You may see a lot of woodworking posts here in the coming weeks. I have a project which will include a nice hardwood box, so I’m quickly coming up to speed on the basics and getting all the equipment I need. It’s a fun… and expensive… and toolbox busting endeavor.

One area of research has been veneers. I always thought of veneer as synonymous with the cheap plastic coating on particle board with wood grain printed on it, like your $20 book shelf has. But real wood veneer is used on some of the finest furniture made. Sometimes a veneer is used out of necessity, such as when the desired wood simply doesn’t exist in the size needed. Some woods come from trees that are too small to mill full-sized boards but nonetheless have a desirable aesthetic appeal. Depending on how the veneer is cut you can also get some grain patterns that wouldn’t exist in conventionally milled lumber.

One of the more beautiful classes of veneers is burls. A burl is a growth on a tree caused by insects or fungus or some other disruption. Think of it a bit like scar tissue. The grain in a burl is highly turbulent and figured and can vary a lot by species. Burls are small, so veneer is about the only way to take advantage of their unique woodworking beauty.

I recently ordered a random box of burl from VeneerSupplies.com to get a better sense of the gamut of burls that exist. I was not disappointed. I got over 45 square feet of at least a dozen different kinds. Pictures are great, but there’s nothing like seeing a sample in your hand, seeing how the light iridesces, the scale of the figuring, and how the color looks under different lighting conditions.

Box of burl

I made a few small sample chips to reference as I work on my design, and I can’t keep my hands off them. The redwood in particular is just stunning. And these are just plain wood samples; once they’re treated the contrast and detail will only look better. I can’t wait to start incorporating some burl into my project.

Burl samples

Redwood burl

Stanley Plane

I’m a newcomer to woodworking and am very much still in the early stages of gathering tools and understanding. I just had to share one of my first purchases which just arrived today, because it’s frickin’ gorgeous. It’s a Stanley no. 4 wood plane. The handles are made of cherry. The whole thing feels sturdy, heavy, substantial, crisp and precise. I haven’t even tried it yet, but I can already tell I’m going to be making up┬áreasons to use it.

Stanley no 4 plane

Yoshi’s Woolly World

Yoshi’s Woolly World just came out for Wii U, and I can’t decide whether to call it gorgeous or adorable.

OK, it’s both.

The style is executed so perfectly. The soft, warm fuzziness just leaps off the screen and makes you feel like you’re bundled up under a warm blanket in winter. The animation is full of fraying yarn and squishable pillowiness. It all adds up to an incredibly satisfying experience that feels as comforting and familiar as that itchy sweater your mom knit you.

Here are some screen shots, but I recommend watching the trailer at their website to get a better feel for it in motion.

Yoshi map

Underground zone

Yarn ball dispenser

Sunflower platform

Bundled knitted Yoshi Amiibo

Cloud Chamber

I’m fascinated by quantum physics… in a pretty uninformed, bewildered sort of way. It’s all very outside our usual day-to-day macro experience, so it’s interesting but intangible.

That’s why I found this video so interesting. It’s 50 minutes long, though you only need to watch a few seconds of it. It shows a piece of uranium in a cloud chamber. The particles emitted from the radioactive decay of the sample cause chilled alcohol vapor to briefly condense into visible trails. Check out the video description on the YouTube video for more details (if I tried to repeat it I’d get it all wrong).

Yay science!

Tested Revisits Glowforge

The excellent YouTube channel Tested revisited the Glowforge laser cutter yesterday. Norm asks some questions, and we get to see some impromptu test cuts and engravings from starting design to completed cut, and done in various materials.

There is a print article with further questions at Tested.

I pre-ordered my own last week (a basic model + filter). I had some trepidation since, as awesome as it looks, it doesn’t officially exist just yet, and it’s a lot of money to plunk down. But this video allayed my fears. It seems to live up to expectations. If all goes according to plan, I should have mine in December. I’m sure as hell not cutting my Christmas ham with a knife this year, I tell you that much.

Machu Picchu Dice Kickstarter

I made a six-sided die out of black soapstone with alabaster pips. It was really difficult, at least in part due to lack of proper tools. But it was pretty fun. Working with primal materials like stone and metal is very satisfying, and they have such natural beauty.

So I was excited to discover the Machu Picchu dice Kickstarter. The stone work is gorgeous, and the price is almost too reasonable for that kind of craftsmanship. Rewards are estimated for May 2016; I don’t know how I’m going to wait so long!

Steam Link


Steam Link

My Steam Link arrived today! The Steam Link is a little device that connects to your TV and allows you to play games on your TV using a PC in another room. Game pad and keyboard/mouse inputs are received by the Steam Link and relayed over the network to your PC, and the video is streamed back to your TV. It’s got a nice couch-friendly interface for navigating through your games. My PC is on another floor from my living room, and sometimes it’s better to curl up on the couch than sit at a desk, so this is perfect for me.

Steam Controller

I had some minor snags initially. The Steam controller takes a little getting used to. The two circular areas are capacitive (like a smart phone screen) as well as pressable. They control a mouse cursor in certain contexts. I tried sending a message to a friend at one point and encountered a pretty bizarre two-cursor soft keyboard where each capacitive area navigated over one half of a QWERTY keyboard. Really odd, but I could see it maybe getting a little easier with practice.

My PC is in a multi-monitor configuration, and I think that may have been the cause of at least one failure of a game to stream properly. I tried running GTA V, but I hadn’t played it in a while and it required a #%*!ing Social Club update before it would run, which could only be done by manually visiting a URL and downloading it, which the Steam Link is useless for. That’s no fault of the Steam Link; that’s the fault of that damn game. I won’t get started on that rant.

That said, most games I tried worked pretty well. Guacamelee, for example, is the perfect sort of game for this configuration: a 2D platformer. Chariot is similar, though it did seem to be running at like 90% speed for some reason. I’m especially eager to try this thing out once the weather turns cold and getting curled up under a blanket on the couch.

Steam Link screen