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  • Gift-Making Time Again ?

    Hello - I posted a "Back Again" thread earlier today noting that I am a returning member after an absence of a few years. I HOPE that I'm posting the photos properly since every board seems to have slightly different rules about this.

    Christmas is coming again; at this time of the year I'm always struggling for gift ideas and some of you may be in the same situation. Here are some ideas that I've previously posted and I would sincerely appreciate it if you guys can pass along other suggestions of things that you've made - I'm running out of ideas !

    My family and my wife's family like to exchange hand-made gifts on special occasions. A number of us are woodworkers, two are glass-blowers, one makes jewelry, several paint and so forth. I've always loved woodworking and having metalworking machinery can be a big asset once one progresses past making picture frames, chess pieces and salt/pepper shakers for gifts.

    Making these small projects is usually the least troublesome part of the process - where I have difficulty is coming up with IDEAS. When so many family members are crafts-oriented, it's difficult to come up with something that others have not already considered and built. So once I come up with an idea, I usually try to build a number of projects with common parts, to save time.

    Here are some of the gifts that I've made over the past few years, most are woodworking but I've used my milling machine and lathe on all of these projects, sometimes to work the wood, sometimes to make the metal parts associated with them and sometimes to produce tooling to make the job simpler or better. Only recently (since acquiring a digital camera) have I started documenting these projects so, unfortunately, only a few projects have been saved "on paper".

    This is a music stand, made from Western Ash. The height adjustment slot was milled and the clamping mechanism turned, as were the metal feet and the angle adjuster on the front foot. The "fanned" shape of the sheet music holder was formed by the angles and spacing of the slots that position the thin slats of ash. These slots were produced in the milling machine with a trim router in a jig that adapts it to the quill.



    For what it's worth, my highest spindle speed in the vertical mill is 3200 RPM. Before I hit on the idea of using the trim router in the mill, I tried straight-flute router cutters for working wood but the speed isn't really adequate for small cutters and I found that two-flute end mills performed better and produced less burning, provided that they were sharp. It's important for health considerations (and for good housekeeping) to use some form of dust control when working wood. I rig a shop-vacuum pickup as close to the cutting tool as I can safely locate it.

    A made an arbor for a 7-1/2 inch "Skil saw" carbide blade, which is useful for slotting. Ganging a pair on an arbor is handy for producing finger joints if one doesn't happen to own a fixture for the table saw. The finger joints in this partly-completed oak guitar amplifier cabinet were made on the milling machine, as was all of the routing on the cabinet. (The vacuum tube amplifier chassis is partly visible in the background.)



    Numerous family members enjoy boating, both sail and power. One year I produced a number of gifts with a nautical orientation. Here is a night-light made from cedar and oak. There's a lot of turning involved but the mill was used to drill a number of small holes in the brass rods used for ladder and handrails. After cleaning, all of the brass parts were carefully soft-soldered together and then sprayed with clear poly to prevent tarnish.



    One year, with Christmas approaching, I cranked out a number of candle sticks, seven sets of three each (with different heights). The materials were Western Ash, aluminum and brass. I searched the internet for aluminum and brass tubing until I located the best price. The design of the candlesticks sort of evolved from the tubing dimensions. Although it isn't easily observable, the ash portions of the candlesticks are octagonal - milled in a spacing head with an extra vise supporting the free end of the workpiece instead of a tailstock center. The ash and the various sections of tubing were epoxied together and, after curing, chucked and turned in the lathe.


  • #2
    The bases of these candlesticks are covered with felt (obtained from the local fabric store) which covers a half-dozen holes drilled into each base. Into the holes are epoxied six cast lead bullets (158 grain .357 SWC). NOT cartridges, just the cast bullets. They are there for two reasons, the first of which is stability. The second reason was intuitive - I have formed an opinion that, comparing two identical objects, people intrinsically value the heavier object more than the light one. It's easy enough to provide a little extra weight in most projects and cast lead bullets are cheap …

    The candlesticks were received well so the following year, I made a variation on them for the nautically inclined family members. I got the idea from watching the movie, popular at the time, "Master and Commander" where I noted that the candles and lanterns on the sailing ship were suspended in two sets of gimbals. I duplicated the concept with these various candles. The external materials are oak, steel, brass and aluminum and the gimbles are lubricated with a spot of beeswax.

