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New Project Ideas Options
Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2015 12:45:12 PM
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Joined: 4/2/2008
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Location: Wisconsin
Cool shop photos. I love the storage ideas you have, the folding scroll saws are awesome!
Posted: Saturday, January 17, 2015 8:54:08 AM
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Joined: 11/17/2006
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Thank you. The fold down scroll saws are not only awesome, but they have also been painted. (see the bottom of page 3 or view the video)

Continued from page 3

The New Shop Space PART 2

Compare this to our old shop area .... Page 3 Pane 27

With the restart of school, I have found if the students all line up on the scroll saws at the same time with larger projects, they compete a little bit for elbow room. It isn't an issue with smaller things like the piggy bank, but they are still a little closer together than I would have liked. That's how much room we have now and it's far better than what we had before. The guy who did the estimating and welding is no longer at the school so it would be difficult to change it now, and besides, the wall has only so much space. For larger jobs I'll simply have the students fold down a competing saw to make more space around a saw.

I would add too that the corner plates he bought for the three lathe stands were also a bit smaller than I wanted, so the lathes are scrunched together at the corners. It hasn't seemed to be much of a problem though, especially since it's far superior to what we had before. Besides, the trip to get larger ones would have eaten into what precious little time he had to get it completed and we were looking at ways to take up less floor space anyway. The Christmas rush had lathes pretty much sold out, so there is a waiting period, but I'm really excited that in only a more few weeks we will have three more lathes to mount on the second cart.

***UPDATE*** 2-28-15 Still waiting for those new lathes. I'm kind of hoping we get then before 3-5 because we have been invited to the Charter School Association and would like to give demonstrations and show projects. ***NOTE*** They made it a few days later and we did the demonstrations. (see pane 71 below)

Lately I've been taking my prep time to work on the fun things and fine details like having our pen press mounted on a wall. It makes it much easier to use.

The Pen Press

Sharpening lathe tools is now an easy task after putting a few donated items together, and this set up can easily be moved around the shop. The grinder was given to me by our former maintenance man (from his home) and the red sharpening system and pen press was given to me by a former student. I don't let the middle school students use the grinder. I do all their sharpening for them. At my previous (high) school the beginning students had to learn how to sharpen. I had them practice grinding and honing with 1/4" x 3/4" bar stock. They all got to know how to properly keep the lathe tools sharp so they could do it themselves.

Grinder & Sharpening Jigs

I've cut out and install switched outlets on the sides of two donated craftsman band saws. The exhaust systems (thanks to grant money) and (the recently added 2nd hand lights not shown in the photo) automatically come on when you use the machines. The hose adapter on the exhaust in the back ground is shop made. The person who donated our 2nd band saw knew the bottom tire was ready to go out on it, so he bought a new tire and left it with the machine so I could install it. Two different saws with different sized blades allows for straight or curve cutting.

Switched Outlets For Dust Collectors

These Sanders Were Later Removed

The few sanders we do have are finally hooked to their own exhaust system. The little green sander is new out of the box and was recently donated by one of our parents. There is another shop made hose adapter left of the Ryobi sander.

***UPDATE*** April 14, 2015 I put these sanders away in favor of this new donation. I fixed up the dust collector and the sander works great. I'm not sure why this photo makes it look as if the table is rusty.

Belt Sander


The approximately 10' long shelf in the back ground is where all the project templates are kept for ease of access. I've since added cup hooks to get them up off the shelf and have them better organized.

In our previous location the shop clean up was nearly impossible and was a constant concern so I'm trying to address this in every way possible such as removing unreasonable surfaces, shop clutter and increasing clear floor space and exhaust system efficiency. Having had similar issues at home, I experimented with this next idea to help keep the dust and chips from going all over during a cut on the router table. (Photo from my home shop) It's surprising how well it works. Instead of having dust and chips flying up out of the router table, the downdraft vacuums them quickly into the lower enclosure and dust collector.

Home Router Downdraft

With the router table lower enclosure open, the shop made router lift is very easy to use. I have made these for both school router tables. They work far better and are way cheaper to make than those you get from a catalog. Go here for the plans.

This model of craftsman router table has an unusually large top insert plate (for bolting the router to) and thus a large opening which allowed me to make the router and lift slider removable through the top.... a handy option for cleaning. Otherwise the router would be difficult to take out being somewhat trapped by limited access in the lower enclosure. The enclosure by the way is necessary to create the strong downdraft needed for the dust collection.

Router Lifts On Every Router Table

The handles for the hidden blast gates...

The blast gate underneath...

The table saw

The exhaust system works so well on the router table that I thought the table saw might do the same. Every weekend I was spending hours in my home shop mostly slicing up cutting board material for the students and the clean up time afterwards was becoming unreasonable. This Baltic Birch table saw insert (photo from my home shop) is made using a router table to create openings (slots) that resemble a drain. Although it is not quite as effective as the router table, the resulting exhaust system downdraft on my home saw keeps some of the chips or sawdust from escaping during a cut, however, shear velocity allows some chips to escape the downdraft anyway. Since it is really mostly effective when the entire insert is not being covered up by the cut, I'm considering experiments with a pop up scoop (built right into the insert to channel the airflow) that will be out of the way most of the time, but be opened as needed.

Home Table Saw Down Draft

The one at school is on a craftsman saw (not for student use) and looks a little more primitive because I didn't have the router tables up and running yet. Still, I like the way this one looks. Notice the difference in how far left the blade is in this insert. With the craftsman so much further left, it has less downdraft vents open during rip cuts, one reason it doesn't work as well. The good news is that they both work well when crosscutting with the miter gauge. (Anytime students will be using a school saw, make the school provide a SawStop... see post.)

School (on loan) Table Saw Down Draft

This year the school started giving me more prep time to do the work on campus. Last semester when I was cutting, I would make huge piles of sawdust outside. After snow shoveling most of the sawdust up... filling at least a trash can, the rest could be blown away with a leaf blower. With our new shop location being indoors, we can't use the leaf blower.

So the front openings get covered. The cover has only one screw so if can be pivoted out of the way or removed for blade tilts. On my home saw, openings like this are covered with a magnetic sheet.

Card Board Or Magnetic Sheet Material Covers Openings

Small saws like this need the back to also be covered. The split allows pieces of the back to easily be removed if the blade needs to be tilted.

Notice the strategically placed seams

The bottom funnels saw dust directly into the dust collector with a breaker friendly switch.

A double switch allows both the saw and dust collector to be turned on and off at slightly different times to keep a surge from tripping a breaker.

***UPDATE*** April 2nd, 2015... a little over a month left of school... SO... HOW WELL DOES IT WORK? Maybe I should have taken a photo of this procedure before (when we were still outside) and after (in our new space)... but I will let you decide. I have finally wrapped up most of the shop set up, minus a few alterations (such as a 2nd ceiling mount Rikon air filter) that will require waiting for possible grant money next year. I had one opportunity to dump the table saw bag and it was nice to have it easy to carry right to the dumpster.

The cabinet shop's supply of solid wood fluctuates. Sometimes you get some really great stuff and sometimes you hardly get anything, so I wait a while between cutting up pieces for our cutting board projects. Alder seems to be the most prevalent, but recently I had some beech, maple, walnut, oak, and cherry. Since I've been saving it up for a while, today I had a chance to spend several hours cutting it into strips which I box and stack.

I'm glad to say the inside experience was much more pleasant not only because I wasn't standing in the hot sun with long sleeves and my overly large hat, but also in the fact that when it came to cleaning up, only a simple sweep around the front of the saw was pretty much all it took to be ready for my next class. In short... a little dust did escape partly because the craftsman blade is so far to the left and the wood covers the openings in the insert, but also the velocity of the escaping saw dust over comes the downdraft. But most of the saw dust did not escape. I haven't checked the bag yet, but I expect it is heavily laden. However, the snow shovel is no longer needed. :)

Our best dust collector

This Woodtek dust collector cost $50 at auction and was missing the bags. Thanks to having a daughter who is willing to sew, with a serger that keeps edges from fraying, we now have all the extra dust bags we need. I think both of these bags cost about $12.00 total. This more powerful dust collector is being used for both router tables. Blast gates can easily switch all dust collection to a single machine to increase the suction.

