View from the Garage

December 7, 2016

Myoporum lumber

Filed under: Uncategorized — thefusionguy @ 6:03 am

Many years ago, when the kids were little, there was a young man who lived in a small house made from a garage on a neighboring lot. This young man fancied himself a renaissance man, and he played a musical instrument until he got less bad, then he’d turn to another instrument on which he was really bad. But he seemed to have a way with women, and occasionally he’d get carried away a bit in his outdoor amorous pursuits. I figured I’d better find some way, quick and cheap, to keep the kids from seeing him and his girlfriends. So I went to the nursery and explained my problem. The clerk recommended I plant Myoporums. He said that was the plant of choice for those seeking to shield a few marijuana plants from prying eyes. So, good enough. But now, some 30 years later, those Myoporums have grown into much huger trees than I ever expected:


So last week when we had to remove the trees, I thought I’d see if I could mill some interesting parts of the tree trunk into lumber for later use. First, I made a plywood sled to hold the trunks while being sliced on the bandsaw:



Then, using a fence, I re-sawed some thin boards. It’s a tedious process, because the green wood sticks to the bandsaw blade and builds up. So after every slice, I have to scrape the blade with a card scraper, then wax it. It’ll take a year or so before I can see whether the boards could be useful for a small box or something. If so, I bet it’s the only Myoporum box you can get!



November 16, 2016

Bathroom cabinet

Filed under: Uncategorized — thefusionguy @ 6:09 am

This is a cabinet made to replace a very old one in our guest bathroom. It will have a granite top, after it’s installed. The woods are red oak and purpleheart.


October 27, 2016

Plant holder

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 4:49 am

Made a new holder for a Crassula ovata ‘Hobbit’ bonsai from San Diego Botanical Garden. This plant holder had to look more sturdy than the previous one, in order to be more consistent with the nature of the plant. Made of redwood, unfinished.

August 31, 2016

Wine rack

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 12:36 am

Here’s a wine rack I made from some leftover redwood 1x and some red oak. I had bought the oak for another project, but it turned out to have lots of internal voids and splits, so it wasn’t useable for something that had to be really stable. But I was happy to put it to use for the wine rack. The rack is built into an existing cabinet in the kitchen.


Here’s the jig I made to cut the 72 mortices for the redwood pieces. The eye is very sensitive to slight inaccuracies in spacing in a matrix like this, and there were a lot of mortices to cut. So rather than measure the location of each one, the jig takes care of it by referencing the next mortice relative to the previous one.


Burl box

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 12:22 am

When I retired, a colleague gave me this slice of rosewood burl.

I’ve never used burl, but it seemed like bandsawing a thin slice would be difficult since the slice might crumble. So I consulted another SDFWA mentor who specialized in veneering, and he made the good recommendation to apply ‘veneer tape’ to provide some structural support while the slice was free. I also had to overhaul my old 14″ Delta bandsaw with a new Woodslicer resaw blade, new urethane tires, and a new segmented drive belt to reduce vibration. I also had to fashion a better fence. All that worked well, and I got good slices of burl veneer.

Then I made boxes of some afromosia with East Indian rosewood handles, here showing the cutting of the dovetailed corners.

I glued the veneer to the lid, then applied water to dissolve the glue holding the veneer tape to the slice so the tape could be non-destructively removed. With the thin top and thin sides, there was no place to put hinges, so I made the tops free. I lined the bottom with some black felt.

March 16, 2016

Killing the Bugs

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 11:45 pm

Turns out, the lumber from the fallen Torrey pine has bugs. That’s not too unexpected. But when I moved the 4″ thick boards from the field to my garage, I found several kinds of new insect life around. This put me in a bit of panic, so I turned to Google. I can fumigate the boards; well, no. Or I can heat them to 140 F (60 C) for an hour or so. Well, that didn’t sound so hard, and might help with the drying as well. I heated a smaller cedar board a few years ago by enshrouding it in a plastic box and using the sun to heat it, and inside a day it was plenty hot. That did seem to kill the boring insects that I know it had. But the Torrey pine lumber is much wetter, and therefore has much greater heat capacity. So I decided to try using an electric heater.

