Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Done with one project, on to another!

With the new school year starting, the boys are now busier than ever, which means I'm even busier! But, I've still had time to complete a few minor woodworking projects. And one of them was even on my to-do list!

This past weekend I finally finished the last piece of the bookshelves in our three/four season porch. This project is two years in the making. Let me explain.

When we moved into our current house there was a metal railing around the stairwell that leads to the garage in the porch. The railing was torn out and replaced with bookshelves. Most of the bookshelves actually came from our previous house (the topic of future post). However there was the need for two additional bookshelves to complete the replacement of the rail. One bookshelf was built immediately (as it prevented the kids from falling 7 feet to a concrete floor), and the other bookshelf build was deferred.

Well, I finally quit procrastinating and built the bookshelf. Here it is installed in all its glory.

Nerdy woodworking details: The bookshelf carcass is made from 3/4 inch oak plywood, joined with dowels. The face frame is solid oak, glued and brad nailed to the carcass. The finish is golden oak stain, and three coats of shellac.

Just thought I'd let you know I'm still making sawdust. The same day I installed the bookshelf, I went out and procured the lumber for my next project. Any guess on the final shape this lumber will take on?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Oak Trundle Bed

This bed has been a long time in the making. And I guess, technically, it isn't yet complete. I still have to complete the slide out trundle to complete the entire thing. But, at least my niece is able to enjoy the bed now, as you can see in the first picture.

The bed is made from reclaimed oak flooring from a local home remodel. I've had the wood for a while, but just hadn't been able to use it up very quickly. This project definitely put a big dent in the pile.

After planing off the floor finish, the oak boards that remained were approximately 5/8" thick. To make the bed, I had to do a lot of lamination glue-ups to make the posts and rails. I also made some "balls" to mount on the top of the posts. The close up picture shown is of the prototype. The reason it became the prototype is because there was a large tear out on the other side not shown in the picture.

The next two images are of the milled up boards for the bed, as well as an image of the head board and foot board pieces dry fit together without the slats.

The rest of the pictures are of the bed prior to delivery to my niece.

The slats are 1/2" thick boards that had rabbets cut on both sides to allow the slats to overlap each other. The also have a 1/4" tenon on each end to slide into a slot mortised into the top an bottom rails. A small chamfer along the sides to give the appearance similar to beadboard.

I used some inexpensive pine boards to create the platform for the mattress. I've used plywood in the past for this feature, but I'm finding that I really like having the individual boards. This makes the transportation and assembly of the bed much easier. And I also think it gives the bed a more 'crafted' look.

I finished the bed with Minwax Golden Oak stain, and several coats of Minwax wipe-on polyurethane.

The plans for the bed were really made up as I went along at times. The reason for that was trying to make use of the wood planks I had available. Many of the flooring boards had nail holes to work around. And a large percentage of the boards had grooves cut into the back side, which caused me to have to cut the boards into three strips that were about 2" wide. These were used to make the slats. I had originally planned to put a flat top across the head and foot boards, but I ran out of flooring boards wide enough to use for this purpose. I guess you just have to be flexible!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Shamrock 2014 Projects

Shamrock is the annual fundraising event put on by the parent organization at our parish school.This year I built two items that were included in the silent auction. A big thank you to those of you who purchased the items I built.

After 1st Coat of poly
In thinking about what I wanted to build for the auction, I knew one was a cross of some sort. I've made several in the past, and thought this would be a nice item. Looking around the shop for materials, I came across a slab of walnut that had been sitting in my storage rack for a while. The figuring of the grain is definitely very interesting and beautiful, due to there being a large knot in the middle. In furniture making, that makes for firewood. For wooden 'art', it makes for a conversation piece.

Finished Product
Since the walnut was nearly an inch thick, I decided to make two crosses, using the two thin pieces of walnut as a backdrop. The re-sawing process went about as well as I could have hoped for, given that my bandsaw blade is pretty dull. Since the boards were too wide for my jointer, I just ran them through the planer. I wasn't too worried about them being perfectly flat. Remember, this is art. I have to say I really enjoy having the Byrd SHELIX carbide cutter head in my planer (and jointer). It really brought out the beauty of the walnut without any tearout! To prevent the walnut slab from falling apart, I glued a piece of 1/4 inch hardboard to the back.

