Wood: First furniture project, a bed!

The Ikea bed (a queen-sized Malm), after being dutifully moved around over the last six or so years, had begun to display symptoms of the dreaded "wiggles". The slats had also picked up the bad habit of unceremoniously dropping between the (now distended) supports and causing all sorts of frustration, back pain, a mid-sleep surprises. I'd been tempted by the idea of trying to build a bed since I bought the table saw, and finally decided April was the month. The design was pretty constrained though; not only would it need to be easy to get up (and eventually down) a spiral staircase, it also had to be something that we could cut on our 4' x 6' balcony. The standard queen bed dimensions are 60" x 80", which astute observers will notice does not at all fit on the balcony. Thankfully, I came across a handful of designs that were essentially platform beds composed of boxes with drawers and supports added on. 

While it's true I did tweak some of the dimensions and details, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this video, which not only provided the fundamental design, also helped me dodge some snags along the way. One of the first big learnings of this project: nicer plywood gets super expensive, and long drawers do too. The four 8' x 4' sheets this project required ran about $300, the drawer slides about another $100, and roughly another $100 for the miscellaneous bits (edge banding, dowel stock, drawer pulls, fasteners, etc). 

This was also my first project using pocket-hole screws, which, I know, some people view as cheating. Clearly this project wasn't meant to be fine woodworking, but rather functional furniture that I dearly wanted to have done within the time of a month (mostly evenings and weekend mornings). I did not, however, have a brad nailer / pin nailer, some glue and clamps ended up doing a lot more work than I anticipated. Rather than run through the entire process step-by-step, I'm just providing a few photos I snapped along the way (skip to the end to see the final result). For the finish we just sanded with 320 git with an orbital sander and put on two coats of wipe-on oil-based polyurethane, with a hand-sanding at 400 git in between coats. 

Gluing up the first box

Gluing up the first box

Living room overwhelmed

Living room overwhelmed

Gluing up one of the "foot boxes"

Gluing up one of the "foot boxes"

All the drawers finally done!

All the drawers finally done!

Ouliana adding edge banding

Ouliana adding edge banding

All lined up and ready to sand and finish

All lined up and ready to sand and finish

Finally in place!

Finally in place!

Clearly the next project is building a new headboard. It's been a few days already and I'm still incredibly stoked to have more storage as well as a better night's sleep! The biggest part of this for me has been getting a bit of practice on a larger-scale project; now basic furniture projects don't seem quite so intimidating!

Wood: Boxes for my two new Set Cubes!

It's been ages since I've posted an update, but not for lack of activity! These two boxes actually came together a couple weeks ago, but finding the time to photograph and post them was the hard part.

A while back it got into my head to build set cubes, that is a draftable set of cards that re-creates the retail draft experience for a given set of Magic. In addition to prolonging the useful life of cards, it also saves time on sleeving every draft deck. You can read an excellent article on set cubes here. The ratio I ended up using is four of each common, two of each uncommon, and one of each rare and mythic (often shorted to just) 4/2/1/1, with the knowledge that either shuffling up the whole pile, or intentionally building packs, would result in reasonable versions of the experience. The cards themselves were double-sleeved in KMC perfect fits and KMC hyper mattes (a bit overkill, but I like having my cubes match so the lands can be used with any of them, and I wasn't about to single sleeve MM17).

The design for the boxes came about from a couple constraints. We've got two Ikea KALLAX shelves that are super convenient, and I wanted to make sure that the boxes would be able to fit side-by-side in a single Kallax cube, as well as made good use of the depth of the shelf. Next, the nicest dimesnional lumber I can easily get my hands on comes in 5" x 24" x 1/4" boards, so I wanted to limit each box to two of those. The lid and floor are retained by rabets, and the dividers by dadoes. All the corners are 45-degree miters done right on the saw. The poorly-drawn but accurate plans are in the first photo below, along with the cut-down and mitre'd panels. 

