Category Archives: Woodworking

Random Pattern Cutting Board

What started as an attempt to make a brick pattern cutting board, ended up as a “random” pattern with curly cherry ends. The side grain board consists of walnut, cherry, and maple.

The process started by gluing a sandwich of (2) pieces of roughly 3/4″ walnut for every 1/4″ of maple of cherry or maple. One of the ends only received only one piece of walnut.

Random Pattern Cutting Board

The assembly was un-clamped and ripped into (4) pieces using the table saw. They pieces were glued together again with another piece of cherry or maple in the middle. The side with (1) walnut was flipped in each column to create an brick and mortar like offset pattern.

Random Pattern Cutting Board

I added curly cherry ends to increase the size of the board. These ends are face grain instead of side but since they won’t be seeing the knife much, it shouldn’t be an issue. A healthy dose of drum and random orbital sander was subsequently applied.

Random Pattern Cutting Board

The board was soaked in mineral oil for (6) hours and finished with a beeswax and mineral oil mix.

Random Pattern Cutting Board


So, the STAR TREK DOOR has been a slow, “back-burner” project for a while. Recently, I got a little time, so I sat down and figured out how to hook up the air valves to a set of relays, and control those relays with an Arduino.

Here’s a video overview of the physical doors themselves and how we plan to open and close them with air valves.

This is a joint project, working on this with my brother-in-law, Fred. The doors are between his garage and workshop. Fred has been working on the doors themselves, the wall and framing, and mechanical connections. I’ve been working on figuring out the software, controls, and electronic magic that will drive everything.

STAR TREK DOOR ContinuesThe physical doors themselves are done, except for paint. Fred has also been making a pretty neat frame for the garage side. He cut alternating widths of wood and then glued them together for the nice light-colored wood on the inset of the planks that will frame out either side of the door. A similar piece will cross the top of the door.

I got all the main components – Arduino, breadboard, relay board, 12V power fuse panel, and air valves themselves all screwed to a piece of plywood. At this point, it’s not pretty, but it is functional.

STAR TREK DOOR ContinuesWe have a nice industrial door control with OPEN/CLOSE/STOP buttons on it. Those are momentary on buttons, but through the power of the Arduino, I can make them be whatever I want. I started with a Button Tutorial, and then modified it to suit my purposes, and added a Delay(1500) command after activating the air valve. That way, the valve will stay open long enough to fully open or close the door, even if the button is just pressed for a moment.

I programmed the pin for the STOP button to test out a sequence to open the door, pause (long enough for a person to walk though,) and then close the door. It seemed to work pretty well. If the timing is wrong for the real-world application, all I have to do is simply change the delay times. (It will also need a safety. We don’t want the door closing on a person!)

STAR TREK DOOR ContinuesAt this point, the basics of the control panel are working. The STOP button is just wired up as a “stand-in” for a single button we already have installed on the garage side of the door. It’s a capacitive touch button that lights up either blue or white with internal LEDs. It’s a neat looking button, but it’s only a SINGLE button. So, it needs to have functionality to both open AND close the door. I’d also like to explore using a variable in the Arduino that states whether or not the door is open, and then changes the functionality of that button based on whether the door is open or not. The air cylinders themselves also have built-in position sensors, which would be neat to use possibly as both a safety AND a “Is the door open or not?” sensor.

Here’s a video clip showing all the components actually working together. At this point, if the panel was simply mounted above the door, and air connected between the compressor and air cylinders, we would actually have functioning doors.

STAR TREK DOOR ContinuesI don’t like the look of how the air valves and tees are held together right now. I was able to find some not-too-expensive push connectors (similar to PEX Sharkbite style) for air, which might make it a little easier to connect all the air components and look cleaner. Once I really have everything finalized on what’s going on at the breadboard, I also need to decide if I want to pull the breadboard out and replace it with a custom circuit  board. One thing I DO need is a simple way to connect the tiny pin connectors to the larger wires going to the buttons AND provide strain relief. For the moment, I just used staples to nail the 18 ga lamp cord wire to the plywood and then made the electric connection with alligator clips. What would be the BEST/CLEANEST way to do this? Some sort of small screw down terminals?

