Monday, July 17, 2017

Triquetra Table with Roses

Some consumers, such as pagans, wiccans and occult enthusiasts, are under served by the mainstream manufacturing community. It can be very difficult for someone with interest in those subcultures to find commercially available items for ritual use, home decoration , or even basic functional items that are made in a style that reflects the aesthetic of their chosen life path. Which is to say- it can be hard to find things with pentagrams on them. It is especially difficult in an area like mine, which is not particularly liberal or tolerant of non-christian cultures. Before the internet, there were a handful of mail order houses you could turn to, and other than that, you were on your own to make whatever you needed. That is why I spend a lot of my time scouring the marketplace for items with "up-cycling" potential. I look for things I can buy cheaply and then modify them to appeal to a more niche market.

Take this nice oak veneer end table, for example. I found this at a discount store for a very good price, and it just screamed out to me to have a big ol' occult symbol emblazoned across it (and then, of course, to be resold for a reasonable profit). Some of the items I up-cycle get substantial modifications. Others, like this table, just need a little paint.

To make these modifications, I first took the top of the table off so that it would be easier to work on. Then I covered the table top with a mask. Sometimes I will use vinyl contact paper, but this time I used masking tape. Some months back, I found a couple of rolls of masking tape that were about 12 inches wide. I had never seen rolls that wide before, so I grabbed them. This looked like the perfect project to try them out.

Next, I selected my design elements. I went with a triquetra for the center of the table, and then roses around the edge. The triquetra I got from a vector image I downloaded online. I printed it out to scale, (which took two pieces of paper that got taped together) and spray glued it to the center of the table, right onto the masking tape.

The roses came from several stencils I had bought from the craft store. Unfortunately, no single stencil gave me the look I was after, so I had to Frankenstein the images together, one piece at a time. I traced the rose images right onto the masking tape with a pencil. I probably should have used a marker. The lines were a little hard to see. But I wasn't sure if I would need to erase. I was making up the layout as I went along.

Then came the laborious and oh so tedious task of cutting the images out with an x-acto knife. Those roses took a LOT of time to cut out. I think I worked on them for about two days.

Once the images were all cut out, I masked off all the roses and painted the triquetra with several light coats of gold spray paint.

When that was dry, I masked off the triquetra, uncovered the roses, and masked off just the flowers themselves, and gave a quick light base coat of white over the stems and leaves before spray painting them green. Again, I waited for that to dry thoroughly before unmasking the flowers, and masking the stems and leaves. Again, I gave the flowers a light base coat of white before spray painting the roses red.

After all the paint was dry, I removed the masking tape from the entire table top and inspected it for errors. I did find one spot where I must have made a mistake cutting the mask. There was paint connecting two parts of a stem that should not have been connected. It was a small area, and luckily, I was able to lightly scrape the paint off with a razor knife without damaging anything. Finally, I put three light coats of spray spar urethane over the whole top.


Most up-cycle paint jobs like this I can do in less than a day, but the intricacy of the roses really ate up some time. I worked on this project for about four days total (including drying time), and I will sell it for about 2-3 times what I paid for it. Which is probably still in line with, or even less than, what someone would have to pay if they found something like this online. Projects like this are really only economically feasible if I can buy the base item at a substantial discount. Unfortunately, that means that most of my up-cycled projects are one-offs, because I find the base items at discount closeout stores, and I won't be able to find more of them at the price I need.



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Saw- 1; Finger- 0

We interrupt our regular scheduled post flow to bring you this breaking update to the score in the tense battle between man and machine. Saw- 1; Finger- 0.

Earlier this evening I was making progress with cutting down some Ailanthus logs into lumber (you will see a post on that in a couple of weeks). Everything was going fine, I was getting things done, and all the while you THINK you are being careful...

And then BAM!, you've cut halfway through your finger on the band saw!

