My Undocumented Purchase

You might think, gentle reader, that I document all my raging consumerism and materialism here just because I often mention books, videos, records, and other music I buy. Ah, gentle reader, but I do not tell you everything I buy! I mean, I might, if you cheap rascals would have ever clicked the Amazon links when I had them. But you did not, and Amazon disassociated me because apparently keeping my links active was too much of a hassle for them. So updating 20 years of book reports was all for naught.

Where was I? Oh, yes, I was about to tell you about something else I bought.

When I went to Hobby Lobby at the beginning of November (when I bought the Santa which my beautiful wife now claims to have seen without mentioning it), I also bought some calligraphy supplies. A calligraphy kit which came with a cartridge-based stylus with different nibs and a calligraphy book and some calligraphy markers.

Because I remember calligraphy units in art classes in middle school, and I was not completely bad at them.

So I thought that I might try again. I have them at the desk in the parlor, currently overwhelmed with Christmas records, and I have sat down a couple of times to work on trying to write the alphabet. Unfortunately, the calligraphy book that came with the kit only had one calligraphy-looking alphabet/font. Most of them were in block print, and the book has text in several languages taking up some of its bulk.

I mention it because I ran across an article, St. Louis calligrapher can personalize everything from holiday ornaments to perfume bottles, about a woman who has a business doing calligraphy and engraving, including “event” gigs where she goes to a party and does on-demand calligraphy and engraving.

Not something for me as I’m nowhere nearly consistent nor steady enough for professional work. But cool.

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Is This What I Do With Eternity?

Buy a Rubik’s Cube, order some black stickers, and then put the black stickers on it to create a Gothik’s Cube?

Apparently, so, although in my defense, the actual sticker application only took a couple of minutes.

But, wait, there’s more: I also have a trophy case for it and have ordered a bronze plate. I might have to put up a picture of the completed project, which I might keep or I might give away for Christmas. Or maybe I will do a bunch of them and put them on Etsy until I do a simple Internet search and find the Internet is already rife with them.

Aw, dang.

But a greater portion of eternity, I will spend trying to figure out what to do with 442 more black square stickers (roll of 500 – 54 on the cube – 2 lost in the taping that held the roll closed). Just kidding! I will spend a couple of weeks with it on my desk, and then I will toss it into one of the assorted bins and leave it for my heirs to deal with.

Total cost $10 for the cube, $10 for the stickers, $5 for the trophy case, $10 for the little tag…. Suddenly, my strange handicrafts become fairly expensive indeed.

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A Four Hundred Dollar Millimeter of Plastic Averted

A long time ago, the non-Lexus vehicle stopped unlocking when you put the key into the lock and turned. Apparently, this is not a physical act but an electronic one, whereby a chip in the key tells the door to unlock. So either the key chip or the sensor went on the blink, so I started carrying a fob (and feeling like a fop for pushing a button to unlock the car.

Then, the little plastic loop that kept the fob on the key ring developed a crack and fell off the key ring. I was able to fix the little crack with a little epoxy.

Then, sometimes, the jump ring would part just enough so that the fob could fall off through the weakened, thinner repaired section. I learned not to lock the doors with the switch on the door when leaving the vehicle after the fob fell off inside the car and I thought I’d locked it in the car (which does not open with the key, remember).

However, at the end of last week, the fob’s repair epoxy came loose and seems to have taken more of the plastic with it. Enough that I don’t know how well I could fix it with another drop of epoxy.

To replace it, of course, would be hundreds of dollars.

I’ve been thinking about how to affix the fob to a keychain. I thought about wrapping it like a jewelry pendant; I even bought three dollars worth of 20 gauge wire on Sunday. However, my early attempts did not look like this:

So I thought of other things. Affixing it to the end of a belt with a leather bezel. Then I thought: Oh, yeah. I have lots of plastic needlepoint canvas and yarn.

So I built a little case for it and sewed on part of an old swag lanyard.

It looks a little fru fru if you look at it closely, but I don’t plan on letting anyone look at my keys closely.

And it was cheaper than a $400 replacement.

And it has no danger of poking holes in my pockets like my amateur attempt at wire wrapping would have.

So I’m a little proud of it. But like my record shelving (still only partially painted, weeks later), it’s rudimentary but functional.

Which could be a metaphor for me.

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The New Craft Hotness At Nogglestead

A number of years ago, my mother-in-law gave us a decorative wine bottle for Christmas. It had a madonna-and-child painted on it and a string of Christmas lights in it through a hole drilled in the back. I kind of tut-tutted it when we got it, but in the years since, we’ve taken to putting it onto the mantle in our family room. We’ve also taken to leaving it burning all night, which served as a nice navigational light in the dark. We liked that so much so that I bought a Tiffany lamp for that spot so we could have that navigational light all year round (was that only March of this year?).

