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Thread: Making Seasonal Lawn Ornaments

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
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    Making Seasonal Lawn Ornaments

    (part 1 of 2)

    I purchased full size plans on the Wood Magazine internet site for these ornaments:

    lawn figure - father christmas.bmp Click image for larger version. 

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    Right now I am part way through making two of each figure and this afternoon I finished a Snowman and installed it on our front lawn.
    As with most my projects, I keep illustrated notes of the progress. This post, as well the next one, document the project to date.

    Nov 23: Today I received the plans. I am not yet sure who will get which or just how many of these that I will make. I will be purchasing the plywood ASAP. The plans call for some sort of moisture resistant MDF that no one I have spoke to has ever heard of. I might just go with half inch fir and put lots of paint on it.

    Nov 27: I did more research on the best wood for the figures and ended up deciding upon 11mm Crezon “sign board” costing $46 a sheet. The place I found to get it was Peacock Lumber in Oshawa. They open at 7:30 and I was there at opening time this morning. I decided to make two of each of the four figures and, according to the pattern cutting diagrams, this means that three sheets are needed. I bought one extra sheet on spec. It looks like good stuff.

    Dec 2: I got a good start on the Christmas lawn ornament project this week. But, it is time consuming (my guess is 25 hours so far) and there is still a LOT to do. I will document the steps taken:

    01) The full size patterns that I purchased appear to be quite good. The pattern is placed over graphite paper over the sign board. I started to trace the outline with a pencil but Margaret suggested that I should be us a pattern tracing wheel instead. She lent me one from her sewing room and, after a false start or two, I found that it words very well –certainly faster and better than tracing with a pencil.

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    That’s the pattern tracing wheel with a green handle in the picture above.

    02) The lines imparted to the underlying wood by the graphite were faint but sufficient to be able to cut along them with a jigsaw:

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    I used a very fine blade (20 teeth per inch) for cutting and it worked well –able to make very sharp turns and to cut quickly when sharp. But this is a big job and, by the time, I was finished I had worn out four of the five Festool blades of this type that I own. This is a 5-pack that I purchased three years ago and I was still using the first one when I started the job. I hope that I can find similar Bosch blades somewhere because I am not likely to be placing and Festool supply order for quite a while.

    03) Most of the edges of most of the parts are supposed to be rounded over with a 3/8 inch round-over bit. I experimented using my hand-held router both with a large part (shown below) and an with an intermediate-size part clamped to a table.

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    It worked fine for the large part but the clamp-route-rotate-clamp-route-… procedure was too tedious for the smaller part. I will try them in my router table. The really small ones will just have their edges sanded.

    04) I am finding that the best set-up for cutting out the smaller parts is to clamp the board to my unfinished workbench using a Festool quick-release hold-down clamp.

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    I am surprised at just how well and steady this holds the sign-board, even with the large overhangs such as that in the photo above.

    05) Part of the reason for the steadiness mentioned above is the solidness of the sign board. At first glance, it appears to just be paper glued to fir ply. But, it is heavier, there are very very few voids, and there are never any chips along the cut line. I also did an experiment where I submersed a piece underwater overnight and then dried it for 8 hours. After that, I could not tell the soaked piece from a regular piece. Another feature of the sign board is that fewer coats of paint are required to seal the edges.

    06) The really small parts were cut on my scroll-saw

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    07) Friday, I decided to make two of each figure and set an objective to have all the parts cut by Sunday night. I made it:

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    There are 132 parts. I managed to cut all this from 2.5 sheets of sign board. That’s half a sheet less than it would have taken if I had always adhered to the cutting diagrams that came with the pattern.
    Cheers, Frank

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    (part 2 of 2)

    Dec 3: I rounded over, sanded, and put the first coat of paint on all the parts for the two snowmen. I also purchased a set of solar powered spotlights at Canadian Tire –I think that they work Ok but will need to wait until there is an ornament to shine a light on before deciding for sure.

    08) I used the router table for all parts except the main snowman part, the main snowwoman part, the main child part, and the main Father Christmas part. In order to handle the small parts safely, I visited Lee Valley and purchased this small parts jig. It’s fiddly to use, but, it did the job on the half dozen parts that I tried it with.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    09) I used these two sanders to “finish” the back of each part:

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    The sander on the right was used to smooth over the edges and the one on the left (which has a simple linear motion only) was used to smooth the surfaces.

