Loft For Elijah

Elijah has been asking for a treehouse for quite a while. Despite my best efforts, I can’t find a good spot to put one in our tiny yard. So much of it is covered with French drains, irrigation lines, etc. But I still wanted to give him something fun to play in and to climb on.

I was putting him to bed one night when I looked up and realized that the vaulted ceiling in his room left a lot of space above his bed. So I chatted it over with Tyla and then build a platform above his bed.

Since this will probably be torn down and thrown away in 6-8 years, I wanted to keep it simple. I used Jay Bates’s bunk bed plans and basically cut out the bottom bunk. The whole thing was designed to fit around his existing bed.

The 2x4s and 2x6s that I got from Home Depot were pretty bad. After a lot of picking, I was able to find some fairly straight boards but they were going to require a lot of sanding. So I had the bright idea of running them all through the planer to skim off a little bit on each side. That worked well but man did it make a huge mess! There’s no way my little shop vac could keep up with that so I just let the chips fly and cleaned up the mess later.

Elijah stayed in the shop for a lot of the build. It was fun to have him helping and seeing how it all went together.

I wasn’t looking forward to painting that beast but I didn’t want to leave it looking like dimensional knotty lumber so I finally pulled the trigger (pun intended) on an HVLP paint sprayer. I chose a fairly simple one from Rockler but it still has a detached turbine unit. I originally thought I’d move the loft into the back yard to paint it but the forecast was calling for rain. So I tried setting up our pop up kitchen tent thing in the driveway with tarps underneath and on the sides. That wasn’t terrible but the loft was too big to be able to spray comfortably. I did the primer but them moved it back inside to do the paint by hand. I’m looking forward to trying the spray again on something smaller. The photo below shows the setup before I added the final two walls of plastic. The side of the loft facing down did not need to be painted as it was going to end up against the wall in his room.

This loft is starting out very simple but I’d love to build a little house up there at some point. We’ll see how much he uses it. His favorite part right now is the bar I added on the bottom for him to swing from. I think we will definitely need some pillows or a pad up on the top. It’s hard on our knees!


Ticawa Sign

As a thank you for letting us come up to Maine, I made a sign to leave at Camp Ticawa. It features their original logo which I had drawn a long time ago to make shirts (that shirt store is still alive!)

This was by far the most complicated thing I have done on the CNC to date. I spent hours tweaking the SVG file and even longer in Fusion playing with the toolpath to get it just right. In the end I did one pass with a 1/8″ endmill and then went through a second time with a vee bit to clean up the edges and do all the smaller areas. For the wood I glued to 1×8 pieces of pine together, filled in the seam with wood filler and then painted it with a nice blue enamel paint that we had previously intended to use on our front door. I was going to fill the letters with white paint, but the raw pine looked so nice that I just left it that way.

Now it sits in a place of honor between the ear rock and the butt rock! If any Ticawa fans are interested in getting their own version, please contact me. I’m happy to chat about making one of you or giving you the files so you can make your own.

Strawberry Tower

This is the last year for our planter boxes along the driveway. We decided to pull them out but we still wanted to have a few strawberry plants around. The back yard seemed like a good place to help avoid the deer so I put together a simple design for ladder style planter boxes. The whole thing is on wheels for now so we can move it around, but eventually the plan is to put them along the fence. I might have to move one of the plants to make room for it.

The structure is made out of 2×6 cedar and 1×10 cedar. The boxes are lined with plastic with some drain holes drilled through and then covered with landscape fabric. I also had some of the old fence stain laying around and since it’s going to be up against the fence eventually, I slapped on a quick coat.

If I made them again, I’d probably make a few changes to try to decrease the cost a bit, but overall I think these will serve us well for years to come.

Washington Ornaments

Evergreen Lutheran High School in Tacoma has a fundraiser auction every year. Every year I think about making something and then fail to do so. This year I made it under the deadline by about two hours.

I only had five days to whip something up so I decided to completely steal an idea from Nick at 6_8woodworks, and make some ornaments out of laminated scraps. Thankfully I had enough interesting pieces of the right sizes to make a few at the same time.

Since I have that shiny new CNC sitting there, I whipped up a drawing and was able to cut out 3 identical ornaments relatively easily. The only real trick was making the cut into Puget Sound wide enough for my 1/8″ bit to get in there. As I cut each one, I rotated my stock piece to get a slightly different pattern on each one. I finished them off with a bunch of sanding, boiled linseed oil, and some twine through a hole to hold it onto a Christmas tree.

I don’t expect these to raise a huge amount of money but it will be fun to see other people put a price tag on my woodworking. I almost exclusively make things for myself or as gifts so there’s no real price tag involved.

Ecobee Thermostat Plate

After making a simple zero clearance insert with my new Shapeoko 3 XXL, I wanted to try something else fairly simple but slightly more challenging. Ever since I installed our Ecobee 3, I’ve wanted to replace the white plastic plate that goes around the thermostat. But building something that has a nice shape and fits well would be a challenge so I dropped it in my “if I ever get a CNC” project list.

To get started, I grabbed a photo of my model online (there are a lot of slight variations through the years!) and traced around the outside in Inkscape. I used some cheap 1/4″ MDF as test pieces on the Shapeoko and after 4 attempts with tweaks in between, I had a good fit around the thermostat.

Then I added a lot more complexity. Instead of just being cut out, that original hole that I designed became a pocket in the material. I added in a hole all the way through the back for the wires and two more for the mounting screws to pass through. That all went pretty smoothly but the tricky part was making room for the vent on the bottom of the thermostat to exhaust air but not making the vent bigger than it needed to be. I’m still not convinced I have that designed as well as I could, but it got to the “good enough” point after 4 attempts in 3/4″ pine.

For the final cut, I milled up some walnut and put it on the CNC. The first attempt went ok but ended up failing near the end. Despite slowing down the program to account for hardwood, I think I was still a little too aggressive and I might have had the router carriage adjusted a little too loosely. The second attempt went slower (about 35 minutes instead of 20 minutes in pine) but it came out perfectly. I finished up with some sanding and routed a chamfer around the outside using the router table. I finished it with a coat of boiled linseed oil and mounted it on the wall.

This project really made me feel the value of the CNC. It was awesome to tweak my design by fractions of an inch and have a completely new part in under half an hour. It’s a lot easier to experiment than if I was trying to do this all carefully by hand.

Fun fact: about 80% of the way through this project, I was installing a test plate and when I put the thermostat on, it didn’t turn on. Of course this was the last thing I was doing before going to bed. After some panic and opening up service panels on my furnace, I found a fuse that had blown. The next morning, I called my favorite HVAC expert, and verified that replacing the fuse would work. After a quick trip to the store and $2, I was back in action, but boy was that a cold and stressful night! Always turn off your equipment before working on it!