Archive Page 2

Making a Wooden Sword: Putting it all together

I decided to make some wooden swords for my boys for Christmas, and am writing how I did it just in case someone else wants some ideas.  Here is how they turned out.

Swords Completed

Swords Completed

This post is part of the three post how-to guide, and includes:

  1. Putting it all together, including lessons learned. (This Post)
  2. Making a Wooden Sword Blade
  3. Making a Wooden Sword Guard

Shaping the Handle

Take the wooden blade, which should dry overnight, and work on shaping the handle. Again, for shaping , you can use either a sander, a file, or even some chisels. After clamping the blade to the table with the handle sticking out, I just used a sander to go around the edges and try to turn the handle from a 1 1/2″ by 1″ rectangle to a 1″ cylinder. This size fit my 3-4 year old sons’ hands well. I let the handle taper up right at the end to give a good transition from the guard to the handle. I then used some finer grit paper to smooth it out.

Shaping the Handle, Figure 2

Shaping the Handle, Figure 2

Attaching the Handle

<First of all, make sure that your handle and blade fit together before you apply any glue. It should be snug, but not too tight. Apply a thin line of glue 1/2 inch above the handle on the flat of the blade on both sides. Slide that handle down and clamp into place while the glue dries. If it is a snug fit, it should stay there by itself. Wipe off any excess glue. If you were careful, you shouldn’t have much. You are now done except for any finishing sanding.

After the glue dries, take some fine grit sandpaper and go over the hilt. If the guard and the handle were not perfectly flush, you can sand out the evidence. Also, make sure that you sand all the pencil marks and sharp corners off of the blade guard. Hopefully you will wave something that looks about like this (or better).

Complete, but not Finished, Figure 3

Complete, but not Finished, Figure 3

Applying a Finish

I used boiled linseed oil for the finish. You can use what you want, but I would recommend a penetrating finish, like linseed oil or tung oil. Mineral oil will also work but not as well. If you use a surface finish like lacquer or polyurethane, when your kids hit the swords together, they will chip in off. The penetrating finishes become part of and actually strengthen the wood.

What I would have done differently

I wish I would have used a wood that had a little more contrast, like walnut or maybe even mahogany, for the strips on the handle and the guard. I think the sharper contrast could have added a lot. On the other hand, I guess I will feel better when my kids break them in a few years.

Best of luck, and please leave any advice, questions, or insight you might have.


Making a Wood Sword: The Guard or Hilt

This page is part of a series that is one making a nice looking wooden sword.

  1. Putting it All Together
  2. Making a Wooden Sword Blade
  3. Making a Wooden Sword Guard. (This post)

The hilt turned out to be a little easier and harder than I thought.  I wanted to get a shape that both looked good and was easy to make.

Drawing the design out

I started with a piece of 4/4 oak (true 1″ thick). I decided on this basic design.
I first drew the design out on a blank, as shown in figure 2. To draw the design, I made two marks on the piece of wood 4 1/2″ apart. Then, to for the curved portion, I took the lid of a five gallon bucket, and made it cross the edge of the wood at these two marks, tracing it. Last of all, I made a line across the wood 1 1/4″ from the front edge. This line would serve as the cutting mark for the side of the guard closest to the hand.

For the slanted cuts on the side, I chose to just go with 15 degrees, and I did these on my miter saw.

Sketch on the Wood, Figure 2

Sketch on the Wood, Figure 2

The Actual Cutting

To cut the curved portion of the guard, I used a jigsaw, making sure to stay just on the conservative side of the line. I used a file and the sander to clean up the edge. I then ran the whole piece threw the table saw, and cut off the 1 1/4″ strip, ending up with the piece shown in figure 3.

Strip is Cut, Now the Slot, Figure 3

Strip is Cut, Now the Slot, Figure 3

Before you use the miter saw, I would recommend you cut the slot for the blade to fit through. This will give you a lot bigger piece to clamp, etc., while you are trying to cut the slot.

