Sunday, June 30, 2019

Planchettes-A-Plenty

A few months back, I made two batches of wooden planchettes in an effort to use up some scrap wood. The first batch was only about four or five planchettes, with open holes. The second batch was maybe a dozen planchettes, about half of which got glass viewers inserted into the holes. Then I got kinda burnt out on making them, so I put the project aside and tried to sell the ones I had made, both in my Etsy store and in my shop.

Well, it took several months, but the Etsy store finally started gaining traction. I sold about ten or so planchettes through the Etsy store, and stock was starting to get pretty low, so I knew I would have to make another batch. Well... I think I may have over done it a bit.


This, my friends, is a stack of Ninety Four planchettes being rough cut from a variety of milled planks. Ninety - Four. And that is after I put one large sapele board back on the wood pile, and set aside two large planks from the stack I had milled for the project. I have no idea why I am making so many. It honestly didn't seem like it was going to be that many when I was picking out the wood for the project. I had to order more glass cabochons, and I still don't have enough. I'm going to have to order more still!

I think I may have to start thinking about making a line of ouija boards just to have any hopes of selling this many panchettes.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

1.5" Candle Holder

At my shop, we sell a line of pre-made spell candles that are 1.5" in diameter. These candles are hand made (not by me) and the bases are not perfectly flat. The odd diameter and the imperfect bottom make finding a holder for them a little challenging. To combat that problem, I have custom made some quick wooden block style holders designed especially for these candles.

The cat's name is Luna ;)

The holder is just a square block of solid walnut with rounded over edges and two holes drilled in it. I made the prototype batch of six holders in about an hour (not counting finish drying time).


I got walnut from the scrap bin at my favorite hardwood dealer. I just measured the width of the board and set a stop block to that same width to cut the blocks off at the chop saw. Then I found the center of the top and the front face. I used a 1.5" forstner bit to drill a hole in the top to accept the candle, and a 1-3/8" forstner bit to drill a shallow hole in the front face to accept a maple inlay cut on the laser (1.38" diameter, 0.18" thickness). The top and side edges were eased over with a 1/8" round over bit at the router table.


As it turns out, the little aluminum cups that tea lights come in fit perfectly into the top hole, and so that will protect the wood from the burning candle. Hopefully. Never leave a candle burning unattended, kids. Especially in a WOODEN candle holder!

The finishing was a bit of a hodge-podge. I started out using danish oil, but I didn't want to wait for multiple coats to dry, so after the first coat I switched to shellac. But even after two coats of shellac (and sanding in between) they didn't have a nice shine, so I then gave them a quick spray of clear lacquer from a rattle can. Maybe with the next batch I'll try just one or two coats of polyurethane.

UPDATE::
So, these are just some production notes, mostly for my own benefit.

After finishing the prototype batch of six candle holders, I started a production run of about sixty. I had a small stack of walnut boards of the same dimension, so I decided to use them all up and make a big batch so I wouldn't need to make more for a while. Sixty is just a bit too much to work on in one batch. I found myself very tired and bored by the end of each step. Forty would have been a more managable batch size.

In the prototype batch, I only rounded the edges of the top and sides. In the production run I also rounded the bottom edges and around the top hole where the candle fits in. My router bit is starting to get dull, and I should have spent more time hand sanding these rounded over parts. They tend to snag the cloth when I am doing finishing.

One mistake I made that didn't become apparent until after the fact, was the order of operations. I drilled the top and face holes in the block before routing the edges, just like in the prototype batch. I discovered that the router bit wanted to dip into the front face hole, especially when rounding the bottom edge, which caused a noticeable divot in the edge. I should have marked the centers for the holes first (and definitely use an awl to make a divot for the drill bit to follow), then routed the edges, then drilled the holes, and then go back to the router to round over the edge of the top hole.

The sides were sanded to 500 grit on the disk sander. then I tried a new approach to finishing. I mixed 1/3 BLO, 1/3 oil based polyurethane and 1/3 mineral spirits. I dunked each part into a bath of the mixture and let it drip dry a few seconds before setting it out on a piece of cardboard. After about 15 minutes (about halfway through the batch) I wiped off the excess finish with a shop towel and set them to dry. Do NOT use the shop rags, they leave lint like crazy. Use paper towels or a blue shop towel.

After letting the finish cure for 24 hours,  lightly sanded each face by dragging it two or three times over a piece of 1000 grit sandpaper on a flat surface. Not really sure if this step helped.

