When the boys were little I used to draw a superhero on a piece of bristol-board wishing them a happy birthday. Batman one year, Spiderman the next.
Then one year we were at a super hero exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre and they had one of those photo booths where they take your picture on a green screen and then put it on a magazine or comic book cover. A fun thing for the kids, I thought, but it was like $25 for a crappy little printout. So i took a picture of the TV of some other kid on a Spiderman cover, and then did some photoshopping for Graham’s upcoming birthday. Since Connor’s birthday is a week and a half later, I found a Doctor Octopus photo on the internet and did the same thing to him.
Thus started a annual habit where a day or two before each of their birthdays I ask them to pose for a random headshot and then stay up late frantically photoshopping the heck out of it. Some years are better than others. Here are a few:
While getting ready for our family vacation I was looking around for some portable games and ran across Tak: A Beautiful Game. Tak has just simple pieces and if you are pressed you can play a basic game without the board (which is just a 5×5 grid). I even found some posts where people were talking about how they can have quick game while waiting for their food at a restaurant, and since there is usually blocks of waiting while travelling I thought this sounded good.
However when I went to buy it, it was $70 for basically a bunch of wooden pieces and a piece of cardboard. Uh, no. So obviously in the typically busy week before one goes on a vacation I try to quickly make a set.
I picked up a square dowel of poplar and chopped off the required 42 pieces, and found some dowel buttons that would work as great “capstones” ( a special piece in the game).
Used some leftover stain to make one half dark and voila – a Tak set in 45min (not counting drying time) for about $5. Okay, so the dark pieces still smelled a bit like wood stain for the first few days of the trip, but I had them closed up in a bag most of the time.
We only played a
couple of times on the trip, but overall the game is not bad and I think it has
potential. The tiles I made worked fine,
but they felt a bit light (knock over easy)
and could be a smidge larger.
And of course I just can’t let things rest if I know I can improve
Since the game only has simple components but is quite complex I think is has a ‘classic’ feel to it, like chess, checkers, or mancala. So I wanted to give the set I made an Old World feel to it. Even the official rules frequently refer to your pieces as ‘stones’.
The player pieces…
For the player pieces there are lots of options for 1 inch square tiles if you walk around the local home improvement stores.
I found the perfect thing at Home Depot: a tile mosaic for a bathroom/kitchen trim. It’s made up of 1″ square travertine tiles, and even comes with a special piece in the middle that I can use as the capstones! They look nice and ‘old’.
I tried different methods to colour half of the pieces, including something that I read online about soaking them in a glass of cheap red wine. In the end I just spray painted them “colonial red” (the “wine” stones are on the far left LOL).
The game board…
For the playing board I looked around and found a nice 99 cent tile that holds 5 stones quite well.
I then put the tile into the laser cutter at the local public library and did some tests to see if I could get a decent engraving on it.
I had to do 2 passes, but found a setting that seemed to get me what I wanted (this image is after I smeared some red paint on it and then cleaned it off)
So i covered the tile with masking tape and then let the laser cutter burn away the tape and etch the stone a bit.
The idea being that I can now spray-paint the lines and then just remove the tape.
Unfortunately I did not rub the tape down everywhere, so the spray paint got under the tape at places. The small details also resulted in the tiny tiny pieces of tape getting stuck in the etched grooves. All this resulting in blotchy paint. Arg.
Lots of sanding and tape picking later, I managed to salvage most of it. The mistakes actually give it more of a distressed look:
The Box …
Finally, the last step was to build a box for all this. Another laser cutting design !
Clamp and glue :
The inner box is done. You can see the channels for holding the stone pieces. They also gives a gap so you can get your fingers in there to pull out pieces. I don’t have to worry about sanding the burnt edges because I am going to put nice panels on the outside.
Testing if the tile-board fits in the top, acting as the lid:
Darn it – you can see that my outside pieces are like, a millimeter too short ! Arg. However, sanding the corners to hide this actually makes it look really nice…
Luckily I made a big mistake on my first set of pieces for the box (ok, not really lucky LOL), so I have lots of test pieces to see what stain+polyurethane combo looks good:
Stained, urethaned, and now putting some sticky felt on the bottom:
Putting all the pieces together …
Really pleased with the results.
