December 14th, 2016

Coat hook rails from re-cycled flooring

After putting in some new flooring, I was left with an entire box of off-fall and reject oak floor boards. To start re-cycling them I decided to make some Coat hook rails for the office.


I surmised that they would look good using the same checkerboard end grain effect as I had previously done with a Cutting Board. So I planed down four boards to remove the finish on the top and the grooves on the bottom. I then glued the boards together in a sandwich.



I sliced the sandwich down to rough size with the table saw and then planed it to final thickness. The piece was then cut apart on the miter saw into the individual segments. While it did work out to make one using this technique, it was very difficult clamping all of the small strips of 4 cubes back together evenly before the glue started to set up. It also took a lot of sanding to the get the final piece smoothed out. I opted to make the two smaller rails without the checkerboard effect.


After drilling holes for and gluing in the store bought coat hook pegs, a spray polyurethane finished was applied. I also used pre-made oak buttons to cover the two mounting holes.


November 20th, 2016

DIY LED Christmas tree

Here are two of my DIY Electronic Christmas trees. The first one was made two years ago for an office Christmas decorating contest. I decided to update it this year with a little more modern technology.


First tree:
This is a fiber optic tree with a halogen light and color wheel in the base. I decided on a technology theme using electronic parts that I had on hand by making my own blinking light strands out of red and green LEDs soldered onto cut up ribbon cables. The LEDs are driven by a 555 + 4017 + 2803 IC combo circuit assembled on a breadboard. For those who are not sure what that means… The 555 is a general purpose timer IC that supplies the clock pulses. The speed is adjustable by the potentiometer knob. The 4017 IC acts as a sequencer/chaser. It has ten output pins that switch on in sequence per each clock pulse. The next chip is a ULN2803 that acts as a amplifier for the output of the 4017 to drive multiple LEDs. In this case, I am using 7 channels of outputs with two LEDs on each strand. Here is a schematic if you want to make this circuit:



The ornaments on this tree are old ICs that were spray painted white and red. I am happy to report that I did win the decorating contest with this effort. I was going for an ‘electronic steampunk’ theme, which I think this captured. Charles even said that it looked ‘old school’, high praise indeed!

Updated Tree:


This year, I updated the original tree with a Bluetooth LED controller instead of the discreet ICs of the original version. I decided since now that it is 2016 and all of the box stores sell LED light strands and power strips with embedded Bluetooth controllers and their own ‘app for that’, my entry should reflect that technology. I thought about using a Raspberry PI and writing some PWM code in python to blink and dim the LEDs (and send tweets too!), but I decided that was a bit overkill.


I settled instead on a standalone Bluetooth LED controller (BL 370) that I bought for $25 on A-Maze-On. The device is made to control RGB LED strips, but I thought it would do fine driving 6 each red, green, and blue LEDs for my Christmas tree (Note that there is a 470 ohm resistor inline with each LED; I re-wired them after taking the pictures). The device has its own app called ‘Magic Light BLE’ for Android and IOS. The app works pretty well with lots of options to blink the lights. The only downside is that it seems like a fairly dodgy app since now on Android it requires location permission to start. So I borrowed my Mom’s old iPhone to load the app instead. While sitting next to the tree, the phone actually complements this years theme of ‘App for that Christmas tree’. Any suggestions on what to use for ornaments?  Maybe of bunch of cut off USB connectors if I can find a ready supply?

December 9th, 2015

Maple Scrap Clock

Last year I made a bunch of Bottle Openers out of Maple. The openers were cut using a jig and created a pile of little wedges as waste material.


Rather than trash them, I let them sit on my bench while I contemplated what to do with them. I floated the idea of gluing them together into a circle but I didn’t have enough pieces to make a full circle.


Above you can see all of my various calculations done in an attempt to determine how many more wedges that I would need. After almost a year sitting on the bench, I decided to finish this project by first making some more bottle openers to have more wedges and then glue them together to make a clock. The calculations went out the window and I ultimately just used enough wedges to make a circle since the new ones were slightly smaller than the originals.


As it turned out, making 11 more Maple bottle openers was still not enough wedges to make a circle. So I made a few more out of pine in order to have enough to finish the project.IMG_20151128_204659

Now that I had enough wedges, I set about gluing them together. To accomplish that, I put some screws through a piece of pegboard in order to hold my rubber band ‘clamps’ at the ready while I applied glue to all of the wedges.


