Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sword Play

I'm becoming quite the wooden arms merchant. Campbell wanted to be Steve Jobs for Halloween. I dutifully made him a fake Apple badge, changed his shirt color to black and added glasses in Photoshop. He loved it. But as October neared its end he decided to be a knight instead. With only days to spare I concocted this rather imposing sword.

The tiles are 6", so you can see it's about 42" in length. The blade is a shaped piece of vertical grain Douglas Fir.

The handle and hilt are a sandwich of oak, the fir blade and the two "horns" made of plywood. It has a magnificent feel in the hand, with outstanding balance and swift action that left homeowners begging for mercy and surrendering their candy in generous amounts.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tool Restoration

I've had the opportunity to restore some tools this year.  The best part is that I got them for little or nothing yet they have proven to be incredibly useful.

I bought this grinder station (the part from the 1/4" steel table up).  It was unpainted and so covered in grease I had to wash it 3 times in industrial solvent.  The brush wheel mount is a casting, but the tensioner and the whole contraption for the sanding belt were homemade by someone.  I cleaned, polished and painted it up, added a magnetic on/off switch, grounded plug, a new belt and brush and mounted it to a refurbished cast iron base I found on the property.  The base says "Portland Ironworks" on the bottom.  It's a lovely, utilitarian casting that weighs a ton.


This benchtop sander was given to me by Pat.  It was submerged in the 1996 flood and had to be stripped down, painted and rebuilt.  It's already dusty as it has proven a very useful tool even though I probably never would have thought to buy one.  There is a missing table that goes in front of the disk portion.  I can get one new for $45, but I can buy the whole thing for $75.  

I also had to repair the vacuum plate mount by making a fitting that went over the part that bolts on.  I added a section of vacuum tube so that I could plug in the suction from the front.  


The final piece, a benchtop scroll saw, also went through the flood.  It needed only to be cleaned and new band saw blades installed and it works like new.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Deere Green

The paint on my tractor was starting to peel away in sheets.  This is partially due to a known defect in that model's paint process, and partially being in high humidity.  I decided to tackle the problem by removing all the sheet metal.



I had thought that powder coating would be too expensive; a technique I wrongly thought was for exotic cars and high performance parts.  Turns out that it's the only method that can be used in big cities as wet painting involves a lot of solvents that end up in the air.   It cost only $300 to have everything double coated.  For items like the front grill with it's thousands of perforations, is ideal for powder coating.


For the footrests, I painted them myself with truck bed liner.  Really nice solution that is tough, non-slip and repairable.



For the footrests, I painted them myself with truck bed liner. Really nice solution that is tough, non-slip and repairable.

At the same time I had to rebuild one of the backhoe hydraulic arms. Since I had it apart, I decided to paint it. I also added a rubbing strip. The metal armor plate used to ride metal on metal up the arm leaving a rusty trial. I couldn't believe it was designed that way.



Alice's 8-year old son, Campbell, got interested in woodwork. I planned to give him a simple toolbox, but as usual one thing led to another.

Other than buying the latches, it's all made of leftover bits and pieces. I don't have a toolbox this nice. I have one on order from myself. Version 2.0 of course.

End Table

This was Alice's birthday gift. It's a companion to the WC table made of an old style wooden toilet tank to which we mounted 4 legs.

The companion piece sits the same 6-inches off the ground and is the same 25-inches tall, but slightly wider and deeper. It is made of solid oak, like the tank, and in keeping with the craftsman tone. Alice still has to stain it.

It's the first time I've worked with oak. Hard and heavy, but smells like fresh mown hay when cut. Delightful.

Gun Play

Speaking to my brother Andrew one day, I learned that when we were young I apparently made him a toy gun with removable parts and a box to carry it around in. I have no recollection whatsoever of this. Andrew said it was near and dear to him and that he used to carry it around pretending he was Carlos the Jackal. Then he surprised me by asking if I would make something similar for his son Atticus, age 5. This was this past summer, but in September I started in on the project. I went overboard.

The scope, made of some scrap PVC, does not “work” per se, but it does have cross hairs. The handle and trigger from a seized up foam gun. The carrying handle from parts I kept from a bygone Shop-Vac. The cartridges in the handle are real, but filled with wooden “bullets.” The bipod, my most inspired element, is a pair of repurposed windshield wiper blades. The fitting that holds the barrel on is a standard “as is”, unmodified electrical conduit fitting. The clips are held in with rare earth magnets that also produce a satisfying “click” when engaged. The two halves of the body are reinforced with a ¼” – 4” long, stainless steel rod. The whole design was done on the fly without any drawings. All this bits I had just laying about in the shop. Even the case, made of plywood, but stained, was given to me by Pat or Roxy. The only items purchased were the foam and flashlight. I wanted to include a laser, but there is no such thing as an eye-safe laser. After building it, it was obvious that this was nothing to give a 5-year old who might point it out a Paris window. I’m giving it to Andrew; letting him decide what to do with it.

Peace on Earth,


Friday, January 1, 2010

Useful Browser Add on

David Pogue, NYT, recommended this in his technology year in review.

"The Web has become a very rude place. We’re trying to mind our own business but we’re bombarded more and more with noise that makes it harder to focus and read. It’s become a painful experience. Just visit MSNBC or Yahoo News and you’ll quickly find yourself waist-deep in all sorts of advertising clutter.
Young-Girl-Reading-Print-C10032525 Well, we decided to do something about it. Readability is a browser bookmarklet that takes a crack at wiping out all that junk so you can have a more enjoyable reading experience. It works with all the latest browsers and its success rate is pretty respectable (we’d guess over 90% of web sites are handled properly). It’s our latest lab experiment and a small gesture towards a more peaceful, civilized Internet!