Moxon Vise

I haven’t hand cut dovetails in a long while, but I have in the past and have a big project coming up that will require a lot of them. My front vise is useful, but not great at clamping wide boards. I bought a bunch of hardware from mcmaster carr before we moved to make my own. In digging around I found it again and decided to restart that project. This is 2+ year old hardware finally getting to see its use.

I thought I had a piece of maple saved for this, but I think I turned it into a wedding present. Not sure where this sample came from. It looks a bit like oak, but is very light. I don’t remember buying ash or white oak, but it has that kind of grain structure. Oh well, let’s get cutting. I ripped this piece in half and cut down a shorter piece to act as the front of the vise.

The hardware is a 3/4″ acme screw, a few nuts and a set of generic hand wheels that fit on the shafts. The hand wheels have set screws to keep them in place, so I ground flats on the threaded shafts to give them good purchase.

To hold this vice to my bench I cut down the sides to make it easier for clamps to get in there and hold. That will let me set this up on my bench at any spot that is convenient.

The shaft slides through the front and the back half of the vise. To have it clamp I will need to fix the nuts somehow. I took the spare cutoff from the front vise and set the nuts in to capture them. I traced the nut edges, used a forstner bit for the center area, and then chopped the rest with a chisel.

With the nut blocks screwed on, I covered everything in boiled linseed oil and then moved on to installing leather. Hide glue makes an excellent glue for leather to wood so I rough cut pieces, smeared on a thin layer of hide glue, then clamped the assembly hard to make sure the pieces dried flat.

Once the glue was set I trimmed the spare leather and leveled the top. It fits well across the end of my bench and is wide enough to hold an 18 inch board. That should keep me covered. When not in use, it can go on a shelf and be out of the way.

Beard Balm

I experimented with beard balm years ago after my beard started getting longer than 5 or 6 inches. My beard oil was good at keeping it softer and conditioned, but didn’t have any hold. I hit on a commercial one really quickly, but years later, my favorite beard balm seems to have changed their formula. It smells bad and doesn’t have the same consistency. No worries, time to make my own.

I know from a lot of my other work that you can thin out wax with oils to get anywhere from paste wax to a fairly stiff mustache wax. I wanted to start with a base of my regular beard oil and try stiffening it with shea butter and beeswax. I went through a number of iterations over a few months to find something I liked.

I would call it a hit or miss process, but it was mostly miss. Almost everything was too stiff. I kept adding oil to the first batch till I almost completely filled the cup. The ingredients for the oil are kind of expensive. I should have started with a cheap oil at the right melting point instead of my beard oil. The shea butter was making it difficult, so I removed that ingredient. In the end I found a 4.5:1 ratio of oil to wax that was soft enough to spread, but hard enough to hold. My bathroom was looking like an odd place for a while.

Final Recipe: By weight
4.5 parts beard oil
1 part beeswax

With that ratio established and having been used for a few weeks I went about making a lot more of it. Instead of using the PET (which will hold up to gentle heating) cups I upgraded to glass jars. I mixed up a big batch of the beard oil and got to work at the double boiler.

Jars and cups make it hard to extract the beard balm by hand, so I went with finger friendly 2oz tins for easy use. I managed to pour all of them without making a huge mess too!

A new beard product requires a new logo. I sculpted the beard so it looks a bit more like my real one these days. Over a foot long deployed, but only 3 or 4 inches when wrapped up. This much balm ought to last me for a number of years, or make a lot of nice gifts for my bearded cohorts.


While I was making oily messes in the kitchen I mixed up a whole pint of my shave oil. I use this every time I hsave and wouldn’t be without it. It makes good gifts and is cheap/easy to make for yourself. A pint of this stuff should last me for years as well.

DIY Cleaning Wipes

Everyone seems to be in clearing out the store of all available cleaning products. Specifically the disinfecting wet wipes are GONE! I am no health expert, but the CDC says that general disinfectants and anything with alcohol over 60% is effective against covid19. Where does one get that now that the stores have all been cleaned out?

