Category: Beech - Akertoys
 
(Adan)  When we made the second stacker toy prototype last week, we actually made enough parts for two of the toys... but only finished and delivered the first one.  So I still have the rough, unfinished bits here, just awaiting the final steps.  I thought it would be fun to post some close-ups of the cut details.
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three plates, stacked
That's maple, beech, and cedar (from top to bottom).  If you compare these to the images from the original stacker toy post you'll note the colors are all just a bit less rich.  In part that's the lighting and my amateur photography, but the biggest difference is the finish: the one in the previous post has our beeswax + mineral oil finish applied, which gives it that nice wet look and makes all the colors pop.
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cedar cut edge
As always, I'm totally in love with the cut section effect you get here, especially where you can see the grain go all warpy around that knot!  Isn't that just the coolest thing?  And the color variations, even without finishing?  Lovely.

That's the orientation it had while mounted on the router.  That little flap at the bottom is what remains of the "skin" that we leave (usually ~0.015") in order to hold the pieces together, even after the profiles have been cut.  After removing them from the router, we flip the pieces and pass them through the drum sander.  Several passes through that removes a bit more thickness, taking the skin with it and freeing up the parts.
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cedar plate, underside
From the bottom, you can see the little remaining bits of skin in the interior holes.  Those tend to get pushed down by the sanding, so they may technically be disconnected but still so snugly fitted that they don't move until you poke them.  Sometimes all you have to do is blow on them and they'll go fluttering away... but that's usually an indication that you've sanded too much and the thickness is now less than you wanted it.

Okay, prep yourself, 'cause this last one's exciting:
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cedar lampshade
That's light shining through those little square flaps.  One nifty thing about this is the gradient: the center of the flap, while it's passing under the sanding drum during that final separation process, has much less support than the perimeter, and thus is able to flex away from the abrasive.  Sure, it gets sanded some, but the edges of the square definitely get sanded through first.  That's of no consequence here, but it used to have a very interesting impact on our ukulele fabrication.  

Imagine if the body portions of the ukulele are held together with a skin, like this, and we're drum sanding it apart.  The soundboard will flex away from the drum, just as did the little square flaps in the image above, and we'll get a contoured soundboard instead of a flat one.  That may be good for tone, or may be bad... but it'll definitely be unpredictable.  So we've changed our methods for that one: no more skin-based holddown.  The soundboards are now consistent.  The only variations are in the wood and whatever tweaking we do to the braces.

Okay, that's it for now!
 
(Adan) We've just completed a quick design-build exercise: make a traditional stacking toy, but make it just a bit... different!  We're excited with what we came up with.
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It's based on one my dad made about a year ago.  His is fantastic, no doubt, but where's the fun in straight replication?  No, we had to make it ever-so-slightly different.  The first way in which we differed was that we used a straight spindle instead of a tapering one.  This allows more flexibility, so the child can put the rings on in any order, without being bound by society's rigid preconceived notions of stable pyramid construction :-)
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In that photo, you'll also be quick to see the next big difference: on the larger rings (plates?) we added eight more holes, so the rings can be placed off center and very odd structures can be made.
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This lets it start out as a simple stacking toy, but also turn into more complicated building blocks as the child graduates to that kind of play.  The square plates are also sized such that each successive plate is smaller than its predecessor by an amount equal to a plate thickness.  This helps make them more "useful" as building blocks, because they can easily be stacked (one on edge on top of one flat, for instance) to make level structures.
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We actually don't have a shot of it in use that way yet; we made enough pieces for two of these, but only finished one... and then immediately gave it away for user testing!  You may recall Oliver, the darling child who modeled the rattle on the multicolored quilt?  Well, he's moved beyond his rattle now.  He's ready for bigger and more complicated things... and he sure seemed to like this.

Oh, right, some specs:

-Base size: 5.72" x 5.72"

-Height: 5.72"

-Materials:
  -base (plate 1): beech
  -plate 2: cedar
  -plate 3: maple
  -plate 4: beech
  -plate 5: cedar
  -plate 6: maple
  -plate 7: beech
  -spindle: cedar

-Finish: beeswax and mineral oil (salad bowl and cutting board finish)

I think it's pretty spiffy.  What do you think?
 
(Adan) More playing with the lathe: I went down this morning and made a quick little cup out of the stump left over from the second top I made (day before yesterday).  These tops and cups are fun and simple.  My turning skills are pitiful at best, but hey: good enough for these little joys!
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The turning process is pretty basic.  At the moment I'm trying to just get the feel of things without going crazy and trying all the tools.  As such, I'm using only a parting tool, skew, and scraper.  Any self-respecting turner is groaning in pain upon reading that, I'm sure...  but it's a start.  I'll learn, just need a little time.
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One first: this time, before boring out the hollow of the cup, I used a drill to cut a 1/2" hole in the middle.  This makes the boring much easier, since you're not messing around with the zero-velocity nibs in the middle.  This was previously impossible, though, as we had no tailstock chuck.  Yesterday, however, I purchased a MT2 (Morse Taper #2) compatible keyless chuck...  and then today, impatient for that to arrive, I researched and found our drillpress already has an MT2 taper on its chuck!  So I knocked the chuck out of the drillpress and slapped it onto the lathe.  Happy times ensued.  There's something truly fascinating about watching a non-rotating drillbit draw curly chips out of a spinning workpiece.
So that was a little video showing the newer of the two tops spinning in its cup.  The cup really isn't an ideal place for the top, but it does make some interesting wobble patterns!  What do you think?
 
(Adan)  One of our early prototypes was recently back out on the table, and we all had a good time looking at it.  It's a complicated one, lemme tell ya: building blocks!
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This prototyped set is made of pieces of maple, square in section, ranging in size from 1.25"x1.25"x1.25" up to 1.25"x1.25"x7.5".  
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These were a very early project.  We've gotten a LOT more tools and skills since then.  A contemporary set would look much nicer, I feel sure.
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But hey, they're building blocks!  They don't have to be fancy to be a lot of fun.  I enjoyed myself greatly just building this reindeer.  Or spaceship.  I forget what it was, but it was absolutely perfect.
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If we were to make another set like this I would probably want them to be made of beech.  I might also consider tweaking the common dimension up to 1.375", which is apparently a standard (??) building block factor.  What do you think?  Oh, and how should they be packaged?
 
(Adan) Yesterday afternoon saw Ian and me hoisting his new lathe up onto a brand new stand we had just fabricated for it.  Check it out, it's quite glam:
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As glam, that is, as a stand can be when it is constructed out of a sawhorse and a 2x12!  It was pretty wobbly after those initial two elements were joined, so we added the sheet of plywood you see at the bottom.  That stiffened it up considerably.  After a couple of sticks braced the baseplate down to the feet of the horse, it was like a rock.  Sort of.  Close enough, we said, and we started making some chips.
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This is a "bowl" of sorts, I guess?  We took turns reducing a large chunk of holly down to this size.  We also tried gouging out its interior just a bit:
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Pretty cool, huh?  It will probably never be a completed bowl, unfortunately, but you never know.  It was great fun as a practice piece.
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This was my first piece.  What can I say, Jennifer and I just saw Inception... what else was I going to make??  We don't have a chuck or faceplate that fits this lathe yet (on order, coming soon, don't worry), so getting this down to a point was a bit tricky.
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It was a lot of fun.  We don't, as a company, have a lot of need for turned parts quite yet... but we got so much entertainment out of making these little guys, we may need to invent some axisymmetric parts, post haste.  Now we just need to make sure we don't get used to that "stand" and leave it there forever. Temporary, it's only meant to be temporary.