Tag Archive: Woodworking



OK, so I DID get time to work on the plans while on vacation, before the huge ice storm hit. Hurrah! I’ve got two small things to finish up with section 3 and then I’ll be able to get a PDF update of the plans posted. I’m hoping to get this done over the weekend, provided I don’t spend all my time swearing at fixing my broken garage door opener.

Basically left to do for section 3 is to move around a few of the images (since the 2000 version of word on the craptop I used handles image placement about as stupidly as one could imagine), and create a few screen captures of the CAD drawings for a new Diagram PDF. So, about an hour of work since I have to re-install the drafting program on my rebuilt system.

Continue reading

I need a spark of ambition


I got a lot of work done on the yarn ball winder project in November, which is good because I’d been neglecting the project for too long. I finished up most of the CAD drawings of the wooden pieces, re-did the first part of the of the instructions and added images within them, I worked through my huge folder of images and got them sorted, and I wrote up the directions for the second part of the winder and started writing up the third part.

Yet, there is still so much more to do before I can get the next revision posted up on the blog here, and worse yet, I can’t seem to be able to drag my carcass to the computer to do it. Part of that I legitimately can blame on Tron. He’s a very needy child and does not countenance his parents to have free time while he’s awake (I may have mentioned once or twice what a handful he is). Even his grandparents, who had a house with 3 children in it, are continually surprised that he does not play with toys much, but would rather lead a person around the house for hours and point at things he’s not allowed to have (DVD cases, glass jars, candy, the calendar, etc). Apparently Tron is more work than all three of their kids were combined and is the highest maintenance child they have ever encountered. If he does play with toys, he needs an audience. Not a playmate, mind you, but an audience. If he doesn’t have an audience he goes and gets one. Thus I rarely get more than 5-10 minutes at a time at my desk while he’s awake. I’ll sit down, be there for a few minutes of tinkering before he comes over, spins my chair around, and pulls me up out of it so that I can watch him play, give him milk, demand candy and scream when I don’t give it to him, demand to go upstairs/into the basement, or tackle me on the floor. That’s fine, but such an environment doesn’t lend well to writing up a woodworking tutorial.
Continue reading

Good Luck Nano Participants!


For those who are doing nano this year, in some shape or another, good luck to you!

Around these parts, my wife and a few of our friends are giving it a go this year, and as previously stated, I’m going to be with them in spirit. First up on my plate is the Yarn Ball Winder project. I’ve got, roughly, 200 pictures to sort through. This includes putting some in with the primary write up and then putting them ALL in a supplementary figures and diagrams section. It wasn’t until three days ago that I realized that I could put a picture into a text box, so that will speed things up significantly. Once I get that all done, I’ll be adding it to the project page for the Yarn Ball Winder. As it stands, the winder is maybe 75% complete. I’ve got just about everything made aside from the offset spindle, I may pull the project inside this winter and get it finished up, but I’ll have to see how things are going. There is one part that I may need to redo because I really don’t like how it turned out; however, given that it is a kludgy project, if it works I’ll probably keep it.

I recently found a site that may help me significantly when building my second, aesthetic winder: Woodgears.ca

Woodgears.ca is a seriously neat site for those of the woodworking persuasion. Lots of projects and jigs to drool over, plus he has a free online wooden gear drafting app based on his pay-for program. That’s just the ticket for achieving the 90º angle I planned for the aesthetic winder.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


This week’s geek craft is a nifty Tardis Cat Playpen.

Not a lot to say about this other than to stare in stunned awe. I wish to build one of these.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Woodworking Plans


With the weather getting cooler and generally more pleasant here, I’ll be getting more opportunities to get outside and work on the pleathora of projects I have that need attention. Specifically I’ve got a workbench that needs finishing up, a yarn-ball-winder that’s almost done, a few garden beds that need to be ripped up and redone, a “cat-blocker” to make for the craft room’s door, a kitty scratching post, and a portable laptop desk that I want to get finished up before it gets too cold to work outside. A lot on my plate, for sure; especially with a pool that will need to be winterized in a few weeks; a lawn that needs to undergo several weed-treatments, feeds, and reseeding; and a toddler who goes out of his way to make sure his parents don’t get anything useful done. I’ll feel accomplished if I get even half of my list taken care of.