Easy, go to the hardware store and get denatured alcohol. From what I have found, any of the “green” denatured alcohols available from hardware stores are 80-90% ethanol. The non-green versions are about half ethanol and half methanol. Probably decent at killing germs, but not as safe to be using on yourself. Our local Lowe’s sells the Jasco brand and their SDS lists the ingredients. A small amount of that on a paper towel or rag should act as a highly effective cleaner for a really cheap price. I just picked a quart up for 7 or 8 bucks, though the website doesn’t seem to have it. They had a full shelf of the stuff when I was there.

Orlando Maker Faire 2019

I went back to the Orlando maker faire again this year. First off, prusa printers showed up with a booth, and I got to meet the maker man himself. Josef Prusa!

After that it was all gravy. I saw some cool demos, battle bots, belt sander racing, some kind of go-cart/powerwheels racing series and a bunch of other things. This year had a lot more art and somewhat fewer techy things. I guess that is probably better for a wider audience, but didn’t have my attention as much. I will need to take more pictures next year, these were the only ones worth passing along.

My Storied Soggy Suburban

I have an 18 year old suburban I use to make runs to the hardware store. Plywood, piles of rock, plumping parts, etc. It has been slowly degrading with an increasing number of cosmetic blemishes and features on the fritz. I normally don’t mind these too much, but I had a really odd one. I opened up the door after not having used it for a few weeks and there was mold EVERYWHERE! I needed to pick up stuff that day, so I cleaned it all and moved on with life. I thought it must have been raining or something the last time I used it.

I made a vow to drive it more often and didn’t think about it. I did notice though, that the windows were always fogged up every morning. Everything was super humid inside. I got in one night when it was raining to look for a leak and couldn’t find a thing. I crawled all around and finally got over to the driver side. The carpet made a sickly squish sound. It was soaking wet.

I saw water drops under the dash, but could never locate the issue. Took it to the mechanic and they said it was a deteriorated windshield seal. Got the windshield replaced, still more water showed up when it rained. Now I had all the dash bits apart and I could see it was coming in from high up on the A pillar. It actually looked like it was coming out of the folds of metal around the frame. I thought the roof rack was leaking water into the layers of metal that make up the roof.

The screws were all incredibly rusted, and the threaded segments in the body were in poor shape as well. I pulled everyone off, cleaned the area, replaced all the hardware with fresh stainless and caulked everything. Leak check? Yep, still leaks!

I had been trying to use fans to dry out the carpet, but this was the point when Dorian was bearing down on us. After we got setup for the hurricane I started going through and pouring water around to see if I could induce the problem. Pouring water on just the driver’s door seal would cause it to leak out of the windshield area. Pulling the door seal off I noticed it was in rough shape, and behind it was seams of metal.

I think what is happening is that water gets past the seals and rides in the bottom of that U channel the door seal makes and gets soaked up into the seams of metal. The top of the door is higher than the A pillar.

Water starts up high on the door seal, soaks in, and comes out starting near the upper part of the windshield (blue arrow). The picture below shows it from the inside. It comes out along the whole A pillar, starting up at the top edge.

To remedy this issue I put some flowable silicone in a syringe with a thin plastic tip and shot it all along the drivers and passengers side door seams.

I ordered new door seals and when they came in I removed the old ones. It turns out there is a U shape of metal in there that helps keep everything clamped and sealed to that inner lip of the door opening. The metal had fatigued and wouldn’t hold the seal shut anymore. Dry rot on the rubber didn’t help.

The new seal fit nicely on the door opening lip, and was new and puffy enough to make the door slightly harder to close. It seals well now! Through a minor rain, carwash, and direct spraying with the water hose nothing has leaked in.

It took forever to get the carpet dry. The padding underneath was super soaked and I couldn’t figure out how to remove it. Eventually I just put my dehumidifier in the truck and sealed it up for a day. It got hot and dry and eventually moved all that water out of the carpets. Hopefully it will stop smelling like a bog and attracting frogs from now on out.

