Friday, 28 February 2014


This is a quick message to earmark the day that the Frosthaus blog reached 10,000 views. This is significant to me since my previous blog (Littleboatiris) took 5 years to reach this same landmark before being amalgamated into this blog. Frosthaus has done the same thing in only 16 months.

Thank you for your visits and comments - especially the folks who keep coming back to learn about relocating dryer vents. I don't know why that post is so popular, but it sure gets a lot of attention. I wish some of my more creative/interesting projects did as well, but if dryer lint is your thing, I guess this is the place for you.

If you visit here, I do see it. I check our visitor log every day, and I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts and share our adventures. It makes me happy to see that a little bit of the Frosthaus has entered your world, and appreciate it when you share your ideas and comments here.

Thanks to everyone for our first 10,000 visits, I'm looking forward to all the ones that are yet to come!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

We interrupt this project for Beaver Buggies!

So this post was supposed to be about routering out the number line rail, but instead I'm sharing Beaver Buggies. Why? Because Beaver Buggies are cool, and Buddy made one, and because its freezing in the garage right now so I need to buy time on the whole woodworking thing until its warm enough that I can actually stand being in the garage working.

So here is Buddy with his Beaver Buggy:

He made it all by himself.

So Beaver Buggies are like cub cars, except that all the kids can do for customization is to add stickers and paint.  The rules are super simple... Beaver Buggies are not to race, they are just to drive down the pinewood track. They are for fun, and are non-competitive. I embraced that spirit and actually let Buddy do his car on his own. All I did was to attach the nails that hold the wheels on - and even then, he did two of them while I held the buggy.

Apparently I am naive.

The Beaver Buggies were lined up on the Pinewood track for a non-competitive run, and the kids were encouraged to cheer on their buggies. Dads stood on the sidelines in anticipation. There was a countdown and the non-competitive buggies raced down the track. The father who had aligned wheels and straightened axles on his son's buggy was particularly vocal, shouting to his son that they won EVERY RACE!!!

After a couple more whoops like that the scouter running the non-competitive event started doing silly things with the cars, like turning them sideways on the track, or running them backwards, etc.

Good guy scouter knew where it was at.

After 20 minutes of running cars down the pinewood track, everyone switched spots, and buddy got to go into the story station to hear stories and try to get his pinewood drivers licence. Then it was into Beaver Buggy Bowling where the buggies were mercilessly smashed into Spongebob figures to see who could cause the most destruction in 20 minutes. This proved to be much fun.

We went home tired and happy with new badges and a slightly marred Beaver Buggy. Next year I'll be bringing more tools to beaver buggy building night though. The non-competitive event is a little more fun for the boys when their buggy is competitive.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Number Line Part 2 - Working with Hardboard

Is number line one word or two? Numberline, Number Line, Rumbaline, Rumba line. I can't decide. Anyways, this post picks up where I left off yesterday. The plywood carcass is built, and its time to start accessorizing.

Since all my plywood parts are done, I'm ready to move along to hardboard parts. Hardboard is basically cardboard on steroids, so it isn't much good for structural stuff, but it is good as a stiffener (like on the back of a bookshelf) or as a backer for really flimsy things - which is what I'm using it for today.

The first things that I wanted to toughen up were my weather icons. Since we are using weather to introduce the number line, I got a bunch of stickers from The plan is that they will be attached to the backboard behind the temperature they represent. But I want the kids to be able to move and manipulate them to move them to match the weather to the day's temperature. My weather icons are (from hottest to coldest):

  • A Camel 
  • A guy floating in a pool
  • A boy in a raincoat (it could be a girl, I dunno)
  • An ice cube just starting to melt
  • A pair of mittens
  • A snowman
  • Penguins
If its camel hot, or penguin cold, I'm staying home.

On Zazzle you can specify the shape of the stickers you want, and if I were smart, I would have stuck with circles or squares, but because whimsy took precedence over logic, I bought ovals. Now I am faced with the challenge of cutting 7 ovals exactly matching the outline of the stickers.

To start I attached a scrap sticker to a scrap piece of 3/4" pine, and cut the pine down to nearly to sticker size. On the band saw I carefully cut the wood to match the sticker's outline. Snowman cold is about the temperature of the garage right now.

