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Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 8:28:08 AM
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Cool Kitty Puzzle

Always looking for something new, this shy 8th grader chose to do a kitty puzzle. Being able to safely maneuver the machines to get them to do what you want can empower anyone and this was no exception. To see someone light up when they are able to accomplish something they didn't think possible.... priceless. After sanding, she went on to add facial features with our new wood burning tool making it "one cool cat"!

Building self-esteem is an important aspect of our job and having early success in wood shop has been very important to me. Perhaps someday you may have one of my students move into your town and be in your high school class or a worker in your community. They will absolutely bring the skills they need to be successful in life.
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2015 10:41:59 AM
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Live, Laugh, Love

Some students are immediately good on the scroll saw.... others not so much. I'm always on the hunt for new ideas that can motivate even the most stubborn student into learning to do the scroll saw no matter how many times they may have made crooked cuts.

I am like most people, looking for ways to cut back on spending and realized that cable TV is not such a great deal, but cable Internet.... that's another story. High speed Internet has taken over as a family favorite around my house.

I can only guess what other people around the country watch, but while watching Walking Dead episodes on Netflix, I noticed a mantle in the back ground in one shot that had a thick cut out word Live sitting there. I'm sure whomever put that into the scene was sending me a message.

If you are getting caught up on this show too, I promise I'm not trying to be a spoiler, but it looked like it would make a good scroll saw project that would get the student's attention.... so here's what I did with it....

I've had many students in the past using these words on their picture frames and even on other projects too, so I'm thinking maybe they will like these templates.

***UPDATE*** 12-18-15 This third year 8th grade wood shop student is about to finish up the live... laugh... love project just in time for Christmas, and believe me when I tell you.... it looks absolutely terrific. Talk about a test of her skills cutting on the scroll saw.

Posted: Friday, November 6, 2015 8:52:45 AM
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Simple Puzzle

Back in the early 80's I came across one of these puzzles in The Woodworker's Journal. Back then they called it the Chinese puzzle. Now I see from it is called a Burr puzzle.
Photos from

I made up a prototype and it quickly became a staple project at our high school. It's not that everyone wanted one, but the demand for it definitely remained steady for years and years. After running across this plan recently, I decided to make another one for the Franklin Phonetic School wood shop. My students couldn't keep their hands off it. I can't tell you how many times I had to show them how easy it is to put back together. It's good practice for me to keep the Alzheimer's at bay. Actually.... it's to keep from having to remake a missing piece.

Here's what I like best about this project.

It is brain food for young fertile minds.
It is easy to make.
It requires only the simplest measuring.
It is is compact and easy to store.
It provides easy cuts and band saw or scroll saw practice.
And it get's everyone's attention... especially parents, principals, and academic teachers.

More students are inspired to make the attempt....

You might want to explore all their free projects.
Posted: Monday, November 9, 2015 6:10:52 PM
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Batteries Batteries Batteries

I went over to Batteries Batteries Batteries the other day to check on the price for a replacement laptop battery and saw this sitting on the counter....

It's a conversation starter to be sure and I asked the owner what had happened. "Well he said, Some people are under the impression that you can leave a battery in the charger all the time so that you always have a fully charged battery. That kind of thinking is what can burn down your house."

Now he expected me to cut the conversation short because I might have had to go home to unplug my charger, because that's what most people will do when they see and here this. He was a little surprised when I told him that I never leave a battery in the charger for any longer than necessary and always unplug the charger because it continues to draw current even when it's not being used.

After asking him about being able to borrow the battery... or what's left of it.... to take home, photograph it, and post this photo on-line.... not only was he glad to do it, but he went one step further and showed me the inside of a lithium ion battery and told me about how they can explode in your face when used in a e-cigarette.... or they have even taken down airliners... because once that chain reaction gets started, it will get hot enough to start a fire, burn through aluminum and fall out the bottom of the plane. Read this article about the 2010 crash of a UPS flight.

I'm not sure that I understood the whole science of it, but I came away knowing that they can be extremely dangerous. Here is something that further explains this video of experiments with lithium ion battery fires and explosions.

As for the laptop battery.... it's too old to get a replacement. If you have battery questions, call him... but like he said to me, he's going to ask you to come in to the store because it's too hard to answer most questions without looking up all those parts numbers on your old battery. Stay safe!

Batteries Batteries Batteries
607 Miller Valley Road
Prescott Arizona 86301
Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 4:14:13 PM
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The Snowman

The Prescott Area Woodturner's demonstrated making a snowman today and we had a photographer and reporter show up from the newspaper. Here is the link.

Consider bringing the newspaper into your wood shop by doing something out of the ordinary. The publicity helps the Prescott Area Woodturners, the school and your program too. Gary Frank (PAW President) talks about some of the projects he brought to show...

The woodturners participate in all kinds of charity fundraising by selling their projects. This close up shows price tags that definitely got attention from the kids.

He brought examples of things they could already do, if they have made a pen before. He also left us with a few dozen pen kits and plastic blanks for the pens shown here.

Gary demonstrates techniques that are new to these students... holding the spindle (fingernail grind) gouge for a shear cut while rolling the tool and lifting the handle to shape the wood.

Now we get the students practicing this new technique. I haven't shown this to them before this because it can certainly catch and grab or even pinch a finger if you aren't carefully watching what your doing.... which happened to at least one unfortunate student (not shown).

We also get in some practice with a scraping tool.

I think we are getting the hang of it. We are almost ready to start making the top hat.

Classes today were only 30 minutes long, so only a few were able to complete theirs. The following class took over and we kept going for three more periods. This is what I found sitting on the project shelf after school... without a name on it.

Read Gary Frank's report in the PAW newsletter.

Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2015 8:39:48 AM
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The Prescott Area Woodturners article came out today. Link to article... Here.