Then I repeated the oil bath finish a second time. I did not repeat the sanding after this second coat. I could have left them here. They looked nice, but had a satin finish. I wanted more gloss, so I decided to do a few coats of wipe-on poly. I probably should have just left them as-is, or maybe done one coat of spray top coat. After two coats of wipe-on poly, the finish was patchy. I'm hoping a third coat will be the end of it. [some of them were good after the third coat. some could have used one more, but I just polished them all with paste wax and made an end of it.]


Thursday, May 23, 2019

YouTube Famous

Hey everybody. I'm YouTube Famous now! Lol.
All joking aside, I am very grateful to beloved YouTube woodworking content creator, Matt Cremona, for featuring one of my projects on his channel. About six months or so ago, I sent him some pictures of my Tarot Box project. At the end of his weekly shop update videos, he features several viewer projects. As he has over 250 thousand subscribers, you can guess that the queue for the viewer projects is pretty long.


The segment with my photos starts around 10:50 into the video, but I recommend you watch the whole thing, especially if you are into woodworking. Matt is a very popular YouTube woodworker, and his videos are very entertaining. I have been following his channel for over a year now, and I am never disappointed.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Laser Etched Mirror Altar Tiles

I think I posted already about the first one of these I made, and since these were done on the laser, there really isn't much to say about this project, so I'll just post a picture of the final pieces.


These are 8" beveled mirror trivets (candle holders?) purchased from Walmart. I used to make quite a few of these into customized altar tiles with acid paste etching, but using the laser I can get a much more complex image with much less work. The only down side is, the surface finish of the laser etched area is quite rough, unlike using the acid paste. But I could never get this kind of detail with a hand cut stencil, so it's a trade off.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Book of Shadows Signage v3.0 (part 4)

Well, it's been a year and a half since the last post about the new sign for the store, and over two years since I started making it, but the new sign has finally been installed at the store. Thanksgiving morning, 5am, I woke up and decided, "Today is the day"- and Voilà!

I already posted about the making of the main sign, and the making of the fretwork accent pieces, so here I will just post about the installation and give you a few pics of the finished sign in situ.

Before I could install the sign, I had to re-face the marquee with some new plywood, as the old T1-11 was badly rotted. Ideally I should have ripped down the rotted T1-11 and replaced it, but with the building in as bad of shape as it is, I thought it better to just leave it and sheath over it with some fresh plywood.

Each piece of plywood was pre-cut (5ft tall) and pre-painted before going up on the marquee. They were given three coats of brown exterior house paint, on both sides, and I even used some paintable siliconized acrylic caulking around the edges of each board after the second coat. Hopefully, this will help keep water from deteriorating the plywood prematurely. Each panel was lifted up by hand, with the help of a ground man, and screwed to the marquee face with a prodigious amount of screws. I got as many as I could into the studs, and then just peppered the rest with screws, hoping I would hit something solid underneath. The last panel, on the right side in the picture, was about 2.5 inches too wide. But I was not about to take it down, trim it, reseal and repaint the cut edge and put it back up. It was a HUGE effort to get those panels in place. I am afraid of heights, so working on the porch roof was very difficult and stressful. It can just hang over the right edge by a couple of inches. No one will care. Most people won't even notice.

Raising the panels in place and securing them was easy compared to the sign itself. The main sign is a full sheet of plywood, plus the weight of all the lettering attached to it. My ground man (Delvin is his name) and I muscled the sign up onto the porch roof and let it rest on some 2x4 blocks nailed to the porch roof, while I climbed back up onto the roof and then man-handled it up the rest of the way from there. It was a Herculean task, but by some miracle, I got it up there and rested the bottom edge on a pair of screws that were set into the marquee at the correct height for the bottom edge of the sign (this screw-ledge trick is also how I put the panels in place). After the sign was nudged into its final position, and a couple of screws driven in to secure it, I could remove the ledge-screws. Since the sign was being screwed into the fresh plywood facing, it didn't really matter if the screws went into the studs, but I tried to get some in the studs anyway.
That damned backwards "a" still haunts me.
So that was one day's work, just getting the panels and main sign up. Then I had to wait a few days for good weather until I could finish adding the decorative pieces that flank the sign.

Before I could hang the fretwork pieces, I had to fabricate some brackets for them. I didn't want to drill through the copper facing (or even through the wood) so I cut some pieces of steel and drilled and countersunk holes for screws. I screwed the brackets onto the fret pieces from the back side, and then through the front side I could drive the screws in to attach it to the building. I painted the brackets brown so that they would blend in with the marquee and become invisible.

On the second day of hanging, I was all alone with no ground man. Luckily, the pieces I had to hang were much smaller and lighter. I just took my time and walked them up the ladder one piece at a time. I did have to get up and down the ladder a few times to make sure the fret pieces were straight. It's very hard to tell if something looks straight from up close like that, and measurements can only get you so far.

