Tag Archives: diy

Homemade gifts. Wooden toy tools.

My wife and I have a love for wooden toys. They have such a timelessness and warmth to them, and will often last through generations. We have bought wooden toys and keepsakes for our kids in the past, but this Christmas, instead of making the usual Etsy purchases, I thought I would take a shot at making them myself. My son is almost 2, so I thought some toy tools would be fitting.
I headed to my brother’s place where he has a shop, so would be easier to do the work with all of the large tools handy. I had some basic tools that I traced out on some scrap pine boards that he had laying around.

Once I had them traced out I seperated each template and took them one by one to the bandsaw to get a rough cutout. After cutting each one out my brother would hit it with the drill press to make any necessary holes, we ended up putting a hole in the bottom of each tool (except the saw) for hanging.

The saw was a bit interesting because the handsaw I had to use as a template was quite larger for a little 2 year old hand, we had to shrink it down. My brother took a picture of the full size saw, took it into the computer and printed an image as big as would fit on a sheet of paper, so that became our new template.

New saw template, shrunk down.

To get the feel of the “blade” being separate from the handle, we shaved off a bit from each side with the bandsaw. Some more intricate dremel work and sanding was able to shape the rest of the handle.

The rest of the shaping was done with a belt sander, spindle sander, dremel sanding attachments, jigsaw to cut the inside of the saw handle, and random orbital sander. I also used a router to round over all the edges which really gave it a nice feel and professional look. Some sanding by hand with a finer grit paper finished them off. I have plans to seal and finish them with a Beeswax & Olive Oil concoction I found by researching online. But for now, they are raw and enjoying being manhandled by an almost 2 year old. 😊

They even compliment his little tool belt he got. 😊


It was a pleasure going through the process of making these toys, extremely satisfying experience. But the joy of watching my boy playing with and enjoying something I made by hand, is incomparable.



Guitar Retrospective #7 (Pt. 1): “Koi Flower”

The second guitar finished in my batch of Squiers was the oriental themed “Koi Flower”. Oriental fabrics are the best for this sort of thing, as it turns out, and there are plenty more to come. I have to say I had a family in mind to be the recipient of this guitar, even well before I was making it, as I had the fabric on hand for awhile before I was able to put it to use, but I wasn’t sure yet what the reason would be for getting it to them. I stewed over that for awhile after completing this project even, but I’ll come back to that, time for pictures!

Koi Flower - Front

I know I’m going to start repeating myself at some point, but you have to remember that these are retrospectives. I am going through my picture folders (the digital term for photo albums) — I’m looking at my computer hard drive people, and these files are telling me that they were taken in the spring of 2007, and one quick glance at your phone will tell you it is now 2013, which means this was 6 six years ago, which I find hard to believe. But what this means is, I’m relying on these pictures I took at the time to jump start something in my memory to tell the story of these guitars, and I may cover some ground that’s been previously treaded, and for that I’m sorry. Ok here we go.

Koi Flower - Front fabric

Fabric template cut.

This fabric was in my small collection at the time, of course I can’t recall where I chose it from…I believe it was from the same mail-order catalog as the “Wild Horses” print.

Side Note: When I find a fabric print I like, I get a yard of it. It’s the unit of measure that they sell the stuff in, so you will halfway sound like you know what you’re talking about, even though you stutter and don’t look nearly like their average customer. A yard is more than you will need, to do front and back even, but it’s always better to have more than you need. Fabric of this nature has a pattern, which repeats. If you get a yard, you have a couple chances at getting the exact same section when going over a guitar body. It’s insurance, incase something goes wrong, which it does sadly. I can cover most everything in these blog posts, and I like to get into detail when I can, but there’s nothing that compares to actually doing it, and that’s where we learn isn’t it? The other reason to get more than you need is, what if you decide later to do the headstock, or the back of the neck, or the back of the guitar body even, or make a matching amp or something. You will have some left over fabric to do so. The thing is, fabric is fleeting, cool prints are limited, and they have a way of disappearing forever, as if they never existed. So get what you can while you can, and keep in mind, you’re competing with quilters out there, and they are many, and they have more money, and more time, than you could ever imagine. That said, if you know any quilters, I bet they have a TON of cool fabric that they would give you to make into a guitar, so time to start making nice with your friends’ mothers and grandmothers.

Koi Flower - SS

Fabric glued. A few coats of sanding sealer.

Ok, back on topic, I gave you way more info on that side bar than I intended, time to scale it back. Here’s a picture of a guitar with fabric on it.