I saw this article on the Internet but had no idea it was actually on the front page of today's newspaper until one of the other teachers told me. Cool! So I got a copy framed and stuck it up on the shop wall with the others. The entire issue is held in the frame like a time capsule. If you are keeping count, that's one national magazine article, one front page Tribune article, one front page Courier article and one article not on the front page, in less than a year making four total articles since I started here. Maybe we are on to something.

***UPDATE*** 2-1-16 It's snowing here again and school has been cancelled, but for me that's no big deal because I never work on Monday's or Friday's anyway. The snow does hamper outdoor activity so my morning walk/biking is on hold this morning, and instead I decided to play around on the Internet. I had no idea (but am delighted) that this front page story has been picked up by woodworking sites all over the Internet. One thing I noticed is that some of the sites have reprinted a scrubbed copy instead of linking to the actual story.... probably for copyright reasons, so instead of reading as it should, the word "propaganda" pops up every once and a while and phrases are jumbled. It also said in one story that... "Bockman" pronounced "Delilah" (Delilah is one of my students mentioned in the story), so expect both words and phrases to be out of whack if you happen to run across one of these. How fun for us!

Reference back to last years framed front page post.
Posted: Friday, December 18, 2015 6:48:52 AM
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Holiday Cheer

I'm amazed every day as I see these children grow and increase their skills. I simply never know what to expect from day to day and am often surprised at their creativity and ingenuity. In this example, I wasn't carrying the camera for days as I complete before school physical therapy for a torn disc. I'm often looking for a way to sit during class as I hobble around the shop and sometimes have a stool in tow as I stop to help students with a variety of tasks. Sitting sometimes makes it difficult to see everything that's going on around me, but I'm witnessing all the pre-holiday chatter, excitement and activity when I come across some possible contraband.

I'm wondering if this would be outlawed in most public schools, but not here at this public charter school. Using a combination of the Dremel or router, a clamp, the wood burning tool, the scroll saw, and the drill press... this 6th grade third year wood shop student has taken scrap wood to a new level. Since I wasn't carrying the camera at the time, I had to search her out at the band and choir Christmas show yesterday (includes an evening performance) and ask her to drop by the wood shop before leaving school so I could photograph these wonderfully creative Christmas decorations.

Unlike the multicolored engraving, the wood burning is easier to complete after the objects are sized.

Just thinking about how she used the color layers of the scrap 1/4" plywood and further had to rout out the engraving before cutting out the circles.... makes me proud to be her teacher even though I had little to do with the project other than teaching her how to properly use the equipment. This project was entirely her own design, her own experience, and her deeply personal thoughts put into action. Who can ask more than that from a student?

Some students are "reluctant heroes", "not always recognizing their own incredible abilities", but I find myself encouraging them to burn their name and date on the back of their projects so they can look back someday and remember their wood shop accomplishments. Maybe they will some day see in their projects the same talent that I see in them.

I also had a little talk with mom about the great attitude Crystal always shows in class. She never fails to complete a project, sticking with it no matter how many mistakes or how long it takes. In fact, she stays busy all the time. Seriously.... who does that anymore? Talk about character. It's becoming harder to find that trait in anyone these days, but that's what her family is all about and that's what this school is all about.

The weather has been bitterly cold here... as low as 11 below at the Grand Canyon... and we have something rare... unmelted snow still on the ground after a week... while I see 70 degree temperatures in some locations in the northeast. Go figure. Even though it's warming up a little here right now, Arizona's forecast around Christmas day is snow... at least it is in the high country where we are.

***UPDATE*** COOL.... we had a foggy Christmas Eve and some early morning Christmas snow. OK, it was really more like a light dusting of white Styrofoam pellets.

Forget a simple Happy Holidays. We aren't afraid to say...
"Peace on earth good will to men"
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Posted: Friday, December 18, 2015 10:31:51 PM
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WOOD Magazine back issues

I love WOOD magazine and found multiple boxes of them in the break room of the cabinet shop where I was moonlighting, so every break the other cabinetmakers were smoking or eating and I was frantically looking through each issue knowing we only had 15 minutes or a half hour lunch break. How would I be able to get through all these boxes of free to read magazines?

I haven't worked in the cabinet shop for several years now, but I ran across this a few weeks back when I was reading magazines at the public library and thought it might be a cool item to have, mainly for the new shop ideas. For only $149.95 you get all 223 back issues of WOOD magazine starting from 2014 and going back to the very first issue, all indexed and easy to convert to pdf or WORD so you can print things out, and it doesn't take up shelves of space but only consumes a little over half the thumb drive space.

Image from WOOD magazine

If you go here and look on the left side of the WOOD store screen you will notice that when someone purchases one of these thumb drives, one gets donated to a wood shop teacher of their choice. And as a wood shop teacher, you can sign up to be on the waiting list for just in case those who purchase don't know a wood shop teacher. WOOD magazine must know what teachers get paid. How else would they know to make this generous offer?

I thought I'd take a chance and sign up for the waiting list to see what happens. Well, it didn't take very long... one just came to the school and I brought it home so I could look through it over Christmas break. It comes like it looks... with a real walnut casing... not plastic... and is set up with software that creates a viewer for windows or Mac. It really is completely indexed so you can easily look things up by topic, or issue. Too bad the layout doesn't allow for full screen viewing, or at least I haven't yet figured out how to do that if it does.

***UPDATE*** Upon exploring the on screen layout of adobe reader, I eventually found the key to opening it up full screen. That makes a huge difference.

I can't wait to take a little more time to further explore the material. I've already looked through the earliest issue and had to laugh at how much some things have changed. It certainly reminds me of my first few years of teaching back in the day because of the archaic tools and product ads.

I still remember how excited one of my early high school students was when he purchased the first issue. I on the other hand, thought him very rich because I couldn't afford the subscription on a teachers salary... with a family to raise. As for the Internet... it was still a couple of years away.