Anyway, with getting out to the workshop a bit more before the onset of winter, I thought I’d share one of my resources with all of my readers (all 3 of them). Most of the time when I’m going to build something, the first thing I do is check and see if somebody has already designed it for me (or at least something similar). If it’s already been designed then it makes my job easy, especially if that design is available free.

The first place I always go is Free Woodworking Plans. They have a huge number of plans linked in a wide range of project types. If they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, they’ll at least have something pretty close. Google is another great resource too, and doing a simple search for plans matching what you want to build can return a plethora of both free and pay-for plans, and an image search can provide lots of ideas if you want to design it yourself.

Now generally my projects happen in 3 to 4 parts:

  • Project aims and research
    • First I determine exactly what I want to build by determining what I want to accomplish
      • This generally prevents over-engineering or scope run-away.  A lot of projects that I start with only a vauge idea tend to get carried away and snowball on me.  Taking time to outline exactly what I’m trying to accomplish can help me focus on what I actually need to do
    • From there I do research.
      • I check and see if anyone has a free plan for exactly what I’m trying to build.  If I don’t have to re-invent the wheel then I can save time
      • If there are no free plans, I then look at purchasable plans.  Most of the time purchasable plans are unrealistically expensive, so I’ve had spotty luck with buying plans.  Sometimes I’ll find that a plan has been published in a magazine, and as my father has every woodworking magazine known to man, I can sometimes leech an issue off of him.
      • If I can’t get plans in a reasonable fashion, I research built samples of what I’m trying to do.  I save pictures that match close to what I’m trying to accomplish and deconstruct what I think the builder did to make the piece.  I’ll often gather over a dozen samples of different work so that I can piece together samples of different design ideas.
  • Design
    • More often than not, I won’t have any actual plans to work from.  But if I do manage to get plans this step is skipped.
    • Once I’ve got all my research done, it’s time to break out the graph paper!  One of the best ever websites is Incompetech’s Free Online Graph Paper site.  I use this page all the time for making project graphpaper.
      • My favorite for woodworking graph is to set up a square multiwidth graph paper with the following settings:  large grid weight 0.7, medium grid weight 0.3, largest grid spacing 2 Lines per inch, medium grid spacing 12 lines per inch, small grid spacing 0 lines per inch.  Everything else left as default.
      • Those settings produces a grid that works very well for woodworking when using English based (inches/feet) measurements.
    • It’s all about drafting at this point.  Using a combination of a straight edge, compass, and protractor I hash out a scale design of what I want to make.
      • It’s at this point where I decide what materials I’ll need, and more importantly what kind of wood I’ll be using.
      • Joints and special techniques are also outlined and decided upon so that I know whether the project can be built with existing tools, or if I’ll need to buy anything new or make a special jig.
      • I also include a wood list, and a cutting diagram in my design.  This way I can determin how much wood to buy and how I’m going to cut everything. 
      • Laying all this out first reduces the amount of waste lumber I produce, and consolidation of cutting generally means I can minimize the amount of wood that needs to be purchased.  This consolidation also tends to produce a few larger pieces of scrap lumber rather than lots of little pieces.  Larger pieces of scrap are more desireable as they are of greater use in future projects.
    • Once I’m happy with the design I move on to the next part
  • Purchasing
    • I buy the wood and hardware necessary to build the project. 
      • For larger projects I may stage the purchasing and building into smaller phases.  As with all projects I run into the occasional issue and have to do a quick modification to the design.
      • Building larger projects in smaller steps reduces the amount of parts that are rendered obsolete due to a required design change.  I buy and put together phase 1, and then make sure phase 2 looks like it’s going to go accordingto plan, or if I need to make a revision before continuing.
      • Smaller steps also allow some extra latitude for buying some parts inexpensively online that need extra time to ship.  EG: I can be working on phase 1 while awaiting phase 2 parts to arrive.
  • Building
    • Pretty much as you would imagine: I build the project (or the current phase).
    • If I’ve done my due dilligence I shouldn’t need to deviate too much from the plans I made/downloaded/purchased.
      • Rarely do things go 100% according to plan.  Even when building from somebody else’s design often you’ll run into parts that  you can’t do as they designed, the designer doesn’t properly explain what they’re doing, or you think “why did they do it this way?” and improve their design with your own methods.

And that’s pretty much it.  I try to keep most of the patterns I draft up with any notes of changes I do, but a lot of my projects are pretty specific (Like custom workbenches for the basement) so my plans end up getting tossed or lost when I’ve got everything done.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


One craft that I’ve been thinking about doing but have yet to tackle is using squares of wood to create 8-bit sprites for decorating my basement. This particular craft has been around for a while, but none of the crafters I’ve seen have nearly the talent for these recreations as the fellow at 8BitWood has.

