Cubism: Using a 90 degree bit to make cubes with Shapeoko.

Cubism: Using a 90 degree bit to make cubes with Shapeoko.

Cubism: Using a 90 degree bit to make cubes with Shapeoko.

An exploration of interesting experiments

Getting started

So I have had in mind for a while, the idea of making cube shapes out of 1/4 inch material on the Shapeoko. Most of this came about from a combination of fiddling with a 90 degree bit and realizing that basic math says a cube is just a bunch of 90 degree angles. Maybe I could have some fun with that...

The Basics

The basic structure of the cube is a set of six identical sides cut with a 90 degree bit. Which means that each of the angles you see in this image are actually 45 degrees.

In this case, I was cutting 3 inch square sides out of sapele that was a little less than a quarter inch.

This entire design is just 6 squares in Carbide create and the 90 degree bit just traces the outline (and yes it could be simplified).

This would fold up into a blank wooden cube, which is a little boring but you can do some interesting things from this starter design.

Etching the Faces

Since our cube is currently just a set of flat surfaces, we can use Carbide Create to mill designs on each of the various faces.

The trick is, getting consistent alignment across all the faces. To this end, I created a very simple jig by bolting down a piece of 3/4 MDF to the center of my wasted board. I used a set of dowel centers (like these from Rockler to position the holes for attaching the jig to the waste board and then drilled them out by hand. Once the MDF is attached, I then cut a 3 inch square recess in the center to hold the individual sides.

By keeping everything centered on the waste board, I can quickly set the X and Y of the machine by clicking Rapid Position in Carbide Motion and selecting the center dot in the bed (This is also the quickest way to locate the center of the waste board). Once I have my X and Y setup all I have to do is set my Z axis and Bob's your uncle.

The little circles at the corners of the jig help me get the piece back up once milling is finished. If you have a snug fit, you don't even need tape. I have also cut versions of this type of jig where I installed clamps to help hold the pieces down.

I mark the front of the jig so it's easy to swap in and out as needed. I have a small circle in sharpie on the center of my waste board to help me line things up.

Finding the Right Cube

My first test was downloading some files from the Intarwebs and tracing them with Inkscape. I chose the cube from the movie "Hellraiser" as it's  a rather iconic cube.

This one was done in 1/4 inch MDF and finished in a similar fashion to the ubiquitous Aztec Wars project that seems to be a right of passage for CNC users. Check this video for an in depth look at the finishing technique:

The cubes look a bit dingy in places, but that sort of fit with the effect I was going for, sort of a recently dug up artifact.

Clear cubes

The next idea was to try a new material and see what happened. I had some acrylic laying around and so I cut a cube and used the same pattern with a diamond drag bit to etch. The whole thing is put together with Weld-On Acrylic Adhesive. 

One word on the adhesive, if you get it, take the applicator bottle with needle and throw it as far away as possible. It creates a sloppy mess and fogs the glass. Use a small bristle brush and apply a thin coat to the edges. The brush has much greater control.

I also had some mirror acrylic which I etched from behind with a circuit pattern, removing the mirror portion so that light shines through. It makes for an interesting effect.

These photos are simply lit from below with a single iPhone. I am working on a base to edge light the cubes and I will post more images when I do.

 The shadows they throw are really wonderful. 

Exploring Shadows

The shadows got me thinking about hollow wooden forms, so I took some quarter inch sapele and set to work. This time instead of just etching the design, I cut straight through to create the pattern.

I am happy with the result but I am not sure how to light them. They do make nice sculptural pieces just as they are.

This was the one situation where I had to do a bit of additional clamping. Once the material was removed, the panels became light enough and flexible enough to get sucked up by the dust collection. Double stick tape would have been problematic for such delicate pieces, so I created a set of posts that fit in the corners of the jig and held the wood down for milling.

More ideas...

My next project might be nesting the boxes, using different woods or even wood with acrylic inside. It might be fun to take the wooden hex pattern box and then place an acrylic one with tiny etched bees on it. Then light it from below with yellow LEDs. More to follow...