Plans and panels for both boxes

Plans and panels for both boxes

As for materials, the Unstable box is curly maple with a sapele pommele inlay, while the Kaladesh box is walnut with a quilted maple inlay. For the lids and floors I used some oak plywood I got on discount, the dividers in both are aromatic cedar. The veneer was incredibly thin, but the grain pattern was really striking. Both the inlay and the panels were laser cut to fit, but the wavy nature of the veneer made both of these tricker than usual. After the glue-up they got a couple coats of natural-tone Danish oil.

First coat of oil

First coat of oil

I'm really happy with how these turned out! They have a bit more space than I need for just the double-sleeved cards, but it means I can store the tokens, dice, and any other extras as well.

Having cracked out two of the same design in the same weekend, I'm comfortable saying I've got this design down. Now on to bigger and better things, new techniques and interesting challenges!

Hawaii Vacation Videos

Videos have become the modern replacement for the dreary vacation slide show, wherein family members are cornered with food and drink, and made to sit through stories of various family members getting sunburns. Instead of cobbling together a massive single video, I decided to break up the clips by location, and link them to the map below. I also made excessive use of the FreeMusicArchive, the videos should list which track(s) were used. I probably could've done a better job on color correction, clipping out the boring bits, and choosing better music, but for now I'm happy to just be done editing it. It was a great trip, but I'd rather look forward to the next one than dwell on the previous one for another dozen hours in Final Cut!

 

Garden Eel Cove Kaloko-Honokohau Kahalu'u Beach Place of Refuge South Point Green Sand Beach Volcanoes Park Hilo and Kalapana (1:42) Kapoho Tidepools Tropical Botanical Garden Hilo Waterfalls Saddle Road Black Sand Beach

Each map marker links to the video we shot there! For those who don't want to hunt around a map, here's a list in roughly the order we went:

Video: Diving Monterey!

While planning a vacation for later this year, the urge hit us to look into scuba diving. For some reason, I'd always considered it impossibly expensive and technical, but quickly discovered that something like a third of my co-workers were certified divers, and the training was actually reasonably affordable. Their reassurances went a long way toward convincing us to go for it, as well as all the exciting stories they had to tell about actually putting the skills to use. On their recommendations, we headed to Diver Dan's shop in San Jose, picked up the class material for the PADI Open Water class, and two weeks later were in Monterrey for our check-out dives.

 

I haven't done a ton of work in Final Cut Pro X before, so getting to clip together bits of footage from my phone and the GoPro was fun. It was a bit tricky patching together footage that I hadn't bothered to keep a consistent aspect ratio and frame rate, but I learned a bit along the way. I realize it's the modern equivalent of showing off your vacation photos to bored family members, but I'm not about to let that stop me. Hopefully travel this year will give me a little more practice taking video, as well as a little more time with the software.

Sewing and Stitching: Chalk Bags

I've never had a penchant for working fabric, it's always proven to be to frustrating for me to really dig into, and I suppose I never had a project idea that excited me as much as this one did. My partner and I recently got back into climbing after a very long hiatus, and our gear, while dusty, was still functional. While at our local rock gym we spotted several climbers with more interesting chalk bags, and it struck us that we could easily whip up our own. With some encouragement from Ouliana, we set off to Jo-anns with a beat up old bag to use as a prototype, and left with the fluffiest bag I've ever seen. 

Ouliana's bag came together in one evening, with fairly simple construction, as she's already great at sewing. It basically consists of a bag nested inside a very slightly larger and fluffier bag, stitched together at the top edge with a grommet and cord to cinch it closed. The fluffy material presented issues with getting good seams until we started "shearing" off the excess fluff at the edge, and any cutting of that material quickly filled the air with stray fluff. The eyes were surprisingly easy, as Jo-anns sells pairs of snap-in plastic eyes fairly cheaply.