Specifically, his use of wood stain and grain direction to produce some of his pieces is just amazing! It creates the burning desire to create wooden sprite masterpieces!

Gentlemen, I present the mother load.

If only I didn’t have so many other projects waiting for my attention.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


Since it’s been a while since I posted an update on the winder, I figured I’d toss up a small update on it.

Currently the heat wave has chased me away from the garage* so I haven’t had too much an opportunity to work on it of late. Combine that with an unusually busy life, and it doesn’t make for the most productive TacoMagic. With yesterday’s weird hours (I had to be at work at 5am instead of my usual 8am) and my insomnia, now my schedule is all borked as well. Yay! All I’ve been able to make myself do this week is play Gemcraft Labyrinth and develop what I call my “Butt-kicking machine” within the game. I’ve almost perfected the butt-kicking machine, by the way.

Anyway, the current status of the project is as follows: The crank is done, aside from a final sanding and painting. The base is done, aside from sanding, painting, and drilling a 1/4″ hole. And, the primary spindle is now at about 70% complete. The primary spindle just needs me to attach the 135º angle brackets and extension arm to be finished… aside from the usual painting and sanding. However, my work on the spindle is pretty ugly and I’ve got some serious worries about it spinning straight. Should it fail to spin correctly I may need to redo the whole thing; but I won’t know if it’ll work until I assemble it.

After the spindle I still have to build the rotating spool, the tensioning belt, and the yarn guide. All told I figure I’m about 60% done with the project, so it’s all coming together. I also took some time and went over all my receipts to find out just how much I’d spent on the winder. I’d figured I’d spent about $20-22, and was delighted to find that I’ve only actually spent $18. Granted a lot of the hardware in the winder I already had on hand, so if you were to add that into the figure it would hit much closer to $25 (depending on how cheap you can find 1/4×20 hardware). This gives me tons of leeway to buy paint and still come in under my budget of $30 for the winder.

Here’s a quick lo-down on everything that’s gone into the winder; currently this appears to be the complete list, but there may be an addition or two if I run into something unexpected:

