Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Means Playhouses!

Well, the holidays are upon us again. And in my workshop, it means 'Playhouses'. A good friend of mine and myself starting building these units about 3 years ago and have had really good success with them. However, we only really make them for the Christmas holidays. It may just as well become a sort of tradition.

Basically, these are little houses made out of MDF wood so they stay thin and lightweight. The side panels fold in towards the back to collapse the unit and make it store flat when it is not in use. This makes it easier to pick up and move from room to room and it also makes them easy to store under a bed or in a closet when they are in the way.

Every unit we have built over the years has been a unique design ranging anywhere from a red barn to a castle. A new addition that we added after the second year was the curtains. This year we introduced a mailbox door. Future units may include chalkboard writing surfaces inside so children can draw their own interior decorations with coloured chalk.

The reason that we only release these during the holiday season is that they make perfect and unique gifts for little ones. Something that they can truly call their own. It also keeps the units more special because they are not available all year round.

Currently, these units are only advertised on Kijiji in the Edmonton area as a local item. We've looked into shipping them but there isn't really a good and inexpensive shipping option for the unique shape. It's possible that in the future, we may build more than a few and make them available to more areas if we can find a reasonable and efficient shipping service.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Gramaphone Restoration Project

A good friend of mine has had an old Columbia Gramaphone sitting in storage in his garage for a while. Until recently, he hadn't met anyone who could actually take on the responsibility with confidence of trying to bring the deteriorated cabinet back to it's old glorious self. The sad part is that much of the wood is water damaged and rotted beyond repair. The good news is that the parts that matter most are still usable, both in wood and the mechanical parts.

He has put me in charge of seeing what I can do to salvage it, whether I can economically rebuild it, use what's still good and find another cabinet that is identical (which I have located on EBay already) or just take the parts that work and build a completely new cabinet of my own design. Of course, it depends on what the owner is willing to pay for it and what his expectations are from the completed project (does he want it to be as close to the original as possible or does he just want to be able to use it again, no matter what sort of cabinet it's in?). I sent him an email of my conclusions and he can decide what's best for him.

As you can see from the pictures, it's in pretty rough shape. I know that I can probably replicate the original parts, but there is so much to replace, it's value as an antique will be lost. On the other hand, if I can find a good cabinet that needs very little repair finish wise, maybe it needs new mechanical parts, something the old unit still has. Then it would be worth much more overall.

However, just taking this unit down to it's basic forms made me realize how simple a device this whole project really is. A wooden horn fed strictly by a hollow metal arm with a needle attached to a thin piece of plastic (the diaphragm). And that works independently of the turntable which is hand cranked and works like a clock. So simple and yet so functional. The door slats on the front could be opened or closed as little or as much as you wanted and this acted like a sort of volume control. Ingenious!

This final picture gives you an idea of what I have left to work with once I stripped it down to it's bare minimums.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Simple Wood Fabric Cutting Board

My mom has decided to go back into business making dresses and costumes, something she used to do many years ago. One thing she realized along the way is that she does not have a good cutting surface to work on when she needs to lay her fabric out for cutting and so forth. So, I went to a local construction supply recycling center and found the table top from an old ping pong table and used that nice surface because it was smooth and durable. However, cutting down the board proved more challenging than I had imagined as the tough particle board it was made from chipped badly no matter what kind of saw I used.

The solution was to put a wood frame around the rough edges and to fill in the bad edges with wood filler. Then I painted the surface with chalk board paint and put some measuring lines on it with a silver art pen. The board is very heavy but durable. I found this to be a very challenging project because, like I said, the tabletop was very hard to work with. I really don't know what kind of material I would have used otherwise as most woods are too soft to endure scissors and Exacto knives.

I wouldn't consider this item esthetically pleasing and not one of my prouder projects, but hey, it serves it's function and every little bit counts.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ghostbuster's Pack (Part Two)

Well, I was excited that the Ghostbusters pack was a big success. Not only did everyone know what my son was supposed to be, many people complimented my wife and I for the thought and effort that went into the overall design. Now, I have to figure out how I will top this for next year?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy Halloween! The Ghostbuster's Pack (Part One).

