Seventeen-year bookshelves

The wood for these bookshelves is from a remodelling project in the first house owned. I thought it would be cool (read: sentimentally meaningful) to use this material in my new house. I’d seen this great coffee table and thought the whole design form would work throughout my living room.



It’s a minimal, modern form with rough and recovered materials. (I’m sure there is a larger metaphor there somewhere.) Well, I decided to start with a small hallway table, but once I had it all cut and staged and really wasn’t all that happy with how it turned out. I thought maybe I could put a tall vase on it with a dried arrangement, but it just wasn’t what I wanted. Fortunately, the length of these pieces was just right for some bookshelves. I love how these came out! Also had fun figuring out how to hang them with no visible hardware. (The thing actually pulled itself out of the wall the first time I put it up and put anything significant on it.)

One of the things I dig about my house is that you can see how it has been polished and improved from the original little house it was 80 years ago. There are definitely things that I will be doing to bring back some of that original character, but I want, also, to have a thoroughly modern home. We’ll see what that all means, but today it meant materials that I’ve moved with me for 17 years and 4 homes are finally part of something again.

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:

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 11.30.58 PM

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.

Low carb diet

So, summer is upon us, Jared finally got a motorcycle, and I’m still not ready to ride. What I am ready for is to overhaul my carburetors. So, I pulled them out of the bike, cracked open the first one along-side my trusty Clymer manual. Everything went fine until I went to remove the needle jet from carb #1. It’s supposed to slide right out, but this bastard was completely stuck. It’s also soft brass, so I have to be extra careful in trying to get it out. I double checked everywhere I could find to make sure it really should come  out the way I think, and then got out the hammer. I selected a small piece of scrap pine, trimmed it to fit, wedged it in, and gave it a few exploratory taps. I got a little movement, but didn’t think through the fact that my little bit of scrap was getting crammed into the hole in the jet. Eventually I got the thing to pop out, but I also managed to break off a big chuck of wood inside of it… wood that has been hammered in. Brilliant. I can’t just dig it out, either, because I don’t want to rip up the (brass, remember) threads inside. AARRRGGG!

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”” type=”image” alt=”20130616_165613.jpg” ] [pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”” type=”image” alt=”20130616_174434.jpg” ] [pe2-image src=”–wTjPOYPjiQ/Ub4_BZZVyLI/AAAAAAAALTA/WFUNLu2Z9w8/s144-c-o/20130616_174019.jpg” href=”″ caption=”” type=”image” alt=”20130616_174019.jpg” ]

 Rockerbox is coming, too… dang it!

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.

Copper Pendant

Well, it’s finally happened… I finally made Molly that piece of jewelry I promised her back when Michael first talked me into taking Frankie‘s summer workshops (two years ago?). It’s not fancy, but I’m happy with it, Molly seems to like it, and it is the first thing of this type I’ve produced at home.

Getting started
Getting started
Mostly done
Mostly done
Up close
Up close

It still needs some cleanup, and to be sealed, but I think it’s pretty dang cool.

Plastic Injection Molder – Part 5

I got a very little more done on the injection molder frame:

Injection molder frame w/ piston
Injection molder frame w/ piston

That’s the arm and piston mounted (clamped) in place, and the center cross member bolted in. This thing is pretty solid, and pretty heavy, but I’ll still need to bolt it down eventually.

New shop storage

For those of you that don’t know, I spend my days working for a communications firm here in Milwaukee. This company has its roots in advertising, and there are still some artifacts of that history around. One of them was a bunch of flat file cabinets which were used to store proofs, works-in-progress, presentation boards, etc. These weren’t getting much use (mostly just used as a base for a work table) and I’d had my eye on them for a while. Well, with our recent changing of offices, I thought I might be able to snag them.

Alas, it was not to be… Somehow, nobody heard me jumping up and down, saying that I wanted them, and so they ended up going to the Goodwill. That was the bad news… the good news was that there was another set of them in storage, and those are the ones that are now living in my shop:

Man, it was blurry in there when I took this picture...
Man, it was blurry in there when I took this picture...


These are actually better than the ones I’d originally wanted, as these are from the ’80s, when office furniture was made to last… It took me three trips to get these things home, and I did some damage to my back, but when I dropped one right on its corner while moving it, the floor came away dented rather than the cabinet. A drop like that would twisted a newer cabinet beyond repair, but this bad boy just shrugged it off. I also snagged an old cutting mat (shown on top of the cabinets above) and a weird old work desk/rack thing:

Seriously, super blurry that day
Seriously, super blurry that day


This is another extremely solid piece that is definitely going to see some use. The work surface is in great condition, so this guy might get brought inside, rather than staying in the garage. Not too bad, for stuff that was headed to the heap.