For the actual cross, after consulting my wife, I ended up doing a 3D type design, with a maple 'shadow' cross, and a purple heart cross on top. Fairly simple. The crosses were mounted offset from each other, and centered on the large knot in the walnut slab.

I finished the piece with several coats of wipe-on poly. The walnut really soaked up a lot of finish. After the first coat of polyurethane, I could barely tell there was a finish applied!

If I remember correctly, the price got up to $95 during the auction. Not bad for some pieces of scrapwood!

Oak Charging Station
Charging Station
My second item to donate for the auction was more practical. The middle school students are all issued iPads, and are required to keep them fully charged. So, the suggestion was made to create a charging station. As part of the item, I included a 5 port USB charger, capable of charging to iPads, and three smart phones. I based the design on images from Pinterest, and the dimensions for the size of the iPads in the school issued protective cases.

The entire piece was made from a single piece of reclaimed oak flooring. The USB charger is housed under the 'shelf'. The USB charging cables are fed into the charger via slots in the top and sides of the compartment.

As an added design feature, I transferred a copy of the school logo to the wood. The technique I used was one I learned from Jay Bates on YouTube. After staining, I transferred the logo using a woodburner, as described in the video. The logo image has color, but since I printed it using a laser printer, I figured it would work fine, and it did. Because oak has a very open grain, the logo image had a bit of a faded, worn look when transferred. But I think it actually worked out pretty well.

To prevent the logo from smearing when adding the finish, I used a spray polyurethane. I haven't used a spray finish before, but I think it worked pretty well. I still like wipe on finishes better, but overall, it worked fine.

I believe this item fetched a price of $100 at the auction.

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 10th 2014 Weekly Recap

This week has not been the most productive week for me. We had some sad news in that Kristen's grandmother passed away late last week. And so, we were in a mode of trying to figure out the logistics of Kristen getting back to North Dakota for the funeral, and me holding down the fort while she was gone.

I did manage to get some shop time in. As I mentioned last week, I had a plan for reorganizing the garage, and I was able to get a good start on that plan. I also did some preliminary work on a project for the school fundraiser, Shamrock.

So, Monday through Thursday, I was playing Mr Mom, and trying to stay on top of things at work at the same time. Needless to say, that was a dual time job!

Till next week!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 3rd 2014 Weekly Recap

Due to my lack of posting lately on any specific topic, I thought I would highlight some of the things I've been up to this past week. My intention is to make this a recurring post, possibly every Thursday. So, here goes!

This past weekend, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and that allowed me some time in the shop with the garage door open to work on projects. All went well until the kids wanted to head out to play, and asked if I would take a break to go with them. So what did I do? I went with them of course! So we proceeded to head over to the school to hit some baseballs, climb on the playground, and fly a kite! Liam had received a kite at Christmas, so we go the chance to try it out. Here are a few pictures.
The boys all really enjoyed flying the kite, and it was an extremely great day to do it.
As I said, I was working the shop a bit over the weekend. The current big project is a bed for my niece. I'm making the bed out of reclaimed flooring from a friends remodeled house, and the results so far have been very good. I'll post a more detailed report on the bed when it is finished. This week I finished the milling in the posts for the head board and foot board, side rails, and head/foot board slats. I was also able to glue up the foot board, so things are progressing nicely (albeit very much behind schedule).

With the nicer weather we also did some yard work around the house. One big job that got completed was cleaning the sand off the grass along the street. What a difference that task made to the look of the yard! Now we need a little more warm weather and some rain and Liam can start mowing again!

Another small project that was completed was creating a sandbox for the kids. While I'm not looking forward to the sand being everywhere, it is definitely one of those play areas that will get used quite a bit. The kids were very happy to help get the sandbox put together.

Along with the sandbox, the playset got an update in the form of "wear mats". These are meant to be put under the swings to prevent the mulch or rock or rubber chunks that normal people put in as landscaping for play sets from getting displaced. Our purpose was to cover the bare ground (and mud) where the kids have killed off the grass. We would rather have more grass than landscaping, and these mats seem to work quite well for the task.

