All posts by Steve

The Beauty of Daffodils

I had been thinking of various designs for my next Welsh Lovespoon and what elements are held dearly to any person of Welsh decent. The Daffodil is the national flower of Wales and I had recently purchased a length of Basswood so this would give the ideal tones for the flowers that would adorn my next carving. I had decided to imaging a carving that had a staff with the spoon bowl at one end and a heart at the other. The daffodils would be placed along the staff and held on with a continual rope. The imagining of the design was the easy part but how would I carve this vision. Continue reading The Beauty of Daffodils

A Work Bench Saves Time

I’ve been contemplating a work bench of some description for a very long time but as everything goes, it always gets put aside or I just make do with the Workmate. Now I’m sure I’m not the only person who lags behind in this department, the project is always more important to get done regardless of the inconveniences at the time and of course it does get done but it could be easier.

In the past, I have always struggled to support the timber and when I’m in the process of planing any lumber I have to use the Workmate that I have. The construction of my particular model has been streamlined over the years for quick production compared to the original model that I had when I was living in England. The original was a cast aluminum frame if I remember correctly, compared to the stamped sheet metal that today offers, obviously a sign of the times with trying to turn a profit. The fixings are nylon and eventually get stripped from the worm gear from the constant tightening until the top is no longer held down, making clamping a hit and miss affair. This reduction in clamping capabilities adds more frustration to the job at hand, so now that I have a little spare lumber from the Jungle Fort project I can utilize this material for the base construction reducing the overall cost of the bench but first I have to decide what size the top will it be. Continue reading A Work Bench Saves Time

Jungle Fort, Annual Maintenance and Final Images

We have just started a new month, April, which is closing in on the anniversary of the start of the Jungle Fort project and as you all know it was only a couple of months ago that I actually completed the whole structure. During that period of time my children have grown to love all the activities that it has to offer, from the dressing up of the fort structure during the Christmas period with tinsel and garlands, to this Easter, with the hiding of Easter eggs.

Jungle fort complete, viewing swings and trapeze bar.

The endless options that it has to offer far outweighs the amount of time that it took for me to construct, mind you little hands had a lot to play with the construction as well.

Helping with the ratcheting of the bolts, placement of the climbing wall rocks, bringing nails and screws to the construction site, it all brings back those memories that will last a lifetime. So now that it is finished, what’s next?

With any large construction project it is important to ensure that all bolts are kept tight and during the course of the construction the timbers have shrunk and expanded with the bolts loosening up to where they need to be cinched tight again. I had noticed that the swings had been slipping when in full flight with the tell-tale signs of wear around the hangers. I remember when I had tighted these bolts up initially and how difficult it was to wind them in to the full depth, probably because of the moisture content of the timber but now that it had dried out fully it was far easier to lock up tight again. Continue reading Jungle Fort, Annual Maintenance and Final Images

Home Made Cabinet Scraper

Way back in October of 2006 I wrote about the heavy Santa Ana winds felling one of the Californian Pepper trees at my place of work and how I would take a section of that timber and air dry it to use at a later date for a small project. Since then it has been drying for a period of fourteen months and I have split a section of that limb to be used in producing a cabinet scraper. This cabinet scraper design is from an article produced by Fine Woodworking and I thought it would be a small enough project to see how the grain of the timber would carve and how it would look when waxed and also it wouldn’t be too much of a loss if it didn’t pan out at the end of the day.

I had noticed during the drying process that the end of the log had started to split and by that time it was too late to think about coating the end to stop the quick evaporation. What I should have done in the first place was to coat both ends of the sawn log with some spare latex paint to even out the evaporation and this may have reduced the amount of cracking. I would estimate that the cracks had penetrated a full one inch into the log at this time. The project that I wanted to do called for a piece eleven inches long by three inches by two and a half inches which would be marginal with what I had to work with. With the hardness of the timber unknown to me I had decided to use a base made from one inch thick figured oak that had been lying around and I knew this material would give a base that would be hard and durable. Continue reading Home Made Cabinet Scraper

A Linking of Hearts

I’ve started up the Lovespoon carving again and I’m surprised how relaxing it is just to sit down during the lunch break and whittle away at a chunk of wood. The design that I stumbled upon was during the Valentine day week when I was thinking about what to get for my wife. I had a piece of mahogany that was six inches by two inches by one and a half inches and thought I would design a Lovespoon with two hearts staged one on top of the other. As the design evolved I thought I would split the hearts and carve the spoon bowl inside the heart shape and have the two halves joined together with a link. Continue reading A Linking of Hearts

Woodcraft 80 Year Anniversary

Woodcraft is celebrating its 80th year in helping people to master wood, that is, supplying the tools, the knowledge and the know how. With this momentous occasion they are offering limited editions of quality tools every month during the 80th year.

