Backyard Chickens, Maker, Woodworking

There ain’t nobody here but us chicken coops

My wife texted me this about six weeks ago. She had ended up in a farm supply store with her mom and our kids, and they had baby chicks for sale:

We ended up skipping the duck, but six weeks later, we have two six chickens and a very sturdy coop.

I began buying coop materials as soon as the chicks came home, but I only really started building in earnest when they first escaped their cardboard brooder in the laundry room.

I bought plans for a 6’x10′ coop from The Garden Coop.  At their request, I’m not including any in-progress construction shots, but I will say that the $30 for the plans was money well-spent. The hardware kit they sell was also worth the money, if only to avoid a couple dozen trips to Home Depot.

The six chicks are now pullets — three Bantams and three Gold Sex Links. (Gold Sex Links? I think I saw that advertised in a spam email once.) We moved them into the coop full-time once they reached six weeks, and they seem very happy. Chickens lack the ability to smile or otherwise describe their feelings, so their happiness is a subjective judgment on my part.

They won’t start laying eggs for another few months, at which point we can begin the long journey towards breaking even against the tens of dollars we would have spent each month on grocery store eggs.

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CNC, Maker, Woodworking

Artisanal CNC-Carved Growth Chart

My kids have been requesting a growth chart, so I made one with my X-Carve. I used red oak left over from when I built our dining room table.

It took three separate carves to get all six feet of numbers and inch delimiters carved since the X-Carve’s workable area is only about 30 inches long. The trickiest part was ensuring that the board was positioned exactly right for each new carve so that all of the measurement marks would remain accurate.

I spray-painted and then sanded the front of the board, leaving the recessed numbers and inch markers a glossy black.

For a finish, I abstained from stain but applied a couple coats of polyurethane so that any pencil or Sharpie markings we make will still be easily readable.

I put an eye hook in each end of the board and then drilled a screw through them to attach the chart to the wall. This seemed like the simplest way to secure the board to the wall but also have very precise control over its position. This ensured that the height markings are accurate, since the chart doesn’t start at 0’0″ because the baseboard moulding would interfere.

I’m happy to report that I am still the same height as I was in high school.

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Maker, Woodworking

Get yer laundry! Piping hot laundry!

A recent project I tackled was adding a spot in our laundry room to hang up clothes to dry.  I attached iron pipe to the wall studs via some flanges and for the shelf, I used some barn wood that I’ve been hoarding for a few years.

The total planning time for this project was about two months, and the total time to build it was one hour.  It’s just like my pappy used to say: “Build once, but plan it in your head three hundred times.”

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CNC, Maker, Woodworking, X-Carve

CNC-ing a Stepstool out of a 1×12

My wife requested that I make matching stepstools for our hall bathroom so that the smaller children could reach the faucets. I used the opportunity to design a stepstool that could be carved out of a 1×12 and assembled in minutes.

I used Inventables’s Easel software to design a stool that would be 12″ tall and 14 1/2″ deep.  Everything except the step treads can be cut out of a 30″ long 1×12, which is the longest board that can be carved on the 1000mm X-Carve. (You can make a copy of my plans at the Inventables project page I made for this stool.)

Here’s the X-Carve in action, cutting out the third stretcher. Clamp placement was tricky, but in the end, there were no issues.

Here’s the finished carve of the bottom of the first stool.  Each piece is only held in place by small tabs that snap off and then disappear during finish sanding.

The three stretchers fit into the mortices on each side of the stool, so in just a few minutes, the base of the stool can be assembled:

You could carve the treads out of another 30″ length of 1×12, but it’s easier to just cut them at the tablesaw.  Each tread is 14.25″ long; the top tread is 6.5″ deep, and the bottom tread is 7.5″ deep.

While I was assembling the stool, I clamped too hard and cracked it along a pre-existing check in the board. Just as the Chinese use the same word for “crisis” as they do for “opportunity,” I used this crisitunity to make my first butterfly key inlay.  It’s a method of inlaying a piece of wood with the grain going in the opposite direction to strengthen the cracked wood.

After a couple of coats of paint, you can’t see the butterfly anyway, but I know it’s there.

Here are the finished stools, just waiting for some little kids to stomp all over them.

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3D Printing, CNC, Maker, Woodworking

I Built a Set of Cabinets with CNC-Carved Doors

The area above our washer and dryer (not pictured) was mostly wasted space, so my wife asked me to build some custom cabinets. (Actually, she said, “Can you just buy some cabinets for above the washer and dryer? You really don’t have to build custom ones. I just want something better than this shelf. Anything. “) I designed some cabinets that would use up all of the available space, resulting in a rectangular box about 57″ long, 37″ tall, and 18” deep.

I originally built a single MDF box, but when I realized how heavy it would be, I split it into two boxes so that we could lift it into place without a crane.  Pro-tip: Don’t build something that will weigh a hundred pounds if you’ll have to hold it above your head while you’re screwing it to the wall.