With the wood and sticker nearly matching, i sanded away wood until the template was close to right. Unfortunately I sanded away a little too much on one end, and now my ovals are lopsided. C'est la vie.

With my template made, I went to the basement (where its between swimming pool warm and rainy day warm) and glued together 5 pieces of hardboard using spray adhesive. Then I glued my snowman template to the top of the pile. 

Back out in the garage, I put the stack of hardboard through the bandsaw, but this time when I cut it out, I left about 1/8" around the template. It went much faster since precision wasn't an issue.

With the rough cut done, I took the stack over to the router table. The router table and I are still working on our relationship. We still don't see eye to eye on a lot of things. Since I couldn't find a straight bit with a follower bearing (I must have a dozen WITHOUT a bearing, but I just knew there was one with a bearing somewhere) I tried using a panel pilot bit to carefully nibble away at the hardboard. If you look at the top of the bit you will see that the pilot bit has a flat area where it will follow a template without cutting it. The black section of the bit has a single blade face which will cut. A straight bit would have two blades, and a small bearing at the top or bottom to follow the template.

It was a very delicate operation getting the blade to cut on this bit. Push too hard and the blade wants to throw the part across the garage. Too light, and the blade would chatter and skip across the hardboard. No matter how I cut, prodigious amounts of fine dust flew everywhere. I got the dust collector running right away. In the pic above you can just see its hose in the corner.

After some effort (and cussing) I got my ovals cut.

Separating the parts was done with an Exacto knife since the glue had set up and didn't want to let go. Then all the glue was cleaned off using mineral spirits, and the stickers were carefully applied. Since my ovals were slightly out of oval, and since they were slightly undersized, I used sandpaper to clean up the edges where the stickers had some overhang. I think they turned out fine.

Once the kids get to where they are doing more complex math, I can make a set of these icons that say "+1", "+2", etc, and then the same for subtraction, multiplication, etc. Maybe I'll print the math symbols on superhero shields to keep things interesting. I'll probably print my next set of stickers myself on glossy photo paper kind of stuff though, that way I can make them look like whatever I choose.

Icons in Icon storage bin
With the stickers done, I headed back out to the garage (it was nearing penguin cold out there by now) and fired up the saw to cut some strips of the hardboard. The actual numbers of the number line will be put on hardboard strips. That way we can swap out different scales and patterns as we work through math. To start we will likely have a simple 1 through 20 or so number line, a -20 to +20 line, and maybe a line with all the even and odd numbers in different colours, then one with all the multiples of 5 in different colours to work on counting and multiplying by 2's or 5's. In any case, all these will be printed onto paper and then glued (spray adhesive!) onto the hardboard number lines. For now, I just wanted to use the hardboard on hand to make the strips. I can print and glue on the numbers any time I want, one ledger sized sheet at a time... (Excel is great!)

 I am really excited to get to the multiplication tables on the number board. I have heard that the tangible of moving a marker by X sets Y can really help kids grasp the concept of multiplication in a different way than say making groups of or stacking blocks. So for multiplying on the number board, you would put in the scale for multiplication of a given number (all the multiples of 7 are blue) and then starting with the slider at 0, move it the number of sets given in the question so for 7 times four, you would move the slider over to the fourth blue number. Similarly for division you would start with the slider on the number in the question then move it backwards for the multiples you are dividing by.

So here we are at the end of the day, A bunch of hardboard strips, and a pile of sticker "icons." This was all pretty easy really and didn't take too long. Oh, and as I packed up the router, I found the bit with the follower bearing in the bottom of the router case. Argh!

Tune in tomorrow for an epic battle with the router.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Yay For Canada - and Number Line Project

I don't have much to update project-wise this week, mostly that is because this week has been consumed with cheering on our Olympic Athletes. Canada has had a great Winter Olympics in Russia, despite the challenges that the events and venues presented. Each night we sit for a couple hours watching the recaps of the day's events. Some of the performances have been truly awe-inspiring, while some have been heart-breaking. We recorded the hockey games and thoroughly enjoyed top-notch performances by all the teams. Latvia and USA really gave us scares, but today's Gold medal match was just pure great hockey. its been a great games.

Project wise, I have a new build on the go. Its a little bit different, and a little bit fun. I am making an interactive number line to help the boys maintain their excitement with all things math.

