I like to make people gifts. It’s sort of a selfish thing to do in a way, since I mainly do it because of how much I enjoy making things and not with the idea of doing something nice for someone. Regardless of the reasoning, I figure as long as something is functional people will be inclined to use or enjoy it. That’s why this year I decided everyone needed a Cobra Cutting Board. That, and because based on the amount of time I had and the tools at my disposal it seemed like the most ideal gift to mass produce.
One Saturday, Holly and I went to get some speciality wood so I could get started with plenty of time. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for since the only hardwood I’ve ever worked with was usually purchased by my boss or whatever school I was attending. I got some assistance from the people working there, found some ideal pieces and even got some advice on how to finish a cutting board properly.
The following day I went to Holly’s mum’s house to rip 1½” strips of the material I bought, which proved more difficult than I had anticipated. I purchased both maple and walnut, as I wanted to mix light and dark woods. The maple was incredibly hard on the table saw, although a large amount of the problem was likely the dull blade I need to replace. I was only able to rip two strips of each before the smoke from the blade was too thick to breathe. Luckily two strips was enough to get started on the first cutting board, which was intended for Holly’s mum, whose birthday falls just before Christmas. I began gluing as soon as I got home, and by the next morning I was ready to start planing.
I brought the planer from Holly’s mum’s house and set it up in our basement so I could work without being a pain in everyone’s ass. It took quite a while to plane them down to finished thickness, but I’m okay with that. Half way through planing the first board, the planer ripped the end piece off. I was forced to re-glue it and wait until the next day to finish planing. Had I not used such a thick piece, when that happened, I wouldn’t have been able to correct the resulting damage.
Once re-glued and planed to finish size I decided to route the edges. One more trip to Holly’s mum’s to use the router table, and it was time to finish sand, burn, and oil. Every step of the way the boards looked more like how I had pictured them, and I grew more and more pleased with how they were turning out. I made some drying racks, bought some butcher’s block oil and applied three coats to each board.
In total I made four large cutting boards as gifts for people, then I managed to put together three small cutting / serving boards using the scraps for Holly. And if I’m being honest, the little ones I made from scraps are my favourites.
I plan to make a few more, and have already had a request for a large board for one of Holly’s friends. Some people who have seen them have said I should make and sell these. I however, am not sure there is enough room for profit. The woods cost me so much, I’d be forced to sell each board for a minimum of about $65. I personally, would never pay $65 for something hard to cut on, but supposedly people do. If that’s the case, I’m missing out. Perhaps in the new year I’ll attempt to move some cutting boards on Etsy.
Readers of the chronicles are likely already aware of Holly’s love of Pinterest, and likely also my disinterest in it. It’s not for a lack of good ideas, but rather the opposite. Too many good ideas, all of which are now on my ‘Honey Do’ list. Unfortunately most of these items on my list are things I personally don’t care about, but there are a few that seem like fun projects. Which brings us to the purpose of this post: Garbage turned dog bed.
Our neighbour has a lame junk removal service he operates via Kijiji and other such sites. He preys on the ignorant inhabitants of Niagara who are unaware that just about anything can be disposed of at your regular curbside pick up, as long as you call the city and inform them. He charges people to go over in his truck, load up their junk and bring it back to sit on his front lawn until Thursday morning when it’s hauled away with everything else. Once or twice we have found usable items in his pile, in fact the shelves on our wall in the den were crates he was tossing that I salvaged. A month ago, he had a baby crib out there waiting for pick up. Knowing things don’t last long on the roadside in our neighbourhood, Holly dragged it over to our house the minute she saw it. Two days later I began work on turning one crib into two dog beds.
Since our dog is rather large I decided to just chop the crib in half vertically, so it could still fit a crib mattress, and he’d have plenty of room to rotate over and over before settling in. I made a new frame out of 2″ x 2″s, reinforced the bottom panel, then added some trim to hide where the headboard and footboard connect to the frame. The first one turned out great and even before it had a mattress or coat of paint, Dempsey was curled up and breaking it in.
It took about five times as long to paint as it did to make, but it looked ten times better. I bought a used mattress from a local second hand store, and it fit perfectly. He still prefers our bed, and I don’t blames him, but he does use his bed all the time. The second bed is still awaiting a bottom and some decorative accessories, but it’s already painted and won’t be getting a mattress. He is indifferent to the mattress and at $20 each it’s a waste. He’ll prefer a pile of blankets he can fluff up and spin endless circles in.
I’m considering making more of these and selling them on Kijiji, but I need to get some more free cribs, or perhaps I can find some dirt cheap ones once garage sale season starts.