***UPDATE)*** I just completed the drill press downdraft tables seen a bit further down on this page (see pane 63) and I switched the better Woodtek collector (brushless more powerful motor) to the drill presses for no other reason than we use the drill presses far more often than the router tables.

Much like the router table and table saw, this sanding platform creates a downdraft around our cutting board projects. The surrounding slots make up about half the open area of the vacuum port which speeds up the downdraft to pull in and filter dust. The wide base allows it to be attached (clamps or screws) to a work bench. One end has stops for belt sanding and to keep things from sliding during finish sanding, a nonskid rubber mat (not shown) sits on the 14" X 18" work area. I like the 6" height of this box (less bending down) which was mostly determined by the quick release dust port (slides up and off) that allows the dust collector to quickly be moved for another purpose (for an example, see pane 70).

Down draft sanding platform

The sanding platform in use. It works even better than I expected. When sanding with the belt sander, a student will hold the wet dry vac up close to the end to catch anything that could possibly escape.

Leaving nothing to chance, an overhead air filter picks up whatever might be missed by the dust collectors and that could actually be more than you might expect. The filter in this photo is pure white. 24 hours later it changed to a light brown.

I've noticed that everything in combination is really keeping the shop clean. One difference is that a dusty shop creates weird floating particles that catch light from the flash when taking photos. You can see from recent photos that the whole place appears to be pretty darn clean.

However, I will continue to push for a second full room dust collector to go over the other half of our shop area. I may have to wait for additional grant money next year.

Rikon Air Filter

***9-3-15*** Our 2nd air filter was recently purchased through the 21st Century grant and has arrived. It is waiting to be installed hopefully in the next month.... possibly during fall break. When the weather cools down and the windows stay closed, these two filters will keep our shop a lot cleaner.

***9-24-15*** The fire department just completed our school fire inspection and I'm happy to say that our shop was one of their favorite places to visit. I was just getting ready to head over to the auditorium to watch the 5th grader's grammar play when they walked in and marveled at all the great projects the students were working on. I could also see them looking closely at the shop details, in the corners, and behind the equipment. I was expecting at least something they might find out of place, but even though they were wide eyed through out the entire ordeal, they said it was much cleaner than they expected to see (not a speck of dust anywhere) and asked if they could come in and work on projects sometime. "Of course you can... anytime you want. We'd be glad to have you."

After making this post, I thought it might be important to note here that this was a surprise visit for me, and our shop does not have janitorial service. We in fact rely on the students (and their teacher) to complete all the cleaning duties and I hadn't began my cleaning mode for the week yet. That means the steps we have taken... have simply kept the shop cleaner and when we do clean, it makes cleaning so much easier.

The tool board

I finally had a chance to begin the tool board. Maybe this should have been one of the first things to complete, because I'm tired of digging through a cardboard box for tools. I'm using what tools we had on a pegboard in the other room. I don't like pegboards. Tools don't fit the holders well and sometimes the holders fall completely off. Since things can fit in multiple places, everything always ends up switching around which adds to shop confusion. I like a set place for everything, and started at the bottom of the tool board with what should be the tools most accessible to the students. In the empty space near the top, I recently added 3" high, cut out of 1/2" material, then painted black, lettering that reads TOOLS in a classical looking font. When I applied them to the tool board, I had them drop down in a diagonal through that space and it looks sharp.

Each tool gets traced and back ground is colored so students know what goes where and everyone can see what's missing from across the room. I know this step will take a while, so I'm only doing a few a day until they are all traced. In the mean time, I've quickly gone around them with a pencil.

With our new shop location being much more visible when parents come to get their children, there have been many parents stopping in to see our new shop and that brings more offers of donated equipment.

Photo by Sue Tone- Prescott Valley Tribune

And for flammable materials

I made this for oily rags the first month of school last year...

Skip directly to new shop space 3.
Posted: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 8:19:05 PM
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The New Shop Space PART 3

We have been having a lot more rain and snow this year. I can look out a window (never had a shop with one since college) to see the weather instead of always being out in it.

More details.... along with the tool board is a clamp area. I finally have them out of boxes and up on the wall. Anyone who saw our old shop would agree that this one photo alone shows how far we have come in a year and a half. Our clamp area has never looked better. To keep the pipe clamps from falling on anyone, they have a 1/4" ledge and must be lifted slightly to be taken down.

Clamp area

Drill presses

Some of our projects take quite a bit of drilling. There often were times when students had to wait for a turn to use a drill press. Now with 6 drill presses, there is plenty to go around and four of them are small and low enough to the floor for even the 4th graders to use. With short classes and limited visits (once every week and a half) 6 different bits can be made available so students will not have to search and change bits every time they need to drill.

All of them have dust collection available to help keep things clean as they are drilling. The full size drill press and the orange drill press were recent donations. To the left of the full size drill press is the block column where the pen press is mounted.

You can see the temporary shop made blast gates at each machine. Slide them up to open the vacuum for when machines are in use. The less gates open, the better the vacuum. It works much better than anticipated, actually pulling dust and chips into the vacuum stream. During clean up, a bench brush pushes any remaining dust right into the vacuum.

Drill press down draft tables

I have been playing around with a new drill press table idea that spreads the vacuum draft evenly around to pull dust and chips from the furthest edges of the work area. Just like energy efficient construction or a hybrid vehicle, every little detail helps save energy. In this case, every little detail helps keep the shop cleaner!

The work area is a simple drop in friction fit so they are easily replaceable if/when they get too many holes drilled into them. Designed to take up as little space as possible, it currently stands under 3" high and is screwed together just in case they ever need to be opened up later.

This photo was taken during assembly so the work area has not been dropped into place yet and the (2") center opening can be seen. It is the ideal way to equalize the downdraft. Fins radiating outward not only direct airflow but also add a torsion table rigidity and strength for the top.

Looking from the bottom, the efficiency increases by lining the vacuum area so nothing builds up where there could be a lack of air movement.... in a square base.

The holes in this close up show the attempt at higher efficiency by flaring out the openings with a round over bit. These smaller holes also keep that occasional immature student from being able to send other things through the system. The few people I could find on the Internet who have experimented with less sophisticated ideas said streamlining holes like this makes theirs work better, and I have to agree. Of course they had only one drill press being used in a home situation, so with multiple machines in our situation this would even be more important. The work area is also tapered down to help streamline airflow.

The rear (exit) vacuum port can also be seen here (above photo) and is attached to a smaller hose (about 2" X 12") that fits snugly within the 2 1/4" hose, allowing for length expansion as the table height is adjusted. Its easier to see it in the previous pictures, but the port squashes the internal hose into an oval to reduce the amount of space it takes up and even though I had my doubts, I'm very surprised that there doesn't seem to be any air leakage with this (hose) slip joint.

After completing the row of drill presses. For drilling larger projects on smaller machines, the unit is easy to remove since it is held in place with only two wing nuts underneath the table.

Slip in top covers cut vacuum

I'm switching out the blast gates for a simpler slip in (top) cover that cuts (shuts down) airflow on unused machines. With the exhaust still running, when you put the top cover back on at the completion of your task, it clears the entire table of chips... clean as a whistle. I'm not kidding, it works great and I couldn't be happier. I told my students it's the same principal as the dentist telling you to close your mouth so the vacuum clears it. To keep students from accidentally drilling through the top cover, it has an open center. (Photo of it being removed)

(Photo of it in place)

Last but not least, I switched the Woodtek dust collector to the drill presses so the most powerful one in the shop is now the one being used much more often with the drill press downdraft tables.

***UPDATE*** April 2nd, 2015... So... HOW WELL DOES IT WORK? I'll let you decide. Before we had any vacuum system and when we were in a close and cluttered shop situation, the place was too hard to keep clean. Seriously.... open the garage door daily and turn on the leaf blower. Watch out for the wind blowing it back into the small shop. Unless you did a deep cleaning everyday, every nook and cranny was always filled with debris and it wasn't a pleasant experience. Now almost anything would be better than what we had, and that should explain my obsession with how this new space went together. The one plus was the "usually" low student numbers due to the lack of space. However, the after school program was the toughest, having 14 or more to a class.

