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Projects

Rolling tool storage

The first law of shed dynamics is: The need for shed space will always grow to exceed the space available.
With space at a premium, it is incumbent to make the best use of it. So I evolved an idea for a modular set of moveable cabinets that could be rolled out for each job and configured as required. It means I could easily house my commonly used tools and still retain space in the shed.

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Snack shacks for birds

Home handyman Rob Allison originally made his first birdfeeders as Mothers’ Day presents for his mother, mother-in-law and wife. Popular demand has seen his feeders, with a few modifications, hanging on trees in the gardens of friends and family around Christchurch.
“It’s a very simple design,” says Rob. “An ideal first project for a youngster interested in woodwork, and they will have the added pleasure of watching the birds enjoy their handiwork.”

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One for the birds

Megan Collings’ birdhouses tick a lot of boxes. Her quirky shelters are not only well-constructed and aesthetically pleasing, but they are indirectly providing food and shelter for more thanher feathered friends. Megan gives the proceeds from every birdhouse she sells to an orphanage in Nepal.
“The earthquake in Nepal hit me hard after our own quakes in Christchurch,” says Megan. “I couldn’t get it out of my head, there were so many thousands affected. I wanted to go over and help but felt I was just a nobody. I’m not a nurse, I’m not a doctor. I love making my birdhouses and thought it was a way I could create and sell for a good cause.”

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Fun in the sun

When I made my first tambour door a couple of years ago, what immediately struck me was not the functionality of the door itself (although it is not without its aesthetics or merits), but that it would potentially make a really comfortable deck chair.
This project is the realisation of that idea. Using a long tamboured top as the basis for a piece of furniture, I decided to make: a tambour sun lounge.
I expect most people would be familiar with the classic roll-top writing desks, popular in the 19th century and a progression from the solid-topped Bureau du Roi, or “Secrétaire à cylindre de Louis XV” from 1769. The tambour form particularly suits itself to the ogee curves and it is that aesthetic that inspired the form of this sun lounge.

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Going glamping

What do you do if you want a caravan but drive a Mini? You make one to fit. That’s just what Michael Wolfe of New Plymouth did – turning out a real dinky little teardrop-shaped caravan that matches his 2004 Cooper S and has all the mod cons for a decent holiday.
Michael saw pictures of little campers on the net and decided that was what he wanted – a cross between a caravan and a tent.
“I got some ideas from little caravans online and decided to go a bit more high-tech,” he says.
He built it to have the same lines, wheels and colour as his car and it looks just the part.
“I never really planned it in detail. I sketched it out originally and a lot of the construction I worked out as I went along.”

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Electronics: Powerful stuff

Everyone who dabbles with electronics or even automotive stuff will eventually find a bench power supply very handy. When I first started getting into electronics, they were large, expensive beasts, and very much out of the reach of hobbyists. There were a few kitsets provided by some electronic parts suppliers, but these tended to be limited in voltage and current.
If a hobbyist wanted an affordable adjustable supply, they usually had to make it. We even resorted to designing and making our own when I worked for Telecom. Commercial units were available but they didn’t suit our requirements, or budget.

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Up the wall

A friend loves gardening and has always wanted a vertical garden or ‘living wall’. She has been pestering me to build one ever since I started doing the welding articles for The Shed. I looked at a few and developed a simple concept that is simply an angle iron frame with a wire lattice.
I measured the wall it was to fit on and arrived at a final size of 1m x 1.6m. I
happened to have that on hand in 3mm angle iron. The vertical garden needs
to be offset to the wall to allow for air circulation and watering. I decided to offset it
by 60mm so that required 100mm feet.

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Size matters

Back in the carefree/careless days we took a drive up to the Hokianga harbour, mainly for a fish and chip meal at the legendary Omapere pub, and promptly fell in love with the place. It’s New Zealand 50 years ago: clean, uncluttered with houses and people and just plain beautiful on any given day.
The harbour simply sparkles on a sunny day and the dunes on the north head are nothing short of spectacular. The views coming over the ridge from Waimamaku and the Waipoua forest are breath-taking. We still stop and try to take it all in.
Everything moves at a leisurely pace up at the “Hoki”. It is still a hidden gem, but not for long I feel. We have a few celebs up there now and there are more and more serious homes going up, but it still has that laid back feel to it. Opo the dolphin is the only thing that has happened to the area and that was 60 years ago.

