Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Runes, runes, runes.

Runes are another form of divination, which draws its roots from ancient Norse tradition. The runes have a long and interesting history, so if you are interested in divination, or Norse mythology, or history, or if you just have some time to kill, I recommend you do some reading on them.

I've made several sets of runes in the past, but never documented them. My recent interest in wood turning has introduced me to more exotic wood than I had ever previously worked with, and thought that they wood make for some lovely run sets.

 Above is a set made from black walnut. Below, is a set made from cedar.

 I also made sets from purple heart, genuine mahogany, and some random hardwood chits I got from the craft store. These are not glamour shots by any stretch of the imagination. They are just pics I snapped as an afterthought while I was making them.
Here is a little better picture of them in the case at the store, alongside some stone rune sets that are commercially produced.

And speaking of stone rune sets, I also made a couple of sets from river rock. I made several river rock sets, with different colored inking, but aside from the color of the symbol, they look pretty much the same, so just the one pic should suffice.

 All of the above runes were engraved with a dremel tool, and then inked. The stone sets were inked with acrylic paint. The wood sets were inked with a sharpie marker (except the cedar set, which I did not ink) and then finished with three coats of tung oil.

But one of my favorite sets was neither engraved nor inked.  They are printed.
I have a set of tarot cards that I sell at the store, which has the meanings of the cards printed right on the face, so beginners can learn them without having to look them up in a book every time. So I thought, why not do that with runes too?

So, some years ago, I did a layout on the computer with all of the runes, their names, their translation, and their divinitory meanings. I sized them to fit onto wooden chits (about 2 inches square) that I found at the craft store. The chits were stained black with wood stain. The runes were printed out on a laser printer and stained brown with coffee/tea to give them an aged appearance. Then I used a water tearing technique to separate the runes and give them a deckled edge.
Then I glued the paper to the wooden tile and gave both sides two coats of semi-gloss oil based polyurethane.

This is the same effect that I used for my pendulum boards, and that I will use on my some-day-to-be ouija board (though not the Ouija board previously featured). If you attempt to replicate this finish, it is important to note that you must use oil based polyurethane. The water based polycrylic will not soak into and darken the paper, giving it an aged and warm hue. Instead it will make the surface look plastic and cheap.
I don't know if I am the first person to make beginner runes like these, but I have never seen them anywhere. I'm rather proud of them, and think they would make a great tool for learning the runes.

As I progress with my wood turning and wood working, I now have more exotic woods to choose from, so I'll almost certainly be making more wooden rune sets in the near future.

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...




.keep going...



a little more...



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