I don't know if this will be true for the wood shop teachers copy, but it appears that there is a yearly update available if someone sends back the thumb drive and $20. That sounds like a pretty good deal, since budget cuts at our local library may change what magazines will be available in the future. Now... how am I going to come up with that extra $20 bucks?

It's hard for me to believe that about this time last year, we began building the new shop area at Franklin Phonetic School. A whole year already? Time fly's when you are having fun.
Posted: Friday, January 15, 2016 8:25:51 PM
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The Dremel

As I have managed to gain new mobility with physical therapy over Christmas break, I was able to do something I haven't been able to do for a while, clean up my home shop. When I came across a Dremel that was given to me by a widow friend, it made me think about ways it could be used for fine engraving on projects, so I came up with this....

It works like a router base and although it is definitely not a new idea, it is an inexpensive way to make your Dremel a lot more useful. The school had a Dremel that I never put to use. Now it's being used all the time.

Also, when I got back to school, I was surprised to find out that over break people had come to the school and donated about $1000 to the wood shop program. That kind of thing often happens after being in the newspaper, especially when it makes the front page. Now I have the funds to explore using the X-carve to give the students a look into the future of woodworking. X-Carve is one of the most inexpensive CNC currently available, although you have to build it from the parts they send. That sounds like something perfect for a frugal wood shop like ours. More on that after it arrives in the mail.
Posted: Sunday, January 17, 2016 8:29:31 AM
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Projects that benefit the Community

I came across this photograph in this mornings newspaper.

The Friends of the Prescott Public Library honored Elisabeth
Ruffner on Friday, Jan. 15, celebrating her lifetime of service
and dedication as a library volunteer for more than 75 years.

The local newspaper just switched to an updated format and a lot of my links (like the one above) were rendered useless, so I'm surprised to see this photo actually made it through that process.

Every year my high school students were asked to make projects for the community. In this case this lectern we made for our public library is still in use more than 16 years later. The student also made a matching rolling AV cart. Underneath each project is a stamp identifying it as made by (insert your school name here) wood shop students.

These projects required that the students design and plan out everything, including calculating and securing their own materials. They also paid all their own bills. The rewards were great enough to motivate them to make something they wouldn't be keeping for themselves. The best part for me is when I find the projects around town still in use years later.

This next article was written about that same time.

The lower left is another lectern for city hall.
By pressing the Ctrl key with the + plus key, you can zoom the screen to better
see the article. Return to normal size by pressing the Ctrl key with the - minus key.

Publicity can really help you build a program. It works to continually get a positive buzz/message going for the school board, the administration, the parents, and the entire community including retirees. That helps bring in new student recruits, and also community donations. It's a win win in every direction.
Posted: Monday, January 18, 2016 9:52:40 AM
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Just for fun.

One of my sons-in-law sent this to me. I tired to find it on line to link to it, but couldn't, so I cleaned it up a bit before posting it.

And if your students aren't one of the 3%, you seriously need to consider going back over the wood joints lesson and maybe spelling too.
Posted: Sunday, January 24, 2016 9:29:10 PM
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The Easel Software

I've decided to get an X-Carve.... one of the cheapest ways possible for us to get into CNC using some tax credit donations. If I were more knowledgeable, I might be able to build one on my own, but with little time to research and learn, I'm relying on Inventables. Their Easel software is the base of running X-Carve.

This screen shot of the X-Carve Internet based Easel software shows the layout. The right side is a three dimensional rendering that can be manipulated in all directions so you can have a close look at how it will be after carving is complete.

Having discovered these gears on-line, I copied them into Photoshop and cleaned up the back ground before saving it as a SVG (Scalable Vector Image) file which is the basic way to communicate 2 1/2-D with the CNC machine. Since it is an open source system, there is other controlling software available free which will allow more 3-D control that I'm currently looking into.

The easier the software, the less it is available for free and the more it will cost. I am playing with the basic Easel software right now to familiarize myself with how it works and also to have something to test carve after the machine arrives. Of course that will require some machine assembly first.

It's pretty straight forward. If everything goes right, the gears will have some small connecting webs that can be cut with a scroll saw. Connecting webs keep everything in position while the CNC cuts the shapes. Without the webs, the pieces would fly off and most likely get damaged by the spinning bit. When this is saved, it is stored on the Internet instead of on your computer.

If it is affordable, 3-D software will allow much cooler more detailed 3-D images similar to what can be found on the Carvewright software.

Unpacking the Shipment.

When I called to ask questions before placing my order, the friendly technician gave me tips of what choices would work best for a school shop on a tight budget. Things that would be unnecessary would be extras like the assembly tool package and safety glasses for example. We are a wood shop and have all the necessary tools. You have to take note of this and appreciate that they understand this is not a "pie-in-the-sky" school adventure... even though it may seem like it.

There were a few other money saving tips and I only went back on one preferring to use their silk screened base rather than make my own. The school also allowed me to go a little over budget so I picked up extra cutting bits.

The first thing I notice is they upgraded the order and sent a DeWalt router. I'm thinking they may have done this because we are a school and this will probably work better and last longer than their base package.

Everything looks like it is here. Rather than build this myself, which by the way I was looking forward to doing as I like this sort of thing, I could tell our IT guy (no IT department at this small school) was really interested in this, so I let him start working on it as I had a few more pressing needs to deal with anyway.


The first thing we had to take care of was putting a video card into my sorely outdated computer so we could use the split or double screen feature to keep the assembly video ready to view as he needed to watch it. That of course has nothing to do with actually building the machine, but it is something I have been waiting a long time to accomplish so we don't have to rely on the projector or in this case, the wall mounted flat screen for both taking attendance and viewing class material.

What? A glitch already?

When beginning the build he gets to the first motor installation. The pulley has to go onto the motor first.... but there is not a single screw to be found for this purpose. Rather than calling X-Carve and possibly waiting a week or more for them to arrive, we go hunting locally.....

