Weekend project


It’s funny how weekend projects always seem to take longer than you expect. This one started in October, when I saw a xylophone kit at Lee Valley and decided that it would make a good gift for my nephew’s upcoming seventh birthday. One weekend stretched into three partial weekends and a couple of early mornings and late nights, but these things always do.

I’m not normally the kind of woodworker who plans in advance: I usually have an idea in my head and just dive madly into the project, making up the details as I go. But for things that I’m giving away or that have deadlines, I try to be a little more careful. I even did sketches and a full-scale model for this one. The sketches helped me come up with what I think is a much better design than the one I initially had, and the model allowed me to identify a weak point in my initial plan and improve the final piece accordingly.

Check out the gallery after the jump to see the whole project.

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Custom bike trailer

DIY bike trailer

I mentioned a couple of months ago that I was looking for a new flatbed trailer to augment my BOB Yak for use in the city.  Armed with my requirements, I headed down to Urbane Cyclist, fully expecting to ride away from the store with a new Burley Flatbed or equivalent. But after considering the options and talking to the staff about my needs, they recommended that I either get a DIY trailer kit from Wike and build my own trailer, or call Wike and get a custom trailer built to my specifications. I opted for the former, and am really happy with the result.

It’s done duty twice so far: its inaugural trip was ably carrying three Rubbermaid totes crammed full with much of the equipment and materials required for the Ward 29 Bikes meeting two weeks ago, and it pulled 80 lb of cat litter home last weekend. It’s big enough to be used for flats of flowers, bags of soil, and many other large or awkward loads that would have overwhelmed or overflowed my Yak.
The new trailer easily carries two 40lb boxes of cat litter, twice what I would usually carry on my BOB Yak. I could easily have carried a third without approaching the load limit.

Read below the fold for more details about the construction.
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Who knew?

Ontario Sawdust

From the Who Knew? files comes Ontario Sawdust, distributors of quality sawdust from a variety of wood-based products, according to their web site. I always thought that sawdust was a waste material that, while useful for many things, didn’t require any kind of specialized distribution. After all, you can pretty much make your own for free.

Ontario Sawdust says that they pick up (and pay for!) raw material, but I wonder if they’d come all the way down to Toronto for occasional donations from a home workshop. It would nicely solve the problem of what to do with the waste from my shop. The City of Toronto won’t collect sawdust as garbage, and some kinds of wood (like Walnut) will kill everything if you use them as mulch.

The last thing I need is a new hobby

My Bocote pen

But I took a pen-turning seminar anyway, and made this pen at it last weekend. It’s made of bocote. It came out far better than I thought it would. It has flaws, but as its proud father I’ve naturally chosen to overlook them and declare it the best pen ever.

I’ve been interested in turning pens for some time now, but have always been a little confused by the process. And despite being quite comfortable in a wood shop, I’ve never really used a lathe before. All that talk of mandrels and gouges always leaves me confused. The seminar was a learning experience on both fronts, making me more comfortable on a small lathe and with the process of making a pen.

Fair warning: if you’re reading this and I normally give you a Christmas (Hanukkah, Festivus, etc.) present, chances are pretty good that you’ll be getting a one-of-a-kind pen this year.

I’ve begun spending more time in the shop again and will have another post about a slightly bigger, bike-related project soon.