First I made a bottomless box out of 1/2″ CDX plywood and lined it with R-13 fiberglass wall insulation.  This box barely fit the particular boards I had. For a heat source I started with a $10 hair dryer, which I put in the box with it aimed into an aluminum foil tube made for clothes dryer vents from Home Depot. I perforated the tube in 7-8 places. The idea of the tube was to distribute the heat along the board and to keep the hair dryer end from getting too hot. To measure the temperature, I used a TMP36 temperature sensor, a marvelous $1.50 device that looks like a transistor. You put 3 to 5.5 volts across two terminals and the voltage on the third is 0.5+T/100, where T is the local temperature in deg C. Works great! I bored a hole in the center of the end of the board, about 2″ deep, and put the temperature sensor there.


But hairdryers aren’t made to run continuously for 6 hours or so. And I had to enclose the hairdryer completely inside the box, because I didn’t want the wood to dry out, just get hot, so keeping minimal air transfer to the outside is beneficial. So the entire dryer also gets to the cooking temperature. First thing, there’s a thermal cutout that I had to bypass. Then with that bypassed, there’s a thermal fuse that I also had to short out. Also a ground fault interrupter that I deleted. So all the safety mechanisms were removed. And I knew the dryer might fail, I was just worried about what the failure mechanism might be, so I kept a fire extinguisher nearby. But surprisingly, it seems to work.

I estimated the time it should take to heat the wood. Guessing the plank as 120 lbs or 55 kg, and the temperature rise as 60-25=35 C, and assuming the rather wet wood has an average heat capacity half that of water, the heat needed is 2 J/gC * 55000 g * 35 C = 3.85 MJ. The dryer puts out 1.5 kW, or 3.6 MJ/hr, so the heating should take about an hour. But another thing that affects the time requirement is the time it takes for heat to diffuse into the core of the wood. Heat diffusivity in dry wood is about 0.16E-6 m^2/s, according to experts. Here the half-thickness is 5 cm, so the soak-in time is 4.3 hours. But since there’s 2 sides to the lumber, should be about half this time. So several hours can be expected to be needed for the heat to reach the core of the wood. In practice, it looks like this, which should be enough temperature to kill the bugs.


March 4, 2016

Drying Torrey Pine Wood

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 6:34 am

The lumber we sawed from a fallen Torrey pine tree (described in my Feb 16 posting) was starting to split and crack, probably due in part to the drying process taking place too rapidly. So we got the 4″ thick boards moved to my garage where the drying will be slower and more controlled. I hope that will reduce the splitting. Also some evidence of boring insects in the wood, and I’m truly hoping that the bugs are gone and won’t invade my house! May have to make a solar kiln to off the bugs. Each board weighs 150-200 lbs, so I’m hoping they will be more manageable after they dry.

IMG_2951 IMG_2948

March 3, 2016

New plant shelf

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 12:27 am

Added this new plant shelf to replace some ugly tables. It’s made from a mahogany board said to be 50 years old that I got at Tropical Exotic Hardwoods. Cutting this wood made the shop smell wonderful for days, as the wood has a powerful aroma.


February 16, 2016

Milling Torrey Pine lumber

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 11:20 pm

A couple Torrey Pine trees were blown down a few months ago at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. These trees were planted in the early 1900s by the Larabee family, who lived at this site at the time. The Garden decided to make some period furnishings from the pine, so a volunteer with a portable sawmill offered to saw some TP logs into boards, and I helped him. We cut some beautiful clear boards 4″ thick that I think can be made into an extremely attractive table for the Garden Gala. But first the boards have to dry, taking probably 6 months or so.


November 13, 2015

Big Staghorn Fern!