If anyone remembers back, I had posted that I had created a shelving unit in the kitchen. I finally got some iron on edge banding to cover up particle board, and boy does that shelf look nice now!

Saturday evening we were part of a progressive dinner event. This is a silent auction item at our schools fundraising dinner, that we agreed to host last year. I know, this yeas Shamrock event is coming up soon. This progressive dinner just got scheduled. Anyway, Kristen and I were slated to server dessert. I make a couple of my apple pies, and Kristen made cheesecake bars. Both were a hit, even though everyone was stuffed from the appetizer and main course stops. I hope the couples that participated had a wonderful evening!

This week I decided to ask a fellow woodworking friend for advice on how to organize my garage workshop. His own shop has undergone several transformations, so I figured he would have some insight that would be quite useful. As usual, he made some suggestions that have me chomping at the bit started rearranging the garage. I'm really excited about the plan we came up with, and I'll try to make sure I capture plenty of images of the process.

That's it for this week!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: Unbroken

This book was suggested to me by someone who read my prior book review on "In the Shadow of His Wings". Since I didn't have anything else lined up to read, I started in on the book.

Before getting the book, I read some other reviews and story summaries, so I had an idea of what the book was going to be about. A story of an Olympian, pulled into WWII as a bombardier, and then captured by the Japanese. A story of strength and resilience, of one of the members of the greatest generation of America.

Louie Zamperini is the hero of this true story, and I would have to say he has an equally impressive supporting cast. The men who traveled with Louie through his trials and tribulations during the war are also heroes themselves, all with their own stories of strength and perseverance that only get touched upon in this book as they interweave with Louie's story.

Here is a brief overview of Louie's story. He was a trouble making adolescent in California, who found an outlet in running. He went on to go to the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, and had the skills to potentially break records for the mile. However, due to WWII, the 1940 Olympics were cancelled, and Louie would end up becoming the bombardier in a B-24 stationed in Hawaii and other Pacific islands. His plane went down at sea, and he and two others survived for 47 days on a small raft. One of the men died while they were still lost at sea. They survived only to be captured by the Japanese, and put into prison camps that made surviving in a life raft seem like a cakewalk. In these prison camps, Louie and the other prisoners experienced tortures and starvation, especially at the hands of the prison guard nicknamed the "Bird." Liberation came with the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the initial joy of freedom, followed by the haunting memories and struggle to return to a normal life. Louie was 'liberated' again when attending a Billy Graham revival.

For me, this book was a glimpse into the happenings of WWII in the Pacific. When I think of WWII, I think of Pearl Harbor, and then immediately shift my thinking to Europe and driving back the German army. Of 'D-day', and concentration camps. I watched re-runs of "Hogan's Heroes" on TV, and other European-front based war movies. "Broken" provided a view of WWII that I rarely if ever think about. Especially some of the background on the Japanese advances and goals. This now seems somewhat ironic to me, as my grandfather was stationed in the Pacific during the war, and my mom has a picture of him in front of the "Enola Gay" B-29 bomber that carried the "little boy" to Hiroshima. But that is about all I know, as I don't remember discussions about WWII happening much when I was growing up.

I've taken three business trips to Japan, all in the Osaka/Kobe area, and have thoroughly enjoyed every single trip. The atmosphere I experienced there absolutely did not resonate with the sentiments that are talked about for nearly the entire book in regards to Japanese attitudes, at least of the leadership of the time. Near the end of the book, there was a discussion on the quick repair of US/Japan relations shortly after the war that cleared up some of my confusion. But I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised, as I don't generally think negatively about the relationship the US has with Germany given the similar history during the same time period. In my opinion, there were atrocities committed on all sides, but I have to believe that most people are not war mongering and want peaceful coexistence. Or maybe I'm just very optimistic and naive.

I've heard that there is a movie being filmed about Louie's story, and that Angelina Jolie is directing it (she directs???). The preview seems to at least show many of the highlights of the story that are in the book, and could be quite the show to see.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rolling Out the Dough

Much of this past weekends activities revolved around food. So much for this blog being about woodworking...

