Friday, May 29, 2009

They Don't Make 'em Like They Use To

This is an interesting video showing a techie getting a 1964 modem to work with a modern laptop and the internet. Two things:
1) The size of the modem--I tell the younger guys around here about the days when a modem was the size of a toaster. I'm not sure they believe me, but here it is.
2) The real reason I'm posting this video in this blog: the box the modem came in. It's a solid wooden box, dovetail joinery, brass hasp, leather handle, and a piano hinge.
Heck, I'd like on the these just for box.
[Thanks BoingBoing]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sam Maloof Remembered

Furniture designer and builder Sam Maloof passed away a couple days ago at the age of 93. I had the pleasure to meet him in the mid-90's. I was an assistant editor at Woodsmith Magazine in Des Moines, Iowa. Maloof, along with several other woodworking luminaries, was in Des Moines to make a guest appearance at a woodworking show. Woodsmith publisher and editor Don Peschke invited them to a party in the garden at Woodsmith headquarters. It was a beautiful evening.
Sitting at one of the tables under a big awning, a couple assistant editors and myself found a rare moment when Maloof was alone. We had recently watched a documentary in which Maloof was carving a piece of walnut on a band saw with the blade guard removed and about 8" to 10" of blade exposed. So we asked him if he had ever been injured in the shop. He said yes, but only once. He said he'd been napping, and for some unknown reason awoke quickly and started back at the band saw where he had left off. That was when he buried the blade in his thumb. He showed us the scar.
But what I saw were the hands. His hands were big and strong and impressive. They were the hands of someone who worked with his hands every day. He was a designer/artisan. He was what we wanted to be on some level, if only we'd had the creativity and the skill to pull it off.
He was also very nice. We asked a few other dumb questions which he answered with candor and humor. Quite a guy.
I looked through several photos of Maloof for this post and chose the one above. You can see his hands.
You can read about his life and work in this LA Times obituary with lots of photos.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Good-bye Baby Food Jars

When I was growing up a half-century or so ago, my father and grandfather stored screws, nails and other small hardware items in used baby food jars. Maybe there are fewer babies, or they're just not eating out of little glass jars. But I don't see the migration of jars from kitchen to shop anymore. For safety reasons, that's probably a good thing, but what's taking their place? Surely the modern woodworker has just as many odds and ends to save, label, and inventory?
Talking to Ted Raife at Woodsmith Magazine, I learned of one replacement: plastic containers that once held a stack of blank computer CDs.
The deep, clear plastic lids of these containers simply lock to the base with a slight twist. So Ted removes the center post from the base and then screws the base to the underside of a shop cabinet. The lid can then be filled with whatever hardware items require organization and quickly stashed out of the way, but easily accessible when needed.
You can get woodworking shop tips like this delivered to your email box each by the editors of Woodsmith magazine. They're free. Here's the sign-up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More Fun With Lasers

The Amazon Kindling--I should have thought of this. It's the result of a collaboration between the guys at and (Click on image for a larger view.)
It's vaguely reminiscent of something that I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago. But I'm a sucker for goofy stuff.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Heavy-Duty Push Block

Push blocks are essential safety tools for your table saw. But some push blocks are so wimpy, I wonder if they're all that much safer than no block.
Well, that won't be a problem with this push block. Phil Huber, at Woodsmith, made a sturdy push block that keeps hands well above the blade. And the wide body of the block pushes the workpiece on both sides of the saw blade.
For extra blade clearance, the thick body of the push block is glued up from two pieces of scrap. At the back, he screwed a ¼″ hardboard heel to catch the end of a board and push it through the blade, like you see in the photo.
An ordinary steel utility handle gives me a firm grip on the block. Once the bottom and the heel of the push block get chewed up, you can easily remove the handle and make a new block.
You can get more useful (and safe) ideas like this sent to your computer every week from the editors of Woodsmith Magazine. Here's the free sign-up.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Measuring Diagonals, Again

I talked about how to do this before, but this tip is even easier than the last one.
The last step to assembling a case is to make sure it's square. And the quickest way to do this is to measure diagonally from corner to corner. (If it's square these measurements will be the same. If not, you'll need to make some adjustments.) Using a tape measure is an easy way to check for square. The problem is that keeping the end of the tape on the corners can be difficult. But, as Woodsmith's Ted Raife shows us, a quick modification to the hook of the tape solves this problem.
To do this, simply cut a small slot on the hook with a rotary tool (or hack saw), see the drawing above right.
The slot slips over the point of the corner of the case, see the drawing and detail at right. The slot holds the tape in place for those large projects where an extra set of hands would be a big help. And it doesn't effect the tape measure's accuracy when I use it for other projects.
You can get more useful tips like this from the editors of Woodsmith Magazine. They're free. Here's where you can sign-up.

Desk Organizers

Here's another idea for what to do with all those cutoffs accumulating under your workbench, especially the small chunks of hardwoods you just can't throw away.
Japanese designer nosigner created a series of triangle, square and rhombus-shaped desk organizers for the Tokushima Wood-Bamboo Workers Association. What you're looking at in the photo is called, *Triangle / Square / Rhombus.* Each individual small box is magnetic, allowing you to create your own wild pencil/pen holder!
Other than saying they're magnetic, the Spoon & Tomago design blog doesn't say how the parts are connected. I guess we'll have to spend the 2,000 – 5,000 yen ($200-$500) to find out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Not Your Pet Store Aquarium Stand

Over in the WoodNet Woodworking Forums, member BarryO has posted photos of his "Arts & Crafts, Greene & Greene aquarium stand. It's a beauty, and as Barry explains, it had to be:

My son and I had convinced [my wife] to go along with having a BIG aquarium in the living room. So this was going to be a showpiece, not a backroom utility tank. I wanted the stand to look like a piece of furniture. Most commercial stands sit flat on the floor, and have doors that are wider than they are tall, both of which are cues that scream “fish tank stand”. So I came up with a design that stood on 4 legs instead. Also, the front consists of 4 narrow doors, rather than 2 wide ones. Rather than using something like ebony or walnut for the plugs and inlays, I decided to use something more, uh, “whimsical”. Hey, it’s an aquarium stand, right? So I used bloodwood. Not only is it very colorful, as a South American wood it’s very appropriate for this stand, as the tank will hold South American species of fish.

I'm sure the fish will appreciate the attention to detail. I know I do. See many more photos here.

Rolling Sheet Goods Cart

Things were getting pretty crowded in my shop. So I asked Woodsmith's Phil Huber for a way store some extra plywood and MDF I have lying around. His rolling cart solution is especially convenient.
The cart has two sides. One side is designed to hold larger pieces. And the other is made to store smaller sheets and plastic buckets for small odds and ends of various sizes.
The cart is built using 2x4's for the base and uprights. Lengths of 3/4″ PVC pipe are used to make partitions for holding larger sheets on one side of the cart. A single PVC pipe is used on the other side and provides a place to hook a bungee cord for holding smaller pieces and plastic storage buckets in place. (Click on the drawing for a larger view).

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