Calvin really wanted to buy some springs. So we went to what might be my favorite store in the whole world: Ax-man and he bought some with his very own money. When we got home Calvin said he wanted to make them into dogs legs and make a dog to go with them. So we did. It’s for the current love of his life, Natalie. They’re in kindergarten together.
He loved two recent dachshunds he recently saw, and his springs were short, so we went with it. I cut the dog profile out of oak on the bandsaw. Calvin was in charge of painting.
Calvin wanted to use all the colors, but we convinced him not to do that. Instead he chose the “colors of Italy” — Red, white and blue. Caroline and I thought that Red, White and Green would look worse than Red, White and Blue, so we didn’t correct him.
We returned to Ax-man again and bought a skinny spring for the tail, some metal clips and screws to hold the spring legs on, and some leather for the ears. We had some old fake red leather for the tongue from a previous project.
We put a layer of polyurethane over the paint to protect it, and then attached the various bits and pieces.
We got our 3 year old a CD boom box for Christmas and have been making audio CDs for her with us reading her favorite books to her. Since these are kids books, every page turn is a separate track on the CD. This makes it easy for kids to go back and forth through the book if they want.
Start by downloading Audacity and a page-turn sound. I used a spring sound I found on a free sounds website.
Recording the Story
To record simply click the red Record button. Doing so will create a new stereo track and start recording. We read the book’s title and author and tell the kids to turn the page when they hear the *SPROING* sound.
Then we just read the book. I like to read it slightly slower than I would if I were reading to the kids so the ones who can read can follow along. At each page turn I pause for a few seconds to give the kids time to turn the page.
To clean up the sound I do two simple things.
To remove background noise (like fans, air conditioning, the hum of a fridge) select a section of the recording that should be silent. Run the Noise Removal tool found in Effect -> Noise Removal.
In the noise removal dialog click Get Noise Profile. This will analyize the selected section of supposed silence and use it in the next step. Run the Noise Removal tool again, but this time click OK.
Normalize The Audio
Use the Effect -> Normalize tool to make your volume more even.
Add Page Turn Effects
Open the page turn sound effect you downloaded earlier in another copy of Audacity. You can simply use copy and paste (Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V) to copy the page turn sound effect where you want it. Be sure to leave enough time after the page turn noise for a kid to actually turn the page.
Prepare The Book For Export
Add another track to the project. We’re going to use a Label Track to indicate where our page turn.
Use Tracks -> Add New -> Label Track.
In the label track simply click where you want to place a label, then start typing. I named my labels 001, 002, 003 etc. because those labels will become the file names later and I want my files to be in sequential order.
Export CD Tracks
Finally we’re ready to export the separate tracks. Use File -> Export Multiple to bring up the dialog.
Choose the WAV export format. Split files based on Labels, and include audio before first label. If you have named your files 001 etc, then you can set the first file name to 000.
Click the Export button.
This dialog will pop up once for every file. I’m sure there’s some way to suppress it but since my books are short I haven’t bothered figuring out how. Just press OK a bunch of times.
Burning Your Book to CD
You should now have a folder full of WAV files somewhere. You can use whatever program you want to burn these to CD. I use k3b on Linux, and my wife uses iTunes on her Mac.
For iTunes, create a new playlist and name it the name of the book. Drag all the files you made to the playlist. Right click on the playlist and select Burn Playlist. Make sure there’s no gap between tracks, and make sure that Use CD Text is checked.
Before I could finish the Christmas presents I’m working on I needed this jig for my tablesaw.
Cross cut Sled
The first jig I needed was a cross cut sled. A cross cut sled lets you cut 90 degree cuts on a table saw when cutting across long narrow pieces of wood. The crosscut sled rides in the slots on a tablesaw.
Before starting this project I made sure that my saw blade was square with the table. If your blade isn’t square with the table, making a sled is kind of pointless.
I started by picking up a 3/4 inch square dowel. I believe it is poplar. This will go in the 3/4 inch tablesaw to guide. Since the slot is 3/4 exactly and the dowel was 3/4 too it didn’t slide very well. I used the hand plane to make it just slightly smaller so it would slide smoothly.
I then cut the dowl into three pieces lengthwise so that the two outer pieces don’t quire reach the bottom of the tracks. The middle piece was scrap. The two remaining pieces don’t quite touch the bottom of the tracks. This is so that the sled itself is what slides across the table, the dowels are just there to guide it.
I used a couple of nuts to raise the dowels above the level of the table and laid down a bead of glue.
I then placed the sled on top of the runners. The sled itself doesn’t need to be oriented exactly correct since the runners are in the tracks already.
I let it dry like this for about 30 minutes before bringing it inside to finish drying.
While it was drying I used the tablesaw fence to cut flat edges on two pieces of 2×4. The cross cut sled is going to get cut in half, so these will be glued on vertically and the sawblade won’t cut them completely in half.
The front 2×4 doesn’t need to be square with the blade. It’s just there to hold the two sides of the sled together.
I glued the front 2×4 in place and let it dry. I then ran the sled most of the way through the saw blade. I left about an inch uncut on the back side because the 2×4 isn’t in place yet.
The back 2×4 needs to be square with the blade. When we make cuts with the sled, the material will butt up against the back 2×4, and being square will ensure that our cross cuts are 90 degrees square with the flat side of the material.
To square it up I temporarily put in a single small nail in one corner of the back fence so the fence can move. around.
I put down a layer of glue under the back 2×4 and spread it back and forth a bit. With the one fixed point I used a square and the cut I made previously to get the correct angle for the back 2×4, then clamped the 2×4 down to dry. Finally, remove that temporary nail so it doesn’t scrape the tablesaw table.
And that’s it! Simple and cheap.
The first time I use it the blade will cut through the back 2×4 and through the rest of the plywood. I had to make one more jig to continue working on these Christmas presents, but I’ll save that for a new blog post tomorrow.