Sapele Box – Woodworking Class Project

I started with a beautiful, fairly straight sapele board. The whole box is made from this one board.

Sapele board.

One part of the board will become the sides and the other is reserved for the bottom and lid.

First cut!

First step for making the sides: get the board to the right thickness.

The board in back is the starting thickness. The board in front has been run through the jointer and planer.

Setting up the machines takes a while. Getting each cut right is important, otherwise the pieces may not fit. It’s also important to mark each side after it’s squared up so you know you’re keeping it square with each step.

Progress! I added the groove for the bottom and a couple of the miters.

I cut the sides of the box so that the grain of the wood wraps around. It’s a cool effect!

Dado and miters have been completed for two sides.

When I set up the sides of the box to check the fit, the miters didn’t sit flush with each other. The instructor reassured me that would be fixed when the box was glued.

The way the sides didn’t quite line-up had me worried!

Top make the bottom and top of the box, I ripped the leftover piece of wood on the band saw. The band saw is the machine that most intimidates me. Fortunately I was able to get a straight cut! With more practice, I’ll get more confident using it.

The thin section will become the bottom of the box and the thick section will become the lid.

Once I had the bottom jointed and planed, I tested the fit with the sides. This forced the miters to sit correctly; huge relief!

It’s starting to look like a box!

The bottom fits nicely in the sides. It’s a bit loose so the wood has room to expand. Too tight and the sides may crack.

Next step: glue.

I glued the miters together and squared it up before letting the glue cure.

That’s not blue paint, it’s painter’s tape and rubber bands.

Now to make the lid! Adding the rabbets was pretty easy; it was done with the dado blade, just like the dadoes on the top of the sides.

I cut the lid down to size, again leaving some wiggle room so the wood can expand.

We had some extra time in class, everyone finished the box early! As a bonus, we learned how to add splines. They’re partly for decoration, and partly to add strength to the glued miter joints.

I decided to add two splines to each corner of the box. I believe the woods are red heart and bocote.

I cut into the side of the box: not all the way through. The splines are super-glued in. If we’d had more time, I would have used wood glue.

It looks cool with the splines sticking out.

Using a Japanese flush-cut saw, I removed the excess spline material. We didn’t finish the box in class. There was still some sanding left to do before cleaning the surface and sealing it.

All ready to be sanded!

I sanded the box and applied two coats of sealer. It really highlights the grain of the wood! It’s incredible how different the wood looks once it’s been sealed.

The splines turned out well! I thought about trying to fix the chipped corners, but decided against it.
The lid fits!

I’m really happy with how the box turned out. It was a fun first woodworking project. I’m not sure what to use it for yet. For now, probably just decoration.

Work Bench Refurbishment (Part 2)

Over the weekend I dove in and fixed up my new workbench! It came with ared painted top that was falling apart.

You can see the first post here:

New-to-me Craftsman workbench!

I picked up a beautiful slab of butcher block and some nice finish to replace the top with.

I sanded the butcher block nice and smooth, then cleaned off the dust with mineral spirits. It works really well to remove the dust!

The manufacturer recommended finishing the butcher block on all surfaces to prevent uneven expansion. I found some cool pyramid shaped risers to keep the block off the work surface. I was able to get a great finish on all the edges using them.

After three coats of finish on all sides (and a bit more sanding before the final coat), the butcher block looked great! The matte finish is scratch resistant and pretty natural looking. It’s a nice effect, and should help keep the wood clean.

The finish brings out the shine in the birch wood.

With the top finished, it’s time to replace the old top! When I removed the old top, so much dust was exposed. The previous owner had a woodshop, and this workbench was filled with dust. I vacuumed it and wiped it down.

No better opportunity to clean the inside than with the top removed!

While cleaning the metal, I noticed most surfaces were starting to rust. In the future, I may address this. To deal with it properly, I would have to take the whole thing apart, remove the paint, remove the rust, prime it, repaint it, and polish the unpainted parts. While a full restoration would be cool, I’d rather have a nice work surface right away so I can work on my long list of other projects.

Attaching the new top was a bit tricky. The drawers on one side made accessing the slots in the frame difficult. I had to partially remove the top drawer to access one of the slots, and climb halfway inside the frame to even see them! I pre-drilled all the holes, which made putting the screws in mercifully easy.

The view inside the frame under the new top. There are four 1″ wood screws holding the top to the frame.

It looks fantastic with the new top attached!

Time to load it up with tools!

I cut some drawer liners so the tools won’t slide around when the drawers are open. It also makes for a nicer looking bottom for each drawer. There were some rusty scratches in them from use over the years.

It’s so nice to have this done! Now I can use my garage for projects. I got the drawers loaded up with most of my tools, and it’s ready to go!

I’m so pleased with the way this turned out!