Posted by John

Christmas Kitty

I would hate for this blog to just become a place where I post sad things, so here is something nice: We welcome a new family member this week named Rory. He is my Christmas kitty and a welcome addition to the home. He has a big personality and quite an appetite. He is just shy of 4 months old and a bit of a purr machine. Missy is slowly getting used to the new company and there is much scampering. They are also able to share the bed without too much drama (by the bed, I mean me).
Posted by John in Cats, Life
It’s been a rough year.

It’s been a rough year.

Valentine “Binky” Clark
?/2002 – 12/12/2017

I am sad to say that my sweet kitty Valentine passed away today. She was with me for over 12 years and was as spoiled as I could possibly make her. Writing her story down helps me remember the joy she brought me. Hopefully it will bring you some as well.

She came to me on Valentine’s Day by way of the Atlanta Humane Society and she was my “scratch and dent” kitty. Her previous life had been less than happy and she arrived at the pound with a broken tail, bowed back legs and a general terror of pretty much everything. 

Hasta la vista, baby

She also, like a number of white cats, sported a pair of mismatched eyes; one green and one blue. It was odd enough most of the time, but flash photography made her look like the Terminator kitty.

For the first week she hid behind the washing machine or under the bed. Eventually she was coaxed out with food and kind words. After an adjustment period she decided I was acceptable and could continue to stay in her house. 

This is how we nap

She had an odd but quiet personality and along with her odd walk (stemming from the bowed back legs), this garnered her a number of nicknames: “Binky,” “Boopatina Wobble Bottom,” “Ludmilla”  and “Ghost Kitty.”  She really had too much personality for a single name, but I have to say “Binky” was what she was called most often. The ghost kitty name came from that fact that most of my friends rarely saw more than a glimpse of her. Which is odd, given that she spent most of her time napping. She liked to lay in the windowsill and sun herself.

Spooning Good

She had a select list of people she liked and as she got older, she seemed to become more social. However, right from the start she developed a very strong attachment to my other cat, Cricket and as I am going back through pictures I have found dozens of the two of them spooned up together. 

She also developed a singular attachment to the bed, which she considered to be hers by Divine right and generously allowed me to share. Other than eating and the litter box, she could almost always be found on the bed, waiting for someone to lay down and spoon with her.

This is mine

In the mornings, when I made the bed she would follow me from side to side, staying on the mattress but within petting distance. When I went to sleep at night she flop over on me with all of the gentleness of a sumo wrestler and wiggle her way up until she tucked herself into my armpit and laid her head on my shoulder. 

Letting her go was very difficult. Doubly so since Cricket passed in August. She was a loving friend and a good comfort to me when I needed it. It is my fondest hope that wherever she is now, she and Cricket are spooning together and telling tales about me to all the other cats. I will miss her very much.

Better times

Posted by John in Cats, Life
There is a cat sized hole in my heart.

There is a cat sized hole in my heart.


July 10, 1997 – August 25, 2017

I lost a good friend today. He was my constant companion for a little over 20 years. My first pictures of him were taken with a 35mm film camera (remember film?). He was born a tiny, talkative ball of grey fluff with big blue eyes. And while the eyes would later turn green, his ongoing attempts at conversation earned him the name “Noisy Cricket” (a reference to the movie “Men in Black”).

He was a huge cuddle monster and loved to snuggle up with my other cat Fuzzy. When she got sick, he stayed on the couch with her and kept her company.

When Fuzzy finally passed he did much the same service for me, spending almost a solid week either in my lap or following me around the loft. He always knew when I was sad and always wanted to help.

For quite some time, it was just the two of us, and he really seemed to come into his own oddball personality. Much of this seemed to involve finding unique places on which to perch himself and chatter at me. He would climb up onto the ceiling in the loft and perch like a fluffy gargoyle. This was a little disconcerting in the darkness, with just his green eyes staring down at me.

He also like to get on top of the refrigerator, hang his head upside down off the edge and beg for head scratches while I cooked dinner.

For his frequent yodeling practice, he preferred the acoustic properties of the bathtub, where he would sing to me the songs of his people and gently maul my rubber duck collection.

