Showing posts with label Woodworking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Woodworking. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Yarn Pet Mod - Platform for One Pound Cakes

My roomate has been picking up knitting and expanding their crochet skills during the pandemic Stay at Home orders.  As a part of their stimulus, they bought a Yarn Pet from Nancy's Knit Knacks.  They have also acquired a yarn ball winder that claimed to be able to do one pound skeins.  The curlicue tensions the yarn as it unwinds from the outside of the cake.  The platforms that came with it were thin circle platforms afixed to a smooth metal spindle with stops and set screws (you can see the spindle and stops above).  The platform holds the cake above the base at the appropriate height for the curlicue.  Small cakes?  Set it high.  Big cake?  How low can you go!

When they actually tried to use the Yarn Pet with the largest cakes (Caron One Pound FTW!), the little platform circles that came with the pet allowed the cake to slump and sag.  The cake would also rub against the curlicue and made it hard to pull.  They were worried about the yarn slipping below the edge and tangling under the cake.

To fix this, I used a board as wide as I could get and made it a circle:
  1. Found a home depot pine board in my scrap bin that was 5 3/4" wide.  Solid wood is preferable to plywood which can get splintery and snag the yarn.  Avoid knots if at all possible.
  2. Cut length to match width.
  3. Find the center by marking two lines from corner to corner
  4. From center, use a protractor to mark 22.5 degree increments to the edge.
  5. Drill a hole in the center mark.  To fit the Yarn Pet spindle, I needed a bit with a width  7/32".
  6. Using a table saw with miter gauge set to 45 degrees or a miter box, cut your square into an octagon
  7. Test your new platform on the spindle.  My square was about a quarter inch too wide at the widest point, but it had plenty of play between a flat side and the curlicue.  I knew trimming it again would allow it to spin freely.
  8. I trimmed my octagon into a hexadecagon by setting my gauge to 22.5 degrees.  (Towards the end of the piece, the side touching your miter gauge will be incredibly small.  Keep a firm grip, and beware of kickback!)
  9. Sand the tarnation out of every surface with 150 up to 220 grit.  You can see in the picture above that I rounded every edge and corner.  I chose not to finish the wood, but I can always go back and do this between knitting projects.

Things learned:
  • I thought the thickness of the platform might be an issue, but it turned out to be perfect for giant cakes. The added thickness prevents the platform from wiggling on the spindle.  You can plane down your board to match the included platform circles, but then I might be worried about their integrity.  As is, the yarn comes off cleanly with the center-line of the cake coming just above the curlicue.  So smooth...
  • When putting the largest cakes on the pet, use the rubber stoppers for spindle-wound skeins to keep the cake centered on the spindle.  This will prevent wobbling due to a loosening center as it is pulled from side to side.
  • If you have a circle of the appropriate width and thickness already, all you need to do is find the center and drill it.  Couldn't be simpler.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Splined Miter Jig and the Resulting Picture Frames

Here are a few pictures from back in 2016 showing a picture frame which was the first thing I made using my brand new jig: a miter sled I built from scratch for my Jet table saw.
The frame is Indian Rosewood. It has a very strong grain and is slightly oily. It was easy to book match, and each corner has a key from some yard cypress. The contrast between the two woods wasn't enough to make them stand out, but it gave the frame lots of strength. The finish is paste wax and nothing else. Very lustrous.
The glue up was really awkward due to the thickness of the piece. I bought strap clamps for next time. I'm not a fan of the simple geometry either. I need to take the time to make a few more shaping passes before cutting the miters. The frame itself kind of consumes the photo placed therein because there is such a deep well between the inside edge and the glass. It is very chunky as a result.
The hardware and glass was bought or salvaged from cheaper frames. I didn't measure right for the glass and had to shave a mm off one side to make it work. Gulp.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


My father passed late last year, and I made three nondescript urns as keepsakes for family and friends. It was the first time I made a box of any respectability since 2000.  I hadn't originally planned to make them when he passed, but making them helped me process things in a difficult time.

I was the responsible party for my father's estate as his wife does not speak English very well. As such, it fell to me to arrange the funeral, notify friends, and start to organize his affairs. I kept it together. The arrangements were made, the bills were covered, and all in a few days. I kept it together, that is, until I tried to return to work. I got ready. I even got in my car to go. But I could not. Instead, I went into the shop and executed a simple design for holding a portion of his ashes.

The material is Indian Rosewood (the same that I used for the magnetic bottle openers). The strong grain made mitered corners a natural choice. I even had enough contiguous grain to try to book-end most sides. I didn't have a keyed or splined miter jig (which could have strengthened the corners), but I figured the lid and bottom would provide a good brace against failure.

