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I was looking for information on silicone molds for my rhubarb leaf concrete stepping stones when I came across an inventive individual who made a mixer to mix small amounts of concrete with part of a coil spring from a car.

I did not have a coil spring on hand but had some 7/16 inch hot rolled steel rod left over from helping a friend build a djembe drum stand. I just bent a 90 and then heated the rod and eyeballed a coil at the end. It works great in my 1/2″ drill, but I coiled it backwards so the drill has to be run in reverse. This just seems wrong to me.

cement mixing tool

cement mixing tool

concrete mixer ready to mix cement and pigment

cement mixer ready to mix cement and pigment

If enough people are interested in this tool I could give more detailed instructions or  manufacture some for sale. Leave me a comment.

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I was going to sell my 1981  Sears 10″ radial arm saw and checked online to see what I should charge for it. I noticed there was a recall on the saw guard. I called and was assured that my saw qualified. 

Last night I arrived home to find a large package leaning against my mailbox. It was the new guard and table.

the old guard

the old guard

new guard and table

new guard and table

A big improvement. Very nice guard and no more chewed up table. Thanks, Sears.

In March I began to work with students and the tech teacher at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate to convert an S10 truck into an electric vehicle.

We also worked at getting this project funded. This is ongoing.

We are well on the way. After purchasing a 97  S10 we began to remove all the parts we will not need.  We have the truck stripped and are doing some body work. We are almost at the point where we will install the new motor and transmission. Friday the motor will be attached to the transmission and then next week we can install it.

Motor and clutch

Motor and clutch

In this picture you see the motor, motor mount, adapter plate, hub ( you can’t actually see it, but the flywheel is attached to it), flywheel and clutch assembly. It is all ready to attach to the transmission. I will post more about the installation of the electric components as we progress. The 4 students that are working on this project will not see the completion of the conversion. Students have already signed up to complete the project next semester. We hope to finish by Christmas, 2009.

Our conversion parts were purchased from Canadian Electric Vehicles Ltd.

Stay tuned for more on the conversion process.

I didn’t like the old back door with the single pane window above it. It was difficult to move things into the basement.

We have a bungalow with a large basement and 2/3 of it serve as Carol’s studio. Adequate light was a challenge. I installed lots fluorescent lights and also enlarged 5 of the basement windows.

The finishedl project.

The finished project.

The finished door also lets in lots of light. Now back to the beginning.

Old back door with the window boarded up.

Old back door with the window boarded up.

I removed the bricks and had the concrete cut to make room for the new door. Of course I also had to install a new header to carry the load of the roof over the larger span. The door came complete with the transom and brick molding attached. It was a job that required me to call in some friends to help put the door in place.

new door installed

new door installed

Now for nicer weather and brick work. I had done a little brick work before, but the arch was new. I had some business at the bank and decided to take a walk instead of jumping into the car. Then to reward myself I went to Tim Horton’s for a coffee. I met my neighbor, and we sat down together. We chatted and the new door came up along with the need to do the brickwork. He came over to see and offered to lay the bricks for me. All I needed to do was build scaffolding and a form for the arch. He would lay the bricks and I could mix the mortar and do the cutting. Did I mention he’s a retired mason?

My neighbour John, hard at work.

My neighbor John, hard at work.

John did a beautifull job of the arch. Carol has more light going down into her studio, and a grand entrance.  I was able to trade labour by helping with John’s chimmey and replacing three of his old concrete window well with wedgestone. More about that in a future blog.

Mosaic Floor

I began this floor project thinking I would just quickly put some lovely 12″ tiles down and be done with it. After ripping out the old rug and tile that was underneath it the floor was a mess. Well the floor wasn’t even enough for the tiles so I had two choices. One was to level the floor. I could do this but it wasn’t interesting. So I dropped a perfectly good, relatively expensive porcelain  tile on the floor to see how it would break. There is a perverse pleasure that comes from doing something that challenges everything you have ever known. I have always been so careful. I pieced the broken pieces together in a random pattern and was hooked. I would solve my uneven floor problem by doing a mosaic floor. I asked my wife what she would like to see in the floor and she likes Mandelas. I can do that, and away I went. It was knee killing, back breaking work, but I loved it. Here is a picture of the early stages.