He was also an enormous flirt. When I lived at the cotton mill lofts, I was on the ground floor right next to the pool. This was a high traffic area in the summers. Cricket had a favorite spot in the front window and when women would pass by, he would start rubbing himself back and forth across the window and meowing to get their attention. They would come to the window and coo over him and he just ate it up. He didn’t do this for guys and I have no clue why.

He was eventually joined by other cats. The first was Valentine, an equally fluffy white cat who became his snuggle buddy. Together they helped to insure that any clothing I owned had a visible amount of cat hair on it (I have spent a small fortune on lint rollers). The two of them managed to share lap time without issues and spent a considerable amount of time sleeping in a small cat pile.

Later on, Missy came into the picture. At first, she and Cricket did not get along. Missy had been outdoors on her own and was probably borderline feral when she first adopted me. It took a bit of time, but she eventually warmed to Cricket and spent a huge amount of time grooming him. Often to the point where he looked like an extra from the movie “Grease.” After some adjustments, Missy joined the cat pile and all was well.

For most of his 20 years, Cricket’s favorite place to sleep was on top of me. This was fine in the winter, but a little warm in the summer. I sleep on my side and he would just stretch himself out along my other side and purr. I would wake up sometimes in the morning and just find him there, with no memory of him climbing up onto me in the night.

I think I will still feel Cricket’s weight on my chest for a while, even though he isn’t there anymore. He was a good cat and he will be missed.

Posted by John in Cats
Wooden Lightsaber Mk II

Wooden Lightsaber Mk II

This is my second attempt at a wooden lightsaber. This is the first one I have assembled out of a batch of 4. I will put the other 3 up for sale at $125 each. You can reach me at if you are interested.

Posted by John in Nerd Stuff, Woodworking


More adventures in turning wood into weird shapes…


Posted by John in Woodworking
DragonCon Photos

DragonCon Photos

It’s that time of year again. Time to get inspired by the creative cauldron that is DragonCon. Special kudos to Connie for the fantastic River Tam cosplay (and for being a huge Gator fan).


Posted by John in Life, Nerd Stuff
The After Christmas Santa Post

The After Christmas Santa Post

As usual, Santa’s workshop has been very busy for the past few months. These are a few of the things I made for Christmas this year.


Posted by John in Woodworking
The Long Delayed DragonCon Picture Post

The Long Delayed DragonCon Picture Post

It pays to have friends who are insanely talented. Case in point… I took a picture at this years DragonCon that I was really pleased with. The lighting hit just right and I got a great shot. My only problem was a few stray people in the shot. I posted it on FaceBook with a lament that I wish I could get rid of the people.

Enter the insanely talented Amanda McKenzie. She performed some kind of crazy magic and removed all of the people. Mad Skillz… She has them. Also possibly some kind of Dorian Grey thing going on…

The untouched original... Pre Amanda Magic

The untouched original… Pre Amanda Magic

People are gone... Magic.

People are gone… Magic.

And the rest of the photos….

Posted by John in Nerd Stuff
MyPlay: Why customer experience matters

MyPlay: Why customer experience matters

In my last post I talked about a truly wonderful customer experience I had with Polyvinyl records. I have since made a second order and they continue to give a marvelous customer experience. They have won my heart.

However, I wanted to use this post to talk about the flip side of that coin, a company called MyPlay, which delivered the exactly wrong experience.

My order actually started off with Amazon, which is fine. They deliver fast and everything is generally well packed (which is key with vinyl). I can also easily download MP3’s of most of the vinyl I get from Amazon directly from them as part of the package.

However, Amazon usually offers a lower quality MP3 than most of the download services used by the labels themselves. So I tend to just find the download code included with almost all modern LP’s … except Pete Yorn’s “Music for the Morning After”, for which Columbia Records can burn in hell, but I digress…

Anywho… I put on a new copy of Sia’s “1000 Forms of Fear” and I am liking it. Great voice, great songs and arrangements. I am about two tracks in, when I decide to go download the MP3s.

After a bit of searching on the record sleeve (everyone prints this stuff in mouse type for unknown reasons), I find the download code, which was for the previously mentioned MyPlay website. I was able to go to the site and enter the download code, but this is where things pretty much came off the rails.

