Rachel makes Olin's letters

A friend's first birthday was coming up, and Rachel wanted to make him a present. I hadn't thought of anything and was sick with a cold, so Rachel decided to make something herself. Some big wooden letters of his name (Olin).

I picked a crooked and cracked piece of black walnut that I figured wasn't of any use for anything else. Flattening it on the jointer and planing it, the grain came out surprisingly nice.

Here Rachel is laying out the letters, avoiding the cracks and knots.

Next step, to cut it in half to make it more manageable.

The "O" of Olin has a hole in it. Fortunately, this hole is round, so it can be drilled out. Walnut this thick does not cut well with a scrollsaw or a jigsaw.

Lots of shavings coming out of this hole. Sucking it up with my small dust collector.

Cutting out the letters on the bandsaw.

The strip sander comes in handy for sanding the inside corners as well as contours of the letters. It's also good for sanding the outside contours.

But the bigger belt sander still comes in handy for some things, such as flattening the bottom of the letters. It's also good for sanding the convex outside contours.

Back to the strip sander, with the table tilted for chamfering the outside edges.

A chip carving knife is best for chamfering the inside corners.

Then a lot of hand sanding to make the chamfer into more of a roundover. Also rounding over the outside corners.

The walnut grain came out so nice that we decided to just use clear varnish instead of painting them.

Varnishing the letters with water based varnish. The walnut colour would come out better with oil based varnish, and it would stand up better to getting put in a baby's mouth. But it's winter, and the oil based varnish is smelly, so we used the water based varnish.

I don't normally film the varnishing because I don't want to get varnish on the camera's buttons. But with Rachel doing it, my hands were free to use the camera. Or, I should say, at least one hand was free. Some little person wanted some attention.

With the letters propped up on the points of some triangular rails, checking over the varnish before leaving it to dry.

The letters got three coats of varnish, with light sanding in between.

I let Rachel edit together this video. I shot a lot of clips, about 20 minutes total. When I film my own project, I only shoot clips that I know I will use, but with two of us involved, and not much of a plan, it's not entirely predictable what clips will be needed. This makes editing it down to two minutes more time consuming.

12-month old Olin at first didn't take any interest in the letters, but then realied they make a loud noise when thrown on the floor. Fortunately, Olin's parent's living room is carpeted. Though that will probably make the letters less appealing.

See also:

Rachel makes a
toilet roll holder