Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's log, it's log, it's big, it's heavy, it's wood...

It's log, it's log, it's better than's good!

Not every project can be glamorous, as a matter of fact, most of my projects aren't glamorous. But this one is almost too embarrassing to write about.

Teener saw a stump side table in a West Elm catalog that she liked.

West Elm Product Page

I'll admit, it isn't exactly my style, but I kind of like the simplicity of it. Here's the hilarious part though, it's $200 before shipping (and I can only imagine what shipping is for a log).

Teener's parents basically live in the woods, and her dad loves cutting down trees. So a couple visits back we had them bring us a couple logs so that we could make our own. And then I left those stumps outside for about 2 years.

This last week I got around to making one. The first problem I ran into was trying to level the surfaces. You can only get it so close with a chainsaw, and I don't have any other saw large enough to cut through them. So I resorted to using a power planer to wear one down. That worked until I smoked the motor.

So, then I did the rest with a belt sander and finished it off with an orbital. I gotta say, it sits flat and is pretty level (level enough to safely rest a glass on). A little hand sanding, some stain and spar urethane and I am pretty happy with it.

Here is the finished one drying on its sibling.

Since if took a couple hours of tedious work to level it off, I don't know if/when I will get around to doing the other one.

And here it is in the room it was made for:

Now all we need is a cold fall night, a fire in the fireplace, and a glass of red wine to put on it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Canned Tomatoes

This is our vegetable garden. And by our garden, I mean Teener's garden. She decides what to plant, and where, and I dutifully agree with her. That isn't to say I can't garden, I have grown successful gardens in my past, and I come from a long line of farmers. It's just that this is her hobby, and I don't feel the need to go poking around in it.

It is placed between two garages, and it basically swims in sunlight all day. The first year we planted a ton of tomato plants, and we ended up with an impenetrable jungle of rotting tomatoes. Last year we planted a lot less, but we still had too many plants, and in a fit of cleverness, we planted the earlier ripening ones in the back. This year we planted a dozen different varieties, and that seems to be the perfect number.

We are now at the phase where we are getting more tomatoes than any reasonable person has use for, so I decided to can some. I have done a bunch of canning in the past, so this wasn't new territory.

I won't go into a ton of detail about canning, this is the internet, and there are tons of resources.

Here is my bounty:

And here it is cooking down after it was all peeled and seeded:

All that I added to it was a little salt, basil (from the garden), a shit-ton of garlic and some lemon juice as a preservative.

And here are the rewards:

I suspect that I will be able to get at least two more batches like this out of the garden.

Cuff Links and Rings!

Not every project has to be macho. And now that I have stated that, let me get into today's projects.

I first read this page years ago (long before instructables and I don't remember how I ended up there), and I was intrigued by the process.

Now, I cannot stand to wear jewelry. It is honestly a struggle to even wear clothes. Not because I am a nudist, or some other weirdo with an agenda, but because I have a hard time getting comfortable. Which is probably why I still stick to t-shirts, work shirts, Levi 550s (34-32), and chuck's size 9.5.

But, the thought of making a ring has stuck with me since. And no, it has nothing to do with any of that Tolkien shit. I may be a nerd, but I am sorry, those books were a serious task to get through. I won't go too far into it, but man, how many pages can you dedicate to a couple dwarfs hiking through a wasteland?

Anyway, Teener has a thing for silver jewelry, and I recently found myself at a flea market where an older chap was selling silver coins. It seemed like it was time to give it a try. I won't go too far into the process. The link up above goes into much better detail than I would.

She says she likes it, and I have chosen to believe her.

The other project stems from jealousy over a buddy's recent birthday present.

My pal Ryan just got a pair of cuff links from his girlfriend. I know I made a bunch of ballyhoo above about clothes and comfortability, but I must admit, I do like wearing a suit. I think it might stem from the fact that I wear one about three times a year, so it is always a special occasion. And if I am going to wear a suit, I want to do it properly.

And speaking of a special occasion, my cousin is getting married in two weeks, so I decided to get a pair of French cuffs for myself.