My next project will be building another workbench. With more surfaces and shelves, I’ll be able to get more tools, like a miter saw. I have a really nice woodworking clamp I’d like to install, too.

More Electric Go-Karts: Power Racing Series (2019)

Luigi Kart

For the Bay Area Maker Faire 2019, my team decided to make two electric go-karts. We would fix up the Mario-kart and make a new kart to test a different drive-train.

Again, I took the lead on the kart aesthetics. The kart took some damage in Kansas City, and got covered in salt when we stopped to drive it at Bonneville in Utah. The side panels especially needed a little reinforcement.

We changed the theme from a Mario Kart to a Luigi Kart to be more recognizable.

The main change was painting everything that had been red to green. I constructed a new front panel that was easier to remove, so the batteries could be accessed.

On the way back from Kansas City, we made the seat smaller so it would fit in the car better. The seat is hollow, so it needed to be fixed up.

A new requirement for 2019 was wood bumpers. I cut out and painted some blocks for the front and rear bumpers.

Lift from the white bottom bumper!

I fixed up the tail pipes and added a splash of orange. They were mounted much better this time around.

Rear-view of the kart.

With those few details, and a few mechanical improvements, the kart was ready for action!

Ready for racing!

Gold Tesla

For the second kart, we got a Tesla ride-on-vehicle!

This kart to a lot more effort. One of my friends welded the frame and built the whole functional part of the kart from the ground up.

We wanted the Tesla Kart to stand out, so we decided to paint it. I masked the details on the plastic shell to keep it looking sharp.

We figured that gold would stand out and look cool, so I went for it.

All assembled, the kart looked awesome!

The weekend of the race, it rained pretty much constantly. Unfortunately this led to a few issues with the electronics. It was a great learning experience! We had plenty of ideas for what to do next year to prevent these same issues.

Even though we had some issues, the karts looked great and we got plenty of points for that.


I made another set of team shirts for the race!

I printed out our decals, cut out stencils, and painted the shirts with fabric paint.

Yet again, we looked sharp in our matching shirts.

Going Forward

The three of us are excited for the 2020 season! Hopefully the Bay Area Maker Faire will be back on, and we’ll get a chance to race there. We’re planning for three karts next time, and have already started machining parts and putting them together. In the coming season, I will be more involved with the mechanical design of the karts.

Where will we race in 2020? That remains to be seen, but we will be racing somewhere!

Electric Go-Kart: Power Racing Series (2018)

Bay Area Maker Faire

Just for fun, I decided to help out my friends with an electric go-kart for the Power Racing Series. Since we all lived close to the San Mateo, Bay Area Maker Faire, we thought it would be a cool thing to try our hands at.

We started working on the kart about a month before the race. The fun thing about Power Racing Series is that everyone has to start with a ride-on toy vehicle designed for kids. We were able to locate an old Mini-Moto kart, and used the frame as the base for our kart.

It was a rush to get the kart done, as all three of us work full-time. We made it to the race, unloaded the kart, and got set up just in time. It was a super fun weekend, and inspired us to keep going! All the other teams who attended were friendly and competitive. Even as a first time team, we felt totally welcome.

The first race went by in a blur, and I didn’t get many photos of the original build. I do have some videos, which I may upload later.

Kansas City Makerfaire

After the first race, we decided to do another one in a couple of months! With a little more time on our hands, we wanted to make a kart that looked great and ran well. I took over the aesthetic design of the kart. We agreed on a Mariokart theme, as it’s recognizable and the kart already looked kind of like it could be in the game.

The yellow wheels and colorful bumpers add a lot of fun to the kart.

Part of the competition is getting votes from the crowd. The more recognizable and outrageous the team, the more votes you’ll get.

Why not go all-out for this and make Mario-themed costumes? (I bought the Nintendo licensed patterns.)
As a bonus, I made us all team shirts.

The Kansas City Makerfaire was a bit of a drive. We loaded up the Mustang (complete with trailer), pilled in, and drove 30 hours straight from San Jose. We’ve all agreed that it was a good experience overall, but a drive that long doesn’t need to happen again.

Everything made it! We got set up, and we all looked great.

The kart and costume designs were a big hit!

The races went well, and again it was an awesome experience!

Right as the Sunday events wrapped up, it started raining. We took the kart out and got some awesome rain shots.

Even in the rain, the kart worked great!

The rest of the races in 2018 were in the East; a bit far for us to make it. Fortunately this gave us a lot of time to get started on the karts for the 2019 season!

Knitting Projects of 2019

I’ve been getting more interested in knitting. It takes forever… but it’s fun and satisfying to complete something! It’s a nice cozy activity for winter; I can watch TV and feel a little productive (definitely not just an excuse to binge-watch). I also attend a knitting club every other Saturday. Fiber-crafts are surprisingly popular with other young engineers, so I’m in good company!

