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cedar magnets with various inlays
wooden turkey with lollipop tailfeathers held together by clamps
cross shaped cedar magnet with green voronoi pattern inlay
workspace with magnet and turkey projects stacked on desk
compass tracing an arc on a cedar plank
screenshot of voronoi cross magnet setup in Inventables easel software
flying v magnet being milled on Shapeoko 2 CNC machine
freshly poured and overflowing blue resin in flying v magnet inlay

I have survived Christmas yet again. Based on the delay between posts one can probably assume that this was a notable achievement. Truth be told, it really wasn’t that bad. It was a very enjoyable holiday, and I got a lot done as well.

Below is a brief summary of the projects I wrapped up during the final hours and some of the gifts I gave away this year. 

The Ultimate Gift Shop: You

I have always been a firm believer that handmade or personally designed gifts beat something from the store every single time. No contest. The intrinsic value of such a gift is immeasurable and the level of personalization is practically unlimited. Remember that finger painting you gave Mom in the 1st grade? Yeah…

For this reason, I would estimate that, to date, the clear majority of things that I make are gifts. I’ve scored some major victories and have garnered somewhat of a reputation for giving unique things. This year was no exception.

And let's not forget that, when you make your own gifts, you control the delivery schedule. I have gotten myself out of several jams and pulled off some last-minute miracles this way. I am certain the delivery guy appreciates it as well.

Turkey Dinner

For Thanksgiving I whipped up a bare-bones turkey with lollipop plumage as an impromptu gift for my sucker-loving niece and nephew. It was a hit, although I suspect the bag of Dum-Dums included had something to do with that…

There was a spark of interest in the turkey among the Thanksgiving dinner attendees, so I whipped up a couple more to hand out as Christmas gifts. Of course, this also provided an opportunity to iterate on the design and fix some small issues encountered in Version 1.0. Namely, dowels to increase rigidity and aid in aligning the four layers while gluing them together.

I also took the opportunity to record some more video of the process that I hope to combine into a project summary video. As stated in a recent post, this is all part of my YouTube channel proof of concept and will integrate nicely into development of a new Instructable or something similar.

My main concern with the project is that I fear I am being characterized as some sort of turkey lover. Maybe I am. After all, it is delicious… Reason being is the crowning jewel of my DIY gifting was a junk turkey I built last Christmas and the number of turkey gifts has risen by 200% this year. That’s an alarming figure.

Making The Fridge, i.e. Magnets

The turkey project left me with a fair amount of leftover ¾” x 6” cedar plank that I was happy to use up on some other giftage. The application that I went for was fridge magnets. But these weren’t just any fridge magnets…they were special.

The Flying V

First, and most notable, was the “Flying V” logo. This design was the product of another journey into branding, symbolism, and graphic design that I intend to describe in further detail later. To test out some new finishing techniques, two iterations were completed for the Flying V; one with resin inlay, one painted.

The painted version was the decided favorite. The flat black against the light-colored cedar made for some great contrast and was a nice touch around the perimeter edges as well. The effect was accomplished by applying a liberal amount of spray paint to the entire exposed surface (top, sides, and inlay) of the milled piece, and then sanding off the layer of paint on the top surface. Unfortunately, I made a strong attempt at ruining the whole thing by trying to seal it with tung oil. Lesson learned.

While it looks cool from a distance, I was somewhat disappointed in the resin inlay. Color was perfect and finish was good too, but there was a lot of bleeding along the edges. I am attributing most of this to the soft, porous composition of cedar, but it could just be the resin or prep work.

I also observed a notable amount of warping in the resin version, which seems to have spawned from the preheating of the material prior to pouring resin. As prior experience would suggest, heating up the material to help evacuate entrapped air bubbles in the resin is a very important step. However, I suppose I will need to be much more vigilant when the material involved is soft wood.

Voronoi Cross

The second magnet was a small cross featuring a Voronoi pattern (quickly becoming my favorite go-to design element). Nothing too fancy here other than I cut out the Voronoi paths (or mesh) instead of the voids between them. This is the inverse of what I typically cut and was done mainly for utility purposes --- toolpaths in the voids were too small for my 1/8” bit. I quite like the results and now hope to incorporate the new-found technique in some future projects.

The piece was finished in a similar manner to the painted Flying V, with the obvious exception being the paint color. The result, in my mind, was a wonderful manifestation of the spray-and-sand technique described earlier. Cutting the lines rather than the voids increased the surface area of bare wood, which I can see being very desirable in a higher quality piece of stock with a more detailed grain.

Christmas Cheer

Overall, I would say my gifts were well received. I have definitely done better, but I am still very happy with the way things turned out. This was the inaugural holiday season for my CNC machine, and it did not let me down.

I really like the spray-and-sand method of filling shallow inlays, and will most definitely be breaking it out again soon. My doweling and general woodworking technique still needs some work but I feel that I am up to the challenge.

Presently, I am hoping that the new year will provide a reprieve from all the running around and distractions that are the holidays, giving me some time to get back in the shop and get cranking on some projects (and posts). We shall see what 2016 holds.