Archive for the ‘Woodworking’ Category

Artist’s Pencil Boxes

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

For the last several years I have made Christmas gifts for my family in the workshop. No one would call me a master craftsman but I enjoy my time in the shop and I feel that a handmade gift beats mass-produced every time! Well not every time (let’s be real) but you get my drift. This year I didn’t really start my project early enough because I was excited about completing my first scratch electric guitar build. I needed a project that could finish in time and without too much nashing of teeth. Enter “The Artist’s Pencil Boxes”, a plan which I had but never really thought I’d actually make.

Milling the Stock

I began by going through my wood reserve and landing on a lonely but willing cypress board. For this project most of the lumber was 1/4″ or less in thickness so I began by jointing and planing and cutting.

img_1400 img_1401 img_1396

The result, materials for six boxes.


Making the Box

Next I routed and cut pieces to fabricate the boxes.


Once I knew they were going to work I glued them up, then sliced them longitudinally.

img_1412 img_1413

Then a peg was inserted in the bottom half and the top fit to the bottoms for each box.


Getting each of the tops to slide smoothly was chose but I kept at it until I was satisfied they would open on Christmas.


Six completed boxes and ready for a simple shellac finish. No time for anything else really!


Pack ’em up and ship ’em; Christmas isn’t going to wait!


Hopefully I’ll plan ahead for next year but…. don’t count on it!!!

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Drawing Light Box

June 22, 2016 Leave a comment

I’ve been running into a challenge with printing the over sized templates for guitar bodies and neck profiles. One can always ship drawings to a print shop and I have done this on a number of occasions with generally good success. The fee isn’t  bad at $3.00 a print and as long as you only need an occasional copy, the trip to store isn’t that much of a burden. In the old days we used to print things out and tape them together with aid from a light table which made it possible to see through several layers of paper and thus accurately line up the “cut marks”. I decided I wanted one but it needed to be a bit larger than the ones I found on Amazon. So….. I built my own.

As any sane person would do these days, I consulted the Internet for inspiration before drawing up my own design. Essential elements included an (inexpensive) glass top so that I could use a hobby knife to cut paper, LED ribbon lights for bright, compact, low power lighting and a wooden frame. For fun, I decided to add a light switch but it really isn’t necessary.

Parts List

SketchUp Model

DIY Drawing Light Box

DIY Drawing Light Box. (Cick on image to download the SketchUp drawing.)

I took much of this project from epicfantasy’s YouTube video How to make a light box including the exact parts for the LED lights and adapter, and a clever trick for diffusing light. I watched several other videos but the single-most inspiration came from Glass Impressions, How to build a light box.

Box Build

I decided to join my frame with dovetails so I cut the front and back pieces to 37″ and the side pieces to 25″. My glass top and bottom plywood pieces were both 24″ x 36″ so this would leave a 1/2″ of wood around the perimeter. A 1/4″ rebate was cut on both the top and bottom edges of all boards making sure to use a stopped cut on the tail board so I didn’t have any exposed hole. The ends of the rebates had to be finished by hand using chisel and mallet to make complete recesses for the top and bottom pieces. The base was easier as I could cut the plywood to size should my measurements be off  but the glass had to fit just right. Unfortunately I didn’t cut the rebates deep enough for the top and other than dry assembling the box and test fitting, there was no way to know this until after I glued up the box. To get the glass to fit, I marked and whittled until at last the glass would drop in. With all the tools I now have, I couldn’t think of an elegant way to widen the recess other than with marking knife, chisel and shoulder plane. Eventually I got a good fit but it would have been much easier to get it right at the router table.

Before gluing up the box however, I measured and cut a through mortise for the rocker switch on the right side. Rearward of the switch I drilled a 3/8″ hole and press fit the female 12 V jack (LED end) into it. Just to make sure it stayed I applied some hot glue with a glue gun. I was ready to glue-up the frame and attach the bottom.

Light Box Switch

I cut the plywood bottom to size and after a few passes with the block plane had a good fit. I attached the bottom using screws only (4×13 mm) making sure to pre-drill holes at a slight angle (towards the frame) so as to make sure I didn’t miss the rebate wall. I didn’t use glue just in case I have to remove the bottom for some future repair.

Box bottom.

Frame bottom panel.

Using 3M spray adhesive, I lined the box interior with heavy-duty aluminum foil to provide good light reflectance. I could have used aluminum tape but this was a cheaper option although more cumbersome to install.