So I’ve been interested in wine bottle art for a little bit. I once bought a glass cutter on a compass so I could cut the bottles, thinking I’d make candle holders by cutting the tops off, but I never perfected that.

I did, however, buy a diamond hole-cutting drill bit with the intention of making the lights/lamps like the one we received as a Christmas gift. So I saved a bunch of wine bottles up, built a template to steady the drill, and bored a hole through a pile of bottles with varying degrees of success.

Once holed, they sat for a while, as I, like my sainted mother, do not like to rush into things. I painted some with stained glass paint and didn’t really like that look 100%; the new lights I bought have white cords, and the cords are very visible through the bottle instead of just shining some light on the bottle.

So I got some diamond etching tips for my rotary tool (a gift from the aforementioned sainted mother, a gift that I thought I would never use for anything), and now we’re talking.

That’s the first one I’ve done, a winter scene probably because I just read Little House in the Big Woods. You can really see the cord in that one.

I’m pleased how the etching turned out, especially since I did it freehand, which is unlike how I do my wood burning.

So I know what everyone is getting for Christmas this year, and I have enough bottles saved that perhaps I’ll have some things for the craft show I’m going to someday participate in.

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The Woodburnings of Christmas

As you might recall, gentle reader, I enjoy doing a bit of woodburning, which is essentially (at least in my case) tracing things with hot irons into wood. If you read any of the literature, it’s a time-honored art form, but essentially (at least in my case), it’s a bit of crafting that allows for some error and the result probably looks harder than the actual effort to do it. You can see some of my other handiwork in the Handicrafts category (along with book reports on crafting books.

Well, it’s been a couple years since I went bonkers on the woodburning for Christmas (although, the historical documents in the aforementioned Handicrafts category indicate I made something for Christmas last year for someone). This year, though I made two things (and gave three).

I’m rather proud of this piece:

My cousin is a huge Volbeat fan. Maybe matched only by the Kyoshi of the martial arts school where I take classes. I’ve often wondered if they should fight it out for the title of Best Volbeat Fan, but that would hardly be fair. He’s a seventh degree black belt, but she is crazy. At any rate, she posted a Volbeat song every day when she was on vacation, and I immediately thought of this slogan. I originally planned to try to woodburn the album covers, but I chickened out, so I printed them and d├ęcoupaged glued them on. I added just a touch of brown pastel to the first part of the logo, but it’s very subtle.

Next, after my beautiful wife posted a cartoon on Facebook, I quickly turned it into a wallhanging for her:

It was a bit nerve-wracking, with the pattern being narrow lines for the most part, but I did okay.

She also got a recipe box:

I bought an old recipe box at a yard sale, and I put some cupcakes on the sides, a couple utensils on the top, and hearts on the back. I meant to give it to her for Christmas last year, but after all the gifts were opened in Christmas 2016 and it did not appear, I found it in the gift closet, unwrapped. So it was one of the first gifts wrapped for 2017.

I’m pleased with the things I’ve done, and I’m eager to try something else, but nothing in the last couple of weeks really inspired me. Sadly, I’m not a craftsman; I’m a dabbler, and I’ll probably only be such as I like the projects more than doing the projects. So I’m not driven to just sit and practice on scrap wood while waiting for inspiration to strike.

Which it will. Undoubtedly, the end of next November, as Christmas draws near.

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Another Christmas Gift I Made

I gave another cousin this bird tray thing:

I bought the wood on sale at the thrift shop, so it’s marked .99 but crossed out and has a .49 written in red next to it. I think it was a little tray of some sort, as it had some deep cuts in the surface that I mostly sanded smooth. I liked the dark frame affect on the Make It Happen plaque I made before Thanksgiving, so I colored the rim and put a couple of birds on it from a stencil. I used the narrow tip again on the woodburning iron; I guess this marks growth as an “artist” to do something other than the biggest, fattest crayon available.

I did even out the bottom before I gave it to her and added some hanging apparatus on the back.

I think I might have another of these trays about, or I might have already burned a ship onto it. At any rate, I find it best to scour garage sales and thrift stores for wood to use instead of going to the craft store and buying blanks of some sort. It’s generally less expensive and more unique. It does not, however, lend itself to an assembly line style of production that would make this sort of thing efficient for profitable craft show item. But I get the sense should I do a craft show, it will be all about getting as close to breaking even on materials and cost of the table as possible.