Sometimes when things go as simply as they did in your head it’s easy to forget accomplishing something, or even to consider it an accomplishment. Such is the case with these stairs. Ryan-O, had asked me to design and build a new, stable set of stairs for his back porch to replace the old barely usable set. I said it should be simple, and it was. The most difficult part was purchasing the lumber, since we were stuck buying materials from Toronto Home Depot. Other than that little inconvenience, everything else went exactly as planned.
In less than four hours we removed the old stairs, cut all new treads, stringers and supports, and had the new set hung and in use. It all happened so fast and was so uneventful, three months later I had completely forgotten ever building them. I guess this shows some insight into me overall, and how regardless of my best efforts I still focus more on the negative than the positive. If something had gone terribly wrong, or even if something was annoying (tight workspace, shitty weather, bees…) I would have a much better chance at retaining this memory. In this case it was a nice surprise three months later, when I walked into Ryan’s backyard and saw his stairs and ever so cleverly proclaimed “Hey, I built those!”.
Pretty much the minute I walked in the door after getting home from the marquetry society meeting I picked up a knife and started cutting out a Dumpster head. Unfortunately we had no scotch tape at the time, so I wasn’t able to do a proper inlay, but I think I can. Holly brought us home some tape the other night, so one day soon I’m going to give it another go. I’m thinking this will be my first belt buckle design when, and if, I get buckles and skills. I think this wood represents his brindle-y stripes pretty good,so hopefully I can pull it off.
Anyone who proudly sports some large stretched piercings will probably agree, that the most painful part is usually trying to obtain jewellery that’s ideal. I know I have a hard time with my ears, I’m sure people with the more obscure stuff find it impossible. Which is likely the reason why Ryan O’Brien has been asking me to try and make him some new jewellery for a year or two (well, that and I’m awesome…).
I had tried several times to make him something, but usually fucked it up at some point. This time I think I figured it out. I use the chop saw to make blanks, trim the backs on the band saw, Dremel a contour in the back, then file and sand all the edges (some more than others, to give them more rounded shapes). It took very little time, and if they fit then they should last him years.
I guess I’ll find out tomorrow, as I’m heading up to lend a hand constructing a ceiling and possibly some stairs.
A few weeks ago, Holly and I attended the Niagara Wood Carvers Show. This is the second year in a row we went and had a look around. This year I saw a few things that were either not present, or got overlooked the previous year. It’s pretty easy to miss things when there is so much neat stuff in one spot. One of the things I noticed was, on top of the usual carvings and wood burnings, there was a few gentlemen displaying and demonstrating marquetry. Holly and I stopped to look, and I mentioned to her that I’ve wanted to try this particular wood craft ever since I saw the amazing stuff my ex’s sister learned to make a few years ago.
We got friendly with the gentlemen representing the Marquetry Society, and probably spent almost an hour chatting with them and flipping through albums of their work. They were all super nice, full of knowledge and stories, and after a short time both Holly and I were invited to join the club at their next meeting. If we enjoyed it, a second meeting was an option, then after that we would be asked to join as paying members. Two free lessons? Sold! I convinced Holly to join me, and we decided to try and learn a new craft together.
The club meets in Etobicoke at some building that is part of Humber College, where there’s an incredible workshop with lots of space. We arrived just in time to catch the end of the club’s ‘business’ part of the meeting. Holly and I sat quietly while I fought the urge to blurt out “Are any of you concerned that your website is a piece of shit?”. After they finished the dry boring stuff, we went over to the shop and got set up. At this point I noticed a guy selling veneers. I thought I would go have a look, since I wasn’t sure what the materials for this hopeful new hobby were worth (I’ve only used veneers in making belt buckles and those were nothing exotic). I was shocked when I saw that he wasn’t just selling sheets, he was selling piles of sheets, and the prices were insanely cheap (proof in the photo below). I ended up having to get Holly to write him a cheque since we brought no cash. I took so long looking at and trying to pay for these veneers that I missed the first part of our lesson. Luckily, Holly got my work started for me so I wasn’t too far behind.
I was worried she would be bored, and I think she was too, but the time ended up flying by, and we both had a ton of fun. I’m pretty sure we are going to go back, and eventually both become members. Even if we don’t ‘member-up’, I definitely want to go back because one of the guys there actually makes the saws we were using, and sells them for just over a hundred bucks! In the meantime I plan to try some stuff using just a knife. I doubt it will turn out very well, but I still feel like trying.
Here’s a comparison of pricing between the nice old guy at the marquetry meeting, and the douchebags at Michaels. If you’re ever in the market for veneers DO NOT go to Michaels. Look for nice old guys, and ask them if they have wood.
Now I need to buy more belt buckle backs. I want to try some marquetry buckles, and possibly some combination marquetry – wood burning buckles! Before I do that, I want to finish and mount the projects Holly and I completed on our first day.
