Harbor Freight 8×12 wood lathe unboxing and initial impression

I’ve been wanting a lathe for a while and all it took was for my family to leave me alone. Well, that, and for the lathe to be on clearance at Harbor Freight.

Now that I’ve used the lathe for a few weeks I’m impressed. It works well, is more solid than I expected (which isn’t saying much), and it let me get into wood turning very inexpensively. Like I said in the video, the tool rest lock is a bit flimsy. I’m expecting to rip it off at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet. No big loss if it happens, now that I know I enjoy wood turning I’d be OK with upgrading at some point. That being said I have nothing else to compare it to, but if I needed to drop $300 on a mini lathe I wouldn’t have given it a shot.

As for the $20 chisels, they’re better than I expected for $20. You get 8 chisels that somewhat hold an edge for almost nothing. You’ll need to give them a really good sharpening out of the box and you’ll need to touch them up often when working. In just a few weeks I’ve made a lot of pens, bottle stoppers, handles, etc. and if you keep them sharp they work well. The great thing is I was able to try 8 different chisels, decide what I really like, and upgrade them one or two chisels at a time.

If you’re interested in this lathe or chisels, the part #’s are below.

8 in. x 12 in. 1/3 HP Benchtop Wood Lathe: Item #95607
Wood Lathe Turning Tool Kit 8 Pc: Item #62674

Making An Inexpensive Illuminated Channel Letter Sign

When planning a casino theme surprise for a friend I decided to make a sign. I’ve been wanting to try channel letters for a while and used this as an opportunity to give them a shot. No casino sign would be complete without an over abundance of flash, so I decided to go with gold glitter and lights to give it the gaudy style we were looking for.

Materials used:

  • 1/2″ MDF for the letters
  • More 1/2″ MDF (or an old Idea table top) for background
  • Aluminum flashing for channel letters
  • Battery powered string lights (Amazon Affiliate Link)
  • Metallic spray paint
  • Glitter
  • CA glue (Amazon Affiliate Link)
  • Craft glue (Amazon Affiliate Link)
  • 3/4″ scrap wood to make spacers for back
  • 1 1/4″ wood screws
  • Picture hangers

Tools used:

  • Jig Saw (and saw that can cut curves will do)
  • Utility knife to cut flashing
  • Metal straight edge
  • Brad nailer
  • Drill & drill bits
  • Router

I started by making the background from an old MDF Ikea table top. Next I cut the circle into an oval using a jig saw and then routed a chamfered edge on it. After sealing the edges with wood glue I sanded everything smooth. Once that was done I doused it with craft glue and gold glitter then sealed it all with spray on polyurethane.

For the letters, I cut them from 1/2″ MDF and drilled the holes for the lights. Next I spray painted them metallic silver. From there I cut the aluminum flashing into 1 1/2″ strips using a utility knife and began to bend it around the letters. To attach the flashing I used CA glue.

To assemble the sign I layed out the letters on the background and glued them in place. Once I had the letters glued I used brad nails to permanently attach them in place. Next I used a hand drill to drill the light holes through the background. Now it’s time to flip the sign over and push the lights through the holes. To keep the sign off the wires and bake room for the batter pack I screwed a pair of 3/4″ wood scraps to the back of the sign and attached a picture hanger.

How we made a 100lb steel and concrete RC Truck display

So this project ended up clogging the garage for 2 weeks as we reworked the design a few times.  We initially started out with the idea to make a shelf to display Damon’s RC truck to a steel and concrete behemoth.  All said and done he now has a display that comes in around 100lbs and he LOVES it.  When my wife asked why we were making it out of concrete instead of foam it was an easy answer…because it’s cool.  Checkout the below video to see how we did it.


To complete this project we used:

  • almost an entire 80lb bag of concrete
  • 1/2 of a bed frame
  • black pipe and caps for the legs
  • Melamine to make the form
  • a pile of rocks from the yard
  • primer & paint for the frame
  • Thompsons waterseal for the concrete

And to put it all together we used:

  • a grinder with cutting wheels and flap disc
  • miter saw with abrasive blade
  • mig welder
  • Bucket to mix concrete
  • trowel to move concrete around

How to winterize your RV water system

Now that we’re into November here in Pennsylvania it’s time to do the dreaded dead.  It’s time to winterize our travel trailer.  It’s a sad day in the RVcircus household because it means less camping and less camping just plain stinks.

Every year I see a million questions asking how to winterize an RV.  I also see just as many answers as to how it’s done.  This year we’re adding our own opinion to the pile.

What you’ll need:
1 1/16″ socket (if you have a Suburban water heater)
RV Waterline antifreeze (I buy 3 gallons and avoid anything with alcohol)
Blowout plug (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Air compressor
Winterizing kit (Amazon Affiliate Link) < this is optional, but well worth the cost to install

That being said, checkout the below video to see how we do it.

If you have tips of your own or questions leave them in the comments below.

Checking out the Spartan Motors RV motorhome chassis

We recently began focusing our search for our next RV on Class A motorhomes and quickly realized there’s a whole lot more to consider than gas vs diesel.  While we’ve always enjoyed drooling over motorhomes at RV shows we never really got into the weeds until we really started shopping.  It was then that we really started looking at the structure that keeps it all together…the chassis.

