Wooden darts… Widdies

Dart holding jig in use with dart

There is a story in my family on one of my uncles throwing one of these very wooden darts, widdies, into the his brother’s head, causing the afflicted brother to run upstairs screaming. No idea if it’s true, but it’s a fun story… well, fun for most of us. At some point these came into my sister’s possession and she gave them to me to see if I could make them nice again. I held on to them for a while, unsure whether these were toys, tools, or artifacts. In the end, I remembered that whatever they were, they were meant to be fun, and sitting on my bench wasn’t. I think they came out pretty well.

I gave these to Cheri, and she loved them… now to challenge her to a game. Duck!

Fifteen Dollar Guitar

Dillon continues to play guitar in Mad RED Kat, and continues to develop his skills (though somewhat reluctantly, like any 13 year-old). As he does, he’s expressed an interest in an acoustic guitar. Really, he wanted an electric-acoustic. After cruising Craig’s List, and eBay for possible candidates, I came across this gem:

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Yup, a $15 Buy It Now guitar. I did a little checking to see how that model did and what prices typically are. This particular model is typically around $120 new and $75 used, so this looked like a good deal. Reviews were pretty good with no specific weaknesses. Then I noticed that it was a local pickup only item, and local meant Cumberland, WI. Sure, Cumberland… that’s near Madison, right? I bid and won the thing. Then I looked at where Cumberland actually is… it’s not near Madison… it’s near St. Paul.

Well, fine. I’ll take Dillon, and we’ll have a great time driving to get his guitar… except Dillon is already committed to other stuff (Bar Mitzvah #3). So, what was going to be a quick morning road trip with the boy turned into an all day solo trip to the very top of the state and back. It was a good trip with way too much coffee, and way too much road construction, but eventually I got home with the instrument. Unfortunately, I could see why it was only $15.

There was a big crack in the side panel, the nut was cracked (it actually fell off in two pieces when I took the strings off) the fretboard was mildew-y and gross, the strings were rusted… not good. We ordered up a new nut and bridge as well as new bridge pins (one of those broke off when I was removing it) and got to work cleaning the instrument up. It actually cleaned up easily and well with just a slightly damp towel.

Our parts came in and included a little surprise for Dillon. I’d ordered a pre-amp and piezo pickup (these cost less than the nut and bridge) for his new guitar. We were going to convert this $15 acoustic to a slightly more expensive (only slightly) electric-acoustic. Well, after a few busy weeks, we finally got a few hours on a Sunday to get the work done. Honestly, I think it took all of three hours start to finish before we were tuning it up and testing things out.

So, not including travel time and gas, this $15 guitar really cost about $40. Dillon and I had a lot of fun working on this (too much to take any decent pictures, clearly) and he now has a second instrument. He has a better understanding of how things fit together. He got to play with my (fake) Foredom, and helped figure out solutions to unexpected problems (like you always encounter in projects like this). It was awesome.

Christmas gifts

Silver earrings for Rose

Copper bracelet for Aunt Elizabeth

I actually managed to find a few hours to work in my shop over the last few weeks… I’m happy with the results.



The kids are dressing as Harry Potter characters today, and realized that they didn’t have wands…

Nerdy Derby Racer

So, the Milwaukee Makerspace and BarcampMilwaukee7 are doing a Nerdy Derby, and there are going to be some sweet entries, including a Belly Tanker form Frankie, sandbox from Pete, and a terrifying, radio-controlled, ducted fan monstrosity from Mike.

Having switched my subscription on the MMS list to digest mode, I hadn’t been following what was apparently an extensive discussion of the idea of doing a derby. Thankfully, Mike, Frankie, and Pete looped me in! I was making arrangements to stop in at Frankie’s studio to get the next bit of help with my injection molder, and Frankie offered to have us in for a Nerdy Derby build day. How could I pass that up?

I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do, and settled on a steel wire frame with leather panels “skinning” the car. I figured it would be fun, and I liked the idea of steel and leather. Plus, I could do it with only the tools I have myself. I came up with some ideas and pulled together a sketch of how it might work (I’ll have to post it later, I left my notebook at work).

Frankie offered to model the car in Rhino, and after an hour or so of work we had a model of how the car might look.

Derby Car rendering

Well, since we’d gone through the work of building the 3D model, why not cut it our of the Tormach? We cut the model into 3 pieces (a base, the body, and the canopy, and Frankie got everything setup to cut. THis was my first time seeing something got from idea on paper to an actual, metal and poly-carb thing in a few hours, and it was awesome! here are the results:

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Aluminum blank
Frankie setting up the CNC
Roughing pass
All roughed in
Half way through the finishing pass
All done milling
We cut a little deeper than intended; Still came out sweet.
Base plate in position, as well as rough canopy
Another angle


I still have work to do on it (skate bearings for the wheels?) and some obvious cleanup, but it pretty cool as it is! The aluminum will take a shine like nobody’s business, and I’m thinking I may light the canopy.



Copper and oak

So, remember that ring clamp I started way back? Well, I found myself in need of one last week, and figured I’d better finish that thing up. The problem with the original plan and work is that the off-center positioning of the hinge, as well as the short span, made the tool fairly useless. Rather than start over, though, I looked at a couple of other varieties and decided to refit my original work for something I could actually use.

Notched for pad and band
Notched for pads and band
The bands
The bands
Test fitting the bands
Test fitting the bands

At this point I decide I stained the pieces and gave them a quick clear coat of polyurethane, polished up the copper, glued and trimmed the leather pads, and put the thing together:

Mostly finished ring clamp
Mostly finished

I’m working out a sweet copper knob to replace the wing nut, and I need to add a hinge to the bottom, but I can use this as it is.