I unraveled the spool of LED lights to get an idea of how many strips and how close together I could make the rows. Epicfantasy didn’t cut his light strip opting to loop the ribbon back and forth along the bottom. I considered this but figured I would do it the harder but potentially “better” way by cutting the LED into individual strips and reconnecting them with hookup wire. This wasn’t difficult but I can give you a couple of tips that might help with your learning curve.

Tip #1 – The strip has marked cut lines with solder pads on either side. Cut the LEDs only in these areas and take your time as the solder pads are very close together. The pads are tiny to begin with and if you cut half of one away you are asking for trouble. Don’t ask me how I know this….

LED light strip

Safe to cut between the solder pads on the line indicated but cut accurately.

Tip #2 – Make sure you hook  + to + (Positive)  and – to  – (Negative) (see image above). I was using black and red hookup and for some odd reason kept trying to use the black wire for Positive connections. Not sure what that was about but of course, Positive is traditionally red and Negative is traditionally black. Using different colored wire isn’t necessary but it can help to prevent wiring mistakes and adds a bit of professionalism to your work. I used hot glue to tack the wires to the bottom.

Tip #3 – Leave very little of each end of the hookup wire exposed, about 1-2 mm. Tin the wire but more importantly, tin the solder pad before attempting the connection. Initially I tinned the wire but not the pad and this doesn’t work, flux goes everywhere. When done properly there will be a beautiful round dollop of solder mounded perfectly on the solder pad. Heating for connection is very fast but you must hold the wire in place for good while for the solder to harden (10-15 secs); otherwise the wire just springs back dragging solder with it and making a mess of it. Blow on it if you want, this helps cool the joint and blows the fumes out of your face so it can’t hurt.

Tip #4 – Test your connections as you go. I started my connections at the powered end and tested each strip as I went just to give me confidence as I progressed along the chain. If you don’t do this troubleshooting after will still be very straightforward with lights working up to the failure.

Tip #5 – Switches are installed in-line on the power side of a circuit. The light strip came with a DC jack and ready to go but there was no provision for a switch as such so I ended up peeling back insulation to expose wires which were stranded and very delicate. I didn’t have a lot of extra wire length to work with but I was able to get everything connected, soldered and covered with heat shrink tubing. If I were to do this over, I would come up with a cleaner approach to hooking in the switch or just left it out altogether.

The Top

Why Glass

I choose to use glass for the working surface of this light box for two reasons, cost ($13)  and resistance to scratches when cutting with a hobby knife. That said I can not emphasize enough the potential danger of working with a 2’x3′ pane of non-tempered glass. As a home-brewer, I myself have experienced a glass carboy explode when it fell off a stand on to the floor. My foot was cut in several places and I carried a large shard of glass in my toe for months before it was expelled. A co-worker of mine almost died carrying a glass vase and stepped in hole waking to her house. One of the pieces sliced her wrist area and had she and her husband not kept cool heads getting her to the hospital she would have been in real trouble. Glass is dangerous, and working with this piece concerned me. I reasoned the glass top would be “relatively protected” once I got it safely mounted into the frame. As luck would have it, I almost made it but on the second day, somehow the wrapped glass, standing against the wall shifted and a piece of it broke. Darn! I used super glue to reattach it and placed packing tape inside and out along the break to reinforce it. In hindsight, plastic is just an all around better choice for your top, even given the inevitable scratches that will come.


I sprayed the underside of the glass top with spray paint, glass frosting. Can’t say it was a bad result, I just wanted something a bit more diffuse. I decided to attach a layer of that thin white foam they wrap electronics in to further soften the light. If you are using translucent plastic none of this is necessary of course. Glue Impressions sprayed a couple thin coats of white paint on his top. Epicfantasy used some white, plastic poster board as an inexpensive light diffuser. It’s your call but I probably wouldn’t spend the $5 on frosting paint if I was to do it again, I’d either use white or go with the attached plastic or foam.

Hot Glue Gun

I used a lot of hot melt glue on this project because I didn’t want anything coming loose on me. Hot glue was used to secure the press-fit DC jack into the wooden frame and also to secure wires, LED lights and wire hook-ups. Of course I tested and retested before entombing connections in glue.

Reluctantly I used hot glue to secure the glass top into the rebate making this a rather permanent mount. This means any repairs will need to made by removing the bottom which isn’t ideal but is feasible. I was terrified the glass top might fall out on accident. I considered using wooden strips to secure it but end the end opted to hot glue it in place.

