Blog Archives - Akertoys
 
Okay, this is just a quick example to show why we at Akertoys LLC prefer to work on relatively small things:
mockingbird and loudbird
All of downtown (we presume) was awakened by this giant helicopter this morning, as it hoisted four separate signs up to the top of this building.  You know, it's "The Tallest Building In East Tennessee."  Seriously, it is.  No, seriously!  Check out the mockingbird for scale, you'll see.
It was pretty cool, no doubt, but it definitely made me appreciate working on things I can lift myself.  Jennifer and I were debating the process as we watched, and we both came to the conclusion that the helicopter must be holding the sign until it's exactly in place, because those guys on the roof won't be budging it once the helicopter stops helping.  Each of those faces of the sign weighs 2600 lbs.  Even the heaviest of our raw materials is still manageable, if inconveniently so, by one person.  Thank goodness!
 
Long ago there was a post regarding my camera and its handy memory card. Well, that camera finally filled itself with so much sawdust that it was no longer able to take a recognizable picture.  I didn't want to be wasteful and just chuck it, so I sent it back to Nikon and asked them to please repair it.  Unfortunately, the economics made no sense: when the quote came, it was for 50% more than a factory refurbished model.  Alas. 
So I asked that they send it back to me (still en route).  Now that I know that it's economically irreparable, I'll be a little braver about trying my own lens disassembly/cleaning/reassembly.  In the meantime I bought one of those factory refurbs.  It just arrived!  However, as is sometimes the case with refurbs, the quality isn't max-tops.  There are some little scratches on the housing, which is no big deal, totally understandable.  Also, though, when I went to insert the battery, the little battery restraint tab broke and flew across the room!  Noooooooooooo!  The associated spring is seemingly unfindable.
Nevertheless, the camera is still usable, and the pictures are much clearer than those taken with the the old one.  So this is progress.
reflects well upon me?
That's the new camera, reflected in the screen of the phone that has served as my camera since the other one went terminally blurry.  The bits in the foreground are the broken battery restraint.
busted!
So here's what I like about this camera: it's cheap, small, light, did I mention cheap?  Yet it still can take a decent close-up, which is what I usually get excited about when documenting our handiwork.
 
[Adan] This was a quick project for a family member's storefront window: the previous sign had met with an untimely end, and this was an opportunity to do a rapid design-build blitz to make a new one.  Here's what we came up with:
open
Pretty slick, huh?  You'll never guess what it says on the other side:
closed
Well, okay, I concede you may have guessed that one.  We at Akertoys like to boast of having an above-average viewership.  Small, but above-average!
engrave detail
The two faces were V-carved to 0.075" (approx. 2mm) deep, then the entire board was painted and left to dry.  Then everything inside a 1/4" perimeter was pocketed down by 0.020" (approx 0.5mm).  That left a nice border, and a stark contrast between the letters and the bare beech around them.

side braces
The base plate is identical in size and shape to the sign plate.  It serves as a mount for the two side braces, which are dowel-aligned and held on with two screws each.  By the way, have I mentioned how much I love McFeely's square-drive screws?  If you've never tried them, get their sampler pack - it's magnificent.  The square drive is so superior to phillips, and the screws are high quality and have a nice deep thread, perfect for strip-out resistance in wood.  But anyway... I digress!

magnet in brace
On the inside of the right side brace is a pocket into which is adhered a 0.5"x0.1" rare earth magnet.  Two more of those wicked strong magnets are glued into the sides of the sign board (visible in the previous picture, not quite obscured by the paint).  Believe me, I double- and triple-checked the polarity before sticking them in permanently.

feet
That nice hovering effect is caused by the four non-slip rubber feet on which it's resting.  These were provided by my dad, who came to the rescue after I made a panicked last-minute phone call: "Help, do you have any rubber feet??"  Oh, and that hole in the middle of the underside?  That was where the magnet was going to go, before I decided I'd prefer to have it off to the side.  That change made the magnets on the sign board slightly less prominent.  Mid-course design change, very exciting.

And finally, here's a video of it doing its thing.  Enjoy!
 
