Christmas, CNC, Maker, Woodworking

Secret Santa 2018: Japan in Maple and Walnut

For my workplace Secret Santa gift exchange this Christmas (you know, the one that very recently took place), my recipient was a Japanese citizen who likes to hike, so I made him a 3-D topographic map of Japan out of maple and walnut.

The steps to build it were pretty simple, so I won’t caption all the photos, but basically, I glued up a walnut panel, carved Japan out of maple with my CNC router, and then magically conjoined them. Tada in Japanese!

 

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Christmas, Life

Our 2018 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas to all of our friends, family, and unindicted co-conspirators,

Why does every Christmas letter have to be about gazing back upon the stale agèd past instead of looking forward to the glorious future? You don’t need to know what we did last January; that was 11 months ago! OLD NEWS! The fact that Gabriel took first place in his Awana Pinewood Derby is so bygone that we should say exactly that to it. “Bye! Gone!” Turn around and face the future: Gabriel is preparing not only for this year’s race, but NEXT year’s race, and is hoping — nay, planning — to be a three-time champion. Now THAT’s what I call Looking Forward to the Glorious Future!

Grayson is not content to live in the past either. (You don’t remember Grayson? Are you still living in a 2017 Christmas Letter-era when he was named Henry and hadn’t been born yet? Get with it!) For most of 2018, all he knew how to do was lay on the ground and roll around a little. However, he abandoned ALL of that — everything he knew from the past! — in favor of crawling, which is the locomotive method of the FUTURE. Grayson is a forward thinker, just like his dear old dad.

Speaking of old, I’m going to be it… in the future!

Christina and I are hoping to go back to Mexico again soon. “Back?” you say? “But whenever did you already GO to Mexico??” In the past! I don’t want to talk about it! We had a great time! We went with our friends! It’s a beautiful country full of wonderful people!

Next year, Christina will be the treasurer for our local foster parents association. I told her that I felt like I found treasure-r when I met her, but she said, “Christopher, that’s the kind of rearward-looking yesteryear-talk that we’re trying to eliminate. It’s also a terrible pun.”  And doggonit if she wasn’t right!

For the rest of their lives, our kids will be able to say that they got to go to LegoLand and Disneyland. I don’t want to write too much about how or when it happened for fear of contradicting the entire theme of this letter, but let’s just put it this way: last month (in the past), we fulfilled my life-long dream of driving four kids ten hours to spend three days at theme parks. But that’s all I’m going to say; you’ll have to connect the dots yourself!

Gideon, under Gabriel’s tutelage, is already deciding which career path he is going to follow after high school: professional football player (multi-million-dollar kicking position contracts only) or high-stakes poker player. His plan is to win big in his first year of either sport, retire immediately, and let us mooch off of him for the rest of our lives. Sounds good to me!

Gloria is looking forward to being the youngest person in our family to graduate from kindergarten, ever! At just five years, nine months, and seven days, she’ll be younger than every single one of her ancestors was at the time that they finished kindergarten. Oh sorry, I have to answer the phone — it’s the Guiness Book of World Records calling!

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: regardless of how much time you spent watching Japanese chefs make omelets on YouTube this year, don’t let that control your future.  You can watch as little or as much Japanese omelet footage as you want in 2019!

Forever forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom,

Chris, Christina, Gabriel, Gideon, Gloria, and Grayson Henry Finke

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Automattic, Christmas, CNC, Maker, Woodworking, X-Carve

An Automattic Bowl

For part of the gift I sent through the Secret Santa exchange at work this year, I decided to make a bowl with the Automattic company logo inlaid in the bottom.  I’ve never made a bowl or done an inlay before, so this was definitely a wise decision that would not backfire.

I started by using my X-Carve to carve out a deep recess in some walnut to receive the inlay.  The plan at this point was to have the inlay visible on both the outside and inside bottoms of the bowl, so I carved it about an inch and a half deep to give me plenty of room for error. (<– Foreshadowing.)

I cut the inlaid pieces out of some maple, since it would have a natural contrast with the dark walnut.

I glued the maple in, flattened the surface, and cut the walnut to a roughly circular blank on the bandsaw.

I mounted the blank on the lathe and carved the outside profile of the bowl. Because I made the blank by gluing two pieces of walnut together (top to bottom), I added three decorative grooves: one on the seam to hide it, and one on either side for good measure. The grain lined up well enough that it’s hard to tell that it’s not one solid piece.