Well, today's post isn't so much about the usual. As a matter of fact, this project isn't even furniture related (right now). But, since I have nowhere else to post this ongoing project, I'll put it here. However, this project DOES involve making something out of junk, so maybe, it is sort of related then.

My oldest son wants to be a Ghostbuster for Halloween. I wasn't sure at first how I was going to pull that one off. My mom stepped up to plate and offered to make the jumpsuit for him. My wife set to work finishing the details of it, like logos and final adjustments. I set ahead to build the proton pack out of whatever I had lying around in the garage.

So, the first step was to study some pictures of the REAL props and do my best to make something that would be similar in nature so that the average person understood what it was. I would love to get deeply involved in a project like that and try to replicate the real thing. There are lots of amateur prop makers who have built their own units and have done an exceptional job.

I decided to build mine out of empty cookie tins because this had to be light and proportional to my son's size. I attached the cookie tins and painted them black. Then I dug around the garage for various electronic parts to situate around the containers as close to where the real objects are on the prop units.

My wife added straps from an old backpack and I finished it off with some LED lighting and fake decals for final effect. I suspect that his costume is going to get a lot of attention.

Now, I mentioned that this backpack isn't furniture yet? When we are done with this prop, I intend to put the backpack into a custom made shadow box using various supplies I have lying around the garage so he can hang it proudly in his bedroom for years to come.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sometimes, the Changes Aren't Needed

Every once in a while, a cool piece of furniture catches your attention and you just grab it on impulse, thinking you will eventually have a use for it. In this case, it was a cheap knock-down style unit that you could probably pick up at any department store on the cheap.

I brought it home and let it sit in my garage for about a month, giving it regular glances, hoping inspiration would finally strike and I could get to work transforming it. However, what eventually happened to it was that I never did a much of anything with it. It found a new home in my downstairs bathroom serving the purpose that it was originally intended to. All I did was replace some door hardware and upgrade the decorative handles, all things I already had stored away in the garage.

I even bother mentioning this because it just goes to show you that you don't always need to have a lot of tools or any woodworking skills to still transform an old item into a new and improved one. Sometimes, all it takes is a fresh coat of paint or a new hinge to make it usable again. Always a good alternative to the landfill.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rustic But Ready Computer Stand

I had an extra computer kicking around and hadn't made any definite plans as to what I could do with it. It was mostly just sitting in the corner of my garage, half-assembled and collecting dust. So, with the new renovation of my garage, I decided to get it working and use it in there for various tasks. Now I can stream music off the web while I work or look up any information, like how-to's, when I am building various projects. Eventually, I would also like to set-up something like an internet phone service because the garage is not already fitted for that.

But, the problem was where I was going to put it. So, I took some excess pine I had lying about and built an upright stand from scratch. Total height puts the old CRT monitor at eye level for an average 5 to 6 foot person. I hope to eventually put some wheels on it to make it easy to move it around if it's in the way.

I already have newer design ideas if I ever need to build another one. Something with an adjustable keyboard tray and a place to store a printer as well (and any other accessories).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saving Energy Bills with a Fireplace Cover

As with many homes, I have an older wood burning fireplace in my family room. The fireplace has a chain-metal curtain but does not have any other covering, such as glass doors, to seal it when it's not in use. Every winter, the area around the fireplace is noticeably cold and that is because, even though the flue is closed, warm air still escapes or cold wind still blows into the fireplace.

So, to counteract that problem, I decided to build a fireplace seal that would fit over the opening of the fireplace to stop that air from moving either way. I have to say, ever since I put it in there, I can physically see the material moving in and out as it does exactly what it was meant to do. I also put metal handles at either side to make it easy to pull out or remove as the seal is pretty tight.

