The weekly plan

Make an oak suitcase stand

Today’s post is a little late because we just got back from a big family event in Raleigh, North Carolina. Boy, did we have fun! I loved that I had the opportunity to see both of my brothers, my mom, my dad and a ton of other relatives.

A sweet looking suitcase stand

Now that we are entering into the prime travel period of the year. And, if you plan on hosting a few guests at your home, the little touches make all the difference. This luggage stand can be one of those projects.

Built with simple joints and items that can be found at any home improvement center, this stand gives your guests a great place to set their suitcases and make themselves a little more comfortable.


MicroJig Art

Now, the moment nobody likes

OK, maybe that’s too dramatic of a title, but I’m at the point in the hope chest build where woodworkers often fear to tread – sanding. Ugh. I know that I have to make the surfaces of the chest buttery smooth to the touch, but why does this remind me of an old timey household chore?

Washboard - but not abs

Be that as it may, the time has come. So, I might as well get started. Fortunately, I had done a fairly good job of getting things nice and smooth with the thickness planer, so removing the machining marks is one thing I will have to do. Of course, I am going to employ the random orbit sander for this…

The sander

It does an OK – if not reduce-you-to-tears-of-boredom – kind of job on the piece. And it does an admirable job of taking down any glue squeeze out, thickness planer divots, dings or the like. It’s a nice tool, and the model I have connects easily to the dust collection, so at least I’m not breathing this junk in.

Get that glue!

Oh, crap, I had a few spots where glue from the corners squeezed out. To tackle that, I turned to one of my Japanese chisels sharpened to a sweet edge. At least this feels more like woodworking…

For areas where the random orbit sander can’t get, I suppose I could wrap some sandpaper around a block and sand into the corners. Yeah, we’re back to the washboard analogy. Instead, I have turned to another tool that makes this less of a chore – a card scraper.

Deal me in on these card scrapers

Properly sharpened, this thing is a joy to use up in the corners, and it helps make this not too tolerable job just a bit more tolerable.

Sanding... hooray

OK, the end result is always good, so I guess it’s just going to be time for me to suck it up and get on with it. After all, the only way this surface prep is going to get done is to get off my butt and do it.

You’re helping me, smalls

I love to quote movie lines. Ask Rhonda. She’ll tell you.

  • Open the pod bay door, HAL.
  • We have both kinds of music – country and western.
  • We’re going to need a bigger boat.

After a while, she will just roll her eyes and walk off into another room. Good for her!

One of my favorites to throw around is from the movie The Sandlot. Whenever someone is giving me a hard time at work, I always have to counter with the line made famous by the movie’s character Ham Porter:


I usually mutter this under my breath whenever I mess up in the shop. But, there are times when working on smalls – or small projects, in this case – can help keep you sharp, even in the middle of a big project.

We are flying up to visit my nephew for his first communion, and I wanted to make him one of my small wooden crosses to commemorate the occasion. Moving the hope chest to the side of the shop, I grabbed a piece of walnut and a piece of zebrawood I had been holding on to for close to a decade now.

Glue applied

I ripped a few piece, got everything nice and true and slathered a little glue on the pieces to prepare them for glue up. Glue up?  How was I going to accomplish this? After all, I would probably need about two dozen clamps to evenly distribute the clamping pressure along this long stick I was trying to make… or did I?

Caul of the wild

Turns out, the cauls I had made a few years ago were perfect for this application. With a hump planed into the middle of the cauls, two clamps – one on each end – were more than enough to bring sweet, even pressure along the entire piece from top to bottom. Easy peasey.

Once glued up and out of the cauls, I turned my attention to joinery. Since the cross project needs only a simple half-lap, I turned to my table saw and used my regular combination blade to nibble out the material to make the cut. It took a little fussing, but the joints came out looking great.

Half laps

The half lap joints were nice and tight when fit, and a little bit of glue is all it required to get the pieces together. A single clamp on the piece held everything together until the glue dried.


With the glue now dry, it took just a few minutes to sand the piece down nice and smooth, ready for some finish. I went with the Rude and Crude method, starting with a coat of dewaxed shellac.

Ready for shellac

Once that cured. I sanded it down with some 320 grit paper (the finest grit I had on hand) and wiped on two coats of my home brew finish.

Et finis

Now that it’s dry, it’s ready for Uncle Tom’s signature and some wrapping paper.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a successful small project. It smells like victory….

The weekly plan

Build a wooden pinhole camera

OK, so the folks at Geek Squad said my camera is fixable under the warranty and it should be back in my hot little mitts by May 4. So, I will be treating it with a TON more care.