Cutting the Slot

You will need to sketch the slot for the blade on the guard piece, 1 1/2″x1/2″. You can do this by drawing a line 1 1/2″ from each end and 1/4″ from each side on the flat side. This rectangle will give you your guide. There are three basic ways I can see to cut the slot.

  1. First, if you have a mortising set, you are golden. Just use your set and go for it.
  2. If you have a router and router table, you can route a slot out. I recommend using several passes, and checking the width on a waste piece of wood. This is the method I used. Use a chisel to clean and square up the corners. A file can also be useful here.
  3. Last of all, you can use a 1/2 inch drill bit to care away most of the wood. If you are using this method, I have a few recommendations. Make sure your drill bit is totally vertical. You should drill pilot holes (1/8″) to guide your bit through so it doesn’t wander. You will then need to use a chisel to get the job done and make it square.

If none of these opportunities are open to you, you could make the guard out of pieces. Two 1/4 inch plates for the sides, and two 1/2 inch pieces for the spacers. This method would in some ways be easier, but doesn’t produce as nice of a result, as you will have glue lines.

You can use a piece of 1 1/2″x1/2″ left over from the blade to check the size of the hole. You want it to be big enough to fit the blade, but no wiggling.
Hint: . If your slot is a little too narrow (your blade is a bit to thick), you can sand the blade piece down a bit to make it fit. This tends to be a lot easier than removing material from the inside of the slot.

Then, take the piece out to the miter saw and set it at 15 degrees, and finish cutting off the pieces. Leave the largest piece of wood until last, so you will have a handle while you are cutting it.
After you finish these parts, it is time put it all together.

Making a Wood Sword: The Blade

This post is part of a three posts on how to make a sturdy, good looking wooden sword.

  1. Putting it all together and Lessons learned
  2. Making a Blade (This post)
  3. Making the Guard

I am making two blades with the same piece of wood, because I have two boys.  First, the dimensions.

Length per Sword, Handle and Blade: 20 1/2 Inches

Wooden blan, 1 1/2 by 1/2 inch

Wooden blank, 1 1/2 by 1/2 inch Figure 1

Grip: My boys will be 5 and 3 1/2.  Given the size of their hands, I decided on a 3 1/2 inch grip.  I don’ t want them to be able to take big two handed swings.  I added another 1 inch to fasten the hand guard.

Blade: I measured from their waist to a couple of inches above the ground.  For my boys it was 16″.

I used a table saw and a planer to get a piece of wood I had to the right size, total length, 41 inches.

Time For Shaping

Guide Marks, Figure 3

Guide Marks, Figure 2

Then I went to work on shaping.  There are a few different methods that can be used.  You can use a hand plane, a file, or a sander.  I found a belt sander worked splendidly.

Using the Belt Sander

Using the Belt Sander Figure 3

In order to guide my sanding, I made a mark down the middle of the board, and also I made marks that showed where the blade would actually be.  You can see these marks in figure 2.  I left both swords in the single piece of wood to make clamping easier. I clamped one end and worked on the other.

You can also see that the wood is very rough in figure 2.  I used some 220 grit sand paper on a random orbital sander to clean it up.

The Blades were now effectively done.  I just had to do some cleanup, and this is what I ended up with.

The swords, before disection.

The swords, before disection.

The Finishing Touches

I took the swords out to the miter saw and cut the piece in half. The blade was complete, but the hilt did not leave enough to be grabbed in this form, given that it was only half an inch thick. I planed down a 1 1/2 inch wide piece of oak until it was 1/4 inch thick (or you could buy it like that). This short board was cut into pieces the length of the grip, in my case, 3 1/2 inches. This gave me an extra quarter inch on each side, for a total of 1 inch thick. I glued these pieces on, making sure the tops were flush, and left them overnight in the clamp as shown in the picture below. It looks kind of dopey now, but when it is rounded and cleaned up it looks nice.