After losing to my son for the n-th time because I kept thinking his brown capstone was one of my red (dark) pieces, I took the brown capstone out to the garage and promptly painted it white. 🙂
Dominion is a card game where players get to “buy” new cards and build their own deck to try to get points. In the middle of the table between all the players are 10 piles of cards that you can purchase. We like playing this game because it has fairly simple base rules but can get quite interesting.
I thought it would be nice to have a card holder in the middle of the table, and there are many people on the internet that have made very fancy versions but I find them too big or too expensive.
I had always planned
to make this, but because it was going to involve lots of fiddly cutting with
the jigsaw it never made it to the forefront of my mind … until I found out
about the local library’s laser cutting machine. 🙂
I made the design on the computer and then brought a piece of 1/4″ plywood to the library. It took two passes – one pass to etch the images on the wood, and then the second to actually cut the pieces out. It was technically really easy. (I say technically because the tiny pockets of glue in the plywood had a tendency to re-fuse together at points – making the actual removal of the parts an annoying box-cutter challenge).
I then glued the two pieces together and
stained it. I should have done a stain
test first though, because the darkness of the stain kind of obscures the
Of course, since I
am making a nice holder for the center Kingdom cards, might as well make a
fancy holder for the money and points cards too ! This was also driven by the fact that I did
an etching test of the standard copper coin used in the game and it looked
pretty cool – I want to do more !
This was a more
complicated concept and was a fun challenge to design the parts required to
make a 3D holder.
Once all assembled
it looked pretty good.
but the same problem about it not looking great after the staining…
I discovered a problem with the Treasury Card holder: you can’t see the bottom of the cards in the back row, and this is where the “cost” is marked on each card. Oh well – time to get rid of this cheap-feeling-thing-that-I-can’t-see-the-etchings-on.
Since I was laser
cutting some boards of cherry for my TAK project, I redesigned and added the
extra parts I needed into that print job.
A quick visit to the local specialty wood shop to get a board of cherry, some updating of the design files to accommodate the smaller width of wood and the 1/4″ thickness, and I was back in the library cutting out the pieces. Note that I actually didn’t go to the library specifically for this – I was making my TAK board and box and was trying to maximize the use of the wood that I was putting into the laser cutter. So I squeezed in this project into the printing of the TAK box parts (see other post on that distraction)
Much better – and I am better at etching settings as well:
and the polyurethane gives it a little pop:
of course, since these cherry ones look so nice, i had to re-do the main card holder so that they match LOL:
We like playing board games as a family, and when we finished the basement we had an area for playing games (and I couldn’t afford to put in the bar 🙂 ). We used a simple IKEA table for a while but it was small, and dice bounced off the table, and every other excuse I could think of in my head after seeing these gorgeous gaming tables on line. These things were amazing, and cost an amazing US$3,000 and up. Uh… no. For that price, I can make one of those ! (I think. I mean, I haven’t really made furniture before …)
Key features I want:
soft playmat – to make it easier to pick up cards, quieter while rolling dice
recessed game play area – so you can cover up a game-in-progress and come back another day and not find a cat sprawled all over your game board. Also keeps dice and rolly-bits from escaping.
drink holders. ’nuff said about that.
big enough to hold the common entry-level games we were playing at the time (like Catan)
sliding drawers for players to hold their secret cards/components.
There were other cool ideas that I liked (LED lights, charging ports, flip compartments etc) but I was already thinking I was biting off more than I could chew.
I built some rough mock ups of the table to try out ideas. A key design consideration was using standard width boards so I didn’t have to rip long pieces of lumber.
Let’s get building …
If I was to do it again, I would:
use thicker boards for the table top leaves
add a “card holding rail” (aka thin slot) along the edge
USB power in the leg (I might still do that LOL)
maybe LED lights. I thought long and hard about this in the design phase, but I didn’t want them visible so that would mean lots of extra boards and loss of playing real-estate. Kinda kitchy too.
put table-top leaf holders under the table instead of the drawers. The drawers don’t really get used that much, so they weren’t really worth the effort. (might be because they are so well hidden)
Over the years the table has had a lot of good use, especially when the boys have friends over for games and MTG.
vertical blinds for the kitchen patio door are now yellowing and cracked, so
Andrea has replaced them with new sun blinds.
What to do about the valences ? I
should be able to make a few quick valences – easy ! (foreshadowing). What material to use? Hmm.. How about barn board !
