Woodworking, the Hard Way

With Christmas approaching, Holly wished aloud (and pointedly) for a wooden mantle around the fireplace opening from which to hang stockings. Normally that would be a fun little project — the kind of project that helps to justify having a shop full of nifty tools. But I’m stranded here with nothing more than a Leatherman tool and the wood scraps that Charlie helped me pick from a dumpster the other week. Sounds like a challenge!

The only wood I had in the proper lengths was a chunk of metric-sized 2×4 and a handful of 20mm square “sticks”. The skinny pieces were pretty easy to cut with the Leatherman. The 2×4 took considerably more patience, but was eventually rendered into two pieces. (The second picture below shows the stubby saw blade on the Leatherman as the cutting starts.) A bit of the kids’ craft glue and a few nails, and Voilà! Ok, under other circumstances the end result would be more than a little underwhelming, but hey — we’re talking about a Leatherman and dumpster wood here! I’d planned a fancy coat of paint to help hide the defects, but Holly preferred the “rustic” look.  Either way, it’ll hold up stockings, and that’s the key requirement.

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Buoyed by my “success”, I decided to work on a stand for our soon-to-be-acquired Christmas tree. I figured I could make a simple platform from a pair of crossed pieces, locate a bucket atop them, and nail braces from the base to the tree to keep it upright. (It’s not polite to nail things to one’s Christmas tree, but these are extreme circumstances.) The stand itself came out pretty well.  I’m particularly pleased with the half-lap joint in the crossed pieces, given that it was cut with a Leatherman.

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Some scraps from the mantle project helped locate the bucket (bonus points for working in a Lightning McQueen bucket), and we were almost there.  Theoretically, at least.  When the actual, non-theoretical tree arrived, it proved much more difficult than anticipated to nail the braces from the base to the tree. (Thankfully, I don’t have any pictures of that process, or of the look on Holly’s face as she stoically held the tree upright for 30 minutes while I pondered paths through the lower branches for the braces.)  I also had to fasten pieces to the tree’s butt to center it in the bottom of the bucket, but in the end we had a tree in our living room, standing almost vertically all by itself! (See upcoming post for additional proof.)

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