Sometimes there’s nothing better than tinkering in the shop and making something just for the sake of doing it. For me, it’s often making my own wood hinges. For Canadian engineer/woodworker Matthias Wandel, it’s wooden gears, geodesic spheres, and other fanciful, if not always practical contraptions. His most recent creation is a Binary Marble Adding Machine, the latest in a series of “rolling ball sculptures.”
Why build a marble machine? Well, according to Matthias, “My Marble Machines are complicated and ingenious, but utterly useless pieces of toy machinery that automate the process of playing with marbles. With toys like these, mankind is free to pursue more productive ends, while leaving the playing with marbles to his trusty automated machine servants.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
§ by Joel Hess on June 27th, 2007
(Photo courtesy of DesMoinesArtsFestival.org)
The Des Moines Arts Festival, rated among the Top 5 in the U.S., celebrates it 10th year in 2007. Featured will be over 150 premier juried artists and 24 “emerging” artists from the state of Iowa. Artists will exhibit in 14 categories, including wood, metalworks, and sculpture.
I think this is the second year that the festival will be located in Des Moines’ new Gateway Park, just down the street from the August Home Publishing offices. I’m excited about attending this year and so I’ve spent a few hours looking through the galleries of all the artists that will attend. I always get a lot of inspiration for my woodworking hobby from shows like this, and I’ll even go through a phase occasionally where I’ll work only on boxes or chairs for a period of time after I see something I like at a show.
For the last several years the Des Moines Arts Festival has attracted over 200,000 people and it’s also become a great place for young artists, like Matthew Obbink (whose tables are featured in the photo at the top of the page), an Iowa State University student competing in the Emerging Iowa Artists Program category.
§ by Randy Maxey on June 21st, 2007
It seems like part of being a woodworker is repairing old furniture, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. You’re probably already aware that working on old pieces like that can present some health concerns (lead paint exposure, for example). As it turns out, there are some other things you should be concerned about when repairing or even moving some antiques.
Discovery News is citing some info from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) about the hazards of heavy metals in antiques. Old mirrors may have been backed with mercury and tin. And clock pendulums or lamp bases may contain mercury. You know…it’s the stuff you used to play with when you were a kid. It’s since been found to be a health hazard.
I remember a few years ago, my wife and I found an old bottle of mercury that had belonged to my mother-in-law, a nurse. Being the responsible citizen, I took it to our local township volunteer fire department/police station. I was essentially told to “get it out of here…we’re not responsible if something happens…you’re on your own.” Wow! I explained that I had several children in the home and I didn’t want it in my house. It didn’t matter. They insisted I remove it from their premises immediately. So, I took it home. I ended up having to call the county hazardous materials department. They sent a guy out. Turns out he was an old classmate of mine in high school. He laughed when I told him what my local fire department told me, but he donned heavy rubber gloves, removed the bottle from the house, wrapped it very carefully, and stored it in a well-insulated, shock-protected styrofoam cooler.
Then there was the local elementary school that had to shut down for a day when a child dropped a mercury thermometer on the front steps while returning from an outdoor science class. You would have thought there had been a bomb blast with all the emergency vehicles and personnel.
So, the next time you need to move Aunt Sue’s antique clock, exercise caution.
§ by Joel Hess on June 8th, 2007
Some woodworkers consider a band saw the most useful tool in a woodworking shop. You’ll learn why Doug Hicks feels this way during this week’s Woodsmith Woodworking Seminar Podcast. During this podcast, you’ll get some tips for buying a band saw and blades. Plus, you’ll learn how to properly set up a band saw and a few techniques you can perform with this versatile machine.
If you’re interested in picking up a downloadable copy of the seminar guide (in case you want to follow along during the podcast), be sure to check out the Woodsmith Podcast Store. Also this week at the store, you’ll find a link to some good deals on a few band saw upgrades that Doug mentioned during his seminar. And as always, all of the great information provided during the seminars comes right from the pages of Woodsmith magazine. If you like what you see in the podcasts, click here for a free preview issue of the magazine.
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§ by Randy Maxey on June 7th, 2007
In a former life, I worked in an industrial laboratory and later, in many manufacturing facilities setting up labs. We ordered a lot of supplies from Grainger. You’ve no doubt heard of Grainger. We source them a lot in Woodsmith and ShopNotes magazines for some hardware items you might not be able to find at your local home center. They established their roots as an industrial/commercial supplier.
They have a subsidiary company that specializes in supplying laboratories — Lab Safety Supply (they have some cool stuff you can use in the shop, too). I used to order a lot of lab supplies from them.
Turns out that Lab Safety Supply is broadening their market. They recently acquired McFeely’s. You know McFeely’s from their cartoonish catalog covers of Jim Ray, the owner. They rose to fame in woodworking circles by supplying square-drive screws. I love to use square-drive screws in my shop. And if you use pocket hole joinery, you already know the benefits of square drive screws. McFeely’s has an interesting history that you can read about here.
According to this press release:
“McFeely’s will be marketed as an independent brand by LSS, the leading direct marketer of targeted, specialty business products in the safety, industrial, environmental and homeland security markets. Through a similar direct marketing model, McFeely’s serves over 70,000 active customers including serious woodworkers, handymen, home improvement professionals, construction companies and cabinet makers.”
§ by Randy Maxey on June 5th, 2007
I remember watching my Dad work around the house and in his basement shop when I was a young boy. Most all of the tools he had back in the 60′s and into the 70′s were Sears Craftsman. At some point in time he managed to get a Porter-Cable circular saw and the occasional Skil tool. But really, there wasn’t a whole lot of choice in readily available tools for woodworking. Nowadays, you can go online or pick up the phone and order almost any tool from anywhere and have it delivered directly to your door.
But not only have tools changed over the years, our attitudes and methods have changed, too. To get an idea of what I mean, look in on this discussion on WoodNet. Add your 2¢ on how woodworking has changed in your lifetime.