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Profile: tbockman
User Name: tbockman
Forum Rank: Newbie
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Joined: Friday, November 17, 2006
Last Visit: Saturday, January 19, 2019 9:44:17 AM
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Last 10 Posts
Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Friday, January 18, 2019 5:51:13 PM
It's after school. The lights are on and everyone is here!

You can't be sure of what overhead LED lights will do until you actually get to try them. I have to be the first to say... it's great! No warm up time. They put out more light and cost less to run. I tried looking up at them and they are almost too bright to view without sunglasses. OK, maybe a little exaggeration, but they are hard to look straight at them.

Now we can see better than ever in the wood shop, even on a cloudy day, even in the corners, and everyone is here and working hard. We have a few stand out goblet makers to acknowledge from this after school class.

This is Lucy's first year in wood shop and she is in the 4th grade. I can't say enough good things about her and her entire family for that matter. I've had many of her brothers. Issac was the one who appears on the March 2016 cover of our local newspaper.

Lucy can really get into the shop experience and does marvelous work. I plan to show the completed goblet soon, but for now, take a look at how she gets right into what needs to be done.

Another first timer and 4th grader, August.... is a quiet young man that really tries hard to do a good job all the time. These results say it all.

Not only did he do most of the work, but he also spent a lot of time sanding and finishing this project. He also participated in the spelling bee and got past most of the competition too. Good job!

I wish I had a better camera that could take decent close up photos.

It's kind of funny that this thread started as a way to share project ideas only to end up being a running log of activity on building a school wood shop at a school that doesn't really have the money to do what we are doing. I hope you are enjoying seeing what we have been working towards, even as I begin to think it's almost time for me to retire again. Physical things as you get older can really bog you down and that's what is happening to me.

If you haven't taken the time to look back at some of the updates I have been making to each post, then you are missing out on some really great stuff. I figured out how to make links within this site, that will go directly to each post. Slow connections or Internet speeds might require a little patience to load, but using the back browser arrow brings you directly back to where you left off reading. For example.... here is a direct link to the crankyman automata post and the back arrow brings you back here.

These links help clarify or point out ideas without a lot of fumbling around on your part. Now this makes me wish I would have made the posts smaller, concentrating on a single concept/issue/project, but doing that creates more pages. However, I could further direct teachers to these concepts in greater detail... so maybe some day I will be able to break it up into smaller sections. Doing this as an after thought would not keep them in chronological order. That order is part of what I think makes it more fascinating.... to watch a budding program thrive from day to day, week to week, etc... and work within the constraints of the times.

It's also too bad that DivShare has messed up their site. If any of you have been trying to get material on the broken links, let me know. I found my stash of material on one of my external hard drives, so I should be able to send them over e-mail. As I have time in the future, I would have uploaded this material to photobucket and remake the links, however, photobucket changed the free user agreement and I'm unsure as to what will work and what won't. Contact me so I can send material directly over e-mail.

Here are some general page short cuts for you...

Go to page 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 5... 6 ... 7... 8... 9...10... 11...12

A message to new wood shop teachers who may have stumbled onto this site!

Because of spam... this site has been closed for quite some time now, but if you would like to join, we could use some new blood. The older guys have been retiring and thinning out the ranks. I didn't ask permission to post this, but I found out from a new member that he did this to gain access.... Send an e-mail to I have noticed that this is helping new members get into the site while keeping the spammers out.

I've seen at least twelve new members have signed up since making this notice.

Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Tuesday, January 08, 2019 8:32:24 AM
3rd Quarter begins!

New 7th grade students learn measuring skills to practice as time permits... and also get a start on their take home quiz.

If they come back tomorrow with all their required parental permissions, and their take home quizzes, there are chances for a cool reward.
Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2018 2:26:10 PM
After Christmas sales... bah-humbug!

I am up early as usual and I'm trying to warm up something in the microwave. After setting the timer, I hit start and everything dies. It's the day after Christmas and most people want to get out for the all the after Christmas sales. Not me! I don't want to be out buying useless garbage... but it looks like I have a problem solving activity that could take a while. Can I fix this, or will I have to go out and get a new one.

