29 December 2014

the wheels on the bus

On Rachel’s list of potential Christmas gifts for the grandkids this year was a photo of a simple wooden toy bus with ”peg people” for passengers and a note that “dad could make this”.  With this in mind I went to the shop to see if I had the materials to make such a thing.  Digging through the scrap box I found a chunk of ash (left over from my “chair from a tree” project a couple years ago) that I planed into the bus’s body.  The wheels were made from soft maple scrap left over from making kitchen cabinet drawers.
The next step was to dig into the scrap box (and my exotic wood stash and the fire wood stack) to find to find bits of wood to make peg people.  I turned one “person” from each type of wood, 3/4, 7/8, or 1 inch in diameter and between about 2 1/4 and 3 inches tall.  Here is the passenger list for the bus;
  1. Bubinga – From an evergreen tree in tropical Africa – via Woodcraft.  I’ve used bubinga for tool handles and to make the hand turned toilet paper roll holder in our master bath.
  2. Cocobolo – From Central America – via Woodcraft. I turned my X’s shift knob from cocobolo.
  3. Maple – From a scrap left over from making the butcher block counter top in the kitchen
  4. Basswood – From the tree in our front yard
  5. Walnut – From a tree my dad's first cousin planted a couple of miles north of Grelton, OH. The same wood I used to make the headboard for our bed as well as carved hand mirrors for Su and Rachel and other projects.
  6. White Cedar – From a scrap left over from making the back porch-to-house step
  7. Mulberry – From the firewood pile – the tree was between our driveway & our neighbor's
  8. Cherry – From a scrap of the wood I bought to make a harp years ago (the harp is still only half done, need to get working on that...)
  9. Pine – From a random 2x4 in the shop
  10. Redheart – From Central America via The Wood Turner's Catalog
  11. Oak – I think this came from the barn at our last house
  12. Sassafras – I bought this at Launstein Hardwoods in Michigan when there to pick up Ben's oak floor.
  13. Beech – From a board dad gave me. He said it had been liberated from Sauder Woodworking's scrap pile
  14. Mahogany – From South America via KenCraft
  15. Bocote – From Central America via The Wood Turner's Catalog
  16. Butternut – From the barn at our last house. I've used this wood to make make pasltries, Shaker boxes, a dulcimer, and a cabinet.
After turning the whole bus full  of people I was somewhat surprised to find that I still still a bunch of other woods on hand so I recreated the Lambes family van with Nathan, Rachel, Orion, Desy, & Cece all in their assigned seats.  The van body is hard maple (see #3 above) and the wheels walnut (#5 above).
Nathan – Lilac – Yes, the lilac with the fragrant spring flowers. From the bush growing by the back door of my childhood home in Grelton.  I’ve had this this bit of wood for years just waiting for the right project.
Rachel – Hickory – From a tree I cut down to make room for my shop. I've kept a few pieces around to make tool handles (i.e. my froe & the chisel Ben made me) & etc.
Orion – Ash – From the tree that was overhanging my shop before the borers killed it. I made post & rung chairs, a shaving horse & and bus’s body (above) from the same tree. These photos were taken on the tree’s stump.
Desy – Kauri – From New Zealand via Woodcraft's 70% off table. The tree is thought to have been knocked into a bog by a tsunami about the time of the last ice age! Dug from the bog and processed into lumber just to make a Desy.
Cece – Hornbeam – From our back yard.  Cece is the smallest peg person, just 5/8 inch in diameter (just a wee bit smaller than the stick I made her from) and 2 inches tall.
I really enjoyed making these (thought I’d mention it just in case it’s not obvious) and hope the grandkids have as much playing with them as I had making them!
Cheers – dj
p.s. – there are a bunch of woods in the shop that I didn’t use, ranging from common stuff like poplar and red cedar to exotics like Indian rosewood and zebrawood with a number of others in between..  Didn’t realize I had so many.

30 July 2014


I always enjoy browsing the Woodcraft store in Toledo but my last visit was especially fun because I had a gift card to spend (thank you Rachel & Nathan!) The plan was to get something cool that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to convince myself to buy. This is what I got.


