Sunday, September 28, 2014

Invisible Birdhouse

I made this Invisible Birdhouse for the 2014 Summers Woodworking Birdhouse Contest.  It's made from reclaimed cedar fence boards with mirrors to make it appear invisible.  Watch the video below to see how it was made.

Birds can be frightened or intimidated by their own reflection, so I did not place any mirrors on the front entrance of the birdhouse.  The mirror on the bottom of the front side is angled downward for this reason as well.

The mirrors are attached with rubber cement and hot melt glue, and I sanded the mirror edges smooth so they will not cause harm to birds.  Time will tell if the bluebirds will actually use it or not.  Hopefully I can catch some of them on video real soon!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Screen Printing Hats and Caps

Screen Printing is FUN!  I've gotten pretty good at printing t-shirts, so I thought I would try printing my own hats.  Here is a video showing the 10-Step Process that I used to get some pretty decent results.

Shopping List!  If you would like to try screen printing, below is a list of the supplies that I used with links to where you can purchase them.

Money Saving Tip!  Hobby Lobby has a small selection of screen printing supplies in their stores.  If you have a store nearby, check their website for a 40% off one item coupon to save on ink, fabric, squeegees, and other supplies.

Instructions!  After watching my 10-Step Process video, read through the steps below for further details.
  1. Print out your logo and get a transparency made at the copy shop.  Avoid using extremely small text and thin lines in your logo if you can.  If you use fonts and artwork that look worn and rugged, like the Cheap Trick logo, then that helps to conceal misprints because they look messed up anyway. Make your entire logo solid black with no shades of gray or blends/gradients. For a hat logo, a good size is about 2.25” tall and up to 4” wide.  I printed 4 versions of my logo to make use of the entire sheet.  The copy shop will simply put a clear transparency sheet in the manual feed tray of a copier, then make a copy of your logo.
  2. Make a small wood frame for the logo.  Sides should be about ¼ to ½” thick so that your logo does not print too far up on the hat.  You could also use a small picture frame or artist canvas frame.  A 4x6" frame is a good size.
  3. Stretch sheer curtain fabric tightly over the frame and secure it with a staple gun.  You can get this material from a fabric store.  Trim the excess material and remove any stray threads that could get into the emulsion..
  4. Order some EX1 emulsion from  It comes with light sensitive diazo powder that you need to mix in thoroughly.  Spread a thin layer onto the screen and remove as much excess as you can.  Make your last squeegee pass on the inside of the screen.  Let it dry in a dark place flat side down.  A sealed box is good for keeping it in the dark.
  5. Place the dried screen flat side up about 18” under the 150 watt light.  Put your logo transparency on it backwards and use a clean piece of glass to hold it down.  Turn on the light and expose it for about 25 minutes.  Note:  This time could vary depending on how thin or think the emulsion is on the screen.  It make take you several tries to get a usable screen, but don't give up!
  6. Run water over the whole screen for a few minutes to weaken the emulsion in the logo area.  Carefully spray the emulsion out of the logo area.  Spray as little as possible so as not to damage the surrounding emulsion.  Hold the screen up to the light to make sure the logo area is clear of all emulsion and not blocked.
  7. Hold the screen up to a light and inspect for any stray pinholes.  Use a small brush to fill them with emulsion.  Place the screen under the light again until it is dry.  This additional exposure to the light will also help cure the remaining emulsion.
  8. Cover the frame with duct tape to make it easier to clean.  This also prevents ink from squeezing through the sides and corners and any overlooked pinholes.
  9. Make a platen that will hold the hats flat while you print them.  (Refer to the photo and dimensions provided at the end of this post.)
  10. This is the fun part.  Print your logo onto hats.  Order 5-panel hats that do not have a seam in the front for a smoother printing surface.  Fold out the lining strip that goes around the inside of the hat and slide the brim into the platen.  Work the hat so the front is flat on the platenThe hat needs to be as flat and tight as possible. You can use spray tack adhesive and spring clamps to help hold it in place.  Center the screen and make 2-3 passes.  Carefully lift the screen to see how you did.  After it dries, heat-set the ink with a blow dryer or a heat gun for a few minutes, but be careful not to burn it.  You can print multiple hats one after another, but when you are done printing, wash the ink out of your screen immediately!  Do not let the ink dry in your screen because it will ruin it.
Pro Tips!  Below are some great tips from professional screen printers who have seen my video and commented to help out us hobbyists.  I will update this section with more tips as I receive.  Thanks to the pros for taking the time to share their knowledge with us!
  • "You need "off-contact" for a cleaner print. This means a space between your printing substrate and your screen. Normally about 1/8th of an inch. You can achieve this by taping coins to the bottom of your screen." (Thanks Richie R!)
  • "You also want a really tight screen - you should be able to drop a coin on it and have it bounce. The tight screen will help shear the ink for sharper prints." (Thanks Richie R!)
  • "Tape dimes on the underside corners of your screens to lift it off the hat a little, that way the fabric snaps back up after the squeegee passes. Gives you a cleaner print." Thanks Rick M!
Platen Instructions!  I made my platen out of a 6" wide piece of 3/4" thick MDF.  The base is 6"x6".  The upright is 6"x5".  The platen support is 6"x2.5".  My platen is 6"x3.5", which is mainly based on the size of my screen.  Make sure the screws in the platen are near the sides away from the logo printing area.  CLICK HERE TO BUY ONE FROM ME!

