Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Disciplined Choices: The Search for Good Habits

 I seem the remember reading somewhere that it takes 3 months to build a new habit. I assume that was a good habit because a bad habit takes only a few seconds in my experience! And therein lies the problem. As far as I can tell, and from my own experience, some good habits don't just take time to become fixed, they take discipline. A lot of discipline, and quite a bit of failure too.

I'd argue that failure is possibly an intrinsic part of the process of learning the importance of discipline. You learn, through failure, that will power is the stuff of dreams whereas discipline belongs to the world of reality. Some people think that the two are synonymous, but I'm not convinced. 

When I changed my eating habits some years ago I was told I must have a lot of will power, but that simply wasn't true. In fact I'd say I had very little will power at all. What I did have was a goal, some data and the ability to make disciplined choices. Every day began with a disciplined choice and proceeded with a series of discipline choices. No magic bullet, no trying to suppress cravings. Just a series of choices.

Any good habits I now have are sustained by disciplined choices. That's the essential difference between good and bad habits. Bad habits take no discipline at all. Good habits demand continued vigilance. It's so easy to skip a day which then becomes two days and so on. Being lazy takes no effort, dragging yourself out of bed on a cold, wet, dark November morning to run or walk a few miles requires a massive effort for most of us. Who wouldn't rather curl up under a warn blanket than have freezing rain driving into your face? 

So how do you become a disciplined choice maker? At the risk of sounding trite or simplistic, you just do it. You set a goal, and then make decisions that support that goal. If you want to walk 10k steps a day, then make choices that help you achieve that goal. It might mean getting up 30 minutes earlier so you can walk to the station rather than catch the bus or get a lift. 

Being a disciplined choice maker goes beyond weight loss or exercise or giving up smoking etc. It can be about something as simple of developing a new skill, learning a language. Or it could be about becoming an encourager rather than a critic, reading 10 books a year, keeping a journal. Whatever it is I'm pretty sure that it will take discipline to achieve.

And when you fail? Well you just start over. Every day is a new opportunity to make new choices. If you make it all about will power it becomes easy to succumb to the idea that you just don't have enough of it to succeed. On the other hand everyone has the capacity to make disciplined choices. Even you. Even me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Quick update on the table

 Here's a photo of the table with the finish applied and the "Egg" installed!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

BBQ Table Completed

To be honest it's not really a BBQ table, it's actually for one of those outdoor oven/grill things that look like a rather large egg as I said before, but I'm not sure what else to call it.

In the end I made it from reject scaffold boards, some of which had some significant splits in them. I managed to get everything I needed cut from 5 boards (3900mm long). 

I cut the hole using a jigsaw in the end. Making a circle cutting jig for the router would have given a neater result, but it will be covered by a lip on the oven and any unevenness in the cut adds to the rustic charm!

I filled some of the cracks with hot melt glue, which worked ok, but it needs some slower curing glue if that's possible. The glue sticks I've got set very quickly and it left a lot of clean-up work to be done. I've seen a hot melt system for repairs and filling, so I might look at getting one of those to try for the next project. 

The client is applying the finish and it will be interesting to see how it looks after that has been done and the oven is in place. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A BBQ Table: The design stage

 I've been asked to design and build a specialised table for a BBQ. Well actually it's more like an outdoor oven in the shape of a rather large egg. You can buy these things with a table, but my client has a very specific space so they need something made-to-measure.

I'm going to try something different and use some scaffold boards to build it. Here's the basic plan:

I'm still working on checking all the dimensions, but the basic idea is a rustic looking, sturdy table into which the "egg" sits. 

Cutting the hole will be interesting. I'll probably make a jig for my router and get a kitchen worktop router cutter and then just take it steady. 

It will need to be made in sections that can be put together on site because I don't have a truck to transport it and anyway I suspect it's going to quite heavy once assembled!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

A couple of ideas for simple projects that I might try making to sell

 I'm not sure if, or even whether, I want to try and make money from woodwork. I'm certainly not going to pretend to be a master cabinet maker, but the more you do the better you get. So while watching a few videos recently, I thought I'd have a go at making a couple of things that might have a market if I can find it.

The first is a reproduction of a traditional wine crate. It's approximately 400mm square and it was quite simple to make. I bought a 2.4m board 18mmx144mm for there side panels and cut down some leftover cladding to make the slats. The slats are 40mm wide and about 7 or 8mm thick. 

The hand slots are cut using a template and a router fitted with a bushing. You can of course make them using a forester bit or a flat blade bit or even a hole saw and the use a jigsaw or coping saw to cut out the centre section. 

The second pice I made was a reproduction of an old rustic tool tote. Very simple to make from more of the 2.4m board. 

