Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gnomey - The Iowa State Fair Statue

I love it when different ideas converge into one and become reality.

There’s two things on my list that I’ve wanted to do for the past few years. (Well, there are a whole lotta things on that list, but that’s a different story. ) These particular two came together at the same time, providing me the opportunity to check both off that list in one fell swoop.

The first thing is that I’ve wanted to get involved in one of these statue decorating contests you see from time to time. You know the ones, where some city or cause decides to hold a contest to see who can best decorate a common statue design.

Chicago was one of the first to do it with their famous cows. Cleveland has done guitars in honor of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not long ago the library in Iowa City did one with open books. I almost entered that one with darling daughter but she ran out of time and we had to pass.

I’m not so much into the competition part of it, I’ve just always thought it would be fun to give decorating a statue a try.

The second thing on the list is that I’ve wanted to create a four-foot tall gnome to display in front of my home. I mean, if you’re going to have a gnome in your yard, why waste time with one of those little ones that no one can see? I want one that will scare the neighbors

Cutting to the chase, the Iowa State Fair is doing a statue contest this year and the design is a state fair ribbon. When I heard about it I began to create ideas for what I might do. And then, yes, it finally hit me, I can make it a gnome. Duh!

So I sent in my idea, was fortunate enough to be chosen, and the work began. (Oh, and if you’re wondering, in this particular contest the entrants pay for their statue and expenses, but get to keep the statue after the fair. That’s a little different than many others where they sell the statue at the end of the event as a fundraiser.)

The statue is roughly four feet high, made of solid concrete. I made the hat, nose, belt buckle and boots out of Styrofoam, the pink kind that comes in sheets and is used as insulation in walls.

I had to glue four sheets together because I was unable to find a solid block thick enough to cover the depth, front to back, of the statue. The nose, buckle and boots were easily glued onto the statue. The hat was a bit trickier.

To provide extra area for gluing, I designed the hat so that the front drops a little further down on the statue and, in the back, the Styrofoam almost covers the entire circular area at the statue top.

I then used bondo, yes the stuff they use on cars, to fill in a lot of the statue’s voids under where the hat would be glued to it, to try to make the area as flat as possible. Without filling those voids, the glue would have simply filled in those cracks and voids, and wouldn’t have reached the foam to adhere it to the concrete.

Finally, I drilled two holes into the top of the statue and inserted metal rods that extend up inside the hat, and glued it all together.
The next step in the process was to hard coat all the foam to protect it from the elements. The hard coat came from Hot Wire Foam Factory, you can check out what I used on their website.

I coated everything two to three times. Applying it is kind of like frosting a cake, but a whole lot messier. I smoothed down the coating on everything except the “hair area” on the back of his head. There, I left it quite rough, almost looping so that it looks like curly hair.

I also made the belt around him with the hard coat by using modeling clay in two horizontal strips, filling in the space in the middle with the coat. Once it was dry, I simply removed the clay and sanded down some of the rough edges with a file.

From there, all that was left was to paint Gnomey. Yes, that’s his name. The face, by the way, is the face of the Iowa State Fair ribbon mascot.

Oh, and by the way, that part I mentioned about wanting a four-foot-tall gnome for in front of my house? Well, with his hat, Gnomey is five feet tall.

I will be delivering Gnomey to the fairgrounds this week. I hope he’s safe while he’s away from me. This year’s fair is August 8 – 18 and Gnomey will be located somewhere on the grounds.

Also, Gnomey has his own Facebook page. I would appreciate it if you would give it a like and share it with your friends. And, if you do go to the fair, I would absolutely love it if you would take a picture of yourself with Gnomey and post it to his Facebook page. It would be great to have photos of him with all his new friends!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Looking back at another piece... leaf cabinet

I picked up something different at a flea market yesterday, so my next project has begun... but you'll just have to wait a bit until I get it done before I can tell you more.

In the meantime, let me throw out here a piece I finished up last year. Unfortunately, I have to admit this one was not made of upcycled materials.

This was a new cabinet for the first floor of my home. I live in a rather unique home, the first floor is entirely open, just one big room. There's a catwalk that goes across the room from above, connecting the bedrooms on the higher floors.

Partly because of that open format, the kitchen area is low on storage. The new cabinet allows me some extra room for bowls, the food processor, crockpots, etc.

