How to Make the Best Saw Horse

How to Make the Best Saw Horse

I will be making a fairly large live edge desktop in the near future. To prepare for this daunting task I decided to build two sturdy saw horses to support the wood slab while I work. All you’ll need to make these saw horses for yourself is five 2″ x 4″ x 8′ studs and some 3/4″ plywood. The following instructions mostly explain how to make one saw horse. The table saw was used for most of the grunt work but an inventive woodworker can easily find their own method.

To make the two top supports I cut a two by four in half. Each top support requires four notches, 3 1/2″ wide to support the legs, cut at 18 1/2 degrees. To cut the notches I built a dado sled for the table saw.

How to Make a Sawhorse

As seen in the image above, I placed two scraps of wood in the miter slots of the table saw and clamped them to a scrap piece of plywood (1). The plywood was flipped and I added more clamps to hold the miter slot wood in place while they were tacked down with small nails (2). I turned the plywood over and placed the sled in the miter slots and cut the plywood halfway with the table saw to attain the cut line. The fence is a scrap of two by four glued at a right angle to the sled (3). I made two 18 1/2 degree wedges and placed them on the plywood flush to the fence.  Each top support was placed on the angled wedges flush to the fence and passed over the dado blades to cut the angled notches (4).

How to Make the Best Saw HorseOnce the top supports were cut I started making the legs. Two by fours were cut to 38″ (5). Then I cut an 18 1/2 degree angle on the both ends of each leg like a parallelogram (6).

3/4″ plywood was used for the Isosceles trapezoid side supports. If you’re curious the angle of of the side supports is also 18 1/2 degrees, or 71 1/2 degrees depending on how you wish to think about it. Four pilot holes are drilled in the side supports to accept screws for the legs (as seen in the first diagram). Why not some photos of the finished saw horses? Well, you’ll likely see them in a future post about that giant wood slab desk top.

Tramp Art / Folk Art Ball In Cage Woodcarving

Whittling Woodcarving Carving

Life has been busy lately but I’ve managed to knock out a quick folk art ‘ball in cage’ whittling. This piece started as a young sassafras tree I found uprooted by a storm.  I collected up all the usable sections and took them home for safe storage.

As seen in the photo, I used a pencil to draw the spiral on the wood. Using only my folding pocket knife I whittled away the waste wood, leaving a section in the center to become the trapped ball. With the three spiral supports roughed out I used my pocket knife and a small rasp to shape the ball.

Happy with the form I separated the ball from the supports. The final clean up was performed with the rasp and a drug store emery board. When I find time I’ll add some oil to pretty it up.

MINI-14s Compact Organ Kit – Hurdy Gurdy

I have always been fascinated by mechanical toys and music boxes. As a woodworking enthusiast I’m interested in building wooden mechanical wonders. I haven’t been able to find plans for vintage machines and often it’s hard to thoroughly examine the mechanisms of items in museums. While poking around the internet I stumbled across Yankee Doodle street organs and kits designed by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO and was filled with joy. After patiently saving $385 I made the purchase.

When ordering I was given the option to pay an additional $70 for pre-assembly of tracker bar and pipe housing. I will tell you now, if you’re impatient or inexperienced and you intend to purchase this kit, pay the $70 and save yourself some aggravation. The kit consists of laser cut plywood. Assembly requires placing sections of dowel through tiny holes in the parts to align them.  The tracker bar has six of these layers, the pipe housing has ten layers. This in itself is a daunting task, but the dowels don’t really aid in keeping things aligned and square.

Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO tracker bar pipe housing

To worsen the matter, although the parts are computer designed and cut, the internal air channels don’t line up correctly even if the dowels are perfect. So beware! The tracker bar is what reads the notes from the paper reels and directs air to the pipe housing where the sound is created. These parts must be aligned perfectly and airtight or the music will not play as intended.

Yankee Doodle MINI-14s Kit Hurdy GurdyThe kit included a well designed book which includes interesting history about barrel organs and instructions to assemble the kit. However there is a sheet of paper inserted under the front cover notifying the reader the instructions are for an obsolete version of the kit. Don’t despair, there is an included DVD with a .doc file with written instructions and .mp4 video. The .doc of the instructions begins with an important warning. “This project is not so easy!” and cautions the reader to “understand why the part you are making exists… Spend enough time reading Book, Notes, and watching the movies until you fully understand how the organ works…”

Truer words were never said. The video clips start out great, the host speaks and describes what’s happening. By clip #6 of 35 the host stops speaking completely as the assembly continues often pointing at things and pantomiming as though we know what’s happening. By clip #15 the assembly is not visible in the locked down camera shot, allowing only brief glimpses of assembly.  The clips were not all recorded at the same time or even using the same version of the kit so things are suddenly different. Particularity the bellows, the design of the parts are not from the same model in some of the clips. Another thing to mention is most of the measurements use the metric system. Prepare to convert milometers to inches.