Before the vacuum system was completed in the new space, we were constantly using the wet dry vac to clean around the drill area. Now that it has been in place and adjusted, it is a major improvement even though a few students forget (or don't take the time) to always open the vacuum ports. New things always take a little time for everyone to get used to... even though it may have been unintentional on my part to have been developing the ideas and showing them how to use it with it continually changing from day to day. There is still students misunderstanding how it works. We had issues with the power strip burning out, the vacuum easily clogging up, the early vacuum ports... etc.... But even with all that and the occasional lap in student memory, it still works so well that we rarely are going back to vacuum around the machines now. It is cleaner, safer and requires little maintenance at clean up time saving lots of time and effort over the long haul.

We recently had a different (short) schedule and classes ended earlier than I expected (being the part time teacher you don't always get the message) so I told the class to go ahead and leave and I will clean up for you. I found myself simply sweeping around the lathes and under the scroll saws, I was finished in just minutes even as another class was colliding on their way into the shop. Talk about a difference in keeping the shop clean!

Every teachers knows, or should know that the first few weeks of the school year are critical in setting the tone of the class... safety, work environment, clean up, etc... so I expect next year will be even better as the students will all be exposed to everything that is necessary to make it all run smoothly in this new space. With our new larger space also comes the ability (or should I say responsibility) to raise the amount of students... build the program... so this tone will be even more critical at the beginning of next year.

In between the two largest machines is a tool board (see close up below) containing most of the specialty items for the pens, ping-pong launcher & puzzles that are needed when students are on the larger drill presses. The pen vise was given to me by a former student, the same one who gave me the grinding jig and pen press. There is another area just for (the puzzles) interchangeable hole saws, spade bits, twist drills, etc....

Shop made chip separator

There is a screen that easily clogs in the dust collector when larger drill press chips get to it, which seemed to happen a lot when we were first trying out the drill press downdraft tables. Rather than remove the screen, I took a very outdated vacuum cleaner apart and re-purposed it into a chip separator. (I need a bumper sticker that reads... I'd rather have a cyclone!)

With one outlet and three inlet blast gates (giving it flexibility), it works way better than I thought it might, especially since it was free. The outlet on the side is internally diverted to the top of the container, but the inlets that come through the top and side are diverted down in the opposite direction to drop debris to the bottom where gravity and a slower air steam keeps it from passing on through to the dust collector bag.

The very best part of all this is how well it works! It's been weeks since I completed it and I haven't had to clear a single clog. When opened for a check after weeks of use, the bottom was covered in some dust and large debris which would normally have clogged the screen.

Only time will tell how much fine dust it will capture before reaching the bag, although that wasn't the original intent. It is also easier to take the lower part of the container to the dumpster when it needs to be emptied. The container is not only much larger than the dust bag, but also there isn't an over abundance of material, so it shouldn't need to be emptied very often. The outlet strip acts as a remote switch.

***UPDATE*** April 21, 2015, I opened the top of the chip separator today and this is the chunky material getting captured. That means it is working just as designed. The finer dust is passing through to the collector bag and that keeps clogs from happening without much maintenance on my part.

***UPDATE*** 2-28-16, I was just looking back at some of these posts and realized I still haven't had to empty this container, although I have emptied the dust collectors bag twice. That may be due to the fact that there is not much chunky material coming off the drill press or sander, but there is just enough that it can quickly clog a screen. This chip separator works just as it should... keeping material from reaching the dust collector.

***UPDATE*** I should have guessed when I tried to avoid the extra work of building a switch for the more powerful Woodtek dust collector.... that the cheap power strip switch would quickly overheat (welding itself into the off position), so I ended up building a better long lasting switch/outlet that can withstand greater amperage and constant use after all.

Amperage friendly switch

***9-24-15*** I just posted this on the last pane (62), but it's such good news, so just in case you missed it there.... here it is again...

The fire department just completed our school fire inspection and I'm happy to say that our shop was one of their favorite places to visit. I was just getting ready to head over to the auditorium to watch the 5th grader's grammar play when they walked in and marveled at all the great projects the students were working on. I could also see them looking closely at the shop details, in the corners, and behind the equipment. I was expecting at least something they might find out of place, but even though they were wide eyed through out the entire ordeal, they said it was much cleaner than they expected to see (not a speck of dust anywhere) and asked if they could come in and work on projects sometime. "Of course you can... anytime you want. We'd be glad to have you."

After making this post, I thought it might be important to note here that this was a surprise visit for me, and our shop does not have janitorial service. We in fact rely on the students (and their teacher) to complete all the cleaning duties and I hadn't began my cleaning mode for the week yet. That means the steps we have taken... have simply kept the shop cleaner and when we do clean, it makes cleaning so much easier.

Skip directly to new shop space 4.
Posted: Friday, January 30, 2015 6:34:53 AM
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Joined: 11/17/2006
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When I first began this quest a year and a half ago, I searched the Internet for project ideas and found these inspirational examples. I was so taken by what this teacher had done with these 6th grade students that I made copies to keep this in mind of where I would eventually get my own 6th grade classes... to design something this cool and artistic completely from scratch. (Some of my 8th graders have reached this stage.) The only problem is now I don't remember where these came from, and I've tried to retrace my steps to figure it out with no luck yet.... so if these are your students, very nicely done indeed. Now that we have this great new shop space and the brightest future I've seen in a few years, I want my 6th graders to get started on something like this too.

Could this be a box or chest with a lift off top? The top appears to overhang around the entire perimeter leaving no real good place for a hinge, so it looks more like a step stool. If it is a step stool, it could be made tip proof by tilting the sides to at least 15 degrees, increasing the footprint to a size larger than the top (including overhang). That way mom or dad won't break their neck when attempting to use it.

I recently came across these two pdf files on the Internet from a California Charter high school.

Project Design Catalog and Basic Woodworking Text

Although at first glance it looks quite professional, I would say the project difficulty scale may be a little mixed up... when you see a simple cutting board project rated more difficult than a wooden model car project... but in order to really get a good look at them, I'm going to have to download it and take some time going through it.

Here is a link to something a bit more upscale from an Ohio high school and I admit to letting my high school students copy ideas from it just before they ended up closing classes, and now......... they are closing whole schools due to insufficient funds.

I love getting my students to do projects they must design themselves, but with this age group, it's always a bit tricky.
Posted: Sunday, February 8, 2015 1:21:29 PM
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Student Designed Frames

Of the recent eighth grade student designed projects, made from a single piece of birch MDF, this photo collage frame is probably my favorite so far. Three of the eighth grade girls teamed up together to come up with this and now each is in the process of making their own. When they asked to sit outside at the near by picnic table so they could draw up the design, I had my doubts that any work would get completed. After all, who wants to work when it's almost spring time (75 degrees) around here this week. Not only did they prove me wrong, but I think that they did a terrific job with their completely original design. They have also promised to make a template so the smaller kids can try making them too. How does a teacher ever get so lucky to have so many great kids in class?

Posted: Saturday, February 14, 2015 9:41:46 AM
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The Hui Game or the whatyoumacallit.

Always looking for new project ideas sometimes takes you to old ideas that are still so cool that kids will continue to like them. After seeing this cool project, and learning the secrets that make it actually work, I made one like it.

I guess it got more cool once the physics were explained and it definitely fits the kind of thing I'm always on the hunt for.... small, scrap wood, challenging yet simple, movement, puzzle, toy, fun, play, discovery, science, etc...

Mathias always has cool stuff. I however didn't pay much attention to the metric sizes, instead opting to make it look proportional. Also, with no round head brass screws around, I instead used a flat head screw and simply scratched up the shank. If the threads show, that also works. I found that larger holes through the propeller make it spin faster. Dragging your finger down one side or the other while running the dowel is enough to make it switch direction.

The prototype works great and I'm sure it will get the attention of the students. They will have fun trying to figure out how it works, and then trying to make their own. Only problem will be in the students being able to keep the physics a secret. Once one class figures it out, the whole school will know.

*** UPDATE *** Overnight, this has become a very popular project. The only problem is that the first one out of the room spilled the beans and everyone came in today wanting to make one. When the students ask why it works, I tell them to ask their science teacher. The science teacher was impressed when the students started asking questions about their wood shop project.
Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 8:09:46 PM
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The New Shop Space PART 4

I had a chance to get some work done on the 1953 Delta jointer that was recently donated by one of our parents. The top was completely rusted and had to be cleaned up. The missing guard is replaced by this newly painted shop made plywood guard.

