of the same board. I used some Cocobolo wood left over from another project for the all important corners which also gave a nice color contrast. I finished the wood with a few coats of Bush Oil and dark paste wax.

And last but not least on my list was something for my wife Lou. A little while before Christmas Lou took me to Rocklers to do some wood shopping. I wasn't about to turn down that offer. Now she told me she wanted to get me some cool wood to play with but I knew she was hinting for me to make her something. She gravitated to someCocobolo wood. Now she also picked out some Cocobolo wood last year but I didn't end up using it until this past summer when I made a cutting board for her from it. But I was clued in this year she wanted something for Christmas. We hit it right as Rockler was selling the boards at 50% off and although not the best shape one board in particular caught my eye for the grain. The board was only about 5" wide which kinda limited what I could make but I laminated a few pieces and cut out an oval shape bandsaw box. I really thought the grain would be the most important aspect so the shape was mainly to minimize waste and show off the grain. I was very careful with the lamination to try to make sure the glue lines didn't show. The lid was a clamshell design using pivot hinges that require the back of the box and lid to be beveled at 45 degree with the hinges drilled right on the fall lines. A bit of a pain to install but I like how they look with organic shaped boxes. I spend a fair amount of time buffing the wood with a buffing pad to polish up the wood and Cocobolo sure does polish up nicely. The finish was again Bush Oil and paste was with a final buff.

I was Chistmas shopping with Caity at Sears and found a little something to put in the box as well.

So I was told Lou loves the box

So I think all in all I think my Santa's workshop 09' did a pretty good job with our gift list. I suppose next year the bar will be raised again which means I better get started now!

But for all Happy New Years to All!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saving Thanksgiving.

Ok this not exactly woodcraft related but none the less an important event. Yesterday I got a frantic call from my wife informing me our oven of 2 1/2 years decided to stop working 2 days before Thanksgiving. She was calling me from Sears after already shopping around for a replacement which of course even if we bought a new one it could not be delivered until next week. There was not much I could do from work but I assured her I would look at when I got home.

So the status of the oven when I got home was no oven, no broiler, the range top burners worked as well as the lower warmer oven. After much internet searching I didn't find much helpful information and after playing around with the settings as suggested by the manual with no luck I decided it was time to open up the back. Mind you I am a trained professional so don't try this at home. I first measured the power coming into the stove and was getting a good 235V so that wasn't the problem. On the back of the unit was a handy schematic of the unit left for repair technicians and since I am an engineer I figured I was qualified to use the guide. I thought I was getting an error code showing an open temperature sensor so I disconnected the cable and measured the sensor but it measured fine. I continued poking around and checking for loose connections. I decided to try firing up the stove again and low and behold it started working. Figuring I had stumbled across a loose connection I buttoned up the back and pushed the unit back against the wall. Only now the oven did not come on again. Frustrated I pulled the stove back out, opened up the back again and continued to poke around until this time I was checking on the control board and to my dismay found the delay timer relay ended up in my hand. This relay switches both the oven and broiler elements on so I knew I had found the problem. Luckly the fix was pretty simple as the relay had just fallen off the control board due to very poor solder joints. Needing four hands to re-solder the pins I asked my wife to help me and in a short time the relay was firmly re-attached to the control board. And this time after pushing the stove back in place it continues to work. Thanksgiving dinner saved!

So tomorrow I can look forward to my wifes wonderful cooking which will include of course a turkey, a ham, mashed potatos, oven roasties potatos to die for,  corn, carrots, bread rolls, Yorkshire puddings and probably more! I must say I am looking forward to it and it will taste extra special this year. We are even having our wayward teenage daughter over for diner.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

My New "Strawberry" All Natural Cedar Wooden Soapdish

I am on a roll tonight. I just learned my Vee Dub Beetle Car soap dish just listed on an Etsy Treasury showing off some VW items. And now I just listed my newest soap dish design, A Strawberry.

My First Etsy Treasury Page

I just made it on my very first Etsy Treasury Page with my Vee Dub Beetle Car soap dish!. I was wondering where all the new views were coming from.

