Saturday, May 02, 2009


A long time ago, maybe 15 years or more, I did some plumbing work in a bathroom. There was some leftover copper pipe and I thought I would make some windchimes using that. So I cut some round disks, cut some lengths of pipe, and tied them all together using various strings and fishing lines. I wasn't displeased with it but also not totally happy because the hanging disk was at a really sharp angle. They "hung" unused in the garage for over 10 years as one of those things that I would one day finish.

My girlfriend, Susan, saw them and asked about them. She also said she would like her own just like it. So this project was immediately resurrected. I thought about it a little bit and came up with a method of hanging the pipes using zip ties and fishing snaps. This would help me easily reposition the pipes to distribute the weight better. Then, I came up with the idea of suspending the main disk from a brass ring using multiple strings. That would completely discourage tilting.

So Susan and I set to work. We got the disks and pipes hanging in one evening. Then I suspended them from rings, added the main central rope and "knockers", and finally the wind flapper things.

For hers, I made it very decorative. I used multicolored mason twine. She will hang it a bit out of direct weather, so I went for color. I started with a brass ring, which I wrapped with a series of half-hitches, in lime green twine. (Clicking on the pictures should enlarge them, and hopefully reveal the details better)

The wood is all cedar, left over from making oval boxes for Christmas gifts. For the main rope I braided 4 strands.

For my own I went with plain white cordage.

The round pieces were pine, that have a polyurethane finish applied. The bottom, triangular piece, is poplar, left over from making oval boxes for Christmas gifts.

Of note, the discoloration of the pipes on mine. Susan's were made from bright, shiny, new copper pipe from the store. Mine had sat around for 15 years or more and tarnished. They should one day go "verdigris" in the weather.

And here they are, side by side.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Susan's Wine Bottle Stopper gift - Complete

Here is the completed set.
I tried to turn the bases to look identical. The red cedar one, for red wine, is a wine bottle and the lighter sycamore one, for white wine, is a wine goblet. The holder has 3 coats of polyurethane. You can't see it, but it still needs a 2009 penny embedded in the bottom. The recess is drilled, but I have not yet seen a 2009 penny.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Susan's Wine Bottle Stopper gift

I'm making a birthday gift for my girlfriend, Susan. She asked for a set of wine bottle stoppers and holder, similar to the ones I made a while back. She likes the set I have in my kitchen.

Her birthday is in May, so I have plenty of time, but I started early to get it done as soon as possible. What she doesn't know is HOW they will look. The first one is a wine goblet on a pedestal.

As you can see, I hollowed it out on top as well.

The stand is the one I kept for myself. At this point I have milled the wood for hers, cut it to size and drilled the holes and recesses. But the wood needs sanding and finishing. So for these pictures I posed the first stopper with my holder.

Also, I have glued up a cedar block for the second stopper. It will be shaped like a wine bottle and will sit on a matching pedestal. It will have a hole drilled to make it look somewhat authentic.

More to come soon.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Oval Boxes for Christmas

This year the people on my Christmas list will get a hand made oval box, either cedar or poplar (my choice). I followed directions that I found in a magazine.

Here are the two stacks of finished boxes...30 in all.

And here is a little detail. I autographed and dated them, made a little info card describing the wood, and inserted a pair of candy canes.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shaker Oval Music Boxes

Every year I make something for two dear female friends of mine, for their birthdays. This year I decided on Shaker Oval Boxes, and putting a music box movement inside. I saw the plan in a Popular Woodworking magazine and the credit is due to a fellor named John Wilson. His web site is and has instructions and supplies.

I first studied the instructions, then ordered supplies I'd need, then started making the forms. The forms are nice, thick blue foam. I cut an oversized block of foam, then copied a full size oval and adhered it with spray adhesive. Then I sanded down to the line.

Next, I needed templates for making the bands that form the oval box sides. Mr. Wilson sells aluminum ones, but I made my own out of plastic. I figured that "see through" material would help me find pretty grain for my boxes. Here are the templates for the side strip and lid strip.

After tracing these, they are cut out and sanded to the line. Here are strips made from sycamore.

The ends of the strips have "fingers" that need drilling (for copper tacks) and a beveled cut along the length of the fingers (nice touch to make them look more elegant, I guess).

From Mr. Wilson, I purchased a water tray and got a table top range burner from WalMart. The water is heated to near boiling and the strips are soaked for about a half hour. This makes them pliable for bending.

At the hardware store I bought a flange and short length of threaded pipe, then attached these to a leg of my workbench. This will back up the wood for nailing in the copper tacks. The anvil causes the tip of the copper tack to bend on the inside of the wood, so it holds the box closed.

Since I work alone, I could not get pictures of the actual forming process, but the hot strip of wood is bent around the form, then marked, then taken off the form. Then the marks are brought together again and the oval is made permanent by hammering in the copper tacks...lightly. Then the oval is put back on the form for two days of drying. The lid bands use the box band as their form.

I didn't take pictures of making the solid top and bottom ovals. Basically you mill wood to appropriate thickness, use the finished oval band as a tracing template, cut oversized, and sand to the line.