1953 Jointer

The guard closer is a 1/2" carriage bolt that has been slotted at the base. A piece of 1/2" conduit was hammered flat, shaped, drilled and mounted for a spring and I have to add that it works much better than the factory installed guard I had on the 1966 Delta at my old school.

Shop made guard

The blades were nice and sharp too. With the cleaned up and waxed table, the machine can be set for 1/32" and it works. It may not look like it, but this jointer works better than most I've used.

The 1966 Delta at the previous school wouldn't work on 1/32" until it had a $500 helix head retrofit. That's not to say I wouldn't love this 1953 to have a helix head too, but that might be overkill in a shop where the students would rarely if ever be using it. It works great as is.

A shop made belt/pulley guard replaces the missing guard. A new power cord made from an extension cord replaces the old cracked one.

Shop made belt guard

12" Craftsman planer

All I had to do on this 12 1/2" donated planer was remove, turn over and reinstall the blades. Now we have two planers. The cardboard in the back ground (planer chip shield) is placed in a short garbage can so it can (and does) catch (and funnel into the can) most of the chips. Immediately after each use it is up to the student(s) to sweep and vacuum up stray material from the machine and floor and they don't seem to mind cleaning up afterward.

Not pictured... other additional donations (as of now) include a brand new small craftsman table saw and a barely used over-sized drill press table.

Skip directly to new shop space 5.
Posted: Friday, February 20, 2015 10:30:48 AM
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The Valentine Heart Box

I'm posting this next project late because I didn't want to tip off anyone before Valentines day. This has turned out to be a very popular project. I never even had a chance to make a prototype. Students only needed to see the template to want it. I've lost count of how many students worked, or are currently working on one of these heart shaped boxes. The reason I say currently working is because we only meet once every week and a half. Student rarely plan ahead or give themselves enough time. If they have any difficulty during the process, they can't get it done on time. It's made by stacking our standard cabinet shop scrap material in the same way as the piggy bank. If you haven't already noticed, a lot of these projects are quick builds since I only see some of these students about 3 times a month. A heart box can be completed in just a few class visits, but if they are absent on their scheduled day, and they want to stay caught up and give it as a gift on Valentines day, then they have to find the time to come in after school. However, with all the extra curricular activities sponsored at the small school, many students find it difficult to come back at the end of the day.

Posted: Saturday, February 21, 2015 9:58:33 AM
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Exploring Pyography

Woodworking is an art and this school values the arts. I'm attempting to branch off a little into pyrography. I think some of the students might really enjoy showcasing their artistic talents in this way, so this is what I put in the front window next to the entrance.

It already has the students talking. Now I have to back it up with some equipment and I understand that I might be able to use grant money. I can see all kinds of ways to use this on our projects, but I'm not looking for the cheap old fashioned wood burning tools like the cumbersome hard to control ones (I used here) that look a lot like soldering irons. Although that might be the only one I will be able to afford, I'd rather get at least one of the more expensive thermostat controlled hot wire pens.

Looks more like a soldering iron.

***UPDATE*** Even though I don't have a hot wire wood burner yet, I decided to borrow one and get ahead by making some 1/4" plywood switch plate prototypes during spring break. To get me started, a couple of them were inspired by a Google search, my favorite being the dancing skeleton. The others are made up on the fly. The students can draw their own designs or get ideas off the Internet. The hot wire wood burning tool makes the job a whole lot quicker and the sleek pen design can be easier to maneuver.

Switch plate ideas

When I find an idea on-line, instead of printing the image like I normally would for my students, I download it and put it into a WORD document, make it the correct size, draw in the screw holes and switch opening, tilt the image to properly fit, then put tracing paper the size of the switch plate up to the computer screen, and carefully trace the image the best I can, and transfer it to the blank. If the completed prototype looks right, then I turn the WORD document into a template by grouping the parts together, then copying and pasting several groups (usually 4) onto a page.

The dancing skeleton

Although I think it turned out pretty good, tracing paper is far from being the perfect transfer medium with the lack of detail that can be seen during tracing. However, by printing out the template, up to four students can trace onto their 1/4" blank and they can draw in some of the details by hand.

The hot wire wood burning tool I borrowed is also far from being super detailed, but what it lacks in detail it makes up for in speed. If you don't have a good wood burning tool, get used to your image suffering a little. One of the things that amazed me about this particular image was the way it fit the switch plate so perfectly, just missing the screw holes and switch opening.

Here is the link to the original (public domain) dancing skeleton image.

On the first completed switch plate (the one with the stars), I rounded the edges with sandpaper and it looked uneven no matter what I did, so I switched over to a routed round over. The bit shown here was the only one I could find at home with a small enough round over, and with this modified fence clamped onto my home router, I rounded the 1/4" thick edges to perfectly match the original (plastic) switch plate. The bearing spins freely in a hole slightly bigger than the bearing which is drilled right up to (barely breaking through) the edge.

Routing round over jig on thin material

I'm pretty sure the kids will go crazy over this idea. Now, will that convince the school that a more expensive hot wire wood burning tool (one with interchangeable tips with better detailing capabilities) is necessary in order to decorate projects like these....? (This is the hot wire wood burning tool that I would like to purchase for our shop.) One of it's best features (besides having 10 much more accurate tips) is that it can be used with any competitors pen and tips, so if you find a competitors pen that feels better in your hands, or already have a pen you like, it will work with this machine. You can also custom make your own tips.

***UPDATE*** 9-16-15 We had money in this years 21 Century grant to purchase the Burnmaster tool. The biggest problem I am having is that the younger students tend to press too hard when they are using it and the tip slowly bends to one side. I usually heat it up and straighten it with pliers when I notice this is happening, but one tip actually broke because of this. They are fine and delicate on purpose, so they can be used to do great detail. One of the staff is using one of our cutting boards as a 1st place prize for the "Staff Chile Cook-Off" and she carefully wrote 1st place with a really nice font, adding a few things like the date, and of course the event, then carefully burned it into one corner of the cutting board. It looked absolutely amazing and shows that with a little patience, hand lettering can really look cool.

Replacement pen

Demonstrating hot wire burning with 6th graders with the newspaper reporter in class...

Photo by Sue Tone- Prescott Valley Tribune

A solid maple switchplate from etsy/uk for £6.87 that I would like to try next...

***UPDATE*** April 9... One 7th grade student completed the dancing skeleton, but of course I forgot to snap a photo. The project has gained popularity with one big problem... we borrowed someones hot wire burner and I'm worried that it could get ruined at school. Students often press too hard. Then one small 4th grader decided to pull on the power cord when another 4th grader was working with it, causing an unexpected pivot of the tool and a nasty burn. Ouch! No more hot wire for little guys.

***UPDATE*** 11-10-15 We used grant money to purchase a Burnmaster and what a difference. It's amazing that we rarely have to turn the heat up past the half way setting.

This 8th grader has put her own spin on what a wood burning project should be. The students are finding that consecutive dots makes following pencil lines easier for them. It looks a lot like beads. Very nicely done!

As for the subject matter, I had to do an on-line search to find the logo. According to Wikipedia... Pierce the Veil is an American post-hardcore band from San Diego, California. I'm always open to hearing new music, so I tried watching one of their you tube videos and the one I picked shows me that it's one of those bands that literally screams into the mic at the top of their lungs. Is that what post-hardcore means?

To me that sounds more like angry insults than music. Maybe if I had tried a different video... I would get a different view of the band. For example, I like some of what Lincoln Park has done, but there are times that they sound too much like rap. I'm not into everything, so... no offense to Pierce the Veil... but I'm not going to be a super fan anytime soon.

Then again... didn't adults when I was a teenager feel the same way about my 70's music... now considered oldies "classic rock". Ok, now I'm feeling a generation gap coming on.

OK, she's at it again, only this one doesn't sound like screaming. I would have to say that this student has been doing some very nice work.

***UPDATE*** 3-17-16 The biggest problem I'm having with the Burnmaster is that the students keep turning it up too hot. Most of the students will follow the direction to keep it around number 4, but there is always a few who will take it up a notch or two and an occasional student who will crank it past 10 just to see what will happen. Always trying to keep one step ahead, I fashioned a limiter for the switch. How is the best and easiest way to limit the control knob around 4 without completely dismantling or altering the machine? Here is what I came up with that might also work for you... a substantial wire carefully cut to length from a large gauge wire hanger.... then bent in an eyelet shape to fit around the knob shaft without any drag...

with a slight cut away in the knob to keep it secure... and a flattening of the eyelet with the grinder... and drilling a flat washer to fit the shaft size to properly space that eyelet before securing the knob back on. The limiter works as the wire hits the top of the housing overhang and stops it from being able to be set past 4.