Trying a New Template

You will have to pardon the mess of my blog right now. I am trying out a new template to better orginaize my stuff. But mainly I was finding the main posting colum too small because I like to add pictures. That was causing the text to get too jumbled.

I took a look on the Blogger change template section and didn't find anything like I wanted to I downloaded a free template from the web which look like it might have the starting of what I want. So for a time being I will be making lots of HTML edits to tweek it into what I want.

Please Stand By for Technical Difficulties.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

The CupCake Treasure Box

Introducing my latest Creation; my CupCake Treasure Box in solid Cherry Wood. I am really happy how it came out

I recently remade one of my Baby Chick Treasure Boxes in Cherry and that too looked great. My Wife Louise strongly suggested I needed to make a similar box in the CupCake shape that has been pretty poplar for my soap dishes. Again as always she was right!

The CupCake shape works perfectly for a swivel top type of box. The cavity is good size to hold lots of treasure. I finished the piece with Bush Oil; an oil varnish mixture made from Tung and Boiled Lindseed Oils. Last year I had the pleasure of taking a finishing class taught by the inventor of the finishing oil Bill Bush. I learned a ton and off this fabulous oil finish product. The final sanding was done using micro mesh pads which leave a highly polished finish.

Both the CupCake and Baby Chick Boxes are technically called Bandsaw boxes due the the technique of starting with a solid raw block of wood and using a bandsaw to shape the block then hollow out the cavity. Personally I think it should be called the Bandsaw/Sanding box making method. It takes lots and lots of sanding in really tight corners. However the method allows for more free form artistic shapes such as these examples and that is cool.

I enjoy this type off work because it fits in my my style of uniqueness. I posted about the art of woodcrafting a while back I mentioned that my goal was to have my pieces present a more artistic side and combining the practical functionality. I think with this piece I am closer to my goal.


Friday, November 20, 2009

New Store and Blog Banner

Who knew Google Sketchup could be used to create banners. Actually I made my Logo from a picture of my Duck Jewelery Box and added the graphics on top. I rendered the model using IDX then did some photo editing using Gimp. It worked out fairly well so I decided to give it a try to make a model from scratch for a new Store Banner. I wanted something a bit more classy. So I made up the 3D model and repeated the rendering and photo editing process. I was surprised how nice it came out. It has the look of a finely carved wooden sign. The perfect look I was after.

I would love some feedback on how it looks.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My new Vee Dub Beetle Car WoodenSoap Dish

I just finished making and listing my latest wooden soap dish design; a Vee Dub Beetle Car. I actually have to give the credit to my wife Louise as she cut out the shape on her Cricut machine on a piece of heavy cardboard then made some sketches for the slots to cut. We both like the idea of using the slots as a design element in the pieces. In this case the upper slots are the windows. We separated the upper slots to form two windows with a solid pillar bar between. Once we had the sketch done I scanned in the cutout and used my vector art program to place the actual cuts to be made. Once the template design was complete I transferred it to a hardboard square and made my router guide which I then used to route out the slots and shapes. I used a forsner bit to cut out the wheels.

Louise thought one of her racing ducky soaps would make a great model for the car.

I am having fun coming up with new designs and really enjoying that my wife is helping with the ideas as well. We make a good team.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Marketing my products

Since I made the decision to get a bit more serious about selling my products I quickly realized I had to do some marketing. Luckly for me my wife has become quite the internet marketer with her Esty shops and has been helping me a great deal. She introduced me to the power of Twitter which I have been experimenting with to help get more views of my products on my Etsy Edwood's WoodCraft Creations store. And to some extent it seems to be helping the number of views and products being sold. I also started up a Face Book Business Page Edwood's WoodCraft Creations to help with the promotion. I am still very small scale with all this but I look at it as another challenge to learn how to market your goods effectively. I have had some great feedback on the items I have sold so it encourages me to continue and expand.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What is WoodCrafting?

As I am in the process of creating more items for sale in my WoodCraft Creations store I started thinking about Logos and the name I chose for the store a few years ago. Basically at the time I was a beginning woodworker just dangerous enough to use some power tools and lucky enough to have kept all my fingers intact. I knew I didn't have enough skill yet to build fine furniture or upscale cabinetry but I had a good imagination and some engineering skills so I could figure out how to make small items like shelving and displays we needed for our craft show booths.

