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Profile: tbockman
User Name: tbockman
Forum Rank: Newbie
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Joined: Friday, November 17, 2006
Last Visit: Tuesday, November 15, 2022 7:01:03 AM
Number of Posts: 0
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Last 10 Posts
Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Friday, November 11, 2022 9:07:38 AM

A big thank you goes out to Woodcraft for hosting this site.

Ever since Covid

I talk to other teachers and we are all noticing the same thing. Some students haven't bounced back very well from the shut downs we all experienced. Most of my youngest students (5th & 6th grade) seem to be fine. In fact, they are some of my favorites to have during the day. Here is how one student named Quincy puts it in a note to one of the staff she frequently interacts with during the week. It was shared by that staff member and I'm assuming she was asked to write about her favorite class. Anyway, I had her older sister years ago in the job program. It is written neatly in cursive with no title, only her name and the date 11/10/22, but everything is spelled correctly and I have not changed a single word.

"I like wood shop because the teachers and because it's very fun. All the people are nice. He always has a good attitude. He has a good and a big heart because he smiles a lot."

What she is describing is the normal day and routine in my class. The school decided to hire someone to come in and keep wood shop open on Friday's. Mr. Rohbaugh does things a lot like I do. He just retired from his UPS job and his wife teaches the home economics. She convinced him to come try this and it seems to be working out. At first he didn't think he would want to do wood shop for the long term, but has since seen how pleasant it can be and how nice the students can be and has changed his mind. He is more interested each day and even comes in other days to learn how to use the laser for example.

That change of heart means I can look forward to maybe working only one more year and then retire for a 2nd time. My heart health deserves a slow down which already seems to be happening. I'm not quite as rambunctious as I used to be and it is beginning to show. In fact, I surprised everyone by pulling through once again and coming back this year after having missed another few weeks at the end of school. I wasn't sure I would live through that experience, and the school started advertising for my open job.

I have previously tried to get someone at school to come shadow during one of there preps, but it never seemed to work out. I was getting worried that if I left without getting someone at least a little prepared, that everything I had worked for here would fall apart. Already we are having issues with older equipment wearing out. The school can't afford higher end stuff without grants, so we sometimes have to just go without.

For example, our small 1" belt sander that I've been limping along on and has been here long before my 10 years started, didn't start running when one of the 6th graders in my larger classes turn on the switch. Instead of turning it back off and asking for help, they walked away and left it to start smoking. Of course it's not really their fault and it has been making noise on and off for the past year. It may have been able to be saved, but not after that happened. Needless to say, I don't expect the Harbor Freight replacement that is coming will hold up nearly as long.

When our then maintenance man helped wire in the exhaust unit, they didn't use large enough gauge wire so the motor is starved for volts which ramps up amperage and eventually shuts down the motor from overheating. Each time that internal breaker quits, it gets weaker. We haven't used the dust collector for almost two months while we have a certified electrician redoing the wiring and putting in a proper switch. It shouldn't be too much longer before that gets ironed out. *** UPDATE*** But it may still need a new motor after that. It's possible that this one has taken too much heat for too long since the wiring didn't seem to bring down the amperage. Thankfully Mr. Rohbaugh likes keeping the place nice and clean every Friday.

It's almost a comedy that as I wear out, so does the equipment, but we keep moving forward and will soon have it all back up and running again. When the weather warms up, I'm going to have to open everything up and use a leaf blower to get the dust out of the space.

I have to add as I close this, I never expected to make such a splash on this site. My earlier attempts had to all be removed as I attracted a relentless stalker who tried to criticize and minimize everything I said and did. I think it had something to do with being featured in both WOOD and American Woodworker magazines. This is the down side of social media but I found a great way to remove my own material without being noticed. This site allows you to edit. If you take everything out of the post and save it again, it effectively erases it forever.

At least I am also relentless for "good" and disappeared for a while by using a different user name. Once he was no longer around, I started over and this is how it has turned out. I keep giving out curriculum flash drives that keep growing in size and I'm glad to keep sharing for as long as wood shop teachers need the help.

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Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2022 11:23:38 PM

A big thank you goes out to Woodcraft for hosting this site.

