Friday, February 27, 2015

Making a Plastic Grocery Bag Dispenser!

For the 2015 Kitchen Utensil Challenge, I made a Plastic Grocery Bag Dispenser!  The challenge was to make any project for the kitchen and be creative.   In case you didn't notice, a bunch of us YouTube woodworkers have posted kitchen project videos to inspire you to make something for your kitchen.  No prizes, no trash talk, just FUN!  Watch this video to see how I replaced a large plastic bag full of small plastic bags with a space-saving dispenser.

This project is just a simple box with two holes in it, but I did have some basic requirements:
  • It should fit in a small space and hold a lot of bags.
  • The top hole should be be large for easy stuffing.
  • I wanted to be able to grab a bag easily without looking.
  • The holes and bags should be concealed and not visible.
  • It should look nice and somewhat decorative.

Building the box was the easy part.  It measures about 24" tall x 11.25" wide x 5.5" deep.  The hole in the top is 3.5" in diameter.  The slot in the bottom is 1.5" wide x 6.5" long.  A rabbet is cut in the back of all four sides to recess the 1/4" plywood back.

I tossed around a few ideas about how to attach the box to the wall so it was flush and secure.  I thought about attaching it with screws through the top and bottom holes, but that seemed like it would be difficult.  I ended up making the front panel removable so I could drive screws through the box into plastic wall anchors.

The removable front panel is handy for cleaning, plus it inspired me to get creative with adding some decoration.  I used my Inventables Shapeoko 2 CNC Machine to carve Spring/Summer graphics on one side and Fall/Winter graphics on the other side.  Just flip it over when the seasons change!  I may paint the carved graphics to make them stand out more.

About 40 other woodworkers participated in the 2015 Kitchen Utensil Challenge and shared videos of their projects too!  Click here to watch a playlist of all the videos!  That should fill you up with enough inspiration to get into the workshop and make a kitchen-related project of your own!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Woodworking in America 2015 Meet and Greet Announcement

Popular Woodworking is having their Woodworking in America conference in Kansas City, MO on September 25-27.  This year, a group of us YouTube woodworkers have joined together to reserve a booth at the marketplace for a meet and greet.  If you can make it to the show, stop by our booth and say hello!  For more information about the booth, visit our new website at!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I Built a Shapeoko 2 CNC Machine and It Works!

I have spent the last seven days building, testing, and using my new Shapeoko2 CNC milling machine. asked me if I would like to have one of their CNC machines at no cost to use in my shop and give them my review/feedback.  Yes please!  Watch my video of the build and my first CNC project below.

When the package arrived, the first thing I noticed was how heavy it was.  I put the box in the shop where it sat for a few days until I had a good chunk of time on the weekend to dig into it.

My first impression of the contents was that it was made from quality materials and there sure were a lot of parts to assemble...and I mean A LOT!  I had heard that it can take 12 hours to assemble, which sounded intimidating, but I've always loved putting together Erector Sets and Lego kits so I was looking forward to it.

The first step was to assemble 20 wheels and 6 idlers.  This involved pressing bearings and washers into some plastic wheels and it was a breeze.

The next step was to attach the wheels and idlers to four carriage plates.  They were all basically the same, except one did not have the idlers attached.  Motors were attached to three of them.

The instructions warned that the Z-Axis assembly is complex and requires patience.  That did not scare me and it was actually pretty straight-forward, considering the parts lists and exploded diagrams in the documentation were extremely helpful.  Note:  The instructions mention brass standoffs, but these are not brass anymore, so look for nickel the nickel ones shown in my video.

Be prepared to tap 18 holes in the ends of the aluminum extruded MakerSlides.  Go slow and use WD-40 as a lubricant.  Make a quarter-turn cut forward then two quarter-turns back and repeat until you get to the end of the threads on the tap.  Take your time!

Up until this point, the build was a bunch of sub-assemblies that did not resemble a CNC machine at all.  Finally in this step, I could see the machine starting to come together by assembling the Gantry, Y-Axis assembly, and the base work area.

Connecting the wiring was really easy with the provided terminal blocks.  The wires were connected with screws, which made it easy to correct any mistakes.  Plus, I liked this option because it would be easy to disconnect them if I wanted to make a change or do an upgrade, as opposed to soldering the connections.

To complete the electronics, I pressed together the G-Shield and Arduino, then connected the X/Y/Z cables, as well as the power supply and USB.

I used the Universal G-Code Sender App to test the direction of each axis movement.  I had never even heard of this app before, but if I can do it, anyone can!  After making a few adjustments, I was ready to try the "Hello, World" job with a Sharpie.

In my video, you see my successful attempt which was actually my third attempt after two fails.  On my first attempt, the sharpie was raised into the air and began writing above the paper.  On my second attempt, the Sharpie was driven into the paper really hard and the tip was pressed into the pen.  After replacing the Sharpie and making a couple of directional adjustments, IT WORKED!

I decided my first attempt at carving would be my logo.  I thought it would be neat to include it at the end of my video with my usual ending phrase "Thanks for watching!".  My first wood carving turned out great and required very little sanding to remove a few fuzzies.

Thanks to for sending me the Shapeoko 2 CNC machine!  I really appreciate having it and I plan to pay it forward by making things for people to put smiles on their faces.  After getting familiar with it this week, I still don't think I fully understand everything this machine can do, but I sure do plan to have fun exploring the possibilities!

Oh, and one more thing, this machine is a great way to get kids into the workshop and interested in woodworking!  My 12-year-old daughter designed this herself with Inventables' EASEL web application and sent it to the machine to carve it out.  She's awesome!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Scroll Saw Portrait Picture Frame

Charles Dearing made a scroll saw portrait of me as a gift, so I made a scroll saw blade picture frame for it. Watch how I made the frame from a 10-foot 2x4 below.  Thanks for the awesome portrait Charlie!

Below is Charlie's video showing the process of cutting the portrait out of wood. I know this took him many hours of work and I really appreciate this wonderful gift.

It was difficult to decide how to build a frame that would enhance but not distract from Charlie's beautiful work. I wasn't sure how the idea I had in my head would look in reality, but I am really pleased with how it turned out.

Please visit and follow Charlie at the links below and tell him Steve sent ya!