Rudolph lives here!

I live in Northern Ontario, probably closer than most of you to the North Pole and I have a really nice little log barn that sits about 70′ back from the road.  For years I have wanted to put a decoration on the dutch door (door that is divided in two horizontally) that faces the road.  I wanted it to appear as if Rudolph was inside the barn looking out. Fortunately we have had a very mild November, and a chance for me to to work on the decoration ideas I had in my head.

Here’s the before photo:
First I had to measure the top opening, just above the horizontal wood piece, so it looks like he is leaning out over the bottom door section. I didn’t have a piece of plywood tall enough to fit the opening, so I just cut it wide enough and then I will piece it  together to make the top, where it will say Merry Christmas.  After looking at the size, and drawing it out on paper, I realized “Merry Christmas” was too wide to fit across the opening without looking jammed tight in there.  It would be hard to read, so I revised the plan and decided to just have “Merry” at the top and “Christmas” at the bottom.
So, I drew out a reindeer after getting inspiration from looking at some clip art on the internet.  I wanted it to be a cartoon type reindeer, not lifelike. I painted the background with two coats of black exterior paint and used some wood stain for Rudolph’s body and face colour, because that’s all I had that was brown.  The wood stain had to be covered with a clear coat, so I used some outdoor spar varnish I already had.
 The start of Rudolph:
What I wanted to do was have Rudolph’s antlers stick out from the plywood.  I freehand drew and cut out two, mirror images, out of plywood and coated them with the varnish.
Two antlers:
For the wood parts of the sign I cut two pieces of plywood and painted them with two coats of red exterior paint.  I sketched the word Merry for the top part and Christmas for the bottom part. The words were then painted with two coats of green exterior paint.
The start of “Merry” on the top piece:
Apparently I hadn’t planned well for the lighting of Rudolph’s nose.  The large plywood would be screwed flat to the barn door and I needed a way to have a red Christmas light for his nose.  I decided to make a new “snout” for him, which was raised up off the base of the plywood.  I cut a large circle out of plywood and attached it raised up on two scraps of wood just enough  to allow the bulb’s base to sit underneath unseen. I cut a hole for the bulb and then painted red around the area the nose would be.  The light string then travels under the snout and out the side, so no ugly plastic shows there.
Also, how to attach those antlers?  I cut the bottoms of them on an angle and then made matching angled plywood pieces to attach to the base.  This way the antlers sit angled out from his head. (Afterwards  I painted the antler braces black so that they wouldn’t show up).
View of the new muzzle and the antlers attached:
I decided to have his hoofs hold the bottom part of the sign.  I made the two legs out of plywood, stained to match the body, with two black hoofs at the bottom, which could be screwed to the “Christmas” part of the sign, and then attached to the body at the shoulder area.
 Here’s the legs and bottom sign:
Here it is all attached to the barn door with the string of lights around the whole thing:
As you can see, it snowed overnight so I got it up just in time… here comes winter!
Here’s what he looks like lit up at night (it doesn’t show here but his nose does shine red in real life!):

I’m quite sure no one has the same log barn as I do, but I hope I gave some of you some ideas for your own creations.

sharing at The Hankful House

Child’s Chair – make your own

Today I’m going to show you how to make a nice wooden child’s chair.  I found the pattern for this on the internet at Creekside Woodshop:   Lauren’s Chair

Thanks to Ron, who made this chair initially for his granddaughter, the full pattern with measurements and instructions are there. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of free woodworking patterns around the web that friendly woodworkers have been so generous to share with us.

I did make a few small changes, by lengthening the legs and lengthening and putting a bit different shape on the back slats, but it’s basically the same. Mine is 17″ in width and 14″ from front to back.  The seat height is 7 1/2″ and the back height is 24″.  I think it would fit a child from about age 2 – 6 years old. I made the chair out of pine and used screws.