1/4 Inch Pieces Glued On

1/4 Inch Pieces Glued On

Next, we will work on the hand guard.

Noises from a Bissel Powerforce Bagless Vacumn Upon Startup and Shutdown

This fixit was an example of me getting ahead of myself and making things much arder than they had to be. The problem was fairly simple, When the vacuum cleaner was turned on and off, the vacuum made bad noises as it started up and wound down (both at low rpm’s). I was afraid these noises were the result of something being caught in the motor, so I decided to open her up.

Top from Bottom

Top from Bottom, Figure 1

To get to the motor, I had to separate the top part from the bottom part. Before you even think about starting, unplug the vacuum. If you shock yourself, your spouse will mock you. I know.

First of all, you need to remove the screw that holds the hose to the top half right near the bottom, where the hose is transparent.  In Figure 1, you can see the two screws that you have to disconnect to take the top from the bottom.

Remove these screws, and similarly, remove those on the other side (4 total).  You can then remove the top from the bottom by lifting out the right side first (belt is on the left).

Inside the Vacumn, Figure 2

Inside the Vacumn, Figure 2

This exposes all of the screws that you need to remove to take the front panel off.  When you take the front panel off, the inside of the vacuum should look about like this.  I looked for a way to open the motor, but no dice.  When I spun the motor, it moved freely, just like it was supposed to.  It was then I realized I was looking for a hard answer when an easy one could have been there.

I took the panel off the bottom of the vacuum, undoing the screws on the plate over the brush.  The brush had been turning when I checked it, but as I took it out, I noticed that there was some debris caught in the bushing at the end.  I tilted, turned, and shook it.  After a few seconds, the brush started to turn more smoothly.  I put the vacuum back together, attaching the top to the base first, and then replacing the brush an the belt.  When I started it, the strange noise was gone.  Moral of this story?  Don’t be going for the deep obscure problem before you check the more obvious problems thoroughly.  Hopefully you weren’t as dumb as I was.

Fixing my Makita Jigsaw

I bought a Makita Jigsaw at a garage sale a few years ago, and when I tried to use it, the blade wouldn’t cut a straight line becuase the slider (thing that holds the blade) was so loose.  I put it in with my emergency tools (the ones you never use but don’t want to throw away).    Finally, I figured I should fix it or trash it, and opened her up.  This is what I saw, with the slide and gear removed for clarity.

Inside of Makita Jigsaw

Inside of Makita Jigsaw, Pic 1

The main items that were causing problems were the three metal pieces that you see at the bottom, two matched opposite each other, and the last a little to the left of the others.  YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE THE GEAR PIECE AND SLIDER OUT.  I did because I wanted to be clear

Closeup of the Jigsaw slides, with one on it's side

Closeup of the Jigsaw slides, with one on it, Pic. 2

These three pieces hold the blade in place while it moves up and down.  They can wear out, and you can replace them.  Mine didn’t have too much wear, but the plastic slots that hold them were in rough shape.  They had obvious deformation that made it so they couldn’t hold the blade firmly.  I figured that buying a case would be too expensive, so I modified it.  I made sure the slides were clamped closely in place by shims.

I used the cedar shims you use for hanging doors and windows, because that was what I had around.

Picture 3 (at right)shows the other half of the jigsaw.

Inside of Jigsaw, after using shims

You can see the three slots that the “slider holders” should rest in.  I cut a thin shim and put in the bottom of each of these three holes.  The grease present in the bottom served to make sure that the shims would not fall out when I reassembled the saw.  These shims don’t have to be very thick at all.  Last of all, I shimmed behind the upper right “slider holder”.  This helped to remove the play in the other direction in the joint.

I then screwed the whole thing back together.  The play in the blade was gone.  If your metal slides are worn out, you can by replacements, and if you love the saw enough, you can buy a new body.  Given I already have another jigsaw, and wasn’t that far into this one financially, i just patched her up so I could use her.

