Designing a Hopper Window

Hopper Window Open

I’ve never built a window. I never had a real need to. That is until someone contacted me about building a window sash for a stained glass window she designed. As much as I tried to convince her that a fixed-pane window would be easier, less expensive, and quicker, she insisted on a ventilating hopper window. My first thoughts on a design are shown here. Continue reading “Designing a Hopper Window”

Kunkel & Son a Hidden Treasure in Nashville

Kunkel & Son Mahogany Door CarvingWhile I was visiting Fort Houston, I was wandering through the old factory/warehouse building and stumbled upon a room that felt like I had stepped back in time about 100 years. Like the wardrobe in “Narnia,” I was in another world. It was a huge wood shop with benches and hand tools all along two walls. The wood floor was covered in sawdust, shavings from hand planes, and chips from carving. There were all sorts of projects in various states of completion from gothic church carvings to modern benches with aluminum butterfly keys.

As I stood there taking in the site of benches and walls loaded with carving and hand tools, an older gentleman steps out from the shadows in the back and asks, “Can I help you?” It was apparent he wasn’t used to visitors in this back corner of a warehouse. I told him I had just stumbled into the room and was admiring his work and tool collection. He immediately pointed out a few of his tools that had belonged to his great grandfather. After asking his permission to snap some photos, we struck up a lively conversation and he proceeded to show me some of his unique projects.

One project was the bench that had been made by his father and carved with his name. Then he stoops down and grabs an odd-looking wood box with a large hole in the top. Turns out it’s a vacuum-assisted carving vise. He picked up an old bowling ball that had a short piece of pipe with a wood block stuck in it. He places the ball on the box, hooks up a vacuum, and clamps his carving to the pipe stem. The vacuum creates a tenacious hold on the bowling ball yet it can be pivoted to any position. Ingenious. Next he had to show me the carving vise he made from an old dentist’s chair. He can elevate the work with a foot pedal. Brilliant.

His son soon came out of the back room and they told me about some of the work they have done, some nationwide for retail stores. Their website shows you some of the more interesting projects they’ve done.

JET Tools Targeting a Younger Audience

I had an opportunity recently to visit with JET/Powermatic in Nashville, Tennessee. They introduced a few new tools: Powermatic PM1000 Table SawJET 14″ Steel Frame Band Saw, and soon to come, a 10″ low-speed bench grinder and a couple of new midi lathes.

But what was most interesting was a chat I had with their engineer, Barry. He said that from a design perspective, they’re really paying attention to details and a potential buyer’s first impressions. He reiterated what others in the product design industry have noted: Your decision to buy or not to buy a product is really made within the first few seconds of seeing it.

JET tools are made overseas in Taiwan. Most manufacturers are content to paint the castings their company color right out of the foundry and call it “done.” JET is raising the bar by really paying attention to detail and aesthetics of their products. For example, he said that by simply spending $5 more for a quality metal knob instead of a cheap plastic knob can increase the perceived value of a tool by $100. That’s pretty impressive.

They’re also looking at the overall design and visual appeal of the tools in addition to their function and features. The 14″ band saw pictured here is one example. There are no exposed fasteners as you look at the front of the saw. The doors have pleasing curves rather than the bland square features of other saws. They’re little things but I have to agree that they leave a positive impression of the quality of the tool.

And JET isn’t forgetting about how well the tool works and functions. They’re paying attention to details that make a difference in how the tool performs. One striking example is as simple as the location of the dust ports on the new band saw. They’re located to catch the majority of sawdust before gumming up the tires on the wheels.

Finally, I learned that JET will be targeting a younger audience with its upbeat advertisements. They’re also tweaking the design of the JET logo and will be experimenting with the trademark white paint color. All in all, JET/Powermatic is investing heavily in the woodworking market and I’m very interested to see how they revamp their product lines in the coming months and years.


SketchUp on Windows 8 Tablet

SketchUp on Windows 8 Tablet
Sketchup on an Acer 8″ Windows 8 Tablet

I recently had the opportunity to try using SketchUp on an Acer Iconia 8″ Tablet. You can install standard Windows applications on this tablet. What you see on the left is screen capture on the tablet of a SketchUp model I downloaded from ShopNotes magazine. The user interface in SketchUp was designed for use with a mouse so I was curious to see how it behaved on the Windows 8 tablet interface.

I was disappointed to find out that SketchUp ignores the Windows 8 tablet right-click function (press and hold). Since the use of context menus via right-clicking is critical for efficient SketchUp use, you’re pretty much limited to the native, default tool functions. I also discovered that using my large fingers for drawing functions was pretty frustrating. So I switched to using a capacitive stylus which gave me much more control of precise cursor movement. But I still wasn’t able to access the context menus normally available by right-clicking.

I quickly learned that to be as productive on the tablet as I am on my laptop or desktop PC, I need to use a mouse. Since I didn’t have a bluetooth mouse, a USB mouse worked great. (You’ll need an adapter to convert from the micro USB port on the tablet to a standard USB port.) I felt more at home using the mouse.

But there was still the issue of using the keyboard for input into the Value Control Box. Using the popup Windows 8 keyboard didn’t seem to work for me. Fortunately, Acer makes a bluetooth keyboard that also serves as a stand for the tablet. It’s a $60 option, but if you want to do any serious typing while sitting at a coffee shop or at home, it’s the way to go. With the keyboard connected, entering values was a cinch. The setup I use for serious SketchUp modeling while on the go is shown in the right photo.

Hardware setup for using SketchUp on a tablet
Hardware setup for using SketchUp on a tablet

There was one other annoying thing I noticed when using SketchUp on the tablet. When drawing objects, it leaves ghost images trailing the mouse movement. As soon as you change views by zooming or orbiting, the artifacts disappear, but they can still be a little bothersome.

Overall, I was thrilled to have an option for using SketchUp on the road. It’s great for showing clients your and their design ideas in real time. Or if you’re just killing time at the local coffee shop, it’s a great way to “sketch up” some new designs of your own.