Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Valentines Day Jewelry Box

Overview: This was a gift that I wanted to make for my wife for a few months now. I really only thought about making it a few days previous though. She also mentioned that she wanted one so this totally counted as marking something off of her "list" which is a bonus point for me.

I really wanted to make her this because I wanted to give her something nice that would last forever. I know that roses are lovely and so are chocolates but they are both gone faster than you can see sweet tooth. I was a few days late giving this to her but the suspense of her knowing that it was coming made it even more of a surprise. Building the project took about 3-4 hours and then another hour all together with the finish sanding and the three coats of stain that I applied.

I started out by buying a block of Mahogany wood from a local wood working store and then sanding the top and bottom to make them flat because they were "rough cut."

I cut the block almost in half so that I could start making the lid. I had to make the lid thick at first because I was going to use the lathe on it and I didn't want and screw holes in it.

I then screwed on the mounting bracket for the lathe to the back of the lid.

I cut a heart out of paper to use as a template for the lid.

Although the main grain line is in the middle with it running through the side of the heart, I later changed it to where the heart was turned so that the line runs through the top of the heart.

The lid on the lathe. I traced the heart so that I would know how big to make the circle around it.

After I cut out a circle, while still on the lathe, I sanded it down to make it a simple impression around the heart.

I then cut off another piece from the block that I would use as the base of the box.

These are all the sides with two being Mahogany and the other two lighter ones being Cypress wood.

These are the clamps that I used. I would've preferred smaller ones but this is all I had at my disposal. They worked out really well though.

The box after it was dry.

To make the box stronger, I needed to nail the pieces together.

Time Saving Tip: These are 18 gauge nails that I took from my finish nail gun. I didn't want to use the nail gun because since there is so much power in them, I didn't want to run the risk of splitting the wood. So I used my plyers and cut them into thirds and only used the top third.

I used a hammer to nail them in but it was hard. Since I cut them so much smaller, my fingers were now to big to hold them so I had to use needle nose pliers to hold them while I hammered them in.

This is the bottom after I nailed it.

I then cut off the back of the lid to make it roughly the same thickness of the base.

This part was pretty tricky. I used a drill press to make three holes for the heart. After these holes were drilled I used a very sharp chisel to scrape away the excess wood. I then wrapped 60 grid sand paper around my screwdriver so that I could more easily sand the sides of the heart.

Time Saving Tip: You should use a skil saw for this if you have one because then you will only need to drill one hole and you won't need a chisel.

I used the same heart template as before, traced it exactly, but cut it bigger everywhere. I did this so I would be able to get a tighter fit by sanding it down instead of cutting it. You will have more precision with sanding than cutting. I took the heart and the lid over to the belt sander and started sanding the heart down little by little until I was able to hit the heart into the heart hole. You want a very tight fit.

I made the heart thicker than the lid so that I would be able to sand down the remaining to make it a very snug fit.

This is the very beginning of the heart lid. I know that it didn't fit perfectly but that is nothing that we can't handle.

As you can see the inside of the back of the lid now has a lip. You can use either a router or a table saw for this. I made this so as to make a tighter fit on the box. I later put "Stainable Wood Putty" around the heart and over the nail holes to fill in the gaps.

I then sanded the whole box down when I got home with a 150 Grit and then a 220 Grit for a very smooth finish. I made sure all of the dust was off and then applied three coats of a Golden Oak 210B stain.

Anger Saving Tip: A big problem that I run into is having the wood not absorb the stain evenly. this can happen with hard and soft woods but predominantly in soft woods. To beat this, I used "MINWAX Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner" which is fairly inexpensive. It cost me under $10 for 1 Pint which lasts forever. Plus, if you are going to spend a lot of time on a project, you want it to turn out perfectly and this is the best way for it to look amazing.

Time Saving Tip: Get a stain with a built in sealer to not have to apply so many coats. I used a brand called "MINWAX."

Since I did use stainable wood putty around the heart and nail holes, I did have to sand those areas a few times even after I stained because sometimes, it does not accept the stain very well. In this case, sand it with 220 Grit sand paper until you see the remains go away and then stain it again. Patience is a great virtue in this instance. Remember, take your time and do a great job because you can really make your project look great with a little sanding.