I toyed with buying a pair of links off Etsy, but I decided to go the DIY route. I ordered some link backs from a seller off ebay, which set me back about $7 for six pairs. I could only think of two ideas for now. One pair is made out of some circles I cut out of some old ram chips, the other pair was made of a couple keys I popped of a defunct laptop keyboard (Alt and FN, silver, which is a bonus). I just glued them to the back with marine epoxy. I think I might dip the circuit board pair in a resin, to give them a nice finish.

Nice and yet subtly nerdy, much like myself.

Speaking of which, I bought a nice tie while I was at the Detroit Maker Faire. It was from the Cyberoptix booth:

Their shit was really cool, and yes, it made me feel very old and sad when I realized that I went to a faire, and I bought a silk tie.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bikes (pedal powered)

I wouldn't call what I had when I turned 30 as a freak out, but it was definitely a realization that I had to change a few things. I certainly wasn't going to give up beer, and running is completely boring, but I did need to make at least a better than token effort at taking care of myself.

As a college student I did a lot of biking on campus, and bikes always appealed to the engineer in me. They are wonderfully purpose driven machines. So I decided to purchase a nice road bike and commit to putting some miles in. I won't turn this into a post about exercise. What that first bike did was not just get me back into riding, it also got me into wrenching on bikes. What followed has been 6 years of collecting, tearing apart and rebuilding my bikes, and wrenching on friends' bikes as well.
I currently have 3 road bikes, 1 mountain bike, and 1 art bike.

Two of the road bikes are high-end Cannondales. One is almost an antique, and one is pretty new. The new one is a much better bike than I am a rider. The funny thing is, the bike I ride the most is a fixed gear that I cobbled together from an old Bianchi I bought off ebay, and a bunch of spare parts.

There are tons of sites explaining the fixed gear cult, so I won't get into it now. What I will say is as a riding style, it is addictive. As a bike nerd, I love the absolute simplicity of a fixed gear. For more info, check this link:

I didn't take any pics of the Bianchi when I first bought it. But trust me, it was ugly. It kind of looked like a beat up version of this (substitute purple for blue):

It has gone through a bunch of iterations, but this is it as it stands now:

This was it a few years ago:

This bike is worth less than a tenth of my other bikes, yet this is the one I ride the most. Maybe it's because I'm not afraid to leave it leaned up against a parking meter outside a bar.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Frames and More Frames

Teener used to live with a bisexual chic artist. I mention that because it is awesome.

Anyway, this is a self portrait that she left with her. I made the frame out of oak that I notched on the table saw, and then notched with a coping saw to get it all to fit together.

There is a story behind this poster. A buddy of mine traveled somewhere down south (I want to say it was a Virginia, but it might not have been) to purchase a barnfound VW bus. It was an old split window that some olde timer parked in his barn about 40 years ago. The old guy said he parked it after returning from the inaugural race at MIS. When my buddy got it home he started tearing it apart, and in an oil stained folder under the passenger seat was a folded up copy of the race program. I loved the design, so I had it scanned and enlarged. I made a simple oak frame with a dark stain. I am pretty happy with it.

And lastly, my pal Mattie is a painter (and musician/sculpter/gardner/bartender/dog owner/drunk). I have been trying to get a painting from him for years, and he always demurred, saying he wanted to paint something special or some other excuse. About a year ago we were hanging out after the bar closed, and I informed him that I was going downstairs to where he paints, and I was stealing a painting. And that is what I did. It's oil on paneling. For the frame I used some wood that I salvaged from a sandbox that was in the back yard. The wood has a nice weathered look that I think fits the piece. I did a little cleaning on the table saw, stained it (over the weather damage) and added a couple polyacrylic coats.

*we don't normally have this much crap on the mantle.

If Sam ever ends up reading this, I want you to know, I have framed your painting, and it is hanging in the house, but i am not thrilled with what I came up with. As soon as I can come up with a frame I am proud of I will display it here.

And I would also like to give some props to my buildshitwoman. Teener is no slouch in the creating department herself. I found this oak chair in the trash next to a friend's house. The wood and construction is solid (it just needed a little scrubbing), only the upholstery was missing. She was able to put this together, and made a pretty great chair. She also made the ottoman quite some time ago.

