Author: Rob

  • Blueberry Fortress

    The seven blueberry bushes on the east end of our garden had outgrown the individual cages we had built to protect our berries from the hungry little birdies that we enjoy seeing in the back yard. We feed them plenty of seed and suet to be okay with not sharing our precious blueberries with them!

    Linda and I brainstormed and sketched out several different solutions, finally settling on the idea to incorporate the existing garden fence into an enclosure around the entire blueberry patch. We already had heavy gauge horsewire around the apple trees that could be re-purposed to support the netting needed to keep out Tweety and family. (We kept the apple trees protected from the deer with a lighter gauge horsewire that was a lot easier to work with.)

    A few new seven-foot green fence posts and a dozen pressure treated 2x4s, along with a bit of netting, screening and some ash and maple out of my stock in the barn and Linda and I were off to the races. It’s a real pleasure to be able to walk into the enclosure and pick berries in our own well-protected blueberry patch!

  • Rob’s UPLIFT Standing Desk

    The time had come to update the computer and its setup in my home office. A long overdue addition of RAM took my aging HP Pavilion tower from 8GB to 32GB and drastically improved its performance. Lesson learned and passed on. I was also having a little trouble seeing my dual monitor setup on their VariDesk standing desk converter, which placed the monitors at least three feet away. And to top off my list of complaints, the VariDesk base on the fixed height desk raised my keyboard a bit too high for comfortable typing.

    After a lot of research and watching standing desk reviews, I settled on buying the highly rated UPLIFT DESK V2 Commercial T-style base and building my own table top to attach to it. With a motor in each three-stage telescoping leg, this particular base has a lifting capacity of over 350 pounds and about 24 inches of travel, up to a maximum of about 48 inches off the floor. When doing wire management (last few photos below), I could practically walk under the desk at its maximum height!

    After a few weeks of use, I am very satisfied with my new UPLIFT DESK standing desk. I bought one of the upgraded controllers that saves up to four programmable heights, so going from my personal sitting height to my standing height at the touch of a button takes about ten seconds or so. At both heights, the desk is solid, with no monitor shake when I am banging away on the keyboard. The ease of switching between standing and sitting makes going between those two postures several times a day both healthy and a real pleasure!

  • Lathe Cabinet Drawers

    I use a Craftsman roll around tool chest base for my NOVA Comet II midi lathe. The two drawers in the cabinet conveniently hold many of the accessories and supplies I use while turning pens, bowls, etc., on the lathe. The lower part of the cabinet is a big, empty space that was inefficient for storing and accessing pretty much anything. The idea came to use a bit of scrap plywood and build a little chest-of-drawers insert that would slip into the empty space and provide storage for more of the many small bits and pieces associated with the midi lathe.

    Not wanting to take up space (or pay for) with drawer slides, I designed the top three drawers with Masonite bottoms that extended about a 1/4 inch on each side. With a little paraffin wax, these bottom extensions slide easily in carefully spaced dadoes in the sides of the cabinet. The bottom drawer just sits in the lower opening of the cabinet and provides a little room for storing bigger pieces that aren’t too heavy.

    I had eight spare drawer pulls on hand, but they weren’t all the same … so I splurged on matching pulls for about eighty cents apiece! 😉

  • Alaya Boat Windows

    One of the major projects that Lucas and Emily have undertaken in the restoration of their sailboat, the Alaya, is replacing all of the windows. The challenge was coming up with an efficient way to accurately duplicate the original, hand-fit windows in 1/2″ polycarbonate. With hands on experience and a lot of brainstorming, our process evolved:

    • Trace the original windows, make plywood templates, attach templates to new material with the “painter’s tape and CA glue” trick, cut the new window with several incremental passes with a flush trim router bit
    • Use the original windows directly as templates, attach them to the new material with the “painter’s tape and CA glue” trick, cut the new window using a sharp wood cutting blade in a jigsaw, clean up the edges with one pass with a flush trim router bit
    • Use the original windows directly as templates, attach them to the new material with the double sided CNC tape, cut the new window using a sharp wood cutting blade in a jigsaw, clean up the edges with one pass with a flush trim router bit

    We did have to return to plywood templates for a few of the windows when Lucas and Emily determined that replacements for some of the original windows could be made to better fit their fiberglass openings.

  • Corrugated Cold Frames

    After a long winter, it takes too much guesswork and patience to wait for the last frosty night before setting out tender plans that were started under LED grow lights in the basement back in February. In past years, we often had to deploy sheets, buckets and pots to protect plants in the garden from one or more late-breaking frost events. This year, we decided to a) be more patient and b) build four cold frames for setting out early plants like radishes and cool-loving lettuces.

    The cold frame design we settled on is a 2′ x 4′ x 18″ high box with a hinged lid and surrounded by the same corrugated polycarbonate that we used in The Cottage / Greenhouse project a few years ago. Available in either 2′ x 8′ or 2′ x 12′ panels from Home Depot, this clear material is impact resistant and has held up well in the garden shed. The other design criteria was for the assemblies to be light enough to move easily, so the internal frame components for all four assemblies were all made from a single 4′ x 8′ sheet of AC exterior grade plywood. A couple of coats of exterior paint will hopefully help to protect these cold frames for many seasons of use.

  • Jan’s Mahan Clan Cutting Board

    I’m a first cousin once removed of Dr. Harry James (Jim) Mahan. Jim was the family historian for many years, and he compiled a wealth of information about the Mahan, Campbell, Harvey, Miller and other related families. With permission from Jim’s wife, Jan, I have assumed the honors of preserving Jim’s work, making it more accessible to other family members and friends and doing updates as new information becomes available to me. Visit The Mahan Clan website for more information.