I also have a rather large fuse panel mounted on the plywood. It was free, and I already had it. It supports many separate circuits, but for this project, a single DC fuse would probably be fine. I’m also using a bit of an overkill 12V power supply. I’ll want to replace that with a simple wall-wart. Lastly, the Arduino is running from USB power. I’ll need to solder up a 12V DC barrel connector so that it can run off the same power as everything else. I think we will make a switched electric outlet, and plug the wall-wart in to that. If the system is ever not working right, just switch off the power and manually open and close the door as needed.

I’ll definitely want to hang out with the guys at the Makerspace sometime soon talking Arduino, specifically how to integrate some more sensors and get feedback used to activate the doors fully automatically.

-Ben Nelson

Our woodshop has a Router table!

The woodshop now has a Rockler router table! Thanks to Bill M for donating the table and James for adapting the plate to an existing Craftsman router we can now use this fantastic router table. The table has a convenient switch(visible in the picture with a large safety STOP button), an adjustable fence, anti-kickback finger, slots for jigs, and is conveniently placed on wheels so the whole unit can be wheeled to where ever it is needed. If your wondering “what the heck is a router table, or a router for that matter” then check out the links below to get started.

Some great information on using a router table from Rockler is available here:

A great video for absolute router beginners, Steve Ramsey also has a bunch of other great woodworking videos:

How to make a picture frame using a router table, another Steve Ramsey YouTube video:

An overall pic of the router table.

Our woodshop has a Router table!

A tight picture of the top of the router table showing slots for clamping jigs, fence, and anti-kickback devices.


Our woodshop has a Router table!

A close up shot of a craftsman router mounter under the router table.

Weekend Project: Wine Rack

Last weekend I made a 60 bottle wine rack from some 1″ pine.  I sized it to fit on a counter top in my basement, under the upper cabinets. I was pretty happy with the design of a somewhat smaller Belgian beer rack I made in the past, so I copied some of its basic style. I really like the strong vertical lines of this design, as it contrasts with the strong horizontals of most wine racks.

With the compound miter saw and table saw, I transformed three 6′ long pine 1″ x 12″ boards into the necessary 150 pieces! The rack holds 60 bottles, so I cut 120 10″ x 9/16″ x 3/4″ pieces. These are connected to 26 uprights that measure 18.1″ x 3/4″ x 1.5″, which are connected to 4 horizontals that are 52″ x 3/4″ x 1.5″.  Note that a spacing of 3.1″ is sufficient for wine bottles, but 3.35″ is the minimum for most champagne bottles. Also note that for strength reasons, the 10″ long pieces need to be cut along the grain, not across it.  Here are all the pieces, just before I nailed them together:

Weekend Project: Wine Rack

It took about 1.5 hours to cut the pieces, and 1.5 hours to assemble them. Note that I used a nail gun and 1″ long, 18 gauge nails for most connections, except the uprights to horizontals, where I used 2″ long nails.  Check out the completed wine rack, in use!

Weekend Project: Wine Rack

Laser Cut Cocktail Recipe Coasters!

