Tag Archives: wood

Brownie-Bite Display

Mom came to me with a small sketch and asked if there was a way to make a display for brownie bite cupcakes for her glass cake display.  Yeah, there is.

Laser-cut ply glued together in layered sections, with a dowel socketed in laser-cut holes.  A little family flourish around the lower edge, a coat of water-based poly, and it looks pretty good.

Knit-Gift Frame


fig 1: Frame in position

Received a set of custom-knit Who-themed washcloths and soap as a gift from talented knitting friend Cyl.  I mentioned that it would be a shame to keep them tucked away when not in use, and she gave me a tip that simple cup-hooks would keep them close at hand, and available for use when needed.

fig 2: “EXTERMINATE!” (click for bigger)

I took the idea one step further, and made a frame for them to sit in.  Cup hooks are screwed into a fairly simple Cedar frame.

Detail in the stitching is lost when light strikes it perpendicular to the plane of the frame, so the whole thing placed on a wall in the bathroom where light can strike it from the side.

Mom’s Terraced Planters

As always, racked my brain on what to get/make mom for Christmas.  I eventually settled on a ladder-style planter for her to grow herbs or smaller flowers, but during my research into the different types of planters, I came across a series of terrace-style planters.

IMG_1358 I settled on making two planters that had a right-angle corner.  That way the planters could either be placed in two separate corners of the garden, or the planters could be secured together side-by-side, to make one larger terraced planter.  I didn’t know what mom’s vision for her garden had in store, so I thought versatility would be appreciated.

Ziggurat Planter - CornerDrew up some plans in Sketchup, and then found a calculator online to help me get the compound angles I’d need to dial into my miter saw.

Cut the planter sides out of normal cedar fence pickets that were found at the local big-box store, and reinforced the structure with a 2×2 cedar ‘spine’ at the right-angle corner.  I attempted to screw everything together, but the compound miter angles made it fairly difficult; I wound up putting long nails into my pin nailer, and just nailed the heck out of it.

My initial design had two more terraces, but before I cut the boards I ran out to the car with the tape measure.  Two of the four terrace planters would fit in my car for transport on Christmas day.  Any more terraces, and I would have to do assembly there on Christmas day.

Lessons Learned: Compound miters are really easy if you keep them to just one corner.  Also, if the cedar fence pickets were a little thicker, I probably wound have tried to use some kind of spline to help keep everything together.

I didn’t really think about it until the planters were done, but there’s a lot of wasted space in this style of planter that needs to be packed with fill dirt.  I feel kind of bad that in giving my mom the planters for Christmas, I also inadvertently got my old man an extra chore.

Cutting Board

fig 1: The finished product

I made an end-grain cutting board for my brother a couple years ago, and I decided to make another board this year for my uncle.  But instead of end-grain, I thought I’d keep it a little simpler and just go with a normal edge-grain cutting board.

I had a Hickory board that I picked out a year or two ago that I was going to turn into bow staves, so it had straight grain and was knot free.  I also had a Purple Heart board kicking around, so I thought I’d add in a few strips of that to give it a nice contrast.

fig 2: Dynamite with a laser beam

Got the cutting board glued up and planed, then hauled it over to Schenk’s for a trip through the laser cutter.

Brought it home, then started adding coats of plain old food-grade mineral oil.  Rubbed on a coat, let it sit for a few hours, then added another coat.

After a few days of adding a coat of oil every so often, I wrapped it up and gave it away as a gift.  With the monogram on one side, it can be used as a serving tray, and food or other items can be cut on the backside.

Lessons Learned: Edge-grain cutting boards are much easier than end-grain, and I not counting glue-up time, I can knock one out in a couple hours.  I just need to expand my repertoire of things to laser-engrave into them.

Wooden Bow-Tie

Finished Tie
fig. 1: A hasty tie

Christmas party at work, and someone had the idea of all the guys wearing a bow tie on that day.  I only have two ties, and neither of them bows, so I figured I’d either stop at Goodwill before then for one, or come up with a solution of my own to this tie problem.

Welp, the night before, I still have no bow tie.  So I got online and google “how to make a bow tie”.  I’ve got some fabric scraps around, and I could come up with something.  However, much to my delight, I see that there are some hipsters who have come up with the idea of making a tie out of wood.  Much easier for me to make a wood tie than a fabric tie.

Since I don’t have an actual tie to work with, I need to find out what the dimensions of a bow tie are (fun fact: 4.5″ x 1.75″).  Sketched out  a bow-tie shape in Illustrator, then overlaid a stylized silhouette of Portland from Google image search.  Sent the pattern to my Silhouette, pulled a thin piece of oak ply out of the scrap bin, then cut the pattern out on the band saw.

Rattle-can of black paint over the stencil, and then a light wash of wood stain.  I noticed that the wood stain started smearing the rattle-can paint, so I used that effect to have the city fade out at the bottom.  The edges of the ply are pretty light, so I used a sharpie around the outside edge.  Finish it off with a light spray of matte clear coat, and the hard part is done.

Found a scrap of black paracord I haven’t found a use for yet, wrapped it around the middle, and then put some side-release buckles on the ends.  All done!

Got plenty of compliments at work about the tie, and it did look pretty alright.  But with the party over, I don’t really have a good use for the tie.  I thought about just pitching it back into the scrap bin, but I found a better use for it: The Collar of Shame.

fig 2: One (1) disobedient cat experiencing everlasting shame

Lisa’s Geological Specimen Box


When Christmastime was rolling around, I had some gifts (almost all of them, I guess) that would require access to Schenk’s laser cutter.  But then he was called out of town at the last minute.  Oh no!  Fortunately, his wife was kind enough to allow me to stop by and finish my gifts in time for Christmas.  When I was walking out the door with my arms loaded with gift parts, I told her that I would design her something worthwhile.