Eleven years ago my wife wanted to replace a Sharp brand microwave we acquired in 1976. It did have that Harvest Gold look about it, but why do we want to get rid of a perfectly good appliance that was built like a tank and might never die. Oh yeah, I remember, "we" wanted the stainless look and that Harvest Gold was cramping our style.

By now you are thinking, why is he talking about microwaves in a woodworking forum? It's not like microwaves can't be useful to woodworkers. There are several woodworking activities where I have previously used a microwave. But that's not where this story is going. Believe me, it is going in a direction you may not expect.

Microwaves are dangerous to open so always use complete caution when opening one up. I take it apart so I can get to the fuse. Why do they make it so hard to get to it? It's because of the capacitor which can have enough stored energy to really knock you down and possibly forever. I have to remember that I now have a pacemaker and although now they are safe around microwaves, it doesn't always play nice with electrical discharges.

OK, I've seen enough of the warnings to not just plow in and touch everything inside... but I can see the fuse is ceramic and if you have seen one of these, you know it's hard to tell if it has blown just by looking at it. Not wanting to end up on my butt, or in the hospital, or even the morgue, I pick out a piece of scrap wood about the thickness of the space below the fuse, and I carefully lift the fuse out so I can check it.

Not being an electrical genius, the best way I have (in my current situation) is to check it by connecting it in series to a small light bulb. When energized, it doesn't light up. I had better run over to my friend and former student whose family runs Andy's Appliance.

Once there, Leland and his son are the only ones in the store which just opened at 9 am. I show them the fuse... and he quickly finds one in the back storeroom. I figure it's going to cost a couple of bucks, maybe more and he simply says, keep it... no charge. Hmmm, I must have been a great teacher to not want at least $5. How else am I going to find one of these fuses and know I have the exact one needed. He also told me that a simple door slam could have been what blew the fuse... which is something my wife confesses to later.

I'm thanking Leland and we are catching up on old times when a customer walks in looking for a dryer heater core. I see all the coils and think... "look at all that free woodburner wire". I instinctively ask Leland if he has some old heater cores like that, that he's already tossed into recycle. "Well, lets check since I just sent a bunch out already," he says. I told him I had been buying old space heaters at the Goodwill. Wish I had thought of him sooner.

I follow him out the door and it doesn't take long to find a good one. The perfect wire for the woodburner... and it's free. Not only does he give me that coil, but walks me into the back storeroom and shows me some of the new coils that he doesn't even know what they are for... and he gives me one with a tighter coil. He told me they buy a lot of competitors stock as they are leaving town or retiring from the business.

I finish catching up and I'm heading out the door at the same time as the other customer. We strike up a conversation about what I'm going to use this wire for, when Leland sends his son out to give me that customers old heater core too. JACKPOT!

When I get home, my first order of business was to put the microwave back together of course. Then I start disassembling the heater cores. It isn't hard and it doesn't take long. Look at all the woodburner wire I have now. It is going to last well beyond my retirement.

When you do what I've been doing for as long as I have been doing it, you have to find stuff wherever and whenever you can get it. It becomes a way of life. Maybe millennial's think I'm an old eccentric. Maybe so, but you can't argue with the successful career I am soon to leave. Well, maybe not that soon... but not too much longer either. Five years or less is what I'm thinking right now and that can always change one way or the other.

Besides... I don't think I'm all that eccentric. Maybe I do live a little too much for my students and not enough for me, but I like it that way. I have always liked helping others and I like getting things done. I like reinventing myself each time I see change coming and I like what I do for a living.

I also like to stay up to date... except I figured something out on the way to getting older. New isn't always better and we throw away way too much in this country. Too bad we are an economy that relies way so much on planned obsolescence and as a whole, we seem more than happy to keep doing that. It also doesn't seem to matter what technology we embrace, they all have their dark side when it comes to saving the planet. All of them!

Jump back for a closer look at woodburning... on pane 69.

12-28-18 I went back to let Leland know that my microwave works great. And after watching a few you tube videos about how you can use old microwave transformers, I asked Leland to be on the lookout for one he would normally recycle. The high voltage transformer is perfect for building your own spot welder. It seems like something I could use around the shop.
Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2018 11:04:37 AM
Just in time for Christmas!

