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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Christmas, Life

Our 2016 Christmas Letter

I am trying something new this year. Instead of typing out the Christmas letter, I am dictating it to our new digital assistant, Alexa. Hopefully, this will save me some time, as I will be able to take care of some other important tasks while I update you on our lives. Yeah, hi, could I get two Big Macs, a large fry, and a medium chocolate shake? Actually, a large chocolate shake. Alexa, you’re not writing this part down, are you?

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Christmas, Life

Our 2015 Christmas Letter

You’ll never believe what this family did this year! Read on to learn their one weird tip for beating the cold!

Fast forward to July, because nothing before that matters. We sold our house and three of our belongings and moved 2,000 miles away to Oregon, the land where water is liquid year-round and your snot never freezes and the mailman delivers fresh homemade marshmallows every day! To be honest though, I’m starting to get sick of so many marshmallows! I mean, how many marshmallows can a guy eat?! After the first 20 or 30 each day, it’s a real chore to keep all these marshmallows down!

When we sold our house, we got top dollar for it. (The realtors and the bank took all of the other dollars in the stack.) We took that dollar and used it to put gas in our car for the long trip out to Medford, Oregon. Fun fact: You could drive from Minneapolis to any of the state capitals in less time than it takes to drive to Medford. Especially if you speed!

On our journey to Oregon, we saw all of the sights the North has to offer: Mount Rushmore, a cow, Old Faithful, and that thing where two swans touch their heads together and their necks make the shape of a heart. We almost slept in a teepee, and I’m happy to report that not a single member of our party died of dysentery, but we did see a lot of tombstones mentioning cheese and pepperoni.

“Fortunately,” we did not move to Oregon until after our yearly Minnesota camping trip. Even more “fortunately,” Oregon’s camping season is much longer than Minnesota’s, so we “got” to go camping again after we moved. How “fortunate” are we that we “got” to go camping two times in one year?? Two times. Imagine that. Can you even imagine it? I couldn’t. Until it happened to me.

Oregon is a magical place. Here’s proof: in October, I guessed the combination of a Master Lock on the first try. The first try! In Minnesota, it would take me two tries, but not in Oregon!

Gloria had two surgeries to clear her tear ducts so that her tears would drain normally and not smear all over her cute little face. Now the only thing smeared all over her cute little face is boogers and food and markers and juice.

While Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, Oregon is the land of approximately one lake. But what a lake! It was formed by a volcano and has an island in the middle! Gee willikers! It’s called Crater Lake, and we visited it to give it the Minnesotan Lake Stamp of Approval, but they didn’t know what we were talking about so we had to just stamp it on a rock and run away real quick.

Gabriel is in first grade now, and Gideon has started Pre-K. Most of Gabriel’s credits transferred from Minnesota, so he only has to retake Shapes 101 and Introduction to Glitter Applications.

In Oregon, you cannot pump your own gas, but you can grow your own grass, so that’s been quite an adjustment to make.

I hear it’s snowing in Minnesota. LOL.

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