By default, the download code attempts to open a new downloader application written in Java. This is without question, the stupidest thing I have encountered in recent memory.

First off, if you don’t have the java plugin installed, you now have to go download it first. Not running the right version? Go download a new one. I actually went ahead and loaded Java, and still got the “missing plugin” error, so the coding is not first rate either. I would point out that at this point, the novice user has gone away.

Being made of stronger (though not necessarily brighter) stuff I tried a few other things (different browsers and such) and finally managed to get a message which basically said, “Hey, you seem to be having problems, would you like to download manually?”

Why yes I would. In fact I am wondering what in the name of Sweet Buttered Jesus possessed you to write a Java application to download files in a web browser. Web browsers have been downloading files since the Mosaic days. What massive improvements over “Click to Download” did you believe you could offer me? Perhaps a new toolbar for my browser? A new set of tracking cookies to monitor my shopping habits? A root kit?

MyPlay is beginning to remind me of that annoying guy that wanders up and pretends to be part of your group conversation, even though nobody in the group knows him. He doesn’t say anything beyond “Yeah” and “I know, right?”. He laughs too loudly and at the wrong times. He has inserted himself into your life and delivers nothing except and oxygen deficit and a general sense of creepiness from every female in your group.

Dimly I am aware that I am liking the Sia tracks playing now, a little bit less.

Clicking the “Manual Download” link leads to page where every track must be downloaded individually… at this point I am annoyed. So I begin clicking my way through the individual links only to find out that the first 10 tracks will download but the final two return “File Not Found” errors.

At this point the record is starting grate on me.

Next stop, the customer service form, where they have replicated the marvelous technology of the phone support tree. This is where you choose an option that almost, but  doesn’t quite fit your issue, which leads to a new set of options that also don’t quite fit your issue, and then to a set of options that are so far removed from what you are looking for that you lose consciousness and begin bleeding from the ears.

At this point, I get up and take the record off, put it back in the sleeve and move it to the back of the pile. I am afraid if I continue to listen, the experience with MyPlay will actually lead me to hate this record.

I was actually prompted to look at some of the other artists listed with MyPlay (linked under the vomit inducing title of “Brand Directory”). These are people who’s records I will avoid. Seriously people, you will be judged by the company you keep. If your partners see you as Brands and not Bands, you are hanging out with parasites.

I need to wash the taste of this one out of my mouth. And so I pop open a new copy of Spoon’s “Ga Ga Ga” and out drops a simple download card from Merge Records that begins with “Dear Honored Listener.” Some people get it, and some people never will.

Posted by John in Music
Tonight on The Turntable: American Football

Tonight on The Turntable: American Football


In today’s mail I got my copy of “American Football” from Polyvinyl and all I can keep saying is “wow.”

Let’s leave aside that fact that this LP was originally released in 1999 and I never knew about it. This 15 year anniversary release is a study in how to create an experience with craft.

For starters, it’s expanded from one to two LP’s, with the second one being a collection of “rare live recordings, demos, and practice sessions.” The vinyl itself is a lovely marbled red and the cover and record sleeves are designed around some very nice photography.

There is also an enormous booklet that includes lyrics, brief stories about each song and (be still my beating heart) the guitars tunings used for each song. That last one almost made me weep. Somebody wanted this music to be enjoyed on every possible level.

In addition, Polyvinyl the record label really has won my heart as well. This order contained a complementary single from the upcoming Alvvays LP (which I had already pre-ordered). Evidently this is a Polyvinyl tradition, in which they occasionally include a little something extra in an order. These extra singles are created specifically for mail order customers and are never sold. They just get slipped into random orders or included with special edition releases. That is pretty awesome.

Oddly, they also included a piece of “Air Heads” taffy with the order. Thankfully, this was well sealed. — I suspect this Champaign-Urbana, Illinois company has little experience with a Georgia summer, where asphalt can actually be rendered into a liquid state from the heat. 🙂 That said, this has to be the most pleasing package I have received in a very long time.