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Make yourself a decent chef’s knife

Coromandel knife-maker Lloyd Franklin forges his knives from the raw material of coil spring steel rather than cutting or grinding the blades from existing metal shapes. His high-quality knives are sought after by chefs nationwide and by those who appreciate a well-balanced hand-made tool.
Coil spring steel is easily confused with spring steel that we know from a car leaf spring, says Lloyd Franklin. But, he explains, coil spring steel is a high-tech, shock-resisting tool steel from which you can happily make stone-working tools, woodworking chisels or even knives.

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The perfect desk job

The desk that is the subject of this article was made for one of my grandsons and is made in a similar style to a bed I made for him several years ago (see the article in The Shed, issue 43, June/July 2012). Like the bed it is made out of beech and finished with Danish oil.
While I have been able to undertake almost all of the processes in my hobby- styled workshop, I want to stress that this desk could be made at home with just a few hand tools. For example, you could ask the timber yard to dress the timber for you; all cutting could be done with a handsaw or a coping saw for the curves; the mortises and tenons could all be done by hand. The process would take longer but you would certainly enhance your skills.
The design process is always interesting for me and, with some initial design concepts in my head, I sit at the drawing board and draw out to scale two or three 2D versions of what I think the final product will look like.

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Firewood sawhorse

I created this little project because I needed to cut firewood easily without someone to assist in holding the wood. Although not my own invention, it is an interpretation of pictures gleaned from the web and adapted to materials that you can buy easily in New Zealand timber yards. The whole project cost me $25 and took about an hour and a half to make. In anybody’s book that is value for money and time well spent.
It is essentially four crosses of timber braced to form a cradle for cutting your firewood.

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Chips and dip, anyone?

I have used a piece of swamp kauri from Kaitaia for this project. The wood may well be 45,000 years old although pieces of swamp kauri have been carbon dated from 1000 to 50-60,000 years old from different parts of northern New Zealand. The time-scale of this wood is mind-boggling. How do we get this wood? You keep your ear to ground for news about logs and stumps that emerge, then we have to get off our backsides and do something about it. Swamp kauri, and occasionally other timber dug from old swamps have not rotted because they are preserved in anaerobic conditions. Kauri is the most common “swamp” wood because it is the slowest wood to deteriorate when above the ground before the land area became swamp.
For woodturners, kauri is a soft wood. Puriri, pohutukawa, black maire are hard woods, although botanists use the terms “hardwood” and “softwood” in a way that is related to the type of tree and not the hardness of the wood.

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Build a hydro power plant

Ever thought of creating your own electricity? It’s a challenge a number of New Zealanders aspire to these days, as rising power  prices and possible insecurity of supply bring out the Kiwi leanings towards independence and DIY. 
And how to do it? A small stream, a broken washing machine, a shed and you’re away. Well almost.

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Raising the bar

I have wanted to make an elevating bar stool for some time. They are a relatively simple design – four legs attached to a nut through which an acme thread runs, raising and lowering the seat.
However, attaching the legs to the nut is problematic. The nut is usually a fairly large piece of steel, in this case it’s 38mm diameter, and even with the hole and threads cut it still has a wall thickness of nearly 10mm. The legs on the other hand have a wall thickness of only 2mm. That size differential makes using MIG welding difficult. It can be done of course but it isn’t quite as straightforward as usual.
I felt it was ideally suited to TIG welding and as I hadn’t tried TIG before I thought this might be a good opportunity to get some experience.

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Warning: boiling point!

I own an American classic car and it comes with the usual 1960s instrumentation—speedo, fuel gauge but only warning lights for oil, alternator, and water temperature. The alternator light comes on when you turn on the ignition, but the water temperature light is designed to come on only when the water temperature reaches 120-125 °C which is usually too late.
To fix that, I have devised this program powered by an Arduino micro-controller that will operate the temperature light when the engine powers up and light it up again to warn the driver as the temperature approaches 100 °C. It uses a readily available sender that will fit most vehicles.

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