This was the beginning of the floor. Carol helped layout the lines I wanted for a feeling of movement. I

This was the beginning of the floor. Carol helped layout the lines I wanted for a feeling of movement.

Carol made this post in her blog when I finished the floor leading into her studio. Check it out  at silverspringstudio.com. While you are there you may want to check out her entire blog.

I have just started playing with making stepping stones out of rhubarb leaves.

I started by making a form using the leaf as a guide for my shape. I used 2X6’s as the sides for my mold or form. I laid these out so that the whole leaf was covered and traced the leaf onto the 2X6 pieces. Then I set my band saw table at 5 degrees so that my mold would release the block after it set. I screwed these pieces of 2X6 onto some plywood and caulked the inside edge, both to seal the edge and to round over the edge of the stone. Then I sprayed the mold with silicon spray as a release agent, and placed the rhubarb leaf into the mold.  I mixed  redi mix concrete and poured it into the mold. I used a 1/2″ cordless hammer drill to vibrate the air out of the concrete.

After two days I popped the cast leaf out of the mold and wrapped it in plastic to keep it from dying out too fast. The hardest part of the process was letting it sit for at least another 5 days before removing the residue of the real leaf and exposing the imprint on the concrete.

I tried pouring the concrete both on the front of the leaf and on the back side of the leaf. Both gave me different and distinct results. I prefer the front side of the leaf because it produces an imprint with fewer undercuts. This allows the leaf to release more easily.

Rhrubarb leaf stepping stone form.

Rhubarb leaf stepping stone form.

Leaf placed in the mold

Leaf placed in the mold

A cariage bolt and hammer drill make a good vibrating tool.

A cariage bolt and hammer drill make a good vibrating tool.

Rhubarb stepping stone path

Rhubarb stepping stone path

Concrete Poured On Leaf Back
Concrete poured on underside of leaf
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Concrete poured on face of leaf

When I asked my granddaughter if she wanted to make a leaf stepping stone, she said she wasn’t interested. She just wanted to play. I pulled the three stones I had out of the mold and my grandson and I began pealing back the leaf to reveal the rhubarb stepping stones. It wasn’t long before we had help and then came the request, “Grandpa, can I make a stepping stone now?”

The result of her efforts

The result of her efforts

The real fun started when the concrete had set enough to put hand prints and messages on the back of the stepping stone. No one ever gets tired of leaving their mark in wet concrete.

Grandchildren leaving their mark.

Grandchildren leaving their mark.

And then the actual path begins. Stones are laid out and the grass is planted. I’ll update again when I have made more stones and the grass is green and construction materials are gone.

stepping stone path1

The path will meander between our house and the neighbor’s, straddling the property line. We have 8 feet between the houses and the length is 50 feet. It was an unsightly and unused space. Now it will be a lovely parkland space with shrubs and flowers for both of us (and wild life)  to enjoy

An added bonus is that I was able to slope the ground so that we no longer have a low spot that collects water. It now  drains to our front lawns.

Nana’s Cane

My granddaughter and I were walking through the woods at her great grandparent’s place. She does not like to stay on the beaten path. so we were struggling through the wood and up rocks, inclines and over fallen trees. She told me she wanted to make a cane for her Nana. Thus began the idea of making a cane.

She came over a few weekends ago and brought a branch with her. Unfortunately, it was too brittle and had already broken before she got to our house. I took her into my backyard shed, which is attached to her play house, and let her look through the many branches I had stored there. There was walnut and maple. They were all peeled and dry. She made her pick and it really was the only suitable stick there for that purpose. She found another stick which had a Y at the top and she proceeded to make a crutch for her little brother (he really doesn’t need one). I asked her later if she wanted to see the handles and cane tips that we could order from Lee Valley Tools. She was very excited and made her pick. The parts came and I quickly mounted them on the stick to see what it would look like.

Nanna's stick

Well, there it is. My granddaughter will be here this weekend and she can sand, stain, wood burn, or embellish the cane in any manner she chooses. Then she will varnish it and I can glue on the head and tip. I’ll post a picture of her finished project when we are done.

It will be interesting to see how she will finish the project.