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The Best Christmas Gift I Gave Out This Year

I have a cousin who listens to a lot of hard rock and heavy metal, so this year for Christmas, I gave her a framed hard rock album since I couldn’t find a different one at the thrift stores before Christmas.

I put it in a frame and put some text on a label, and

You know, I could make a bunch of these for craft fairs inexpensively. The album itself was a buck at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. The frame was $7.49 at Hobby Lobby during its frequent half off frames sales. The label’s cost was negligible as I already had the label maker. So for roughly eight and a half bucks, I could make a bunch of these and try to sell them for, what, $20 or $25?

Assuming I could part with them, of course. It was hard to give this particular article away.

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A More Manly Art

There’s something about autumn that makes me want to sit at my garage workbench and work on handicrafts. I think it’s the fact that, for two weeks, the temperature in the garage is between boiling and freezing. But after finishing the two coffee pots, I decided to take up a woodburning project.

On a recent trip to Hobby Lobby on one pretext or another, I picked up a stencil (it’s supposed to be a fabric painting stencil, I think) with an inspirational phrase “Make It Happen” on it.

So I put it on a block of wood.

The text uses a serif font, which means I had to use a fine tip for the serifs. I’m not a fan of the fine tips, as I’m not the most surgical hand in the OR. You can see I made a mistake on the K. Also, it looks as though it’s a little crooked and slightly off-center.


I don’t know why I’ve taken to woodburning as much as I have. I don’t work freehand; instead I get a stencil or trace something to then use my rudimentary woodburning tool on. So the work I do is pretty primitive, but it’s enjoyable and leaves one with an artifact. It’s like an adult coloring book where you use fire instead of a crayon.

Now that I’ve cleared it off of my work bench, I have room to do something else.

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A Couple Carafes Of Note

I know, I know, you’re saying, “Hey, man, you’ve got a Handicrafts category here, and you haven’t posted anything in over a year! What’s the deal? Are you not doing craft stuff any more?” Well, gentle reader, I know you’re not coming here for the copious book reports. Indeed, you must be seeking the crazy craft projects. Rest assured, although I spent most of the spring and summer painting the fence around my yard and look forward to completing that project in 2017, I have spent a little time this autumn doing stuff at my workbench to fill up that handicraft blog category.

The first things I did were a couple of coffee carafes into flower pots.

Continue reading “A Couple Carafes Of Note”

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The Corkboard iMac

A couple years back, when I made the laptop mirror, I also decommissioned an old iMac that I’d bought my wife for her birthday somewhere after the turn of the century. It was one of the new-fangled flat ones, not one of the neon colored ones. It sputtered out, and in lieu of spending a lot of money sending it off for repair (or having it done locally), I took the guts out of it and wanted to use it for something.

I’d initially thought of painting some plexi to put in the monitor bezel and then some flashing LED lights inside it. Perhaps a fire motif to make it look a bit like an electric fireplace but without the heat.

I guess I didn’t really like that idea, since I didn’t bother to go through with it in the couple of years I’ve had the iMac case empty even though I’ve bought plexi, LED lights, and paint.

So two weeks ago, I went to a church garage sale, and there’s a little corkboard for fifty cents. I picked it up because I knew I’d use it someday. Which turned out to be soon.

I cut the cork down a little, glued it into the iMac case, filled the rest of the case with foam from old packing materials, and glued the case shut (because originally it relied on internal bits of the computer and monitor housing to stay closed.

And voila! A desktop corkboard.

Continue reading “The Corkboard iMac”

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Book Report: Awesome Projects from Unexpected Places edited by Noah Weinstein (2013)

Book coverIn my mind, there’s a line between crafting and Making; I’ve capitalized the m to emphasize the Make movement which is a combination of crafting along with power tools and harder materials. Since many of the projects in this book involve power tools, electricity, and metal, it’s definitely toward the Maker side of the spectrum. You’re not going to do many of these projects at your kitchen table. Most of them require a workshop.

At any rate, the book includes a gamut of projects from embedding objects in an resin tablet top to making a bracelet out of paracords. There are some metal art works, such as a metal flower or metal vases. There are some furniture pieces, including a dining room table made from a recycled bowling alley or a coffee table made from a recycled car tire.

The projects in the book are not junk chic or recycling junk to make new items; some of the projects involve a decent outlay in supplies.

So this wasn’t much what I like to think I do sometimes, but I haven’t done anything of the sort lately. Hopefully checking these books out of the library–before football season even–will inspire me to do something, especially with the junk I’ve already accumulated in the garage.