Dimensioning the lumber wasn't very difficult; it was the geometry of the corners that caused me real trouble. I left the sides thick to give each box some heft. I eyeballed the lid thickness and shaved down some beautiful figured grain to just the right height (maybe I overshot it a little and had to clean it up later). When I got to cutting the miters, I found that I didn't have any accurate way to match them up. The miter saw was definitely not accurate from cut to cut. I lost a lot of material on the table saw trying to get a canted blade to just the right angle. I finally settled on using my miter sled. I had to cut the sides down a bit to make sure I could make the entire cut in one pass. By the end of this therapeutic day, I had three roughly identical boxes ready for glue-up.

The second half took a few more months to pull off. Uncertainty about the accuracy of the cuts lead me to put the project on hold. Should I delay and try to true then with a shooting board? My girlfriend gave me the most wonderful advice once: when you find yourself rushing a project, put it down and come back later. The parts to three urns marinated on the bench and in my mind for a few months.

A test fit in March didn't seem too bad. The time off convinced me to persevere and get them together. I discovered too late that I mixed up the orientation of the edges. My careful bookends were a jumble on two of the three boxes. However, the imperfect corners and dimensional problems worked to hide the errors amongst each other. Sanding trued up protruding tear-out and splinters without obvious rounded-off corners. Finally, dark stain and some paste wax finished the work of hiding imperfect joints in dark recesses and shiny polished surfaces.

I finished the bottom with plywood. If I had to pick a spot where I'm uncertain about my choices, it's here. Glue is strong, but how will the baltic birch bottom hold up over time? I'm thinking of throwing in some brads there just in case. The bottom served as a canvas whereon I could memorialize my father. I was able to burn the message "Invictus Maneo", the Armstrong Clan (and our ancestral) family motto. Loosely translated, it means, "I remain unconquered."

This entire project was an object lesson in how I'm still learning some of the most basic techniques in woodworking. I need a way to clean up miters that start on the saw. A shooting board or similar has been recommended. Fine adjustments on my existing miter sled might also work. Though it didn't seem too bad once finished, the tearout for certain cuts makes me think I have a dull blade. I'll have to investigate, tune, and try again.

I think I've worked through a phobia of complex geometry. Something my father always talked about is how to hide your mistakes in woodworking. Bookends, miters, and a fitted lid left precious room for that, but I found a few tricks along the way such as meticulous test fitting, blue tape as clamps for difficult pieces, and patience above all. Regardless, I'm looking forward to the next boxes I build. I hope those have a markedly different emotional footprint.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Magnetic Bottle Openers

In the tradition of doing something snazzy for the DEF CON Toxic BBQ, I created a bottle opener that would both mount magnetically as well as catch bottle caps with the same force. 

Amazon had a selection of sturdy bottle openers by Starr X, and a particularly helpful blog post by K & J Magnetics helped me pick out the featured magnet.  I'm relying on the interesting grain of the Indian Rosewood to give the piece character as I didn't have the tools to do a fancy profile, and my router bits are incredibly lacking, so I just went with dog-eared corners and a chamfered edge.  The burning visible on the below pre-finishing shot (accompanied by my favorite Wasatch brew) was due to the bit I used.

The magnet was epoxied in place after I cleared out a spot for it.  In order to prevent the opener from sliding on slick surfaces, I added slightly inset tiny rubber feet.  This also set the opener off from the fridge by just enough that you can get your fingers behind it to pry it off with ease. Lots of sanding from 100 to 600 grit made a great smooth base for some stain and spar urethane.  After three days of curing time, I plopped it on the post at the Toxic BBQ and had a pile of at least 50 caps by the time the night was through.  A great first run!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Space Hulk: Death Angel in a Cigar Box

The Plan

Space Hulk: Death Angel is a 1-6 player card game as brutal as its predecessor.  It has a ton of expansions, and it quickly outgrew its box.  I love to play this as a time killer while waiting for family or board game night to start.  It is brutal enough that it could be over in 5 minutes, but it is complex enough to withstand repeated plays.  I wanted a replacement box to be sturdy enough for for transport with the modern features of board game boxes that made parts easy to find and keep organized.  

I decided to go with a black Sancho Panza box.  After the labels were removed with acetone, I removed the inner lining and deororized the whole box with Odor-xit, an amazing oxidizer.  I lightly sanded the inside and blew it out, just in case.

