Wedge Shaped Side Table

Up in the man cave, there is a couch with a recliner beside it and the recliner is at an angle to the couch. We have a set of cheapo folding food table things that sits in the gap between the chairs but it doesn’t look very nice. Almost exactly one year ago, David Picciuto made a table to fit a similar spot in his house and I finally got around to making my own version.

Most of this project will be hidden between the sofa and the recliner so I spent all of the funds for this project on the top. I bought a big chunk of 6/4 walnut and glued three pieces of it together to get a slab that was wide enough for the table. I carefully cut the appropriate wedge shape out of the slab and then built a simple plywood box for the base. The top is just held in place by gravity and a few cleats on the bottom so that it doesn’t slide around. You can lift off the top and get to some storage and the other feature of the base is that it has a built-in outlet and dual 2 amp USB chargers built into the back.

The base got painted black and the top was finished with teax oil and then covered in Briwax. Needless to say, this looks MUCH nicer than what we had there before! The downside is that now I feel the need to use a coaster. Hmm… Anyway, this went well so I’m going to make a similar table for spot between the couch and the wall. This one will just be a simple rectangle top though so that should make things a little simpler.

Bongo Cajon

I remember Dad telling stories about how he wasn’t allowed to get a drum set when he was growing up. And then when I was growing up, I remember Mom and Rachel telling him to stop drumming his fingers on his desk downstairs because it made too much noise. This poor man deserves a drum!

Steve Ramsey posted a couple videos about making cajons. (Is the plural of that “cajones”?) I chose to make his bongo cajon version. It seemed like a simple project, but as usual, I was amazed at how many ways I found to screw it up. Woodworking really is about starting your project and then figuring out how to fix all the mistakes you make along the way.

It was fun to be able to pick pretty much any wood that I wanted for the main body of the drum. I walked around Crosscut Hardwoods for a while and ended up buying some sapele. That seemed like more fun to work with than the 1/2″ plywood that Steve used in his version. The top required 1/8th plywood and since I didn’t want to pay bunch of money for a full size fancy sheet from Crosscut, I got a really cheap piece from Home Depot instead. It doesn’t have quite the tone to it that I was hoping for, but I think it will still be a fun gift.

Merry Christmas Dad!

Laser Cutter Puzzle

The idea of making a custom puzzle has always intrigued me. I’m partially interested in the computer science problem of generating an random puzzle with an arbitrary size, and I’m also interested in the physical process of making it happen.

That computer science problem has been on my list for a long time, but finally I realized that I shouldn’t block the whole project on getting around to writing that code. It took a lot of searching, but I finally found a good, free online tool: Wolfie’s Puzzle Generator.

The next step was to pick a picture. A good picture has a lot of visual interest so you don’t have huge areas of “blue sky” pieces. I wanted to make this as a Christmas gift for Mom so I also wanted something that meant something to her. I settled on a picture of the Seattle waterfront that I’m pretty sure I took while they were out here visiting. I cropped it down to get rid of most of the boring blue sky.

I printed off a 16×20 version of that at Costco and then used 3M spray adhesive to attach it to a thick art board from the craft store. By the way, at 240dpi, this image was almost exactly 20″ wide with no scaling. The picture looks gorgeously sharp. It’s incredible how good modern digital cameras are!

Then it was off to the laser cutter. I spent a long time messing around with various tapes trying to find one that would help protect the surface from burning but also would peel off easily after being cut. I never succeeded. Maybe my adhesive wasn’t strong enough, but for some reason the tape would always pull off with the picture instead of leaving the picture stuck to the art board.

I settled on doing three light passes to slowly cut through with minimal burning. You can still see some burning around the cuts but the picture hides a lot of it. I wanted to make a 1000 piece puzzle but I only squeezed 260 in there due to the dimensions of the pictures and not wanting to make microscopic puzzle pieces. These were 0.75″ square so they were already pretty small.

I don’t expect this puzzle to hold up to a lot of beating but hopefully it will at least work once! If you want to see a video about this, David Picciuto has a making a laser cutter puzzle.

Laser Cutter Marquetry Butterfly

Search for “marquetry” images and you’ll be blown away at the art form of combining small pieces of wood to make amazing pictures. I’ve been intrigued by this, but I’m a nerd so I did it on a laser cutter. I thought it would be way easier and it probably was…. but it was still a challenge.

A while back, David Picciuto from Make Something sent me a box of small wood scraps. There were a lot of very interesting species in there, but they were so tiny it was hard to think of something to do with them. (Kinda makes sense why he would give it away, huh?) Then I hit upon the marquetry idea.

A butterfly seemed like a good first attempt so I found an image online that was close to what I had in my head and then tweaked it and made it into a laser cutter file. I spent many hours tweaking my design with test cuts at the laser cutter to get it as intricate as possible without making pieces so small that the kerf of the laser would totally obliterate the tiny piece.

In the end, I combined coconut palm, walnut, maple, purple heart and a couple other woods that I don’t know the names of to make the butterfly you see below. It’s pretty fragile, especially the antennae, but it at least held together long enough to take a photo. The dark outer wood is the coconut palm. In addition to the top border that you see, I also cut a solid bottom piece that everything glues on to.

This one is a Christmas gift for Mom. Merry Christmas!

Wooden Semi Lowboy and Dump Trailers

The last two Christmases, I’ve built Elijah toys from the Wood Magazine construction series. 2015 was the front end loader and 2016 was the dump truck. He plays with them a lot so I decided to go for it again. A few months ago, I showed him all the toys and asked which ones he liked. Of course his favorite was probably the biggest build: a tractor with a dump trailer and a lowboy trailer. I supposed I could have just done a single trailer, but eh, why not go for it all?

If you’ve been following my woodworking Instagram account (@martenswoodshop), then you know this project has taken me quite a while. It kicked off on November 1 and I finished it almost exactly one month later. The instructions were pretty good although there are two fairly big flaws with the plans:

  1. There are multiple locations where they tell you to cut pieces to size and then glue them up. It’s impossible to glue two pieces that are perfectly aligned. Instead, leave them cut a little bigger and then cut the whole block to size after you get it glued up.
  2. There are little fender pieces that get glued on the front and back of the truck. They are supposed to have head and tail lights drilled into them but they tell you to do it after you get it on the truck. That’s a recipe for frustration. Instead, do the drilling before you glue them on.

Luckily for me, those flaws (at least in my book) are part of the entire series so I knew to keep my eye open for them going into the project. The whole thing went pretty smoothly without any major disasters. I felt like it went a little faster than previous projects because this time I got a whole bunch of boards milled to all the various thicknesses that I needed before I started building.

The dump trailer added a new twist since it incorporated PVC. It was a little tricky getting the wood glued to the PVC without too much glue squeeze out, but hopefully it worked well and will stay together.

These toys feel more fragile than the previous ones I’ve built, but I guess it anything breaks, it’s not like I can’t repair it. I figure I’ll do a pass on all of the toys after he gets older and is ready to put them on a shelf or in a box (in which case I’d probably put them on MY shelf.)

Obviously, please don’t say anything about this to Elijah. He’ll be unwrapping these for Christmas, but I’m so excited to have them done that I had to show you!