    10) Some of the parts are just too small to round over with a router. What to do? I set my Festool Deltex sander (which is reasonably aggressive) upside down into a Record mechanics vise and gripped it lightly there:

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    Sanding this way was slow but faster than completely doing the job by hand.

    aside: looking at all the pictures of this project so far, I see that there is a Festool tool in half of them (and I have even used a couple of Festool tools not shown in any pictures). One might think that this is a Festool add but it isn’t –that’s just the brand of most of my hand-held power tools.

    Dec 4: I put two more coats of paint on the snowmen parts and rounded over and sanded all the parts for all the figures. I also purchased some paint that I thought would be the right colour for Father Christmas and painted one of them to try it out, but it is too red. What I am looking for is a dark Burgundy, and it appears to be hard to locate paint of this shade –even with all the mixing and colour-matching equipment out there.

    11) Today, the small parts jig proved to be a disappointment. The two clamping surfaces a strictly parallel, and they are not good at hold really odd shaped pieces such as those shown in the photo below:

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    I found one of two things. The ratcheting mechanism would slip when attempting to tighten the jaws around the part or the jaws would tighten on the part but they would be gripping such a small portion of the edges that the router would tear it loose in action.

    The combined use of pliers and a hold down stick as shown above did the trick.

    I think that I will write to Lee Valley about the problem with odd shaped pieces in their small parts jig and that I will probably return it.

    Dec 7: Only about four hours was spent on this project over the last three days. The two snowmen have been completed and one installed in our front garden, but little more has been accomplished.

    12) Holes were drilled through the main snowman part in preparation for screwing all the sub-parts to it:

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    13) The sub-parts were clamped in place a few at a time then the figures was flipped over and screwed together from behind. A brace on a simple hinge was also installed.

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    aside: There’s yet another Festool tool in the picture.


    14) The snowman was placed in our front garden and a solar powered spotlight was placed to shine upon it:

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    All the parts have been painted with Tremclad gloss rust paint -three coats on the front and sides and one on the back. I think that this should be sufficient but, if not, it will be easy to takes things apart and repaint them.

    15) In looking around for the best colour for Father Christmas, I spotted my Incra Miter Express. That colour would be perfect. Home Depot has attempted to match it with CIL external semi-gloss –they don’t have a gloss base that can be tinted dark red. The match is not perfect but it is close enough:

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    This paint, unlike the Tremclad, will need to be covered with a couple of coats of gloss spar varnish.
    Cheers, Frank

  3. #3
    Don Taylor is offline Former Member (by the member's request)
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    Great work Frank !

    I can do the wood working part but don't have an artist bone in my whole body.

    DT

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don Taylor View Post
    Great work Frank !

    I can do the wood working part but don't have an artist bone in my whole body.

    DT
    Thanks Don.

    I wish I had more artistic skills. The good news is that it takes very little artistic skills (maybe even none) to make these figures. You just trace what is on the plan, then apply some paint where they say to apply it.
    Cheers, Frank

  5. #5
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    Quite the project, Frank. Looking at the pictures at the beginning of your first post, they didn't look very complicated. I see now there is a lot more there than one might think. Nice job so far.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  6. #6
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    Smile My snow man now has company

    Our snow man now has company.

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    By the way, the lonnggg necked Vise Grip clamps that I use with some pocket hole joinery came in really handy for clamping some of the parts of the snow lady:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Cheers, Frank

  7. #7
    Frank, Those look really great. Are you going to be taking orders?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Hoffman View Post
    Frank, Those look really great. Are you going to be taking orders?
    Thanks Tom.

    I might build a couple more sets next year for some close friends but that would be all. I get bored making things a number of times and I doubt that I could charge enough for these to tolerate the boredom.
    Cheers, Frank

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Great work Frank

    So you are already in the "snow" season...we start from tomorrow...if the weather man is correct...

    You know that there are also other brands except Festool Labriut (to your health - Hebrew)

    Regards
    niki

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niki Avrahami View Post
    Great work Frank
    Thanks Niki.


    Quote Originally Posted by Niki Avrahami View Post
    So you are already in the "snow" season...we start from tomorrow...if the weather man is correct...
    Yes, we have had snow for about three weeks. Where are you located Niki?

    Quote Originally Posted by Niki Avrahami View Post
    You know that there are also other brands except Festool Labriut (to your health - Hebrew)

    Regards
    niki
    Yes, and I even have some of them. But, when Festool makes a tool type, that is usually the brand that I get.
    Cheers, Frank

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