Usually it takes a little more prompting than just seeing a simple project high up on the project shelf... to get kids excited and want to make stuff. Hadassah is no ordinary kid. She is unusually excited about every project and shows her extraordinary craftsmanship in everything she makes. Take the simple thumb piano and add F-holes like an expensive instrument, burn a rose with the laser engraver and you have the making of a fine instrument.

After assembly the clamps are removed and the edges sanded down, the alternating red and black lawn rake tines are placed into the sound bar. I think this is one of the most unique thumb pianos that has been made in our shop.

Hadassah has pride without being prideful and I will miss having her in class as the 9 week schedule switches in January.

What a priceless moment capturing Hadassah's look of contentment in a job well executed showing craftsmanship beyond her years. Her project spurs new excitement around the shop as several other students see it and also choose to do this project.

NOTE- I thought the old laser engraver was a goner last week as I'm expecting that to be the case anytime now. We already saved it from going into a dumpster once, but can we keep stringing it along? How much life should I expect to get out of an old salvaged machine?

When we kept getting errors... shifting images and text... I knew like an old jalopy, this was going to be another expense that I hoped wouldn't nickle and dime us to death. We don't have enough to bring in a technician, so just like before, it's up to me to figure it out and get any needed parts to fix it.

I've already had to replace a manual focus, the auto focus assembly (you tube instructions), the Coral Draw software, and also purchase a cleaning kit... but now... this seemed much more serious and hard to pinpoint. At least I think I know where to start because of the laser burning into different materials, it can get filled with a gritty dust. It's worth investigating.

So I begin my troubleshooting by taking off the X cover and cleaning the optical strip and everything else I can think of under that cover. Normally a dirty optical strip is what would shift an image. The optical strip tells the laser when to fire. I've seen shifting images once before and this was the fix for that issue, but surprisingly a cleaning didn't do it this time. I did find out that I shouldn't be using the lens cleaner for this and it also shouldn't be tap water either. Instead, it should just be distilled water. Nothing else.

Now I'm beginning to worry that maybe I scratched the optical strip because cleaning it seemed to make it worse. Then it mysteriously got better, but after a while, it ended up shifting again. That tells me it probably isn't a scratched optical strip. A quick check on you tube, I'm thinking I have the answer. Take the optical reader apart and clean it out. There is a sensor to look for.

I carefully take it apart and make sure it looks clean inside and then carefully reassembly it. That still doesn't do it.

What about belt tension? Is it slipping? Nope, that doesn't seem to be it either. This isn't only annoying, it's also consuming a lot of my time and is stretching into several days. No wonder it was headed to the dumpster. Is this going to be an expensive service call? It has to be something I'm missing, but what is it and is it a simple and inexpensive fix?

Out of desperation I finally resort to e-mailing the closest service provider expecting them to want to send an expensive repair tech. Can I get them to give me clues on what to look for? He ends up telling me that I should try reversing the flex cable. OK, advise is free and believe it or not, that did the trick! They warned me this is only a temporary fix. It might last days or even months, but it is going to start shifting again if you don't replace them soon.

As it turns out, he takes the time to tell me that as the cable keeps flexing, it develops micro-cracks and thankfully, that a new cable is not too expensive. I'm sure they know this about the flex cable because of how old the machine actually is. They have had so many machines with this same issue. They immediately knew what to do. So last week we called Colorado and ordered both the X & Y flex cables and installed them. More nickles and dimes I guess.

It looks like this crisis is averted. It appears as if it is going to keep working for now and hopefully hang in there a little while longer. It is going to be a sad day when it finally does conk out and you know it will. You can already see the image doesn't look as good as it should. It appears weak.

The expense of a new or recharged CO2 laser tube may just be too much for this little school to handle, even if I provide the labor. With how popular the machine has become, it will be a huge loss if it ends up in this situation.

To jump back to Hadassah's last post click here.
Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2018 8:16:02 AM
Boxes are cool...