I knew I have always enjoyed designing, creating and building things. And it just happened that I started making things from wood. I think wood is a most unique material in that it can be shaped fairly easily into almost any form but has character unlike man made materials like plastic because it came from nature and life. Wood comes in many species each with their individual characteristics, colors and spots, weakness and strengths.

I think the art of WoodCrafting is really the process of taking raw wood material and transforming it into forms that can both functional and artistic. If executed properly the transformed wooden shape will become an object that serves a new function be it functional as in a child's toy or a piece of furniture. Or it can just become an art form to be enjoyed
by the sense of sight, touch or smell. In truth I think wood can be transformed into almost any form by Woodcrafting and only limited by the imagination and skill of the WoodCrafter.

I truly believe WoodCrafting needs to begin with the design of the piece. The design must consider the function of the piece. Will it be a practical design or more artistic and that will determine the cost and labor allowed. Secondly the design needs to account for the characteristics of the raw wood material to be used for each basic part of the design. How will a particular species of wood work towards the final finished item. If the design will require joining multiple pieces of wood what types of joinery work for each connection.

The WoodCrafter then begins the process of transforming the raw wood material into the desired object using three basic steps. The first is the carving, cutting and shaping the raw pieces of wood into the basic forms.

The second is joinery or connecting the basic forms together into more complex shapes and forms. Not all items require joinery but rather are made from a single solid piece of wood such as a bowl carved from a tree. But most items require joining individual pieces together in order to make things not possible or practical from a single piece of wood. The classic joinery method is dovetails considered to be a mark of a craftsman to be able make seamless dovetails by hand. But joint can be as simple as two boards glued together. Each method has it's place and appropriateness to execute the design goal and idea.

The last step is the finishing, sanding, staining, painting and final shaping. It is in this step the WoodCrafter brings back and out the life of the raw wood material to the final product. I generally believe it is almost wrong to cover up wood with opaque paints that hide the natural grains and character of the piece. I love how an oil based finish make the grain pop. I tend to like my final finish to be glossy. But I concede there are some items that require a painted covering for the final fit and form needed to serve it's purpose .

So in retrospect I believe I picked the right label for myself and I think I am rather proud to call myself a WoodCrafter. I get to use my design and engineering skills to create unique ideas. Then I get to apply my woodworking skills to transform those ideas into reality.

I hope as I hone my WoodCrafting skills my work will become more artistic. I think creating wood items that are both functional and artistic is the measure of ones WoodCrafting skill.


Monday, November 2, 2009

New Line of Soap Saver Dishes

My wife gave the the idea of making and selling soap saver dishes in the shapes of objects rather than the plain boring types you see all over the web. Most of the dishes out there are made from a solid board cut square and saw curfs are taken out on a table saw to make slots to let the air circulate around the soaps helping to preserve them.

I did some research about the types of woods to use and cedar seems like the best choice. It can be left unfinished and has natural resistance to decay from moisture. Perfect for the bathroom. A local wholesale lumber outlet just happened to have Incense Cedar boards on sale so I picked up some. Another benefit is the cedar aroma.

I guess I could have started with a square board, run some table saw curf cuts then cut out the shapes on the bandsaw. But honestly I wanted to be different so I decided to use my new Bosh Plunge Router to mill out slots on the interior of the designs using a template and a guide bushing. After routing the slots I cut out the shapes on the bandsaw.

I am leaving the Soap Saver Dishes unfinished so the cedar aroma comes out plus it fits in with the natural, organic theme many soap makers are positioned in.

The Ducky Soap model is from my Wife's Ducky Soap Etsy Shop.

I have a lot of templates I am working on to add lots of different shapes.

Check out my Etsy Shop

Saturday, October 31, 2009

DoveTail Rustic Soap Display Rack

I am trying a few new items I just completed to add into my Store. Recently I have noted some requests about a soap display rack that Herrick Kimball from The DeliberateAgrarian has generously offered to the community to copy.

