While I’ve been involved in the lives and upbringing of several kids (a few of whom are now adults, or a reasonable approximation thereof), a year and a half ago or so I became a biological uncle. And there are certain things that are expected of uncles.
My image of this involved road trips through the American Southwest in a convertible Cadillac, culminating by getting banned from several casinos and being frog-marched to the outskirts of Vegas by the local constabulary, but that should probably wait ‘til he’s at least got his learner’s permit.
Scaling back a little bit, potato cannons or blowing things up in other ways are always a good fallback, but when they’re that small their little fingers can’t really operate a lighter, especially with these newfangled safety catches they put on ‘em, so “boom” is out for the moment. And he’s already learning to talk, so my opportunity for first words is gone, “La ga voo lin, neat” is right out (“No, really, names of Scotches count as a foreign language!”).
So I’m building him a rocking horse. Almost annoyingly wholesome and traditional, but he’s got his whole life in front of him to experience the sorts of debauchery and partying that I envision in his future, so we’ll start with the mundane.
At this point, those of you who’ve built a rocking horse are snickering at my use of the word “mundane”. When I asked about toys I could build him and my sister said “a rocking horse”, I too had a moment of “by the time I finish carving that, he’ll have paid off his house”, and, sensing my hesitation, she scaled back to “or a helicopter”, and I agreed that perhaps a helicopter was a more reasonable solution.
But as I started to look at how to build a toy helicopter… well… I could cut out the profile, slap rotors on it, poof, but that seemed… well… anti-climactic (not anti-climatic, that’s global warming). And I could build something incredibly detailed, with working cyclic controls (a great educational opportunity!) and doors and people… for someone who’s probably going to chew on it. And as I was searching around, trying to find inspiration for a reasonable compromise, I stumbled across http://www.freerockinghorseplans.com/ .
Which looked doable. Easy even. And I could build it out of 2×12 fir, cheap and easy to work. In fact, I could even use the 6” blade on the jig saw, clamp pieces together and do the cuts side by side…
Lessons learned so far: First, no matter how much I want to think that that 6” blade on the jigsaw is just as good as a bandsaw? Yeah, it ain’t. Which brings me to:
Second, no matter how easy it is to screw up and sand too deeply when you’re in the finishing phase, bringing two pieces of “2 by” “kiln dried FSC certified” (ie: standing water on the surface) fir to the same profile with a sander, even with a sanding drum on a drill, takes a looong time and generates a lot of sawdust.
Even with the fancy Festool dust collection.
So the “12 hours” that Shopsmith (the provider of those plans) estimates? Yeah, if I’d done this right and built some templates and used a router and a bearing bit to bring the profiles to their final dimensions, that’d work. But I’m betting I’ve got another 12 hours yet of sanding.
On the other hand, much like some things my grandfather made for me, I’m hoping that this will be the sort of memory he’ll tear up a bit when thinking about several decades hence.
Further updates as the project progresses…
-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/User:DanLyke