Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Drawing an ellipse

If you remember anything from high school geometry, you probably remember losing your mind when trying to lay out an ellipse, better known as an oval. I was great at geometry, but I still had difficulties with ovals.

But I'm working on a small job right now - making a oval base for a sculpture, and I had to brush up on my geometry for this one. Luckily, it all made sense this time!

Start with drawing a box the overall size of your oval.

Then - find the center point. To do this quickly and without measuring, I usually just draw two diagonal lines, from corner to corner. Where they cross is the center of the box.

Using the center point as a guide, draw a horizontal line and a vertical line.

At the very top of the vertical line, tap in a push-pin.

Then - measure the distance from the center point to the point on the right edge of the box.

In this case, it's about 6 15/16".

Now, place your ruler at the top pin, and measure down to that horizontal line, marking where 6 15/16" crosses that line. (I was going to say "draw a 6 15/16" hypotenuse" but I didn't want to freak anyone out.)

Make a little mark where that point is located. In this case, it's nearly at the end point.

Do the same thing on the other side.

Once you have those two outer points marked, tap in another two push pins to mark their spot.

I thought I'd add another view, just to show my little hammer again.

Now tie a string around all three pins. Try to make it fairly tight. If it's loose, your ellipse will be drawn slightly larger than the size you want it to be.

Now take out the top pin.

You're left with the string wrapped around just the two outer pins, which will allow you to draw a perfect ellipse. Use the string to guide your pencil; watch the video to see how easy it is.

As I mentioned above, if your string is a little loose when you tie it (like mine was!) your ellipse will be slightly larger than the box you've drawn.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My latest distraction...

Sleep is overrated.

Anyone with children or puppies knows this is true.

I've been up the last couple of nights, with a new addition to the family - Ruthie.

She's entirely adorable, less than five pounds, and fully of that insane puppy energy. Keeping an eye on her (so that she doesn't destroy the house) is a full-time job.

She's exploring every nook of the house, and apparently approves of all the wooden furniture in the house. I'll sand that little bite mark out later.

In the photo below, she just noticed my camera, and decided to take a bite out of it after this picture was taken.

The good news is - one of my other dogs slept with her last night and all was quiet... a major breakthrough in puppy training!

The best part - we're pretty diligent about our housebreaking training, and she hasn't had a single accident in the house.

Knock on wood.

I'll be heading out to my studio in a bit, but it's awfully hard to tear myself away from her. If I could only harness her energy and teach her how to sand, I'd be really happy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Las Vegas Woodworker's Second Meeting

You know how sometimes, you come up with a great idea in your mind, and then later, start to doubt if others will think it's so great? What's that all about? It's better to trust your gut, and go with your instinct, but sometimes we don't.

So as I headed to my local lumberyard to pick up some material for an order I'm working on, I had one of those epiphanies, where the light bulb goes off over your head.

See, I've been trying to come up with a better location for our second Las Vegas Woodworker's meeting, and nothing was coming to mind. Even if we wanted to go back to the library, I don't know if they'd let us, without a stern lecture from them about running late.

If you read my last blog post - you'll know that finding good lumber here in Las Vegas was a topic of conversation at the last meeting. So my light bulb moment was about asking the guys at the lumberyard if they're be willing to host our next meeting.
Now I'm in no way affiliated with Peterman Lumber.

I'm not a family member, not a stock holder, nothing. Nada. Zilch. But I'm a pretty big fan of their products, and more importantly, their staff. They've consistently gone out of their way to do things to satisfy and help me out. Like bringing in special requests of wood. Need a certain board width? Want a sample? Need a few prices for putting together a bid? No problem.

I've been building furniture long enough to hear every complaint out there from certain lumberyards. (Mostly lumberyards I don't buy from anymore.)

Anyway, I told the fellows at Peterman about the first woodworking meeting we had, and how everyone had asked about lumber suppliers. Then I said "before you just say no and turn me down, would you possibly think about letting us have our next meeting here?"

Imagine my surprise when they said yes, and suggested a Saturday morning meeting, so that we could have the place to ourselves.

So - the 2nd meeting of the Las Vegas Woodworking Club will be meeting at Peterman Lumber on Saturday, March 14th, at 10 AM. I'm going to do a small demo of the Router Buddy system, and Ed from Peterman will give us a tour of the place, discussing products and maybe handing out a few free-bies.

The lumberyard is a little tricky to find, it's off Arville, off Blue Diamond. The map below should help, but know this - you can't simply drive south on Arville from Tropicana, it doesn't go all the way through.

So you'll need to go down to Blue Diamond and then go north on Arville. Turn right on Windmill, and then turn into the first driveway on the left. Peterman is all the way at the end of that building on your right. Or you can do a "MapQuest" from your home:

Meanwhile, I'd like some help with something... I'd like a better name than the Las Vegas Woodworking Club. It's a little boring, and the group is anything but that. So I'm throwing this out there to everyone - let's come up with a better name!