A rosey-cheek'd three-eye'd flüfbeest chalkbag

A rosey-cheek'd three-eye'd flüfbeest chalkbag

It took a long evening to tackle mine, though we'd ironed out all the steps and snags in the first pass. Hand-stitching the felt bits together to form the sloth-face easily took an hour, but by the end I was totally comfortable with the process. I did end up going with a simpler white felt lining, but adding the arms was a new complication. Ouliana was nice enough to take the helm on a two of the more involved stitches on the sewing machine, but allowed (er, insisted) me to do the rest. As my first real project out of a sewing machine, I'm super thrilled with how it came out!

"Gaston", the sloth chalk bag!

"Gaston", the sloth chalk bag! Notice the three-toes..

The cinch closure, carabiner loop, and felt lining

The cinch closure, carabiner loop, and felt lining

Hollow Knight fan-crafts

During the recent steam sale I picked up a bunch of games, and Hollow Knight had been vaguely on my radar since a friend mentioned it, so in it went. I wasn't really prepared for how much I ended up loving this game. The huge and story-drenched world, fluid movement, skill-testing combat, interesting mechanics and choices.. I could go on at length, but it suffices to say that I got really into it! This led to the inevitable outcome of me nerding out over a particular thing: making one or more things about it. 

A bleached shirt has become my obvious first step. I found this poster while looking around for source images, and really loved how it feels like the old 80's movie posters with all the characters montage'd together (e.g. the Star Wars films have stuck with this throughout the years). What I didn't consider was how much higher the level of detail was compared to previous shirts I've made, even after simplifying the design a bit, it had more than 150 "islands" that needed to be placed. Rather than the hour or so I normally budget for ironing down the pattern, it took about 8 hours across several evenings to get it right, and several lost pieces had to be re-cut by hand. That said, I'm super happy with how the final result looks!

Pattern as-ironed

Pattern as-ironed

Bleached result!

Bleached result!

My partner, watching (and hearing) me play just so many hours of Hollow Knight, decided to give it a try. After making it through the first chunk of the game, she was hooked too, and wanted to craft something. One of her fortes is sculpture, so we dug out the polymer clay and got to work! I took a shot at the Wanderer (the player character), which came out reasonably well, but the Hornet she made looks amazing.

Hollow knight clay friends!

Hollow knight clay friends!

Big update: More boxes, more shirts, and beer!

It's been a good while since I've set aside time to scratch out an update, but not for lack of activity. Rather than split all the projects across several posts, I'm opting for one big one! On the woodworking side, I pulled two boxes together: one to house the awkwardly large Planechase planes, and a tea-box as a mother's day gift.
 
While planning out the Planechase box, I stuck to the philosophy that each new project needs to have at least one element I haven't wrestled with before. This time: hinges, felt lining, and one-piece box construction! For materials I went with a plank of bubinga that I picked up a few weeks ago, with curly maple and blue paua shell for the inlays. The lid and bottom were attached with rabbets and the corners 45-degree mitered. A small riser was added to the dice-holding compartment to make it easier to get at them.

 

Just after sawing the lid off

Just after sawing the lid off

Chaos symbol in curly maple inlay

Chaos symbol in curly maple inlay

The planeswalker symbol in curly maple inlay

The planeswalker symbol in curly maple inlay

Loaded with all the sleeved planes and dice!

Loaded with all the sleeved planes and dice!

Planechase anthology symbol inlaid in blue paua shell

Planechase anthology symbol inlaid in blue paua shell

It was my sister's idea to whip up something together for mother's day, and we hit upon the idea of a tea box. She provided the graphics for the lid, helped select materials, and provided plenty of encouragement. Ribbon sapele and bird's-eye maple were picked for the box and top/bottom respectively. For the joinery I decided to make it as fancy as possible, and ended up building a dead-simple box-joint jig for the table saw. After a few tests, I was able to make nice tight-fitting box joints in the fancy wood! The patterns were laser'd on, and a small inlay of niove was glued in. 
 