Only one last thing to hang- the 30" tall brass carriage lights. I bought these things from a flea market about eight years ago. I paid $1. For the pair. Seriously, one dollar. The finish was a bit worn and there was a little corrosion, but I cleaned them up as best as I could (without exerting too much effort) with some polishing compound. I tested that they worked before hanging them, but I'm not sure if I will be able to wire them up. In any event they needed some kind of bracket as well, since they will not be mounted to a gang box like they were designed to be.

The bracket I came up with was a little hacked together, but I was under a time crunch. They were made from 3/4" oak recycled shelving material. I designed them to have a hole in the back for the wires to poke through. Then, when I got them up on the roof, I drilled a 1" hole through the marquee for the wires to feed through. The plan is to wire them from the inside of the building after they are hung. This I can do any time and in any weather. Or not at all, if I never get around to it.  In any event, the mounting bracket now gave me something to screw to the plywood on the marquee.

And that's just about it. For now anyway. There are two more details to be taken care of, but I wasn't going to delay this post any longer. I need to install some flashing along the top edge of the marquee to serve as a drip edge. There used to be some roll roofing that hung over it (you can still see remnants of it in the pics) but it had to be ripped down to put up the panels (and it was rotted). I bought some brown aluminum gutter that I plan to re-bend and hang upside-down over the front edge to serve as a flashing (and no, I don't plan on making another post just for that little finishing detail). And the other thing is to wire the lights (assuming that ever happens).

So, two and a half years in the making, and it is finally finished (90%, anyway). And I do like the way it looks. Hopefully, it will survive the weather for at least a few years. I'm certainly not looking forward to doing it again.

Here are a few more finished pics. The sun was going down and the front of the store was in shadow, so next chance I get I will take some pics with better light and add them to the end here.



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 3)


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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Smudge Fan v3.0

To date, one of the most popular posts on this blog (and certainly on Pinterest) is my first attempt at making a smudging fan. And as I have previously stated, I hated that project. I only made that version of fan one time, and only made four of those fans total. Then I tried a new design, which was much simpler and I liked the finished product much better. I have made several dozen of the second iteration of smudging fan, and still use that design when making new fans. However, today I worked on a new design, or rather a variation of the second design, and it turned out fairly well.

This fan came about as a way to salvage a damaged feather, because I was too cheap to just throw it away. I prepared a batch of wild turkey feathers to be made into v2.0 fans, by trimming the tips and inserting a bamboo skewer into the quill to give it strength. I then cut the skewer to the desired length of my handle. This makes it possible to get a decent handle of a consistent length, even if the quill is damaged, weak or short.

Normally, I would then just wrap the handle with suede leather lace, and add a few beads to the ends of the lace and call it done, but this time I decided to apply a new technique I had read about, wherein one uses a hot iron to flatten and straighten the feather. Here is where things went wrong. I set my iron too hot and it melted the vane on one side. It only melted part of it, and only about half-way up, but it made the feather pretty ugly and unusable. I was just about to throw it away when I got the idea to see if I could convincingly cover up the damaged part with another smaller feather.

I selected a couple of smaller wild turkey feathers to overlap the main feather on either side (thus covering up the damaged part of the vane). I held the shafts of the smaller feathers in place with a wooden clothes pin and used thick CA glue and spray activator to glue the shafts together. I didn't like the way the junction where the three feathers came together looked, so I covered it up with a small black marabou feather, also attached with CA glue.

I then began wrapping the handle with suede leather lace, making sure to cover over the joint where the shafts came together. I put a few dabs of CA glue under the leather in a few spots to make sure the wrapping didn't shift or come loose.
 In the picture just above, you can see the damaged part of the main feather along the right side.

As I did with v2.0, I added some accent beads to the ends of the leather wrapping, and that was it. Not terribly complicated, or significantly more difficult to make, but a little fancier than v2.0. I might make a couple more of these and sell them at a premium (compared to the simpler v2.0), but it is unlikely they will replace v2.0 completely.




Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Splined Mitered Tarot Box v1.0

Ugh- allergies. I have come to find that if I don't use a respirator when I'm doing wood working, even just a little bit, I will get an allergy attack. And now, I have runaway sinuses, because last night... I did a thing.

This is a tarot card box, with splined mitered corners and a pencil box sliding top. The sides are made from sapele. The top and bottom are soft maple, and the splines are black ebony.

It all stared with a piece of sapele. It looked pretty straight, but it rocked on the table a little bit, so I used a hand plane and a planer to take the small twist out. Truth be told, I probably caused more damage with the hand plane than I did good with it, but at least the twist was lessened. Next, I re-sawed the board on the band saw to split it in half.