Filed under: House work — thefusionguy @ 5:58 am

Bought this huge staghorn fern at the San Diego Botanic Garden sale. But then, I had to mount it! I made the backing board out of the same cedar that the house is sided with, but together the plant and board must weigh more than 100 lbs. I made a support bracket from redwood and screwed it to the studs, but getting the plant up to in involved getting a block and tackle. Now that it’s up, it looks pretty good I think.

IMG_2628 (1)


Redwood plant stand

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 5:43 am

Made this plant stand to hold a planter purchased at the Gala of the San Diego Botanic Garden. 

June 28, 2015

Afromosia bench

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 10:23 pm


I made this bench from Afromosia. This wood finishes beautifully using Maloof oil/wax and then oil/poly, after sanding to 1200 grit. Here’s the bench after the joinery was cut and after the seat was bandsawed.


Parota bench

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 10:17 pm


I made this bench from a parota board I bought at Tropical Exotic Hardwood in Carlsbad CA Parota is a huge tree and gigantic slabs are available. The tree is tropical but not endangered. The wood is very light and porous, so I finished this piece with a gloss varnish. It’s outside the side door, where we can use it while taking our shoes off after walking the beach.


Lose a friend, gain a fern…

Filed under: Uncategorized — thefusionguy @ 10:10 pm

Our very good friend and neighbor for 35 years moved to Colorado last May, in a big loss for us and the neighborhood. I still look across the street and expect to see her or hear her voice. But the stairs in her house became too much for her, and she wanted to be closer to her family, so off she went. But she left us this lovely huge staghorn fern to help remember her by.


Slideshow in the kitchen

Filed under: House work, Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 6:41 pm


When we replaced the old SubZero refrigerator, the new one was 14″ shorter (and 1/2″ wider, which caused me some midnight panic-level work adjusting the cabinetry). So to fill the new gap on top, I installed an old 18″ computer monitor to present a photo slideshow. I was lucky to have a monitor with resolution 1600×1200, which matches the 4×3 format of many photos. The slideshow is driven by a raspberry pi minicomputer hidden behind the screen. The pi runs feh to render the slideshow frames, and about 10,000 jpegs are on the SD card. The pi uses chrontab to turn the screen on at times when someone is likely to be home and off at night. Since the monitor is narrower than the refrigerator, I added louvered panels on either side of the screen. The louvers allow for the air circulation needed by the refrigerator. The louvers are maple to match the cabinets.

December 12, 2014

Room divider

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 9:56 pm

I made this shelving to separate the living room from the entrance way. We needed something to present our various treasures accumulated over the years, and this serves that purpose. The wood is red oak with some accents of purpleheart, and the finish is Minwax Wipe-on Poly. The two glass panels are Spectrum Glass (red) and Youghiogheny Glass from Delphi Glass. The Youghiogheny (no idea how to pronounce that) glass was very unsmooth and fragile, having been made of several colors and textures of glass, making it tricky to cut to size. But I managed with tools and advice from a very saleswoman at Blue Dolphin Glass . The large golden-colored panel is two layers of brass screen (expensive!–from TWP) separated by curved spacers, so that interesting Moiré patterns move and shift as you walk by. The patterns don’t show up too well in the photos.

Oak board  010

Oak board  009


Oak board  008

These are jigs I made to align the dowels that join the pieces: for the end grain on the left and on board faces on the right.Oak board  007

This thing was too large to carry, so I had to glue up segments in the workshop and then assemble them in place.Oak board  006

The long boards were a challenge in a small shop:

Oak board  005


Straightening the edges of a 10′ oak board 2″ thick took some elbow grease, but to my surprise it’s do-able.
Oak board  004

Plant shelf

Filed under: House work, Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 9:31 pm

Yesterday I added this shelf for plants outside the kitchen window. The shelf is California Live Oak, 2-1/4″ thick, 6′ long, and quite heavy. I found the lumber at Tropical Exotic Hardwood in Carlsbad, CA

Kitchen plant shelf  003

Teak outdoor table

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 9:24 pm

Using the left-over teak from the indoor table, I made a table for the back yard. The teak is finished with Teak-Guard, and the top is Rain glass–made, I suppose, for shower doors but looking good in the application too.