* tip* Before screwing, I always drill a hole through the upper piece of wood and use clamps to hold both pieces together.  This way the lower piece pulls into the upper one tightly and the wood doesn’t split.

Here is the before photo of rough pine:
All the pieces were cut to width and length and well sanded:

You start by adding the side seat brace to the legs.

One for the left side and one for the right:
After that you stand up the sides and attach the front and back seat brace and the first seat slat at the front:

Add an arm on each side, they sit on top of the leg pieces flush with the inside of the legs:

Attach the upper back brace to the back of the arms.  Screw the middle and two outer back slats to the lower back brace before attaching to the chair.  (Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of that step)

Then sit that back section you just made between the arms and attach the lower back brace to the back legs:

Evenly space the remaining back slats as well as the seat slats and the small arm brace:
Here’s another view:

Paint or stain as desired.  I used red exterior house paint and a brush, but maybe spray paint would be easier, since there’s lots of crevices to get into.
What child wouldn’t want one of these?

It really is hard to tell the size of the chairs by these photos, but remember the seat is only 7 1/2″ off the floor.  They really are adorable. I’ve also made one in white and one in yellow (that one has the original shorter legs).  Of course you could decorate the chair with painted on flowers or something the child likes such as a cartoon character or animal or even the child’s name to personalize it.

 Please let me know if you make a chair …

Lamp Table – make your own

 How about we start with a lamp table.  (Not a table lamp, which is a completely different thing.)  A lamp table is a small table that you can put a lamp on.

I use pine because I like it and it’s nice to work with and you can either stain or paint it.  I like the knots.  If you are going to paint, you can use poplar which is very smooth and doesn’t have knots.
My wood starts like this, it’s called rough and comes from my local lumber warehouse which is not anything like Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Before photo:

I have to run the wood through a jointer and planer and table saw to get it to the size I need.  You may be able to find wood already planed and ready to go, which eliminates a lot of steps but means you have to get the sizes that are available. My rough pine is dried to about 8% MC, which is really important for furniture that will be in your house, but that topic is another blog post for the future.

Here’s a basic drawing
of the parts needed:

The four legs are about 1 5/8″ square and then tapered after.  They are about 24 1/2″ long.  You may wish to use dowels to join them to the aprons, or you could alternatively use tenons. If you are using dowels as joinery, you put two dowel holes in each leg and two dowel holes correspondingly in each apron.I prefer the traditional way, which is sliding dovetails. When you use sliding dovetails everything slips together like puzzle pieces and is very sturdy.   For sliding dovetails, you make the dovetail groove in two adjoining sides of the legs from the top of the leg for a length of about 3 1/2″. This is called a stopped groove and is done with a dovetail bit in a router.  I find it much easier to first use a straight bit and make a straight groove where the dovetail groove will be. This leaves far less wood for the dovetail bit to hog out.  Do your dovetail groove before you put the dovetails on the end of the side pieces.

This photo shows eight legs with
their dovetail grooves:

My table has tapered legs.  The tapering starts 5″ from the top of the leg on the two inside leg faces, which are the same faces that have the dovetail grooves in them, and they head down the leg leaving a 1″ square leg at the very bottom.  I use the table saw and a tapering jig that I bought.  Some make their own jig, but I found one for only about $15 and it was worth it, considering the time I would have spent making it.  When you taper, the wood is being pushed into the saw blade at an angle so that the leg is not parallel to the saw’s fence.  The jig holds it that way, which is the only safe way to do it.

A leg on the table saw ready to be tapered:
(saw blade, leg, tapering jig, fence)

The four side pieces are aprons (or skirts) and are about 4″wide x 9 1/4″ long x 3/4″ thick.   Use the width of the previously made dovetail groove as a sample for your dovetail width that you will put on each end of the aprons.  I purposely make my dovetails too large to start and ‘sneak up’ on the correct size.  You don’t want it to be too loose in the dovetail groove on the leg, nor too tight. The ends of the bottoms of the dovetails need to be cut off so that when you slide it into the groove it covers the end of the groove.  This is why your groove is shorter than the full 4″ width of the aprons.