Modern enhancements were card sleeves and push.pop style card storage.  Card sleeves let me play almost anywhere.  The Fantasy Flight sleeves were well matched for size.  The push/pop method of card storage was introduced to me with Lords of Waterdeep.  The insert in that game allows you the push down on one side of a deck of cards and pop up the whole deck at once.  No more groping in the bottom of the well for that one last card.  

Once I had my features, I sketched out a plan.  I calculated the height of the interior of the cigar box, and I left a little room for a rule book to sit on top.  The cards would be separated into six piles.  With the different expansions, this worked out pretty well.  Sleeved, only one pile gives me trouble and slips out regularly.  Each partition was made from 1/4" baltic birch cabinet plywood I had a sheet of.  This stuff is great for ripping into strips.  I used it on the Dominion Case as well.  I then notched the corners to make sure they fit in the box easier.  The final step was to cut slots into the horizontal divider and a single slot in the vertical dividers.  This was mostly done by feel.  I cut the outside edges, cleaned up the center and tested the fit.  This was repeated until I was satisfied.

Overall, the box had dramatically improved the portability of the game with all its expansions.  The box complements the game itself in its simplicity and order.

Lessons Learned

  1. I did not leave room for the rule book at first.  I had to chop down the height of the dividers once I realized the oversight.
  2. I originally slotted the vertical dividers x 2 on the wrong side of the measurement.  This left half of the cards with a much tighter fit.  It took me a it to figure out what I'd done, and I was unable to salvage those dividers.  When making cuts in "The Middle", ensure you have things in the exact middle by flipping your pieces around once they have been marked.  The middle should be in the same place on both pieces.
  3. Removing the exterior lining may not have been the best way to do things.  The biggest problem with this box is that the cards will slip out through the gap between the lid and the bottom.  Moving the push/pop dowels to the outside edge could fix this too.  The sleeves would probably need to come off if the second option was used as the interior would lose 1/16" on all sides.
  4. Salvaged cigar boxes need better hardware.  Especially when transporting them, it is important that all components remain secure.  A swing latch could greatly increase the ability to keep the lid closed beyond the simple latches on the cigar boxes.  I'm going to pick some up and make some recommendations in a future post.

Monday, July 28, 2014

DnD Table 3 and 4


Our gaming table has gone through many phases.  The first was an 8x4 foot sheet of plywood on some sawhorses.  We wrapped it in felt and stapled it down, but the felt kept pilling and it was hard to replace.  We chopped it down to 6 feet, split it down the middle and swapped vinyl for felt, but the legs were still hard to store.  The third mod was to replace the cumbersome legs.  The fourth was a new and lighter table top.

This has been useful for gaming, crafts and many other activities.  It is light weight and takes up very little room.  We keep ours in the garage and pull it out when we need it.

The Legs

Lowe's had some really nice seasoned 2x3's.  A few hours and chop saw got me a new set of legs.  The chief features of the table are its simple construction and plentiful leg room.  It has been a chore to find a good way to attach the top to there, however.  Overall, the legs have been maintenance and trouble free.  If I borrowed the design from somewhere, I have forgotten it.  If you attempt to replicate it, read all instructions first, measure twice and cut once, and always wear your safety glasses.

The cut list is basic and can be created from six 8 foot 2x3's, Not compound angles are needed, but the legs have angled cuts.  The measurements below rely on the geometry of your lumber being moderately predictable: Two 2x3's together should come out to 3 inches.  You may have to adjust the length of your interior cuts if this is not the case:
  • Outside Length: 72" x 2
  • Inside Length: 69" x 2
  • Outside Width: 27" x 2
  • Inside Width: 21" x 2
  • Legs: 30"+ x 4
  • Blocks: 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" x 4 (mine are from oak as that's what I had lying around)
  • Lots of 2 1/2" construction screws
  • 4x 5 1/2" Carriage Bolts with Washers and Nuts

Assembly of the top is also basic.  Remember to drill pilot holes for all screws ans work from the inside out:
  1. Inside Width -> Inside Length 
  2. Inside Length -> Outside Width
  3. Outside Width -> Outside Length
The legs can be tricky to position depending how high you want the table top.  For my 24" height top, the legs are 26 1/2" with a 75 degree cuts at both ends (making a parallelogram and not a trapezoid).  The legs meet in the center of the table top.  The math to place the hole precisely has been lost, but those inclined should have no trouble replicating it.  In general, slip your uncut legs into the slots between the Inside and Outside Length so that they meet in the middle.  At a point between 9 and 11.5 inches from the end of the table end, drill the hole for your carriage bolt through both Inside Length, the Leg and Outside Length.  Make sure the hole is not closer than 2 3/4" from the end of the Leg.  Thread the bolt through the hole and test your leg height.  Cut your leg into a parallelogram to maximize contact with the floor and minimize interference with the table top.  Position the Blocks to ensure the legs only rotate a certain amount.

