Friday, October 29, 2010

Working in the shop this week.

Finally getting back to work in the shop this week.  I'm working on some new cake stands and hope to have them finished today.  Here are a couple of pictures I used as inspiration.  I will post my work later.

Update:  Here are a couple of new stands I made using the photos as inspiration.


My design

My design

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Photos are up.

Well I finally got the photos all labeled, uploaded, and tagged.  I'm sorry that I didn't do a better job or have the best pictures, but I' learning.  Thank you all for your kind comments.  Please take the time to follow both my blogs. and this one

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Monogrammed Tree Swing Seat

My sister Jenniffer sent me an email with a picture of a monogrammed wooden swing seat she found on Etsy that  she liked, and since it was getting close to her 29th (NOT) birthday, I took it as a hint and did some investigation.  Although the one she showed me was nice, the $300 price tag was not.  So off to the shop I go!
This is an  example of what she had

Earlier this year we had to have a tree cut down at my mothers, and it turned out to be a treasure!  The tree was a very old and dying box elder, and through a fortunate set of circumstances, the local power board cut it down for free.  Well, being the pack rat for wood that I am, I volunteered to haul the wood off for future projects.  As it turned out, I was a little too ambitious because it was a TON of wood.  The real surprise came when it was actually being cut up.  The wood had these MAGNIFICENT sunburst patterns of blood red streaking across the grain.  I had never seen anything like it and started doing some research on it.  It turns out that it is a Flame Box Elder.  Evidently the discoloration is caused by either a fungus or a beetle, and I would lean toward the beetle since they were found all over it.
You can see the patterns where all the branches were cut off

Closer view off the branches.  The picture doesn't even come close to the true beauty of the colorful patterns
As I said before, I was a little too eager with my plans to keep all the wood.  The base of the tree was about 6 feet across and a little over 16 feet tall after all the branches were trimmed off, and there was NO way I was going to be able to move or cut it into manageable pieces.  I investigated the option of having someone with a portable saw mill come out and cut it up for me, but no one had equipment to handle it.  I then had the thought "Why don't I share it?"  I contacted my local Woodcraft store, and soon had Rodney and Scott there to look at it.  They were just as excited as I was with the discovery, and we made a deal to take the largest sections off my hands.  They showed up a few days later with some helpers and we loaded it on a flatbed trailer with a bobcat that just happened to be next door (best $50 ever spent).  The rest was hauled to my shop with the help of my boys.  I have heard that it was a huge success at the store, and they still have some left.

Back to the swing.  I wanted to make the swing 30 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 2 inches thick, so I selected a log and started cutting.  I took my chainsaw and trimmed it to a size that I could run through my planer and soon had it to the correct thickness.  After cutting it to length and width, I moved on to the monogram.  I wanted to try my hand at wood carving for the first time, but that didn't go so well, so I turned to my trusty Dremel.  I designed the monogram on the computer and printed it out full size, then traced the pattern on the wood using carbon paper.  Using the Dremel, with this bit, I did all the cutting approximately 1/8" deep.  I made sure the bottoms of the engraving were pretty flat, and then used a small squeeze bottle to apply the pink paint into the recesses.  After the paint dried I ran it through my drum sander.  You could do it with a regular sander, I just HATE sanding, and anything that makes my life easier I'm all for it.  Since the monogram was recessed, running it through the sander did not damage the paint I applied and also sharpened up the edges.  Once it was sanded, I drilled the holes for the U bolts I picked up at Lowes, and finished it with several coats of polyurethane, wet sanding with 800 grit paper between coats.  Here is the end result.

This was my first attempt at engraving and I learned many valuable things.  1) It really wasn't that difficult, 2) Lay off the caffeine! You need a steady hand, and 3) I want to incorporate this in other projects ie. the house number plaque for my mailbox.  Jen was too funny.  We had to temporarily hang it up to get photos with the old rope because she insists "We can"t hang it permanently until we find some "pretty" rope!", and "Nobody can sit on it! "  Gotta love her.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Answer for Allen about my mailbox

Thanks for the question Allen!  This is exactly what my intentions were when I had the idea of starting a blog and website.  You see, I have no problems sharing whatever I can to help.  If you can do it yourself, great!  If you can't, I will do it for you if you want.  I would rather do one off's (customized to you) than production work. If you look at my house pictures in the "Our new old house" tab, you can possibly understand why I went with this design.  In my opinion, the house can best be classified as a Georgian style of architecture.  With that thought in mind, my future plans for other elements (Footbridge, seated arbor, low picket fence), are going to stick to that theme for the sake of consistency.  Now on to your question.

I don't use plans.  There are several reasons why.  First and foremost, I just like to figure it out for myself.  Next, I can never find plans that are "exactly" what I need, or fit my particular application.  I usually get general dimensions and work off a rough sketch, creating as I go.

I started out making a basic box 12 x 12 x 60" out of 3/4" plywood with simple butt joints, glue, and nails.  Inside the box I put (2) 12 x 12 squares about 6" and 36" up from the bottom with a 4" square cut of of the center of those so I could put the completed mailbox over a 4x4 post set in concrete.  I made all the molding myself with a router out of regular pine boards and treated lumber. Basically you just apply the molding to create the frames and trim to the basic box.  You can use store bought molding too if you want, I just didn't want to run to the store for such small quantities (and I have to justify the expense of the router bits to my darling wife).  The top was actually four pieces of wood cut at a 15 degree angle.  I stacked one on top of the other, glued and clamped together, then sanded.  Once it was assembled I caulked everywhere I thought water could enter, then primed and painted with 3 coats of exterior paint.  Before I set it in place I sprayed the inside with Thompsons water seal.  I figured it couldn't hurt .