Challenges!  Screen printing is an art and it takes practice.  Allow yourself to mess up a few screens and hats when you’re just getting started.  Keep practicing, try different techniques, and don't give up!

My Results!  In the video, you can see the first four hats I printed and they got progressively better.  It took me four tries to get one that looked pretty decent.   I need to get some more hats so I can keep practicing and tweaking my technique.  I will get one that looks perfect!  :o)  Oh, and you can also use these screens to print on shirts, bags, shorts, and other fabric items.  Flat stuff is a lot easier to print on.

That's a Wrap!  My screen printing method may not be the best method, but it will get your new hobby started on a limited budget.  Try printing some stuff for your family and friends, and if you enjoy it, maybe you would like to eventually invest in pro-level supplies and equipment and start your own screen printing business!  Good luck and most importantly HAVE FUN!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Woodworking In America 2014 Experience

On Saturday, September 13th, 2014, my alarm clock went off at 5am.  I knew it was going to be a long fun-filled day at the Woodworking In America conference in Winston-Salem, NC, so I jumped out of bed and got going.  It actually turned out to be one of the best days ever!

I was on the road by 6am with a full tank of gas and a drive-thru breakfast.  I drove four hours straight without stopping while watching the sun rise through the clouds.  I couldn't wait to get there.  It was easy to find the Benton Convention Center and parking was free!  (It's the little things.)

My main purpose for attending the conference was to meet fellow YouTube woodworking video creators.  So, instead of paying to attend classes, I purchased the $8 ticket to get into the Marketplace where all of my online woodworking buddies were hanging out.  I'm really glad WIA had this less expensive option for people like me who just want to meet people and browse.

Thanks to Sterling and Austin Davis for this great photo!

(I'm still trying to remember everybody.  Please remind me if I missed you.)

As soon as I walked in, I saw the one and only Steve Ramsey of Woodworking for Mere Mortals.  After meeting Steve, I started walking around the marketplace to look for more familiar faces.  It seemed like every time I turned a corner, I ran into another one of my YouTube woodworking friends.  Up until this moment, they were all pixel people on my computer screen and now they were real live 3D people!

Suddenly, that event became something bigger and better - the marketplace became a meeting place, a gathering place.  I got to meet many of my favorite woodworkers in person, plus I got to meet a lot of my subscribers and viewers.  I was surprised at how may people recognized me from my videos.  I even got to share a Mellow Mushroom pizza with Steve Ramsey and Izzy Swan!  How cool is that?!

The day flew by so quickly and I didn't see much of the marketplace, but I did stop by the Peachtree Woodworking Supply booth to talk to my peeps from the Atlanta store where our Gwinnett Woodworkers Association meets.  Fellow Gwinnett Woodworker Ron Brown was there and he always has awesome new woodturning stuff that makes me want to turn more than just pens.

After the conference, we all walked over to the District Rooftop Bar for Steve Ramsey's Mega Me-Mo Meet-Up!  I had a great time talking with Steve and my online woodworking friends, as well as spending quality time with my viewers.  I took lots of selfies!

This is Chris. He watches my videos and he is also a fellow Woodworker/Musician, so we had a lot to talk about.

Since I drove my car instead of flying, I was able to bring some of my favorite projects with me, like my wooden sandwich, tongue drum, and pocket hole lamp.  At the end of the night, I brought them up to the rooftop bar for people to check out.  I think they liked seeing my video projects in person.  I even got Laney Shaughnessy and Steve Ramsey to sign my Whac-A-Woodworker Whirligig!

As the bar was closing and people began walking back to their hotels, I was loading my projects back into my car and I realized that I'd just had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one of the best days ever.  Most likely, the chances are slim that this group of woodworkers will be able to meet up again due to logistics, but I hope we can someday!  Maybe in the future Woodworking In America will include a session for YouTube woodworkers...That would be awesome!

Have you ever felt like you were doing what you were meant to do, at the right time, in the right place, and with the right people?  It's hard to explain, but that's what it felt like.  I'm already looking forward to the next meet up!