Jumbo Clothespins

I've always wanted to try this project but have never wanted to purchase kits. I prefer to figure out how to do the job with practically nothing. It's a great skill to teach kids so that they can make almost anything.

I ran across this dark colored clothespin in our local 2nd hand store and knew right away it was .60¢ cents well spent. I immediately began searching for springs and almost gave up until I ran across these for $1.15 each when purchased by the 100. The lighter clothespin shown below is the first prototype, before I had everything properly dialed in. Not a bad start.

The template

The school liked the idea and made the purchase but as you can see above, I found the springs were a bit smaller than the dark example. I managed to scale it down to fit and made this template which was used for that prototype. I believe the scaled down version actually looks more in proportion to a real clothes pin... and it better fits the scrap wood we are able to get for free. With a little adjustment to the outside notch, the spring eventually went into place better on the 2nd try.

The clothespin drilling jig.

Students trace the pattern in mirror image but it doesn't get cut to shape until after it goes through this drilling jig where two different sizes of Forstner bits cut the front and middle arched notches. I later added a couple of springs to the ends of the filler piece so different length could be held securely. Sorry they aren't in this photo, but it really made it easier for students who may have cut their blanks a fraction short.

The traced pieces slide in from the right and the spacer keeps them in place while the end is closed. The top hole guides are made from MDF and are easily replaceable if they get abused. The other parts of the jig are made with solid maple and hickory scraps from MCK woodworking, a local cabinet shop run by a former student of mine.

The clothes pin parts are being securely held slightly apart from one another at the front end but together at the back forming a slight V shape. Drilling through the guides makes holes and completes the arched notch operation.

Kade is the first student to try out the project. This will be a great test to see how well everything works in real production by a student.

The Bandsaw

That will be followed by doing some cutting slightly outside the traced lines giving each half it's tapered shape and leaving room to sand away the saw marks.

After a little bit of sanding with the belt-disc sander, the spring is added, being installed in the same way as it's done on it's little cousins out on the clothes line.

We noticed that tweaking the spring a little bit helps the pieces to lay down flat when they come together. We started out doing this by hand with a couple of wrenches. This method is easier, works better, and doesn't scratch the gold finish.

The spring's coil fits down into the mortise. There is a groove on the back of this maple piece that give leverage to tweak the spring just enough to make it install better and hold the pieces flatter. The spring must be taken past the line and then allowed to come back until it lines up with the mark. If it's not far enough, we keep trying until it is because it does matter.

Here is a close up of the final shape after tweaking. It's only a small amount but it really makes a big difference in the final appearance.

This next photo demonstrates the easiest way to install the clothespin's spring. Place a screwdriver through the coil and start the spring from the tapered end. As the spring gets pressed downward, it works it's way down until it snaps into place. Easy does it.

And as expected... the students are all lining up to give it a try. I love when a plan comes together. My students are the best and deserve the best I can give them. I love figuring out how to help them to figure things out.

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Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Sunday, August 7, 2022 7:54:32 AM

A big thank you goes out to Woodcraft for hosting this site.

Using the laser to meet new staff

When we have new staff, I try to help them get started by showing them how to laser a name plate for their room. It's a great icebreaker to get them into shop and welcome them to our school. I just don't usually end up on their phone. This 4th grade teacher who caught me in surprise, laughed and said "That look on your face"! Then when I asked her to send it to me, she got a reply from someone, but it wasn't me. I think she forgot one word of my email. Who ever you are, please delete this awful photo. I look so old. Ha! I thought you were taking a close up and cropping me out.

MCK Woodworks let's me go through their scraps before they go into their dumpster. This keeps me out of the dumpster which is nice of them to do because I have been dumpster diving many times in my life so I can bring back cool free things to my classes. Sometimes it has been stained and finished as this example shows. My students know that I care about them and the environment that they are inheriting from us. I salvage, reuse, recycle just about everything we have in our shop. I rarely buy new materials or supplies. It's a way of life for me and I've shown this to as many teachers as I can. I hope this example has catches on and is practiced more and more.

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Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Sunday, August 7, 2022 6:59:07 AM

A big thank you goes out to Woodcraft for hosting this site.