The music itself is a marvelous blend of math-rock and airy melody, which is perfect for the light rain falling outside. Reading through the stories on each track while the music plays is such a treat. It’s more like a conversation. I think this weekend, I will reserve some time to put on the head phones, lay down on the couch with all the lights off and just listen.

This is kind of what I was talking about in my previous couple of posts, what I will term an “heirloom experience.”

For the crafter, it’s considering how what you make will be experienced, touched, heard or whatever. What you make is not simple utility, it is how you pass on an experience to someone.

For the person who encounters the craft, the magic lies in the “aha moment,” when you  realize that someone thought about your experience when they were building or designing. This can be anything from the art and presentation of a great album like the one I am listening to right now, the smooth gentle curve on a nice piece of furniture, or the surprise you feel when a piece of software does what you were hoping, instead of what you expected.

There is a sudden appreciation of the Crafter behind the Craft, the thought behind the experience. So much of our experiences in this vein are negative, rather than positive. In fact, I am fairly certain the the creators of the “blister pack” have likely been atomized at this point by the sheer power of psychic rage directed their way.

The drawback to Craft has always been two-fold: time and money. Craft takes longer and tends to cost more. Everyone is busy and everyone wants to get a bargain. So much so this has actually become the sum total of American industry; the corporation that can shave 3 minutes off a production process or lower the cost of each widget made by 40 cents will succeed and amass tremendous wealth.

These corporations deal with millions of people, so the math makes perfect sense for them. Sadly, most individual humans have bought into the idea that life is a business. We cut 5 minutes here and save 20 cents there, all in the goal of succeeding the way a business succeeds.

The problem is that the math doesn’t work at our level, or even at the level of a small business for that matter. In our lives, we deal with small numbers of people, so the time we shave off of our interactions with them doesn’t benefit us significantly, nor does it benefit them. But still we shave that time and save those pennies, and the only one’s who gain a wealth of experience are the corporations we buy from. The math works for them, but not for us.

What if we took the time, spent the dollar and invested in ourselves and the small group of people we encounter every day? We could take the time to sand down that rough edge on whatever we are making, or spend a little extra money on that bottle of wine to share with a friend (even if they might never notice the difference). What would happen?

Given the amount of stress we inflict on ourselves every day, maybe we should try to bring a few more heirloom experiences into our lives.

Posted by John in Life, Music
Old Habits II

Old Habits II

This is a followup to Old Habits, my first post about getting back into vinyl.

What is it about vinyl? Skips and defects don’t seem to matter the way they did when CD’s first came out.

CD’s were so amazing for the clarity, but I hated the smaller package. Not enough room for art, not the same physical experience. I could overlook it because a lot of my vinyl had been worn to a frazzle. Bad needles, multiple moves and play after play after play. There were days I could have sworn I was born in a set of headphones. The ability to disappear inside of music, not passively absorb it, not use it as background, but actually listen.

This is not about nostalgia, otherwise I would still be stuck firmly in the punk rock of high school. Not to say that “Never Mind The Bollocks” doesn’t still melt my brain. I still play the older records, but I am buying new stuff; Matt Pond, Nada Surf, Fu Manchu, Pinback, Alvvays and Pete Yorn. I am also hitting the “Way Back Machine” and using Amazon/Ebay/Discogs to order things like Camel, John Coltrane, Queen and Supertramp on vinyl.

Nada Surf: "The Weight Is A Gift" and "The Stars Are Indifferent"

Nada Surf: “The Weight Is A Gift” and “The Stars Are Indifferent”

Tonight, while drinking a bit of Chianti (drinking and shopping is evil), I found that Sunny Day Real Estate had a re-issue of “Diary” (Ordered) and Polvo has a release from 2013 that I had never heard of called “Siberia” which will be ordered shortly. I pulled up a bit of “Siberia” on Spotify and decided about 2 songs in that it needed to be in my life.

I think that’s the key here… digital music is around my life. I can tap a button and hear anything, but I mostly listen when I am at work, and then it’s mostly background while I code. It’s about $9 a month and I have almost no connection to it. I throw stuff in the playlist, it plays, I like it and it’s gone. There are a lot of songs on Spotify that I really love, but I have no idea what the name of the song is, who the artist is or what album it’s on. It flows past, ephemeral, accessible, repeatable and without any tangible experience.