Finished Light Box

Finished DIY Tracing Light Box

Closing Thoughts

I’m happy with the build although I hate that my glass pane has a break in it. If you are considering a similar build keep in mind that the frame could have been simply screwed or nailed together without need of dovetail or box joints. I gave serious consideration to simply using pocket screws but as a learning woodworker, I didn’t mind practicing the joinery. You might also give additional thought to the size of your light box. I looked over the available sizes of replacement glass panes and landed on 2’x3′ which would be long enough to join guitar neck templates and wide enough for body templates. But it’s big and I’m not sure where I’m going to store it/ protect it when not in use. I’m thinking about making a table out of it and possibly making a wooden top to cover it but time will tell if I get it done.

Thanks for hanging with the Turtlecovebrewer

Arts and Crafts Hanging Bookcase – Completed

April 12, 2016 2 comments

Over the last couple of weeks I muscled my way through, finishing up the build on my hanging bookcase. There have been distractions but I didn’t have far to go, thus I was able to finally put the finish on this project.

Corbels and Arches

Rehearsing the installation of the corbels and upper and lower arches, I envisioned attaching them with dowels and glue. I was even going to make a doweling jig to perfectly align the holes for the corbels. When it finally came down to it I rationalized that glue would be plenty strong enough to hold these non-structural items to the carcass. I had wisely preserved the off cuts from making the corbels which I used as clamping cauls. The only downsized to this approach was that I didn’t have enough F-clamps to do all the corbels simultaneously so I ended up doing the front section then after the glue setup move on to the back set.

bookcase corbels

After the corbels came the upper and lower decorative arches which were also simply glued and clamped.

bookcase arches


Being careful, the black metal pulls I purchased at Lowes installed without incident. The modesty panel (behind the drawers) is held in place by 1″ brads which I pre-drilled. So many times I’ve had nails come out the side wall but this time there was room and I was careful. That has to be a first.

Hanging Bookcase

Finish and Installation

Woodworkers Source has a nice article on finishes for sapele in which they present three viable options for making the figure pop. The first is a clear sealer with lacquer topcoat which leaves the wood about as light as sapele gets. The second was to bring out the ribbons by adding an amber dye before sealing. Option three appealed to me and this is the method that I used, well sort of. Method three brings out the ribbon figure by using Danish Oil before sealing and a lacquer top coat. In my case I used what I had on hand which is a Teak Oil finish. I rubbed it on and let it dry overnight before spraying 4 to 5 coats of General Finishes High Performance water based top coat. I used a sponge sanding block to knock off the nibs between coats but I never really attempted a pore filling. I didn’t feel like I needed a glass smooth surface so I was OK my decision to leave it as is and skip buffing it out.

I had already figured out how I was going to mount the case to the wall but working without plans, I had neglected to make and install the pieces before spraying the finish. After re-watching the  video on Making a French Cleat with Paul Sellers I muddled my way though making my own which I mounted under the top. This cleat would hold the weight of the case but I didn’t want the bottom to be able to pull away from the wall so I also added two tabs behind the bottom arch that would use for  screws. These pieces were glued and screwed and I used a razor blade to scrape away finish before attaching them. I did an incredible hack job making the split cleat but it was my first and in spite of being ugly, the darn thing worked. Overall I was pleased with the project and I’m enjoying its use now.

Hanging Bookcase Installed

Inspiration for this project design came from pieces sold by Matthew Standrin. I encourage you to visit his Etsy store, WoodDeluxe and consider purchasing one or more of his very affordable and wonderful pieces of artisan furniture.



Arts and Crafts Hanging Bookcase – Drawers

March 14, 2016 Leave a comment

Back in the shop this weekend I was able to complete a few shop chores before continuing work on the hanging bookcase. The last couple of weekends have primarily been about making and fitting the three drawers. Although I have previously cut a few through dovetails, on this project I cut them all by hand. Some were horrible, but as work continued, I improved. Speaking of “firsts”, I have never attempted half-blind dovetails before this project and I wanted to challenge myself. After chiseling out the sockets on the first three, it occurred to me that I could (and should) try hogging out waste with a forstner bit. It worked beautifully and saved me all kinds of time on the last three joints.

