Category Archives: Woodworking


If you raise chickens you will quickly learn that you need an isolation space for chickens that are sick, injured or are just too aggressive.

Originally, we put together spaces as needed using straw bales and chicken wire.

We needed our isolation space often enough that I decided to make something permanent.

The henitentiary has two separate spaces. Each about 2 feet by 4 feet, complete with roost.

It is constructed from about (10) 8 foot 2x4s, chicken wire, hinges and latches.

6 of the 2x4s were cut into 4 foot lengths. Two 4 foot by 4 foot squares were constructed (top and bottom), which were then connected together with 4 foot 2x4s.

First, two 8 foot 2x4s were cut in half the long way to make the doors, roost and the board that forms the bottom of the door opening.

One 4 foot 2×4 divides the front into two halves and is used for the door latches.

Build the doors next, so you can fit them into the opening at the front. The doors need 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch clearance on each side. The doors are constructed with lap joints. Click here to look at photos of lap joints being constructed.

At this point, I installed the chicken wire from the inside and added a middle piece between the two sides. I just stapled it to the wood and wired it together. Note that the floor is open.

The boards for the roost were installed and finally the roost. I had to cut holes into the chicken wire to get the roost through.

I keep it inside a building, so it doesn’t need a roof or sides. In the Winter, I attach foam insulation, to hold in warmth.

In-Car CD Player Holder

180px-cd-ph-in-car.JPGI put together plans for a new project, an In-Car CD Player Holder. It was put together using what I had on hand. Most of the dimensions are not critical. The holder rests between the passenger seat and the center console. There is a tight enough fit that the seat holds it in place. The top could be made a different shape to accommodate an MP3 player, Pocket PC or just about any small device.

Plant Light Update

Seeds were started this weekend. The gardening goddess spent Sunday planting seeds in the flats while I turned soil in the garden.

We are starting the garden a bit late this year. We’ve already missed planting onions. According to the gardening goddess, they should have been in pots and under the plant light by the end of February.

The plant light received a few updates this year. First, we installed new light fixtures (last years lights are now hanging in my pole barn).

I added dowel to hang the lights from. Since the chain wraps over the dowel, it is easy to adjust the height of the lights. Last year, we ran a chain from one site to the other and hang the lights from that. It was a chore to raise and lower the lights. There is the added benefit of being able to slide the lights to one side to water the plants. Also, dowel, being solid, holds the light fixtures more securely.

I just drilled a 3/8 inch hole into each pole and inserted the dowel then attached the stand to the sand and water table.

The sand and water table plans are here, and here is a link to last years plant light assembly.

Feeding the chickens that feed me.

This weekend’s project was a new chicken feeder. This is our fourth feeder design. The chickens think it’s our best.

The first feeders were made 3/4 inch pine, screwed together to form a V. Boards were screwed onto the ends to form legs. These were too low to the ground and the chickens got yard dirt into them. Because of the V and being made of wood, they were hard to clean.

The second feeders were made from PVC tube with wooden end caps and wooden legs. These worked well until the wood cracked. They were too low to the ground also.

Since the home made feeders weren’t working out, we purchased 4 feeders from the feed store. They were plastic with snap on lids. The lids have holes to allow the chickens access to the food, while keeping their feet out of the food. The chickens tipped these over and had trouble eating through the lids.

I screwed the plastic feeders onto two by fours, attached feet and left the lids off. This worked pretty good until it started to snow. Then the chickens wouldn’t go out, so we moved the feeders inside.

The plastic feeders weren’t tall enough to keep straw out of them and they took up a lot of room in the chicken house.

We needed something that had enough room for all the birds, was up high to keep straw out and didn’t take up a lot of room.

I made two 42 inch troughs from 3 inch schedule 30 PVC. The PVC is cut in half, as are the end caps. The end caps are held on with #10-32 stainless steel bolts and stop nuts. I made wood hangers from 3/4 plywood. The troughs are screwed into the wood hangers. The wood hangers hook into screw eyes, attached to the wall.

When cutting and drilling the PVC, I made sure to shop-vac everything. I didn’t want any of the PVC shavings ending up in the chicken house. Chickens will eat anything!

This design gives 7 feet of feed space. The troughs are 10 inches off the ground and since they are attached to the wall, it leaves plenty of floor space for the chickens. With the hook and screw-eye setup, they are easy to remove and clean.