The projects in this book come from, by the way, so you can head over there to see these and others of their stripe, but not in the handy browseable book format.

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Book Report: Modge Podge Rocks by Amy Anderson (2011)

Book coverThis book is the first book I’ve read this year, and it’s the end of January. My weeks and nights have been fairly busy through this part of the year, friends, and I’m suddenly afraid that I will never again hit the hundred-books-a-year pace I sometimes feebly use to rationalize my hundred-books-a-weekend book buying sprees.

And I got this book from the library, no less, something to flip through during football games. I wasn’t even that good about flipping through books during games this year, and there are no more games, alas. Where was I? Oh, yes, Modge Podge Rocks.

It’s basically a book about decoupage, which is gluing and shellacking paper or similar material to other material. Modge Podge is a popular compound for doing this. You brush some on the surface to which you want to adhere the decorations, press on the decorations, and layer more Modge Podge over the top. There’s not a lot to it, and you can have some interesting effects on stuff.

This book started out as a blog where the author did some decoupage and posted it, and later other people submitted things. And the author got a book deal. Strangely, one of the guest designers is Cathie Fillian, whose television program Creative Juice served as the inspiration for my forays into crafting.

So I’ve done some decoupaging before based on the inspiration from Creative Juice, I’ve gotten away from it and the whole crafting thing because my ideas have outpaced my skill level with these things, which leads to reluctance to start something new.

But I’ll try it again. After all, I have most of a jar of Modge Podge left, and I’d hate for it to go to waste. And by “to waste,” I mean “for twenty five cents at my estate sale.”

So this book has reminded me about this particular crafting style and could serve as a good introduction to those who aren’t familiar with the craft.

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Book Report: The Little Book of Whittling by Chris Lubkemann (2005, 2013)

Book coverI live in the Ozark mountains now, and I do own a pair of overalls. So why shouldn’t I start whittling as well? That’s what I thought when I saw this book at the library a while back. So I picked it up.

It’s about whittling, which differs from woodcarving proper. That is, the projects and techniques within this book deal with using a pocket knife mostly to cut shapes out of thick branches. It’s not about chiseling statues out of a block of wood. So the projects are short and, unfortunately, small. That’s where the real trade-off in artistry lies. Of course, this course could be a means to get you interested in it and leading to experiments with chisels and whatnot later.

As most of the things are trimmed from branches the less than an inch in width, you get a lot of long and thin things to carve. Backscrathers, forks, spoons, knives, and canoes. Also, some small figures and heads for walking sticks (or walking sticks themselves).

So I’ll be in the market for a pocket knife with appropriate blades for whittling and a good whetstone to sharpen them. I might give it a try, but I’ve been socialized in a world where just sitting and cutting a branch to pass the time isn’t a good way to waste time (writing blog posts for sometimes tens of readers a day: good way to pass the time). I’ll have to get a mindset adjustment if I’m to try it seriously. Which means I probably won’t.

But it’s an interesting book to browse never the less. Also, in addition to the projects and whittling, the book contains sidebars with camping tips, recipes, and other bits that fill out the rest of time outdoors hiking and camping in between your whittling.

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Book Report: Great Wire Jewelry by Irene Frome Peterson (1998)

Book coverThis book describes how to make wire jewelry. As you might now, in my youth, I dabbled into beadcraft. But wire jewelry isn’t beads.

Instead, it uses a variety of stitches to weave the wire and then requires you to draw the finished knit through a series of smaller holes to tighten it into a rope.

It’s a particularly complex bit of engineering with a lot of points of failure, and it works with silver wire throughout. It looks to be a bit expensive to pick up and wrought with opportunities to fail just a little but just enough to render the whole thing ruined.

One does not simply dabble into the wire jewelry. Insert your own Internet meme here with Sean Bean.

So I don’t think I’ll pursue this particular craft. Nor even try it. But the end results look interesting.

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Book Report: Crafting with Cat Hair by Kaori Tsutaya / Translated by Amy Hirschman (2009)

Book coverYou might think that this book indicates I’ve gone off the rails for good. Oh, but no. This book cover cracked me up. Crafting…. with Cat Hair! I borrowed it from the library, and as we dwelt a little bit to let the kids play on the computers (which they don’t get to do at home), I kept percolating it to the top of my stack and laughing at it. I even got my beautiful wife to laugh at it with me a couple of times.

I mean. Crafting…. with Cat Hair! It’s from Japan (he said, as though that explains the crazy). It’s by a Japanese cat lady. And it was based on a blog she did that got some attention. Because of the crazy.