Drawers, Wedges and Glue-up

This weekend I also learned how to begin cuts with the rip back-saw. As trivial as that sounds it was a big deal to me. When I made the shaker style step stools I was frustrated to no end while attempting my rip cuts. I have since heeded the advice of the Shannon Rogers (The Renaissance Woodworker) about lifting the weight of the saw and violà. Of the twenty cuts I made (for tenon wedges)  I only had the saw slip twice and my confidence grew with each new kerf. The sting of the two mistakes was more than compensated with the reward of learning something new!

At the end of the day Sunday, I had sanded all the surfaces, relieved all the hard edges and prepared wedges for the glue-up. After the glue had skimmed over, I removed squeeze out and sawed the wedges. Moistening the ends of the tenons (end grain) softened the fibers and the glue making it easier to flush up the surfaces with a chisel.

Hanging Bookcase Lower Drawers

Home Stretch

Perhaps not yet the home stretch but at least rounding the bend. Next session I’ll glue on the corbels and upper and lower arches. I’ll also need to fabricate the hanging cleat and then I’ll be ready for finish.

“Everything takes more time than you think it will” – The Turtlecovebrewer


Door Stop – Giving back….

March 8, 2016 Leave a comment

Last week I helped out a co-worker by repairing a couple of his daily use tools, a door stop. Steve is one of those regular guys that loves his job. I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone happier than the day that he went from temporary to permanent status working on our floor in the Health Science Center. Steve made such an impact on us that one of our staff members wanted to nominate him for the annual Superior Accomplishment Awards not realizing that neither had he worked a full year, nor was he even permanently assigned to our area. Steve is always willing to help others whether it is pushing a cart, sharing a load or opening a door. Steve knows that I butcher wood and when he came to me with his worn out and broken door stop asking for help, I was thrilled to be able to pay back some of what he has given to so many of us.

Door Stop

A simple gesture I know but it gave me great pleasure to pause my hanging bookcase work to help out my friend and co-worker Steve.

The Turtlecovebrewer now sees the merit in”simple random acts of kindness”. Thank-you for letting me share this with you.

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Arts and Crafts Hanging Bookcase

February 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Funny how I don’t consider myself a “reader” yet my nightstand is always overflowing with books and magazines. Piled high I have to watch for avalanches lest I or my adult beverage be crushed and scattered. I’m about tired of it and seeking a solution, I decided to make myself a wall mounted bookshelf for said current reading materials. I began by seeking inspiration from the Internet. Having found a piece that interested me, I fired up SketchUp and went to work drawing up plans.

Arts and Crafts Style Hanging Bookcase

Size-wise the top is about 28″ wide and about 23″ wide at the carcass. Originally I thought it would have two shelves but as I began the build I could see that I’d have made two too-short shelves and opted for one shelf which could accommodate 13″ books. This left 6″ for the bottom area which I now concluded needed some small yet decorative drawers. Two arches (upper and lower) and 4 corbels supporting the top would complete the concept. Because I had no intention of using white oak (I’m using sapele left over from my Christmas project) and fuming with ammonia this might better be called an arts and crafts “inspired” design. The plan is to hang the unit via French cleat underneath the top. In the unlikely event the unit could be bumped off the cleat I plan to secure the bottom to the wall with couple of screws.

The Carcass

About a month ago I began laying out the case pieces and it was only then I knew that I didn’t want two shelves. While I was at it, I shaped the corbels and laid out a couple of arches. The corbels are ready to use but the arches will need some work before they are show ready.

Humm, This Going to Work? Corbells

I would design the drawers later but I could soldier on by cutting the through mortises and tenons and beginning the case joinery.

Hand-chopped Mortise

Same wood (sapele) and same technique I used building the Shaker inspired step-stools. Hey I’m learning methods of work and attempting to apply them, right?

Test Fitting Through Tenons

Just like the stools, I’ll glue and wedge these joints when they are ready to be assembled. Twelve mortises later the case can be dry fit.

Case Joinery Cut

Following a month-long delay, I was ready to get back to the project. Last weekend I measured and cut a rabbit for a plywood back for the drawer area. Two of the rabbits were through cuts but two required a more judicious stopped cut be made. I did these cuts on the router table and squared up the ends with a chisel.  I then moved on to the three 1/4″ dados I needed to hold the drawer webbing.

Drawer Guts

I didn’t see an easy or safe way that I could make these cuts on the router table so I decided to use my small router plane and router them by hand. It took a while but I was able to successfully route them given time. With the drawer webbing cut and fit, it was time to think about the drawer fronts.

The board I had cut to be the other shelf would be used for the three required drawer fronts. I wanted to be smart about this and cut them such that I had a continuous grain match across all three drawers.