[Adan] We've just been hired by a local custom furniture builder to do an interesting inlay project.  We're just doing the strips of inlay (two different patterns, multiple strips of each), which he'll then incorporate into the furniture he's building.
sycamore plank awaiting the chop
Yesterday he visited his friends at Jeffries Wood Works, and they sold him this lovely piece of quartersawn sycamore.  He dropped it by Akertoys, and I just fell in love with the thing.  This photo doesn't do it justice... it's just a beautiful piece of wood.  Not super-flashy, no tiger-striped craziness here, just some wood showing its ray structure at its finest.

quartersawn sycamore grain close-up-ish
The other cool thing is the way we'll be doing the inlay: this isn't one of those jobs where you inlay Wood A into a substrate of Wood B (cherry into maple, say).  No, here we'll be celebrating that nice quartersawn grain by using it as Wood A, and inlaying it into the exact same wood on a plain sawn orientation.  Pretty slick.  It'll be subtle, but totally visible.  I can't wait to see it.
 
We've got a LOT of non-rattle projects going on right now.  However, when people need a rattle, they tend to really need it.  Babies have their own schedule, and the timing of the rattle gift can be very important. 
Rattles, Drama-Lit
So, in the past week we got word from a friend in Denmark and a friend right here in Knoxville that rattle time was nigh... and thus we found ourselves finish-sanding these three rattles on Saturday.
The two on the right are maple, with a fascinating flecked-grain.  The one on the left is cherry, but a slightly lighter colored cherry than we sometimes use.  It has amazing contrast, really striking, and the straight grain forms a perfect contour map of the rattle's shape.  Nifty!

Regarding the photo:  my camera has so much fine saw dust inside its lens assembly that it really can't gather much light anymore.  Thus, the lower light photos turned out very soft.  I chose this one, which used the flash (bleh), and then I tweaked the photo within an inch of its life.  It may not very closely resemble the colors of reality, but it's certainly dramatic.
 
[Adan] You may recall this delightful product: the Magnetic Needle Holding Pendant!  (also available for sale on this very site)  Well, we've continued working with them, and we're making changes that will make it possible to really personalize these things.

Perhaps most importantly, we're changing the process so that, when we initially make them, they're blank: no engraving at all.  Then we have the freedom to go back and choose whether to engrave a flower or someone's initials... or just about anything else.  We've made a cool little fixture that makes it easier to hold it in place (even has a hole for the split ring, how convenient) when we go back to do the engraving.
Patterns, Many Patterns
So, with that new process giving her more freedom to operate, Jennifer took the little rectangle format and ran with it.  She made a lot of different versions of initials or monograms, and made some different flower patterns (improving our dogwood in the process).  Then, on the advice of a neighborhood friend who is a guru of pretty much all the fiber arts, she researched and interpreted some quilting patterns into simple black-and-white versions.  They look fantastic.

Anyway, that's where we are with the needle holder pendants: ready to engrave, come what may.
 
[Adan] We've made a lot of product prototypes.  I mean, a LOT!  Some are nice, some are absolutely awesome, but they were all very informative.  You learn from every new product, no doubt about it.  Here's one that was a favorite, but it was way too hard to make back when we first prototyped it:
How do you pluralize 'domino?'
Now, though, it might be different.  We've got a vacuum pump and bag to help with veneering.  We've got our good friend Jobot to help get the pips in the right places (believe me, that was a real project when making this prototype!) and cut out the shapes.  We've got the drum sander so we can do them in a sheet and then flip to separate.  We know about the beeswax finish now, too, so that would be a nicer finish than this boiled linseed oil.
Oh, right, the details: each is 1" x 2" x 0.34".  The bodies are maple, the tops are sapele (an African mahogany-like wood).  This set is a double six set.
 
[Adan] Okay, so this was a "Where's It Wednesday" post, but things are a bit relaxed where we are right now.  If a Wednesday post goes out on Saturday, well, that's not so bad.
Mr. UkuleleHead lounges in a chair
We took Mr. UkuleleHead away from his usual stomping grounds for a week. Though he was at first upset by the lack of productivity, he quickly settled into the relaxed pace of life here.  Ah, a Tiki-God-kulele in repose, what a sight!

The question, then, is where might here be?

How about another picture:
Mr. UkuleleHead on the boardwalk, wary of snakes
Okay, so that one may actually be less helpful, not more... sorry about that!
Regarding that alleged lack of productivity, it's actually been very productive. There haven't been a lot of ukuleles made this week, but the population here with Mr. U-Head represents a large percentage of the Akertoys Board of Directors.  So our coffee-fueled screen porch chats each morning here have discussed many new and exciting Akertoys ideas.  We're coming out of this with a lot of new thoughts and concepts, and a new product idea fully fleshed out, though not the first thing's actually been made.