Custom Kitchen Light

stock lightA client decided she’d had enough of her condo looking “plain.”  Her plan entailed essentially redoing the entire interior:  new flooring, paint, vanities, counter-tops, custom shelving in an open wine closet, and doing something with the boring kitchen light.

Custom light fixtures and light boxes are available online if you search for them.  Essentially they are just a wooden box that surrounds a fluorescent light fixture with either a plastic or acrylic panel instead of the stock diffuser.  They are also fabulously expensive.  Some with stained glass panels can cost well over a thousand dollars.

???????????????????????????????molding2I built this one for her from cabinet grade pine along with rope-detailed crown and casing molding.  It was designed to slide around the existing two-bulb fixture and mount to the ceiling joists.  I designed it with just a bit of flex so that when screwed into the ceiling it would tighten up to the sheet rock:  The ceiling isn’t level – something quite common in large developments where units are built as quickly as possible.  This meant the finished product would fit snugly even with imperfections in the mounting surface.

The panel looks like stained glass:  It’s actually an acrylic panel from this company.  Lightweight, attractive and (relatively) inexpensive.???????????????????????????????The client decided on a painted finish but using stain grade molding and cabinet grade pine would have allowed for a stained finish as well.

It’s not a cheap light fixture – the total was over $300 – but it was a lot cheaper than the alternatives she had been exploring.  (Click any image for the photo gallery.  The photos aren’t great quality but do detail the design and workmanship.)???????????????????????????????

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Bat Habitat

Bat houses!  An all natural way to control insects every evening.

These habitats have two roosting chambers and will hold between 40 and 100 bats.  (One brown bat can eat up to 3000 mosquitoes each night!)

Made of natural cedar with glued (weatherproof glue) and stapled sides and front.  Top is screwed on for occasional cleaning whenever the habitat is moved.

Dimensions are 16 inches wide, 5 & 3/4 inches thick, 22 and 1/2 inches tall.  These do not include mounting hardware – you will want to get hardware that makes sense depending on your mounting location.

Habitats like this do best mounted at least 15 feet high with a south / southeasterly exposure that will get approx. 6 hours of sunlight a day.

These are $60 each – currently 4 are in stock.  Shipping cost varies from $13 – $15, depending on location – these are 11.25 pounds and I ship via Fed Ex Residential Saver.  I do not charge handling for boxing these up and only charge the actual shipping charge to your location.

Click any image for photo gallery.

If you are interested in these, you can either use the quick contact form on the home page or send me an email.

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California Bread box

An email from the contact form came in asking if I could do a “rush job” for a bread box reproduction to ship to California.  The next line contained all the motivation I really needed; this box was for a 5th grade class field trip to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  The teachers wanted the kids to have to tote their bread goods in an authentic box.  It didn’t take much thought:  “Sure, I’d like to make this happen.”  So after a rush job I got something more important than the payment from Pay Pal… I got actual pictures of my box being used on the other side of the country!  This is the farthest I’ve sent one so far; and might be the best use I’ve seen for one!

This box was close to historically accurate – with two differences.  The bottom – as with all my reproductions – is plywood that is built into the walls instead of simple planking that is nailed on.  (The nailed on bottoms eventually fall off.  In the Civil War they just threw them away or used them for firewood; re-enactors want their gear to last a bit longer!)  The second difference on this box is the wood used for the sides and tops.  it’s biscuit-joined and glued up wood that is milled down from regular framing lumber.  This gives the authentic “rough cut” look and feel and leaves the sides and tops only 5/8″ thick instead of 3/4″ pine planking.  It cuts the weight some without sacrificing any strength – and still looks accurate enough to fool any but the most discerning eye.  The client did a GREAT job of adding their own stenciling for their project!

This box, stained but without any stenciling, was $50 plus actual cost of Fed Ex Ground shipping.  (Shipping to California was $24.50 for this 20 pound box.)

(Click on any image for photo album)

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Auxiliary shop air filter

My wood shop is a dusty place.  Even with two dust collectors and a HEPA air filter it still taxes the heat pump air handler when I’m in the middle of a project.  I needed an auxiliary air filter like this one above right – I just didn’t have $350 plus to spend on one.  (Nor do I really have the excess power – my circuit panel is devoted to all my existing tools; there’s nothing left in the power budget for an electrical hog like this.)

So I decided to build my own.  Nothing fancy – it’s not a “full exchange” system nor is it remotely HEPA quality; it’s an auxiliary filter to take some of the load off my HEPA filter and the a/c air exchanger.

Surplus / recycled wood, left over fittings and cord, some plywood, glue and air brads, a few machine screws, washers and nuts… And it works like a charm.  Intentionally designed to use the filters available at any Lowes or Home Depot store, it ended up (without my time) costing me less than half of what a commercial unit would have cost.  Total cost = approx $130 with two commercial duct fan units.