Every morning we check the weather network to see what clothes we should wear to school, and we talk about whether the temperature is degrees positive (warmer than an ice cube) or degrees negative (colder than an ice cube). Buddy now has a strong grasp on positive and negative integers. When we went to Florida, it was always hotter than an ice cube, and it was REALLY HOT! Back at home, its always been colder than an ice cube, and its been REALLY COLD! Enter integers and numeracy.

Current Number Line Status - "Popsicle Stick Train"

To make the number line, I needed a few hard to get parts, among them icons for weather conditions and an indicator for what number we were talking about. To get those parts, I went to  a couple of my favourite websites. Stickers from will be used for the icons to interpret the number values as tangibles, while a fisheye lens from will be our number indicator on the number line.

The plan is to build a holder for the numberline that will allow us to swap out scales for different tasks, and then mount the fisheye indicator on a sliding base that will allow the boys to move the selector around to pick the target number. Because of the Olympics, this build is behind by a few days, but I've managed to draft and build the framework of the project out of plywood left from a previous project, and am now working on the nuts and bolts pieces which will be made of White Ash, hardboard, and sheet metal.

Plywood Cutlist.

Since I had it on hand, I used a 24" by 48" sheet of 1/2" GBS Maple plywood for this project, but I think 1/4" would have been better. Whichever size you use, the cutlist will be the same. I tried to keep the cutting as simple as possible, so there are lots of straight cuts.

All Cut up - I wonder where Part A was when I took this pic!?!
Parts A, B & C can be cut from a strip using a chop saw to avoid wrestling with a long strip on the table saw. These small parts will be made into boxes to hold the sticker icons. I just mitered the pieces and used tape and glue to clamp them up.

I followed the technique used in building my "whatzit" to assemble the storage boxes. The First step was to set up the crosscut sled to make 45° cuts, then using a scrap of hardwood as a stop, I trimmed the pieces to uniform size with matching mitres.

45° mitre applied to sides and bottoms of icon storage boxes.

With the sides mitered, I used blue (removable) painters tape to dry fit the cubes. Once everything was lined up nicely I applied carpenters glue and taped the boxes together.

The boxes sat overnight drying while I got biggest piece (backboard) ready for assembly with the number line storage pieces.

Since the number line will be about 1-3/4" tall, I wanted a way to store number strips that were just shy of 4ft long and and 1-3/4" wide. These number lines will be made of hardboard. The number line rail will form the face of the number line storage box.

On the backboard I cut 2 dadoes 1/2" wide and 1/8" deep to receive the top and bottom of the storage bin. The dadoes were cut so that one is along the bottom edge of the plywood, and the other is 3" above the top of the first, this will allow part D to act as a filler. I later realized that by using the number line rail as the front of the box, Part D wasn't needed. Two small square blocks trimmed to fit from 3" X 3" pieces form the ends of the storage bin.

Here is the backboard being drilled to accept small wood screws to hold the top and bottom of the bin in place. For assembly, I ran a bead of glue in the dado, then applied 3/4" wood screws every 8" or so.

After gluing and screwing, the end blocks were a very tight fit, so a little glue and clamping was all it took to set them permanently.

The hardest part so far was getting the bench cleared enough to fit the work piece. I have way too much junk lying around!

The plywood parts are now complete, waiting for hardboard and Ash pieces to be built. Tune in later for the next steps. I have started the number line rail, but I need to get out to buy a router bit in order to complete it. The hardboard parts should be much easier to make, so I may jump to creating them in the interim.

Starting to take Shape! 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Mirror in the Bathroom

OK -English Beat reference in the title - how can you (ahem) beat that!

When we bought this house, there was a serviceable, but grossly oversized mirror in the master bathroom. It was so big that you couldn't actually hang it on the wall since it would hit the bathroom light. It sat on the countertop, resting against the wall. Actually, I didn't mind the look of it. it was just waaaaay too big for our tiny bathroom.

Overly huge mirror on ugly vanity.
When Momma took down the mirror to paint the bathroom, we found a hole beneath it where we assume there had previously been a tiny medicine cabinet. I decided it would be a pretty decent little project to try building a mirror for the bathroom. Since the garage is up to 2°C (35°F), I guess its time to get back to woodworking projects.