The Residential Mailbox Standards gave me the guidelines for mounting the mailbox.  I didn't want it to sit directly on the dirt, so I leveled off a small area and dug a hole about 18 inches deep to accept a 4x4 post that stuck up out of the ground about 4 feet.  I then made a form out of 2x4's and used (1) 80# bag of concrete to make a small pad and secure the post.  After all that was dry, I had my son Patrick help me lift the mailbox and slide it down over the 4x4.  That's it!

If you have any more questions, just let me know.  I'll be glad to help.  Please visit my other blog for some of my other projects.

Custom Octagonal Cake Stand

This is a prime example of my work for Cup a Dee Cakes.  Where do you go to get an octagonal cake stand you ask?  Google it and you will see there aren't many options.  Jenniffer came to me with this opportunity and this is the end result.  The cake and stand were very simple, but elegant, which is what her customer was after.  As I've said before, her customers sometimes give her some unique challenges and she loves them, just as much as I do.  

The stand is made out of 1/2" MDF.  I like to use this material quite a bit because of it's smoothness and stability, and it machines very well.  The only drawbacks are the dust, and finishing the end grains.  I have a good dust collection system for my shop, so the dust is minimal, and I'm still trying different things to make finishing the end grain easier.  The problem with the end grain is that it "fuzzes" whenever you try to finish it.  One would of advice, NEVER use water based finishes!  They only exaggerate the fuzzing.  I've found that sealing the edges with polyurethane and sanding the fuzz before adding the finish of your choice really helps.

I cut 2 rectangles for the top and bottom to size on the table saw and cut the corners off at 45 degrees with the radial arm saw, then routed the edges.  For the sides I drew a top view on paper as a template 1" smaller than the top and bottom, cut the 8 side pieces to length, and bevelled the ends at 22.5 degrees.  I used Titebond wood glue and my pin nailer to assemble it all.  I have got to say, that little pin nailer is nice.  The nails are tiny and don't split the material.  The final finish was an oil based glossy white paint applied with a spray gun.

Hope you like it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Playing around with pens

My dad got me into making these, and I love them.  They are all unique and can be made from just about anything you can turn on a lathe.  The really cool part is you can get an infinite variety by changing the style or material.

Cup a Dee Cakes Photo Station

This is off my little sisters website, Cup a Dee Cakes.  She, and my awesome brother in law Chad, needed a place to photograph their completed cakes.  After much thought and collaboration, this is what we came up with.  I built the rack that holds the rolls of background materials on the wall so they can roll down a color selection.  She tells me it is the most commented on post she has done on her blog.  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stairs for the puppies

Here I built a simple set of steps to help the doggies get up on the bed.  The measurement from the floor to the top of the mattress is 30" and they can't jump up on it at night (Yeah, they are spoiled).   I designed it to match the curvature of the foot board and added the carpet from a spare runner we had so they wouldn't slip.

Cupcake Stand and Cake Stand Bases

This is a cupcake stand and cake stand bases I turned on the lathe.  The general idea is interchangeability.  You can take any size disc and put it on any base you want.  I painted a few of the bases for fun, but they can be painted any color.  The tops, or disc, have a slight groove routed in the edge to accept a ribbon for decoration.

Examples of work for Cup a Dee Cakes

This was the first bridal show in Chattanooga I was involved in. I built the columns and quite a few of the cake stands.
Cypress stump stand
Five columns I built and aquarium cake stand on top of front right column
Read the complete blog here with more pictures

This was the second bridal show.  I had to repair/redesign the columns in this picture.  We had a 100 year flood here the day of closing the first bridal show and the bottoms of the columns were water damaged.  After I repaired them I added some extra molding and concealed wheels for mobility. I think they look even better.

My Best Customers!

This is my little sister Jenniffer, and her husband Chad.  They own and operate Cup a Dee Cakes in Tunnel Hill, Georgia.  Have you ever seen those cake shows on TV?  Well, that's what they do.  They design and create beautiful cakes of all kinds.  Now, with that being said, let me explain why they are my best customers.  Creating custom cakes offer many challenges and that's where I come in.  Her customers don't always want a "regular" shaped cake, and sometimes they need a cake stand to fit it, or just something unique.  Jenniffer gives me great challenges, and complete freedom, as well as an outlet for my creativity.  She and Chad are also driving forces and helpful mentors to me in my quest to do what I love for a living.  Because of them, I have started 2 websites and .  They are still in the construction phase, so check back every now and then.  Stay tuned here for more examples of my work for them coming soon.

Chad and Jenniffer
Please make sure you visit their website at and say hello!

My First Post

New Mailbox

My first post!  This is the mailbox I made one weekend at my shop.  I wanted something to fit the style of the house we bought last year, and after looking around, found the prices way higher than what it would cost me to make.  Its about 14 inches square and about five feet tall.   I left off the box that the newspaper would go in because carriers don't use them anyway.  I still need to add the oval house number plaque that will hang below the mailbox.  Sorry about the grass, it's been dry here.