Pen making with my eldest son, or how to win at the $20 boss

Andrew, my eldest son, was enrolled in a competition recently by his school. The competition is called the $20 boss, and is run by the National Australia Bank, which is one of the largest banks around here. The basic idea is that the bank loans each of the students $20, with which they start a business. The goal is to make a profit, with the bank expecting to be returned $21. 10% of money over that should go to charity, and the rest is the student’s to keep.

Other kids seem to have chosen to make muffins, cookies, or drinks. Well, except for the kids who made candles. Andrew on the other hand had a think, and decided to ask me to teach him to make wood turned pens. This was exciting to me as Andrew hasn’t previously shown a particular interest in wood craft.

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Darts Cabinet

My most recent project is a cabinet for a darts board. This is based on a project in Australian Woodsmith. I tweaked the design along the way though because I wanted something more modern and some of the rigidity elements didn’t seem to be required for strength. Here’s how it turned out:

Finished darts cabinet
Finished darts cabinet


Which I think is a pretty good outcome to be honest. The cabinet is solid Silky Oak, with a Jarrah veneer for the door panels. The handles are hand turned from Silky Oak to match the cabinet.

I already posted a YouTube video of me finishing one of the doors, but I’ll include it here for those who haven’t already seen it:

One final pic of the finished product:

A view inside the finished darts cabinet. We went with an electronic board because of the children.
A view inside the finished darts cabinet. We went with an electronic board because of the children.


A big shout out to Terry and Russell who advised on various aspects of this project.

Playing with alternate cameras: the GoPro Hero 3

I wasn’t happy with the behaviour of the kit lens on my Canon 650d when I shot the Christmas bottle stopper videos. I therefore decided to try out a few other cameras I had lying around before just going and buying a better lens for my Canon SLR. First off, I gave a GoPro Hero 3 a try.

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Random tip: cheap bar clamps in Australia

I’ve been experimenting a lot recently with making furniture out of MGP10 structural pine that I machine myself. The first few examples have been work stands for things like my Tormek in the garage. One of the things I need to do when making these stands is to turn a series of machined pine strips into panels. That’s where bar clamps come in handy. I recently discovered where to buy good quality clamps cheaply, and thought I’d share…

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Home made vanilla essence for Christmas

Catherine and I decided to make home made vanilla essence as part of our Christmas gifts for 2014. This turned out to be pretty easy, and result is really good. As part of that I turned bottle stoppers for the little decorative bottles we gave the essence out in. I also needed to explore what glue would work with silicone stoppers, which turned out to be a bit of an adventure.

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Turning for December 2014

I gave out a bunch of bowls at the work Christmas party, and to my embarrassment many people asked what wood and finish had been used. I of course didn’t remember because I made some of them over six months ago. I’m therefore going to try and do a better job of systematically documenting the things I make. This post is a first attempt at that.

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Building a Thien Baffle

For a while now I’ve been meaning to play with making a Thien Baffle for my garage workshop. The motivation is that whilst I have a quite nice 3HP dust extractor (for those in the market for such a thing — don’t spend $1,400 with some retailers — I am super happy with my $500 unit from Leda Machinery), I want to keep the number of times I change the bags to a bare minimum. I see the dust extractor as a way of controlling potentially dangerous very fine dust, whereas some of the machines in my workshop create a lot of very large shavings — the thicknesser seems like the most obvious culprit here. It would be cool to divert these larger shavings into a bin where I can just use them as garden mulch, and then save the dust extractor bags for the fine and more dangerous dust.

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