You have got to love small rural schools to appreciate this story.
These are pretty small screws and school maintenance locates some he thinks will do the job.... 15 miles away in another town. OK, no one is going to drop everything to run this errand so it's going to be a few days and our IT tech has other on campus duties anyway. He works as a morning aide in an elementary class, substitutes in other classes including Junior High, and even shoveling snow... all of which is what he had that week.

Work continues...

The local screws worked... but as it turns out, the real screws were hiding in an unexpected place, a completely separate box. There are a lot of misc parts that come ready to put together and keeping track of every item is difficult in this environment where we don't have enough space to lay it all out not to mention that Adam (Franklin tech) is only able to come work periodically and while he gets a lot done in a short time, a little time slips by before he can get back to continue.

When it came time to try sliding the carriage onto the rails, Adam couldn't quite make it fit. Here is a trick I told him. This is how I managed to do that with the CarveWright that actually had adjustments on the bearings. By loosening the screws a little, the carriage slips right on, and the screws are easily re-tightened. That seemed to work and the carriage runs smoothly.

Adam's schedule means slow going, but it's beginning to look a lot like a CNC machine. I think we might try building a box to contain the CNC . There are a several reasons why I want to try a box. First is to keep curious hands at bay and second is to try to cut down on noise, and third is to have an exhaust system hooked to it to try to control the dust. I won't be able to start building a box until we have it together and know the furthest height, width and depth of the actual machine.

2-26-16... Not much progress this week as Adam has been substituting a lot lately. The flu is running rampant in these parts. We did manage to get at least one belt strung into place. We also got a Torx head screwdriver that perfectly fits the connections. Adam had to resort to using a small regular screwdriver and even though the screws felt tight when we checked them, the thought of not properly checking them with an actual Torx head screwdriver didn't sit well with me.

Even though I want to get moving faster on this project, I still like the idea of Adam being so invested in the building of it. That is going to come in handy as we start playing around with various software.

***UPDATE*** Adam removed the X-Carve from the shop and took it down to his office area so he could have better access to it when ever he has a chance to fit in a little build time. He will be the first to admit that he has never done anything like this before and is more into the software side of things.

I'm not too bad at assembling stuff as I have done quite a bit of it over the years. To me, instructions are one of those things that you only look through when it doesn't seem evident what to do. I'm a little more of the intuitive type... just kind of know where things look like they should be in order to do what is necessary in order to make it run. I've also had several Carvewright machines at the other school and even helped design some of their classroom curriculum earning two more machines in the process. In hind sight, I should have kept one and brought it here.

I've made so many of the replacements, adjustments and repairs that the company once said I should be listed on their area service list. The X-Carve seems like a much simpler machine and doesn't rely on moving the work piece on a belt. I don't see any pesky sensors that can fill with dust and become useless and constantly need replacement.

One thing the Carvewright does have is a really great intuitive software package and you are quickly up to speed on some impressive items. I will really miss that part of making CNC easier, and in many ways because of that I think I've taken a risk... and I am so hoping that a simpler.... open source machine.... at half the price.... will win out.

Here are some short videos made as part of the CarveWright curriculum....

***UPDATE*** 3-11-18 SORRY.. Here were some short videos... whose links no longer work because of Photoracket... I mean bucket of course. Rope unsuspecting people into your site by offering free photo hosting only to later hold their photos/videos hostage if you won't pay their fee. When does free become fee... when you take out the fun. :-(

Organizing Data folders - setting up a folder to store project files.

Setting up the scanning probe - to scan 3-D objects.

Scanning an object - in this case a toy plastic lizard.

Making a project sled - for a small drawer front on our core project.

Setting up 2-d drawing - for the top of the core project... which also runs through the machine on a sled.

Setting up centerline text - one of the things I liked best about the machine.

Setting up raster text - using the intuitive software.

Carving raster - a simple raster carving.

Carving vector - the bit goes in line with lettering.

Getting back to the X-Carve, the drive belts are in place that move the router forward and back and right and left. The drive screw is in place for lifting the router up and down. Adam has been so busy lately that he says he will have to work on it during spring break. Here's hoping we come back to a completed machine.

Oh.... and the 3 hour build time estimates he says were put out by the company.... maybe a little off.... especially if you are intently watching each second of the how to build it video so nothing gets past without knowing exactly what to do and where each part goes.

***UPDATE*** 3-17-16 Spring break is over, but the build is not. Adam has found just enough time to get some of the wiring started. Steady as she goes... it's not much longer now.

I'm also in the process (skip right to the post) of looking over GIMP and Inkscape open source software for manipulating images.

Posted: Friday, February 12, 2016 9:54:06 AM
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And the stately trees come down!

I happened to be at the school on a Saturday morning (which almost never happens) two weeks ago and ran into our superintendent who tells me the town is getting on the schools case over parking spaces. Really.... this small school takes up too much parking? To help remedy the situation I hear that the cottonwood trees along the north side of the school are coming down. Now I'm beginning to have visions as the Superintendent continues... and I begin to see into the future... at least for my wood shop students... and it is going to be... goblets galore!

The Hopi traditionally use cottonwood roots to carve Kachina dolls mostly because it is available nearby, is strong but still a soft yet easy to carve hardwood and also because cottonwood trees have the ability to find water in arid climates, something needed to survive around here. It is the perfect training wood for new woodturners.

Now the school has cut down trees before and guess who never gets any of the wood? Wood shop!... so I snap out of it... and make sure to tell our superintendent about this. "We need this wood to turn our goblets and bowls on the lathe." She likes that idea and promises to save the wood but I have to promise to get the wood processed and out of there within a week. She didn't tell me they were coming down the next day and no one really thought about that nasty snow storm heading our way, so as luck would have it..... it snows.

Not only does it snow, but it snows so hard they have to cancel school for Monday... a rarity around here. Oh, the trees still came down on Sunday but you can never guess where they stacked the wood. Yep, the worst possible location.... under metal stairs where they literally froze in place. All the best wood, the smaller sizes like branches, the ones easiest for kids this age to turn, end up being hauled away.