The BPAL Box for Isaac’s wife Cyl.  The Needlepoint Box for Pete’s Wife Sarah.  I decided to continue the tradition of box-making tailored to the recipients specific hobby.  Something that makes them unique.  For their wedding centerpieces last year, Lisa deployed some of her finest mineralogical specimens to support the rustic, natural theme of their reception.  But visiting their home a few months later, I saw some of them in a bucket.  That just won’t do.

DSCN3900I doodled a couple ideas for what I wanted the box to look like.  I knew I wanted shallow sample trays, so each specimen would be easily visible and accessible.  I wanted doors on the front so that the trays wouldn’t slide out during transport.  If the doors were deep enough, I could make space for smaller containers for sands, soils, and agates, along with specimen maintenance tools like brushes and loupes.

Withe dimensions roughed out on paper, I translated the design into Sketchup so that I could get some hard numbers.

I didn’t want visible screws, so this box marked my foray into plate-joinery.  I received a plate joiner as a gift last year, but haven’t had an opportunity to use it.  The box was going to have rocks in it, and I didn’t want it coming apart when moving it.

DSCN3904The carcase is made of 1/2″ sandeply joined with biscuits, and the trays are Poplar fronts with 1/4″ MDF joined using my 17-gauge pin nailer.  After assembling the third tray, I finally got the idea that the MDF wouldn’t split if I pinned it closer to the middle of the boards.  Better late than never.  I didn’t trust myself notching all the tray dividers on the table saw, so it was a perfect job for the laser cutter.

Each tray got a wipe-down of paste wax on the bottoms and sides for a smooth ride in and out of the box.  The drawers fit so snugly that they give a little owl “hoot” when pushing them back in; the escaping air has to pass over the tops of the sample compartments, in effect creating a type of whistle.

Brass hardware keeps everything together.  Even though I wanted to use nickel hardware, I was kind of forced to use brass hardware since I couldn’t find the handles I wanted in nickel.  Lisa’s keeps the collection secure with an antique brass lock.

DSCN3903The box was finished with Dark Walnut stain and two layers of semi-gloss poly.  Before applying the poly, I cut out stencils on the Cameo for each side of the box and applied a quick spray of rattlecan white.

For maximum personalization, I created a name plate so that there would be no question or confusion as to who owned the box, and what was inside.

Lessons Learned

When working with plywood, if I’m making something nice as a gift, I need to either apply edge banding to the exposed plywood edge, or paint the whole box.  I finish the plywood surface because I wanted to give a ‘finished wood’ look, but the exposed ply edges really take away from the whole aesthetic.

Also, I got to use my plate joiner for a practical project, which was fairly easy and fun.

Christmas Boxes for Aunt Gloria

At thanksgiving, I drew my Aunt Gloria’s name out of the bowl for our family’s secret-santa.  Decided on making a pair of small boxes.

IMG_2705The bodies of the boxes are miter-joined Maple with Oak keys on the side edges.  The lids are a miter-joined Oak frame with 1/8″ laser-cut plywood set in a slot in the frame.

The box on the left is laser-cut all the way through.  It features my aunt and uncle’s name around a monogrammed initial, and is intended to be a potpourri box (I included a bag of potpourri to drive that point home).  The box on the right is etched with just my aunt’s name, and is intended to be just a keepsake or jewelry box.

Lessons Learned:
I should have used a darker contrasting wood for the keys, like Walnut or Purple Heart.  I was hoping the Oak wood would absorb more of the darker stain.  Also, some of the filigree work on the potpourri lid is alarmingly thin.  A couple small pieces broke off, and I had to break off the mirrored pieces to retain a symmetrical look.  The filigrees look like they just touch the lid frame, but they extend to a sturdy rectangular piece that runs around the entire inside of the slot it fits in, so the majority of it is surprisingly sturdy.

A Needlepoint Project Box

IMG_0304aMy friend Sarah enjoys knitting and needlepoint in her spare time.  I noticed she kept her thread cards in one container, her scissors and pins in her sewing kit, and hoops and projects elsewhere.  Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if she could keep all her needlepoint-related projects in one place?

When I sketched up the plans, I knew that I wanted to have a partitioned area to keep the little plastic ‘cards’ of thread, an area for miscellaneous supplies (I think sewing enthusiasts call these items ‘notions’), an area for the ‘skeins’ of thread waiting to be put on the cards (not sure of the technical term for those), and an area for hoops when they aren’t in use.

IMG_0302At first, I was going to have just one box with a lift-out tray.  But I wanted to have three separate compartments.  I figured I would put a drawer in the bottom for large, infrequently-used items, the lift-out tray for frequently used items, and the main bottom compartment for moderately sized, moderately-used items.

Instead of going with the lift-out tray, I decided to go with a fold-out style box, which I figured would be a bit more elegant and just as functional.

The box is made from Poplar with miter keys made from Purple Heart.  The lid is Purple Heart with a Poplar Frame.  I didn’t have a wide enough piece of Purple Heart for the lid, so I got to do my first book-matching rip on the table saw, and it turned out great.

IMG_0301To keep her mother-in-law (another needlepointer) from purloining the box, I burned Sarah’s full name deep into the lid using a Scrabble™ tile font I found online.  It’ll take a lot of belt sanding to get that name off the box.

Click to embiggen.

The lid is retained in an almost-upright position by a black chain on the right-hand side.  Since the lid is a little wider than 11.5″, I took a couple of scrap pieces of Purple Heart and used them as standoffs for a piece of Lexan.  That way, Sarah can keep needlepoint patterns with her projects.


Lessons Learned:In hindsight, I really wish I spent more time on getting the drawer flush with the front.  It looks fine head-on, but it sticks out a bit on the profile shot.