Where the Reader Stands

In the Orthodox Church, for most of the services, a person called the Reader stands at the front and, well, reads what needs to be read during the service.  The services are compiled from at least three different books depending on the day of the year and how the church calendar cycles works out.  Basically, there’s a lot of books and they are all used during every service.

So churches have dealt with this preponderance of books in various ways, but one of the more striking ones is a rotating book stand.  The Reader Stand, if you will.  Its basically a narrow bookshelf with a rotating book rest on top.  Before the service starts, you open all the books you need to the various pages, lay them out and then just spin the top to get to whatever book you need at the moment.  It works pretty well and looks much nicer than metal music stands loaded up with 3-ring binders.

My church has wanted one for a while, but alas, Orthodox church furniture is not a huge industry in Arizona.  Anyone making them is located far away (most are not even in the US) and selling them for many thousands of dollars.

And so my priest turned to me and said, “I want you to build this.”  I avoided it for about a year, but in the end one does not argue with his priest, even if one feels like he’s in a little over his head.

I made it with birch hardwood with birch plywood.  I made two 3D SketchUps, three miniature and two full-size models before I got the angles right.  That shape is called a Frustum, by the way.  Seems appropriate.

As soon as he saw it, the Reader said “It’s missing the top bar on the cross.  That’s going to bug me.”  He means the cross in the book stand section.  I hadn’t considered that there are one bar crosses and three bar crosses, but not 2 bar crosses.  “I’m not rebuilding it,” I replied.

So he sent me this just before the first service:

“There. I fixed it.”

He’s right.  It does look better with that third bar.  Oh well.

If you are looking for a reader stand for your church, I might be interested in helping out. Please contact me!

I’m a rower

I finally finished my version two kabes and took them out for  a spin this weekend.  They worked great!  Not perfect yet, but I got the canoe moving as fast as I did when sailing, minus the really scaring tipping to the side.

There will be a version 3 eventually, as these aren’t quite there yet.  The main problem is that they aren’t tall enough and unless I’m being pretty gentle they tend to roll over the top.  I’m not excited about the way they are tied on, but after fiddling around for a while I was able to figure out the setup you see above.  It does a fairly good job of holding it down and against the kabe but is also easy to unhook without untying.

I put  a board behind me that overhangs the sides of the canoe so that when I’m down rowing and want to paddle I can rotate the oars forward and set them on the board.  Then I spin around, climb into my canoe seat and start padding.  Its the best of both worlds.

I’m playing with the idea of a sliding seat, but unless I add some sort of outrigger to spread the oarlocks apart I’m not sure its necessary.  Currently they are 3′ apart and with my long arms I can handle the full movement of the oars without hardly leaning at all.  Of bigger concern is the toll that rowing has on my back, so that’s probably where I should focus my attention.  Maybe I need to spend some time at the gym this winter!

Here’s the whole thing in action:

Row, row, row your…canoe!

The lakes around my house have been low this summer, so sailing has been a bit of a no-go.  The weeds are so close to the surface that my lee boards get caught up and stop me dead in the water.  So I haven’t gone out very often, since solo paddling my canoe is something one should only do when there’s no wind.  An 18′ touring canoe is nearly a sailboat even without the sail.

Which made me think, what about rowing?  The boat is plenty big enough to  sit in rowing position and at 3′ wide in the center there’s just enough room for a small set of oars without using some sort of extension bracket.

Test Kabe
The test kabe. Those bolts are way too long, but that’s all I had on hand.

I googled rowing setups for a few hours and finally settled upon using a “kabe”, which is basically a wooden block against which the oar is pulled.  The oar is usually loosely looped to the kabe to keep it in place while you pull the paddle out of the water and forward again.  I went this route for two reasons.  First, nearly everything on my boat that can be made out of wood (and by me) has been.  Second, I didn’t really want to spend over a hundred dollars on oars and some sort of oar lock setup.  So far I’ve made everything out of scrap/free wood and leftover supplies.  As a bonus, I get to make it!

Oar Handle
The oar handle. The square shape adds a little weight to the inboard end and keeps the paddle oriented properly in the water. The screw keeps the oar from sliding out of the rope that loops around the kabe to hold it in place. I plan on upgrading it to a small block of wood so it’s a little less tacky looking.

The oars I made out of 2×2 stock I had gotten from a friend who’d moved and didn’t have a place to store it.  I used my table saw to cut the corners off, making most of it octagonal, then an orbital sander to take most of the edges off.  It’s not perfectly round, but that’s OK for my purposes.  The only reason I shaped it at all was to take some of the weight off the out-board end of the oar.  The in-board end I left square except for the handle.  That helps balance it a bit more since it doesn’t pivot in the center, but more towards the in-board side.  In actuality I probably only transferred a few ounces inboard, but every little bit helps.

Oar Paddle
Oar paddle end. 1x pine shaped and fitted into a slot in the end of the 2x handle.

Using a scroll saw (another gift from the moving friend), I cut a notch out of the end of the pole and slid in a paddle I’d shaped from a piece of 1×6.  A little wood glue, some filler and a few coats of varnish on the wet end and I had an oar that should work well enough.


The kabe I shaped out of 1x pine and bolted to the side of the canoe.  The square part of the oar is the part that sits against the kabe and this means that the paddle is always sitting at the correct angle.  For this test piece I used a 90° just because I needed to get going, but the vertical face should probably be angled 6° degrees towards the back of the boat.  I think.  I probably need to research that more before I make my final version.

Broken Kabe
Oops! I got a little carried away rowing and snapped the kabe right off! Guess a little more engineering is in order.