Then there are those students who think pressing harder is better. All this repeated heat and pressure takes it's toll on the tips which slowly deteriorate with metal fatigue eventually breaking and requiring replacement. At $10 a piece, I've decided to order the kind you bend and make up yourself. They are cheaper and I believe will last longer because the wire won't be flattened or bent to extreme shapes. I'll let you know how that turns out.

Order Rods here...
Order 18" of wire here...

These links are for you, but also to remind me where to find these items.

***UPDATE*** 3-28-16 The bend it yourself wire and connecting rods came today. I went out to my home shop and took a scrap block and proceeded to drill a series of holes in the economical shape I've chosen. Side note... this new home drill press vacuum works slick on these small holes leaving no (I MEAN ABSOLUTELY NO) chips or dust behind. This will give me a total of 9 new tips for less than half the original cost. After inserting various nails to make a wire bending jig, I ground each pin (nail) to a different height from the base... so pulling the wire around is easy. After snaking it through and completing the bend, I inserted each end into the mounting pins. After securing them in the pins, I mounted it into the burning pen.

All that's left to do it try it at school tomorrow.... and after turning on the Burnmaster, it works great!

It took a bit of on-line researching today to discover the bare wire is... "Nichrome 60" 19 gauge.... because the Carving supply doesn't tell you that. After paying nearly 50 cents an inch or about $1 each tip... I decided that we could probably find it cheaper in a small roll. After finding this website ... and scrolling down to 19 gauge, I found I can get a small 30 ft. roll for less than 3 cents an inch or about 6 cents per tip. Now I guess I will have to look around for those connecting rods which cost about $3.95 each.

If I can find them, or possibly make them cheaper, I'll be in a lot better shape making tips for about $4 a piece, maybe less.

4-9-16 One thing I'm already noticing is that the new tip will quit heating up and working on setting 4, after days of use, even though the wire is not broken. The more substantial wire is holding up and not bending as easily, but is just not getting hot enough to continue using the tip at that setting. Now I can see why the students wanted to frequently raise the temperature. I'm sure there are good explanations about the changes that are going on in the wire, but I think I can make other limiter options... that allows the machine to be turned up more, but not too much more, as the wire changes. I'm considering a changeable front cover overlay with various cutaways or pins that will provide limit presets... in stages... depending on the age of the wire. Have one starting at setting 2, then one at 4, and so on. It might be one overlay with cutouts for the switch and pen outlet, and hidden changeable preset pins. When the pen quits working, simply open the overlay cover and change the pin location. If there is a simple way to do this, you can be sure I will figure it out.

4-13-16 Here is what I came up with. Looking from the inside, it has everything to easily convert it to a different setting with an 1/8" removable pin. The old limiter wire is placed in the bottom so it won't be lost.... just in case we have to go back to it. The holes in the bottom keep the limiter in place using the rubber feet as an anchor.

From the front....

And.... it works just as I thought but the pen handle also gets hotter too. One idea I have to make only the wire get and stay hotter (longer) is to shape/hammer/file the tip somewhat like some of the ready made tips but keep it's thickness a little more substantial than the expensive ones. This may change the resistance and electricity flow limiting the heat more to the tip. I'll have to try it tomorrow to see how that works.

4-14/16 It worked, and it didn't hurt to clean off the connecting rods while I was at it.

Problem solved!

***UPDATE*** 10-26-16 As an experiment, we have been brushing the wire tip before each use so it appears new. This seems to keep the wire working better and for longer periods without turning up the voltage. I decided to give this a try after one of the woodturners said it actually works. If you keep the end clean from the start, it seems to work well.

I pressed the end closer together too which seems to keep the tip from bending so easily. This tip has made it through since the beginning of school and we haven't had to increase the temperature past the first stop on the limiter. These changes are working to minimize how much we spend to keep the woodburner going.

I also noticed that the screws were getting dangerously close together... maybe even been touching slightly... because everyone kept turning it up too hot. The casing material has slightly warped bringing the screws closer together. This could have been a short circuit that may have been responsible for the handle getting so hot.

***UPDATE*** 2-15-18 I had the recently replace the pen because of how many times it had overheated. You can get a new wire harness for them, but mine wouldn't come apart to access the internal parts, so I replaced it. Then a month later I happened to see one of the neighbors dumping a lot of things into one of those dumpsters you have delivered to your house. I asked him if he was getting rid of any old space heaters and he gave me one that looked a little worse for wear, but had this coil of wire which I took out. I've always heard this would work and here's my chance to start saving a lot on new tips. I bent it into shape and curled the ends so it fits nicely into the pen tip.

And... it works great. Better than I expected and free to boot. It is a lighter gauge wire so it tends to bend a little if you press too hard which many kids will do, but it goes right back when you straighten it, and the other heaver gauge wire did the same thing.

The Principal is always amazed by how easy it is to save money when you really want to do it, and you can think outside the box. Isn't that what being a wood shop teacher is all about. Around here it is. Even if I have to buy one of these from goodwill, it's still far cheaper than using store bought.

***UPDATE*** 12-26-18 Always on the lookout for cheap or free stuff like this and I come across the mother-lode at a place I hadn't considered before, Andy's appliance repair run by the family one of my former students. These are old dryer heater cores that would normally go to recycle.... and they are free.

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 8:37:25 PM
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The New Shop Space PART 5

The horrendous mess that the chop saw can create has made it one of my least favorite choices for use around here.... until now. This goofy looking arrangement keeps the saw dust from going everywhere, without compromising the flexibility of the machine.

Dust hood around the chop saw

The sanding box quick-release dust collector connection (seen above in pane 62) allows that dust collector to be rededicated to the chop saw. All I can say is it really works! The first time I tried it out, I didn't have to sweep the area when I was done. Now that it has become easier to keep everything clean when using this machine, we will be using it a lot more.

Quick release connector

The former location of our class was so over crowded and cluttered that dust and debris became a constant problem and (to me personally) was an embarrassment to the program and school. We are building something special here with extremely limited funds (that challenge I alluded to early on) and the community knows it. In fact, a retired gentleman (without family in the area) came in to the office today and gave the woodshop enough money to purchase an oscillating spindle sander. Now I can't wait for it to arrive. He also says he might help purchase the wood burning equipment a little later on.

I can't describe how a challenging opportunity like this has helped me to find new purpose. It has released a wave of creativity I wasn't sure was even possible. As one who continually tries to outdo myself everyday, there has been so much to occupy my mind and spirit, and when the school's founders talk about the program, you can tell it is making a difference in a lot of lives. I also appreciate how many others outside our little school (and all around the country) have taken notice and I'm proud to say I'm a public (non-profit) Charter School convert!

And if you aren't tired of checking in on us, I'm not signing off here. I'm going to just keep on posting as new ideas come up because there are so many of you who contact me to let me know you find this useful and helpful. And, if you haven't gone back through these pages recently, I'm trying to constantly update each pane to let you know how projects have been going good or bad. Some of the ideas here haven't always gone as planned and I've tried to make note of that on each.

I know the students love all these projects. I hear it from them all the time... but in case you might be wondering, their other teachers seem completely stunned by all of this. They have never seen anything quite like it before. Is it the cool projects or the happy students... or both...? Anyway I hear it from them in passing all the time. My after school program is large enough to have an aide helping. He has made almost every single one of these projects. He says his wife keeps them all.... and it's hard for him to even hold a pen back for himself.

More to come...
Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2015 8:36:44 AM
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The 3rd annual
Yavapai County Charter School Association
Education Festival

Held at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center on Thursday March 5th from 5-7PM, there were live performances, student demonstrations, art showcase, etc... and while it was an enjoyable evening, it seemed (in my opinion) to draw in mostly the parents and students of the evening's participating Charter Schools. While that's fun, it doesn't effectively get the "Get Wild About Charter Schools!" message out to the general population.

More cuts to education

The talk between the adults that evening was all about our state going through at least it's fifth year of education cuts (Arizona Republic article) (Prescott Courier article) that will affect all the public schools and Universities state wide, and of course Charter schools are public schools too (around here anyway). $169 million more cut from K-12 education and $122 million from higher education.

