One of the things I love about my wife Amy is that she shares my appreciation for beauty in what some might see as macabre. But it can lead to strange souvenirs that present opportunities for unusual projects. And here’s a good example for you. A couple of months ago, Amy took our daughters on a vacation trip to New York. While there, they visited the store Obscura Antiques and Oddities in Manhattan. If you’ve ever watched the show “Oddities” on the Science Channel, that name should immediately ring a bell. The proprietors buy and sell just about anything and everything that’s, well, odd. It’s an amusing and often hilarious program that’s become a family favorite.
She came home with this bat specimen from Obscura encased in a block of resin. And her request of me was this: “Please build a frame for it so I can hang it on the wall.”
Now there’s a project you don’t get every day! So, I got on it straight away. The frame has bridle joints on the corners and is made of cherry. It actually doesn’t hang on the wall; she sets it on a deep windowsill in her office so sunlight shines through it. Makes a pretty good shadow.
It seems an eerie and fitting project for October — and one to offer up to the following theme: “Strange Projects We Have Made.”
I’m sure I’m not the only woodworker who builds something weird from time to time. Do you have a project or two from your past that you’d chalk up to “strange” in some sense of that word? It doesn’t have to be Halloween appropriate, just funky somehow. Why not tell other readers about it here by leaving a comment below?
Let’s see what sort of oddities we’ve conjured up from wood. As far as I’m concerned, “off the beaten track” is a refreshing path to follow now and then, don’t you think? If it’s possible to improve on a plastic-dipped bat, I tried to do it justice here! Amy thinks so, anyway.
I hope you’ll fill us in on your “oddity” project! And spill the details of its “backstory,” too.
Here at Woodworker’s Journal, we’ve been digging deep in our archives to put together our largest collection to date of almost-forgotten projects, articles, tips, techniques and wood science. But the archives where we’ve been digging aren’t exactly Woodworker’s Journal archives — at least, not really. Confused?
Longtime readers may remember when two different magazines — Woodworker’s Journal and Today’s Woodworker — combined into the publication you know today as Woodworker’s Journal. Once that happened, Today’s Woodworker ceased publication.
Like the proverbial shoemaker’s children that are perpetually barefoot, my own home doesn’t have a whole lot of furniture that I built myself. I save most of my woodworking energy for building projects for the Woodworker’s Journal or when I do “pro bono work” for the Shakespearean theater company that my wife works for (the latter has consisted of mostly creating large, freestanding poster displays and a collection box).
But every once in a while, a project comes along that I have difficulty saying no to. In this case, I was recently contacted by a prominent local business owner who lives in a gorgeous house only a half a block from one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline that California has to offer. He asked me if I would consider building him a large L-shaped shelf unit that would wrap around a partially curved wall in his home office/man cave.
We may not have posted many reader projects lately, but that doesn’t mean you’ve stopped making them! Some nice stock selection for the tops and eye-catching drawer joinery help make these tables stand out in any setting.
Here are a few pictures of some arts and crafts inspired end tables I built. All mortise and tenon joinery, with a sand cast bronze drawer pull. The finish consists of General’s Mission Oak Gel Stain, topped with two coats of amber shellac and wax.
Do you have a project you’d like to share? Click here to send it in!
As print readers of the Woodworker’s Journal know, we design a good number of the projects that are featured in our pages. And that is especially true of our shop projects. For example, in the April 2012 issue of the Woodworker’s Journal (on newsstands soon), we present a downdraft sanding cart. If I must say so myself, it is a very nice and truly functional project. How do I know that? Well, because I’ve tried it, of course. But, you might ask, how did we know it would work properly before we built it? Good question. How can we be sure our projects, specifically ones like this, whose primary feature must be functionality, are all we want them to be? It is a short answer, really: we build prototypes. We test out the ideas that we have with knocked-together mock-ups made from MDF, plywood or whatever we have lying around the shop.
As our eZine readers are likely aware, I recently made a youth-sized dresser for my first grandchild. I got into the project late in the pregnancy, because our large extended family had been searching yard sales and antique stores for an appropriate vintage dresser. We felt certain that the perfect piece would come along at the right price, but in this we were mistaken.
Woodworker’s Journal staff members turn to a certain favorite hobby when the holidays come around. Now that we won’t be spoiling any surprises, here are some of our projects given as gifts this year.
Almost two years ago, our family was fortunate enough to take a trip to Africa, and we purchased an original watercolor painting from our guide to remember our time in the Masai Mara National Reserve. My wife has wanted it framed ever since, and now it is. Her Christmas gift is made of cherry back-banded with walnut. I used half-lap miter joints to bring the frame members together and added a beaded profile to the walnut to create shadow lines. She loves it. – Chris Marshall, Field Editor
I built something recently for my wife. It isn’t technically a Christmas present, but it was a holiday-related gift to her and the theatrical company she works for: Shakespeare Santa Cruz. They were doing a holiday show called “A Year With Toad and Frog” a musical that’s for both children and adults. It’s a donation box on a stand made from Douglas fir. The box joints are all mortise and tenon, and the top mitered frame is joined together with Festool Dominoes. - Sandor Nagyszalanczy, Contributing Editor
This was my first holiday season as a woodworker, but once I got the idea to make one gift, it quickly spiraled out of control and before I knew it, I was even making gifts for people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in months. In addition to numerous turned pens and bottle openers, I completed not one but five butcher-block cutting boards (technically six if you count the one I cut in half). The cutting board pictured is the one I gave to my wife – the majority of the board is walnut and cherry, with the edges done in purpleheart and zebrawood. – Matt Becker, Internet Production Coordinator
Have you ever noticed how simple tasks can quickly become complicated far beyond what you would consider possible? For example – the other day I decided to start some seeds for my garden. Up here on the frozen tundra, that means planting them inside, because apparently seeds do not germinate well in the permafrost.
So, having procured said seeds and potting soil and containers of varying sizes and styles in which to plant my future bounty, I ran into a small problem. The folding tables that I was planning on using for this project were missing. (Borrowed by my progeny …)
A couple of weeks back, I had the opportunity to join my boss, Rob Johnstone, and George Vondriska — one of our frequent contributors — in Chicago at Craftsman Experience. Both Rob and I have been there before to give various demonstrations, and you may have caught some of that coverage late last year. This time around, though, our triumvirate efforts were focused on a very worthy cause as well as some fun woodworking. We were building a kit guitar to donate to Guitars For Vets. These folks provide guitars and lessons free of charge to veterans who are trying to cope with the after-effects of overseas combat.