To complicate the issue, the Prescott Area Woodturners were also invited to come take wood. Hey now wait a minute... I love the PAW but I'm the one responsible for keeping my students working on the lathes and for getting all this out of here by the weeks end.... and the one time I finally have access to some great wood, we are going to give it all away. I'm usually scraping by on finding lathe wood so why would I let this wood which is great for kids turning, get out of my hands now?

Oh no... now the staff is griping that wood shop cut down the trees. We didn't want the trees to come down, we are just salvaging the wood. "Why can't I have some of that firewood you are cutting up? Why are you being so greedy." Oh brother! I'm stuck in the middle and it also begins some bickering over the saw dust and rip shavings. What happened to our lovely little school this week? Well, at least I didn't have to clean up the shavings. It's going to be used for compost... chickens... and other interesting things.

Having recently completed physical therapy for sciatica... what was I thinking? I kept working with my chain saw, cutting pieces and hauling them inside where they could start thawing and where we could begin wet/green sealing them. Hey, I'm still feeling really good let's keep going.

During classes, the kids get in on the action painting the ends with the sealant and stacking them every possible location just to keep working. "Don't get that stuff on your clothes. It might not come off"... and we keep up a wild pace through the day. "Watch your toes! We don't have much time! We are running out of sealer. One light coat is enough... don't waste the sealer!"

We keep this up for three days and manage to get it all out from under the stairs. Some ends up at home where I continue processing the larger pieces cutting them into about 4" blocks (seen on the left) using the chain saw. Our school band saws are too small to handle any of this wood and the larger pieces usually have the most color. These get hauled back to school where we seal them. If you don't get them done before they begin to crack, it's all over.

I'm finding some really interesting grain while still avoiding knots. The vibrant colors we have harvested will fade as it dries, but there is some amazing pieces with streaks of red and black and orange. Finishing it should restore that color. After getting about 25 feet stacked like the picture above, I leave the rest (not much left) for my home firewood.

Go figure... last week it was freezing all week long..... and this week it has been in the low 70's. At least when it was cold, the wood didn't have time to start shrinking or cracking. And what a great time we will be having as we turn wonderful bowls and goblets for the next several years. Now, I may have to bring another lathe chuck from home to help us along.

When the Superintendent sees the stacks of salvaged lumber all around the shop, she asks, "Won't this take years to dry?" and... "Are you sure it won't spontaneously combust?"... all of which are very legitimate concerns in a small school.

I show her a piece I sealed at home last year. It is now dry. I have her feel it's weight and then compare it to a wet piece of the same size. No it will dry quick enough... over the summer, and no it will not spontaneously combust. Rest assured, we did the right thing. The trees are in a better place and we will reap huge rewards.

It's alive....

The logs are sprouting leaves. It will be interesting to see what happens over spring break. Some of the sprouts got to be 8" long before the students would pick them away.

Oh yeah.... and my back is fine, but I fear the PAW might be a little miffed. I'm sorry guys but I've been to some of your houses and seen some of your finely equipped shops and seen some of your fancy wood collections. Retired guys with money rule! I can only hope some day I'll be there.

4-5-16 We have been testing school wide for a week and a half and I have a little free time today, so I am finally completing some of the harvesting steps and turning a few goblet blanks from the dryer pieces. It was time to split the logs larger than 6" across, before they begin to split themselves. Leaving the centers intact on larger logs almost always leads to their splitting even when they have been wet sealed.

Each log I split open was still completely saturated on the inside. Opening them up will allow a little of that moisture to escape, especially since the days have been warm enough to open the windows. With the ends still sealed and the pith split, the remaining wood should dry down with minimal cracking.

The blanks shown in this box came directly from some unsealed wood that was at home. A few small cracks here and there aren't enough to keep them from being useful.

Some really good looking grain patterns and color reside within the larger trunk pieces. You can see some dark browns, black and orange and copper colored stripes, all of which pop when finish is applied. I made up a beautiful example and started showing it around. The superintendent was so impressed by what that wood looks like that she asked to have the goblet. Then later asked for two more, all to give to city officials who were somewhat involved in the downing of the trees to make more parking spaces. It wasn't so much they wanted the trees down as they are complaining that the school has bought up so much business property surrounding the school that the city is losing tax money and wants the school to cover this loss. The Mayor was invited to the school to discuss the issue and she gave him one of the goblets, made with the help of his grandson who is in my class.

And the rest of the students are excited to begin using the first cottonwood (grown right here on the school's property). Now I'm going to have to get a couple more turning chucks just to keep up with demand. Some of the younger students misunderstood when I said goblets and they want to call them goblins.

We just asked the school owner to let wood shop purchase three new lathe chucks so the students don't have to wait for the single chuck we have now. They said yes.... get them now.

This 4th grader is making a goblet that is better than the ones I made in 9th grade...

Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2016 7:57:55 AM
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For the Birds

The art teacher really wanted to make a model of the Parthenon with the students we share. This project has been going since last year and it's finally coming together. I convinced him that there is no space to store this model, but with a few alterations, we could put it outside, so we removed a few columns and added bird entrances at both ends.

A metal roof will be added to make it at least last a little longer, but with our strange weather, nothing lasts long outside so I think eventually it's going to look a lot like the real Parthenon.... however, until then there are going to be some really happy birds around here.
Posted: Friday, February 19, 2016 9:40:16 AM
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Jackpot... What could be better than a plethora of free stuff!

Since recently completing physical therapy I have a new daily routine of exercise. It beats back surgery, but does require some restructuring of time. I frequently ride a dilapidated old bike that would probably be better off in the dump these days. Although quite squeaky, it still works. You know I'm not one to stop riding it just because of that small detail.

