Curly Maple Box

I’ve been working with maple for a couple years, but I’ve never used “curly maple” before. The Wood Database describes it as a maple board where “the ripples in the grain pattern create a three dimensional effect that appears as if the grain has ‘curled’ along the length of the board.”

It’s generally expensive to buy since it’s somewhat rare, but Crosscut Hardwoods in Seattle had a stack of ~30inch long boards that had some curl in them. I picked up two of them to play with and I ended up attempt a small box.

You’d think that a small box would be simple, but it seems like the smaller your project is, the tougher it is to get it right. Tiny gaps and imperfections are a lot more noticeable on small projects.

The first thing was deciding what size box to make. Based on the wood I had available, I went with 3″x5″x8″. Fun fact, if you want a box to look “normal”, use the Fibonacci sequence to determine your dimensions. It’s a close approximation for the golden ratio of 1:1.61803399. Fun fact #2, if you follow that rule, your box will have the same ratio between the dimensions as the Parthenon.

Jointing and planing the curly maple was a challenge. Even though I had recently replaced the blades on both machines, that curly grain is extremely subject to tear out. I took very light passes and did a lot of sanding. A drum sander would have come in very handy to make all the pieces a uniform thickness without tear out.

For the box construction, I mitered the four sides at 45 degrees on each end and then created a dado for both the top and the bottom panel. I glued it all together and ended up with a box that had 6 sides and no way to open. Then I moved over to the table saw and sawed it in half, being careful to insert spacers into the kerf that I had just cut so the box wouldn’t pinch the blade and eat me.

There are multiple methods for creating a snug-fitting lid. I chose to line the inside with walnut and leave the sides of the walnut a little taller than the interior of the box. With a little sanding and finessing, the top fits perfectly over that interior lining. I finished the whole thing off with a couple coats of shellac.

I learned a lot making it which is code for “I made a lot of mistakes, some of which I couldn’t recover from”, but I think this one will be good enough to sit on my dresser without annoying me. The grain is beautiful when you hold it up to the light and see how it changes. The pictures don’t do it justice.

Safety Tatoos

I’ve never been a big fan of crowds, and if I have Elijah with me, I’m even more eager to be done with a crowd because I can see it being so easy to lose track of him. With our upcoming trip to Disney, I was reading a guide book and they recommended custom temporary tattoos. You write some emergency contact info on it and slap it on your kid. Then you teach them to show that to a policeman, etc if they get lost. Brilliant!

A quick search will reveal that there are tons of different companies, but I kind of blindly picked They have two options. One is like a bandaid/sticker that you write on and the other is more of the standard temporary tattoo that is custom printed with your emergency contact info. We went with the latter because Elijah hates having band-aids pulled off.

Don’t feel a need to order from that specific company, but I think it’s one of those things that’s useful to have in your mental bag of tricks as a parent.


Tyla and I decided that this year would be a big vacation for us. (Well, big for us anyway.) We tossed around a number of options but finally decided that we’d give Disneyland a shot. I went to Disney World when I was five, and Tyla and Elijah have never been there so this will be a pretty new experience for all of us.

I’m a planner so I wanted to suck in some information before making plans, but whew, that’s like trying to take a sip from a firehose. As part of my research, I checked out “The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2018” ebook from our library. I liked it so much that I ended up buying a physical copy of the book to take with us for quick reference.

I won’t know if it’s any good until I’ve been through a trip using their info, but I like their approach. They are basically a bunch of data scientist nerds who love Disneyland. They collect tons of data and model out crowd flows so that you can optimize your route through the various attractions that are interesting to you. And of course in addition to all the data (available in an app for your phone), you also get detailed descriptions of all the rides, restaurants and hotels. Should you stay in the park, withinin walking distance or drive to the park? Is the MaxPass add-on worth it? Will my four year old be scared on ride X? I had tons of questions and this book had a lot of the answers. Hopefully the answers were correct.

So now we’ve booked the flight, transportation to the hotel, the hotel, and our park tickets. We’re working on dinner reservations (for bigger things like character dinners) too. While I don’t like to build a strict itinerary before a trip, I do like to get the majority of the spending decisions out of the way ahead of time.

Our plan is visit Disneyland one day, spend a day resting at the hotel and hanging out in the pool, and then do California adventure on the third day. I don’t really know what to expect with a four year old in tow, but hopefully we’ll leave wanting just a little bit more as opposed to thinking we’ve overdone it.

Look out Mickey! Here we come!

Credit Freeze

Tyla and I have been part of numerous security breaches over the past couple years. I’m confident that all of our private data is floating around out on websites to be easily purchased for a surprisingly small amount of money. (Seriously, you can buy tens of thousands of credit card numbers for less than the cost of going out to dinner.) A couple months ago, I put a fraud alert on our credit reports. It’s free and it basically adds a note that says that you have to be called before any new credit is opened. That’s a good step, but it only lasts for 90 days and it’s not bulletproof.

I recently took it a step further and put a full credit freeze on our account. Nobody can see our credit report while it is frozen which is an even bigger red flag for creditors to see before they extend a new line of credit. There are plenty of downsides to it though. If we ever need have our credit reports checked (buying a car, signing up for a new cell phone, etc), we have to go through some extra steps to unfreeze the report. And oh yeah there are three credit agencies and oh yeah, two of them charge $10 to toggle the freeze flag.

Before you do anything like this, you should understand all the ramifications by reading the FTC page. Herb Weisbaum, the Consumer Man, has a good article that also talks about some of the other services that the credit agencies are offering that are more convenient (and cheaper) than the full freeze. But read the fine print and understand that you’re probably saving money because they are selling a bunch of your data. That was a deal breaker for me.

If you decide to go through with the full freeze, grab your credit card (remember it will cost you about $21 to do this) and head to these three sites:


Each one will give you a pin which you need to keep in a safe place so you can unlock your credit report at some point down the road.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s nice to know that I’m much less likely to have surprise credit cards opened up in my name.

Robot Art

Frank Howarth got involved in an auction at his kids school again this year and made an incredible neighborhood art project. He started by cutting up a bunch of scraps and having he kids put them together to form pictures of their houses. Then he combined all the houses into a single neighborhood on a piece of wood.

As I was out in the garage with Elijah a couple weekends ago, I thought he might like giving something like that a try. I cut up various pieces from some nice scraps and asked him to make a house. That proved to be a little challenging so we switched to robots. He was immediately on top of that and made two of them almost completely by himself. At that point we ran out of the scraps that I had cut and he ran out of patience so we called it quits.

Later, I took a picture of what he had made and then transferred it onto a square piece of cherry plywood. I made a simple frame out of some walnut scraps and voila! I’m excited to get this finished and hung on his wall. I’m waiting for the weather to warm up a bit so that I can put some finish on it.