    They - like the earlier sets - are weighted with cast bullets. In this case, the reasons were more rational - extra weight in the base provides more stability as the candles rock in their gimbals. Not that these candles were ever shipboard - they were intended as coffee table decorations. There are three different configurations, for variety. Note that one configuration is pieced together from small sections of wood; hardwood keys are used to help secure the structure. The keys and the keyways were produced on the vertical milling machine.




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    • #3
      One year, a small tile store went out of business and individual ceramic tiles were about $0.05 each, I picked up a few and that was the year of the trivet. Mostly this was lathe work (the handles) although I did some of the wood routing in the vertical mill. In the last example, various colored hardwood inlays were lathe-turned to fit counterbores in the piece.




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      • #4
        At a special request from a sister-in-law with a large family, I made this stand to hold her large cookbooks open at a specific page and with pointers to place at certain paragraphs in the page for quick reference. I got a little carried away with this project and it is definitely industrial quality. There are small spring-loaded friction clutches in the pointer arms so that they may be placed in position and stay there. The friction is adjustable with external knobs and the supporting leg on the back side can be adjusted and locked at any angle.




        Note that many of the parts are made from 1/4 square brass rod. Most of the operations were lathe operations and I didn't have a 1/4 square collet so I quickly made the following workholder. Placed in a three-jaw chuck, with the external 1/4 square key located under one of the jaws, this was an effective chucking device for the square stock, although more cumbersome to load/unload than a collet. It would have worked a lot better with a "lip" to secure against the front of the jaws.



        Other women in the family thought that the idea was a good one and asked for their own models which I made for the next Christmas. The original model took quite a while to make so I redesigned the next generation. I made two spring-loaded ball joints, riding on friction material and enclosed in a threaded 3/4-10 aluminum cartridge. The cartridges screw into blind holes on each side of the wood frame. Making the internal steel ball joints was time consuming because I have no ball-turning capability.

        I produced the balls by making a table of X-Y movements (in an Excel spreadsheet) and using a combination of lathe handwheel (with travel indicator) and cross-slide dial to rough-turn the balls. After roughing, I blued the balls and filed/sanded them to shape until all of the bluing was removed. (Surprisingly, they were spherical within just a few thousands - considerably better than what I needed for smooth function.)

        The pointer arms can be adjusted to any location on a book page and will remain in position because of the friction joint. The wooden balls on the pointers were for decorative and safety purposes and were obtained from a local crafts store. They are glued to bamboo skewers (normally used for barbecuing "shishkabob" and obtained from the grocery store). I made several of these projects, some fancy some plain - unfortunately I have a photograph only of the first (plain) one. (The fancy ones had freehand "grape vines" routed into the wood back with a trim router and various size wooden balls of different wood species glued into holes to resemble "grapes".)

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        • #5
          This little project is more electronic than craft. It is a miniature vacuum tube preamplifier (including both filament and high-voltage plate supplies), designed and built at specific request from a relative. Not much to look at but the packaging challenge was interesting. The density was so great that I couldn't even locate a conventional fuse holder on the rear panel. The fuse had to be soldered into the circuit, inside the enclosure.



          I mentioned earlier that one family member is a glass blower. I made this small oak and walnut stand to display one of his hand-made vases. It's nothing special except to note that the walnut center piece was made in the milling machine with a rotary table - fun but took three times more time to move and bolt down the rotary table than to do the work.



          More uses for leftover ceramic tiles. I made a number of these "plant stands" one year, in various configurations. The ceramic tile at the bottom can be lifted out and wiped off, in case the plant leaks through the drainage hole after watering. These plain looking clay pots were found on sale for less than $1.00 each. I primed all of them and then my wife painted them various colors. The idea was to match the décor (color, at least) of the interior of the person's home for whom the gift was made.




          In many of these wood structures, like the above plant stands, I've used octagonal hardwood frames. I made a jig for use with the milling machine to precisely mill the keyways for the hardwood keys that strengthen the glue joints. I also make the keys on the vertical mill. I corner round all four edges of a long hardwood board that has been cut to the correct cross-sectional dimension. Then I have a length of "keystock" that can be crosscut to the required thickness when I need keys.