Figuring out how to cut out the pieces from the picture wasn't too bad but then I thought about assembling it. I know I didn't want to use screws or nails as it would detract from the rustic look. Then I thought why not use sliding dovetails that way the rack could be shipped flat pack and easily assembled with no tools. It could also be just as easily disassembled to pack away.

I have a lot of experience cutting sliding dovetails using my Incra Jig so naturally I started there. The great thing about the Incra Jig is the fine adjustments that are crittical to make the joints slip together easily but yet not too loose as to be overly sloppy. It's a fine line but very doable using the Incra Jig. The parts are cut using my Table Saw from 3/4" Poplar board and I used my Band Saw for the 45 deg. steps. I finished off the edges with a 45 deg. bevel cut on my router table. After some sanding the rack is ready to ship. I have left it unfinished for a natural look but it is easily painted or stained.

So here is the finished Display Rack holding a collection of my wife's Kinky Etsy Shop. I think it looks great. If you're interesed here is the link to the item in my store

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dovetails Part Deux

It seams I have stumbled upon a secret of woodworking. Sharp tools are key to fine woodwork. I know I have heard that you need sharp tools from all the masters but somehow I discounted the advise. Well Last weekend I bought some tools from Home Depot to help me in my quest to learn dovetails. I picked up a set of Marpels wood chisels and a 15 tpi flush pull saw. Clearly not top of the line tools but I am on a rather tight budget these days. The saw came fairly sharp but I decided I should try and sharpen the chisels before I use them. I already had a honing guide and a 3000 grit diamond stone so I did a little internet research on sharping and gave it a go. I must say it was actually easier than I thought to put an acceptable edge on the tools.

Since my first dovetail attempt I read a bunch more on the technique and realized my biggest mistake was not leaving the lines when I sawed. This time I did a much better job. But I was kinda surprised on how much better my new chisels were able to pare away the wood. In fact I started to realize the job of making dovetails is not so much of a sawing task as it is accurate chisel work. I actually made this attempt way too tight as I was way too conservative on the saw cuts. But if you have to error that is that is the way because you can always pare out with your chisels. Anyway I think my tail board came out pretty darn good. My pin board needed some rework and I over did the bottoms a tad. But overall I am pretty happy and it looks like I will be able to make Caitie's blanket chest with handmade dovetails. Btw Caitie did the sanding on this sample after I gave her a quick basic sanding lesson. A quick rub of tung oil brought out the end grains to see the dovetails.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hand Cut Dovetails - Time to bite the Bullet

Wow it's been a long time since I posted last. Another dead ship in the blogosphere I suppose. But recently I have been doing some contemplation regarding my woodworking. What I have started to realize is how much I have learned over the past year or so and how much more I have to learn. I can see now why in days past a budding craftsman had to apprentice for years under a master to learn the craft. The internet has changed so many things in our lives. Today there has never been so many opportunities to learn from the masters of woodworking who are just a mouse click away. I guess that's why I love woodworking so much because it forces me to keep learning new methods and techniques in order to build more and more complex things.

I mention all this because I have decided that I want to build our Caitie a blanket chest and the style I and my wife like is a Shaker Union Chest. Done proper it would have hand cut dovetail joints. Now I have cut a ton of sliding dovetails on my Incra Jig but there is no way to make through dovetails on a 32" panel on the Incra Jig. Now I could probably easily make a box joint jig pretty easily for my new table saw but box joints just don't have the right look. I looked around for a dovetail jig I could use my hand router with and I found a few reasonable ones. But the more I thought about it the more it felt like I would be cheating somehow. There is no way around it I am going to have to learn to make hand dovetails and nothing else will suffice. There is a ton of good information freely available on the internet and with some practice I am confident I will be able to make some acceptable joints for Caities chest.

Here is my first practice attempt in some scrap maple pieces ... no laughing it's hard to do! I actually got a few tails and pins marginally ok. But I have a few ideas on what I did wrong on this attempt and I think my next will come out better. In truth the joints are functionally ok just not pretty. I have time to learn before I have to cut real joints. They don't have to be perfect to please Caitie but I will surly never be satisfied with my work.