Finally, we had some friends over for the weekend, and after some wine we started doing some long exposure sparkler photos. Here is the family portrait we came up with.

That's about it for now.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Some Random House Crap

Here a couple things that I built, but didn't really document the build.

This one, like so many of my projects, has its origin located in my cheapskatedness. This one was my first project in the new house. Teener wanted some ladder shelves for the living room, and she found some she liked from Crate and Barrel. Like everything from those homewares jerks, I thought it was incredibly overpriced for what was essentially flat pack furniture that I would end up having to assemble anyway. So I decided to show her that I could build things and save a little cash in the process. Here is the end result, complete with chachkies, whatnots and ephemera.

The nice thing about these is since they were custom built, they fit the space better than store bought. Also, these are considerably larger than the C&B models. We would have needed three of those. So, instead of spending $450 on prefab shelves, I spent about $70 bucks on materials, and $150 on a table saw. They aren't perfect, and there are definitely things I would do differently (the phrase "measure twice, cut once" comes to mind), but I think they look good, and I have received many compliments on them.

Another quick project is a key holder. Originally we had a brass key hook in the shape a row of cats, and their hooked tails held the keys (poorly). I hated it. Really hated it. Hated it so much that I don't even have a picture of it for the purpose of comparison. I threw this together as a test of concept. It has a bunch of strong magnets that I salvaged from a half dozen hard drives mounted behind a veneer and framed with some scrap cherry wood.

It works pretty well. There are things I like about it, and things I don't. I would like to make a better one, but until then this will hang by the door. I estimate it will hang there for another decade.

White Trash Artwork!*

I went to Lowes last week to buy a pint of paint for a bike project (future post). While there I have to check the discounted tool section, of course. And this is what I found:

Well, that is a savings that just can't be ignored, and shit, it's the last one! So what was going to be a $10 day at Lowes turned into a $100 day.

Now, I have no pressing reason to own this, but I figure it will prove useful in the future. But just because I don't need to use a tool doesn't mean that I don't need to use a tool. So I began looking for a project to play around with. After some quick Googling I came across this page:

One of the images popped out at me, it was of Waylon Jennings. A buddy of mine just had a son, and he named him Waylon Edgar, after Jennings and Poe. While a woodcut of Edgar Allan Poe would be classy, it wouldn't be nearly as sweet as a Waylon Jennings, so the decision was made. While I was at it, I decided to make a Hank Williams Jr cut for another friend.

I didn't start taking pics till I was half way through the Jennings woodcut, but the process is pretty simple. I started off by printing out the high contrast image, and spray gluing it to a piece of scrap plywood.

To get started, I would drill a small hole, then feed the blade through it and start cutting. I would like to point out that I have never before used a scroll saw, and this didn't come with a manual, and I couldn't have been bothered to look up any sort of tutorial or manual online, so there was definitely some trial and error. Overall it went smoothly and I am greatly impressed with this tool.

Doing the facial hair was a time consuming process, but since I was enjoying learning to use a new tool, it was pretty enjoyable. It took well over an hour to get to this point.

Due to some of the links being small, the cutouts were a little fragile. I am proud to say that I didn't break any while I was working on them, but I definitely didn't think they would last too long as they were, so I decided to mount them on another piece of plywood. One nice side benefit of this, I stained the back layer dark, and it really highlights the image. The Waylon cut was done before the Williams one, so I was still pretty green when I was working on it, and it shows in the letters. Although I think that the rougher character is fitting of the subject. Then again, maybe I am just rationalizing.

I decided to carry the rough look over into the frame, so I yanked an old piece of scrap down from the rafters and riped it into strips. I made a small rabbit style joint at each corner by eye on the scroll saw. They don't meet up perfectly, but they weren't exactly expected to. Everything is held together with glue and brads. Then I gave them a couple layers of Polyurethane.

In my humble opinion, these could be sold at any of the finer flea markets, and displayed in any of the more prestigious trailer parks in this great land of ours.

As far as learning the scroll saw, I would say these were worth making, but for me to truly consider these a success I will need my buddies to insist that they be allowed to display them in their homes. That should make both their wives very happy.