It’s a paring knife kit.  The cool part is that the blade is made of “Damascus steel” with visible lines on the blade showing the steel was folded on it’s self as it was being forged.  The kit part means that it needed me to make a handle.


I decided to make the handle from cocobolo (a type of South American rosewood) for several reasons.  It’s beautiful, it doesn’t mind getting wet, and I had a chunk if it in the shop (doesn’t everyone?)


This shows the handle blanks cut to rough shape and drilled for the rivets, ready to be assembled.


Here it is after it was put together with rivets and epoxy.  Adding cocobolo sawdust to the epoxy makes the glue lines disappear.

Once the glue was dry I shaped the handle with sandpaper, starting with 80 grit on the belt sander.  Once the handle was contoured the way I wanted I continued refining the surface  with ever finer grits of sandpaper going all the way to crazy fine 2000 grit paper, then got out the buffing wheel to polish it a little more.  The handle is now as smooth as glass the the rivets shine like mirrors.


This is the end result.  Not only was this a fun project for me but the knife is useful too – Su uses it to cut up fruit for breakfast every morning.

Another project that I completed fairly recently was making wooden cars for Desy and Wesley.  


Desy’s is made of hard maple (scrap form the kitchen butcher block project) with padouk stripes and mahogany wheels. Wesley’s has a ash body (from the tree beside my shop) with a walnut stripe (from a tree my dad’s cousin planted) and wheels.


These cars are similar the the cars I made for my kids when they were little and for Orion a couple years ago.  Now I’ll need to make one for Cecelia!

cheers – dj

05 January 2014

Our den project. Check and check.

We re-pointed the brick and then primed and painted it dark gray. We also painted the ugly brown paneling the same gray. The upper walls and shelving are light gray. The burnt orange indoor/outdoor carpet has been replaced with cork… gorgeous!  We absolutely love the whole room!
Here's what it looked like at Christmas.
Here’s what it looked like at Christmas.
Cork flooring we used. It's from Lumber Liquidators. Yes, we did it ourselves.
Cork flooring we used. It’s from Lumber Liquidators. Yes, we did it ourselves.

06 July 2013

Basement update

Scrolling through our older posts I just realized that we haven’t posted any photos of our (mostly) completed basement project even though it’s it’s been (mostly) done for months.  Here are a few pics…


Andy & I painted the bare concrete floor with epoxy basement coating (with sprinkles on top).  This alone did a remarkable job of transforming the dark basement into a welcoming living space. The red Egyptian rugs were an inexpensive Ikea find. They really brighten the seating area and make a nice place to play with grandkids. 


We also rearranged the furniture a bit swapping the table’s places and moving the bar to make it easier to access the fridge.


Before we can call the project completely finished we’ll need to better organize the book shelves & deal with a pile of left over stuff (carefully cropped from the photos) but that will wait till another day…

cheers – dj

15 June 2013

from the garage into the house

The entrance to our house from our attached garage is, well, awkward.  There’s a step up through the door onto a small landing then either straight down the basement stairs or an immediate  ninety degree right turn up another small step to the level the house and ninety degrees left to the hall leading to the kitchen.  Take a look – it’s awkward, right?


With all the stepping and turning we’ve always thought it would be far too easy to trip and fall down the basement stairs or onto the concrete garage floor.  We came up with a number of ways to make this entrance safer, mostly involving moving the existing door or adding others, but none of those ideas was really practical.  Just a couple of weeks ago Su had the idea of building a platform in the garage that was the same height as the landing so that we could walk into the house on the level and not have to step up through the door.  Even though I’ve been going up and down this step every day for years it was only when taking measurements for making the platform that I realized that the step into the house was darn near eleven inches high (typical stairs are usually between seven and eight inches).  Another reason for the entrance to be awkward!  At that point I changed the design to add an additional step and a sturdy hand rail then went out to the shop and started building.  Here’s the end result;


The steps are made from white oak left over from my kitchen cabinet project.  We’ve only been using the new steps for about a week now so we're still getting used to them but already entering our house from our garage seems less awkward and safer.


cheers – dj