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!


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