 

The finger joint jig ready to go

The finger joint jig ready to go

Practice joints looking almost right

Practice joints looking almost right

First attempt at a magnetic closure

First attempt at a magnetic closure

Ribbon sapele showing off the finger joints

Ribbon sapele showing off the finger joints

Lid with noive inlay

Lid with noive inlay

While digging through my closet I came across an early attempt at a megaman shirt and decided that it'd make a good target for a re-do. I hunted down a suitable graphic and went through what, at this point, is a tried and true process. I'm much happier with the result!
Megaman shirt

Megaman shirt

 
Lastly, I got bit by the home-brew bug a week or two ago! I dug out and inventoried my equipment, and picked up an ingredient kit at the local brew shop. When thinking about the trajectory, I realized I don't really have a group of thirsty grad-student friends to conscript for bottling day any more, so I took the next logical step: a kegging setup! 
 
Fridge keg!

Fridge keg!

 

With that set up, current dispensing sparkling water, we got started on the brewing. A scotch ale was the order of the month. The brewing was briefly put on hold while the fittings on our new kettle got a few wraps of plumbers tape, but after that there were no issues during the boiling, cooling, or moving it to the sanitized carboy. A couple days after pitching the yeast, some drama struck! 
Post-geyser solution

Post-geyser solution

 
The fermentation was a bit over-zealous! We quickly ran out for some 1/2" tubing, and fitted it as a blow-off tube, the far end submerged in dilute sanitizer. By the next evening it was done pushing out krausen, and has settled into a slow and study bubbling. In retrospect, a fairly surgery brew in a smaller-sized carboy; I should've expected this and fitted the tube right off the bat, but learning is fine too.  Bottling went smoothly, with half going into about 20 bottles, the rest going into the keg.
20 bottles of tasty scotch ale

20 bottles of tasty scotch ale!

Woodworking: Oak Deckbox with Walnut Inlay

Before diving into the process, here are some shots of the final result!

Oak and walnut deckbox

Oak and walnut deckbox

Inlay detail

Inlay detail

The lid and danish-oiled interiod

The lid and danish-oiled interiod

I finally got a table saw! Well, a job-site saw, so I can at least cut down on how much space it consumes in the apartment. While I've got a few projects floating around my head, I wanted to have a go at something relatively simple to try out the saw. I settled on a simple deck box, using essentially the same design as the maple deck box I posted previously. The rabbet joints got dropped in favor of mitered corners, though the bottom is still one big inch-deep rabbet joint, and the lid is a simple set-in affair rather than the sliding lid I attempted previously.

Shiny new saw!

Shiny new saw!

The whole concept was to get the box cut, fit, and engraved in a single day, though it did end up bleeding into the week while I experimented with finishes. In that spirit of expediency I went with the straightest 1/4" red oak board I could find at Lowes for the sides and lid, and a 1" chunk of scrap cherry for the base.
 
The saw worked beautifully! A quick cross cut to the sum-width of the sides, a rip to the final height, and a few more cross cuts and the oak was done. You might notice that the stop-block in the photo is cherry, and yes, that was the bit that became the bottom of the box. 
 
Things were going swimmingly until I attempted to route out the lift-hold for the lid on the front panel of the box. Apparently people aren't kidding when they say oak is a "hard wood", the panel actually broke apart where the radius came parallel with the grain! I had a photo, but it got lost along the way.
 
I pulled the saw back out and cut another panel, and this time spent a good deal of time cutting the hole across maybe a dozen shallow cuts. Right at the end, it managed to catch and splinter off anyway. I suppose the lesson here is, when you're routing blind, use a stop block! I managed to find the excised chunk, and decided to just glue it back on. It took fairly well, and after a little sanding, it's essentially invisible! The hole is a bit larger than intended, but still functional.
 
