For a while now, I’ve been working on a new software project called pepahana. The software is intended as a reporting tool and task management service that helps you keep track of time spent on tasks and generate activity reports. Some day, there will be invoicing options and group/business management, but for now, I just want to get people using what I have.
So, as of now, I’m asking for help from anyone interested to register for the site, use it, try to break it, and tell me what you think. All feedback is welcome. I’m just one guy doing this during his spare time and there’s no possible way I’ve done it all correctly. So be harsh!
I recently bought a new bed from Amazon. I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. The mattress is amazing and the frame is attractive (and adequate.) When I bought it, the frame options scaled from about $100 – $500 based on how much custom stuff you want. I decided that I just wanted the frame and I would make the rest myself. Specifically, I knew I wanted to make the headboard.
I bought some cherry a while back from a local hardwood dealer. The plan was always to make a few side tables for the bedroom as I’ve never really had proper bedroom furniture. I’m still planning to build furniture for the bedroom, so making a headboard was a must. I want it to match and look good.
Additionally, I knew the lights were going to be a big part of this project. I didn’t film the lighting circuit in detail… it’s just a switch and a power supply. If you need help with that part, let me know. I’ll google up some examples for you.
I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and open an Etsy shop. I’ve been mulling over these signs for a long time now and how I would go about marketing and selling them. I’ve started and stopped making an Etsy shop about a dozen times, but this week, I finally decided it was time. I opened the store with a few simple products and I hope to add more in the coming weeks. I have lots of products I’d like to offer, I just need to get some samples made up and take good pictures. It’s a process.
The easiest part of this process is Etsy itself. The tools they have setup for opening your shop make it dead simple. They will even take care of shipping calculations and labeling for you. Of course, there are fees. There’s listing fees and selling fees. If you use them for shipping, you “buy” your shipping from them and it’s taken against your balance. This is great if you want to offer free shipping to your customers by baking it into the cost.
I decided to open my shop with three basic products. Two rustic signs, and a miniature primitive shutter. I chose these three things because of the ease of manufacturing and I wanted to test the platform before jumping into selling larger or more custom orders. I do plan on offering custom signs and other products, but I needed to familiarize myself first… and more importantly, make sure that I could actually keep up with another venture.
I’ve been wanting to do some custom sign work for a while now. My mom is a crafty person and does a lot of craft shows throughout the year… I thought having the ability to make custom signs like these could expand her capabilities. I also thought it could be a little side gig for me to make custom lettered signs for people. Not sure if that second one will happen or not, but I have the option now.
When I edited this video together, I really struggled with how much of the story to tell. This 10 minute example represents about 6 weeks of trial and error. Obviously, this isn’t a full-time job for me, so it was in fits and starts, but I went through tons of designs for both the template and the router base to end up with something serviceable. I’ll give some more details below the video.
As I mentioned before the video, this was about the 4th or 5th iteration of templates. My first few attempts involved me trying to print a base plate that included a follower bushing. I tried many times to go this direction for a few reasons: I could print my own base plate with included bushing which would allow me to print shallower templates… thus, saving plastic.
The original design.
I tried it on my big router, and found it very cumbersome to use. Also, the plastic bushing failed almost immediately and tore up my templates. So, I switched over to printing a base plate for my trim router, with bushing, and I tried about 3 iterations of that design… all of them failed spectacularly with the bushing caving under pressure and eating up my template.
Base plate with integral bushing for the trim router.
I knew I was onto something though, so I broke down and ordered a kit of brass bushings to try. With the new bushings, and a new base plate design, I was able to get everything dialed in perfectly. I had to redesign the templates some because of the depth of the bushing, and also to make up for the distance between the outer diameter of the bushing and the bit. This would make sure that the letters didn’t print too thin.
New base with brass bushing.
One of the design concerns with making these letters is how to handle letters with “floating” centers. Things like A, O, and P have center bits t hat need to be accounted for. I could fix this problem by making stencil letters, but that wasn’t the look I was going for. I wanted this system to work with any font so I had to do some letters in two parts. This became a bit challenging when cutting out the letters.
Laying out the letters.
First I would layout the letters with one part of each half-letter in place.
Adding extra letters.
Then I added extra letters to the end and taped them in place.
After cutting the half-letters, I could remove them, and replace them with the second half to finish the letter. Having the extra letters in place helped me to maintain registration between the two half letters.
I’m pretty happy with how this turned out. The letters have a lot of fuzz on them because I used a straight-flute router bit. A down-cut spiral bit would make for a much cleaner edge, but i didn’t have one on hand, so this worked. Some of the letters shifted a bit because they weren’t taped tight enough, and the half letters need some work to make them better, but I was able to easily clean the sign up with a small chisel and some sandpaper.
This was a project for mom, so I used some rustic pallet wood, and wormy chestnut bases. They turned out great and she is super excited to have them. The main reason I decided to make my own templates instead of spending the $40 to buy a set was that I wanted to be able to use a font of my choosing. I spent way more than $40 worth of my time and materials figuring this whole thing out, but now that I have I can make whatever I want, which I can’t do with one of the store-bought sets.
I’ve never really been great with the hand tools. When I was a young maker, in my dad’s garage, I had access to tools. Mostly just carpentry tools, but a few power tools like a drill and grinder. The hacksaw and claw-hammer were my best friends and I made all sorts of things with those two tools. Needless to say, my creations weren’t exactly… refined. I didn’t have the knowledge of finer woodworking techniques until much later in life and by that time, I had already discovered the love of power tools.
So, here we are. I use my chisels more now. Sometimes I like to use hand-saws. The one tool that makes both of these operations much more precise is a marking knife. Instead of drawing with a pencil and trying to stay “on the line”, fine craftsmen will use a marking knife to draw their layout lines. This has a few advantages. Firstly, the knife cuts the top fibers and helps prevent tear-out. Secondly, a strongly established “knife wall” helps the saw or chisel stay perfectly on the line that you wanted to cut.
So, as per usual, I decided to make one of my own. I watched this video by Paul Sellers and promptly discovered the perfect marking knife blank.
This knife started life as a Hickory Farms cheese knife. I’m pretty sure it came in one of those crummy meat and cheese kits people give as gifts to people they don’t know very well. Regardless, it’s very tough stainless and super thick. I love the handle shape and the extra width of the knife means that there is lots of room for resharpening.
Yes, stainless steel CAN be hardened. It can be work hardened. This means that rolling it out hardens it and as long as you work the metal cold, it can stay pretty darn sharp. As this is a simple marking knife, I don’t need to use high-carbon steel to make an edge that will last forever. Instead, I cut a very steep bevel to keep the edge supported as much as possible.
I did use the belt grinder to clean up the lines of the blade, but I kept my fingers on the steel to feel the temperature so I could quench the blade if it got to hot. Generally, stainless steel anneals at a higher temperature than carbon steel, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
In the end, I’m super happy with how this knife turned out. It only took about an hour to make and it’s my style. It fits my hand. It’s mine.
I design games and graphics.
I make things.
Sometimes I draw.
I have a YouTube show.
Here, I chronicle my adventures in all things creative. If you'd like to involve yourself, visit often, leave comments, and chat with me on Twitter.
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