Alright I’m back, I can’t leave you like that, consider it bonus content. Notice how horrible this looks. Not what you pictured right? This, to me, is what’s so cool about this process. It can go from looking like this –>, to the picture at the top. It still blows my mind seeing these pix, or going through my fabric bin and finding scraps from these previous projects, knowing what they became, unbelievable. Anyway, it won’t look like this for long, but you have to go through the long process of applying sanding sealer once the fabric is glued down to the guitar, to build up a layer of clear on top of the fabric. The sanding sealer also hardens and raises the fibers of the fabric, which you later sand down smooth, to remove any resemblance of fabric, which will also lead people to believe you are some amazing painter/artist. My advice? Go with it, I can’t stand that look of disappointment in people’s faces any longer when I have to explain I am a “fake artist”.

Koi Flower - Front SS Cut

Mid Sanding Sealer – Trimmed.Koi Flower - Back SS CutBack of guitar. Mid sanding sealer and trimmed.

White = Primed

White = Primed

After a few coats of sanding sealer, the fabric is hard enough that you can trim the excess and cavities with an exacto knife. Remember to use a fresh blade, as you don’t need the extra trouble of dealing with a frayed edge or something. This is what you will have at this point. Continue with many more coats of sanding sealer, I’m talking like 20, before you start dry sanding with 400 grit.

I went through the process of using super glue around the edge to transition on the last post, so once that is done, and sanded, and plenty of sanding sealer coats have been applied and sanded down smooth and flat, it is time to move forward to primer if you so choose, or paint. I find I like doing a primer coat, because it is a form of checks and balances. Things may look real good with just bare wood, but once you hit it with that primer, things start showing up. You will know if you need to do further prep, re-sanding some spots maybe, or more sanding sealer. Imperfections are quite apparent after primer. The primer helps with the color coat anyway, so better to catch all those imperfections now, so the paint can go on smooth without having to backtrack. Because let’s face it, if you’ve tried doing a fabric finish, there’s so much work that goes into it as far as “prep”, that once you get to paint, you’re practically home free, and to have an issue at that stage in the process, well let me tell you, it’s devastating.




As the picture to the right shows, I did in fact prime the edges to check my work. And once any issues are dealt with, you can safely move on to paint. I chose a beige/cream color to go with this print. I also had chosen some replacement hardware (pick guard, pick up covers, knobs) to go with this new color scheme. Below you can see it after paint, front and back, just did a fade around the edge using a cardboard template of the guitar body set just above the surface.  I just do this with spray cans, and sometimes you can get a little overzealous and more overspray than you desire gets onto the main surface of the body. If this happens, just do some light sanding with a fine grit to remove the excess overspray, you still have that sanding sealer underneath the paint so you’ll be fine, shouldn’t have to worry about a sand thru at this point.


Koi Flower - Painted Front

Front after paint.

Koi Flower - Painted Back

Back after paint.











The next set of pictures below show the body after clear coats have been sprayed, wet sanded, and polished. As you can see, I had major sand throughs on this one by the time it was all said and done. One culprit was some of the fabric wasn’t completely glued down and throughout the process it separated from the body some and created a bubble, so block sanding created the sand thru at those points. It also looks like I probably sanded too much around the edges, which I later learned to stay away from until you get to higher grits. Edges are notorious for sand throughs as those areas don’t get the build up of clear that a flat surface on the guitar gets.  A total bummer but a total learning experience too. All of those sand throughs was one reason there is a “Pt. 2” to this particular guitar.

Koi Flower - Polished Front

Front after polish. Sand throughs, shoot!

Koi Flower - Back Polished

Back after polish. OMG! Major sand throughs! LEARNING!

















Finally it was time to assemble the guitar, adding the aforementioned beige pick guard and accessories.  Not a perfect color match but I prefer it to the stark white.

Koi Flower - Assembled front

Assembled with beige pick guard, pick up covers, and knobs.

Koi Flower - "Lefty" <— After very briefly toying with the notion of turning this into a Hendrix-style righty turned lefty guitar for myself (I needed another guitar like I needed a cushioned toilet seat), I returned to my original idea of giving it to some close friends. And coming up was the 1st birthday of their little girl Anyka, perfect opportunity to give a gift! I mean, what 1 year old girl doesn’t want a custom electric guitar that’s twice the size of them!?

