Category Archives: Projects

A Sconce Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

We recently had the opportunity to replace some sconce light covers. The ones that broke were simply a piece of curved frosted glass. Caroline and the kids made some decorations this summer by melting pony beads in a cupcake pan run with the idea and use it to make some custom sconce covers myself.

I bought a new flat all-metal pan from the thrift store to avoid getting melted plastic all over the pans we use. I would’ve preferred a cookie sheet, but this is what they had.

I bought a bit of clear beads and a bin of transparent color beads. I made sure to get hard beads. I laid the beads out how I wanted them, but I made sure to extend my layout about 2 inches wider and taller than I was going to need. I knew that the plastic puddle would be thinner at the edges.

Laying out the beads
Laying out the beads

I placed the whole pan in the grill on medium-high. I checked on it every few minutes and here’s what happened.

  1. The beads all got shiny. They looked almost wet. I could still touch them at this point and they felt rubbery, but wouldn’t quite stick together.
  2. The beads started to stick together, but were still separate.
  3. They turned into a big puddle.

That took about 10 or 15 minutes. If you checke it less often it will probably take less time.

After it was melted I removed it from the grill and let it cool by itself until I could comfortably touch the bottom of the pan with my bare hands. At this point a slight twist of the pan made the plastic sheet pop off.

On an initial trial run I tried pulling the plastic off before it was all the way hardened and it left a goopy mess stuck to the bottom of the pan. Wait until it’s cool.

Once both sheets were cooled I used a fine-tooth saw blade on the table saw to trim the edges to make two rectangles.

The next step was to bent it. I actually did this step over the grill, the heat of the grill helped keep the whole piece warm, while the heat gun warmed it enough to actually get back to the bendy stage. I wore a clean(ish) leather glove during this stage so my hand didn’t get too hot.

Be sure to constantly move the heat gun around so you don’t get odd hot spots. They’ll warp and sag.

Bending the formed sheet
Bending the formed sheet

Since I was just barely bringing it up to the bendable stage, all I had to do to harden it was pick it up off the grill and hold it in the cool November Minnesota air.

The curves aren’t perfect, but they didn’t need to be for this. If I wanted exact curves I’d have made a mold out of sheet metal or something and let it droop over the mold.

A sconce after being drilled
A sconce after being drilled

Once it was curved I used a series of sandpaper on the edges to remove the saw blade marks. I used 120, 220, 500, 1200 and steel wool. That left the edges with a hazy white finish. A quick pass with the heat gun healed all those micro-scratches to leave clear edges.

Smoothed and reheated edges
Smoothed and reheated edges

Caroline says she loves them, so I guess the project was a success.

The sconces in action
The sconces in action
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce

Notes:

  • Melting plastic lets off terrible fumes. Keep it outside the whole time it’s warm and don’t do this in the oven. 
  • This works with CFL bulbs because they don’t get hot enough to melt the plastic. This would never work with halogen or incandescent bulbs.
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Shopsmith Repairs: New bandsaw blade insert

The aluminum bandsaw blade insert was always a little bent and one day a piece of wood pushed it it into the blade. That twisted it all up of course, and it never really worked after that.

I’ve been using it without a blade guard for a while, which means lots of sawdust and little pieces of wood fell down inside the saw.

Tonight I was going to cut up a bunch of freshly cut crab apple wood, and I didn’t want (as much) wet sawdust piling up inside so it was time to make a new blade guard.

Bandsaw insert from a sawblade
Bandsaw insert from a sawblade

I got a pile of old saw blades with a ShopSmith I bought a little while back, and it looked like the blade was about the right thickness for the space.

I hammered the old insert flat and traced it onto the saw blade. Then I used an angle grinder to cut it out, and shaped it using a grinding wheel. I used a cutoff blade for some of the interior cutting, and then a file to round out the edges.

Closeup of the new bandsaw insert
Closeup of the new bandsaw insert

It sits about a millimeter below the surface of the table, and when I push it in it snaps into place and stays in place firmly.

I expect that this repair will last for a long time.

I’ve got to make another one for the Shopsmith jigsaw, but that’ll have to wait for another day.

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Wormy Oak Spoons (work in progress)

At my dad’s house there’s a stack of firewood in the garage. It’s been there since I lived at home — dad got a gas furnace not long after I left and the extra wood has just been sitting around every since.

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This summer I was at his place, in the garage, getting some wood for a camp fire and I came across a piece of oak that had a bunch of holes in the end grain. It looked interesting so I split it apart and sure enough, some worms had been very busy once upon a time.

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I started roughing out the spoons with a hatchet, but the oak grain and worm paths just wouldn’t cooperate, so I brought it home and used the bandsaw instead.

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I decided to make a pair of matching salad serving grabbers, which could also be used for serving rice or something like that.

I carved out the bowls using the hook knife, and used the belt sander to do a bit of shaping on the handles.

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After I had the spoons shaped the way I wanted to I used a couple of stiff brushes, a piece of wire and a tiny drill bit to remove as much of the worm poop sawdust as I could from the worm trails. The trails ended up being much more extensive than I thought.

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I haven’t finished these yet because I don’t know what kind of finish I want to use. I’m looked around a little bit for some food-safe glow-in-the-dark epoxy (or epoxy + glow powder mix) but I haven’t found a product I love yet.

I need something that can help fill the voids and strengthen the wood, which suggests epoxy, but I don’t love working with epoxy so I haven’t jumped to complete these yet. Maybe by the time Christmas comes around!

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