OK, so I put this "after" picture up first, in case any of you are squeamish. So if you are, you can stop now. And so you don't need to read any further down to get the pertinent details, everything is fine, I didn't lose any part of my anatomy. I got five stitches and everything is expected to heal up fine.

Now, scroll down for the gory details...



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a little more...

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OK, good.

First, lets have a look at our adversary.

 This is my new Ridgid 14" band saw. I got it on Craigslist for $175 about two months ago. I have been using it to cut up logs, that I have also been finding on Craigslist, into usable lumber pieces (more on that in a future post). I was actually making good progress for once, I got a system down and had cut about four logs before the accident. And like I said, I thought I was being safe, but suddenly I felt the blade break through the wood and an odd friction on my little finger and alarm bells started going off in my head. I wasn't even sure what had gone wrong at first, but instinctively, I pulled back and clutched my hand. That's when I saw the blood. Not a lot. Actually, very little blood. Two drops on the workshop floor is all the mess that it made.
Seriously, that's it.
But there was some blood on my hand and I knew I had been cut. It didn't really hurt at first, thankfully. I was even tempted to just wrap it in electrical tape, like I usually do with small cuts, and call it taken care of, but I squeezed the finger tip a little and saw it open up a lot wider than I was comfortable with. It was way too deep to just leave go. I was going to have to get medical attention. Damn it.

So, I ran the finger under the cold tap in the workshop bathroom for a few seconds, and then I wrapped it in a piece of clean paper towel and some vinyl electrical tape, which is my normal bandaging technique.

Then I closed up the workshop, gathered up my car keys, changed my sweat drenched and sawdust covered shirt (because I figured I would be sitting in a waiting room for a while), called StatCare to see if they did stitches or if I would need to use the ER, and drove myself to StatCare. I avoided calling my mother to let her know about the accident until after it was all over, because I knew she would freak out. 

Ok, so now, time for the gruesome pics. The unwrapped, pre-stitches pics.


That wasn't so terrible, now was it. It certainly could have been a lot worse. I feel very lucky that the cut was so minor (though I'm sure I won't feel quite so lucky when the bill comes in). I could easily have lost the tip of my finger.

So here it is all stitched up, pre-bandage.

I didn't even get any pain meds for this little scrimmage. Though they did do an x-ray to make sure I didn't nick the bone.


OK, so the take away here is, be safe around power tools, kids!
It only takes one second to change your life forever.
 I was very fortunate that this accident was fairly minor.

Now, back to our regular programming.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Shop Cart Air Cleaner v1.5

A few months back, I made an ambient air cleaner out of a shop parts cart. I enclosed the lower tier of the cart with furnace filters and installed a 25" box fan on one side to draw air through the filters and out the fan. Hopefully this would help to clean some of the fine dust out of the air in my workshop, where I do a lot of woodworking.

After using this cart for several months, I can say that it definitely removed some dust from the air. About once a week I would see sawdust building up on the outer layer of filter material, and I would clean it off with the shop-vac. And recently I took the fan out to do an upgrade, and got to see the inner filters, and they are definitely dirty too.

Although it does a fair job of pulling dust out of the air, my shop is large enough that the air cart could definitely do a better job if it could move more air faster. That means an upgrade to the fan. It just so happens that hiding up in the shop's attic I found two furnace blower fans with motors. One of them is going to get mounted to the wall and serve to vent the air out of the shop through the back wall, which will give me some much needed ventilation in the summer. The other is narrow enough, and just about the right height to be mounted in the side panel of the shop cart air cleaner.

After doing a quick cleaning and cursory inspection, I gave all the bearings a quick spurt of lube. Then I wired the motor up for a test spin. Once I was satisfied that all was in working order, I took measurements to see how well this unit might fit into the shop cart air cleaner. The answer was- "like a glove!" I would be hard pressed to have made a flange for this blower that would have fit the cart better.