 Of course, then I had to run it through the planer again to smooth out the band saw marks. Once both sides of both pieces were nice and flat, and both pieces were the same thickness, I started cutting out the pieces for the sides of the box. There is a trick to the way you cut the pieces from the stock in order to create a continuous grain pattern all the way around the box. Oh, it's worth mentioning that this is the first time I've ever tried to make a box like this. Actually, it's only the second time I've ever tried to make a box at all. I made a few finger jointed candle boxes when I first started getting into wood working.

So, this being the first time trying to do the whole continuous grain thing (or even the whole splined mitered box thing), it didn't quite go to plan. I must have misjudged the length of the sides, because when I got to the last piece, the remaining board wasn't long enough. I had planned to make one 4"x6"x4" box from each of the two book-matched boards. But I had to cut a piece from the second board to make up the shortfall. This means that three of the sides will have continuous grain, and the fourth will be mismatched. Luckily, sapele does not have a very pronounced grain pattern, so it won't be very noticeable.

The next step was to cut the 45 degree miters on each piece. There was some burning during the cut because the table saw blade was dull. I eventually changed it, but I should have done so sooner. I test fitted the four pieces together, and the miters came out pretty good, but I noticed that the box seemed really tall. I was kind of bummed that I wasn't going to get two boxes out of this piece of sapele, do to the fact that I had to take that fourth piece from the second half of the board, so I started thinking, maybe I can cut the height in half. That would give me two boxes that are only 2" tall. I wasn't sure if that would be enough height to be useful, but I was willing to give it a try, so I marked the half way line and cut it in half on the band saw. The table saw would have given me a straighter cut, but would have taken up an eighth of an inch in the kerf. I couldn't afford to loose that much height, so I cut very carefully on the band saw and sanded the sawn edge flat (which I then used as the bottom edge of the box).

 I had originally planned to use a 3/16" dado for the lid and for the bottom of the box, but in order to save some of the height of the interior of the box, I decided that the bottom could be rabbeted in. This would save about 3/16" of interior height. I was using a 3/16" thick plank of soft maple for the lid and bottom, so I made two passes with the saw blade to create the rabbet, then cleaned it up with a chisel. The rabbet was made just a hair wider than the thickness of the bottom panel, so that the box would rest on the bottom edges, not on the bottom panel, and so I would have some edge to sand in order to true up the bottom later.

Then I needed to make one more cut to make the dado in which the lid would slide. This was also done with two passes of the table saw blade (which is nominally 1/8" thick). The first pass established the lid's distance down from the top of the box. The second pass widened the dado to fit the thickness of the lid panel.

 The fourth side had to be cut a little differently. It didn't get a dado. It got cut off at the height of the dado, so the lid would slide out through this side, and not be captured by it. So, I cut this one last, and just raised the height of the blade while making the second pass to cut all the way through the piece.

Finally, it was time for glue-up. This is where it really started to look like the beginnings of a box. I laid the pieces end to end, using a square to make sure that the edge of the bottom rabbet of each piece was perfectly in line. Inconsistencies in top and bottom edges of the pieces could be sanded out later, but the rabbet and the dado needed to be perfectly in line at this stage. I connected the pieces with masking tape at the seams along what would be the outside of the box.

 I put wood glue along all the mitered edges and rolled up the box ends, taping it shut. This method holds all the edges in perfect alignment, and the tape also acts as a clamp for the glue. Just use a square to make sure the corners are perfect, and give it a little squeeze in the right direction if they are not. No other clamping necessary.

While the glue was drying, I started working on the top and bottom panels. These I made from pre-sawn 3/16" thick planks of maple that I got from my favorite lumber store, specifically because they are great for use in my laser cutter.  They got cut to rough size, then sanded, then covered with transfer tape (it's like masking tape) to prevent smoke staining. Then I worked up a design for the box tops in Inkscape and cut it out on the Glowforge.

I was making two boxes at once, so I made two different designs for the box tops. I had previously measured the actual  dimensions of the rabbet in order to determine the dimensions of the top and bottom panels. Since the rabbet and the dado were cut to the same depth, the top and bottom panels should be the same dimensions.

 I test fitted the top and bottom panels. The bottoms fit OK. Some small gaps probably caused from the box sides being slightly out of square, but acceptable. The lids would need a little massaging with the sander to fit properly.

I glued in the bottom panel and let it dry under weight, but before that, I used some sanding dust and wood glue to fill in any gaps in the mitered corners. This would be sanded smooth later.