Obviously, the seal is not fireproof so it would never be recommended to put it back in it's location for at least a week after you have a fire if you don't clean the fireplace out right away. Even a fire that has been out for 4 days can still have the potential to flare up again under the right circumstances. The cover has a wood frame with plastic and cloth pulled over it. Plenty of chances for a spark to reignite. But, since I hardly use the fireplace other than the winter holidays, I'm not worried about it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MDF Laptop Stands

These aren't a new idea by any means. However, I had some scrap wood laying around and decided to try my hand at building easy to carry laptop stands. The cool part is that they work exactly as I had anticipated. Unfortunately, there isn't much of a demand for this type of thing as I have seen better ideas online and in computer stores. They make a nice craft for kids, especially in school, to give mom or dad on a special occasion. Especially if they are already cut out and the kids just decorate them. I am posting the plans online in case any teachers or day camp instructors are interested.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Film Reel Clock

A few years ago, I ordered some empty 16mm film reels online with the intent to one day make them into something cool. Even though they sat around for a little while, I eventually figured out that I could make a clock out of one of them. I still have a couple more reels and a few more clock mechanisms I have salvaged out of other old clocks that I intend to make a few more.

Turning a Telephone Table into a Record Stand

I had this old telephone table kicking around in the workshop for a while. The wood was very dry and cracked with what appeared to be mold marks in some places on tiny areas. I found it extremely easy to take this apart and had set forward to convert it into a magazine rack. I was going to put a fabric hammock sort of thing inside and let the magazines hang in the fabric.

I had actually put the project aside again because I wasn't completely satisfied with how it was coming along. About 3 months later, I decided to pull out my old record 45's from their plastic totes and listen to a few. What I noticed from all of this is that I actually missed the days when I used to have these out to be played whenever I felt like it.

I sat down in the workshop to see if I could come up with a little stand or storage cabinet that I could put them all in so they could be alphabetized and easily accessible. I happen to look at my old magazine rack project, and after some measurements, realized that it was the perfect fit for all my old 45's. So, a few adjustments to the design and some paint to hide the mold staining (wouldn't sand out because it was deep in the wood), I now have a nice, and portable, record stand.

Recycling an Old Bedside Table

I have had this old bedside table sitting in my garage for a few years now. I originally had tools in the drawers and my miter saw screwed to the top of it. The problem was, it was too short to be practical as a saw table and it didn't have an easy way to move it around the workshop.

So, I built myself a better bench for the saw and set out to fix up the old table. I wanted a new table for the telephone and a place to put the phone books and such. The drawers were too small and flimsy to hold the weight and size of the phone books so I decided to completely remove the drawers, put in shelves and a new door on the front. I also painted it to match my refurbished coffee table.

Old Stereo into a Digital Stereo

I picked up an old stereo console in a yard sale for about $2 a few months ago. I have been looking for that exact thing for quite some time, but as common as they were in the 70's, they are very hard to find anymore.

The first thing I did when I got it home is turned it on to see what was working. It did power up but the radio was buggy and the turntable wouldn't do anything. So, I pulled out the old electronics and set to work on refinishing it. Since it was a combination of wood and plastic parts, refinishing the wood was not really an option as I couldn't also refinish the plastic. There was also a bit of water damage on the top. So, I decided to sand it down and completely repaint it in brighter colours. I wanted it to have more of an old arcade or calliope type of appearance to it.

Well, I succeeded in doing that. I then set to work installing the new electronics which consisted of an older computer running a simple jukebox interface. So now, when you lift the lid of the cabinet, you are greeted with a flat-screen monitor displaying selection cards and selection buttons. You can flip through the songs and play them just like you would with a real jukebox.

It works fantastic and it sounds authentic. It is completely hack proof and the kids love to listen to it. I hope to eventually get a chance to build another one, but I have completely different ideas as to how this one will look.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Coffee Table Refurbish

I was given a coffee table a while back by my business partner over at RC Wood Creations. I don't have a before picture which is usually a must for me. I only have a work in progress picture. The original table was a blond wood colour and a mix of paper laminate on press-board and real pine. The squares in the center consisted of smaller panels of wood and rose coloured glass. I ripped the center pieces out and repainted the table (as paper laminate and press-board could not be sanded and re-stained). Then I replaced the center panels with MDF board with a flat back finish and a layered plastic resin on top of that to give the surface a good durable finish.

All in all, I think it turned out pretty good. It is currently sitting in my living-room.