*I would like to clarify that I am not referring to the venerable pursuit of creating art with the scroll saw as a white trash hobby, I am just saying that hastily assembling a couple of drunken country stars on scrap plywood for distribution amongst drinking buddies could be construed as low-class.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grill Handle

In college I built a 55 gallon drum BBQ grill. Since we were poor college students it was made out of whatever we could scrounge. The base was made from shelving scavenged from the grocery store I worked at. The grates were made out of refrigerator shelving. And when it came time to make the handle, I splurged and bought an axe handle. For some reason it seemed perfect.

The grill lived on our front porch for three years, and after we graduated it migrated up the the upper peninsula to our deer camp, where it provided a couple more years of service before eventually rusting out. I wish I had some pictures of it, but alas I don't. Before it was sent off to its final reward, I removed the axe handle and put it in the toolbox in the truck. That was probably 5 years ago.

This last year I bought a new BBQ. My garbage picked Weber kettle finally gave out. It died like most of them do, one of the leg mounts rusted and broke off. While I was cooking. I ended up buying a Char Griller Super Pro from Lowes. I love it, but the handle seemed wimpy.

That's when I remembered my old axe handle. I dug it out of the toolbox, cleaned it up, and mounted it. Later I ended up adding the smoker box on the side, so I went out and bought a hatchet handle.

Oh yeah, I built that planter box behind the grill. I made it out of some scrap wood to replace the ones that came with the house, which had rotted out. It is now painted black, and is also a piece of crap. I am really not very proud of it. I will allow it to exist for this season, but next year it's gone.

Not only do I like to build things, I also like to cook things. Here is a nice slap of spare ribs being slowly smoked:

Coffee and Side Tables

As was hinted in a previous post, here is what became of some of the hardwood flooring that we pulled up when installing the slate floor.

I riped off the tongue side of the wood and screwed and glued it together face-to-back (as opposed to side-to-side). The surface was pretty rough, but it planed and sanded out pretty well. I also wasn't going for a perfect surface. I wanted that expensive restoration hardware reclaimed wood look. So, a little wood filler (which gives the nail holes and flaws some character) and a few hundred passes with the belt sander and it came out exactly as I hoped it would.

I have had a little mig welder for a couple years now, but have never had much of a chance to use it in a big way. I also didn't really now how to use it, so there was a steep learning curve on this project. If I could quote a friend, "I'm not a very good welder, but I am a great grinder".

Anyway, I bought some box steel from Lowes, and kind of shot from the hip while building the bases for these. I am pretty happy with them.

I ended up being really focused on making the coffee table, and I forgot to take any pics, but I did document the making of the side tables pretty well.

Here is the table top before being urethaned:

And here is the completed table in it's place:

Here is one of the tops in its early stages:

Here it is attached to the beginning of the base:

Everything is still pretty rough here. A little more progress:

One mostly done, next to its twin:


And urethaning:

Coincidentally, the shelf is exactly big enough to hold my laptop. I would like to take credit for thinking of that, but it was pure luck.

All tables in there locations:

While working with the floor, I found a sticker from the original lumber yard that the wood came from: So, I present the Chickasaw Collection. The casters make the coffee table really convenient for pushing away after consuming way to much food. The total cost of materials was well below $200, which is a hell of a lot cheaper than anything at Pottery Barn. Now I should have just enough wood left to build the entertainment center.

Tool Tip:

After dicking around for a few years thinking about buying one of these bits, I finally did. Totally worth it. To mount the bases to the tops I drilled a 1/4" hole in one side of the tubing, and a 1/2" on the other, and used hardened steel screws with heads big enough to pass through the big hole and mount from the inside.

Safety Tip:

Keep mineral spirit soaked rags away from wherever you are welding. I was tacking the shelf portions in place, and my left arm started to feel warm. Warmer than it should from just welding. I removed my goggles in time to see a two foot high flaming rag on my bench top. A spark from the welder must have hit it. Stupid mistake. I do have a fire extinguisher about two feet from where I was, but I was able to pick it up pretty easier with the welding gloves and throw it on the fire pit.

Stupid mistake.