However, I do wonder how silly I might look as an overly tall skinny guy (squeakily) peddling down the road. I only keep it up because it helps and really.... who cares about what anyone else thinks when you tune out the world with your ipod and especially when you have little choice but to be out on a mission like that anyway.

The back tire of this old cycle is about to blow. I can tell by the odd stretch type marks opening up in the tread allowing the bulging inner tube to show in places. Better let out a little air to keep it going at least a little longer until I can look over some new bikes. I'm out the other day looking for what used to be the local bike shop, which now seems to be mysteriously missing. I can't even remember... when was the last time I saw it? Not so much as a sign of where it once was even located. So much for a rebound in the local economy around here.

While in my search I ride further than I have in decades... which is probably a little dangerous on a back tire that's about to pop. It's mostly up a slight incline though, so the ride back home ought to be miles of easy coasting as long as this tire holds out. I continue the search just in case I may have missed the bike shop or.... maybe it relocated nearby. I come across a previously unknown (to me anyway) small hole in the wall thrift store behind what I originally thought was a biker bar, but later determined to actually be a cowboy country western bar. I'm not one to notice details like that since I never frequent their establishments. But aren't those small thrift stores some of the best kinds of shops to come across no mater where you find them?

I pull in and stop for a look. What I find there is a fascinating, old, misplaced Minnesotan, who as far as I can tell... wishes he were back in Minnesota... where unlike here, shop classes are still king.... at least according to his account. His wife has a great position at the local Hospital. He tells me all of this after hearing my own story about how I got to Franklin Phonetic School. He actually has some really great stories too. I end up spending much longer there than I expected, but it wasn't at all a waste of time.

Not only do I enjoy the stories, but I also find a box filled with pen turning equipment with extra spacers of all sizes, several barrel trimmers including one with interchangeable cores for preparing any size pen kit, old style mandrels, multiple sized drill bits.... well actually just about anything you would want or need to turn most any style pen. How much I ask? $4? I don't have any money with me, so I will have to come back later as I reluctantly set it back down.

I wonder to myself... would he take a shoe as collateral? I could ride home without a shoe, except these shoes that I have on are way too valuable with the orthotic inserts. Even though the place looks deserted that morning, I feel like hurrying home so I can get back before the rush of shoppers snatch this baby up.

That's when he begins to pull out all kinds of other treasure that only a wood shop teacher could possibly appreciate and says if I come back on Monday (Presidents day) he would fix me up with a ton of freebies. He says he has to make room for a bunch of new stuff coming in this week. Hey, what's not to like about that, especially when I think about some of what he's already shown me and told me about what's already gone through this place. Just thinking of the possibilities puts me in a hypnotic state and I forget everything else.

What? I really left for several days without that $4 box. What was I thinking? It's just a good thing no one else notices it before I return Monday. That's when I pay my four bucks and pass up an antique wooden hand plane because I'm sure it will be priced high. I simply don't have the money to go on a shopping spree. Ahhh... another customer (the only one I've seen come in that door) picks it up and he sells it to him for only $2. What! Another learning experience in the ways of life I guess that I should already know at my age. Never assume anything!

Now I'm not sure the old Minnesotan knew exactly what was in the bottom of some of those boxes we were loading into my truck that day and I don't exactly take the time to remind him by going through it right then either. I wait until I unload it the next day at school.

Wow... some very interesting and useful stuff here. For example, I find a brown plastic grocery bag filled with toy templates. Hmmmmm these look suspiciously like the kind of things my 4th and 5th graders would like. Score!

I proceed to immediately make up a dozen and get them on the new project shelf so the kids can start making these right away. If it's new, they will spot it and ask about it... and they do. I make the wheels from the left over holes cut from the the ping pong ball shooter. No waste here.

There are so many templates that I can make a rolling Noah's Arc except for maybe that dinosaur, and the whale and fish.... oh and the cars and trucks too. Otherwise it's definitely a Noah's Arc in the making.

What's this? A cordless drill just like the other one we have. Cool. same battery but without a charger. Wait.... it gets better. The battery still holds a charge. There is also some of the Wolverine sharpening system pieces that are upgrades to our current grinding attachments. We can certainly put those higher quality parts to use too.

There are coffee cans filled with little things like various key rings. We have already used some for the miniature baseball bats that the kids like to take home to dad and mom. What can be better than a new.... specially designed key ring from your child's wood shop class.

There is so much more.... like a lot of scroll saw stuff in various stages of completion. This is the kind of stuff you want these young kids to see, but in reality is years above their skill level. Heck, in many cases even above mine. Hey look! A huge box of nothing but wooden wheels. Maybe we should save those for the big kids (that includes me by the way);).

Well, I finally found a bike shop in the next town. Even though I can still plug along on this one, who doesn't like something new once and a while. A new bike will be here in about a week. Oh, and that local shop... as it turns out.... it was not far after all, just on the other side of the highway and to the left. That by the way... is exactly the opposite of where I was looking.

***UPDATE*** I'm not sure if people are still staring... only now is it because of my bright safety vest or my extra tall customized bike. No matter. It's saving me from back surgery one mile at a time. The seat is 42" up and the handlebars are 50" up (from the ground).

Posted: Friday, February 26, 2016 3:54:29 PM
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Scrambled eggs anyone?

The science teacher... is working from the STEM angle when she tells me to prepare myself for an influx of eighth graders requesting help. These were once my sixth graders, so they definitely know their way around the shop. "Hey, no problem.... we all work together around here. Last time it was bridge building. What are we doing this time?"

Scramblers? Build a vehicle that will safely transport an egg about 30 feet without dropping it, or running into the wall. In other words, the egg coming closest to the wall without breaking.... wins.

All you middle school teachers probably already know all about this, but being the STEM novice, I see that every student definitely had their own idea of how to make this happen. I even had one student want to make his a rat trap car. "I don't know.... maybe that's not the best approach."