Years back, I used to throw a lot of cocktail parties.  Between myself and two good friends, we owned five cocktail shakers and 35+ martini glasses.  During the parties, we’d typically be the only three people shaking martinis for all the guests.  Though that’s awesome, it also means we missed out on much of the socializing and mingling during each party.
In preparation for a recent birthday party, the solution came to me: Use Lasers!  So, I laser cut ten coaster-sized pieces of basswood and then laser engraved my twelve favorite Martini and Champagne cocktail recipes on them.  I also cut stands for them that had a laser engraved “best practices” guide for shaking Martinis – you know, the things that bartenders are typically too busy to do for you: Chill your glass before pouring your drink into it, shaking your drink until it is sufficiently cold, etc.  The drinks have recipes that taste better than what most bartenders will make for you, because they include things like an amount of lemon or lime that they’re too busy to squeeze into your drink.
Laser Cut Cocktail Recipe Coasters!The party was an even more awesome experience for me, because I wasn’t only shaking drinks all night.   It was also even more awesome for the guests, as they found that great cocktails are super easy to make!  And who doesn’t like to make things? Laser Cut Cocktail Recipe Coasters! Also, the carbonated Gin & No tonic is real crowd pleaser!  See my previous post about home carbonation for more info, and note that all types of inappropriate things can be carbonated:  Gin, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, grapes, etc!

Building Patio Furniture for Fun and Profit

If you’ve ever looked to purchase patio furniture its either cheap and crappy …or expensive and still crappy.

So I decided to make my own. Because I wanted to drink beers on my porch and tell kids to get off my lawn.

With no further ado:

Figure 1: My Porch Before, During, After

Step 1: Find Plans.

I’ve never used any Ana-White plans before, but I found these that seemed reasonable. After some review though, I found the cutlist sucks so any of the pieces with angled cuts are listed at final dimensions rather than initial rough cut dimensions. Namely the angled stretchers need to be cut long (34″ish) and then angled. Same goes for the back legs (~22″) and the 2×2 arm supports (~28″). So do your own due dilligence before slicing all your lumber up.

Step 2: Cut All the Lumber

Pine sucks and I hate paint. So I went with Cedar.

Building Patio Furniture for Fun and Profit

Figure 2: Rough Cedar from Menards

Building Patio Furniture for Fun and Profit

Figure 3: Cut to Size and Length

Building Patio Furniture for Fun and Profit

Figure 4: Apply Belt Sander

I recommend using a belt/drum sander on any of the rough cuts to give it a cleaner finished look.

Step 3: Follow Directions (Assembly)

Aside from the cutlist, the plans are straightforward and easy to follow. I built the sides and back as assemblies because I couldn’t transport a completely assembled chair in my car.

Building Patio Furniture for Fun and Profit

Figure 5: Side Assembly

Building Patio Furniture for Fun and Profit

Figure 6: Chair Back Assembly

I deviated from the design a bit as I didn’t feel like using a jig saw, so I just set the miter saw for 45deg and lopped off each corner of the back (which you’ll see in the final assembly pictures)

Building Patio Furniture for Fun and Profit

Figure 7: Starting Assembly

I transported the large pieces back to my apartment so I could put it together on-site. I don’t have any pictures of the middle steps, so it kind of jumps from here to completely assembled. Read the directions, you’ll know what to do.

Building Patio Furniture for Fun and Profit

Figure 8: Assembly Done (Structural Testing)

Ta da. A chair.

The beer made up for the sunburn.

Step 4: Finishing

Like I mentioned above, I don’t like paint. So I winged this phase of the project.

I like oil based finished to bring out natural color, so I grabbed a can of Danish Oil. Cedar is naturally rot and insect resistant, but since I had some spray Spar Urethane lying around I figured a coat of that couldn’t hurt either. Lastly, because I like the texture of wax finishes I applied Paste Wax to any of the upright surfaces where you’d touch the chair in normal operation.

Building Patio Furniture for Fun and Profit

Figure 9: Done!

I applied the Danish Oil  by hand, which was a pain, but worked out well enough in the end it seems.

Step 5: Build a Second Chair

This second one is a little better finished based on some in-process learnings from the first chair. I picked up a countersink bit to help clean up the exposed screw holes and tried a little harder to be symmetric and even with the holes as well.

I need to either build a table, or figure out a way to add a cupholder feature. (But so far the porch itself works fine)

Step 6: Fin

Each chair was something like $41 for material not including screws, glue, and finishes and took approximately 4 hours to cut, assemble, and finish.