If all goes well, you should have a sturdy and light set of legs to use as a base for any table top you can dream of.  The method of attaching the top to the base is discussed in the next section.

The Top

The latest addition was a lighter table top.  Previously, we used a piece of 3/4" Oak Plywood with vinyl stapled to it.  This was extremely sturdy and stable, but it was a huge pain to move.  I designed the new top to be light and attach directly to the legs.

Much like the legs, the top was stick framed using flashing from Lowe's.  This time, 1x2's provided a good base, and Kreg Pocket Hole joinery held everything together.  Along the center line, two lengths are abuttewd to provide enough surface area for the hinges.  Instead of heavy plywood, I used a thin luan top.  All this was wrapped in vinyl again (the most successful table covering we've had thus far).  Unlike previous folding incarnations, the vinyl was split in two pieces and each half of the hinged top was wrapped separately.  The cut list for my 6' 6" top is below.  The Inside Stiles are not required to be the listed lengths as long as their total lengths come under 72".  I placed them so they would fit between the blocks in the legs and help the top align to the legs.  Your mileage may vary; see lessons learned below.  As always, your local dimensional lumber may vary, measure twice, cut once, and always wear your safety glasses:

  • Outside Stile: 78" x 4
  • Rail: 19" x 8
  • Inside Stile (Ends): 17 7/16 x 8
  • Inside Stile (Center): 37 1/8" x 2

Assembly is a little trickier than the Legs.  With your pocket hole jig, join the Outside Stile to the Rails at both ends.  Use the Inside Stiles to locate where to place the inside Rail.  Add the Inside Stiles to make a double-layer of wood in the center of the table-top to better brace the hinges.

With two halves of a table top in hand, it is time to locate the hinges.  Match the hinge location to your legs so they won't interfere with how the table sits flush.  The vinyl wrapped on the side that will be the center of the table will need to be relieved where the hinges will go.  I chose to wrap after attaching the hinges.  I now feel this was a mistake. In the pic above, I've routed out a place for my hinges.  In practice, I didn't need to do this.  Just clamp the table halves together after the vinyl is in place, locate your hinges parallel and centered on the joint and screw in place.

I have tried many things to secure the table top with a minimum of fuss.  Right now, I'm using machine screws and associated sockets sunk into the top.  The screws thread through the legs and into the top.  They require climbing under the table.

Lessons Learned

  1. I would decide on a method of attaching the table before I started building.  The primary candidate is a Sash Lock.  Placed correctly, it would easily lock the legs to the table top without climbing under each time.
  2. I would avoid insetting the hinges.  Instead, careful placement would allow the hinges to be used without interfering with the mating of table top and legs.
  3. I would wrap the vinyl completely around the top so all stapling was done on the bottom.
  4. I would not tell my gaming group how much better this version of the table was until after it had proven itself.  I have gotten no end of grief every time I climb under it to hook the two together.  What are friends for, eh?

Bonus Shot: Plans

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Updated: Random Shop Projects

Cat Tower

We needed a new cat tower due to acquiring a monster of a tom.  Might as well do it right!.  I wrapped the columns in sisal (one roll of Lowe's Blue Hawk lasted about a foot and a half), made the base double-thick plywood, and wrapped all horizontal surfaces in carpet.  There are a brazillion staples in that thing.

I wish I had purchased round posts instead of these ungainly square ones.  Not only were they more difficult to wrap, but the sisal seems to pull away and tear easier when it sits a quarter inch from the surface in the middle of each face.  The next model will have pillars, and I have half a mind to glue the sisal in place to lengthen the time it takes to get into such disrepair.

Update: I made a small tower for upstairs and glued the sisal in place.  It seems to be holding up much better over time.  Instead of using square pylons, I used redwood ties from Lawn and Garden.  They wrapped much nicer than the square ones.  It is held by a single bolt and, as of this writing, has broken once when someone fell on it.  Eep!

Vacuum Tool Holder

This serviceable Shop Vac tool holder plan came in via Shop Notes.  The tools are sitting atop PVC end caps of a fitting size.  It took longer to find the parts than it did to assemble the thing.

Miter Sled

Shop Notes, Woodworking for Mere Mortals and a bunch of Indian Rosewood acted as a catalyst to get me to build a Miter Sled.  I hate miters on a contractor's chop saw.  The constant adjustment leads to endless headaches.  The sled eliminates this with a stable 90 degree platform that facilitates perfect cuts every time.