We see each RV manufacturer tout the chassis used in each model as if it’s part of the winning equation, but we what’s really important to us?

* Do we need the million mile capability of a diesel pusher chassis?  Probably not.
* Is the extra cost worth the better fuel mileage?  I doubt it.
* Is the extra power from the diesel pusher worth the extra cost?  I think so.
* How about ride quality, reliability and safety?  Yes, I think.
* Freightliner, Spartan, Ford, Cummins, Detroit, V10?  Jeez, we’re not sure.

We had a lot of these questions and the more we searched the more questions we came up with.  We’re leaning towards a diesel pusher for many reasons, but there’s still the question of chassis.  A motorhome is a huge investment and don’t want to base our decision based solely on floor plan and color cabinets without understanding what makes it all tick.

So when we had the opportunity to speak with the folks over at Spartan Motors we jumped at it and I’m glad we did.  They were super knowledgeable and it’s not everyday to have the chance to see these details up close and personal.  They have us the grand tour, answered questions (lots of them) and even got some tips on what to look for in a used motorhome if we decide to go that route.

Checkout the below video to see some of what Spartan Motors has to offer.

And for more info visit http://www.spartanmotors.com/why-spartan/

Making a prop Robin Hood bow for Halloween

With Halloween right around the corner it’s time to make come costumes and accessories.  The first thing on our list is to make a bow to go along with Miranda’s Robin Hood costume.  Our plan was to make this using scraps we had around the garage and have it look fairly good from a few feet away.  Below are all the pieces, parts and tools we used to put it together.

A scrap of 1/” PEX
Black twine
A strip of leather (or an entire jacket)
Spray adhesive
Contact cement
Brown sprat paint
Heat gun
Vice or a clamp
Respirator if you don’t want to breathe paint

To see how we put it all together checkout the video below.

Silicone glow stick clips using Proto Putty – Inspired by The King of Random

Well, this may have been one on our most over complicated projects, but it’s something I wanted to play with and I needed an excuse (not necessarily a good excuse).  I’ve been wanting to try Sugru (Amazon Associate link) for a long time now and never got around to buying some and when I saw this How to make Proto-Putty video I needed to give it a shot.  I didn’t necessarily make these clips because they’re a great idea, but more to see what could be done with Proto Putty.

We tend to give the kids glow sticks while at the campground and after we get inside the kids leave them everywhere.  I’ve been meaning to add hooks for them to hang by their beds for some extra light, but I decided it would be much more fun to make some overkill silicone brackets to hold them.

To get started you’ll need:

100% clear silicone #1
Food coloring
Something to mix the silicone
Disposable plates or bowls
Maybe some disposable gloves

To see how we did it checkout the below video.

For a great step by step tutorial check out Grant Thompson’s How to make Proto-Putty video.  If you’re looking for an easy way to hang glowsticks you can just use a hook.

Mini replica of Lucille the Bat from The Walking Dead

For our first project, we decided to celebrate The Walking Dead season 7 premier by creating a replica of Neegan’s bat Lucille.  I know, it’s not the most kid friendly project, but it had to be done.

We’ve seen plenty of Lucille replicas out there, but didn’t see one done with a mini-bat.  Our goal was to create something that we could display, is easily removed from the display (and used in the event of a zombie apocalypse), and is as accurate and detailed as possible.

We started with a $7 wooden mini-bat, sanded, stained, weathered and added some handmade mini-barbed wire to finish it off.  Below are all of the supplies we used for this project.

  • 18″ mini baseball bat (Amazon affiliate link to a cheap one)
  • Sandpaper (150-320 grit)
  • Minwax Colonial Maple stain
  • Red spray paint
  • Brown spray paint
  • Flat black spray paint for the oval
  • Satin spray polyurethane
  • 18ga galvanized wire for the twisted barbed wire
  • 18ga jewelry wire (I stole it from mom) for the actual barbs.  It was much easier to twist.

To see how we did it checkout the video below.

Weekly projects coming soon!

As a parent, it’s easy to get distracted by the million things going on around us.  As a way to spend more time with the kids and teach them (and myself) something new and stimulate their creativity, I’ve set a goal of creating something new each week.  We’ll be selecting each project as a family and the kids will help with each step with good old dad helping along the way.  As we make our way through each project they’ll be documented here.

How to make a whiteboard for the RV

A whiteboard?  If you know us, you’ll also know organization and planning aren’t our strong suit.  We struggle with keeping organized when on the road and that includes having notes scrawled on random scraps of paper tucked in corners throughout the truck and trailer.  Well, to combat this weakness we decided to make a central place to keep notes while camping.  And to accomplish this menial task I wanted to use power tools to do it.

The idea is simple.  Our RV refrigerator has removable front panels that we’ve already removed and painted to match the walls.  So, we removed the panels (the only thing holding them in is some plastic trim and double sided tape) and replaced them with whiteboard paneling that we picked up at Home Depot for $10.  All you need to do is remove the original panels, cut replacements the same size and slide them back in.  I used a table saw to make all the cuts, but you can use a circular saw, jig saw, hand saw, razor knife or any other sharp tool capable of cutting paneling.

To see how we did it take a look at the below video.