Now comes the part where I am going to sound like some old gummer telling kids to get off my lawn… but it’s really not about that. It’s about the concept of an “heirloom.”

The Dictionary defines heirloom as “a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.” I think there are two key parts to this and they apply to more than just music.

A single of Syl Johnson's "Could I Be Falling In Love?

A single of Syl Johnson’s “Could I Be Falling In Love?

The first part is a “valuable object.” Digital objects are by their very nature infinitely copyable, sharable and also ephemeral. This is not to say they have no intrinsic value, but their value is lessened by their ubiquity. At the same time, they are not actually owned by the actual consumer. If you forget to pay your Spotify monthly account charge, you lose access to the music. However, if you pay the fee again, it’s back as if nothing ever happened. There is no real risk of loss, but there is also no real ownership, no investment.

This brings us to the second part of heirloom: “belonged to a family for several generations.” If I give you the MP3s from a new album I want you to listen to, I still have my own copies. There is no incentive on your part to listen and get the physical item back to me, and no anxiety on my part to giving this item to you. My copy is still intact and I can still listen to it. While this is a huge benefit to me, it also diminishes the value of the music. There is no risk, no ownership. The electrons don’t actually belong to anyone. Music becomes a Tamagotchi pet. You forgot to feed it? Oh well, start over. No worries.

Camel's "The Snow Goose"

Camel’s “The Snow Goose”

This is not to say that digital music has no value. I have sampled more musical styles and genres than I ever would have with physical records. When there is no risk, you can listen to anything. This is hugely powerful and liberating. However, I also came across a lot of music that I wanted to connect to, keep and pass on. Giving someone and MP3 or a link to a stream was always a bit unsatisfying. A month later, they still had never listened and why should they? Those electrons where going to be there forever.

This is the odd contradiction with digital music; It’s permanence, it’s persistence makes it less urgent. If you where going to live forever, why rush anything? At the same time, it’s transient, you don’t actually own it. It’s loss is less meaningful.

I think a digital life is easier, but an heirloom life is better. Does that make any sense?

Posted by John in Music
Old Habits

Old Habits

I restarted an old habit these past few weeks. Vinyl records.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I already have about 1000 vinyl albums. I got out of the habit when CD’s got big (about 500 of those) and I dropped CDs for the most part when audio streaming went mainstream.

I have a Spotify account and a Pandora account, but increasingly music has become a background thing; something to listen to while doing other things.This is probably the way most people listen to music.

However, there was a time for me when music was the thing.

Not an addition to, but the thing. An album was a treasure,  a direct link between me and a band. They had something to communicate to me and I needed to stop and listen. Anything less would just be rude.

I lost some of this with CDs because I could cram 5 of them into a changer and just play. I got even farther away from it when digital music became the norm. There’s something about access to every track ever… It’s a little like Ikea: when it’s cheap and pervasive, it’s easier to take for granted, just passively absorb like background noise. No attachment and no history.

It’s especially odd for me as a wood worker. There is a huge movement right now around hand tools and heirloom furniture. The idea that the thing you create is important enough to pass down, not just use and discard. It’s not just utilitarian ephemera, it’s an expression of it’s creator. It’s a moment in time.

It seems to me that there are pieces of history that are just simply transitional. They get us from point A to point B. They serve a purpose, without question, but they are not the stories we tell our children. They are the things that happen between History (big H).

And then there are pieces of History; expressions of self, slices of time and moments of wonder.

Stop right now and think. Which of your moments are the heirlooms you will pass to your children and which are just transitions and ephemera.

I am listening to Matt Pond PA’s “Several Arrows Later” on 180 gram vinyl. What are you doing?

Posted by John in Life, Music


Dude! My berries are frozen!

Dude! My berries are frozen!

I have been kind of quiet here for the last few months, but with good reason. On Tuesday, it will be 6 months since my water pipes froze and burst during the first freeze of 2014. This two part post covers the last six months of my life as I attempt to recover from the freeze. I am writing this, not as a list of woes and worries, but to ask a simple question; what the hell is wrong with contractors?

