Studio711

Woodworking

But First, Pray

Elijah’s school has a charity auction every year. Last year I made coasters with the school logo on them. This year I thought I’d make a sign since those are so popular. I ended up with a sign that says “but first, pray”.

I didn’t want to just make a painted sign. I wanted the words to stand proud of the surface. A laser cutter would be the right tool for the job, but I don’t have one and our maker space is closed while the pandemic rages. I bought a handful of cheap 1/16″ CNC bits assuming that I would break a few of them in the process.

My first attempt was cutting everything out of MDF. That worked ok for the large “pray” word but the smaller individual letters didn’t hold up. The MDF wasn’t strong enough to hold together at that scale. I then made them out of 1/4″ poplar and they worked fine. I sanded and painted everything, but then I realized that I didn’t have a great way to keep those tiny letters stuck on the wood. I was nervous that one little bump might knock some of them off. After trying a few things, I decided to use my Cricut to make a stencil for the individual letters and then I glued on the bigger word.

I finished it off with a keyhole slot on the back so that it could be mounted easily on a wall. The keyhole bit I have is a 1/4″ shank so normally I put a different collet on the router in my router table, carefully measure and align everything and then pray that it all works. This time I realized that I could just stick the keyhole bit into my CNC and manually drive the machine to get the cut exactly right. It was so much easier!

The end result looks pretty simple but it took a ridiculous amount of time, especially when spread into the tiny amounts of free time that I’ve been able to devote to it. Hopefully it raises a few bucks for the school.

Office Supply Organizers

We have a cabinet upstairs that we call the office supply cabinet. It was a mess but it had batteries, printer paper, printer ink, tape, and a whole bunch of other things in it. When I finished the dresser project, I tackled three quick organization builds in order. They were built out of scrap wood and aren’t much to look at but I get a smile on my face every time I need to grab something from that area!

Chest of Drawers

I wrote previously about the culmination of a year-long project (previous post). Now I’ve also completed the video showing some of what it took to get there. I edited that year down to about 17 minutes. Apologies for not wearing a mic during the speaking parts but hopefully it’s good enough to convey the basic idea.

This was a labor of love and I hope that it serves Elijah for many years to come. And Elijah, by no means are you required to keep this around forever, but if you decide to replace it, please let me know so I can come retrieve it!

Chest of Drawers

Most of my projects wouldn’t qualify as “fine woodworking”. I use screws to put things together and there isn’t much fancy joinery. Last fall, I set out to create an heirloom quality dresser that Elijah could theoretically keep for life.

Marc Spagnuolo is probably the godfather of YouTube woodworking videos. He’s been doing it for a long time and he offers paid videos which walk through complex projects in an incredible level of detail. For example, this project had five and a half hours of video along with a Sketchup model and cut list.

After a wallet-deflating trip to the hardwood dealer to get the supplies, I carefully set off on my adventure, and what an adventure it was. I knew it would be a challenge but it seemed like I had to learn a new skill at every step. I would hem and haw and think about it and the whole project stretched out for month and months.

But I’m happy to report that about a year later, I’ve finally finished! When I look at it, I see a hundred flaws, but I’m still proud of it. The major issue right now is that the finish I used still smells too much to put clothes inside so I’m going to let it sit for about a month to hopefully get the smell completely gone before we start using it. If it still smells then I’ll probably apply a coat of shellac to the drawers at least to seal them a bit more.

Because people have already asked how much this project cost and some have half/mostly joked about me making another one for them, let me share the rough estimates:

  • Wood: $600
  • Finish: $100
  • Drawer Pulls: $50

So we’re at $750 before any labor and it was an enormous amount of labor for a dad/husband hobbyist woodworker. I’m not building another one. This was my marathon and I’m done.

Along the way I also tried shooting some video and I’ll be editing that together. It’s not going to be any kind of viral hit, but I thought it would be fun to put it on an SD card and tape it to the back of the dresser for him to find at some point down the road.

But for now, I’m very excited to move on to new projects!

Grandpa’s Clock

Both of dad’s parents have passed away and one of the things I remember from their house was a clock made from a painted saw blade. As I remember the story, Grandpa got it the saw blade from a local painter and made the wooden part around it. After they both passed away, I was very happy to be offered that clock!

Getting it back to Washington was a story in itself. I decided to bring it home in my carry on instead of shipping it. As we took our bags through the TSA checkpoint, I got pulled aside. “Sir, do you have a saw blade in your bag?!” Me: “What? No! … Oh dear… Yes. Yes I do.” The TSA agent had to check with their boss who had to check with their boss. Finally it was decided that I could bring it onto the plane since it was artwork and the blade was firmly attached to the wood. Phew!

I proudly hung that clock on the wall in my shop for about a year even though the time was never correct. The hands would move but no matter how many times I set it, they would be randomly wrong all the time. I eventually ordered a replacement clock movement and new hands and got it repaired. Now I have the clock in my shop and it even works! I think about Grandpa and his woodworking a lot while I’m out in the shop doing similar things and now I’ll have one more (working) reminder of him.