This is the third year of wood shop for Izzy & Ginny. I'm pretty sure they have made almost everything there is to make for a sixth grader, so when I set them loose on the computer to look up a project idea, they came up with this...


The top was easier to make then you would think. A simple half log from a cottonwood branch did the trick nicely. There is a removable layer inside the lid that has a coin slot.

The corners were not very fancy, but they got covered up anyway.


There was a slightly competitive air about the shop as these two duked it out on who could finish first. Izzy got a little behind when her hinges didn't arrive, but her box is finally finished.

Not to be outdone, Izzy chooses to run over to the art room and give her treasure chest a festive makeover.

When Izzy's hardware showed up, it had a hook latch. Since it didn't quite fit, I tried to bend it slightly. It looked as if it would work until it snapped. I didn't expect that at all and the look on Izzy's face showed me exactly how she felt about it too.

Not wanting to admit defeat and go down in flames, I quickly recovered by making an exact copy of the original out of spare sheet metal we keep around for things like this. Although it was difficult to cut an exact copy with over-sized shears, a little time on the small belt sander did the trick to remove excess metal and form the hook just right.

One big advantage of my hook over store bought, it can bend without breaking and it appears a little more like it was hand made. It got a smile and nod of approval from Izzy and all was right with the world again. I certainly wouldn't want to disappoint a little girl this close to Christmas. Who knows which family member will get this treasure for Christmas. It may be for Izzy herself.


Then there is 8th grader Nate's redwood box. Nate spent the time to make the fancy finger joint corners from the 2X6 redwood I got out from under a tree in a neighbors yard. If it's not held perfectly on every single cut of the router table, it will need some adjusting. I'm pretty sure he found that out the hard way when some of these fingers gave him grief.

But it came together nicely. He's the first to volunteer when I need help around the shop and is one heck of a worker who never complains. I'm sure that attitude makes his parents proud.

Here are some general page short cuts for you...

Go to page 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 5... 6 ... 7... 8... 9...10... 11...12

Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Saturday, November 17, 2018 11:33:28 AM
It's all about the 8th graders...

Madison has only been in my classes once before. Considering she hasn't been around year after year like all the other students, she took on one of our more challenging projects when it comes to the scroll saw.

Taking her time to sand everything as she goes, this is turning out to be one of the best dinosaur banks we have ever had completed. Nicely done.

The pride on her face says it all!

This next 8th grader is also an exceptional example. Marshall takes time to plan exactly what he wants for his game pieces.

He is one of the few students to do this, and I might add... completely on his own initiative.

He will go so far as to set the fence on the table saw and I will make the cuts. Another year and he can do his own table saw cuts, but there is only one high school wood shop program left around here that I know of. My guess is that he won't be able to go to that school. The sad truth is, it may not be challenging enough for him at that particular school.

Some of the adjustments have changed the way drawers open. The top drawer bottom is now also the shelf. I worry that when weather conditions turn wet, his drawers may become sluggish or won't be able to open. I've talked to him about this and we are trying to make the best of it. We have talked about grain direction on every piece. It is sure one heck of a learning experience.
Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Saturday, November 17, 2018 11:15:38 AM
Only a few challenges remaining

While it is nice to have completed the majority of what I set out to do five and a half years ago, it is also sad in a way that there is little challenging things left. That may seem counter intuitive as we all want to simply work with our kids and be left alone for the most part, but it always makes me happiest when there are at least some things to be planning for. Who likes to just coast? Not me! What is this wood shop teacher to do?

New projects will keep coming along. I take my cues from what the students want to do. Some projects fade into the background while others come to the forefront. It happens all the time, except in high school, it was much larger items being built. One challenge that remains is a tough nut to crack... limited space.

That means we have to keep our projects on the small side. Here is what one of the 21st Century sixth graders did in just a few days.

I have yet to figure out how to take in focus close ups with the new camera. Now there's a new challenge for me to focus on.

This is from the after school program. Jillian managed to make a walking robot that works better than mine... or maybe just as good anyway. I did have to step in when we were turning the feet, you know, to get the right curve. The lathe curve has a template to check and make sure the curve is correct. Otherwise she did most of the work herself. An exceptional job since this project requires them to work from a cutting list and model and no other templates.