JTED's also affected

Career education in the form of JTED's (Joint Technological Education Districts... a separate school district within several school district boundaries that is somewhat similar to a magnet school) rely on local public schools (grades 10-12) for their students and it doesn't look good as they stand to lose that participation with these deep cuts, some because of cuts to the rural JTED's ($340,000 to our local) and some to the cuts at the participating schools (an additional unexpected $800,000 to my former district that is already closing two more schools... about a third of the school sites... leaving three closed schools and a district office vacant).

I rarely refer to our crazy state because it is an embarrassment...

How can our state continue this "race to the bottom"... making deep cuts to education when they are trying to attract new business to our state? Education is economic development! Who wants to come to a state that is 46 out of 50 in education funding and sinking fast! This crazy state gets even crazier.

Seriously.... Can a popular but frugal wood shop program that is coming together so nicely make it through these additional cuts? I sincerely hope it can.

***NOTE*** This photo was originally going to be the featured photo about this event, but when the reporter started asking questions about the student and program, the newspaper ended up writing a feature article instead. Here is the link to the photo gallery of pictures taken the day the reporter came to class.

Fast forward to next years event.
Posted: Saturday, March 21, 2015 2:51:09 PM
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Itching For Another Project...

How about a back scratcher? The hand of this back scratcher isn't really overly large. It is the look you get in your photo when you use perspective to emphasize the hand over the handle. Completed on a band saw, the hand is first cut with the fingers in a curved position. Individual fingers are drawn on next and then the finger cuts are made. Sanding shapes the hand and fingers. The way the annular rings cross through the hand really adds to the overall look of this one.

As it appears from straight on, each back scratcher is unique being hand drawn and cut. The blank is about 1 1/2" wide X 16" long.

Tracing the template...

Avoiding their fingers as they cut the fingers...

Every family needs one.

***UPDATE*** Early April... Although there is a lot of interest for this project, students are finding it a little more difficult than it appears.
Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 11:13:06 PM
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The Cell Phone Buddy...

Katie Neilsen recently e-mailed a tracing template and photo of a "cell phone buddy" she had completed. I liked the idea and set about to make one for my students. Here is my version...

Phone Buddy

It may be hard to believe, but I've never had much use for a cell phone, so I didn't have one to try out on this project. I took it to school today and asked one of our playground aides if she had a cell phone we could test on it. Almost everyone does these days. Although she liked this project, she said she wouldn't be inclined to want one. The only time she would need to use something like this would be if I could put a charger cord into it so it becomes a charging station. I borrowed someones (small end) charging cord and made one more optional layer onto the project that has enough room for the charging cord. Some of the students say they have a larger end on their charging cord which would require cutting an elongated slot rather than a simple drilled hole. Everyone loved the prototype and it looks as if we might be able to use this as a fund raiser.

Optional base... for a small connector.

Underside shows the ease at hiding the cord.

In the mean time I've already had a bunch of students use the templates to begin making their own charging station. DivShare is acting up as usual so I can't upload the template.

I'm really not sure what to think... when a company like DivShare offers a free membership to get people to their site. You would think they would care about quality even for the free memberships because of how many other potential users are coming to the site to pick up a free stored document.

DivShare started out great, I mean really great... but with no real reason to spend $39.95 to give away free stuff, I never upgraded my account to a paid service and DivShare's lack of quality control is fouling up the experience for everyone who tries to get free stuff from people like me... which makes a negative experience association with their name.

Then I found this... . An eye opener to be sure... read the comments that start part way down the page. I guess I'm not the only one after all. Even paid subscribers are ticked off about this problem.

If you want this template, e-mail me...

***UPDATE*** April 10... Although slow to gain traction at first.... all ages are now going crazy for this project and I'm running low on solid woods from the cabinet shop. Two of the 6th grade girls have redesigned it making a pony tail on theirs and on one, even a dress. Cooool... a phone buddyette?

With a dress

I recently came across this 2007 American Woodworker article on page 32 or if you can't get that to work, try this link to a slight different layout.

Other phone buddies found in Pinterest...

Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 9:32:48 AM
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Thanks for sharing the pictures of your cell phone guy. I also have a bunch of students working on these little guys right now.
I love the additional base for adding the charging cord. So handy!
Posted: Friday, March 27, 2015 12:15:07 PM
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Front Page!

Built from discarded lumber (dumpster dive) and a piece of plexiglas (found blowing around outside) this shadow box will display the front page article from Wednesdays Prescott Valley newspaper. Although there are some scratches on the plexiglas, it doesn't seem to show up with the busy back ground. A sort of time capsule for future students to see, this front page will proudly be displayed in the wood shop and will probably show up at a variety of school recruitment activities. Administrators love nothing more than positive publicity, especially when it makes the front page.

***UPDATE*** 2-1-16 We have a snow day today and I don't work on Mondays anyway, but the weather keeps me indoors today where I found multiple woodworking sites that have re-posted or linked to this newspaper story making it go all over the Internet. How cool is that?

While on-line versions look slightly different than the actual front page, the community seems to love positive stories about their children and there seems to be less and less of that in the paper these days. I heard from several staff members that before I got to Franklin, the newspaper often credited other Charter schools with some of the activities the reporters came to see at this school.

Some slide show photos by Sue Tone posted on the Prescott Valley Tribune website.

And the donations keep coming...

No matter what, when people see properly credited articles like this about wood shop, we end up with more donated equipment, some used and some new like this brand new Grizzly oscillating spindle sander donated by a retired marine chaplain, now part time Prescott area resident, with no children or grand children in the area, but who loves woodworking...

And who is that you said is donating...?

Some educators complain that old retired guys don't want to support schools, but I have found many retired people jumping at the chance to contribute, especially to shop classes. For example, all of the Prescott Area Woodturners (their name was misprinted in the article) are super nice mostly retirees wanting to help in whatever way they can.

I'm not complaining here.... because even I never looked real close at the donation tags on the lathes that the PAW gave to us... even though I'm the one who put plexiglas over them as protection. The reporter did look at them closely and even copied it down on her pad. When she asked a question about the Prescott Area Woodworkers I tired to correct her, but she said she got the name directly off the tags. When I looked closer, I told her that it was a mistake which I thought she corrected. I also contacted the president of the PAW and showed him this...

He said that he already knew about it and it wasn't worth the cost to have them remade. To me, that should have been remade for no extra charge. How could it be possible that an engraving business can't fix their own mistake. So the group did not get proper credit for what they did for our school.

To make it clear, the woodturners are wonderful. They are the ones responsible for the June 2014 page 13 article in American Woodturner Magazine and this... Prescott Courier Article. They are the ones who got the ball rolling and helped me to show our school what was possible with an innovative thinking out side the box approach.

The Prescott Area Woodturners put those tags on the machines partly for their own publicity, and also for just in case this program failed, so the school would know where to return them. The club had given me a lathe at my previous school and when the school closed the program, I told the person in charge that the lathe needed to be returned the the PAWoodturners. The lathe was never returned to them. Who knows where it went.

And this... March 2015 Phi Delta Kappan Magazine has loads of articles about the importance of CTE in education today.... with a quote by one of our own... wood shop teacher Doug Stowe. It even looks like a woodworking project on the front cover. I had a chance to sit in our local library and read through the articles. Not so sure about the common core, but otherwise nicely done and a little late for some of our programs... Seriously I read things that sounded exactly like my cooperative education (on-the-job training) program, now long gone. I used to place students in banks just like the example sited in the article. I placed students in Automotive repair, electronics, cabinet shops, the fire department, police, medical offices, legal offices, physical therapy, animal hospitals, and literally hundreds of other businesses. Too bad my former Principal and school district didn't continue to think like the authors of these articles. Why doesn't everyone know to connect learning with real world hands-on activities that make students successful in life. The links go to archived newspaper articles (usually photos removed to save space) about my (then) students.

Fast forward to next years front page post.

Posted: Friday, April 10, 2015 6:39:48 PM
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Inside..... Outside.... Up side down...

From the title you would think I'm summarizing my experiences moving from the old shop location where we spent a lot of our time outside, to the new location where we spend our time inside, and how moving turned everything upside down, but you'd be wrong. I like thinking "outside the box". It suits my personality, so when you try to work "inside the box" later, it can get a little tricky.