Holly’s is on the left, mine the right. I made the mistake of using one of the veneers I had just purchased for the moon on my piece, and then someone was showing me how to scrape the veneer, as opposed to sanding it, and they unknowingly crushed a significant portion of the moon (it’s held together with tape from the back). Other than that, I’m sufficiently pleased with how it turned out. Holly’s is much better, and looks great on both sides. I’m not sure what either of us plan to do with them, but check ‘em out… they’re neat-o!
A couple of weeks ago I found an image of Dorothy and Alice sharing a cup of tea, with a caption along the lines of, “I’ve seen some shit, bro…”. Immediately I turned to Holly and asked, “Should I make this for Anita for her birthday?”, her response was “Do you think you could get it done in time?”, to which I said “Wait, when is her birthday? I thought it was around mine?”, “Yea, it’s on the nineteenth.” she responded. At which point I believe I blurted out something like, “Jesus, what fucking month is it?”. It was the fourteenth of April. Luckily, I enjoy a challenge.
I decided a short time after laying everything out that without colour, the image is just two girls and a couple quadrupeds sipping tea on the side of a road, hobo-style. So if I was going to pull this off I needed to figure out some way to colour over the wood burning, without losing all the details. An exhibitor at the Niagara Wood Carver’s show Holly and I recently attended had some pyrographic designs with some really nice colours, which he said he used some sort of ‘special pencils’, sold by another exhibitor at the show. We looked, but couldn’t find anything. So when I got this idea I figured I would just attempt to use Roan’s watercolours but I’m not confident in my skills with a brush, and after putting 20 – 30 hours into this I didn’t want to ruin it and start over.
Thankfully I had a birthday on the seventeenth, and I’ve got a thoughtful, generous girlfriend who is a great gift giver. She bought me a pack of oil based pencil crayons that are both ideal for colouring over wood burnings, and insanely expensive. Something I would have loved to have (had I been privy to its existence) but never would have spent the money on. The perfect gift. She also got me a smudging / blending tool, and a book on Pyrography (I’ll post these things later, still need to take photos). At this point I still had some more burning to finish before I could begin colouring anything, so I used a scrap piece of wood, burned some lines on it, then started playing with my new pencils.
The next day I finished all the burning and immediately started colouring. I was super excited. The burning turned out better than I anticipated, and I was about to (hopefully) learn a new skill. At the same time I was pretty tense. I was still terrified of fucking it all up. As much as I like learning new things, I prefer to not try them out on something so difficult to replace. Usually the first time I make anything, or attempt something I’ve never done before, I view it as disposable. If it goes really well, bonus. If it fails like I expect things to, it goes in the trash. Many, many things have gone in the trash.
I started with the yellow brick road (as you can see in the top photo) then decided to have a go at the dresses. It was going really well, and I was getting even more excited. I saw how fast it was coming together and figured I’d be able to finish it before Anita’s birthday after all. I asked Holly to help, and she jumped right in. We got the bulk of it coloured that night, then went out shopping for frames at all the thrift shops. We finally found one that was a perfect size, but a terrible colour.
Holly took care of painting the frame, while I finished the last of the background colouring. I’m guessing there is a method to colouring, like an order of operations, but I just coloured what I wanted to, when I wanted to. Luckily it didn’t seem to matter, or if it did, I’m too daft to notice. We got the whole thing finished and I immediately turned to Holly and asked if we could take it to Anita right away (I was excited…), expecting her to respond with, “Of course!”. Instead she informed me that she had purchased Anita another gift online, and had to wait for it to arrive from Greece before we could deliver her gifts. Bummer.
I was dying to show it to Anita, dying to post it on here, and I fucking hate waiting for things in the mail; it always seems to take forever. Yesterday, her other gift finally arrived. I called Holly as soon as I finished signing for it and got her to make arrangements with Anita for us to drop by. I’m pretty sure I was ten times more excited to give it to her than she was to receive it, but I’m fine with that. I like making stuff, and I like it more when it’s for someone specific and I think suits them personally.
I will do a post later of Anita’s entire gift. It was pretty awesome.
Last week, Roan asked if we could build a tree fort. I reminded him we don’t have any trees in our yard, and he said, “I know, I just didn’t know what else to call it.”. I figured that’s what he meant, but I wanted to make sure. It would suck to build him a fort and then have him ask, “Where’s the tree part?”. So I said if his mother allowed it, and if he waited until I finished Gage’s room, I would try and build something.