I eat two eggs for breakfast and so does my wife. My children don’t care for eggs, but love pancakes and waffles (which take eggs). The chickens have been providing my family with our first meal of the day for a few years now. I am glad to be feeding them.

A green Christmas

While planting this years Christmas tree, I was able to reflect on the season.

I have never liked the idea cutting down a tree and using it for decoration and have used live trees for many years. This year, we found a tree from a local grower. At 6 feet tall, with pot, it was just the right size to bring into the house. We decorated it with home made ornaments and beeswax candles.

Live trees take a little more care, but I can’t imagine anything else.

Each Christmas, we make as many of our gifts as we can. We do our best to avoid the consumerist attitude driven by large retail corporations. It takes a bit more effort, but it’s important enough to us that I save a week of vacation, just to make gifts.

Here are some of this years projects:

Tea cup candles are a great way to reuse mismatched teacups and they are extremely easy to make.

We purchased these teacups from Goodwill and the wicks from the craft store. The wicks are made for this type of candle and are lead-free. We already had the beeswax on hand.

Mint tin sewing kits. What is it about mint tins? We saved tins throughout the year. We wrapped thread around cardstock and hot glued on felt. The felt holds needles and safety pins. Buttons and folding scissors were added.

We cut out pictures from magazines and catalogs to decoupage the covers.

I don’t use plastic dishes when I bring my lunch to work and I like to have my own spices. My wife sewed together this fantastic kit for my stuff. She sewed pockets into a cloth by folding it up and stitching it. There are enough pockets for a fork, spoon, knife, salt and pepper. She added a ribbon, to hold it closed.

The spice containers are left over from brewing. White Labs ships yeast in these cool little bottles.

There were also quite a few wood working projects. We made simple block stilts by cutting off two 4 1/2 inch blocks from a 4 x 4. I woodburned a flower pattern onto the blocks and drilled a hole for rope. My wife painted the flower. The rope was added after this photo.

This year, I tried an experiment. I wanted to make my own oil and beeswax finish that was free of V.O.C.s. I started with V.O.C. free boiled linseed oil (BEWARE: some oils are chemically treated, don’t use those). I heated the oil and melted in beeswax, just like I make salve. Everything I used it on came out looking great. It was easier to apply than plain oil and dried faster.

I made two necklace wall hangers. One was cherry and was was walnut. They are simply boards that have been cut and sanded. I drilled holes for mini-shaker pegs we purchased and woodburned a design onto each.

My daughter is very much into horses, so my son and I made this horse shelf.

My wife put together these paper PDAs. They are cardstock covers for the PocketMod paper PDAs. She used home made paper to make the pictures. We always use recycled paper and the these can be recycled again, when used.

My wife found a local bead shop, where she was able to put together many necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Many of these were one afternoon projects that we accomplished with the help of the children.

Lastly, my children received WalMart cards from well meaning gift givers. WalMart is not the kind of company we want to do business with. We prefer locally owned companies and companies which sell goods that are fairly made. WalMart isn’t even close.

WalMart does not allow cards to be cashed-out. We didn’t want to take the children to WalMart to shop and if we just re-gifted the cards, we would be telling other people to shop at WalMart. Since we wouldn’t shop there, we didn’t feel that was fair. Since WalMart already had the money, we decided that the best use was to use the cards to buy gifts for others. That way we were giving something of value and using the cards, so WalMart didn’t get a gift from us.

Christmas, being a season of giving, we feel the best gift we can give is our time.

Project update

Walking stickI have two new projects on

First, I saw a post on Craft:Magazine for home made lip balm which inspired me to update my home made salve howto. See my howto here. The salve is smooth on the skin and makes a great holiday gift. See the book Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair for more recipes.

Second, we made a walking stick as a family project. My wife found the perfect piece of wood, the kids woodburned pictures, I did the sanding and made a macrame handle. See how we did it here.

Best saw blade

Freud Avanti 40TI found the best saw blade for wood working with a circular saw at Lowes. It’s the Freud Avanti 40T Finish blade. It has 40 teeth (24 on a standard blade) it’s thin, has slots to keep it cool and cuts to prevent it from warping when hot.

I used it on a project for my wife’s birthday. In the past, I’ve cut with the circular saw, then cleaned up the cut by recutting on the band saw. If I didn’t clean up the cuts I had lots of sanding to do. Not so with this blade. The cuts were straight, clean and easy.

I’ve seen the Freud blades at a local wood working specialty shop, but hadn’t expected to find it in the 7 1/4 size at Lowes.