All that was left to do was laser engrave, cut some oak veneer for an inlay, and glue and finish the thing! I'll admit, I didn't have a particular motif in mind for this box, I was just hoping to prove to myself that I could get from concept to product quickly and competently (well.. the I got the first half at least!) I went with the iconic "M", and really like how it came out! I did spent about an hour dialing in the laser settings so there'd be minimal sanding to get the inlay level with the face, but that was quick compared to testing finishes.
 
Oak looks alright with pretty much everything, but doesn't have the same dazzling figure as maple, or even the richness of the walnut, so I spent a while testing out various finishes on scrap material. I was hoping to try out a new finish on this piece, so I opted to use Danish oil (my previous go-to) just for the inside faces. Shellac took ages to apply, even to scrap, and didn't quite look as good as the oil, but spray varnish managed to be easy to apply, as well as pretty nice looking. I went with that, applying 4 coats with 7 minutes of drying between coats, an hour wait, a sanding at 320 grit, and a final coat on top. The sanding ended up being a bit heavier than it should have been, as my spraying produced some noticeable drips, but sanding through them didn't take long.
 
I'm pretty happy with the final product! I'm clearly still learning how to use the tools correctly, but I'm enjoying myself along the way. 

Ulamog, the Creaseless Shirt!

I took a break from other projects for an evening to whip up another shirt pattern. The Eldrazi titans were a tempting target, but I ran into the problem that almost none of the art shows what their leg-tentacle-appendages. Also, across artists, the details on each titan tend to change a little each time. Octopus-like walking-tentacles are what I settled on.

Ironed Ulamog pattern

Ironed Ulamog pattern

Ulamog, the Creaseless Shirt

Ulamog, the Creaseless Shirt

Woodworking: Inlaid Box for Cube

This is a project I've had in the back of my head for more than a year now. Every few months it'd resurface and I'd jot down some dimensions, look into materials, and inevitably get distracted by life. A week ago I had totally open weekend and decided that it was time. Unfortunately I didn't pause to take progress shots, but the vast majority of the techniques are the same as I used in the deckbox and land station. The corners are miter joints, the "floor" and lid are set into 1/8" deep rabbets all the way around, and the dividers simply slot into 1/8" deep dados on both sides.

Materials-wise, I stuck with maple for the frame, with bird's eye figure this time, ceder for the dividers, and baltic birch plywood for the lid and floor. The ceder was a lot softer than I anticipated, but I don't expect much wear on the dividers, and the smell is amazing. The inlay materials are cherry veneer, three colors of paua shell veneer, and five semi-precious stones (being pearl, blue onyx, onyx, carnelian, and malachite).

After sanding to 600 grit the maple and cherry got a coat of danish oil, producing a lovely warm and deep look, but I found in testing that the plywood looked miserable and blotchy with that approach. I ended up going with a few layers of spray varnish and a final sanding with 600 grit and ultra fine steel wool on the plywood, giving it a satin feel and slightly warming up the color without any of the blotching.

Laser cutting the lotus pieces (sorry for the vertical video, I know)

The veneers and lid-inset were all laser cut, requiring six different cutting patterns to get everything matched up and at the right burn-depth. Needless to say, some experimentation went into this process. An additional mini-project came out of this testing as well, which I'll post later on!

Dry fitting inlay

Dry fitting inlay

Dry fitting the shell veneer

Dry fitting the shell veneer

The veneers were attached with a thin later of Titebond I (I know there are better glues, even just TB III, but I didn't want to put off this project for another week) and clamped with wax paper for an hour. The same spray vanish and rub-out procedure was used on both sides of the lid, giving it a wonderful feel. Finally the stones were secured with a drop of cyanoacrylate super glue each.

Beautiful maple figure on the front

Beautiful maple figure on the front

Nice even rows, glue just dried!

Nice even rows, glue just dried!

A head-on shot of the final result

A head-on shot of the final result

While this project was only a marginal step up in complexity, I still learned a ton while working through it. While every small mistake and blemish that ended up in the final piece stand out a lot to me, I'm still really happy with the result!

Both cubes snugly in their new home

Both cubes snugly in their new home!