 At this point, I needed to make a decision about whether or not to use splines on my miters. I had intended to, but it sure was tempting to just leave them as is. Tempting because adding splines means a whole other level of complexity, and another set of operations with which I had no experience. Basically, it meant another chance for me to screw something up. But ultimately, I decided it was worth it, so I soldiered ahead. There was just one problem, I had my mind set on a dark wood for the spline material, and the sapele was already pretty dark, so I turned to using ebony for the splines. But I only had a little 1.5"x1"x1" nub of ebony left over from turning pendulums. Well, I had more ebony, but I didn't want to bust it out, because it's expensive and I'm cheap. So I forced myself to try to get sixteen splines out of this little nub.

Did I say one problem? I meant two. Two problems. The second being; I don't have a spline jig.

Time for a side-bar.

::  MAKING A SPLINE JIG v1.0  ::

I had never made a spline jig before, but I had seen several of them used in various videos on Youtube (here, here and here). So I re-watched the video with one of the simpler designs, and got to it.

I started by cutting some scraps of 3/4" plywood to make a long arch that would slide over the rip fence of my table saw. The side pieces were lightly clamped to the fence for a snug fit, and the top was glued on and stapled from the top with 1" crown staples.

Then I trimmed and squared up the edges of a scrap piece of MDF to use as the face of the jig. I found the mid point and set a framing square with the corner touching the bottom edge at a 45 degree angle. I used a speed square along the bottom edge of the MDF to ensure the angle was 45 degrees. 

Then I carefully removed the speed square and replaced it with two scraps of 3/4" plywood, 1" wide and about 5" long (the dimensions really don't mater). Those got glued in place, on either side of the framing square, forming a "V". They also got 1" crown staples to clamp them down while the glue dried. I made sure to keep the staples away from the bottom end of the scraps, in case I ever needed to run the saw blade that high and through the "V". I probably would never need to, but now I won't hit staples if I ever do.

The MDF face plate was a bit tall, so I cut it in half before attaching it to the shuttle (the part that slides over the fence). I wanted to make sure I could remove the face plate if I ever decided to change it (so I wouldn't have to re-make the shuttle) so I didn't use any glue to attach it. I pre-drilled and countersunk for screws and screwed it to the shuttle with 1.25" course decking screws.

 And that's it. That's how you make a simple spline jig. Just rest your work piece in the "V" and hold it to the faceplate. Adjust your fence to align the blade with where you want your splines. Set your depth of the splines with the blade height, and run the shuttle along the fence to cut your slots for your splines.

 PRO TIP: use a sharp blade and go slow to avoid tare out, and if you have the option, use a blade with a flat ground tooth. I didn't have one, so standard combination blade it is.

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OK- So there's your bonus post for the day. I hope you enjoyed it. Now, back to the splined boxes.

Here is the box, all slotted up and ready for splines. As you saw in one of the pictures above, I cut the nub of ebony into slices on the band saw. What you didn't see was me sanding the crap out of those slices to make them fit into those slots.

 Once I got them to the proper thickness, I glued in the splines, just a couple at a time. Then, after the glue set, I would cut them with a small flush cut hand saw, and then reuse the left over slice of ebony in another slot. I used a scrap of card stock under my saw to make sure I didn't mar the surface of the box, and provide a little extra clearance, but this probably wasn't really necessary.

 I repeated this process until all sixteen splines (two per corner on two boxes) were in place, and in case you're wondering, here is all that was left of that nub of ebony when I was done.

 I could have maybe made one more spline out of it. Now that's what I call, getting my money's worth!

With the splines in place, we're almost finished. I sanded the splines flush with the sides of the boxes on the disk sander, then I sanded the whole box up to 500 grit with the orbital sander and a sheet of sand paper glued to a flat granite tile. I had to do a bit of sanding on the lids too, to make them fit properly.

Then each box and lid got two coats of shellac, with a very light sanding in between. Once that was dry, I put on a coat of paste wax, especially along the edges of the lids where they will slide in the dados.  The final touch was my logo added to the underside of the box.

And that's the ballgame. Two sapele, maple and ebony boxes with sliding tops and splined mitered corners. My first real "box" project (not counting the candle boxes).
And now, the glamour shots.


 Oh, there is one small detail I left out. You'll notice on the latter pics a small divot on the right side of the lids. This is a thumbnail groove, to help with opening the lid. It was made with a small spindle sander on a dremel. I don't really like how it came out. That, and the fit of the lids is my least favorite part of these boxes. But overall, I'm very happy with them. Especially for a first attempt. It took me two days to finish them, but I can probably cut that down some with more practice.