Next came some wiring. I decided to install a two-gang box on the face of the flange. One side would have a 15 amp light switch for turning the fan motor on and off. The other side would have an always on electrical outlet. The box is fed from a heavy duty three wire cord with a plug end, that I salvaged from one of the ceiling light fixtures (which plug into electrical outlets mounted in the ceiling) when I made some changes to how those cords were routed.

I hadn't really planned on completing the cart upgrade right then. I was really just checking out the blowers and their suitability for the task, but everything went together so smoothly, the next thing I knew, I was half way finished and so I said "fuck it" and wend ahead and installed it.

I had to remove the box fan from the wide side, and the filter panels from one of the narrow sides, and install the blower flange to be flush with the narrow side of the cart. In order to keep it stationary, I drilled two small holes down through the top of the cart into the top of the flange and put sheet metal screws in them. I had to make two tiny wood blocks to screw onto the tips of the screws to keep anyone from getting jabbed by them.

The first time I built this cart, I used masking tape to seal up the gaps, and that worked OK, but this time I decided to try something more substantial. I used aluminum furnace tape- and it worked swimmingly.

The blower has an open front, which could potentially get things falling or shoved inside it, like tools, or hands, so I needed to cover it for safety sake. I had some left over hardware cloth from a recent renovation project. I cut a piece out that was big enough to cover the opening in the blower flange. Then I folded over the edges with a metal ruler so they would not be sharp. I was going to add a piece of that cheap fiberglass filter material to the cover also, but I decided it wasn't really necessary, and might restrict airflow. I

I secured the vent cover to the blower flange with more sheet metal screws.

That's really about all there was to this upgrade. Install a new 25x25x2" filter where the box fan was and we are good to go! Not only do I now have a more powerful air cleaner, but it also features a movable electrical outlet for tools. I just have to keep in mind that the blower motor pulls a lot more amps than a box fan, and not overload that circuit by plugging in too big of a tool while the blower is running.


See Also:
Shop Cart Air Cleaner


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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tarot Bag

A couple of years ago, I was shopping at my favorite discount store, which gets one-off random stuff in all the time that it sells for dirt cheap, and I found a big bin full of these leather scraps. It is super soft calf-skin like leather with a cool pattern on it.

Each scrap was about 2-3 square feet in area, and I think they cost me about $2 each, so I bought a LOT of them. Other than one small modification project that I won't describe, this is the first project that I have used this leather for.

I'm always finding that the stock sizes for velveteen bags that I can get for the store are ill suited for holding tarot cards. If they are tall enough, they are too wide. So I decided to make a few tarot bags from these leather scraps.

I don't do a lot of sewing. I'm not particularly good at it, and just about every time I touch a sewing machine, it jams up on me. But I do have a sewing machine (the second cheapest one I could get from walmart), and I did take Home Ec. in Jr. high, so I know the basics of how to sew.

I made a chipboard template (5"x9") to help with cutting out all the pieces of leather. Each piece of leather was then spray glued to a piece of green lightweight cotton fabric, which will become the bag's liner.

The top edge was folded over on each piece and sewn down. This will be the top edge of the bag, and this is where the drawstring will go.

The two sides of the bag were sewn together with a zigzag stitch that wraps around the edge of the fabric to prevent fraying. The bag is sewn together inside out.

Once the drawstring is threaded through the hem at the top edge, the bag can be turned right side out.

This was a fairly simple project, but one that I think will sell well in my shop.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Second Video - Glass Etching

Hey gang, I have finally gotten around to uploading another video to my YouTube channel! I have two or three more already in production, but editing takes a long time, so it has taken me a while to get another one up there.

By the time you read this, the video will have been published several weeks ago. I already had several blog posts scheduled and I didn't want to interrupt the flow of the Book of Shadows Sign posts. The cool thing is, by the time I had even finished editing some of the YouTube extras, like the end screen links to other videos, I already had 3 views and a comment! Pretty neat.