Good luck, and thanks for any comments

Lessons From Laying Carpet on Your Own

I just laid carpet in my bedroom and wanted to share some things I learned in the process. This is the first time I have actually participated in laying carpet in a capacity other than that of a dumb worker. Given my thrifty mentality, I would definitely do this again, given the money saved and the quality of craftsmanship around where I live (the work done on our house before we moved in was just sloppy). Here are the lessons learned, and below is a description of the process.

  1. Measure the rooms carefully, and take the measurements to the store. Before you buy anything, compare the measurements in hand to those on the roll.
  2. Do not bend rolls of carpet. It will cause you pain and suffering for which you won’t even be able to sue. Man, I thought this was America.
  3. Carpet store employees are generally really salesmen or laborers. The salesman just wants to sell you product and get his commission. The laborer is someone who couldn’t cut it laying carpet and so they took a big pay cut and started doing basic labor. There is no good reason to go to either of these sources for advice, if you can help. Stores that are operated by actual owners tend to offer much better advice and service, based on pride in their service and desire to build a long term relationship.
  4. Make sure you aren’t cutting the carpet out backwards.
  5. The grid on the carpet padding isn’t square to the edge. Don’t let it guide your cuts.
  6. Harbor freight sells a very adequate knee kicker.

I wanted to get the job done as inexpensively as possible, so I went and bought remnants. The closer you live to Dalton, GA, the better deal you can get on remnants, as a rule. Carpet rolls generally come in rolls 12 ft wide, with some rolls 15 ft wide. Our room is 12’6″ by 12’6″. Thank you builders. We had to buy a 15 ft wide roll that was 18ft long for our room. Our sons’ rooms both measure 13 ft by 9’6″. When I was at the store, I somehow deluded myself into thinking that the rooms were actually only 12 ft long. Don’t ask me how I did that, let’s just say I have some carpet for sale on craiglist right now. That is lesson number one.

Much to my dismay, I do not own a pickup, and have to use my minivan for all hauling. It should be clear to anyone that a 15 ft long roll of carpet will not fit in minivan if you want the windows to remain intact. I was thinking I could ask a friend with a truck or bend the roll and put in in my minivan. I asked the help at the store if it hurts a roll if you bend it. As I laid the carpet, I realized I had made two mistakes in one (mistakes 2 and 3). Carpet rolls that have been bent in half have creases and lumps in them that require excessive work to remove.

I ripped out my old carpet and used the old carpet as a pattern to cut out the new carpet, leaving an extra inch or so on all the borders for final trimming. This can be done in a larger room or outside, and leaves you with a lot more room to work with the stiff heavy carpet. I almost made a mistake by not having both of the pieces of carpet facing the same way, i.e. both upside down or both right side up. My wife was pretty pleased with herself when she saved me from massive error. Thank you honey. I will still call that mistake 4 so others will not repeat my near mistake.

A friend of mine wanted to learn how to lay carpet, and would rather do it at my expense than his own (smart guy). He helped me and is very handy. When we were putting down the new pad, I tried to cut the end square with the grid of webbing on the padding. That was mistake number 5. Apparently, the grid on the padding is not aligned with the direction of the roll. Luckily, it made me cut too long, so I just ended up having to trim off a little more.

I bought a knee kicker at Harbor Freight. The knee kicker performed it’s job well, and at $30, it was by far the cheapest available. I rarely buy from Harbor freight, preferring Makita/Milwaukee/Dewalt tools, but I knew this knee kicker would only be used a few times. It firmly gripped the carpet and did not ever damage it.

The actual carpet laying went fairly smooth because I had a smart worker with another set of eyes to prevent me from making any ridiculous mistakes. I still need to lay the carpet in my boys’ rooms, and I plan to do that. After the furniture was removed from the room, the whole process took about 5 hours. I would expect it to take around 3.5 hours next time. I will let you know how my sons’ rooms go. Please leave any questions as comments so I can answer them when I blog about doing my sons’ rooms.