Well.... it all stated with Bob...

At the beginning of the year, Bob Itnyre sent me a traditional looking catapult....

Bob's catapult

Ok, back to thinking "inside the box" now.... Check with the Principal... Can we make these? Ah... OK, they fit the social studies curriculum.... Good, because a few kids want to try making them.

Students usually get bogged down with the delay schedule between classes (meeting once every week and a half...) a schedule that is definitely thinking "outside the box" and doesn't always give them enough time on task. They can lose focus on larger projects. Although I try to encourage "outside the box" thinking, clearly they are still used to thinking "inside the box" in most situations. Can you blame them. School is usually an "inside the box" experience.

And so... I never made an effort to make templates. The students had to make it completely from scratch using the three dimensional model as their guide. For them, this is "outside the box" thinking. Good task, bad situation for it and I considered it a fail.

While I thought about an "outside the box" updating of the catapult, I really wanted to add my own twist... make something simple and easy... and about a year ago I ended up making this powerful stream lined baby...

Streamlined catapult

I know it doesn't look that simple or easy, but it actually is really simple. I have to back track a little to explain that I was really looking for a way to have a super cool ping pong ball launching project as a replacement for the ping pong ball hand held shooter (page 1 pane 10). We were originally banned from building them and miraculously, we ended up being able to make the ping pong ball shooter, but to stay politically correct we renamed it to ping pong ball launcher. I know it's like playing word games, but with today's school climate.... stay "inside the box" PLEASE!

That means the catapult project never really got off the ground. With the impending shop move, I never got far enough to make a set of templates and with so many other project choices, it languished on the top shelf until now.

As the school year winds down there is always a bit of spring fever. The weather calms down and temperatures rise. Students begin lacking motivation, and frankly, so do I, so when one "outside the box" thinking student asked if he could get a closer look at the contraption on the top shelf, I didn't hesitate to get it down. Most of the shop move has been completed, why not get back to this project. We took it apart so he could form parts and eventually templates.

The tear down

Sporting a bolt as an adjustable stop, it can be fine tuned with a screw driver to fire at peak swing. The templates didn't happen fast enough. Another student saw it and it is quickly becoming an over night sensation. Oh oh... better get crack'in and make that set of templates. Good old 7th period 8th graders come to the rescue and help make them... or was that my 8th period 7th graders?

Templates so far.. and a few more to go.

While working on templates, I make a few strategic changes to increase strength and require fewer rubber bands. The original had over a dozen rubber bands.

It works so well that it seems like everybody wants to start on this project. I hope my 3/4" veneer plywood scraps hold out. If DivShare ever gets their site ironed out, I will scan and upload these templates. In the mean time, this 7th grader is excited to see how much progress he made in two days...

Two days of work

I love this job! Where else can you find a job that pays you to play inside, outside, upside down all day long.

Be sure to go back through your favorites, because I recently updated a lot of photos and tell about how well some of the projects and shop changes are working out.

***UPDATE*** 9-7-15, Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

This project has quickly become a favorite among the boys, and it's seems odd that with everything being pushed in today's society, mostly the girls haven't given it much interest (sorry, whole different topic). Anyway, I was beginning to run out of scavenged nuts and bolts.... that is until today.

Our small rural town recently received a grant to replace all the neighborhood stop signs, yield signs, etc... not that they really needed to be changed, but when there is "so called" free government money available, we suddenly need new signs (cemented into the ground on a special... most likely breakaway bracket) complete with square tubing posts that have holes up and down every side (like something out of an erector set).

Slowly the contractor is getting through our neighborhood with these nifty looking new signs and I noticed something during my walk today. The contractor must be disassembling the old signage on the spot and isn't bothering to take the time to pick up all the used (still look new) nuts and bolts.

Another SCORE for Franklin School... I picked a few dozen up on my way past each sign along the neighborhood trail this morning. As I'm picking these things up I'm thinking to myself... if I had taken the time to go get the appropriate purchase order, driven to the hardware store on my day off, pick these out of their bin, stood in line to pay for them, it would have not only taken longer, but cost more too... And not only that but I got to stretch that sciatic nerve that's been bothering me lately.

Win.... win.... win.... And then I started to think about that mechanical fasteners PowerPoint I show my students... the one that shows a little bit about the history of where these fasteners came from... when they had to hand forge the metal and hand file the screw threads... what would hand forged and hand filed hardware cost today.

The things we take for granted.

If you want a copy of that PowerPoint, because DivShare no longer cooperates with the free users, I can try to send it over e-mail. If it turns out to be too large (usually over 20 MB, I can cut it in half and send it as a part 1 and a part 2 in separate e-mails.

Seriously.... this is the message DivShare gives me every time I attempt log-in... for the last several months...

• Divshare is in the process of relaunching our services. Currently the service is available to premium users only.

That means they are holding my data hostage until I pay up and become a premium user.... so I can give stuff away free. That doesn't make much sense so I will try to do that over e-mail from now on.

Now you know why you are no longer able to download all those cool templates. Let me know what you need and I will try my best to quickly send it out.

***UPDATE*** 4-21-16 This 4th grader worked hard to finish this...
Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 10:32:47 PM
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A step up...

Maybe this project doesn't belong here... since it is really an old project made new with cool easy to use jigs. Salvaged from old pine board shelves from 1965, an old school step stool project has become a new favorite in our wood shop. Made recently, this 15 degree (anti-tip) step stool is for our librarian and another was also made for use under our first grade drinking fountain. It is modeled from an old project design another teacher and I came up with over 30 years ago for our high school classes. It's nearly impossible to tip this step stool, even when standing right on the edges. The new jig designs are what make it the perfect middle school project.

15 degree anti-tip step stool

Unassembled prototype

Our class prototype is left unassembled so students can see all the parts. It is another version of the step stool made from the same material. We were able to make about a half dozen of these from the old pine boards before we were forced to switch to the cabinet shop plywood scraps. Using the cabinet scraps limits how many we can make. The supply of 3/4" veneer core is not always steady.

Pocket hole jig

The pocket holes were made using a wooden jig that clamps to the side pieces and uses a simple spade bit to drill the holes. Since the pocket holes are where they can't be seen, short spikes (inverted brads) keep the jig from slipping during use. The tape on the spade bit marks how deep to drill.

Some assembly required

Made by the 7th and 8th grade students, it is usually held together with a dozen screws and assembles in a matter of a few minutes once everything is ready. I say usually because the one pictured here does not have screw holes in the sides and will be glued together for a cleaner look. Parents who get these prized projects send their kids back to wood shop to make more for their grandparents.

The set of jigs makes it easier for the young students to accomplish using only what little we had available in our old shop space. This router jig holds pieces for 15 degree side dados. You might notice that the bottom of the opening has been removed so the dust collector can vacuum away the debris.

Side dado routing jig open

The jigs are held in place like the frame jigs (page 1 pane 1) and the tissue box jigs (page 1 pane 7) using a groove cut into a piece of old Formica counter top that sits (and easily lifts to remove) on top of my old craftsman router table.

The clamping is spring loaded so it simplifies the procedure. The student simply has to center it in the space and let go. The rectangle at the front is where they pull back the spring. Sandpaper glued to the jigs protrusions keeps the side pieces under pressure and free from shifting.

Spring loaded to hold the project firmly in place.

Although the jig in the picture below is empty, once the sides are inserted, the top is hinged so it can be closed. The router base fits into the tracks perfectly so anyone can rout perfect 15 degree dados with a 3/4" straight bit set to the proper depth. I usually set it for 1/2", 1/4" for the base of the jig, and 1/4" for the dado depth.

Side dado jig closed

This next jig holds the end pieces at 15 degrees for routing the cut away making the step stools feet. The clamp combines with a fence to keep the work steady and secure.

View from the clamp side

Looking from another angle, a 1/2" X 3" straight bit runs across the bottom edge of the jig to make the 15 degree cut away. Now that we have other ways (decent band saws and an oscillating spindle sander) to make this cut, we don't really need this jig anymore, unless we were going to mass produce step stools for sale of course.

View from the routing side


Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 9:50:03 PM
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And for the Cowboy's...

I've been around the cowboy lifestyle my whole life, but my last cowboy hat was when I was 5 years old. I think this picture was taken the summer before I began first grade. Complete with a cap gun, I had the look of the old west.

Yep, that's me about 1863.
(Compare back to
header photo.