The base is plywood, and I followed the techniques of the above YouTube video to get my rails aligned.  To each arm, I added T-Track and will build stop blocks.  These will be invaluable for building boxes and lots of picture frames in the same size. 

Now all I need is a spline jig that stands the miter on end and allows reinforcing slots to be added...

Bonus Shots

Miter Sled Plans

Garage Shelves Plans

Bitz Wall for Blue Table Painting 

Page 2

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Table Saw Rehab Results

Executed the checklist from a previous post.  Here are before and after picks of the absolutely filthy top.  Ended up going at it with Krud Kutter, then a palm sander with WD-40, then razor blades.  It is sealed using Minwax Paste Wax and is as smooth as glass.

These stains were caused by paint and primer used for preparing Warhammer miniatures:
 I may have abused the garage lights to maximize shininess:
I still need to fabricate something to choke off the cabinet and force more dust through the vacuum hose.  Also, the router table needs some work to make sure the melamine has all residue removed.

Dominion Case from Hobby Lobby Box and Baltic Birch 6 Ply, 5/16ths


Box is a generic Wooden Artist Case from Hobby Lobby.  The case fits Dominion and all expansions.  Walls are Baltic Birch 6 ply.  The exterior walls are glued in place, but the interior ones are not.  It is designed to hold at least 3000 cards.  The card separators are sized for sports cards and will get labels eventually.

To add detail to the cover, I used a Harbor Freight Wood Burning Kit similar to this one from Amazon and a blown up card back image.  I taped the image in place and traced over it with a ballpoint pen.  After going over the trace lines with the wood burner's pointed tip, I shaded it with the wedge tip.
I still need to put finish on the cover of the case.  I'm worried about the burning rubbing off over time.  I also need to add labels to the card dividers.

Take Aways

  • I would make the outside edge of the exterior walls come below the edge of the box.  This would allow the box to close more easily.  Right now, it is a tight fit.
  • I would sand off the finish from the cover before wood burning.  I probably will get lung cancer from the fumes I breathed in while doing this.

Bonus Shots

Bookshelf with Custom Doors from Oak Plywood, Solid Oak

Bookshelf I finished recently.  7ft by 30 inches by 11 inches deep.

Started in the (now closed) woodshop at Durango High School thanks to Cooperative Extension classes through CSN.  These are now happening at a private business in North Las Vegas about a block from where I used to live as a child.

It is in place upstairs and is filled with Dungeons and Dragons books.

Gluing on the molding:
 Dry fit before sanding:
 Sanded and stained:
 All done:

I would make a shelf for the cabinet section as well.  This is something I might add in the future.  Right now, it holds D&D miniatures, so the space is full regardless.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Table Saw Tune-up Checklist

Tools Needed

  • Wrench to remove blade
  • Dial Indicator
  • Ruler
  • Vacuum
  • Compressor
  • Dry Lubricant
  • Top Cleaner
  • Scouring Pad
  • Top Wax (Paste Wax)
  • Emery cloth
  • Center punch and hammer\


  • Blow out the motor
  • Clean out the inside of the saw.  You’ll thank me later.
  • Check the stability of the stand and any table extensions.  Tighten or replace
  • Arbor: Sideways movement (Bearings)
  • Arbor: Rotate and check with Dial Indicator
  • Arbor Washer: burrs, bends, blemishes
  • Blade: Good fit on Arbor, hole is centered, doesn’t wobble
  • Pulley and Belt: High Spots, fraying, worn spots, cuts, cracks
  • Plug in saw
  • Belt while saw is on: Doesn’t climb the pulleys, straight travel
  • If Belt Replacement suggested, Segmented belt?
  • Pulleys: Aligned on center? Ruler runs between?
  • Pulleys: If cast, is the hole drilled on center?
  • Square the fence to the table
  • Square the blade to the table using the fence:
    • Raise the blade
    • Move the fence to the blade: Front and back blade tips should touch
    • If not, loosen trunnions underneath table
    • Move blade into alignment
    • Clamp blade between fence and some wood
    • Apply loctite and tighten trunnions
  • While underneath table, clean out worm gears of blade elevator and pitch or angle set
  • Lubricate worm gears with dry grease
  • Tune Mitre Gauge:
    • Polish down tight spots with emery cloth
    • Dimple the guide bar with a center punch to solve loose spots
  • Clean the top to remove paint, stains and finishes
  • Apply a paste wax to the top and leave overnight
  • Clean the blade with a specialty blade cleaner to remove pitch and other residue.

Repeat Regularly

  • Clean blade
  • Blow out motor
  • Wax the top
  • Check for vibration

Distilled from a doc that mentions