My Gift To Nurse Nicole

I'm still here! It's hard to believe so much time has past since my first year 43 years ago. Blink of an Eye I've heard it said and they were right. It doesn't seem possible that only a short time ago I was still in school myself. Now as I fight to keep going, I wonder if I'm doing the right thing by returning for another year. Is it my last year teaching or my last year on earth? Who knows for sure? I would like to keep going at least a couple of more years. A big thank you goes out to Nurse Nicole and everyone else on the staff at Banner who helped me on my way. Nurse Nicole brightened my day and I had to do something special for her so she would understand her role in all of this.

Her reply...

Hi Tom,

I wanted to thank you for the kind words you wrote about me to our management here at BUMCP. I am so touched that my care meant so much to you! I always strive to make a difference but in the ICU a lot of the time we don’t get to hear our patients talk so it can be hard to judge how we are doing as nurses. It meant the world to me to hear that I made you feel safe and comfortable here during a scary time.

Thank you also for the pen you made for me!! I love showing it off at work :) Such a special way to remember our time together on the unit and a reminder to always aim to create a nurturing environment even when it gets tough. Thank you for being such a sweet and easy going patient! Glad to hear all went well with the rest of your time here, hope you are still doing well.

Attached is a photo of me using the awesome pen! Can't wait to be able to refill it for years to come. I wish you all the best Tom!


It is a thankless job in the ICU where most of the patients aren't even able to speak. Rest assured they are all thankful even if you can't hear them say it! If you couldn't already tell by reading these many posts, I just happen to be a real chatter box and love a captive audience.

While I don't have another photo of this one at our local hospital ER, Nurse Ashley made a huge difference and I returned and dropped off a similar gift to her. Before I even got to the other hospital, the on call ER doctor tried to steam roll the process of releasing me after my third visit in 15 hours, Nurse Ashley stepped in and tracked down my real doctor that was responsible for my next move, which turned into a two hour ground ambulance ride to one of the largest cities in the country and the right place I needed to be in this emergency. It's all a blur, but these two Nurses may have gone on not realizing how special they are, so I made sure to tell them in my own way. And May is the month for Celebrating and Honoring nurses too.

And if that wasn't enough, there's more. I have run across many a hospital staff and when they make a difference I try to come back and let them know whenever I can. A few months ago I actually had a male nurse named Charles who as it turns out had been a student in my High School class. I gave him, his aide Kat and Nurse Hope, toys for their young children that I made especially for them in my class as a way to show my appreciation. Doggie banks and Ping Pong ball shooters, before they were banded that is. I wish I could have done that for everyone, and several of those also remembered my class. Hey, you've got to love small towns where you can usually see people you know almost everywhere you go.

Oh well, life goes on and I'm looking forward to this new year filled with so much hope and possibility.

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Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Thursday, April 14, 2022 4:56:26 PM

A big thank you goes out to Woodcraft for hosting this site.

The Ping Pong Disaster

By the title everyone could probably guess what happened. Our beloved Ping Pong Launcher is a project no more. There is always one in the crowd. You know them. They are the ones who don't think first and usually act inappropriately because of it. The ones who rarely want to follow directions or rules. Our friend took an unfinished project out to the playground and started pointing it at the younger kids. The terrified kids don't understand... he thought he was being funny. Our new Principal was certainly not amused. It's a good thing I had proper clearance from the school's founder some nine years ago. Still, I didn't argue the point and took both the templates and the model home. Too bad our society is changing in ways we could never predicted only few decades ago. It was a great project while it lasted.

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Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Monday, March 14, 2022 3:23:49 PM

A big thank you goes out to Woodcraft for hosting this site.

The $1000 grant

After a dozen or so of our teachers scored this grant in a half hour's worth of investment, I had to do a work around to get this to go through. It's a long story and took a lot more time for me, but in the end the wood shop was successful, and without having a personal cell phone or having to buy from Amazon.

Thank goodness that Grainger was on their approved list of vendors or there wouldn't have been anything available for our wood shop because I don't have a cell phone which is required to get an Amazon account. Stupid reasoning on their part. The limitations of buying from Grainger were created only by my shop safety theme. Throwing in some other things like sandpaper or screws wasn't really fitting into that theme, and that is why I focused on the more expensive safety glasses.