A roll of the dice

One of my former colleagues (about 12 years my senior) gave me a set of large dice he made in Junior High. He ended up hanging them from his rear view mirror in his 55 Chevy when he attended Rincon High School in Tucson Arizona. Hmmm.... I remember when those cars (and older) were commonly on the road.

I brought them in to show the students an "old school" project made in the 1960's junior high wood shop. I say old school because dice today have any number of sides and symbols that this old guy wouldn't care to understand.

I decided to take a gamble on my 4th graders and proceeded to make one so I knew how to set up the dots and fix the corners to have the right look... and then cut up some 2"x4"'s and let the after school kids try their hand at making one.

As for the kids, they loved it and everyone wanted to do one at the same time. Can you say, "long lines at the drill press?" And while some made theirs willy nilly... others took their time and spaced the dots correctly.

Oh well, what can you expect from 4th graders? I guess I should have made up a better way for them to understand before they drilled up all the blocks. I cut up more and started showing them what to do. That lost their interest real fast.

Isn't half the fun of woodworking doing it your own way? Everyone knows that. Especially me. :)
Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Wednesday, November 07, 2018 7:32:24 AM
I broke my camera...

For the past 5 years I have been using my own personal camera to take pictures, and sadly that camera went bye-bye. I kept it in my front pants pocket all this time and one day the screen cracked. It still worked, but that rendered it almost useless since everything is practically done using that screen.

But the day the whole thing wouldn't even turn on was sad indeed, especially when I looked at new ones. I bought this one used from my daughter when she upgraded hers. I didn't know anything about cameras these days except about this one which was a pretty good one and difficult to replace. Who knew they could be so pricey... so I bought the cheapest Walmart camera I could find, and you know it takes pretty good pictures too. The school decided to pay me back which makes it even better.

The fact is, there have been so many good projects that I missed since they have already gone home.

I'm getting more used to the idea that it is OK to not wear a hair tie when you have to have your picture taken.

This wood is part of the lot that I cut up on the new band saw and planed in the new planer. Pretty good when you consider it was once piled outside under a pine tree.

This may sound dumb, but this 7th grader literally "nailed it"! She used the nail gun by herself to reinforce the corners. Good job Koural!

This is another 7th grade project...

And with Christmas on the way, the lovable snowman...

This is the very best snowman ever! Hadassah used hot glue for eyes and buttons, then painted them.

And... makes sure he stays warm since it just got a lot colder around here.

To jump forward to Hadassah's next post click here.
Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2018 11:22:08 AM
On a personal note...

When I do finally decide to retire, I'd wouldn't mind coming home to something like this in my shop...

A concept by Matthias Wandel that has been made into this mostly metal, accurate final product. After seeing this, I can imagine myself getting one. I don't usually purchase stuff for myself, but when it comes time, this could be on my wish list.

The biggest problem I can see is... how often would I use it? How many dovetails or mortise & tendon joints would I have to make in order for the more than $1800 price tag to pay for itself. Maybe I should rethink this idea. I like what it can do, but it may not be worth that investment... at least for someone like me. Now if I had money for the school... then I could use it with the students.

About five years ago someone bought me the plans for the wooden version. That might be about as far as I can take this... using it as a "for fun" retirement project.

No offense intended toward Matthias. I think it is an ingenious invention and the metal version is fantastic. It just seems a wasteful prospect for someone to keep it all to themselves for a few projects in retirement.
Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Saturday, October 06, 2018 1:39:37 PM
Adding another detail...

The grant is all about making our shop safer. Our pint sized safety storage cabinet just got here. Just out of the crate with packing materials still in the door, I can't wait to fill it.

I have to raise our work table 2" in order to get this cabinet to fit beneath it and out of our way. In a small area like we have, every square inch is meaningful and I have never felt comfortable with keeping our combustibles out on the table, hidden under the table, or put away in a cardboard box somewhere.

Now I'm waiting for an eyewash station to be moved over to the shop from another room where it is currently unused. Luckily there's enough grant left to get this done and to continue making our shop great. Next, I'm thinking about adding led lights to brighten up the room.

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