Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Harpo Marx Horn Cane

When I was a young boy my father introduced me to one of his favorite comedy teams when he was a young boy: The Marx Brothers.

(Harpo, Groucho, Zeppo and Chico)

I was a big fan of Harpo - who frequently used props such as a horn cane, and he played the harp in most of his films. 

I even dressed as Harpo for Halloween a few times.

One of Harpo's signature props was a cane made up of a lead pipe, tape and a bulbhorn.

This is what I am going to make next.

For my old Halloween costume, I carried around a bike horn which had a similar bulbhorn.  But this has a horn bell, which I will get rid of.

I'm not going to make mine out of a pipe.  Instead, I went to the hardware store and picked up a few things.  First was a poplar dowel.

I bought a pack of rubber chair tips which will cover the bottom of the cane.  These tips were smaller than the dowel since the cane will eventually have a taper towards the bottom.

And to create that taper I finally bought myself a block plane.

The first step was to cut the dowel to length.  So, using my saw I cut it.

Next, I marked off where the taper will begin using some masking tape and I began shaving the wood with the block plane.

I knew when to stop shaving the wood once the chair tip fit on snugly.

Now that I have the taper I want, I sanded the cane.  I used various grits of sandpaper to get a smooth look and feel.  But I purposely left a few rough areas since Harpo's cane was rather worn looking.

Next it's time to remove the horn bell from the bicycle horn.  I used a saw attachment on my dremel to cut away the metal bell.  The bulbhorn simply pops off.

Next I used a small drill bit to make a hole at the top of the cane.  This hole will become bigger to fit in the piece of the horn that makes the honking noise.

I used larger drill bits until I achieved the desired size.

I also drilled smaller holes on the sides of the cane so that air can escape when the bulbhorn is squeezed.  Without this escape of air, there would be no honking noise.

I then put the bulbhorn back on to make sure everything looks good.

Below is how the cane looks assembled (but not glued together).

Next it's time to add color.  To do this I am going to try a spray-on stain and polyurethane that I found in the store.

I disassembled the cane and tool the wood part outside for a coat of the stain/sealer.

Looks good!  It's hard to tell from reference photos exactly what color the cane is.  I decided to go with a lighter wood color and add some brown and black paint once the stain dries.

The end result was a very worn looking cane.

With the colorization complete, it's time to assemble the cane.  I glued the horn piece into the top of the cane - making sure that no glue clogs the exit holes.

Once the glue dried I attached the bulbhorn.

Since the cane was held together with duct tape, I grabbed my roll and added some to complete the look.

Using an X-acto knife, I cut out the air holes for the honking.

And I'm done!

I took a short video so that you can hear the horn.  It doesn't sound exactly like it does in the movies, but it's still pretty cool.

In all the years I've idolized Harpo, and been Harpo for Halloween, I can't believe that I haven't done this sooner!  This project only took a few hours to do and was fun.  The next time I decide to be Harpo I will have this piece to complete the costume.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Vanity Table

My next wood working project will be to make a vanity table for my girlfriend.

While working on my dartboard cabinet (seen here), I used extra wood I had to protect the back yard table during the wood staining process.

I decided to play with this scrap wood - which was in good condition.  I used my new pocket hole jig to drill pocket holes on one side of the scrap wood.

And I connected that piece to another piece of the same length and width.

I also practiced using my plunge router and gave the corners a nice curved look.  The result was a pretty decent piece of wood.

This piece would make a decent counter top, so I decided I would make a vanity table for my girlfriend.  The next step was to design the table based off my new counter top.

This vanity will feature a mirror - which I can hopefully get to rotate between 2 furniture legs.

Under the counter tops I plan on adding some wood trim to make the sides look a little nicer.

And I will use 4 store bought furniture legs.

I've used these legs before....

 ... mostly to create nice looking helmet stands.

The 4 legs will be about 28" tall, while the legs for the rotating mirror will probably be smaller (based on whatever mirror I can find).

Before I start I need to even out the table top.  Since I assembled it on a carpeted floor, one side is slightly higher than the other.  To fix this, my landlord used his block plane to shave off the uneven surface.  I must remember in the future to work on hard, level surfaces!

Then I sanded the surface smooth with various grits of sandpaper.

Then I went to the hardware store and bought some 2x4's (to make the frame) and some 28" furniture legs.

Using my pocket hole jig, I drilled holes in the 2x4's.

Then I assembled the simple frame - this time on my flat kitchen table.

Next I drew out where the frame would rest on the bottom of the table top.

I put the frame in place and made indentations for where the legs will be screwed in.

I marked each indentation so I know where to drill.

Then I drilled a hole for the screw in the furniture leg to screw into.

Then screwed in the legs.

I placed the frame over the legs and on to the table top.  Everything fit snugly.

Then I removed the frame and drilled more pocket holes to screw the frame onto the table top.

Then I assembled everything.

I also added screws that connected the frame to the legs insuring that everything held together very well.  The end result is a very strong and sturdy table so far.