The included printed pattern for the bellows material is not correct, Clip #18 begins with a demonstration on how to enlarge it. Be aware of this before tracing and cutting the bellows material. I believe the pattern for the receiver material does not need to be enlarged but that’s not mentioned in the video or instructions.

Yankee Doodle Street Organ Mini-14sThere are several instances where  very similar, slightly different parts are required and no information in the clips or instructions are provided. Some sleuthing is required to determine which part is used for what. When attaching the tracker bar to the cabinet the pre-drilled holes do night align correctly. This is even apparent in the assembly video because his screws were not completely inserted and crooked – exactly like mine.

Unfortunately several parts that were missing from my kit including four mushroom threaded inserts for cabinet assembly, four threaded inserts for the bellows and I only received nine feet of vinyl tubing – where ten feet is required. This was actually a good thing because the included vinyl tubing was of the incorrect outside diameter. I purchased the correct tubing at the hardware store.

The tuning pins for the pipes consist of pre-cut lengths of dowels and bits of leather which serve as gaskets (as in the video above). The book for the original kit show more elegantly designed pins with rubber gaskets. I’m assuming the original tuning pins were too expensive to manufacture. I quickly changed out the included tuning pins with my own (video below).

All things considered Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO did an outstanding job designing this kit.  He is very friendly and promptly responded to each email I sent him. I would not have been able to make a street organ without this kit. I learned many interesting things and woodworking techniques in the process. The intention of this blog post is not to diminish the quality of this product, it’s a fascinating machine. The design of the unit provides easy disassembly for repair, adjustment and maintenance.

My intent is to reinforce this project requires a great deal of patience, tinkering and woodworking ability to do the job correctly. This is not something to be rushed. Mine was built over the course of five weekends. As with many old fashioned mechanisms, I believe this machine requires gentle care and ongoing maintenance for optimal performance.

I’ll also mention the friendly folks at Pipes of Pan make fantastic paper rolls for this street organ. I’ve had great experience with them.

Sycamore Burl Hall Table Part Two Sycamore Table
This past weekend I put the final touches on the sycamore burl hall table. The sycamore wood was like a magic sponge infinitely soaking in tung oil. I seriously applied at least ten coats before the finish was even.

I waited a week to allow the oil to cure. Then I sanded the finish to prepare it for finishing by hand. I brought out the elbow grease and sweat and went to town with mineral oil and steel wool. Once the finish was silky to the touch with a soft luster I continued buffing with oiled thousand grit sandpaper and rottenstone for the final touch.

This table started as a log placed on the curb for trash. A few years in the making and a bunch of trial and error work but I think the end result worked out nicely.

Ninety One Suns – My Dad’s US Marine Corps Experience

Jack Chismar swearing into the US Marine Corps in 1955.
Jack “Short Round” Chismar enlisting into the US Marine Corps in 1955.

In 1955 my father dropped out of high school and enlisted the US Marine Corps at the age of sixteen.  Sixteen? How is that possible? Federal law regulates seventeen years the minimum age to enlistment in the United States military, and that’s with parent’s consent!  Turns out my father conquered several obstacles throughout his life, the US Marine Corps serving as one chapter in his story.

He’s proud of his service and he’s proud of the US Military. My jack-of-all-trades father got the urge to write a book about his experiences. The catch? He types with one finger and writing pen to paper doesn’t go much faster. The solution? He recruited his jack-of-all-trades son to lend a helping hand.

We spent a road trip weekend together and I brought along my trusty digital audio recorder. My father recounted tales during our adventure and I returned home with hours of audio to transcribe. I’ve been busy organizing the text and working with my father to organize the story as chronologically as possible.

The tale starts in his hometown Swoyersville, PA and follows him to Camp Lejeune NC, Yemassee SC, Parris Island, Camp Geiger and the Boston Navy Yard. My father shares many anecdotes painting a vivid picture of what it was like to be a Marine in the 1950’s. He was one of the last recruits to complete boot camp at Parris Island before the tragic Ribbon Creek Incident took the lives of six recruits resulting with several changes in Marine Corps recruit training.

I started to post his stories online at Ninety ones suns being a reference to the thirteen weeks, or ninety one days of boot camp. Please read this work in progress and pass it to your friends. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sumac Berry Lemonade Tea

jchismar suman lemonade drink

This past Saturday I enjoyed a father and son day road trip. My father shared many of his Marine boot camp stories, perhaps I’ll share more details on that in the future. We visited Lancaster, PA one of my father’s favorite places, Hershey Chocolate World and a few woodworking stores in the area. On Sunday my parents and I enjoyed the Arts and Hayfield festival in Lehman, PA.

On the drive home a roadside grove of blossoming sumac trees caught our attention. The stretch of road had no shoulder to provide a place to pull over and harvest the bounty. I suddenly recalled stumbling across sumac trees in the forest behind my parent’s home. Dad and I set out for a short hike after returning to home base. My father found a few edible mushrooms and after a few minutes the sumac trees spread out in front of us.

