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Computer Aided Design has come a long way in the last decade, but most of the heavy-duty pro-level apps are still much too complex for the average guy to use for fun. Google offers a much simpler tool called SketchUp (free) that’s popular among the high-end DIY crowd. But what if you’re out and about — like, say, stuck in a waiting room — and want to visualize your latest carpentry concept? There’s an app for that: Woodcraft.

Google’s SketchUp relies on Boolean objects — the process of creating standard shapes, then modifying them by adding or subtracting the space overlapping between shapes. Let’s say, for example, you wanted to create an empty box with no lid. You could start by creating a cube. Then you could create a slightly smaller cube, place it inside the other one completely overlapping the top, then subtract. In that case, you’re left with a box with a box cut out of it — or a box with walls sized based on the difference between your original two boxes.

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With only a few weeks of worktime left till the holiday zero hour, I thought I’d check out a few toy-making books and try my hand at building something smaller than a pony for a change.  Making Wooden Toys: 12 Easy-to-Do Projects with Full-Size Templates by James Stasio caught my eye right away.

His book contains templates for some easy-to-do little rigs like trucks, helicopters, and a naval destroyer.  I figure for $7 and a few pieces of pine I can’t go too wrong, so we’ll see what comes of it.  At least they’ll be easier to poly or paint than the huge pieces I’ve been doing.

If they’re good I’ll post some pics when I’m done — and if they turn out good-for-a-laugh, I’ll post more pics.

Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


If you didn’t like the design of the Plan Station portable jobsite desk, check out this product from Trojan Manufacturing that trades some size and storage for a little more rigidity.  Their PT-2640 portable plan table provides a sturdy 26″ x 40″ work surface anywhere you can find exposed 2X studs.

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When you decide to improve the appearance of your home, you quickly discover that real changes can cost more than your first car — but the cheap route, like adding little knick-knacks, doesn’t get it done either. You can steer the middle course pretty easily with additions like this faux wainscoting project we found on Skil’s website.

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Toys and Joys will help you build cool models of your favorite big tools: bulldozers, forklifts, cranes, and many others.  They offer accessory kits which include “some” parts, or you can just get the plans.  The models feature plenty of moving and articulating parts — turning wheels, moving tracks, lifting buckets, extending forks, lots of realistic motion.

This means there are a lot of parts, and though the project may not be complex, it could be a long one. But it also means I can afford to build Sean a bulldozer.

Construction Equipment Plans [Toys and Joys]


As Toolmonger cyclists probably already know, a recumbent bicycle offers several advantages over the normal upright sort, but they’re generally rather pricey. We’ve recently posted on tube bending, mitering, and welding, and this project requires all those new tools you wish you had an excuse to pick up.

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Before “cordless power tools” we just burned gasoline to get the job done, and gas is still the easiest power source for remote locations where you need to draw heavy power.  For instance, a big, gas-powered wet/dry vacuum can prove indispensable for lots of applications, like prospecting, archaeology, and prairie dog eviction — but I couldn’t find a gas-powered vacuum easily! However, I did find this DIY plan for one.

You start with a gas blower and a five-gallon bucket, and you end up with a big vacuum that recharges at the pump. With gas prices going up you might prefer a cheaper alternative — but if you really need the right tool for the job there may not be a substitute.

GasVac [Minin’ Gold]
Giant Sucking Sound [CNN]

Plan Station

This portable job site desk hangs from two nails pounded into any stud wall. It folds up and out of the way when it’s not needed, and you can carry it off the site by the handles like a portfolio when you’re done.

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Getting started in blacksmithing usually requires a pretty decent start-up cost. But if you want to do it on the cheap, the instructions on Zoeller Forge’s site will show you how to build a gas forge without a welder or a cutting torch. With a drill, hole saw, tap, vise grips, and a workbench, you can make your own atmospheric gas forge.

Atmospheric Gas Forge [Zoeller Forge]


When we’re building stuff in the Toolmonger shop, whether of wood or metal, we often consult plans, and not only to make the project easier — a lot of times the plans’ll spark other ideas.  Though the plan for this shop stool is simple enough, maybe it inspires you to modify the plan to make planter stands, or a bench support, or a workpiece glide for your table saw.  If you look at enough plans, you’ll notice that most projects start from a simple box shape; where you end up is limited only by your imagination.

Shop Stool Plan [Miller]