There are ways to save money and still arrive at elegant solutions to most problems.  It just takes some thought and “handiness!”

It works like a dream, by the way; and is the most quiet piece of machinery in the shop!  (Click the pic below to go to the photo album.)

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Civil War Footlocker

A friend is a Civil War reenactor.  That means he spends his weekends putting on his Sargent’s uniform and going out to march, shoot, camp, and generally be miserable with his unit!  You should check them out HERE. (If perhaps you don’t think these guys like being miserable, think about wearing all that wool for three days straight in 90 degree heat!)

When we were talking back last year when I built some Bread boxes for them, he mentioned that he would love to have a “footlocker.”  We’ve kicked around the idea of “the box” for months since then.

Part of the problem with this is just any old wood box will not do.  These guys are really serious about their “props.”  Muskets really fire, tents really are nothing but canvas, uniforms really are wool, (they look hot, itchy, and tend to smell), and anything around camp has to look “period correct.”

Which means a box like this – during the Civil War, would be pine planks, nailed together, and would weigh a ton without a single item inside!  (Officers and non-coms didn’t worry about weight back then, they just loaded it on the supply wagons.)  But within a year or two, that “box,” schlepped around from battlefield to battlefield, would be splitting, probably rotten, and just thrown away.  Not something reenactors tend to do with their equipment.

So, the challenge was to build a box that looked old – even to the iron hardware and period correct screws – and yet not fall apart after a season or two.  My solution?  A box that looks old on the outside – yet on the inside is engineered.  It’s lighter than solid wood, stronger than solid wood, and framed from treated lumber.  (The same stuff you build your back deck out of.)  It’ll hold more gear, take more abuse, and last longer than the original would have!  (With a company available like Restorers, you can also find all the hardware to make this kind of project work.)

This isn’t a project to make money on.  Frankly, there’s too much time and labor to ever get out of it what you put into it.  But for the pleasure of actually creating something “new” that looks, and will be used as, something “old”… this was worth every minute!

See all the photos HERE.

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Handy and Green

What do these pictures have in common?  The hat racks on the left began life as the redwood stays in a market umbrella just like this one on the right.

I hate – literally HATE – to waste good wood.  I think it’s a sin for any wood with life left to be thrown away, burned in a fireplace, chopped up, left to rot… (You probably get the idea!)

So when an old market umbrella needed to be replaced, it didn’t get thrown into the landfill.  It was disassembled, part by part, and all the wood and canvas stored until needed.  (The canvas has long since been recycled into something for a church pageant; I just can’t remember exactly what.)  When the idea for some extra hat and jacket storage came up recently, I realized the perfect thing was sitting in the recycle bin.  A few dowel pieces, some craft store wooden balls, the drill press, some left-over furniture varnish, about $1.98 in hardware… And there they are.

Don’t throw your wood away!  You would be amazed at what kind of creations are still waiting for you in those old boards you thought were all used up!

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Antique Chairs

A set of six antique chairs; 75 – 100 years old; three generations in the family… in poor shape from a previous repair. A non-flexible, epoxy-type glue used some years ago wouldn’t allow the flex and give that these old, poplar chairs need. The old glue had broken and in some places, actually cracked the wood worse than it would have been without it.

The job?  To very carefully pull apart every joint possible, clean all the old glue, re-glue and clamp the chairs.  As sentimental as the client is, they aren’t going to re-upholster the seats if the chairs are beyond repair.

In some cases this was gluing and clamping three or four joints; in a couple it was essentially rebuilding the chair.  A couple were missing the diagonal supports which meant cutting a new blank and then hand-carving it to fit the odd size tongue and groove side boards.

This is not a job to be sloppy or careless with; it’s old wood and each chair is pretty fragile.  But once glued with the proper glue (high strength but flexible – NOT “superglue” type), these chairs are ready for the next generation in the family.

Average labor – depending on how many glue joints must be repaired and whether new braces have to be fabricated:  Approx. 1.5 – 2.5 hours per chair.  (And this job gets done with only two chairs at one time; not enough room in the shop for all of them and they are too valuable to take a chance of stumbling over and breaking one!)

Click the image below for the Photo Gallery.

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Civil War Breadboxes

mb1Replica boxes that look identical to the pine boxes used to ship “hardtack” bread to Army units during the Civil War.  One of the needs this client had (a Civil War Re-enactors Unit) was for boxes that looked authentic, yet had enough strength in their construction to be hauled around to outdoor events.

These boxes look exactly like the originals.  However, they have an exterior-grade plywood floor mounted into the side walls. (Not nailed on like the original.)  The result is an authentic replica with perhaps twice the strength – these re-enactors can cram these boxes full of gear without worrying about the floor separating!

A VERY labor intensive project; these boxes came to be $75 dollars per box.  (Still $30 less than others listed on various websites.)

Click one of the photos for the full gallery.mb4

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