Nathaniel’s Car: Lightning McQueen

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This year Nathaniel wanted to build a version of lightning McQueen for his pinewood car.  I reached out to Andy that helped us last year and he had a plan for a really cool whitewalls version of McQueen that was a great help in getting the proportions correct.  When you have a chance you should check them out on his write up:  Lightning McQueen, Flo & Doc Hudson pinewood cars.

We tried to learn our lessen from the Mater weight issue and used a scale at all portions of the build and hollowed him out prior to any finishing work.  In the end he came out at 4.5 oz so we add some weight to the rear to hopefully make him fast.   I used the same technique I did last year for the beetle to make most of the details by etching them in with a dull pencil in the primer coat which gives a great line to paint to.   The more complicated graphics I scaled and printed on water transfer sheets and applied under the clear coat.

As always for the actual car we entered I made sure Nathaniel was part of every step and this year he really started to get a hang of a few of the steps.   Building these cars is truly one of the highlights for us each year.  I may have one more car in me this year.  Rebecca things baby Alice needs a Sally Porsche.


Mater: Building Buddy’s Sibling Car

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The 2017 pinewood derby season is off to the races!  For this year we decided to build Mater as Buddy’s sibling car.   Mater isn’t exactly aerodynamic so we don’t expect him to be fast.   Instead of using decals I decided to attempt to carve all of the detail into the wood and accomplish final detailing with paint.  I don’t know how I could have accomplished this carving without an oscillating saw/sander.  If you are interested in how we built the Mater pinewood derby car take a look at the slide show for most of the steps.

UPDATE:  I didn’t have a scale in MN while building him but thought I could get enough weight out simply by drilling him out.  However, I was way over weight nearly 10 oz which is almost double the allowed weight.   After removing his tow rack and carving virtually the entire inside of the body, removing the rear window and most of the truck bed I finally made race weight at 5.03 oz.  For a few minutes I thought he wasn’t going to make it!  Here are some race ready pics showing the extent of the carving.  If I had to do it over again I would have cut the base block down to a small sliver and used Balsa wood for the rest of the carving.



The Family Table

I just carried into the house the project I have been thinking about since we moved to the new house.   After 3 years of drying the wood was finally ready to be used to build our family table.   Since red elm dries with twists, bends, and check cracks I had to build the table top as a butcher block and plane the final piece to flat.   All cracks, nots, and voids were filled with epoxy prior to finishing.  I absolutely love the look but am kind of glad that I don’t have a whole lot of it left making this table a true one of a kind piece.

Custom Sawn Lumber from the Yard

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The Master Bath is Complete


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Well it took just over three years but this last weekend we finished the renovation of our house!  Of course we will come up with other upgrades and projects but at this point every room of the house and the outside has been updated.

We wanted to expand the bathroom’s feel without out changing the overall footprint of the space.   There was an used closet that we removed and we converted the door to a pocket door to increase the usable space.   The new shower is built around a 2-curb Kohler pan, marble tile, a glass frameless enclosure, and a ceiling mounted rain shower head.  In keeping with the theme of the rest of the house we used DIY soapstone for the counter top and soapstone tiles over electric heat for the flooring. (M TEIXEIRA SOAPSTONE, Glen Rock NJ)

The vanity is wall mounted and matching the kitchen has a simplistic shaker inset design.  One unique feature of the vanity is a hidden latch system to operate as a secure child lock on the cabinet door.

The final design feature utilized the live edge red elm slab that I had milled from a tree in the yard when we moved in. (Custom Sawn Lumber from the Yard)  The shelves were thickness planed and then a hidden cleat was installed on the wall to make them appear to float.

Stonecrest Connections Booth

Stonecrest church sustained damage with a small fire on Super Bowl Sunday.  The water from the sprinkler system caused damage to the old welcome booth.  I had the opportunity to design and rebuild a custom connections booth.

The booth was designed to fit into a smaller foot print and increase the flow in the lobby.  The booth is constructed of African Mahogany (Sapele) and build in several sections that were connected together on site.

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Buddy’s Sibling Car (VW Beetle)

Well if you build a fun car with one of your children the other wants one also.   Our boy scout troop has sibling races for the kids not in the scouts so I decided it would be great to make buddy “actually me” a crazy detailed car.

I wanted to make a car that was more on the realistic side so I chose to make a replica of my 1975 restored beetle.   I tried hard to make every detail as accurate as possible while fitting in to the rules of our pack.