  • Scrap ply-wood 3/4″ thick and 1/2″ thick. If you were to buy the wood, you would probably be looking at about 2 2’x4′ pieces, which would run about $20 pre-cut.  Since I used scrap wood, my effective cost is $0. 
    • You can get free construction or shop grade plywood from construction dumpsters pretty easily or on freecycle/craigslist, so hopefully one would be able to acquire it free.
  • Hard-drive motor and platter assembly: $0.
    • If nothing else you could probably snag one from a swap-fest for a dollar or two.
    • You could substitute a Lazy Susan bearing for about $6
  • 1/2″ x 5″ hex bolt with 2 nuts and 3 washers:  $3.50
    • Sadly I bought this hardware about a month before I found exactly what I needed for free in a construction dumpster.  So if you get lucky this is an avoidable cost.
  • 2′ section of 1/4″x20 all-thread:  $1
    • Again, purchased and then found for free in a construction dumpster a number of weeks later.  Avoidable cost, but not a bank breaker by any means.
  • 1/4″x20 hardware.  About a dozen nuts, flat washers of varying diameters, and locking washers:  $0
    • I have a lot of this hardware just laying around because I work with 1/4″x20 a LOT.  However, I priced it out at the hardware store when I was there, for all the nuts, washers, and locking washers you would need to pay $3 or less.  You can also find a lot of 1/4″x20 hardware in construction dumpsters as it is an extremely common thread.
  • 4x 608z 8x8x22mm Skateboard bearings: $9 ($8.57 rounded up).
    • I actually got 8 of these for $8.57, but I always count whole cost against a project so that overstock retains a $0 cost for future projects. 
    • The 608z is a very nice bearing.  It is very quiet and smooth.  The only issue I have with them is that it’s pretty easy to damage them with shock, so don’t drop them from hight or subject them to a lot of perpendicular stress.  As they are going to be light duty (at most 4-5 pounds of perpendicular weight bearing) I foresee no issues using them in the project.
    • You could probably press out a set of bearings from a used skateboard or set of rollerblades; however stock bearings in these items tend to be fairly noisy and you have no guarantee that they will be of the desired size or even in good condition.  Since the project was proceeding far under budget, I think spending the $9 on good bearings is an acceptable cost.
  • 2′ section of 1/2″ schedule C PVC: $1.25
    • Most of the stuff in the construction bin was fairly grungy and I wanted something clean as it is being used as a handle and the yarn spool.  I just broke down and bought a hunk of it from the hardware store.  If I’d taken some time and cleaned up the free piping I could have done this for free.
  • 2x 2″ C-clamps: $3
    • These are for affixing the winder to a table top.  You may need bigger clamps if you have a thick table.
    • I don’t think you can really avoid this cost without adding a lot of extra construction time to the project.  But cheap-o c-clamps are easy to find and don’t really break the bank.  I snagged mine from Harbor-freight on sale for 1.50 each.
  • Wood glue: $0
    • I already have wood glue, so it’s cost was already absorbed in a previous project.  You can get a small bottle of glue for about $1 if you happen to need some.
  • 2x 90º angle brackets.  0.80
    • This cost could be avoided by doing something more complicated for the 135º angle of the spool, but the brackets were cheap and makes the whole thing really easy.
  • Screws: $0.80
    • If there’s one thing I have a lot of, it’s screws.  I only needed to buy one pack of #6×1/2″ sheet metal screws for the 135º brackets.  Otherwise I also used a set of 6 3/4 screws that would probably have cost $0.75 or so for a pack of 12.  There is also a screw that I’ll be using on the spool, which could come from that same pack of 3/4 inch screws.
  • Screw threaded hooks: $0
    • Again, left over hardware from previous projects.  You can usually find these for about $0.15 each.
  • Glue for the tensioning belt $0?
    • This is one of the question marks of the project, as it’s going to be the last step of the project.  I’m thinking I may just be able to use either rubber cement or Shoe Goo, which I have laying around.  Otherwise I’ll need to buy a tube of flex bond or vulcanizing rubber cement, which will range from $3-$6.
  • Paint ?
    • Haven’t purchased the paint yet, so I don’t have a cost here.  Most likely less than $10, and it’s a hugely optional expense.  The end product would be good enough if you just sanded it with a fine enough grit sandpaper to get it smooth.  At most you might need to do a little void filling with either glue or wood fill.

And that’s it.  Total out of pocket spending (ideal) is $19, no more than 30 when I get some paint… though I have a lot of spare house paint laying around that I might be able to use; though it might not look as good as using a spray paint.

Mandatory spending, if you were to buy everything you needed would be around $55; $65 if you paint it. Again, there are a lot of things that can be acquired cheap/free for this project, so utilize your inner scavenger to save over 50% of the cost of this project.

I’ve also had an opportunity to work on the plans some more.  I’ve got most of the writing done for the first two construction sections (base and crank) I just have to insert the figures and add the figure references to the text (Which is a much bigger job than one would think).  After I get some of my Library of the Damned workload finished, I’ll shift back to the yarn ball winder plans and see if I can squeeze out an update sometime next week.  Since it’s getting hot outside, I should have some more opportunities to do writing in the near future.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

*If the temperatures climb above 75ºF or so, I start sweating like crazy and become miserable.  My low tolerance for mildly high temperatures means that the months of July/August don’t often find me out in the shop.  I mow the lawn, do some gardening, and then retreat back indoors for a cold shower.


I’ve been showcasing a disproportionate number of video game inspired crafts on my blog, so for the next few weeks I’m going to try to even things out by showcasing a wider world of geeky crafts. So for today, let’s do some Dr. Who!

I was geeking around online (It’s a real term, look it up) and looking at Tardis replicas. Yeah, that’s what I do for fun. Moving on. Anyway, while so enthralled with the sheer number and sizes of Tardis replicas I stumbled upon a Tardis Sewing Kit that I just had to share.

It's bigger on the inside.

Now, while there aren’t any plans for making it, there are plenty of pictures of it that it would be easy enough to figure out. And, with a few improvements you could have a really, really nice and geeky sewing kit. In fact, with the right modifications you could change that little sewing kit into any number of little carrying cases or holders. Or simplify the whole thing and you could, at the very least, have a Tardis pen and pencil holder for you desk at work! Let everyone at work know that you are to be avoided with one simple project. Or maybe a Tardis houseplant pot… so many things you can Tardisify (also a real term).

Squee!

Actually, now I really want to make myself a Tardis Tackle-box to take fishing…

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?