During this period March 2nd through March 31st 2008 they have a nice Flexcut Carving Knife Set. What makes this special is that the handles are custom made from Padauk and the tool roll sports the Woodcraft 80th Anniversary Limited Edition print. A nice edition at a reasonable price of $80.00 and they’re made in the U.S.A. Continue reading Woodcraft 80 Year Anniversary

Roof Tarp and Grab Handles

This post has been a long time coming and will finally round up the Jungle Fort major construction which has lingered on for many months. Overall everything has worked out great and my children have been enjoying it immensely. With all the major construction out of the way the final safety fixings will complete a very enjoyable job and a great learning curve. Many of the openings have had grab handles installed which is a very easy fix. The grab handles come in various colors and have inch and a half long lag bolts with washers to keep them securely in place. The placement of the grab handles was based on the reach of my children when scaling the rock wall or climbing the ramp. The grab handles at the slide entrance was also based on the children sitting ready to slide down, so you can see this is all dependent on arms length and for me it had to suit my daughter as she is the smallest.

Multicolored grab handles.

I found when fixing the grab handles the use of a pilot hole for the bolts and a little grease on the thread made it easier to ratchet the bolts into place and also prevented the timber from puckering up when winding them in tight. This ensured the handles ended up with a nice flush fit eliminating any rocking effect from ill fitted handles.

These handles from Detailed Play Systems are made from a high quality plastic and seem to be able to take plenty of abuse from the children, even though they are very smooth they offer plenty of grip with finger ridges inside. I would imagine that they have been tried and tested for being outside in the elements but only time will tell if they will crack or become brittle. I have tried pulling on them and they have been very secure but they are very slick so any moisture on them will increase the slipperiness of the surface so I have made a mental note to warn the children to be extra careful on those damp days.

All in all I have fitted a total of four sets of grab handles to all the openings and I’m glad I did as they hang out of the entrances calling to each other, much to my anxiety! Continue reading Roof Tarp and Grab Handles

Irvine Lake Grand Prize

This last Christmas, one of the presents my young children received from their uncle was a starter kit for fishing and being the type of person that he is he let them open it early. Now this wasn’t planned but as they were going fishing to the Irvine lake what better time to christen the gear. Jackson, my son had a “Spiderman rod and reel combo” at four feet six inches long and his sister Madeline had a “Barbie rod and reel combo,” all of two feet six inches!

I had been fishing at the lake maybe once before with not as much as a bite but hey, maybe they will have some fun and it’s out in the open with plenty of fresh air. The children’s lake where they would be fishing had been restocked for a special “tagged Fish” event that would span over the entire Christmas period from December 15th through January 6th with the opportunity to win prizes for each tagged fish that were caught. This would result in each tag being exchanged for a spin of the “prize wheel” and the prize being determined by where the pointer stopped, in addition the child’s name would be placed in the draw for the grand prize which was an Xbox 360. These prizes ranged from a free days fishing to fishing lures and the grand prize draw set for January 6th at 2 p.m.

Fishing with my sister at Irvine lake, California.
Continue reading Irvine Lake Grand Prize

Jungle Fort Vertical Rock Wall

With the dividends of the picnic bench being enjoyed, now was the time to partly enclose the space with the rock wall. This rock wall would enclose the back face of the Jungle Fort and also provide a wind break. Our property is fortunate to be only one and a half miles from the ocean and at around eleven o’clock each day the wind picks up and there is a steady breeze. This is a great relief during the summer months but as the season changes and the winter months approach it can get a little chilly so this rock wall will provide a welcome refuge for my children when they sit at the picnic bench.

I had decided to split the vertical rock wall so that it had a high section and a lower section, by doing this it would satisfy both my childrens skill levels and also provide an easy access to the back of the fort platform. The plans had provided both a vertical wall and a sloped climbing wall but as our space was just with six feet of clearance from the vertical wall, an angled alterative was out of the question. Continue reading Jungle Fort Vertical Rock Wall

Picnic Bench and Lunch!

Finishing all the main players on the Jungle Fort has certainly taken many of my weekends but the satisfaction of this construction shows on my childrens face every time they play on it. The one main outstanding item that is missing is the climbing wall but this can only be installed after I’ve fitted the picnic bench.

I had already cut to size the pressure treated lumber rather than using the WPL (wood polymer lumber) so as to keep the look consistent. This would be used for the seats and the table top. The first phase of the installation would be to secure the supports for the seats and the table top to the uprights of the Jungle Fort. These supports would be secured by 5 inch by 3/8 inch galvanized lag bolts. I had decided to counterbore the position of these bolts so that the head would not be protruding from the material after tightening, even though it would only be by a small amount. The instuctions only called for the lag bolts to be fastened into position. I later found out why, with the counterbore the lag bolt would be tightened and it would burst through the other side of the upright. this would entail cutting off the offending point with a hacksaw and then filing flush with the timber. This was an unfortunate oversight by myself but the end result left no sharp edges, it was additional work but I was pleased with the result. Continue reading Picnic Bench and Lunch!