So to prepare, I decided it needed further customization. I turned to a gentleman from the Guitar Reranch forum who makes replica and custom water slide decals.

Custom headstock decal.

Custom headstock decal.

This was my first time doing these, but included were multiples in case I messed up, and a page of detailed instructions. So I was set, and without too much trouble, had a custom headstock. “Anyka Ray” in a Fender-style font in gold lettering with the small block lettering saying “Koi-caster”.

And of course, the guitar gift was a big hit with the birthday girl. 🙂

Anyka and "Uncle" Joe

Confused and loving it.

Koi-Caster at the gift table

The only guitar at the gift table.

I’m gonna wrap this up with a couple more glam shots of the finished guitar. Coming up in the second installment of this project, which I am currently (present day) about to finish up, again, we will find out what happens when a guitar finish reacts chemically to the foam on the guitar stand, and I attempt to improve upon the overall finish of the first attempt. Thanks again for checking this out and sticking through all the blabbing until the end, your reward is two more pictures! 🙂


Koi-caster finished front

Koi-caster finished back

Guitar Retrospective #2: “Black Floral”

My 2nd guitar project began, unusually, with a quilt! My mother is an amazing quilter, and her first quilt for me was also her first queen-sized quilt, so this was like, special. Though I trusted my Mom completely, I wanted to have a small say in how the quilt might look, at least color or print-wise. So after a mother-son shopping trip to the fabric store, we came up with a cool color scheme, based around a floral print with a black background. It had some greens, white, khaki, and pink accents in the flowers! Needless to say the quilt turned out AMAZING, I completely loved it, and for years hung it on the wall of my bedroom so it was always on display, it was perfect for me.

Ibanez RG470L

A year or two later, sometime in the fall/winter of 2004, I had an idea. I wanted to take another shot at refinishing a guitar, only this time, I wanted to do something completely unique. In my mind, it had never been done before. I had never seen it before at least. I soon came to find out that it had in fact been done before, and even found a rough tutorial of the basic steps on how to do what is known as a material finish. I asked my mom if she had any of that fabric left over from my quilt, which she did, obviously wondering what I was going to do with it. I told her I was going to put it on a guitar. “Whaaaat??? How are you going to do that??” I simply said, “glue” and headed home with my fabric. Working from that tutorial, I set to work on my second custom guitar finish. This time I decided to refinish a guitar I already had instead of doing another kit. I started with an Ibanez Rg470, left handed, in boooooringblack. 🙂

As with any new thing you try, you don’t really know if what you’re doing is correct. I was going through a fairly involved process with the attitude of “just do it and see how it turns out, don’t worry too much about it, do what makes the most sense right now, and you’ll learn a lot and improve on the next one.” I had an outline of the basic process to follow, but I ended up having a lot of questions regarding what kind of materials and tools to buy. (As I later came to find out, I hadn’t even scratched the surface yet in regards to proper finishing techniques.) I was almost clueless. But, I finished it with what little I knew. I think it took me probably 4-6 weeks or so, and what I ended up with was something definitely cooler than what I started with.

It had its flaws to be sure, but that was to be expected, and I was very pleased with it. Everyone I showed it to couldn’t believe it was fabric underneath, it looked like it had been painted. (Kinda the idea.) For awhile many thought I had a hidden talent of being some genius painter, and the reason I hadn’t produced any paintings of any kind up to this point was because I had simply not found my canvas of choice yet. Sadly that’s not the case.

The experience gained from attempting something like this has proven to be invaluable, as it lead me to new resources and knowledge that would shape the rest of my projects to come. And the difference in quality between this guitar and the next, was staggering.

I’ve contemplated re-doing this guitar over the years, as I still have some of the original fabric left, but I kinda like what it represents. It reminds me that you have to start somewhere, and there’s no shame in that. That nothing great ever starts out perfect (except for babies ;-)). It reminds me of the mistakes I made, the reason I use a certain product over another, and that the reason for doing something isn’t necessarily to create the most perfect thing. I did this to flex a creative muscle that was just beginning to grow. I did it because I had an idea come to me out of nowhere, and because it’s important to pursue your ideas and practice making them a reality. I did it to create a bond, between something my mother created and something completely different that I created using the same cloth, literally, which of course created a bond between mother and son. We now have a reason to continue fabric shopping together.

And for all those reasons, despite the poor paint job, despite the bumpy, orange-peeled finish, despite the fact that it’s yellowing because I used the wrong product  — this guitar is exactly perfect.

Guitar with matching quilt.