If you go to the big
box stores there are a few “barn board” options that actually don’t
look too bad, but they are mostly for wall surfacing so when you cut them you
get bright pine. I need to build some boxes
so that won’t work. That and they are
fairly narrow and we want something wider.
Found a nice pile of actual barn board at our local specialty wood store, and Andrea helped pick out two long boards that she liked the look of. Took them home and ripped them down a few inches – nothing like cutting long boards on a table saw on a snow covered driveway (Andrea was a big help here). I also had to borrow the neighbours sliding miter saw to get the right lengths. Once cut to the right shape I had to reinforce them by gluing some hardboard on to the back of the long pieces. These boards are nice and old and weathered, but unfortunately there are not very structurally robust because they are, well, old and weathered.
Clamp, glue, and
bracket the corner bits. Unfortunately I
still have to weather/paint the cut edges, but not as much.
The first valence,
the big one – done and looks great
When doing the side window valences I think ahead to a new problem: they are going to be flatter against the wall – how do I attach them to the wall ? How am I going to get a screwdriver in there ? Oops.
trolling and google searching reveals nothing really exists, so I have to make
my own brackets that will slide over an inserted screw and hold them up. Drilling metal is so much fun.
In the end though it
all worked and it looks awesome !
We had this corporate giveaway phone charging station that you put your phones on and ran your charging cables through. But it also had these little mail slots and storage things that just always collected junk. It was ugly, and it was a mess. So when I saw this little beauty slice of kingswood at our local specialty wood shop I knew what I wanted to do.
Compared to the Lazy Susan project, this was pretty quick.
There is a specialty
wood store in Burlington that is always dangerous for me to walk into. There are so many cool slabs and chunks of
wood in there. The good thing is that for
the most part it is fairly pricey, which keeps me from really buying anything.
Once in a while,
however, I find something really nice that is fairly small and reasonable and
it ends up coming home with me.
This time I found
this small slab of plum, and it was just about the right size I was looking for
to make a kitchen turntable (lazy susan).
Many meals at our kitchen table end up being a “pass the …”
exercise, and the small turntable I found at Cdn Tire seemed like a good idea
but was a bit too small to hold much.
One of the trickiest
parts was positioning the circle that maximized the use of the cool bits, and
avoided some of the bad bits.
Next step was using epoxy to fill in the holes and gaps. I used tape and putty to block off any escape routes, and then poured in the epoxy. This is the first time I tried using this stuff and you don’t have a lot of time to work with it. At one point I was working a little too long with a batch (near the end, filling all sorts of little holes) and it got real hot !
While the epoxy was drying I took one of the pieces that I cut off and used it for testing the varathane. Looking promising !
once all dried i sanded the whole thing and added the protective coatings.
The verathane really helped make the colours pop – it looks great! I picked up the turntable hardware from Lee Valley and voila.
While wandering a furniture store for some end tables for the basement, I saw a neat looking shelf/buffet unit made of rustic wood and iron pipes … but it was $700! (and it was 50% off!) At this point I decided (a) this is the “look” I like, and (b) ain’t no way I am paying that – I should be able to make them myself. It’s just a bunch of piping and boards.
To make matters more interesting, I was looking at potential shelf boards at Lowes when I found that they were now selling live edge slabs of wood. Awesome – but they are not cheap and only a few look okay (I’m picky). I best be doing a test project first.
Test project – the stair table.
For the test project I am finally going to get rid of that janky drink holder that I slapped together during the basement reno years ago. The top couch is next to a step, so there was no place to put a table and no place to put your drink/popcorn. So I threw this ugly thing together that wedges under the couch:
So I assembled some bits and got the basic structure down. (yes – some trigonometry was involved to get the correct lengths!). For this table i will be using 1/2″ pipe and the associated 1/2″ connectors.
I am not going to use the live-edge wood for this, so I chopped off the end of a pine 2×12, drilled some holes for the pipes, and gave it a rustic staining…
I am going to suspend the wood from the pipes – this will give me a nice iron-pipe-railing to keep things from falling off the small surface, and also will save on pipe.
And putting it all together I am very pleased with the results. Much better than the previous thing. And since it has some weight to it, it is actually very stable.
A few comments on buying parts. I am not able to cut and thread raw pipe (nor do I want to) so I am at the mercy of the pre-threaded sizes available at Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. (there is great selection at the plumbing stores, but as soon as they find out you are not a contractor they add an extra $50 – just cuz – or deny you service and say bad things about your mother.) Each hardware store had their own collection of size and lengths, so I had to calculate exactly what I needed and keep a list on me everywhere I went.