Ok, I'll admit that it is really from about 1963... and the hat looks small... and it was pasted into the photo... because I didn't happen to be wearing it when this picture was taken. The only photos I have with my hat really on did not include my holster... which in this photo is slung low just like in the movies of the day... with my cap gun drawn, but why would I be using my left hand? It must have been Joe Cartwright's influence.

More than likely it was really that the store bought toy was probably on sale as it may have been a left handed holster that no one wanted. I sadly crushed the cap gun with my bare hands one day when I was feeling like superman.

And then there's the Ked's brand tennis shoes. I didn't get a pair of boots until a neighbor gave me some that were too small for my giant feet. I never let on that they hurt to wear them. Maybe that's why my feet hurt today.

In those days, rodeo week was one of the few times that girls could wear pants to school. We even got to participate in the Rodeo Parade. It is the largest non-motorized parade in the country with history that goes all the way back to 1925. As pathetic as that may be, that is the extent of my own cowboy experience.

This project doesn't really qualify as a new idea. Years ago I helped a lot of students make them at the high school. In those days they had to make their own paper templates the same way I did on my original from when I was a student in high school wood shop.

Another Franklin student asked if he could make one of these today. That makes four in just a few weeks... so I needed to make up a set of templates. This is popular in our area because we boast and host the "World's Oldest Rodeo" around the 4th of July. Since 1888 cowboys have been coming to Prescott to compete in the events.

If you are a city slicker... it's called a Boot Jack.

The template

The top edge of the foot underneath is cut to 10 degrees to hold it in the right position and if you happen to have leather scraps, the inside curve can also be lined.

There are only a few weeks left of school here and students are still very excited about projects. With mother's day on the way, there's never a dull moment in this shop, especially if mom's a cowgirl looking forward to the rodeo.
Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2015 10:53:27 AM
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Speaking of Cowboys...

I know this isn't about a new project idea but I believe you will see how it goes well with the previous post and how I came to think about it again this morning.

It was January of 2004 (before we had strict closed campus protocols in place) when an old cowboy (Frank Shankwitz) shows up to my class one day with an unusual request... to make a wishing well (See the newspaper story that was written by one of my former students... Rochelle Bump.) He handed me a Thomas Kinkade post card for reference.

To save archive space, the photo of our project has been removed by the newspaper, but here is the post card image he handed to me....

During the brief encounter, I remember the cowboy hat and cowboy boots. Mr. Shankwitz was humble, soft spoken and looked as if he had just come in from riding a ranch fence line. There was no indication he might be anything more than a local 1961 class alumni and a Make a Wish volunteer. Thomas Kinkade made the Wishing Well especially for the Make a Wish foundation and was suppose to come to the special event. Mr. Shankwitz wanted something simple to help get donations.

Having done many similar projects for other groups over the years, I first asked when he needed it to be completed and then I told him we needed a bucket to scale from and expected I might get something small like the 3" high ones you might find in any craft store. In my mind then I had pictured a table center piece for their event. He was so laid back about it all that I wasn't even sure if he would return.

As it turns out, he did return a few days later with a miniature steel bucket you get from the local Indian casino (which oddly enough is named after a famous rough rider who was also considered a home town hero. The bucket was larger than I expected, but still much smaller (maybe 6-8") than one full size. I scrubbed off the casino logo so it would look more authentic. We had many students involved in making a light weight wishing well. The final project, although bulky, was easy to move from place to place for their fund raising.

It wasn't until the art students were finished with painting... that our local NBC news affiliate showed up... and I proceeded to find out more about this old scrappy soft spoken cowboy. Did not see that one coming! If you haven't figured it out yet, he is the founder of Make a Wish and of course I didn't know that until I saw the evening newscast (view news clip) both from Flagstaff and Phoenix.

This grainy photo was retrieved from the newspapers website when the story came out with a caption.... Woodshop instructor Tom Bockman, left, works with student Ray Fausset to build a wishing well similar to one that appears in a Thomas Kinkade painting. Courier/Jo. L. Keener

He later had a chance to bring me photos taken at the event, as well as a laser engraved frame containing a thank you from Cody, a recent wish recipient. He also spoke to the wood shop class and told them about how wood shop was his favorite class when he was at PHS.

Now in today's newspaper that old cowboy is about to receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Here is a little more background on how Make a Wish got started.
Posted: Saturday, May 9, 2015 12:05:24 PM
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Joined: 11/17/2006
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Klackers or Shut the Box games for less than a dollar each?

One of the 2nd grade teachers came to me to talk about having students make a dice game. She said it was a pub gambling game and wondered if that mattered to me. The more she described what she wanted, the more I was sure I knew exactly what the game was because of this woodworkingteachers post. I made one at my old school and used the laser engraver to number them. I had shown it to the students when I first started at Franklin Phonetic School, but it wasn't a lack of interest that kept this on the shelf so long. With so many complicated parts to manufacture and assemble, other things took priority. You almost have to make them as a mass production project. One at a time every now and then would be difficult, with setting up the router table, etc... That made this prototype sit dormant until now. If DivShare is here to download the project sheet.

The box is finger joined at each corner. The numbered "toggles" pivot on a 1/4" dowel. We make our own dowels from scrap (see page 3 pane 58). The zero was only put in this prototype as a spacer and is left off of the actual production model because it confused the 2nd graders thinking they could use it when they rolled 10.

After sharing it with them, I went to retrieve it and the superintendent happened to also be there. She immediately sensed the potential math skills involved in the game. Besides obvious strategy, the student also must quickly add and subtract numbers in their head. Low score wins. It's a fun way to learn and she requested 30 units to start. In the mean time some of the 3rd grade students come to the wood shop to borrow the prototype to play it outside at recess every day.

Using a router jig to make the finger joints.

Using scrap materials from a variety of species, the router is set up to cut the joints. This student did half of the corner ends with 3 cuts each.

The exhaust system (downdraft) and a wet dry vacuum (cross draft) combine to keep all the debris from going everywhere. Notice how clean it stays during the operation. No clean up afterwards.

Looking at the jig from the bottom, instead of a square registration pin, the jig has a simple 1/4" dowel properly placed by adjusting (sliding) it to the correct location for the size needed (1/4" in this case) and securing with a thumb screw. The 1/4" dowel can be pushed forward (or replaced) as it gets loose from frequent use.

And from the top. The vertical lines were added later to help students make sure they hold the stock perpendicular as they cut.

Making the toggles.

This simple jig narrows and has a stop for the blank pieces to easily, quickly and correctly be inserted every single time. We found the pen brad point drill bit was perfect for this job.

This student did more than half of the toggles.

Looking down into the box of toggles and 1/4" dowels during assembly.

Assembly is easy.

Put a little glue on the finger joints and fit them together. Add a back. Place a washer between each toggle piece so they can't accidentally pull down the one next to it during play. The only items we have to purchase for each project is 8 washers capable of slipping over the 1/4" dowels. The teachers already have containers of dice.

Stack and repeat the process.

Corners and edges are sanded. Toggle pieces of different species and colors are evenly mixed together. Who wants uniformity? When you use scrap materials, it looks better to mix the colors. In fact, I think it looks cool.

The teacher planned to use a numbering stencil to mark the front of each toggle piece, but has decided a sharpie might be a quick way to do it instead.

The 2nd graders love cooperative learning with this game.

Now that the students have worked on them, everyone wants to take one home. Sorry kids.... we didn't plan on doing that this late in the year. I think we have less than two weeks before school ends here. Anyway, I will have to save up some cabinet scraps. It takes quite a stack of solid materials, usually short discarded stock face frame pieces that needs to have the grooves removed. Re-sawing off the grooves makes them perfect for this project.

***UPDATE*** 5-15-15, With only one week left of school our superintendent seeks an additional set of games for our Sunnyslope campus. How cool is that?

This popular pub game has many names and versions that you can find on-line, with up to 12 toggles, or even with an additional row of toggles. There are many ways to play and different theories of the games origin. The name I like best is Klackers because of the way it sounds, and the origin could be as early as the 12th century in Normandy France.

I like this portable shut the box plan from woodworking for mere mortals website.

***UPDATE*** 10-28-15 This student is nearly finished with his Klackers game... and he is the one whose mother let him come be a guinea pig for some of our first projects before I began this journey.

Final clamp up...

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