Ugly hole over ugly vanity
I decided to keep costs low by using some materials already on hand, and keeping the design as simple as possible. I also want to learn some new techniques. In the end we got an Afrornmosia Teak mirror with box joints in the corners of the frame, and some cupholders for Momma's water glass and soap dispenser.

My biggest challenge was finding a mirror on the cheap. In the end, Lowes came through with this gem: $13 Mirror. When I went to Lowes, it was really hard to find the mirror though - it is in the hardware section in the custom cut glass area. Good luck if you are hunting for one!

For a first step, I ripped the teak down to size, and built a jig to make the box joints. Box joints are used to make a quick & easy 90° corner that has a massive gluing surface. The jig for making box joints is pretty simple to make. Steve Ramsey has a great video on making a box joint jig on the Woodworking for Mere Mortals site. Alternatively, a simple photo instructions can be found here, but be warned, this guy builds a whole sled. I was able to use the Mere Mortals jig, and just attach it to my mitre gauge (After checking that the mitre was 90° to the blade).

This pic shows all the parts of the mirror laid out and ready for assembly. The 'fingers' in the corner will all lock together to make a solid corner that you can't see looking at the front of the frame. The bumpy white thing in the middle is the mirror - you are looking at a reflection of the ceiling. (In this project I learned just how hard it is to take pictures of a mirror. The flash really screws things up.) The mirror fits into the 1/4" deep dadoes on each side of the frame.

At the bottom of the table you can see the second jig I had to build for this project. I wanted to make 'cup holders' on the bottom of the mirror to hold a soap dispenser and a water glass. In order to make those, I got a Bowl and Tray router bit. That jig is to guide the router bit.

The bit works by following a template to create a depression in the wood of whatever shape you want. Since routers are the bane of my existence, and since I really didn't want to screw this up, I was really careful about how I did this.

First I used a forstner bit in the drill press to make a circle in a piece of plywood. The circle was sized to match the base of the soap dispenser - and be a little over sized.

With the hole made, I trimmed the sides of the plywood back so that the hole would line up with just the right spot on the mirror frame. Once everything was lined up I attached cleats to the sides of the template to hold it in place on the work piece. The cleats will provide repeatability (so the hole is positioned the same on both ends) and the circle will guide the router.

In order to make the second cup holder, I would flip the template over and slide the cleats back so they came out the back of the template. It all sounded great. I went ahead and clamped the template and the work piece to the table saw, got out the router and set to work.

This was where I learned an important lesson about the bowl and tray bit. Apparently you need a 3/4" thick board for the template. As I nibbled away at the board below, the bit blithely cut into my template. The roller bearing that is supposed to follow the template was just above my plywood cutout. In order to fix the problem, I carefully routed as close to a circle as I could while roughly following what was left of the template. It came out looking not too bad. Its probably out of round by 1/8".

For the second hole, I found a thicker scrap piece of pine, and used it to make a new template by copying the first one. The thicker material was far better for a template, but getting the depth consistent was difficult since I lost all the settings on the router.

With all the components built, it was time to glue up all the pieces. I put some blue painters tape on the mirror to protect it from the glue. I think there must be a better way to do that. After I was done, I couldn't get all the tape off the mirror despite my best efforts with a razor blade and exacto knives.

After leaving the mirror overnight for glue to dry, it was time for finishing. I love the way afrormosia pops when you put clear, high gloss varnish on it. I have a little spar varnish kicking around from boat projects, so I used it. As the teak ages, the dark sections will become deeper coloured, and the light sections will hardly change colour. This stuff has beautiful grain, especially after a few years.

Look at that grain pop!

With the mirror all painted, I hauled it upstairs and got it hung in the bathroom. I'm quite happy with how it turned out. The old mirror was far more ornate, but this is much better suited to the small space and simple style of the room. Now I just need to do something about that vanity!

You can't see the blue tape in real life, but I know its down there. For some reason the camera makes it look worse than it is!

I've already started my next project, but I think its going to take a while. This one has a billion bitty parts that need to come together to make the final product. Can't wait to share it with you - I think it would be great for any teacher or homeschooler's math unit!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Pictures By Buddy: A photo Gallery

Buddy got a kids camera for Christmas, and he brought it along on our trip down south. Some of his pictures came out sortof meh, but some are actually quite good.

I present Cruising through the eyes of a 5 year old photographer:

My Current Desktop Wallpaper

The morning after we got back.