For some reason, the straight lengths of pipe are called ‘nipples’. Not sure why, but made for interesting interactions when you walk into Canadian Tire and ask “do you have a 5 inch nipple?”
Main end tables
Once I had assembled all the pieces, then came the big job of cleaning, de-greasing, and de-labelling them. To be fair, the people who make this stuff are expecting them to end up in a wall, not on furniture. I also had to wax and/or paint them afterwards otherwise they will rust (because I removed the protective grease).
Even though they sold boards with live edge on both sides, I had rather particular width requirements, and also there really wasn’t many pieces with good clean edging on both sides. So here I am gluing the two edges together (skipping over the Quest for finding the specific pocket screws they are pre-drilled for)
Assembling and painting the legs…
Quick test that everything is okay. Since I was in the cutting and staining mode I quickly made secondary shelves that fit between the legs. I probably won’t use them, but now is the time to make them easily.
We use an android tablet to run our TV etc, and keeping track of the power cord is always a pain. So for one of the tables I will have the power delivered right to the surface. (I have all this piping … it should be easy!)
I like the industrial pipe+wood look of the power station.
And here is the other end table. In the end I removed the lower shelf so you can see the piping, but I still have it on hand just in case.
The Leftovers Project
Okay, whenever I am doing a project with custom materials and there are bits leftover I am like …” I should be able to use these for something…”. (I hate throwing stuff away). This project is not different. I have left over wood and piping …. how about a little shelf unit to hold my craft beer sample glasses !
Unfortunately the cat has finally discovered the shelf that holds the basement TV projector. I have no idea how this lasted so long (nice warm fan, good view) but it is time to finally do the projector shelf panel I have meant to do for a long time. Projectors do not mix well with cat fur !
One of the main reasons I have been putting it off is that it will likely involve fiddly hole cutting. But recently i have discovered that the main branch of our city library has a laser cutter, and this would be a good project to go try that sucker out.
The trick though, was that the maximum size sheet that the laser cutter can hold is 24″ x 12″, and my opening is much bigger. So I had to make it in two pieces, and use an overlapping frame to hold it together (and make it look nice). I had to do some fiddling in Inkscape to come up with the shapes that would overlap each other so that none of the joins would be in the same place. I also wanted to use as few sheets as possible, since there always seems to be a lineup for the laser cutter and i want to be as efficient as possible (and I pay by the minute). The result was something like this :
(if i am sending something to a machine i hate to waste an opportunity, so I put a bunch of test pieces for other projects in that blank space)
Once happy with the design, I put 1/4″ ply into the laser cutter and I am pleased with the results:
You may notice that the vents are not rounded on the right piece. That seems to be from a bug when I print to the laser directly from Inkscape. For some reason the rounding on some shapes disappears, so for the second piece i imported it into Corel and printed from there. All good learnings.
Everything fits well into the wall:
So I spray paint it flat black, glue it all together, and voila !
Looks great ! And the cat is not happy LOL :
He was seriously trying every angle to see how to get past/remove it.
Good first laser cutting project. Working with the 1/4″ ply is not so great though since it is only a 40W laser. At that thickness little pockets of glue melt-then-rejoin after the laser goes by, so most of the pieces didn’t detach quite easily and I had to wrangle it with a box-cutter.
My home office desk is a mess. The sedimentary layers of paper/cards/things/devices all represent stuff that I am working on, or waiting for something, or as a reminder of something that I should get to pretty soon. It also doesn’t help that I lose almost 25% of my desk space to the cat. (I have a towel down to encourage him to stay to the side instead of him flumping all over everything in front of me). Let’s not even mention the piles surrounding my desk of other things in the queue (like piles of old photos to scan, bills to file, cassettes to record…)
As a consequence of this entropic-organization I often lose track of my mouse-pen when I put it on my desk. I needed to make a holder.
So I found a design on Thingiverse that someone had made:
and remixed it to something that I can mount under the lip of my desk and then printed it at the local public library:
and voila – a place to put my mouse-pen, right above the tablet:
Works great. If I were to make it again (doubtful since I only need the one) I would make the collar deeper.
ok – I did make it again. Combination of the bad angle of the pen, the sharp corners, and the fact that I use it everyday drove me to make some quick mods. But this version is more or less perfect.