It's about 430mm long and 140mm wide. The end panels have a corner cut off. The panel is 300mm tall and the cut-off is 40mm in from the top edge and 140mm up from the bottom edge. I set up my tapering jig on the table saw and simple ran the pieces throng on both sides. The handle is 400mm wide and the whole thing is assembled using glue and brads. The end panels are actually screwed and glued to the base panel because they were a little bit cupped and I thought screws would give a more secure fixing for this prototype.

The finish is an "Antique Pine" wax.

The minimum I would want to sell something like this is probably around the £15 mark. I think I could produce them at around 4/hr if I batch processed them. I reckon each one has about £7-£8 worth of materials, so £15 would cover the costs and the time spent making them. I'm guessing the cost of materials would come down a little bit if I were to buy the wood to make say 10 of each in one go. But I'm not sure how fast I could batch them out!

Friday, February 26, 2021

A simple cupboard/enclosure for a hallway

 A friend asked me to build a simple cabinet for them to replace one the was falling apart. They delivered the old cabinet for me to use as a template and I started by doing a simple drawing using Graphic. I've tried Sketchup but never really got on with it for some reason.

Here's the basic idea I developed.

As you can see it's a simple double door cabinet. The challenge was to make it to the same dimensions as the original but because I was using 18mm MDF, the internal dimensions were the critical ones as long as there was space around the outside.

I decided to follow the original as closely as I could because I didn't know what it was covering (some electrical stuff I was told).

The cupboard was only 65mm deep.

I didn't want the rails and stiles on the doors to be too wide because I thought that would make the panel too narrow so I decided on 40mm and that seemed teamwork out okay.

Here's a picture of the cupboard with the doors clamped in place as a test fit before painting.

I think the proportions look okay. 

The next stage was sanding everything down and then preparing it all for painting.

I used a water based primer/undercoat, lightly sanded between coats. The client was doing the final painting, so I did there coats to get it to a reasonable finish. 

Once I was happy with the finish I added the hinges and door knobs. The hinges are simple flush hinges, but that's not the whole story. Initially I went to my local DIY store and got some hinges. Ther problem with them is that they are not that well made and some of the screws do not sit fully into the countersink. In fact so poorly made were these hinges that some of the countersinks barely cut the surface. 

The upshot of which is that the doors don't close properly.

The solution was to buy better quality hinges, sourced from a company specialising in ironmongery. Theres were thicker and far superior quality that the ones from the DIY store.

The inside of the original doors had hooks for keys. This posed a little bit of a problem because the inner panel was only 6mm thick and I had planned to put in some extra pieces into which the hooks could be mounted. Unfortunately 12mm wasn't quite enough to ensure the hooks didn't come through the other side, so I had to add an extra layer. In hindsight I could have designed this better, but I'm not sure how.

The final touch was to add a magnetic catch for each door and the job was done.

The panel doors came out okay. I cut the rebate for them on the table saw rather than setting up the router table. I think next time I'll probably use the router, the table saw was ok but it's a bit fiddly to to get the set-up correct. Still, it worked and the client is happy. 

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Simple Storage for the Utility Room

 Our utility room is a mess. We have loads of stuff that needs sorting and the storage is a mixture of old bits of furniture that was in the garage already and shelves that we brought with us or bought to try and make better use of the space. 

The first step was to improve the storage around the washing machine and freezer. This was going to take the shape of some custom made shelves the would store basic item including the cat baskets!

I made this is two parts, a deeper section with two fixed shelves and a shallower version with one fixed shelf and two adjustable shelves (I decided not to have the three I initially put in the drawing). 

In case you're interested the drawing software is Graphic for Mac. It's very useful for creating simple 2D drawings for this sort of project.

The units were built using pocket holes which presented a challenge in the narrow unit because I didn't think about the drill/driver being too big to get inside the unit with the pocket hole driver bit in it. 

I got there in the end, but it was a real faff. The shelf pin holes were made using a Kreg jig. This is a very useful tool. A simple spacer (a piece of ply cut to size) helps to position the jig at its starting point and then you can drill a series of holes equally spaced. If you need more there's a locating pin to reposition the jig. You just need to take your time setting things up properly. I got my jig for about £35.

We've recently bought a battery powered lawn mower so I've attached the charger to the end panel of the unit and the batteries live on the shelf with the charger and battery for the trimmer we were given years ago. This gives us a nice, convenient way to store and charge the batteries.

The next thing we decided to make was a storage unit to fit between the freezer and washing machine.

Nothing too complicated, just a pull-out unit with storage for washing powder, water softener etc. Again pocket holes were used to secure the bottom to the front and back panels, and 30mm brad nails for the rails. 

I found some old castors from a previous project and a handle from a wardrobe I dismantled 8 years ago. The wood from the wardrobe was used to build a cupboard to hide some pipes and to construct one of my benches, so nothing goes to waste if we can help it!

Once finished, the unit slides nicely between the two appliances.

The next job will be to sort out the rest of the storage, making better use of the space. We might even be able to get into the cupboards currently buried behind the stuff we haven't sorted out yet!!