It surprises me because it actually works pretty well. However, it doesn't coast on it's own. He adds what looks like a miniature toilet seat (may have been my influence) on the front to hold the egg. I know it looks a little funny, but at least the egg won't roll off like the ones with pegs. He also makes the back wheels large enough to go at least 30 feet.

Unfortunately he broke the back axle on race day and had to abandon the string drive. Then the car ran much better when the large wheels were moved to the front. I'm positive if he had been more careful, the original design would have worked perfectly.

This is what's been going on in my shop for about two weeks. Well, this week is when they all seem to need to get it done. Time limits you say? Why didn't you start sooner?... I ask some of the students who decide to get this started on Thursday. How am I suppose to know who is participating and who isn't?

Some kids take their ideas home to have dad help them. I'm seeing some pretty inventive things here. Some of these braking systems are ingenious. Then I looked it up and see that those are in the examples. Hmmmm. thought these kids were all geniuses did you?

This example I'm sure passed through my room. The wood looks suspiciously like cutting board material I cut up and keep ready. I figure it was probably worked on at home too.... judging by the exposed screws... that I wouldn't have let them leave out in the open... but also, where is the braking system? Not much time left and this is the last day I'm going to be around until next Tuesday. "You are officially on your own."

Next week is the week before spring break. Spring break already? Where does the time go. The students will be testing there contraptions all day long Tuesday, so I might be out of the shop for a while as we all go watch who proves to have the best design?

2nd place... came within 4" of the wall without breaking the egg.
This student's car raced quickly towards the wall and the brake mechanism worked nearly perfect. I say nearly perfect because the car slid and went a bit diagonal to the wall so one corner was less than 2", but had to be measured from the egg which added a little more. Still it was exciting to be there when it happened.

And the 1st place winner.... came within one inch of the wall without breaking the egg.
Now what more can I say, a daddy daughter build with his shop materials that included maple. The truck is massive and heavy. Without flawless brakes, there is no way to have stopped it in time. I only wish I could have been there to see it. Hey.... is dad a mechanical engineer?

Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2016 9:37:10 PM
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Cool Bank

This is one of the many projects provided by Bob Itnyre. It requires Plexiglas sides, so we don't do many unless we have some used pieces laying around. The 7th grader who is making this is really enjoying the project Bob. Thank you for all you have done.

All finished!

Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2016 9:40:17 PM
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Bryan's Car

This project was actually completed some time ago and I wasn't carrying the camera (which seems to happen more often than not) so Bryan's 5th grade teacher took photos on his phone. Well, he didn't know how to e-mail them even though several students tried to teach him how to do it. If you don't have a reason to learn something, then it becomes more difficult if you never use your phone that way. Today he came into the shop and I asked him to try again. With the help of a student, we finally were able to keep trying. It was made easier by the fact that we could check it right then. Nope, didn't work... try again. Finally success.

The 5th grader who made this car, worked diligently for months to complete it. I've posted his photo before and remember that he is one of the most talented natural scroll saw cutters that I have ever seen. Never been on one before and with no previous practice, he can cut straight as an arrow.

Our fantastic special ed and after-school teacher assistant .... Mr. Herman.... is the one who had.... and brought in... a whole book of plans and worked closely with Bryan and several other students to make a bunch of cars. Not bad coming completely from scraps.
Posted: Friday, March 4, 2016 6:23:55 PM
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The Yavapai County Charter School Festival

I can't believe it's time again for the "Get Wild About Charter Schools" Fair. This year the superintendent came to my shop specifically to ask me to do project demonstrations again this year. Maybe it was because we ended up on the front page last year. I asked the twins if they could be there, but one had to be at the Civic Center Awards Program. Dad brought one to the Charter School fair where we were suppose to demonstrate pen turning. Unfortunately in the chaos and through miscommunication, the prepared blank was not present with us, however it went very well without it as children came to play with our many toys... the ping pong ball shooter, the catapult, and Pegasus were by far the most popular.

The school made sure I had the school testing data right at the front of the booth for everyone to see our proud test scores.

Reference back to last years event.
Posted: Sunday, March 6, 2016 7:08:00 PM
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Spring break fun in the shop!

I have really neglected working on my home shop. It's something I only started to get serious about when I first retired. I had never gotten around to setting up much of anything until then, so now that I'm back working, it's been put on the back burner AGAIN.

To me, building the shop is almost more fun than using the shop. I know I really need to get back in there and finish up some of my cool ideas. After all, a lot of friends have been really kind to give me their cast offs. These are the things they usually quit using and are only taking up space at their house. Who better to give it to but a retired wood shop teacher who has put off building a shop.

The drill press

One of the things I wanted to get done over break was to take one of the several dust collectors I was given and make it easy to switch between several machines without spending an arm and a leg on them. I decided to concentrate on the drill press (that was also given to me) and band saw dust collection this week.

I want these machines to stay as clean as the ones we have at school so I'm not spending any more time than I have to spend on cleaning up after I'm finished using them. My first thought at that time... was to make the same vacuum table set up. Then I came across a website that made more sense for a single drill press.

I simply abandoned that idea and made my own version for now... but for $39.99, what a great upgrade it will be when I decide to get one.

***UPDATE*** Another source called FlexForm, but the reviews are mixed about how well it stays positioned.

Someone recently gave me some of those super strong fishing magnets. I used one of them as an easy to move base to secure this to the drill press post. It is easily moved up or down as the table is changed.

Using Baltic birch scraps, I fashioned an adjustable ring so the 2 1/4" tubing can be secured closer or further from the work piece and the ring is fastened to the magnet with a wing nut making it easy to adjust.

The just completed hole I finished drilling before taking the photo shows how well this keeps the table clear of debris even with the smaller tubing hooked to the 4" dust collector. I wish I could have made the ones at school like this, but with six drill presses hooked to the same collector, it would have required a series of blast gates we simply did not have the money to buy.