I collected the (slightly under-ripe) berries and brought them home with me. Once home I filled a pitcher with cold water and crushed the bundles of berries into the water. Periodically stirring the mixture for an hour produced a slightly sweet “lemonade”, it actually tastes more like tea. I enjoyed a small glass and put the pitcher in the fridge to chill. Everyone should have a chance to enjoy such a delightful, easy to make and free beverage on these hot summer days.

Sycamore Burl Hall Table Part One

jchismar sycamore hall table

Back in April 2012 Amy was walking our standard poodle Fleur in Glen Ridge, NJ a town very near where we live. While on the walk she came across a section of sycamore wood on the curb waiting to be removed on trash day. She sent a photo of the stump to me with the message, “Do you want this?” I responded immediately with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” When she returned home Amy jumped in the car and, with the help of neighbor, loaded the stump into her vehicle.

The stump remained in the driveway until September 2013 when I found some time to chainsaw the stump into slabs to expedite drying. The wood was riddled with hundreds of insects and critters of all shapes and sizes. I exterminated what I could with pesticides and sealed each slab in black plastic bags to bake in the hot sun to kill whatever remained. Somewhat satisfied everything was terminated I stacked the slabs in the loft of my shed.

In March 2014 I built a small side table out of the smallest of the slabs. This side table was featured alongside the remaining slabs at my 2014 Newark Maker Faire exhibit. The exhibit, titled Urban Lumberjack, was a collection of things I built from tree branches and stumps found during dog walking outings. My sister Joanne fell in love with the side table and even more so with one of the larger unprocessed slabs. She asked me to make a hall table for her with the larger slab – and has probably lost hope in the passing years.

jchismar sycamore hall table

Earlier this month I found myself caught up on weekend projects. I ventured out to the shed and removed the sycamore slab from the rafters and planed both sides to an appropriate thickness. The task is always more laborious than I think it’s going to be. This past weekend  I added a second butterfly to the sycamore slab prevent a growing crack from expanding and cut mortises on the underside for each table leg. Lovely cherry wood purchased from a local supplier was used to make three tapered legs.

It seems as though the project will be complete soon. Time will tell. The legs need to be attached and all the surfaces require a thorough final sanding. Once everything is sanded and assembled the process of applying finish can begin. This project continues to be fun and challenging and I think I’m going to have a hard time letting this one go to a new home.

Day Hiking The A.T. and Taxidermy

Appalachian Trail Taxidermy

This past Saturday my nephew Bernard and I did a little day hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap. During our expedition we chewed on teaberry leaves and foraged a few wild raspberries and blueberries – leaving plenty behind for fellow hikers to discover. The forecast called for thunderstorms but the weather was on our side, gently raining shortly after each time we set up the hammocks for trail-side siestas. We stopped at Rudy’s Tavern in East Stroudsburg for a few pints and delicious bar pizzas for some post adventure refueling.

Sunday was filled with catching up with many odds and ends around the house. I worked a little on my Magic Mirror carving which I hope to complete soon. I also did some taxidermy experimenting with a song sparrow my sister provided me with a few months ago.  To my surprise I find the task of taxidermy relaxing. Freezer storage, however, is at a minimum at home and I have many big woodworking projects (some started years ago, some to start soon) on my horizon so I’ll likely pause the taxidermy hobby for a while.

Tie Dye and Star Watching Weekend

jchismar Lohr Weekend

This past weekend Amy and I visited with Pennsylvanian friends Linda and Jeff. We enjoyed good home cooking and plenty of fresh air. After finishing a delicious chili dinner on Saturday we lounged in the pasture around a fire, chatted and waited for the stars to come out. Jeff helpfully shared his knowledge of the sky while we peered through binoculars and experimented with cameras. We admired the moon (that’s the moon in the photo, not the sun) which rose later in the evening and one by one we doze off to sleep in the delightful cooling air.

Sunday morning Jeff prepared delicious french toast with eggs freshly retrieved from the hen house, accompanied by treats Linda cooked up. Energized by a relaxing night of sleep and a hearty breakfast we sprung into action. With Linda’s instruction we got creative making tie dye shirts. As the dye was setting Linda took the time to teach Amy the art of canning while Jeff and I entertained ourselves doing man stuff (not that canning isn’t man stuff). The experience flew by and we hope we can find the time to do it again soon.

jchismar Lohr Weekend

Also, I was mentioned in a news paper article this week regarding the Essex County, NJ Parks System. Check it out here.

Merry Cemetery : Sapanta Romania

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While visiting friends in Romania we had the awesome opportunity to visit Cimitirul Vesel, better known as the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, Maramures. This has been on my list of places to visit for quite some time. The cemetery is filled with hundreds of colorful woodcarved grave markers. Each tombstone includes a carved scene which represents the deceased with a carved narrative about the person beneath.

Exploring this wonderful place is fascinating! I was thankful our hosts were patient with me as I examined the craftsmanship and creativity surrounding me. The slideshow above is a fraction of the images I captured during my stay. I departed the Merry Cemetery inspired with many new and creative ideas. I hope to find the time to tackle a few of the many ideas which resulted from the tour.