January 8th

pipes1It’s the second night of the big freeze, Delta Plumbing responded quickly in the emergency, and while I might quibble with the pricing, given that fact that they were working round the clock to fix things and the fact that they came when they said they would (8pm on the first call), I will tip my hat to them and say thank you.

Soggy carpet and 4 industrial fans means 3 days in a hotel with 3 cats.

Soggy carpet and 4 industrial fans means 3 days in a hotel with 3 cats.

The man from Delta had recommended a contractor called Apex Mitigation services to handle the water removal. Like Delta, Apex came when they said they would and responded very quickly and efficiently. The only knock on them was that they managed to nick one of my alarm wires.

This was totally not their fault, as we didn’t know where the wires were run and since it was only a nick, I didn’t even know they had done it until over a week later when the alarm would start intermittently beeping at me for no reason. Not a big deal, I just had the alarm company come out and track down the break and fix it.

The electrician sent out by My Alarm Center had the old school habit of stripping the wires with his wire cutters. As a recovering electrician myself, I have done this in a pinch, but it always runs the risk of  creating a weak spot in the wires if you crimp to hard (much like the previous issue he was there to fix).

Sure enough, I was in line for the bank later in the day when I got a call from the alarm monitoring station that my alarm had gone off. I went home, discovered the bad splices and just re-did them myself. Irritating, but it could be worse. Yes… yes it could.

Apex had recommended a renovations contractor called AYS (At Your Service) to fix the kitchen and bedroom water damage. They came out and did the initial walk through with the insurance company and I talked through a number of potential issues with them. One thing I was very clear about was that we would not do the demolition of the kitchen until the new cabinets where actually in our hands. I had no urge to be weeks without a kitchen (ah the naiveté of youth).

February 20th

As the weeks passed I had a horrible time getting AYS (Assemble it Your Self?) to call me back when I left messages. No one could tell me, when the work was going to get done or even when they would come out again. They missed 3 appointments including two days when I stayed home from work to wait for them. The final straw was when they called weeks later to say they would be out to demolish the kitchen the next day… without even asking me what cabinets I wanted to order. Are You Serious? I have a 8 foot square of bare concrete in my bedroom and the kitchen counters are starting to sag. Nothing was started and the communication was awful. So AYS got fired.

March 5th

I did a bit of looking around and decided I would let Home Depot do the carpet in the bedroom. If they did a good job, I would get them to do the kitchen. Home Depot’s subcontractor is a company called Romanoff Renovations and they made me feel all kinds of stabby.

Basically, the carpet guys wanted to leave me with my bedroom in my kitchen

Basically, the carpet guys wanted to leave me with my bedroom in my kitchen

Having dealt with the alarm wires in great detail since the original damage, I knew exactly where each one came up near the wall. I took great pains to point each of these 3 places out to all of the guys working on the crew. You need to be careful here, here and here… They managed to cut Every… Single… One.

At first, they just wanted to continue putting in the carpet, then they started talking about just leaving and then, despite being told not to on multiple occasions by both myself and their own supervisors, they started trying to fix it themselves.

I was eventually able to get an alarm technician to come out on an emergency service call to fix things and check the system. After far too much aggravation, they were able to get the carpet finished. Romanoff agreed to reimburse the cost of the repair, which was the least they could do… and in fact, all they would do.

To add insult to injury, their check for the reimbursement came with a legal release statement which basically said that by signing the check I agreed never to ask them for anything else. I will state this as plainly as possibly, I would not hire Romanoff Renovations to build a birdhouse. If I was legally able to ask them for anything else, I would ask them to go fuck themselves. Home Depot should pick a better class of contractor.

By this point at least I had carpet, so all things considered, it could be worse… much worse in fact.

To find out just how much worse things could get, read Contractors II: Global Builders Restoration

Posted by John in Life
A Simple Blanket Chest

A Simple Blanket Chest

I finally finished up a six board chest for the end of the bed. The top is from a project I made when I was about 19. It consists of a key collection, laid on a plywood back and sealed in acrylic resin. Throughout it’s life the top has been part of a coffee table, a box for books and now it becomes a chest for the end of the bed. it has some bumps and scrapes, much like it’s builder, but it seems to have held up okay.

