View from the Garage

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

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.


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.



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.


July 7, 2012

More Seoul music

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 5:36 am

This is a wall-mounted version of the Korean gong/alarm clock that I made for our own bedroom. It definitely works–wakes us up every morning! The electronics use an Arduino microprocessor to time the on and off cycles for the gong actuator. This way the duration of the gong pulse and the time between pulses can be easily controlled. Now the pulses get stronger and the time between them, which starts at 30 seconds, gradually gets shorter. But so far, one has been sufficient…

One tricky part was getting the actuator wires to the gong, as I didn’t want the wires just hanging down. I ran the wires behind the drywall, but you can see a couple scars in the drywall I haven’t fixed yet. Will do.

January 28, 2012

Wooden Necktie

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 4:44 am

Here’s a pair of wooden striped articulated neckties I made. They’re Torrey Pine with walnut stripes. They look rather striking, but they’re not very practical.


December 5, 2011

Seoul Music

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 1:00 am

A couple years ago I spent some hours in the Incheon airport in Seoul, South Korea. This is about the nicest airport I’ve ever been in. It has excellent restaurants, expensive and not, and even nooks with lounge chairs for relaxation while you wait for a plane. One really unusual feature is a large cultural exchange center and shop. This center always seems to offer instruction and supplies for some craft, like painting fans, that visitors can do for free while they wait. The shop offers many hand-crafted Korean objects, mostly of the folk art variety. One that I couldn’t resist buying is a hand-held gong that is said to be used to celebrate the harvest.

The gong as it came

Well, what to do with this? Not many harvests around here. So I made it into an alarm clock. I modified a commercial digital clock to close a circuit through an optical isolator when the alarm should sound and send the signal to the electronics box. The box uses a simple R-C 555 timing chip to generate pulses periodically. The box has a multi-position switch that selects a charging resistor so that the pulses come out every 8 seconds plus a multiple of the switch setting times 8 seconds. That is, the chime can be set between 8 seconds and 80 seconds in 8 second intervals. These thumbnails show the box, the circuit in development, and laying out the curves on the legs of the stand. (OK, the stand is in the shape of a Japanese torii; I know it’s a mixed metaphor.) I made the stand of canary wood and the top piece is East Indian rosewood.

Electronics box

Electronics circuit

Laying out the legs



Here's the clock with the chime. Click on it to see a video of the chiming

September 9, 2011

Torrey Pines Vase

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 2:14 pm

Here’s a vase for dried flowers I made from the wood from the Torrey pine tree that a neighbor had had removed from his yard. The lip is from a piece of (now rare) Brazilian rosewood I picked up at Penberthy Lumber in Berkeley a very long time ago. The vase has some weight built into the base to keep it from tipping too easily.

The sides are dovetailed together. The thumbnails below are links to larger photos that show the sides ready for assembly; partial assembly; and glue up. The vase is finished with Zinnsler shellac.

February 23, 2011

Urban tree

Filed under: House work, Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 5:26 am

When we cut down a Monterey pine tree near the front door because the roots were becoming destructive, it left a big empty place. After considering many alternatives, I made this ‘tree’ for the spot. It’s supposed to evoke the baobab trees we saw in Tanzania. It’s made of redwood, and the ‘leaves’ are glass made by local artist Bobbi Hirschkoff .

Click on the video to see how it moves in the slightest breeze.

November 2, 2010

Study 1 for Urban Tree

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 3:53 am

August 30, 2010

Box from Torrey Pine tree

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 8:38 pm

I made this small box from the wood of a huge Torrey Pine tree that was removed from an adjoining property, as described in an earlier posting. The lift tab and the corner bracing are from a piece of Brazilian rosewood I picked up in Berkeley in 1972. The finish is Zinnsler shellac with a thin topcoat of wax.

March 13, 2010

Keyboard Tray

Filed under: House work, Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 10:51 pm

Upgraded my keyboard tray with a shelf of canarywood. Feathering the underside surface made the edges thinner, giving it a lighter appearance. Works great; before, I had to have the mouse on the top of the desk, which was ergonomically unsuitable. Finished with 2 coats Zinnsler shellac and some paste wax.

February 22, 2010

Tale of a Torrey Pine

Filed under: Woodworking — thefusionguy @ 6:12 am

Long before we moved into our house, the neighbor to the west has had a large Torrey Pine tree in his front yard. The Torrey Pine is the rarest pine tree in the US, and it grows naturally only in a small strip of coastal land near San Diego. (There is also a small population of a variety on Santa Rosa Island, off the coast at Santa Barbara.) It is normally a rather small pine, but in landscaped locations where it gets plenty of water it can grow to huge proportions. Unfortunately for this particular tree, it is both watered daily and near an overhead power line, so SDGE every year prunes off branches that grow toward the power lines. This has unbalanced the tree over the years, and it has been leaning precariously over the neighbor’s house. The high winds early this year convinced the neighbor that the tree had to go. This is a big deal in Del Mar, where the tree is highly protected. But two weeks ago the tree was cut down. You can see in the before and after photos the difference it made. It was like losing an old friend.

I thought I’d like to make some kind of keepsake out of the wood for the neighbors, as a souvenir of the tree. The tree was cut while I was snowboarding in Utah, so I didn’t have the opportunity to get any of the wood. But another neighbor had collected some of the wood for firewood (a lot of it!). He had borrowed a hydraulic splitter from the guy that cut the tree, so he split in half a round about 18″ long and 24″ in diameter, with no branches. I figure this is about 4 to 5 cubic feet of wood, almost saturated with water. Water is 64 lbs/ft^3, so these half-rounds might weigh 120 lbs or more. So: how to mill this lumber. I thought to use my 14″ bandsaw, which was really the only option. So I added some support for the wood and hoisted it to the bandsaw table. I didn’t want to use one of my good sawblades, so all I had was an old 1/4″ blade with 4 teeth/inch, not the ideal thing. It was pretty hard to slide these heavy logs though without just breaking the band, but I managed it. The big problem was that the pitch from the sappy wood kept forming globs on the band and interfering with its limited cutting ability. I found that brushing the sides of the band with a brass-wire brush and then rubbing beeswax on the blade helped a lot with reducing this problem. Here’s how it looked for the smaller of the two pieces.

The first cut was the hardest. After that the weight was substantially reduced, which made the cutting easier. Still, the narrow band wandered a lot, so cleaning up the wood will be tedious. After making a fairly right-angle of the quarter log, it was much easier to work.

The photo on the bottom right shows the stickered wood in the garage for drying. The wood is completely soaking wet, so it will definitely take a couple months to come to an air-dry condition. I added a fan to try to reduce the tendency for mold to form, and coated the ends with paraffin to keep the ends from drying too much faster than the rest of the boards and causing cupping and checking from the uneven shrinkage as the wood dries. I’m a little skeptical that the wood will be usable, but we’ll see. I cut the pieces much thicker than I expect to use, to allow for correction of substantial cupping and warping. Either I’ll have some interesting wood or some firewood with lots of labor put into it.

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