On my first test row, the kabes and oars worked perfectly!  I got my canoe moving at a pretty quick clip, at least as fast as I usually get sailing.  It felt good.  But it only lasted about 6 minutes before one of the soft pine kabes shear clean off.  I figured that might happen, but I got what I needed from the test versions and will be making something stronger for my next round.

Kabe v2 will be birch, a much stronger hardwood (and something I’ve got sitting around the shed).  I’ll probably make it a little wider too.  I’m tempted to put some fiberglass on the side to reinforce it a bit more, but I’ll probably just see how the birch does first.  I’ve got enough extra to make a version three if need be.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride was my foray into making board games (out of actual boards, none the less!)  I couldn’t bring myself to purchase the game because it seems so much for cardboard and printing.  Plus I don’t have any extra money because I spend it all on projects like this one.  So, if I can’t buy it…make it!

The board is 3/8″ birch plywood with the train routes, um, routed out so there are little grooves for the pieces to sit in.  I wood burned the state lines and other decor.  The board comes apart in six pieces that fit together like puzzle pieces in order to fit into the box.  The box (which I will hopefully post a picture of soon) is also burned.

I love playing this game with my boys, who have always really been into trains.  They do pretty well with it (we play a modified rule game suitable for 4 year olds) and love putting their trains together.

My only regret is that used used some cheap toll paint and its faded over the years.  I need to repaint it soon as its getting hard to see the difference in the colors.

Gosling I

My family loves to go camping.  But as my family grew (we’re up to six now), the amount of equipment grew much faster.  We quickly transitioned from minimalist backpacker to full-fledged car campers.  But we’ve always tried to keep it rugged.  No campers for us, at least not for a while anyway.  Meaning, until I can built one!

Until then though, we needed a place both to store our gear and transport it.  Behold, Gosling I.  Our little Honda Fit was always named Goose, so it kind of made sense.

Gosling is (was, actually, she has since been retired and replaced), basically just a box with a counter on the back for preparing food.  Our stuff went into the front box and our kitchen stuff was stored in drawers under the counter.  So the only camp setup we needed to do was our tents and table.

She’s built out of 1/2″ plywood on a small harbor freight trailer.  Our fit pulled her easily enough.

Below is a tour I filmed for my father-in-law who helped me put the trailer together.

Ponderosa Chandelier

For a while there I was really into Pintrest.  Eventually I realized I’d pretty much seen everything and moved on.  But it inspired this chandelier for our dining room, so it served its purpose.

The wood came from a local Ponderosa tree that had come down to make room for something new in our neighborhood.  A buddy of mine was chopping it up into firewood and another friend had access to a planer, so most of the hard work was already done by the time I started on it.  Some stain, poly and a set of hanging old-timey lightbulbs and it was finished.  We’ve since moved out of the forest into the city, so it has acquired a little more meaning, being a piece of our past lives as woodsy folk.


 I’d been dreaming about building a canoe for years when we finally moved into a house with a long outdoor covered shed area.  My wife bought me the wood for my birthday and told me to stop staring at picture of boats and go make one.  I’m glad she did, it was a big project and it would have taken a few more years before I started it on my own.

The boat itself is designed  from a set of free plans you can get from Jem Watercraft.  Its a touring canoe, which means its BIG.  At the time, I thought I’d love to get out on the lake with my then budding family and so I’d need a bigger boat.  What I didn’t realize at the time is that there’s a lot of time between babies are born and they are any fun to have in a boat with you.  Also, its not really that fun having 6 people in a canoe.  Its very stressful, actually.

So, since it was much bigger than I wanted to handle as a solo paddler (mom was stuck on shore with the babies), I turned it into a sailboat.  I haven’t decided yet if I’m not a good sailor or if its not a good sailboat (its probably mainly me), but it does go with the wind and gets pretty fast.  Its going upwind where I can’t seem to figure it out.

The boat is made from birch plywood off the shelf at Home Depot.  I used the stitch-and-glue method to piece it all together and wrapped it inside and out with fiberglass and epoxy.  The trim along the sides and across the thwarts are oak.  Its a heavy boat.  But its solid.

The sailing rig is made from pine and whatever other scraps I could find around the shop. The sail is a tarp, trimmed to the proper shape and edged with p-cord and duck tape.  Since I was making it up as I went I didn’t really want to spend money on it if it wasn’t going to work.  It ended up sailing though, so maybe someday I’ll upgrade to nicer materials.  Probably not though, I’m more interested in the practical side of things when it comes to my boat.

Lately the weather here has been so dry that the lakes have been low and my keel boards get caught up in the weeds.  So sailing doesn’t really work.  So I’ve been looking into setting up some rowing attachments so I can still use it this summer.  I’ll blog more about that later.

To me the boat is definitely amateur work and while very functional, there’s a lot of improvements to be made in the eye-candy category.  But one of my favorite tag-lines I’ve seen in the boat-making forums is “Its really hard to make an ugly boat”.  Its true.


Settlers Board

I love the game settlers.  But I never bought it because I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money.  I grew up on whatever games we could find at the thrift store and cash has always been tight, so there were other things to spend it on.  Besides, whoever I ended up playing with already had one!  Eventually I decided to build my own because “it would be cheaper”.  It was not.  I probably spent more than had I bought it at the mall.  But you ain’t gonna find this at the thrift store!

Everything is made from birch hardwood.  I woodburned designs and stained them different colors with a weather-resistant deck stain.  I added magnets to the ends of the border pieces to snap the whole thing together.  The cards come from the Settlers manufacturer, you can buy a replacement set.