He wasted no time after hearing that and started drafting up plans for what it should look like. The design is pretty awesome, but as per usual the best part is the spelling. If you can’t make it out, the sign above the door says “Nuclear Fisility Fortris of Sience”, and I love it. He presented his conceptual sketch to me and I asked a few questions about dimensions and things, and asked if I could make a spot for Dempsey under it. He agreed, so I started messing around with Sketchup.
I started with a concrete pad, some 6″ x 6″ posts, and some 2″ x 8″ deck boards on 2″ x 10″ ledgers. There is some additional 2″ x 4″ framing, but very little. It’s basically just fastener strips for the exterior cladding. I decided to enclose the bottom for Dempsey, and added his own little monogram and logo (which I’ think would be cool to wood burn into the finished product).
I haven’t shown Roan my revised edition of his concept yet, so the plans could change. He could also grow out of this idea in the next six months. He’s sort of teetering right on the edge of being a teenager, and I’m fully expecting that any day now he’ll be done with toys and forts, and into girls and games exclusively – like his brother. My only hope is that doesn’t come during the construction of, or too soon after the construction of this thing. Its not a huge project, but it’s also not a small one. Holly thinks he’ll be upset that Dempsey’s space seems to be so big, but in reality, there is no reason he can’t go in there too. There is no way to know if Dempsey will ever even go in there, so I can always wait to add the monogram and logo once we know what it gets used for.
Today is my brother’s birthday, so this morning I spent some time making him a Dr. Who themed card featuring his favourite doctor (Matt Smith) partying with a Dalek and a plate of fish fingers and custard in his honour. I figured since I already made him a Dr. Who gift, a Dr. Who card would be suitable.
The gift took me about 40 hours so far, and I probably have about another 20 to go now that I’ve decided to make a second gift (more about that further into this post), so I decided to spend significantly less time on the card. It still turned out okay I think.
I got the idea to make his gift back in January, shortly after watching the entire series on Netflix. I decided to get an early start on it because it’s quite large, and I didn’t want to be stuck scrambling to finish it at the last minute. Originally I had planned to frame it so he could hang this somewhere in his house, but then I reverted to my usual gift giving mentality – ”What if the recipient doesn’t like or want this and now feels obligated to keep / display it because I imposed it upon them?” – so last week I showed it to my brother and asked him what he wanted me to do. I offered the option of the frame as well as a key rack or a cigar box or anything else he could think of. He asked if I could add his street name and number and make it an address sign for the front of his house.
I downloaded some free Dr. Who fonts and played around with how I would lay it out, but nothing looked right to me. As a result I’ve decided to just say, fuck it. I’m going to frame the piece I’ve already made, and I’m going to start another for his address sign. He’ll just have to deal with the fact that he gets two gifts and will likely be the cause of my future carpal tunnel syndrome.
Here’s what I plan to do for the address sign. I can’t decide which of the two I like more but I’m hoping once Holly brings home the printed templates I’ll have an easier time choosing. Both are going to be difficult as a result of all the straight lines in the T.A.R.D.I.S., but I’ll just have to go super slow and try my best to keep a steady hand. Which might be even harder than usual given the fact that I’d like to have this done and stained before I go see my brother tomorrow evening.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY X
Hope it’s a good one!
As I’m sure most people are already aware, dogs like to eat shit. Figuratively and literally. Recently we’ve had an issue with Dempsey treating the litter boxes in the basement like an all you can eat buffet, since starting construction on Gage’s room. Normally a cat-door is how the kitties access their poo-palace, but I had to tear out a wall in order to frame and run wires, which left plenty of access for the Dump Truck to dine on dumps (gross). Something had to be done.
Last week, Holly brought home two lids from cremation containers she had, hoping I could use the wood to make her a window seat in the living room. I looked at them and immediately had a different idea. I had already modelled a concept for a solution to our litter box problem (below), and this seemed like someone just did half the work and handed it to me for free. All I had to do was cut two edges off each lid that would have prevented me from adding hinges and having it close flush, and it would be essentially what I conceived minus all the framing.
I cut an arched opening at one end with my jigsaw, and decided while I had it out to add some handles which would make moving and opening it much easier. I used hinges I salvaged off things that were getting burned or thrown out at work. I still need to add a divider insert when I get some appropriate material so the cats don’t tear open the reserve supply of litter and start using it as another poo-box (as they have been known to do), but so far this project cost us $0.00 and I’d like to keep it that way.
Holly was sceptical about whether or not the cats would be willing to go in there at all, let alone want to go to the bathroom in there, but soon after it was finished Shakespeare was in there checking it out (as you can see above). For the first day I left the lid open so the cats would be able to find their newly relocated facilities. The second day I shut the box and so far there hasn’t been any complaints. It also seems to help keep the smell down pretty good, but that may change if I add vents / skylights to it (which I’m not sure about yet).