Keepsake Wine Box

Keepsake Wine Box

My son, Clinton, asked me to build a Keepsake Box to put a bottle of wine in as part of his wedding ceremony. On their 1-year anniversary, he and his wife will open the box, retrieve the wine, and read the letters they wrote to one another (also sealed in the locked box).

I agreed and immediately began researching the how to build the box. Boxes are “easy” but this one needed to look special (no pressure, it’s just for the wedding). I wasn’t too concerned with being able to construct the box, mostly what concerned me was the finish. Finishing makes or breaks a project. After looking through hundreds of publications in my woodworking library, an article by Mac Wentz in issue #105 (January 2004) of American Woodworker caught my attention.

The box(es) in the article were attractive, buildable, and the author suggested finishes that were simple but elegant. The proportions of the American Woodworker box scaled well to my wine box requirements (not quite Golden Ratio, but close). It also accommodated a lock which would be used to seal the box at the ceremony.

Every weekend and evening I could spare went into the construction of the box to get it finished on time. I’m happy with the results and glad I was able to get it completed on time. I learned a lot. It’s great to build things for people you care about; they can have this for the rest of their lives.

Miter Attachment for Crosscut Sled

Image of the crosscut sled with the miter attachment in place.

The first, and maybe only, accessory I plan for my new crosscut sled is the miter attachment. I finished building it today; it looks good and works great.

This project has been sitting on the shelf for a long time and I’m happy to have gotten back to it and finished it. It’s especially nice to get such good results.

Now I’m moving on to assembling (and learning to use) my box joint jig.

Table Saw Cross Cut Sled

Crosscut Sled

For years—okay, a decade (maybe more)—I’ve wanted a cross cut sled for my table saw. It sounds easy; why not just stick some wood together and get on with it? Right? Well, once you start thinking about it, it’s a complicated build.

A piece of plywood (3/4″ for rigidity) to make the base sled. Some designs use 2×6’s and 2×4’s for the front and rear fences. How do I square the rear fence to the sled? It goes on and on! How does one decide what design and what materials to use to build the thing? There are great designs that don’t fit my needs and I didn’t feel confident enough to modify the designs for myself.

Then I came across a design for a Cross Cut / Miter Sled by Nick Ferry on YouTube. Not only does he use materials I find quite satisfactory (Baltic birch plywood and Kreg hardware) but he uses a squaring method (5-cut method by William Ng; Ng is a genius…watch all his YouTube stuff) to square up the rear fence.

So, I found myself at the point where I had a design and construction method I liked and no other excuses not to build the thing. Well, in that situation I had to build it, of course. The pictures in the album above show the build without the miter attachment accessory. I’ll build the miter attachment accessory next.

Anyway, once I completed the cross cut sled, I was able to tune it to < 0.002″ over 22″ accuracy. That’s way more accurate than I was expecting and I’m very happy with the results. Also, as an added bonus, Wendy (my wife), made the caution decals for the sled. They take the project to a whole new level of professional quality.

Ammo Can Storage Rack Completed

Ammo Can Rack Base & Install

I got a little time off at the end of this year and decided to finish the Ammo Can Storage Rack installation and clean/organize my Man Cave a little better. The clutter in there was driving me crazy!

This post completes the two previous posts (Ammo Can Storage Rack and Ammo Can Storage Rack Update) on the Ammo Can Storage Rack project. The process has taken almost two years to complete. A lot of my projects get shelved for more important things. There process is fine with me as long as I get back to them and finish them at some point.

One thing that kept me from getting back to this project was the amount of time it would take to finish it and that the final steps couldn’t be done in small increments. It wasn’t possible for me to be sawing up a project and applying string and top coat in my small workshop at the same time on different projects.

But, I’m real happy with the results and you can see them in the pictures above. All-in-all it took me about four days to complete this final phase of the project, relabel all the ammo cans and tidy up the Man Cave. Now I plan to install more shelving above the Ammo Can Racks for more books (I’m just about out of shelf space again).

6-Pistol Rack

6-Pistol Rack

It has been three years in the making but I finally finished my handgun rack. It was substantially complete with it back in March 2015 but I never liked the solutions I was using for the gun slots.

I tried using CA glue to attach hook & loop (Velcro®) with the loop side exposed and the hook side glued to the wood. That didn’t work. It didn’t adhere well and it wasn’t very good padding. That’s when I shelved it to research new ideas.

Over the next couple of years I thought of different padding materials and different adhesives. I moved toward using felt early on but I was always concerned with the adhesive bleeding through the fabric and, therefore, nullifying the padding effect. The fabric would be like sandpaper once the glue set up.