I had been working on a pair of finger-less gloves for a while. I got them done in November 2019! They’re acrylic yarn, and one of the first things I’ve knitted that turned out really nice. I’m getting the hang of the different stitches and techniques (much thanks to YouTube).

Finger-less gloves with decorative edge. I found the pattern for free on Ravelry.

I immediately dove into making my first pair of socks. It really felt like magic when the toe and heel came together! I didn’t think making socks would be so easy, but this pattern (free on Ravelry) is super easy to follow. They’re supposed to look like bamboo if you look closely at the pattern on the leg. The yarn is a super soft blend of silk and bamboo.

The hard parts are done on sock #2, I just need to finish the leg and cuff. The feet look ridiculously long, but they stretch a lot and fit me perfectly.

I have been almost exclusively using double-pointed needles. They were intimidating at first, but once you do a few rounds, they make a lot of sense. I’m happy to say that the yarn stays on them and they don’t slide out all the time, like I thought would happen.

Once I finish the second sock, I want to make a sweater. It may take months, but I should have it done in time for next winter!

Work Bench Refurbishment (Part 1)

New-to-me Craftsman workbench!

Over the holidays, I acquired a well-used Craftsman workbench. The structure and drawers are in great condition, but the particle board top has seen better days.

It’s been refinished with a red metallic paint. The edges are disintegrating.

I’m in the process of building up my shop (I finally have a garage!), and this work bench is a great first project. The plan is to replace the top with butcher block, which I will seal with scratch resistant finish, and add a power strip.

Plenty of room for shelves or maybe sliding pegboard…

I found a slab of butcher block the perfect size!

What a pretty slab.

I’ll sand butcher block smooth, then clean it with mineral spirits before finishing it with polyurethane.

That’s the plan! I’ll post the result very soon.

Quilted Backpack

I wanted to make a new backpack, since the small travel one I made years ago was too small for carrying books and art supplies.

I visualized how big I wanted my new backpack to be and thought through each piece of the backpack. I wanted two pockets, and I thought about each side and compartment; the back, the front, the bottom, the top, where the zippers would go, the straps, the order in which I’d have to assemble the outside then the lining, and how I’d put the lining in.

I drew a picture of what I wanted it to look like from several angles, so I could visually think about each piece of fabric.

I calculated the size of every single piece of the backpack and wrote out a list. I cut the pattern parts out of paper and labeled them, then constructed the quilted fabric for the backpack’s outer shell.

Once I had all the outer fabric sewn together and cut out, I constructed the outer shell of the backpack followed by the lining, inner pockets, and zipper. I’m pleased with the final result!

Wine Journal

I’ve gone to a few wine tastings lately, and had a great time trying to figure out the ‘compositions’ of the wines. Clearly, I’m no expert! I made a leather bound wine journal for my dad a couple years ago, and I figured I could make use of one as well.

Here’s a close up of one of the pages.

Here’s what I whipped up this afternoon!

I printed off the pages on regular printer paper. When I first designed them, I aligned the content to be printed front and back so it could be folded nicely down the middle for one entry per page. I like the idea of leather covers, plus, leather is the only thing I had handy.

I lined up the folded edges of each set of pages and used a saw to cut even holes.

I used a heavy duty needle to make holes down the center of the leather.

I’ve stitched a couple of books together before, and it’s kinda fun. I attached the top two holes of each set of pages to the cover, then secured the bottom holes.

It’s got a nice feel to it, but the cover was too floppy.

I glued a stiff card paper to the front and back covers. This makes the little journal feel like a real book, it’s very nice! I stamped the inside just for fun.

The stiffened cover helps the leather lay flat. It’s a little plain, but cute. At some point, I want to learn to emboss and use gold and silver foil for decoration.

I like the result! Now I’ll be extra prepared for my next wine tasting.

Raccoon-proof plant cage

In the start of July, I finally moved my succulent plants outside to soak up the summer sun. I built them a little outdoor table and found a spot where they get the perfect balance of sun and protection from the heat.


The Problem

There’s a family of at least 8 raccoons that enjoys wreaking havoc in the yard at night. They love digging up potted plants and knocking over everything that’s not secured to the ground. The rascals savaged my poor succulents twice, ripping them out of the planter box, dumping their pots, and chewing on their delicate leaves. I thought I could solve the problem by moving the table closer to the house, but the raccoons were undeterred.


The Plan

My family and I have had success keeping squirrels and raccoons out of our strawberry patch with a chicken-wire cage. I designed a simple wooden structure with a door to which I would staple the chicken-wire.


The Result

The cage works! While it’s not the most beautiful thing to look at, it has done a wonderful job of keeping critters away from the plants.

I lock the door because raccoons are smart, and would probably figure out how to use a latch if they were determined.

I hung a shade to shield the the plants from the intense afternoon sun.

As you can see, they’re loving it! And safe from curious animals.