    In anticipation of a trip to visit Jan and see her for literally the first time in over fifty years, I glued up some strips of ash and made her a The Mahan Clan cutting board with a stylized family tree.

  • Linda’s Knitting Needles

    Through many beautiful knitting projects, Linda’s set of rosewood knitting needles developed a couple of orphans, right in the heart of her most used needle sizes. I thought, “Gee, I have a lathe. If I can find some rosewood, how hard could it be to turn her a couple of replacements?” Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t all that hard. It wasn’t exactly easy either. I found a great source for all kinds of exotic woods right here in Michigan. Well, Bell Forest Products is in Ishpeming, Michigan … that’s in the U.P. The Upper Peninsula. “Up North.” Way up north. Anyways, they sent me a 3/8″ x 4″ x 28″ piece of E. Indian Rosewood, perfect for cutting out many knitting needle turning blanks (along with some Bubinga dowels and Sapele and E. Indian Rosewood pen blanks).

    I actually turned a pair of knitting needles for Linda out of maple a while back. I remembered struggling with a lot of deflection mid-span while turning down the blanks so I decided to take the time and build a mini steady rest to help support the blanks against the cutting tool pressure. If I was going to turn a lot of slender forms, I would find some wheels with bearings, but for a small number of turnings, the nylon wheels I used have worked pretty well.

  • New Jewelry Set in Stone Space

    Stephen and Katie have acquired a beautiful new space for their custom jewelry business, Jewelry Set in Stone, located on the second floor of the historic Clocktower Building in Chelsea, Michigan. Once they had access to this bright, light-filled space, Stephen asked me to help him decide on some decorating and arrangement decisions. The best way I knew to help was to create a 3D model of the space in SketchUp, where we could easily try different color schemes, window dressings, furniture arrangements and other aspects of setting up the new space.

    I paid a visit while the space was being prepared and took a bunch of photos and measurements. Below are some of the under renovation photos, 3D model screen shots and finally, a 3D animated walk-thru of the resulting SketchUp model. Jewelry Set in Stone has had their grand opening and the space turned out even more stunning than our model.

    Contact Stephen and Katie through their website and visit this beautiful new space in person!

  • Christmas Projects 2021

    Some of the ideas for this year’s small Christmas projects were inspired by special pieces of wood already in the shop. Other ideas came from woodworking magazines, offhand comments by others, and even a meme from the world of cryptocurrency.

    Rustic Bud Vases

    These pieces were made from a dried butternut bowl blank from a tree that grew in Deb and Jeff’s front yard across the street. The plastic test tube inserts were bought online, but inspired by ones that had come on the stems of individual cut flowers last year.

    Turned Bud Vases

    These pieces were made from thick sections of dried cherry from a tree that grew in Grandma and Grandpa Sass’s yard in my home town of Bristolville, Ohio. I decided to make them in two pieces so that I could epoxy in a 3/4″ bolt for weight near the base so they would be very stable.

    Polished Steel Cubes

    In 2021, crypto watchers were excited about Tungsten Cubes. Why? Who knows. These “amazingly heavy” ornaments are made from aerospace grade tungsten, which you can purchase from Midwest Tungsten Services. When Kyle mentioned this odd trend, it inspired me to make him a novel gift, not out of tungsten, but out of stainless steel. I bought a 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ x 6″ bar of 304 stainless from McMaster-Carr for about forty bucks and went about polishing it to a mirror finish. I then enlisted Lucas and his low-speed steel cutoff saw to break the bar down to 1-1/2″ cubes. A bit of cleanup and polishing on the cut ends and Kyle got three mirror finish steel cubes!

    French Rolling Pins

    The inspiration for turning a couple of French rolling pins was a comment from my brother, John. He and Linda were visiting somewhere with a gift shop and he said to me, There was a French rolling pin made from cherry and they were asking thirty-eight bucks for it!” In typical Mahan fashion, I thought, “Gee, I have lots of cherry and a lathe!” Turns out that turning these rolling pins entirely with a nice, sharp spindle roughing gouge was very straightforward. Once I made a little fixture to hold them between centers for finishing with walnut oil, completing them was easy and enjoyable, too.

    Adjusting Hammers

    The idea for these maple-faced adjusting hammers came from the Tips section of a recent edition of Woodsmith Magazine. The unique feature is a 3/4″ NPT pipe tee fitting, with a handle and two faces turned and tapped to screw into it. Finding an inexpensive die on eBay made short work of these home made tools.

  • Kyle’s Coaster Holder

    On a recent visit to Rio Verde, Arizona, Jeff and Debbie took us to the cool town of Cave Creek. The main thoroughfare is lined with unique shops, art galleries, restaurants and even a shop called The Town Dump, a quirky gift shop that, sadly, has closed after 42 years in business. Lucky for us, Rare Earth Gallery was open for business and thriving, self-described as “The world’s largest mineral and landscape home décor gallery.” Some of their statement pieces were priced near a hundred thousand dollars!

    Looking for something unique, but a bit more affordable, we found a set of very unique marble (I think) coasters to take home to Kyle for a Christmas present. The store wrapped them very carefully and once they made the trip home, I set about to design and build a worthy holder to store and display this cool set of four coasters.

    Just for fun, here’s a two-minute video tour of Rare Earth Gallery in Cave Creek, Arizona!