Another issue was that I didn’t feel like I was capable of cutting fabric at a consistent width to match the width of the plywood edge to which it would be adhered. During this time my wife taught me how she uses an Olfa® rotary cutter and a straightedge to cut strips of fabric with consistent widths. That problem was solved.

Next, on Tested.com, I saw how Adam Savage glued fabric (and foam) with 3M Super 77 spray adhesive. The adhesive is sprayed on both pieces being bonded together and it has a low absorption rate on fabrics. It’s the perfect solution for what I was doing. Since it works great on foam, too, it will help me on another languishing project where I have to glue pieces of rubber foam together.

Finally, on McMaster–Carr (wonderful web site), I found wool felt in different thicknesses. I was able to get a 12″ x 72″ x 3/16″ thick piece of wool felt and, by my reasoning, it would be thick enough to prevent the adhesive from bleeding through. In actuality I found that the adhesive would work just as well on thinner felt but I’m happy with the results of the felt I used this time.

It took a long time but I didn’t give up on this project even while it was shelved and I was working on others. It’s very rewarding to finish this project and get the great results.

March Quail Hunt

It has been a long time since I posted and I need to get back into the habit. A lot of things were going on; one thing that distracted me was getting a new knee. But that’s getting further in the past and I’m trying to get back into my groove.

Clinton with the first round of quail.

The knee caused me to miss much of the hunting season. I was able to hunt duck on only one occasion last year. It was fun but it didn’t scratch the itch. To give my knee the maximum time to heal before the season ended, we decided to do a March quail hunt.

It was a great hunt! Five of us were on the hunt and we brought home (65) quail. We did about 4 miles of walking and my new knee did fine but it’s clear I need to work out my calf. I had terrible cramps in my calf!

This was my son—Clinton’s—first quail hunt. He enjoyed it and got pretty effective at quickly dispatching the quail. He was shooting his Mossberg Silver Reserve II 12-ga.

I had my CZ Upland Ultralight 20-ga shotgun on this hunt and, as usual, it was the perfect gun to carry. I love using that gun. It’s light and easy to carry for long periods walking the pastures and it pops up so quick. It’s a quick draw shotgun and that can be the difference between a hit and a miss, especially with (5) of us on the field.

It was a great day hunting with good friends and family.

Poetry in Political Science

I’m a reader but not yet what I would call well-read. Reading regularly is something I starter doing many years ago (to cure my lack of education) and one of the first books I read was Age of Reason by Thomas Paine. The book was interesting to me because it helped me cleanse some of the cultish ideas in which I was raised. Even so, I never delved into his other works.

Recently, I looked at his pamphlet The America Crisis and my jaw dropped. Its opening was amazing:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

These are beautifully poetic words for a work of political science. Wow! I have to read it thoroughly. I’m hooked. Where are these types of writers/thinkers today? Have we “advanced” beyond this beautiful wordsmithery?

Just Finished Reading “The Vanishing American Adult”

Ben Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-Of-Age Crisis—And How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance recently came out and I just finished reading it yesterday. Because my reading list isn’t huge (50+ books a year), I try to pick good, impactful books to read. This isn’t always easy so I’m constantly looking for sources to help me populate my reading list.

That’s one reason I wanted to read this book but it unexpectedly delivered more than a source for great literature. He went into the mechanics and techniques of making great readers. Whereas I did have some moments of pause and reflection (I’ll need to read other books to weigh his points), reading this book didn’t cause me to outright disagree at any point; that’s very rare for me.

Something I found very reassuring was that I’d read so many of the books he refers to or suggests. The shear number of books he referred to impressed me so much that I collected them in a rough bibliography. Here it is:

Bibliography for The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse

  • Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz (retired Yale professor)
  • Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood by Christian Smith (a Notre Dame sociologist)
  • The Great Disruption by Francis Fukuyama
  • The Lonely Crowd by David Riesman
  • The Affluent Society by C. Wright Mills
  • Growing Up Absurd by Paul Goodman
  • The Waste Makers by Vance Packard
  • Outside Lies Magic by John R. Stilgoe
  • Cultural Literacy by E. D. Hirsch
  • The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom (philosopher and classicist)
  • Agamemnon by Aeschylus
  • Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • On Old Age by Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • Shop Class for Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • John Dewey (Sasse disagrees with atheist Dewey and mentions these books, in particular, as to why he disagrees with him):
    • Democracy in Education
    • Self-Realization as the Moral Ideal
    • The Primary Education Fetich [sic]
    • The School and Society
    • My Pedagogic Creed
    • The Humanist Manifesto
  • Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
  • Escape from Camp Fourteen by Blaine Harden
  • Children of Dictators by Jay Nordlinger
  • White Collar by C. Wright Mills
  • Common Sense by Thomas Paine
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
  • Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman
  • Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt
  • Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
  • Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
  • The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
  • Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  • Religion
    • Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
    • Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
    • Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (Sasse disagrees with this book but it’s a great book to read)
    • Book of Genesis in The Bible
    • Book of Matthew in The Bible (especially Sermon on the Mount)
    • Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther
    • The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
  • Greek Roots
    • Ethics by Aristotle (starter book)
    • Crito by Plato (starter book)
    • Odyssey by Homer
    • History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
    • Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
  • Homesick Souls (or, Fundamental Anthropology)
    • Confessions by Augustine
    • Why God Became Man by Anselm of Canterbury
    • Bondage of Will by Martin Luther
    • Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas
    • Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
    • Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Sasse has a long struggle with this book; he ultimately sees Rousseau as wrong)
  • Shakespeare
    • Romeo and Juliet
    • Hamlet
    • King Lear
    • Julius Caesar
    • Macbeth
    • Sonnets
  • The American Idea
    • Declaration of Independence
    • U. S. Constitution
    • The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
    • Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
    • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an America Slave by Frederick Douglass
  • Markets
    • Politics by Aristotle
    • Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
    • The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815–1846 by Charles Sellers
    • Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman
    • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Tyrants
    • Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (laid the intellectual foundation for communism and, hence, the murder of more than 100 million people)
    • Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt (the best analysis of the rise of scientific racism and anti-Semitism in nineteenth-century Europe, which led directly to the Holocaust)
    • The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek (explains the close relationship between fascism and communism)
    • Animal Farm by George Orwell
    • 1984 by George Orwell
    • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Nature of Things (or, a Humanistic Perspective on Science)
    • On the Nature of Things by Lucretius
    • Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
    • Elements of Geometry by Euclid
  • American Fiction
    • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
    • O, Pioneers by Willa Cather (a Cornhusker substitute for Death Comes for the Archbishop)
    • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin (about his alienation as a black and gay man growing up in Harlem with an abusive Baptist minister as his stepfather. This is a disturbing book in many aspects. It illustrates the ways in which religious life can turn hypocritical and repressive.)
    • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

This a great list to dig through and start reading which, in itself, is an exciting prospect.

Working Through Getting the Electrics Laid Out

Hot Wire Foam Cutter Electrical Components Box

I’ve been working on sourcing the electrical parts of the Hot Wire Foam Cutter project and getting them all laid out in the electrical compartment. The goal is to keep the box as small as possible, just large enough to contain all the components.

Hot Wire Foam Cutter Top View

There are a lot of parts to get into the box. There’s the main variable autotransformer, main transformer, voltmeter power supply, power switch, voltage selector switch, output power posts, auxiliary power output posts, power busses, fuse holder, etc. I’m pretty sure it will all fit into the box as it is, my main concern is how to design and attach the hot wire arm.

I’ve included a small image of the electrical box in this post to give an idea of how the components are getting crowded. It’ll work out, designing in 3D allows me to be more efficient and get all the build dimensions exact. It’s gong to be really awesome to have this thing operational.

Modeling Components with Fusion 360

Hot Wire Foam Cutter (underside – v9 unfinished).

I’m using Autodesk Fusion 360 to model the Hot Wire Foam Cutter I’m building. Usually I use Sketchup to design my projects. Sketchup is simple and straightforward which makes it quick to model all the parts and then make build drawings with its included Layout application.

But there are a few reasons I’m shifting to Fusion 360:

  1. Fusion 360 is free for me to use; Autodesk has made the full-featured software free for hobbyists like me to use.
  2. I need to use software that goes from concept (3D CAD) to production (CAM) in order to use my CNC Router; Fusion 360 does that extremely well.
  3. The projects I’ve been designing require me to outsource many of the parts to fabricators; they all use Autodesk software and Fusion 360 allows me to be compatible with their workflows.
  4. To be honest, Fusion 360 does 2D drawings much better way than Sketchup with Layout. It cuts down on the time it takes me to go from design to building.
  5. It has more materials and renders more elegant images of my models. When I show them to people it’s much more impressive and requires less imagination on their part to understand the concepts I’m presenting.

Here is a model (with a comparison photo) I made in Fusion 360 of the main transformer for the Hot Wire Foam Cutter.

Photo of Main Transformer.


Model of Main Transformer.

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