So, basically, the projects all involve felting the cat fur and using it to adorn something else, mostly other felt squares that you have to treat pretty delicately since cat hair isn’t the best felting material. Were I to felt a little image of a cat (cat iconography being a design of choice for these projects) onto the side of my fedora, for example, it wouldn’t last the first rain.

So it’s not something I’m going to try. So don’t think I’m spoiling Christmas tipping my hand that I looked through this book.

Mostly, I looked at the cover. And laughed. Crafting…. with Cat Hair!

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Mr. Fix-It, I Ain’t

My wife brought in a keyboard she suspected was defunct and asked me if I would look at it. I did.

The keys work better now.

Computer keys made into pins

As pins.

To do this, I popped them out of the keyboard housing, ground down the posts flush with the bottom of the key, and adhered some tie tacks and small pin findings to the back with some E6000.

One of the challenges with the project is the grinding; if you grind the key surface too thin, it makes a little dimple on the surface of the key.

Still, I have a number of them that turned out all right. My beautiful wife has taken to wearing a Shift key on occasion. I think the F1 Help key would be a wonderful fashion accessory for a technical writer.

The cost of each materials is about 35 cents each for the tie tack, a drop of glue, and the portion of a keyboard. Not too much. But I doubt all keys would be interesting to people.

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Book Report: The Stained Glass Handbook edited by Viv Foster (2006)

Book coverThis book really is a handbook instead of a little crafting book. It starts out like a craft book, with a brief history of the art of working with glass, then moves into the tools used with making stained glass windows or painted glass art, and then it goes into a couple of projects with both stained glass and painted glass. Then it goes into a rich and detailed history of glass artistry from the medieval period all the way to the present, with the rises and fall of different techniques (and technologies), and it includes a couple of profiles of individual artists in their eras.

A fascinating introduction that gives you an idea of how to do it and a history of it. Academic and practical.

But not that tempting to me; I probably won’t do much in the way of stained glass in my lifetime (although painted glass apparently has proved to be something I tut-tutted when I read the books on it and then something I tried with mixed results).

On the other hand, I still maintain the lack of urge to do sand art. So it’s fifty-fifty at this point whether my home’s next transom will be a Noggle original. Okay, way less than that. But fifty-fifty that I would be crazy enough to try a transom.

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Book Report: Sand Art by Ellen Appel (1976)

Book coverThis book is pretty much what it says: a book about sand art.

This, like macrame, must have fluorished in an era where quaaludes were a good idea. Actually, sand art comes in a couple forms. One is sand painting; the other is pouring sand into containers and poking it into a shape with a stick until it forms various patterns or pictures. The other is sand painting, where you paint a portion of a picture with adhesive, pour on some sand, shake the excess off, wait for the adhesive to dry, and then repeat until you get what you want.

I was going to go full-bore deprecation here, and I swore that I’d never, ever do something this silly or twee. But as I went along with the book, I started to see some of the challenges in the art form and got to thinking, “Hmmmm…..” I probably said or thought the same thing about glass painting, now look at me.

Besides, that sand art terrarium (a whole set of projects in the book is that 1970s garden, the terrarium) would go well with the beaded curtains in my bedroom.

So it’s a serious book that give artistry and insight into a craft project that I’d seen in the 21st century as a means of keeping kids quiet for a half hour. So if you’re looking to try something new, you might give it a look. If nothing else because it’s an earnest book in a world that might only enjoy it ironically.

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Book Report: Modern Jewelry from Modular Parts by Martha Le Van (2007)

Book coverThis book is pretty much what it says. It uses a lot of hardware store equipment, including thin rods, pipes, washers, and stamped metal to create necklaces, rings, brooches, and ear rings. It’s very similar to Kilobyte Couture in that regard. However, the projects in this book are more targeted to serious designers and very artistic pursuits indeed. One of the project includes small balls made of gold, which in this day and age would make for a very pricey piece of jewelry.

42 pages of the book are given over to tools and to techniques, which includes a lot of metalworking material, including a brief primer on soldering. It’s been a while since I’ve watched an episode of That’s Clever which often featured metal working, but it was a review for me because of that. Not that I’ve ever soldered anything, although I do own two soldering irons. Just in case, you know. Back to my point: This ain’t beading, Grandma. This is Jewelry Design. And Fabrication.

The rest of the book is given to some projects, and in addition to the projects, the book presents photos of other pieces throughout the text, so you can really get a maximum of ideas from the book. But the style of jewelry is too industrial for my taste. So I probably won’t try anything out from within the book. Because I wouldn’t want to ruin the collectibility and resale value of my soldering irons.

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