The car was built very similar to the other car but this time I did all painted detail and a lacquer finish.   The bumpers are covered in aluminum tape and the wheel painted to match my rims.  I used a dull pencil to etch into the primer coat all of the panel details from the VW.  This took a significant amount of time but was well worth it.  Buddy helped on a few steps but was not as into it Nathaniel.

“The King” Our First Pine Wood Derby Car

Nathanial and I had a wonderful couple of days building our first pine wood derby car for boy scouts.  We also figured out that having a shop like ours is perfect for this kind of activity and we both really enjoy building these cars.

Nathanial wanted to build “The King” from the original cars movie as his first Derby car.  We search on the internet and found a article on how to build the car   We asked the builder if he would be willing to share his plans with us and he was kind enough to supply them to us which was a huge help!  Thank you Andy Holzer.

We had to make some modifications to the plans provided because our troop does not allow modification to the wheel base provided axle slots and required a other specific dimensions.  We also couldn’t find water slide decals or the suggested spray paint locally and needed to complete the project while I was on my Christmas shutdown from work.  In order to complete we color matched the decal sheets using latex house paint from Home Depot and used my automotive spray to apply that and an overcoat in polycrylic water based urethane similar to the process I use on cabinet doors.  We used label paper to make the decals and sprayed over them with the final coats of poly.  Next year we will plan ahead more and have the water slide decals on hand because we definitely could have had a smoother final finish.  Still deciding if we should go back and wet sand and polish the car or leave it as is.

Nathaniel participated in every step from planning the additional pine, using the chop saw to cut dimensionally, applying the templates with spray adhesive, the band saw and scroll saw to rough out the shape, and final carving with wraps and sand paper.   He was also able to help with the painting using my HVLP sprayer.

We will need to remove some material from the bottom to get to the proper weight and will do final adjustments to get the car as fast as we can while remaining within our pack rules for minor wheel polishing and graphite.

Overall this was one of the most fun projects I have worked on in my hobby shop and may make another for the sibling race with Buddy.



A Captain’s Bed for Buddy

The long labor day weekend allowed me to spend some time catching up on a few projects in the shop that are necessary to free up some furniture for the baby’s room.  Silas has been sleeping in a crib converted to a toddler bed but with the sister about a month away he needed a new bed.  I plan on building a second similar bed for Nathaniel soon as well.

I built a captain’s bed with three very large drawers (21 wide, 30 deep, and 14 tall).   The bed is constructed so the headboard and foot board are detachable and can be attached on either side depending on the layout of the room.  The bed is plywood construction with solid wood headboard, faceframe, and drawer fronts.  The drawers are dovetailed poplar using the side mount roller slides.   I now remember why the under mount slides that I used in the kitchen cost almost double.  They simply install easier and the soft close functions better.

Our Kitchen Renovation is Complete!

It took a little over two months to complete, but I just completed the final steps of our kitchen / family room renovation.  The basic design was to remove the wall between the kitchen and the adjacent family room and relocate the Fridge to make it more functional.   The design was based on the shaker kitchen I recently completed in Lancaster PA.  Here are some of the highlights from this project.   The cabinets are shaker inset with dovetail soft close drawers and door fronts.   The previously enormous soffit was eliminated by relocating all of the upstairs plumbing inside the crown detail of the new cabinets.  My father in law helped me rewire the whole project and add all the recessed LED cans, pendants, and outlets. I had Bob from American Heritage help with the flooring install and finishing.  One project that was unique was the DIY soapstone counter tops which were completed with a little patience, some diamond blades and routers, and strong friends to help lift the nearly 400 pound slabs.  I was able to source DIY slabs of Mumbai Grey Soapstone in 7′ by 30″ pieces locally from M.Teixeira Soapstone.   The peninsula is edge grained solid walnut and a quarry stone interlocking backsplash.

Shaker Style Cabinets Build in Lancaster PA

It was hard to believe that I would end up building cabinets for a historic row house in Lancaster PA.   I was asked to build a set of custom shaker inset cabinets for a kitchen with 10′ ceilings.  In order to keep the theme consistent and not have duplicate face frames each wall is constructed as a single cabinet.   This project was a challenge but Rebecca liked it enough that I am currently duplicating the basic concepts in our kitchen in NJ.   Here are some pics from the build and install.  I will post final pics once the client completes the finishing touch