The bottom of the new chest is cedar, so it smells nice inside. The rest of the chest is stained plywood. Traditionally, these are made out of pine or a common hard wood, but I had the plywood on hand, so I went with that.

The fun part was trying to match the original stain from the old top. After trying about 4 different types, I actually found one already on my supply shelf that was pretty close.

I think I may add a chain to keep the lid from flopping back too far, and possibly some handles (This thing is heavy). However, I will have to wait for the cat inspection to be completed.

Next I think I am going to add one more set of shelves to the closet… but first the celebratory Scotch.

Posted by John in Woodworking
Baby Stuff (Not mine – Don’t panic mom)

Baby Stuff (Not mine – Don’t panic mom)

A baby rattle and the first of a set of blocks, for Elizabeth and Aaron Karp (or more specifically, for their baby girl). The handle gives it a bit of a royal septer look. However, since I am sort of assuming Aaron’s first child will be named “Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All” that should work out just fine.

The head of the rattle was my first chance to work with a hollowing tool. I need some more practice, but it was fun to fiddle with.

The cherry wood blocks will be part of a set of 10 counting blocks with a number stamped on 4 sides and a corresponding number of paw prints on the other two sides.


Posted by John in Woodworking
Closet mods part II

Closet mods part II

Added a new section to the closet modifications. One step closer to being rid of the evil white wire rack shelves. The bottom section will get doors put on it. Then I get to switch over to the other side of the closet.

This provides a good bit of space for king sized comforters and my oversized suitcase.

Posted by John in Woodworking
A Valentines day project

A Valentines day project

I am generally of the opinion that we should be good to people all the time rather than only on certain celebrated days. However, this was one of those late night ideas that rattled around in my brain until I let it out last weekend. I am very pleased with the results.

These can be made with colorful scrap wood or leftover pen blanks (cedar is nice because of the smell). For those of you interested in how stuff gets made, a full project description is available over on lumberjocks.

Posted by John in Woodworking
Closet Organizer

Closet Organizer

Built with a single sheet of 4 by 8 baltic Birch Plywood and a bit of poplar for banding the edges. Cat approved! This is the first step of the closet renovation to hopefully remove all of those white metal racks and replace them with some nice wood. I added some canvas drawers for color and they turned out very nicely.

Posted by John in Woodworking
Christmas Wood 2013

Christmas Wood 2013

Some of the Santa output for 2013. Cheese boards, a small platter and a Ball jar full of balls (Hows that for meta?). I am curious to see how many people recognize the design in the middle of the smaller walnut platter.

Posted by John in Woodworking

Playing around with a sphere turning jig from the folks at ChefWare Kits. I like it a lot so far. There is a bit more play in it than I expected, but I think once I get used to the setup, I will be able to cut down on some of that.

The spheres are much more consistent. It’s not really quicker, but all things considered, I like it. I even tried my first spherical box. I have discovered that a friction fit lid on a spherical box is not really the best idea… it has to be pried loose.

Live and learn.

Next up, I need to try a saturn shaped box. 🙂

Posted by John in Woodworking
Red Oak Tool Chest

Red Oak Tool Chest

This is a chest for tools and small pieces of wood, done in red oak and oak plywood. I was not terribly thrilled by the quality of the oak plywood. The veneer was very thin and tended to split along the edges.

However, all things considered, it’s not too shabby for shop furniture. It has me thinking I want to tackle something big like an armoire or a nice chest of drawers. Just need to remember better quality plywood for the case.

Posted by John in Woodworking


Not sure I ever posted these. The vase is spalted maple. This stuff was wonderful to turn a polished up to a beautiful finish. I was very pleased and it made a lovely gift.

The tiny boxes are in leftover scraps of cherry wood. I have enough to make about a dozen more. Not sure what I will put in them, but they are fun to make.

Posted by John in Woodworking


The look that says “Not sure where you are sleeping tonight buddy.”

Three cats in a king bed.

Three cats in a king bed.

Posted by John