Kilt Belt Loop Repair

My latest kilt is going on 3 years old and has an issue with one of its belt loops. The center one in the very back is hanging on by a thread. This kilt is a few sizes smaller than my previous ones, and I have noticed that smaller pants/kilts tend to come with fewer belt loops. It may be the fewer loops, it may be the design changes utilikilt made, but for whatever reason, I need a new loop.

About 10 minutes after snapping the above picture I put the kilt on, sat down, and broke the last threads. Good thing I have an old kilt that I kept around. I figured I could cut some material out, sew it up into a belt loop, then sew that on. Turns out one of the loops on the old kilt was in really good shape.

I went after the old kilt with a thread ripper and managed to free the loop. The way they fold it over and under there ended up being a lot of material to work with. Good thing I am a hopeless hoarder!

I bought a basic sewing machine not long after college. I used it to make a few things early on, but never really picked it up as a hobby. Every year or so I break it out to fix something and completely forget how it all works. I need to make a photo guide. To make things worse I think it needs oiling.

I picked up the old kilt and sewed a few straight lines to make sure I had the stitch settings the way I wanted. When I got done I realized my mad sewing was done in the kilt I was trying to repair, not the spare parts kilt. Oops. More time spent with the thread ripper. Thankfully it wasn’t in a highly visible spot and the final damage was minimal.

With the settings all worked out I went ahead and started tacking the repair loop down. The sewing machine had a lot of issues with the thickness and I ended up with a broken needle for my troubles. I switched out the needle and was able to finish. It looks a little ugly, but feels sturdy. I went wild with the sewing and managed to sew down the tag. Oh well, no real harm done.

Once I trimmed up all the spare strings it looks nice. I need a little darker thread next time, but this will definitely keep my belt in place for another 6 months or year. I like to get 4 years out of a utilikilt if I can.

Vise Rebuild

I recently inherited my great grandfather’s vise. It isn’t some magnificent old pre-WW2 piece of hardware that shows they really knew how to build them. It was purchased in the 70s and has an old green paint that looks like a faded version of what harbor freight uses today.

Still, no reason to get snoody about it. It is a really beefy looking vise compared to my little red one, it appears quite serviceable, is kind of an heirloom, and why toss something when you can fix it! It isn’t in horrible shape, but I wanted to do something before the rust moved in any further.

Everything came apart easily with the exception of the jaw pads. Their screws were in very poor shape and took some coaxing to get out. Looks like someone tried and failed earlier. I will replace these with something that accepts a hex key.

All the other minor screws and smaller hardware looked to be in good enough shape to keep. I put it all through a hot ultrasonic bath with a rust remover/inhibitor.

With the small parts taken care of I took an angle grinder powered wire brush to the main body parts of the vise. A flap wheel was used on the non-painted parts. They shined up a bit, but with all those deep gouges it will never look like new. Not sure if that means it is a soft casting or saw very heavy use. Everything remaining got a heavy coat of rust preventing primer.

I wanted to gussy up the dreary green, so I broke out the vibrant red paint. It kind of looks like my smaller vise now. Big red and little red. Everything that moves got oil and I bolted it down to the new heavy duty workbench. Everything else below the bench is mobile, but this is going to see some heavy use, so permanent fixing is justified. Its first job is coming just around the corner.

Pre-Shave Oil

A while back I made a few batches of pre-shave oil.  It went over well and has served my skin nicely since.  It is time to make more!  After having used both numerous times I think the menthol was not a great choice.  It has too much of a cooling effect which is not what you want in a warm shave.  This time will be sandalwood only.

Step 1: Gather up some brown bottles, measuring and mixing supplies, and the oils.

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Step 2: Mix 2 parts castor oil, 1 part olive oil, and a generous dash of your favorite essential oils for aroma.  The two oils have quite a different shade of yellow at first.  They get almost cloudy when mixed until they mix completely, then it is all clear again.

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Step 3: Bottle with a tiny funnel and put a zazzy logo on them.  I wanted to use the phrase “For a shine that is hard to beat… and look directly into”, but it didn’t fit on the label.

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