Sunday, December 28, 2014

DIY: Rubber Band Ukulele Toy

A few days ago, I wrote about the Wood Five Pointed Star Coin Bank that I made for our new granddaughter. Now, here is the toy I made for our grandson.

Our grandson enjoys seeing his dad play the ukulele. He also likes to see me, "grandpa", playing the ukulele and guitar. So, it was no surprise that our daughter put a ukulele (or guitar) on his Christmas list. He's only 1.5 years old, so it would have to be durable. I had already been trying to decide what to make for him for Christmas and already had an idea, but one day while looking at ideas for variations of what I had wanted to make, I saw a piece of wood cut out in the shape of a guitar. That's when a "light bulb" went on in my head and I realized that I could make him a toy rubber band ukulele!   If the rubber bands broke, they could easily be replaced with a new set.

The first attempt at cutting the wood with a Dremel tool went bad.  It went out of control and even with the routing attachment, I couldn't hold it steady.
All my scroll saw blades for my sabre saw were broken (another story for another day), so I went and bought some more. I was able to easily cut out the shape now. I traced the shape of a soprano ukulele (the smallest type of uke) and cut it out of a thin piece of luan plywood.
I cut the same same shape out of a 1 inch thick piece of pine stock. I also cut another piece of luan plywood for the back of the uke. I then hand traced a line on the inside edge of the 1 inch thick pine. This line was about a half inch inside the "body" of the uke.
I then used a drill bit to make a starter hole in the 1 inch thick wood and then cut it out with the sabre saw. I used a hole saw to cut out the sound hole on the top piece of luan plywood. You can see in this photo how the pieces overlapped to make the uke. 
Then it was time to carefully glue and clamp them together. 
clamps, clamps and more clamps. 
Next, I needed to cut out two "bridges" for the "strings." I used a piece of oak trim that would normally be used as a transition between maybe two oak floors. It was beveled on the edges. You can see in this photo how I kept it attached to the big piece of trim so that I had something to hold onto it with while working on it. After it was cut out, then I made a groove in it with the dremel tool and a knife (more on that below). I also marked and cut slots for the "strings" (which would be for the rubber band strings).
Here is a close-up of how I made the groove underneath in each of the two bridges. The groove allows the ends of the rubber bands to wrap underneath.

 I glued the two bridges on with wood glue and more clamps.  
Here you can see how two rubber bands went around.


Then I sanded it, stained it with wood stain, and painted it with polyurethane.  I then used a permanent marker and a paint marked to make the frets and the nuts. The finished project is shown at the start of this post.  

What do you think about this project? How would you improve on it? Please comment!

Friday, December 26, 2014

DIY: Five Pointed Star Coin Bank

Our daughter was due to have a baby girl around Christmas. I wanted to make a present for the baby. My other daughter gave me an idea. While I was considering how to make what she suggested, I came up with another idea: A wooden coin bank! We have a wooden duck shaped coin bank that we've had since our children were little. My daughter who was expecting (she had the baby yesterday on Christmas day!) has been using "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" as a theme (see my earlier post about the sign I made with that theme). So, I decided on making a star shaped coin bank for the baby.

I looked around on the internet for some tips on how to make a 5 pointed star and came across a post about a "DIY Wooden Star" by the Rouge Engineer. That post gave me a good idea about how to make the wooden sides of the bank.  I was going to cut an outer and inner star shape on a flat board, but this design was simpler and looked much nicer!

It called for using a 1" by 2" board and cutting angles of 36 and 54 degrees. It called for cutting them using a chop saw (aka trim saw), which I don't have. After lots of trial and error trying to do it "by hand", I realized I needed a better way to get it done. Both of the angles were just a bit different than a 45 degree diagonal and I had a mitre box with 45 degree angles. I also had a DeWalt Hand saw that cuts faster than most. (The saw was a recent birthday present from my son-in-law. He has a similar one and I admired it for it's fast sawing ability.  ) I used a tool to measure and mark the two angles and then cut them as new angles in the mitre box.

Now, with the ability to hand cut those two angles, I clamped the 1" X 2" board into the mitre box and cut the angles as explained in the post. Note: I also wanted this star to be smaller, so my cuts for each point were 2" shorter than the measurements described in the post that I linked to above. 
  After cutting all of the pieces, I laid them together and saw that I indeed had a star!
Now I had to figure out how to connect the pieces. The post calls for nailing them, but I decided to glue them. First I glued the points together, then I glued the points into the star shape. 
Next, I had to figure out how to cut the acrylic (aka plexiglass) that would go on the front and back of the bank. I picked up 2 pieces from Home Depot. Each one was 11" by about 15" and .093" thick. Each one costed a bit less than $5. I read up on how to cut it on the internet (and watched some youtube videos). I marked the cut lines using a grease pencil (but later had a difficult time getting the grease off the edges of the wood). You can see that I also marked an A and B on the acrylic and the star so I would get it back on the same way (the star didn't come out exact since I cut it by hand).  I also marked where I would put screw holes at each point).
I used a power "Sabre Saw" (mine is actually "Skill" brand) to cut it. After a failed attempt that resulted in the acrylic breaking into many pieces, I went back to the internet and youtube to learn some more. I realized that I needed to keep it from vibrating and go slow with the saw. I also learned that I needed to clean away the little pieces of cut material because if they got under the saw, they would scratch the surface (even through there is a protective film that is on both sides of a new sheet of acrylic). So, I used a horsehair brush to clean everything off between each of the 40 cuts (two cuts per point and two sides of the bank). That slowed things down so that it took a long time.

I also learned that I needed to clamp down the material so that it didn't vibrate while cutting because that vibration causes it to break.
I realized that my saw table has a slot which allowed me to hold down the material with boards on both sides to minimize vibration. Here, in the photo below, you can see all of the pieces of material left after just one cut; they all had to be cleaned off after each cut.

To drill the holes, I started with my smallest drill bit and slowly worked up from there. I held the material in my hand so that if the bit jammed in the material, the material would spin instead of breaking in pieces. It was maticulous work. I also cut a slot for putting the coins into. The slot was made by cutting many holes near each other.

Here you can see the finished project.
Let me know your thoughts. Let me know if you try to make something like this!