Thursday, August 24, 2017


I've wanted to make a mallet from some of the only hardwood I have (oak and one other I don't know). A woodworker nearby was giving away some scraps so I got those two boards and they were just sitting up on the high shelf (good thing I made a step stool).

This is an amalgamation of several ideas I saw when I was researching on YouTube. It's not perfect, and certainly not good enough to give as a gift, but I think I could make it much better the second time around.

I cut the pieces to size the best I could and then set about gluing them together. The handle will slide in from the top and then I'll pin it with a couple of dowels (or I'll give up and use a couple of drywall screws.. :) )

And here it is mostly finished. I sanded it with 220 grit and gave it a coat of paste wax. I'll glue the handle in when I pick up the dowels.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Plywood -> Step Stool

I wanted to get rid of some of the plywood scraps I have (see 4th of July) and when I came across Bob's (I Like to Make Stuff) plywood step stool, I figured it was a great project to try.

I had less than half a sheet, but I managed to make it work. It turned out to be way too heavy (1/2" plywood would have been lighter, I suppose), but I like it anyway.

I gave it a quick sanding and an even quicker coat of spray lacquer just to keep the rough edges down. I doubt it'll ever leave my shop/shed, but it's the perfect height for getting wood down from the shelf.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Some 4th of July Art

My younger daughter's been using the router for a while now, carving shapes into flat boards (cut offs, old fence planks, etc.). She was bored, and we were having lots of family over for the holiday and so I suggested she make some kind of 4th of July art.

I gave her an old piece of terrible plywood. Here's what she came up with:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Adding a Window to my TuffShed

I really love the shed, but one issue I have is that it gets really hot in there when the sun's out, and it's difficult to get a cross breeze going.

That's my fault: I only ordered two windows and I had them put one on the front side next to the door, and one on the side next to that. The shed sits fairly close to a fence, so putting a window on that side wouldn't make much sense. So now I have two windows, but they're on adjacent walls and so there's a bit of a ventilation issue.

So I found a small window (14.5 inches wide) online. It was on sale and the whole thing, including shipping only cost $40.

So I get my stuff together and installed it this weekend!

I bought some trim that kind of matched what TuffShed uses for its window trim. It's got a LOT of texture/wood grain (it may be some kind of engineered material). Basically, I only looked at Home Depot, and just used a redwood board that was only smooth on one side.

I primed the board on Friday after work, so that I could paint it in the morning and cut the hole in the side while it dried. That part of the plan worked rather well. The placement of window is odd, but that's on purpose and luckily the chickens are the only ones who will ever really see it. I put it up as high as I could so that it would be out of the way and in less danger of getting hit by stuff on the workbench. I also mounted it upside down so that the opening was even higher. That way when I put a fan in front of it, it's even further away, and it'll be blowing hotter air out of the shed.

Cutting the hole was messy, but fairly straight forward. It's not perfect -- I really don't like jig saws! Luckily the window and trim and the studs on either side do a great job of hiding my work.

No real issues trimming it out, other than the boards not really sitting flush due to the window trim and the screws in it. But from a few steps away, it looks pretty good.

Next, I'll make a shelf to hold the fan (once I get a fan that is).

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Screw Box Tower

I used to keep various boxes of screws in the top drawer of an old cabinet/cart I got for free (along with some wood cutoffs). The cart is wobbly but it works ok. But I don't like having open the drawer and to get the screws out every time.

I figured it would be easier just to make a kind of shelf/box/caddy thing for them. So I whipped this up out of more scrap wood. I used the router table to cut the slots, but some of them weren't as straight as I'd like. I cut the slots across a single board and then cut that in half on the table saw so I could be sure the slots would line up.

And here it is in all its utile glory:

What I learned:

  • I need a better way to cut the slots
  • I made it too deep, so it was hard to pull the boxes out. I fixed that but putting a small spacer in the back of the cubbies
  • I made it too narrow the first time, had to go back and re-cut the dividers. Then I realized that I had cut the dividers in a very inefficient way, wasting quite a bit of scrap plywood
  • I didn't need the dado slots on the top and bottom
  • The end result is fairly sturdy and I left room on the top to attach the thing to the wall; however, I wonder if making it into a more portable caddy with a handle on the top would have been better. Maybe for version two...

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Soapstone Fun

A few months ago (was it really last fall?) I saw someone had posted a slab of soapstone on Craigslist for free. It had fallen over and broken into two pieces. You can see the trimmed edge of the broken piece in the bottom of that lower photo. That's after cutting off 11 1/4 inches.

The larger piece weighs well over 130 lbs and the smaller piece is probably 50-ish lbs.

I had read that you could cut soapstone with a diamond blade ($8.99) in a circular saw, so I figured I'd give it a try. We have a metal frame end table thing and I was going to make a wood top for it. It's about 11 1/2" by 29" -- and the smaller piece of the soapstone is 30 inches wide and the crack starts at 11 1/4, so we figured it was close enough.