Most of the cabinet is made from simple MDF board. I intentionally didn’t use real wood because I wanted it to be a very smooth surface without any grain.

For the top, I cut leaves out of pressed wood so that the textures in the wood mimic the look and feel of a tree. (My house has several different levels, reminding me of the Swiss Family Robinson tree house so I've been working toward a "tree/leaf” theme throughout the house.)

The leaves are stained a medium color, providing a hard contrast with the black in the rest of the piece. I routed out the shape of the leaves into the top of the cabinet so that they fit in flush to the surface. The whole top is then covered with an epoxy resin.

Finally, the “glass” is plexiglass that I sanded on one side to provide the opaque look.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Firefighters side table

The college where I work partners with a local company each year on a golf tournament fundraiser. Money from the event supports the college's safety training center where we train firefighters, emt and other safety rescue personnel.

During a meeting about a month ago we were talking about getting items for a raffle. Sitting there an idea formed in my pea pickin` brain about a table I could make for the raffle. After the meeting I couldn't stop thinking about it and really began to like the idea, but I wasn't sure I would have the time to get it done.

I eventually decided I just didn't need to add another project to my list and let the idea go. But it wouldn't let go of me. It just kept popping into my head and finally, after not being able to sleep much of one night as I tossed and turned thinking about it, I knew I wouldn't be happy if I didn't do it.

Ultimately, the deciding moment came when I rummaged through the workshop and realized I had enough leftover materials from previous projects to make it happen.

The top is roughly 16 inches square, made from a 2 x 6 joined together with glue and biscuits. It stands about 18 inches high. The base is made from a leftover landscaping timber, the same as I used in the bowling alley tables I talked about in a previous post.

I burned the emblem into the top with a woodburning pen. That was the most laborious part of the whole project, probably taking a good three to four hours to complete. I then used a torch to add the additional burn markings.

The top is covered with epoxy resin, like that used on bar tops. The rest of the piece is covered with three coatings of spar varnish, used to protect boat exteriors. I figured it's something a person will put outside on their deck or patio, and I wanted to make sure it was protected against rain.

This piece really did come out the way I had imagined it, it's not often I can say that. I really wouldn't mind keeping it for myself but that's not what the plan was so I will be donating to the cause. Hopefully it will help sell a few raffle tickets at the tournament tomorrow.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Wine room table

I’m in a bit of a creating mood right now so when the excuse to make something different came up, I grabbed it.

A friend of mine is putting her house up for sale and, as all the good HGTV shows tell you, you have to stage a home to attract buyers. She has a small wine room in the house that she never uses and I told her she needed to stage it. I suggested she put at least a few bottles on the shelves and then get a little table to put in the back, with a bottle of wine, a couple of glasses and maybe a corkscrew, just so people might imagine how the room can look.

Well, she doesn’t have the table and is busy painting and doing the many other things people do when they are getting their homes ready for sale, so I decided to surprise her and make a table for her.

As with my previous project, all of the wood in this one is just leftover scraps from previous projects... (still trying to stick with that upcycling/sustainable kind of theme in at least a general way.) I simply cut, glued and nailed the wood together in a basic design and painted it all black.

The finished piece is roughly 30 inches tall and 16 inches square at the top. The top is made from wine corks. I used about 90 of them, all of which I cut in half on a tabletop jigsaw.

I wish I could say they were used corks but I had to resort to buying new ones, $15 for a bag of 100. If anyone out there would like to donate your used wine corks to me, I’d love to have them. I’m sure I can come up with an idea for a future project.

Because new corks are pretty plain looking, I stained them with a medium and a dark stain, left over from the flooring I put in my basement. There are grape leaves imprinted on the corks . I cut them randomly so the imprint is fully there on some, half there on others, not there at all on others, and so on, because I didn’t want a uniform look.

I laid the corks on the top of the table, with the wood edge around the table slightly higher than the corks. I then covered them with an epoxy/resin like you would see used on bar tops.

Here’s where I have to embarrassingly admit to one of my mistakes, corks float. Who knew??? I know, it’s pretty obvious but for whatever reason I didn’t even think about gluing the corks down. Sure enough, as soon as I poured the resin in they started to float upward.

There really wasn’t much I could do at that point but keep fiddling with it, trying to push the corks as far down in the resin as possible. Of course, as I pushed down three or four here, three or four others would spring up.