Here is an apron (upside down) with the dovetail end trimmed:
Here are two of the aprons sitting in a leg:

On the inside of  the apron 3/8″ down from the top edge, you need to make a kerf on the table saw to hold the Z table fasteners that will hold the top on.  I get mine at Lee Valley, you can see them here:,41306,41309

If you want, you can put a beadboard edge at the bottom of the aprons.  This makes it look a lot nicer than a straight piece, but it’s not necessary.  The beading is done with a router bit in a router hanging in a table with a fence that you run the apron upright (vertically) against. After a good sanding of all pieces you can slide the aprons into the legs with a little glue.  If you put too much it will just come out the top of the groove and make a mess.  You really don’t need a lot because the dovetail does all the work, it really can’t pull out.

This shows the beaded apron in the leg:

The top is square, 16″ x 16″ and about 1″ thick.  I use widths of pine glued together edge to edge to make up the wider piece I need.  Usually about 4″-5″ widths are okay.  If you have them too much wider they can warp. Make sure the edges are completely smooth and perpendicular to the faces before gluing to get the flattest top you can.  Use clamps to hold this for a few hours.  Bessey clamps are nice.  I love clamps, all kinds of clamps except those spring clamp things which I find don’t have any holding power.  Always make this piece a bit larger than you need and then trim to final size and sand smooth.

This table has painted and distressed legs and aprons, the top is stained and distressed.  I painted the legs and aprons with black exterior acrylic paint and then distressed it by rubbing with sandpaper along the edges.  At the places where the wood showed through I rubbed on the same stain that was going on the top.  The top is stained with gel stain.  Other stains go blotchy on pine and some other woods. I have had great success with gel stain and the brand I use is Flecto Varathane which comes in many shades and is also mixable, so you can make your own colour. (Don’t ask me how I know this, but it’s best to make sure you make enough of your own colour, just in case you run out and need more.)  After staining the top, I beat it a bit with a screwdriver and some other things I found in the shop.  Then I took some of the paint and painted it into the distressed depressions with a small paintbrush.  Everything got at least five coats of wipe-on polyurethane.  It goes on nicely, but is very thin so it needs a few more coats than the brush-on poly. *Always test your poly over your paint first.  I have had interior acrylic paints which are not compatible with the poly, and I found out the hard way.*

When everything is dry, turn the table upside down and attach two clamps to each apron with screws. You cannot glue the top to the apron and legs, this is why you need these.  Wood moves with the seasons, if you just glue it or screw the top on, it will crack. The clamps allow the top to expand and contract with the seasons.  Now that is really another blog topic…. wood moves and many people do not realize that.

Underneath the table:
Finished table:

Another lamp table I made has stained legs and aprons and a tiled top in a wood frame.  The possibilities are endless.  And who says the top has to be square?  How about shaped like a flower or any other shape and painted?

Hmmmm… so many ideas, so little time!

What to do?

They say you have to play to your audience. I’m not sure who mine is yet. In fact, so far I have two lovely ladies that have decided to follow me, even before I’ve started.

I’m not sure what to show people. Do I explain every last detail, or assume that my audience knows most of the details? Do I tell what each tool does and how to set it up, or just assume that everyone who reads this will know that?

I suppose I will have to let my followers guide me, and let me know what they would like to see. Tomorrow I will just jump in with a project.

Starting Out

I have been set up for this blog for about a month.  I really have no idea what I am doing.  I suppose I will have to learn as I go along.

I am a woodworker who wants to share her passion for making things out of wood.  I enjoy reading blogs of mostly women who make their own things.  Many use old tables, chairs, shelves, etc. and completely redo them by painting and adding parts.  I hope to encourage some of these people to try and make something  from scratch. 

But how to do that?