A wooden pinhole camera

In its absence, I got to thinking. Could you build a wooden camera? The answer is yes!  This week’s plan from DIY Photo shows how to build a wooden pinhole camera that you can use to create some wild photographic effects.

Oh, for you photo geeks, it’s actually an anamorphic pinhole camera, which allows you to capture some wild images, such as this one.

Sample anamporphic image

If you want to try your hand at this, have fun with it!

Murphy is in charge

Bread lands buttered side down.

If everything is going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

And, when you have your sweet compact body camera in your shop while trying to take a picture for an article on your blog, it will invariably find some way to fall to the ground and fall with a sickening crack.

That’s exactly what happened when I was shooting photos for today’s post (which will appear next week, trust me). I had everything I needed – the board, the tools, the idea, the right lighting and – of course – the camera. And, the second I set that camera down on my workbench and turned my attention to moving the board to get a better shot, I could hear the impact.


Now, the camera looked OK. Seriously. I held it in my hands, flipped it on and hoped for the best.


Dangit. The camera won’t pair with the lens, which means something went kerfluey when it went kerplunk.

Geek Squad

Fortunately, at the time I bought the camera, I had the foresight to buy the extended warranty from the folks at Geek Squad. Whew. The sales guy told me that it covered just about anything I could do to the camera, and after a few minutes of chatting with the agent online, I discovered that yes, they do stand by the guarantee.


This got me thinking… what about warranties on tools? I know that I often buy Ridgid tools because they have lifetime warranties, and yes, I have used the warranty to get my corded drill repaired. Should I be looking to get the extended warranties on bigger tools? I don’t know. Maybe tools are built a little tougher than electronics.

Oh, well, this is a learning experience, and one I’m glad I’m not having to cough up another $300 to fix. Whew…

You gotta have heart …

We are rounding the clubhouse turn on construction for the newest hope chest, and there is a special embellishment I wanted to add to the piece. Unfortunately, it was going to require an inlay, something I really REALLY have a tough time doing.

It’s not that I am a dunce (well, I am), it’s just that when it comes to routing patterns with even my trim router, it takes me a little bit of time to get the feel of what I’m doing. Which is a nice way of saying I waste a lot of material to get one good inlay.

The cut rig

But, first, let’s take a look at what I am inlaying.  This is a special piece of wood I was asked to include, and I wanted to get some nice slices out of it for the inlay process. So, I started by making a cut on one side of the board with the band saw so it would ride against the rip fence. I set the ripping ball bearing guide for a 3/16″ cut to peel off a few nice slices from this well-seasoned board.


As you can see, the first couple of whacks on the board really made some nice slices, perfect for cutting into inlay pieces.

The inlay kit

The next thing I had to do was rig the router for inlay work, which involves a special router guide bushing and a very fine 1/8″ router bit. With this attached to the trim router, I was ready to take my first tentative steps toward cutting the inlay.

The rig

I had to really secure one slice of the special wood in place to ensure it wouldn’t move. At all. So I secured the pattern to the piece and a plywood backer board with a screw. Then I tacked the piece down with a few brads. Then I stuck a few spare pieces as spacers under the sides of the pattern so it wouldn’t move.

Then I flipped on the router switch and prayed.

And, on my fourth attempt, I got a great cutout!  Woo Hoo!

Rout that lid

The next step was to put a special bearing on the guide bushing and clamp the same pattern down on the lid of the chest. This was going to be a little easier, since I had more space to work with. A few clamps, a little bit of router application, and blammo, I had the recess routed to take the inlay.

Now, for the moment of truth. Would the stupid thing fit?

The inlay ready to be driven home

Hey, I didn’t mess up too badly!  I glued the piece, smacked it down with a mallet until it fit the recess and broke out the belt sander to flush everything up. To get a real feel of what it looked like, I wiped a little mineral spirits over the board.


Woah. I’m going to say that went better than I expected.

Now, for the sanding and finish, and this baby will be ready to get off to the recipient and I’ll be ready to move on to the next project.


MicroJig Art

The weekly plan

How to build your own bar

How would you like to come home after a hard day’s work, pull up a stool at a comfortable bar where everyone knows your name and enjoy a frosty beverage?  What if I told you that you could have that luxury in your own home.

The bar that started it all

This page, offered by Milligan’s Gander Farm, shows you the basics of how to build a bar in your own home. In addition to providing the basic measurements and tips on materials, it shows detailed construction drawings that can help you make an area that is perfect for entertaining guests.

Whether you choose to tap some adult beverages or want to become your own barista, you will will have a lot of fun with this project.