And here is the clock starting to take shape after the glue was applied and the rubber bands put around it.


It turned out that the points of the wedges didn’t really line up to make true center point. It looks more like a pinwheel but I think it still looks pretty neat despite not being a perfect circle. The next step after letting the glue dry overnight was to sand down both sides of the clock to remove all of the glue from the surface.


I decided to add ‘dots’ to the clock in the form of 3/8″ oak dowels. I printed out this clock template and placed it on the face of the clock using a point of a nail to mark the center point of each dowel hole that needed to be drilled out.


Once the holes were drilled, I glued in the dowels.


The dowels were sanded flush and then several coats of polyshades oak satin finish were applied.


After painting the clock hands brown, I installed the clock movement.


The finished clock now adorns my kitchen wall.


October 26th, 2015

Fence Picket Plant Stand

My mom needed a plant stand to fit into a corner of her back porch. She searched for a long time to find a piece of furniture to fit in the space without success. Having recently torn down a dilapidated fence, I had a pile of old fence pickets that needed to be re-purposed or get thrown away. I decided to try and build a plant stand that would be custom sized to fit the space.


I started by finding eight pickets that were the straightest and had the fewest cracks to use as the corner pieces. I took off some of the finish with a random orbital sander since it would hard to do once the corners were assembled. I then cut some biscuit slots and glued two pickets together to form a corner piece.


I used clamps and 3D squares to hold the pieces together while the glue dried.


I then assembled the table by screwing the four corner pieces together with 1×2 stretchers at the top and bottom. The five pickets pickets along the back were secured by screwing through the stretchers into the picket with four screws each.


My mom painted the whole assembly along with the slats for the shelves. The slats were made from extra fence pickets that were cut down to size. The painted slats were then secured to the top and bottom shelves with 18 gauge brad nails.


The completed plant stand:


May 27th, 2015

Camping Cookware Storage Boxes


I recently picked up two additional pieces of camp cookware. Added to my collection are a 10″ dutch oven and a massive 20″ skillet (aka “The LumberJack”). The problem is that these items are way too big to fit in the chuck box so they needed dedicated storage boxes.


I made both of these boxes with mostly scrap materials. The skillet box is made from 1/2″ plywood that is finger jointed together. The bottom is 1/4″ birch plywood and the lid is three layers of 1/4″ birch plywood scraps that are laminated together. Inside the box there is a small divider that holds the handle securely in place during transport. There are three rare earth magnets counter sunk and super glued to the divider that hold the wing nuts for the handle. A piano hinge and two draw catches hold the lid on.


The dutch oven box is made very similar to the first box. I reinforced the corners on the inside with some Douglas fir triangles. I also added some strips of Douglas fir to hide the plywood edges on the top and oak edge banding on the front of the lid. The hinge is the cutoff piece from the first box. The draw catch and handles also match the skillet box. The finish on both boxes (outside only) is Minwax 32450 Golden Pecan spray polyurethane.



If you are looking for something to cook in your 20″ skillet for your next camping trip, be sure to try this Campfire Paella recipe courtesy of the NOSH blog.

December 24th, 2014

Bottle Openers in Maple

I made 24 of these bottle openers this year as office Christmas presents. These started out at 12 board feet of 1×2 hard maple from the home center. The finished openers are just under 6″ long and use a 1 1/4″ fender washer to catch the bottle cap. The finish is tung oil.


I tried cutting various designs in plywood before I settled on the design seen below. I clipped the corners of the blanks 5 degrees using a sled made with a piece of scrap 2×4. After cutting the first side, the scrap wedge was used to hold the blank for cutting the opposite side.


I then made a template out of a small piece of hardboard to mark the locations for drilling. The center of countersink for bottle is 1/2″ back from the edge and the countersink for the washer is 1 1/8″ back from the edge. Two small nails in the template mark the location to center the drill bit.


After the all the cutting and drilling was done, I rounded over all of the edges with my orbital sander. After allowing the tung oil finish to dry, the washers were installed with a 1/2″ stainless steel screw.




