Yesterday was a day filled with fun and also some frustrations. Just because I have been designing for a long time doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes and encounter obstacles. There is no guarantee that things are going to work right every time. Even when I really thought I had everything covered.
I worked on my project for the magazine for a while yesterday. This was the one that I was talking about last week, that I have been thinking about and trying to come up with the best way to accomplish what I needed to. What I decided to make was a topper for a wall calendar. (You know the type – the nice full page calendars with the beautiful artwork on the top page and the month on the lower page. Lang makes them but so do many other companies. You see them in the ‘calendar stores’ in the center of the malls during holidays and they even have them at Wal-mart)
I have seen the frames for these types of calendars that are being sold for over $40.00 (USD) in some places. To me, that is a lot for what you get. Usually they are made of pine and pretty cheesy and one thing I noticed about most of them is the lack of finish on them. I think if people used them in their kitchen (where I would choose to use them) they would be difficult to keep clean and would get kind of sticky eventually from the grease. But that is just me.
When my editor Debbie mentioned that perhaps I would be able to design some sort of calendar for the magazine, this type of item immediately came to mine. I have a full frame that my dear friend Bernie made, but with the limited amount of space that the magazine has for patterns, as well as the fact that most of the projects in the magazine are geared for people with a limited amount of tools, I didn’t feel that making a full frame for the calendar would be a good thing. Besides, as I learned from the one that Bernie made me, all of those larger calendars are not the same size. The one I got from Bernie is almost two inches too narrow for the Lang calendars (which of course are the ones I like best!) and every year I wind up cutting the sides off of my calendars so that they fit into the frame. Now that doesn’t make that much difference, but it is sad to do because the calendars are not cheap and Saturday and Sunday often are butting right up to the frame, or even slightly hidden by it. So it was time to think of an alternative.
I decided that since I want people to be able to accomplish this project without the use of the table saw, I would make a topper only that would hold calendars. I would make it wide enough so that it would fit any size calendar and even if it is a bit wider than the calendar you have, it would still look nice. It would be easy enough to cut on the scroll saw (especially if you align the long straight edge with a milled piece of wood) and would look clean and neat and serve as a vehicle for seasonal decorations.
I drew up a nice crown design that I was pleased with. I even cut an oval recess in it so that you could change the month by placing a name plate into the oval. Part of the pattern will be the scrolled names of each month, cut from 1/8” stock and mounted on an 1/8” oval that would fit right into the oval cavity of the crown.
I also wanted to have some seasonal pieces for each month that would be mounted on the crown so that people can decorate the crown for each season. For instance, in the month of January, the overlays will be snowflakes and perhaps ice skates and a snow man. February would be hearts and cupids and such. You get the idea.
So how was I to get these pieces to attach where they could be easily interchangeable?
Magnets, of course!
I recently ordered some Rare Earth magnets from Lee Valley Tools and I am completely amazed at their strength and size. They are really tiny, but they have incredible holding power. When I saw them and tried them, I immediately got the idea of using them in this project by embedding them into the crown and then attaching washers on the back of the overlay pieces so that they stick. What could be easier? I think it is going to be a wonderful project and I will certainly show you pictures as I progress.
The part that was frustrating was trying to figure out how to hold the calendar on the back in a way that would not only be functional, but also easy to change when you had to change months.
At first I wanted to recess the calendar part in the back by running a rabbet along the bottom straight edge. I actually did this on my prototype and it looked as if it would work. I was going to install a dowel in the center of the rabbet so that you could hang the calendar and then perhaps place a strip of 1/8” stock over the edge, again placed on the dowel, so that it would kind of sandwich the calendar in place. In theory it worked well.
But once the rabbet was cut, I was saddened to see that it wasn’t wide enough to accommodate where the hole was in the calendar. I was really disappointed when I realized this. If I had a table saw and wanted to go wider, I would be fine, but again, I was trying to make this project as simple as possible and I didn’t want to have to use a table saw in the process. I could have re-cut the hole in the calendar and made it closer to the edge, but then there would be little material left to support the weight of the calendar and I thought it would eventually rip. I didn’t want people to have to do that either. If they mis-cut it, they would certainly ruin their calendar. I was quite frustrated because I liked the idea so much and it worked so well in my mind and I just didn’t think of this happening. It just went to show me that sometimes no matter how we think things through, things come up that we just didn’t bargain for.
I decided to use a small screw at the back to hold the calendar in place. I am going to just leave it simple like that, as I honestly can’t think of anything better. I suppose it will still look neat, and it will be sturdy enough, as the calendars are made to be hung by one hole anyway. I was really disappointed that my first ideas didn’t work, but I am sure this will do fine.
My partner Keith noted that the important thing that people are going to look at will be the front of the crown and the way the pieces will interchange so easily to give different looks and I suppose he is right. Sometimes I have a tendency to over-complicate things and it is at these times when I appreciate having a partner to talk some sense into me. After all, I want this project to be fun for people to make and not frustrating from trying to make things fit. This way it is quite universal and most everyone should be able to accomplish it easily.
So I am finally past that stumbling block that I have been up against for the past several days. As I said before, it was something that was a simple idea, but there were many options and I wasn’t sure which one to use to make the project one that would be the most attractive while still being easy to make. It was quite a challenge for me.
Here is a picture of the topper as it stands:
It is only the base for the rest of the designs. It seems like I spent a lot of time to get to this point and after trying a couple of different things, I figured out that basic was the best way to go. I wish my other ideas would have worked. I know in my head they were pretty neat. If I were able to use a table saw it would have been different. But that would have severely limited the audience of those who would be able to make this project and I didn’t want to do that. This will allow just about everyone to be able to do it. That is what is important here.
I am moving onto scrolling the months today and working on the overlays. I also want to embed the magnets into the crown. It is getting there and hopefully everything should go well.
I also get to celebrate the first of three Thanksgiving dinners today at my partner’s parent’s house. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in Canada and we are eating with Keith’s family today and with Bernie and Ellen tomorrow. I already made my stuffing for the occasions so that is ready to go. The third dinner won’t be until the end of November when I celebrate the USA Thanksgiving here. I like to do that and keep that tradition. It makes me feel close to my home country. (And besides, I get to have another turkey dinner!)
So it won’t be my typical ‘painting Sunday’ today, but that is OK. I really want to work on this calendar project and see it come to life. For today, that is going to take precedence over painting. I will make up the painting time another day.
I wish you all a wonderful Sunday today. I hope you spend it doing something you love to do!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"