One mistake I noticed at the end was that my pocket screws were too long and the tips poked through the surface of the table top.

To fix this I initially used a grinding bit on my dremel to grind down the screw. (I took a lot of pictures of this process so I can show off a lot of sparks!)  This method took way too long, so I just wound up unscrewing the pocket screws and re-screwing smaller ones.

By the way, all this assembly was done in one evening.  The next day I went back to the hardware store and picked out a nice trim for the sides.

I also picked out a nice sized mirror for the top.

And I bought some matching table legs to hold up the mirror.

And some Carriage bolts and washers so that the mirror rotates.

When I got home I took out my miter box and tried to saw a 45 degree angle so the molding can wrap around the table.

...this proved unsuccessful.

So instead I just covered the front with molding.

I glued it on and clamped it in place.

Once everything dried I used some wood filler to fill in a lot of the holes the screws made on the table top.

And since the sides were supposed to have molding, but now don't, I decided to smooth the surface with the wood filler as well.

When the filler dried I gave the whole thing a good sanding.

I also used the router again to even out the edge shapes.  Since the initial boards were uneven, the edges did not sync.  Now everything looks right.

Next, I removed all the stuff on the back of the mirror and glued 2-2x4's to each side where it will be bolted to the furniture legs.

(If my girlfriend doesn't like this vanity table it would make a great work table for me!)

I am hoping this method will be strong enough.  The actual frame to the mirror is a thin wood - which makes the mirror very lightweight.  But I have nothing to screw the 2x4's on to - hopefully the glue will hold.

(Insert sad music here)
The next day I checked on my mirror.  The glue held in place, but the mirror backer did not.  So I threw out the wood and backer and started anew.

I will make a new backer using hardwood.  And instead of making the supports for the mirror using 2x4's, I decided to created a nicer shape using some nicer wood and cutting it to a better looking shape.  I made a template for this shape in Adobe Illustrator.

Since this shape is just barely too large to print out, I printed out half of the shape to use as a template.

I then traced my template onto the wood, flipped the template, and traced the mirrored template to make the full shape.

Then using my jigsaw, I cut the shape out.

I then drilled the hole in the center where the carriage screw will go.

I then cut out the hardwood to shape.

And then I glued the hardwood to the frame.

I also drilled the holes in the furniture legs, which will hold up the mirror, and connect it to the table top.

Then I glued the supports to the new mirror backing.

Once it dried, I placed the screws through the supports and the legs.

(Since I was going to use a thicker piece of wood initially, the carriage screws are way too long.  I went out and bought smaller ones.)

Having this together now, I lined up where the screws will connect to the desk and drilled holes on the table top.

When I drilled the hole through the furniture legs for the carriage bolts, I also drilled a hole lower.  This hole did not go all the way through the leg.

This hole will fit a dowel that will connect the 2 furniture legs for added support.

I cut the dowel to size and then I screwed in the legs on the table top.

And I inserted the dowel and assembled the mirror.

With everything looking right, I dissassembled everything and put it back together - this time using wood glue to further keep everything in place.

Once everything dried, I reassembled the mirror.

The rotating mirror works well.  Using the fly wing nuts to tighten the mirror to stay in place.

Since I couldn't get the molding to work on the sides, I decided to utilize the areas on the sides.  I bought 2 sets of hooks and screwed them on to the sides.

These hooks will allow my girlfriend to hang jewelry, towels or things like her blow dryer or straightening iron.

At this point the table isn't done yet, but still usable.

With the table fully assembled, it's time to add some color!

  I removed the mirror and I took the table outside and began staining it.

I used my sawhorses I created a few weeks ago (seen here) to place the table upside down on. 

 I started staining the bottom and lets first.

And also the back of the mirror.

Once the staining was done on the bottom, I turned it over and stained the top.

Once staining was complete I decided to sponge on some gold acrylic paint to match the style of the mirror frame.

I also made sure to sponge the mirror as well.

When creating my dartboard I used a spray-on polyurethane.  That was a small sized project so spray-on polyurethane was ok.  This is a much larger project, so I bought a can or polyurethane...

...and applied it with a brush.  Like the staining process, I started with the table upside down.

And then flipped it over to coat the top.

When the polyurethane dried I hammered on some pads for the bottom of the legs.

The table top was also given a slight sanding to remove some drip marks.

Then cleaned and given a second coat of polyurethane.

Then I reattached the mirror.

And the table is done!

This was a great project to work on.  The sad part is that after making it, I was unable to fit it anywhere in my small apartment.  Luckily I have a wonderful and understanding girlfriend, and we gave the table to our landlord - who in turn gave it to his girlfriend.  Once we have a bigger place than I will have to remake this.  By that time I will have hopefully learned more about woodworking and can make something even better.  But I still think this is an awesome vanity - not bad for an amateur wood worker.

I'd also like to thank my Landlord and Friend Julio, who has helped me with this project.  Thanks Julio!
Thanks for reading!