March 31st, 2014

Guitar Amp

I got a guitar a while back, but no amp to go with it. So I decided to make my own practice amp mostly using electronics parts that I had lying around. The amp cabinet is based on a vintage Fender Champ (5F1) practice amp that was introduced in the 1950’s. For my version, the cabinet is constructed from a single select pine board and joined together with finger joints. The speaker panel is 1/2″ plywood and holds a single 6″ speaker. The back panel cover pieces are 1/2″ birch plywood with edge banding on the tops. The cabinet is finished with Minwax golden pecan stain and two coats of tung oil.

The amplifier section is my implementation of the Noisy Cricket Mark II schematic from Beavis Audio. The Noisy Cricket amp is designed around an LM386 1-watt audio amplifier chip that is intended for clock radios, boom boxes, etc. The amp circuit is constructed on a small project board with only a few resistors & capacitors as support components. The three knobs control volume, gain, and tone. The switches control power and grit (distortion). The amp is powered from a 9v battery.

Here is a video demonstrating the Noisy Cricket amp:








Click this link for the picture of the plans that I found and used for this project.

Edit: It looks like the Beavis Audio site has gone away. I have put the plans for the amp circuit here.

Edit: Almost 6 years later, now it has a handle! I used a Penn Elcom Tan Leather (218mm), model # H1008-TAN. I used tee nuts underneath to secure it with machine screws.

February 9th, 2014

Nexus 5 Oak Wireless Charger Stand

I recently bought a wireless charger to go with my Nexus 5. I liked the concept of wireless charging, but I didn’t like the mechanics of laying the phone down flat on a desk and having to slide it around to find the sweet spot where it would attach to the magnets in the charger. I decided to make a stand to house the charger that resembled the charging cradles that used to come with older cell phones.


The Nexus wireless charger is a small, square shaped device that charges compatible phones and tablets. It is powered by a plug-in USB power adapter. When the phone or tablet is placed over the charger in the right spot, magnets in the charger will hold the two together. The phone or tablet will make a special sound indicating that charging has begun.


I started making my charger stand by tracing an outline of the phone on a piece of paper. I then cut out the template and taped the sides to the phone. Next I took the charger and placed it over the paper on the back of the phone and positioned it in the right spot for charging. I then traced the outline of the charger on the template.


The back of the stand is a piece of 1/2″ red oak with a cutout that holds the charger in the proper position to make contact with the back of the phone. The bottom is cut at a 30 degree angle. The height of the back piece is approximately 3/4″ shorter than the overall height of the phone to allow a place to grab the phone when removing it from the charger. The arc of the top matches the arc of the phone itself. The overall width of the back is about 1/16″ wider than the phone to allow a slight gap when placing the phone into the charger. The two side pieces are glued in place to provide a cradle to position the phone in the charger.



The reverse side of the back has a grove chiseled into it to allow space for the micro USB connector and wire that powers the charger.


The charger assembly is glued on to an oval shaped base of 1/2″ red oak.


The completed charger base before finishing.


The back side of the charger has a cover plate installed to hold the charger in place.


The completed charger finished with Minwax #210B Golden Oak stain and two coats of polyurethane.


January 20th, 2014

Battery Dispenser

I saw this on lumber jocks a few days ago and immediately knew that I had to build one. Luckily the plans were available free from here. The vertical slats are all identical pieces of 1/2″ poplar. The spacers along the back define the width necessary for each type of battery. All the pieces are just glued and clamped together with no fancy joinery required. The space where the D batteries go has no back spacer to provide the additional depth for that size battery. Both sections are then glued to a piece of 1/4″ birch plywood. A piece of acrylic plexiglass serves to keep the batteries contained as well as providing a window into the dispenser.






December 26th, 2013

Christmas Gifts

I made some wooden stocking stuffer gifts this year.


In no particular order:

1. Oven rack puller. 1/4″ poplar sandwiched between 1/4″ oak. Routed from a hardboard template. Tung oil finish.
2. Bottle Opener. 3/4″ oak. Uses a 1 1/4″ fender washer. Tung oil finish.
3. Wine bottle balancer. (details here)
4. Child’s alphabet blocks. Oak with adhesive letters applied. Spray polyurethane finish.
5. Woodsmith peg board screwdriver rack. (details here [pg 6.]).
6. Red Oak End grain cutting board.