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          • #6
            I do that operation on this little saw:



            This saw was a fun project in its own right. After ripping open my thumb trying to perform fine work on my old table saw, my wife found this small saw at a Harbor Freight outlet in another town. Thinking that this might be the solution to my small-parts sawing problems, she bought it. It was, of course, not useful out of the box, to put it kindly. I disassembled the thing and did the normal cleaning and debugging, replacing the junky (and dangerous) on-off switch as a matter of routine.

            I flycut the table flat, trued the front and rear edges and milled a taper on them with a dovetail cutter. I made the rip fence and the miter gage shown to fit the little saw, they locate and can be clamped onto the tapered edges. The project took about ten hours (including design time) but the saw has paid for itself many times over, making many precise small parts and allowing me to keep my thumb and fingers. (With fixturing, I also use this little machine for quickly slotting non-ferrous materials.)

            It should go without saying that having machinery makes it easy to produce special tools, fixtures, or modifying existing tools. Frequently, male relatives and friends find even very simple tools gratifying because YOU made them.

            A couple of years ago, I bought an inexpensive set of Chinese C-clamps (four different sizes for around $15). I removed the cross pins and the swaged "caps" from the screws and milled the C-frame clamping surfaces flat and true. Then I milled out the web of the "C" in selected areas - just for looks. After turning and finishing some attractive hardwood handles and caps and attaching them to the clamp, this was the result:



            I gave the set of four to my father-in-law, a talented woodworker, and he was very happy to receive the clamps, never having seen anything like them.

            Because I have such a hard time coming up with gift ideas, I've learned to write them down as they occur to me, in the last page of my shop notebook before I forget. If anyone has any good ideas for these types of projects, please let me know. Making gifts like these goes a long way to rationalizing the continual purchase of tooling to the wife, LOL, especially when the gifts are for her mother.

            I hope that this has been entertaining and perhaps provided an idea or two.

            Cheers,
            Randy

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            • #7
              Mighty find work Randy,glad to see you back here!
              I just need one more tool,just one!

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              • #8
                Projects

                Hi Randy-
                I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. Thanks! That is some fine craftsmanship. Welcome back!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by wierdscience
                  Mighty find work Randy,glad to see you back here!
                  Glad to be back and especially glad to see that YOU'RE still here. (I picked up several ideas, years ago from your old posts, that I still use.)

                  Toolguy, thanks for your response too, much appreciated !

                  Cheers,
                  Randy C

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                  • #10
                    Amazing woodworking and lathe skills combined with a lot of ingenuity- especially like the recipe book holder with the place holders.

                    Great work, Randy!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by randyc
                      The second reason was intuitive - I have formed an opinion that, comparing two identical objects, people intrinsically value the heavier object more than the light one. It's easy enough to provide a little extra weight in most projects and cast lead bullets are cheap …
                      Brilliant! I have notice this same trend as well but never thought about this method.

                      Lovely work you have done. All of the items have a great visual appearance. I like the "Master and Commander" candlesticks. There may well be a set on my coffee table this Christmas.

                      Thanks for sharing.
                      rock~
                      Civil engineers build targets, Mechanical engineers build weapons.

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                      • #12
                        Stunning! Well made!! What kind of cutter do you use for wood on the mill??

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by masimec
                          Stunning! Well made!! What kind of cutter do you use for wood on the mill??
                          Thanks, all. I use a 3/8 HSS tool ground with lots of rake and relief, a generous nose radius and honed as sharp as I can get it. (It should cut paper, ideally.)

                          This probably doesn't need to be said but having only one working lung, I'm sensitive to the topic of breathing, LOL. My shop combines machining, welding and woodworking; I have five shop vacs scattered around the small area rather than a central dust collection system (the shop vacs don't take up any extra space because they are located under machinery and under workbenches).

                          It's worthwhile jury-rigging one near the cutting tool to prevent a messy blizzard and inhaling harmful stuff !

                          Please guys, share some of your ideas with ME - I'm having trouble coming up with creative stuff this year -

                          Cheers,
                          Randy C

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by randyc
                            Please guys, share some of your ideas with ME - I'm having trouble coming up with creative stuff this year -

                            I have posted these before at Christmas time but since you asked, A few oil lamps.





                            A paper towel holder
                            Ernie (VE7ERN)

                            May the wind be always at your back

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                            • #15
                              A few more oil lamps:





                              I really like how you combine metal and wood! Beautiful stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                              Last edited by dockrat; 11-21-2010, 02:42 PM.
                              Ernie (VE7ERN)

                              May the wind be always at your back

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