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Friday, May 11, 2012

Here's Your Sign

I have wanted for some time now to make some wooden signs, starting with a sign for my shop.

I checked into the router template methods, like the Milescraft Sign Pro, but none of them offered letters that I felt were large enough for outside signs that are meant to be seen from the street.

I built a pantograph with the intention of making templates to create signs. The pantograph works great, but as I started trying to gather everything I needed to make the templates for them, I came to the realization that, holy crap, that’s a lot of templates if you want various letter size and styles.

So I sat down online doing some reading up on how other’s create these large signs successfully. For the most part, what I learned was that most people at least claimed to draw out their letters and route them freehand. I thought there was no way. Now, I at the time was thinking of my large Ridgid two horse router that I have felt numerous times what happens with that kind of size and power if you hit a knot or grain change while not using a guide or template. So I really couldn’t see how doing these sign freehand could work safely.

Then I decided to back up to square one and reconsider something that had not occurred to me. The large two horse router is meant to have that kind of torque and power. However, the palm router that I’d gotten for the pantograph was meant to be used in your hands smoothly. Maybe it would run smoothly enough to do these signs by hand. What did I have to lose?
If any of you have a palm router and have thought of making some signs. Draw out some letters and give it a try. It’s much easier than you may think it is.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Keepsake Boxes - Graduation Gifts

This is one of those simple projects that turned into an interesting journey.
I started out with the idea of making my daughter a very simple, plain keepsake box for a graduation gift. As usual though, nothing that starts out simple for me stays simple very long.
First I got the idea to make her best friend one just like hers, so it then turned into two boxes instead of one.
After that, it sort if evolved into making stacking boxes instead of just a plain box.
Then I thought of adding their school initials and graduation year as scrollwork on the side of the boxes. Somehow though, that changed into making those out of three quarter inch stock and making that the handles for the top boxes.
After that, I still wanted something to break up the look of the sides so I scrolled their initials and placed that on the sides. This seemed like a good idea because these two girls are planning on sharing a college dorm room in the fall. So having their initials on them will help them know which belongs to who without having to open them first to look at the contents.
The light colored wood is cottonwood and the dark wood is mahogany. It is finished with three layers of Minwax polyurethane.
I also wanted to show how the boxes break down.
You can remove the lids on the top two small boxes.
Next, you can remove the two small boxes to reveal the middle large box.
Then you can remove that box to reveal the bottom large box.
And this last photo shows how I cut the bottom of the middle box and the bottoms of the two top small boxes to sort of nestle into the boxes below them.

I swear, it baffles me sometimes how a simple project like the one I started out on here can turn into a week long project without even giving it much though. Thus is the nature of wood work I recon. It is a very interesting journey though on which one always learns something new.
I had a lot of enjoyment and sorrow while doing this project. While working on it I thought a lot about over the years of my daughter growing up and came to a realization. She has grown up way to fast for me. I would give anything in the world just to have my little princess back. If any of you have small children, cherish every day with them. They will be grown before you know it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Oak Jewelry Cabinet

Money is tight. That should be no surprise as times are tough all over. Since I can't afford my wife something nice for the upcoming Mother's day, I decided to build her something nice.
This jewelry cabinet is sixteen inches wide and two foot tall. It is made of solid oak. It is not a light cabinet at all.
All six drawers, along with all the other finger joints you see on the cabinet were made using the box joint machine I posted a while back. As you can see, the machine works beautifully.
The cabinet has six drawers riding on wooden slides. The two sides swing out to reveal ten hooks on each side to hang things such as necklaces and bracelets on. It is finished with Minwax Gloss Polyurethane.

I really enjoyed building this. While I cannot claim this as my own design, I did not work from plans. I didn't even write down any perceived measurements before I began building it. I just sort of made it up as I went along. The design cues came from various ideas I'd seen here and there.


This is what is called a pantograph. It is a design of Matthius Wandell. You can see his website here.
So, what does a pantograph do? I'm glad you asked.
A pantograph such as this one works by allowing movement on three different axises. The end, the piece you see at the far right of the machine, is called the follower. With the follower, you follow a pattern or template. The router that is mounted in the middle of the machine follow the follower, left, right, up, down, or wherever you go with it. Because of the full range of motion, you can cut three dimensional cutouts from pretty much anything.
This is a good example to demonstrate what I'm trying my best to describe. I followed the crescent wrench you see in the photo with the follower. The router cut that three dimension item into a blank of wood at one half the size. As you can see, as long as you have or can make a template of anything twice the size you want it cut, you can cut anything you wish in wood.
I have some ideas for this in the future. It will be fun though experimenting with it though and testing the boundaries of just what I can do with it.