I clamped a straight edge to the stone, put the 7" diamond blade in my ol' Craftsman 7 1/4" circular saw and went to town. It made a lot of dust (I wore a good mask and eye and ear protection for this one) but it seemed to cut ok. The saw kind of fought me but the end result was fine.

Then we took a closer look at the surface and saw quite a few shallow scratches. I figured I'd try out the sander and see if I couldn't smooth things out a bit.

The palm sander and a combination of 80 - 120 - 220 grit paper made quick work of it, and I spent < 20 minutes on the cutting and sanding. It came out much better than I expected and honestly, I'm hoping I can find something to use the rest of the soapstone on. Sanding with the palm sander really worked well. Finally, we applied a light coat of mineral oil and here it is:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Paver Replacement

About 15 years ago I pulled a ton of weeds out of the side yard at the house, and then dug out a bunch of dirt, and then added way too much sand, all so that I could put in some pavers to widen the slim path that ran along the house from out side patio to the back yard.

They actually came out ok, considering how little I researched and how poorly I prepped the site/etc.

Over the years they had settled a bit and eventually some weeds began to grow up through the spaces. We tried hard to keep ahead of the weeds, and managed to keep it a mostly weed-free, mostly/kind of level area.

But then California had a severe, several year long drought and we noticed that the pavers had begun to shift. Some of them sank quite a bit, as much as 3 inches in places. What was happening?

Well, I went out and pulled some pavers up and discovered that the ground under that very thick layer of sand I put down had gotten so dry that it cracked up and began swallowing all the sand!

So I added some dirt in some of the worst spots and tried my best to keep the area safe until I could get around to fixing it.

That time finally came early this month.

I pulled up every paver, wiped them down with gloves to remove most of the sand, dirt, weeds, and moss. Then I stacked them neatly along the cement walkway.

Next I pulled back the sand and discovered that most of the cracks in the soil had magically healed themselves. Weird.

At this point, I _could_ have removed all the sand and tried to put down some kind of underlayment, or found a way to try to prevent that "disappearing sand" issue from happening in the future.

I could have done a lot of things.

But instead I made a board the perfect height for the pavers and used a big piece of PVC pipe I had to level the sand. I actually had to add more sand to get things up to the right height.

I set aside a whole day to level the sand and install the pavers but it ended up taking just 3 hours.

The end result is about as good as it was 15 years ago. If we get another 15 years out of it we'll be happy. I know it's not the right attitude, and I really should have done it "right" but at some point I just ran out of motivation (see my post about the funk below).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Smaller Box

Way back in June I made this box with a sliding lid from Make Magazine (see way below for images/info). This weekend I was in a real funk -- hadn't even stepped foot in the shop in weeks, and had been over a month since I made anything.

But after listening to the most recent episode of the Reclaimed Audio podcast, I vowed to get out into the shop and out of my funk.

So I made a much smaller version of the same box. I used a bunch of scrap wood I had left over from other projects.

Overall, I was fairly pleased with it, though I should spend a lot more time sanding it to make it "cleaner" and the lid was slightly too loose.

I added a movable divide with some "dado" slots. That turned out to be ugly and kind of a waste of time. I thought of this kind of like a pencil box, and I figured you'd want a place to put your erasers and such, and keep them separate from the pencils. I don't know... I don't like the way it looks, but it functions just fine.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Fairy Lights

I saw this project at Darbin Orvar and thought my kids would like them, so I set to work to try to finish in time for christmas.

First things first, I went and bought a hunk of 4"x4" mahogany. I didn't really care what kind of wood (I just knew I wanted hardwood) and so basically I just picked what looked good from the small inventory at the local Woodcraft store.

Then I went to my buddy's house and borrowed his drill press. I bought a forstner bit specifically for this project.

In the end, the only tricky part was figuring out a way to get the recess large enough for the battery pack and not make it all jagged/etc. I used the router table to clean up the edges, but the deepest bit I had was not deep enough, so I hogged out more material with a spade bit. Maybe I should invest in some chisels...

On to some finishing... And then assembly.

The kids liked them, but I think I should have made it a bit easier to turn them off/on. The hole I drilled in the bottom cover is a bit too small.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dresser Conversion

We go this old dresser from some friends of ours. They were getting rid of it as it had definitely seen some better days.

My plan was to convert it into a cabinet by removing the drawers and rails, then adding interior shelves. For the cabinet doors, I pulled the fronts off the drawers and attached them to some plywood.

I left the top row of drawers alone.

I ended up having to do a lot of fixing to the carcass before I could even get started and I'm having a really difficult time matching the stain. I've definitely found one of those skills I'll need to spend a lot of time on if I want to figure out. Matching stain...

Because this is going to be a home for the record player and records, I made sure the shelves were the right height for albums and then reattached the doors. Aside from the stain issue, it's all ready to go. (well, I have to re-attach the knob on the top right drawer, and the top left drawer will likely always have that chunk missing...)