The grants keep coming to us as other teachers here follow suit. This is all due to our state's department of education offering the opportunity to help teachers in Arizona. I'm not sure when the offer will end, but these mini-grants are very helpful to a small school like ours. Once the money runs out, and it will, there will be some sad teachers who didn't jump on it sooner. I'm hoping to see every Franklin teacher get this classroom mini grant while they still can.

I can't believe the typo... googles Ha! Goggles. I'm a dweeb. But this is what I wanted. I'm so tired of cheap safety glasses that sometimes don't even last a semester.

It appears this place takes a pretty good chunk of the amount for their efforts.

I would have liked to have a few extras for just in case. I will be telling my students that if I see or hear anything out of the ordinary, they will not be able to use the good safety glasses and will instead be issued a pair of the 99 cent one again. I may actually make them sign a statement to that effect.

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Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2022 7:31:09 PM

A big thank you goes out to Woodcraft for hosting this site.

Experimenting with Powder Coat Paint

It's spring break. I watched a YouTube video the other day which showed how to use Powder Coat Paint to fill in laser etching. I called a local Powder Coat shop and found them to be almost as excited about trying this as I was. They told me that they had many discontinued colors that they would be willing to donate. When I visited, I simply wanted to try black first. After a couple of tries, I had these.

The one on the left is maple and does not have any filling. The middle one was my 2nd try with a pre-finished piece of stained pine. The one on the right is maple again with no finish. It's hard to tell from this photo, but the black powder is stuck in the grain surrounding the engraving. I tried sanding and even lacquer thinner and it is still showing in the grain.

The high gloss detracts from the final product, so a flat might look better. The engraving gets powered, then lightly packed, then rake off the excess which can be put back into the container. The piece goes back into the laser and the settings get lowered a bit, before running over it again. You need just enough heat to melt the paint into the grooves. The laser does not affect any residue left after scraping before this step.

I did have to do a second coat to make it look better.

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Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2022 7:04:43 PM

A big thank you goes out to Woodcraft for hosting this site.

A different miter saw

When our old saw gave out, I had the chance to get this used saw which also slides for a larger capacity. The old dust collector box had to be modified to work with the slide. I changed it up a bit too by lowering the original box and making fold out covers for when you have to cut angles.

This next photo was before it was finished, but shows how easy it is to open the covers (on both sides) so that the saw angle can be changed.

It works amazingly well and I don't get nearly as much blow back as the other box did. I can also cut wider pieces now. I'm not sure yet how much dust it will collect when set to 45 degrees, but if all other blast gate happen to be closed, it should do alright. It's when the other gates are open that every open gate slows it all down.

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Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Saturday, February 12, 2022 12:44:26 PM
Sleepaway Camp

I received this email I want to pass along which I will eventually remove after the season begins or if someone says the position has otherwise been filled. I hope this helps Matt! It's something I would love to do except for my age and the distance from home.

Camp Walt Whitman Woodshop Director


My name is Matt Karner, and I am a staffing Director for Camp Walt Whitman. We are a co-ed sleepaway camp in New Hampshire that works with kids aged 7-15. We believe that it is important for our children to immerse themselves into a variety of activities from sports, hiking, and the arts. We have a woodshop on site that truly is a favorite of most of our campers. It is an amazing opportunity teaching these children what woodworking is and seeing it spark their imagination to create some amazing projects throughout the summer. At the current moment, we are looking for a Woodshop Director who can help aid and work with these kids to carry out their projects as well as leading projects for cabins as they are scheduled for the woodshop. I wanted to reach out to check to see if you had any resources where I could reach out to find someone interested in a position like this. I appreciate any help you may be able to give and look forward to hearing back from you.

Best regards,

Matt Karner
Staffing Director
Camp Walt Whitman
Topic: New Project Ideas
Posted: Friday, January 28, 2022 12:58:34 PM

A big thank you goes out to Woodcraft for hosting this site.

When You Forget to Bring the Camera...

It seems to be a fact that whenever we have a more interesting project, the camera stays home. When I finally get photos it is well into the build of Jonah's cutting board.

I know... is this really meant to be a cutting board. In this photo we are leaving the frame sides long so there will be less planer marks.

It sure turned out nice and I told Jonah that mom is never going to cut on this..

Jonah did a great job and like I thought, mom says it's too nice to cut on. I guess you can break out the chess pieces.

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