The lathe chuck I was originally going to use would have tightened around the tenon.(In the photo above, the tenon is the protruding portion on the right side that contains the inlay.)  Unfortunately, it broke, and the chuck I ended up using (shown below) needed a recess to expand into, so I cut all of the tenon off (and then some). Because of this change, there wasn’t enough of the inlay left to have it visible on both the inside and outside of the bowl.

I hollowed out the inside of the bowl, being careful not to go too deep.

After finishing the bowl with Watco Danish oil, I let it cure, and then I mailed it off to my unsuspecting coworker along with some treats to fill it.  If he doesn’t like corporate wooden dishware, I hope he at least likes American candy.

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Christmas, Woodworking, X-Carve

Wooden’t You Like to See These Christmas Gifts I Made?

Here are a couple more Christmas gifts that came out of the workshop.  The first one is a wall-hanging for my die-hard Vikings fan mother-in-law. I cut it on the X-Carve and hand-painted it.

This one is for my parents to hang up pictures of the grandkids:

If you’re wondering whether making a sign like this makes up for moving 2,000 miles away with the grandkids, the answer is “mostly.”

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Christmas, CNC, Woodworking, X-Carve

I Made Some Animal Stools

I made four little animal chairs for young family members this Christmas:

The process for each chair was basically the same: cut out sides on the X-Carve, cut the seat and seatback on the table saw, and screw them together. I hand-painted the elephant and unicorn, and I finished the whale and otter with Danish oil and spray enamel.

If you have an X-Carve and would like to make these, I’ve published projects at Inventables for the otter, elephant, and whale. (The image that the unicorn chair is based on is not freely licensed, so I am not publishing my project for that chair.)

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Christmas, CNC, Maker, Woodworking, X-Carve

Making Name Puzzles with the X-Carve

For a couple of the younger kids on my Christmas gift list this year, I made name puzzles with my X-Carve.

The puzzles are made out of Baltic birch plywood; the letters are 1/4″ thick and the base is 1/2″ thick.

I cut out the letters of the name (and some additional puzzle pieces) with a very small bit (1/32″), so when the letters are placed in the puzzle, they have a total of 1/16″ of play.  This is probably the maximum allowable play before the pieces start to feel loose.

These letters were from a proof-of-concept puzzle that I didn’t end up finishing, but you get the idea.

I carved the puzzle piece insets 1/8″ deep and rounded the corners of the base.

On one of the puzzles, I also included the logos of the Minnesota Wild and the Minnesota Twins. I gave the Wild logo some depth by carving out one of the areas that was a single color. This made it easier to paint too.

After painting the pieces, I gave them and the bases a couple of coats of clear enamel.

Which piece goes where???

I hope that the kids like these for now, and when they get older, they can glue the pieces in place and use these as wall or door hangings.

If you have an X-Carve and want to make these puzzles (or variations thereof, if you don’t know a Minnesotan child named Justin), the Easel projects are here (Justin) and here (Alyssa).

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Christmas, Programming

Improve your Christmas gift opening with Randomizer

My wife and I wanted to find a way to do an orderly one-at-a-time Christmas gift opening this year rather than the usual everyone-at-once free-for-all, but while also still keeping all the kids mentally present, rather than having them zone out until it was their turn.

We decided to randomly choose the next person to open a gift each time so that the kids would always have a chance to be next, keeping them on their toes. My wife suggested the sensible idea of picking names out of a hat. While she ran some errands, instead of writing down eight names on slips of paper, I wrote a one-page web app to run on our living room TV that would randomly choose who got to open a gift next. It worked perfectly, creating a mini-contest every time someone finished opening their gift, causing all of the kids to fall silent and then yell out the “winner’s” name.

The web app is called Randomizer. Give it a list of choices, and it will flip through them game-show-style (with sound effects) until finally settling on a winner. It kept the attention of eight kids between the ages of 3 and 10, quieting everyone down as soon as the beeping started after each gift was opened.

Try a demo here (be sure to un-mute your speakers), or watch this GIF screencast:

Screencast of the Randomizer in action

You can add as many options as you want, and you can weight some options more heavily by including them multiple times. The options are stored in the URL fragment, so you can bookmark Randomizer for frequent decisions. Try #Yes,No, #Heads,Tails, or #Rock,Paper,Scissors.

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