Now, these two boxes are music boxes. The movement is "Simple Gifts" which is a pretty well known tune by Aaron Copeland, from his piece called "Appalachian Spring." A Shaker wrote the lyrics for this tune. I thought it would be nice to include the lyrics on the inside of the lid. To do this I use ink jet T-shirt transfer material. The lyrics were printed in reverse and ironed onto the wood. It took a lot of trial and error to get this right. I think I had 14 failed attempts and 2 successes. But I learned what makes success, so that will help on future projects.

Success! So this doesn't come off I covered the lyrics with 3 coats of polyurethane.

The flat oval tops are placed into the band, then drilled, then held in place with glued in toothpicks.

When the glue is cured the toothpicks are trimmed, then everything is sanded. I sand it all down, apply 3 coats of polyurethane, and attach the music box movement. There is a hole drilled in the box bottom to allow for winding the movement. Also, my finishing touch is to drill a recess and glue in a penny (for the year), and add my name.

The original intent was to use sycamore, but I found that it does not bend well without breaking. It comes close, but tends to break going around the home stretch. So for the actual boxes I found that poplar bends REALLY well. Since making the above boxes I have experimented with cherry and cedar too. Cherry does well for the skinny lid bands, but tends to break for the wider box bands. Cedar does REALLY well, just like poplar. And I have an abundance of cedar and poplar. Below is just a test box. The bottom is made from poplar and the top from cherry. It will be for myself. Since this, I have put a cedar bottom into the poplar oval. And I will put a sycamore top into the cherry oval. Just a nifty multi-wood storage box for the shop.

My friends and I have an upcoming lunch, where we celebrate our birthdays and give gifts. I know they will like their music boxes. I had successes and failures along the way, but the end result is really pleasing and it was a good experience.

Monday, June 23, 2008


A friend gave me a clipboard last year for my birthday. It was really nice, but small. More than likely she couldn't afford one that was hand made and would hold an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper, but it was BEAUTIFUL anyway.

I thought that I could make them too. For Christmas I made wine bottle stoppers for family members...well, for everyone that was of legal drinking age. For 3 nephews I intended to give clipboards. But I ran out of time, so I gave them "IOUs".

I finally got around to making the clipboards. Milled up strips of sycamore, cherry, and walnut, then arranged them in pleasing patterns. Edge glued them, then ran them through the planer until they were all the same thickness.

I made one of these for one nephew:

and two of these for nephews that are brothers:

Sanding, staining, and finishing followed.

For clips, I went to WalMart and bought 3 clipboards made of masonite...1 buck each. The clip was riveted to those. I drilled out the rivets and threw away the boards. I attached these to MY clipboards with short, fat screws.

Here is the first one finished (sycamore/cherry/walnut/cherry/sycamore):

and the other two (sycamore/cherry/light sycamore/walnut/light sycamore/cherry/sycamore):

I am going to hand deliver the first one later this week. The other two will be mailed. And yes, even though it is June, I will wrap them in Christmas paper.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Birdhouse Ornaments

For my non-alcoholic friends I have made some birdhouse ornaments. These start as a glued up block of walnut and cedar.

A hole for the nesting area is drilled through the end of the block. Then an "entry" hole and hole for a perch are drilled through the face.

The body is turned to shape. In this pic the finial is not done because that is where it was attached to the drive shaft of the lathe. It now needs to be turned around and secured in a "jam chuck" which consists of a block I mounted to the lathe and has a Forstner hole. I turn the very top of the house to fit very snugly into that hole (thus "jam" it in). Then the finial is completed.

The roof consists of a block of sycamore turned down into a cone shape. I pre-drill the Forstner hole for the top of the birdhouse to fit into, then I drill for a screw chuck so I can turn the roof all in one orientation. Nobody will ever see that hole.

The finished birdhouse fits in the palm of my hand. The top and bottom fit snugly but can be glued together. For THIS particular one I am going to put a dark chocolate Hershey kiss inside (this friend LOVES Special Dark, like me). Also, in this case I glued a 2007 penny to the inside of the roof. In ornaments that ARE glued top to bottom I dropped a 2007 penny inside. It rattles and one can shake it and look through the entry hole to see the penny.

Finally I drill a small hole on the top of the roof and screw in a brass eye screw. Then a piece of ribbon. Then glue in a short section of dowel for the perch and finally glue on a small bird using hot melt glue.

Completed wine bottle stoppers and stands

I'm giving all of these away to friends and family. Actually I think I will keep one set.

The red stoppers are cedar. The others are sycamore. The stands are also made from the same wood. The two planks are separated by 4 full cork "columns". I trimmed these in sets of 4 to be identical in length. The top plank has a 1 inch through hole. The bottom has a hole that does not go all the way through. The holes in the top and bottom were aligned so that the stoppers would stand roughly straight up.

On the bottom I drilled a recess for a 2007 penny. Also I sliced corks on the bandsaw to 1/4 inch thick and glued a set onto the bottoms.

This set is for my good friend Marta. It is the only set that isn't entirely random. It is a turned goblet and wine bottle.