***UPDATE*** The completed end piece is made from an ABS elbow and also doubles as a hinged blast gate which holds surprisingly tight . If only I had come up with this idea sooner, the school drill presses would have done well with this idea. I also noticed that when attempting to read adjust the position of the hose, the drill press table sometimes gets in the way of the magnet, so I added another screw eye which allows for pivoting in all directions and fixes this issue. It's much easier to get the hose positioned exactly where it needs to be.

Overcome the suction to open the blast gate and begin cutting. The blast gate hinge pivots on a bent hanger wire that is connected to the ABS elbow through two small holes (See the video).

Although I had a little trouble maneuvering both the drill press and the camera, this photo shows how well the chips and dust are captured by the vacuum... catching even the chips that fall forward of the bit which is further from the suction stream. The trick with larger bits of course.... is to slow down the feed so the chips don't get overly large. Smaller drill bits would not require this. (See the video).

Adding flexibility

So that this set up doesn't have to be torn down every time you want to move to another machine, the hose is short with an aluminum tube (made from an empty pressurized aluminum can previously filled with sunscreen) to act as a place to quick connect. The aluminum tube perfectly fits inside the dust collector hose. That leaves room to expand the dust collection to any number of uses without affecting the drill press.

Adding light

There is always a need for extra light in any shop, especially when you are getting older. I often add these right onto the machines. Since this one did not come with a light, but had a place already in the casting of where to install the socket, I put one under here first.

This is run through the switch so it comes on when the machine is running. This one light helps, but it just wasn't enough light for me, so I added this second light... that came from the 2nd hand store for about $2. From this angle it looks much larger than it actually is.

The band saw

This 18" band saw was purchased from a friend who gave it to me pretty much for the price of all the dozens of extra new blades that came with. At $350, I considered it a bargain and told my wife, "Quick, send the check before he changes his mind".

Already upgraded

As a retired electricity teacher who likes woodworking, he had already upgraded it with a better switch, an extended power cord so it can be run anywhere in the shop, and made a wheeled cart with steel casters so it is easily moved around on the shop floor. Since it is a 220v machine, he also helped me wire the shop with a complete electrical system.

Adding dust collection

There is not a dust connect location on this machine, so I made my own which works well but I may be able to do better with a 4" hose. This is a view of under the table.

This is a #10 can that has been cut to shape making a removable shroud that fits around everything and directs the vacuum right to where it needs to be. The shroud is easy to slip off for blade changes or if the table ever needs to be tilted. I thought this next photo might better show how the shape allows for anything in it's way. The electrical tape is more for sharp edges than for sealing around the shroud, but it seems to work well doing both. It has the same aluminum tube quick disconnect.

***UPDATE*** Even though that shroud worked, it did leave a little more dust than I would have liked, so I decided to try a second shroud with an opening for a full sized 4" hose. I also switched to using duct tape which... even when cut down the middle... is wider and definitely sticks better than electrical tape. After testing it multiple times on 2" x 4" material, these two improvements did help capture much more saw dust.

Blade tension release

On the back side of the band saw I've put a quick blade tension release. There are skate wheel bearings at each end of the shaft which makes this easy to turn. Loosening a blade when the machine is not in use keeps the rubber tires from getting out of round making the machine run smoother and also making the blades and tires last longer.

Replacing the pot metal parts

Made from pot metal, the black box at the base of the tracking and tension adjuster is the weak link in these machines. Pot metal is easily broken, especially if the blade is over tightened or during resawing with the 1" blade. I replaced it with one I made from bed rail stock which is far superior to pot metal. It wasn't difficult. I manufactured all the pieces and had my friend weld them. The hardest part was drilling the holes through the tough steel bed frame. The pivot points are simply screw bolts that you see protruding through the top corners.

Adding light

I also found a very small electrical outlet and cut through the casting so a light can be plugged in which will automatically come on when the machine is switched on.

A 2nd hand store and a $2 clip on light completes it. I keep a small square of wood around the blade to remind me that it has been loosened 4 1/2 turns.

A t-square fence for the table saw

While I'm at it, I might as well show you the t-square fence that I made for the 220v table saw I bought from the cabinet shop for about the same cost as the band saw. It came with the rails, but not the t-square fence. Sorry, I didn't vacuum this before taking the photo. It's been sitting unused for a while.

I manufactured all the parts and also took it to my welder friend who put it together. He's quite a bit older than I am so he's always coming up with ideas like this too. He also likes seeing what I've come up with. I always enjoy going over there to work with him on these projects, but sometimes I really wish I would have kept up on my welding skills. That generation often had to make do with what they could find. It seems to be something we generally have gotten away from and that is why shop classes everywhere are disappearing.

The fence clamping handle is cut from solid steel. I installed one of the dust collectors right into the bottom of the saw so it wouldn't take up any more floor space, then sent it out to the bag you see below the extended table that also doubles as a router table.

The glides for the fence were made from old nylon cutting board material. I later I added this to the other end to make it float effortlessly across the table.... much... much better than any t-square fence I have ever used. I highly recommend doing this.

Discarded Corian makes a great fence surface material. The saw is built up as a cart with steel wheels that easily roll on the shop floor. The out feed table can drop down when more floor space is needed. I try to keep as much flexibility as possible because I'm often cramped for space and have to move the saw around to allow room for cutting over sized material.

I found this for anyone who would like to make a t-square fence from wood.

My neighbor suggested this next idea....

Everyone who uses a compressor knows the frustration with trying to drain condensation after every use. Here in the southwest is no exception as moisture quickly invades compressor tanks even here, and getting down and unscrewing that drain is such a pain. But, for about $20 for a couple of elbows, a length of pipe and a valve, this chore is now so much easier. What I left out of the photo is a small tray with a paper towel to contain the condensation so it isn't spilling out onto the floor.

***UPDATE*** 5-23-17 Thought you might like these power tool parts sites I recently ran across....

If you haven't taken the time to look back at some of the updates I have been making to each post, here are some short cuts for you...

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