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Merry Christmas!

This is my last day in the office before Christmas, so I just wanted to wish you safe travels and good times with family and friends.

In my family, we usually do a sort of “random” gift exchange, where we never know who will end up with the gift we give. Could go to my 72 year-young mother, or my 22-year-old pro-football-playin’ nephew. Years ago, we decided as a family to stop spending money on gifts for this exchange and instead give gently-used “white elephant” type gifts. I persisted in making a small wooden gift each year.

Until this year. Two reasons: First, my competitive older brother complained that my gifts were always the ones that got “stolen” most during the exchange, and I think he was a bit jealous. But mainly, it’s because I had a couple of other projects on the bench I needed to wrap up, so I just didn’t have time to make anything this year.

The first project is a wall desk for my parents–a “commissioned” piece :) that my Dad designed, but wanted me to build. The other was a pair of light boxes–solid oak enclosures to hide the ugly 8-foot fluorescent fixtures in my mother-in-law’s dining room. Nothing fancy, but I managed to squeeze them in between kids concerts, etc. I’ll try to get some pix during/after installation and post them here.

Hope your projects went as well as mine.

Merry Christmas!


Sketchup makes you sleepy

I found time to sit at the computer Saturday and watch some of the excellent on-line video tutorials for Sketchup.  By 1:30p, I’d been at it a couple of hours, and I was getting a little bleary. My wife and daughter were gone, so I lay down on the couch for a 20-minute “power nap“… and woke up two hours later! Very unusual for me, as I seldom even nap. Anyway, I’m much better versed in Sketchup now (and better rested), so time allowing, I’ll begin designing my TV stand this week.


Ego & Impatience

There’s plenty of hyperbole about how “easy” Sketchup is to use. Just ask these guys.

They do amazing things with the software, but I should recognize that these guys have graphics backgrounds, art degrees, etc. and that I don’t. I should also recognize that learning any new software requires some learning time, no matter how often words like “intuitive” and “easy to use” get tossed about. So why did I expect to plunge right in, start clicking and dragging, and have my TV stand designed with scaled drawings in just a couple of evenings? The answer lies in the title of this post.

Despite some initial frustrations working with the software, I’ve managed to create a basic look for the stand that the wife and I like…

TV Stand model

TV Stand model

…but I’ll have to go back to square one and start drawing it correctly, with parts that fit as they should, so I can then output dimensioned plans.

I should make it clear, I’m not dissing Sketchup, just my ignorance in jumping in without first doing a little training. So in the days ahead, I’ll backpedal and put in my study time so that I can move ahead. Lesson learned (again): Take the time up front to save time and frustration later.


Dovetail jig tips

With just a few hours in the shop last weekend, I got a lot done. I needed to dial in the router bit depth before routing dovetails on the drawers for my shop cabinet. The jig’s template and stops were already positioned, so I loaded a couple of test pieces into the jig, and set the bit for what looked like a reasonable guess at the proper depth. You can probably imagine what the test joint looked like.

Well, you’d be wrong! It went together beautifully! I couldn’t believe it. Taking this as a good sign, I started routing drawer joints. I rout dovetails so infrequently I took note of some tips that I plan to file away with my jig for reference next time I get it out. Here they are:
➢     Lay out your drawer pieces and label the inside bottom edges. Use BL for Back Left, BR for Back Right, FR for Front Right, and FL for Front Left.

Labeled drawer parts

Labeled drawer parts

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Dresser Design VI: Dovetails

Modeling half-blind dovetails in a curved-front drawer is hard. Which makes it a bit daunting to do in real life. But I think that I’ve got a plan mapped out for that.

Dresser Drawer 1 Read more

Dresser Design V: Variation on a theme

Since I am intentionally challenging myself with this project in an attempt to pick up as many skills as possible, I decided that I could also use the pre-construction phase to learn a bit about design styles and periods — something I know little about. My thinking is that I could use the research to influence the details of the piece. Remember, I modeled and altered this design from photos, so without a knowledge of style, I don’t know the direction the original designers were starting from or heading towards. Read more

Dresser Design IV: Details

Just a few details added.

I made the dresser 2″ deeper, which I think helped the proportions. This is going to be a big piece of furniture, though. I also figured out how to hide the extraneous geometry that showed up when I was extruding those curved pieces like the drawer fronts and curved trim pieces (select the line, right-click and select “Entity Info.” In the Entity Info palette, select either “hide” or “soft”).

Dresser IV 1 Read more

Dresser Design III: Drawers

And here are the drawer faces. The full drawers aren’t modeled yet. I’m not quite sure how to do the joint from the curved drawer face to the drawer sides. So, I just added faces to see what the final piece might look like.

Probably not the final hardware I’ll go with, but it was easy to model, and I wanted something fast. I might still fiddle with the proportions of the dresser, a bit as well—maybe make it deeper.

Let me know what you think.

Dresser III

Dresser Design II: Sketchup and Splinter

OK. So, I’ve had a few days to get back up to speed on Sketchup. Had to pick up a few new tricks to get the curves done, but I think I’ve got it on the run, now.

I set aside the project for a trip to visit with Joe Harmon. He and his team are pulling out all the stops to build a supercar made nearly entirely out of wood. The Splinter is simply an amazing project, and the things these young folks are doing with laminated wood, ingenuity, scavenged parts, and a generous amount of pizza nearly boggles the mind. I’ll tell you this, I’m inspired. This dresser with its trifling double curve doesn’t seem nearly as daunting after seeing the graceful compound-curved lines of the Splinter. Click here for links to Splinter. And keep an eye out for more coverage later this summer.

So after a few more hours this weekend, here is where I stand:

Dresser II
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Dresser Design I

So, I’m starting with the dresser. I’m going to create a design from photos, something that could come in handy often. Let’s face it, the designs we see and like don’t always come with plans and step-by-step drawings.

Not long ago, my wife and I went furniture shopping. We furniture shop with a camera, discreetly taking pictures of pieces we like. When both of us fell in love with a bedroom set that was several (several, several) thousand dollars out of our price range, we went home with a couple blurry pictures (Sue me. It was dark) and some wishful thinking.

The dresser that we liked was a tall 5-drawer dresser. It has three columns of drawers with a graceful double curve on the front. The center column of drawers are wide with small, squarish drawers off to the side. Read more

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