For the most part I was able to work it out, but I wouldn’t advise trying to do it the same way again. I had to apply the epoxy/resin three times to cover them all, and fidget with it flowing over the side, which I would not have had to do if I had done it correctly in the first place.

I learned some things that I would do differently in the future and that's what it's all about, learning and improving. And, in the end, I’m still pretty happy with how it turned out.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Deck tables from bowling lanes

A while back I got very excited when I walked into the local Habitat ReStore and found several pieces of old bowling lanes laying along the wall.

If you’ve never been to Habitat ReStore, it’s essentially a fundraising outlet for Habitat for Humanity, I’m assuming you know what that is. Contractors and others tearing down old homes, or simply restoring single rooms, will donate to ReStore what they are tearing out. They have a tremendous assortment of things there, old doors, light fixtures, desks, sinks, you name it.

I stop in occasionally just to see what’s new, and that’s how I stumbled upon the old lanes.

The back story here is that my family used to own a bowling alley. I pretty much grew up in one, starting from about junior high on. As a result, I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a bar, table or some other piece made from old lanes. Hence, my excitement when I saw these.

I picked out two pieces that were about the same size, roughly half the width of a lane and four feet long. I thought about buying more, and now regret that I didn’t, but these things are heavy and that’s all I really needed at the time.

It was a relatively easy process to turn them into tables for my deck. The 2 x 4 wood I used is leftover from previous projects.

The legs are made from a couple of landscaping timbers that I had decided I didn’t like in the yard anymore, well sanded down. I put wheels on one end so that it would be easy to move the pieces around; remember, I said these were heavy.

I intentionally didn’t make the lower shelf solid because I do leave these out in the open and I didn’t want rain and snow to constantly be resting there, damaging the wood. Also, I didn’t stain the wood but coated it with a marine finish, similar to what you might use on a boat to protect its surface.

Because they are the same height and length, I can use them as two separate tables, roll them together in a long line or shove them together in a square, depending on how I want to use them.

One Eyed Annie

So who is this One Eyed Annie TM person and why did I pick that name for this site?

Well, it comes from a hodgepodge of different pieces, all rolled up in a big ball and snaked out into One Eyed Annie.

The first piece is my total love and devotion to Harry Chapin and his music, something that especially developed during my college years. One of my very favorite Harry songs is Mail Order Annie. It first captured my imagination as a high school senior when the school choir director sang it for his wife during a school talent show.

It's the story of a man from the Dakota plains meeting his mail order bride when she first gets off the train. It's the story of how we imagine who our bride or groom will be, but reality often has something quite different in store for us. Funny how that happens. But, regardless of the hardships we face as couples, we can face them and overcome them together.

I like it so much we played it at our wedding. It was sung by one of my best friends from high school and his wife.

The next piece in my little One Eyed Annie tale is that my late wife's middle name was Ann. My darling daughter fits in there as well because she is named after her mother in that her middle name is also Ann. With that, I had two very real Annies in my life.

So you see, Annies have played a role somehow, someway in my life for oh so many years. As a result, beginning as far back as when my little girl was still a very little girl curled in my arms, I've had this fantasy of naming a business "Annie."

But simply "Annie's" wasn't nearly enough. As I daydreamed and fantasized about it, I knew it needed something more.

I've often dreamt of starting a restaurant, my family had operated one many years ago. Understand though, that dreaming wasn't necessarily in a real, I'm just dying to do it, kind of way. More in the, gee wouldn't it be fun if, kind of way.

I've let my imagination run, playing with the style I would convey in my restaurant. It would be something fun, something kind of punkish, something where waiters and waitresses have tattoos and purple hair, a place where a one-eyed waitress with a patch over her eye might work... One Eyed Annie.

With that, One Eyed Annie's was born.

But hold on just a minute there partner, lest you think that's the end of this story. Even as I was arriving at that name, it hadn't occurred to me how close to reality that name really is. It wasn't until a short time later that the significance of it finally slapped me upside the head.

You see, darling daughter was born with a "lazy" eye. We didn't discover it until years later and as a result she has little to no sight in that eye.... my own little One Eyed Annie. TM

30 page views

Wow... 30 page views already and I haven't even posted anything. What happens if I ever do?

Ok, stay tuned, I'll start working on my first real post now.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Yet another random idea

Just another one of my random ideas... this one might actually happen but in the meantime I'm holding this name.