Any suggestions? I'm counting on everyone to come to the next meeting with a suggestion or two. Anyone who doesn't come with a suggestion has to bring the donuts.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A new era of woodworking in Las Vegas

Mark this date down on your calendar: February 12, 2009. This will mark the beginning of a new era of woodworkers in Las Vegas.

Our first "meet and greet" of Las Vegas woodworkers took place a couple of days ago, and it blew away my expectations. We had about 30 people, who's talent ranged from beginners interested in craft work, to professionals making 17th century reproduction furniture. Some members of the Las Vegas Wood Turners showed up, including Don Finley, their president.

We discussed doing some cross marketing with our members, and everyone was invited to attend the next meeting, which is held the second Tuesday of each month at the Woodworker's Emporium.

Some of the highlights of the evening?

On the top of my list of favorite things was getting together a group of people who share a passion for woodworking. I've missed that, and am hungry for a connection here in town. Despite this great turnout, received quite a few e-mails from people who said they couldn't make it to this meeting. So I know that there a quite a few more people out there, just like us. It's exciting. To put it simply - I miss talking shop with other woodworkers.

One our the topics was about woodshop accidents. I asked if anyone had experienced any mishaps while working in their shop. The good news is - only one gentleman raised his hand. The bad news was that his raised hand was missing all four fingers. A sobering answer to a serious problem in the woodshop.

A common frustration was the fact that our city lacks woodworking resources, like lumberyards and supply houses that actually care about the average woodworker. Someone bought up a good point - there are other cities that are much smaller than Las Vegas, but have much more to offer their local woodworkers. I suspect this line of dialogue will continue as we share our tips with each other.

One of the best chuckles of the night? One of the few women in the crowd proudly told us that she'd made a pig cutting board
in junior high shop class.

Despite the fact that she told us that in jest, I think it illuminates something interesting - we all remember our first piece. (In fact, I blogged about mine here, a few months ago.) The first piece we build is special, and although it's often of lesser quality or poorer design than we're currently doing, I hope that most woodworkers recognize the significance of their first piece.

At the end of the evening, one of woodworkers brought in a prototype of a chair he'd been working on, for a critique. A lively deconstruction ensued, discussing everything from the joinery, to the foam density on the seat, to the curve of the back, to the depth of the chair. This gets to the heart of what I miss - a woodworking connection.

Finally, the answer to my question is YES.

I've been trying to decide if there is truly a need to open a small, intimate woodshop as that would serve as both a classroom and a gathering place. The answer can be seen in the faces and heard in the words coming from these woodworkers - a resounding yes!

I've got a lot of work to do before the next meeting!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Don't forget about the woodworking meeting tomorrow night!

Just a quick reminder - tomorrow (Thursday, February 12) is our first meeting for anyone interested in starting a woodworking group here in Las Vegas.

The meeting will be held at the new Centennial Hills Library at 6711 N. Buffalo Drive, at 7:00 PM. Check out their website if you need directions.

This first organizational meeting will be held in the meeting room, just inside the main entrance. Right down the hall, there's a small gallery, perfect for displaying our work someday. A girl can dream!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Random thoughts about a woodworking school in Las Vegas

There's much more to assembling a woodworking school than you might think - but my main concern is safety. Woodworking tends to lose it's appeal when someone loses a finger.

I'm not the kind of person who does things entirely by the book. But in this day and age (i.e.... our litigious society), it's only smart to CYA. Great liability insurance is a must, but even better - a goof proof saw goes a long way in helping me sleep at night.

So the first thing I'm thinking about is a SawStop.

Now... I don't own their stock. I don't even know if they're publicly traded. But I do know that the technology behind their sawblade brake is amazing. Once their sawblade detects that it's cutting something soft (like a finger), the blade drops down and gets jammed into a soft metal brake pad. It stops completely within a fraction of a second.

Click here for some photos of finger cuts that people have received using this saw. They're not gross, I promise.

Unfortunately, engaging the brake on this saw not only ruins your blade, but it also requires the purchase of another computer module, in order to get the saw working again. Now, my favorite blade is a Woodworker II blade made by Forrest, and at roughly $115 per blade, this makes for an expensive mistake in the shop.

Add in the cost of a new computer module
(roughly $80) and you're talking a lot of $$$ for a momentary lapse in concentration on the tablesaw.

Here's a little tool porn for the geeks out there. The Cabinet saw (below) is my dream machine - but at roughly $4500, fully tricked out, it's a little pricey.

This Contractor's version is alittle more in my price range, but you know I'm salivating for the other one. Still, this version will set me back close to $2500.

I'm terrible at making decisions like this. The logical side of my brain says to buy the one I can afford. You know what the other side is telling me, right?