Archive for the ‘Crafts’ Category

Tablet Cover

Monday, October 28th, 2013


Nexus 7 cover. I really like the fabric I found for this. May have to use it for a chair. Also probably need to get a fabric cutter if I do that. My “going to college” desk scissors aren’t, er, working well.


Pennsylvania T1 on inside cover, possibly my favorite design of a favorite industrial designer.

Veneer Weave

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The qualified success* of the laminate veneer pen stand I made needs qualification.

Laminate veneer can be very strong, even when bent into curves.  Lots of plywood is just laminate veneer, and everybody depends on plywood for the workaday sheet wood needs of their life.  Curved wood is more interesting, though, particularly for someone interested in certain eras of furniture and art.

I made this little weave some time ago, using a tube of wrapping paper as the jig and duct tape as clamps.

The two strips are made up of two pieces of edge veneer, and they are glued together at the points where the two strips meet, and the component veneers are glued back-to-back along their entire lengths.

While I’m not entirely surprised at how strong this is, given the use of woven patterns for roofs, chair seats, baskets, and battleship masts, it’s still gratifying to see how resilient this assembly is:

It’s flexing, but it is also holding.  What is it being crushed by?


The weave sprang right back after removal of the book.  I’d like to figure out a way to use the larger (3/4″) strips of edge veneer to make some sort of three-dimensional structure that is useful, contra the weedy little 3/16 strips used in the aforementioned inkwell.

*note: not guaranteed to be a success at all

Mini Tool Roll

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

One of the niggling problems that attend my too-small apartment is depicted below:


Those of you who have sheared the heads off of bolts or screws at one time or another may recognize the above pile as being composed of screw/bolt extractors, sometimes called “EZOuts”.  (This last name is, I believe, a specific, trademarked, version of this sort of tool.)  If you break the head off of a bolt or cam out the head on a screw, you drill a hole into the fastener and put one of these extractors in.  They are designed to bite in as you rotate them (and, hopefully) the screw, out.

In any event, having purchased these extractors during a particularly frustrating bout with a clutch of rusted 10 millimeter bolts, I could not figure out where to put them.  The original packaging was inadequate once opened, and I didn’t want to just throw them in the toolbox since a) I would be unlikely to find the smaller, fiddlier extractors easily, and b) they are made of hard, brittle metal that might be damaged by banging about with less, shall we say, “refined” tools such as the “free” set of pliers obtained when opening a bank account.  Due to a lack of available shelf space, the extractors were forever finding their way into my sock drawer.  This situation was intolerable to the degree that I put off worrying about it for at least 6 months.  (Socks are, after all, soft and unlikely to damage the extractors when they roll into the drawer).  However, in my recent efforts to become a bit more organized/presentable/able to find things, I decided that I should find a more permanent solution.

Those of you who have looked at the title to the article know what I decided on, of course.  I like tool rolls, especially leather or canvas ones.  They are compact, easy to carry, and present themselves as delightfully purposeful when you theatrically unroll them and remove a tool from its own, individual, slot in the roll.  (Pride of place here may go to Brendan Fraser’s gun roll in The Mummy, which is frankly and quietly ridiculous).  They also lend themselves to tool compartmentalization, allowing one to bring a few tools along rather than dragging a 30-lb bag or box.  I understand that tool rolls are popular among motorcyclists for these reasons.   One of my most veteran tool storage devices is a tough nylon roll from Duluth Trading that has proven useful for carrying “misc.” tools in the trunk of my car.

These screw extractors are very small however, ranging from 1 1/2″ to 3″ or so, which means that there are few/no correctly sized rolls available, and any normal-sized roll would cost approximately as much as I paid for the extractors.  Obviously, I thought, I should simply make one out of inexpensive cloth from the fabric store.

Problem the first: I am terribly bad at sewing anything resembling a straight line.  Uttering one is, perhaps, another story, but my skill with a needle and thread is minimal at best.  This problem was (hopefully) addressed by the purchase of a $2 tube of fabric glue.

Problem the second: cheap cotton fabric isn’t very strong and tends to fray when cut.  Vaguely remembering some Cub Scout project, I figured I could simply burn the loose threads off.

Fortunately, the low weight of the pile of extractors means that the roll doesn’t need to be very strong.


Space the extractors out across the fabric, and cut the fabric approximately to size.  Burn the loose threads, remembering not to let too much of the edge catch fire at any given time when you move the lighter too closely, repeatedly  (see brownish areas in the below photographs).

Fold over the cut edges into something resembling a straight line, and glue them, to hopefully eliminate most of the fraying.  Note that the glue, if over applied to thin fabric, gives the impression that a slug has oozed along the surface.  Ignore this minor cosmetic problem due to much worse option of having to sew.

roll-edgesPlace largest extractor near left edge of the fabric.  Cut a roughly pennant-shaped piece of cloth, and put one of the long edges parallel with the bottom edge of the fabric.  There should be a flap at the top of the larger piece to fold over the exposed ends of the tools when the assembly is rolled up.  Glue a blind “tunnel” together for the largest extractor, pinching at the bottom to close off the end.  Repeat lots of times.  I eventually started using the next extractor to space the previous two apart, giving a proportionally diminishing spacing that worked pretty well.