Schactya vam!

Fixing a Whirlpool Duet Dryer

Last Saturday, my wife called me over to the drying machine and told me that it just was not putting out hot air. The dryer was pushing air though the basket, but there was no heat. In South Carolina, it is so humid drying clothes without a dryer is a multi day process. I knew it would cost at least $120 (two trips- One to inspect and one to install the part) plus the padded cost of a part to fix it. I decided to go the frugal way, and get more blogging material. First, I checked on the internet and found some plans for the dryer. (It is a model GEW9200LW0). Here is a link to a site with the repair manual. I saved it on my computer so I would have it for future reference.

The tools I needed to fix this were a flashlight, a ratchet, a 1/4 ” socket, and hopefully a nut driver. (I just used the socket on a screwdriver adapter).

Before you even start to rip your dryer apart, reset the breaker and make sure you have power to the back of the dryer. I checked these and found out I had to look deeper. Before I did this I unplugged the dryer and then double checked to make sure . I really don’t like the idea of having the poop literally shocked out of me.100_0027.jpg

The good news is that I did not have to tear the dryer apart to get to two additional possible problems. First you need to take off the bottom panel, using a 1/4 ” socket to remove the two screws that are on the bottom front corners of the dryer. I propped it up on some 2×6’s to get easier access to the screws and make it easier to slide the bottom panel off.

There is a thermal fuse that shorts out if the dryer outflow is too hot. This prevents you from destroying larger more expensive components, and all you have to do is buy a $10 fuse. The fuse is located behind the blower casing, which you can reach around if you take off the bottom panel. It is a white flat plastic piece, about 1×1″, with two connectors coming out of it. It is pretty well centered in the dryer by the blower. To check if it is good, check it’s resistance after unplugging it from the system. It should be darn near zero. If it is open (infinite resistance), you have melted the fuse and need to buy a new one. Just take it out with a ratchet and don’t lose the screws. Make sure you clean out your dryer vent, as restricted flow because of lint is generally100_0026.jpg the cause of overheating. That wasn’t my problem.

I then checked the heater. You can also access this through the bottom front panel. I undid the green grounding wire so I could have a little more working room. This also would have helped me check the thermal fuse, as the angle is very difficult to work with. I also removed the plate over the front of the heater when I removed theInside heater one screw holding it. At this point you should be looking at this.

To test if the heater is working, unplug one of the red wires on the end closest to you and test the resistance of the heater. It should be between 7 and 12 ohms. Mine was zero. I removed the other red wire and took out the heater. There is a screw right behind where the wires are hooked up, and I used by ratchet to remove that screw. The heater then slides out. The problem is the spades run into the blower on the way out. To get around this I just unscrewed the screws used to hold the heater holder to the bottom of the dryer, as shown in picture 2. I was able to slide the heater holder over just enough to slide the heater out. The heater had a break in the wire, so I looked at ordering a new one. The best price I found was at partstap, paying about $36 for the part and $6 shipping. The part was $60 at a few places. I ordered the part late Saturday night and it got here today (Wednesday). I slid it into the slot, replaced the screw, and reconnected the wires. I put everything back in place, happily not ending up with any holes or screws left over. I double checked all the connections before I replaced the front panel. I plugged it in and it is working. Yeah!

Things I learned.

  1. Use Google to find some valuable information.
  2. Partstap made a positive impression on me based on shipping speed and price. Shopping around saved me over 40%. Let me know what your experiences are with them, so I can find out if this was a great isolated incident, or the rule.  So far, people have said that it is easy to order from them, but hard to return.  Based on comments that I am getting, it looks like Ebay can also have some great (best) deals on the part.  Scroll through the comments to get a better picture.
  3. Don’t get shocked. I didn’t get shocked and I liked that. You will too. Unplug it!

Happy trails, good luck, and give me feedback on anything you would like to see.

Thanks for the feedback that I have thus far recieved.