I bought a product called "Gorilla Glue" to glue these straps onto the box to act as hinges. It works really well. The white spots are from the can of beans I used to rest on the glue over night and it ripped off a little bit of the paper. Do Not use a lot of this glue as it expands while it dries.

Overall, my Wife loved it. It made her and myself cry when I gave it to her because I had put so much time into it and we both feel that it will be in the family for many generations.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

No Bake Cookies

Overview: This is one of my favorite desserts because they are super simple and super delicious. They only take about 20 minutes to make and you don't even need to use the oven!

Tip: You really want to get all of your ingredients out before you start the baking process. You have to do this because you will be cooking it on the stove, so you will have a time frame as to when you can add certain ingredients so speed is of the essence.

Pictured above are the ingredients: 1 Cup Peanut Butter (Crunchy or Creamy), 2 Cups Sugar, 3 Cups Oatmeal, 1/3 Cup Cocoa, 1/2 Cup Milk, 1 Tsp. Vanilla, and 1 Stick Butter.

Place the milk and butter in a pot on high to melt all the butter. Once it is melted, add the sugar and cocoa. Stir these together really well and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let boil while stirring for 2 minutes.

Once the timer dings after 2 minutes, turn off the heat and immediately add the peanut butter and the vanilla. This is where time is of the essence! Stir the concoction rapidly melting the peanut butter. Once it is melted, pour the oatmeal right in the pot.

Tip: Once the oatmeal is in the pot, carry the pot over the sink so that you won't spill any of it on the counter or stove.

This is what it should all look like once the oatmeal is added. If the mix doesn't stick very well, add a Tsp. or so of milk and stir that up. This usually works to bring everything back to stickiness.

You can then use spoons to place cookie sized portions on a plate, wax paper, or whatever you want. They don't really stick to anything if they are more dry like these are. I used the big grained oatmeal so that the cookies wouldn't be so runny.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Asparagus with two different toppings

Overview: This was my first time preparing asparagus and it was pretty easy and fun. I bought these for pretty cheap at the local farmers market. Be cautious because these can get to be fairly expensive if not bought in season or on sale.

This is how they look straight out of the bag.

On each stemmed asparagus, you have the tasty area and the area that tastes like wood and you need to get ride of the wood tasting side. It is easiest to snap off the ends of each stemmed asparagus instead of cutting the ends off because with snapping them, it will break off usually at the point where the good taste and the wood taste are separated. Place your fingers like so and push through to make them snap. Throw away the bad end.

There are three ways that I am familiar with to prepare asparagus. You can grill them, steam them in a steamer, or steam them on your stove if you have a large skillet with a lid. It was definitely too cold outside to grill them and I don't have a steamer so this was the best choice. Place a small amount of water in the skillet and bring to a boil.

Really with steaming the asparagus, it only takes about two minutes for them to be done and still taste crunchy. If you are weary after a minute or so if they are done, simply take one out and try it. Be careful not to burn yourself by waiting a little bit after taking it out of the "steamer." If you don't like them crunchy then leave them in for a minute or two longer and they will soften up.

After you steam the asparagus, place butter on them and then add your final topping. On the left, I added Parmesan Cheese and on the right I added normal salt. You can also use Kosher Salt which tastes great as well.

Holy Guacamole

Overview: This is a very fantastic Guacamole dish that my friend and I made before we all watched a movie. It took maybe 15 minutes with the both of us chopping and mixing to complete. Clean up was easy too. All the ingredients came from a local indoor farmers market and was pretty inexpensive because all of the ingredients were on sale. This is recommended because some of these items can be costly.

Lime Light: I would like to thank my best friend Scott for helping me with this recipe. He helped me pick out all of the ingredients and put it all together.

Above, we have pictured from left to right: Cilantro, a bag of Chips, Avocados, one Onion, one Green Bell Pepper, two Tomatoes, and four Limes.

This is really how much of one onion we used to make the whole dish so between 1/4 and 1/3 of the onion.

We chopped up two whole tomatoes.

We chopped up 1/2 of a green bell pepper.

We sliced two limes in half and squeezed the juice into the mix.

We used three avocados in total but only two are pictured above.

We scooped out the avocados and used the spoon to mash them up.

We combined the onion, tomatoes, lime, avocados, and about 2 tablespoons worth of finely chopped cilantro into a medium bowl.

We then added the avocados to the salsa and we now have guacamole! This went so fast. There were three of us and this pretty much became our second dinner. Yum!