Ok, So here is the second video. As I stated before, for the foreseeable future, anytime I publish a video to my YouTube channel, I will also publish it as a blog post here. If you would like to help me grow my YouTube channel, please, Like, Comment and Subscribe. Oh, and share ;)


This video is a demonstration of using Armour Etch glass etching paste to etch a design onto a glass goblet.I have posted about my etched glass projects here before. This project is nothing new to this blog. But here is an opportunity to see the process as it is being done in my workshop.

I am still very new to video making, so if you have any comments or suggestions about the video itself, my editing, technique, direction, composition, whatever, feel free to comment. I am still working through finding the right software for my needs. I don't have a good camera, so I am using my cell phone and an app called Open Camera, which seems to work better than my camera's native app. I had been using Windows Movie Maker, and that had some nice features, but it was very limiting. I really like HitFilm 4. It has some crazy good features and FX, but it makes my computer groan just loading it. This time I tried a new editor called Shotcut. I think it might become my go-to editor. It isn't as fancy as HitFilm, but it is closer to that style of editor than WMM is, and it will run on my computer. Well enough, anyway.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Book of Shadows Signage v3.0 (part 3)

Having finished the main sign, I started working on the accent pieces. Because the new sign is only half the width of the old sign, I knew I needed something else to take up the extra room on the marquee, or the sign would look too small for the space. In keeping with the Victorian Gothic theme, I decided to try to make something that looks like filigree, or fretwork, to flank the sign on either side and take up some of that empty space.

The first thing I needed to do was to determine the size of the fretwork, how much space I had to work with, and how big I wanted the fretwork to be. Also, how big of a piece of material I had to work with. After roughing out how big I wanted it, and roughly what shape I wanted it, I looked around on line for some line art, but I didn't really find anything that fit the bill. I'm not great at drawing, but when pressed, I usually come up with something passable. So, I got a piece of butcher paper roughly the size of what I needed and taped it to the wall. Then I just started doodling on the edge until I had a design that I was happy with.

Once I had a rough design, I started sketching it out at 1:1 scale on the butcher paper. I made marks to block out where the outer edges should be, and I marked a mid-line, and a few other reference  points to try to keep things symmetrical. It took a few tries. There was some erasing, but I ended up with something I thought would suit my needs.

 I only really had to focus on half of it. Once I got that half worked out, it would be easier to just fold the paper at the mid-line (the line of symmetry) and then cut out both sides at once. This ensures that both sides are perfectly symmetrical.

 I laid the paper template out on a table next to the sign to see how it would look in position.

 The dimensions for this fretwork element were partly based on the piece of particle board I had set aside to use for it. It was a scrap that had been laying around my dad's shop for years. In hindsight, I think I should have used a better quality piece of wood for this, but it worked out.

I laid the paper template out on the particle board and lightly spray painted over the edges, leaving a ghost outline on the wood. This would be my cut line. This trick is a lot quicker and easier than trying to trace around the paper template with a pencil.

I made two ghost outlines of the template, one for each side of the sign, and then started cutting them out with a jig saw. Then I painted them both with at least two coats of black exterior paint. I'm hoping that I got them sealed well enough, because if the weather gets through to the wood, these things are just going to disintegrate.

From an early stage I knew I wanted to tie these into the trim on the main sign by cladding them with copper. At first I thought of using the same copper foil, but that would have ended up in a wrinkly patchwork mess. Around the same time I got that foil, I also got a roll of copper sheeting. It was also on sale, but it was still expensive. I think it was something like $90 for a ten foot roll. It's probably somewhere in the vicinity of 24 gauge thickness. Expensive. But it would do a nice job of cladding these pieces. The only problem was, I had never tried anything like this before, and if it didn't work, I would have basically ruined $100 worth of copper sheeting. And I only had enough to do it once.

Oh, there was one more issue. I thought my roll was 24" wide, but I hadn't looked at it in a while. Turns out it was only about 20" wide.  Not quite as wide as the parts that I made. So, I would have to do the cladding in two pieces. I was hoping to avoid a seam, but I would just have to do my best to make it unobtrusive.

