Monday, June 28, 2010


Last weekend, I finished two projects--staining the deck and building a set of deck chairs. The deck was simple enough although it meant several hours in the heat. We had started this project much earlier this year but time, weather and distractions conspired to delay the project until the heat of summer.

The chairs started as four cheap Adirondack chair kits from Harbor Freight. We didn't want four chairs so we modified two and made a love seat. I made foot stools with the extra chair parts and now we have a complete 4 person seating area.

The fact that the chairs and the deck are virtually the same color shows my lack of forethought. I had wanted to paint the chairs a pale green but when I got to the paint store, I chose a bluish gray instead; the fact that the deck was going to be gray didn't enter into the equation for me. That happens often.

When people tell me I could be a designer for a living, I laugh to myself. Half of the things I do that come out well are happy accidents. I doubt anyone would actually hire Happy Accidents Designs with confidence in the outcome.

I plan to add some colorful cushions and pillows so that ought to help. Another project to add to the list. But at least it's an inside job.

Sunday, June 27, 2010



Halloween is something like 127 days away-time to get busy.

Miller Light, the eternally thirsty zombie, is prop number 1 for 2010. Each part was simple and straight forward but it took a while to get all the parts to come together. The zombie is just a bucket and a PVC and foam tubing armature. There's a pump in the bucket. The pumps is attached to a tube going up to the bottle. Hidden in his jaw is a funnel, also attached to a tube so the water returns to the bucket.

Oh, and his skull is--a skull from a anatomical model store. I stained some cheesecloth with leftover coffee and use latex to apply the cheesecloth strips to his head and hand. I put coffee grounds in the still wet latex to give him that fresh out of the ground look.

His guts and the mud from which he's breaking out are make from Great Stuff foam. The tombstone is actually just part of a Styrofoam insulation sheet covered with wall compound.

I plan to add a small motor with an offset cam to add a little flailing to his free arm. I took apart a giggling stuffed toy and will use the motor and power source I found inside. I ordered a timer kit and I plan to run the power through that so that the flailing is intermittent.

I even made a spotlight for it with a super bright LED and more PVC pipe. I'll test it all out tonight when it's dark. Should be creepy. Should be fun.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Today I helped my son make chocolate cups. We got the instructions from Bakerella. We started with water balloons just like she says, but every time we tried to coat them with chocolate they popped. We had a mess on our hands and on the counter and the floor and in my hair.

Eventually we tried regular balloons and just filled them partially full of air. That worked. We had our chocolate covered balloons. We waited a while and then popped the balloons. We found out that we skimped on the cooking spray and had a little trouble getting the balloons completely out of some of the cups. We had a lot of waste but we started with a lot of balloons and chocolate, so it worked out.

We filled the cups with pudding topped with whipped cream, chocolate chips and sprinkles. I spent the rest of the afternoon scraping hardened chocolate off of, well, just about everything. I deserve a treat. I wonder where I can find one?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One thing I make everyday is coffee. I usually make a pot every morning when I first get up. This morning I woke up at 2am. I didn't make a pot of coffee then. I waited and when I was still wide awake at 5:30, I brewed a small pot.
At least I have a project to work on in the quiet of night. I used the wee morning hours to work on the opening credits of a PSA about fireworks safety. Strictly no-budget, Flip Camera, Movie Maker, no production values to speak of but it amuses me and the kids are home for the summer, so why not? Here's the opening credits:


video

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Another night at Metal Shop. The class has dwindled from 5 to 3; Becky, who's a guidance counselor at a middle school, Fred, a sweet kid who's building a motorcycle trailer, and me. Ron, the farmer, already had skills well beyond our class so I'm not surprised he gave up on the rest of us. Still, he was sharp and engaging, I miss having him around.

Today we began by welding coupons, again. I made a few practice welds and decided to try something a little different. I used a scrap piece of steel bar and bent it using a vice and a metal tube as a fulcrum. I shaped gentle curves into two coupons using the vice and a ball-peen hammer and then welded them to the bar. I used a grinder to shape the coupons into leaves. Eventually I had a passable flower stem with a couple of leaves. What I didn't have was a flower.

Luckily, we learned how to use a plasma cutter last night. The plasma cutter uses a powerful arc of electricity to cut metal relatively precisely. Our instructor cut out a seven foot marlin complete with gills and scales. I cut out 5 sad flower petals.

I welded my petals to the flower stem but two petals fell off right after I turned off the welder for the evening. Ron had taught me to adjust the welder according to the thickness of the metal, but I still burned through the thin petals. Kevin told me that I should have welded from the thick metal to the thin, letting the weld melt into the thinner piece. I was sad that I didn't leave class with a completed project, but next week I can start class by putting the metal to the petals.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Ron, the farmer in Metal Shop for At-Risk Seniors, told me I needed to paint my third hand or it would rust. Before class tonight, I grabbed a random can of spray paint from the garage and painted it. I now have the only gold third hand in the class. It turns out though, that it's actually called called a third finger. Good thing there's not a written test but, that's right, I made my very own Goldfinger.

Tonight we welded "coupons" again. Coupons are short, flat pieces of steel that welders use for practice. I welded mine together so they made a box and welded on a bottom plate. I had a steel box and an hour of class time left.

I decided to try to use the welding wire to make a design. It was supposed to be a flower. I'll let you decide. The instructor let me sandblast it to clean it up and then I used a grinder to add some shiny spots. Now I have a steel vase. Or I would if it held water. I'm probably a few weeks away from ship building.