I added boards to the top and bottom of the back of each box to increase stability as well as provide a place to screw the cabinet to the wall.

I saw a tip online about covering the edges of MDF with drywall joint compound to achieve a smoother edge after painting, so I tried that. It seemed to work ok, but it was kind of a hassle.

After painting, I drilled a series of quarter-inch holes two inches apart to allow for adjustable shelves. I originally meant to cut all of these with my CNC router to ensure that they were precisely spaced, but I forgot until after I had assembled the boxes.

We hung the cabinets without any trouble. There would have been trouble if we had had to lift the entire thing up there all at once.

I built the face frame out of thin MDF strips and pocket screws and attached them to the cabinet boxes with wood glue and a brad nailer.

In order to make the doors, I wrote a program that reads a cross-section profile of a cabinet rail and panel, like this:

and tells my CNC router to carve that style of cabinet door in 3D (more on that in a future post). Unfortunately, my wife only wants Shaker-style cabinet doors.  I still carved them on the X-Carve as a proof of concept for more complicated future doors.

The doors are 35″ tall, which meant that I couldn’t cut the recessed panel in a single session, so I had to carve out the bottom half, carefully move the door without losing the x-axis alignment, and then carve the rest.  It worked out pretty well:

FYI, if you’re going to be pulverizing five liters of MDF, empty your ShopVac regularly.

I chose hidden European-style hinges with a half-inch offset. These require drilling 35mm holes in very specific locations, so I 3D-printed a jig to guide my drill press…

…and then promptly drilled all the way through one of the doors. Thank you Bondo for sponsoring this portion of my build:

After I finished repainting, you couldn’t tell at all, and as long as I don’t tell anyone else, no one will ever know. It will be our little secret!

Now that the cabinets and doors are in place, the useable space above our washer and dryer has increased by 480%. Buying finished cabinets with this much storage space from Home Depot would cost about $430; I spent $100 in materials and 11.5 hours of my time (mostly painting, since my paint sprayer was acting up).

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Maker

Repainting a Razor Powerwing Scooter

My wife found a pair of Razor Powerwing scooters at a garage sale for $11 each and picked them up to give to our sons on their birthdays in a couple months. Both were in good condition, but one was black and one was pink.   I decided to repaint the pink scooter to avoid the inevitable fight over who has to ride the “girl” scooter.

Disassembly was straightforward; everything was held together by bolts that accepted a 5mm hex key (plus a few Phillips screws underneath the foot platform inserts). Dissassembly took about 15 minutes; the hardest part was sliding the handlebar grips off.

I removed all the stickers and scuffed up the paint with some 150 grit sandpaper.

Then, I taped off anything I didn’t want painted. The trickiest part was the braking mechanism; it’s riveted into the front fork, so I didn’t want to remove it entirely, which meant I had to do extensive masking.

The wheels were actually pretty easy to tape. I just layered tape all over them and then cut off the tape covering the spokes with a utility knife.

This project was my first chance to use my newly-constructed spray booth. It’s made out of 1″ PVC pipe and a roll of 3-mil plastic sheeting.

I added a crossbar across the top so I’d have a place to hang things that I’m painting with a sprayer. To avoid having to cut very short pieces of PVC (and also to make the crossbar movable and removable), I modified some T-joints to allow them to click into place anywhere along a solid piece of PVC.

I hung the main parts of the body and gave them a coat of paint from a can of Red Pearl Duplicolor that I had left over from touching up our car’s bumper. (In this photo, only the handlebars have been painted.)  The color isn’t drastically different from the original pink, so any scuffing or scratches that eventually happen shouldn’t be too noticeable.

For the inserts from the foot platforms, I happened to have a can of a rubberized spray sealant that was just perfect. The black looks really nice against the red, and it provides traction for the rider’s feet.

I gave everything two coats of red and added an enamel clearcoat on the metal pieces. (This was left over from my satellite dish shield project.)

Reassembly was straightforward since there were so few pieces, and the assembly instructions are available online as well. The only problem I have now is that this scooter looks so much better than the one that I didn’t paint, so I might end up painting both of them.

The time from when I removed the first bolt during disassembly to when I tightened the last bolt during reassembly was 38 hours, and the cost was $0.00.

P.S. My sons’ birthdays aren’t for a couple of months, so don’t tell them about this post. :-)

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CNC, Maker, OpenSCAD, Woodworking, X-Carve

Today’s CNC Carving: Doll Bunk Bed Insert

My wife and I decided that we were spending far too much money on factory-carved objects, so we bought our own CNC router — a 1000mm X-Carve from Inventables.

I finished setting it up today, and the first carving on the agenda was a replacement insert for my daughter’s doll bunk bed:

The bed broke when someone stood on the bed to reach a shelf they weren’t supposed to reach. It would be a simple matter to cut out a new insert with a jigsaw, but where’s the fun and repeatable automation in that?

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