I laid the fretwork piece out on the copper and traced around it with a marker. Then I used some emery cloth to rough up the surface of the copper inside the lines, so that it would adhere better to the wooden piece. I spent some time thinking about what kind of adhesive I would use, ruminating on the lessons learned from putting the foil trim around the main sign. I decided on construction adhesive.

I spread the construction adhesive out  on the copper, inside my tracing lines, making sure to get good coverage, especially around the edges. For some reason I had a bad feeling about it as soon as I started. I had used Liquid Nail brand adhesive before with good results, but I went with the Heavy Duty variety this time, and it looked different from what I was used to seeing. I don't know why I doubted it, but I had a funny feeling it wasn't going to work.

I set the fretwork piece in place and put it under weight to dry.

It should have dried within a couple of hours, but by the next day, it still wasn't completely dry. I left it set for a couple more days, just to give it the best possible chance to cure, but when I came back to check on it, it was clear that it was separating at the edge in some places. When I picked at it, it pealed away easily. It had not adhered to the copper. It looked to me like the water in the glue had corroded the copper as it was drying, and that may have inhibited the adhesion.

Thinking I may have ruined my copper sheeting, I carefully pried the copper away from the wood piece, trying hard not to damage it too much.  Luckily it came off without destroying either the copper sheeting or the fretwork. I would at least get another shot at it. It did, however, take a LOT of scraping and sanding to remove all of the glue from both the copper and the wood.

I looked at several other adhesives, careful to read the labels of each, and was surprised that several mentioned copper specifically as not recommended for. There must be something about copper that reacts with the glue and prevents adhesion. Apparently this is a thing, and I didn't know about it. Still thinking that construction adhesive was the way to go, I looked for another brand, that didn't mention copper in the "not recommended for" fine print. I finally settled on Gorilla Glue construction adhesive. It was more expensive by a good margin, but I already had over $100 into just these fret pieces. Not to mention the rest of the sign. . 

Fortunately, the Gorilla Glue worked, at least well enough. Now, onto the hard part, routing around the edges.

I had never really used a router before. My dad never taught them to me, other than to say to be leery of them.  I think they scared him. He hardly ever used them, and he seemed overly cautious of them. As a result, I had no experience with them, and he had instilled a little bit of his aversion for them into me. But a router is what the situation called for, so a router is what I used.
 I managed to find a trim router and a flush trim bit amongst my father's tools and set about to remove the excess copper sheeting from around the fretwork. The flush trim bit has a bearing on the tip that rides along the edge of the work piece, so that you can not cut into the work piece by mistake. The bearing rides along the work piece and lets the cutter get right up to the edge without hitting it. It is used primarily for trimming laminate after it is glued to a counter top or other substrate. I was using it in exactly the same way, just that my laminate material was copper sheeting, not formica.

I had to drill pierce holes in some places in order to rout out the interior curves. One thing that I was not prepared for was how painful it would be having the tiny shards of copper flying at me (especially at my off-hand) at very high speeds. 

This process made a huge mess, and didn't leave much usable scraps, but when it was done, it ended up looking pretty much like I had hoped that it would. Even the small seam at the tip didn't look that bad. I had to do a little work with a file to get down into all the little corners because the router bit is round and can't make a radius of less than 1/4 inch. Also, all the the edges needed to be smoothed out with a file. The router left them pretty rough.

I had to touch up a few spots around the edges where the router cut into the paint. Then I gave each of the two pieces several coats of spar urethane on all sides.

I'm actually quite pleased with the way they turned out. I'm still debating about how I'm going to mount them to the marquee. But we can cover that in another post.


See Also:
Book of Shadows Signage v3.0 (part 1)
Book of Shadows Signage v3.0 (part 2)
Book of Shadows Signage v3.0 (part 4)