April 9, 2014

Walnut shelf

Filed under: House work, Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 5:27 am



A friend gave me this 8/4 rough walnut board, from a tree from his farm near Sacramento. I sanded the top to get a better finish, then drilled matching holes in the block wall and the board, and used short pieces of rigid pipe to support the shelf, so it has no visible supports. It’s right outside the kitchen door that we use most of the time for entry and exit, so we see it often. It’s a nice place to put attractive plants.

To stabilize a large check in one end of the board, I let in a spline to join the sides of the split.



January 20, 2014

Ceramics by Manuel in Matanzas, Cuba

Filed under: Uncategorized — thefusionguy @ 5:15 am

On a visit to Cuba, we visited the Galleria Taller in Matanzas, where renowned artists Lolo and Manuel make and show their work. Here’s a photo of Manuel Hernandez Valdes in his showroom:


We purchased a plate and teapot made here:




November 8, 2013

Kitchen table

Filed under: Woodworking — Tags: — thefusionguy @ 6:29 am

After remodeling the bathroom counter upstairs, there was plenty of granite left from the slab to make a table. Originally we thought to put it outside with some new teak chairs, so I made the table legs and apron from teak. I think it looks very good!





Here’s the router jig I made to make the mortises in the legs at 45 deg to the surface:


Resulting mortise and tenon:


Gluing up:


Luckily, the brown in the granite is the same color as a ruddy Abyssinian:


The teak was glued using T88 epoxy for its water resistance and finished with TeakGuard. The granite was fabricated by Chris Milev at EHI Granite ( The cat’s name is Dozi.


November 3, 2013

Car roof rack

Filed under: Uncategorized — thefusionguy @ 7:29 am

When I got a new-model car (Mazda CX-5), the only roof rack available was the one from the manufacturer. The manufacturer’s rack was not very good for my needs. I’d like to be able to carry plywood or drywall, which usually comes in 4’x8′ pieces, and the rack was too narrow. Also, the transverse rails were curved, making it hard to secure flat plywood. And finally, the distance between the transverse rails is reduced since they are fixed to the longitudinal rails that bolt to the car roof. An 8′ piece of plywood has a lot of air resistance, and I wanted the stability of maximum distance between the transverse rails. So I made this roof rack of unistrut. It looks a little funny, but it works well. The rear rail has to be pretty high to clear the sharkfin antenna on the roof. The manufacturer’s limit is 195 lbs, so aluminum or fiberglass unistrut would be strong enough for that fairly small load, and also be lighter, but I couldn’t find it.



Chinese bronze ritual ewer

Filed under: Uncategorized — thefusionguy @ 7:15 am






After working at the Southwest Institute of Physics in Chengdu last March, I stopped in Shanghai for a couple days. In a shop I found this beautiful bronze ritual cup. This is evidently a copy of a bronze from China dated to 1200 BCE (, although I certainly didn’t know that when I bought it. It’s quite heavy.

The purchase illustrated one interesting thing about China: getting a receipt or invoice is a long process. I thought I might have trouble in US customs (I didn’t), so after paying cash I went back to the shop and asked for a receipt. (Well, a lot of sign language was involved in communicating that.) The clerk went into a back room for about 45 minutes and emerged finally with an invoice with lots of red stamps. I’m told that falsification of receipts is a common form of graft, so an elaborate system was set up that takes a long time to complete.

Ponytail Palm

Filed under: Uncategorized — thefusionguy @ 6:45 am

We got this Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) at the San Diego Botanical Garden plant sale and auction. It replaces a Monterey pine that was in this spot in front of the house. This species is known for its dramatic trunk.




August 27, 2012


Filed under: Miscellaneous — thefusionguy @ 5:27 am

We bought this beautiful vase from artist Fred Stodder ( The colors are intense and beautiful, but what I like most is the mysterious distortion of  space. The perspective is deceptive, something like an Escher image. 

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