Astute viewers of the above picture may note that one of the extractors (5th from right) is damaged.  This is a frequent, unfortunate occurrence.  The problem when this happens is that you are left with a bit of hardened steel embedded in the already-damaged screw.  At this point, you may not even be able to drill the damaged fastener out.  I should throw the damaged extractor out, I suppose.  That I have not done so thus far is due to my irrational feeling that tools grow accustomed to their fellows.

In any case, the roll has held together thus far and has a pleasant weight in the hand.  A strip of rawhide acts as a tie to hold the whole thing together.  It does not possess much visual appeal, particularly since the inexpensive black cloth I used tends to pick up and show dust, but the glue has held up better than I have any right to expect.


Mooring Tower

Friday, August 14th, 2009


A mooring tower, quickly knocked together.  But for what?

Clef inkstand

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Let’s discuss something that involves a few, simple parts:


Like most things that require a few, simple parts, I had to get several tools and spend several times the amount of time I estimated.

If you want to make something curved out of wood, you have a few options.  If it is the 1700s, and you are building a ship in the U.S., and you need strong pieces, you find a tree with the curve you want, cut it down, dress the wood, and use that.  If you don’t need strength, need it done now, and have a brand new bandsaw, you might just cut the shape out of whatever you have handy.  If the curve you want isn’t more than 90 degrees or so, and you want to do it properly, you steam bend the wood.  If you want to cheat, you use flexible plywood.  If you won’t or can’t use flexible plywood, want to do it without steaming anything, and have a lot of veneer around, you make laminar curves, which can allow you to do truly odd compound curves.

To make laminar curves, you start with a few pieces of thin, flexible piece of wood (like veneer).  Layer the pieces, putting a skim of glue between each layer.  Before the glue sets, bend/twist the assembly into the shape you want, allowing the layers to shift over each other as they flex.  The tricky bit is that you need to find a way to hold the wood into whatever shape you want it to finish in.  For big stuff, you’ll want to make a frame to hold it in the right shape, and to allow use of pipe clamps between the halves of the jig.  For small work, spring clamps are useful.

How hard could it be, right?  I figured I could make something small out of strip veneer, the sort that you use to cover the edges of plywood; it comes in a roll, is usually 3/4″ wide, and often has heat-activated adhesive on the back so that you can iron it on.  This latter idea works better than you would expect.  3M or a competitor are to be credited.  The working assumption was that this veneer tape is thin and narrow enough to allow more interesting curves to be made, and that it is cheap.  What to make?  How about a little inkstand?

I got a hole saw of the same diameter of my ink bottle, a small grommet kit from the local craft store, and the veneer.  I cut a disk of (I think) poplar, that I had handy, and I had a bit of cork lying around, so I cut a little bit of it out in the shape shown above.   I glued one of the grommets in the “doughnut hole” created by the guide bit of the hole saw to hide a little damage around the hole.

I cut the veneer down the middle, and stained it.  What color to paint the inkstand base?  I’m not terribly clumsy, but figured black would be a good bet for the bottom of an inkstand.  This decision was aided by the presence of a black rattlecan in my “misc.” drawer.  Done.


I decided to use grommets around the base to hold the two layers of veneer to each other.  Because I was going to oppose the glued sides of the two strips of veneer, and because the veneer had been stored in a roll, I essentially had to coerce two opposed springs together.  (As an aside, I really hate doing anything with springs.  They can’t be reasoned around, and you usually can’t “cheat” setting them up.  Force is usually the only option.)  The grommets would aid glue-up by allowing me to divide the work into several sections.  To prepare, I mocked up the pattern I wanted, and then drilled holes through the veneer at the correct places.  Do note that the holes are at different positions on the two strips, since the curve of one has a larger radius than the other when in place.  I then hammered the grommets into place.  Once I was sure that this part of the veneer would stay in place, I heated it with a travel iron (the only use of my travel iron – it works poorly on clothing) to encourage the veneer’s heat-sensitive glue to melt together.

The rest of the veneer curving was accomplished a little at a time, using the iron, tape and a $.38 spring clamp that proved more useful in 15 minutes than many tools I own have proven themselves in a decade.  Time, place, tool, etc.  A little cleanup with a razor blade, and:


It looks rather like a treble clef, I think.  This may just be due to the mental associations with old dip pens, though.  It’s hard to think of them apart from french doors, parchment, classical music, and a breeze bearing the noise of carriage wheels on cobbles.


The pen support really isn’t strong enough.  It can hold the cheap plastic pen for a while before fatiguing, but anything heavier would bear it down.  A third layer or a wire core might help.  Still, a useful exercise to find out the limits of small laminar curves.