And speaking of food blogs, my friend Jake is working on his own food blog, which you can find at http://jakesbbqandfood.blogspot.com/. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he's going to cook up this Summer with his new smoker/grill!

So Sunday morning, I made a large batch of waffles. This is another recipe that I use our ground wheat for, and the resulting waffles have a absolutely delicious "earthy" flavor. Since I have yet to modify this recipe and make my own version, I am willing to share this one! (Alton Brown Basic Waffle Recipe)

Sunday evening, I went forward with my plan to make homemade pasta. When going into this, I actually was pretty excited, as it always seems that freshly made pasta is the best thing since sliced bread when watching cooking shows. So with enthusiasm brimming, I set forth, again following the sage advice of Mr. Brown.

With six kids to feed, I made two batches of dough. For the first batch, I tried to use the method of mixing the egg/water mixture with the flour as I'd seen on those TV cooking shows. Where you create a 'volcano' shape with the flour, pour in the egg/water mix, and combine the two with your fingers. Well, let's just say I have a bit of practice to do on that method. My volcano erupted onto the counter, beginning my first round of frustration. I was able to take all the flour and soak up the liquids that were spreading, and created a very homely looking ball of dough-like substance. I put the ball of whatever into a plastic bag and into the fridge.

For the second batch, I decided to follow the advice my wife had given me on the first batch, by putting the ingredients in a large bowl. After my volcanic eruption, I decided to not be so stubborn in trying to mimic the professional chefs on TV. The results were much cleaner! And I think I got the dough ball to form in a much more correct way, as my fingers wound up the egg/water and flour mixture into a yellow dough. However, I did not incorporate anywhere near enough flour, which became an issue later. This dough ball also went into a plastic bag and into the refrigerator.

Later in the afternoon, I began prepping for supper. The rest of the menu included a garlic tomato sauce for the pasta, asparagus and elk steak. The steak was marinated in a balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce mixture for a couple of hours. The asparagus was snapped in preparation for being sauteed in butter. The garlic was peeled, and the onions sweated. Next, I needed to make some noodles.

Okay, so already being a bit frustrated with my dough making performance, I was hoping to make up for that with the dough rolling. We have a pasta maker, so I figured this would go pretty smoothly. Well, to make a long story a little longer, you run it through pasta rollers. Sorry, had to do it. Anyway, I started with the first batch of dough. You know, the dough like substance. Well, after sitting in the chill box for a while, the dough actually looked pretty good. And it rolled out through the pasta machine decently as well! Sweet! But I will say this. This is not a task for those in a hurry. It is a tedious, time consuming, messy task. And the noodle cutting portion of the pasta roller did not function as well as expected, making the task of creating strands of pasta dough take even longer.

After enlisting the help of my lovely wife, so we would be able to eat sometime this week, I started rolling out the second batch of dough, while she cooked the first, and kept an eye on all the other items. As we were doing this, Kristen noted that we should have thought through the menu a bit more, as the there was absolutely no room on our stove due to three sauce pans and a large pot of water all competing for space. But now on to the issues with the second batch of pasta dough.

Remember how I said I didn't incorporate nearly enough flour into the dough? Well, yeah, that was a problem. The dough may have looked prettier to begin with, but it was an absolutely sticky ball of goo later when I was trying to roll it out. So, lots of flour was brought into play, creating a huge mess, and getting me even more frustrated. Eventually, all the dough was flattened, sliced, and boiled. Ugh!

It was so good I had to eat some before taking a picture!
So how did it all taste? Well, the pasta was very good. Much more tender than your standard dry pasta in a box. I was really loving my garlic tomato sauce, but most of the kids complained about it being to 'spicy' from the garlic. I only used two whole cloves. I mean gee wiz, how else do we keep the vampires away. The steak had a great flavor to it, but for some reason was a little tough. The asparagus was very good, and with it being available is another sign that Spring is here!

I'll definitely be trying the pasta again some day. The dough making process is much more finicky than I expected, so it will take some time to figure out the texture I need to look for. But it will come to me at some point, and I may have to look into making whole wheat pasta as well.