Drawer Fronts Cut

The drawer webbing ends 1/4″ from the front of the case and to conceal the plywood edges which would show between the drawers, I am cutting the fronts with a 1/4″ lip such that the plywood is hidden when the drawers are closed.

Drawer Fronts

So far, so good. I know there will need to be a gap between drawers to keep them functional but for now I’m keeping the gap small. I’ll plan them later after I make the drawers and play with the best fit.

There is a lot left to do yet. Next session, I’ll make all the drawers and I suppose after that I’ll be getting closer to gluing up the assembly. Or perhaps I should commit to the glue-up first so as to make sure the drawers fit properly, we’ll see. The decorative moldings and cleat will follow that.

But first I’ll be finishing the final assembly on Rhyan End Table – Redux as we plan to spend this coming weekend in Turtle Cove (Melrose, FL)

A couple more rehabed hands tools

February 22, 2016 Leave a comment

I am by no means a hand tool restoration expert. Come to think of it, I’m really not an expert at anything but at least I have a reasonably keen mind and like to learn and tinker. Once I finally got around to cleaning up some of these old tools I actually learned a lesson or two. At the most basic level, by taking things apart you can see how they are built. By cleaning them up, tweaking and honing them I actually learned that a tool doesn’t have to cost 10 times as much to function. Sometimes you just have to slow down and quit reading the forums.

Bailey Spokeshave

When I purchased this guy the screw holding the blade was frozen and the shave had a nice black patina. A bit of soaking and scrubbing and tool ended up quite serviceable. I’m not sure how much life is left on the blade but with my limited use I’m sure it will be in the years range.

Bailey Spokeshave 2016-02-09 06.43.23

I can’t quite figure out the exact model of this guy which is not all that surprising considering how many variations of this device have been produced over the ages. The closest I found was a listing on eBay for a shave the seller thought was a Bailey No. 8. which he states would be like the Stanley 58. True enough on the blade and cap but this model has raised handles and from the pictures I saw the Stanley 58 had straight.

Granddaddy’s Chisel

As I mentioned in my last post, Granddad Phillip really used his tools so many showed signs of great wear. This was the only chisel I recovered and it appeared to be in pitiful shape. The handle and blade were covered in blue and white paint. You can’t see it in this picture but the handle is also missing the back half, apparently from being hammered. Once I cleaned it up I found it manufacturer’s mark to read Rockford Greenlee. My first impression was that I was going to have to replace the handle then it occurred to me that I could just sand it down and remove all the rough edges. I put about three coats of boiled linseed oil on it and sharpened it. I now keep it with my Lie-Nielsen chisels set for when I need a 1″ chisel.

Rockford Greenville 1" Bench Chisel

Uncle’s Citrus Knife

I am named after my Great Uncle, Arthur M. Clarke. My father always referred to him simply as “Uncle”. Uncle owned citrus and he agreed to help my Dad attend the University of Florida after the war (WWII) as long as Dad majored in ….. citrus. Ultimately my father became a school teacher and principal retiring after 32 yrs of service but before this he graduated from UF with a degree in horticulture and worked in citrus. It was in the orange groves that I first saw my Dad pull out one of these long bladed pocket knives and expertly remove the peel from an orange in one long sliver. It was typical for these knives to have plastic pearloid scales, sometimes with a logo on the side. The knife I found was made in Germany, rusted with the scales broken and falling off. The plastic material was simply at the end of its life and crumbling. Once again, I have no idea what I’m doing but I did it anyway. My attempt at forming new scales from some scrap sapele.

Citrus Knife with new Scales 2016-02-19 18.48.34

First I removed the old scales then soaked and removed as much rust off the case as possible. I then cut some sapele scrap and discovered that I didn’t really know what I was doing. Short of removing the old rivets, I attempted to make a pattern and drill holes in the wood so the scales could be glued to the case. This worked…. sort of. Well I just winged it, shaping the scales on the belt sander and generally making a mess of things. After this I took some wood filler (Timbermate) and added a drop of red mahogany dye to darken it and used it to fill the pores. Once leveled I put several coats of BLO and I felt that it came out OK. I’ll make no claims to have done a professional job however I had fun with it. If you think about it, I started with something that was useless as it was and made it into something that can be used and enjoyed for years to come. I think it was worth the journey.

Thanks for peeking in on the Turtlecovebrewer’s Workshop…..

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