Adjustable snare cajon

I’m a bit of a dabbling musician, and I’ve wanted to make a cajon for a while.

Apart from the snares, which were a cheap purchase from AliExpress, everything else is made from left-over materials I had lying around.

The body (top, bottom and sides) are made from 12mm poplar ply. It’s not the best ply as it has a few voids in the layers, but it looks nice and sounds ok.

The tapa is 4mm 3-ply birch (model ply, or aircraft ply).

Unlike a more traditional cajon, I made the sound hole in the side instead of the back, and attached a second tapa to the back. I plan to attach a drum pedal which strikes the rear tapa so that I can play with my foot while sitting on the cajon and playing guitar.

Usually the rear is thinner than the sides, but not as thin as the tapa (usually it’s about twice as thick). The thinner rear has given my cajon more of a resonant bass tone – a little more like as bongo than a classic bass drum, but it still sounds nice.

The knob on the side allows me to engage or disengage the snares from the tapa.

The body is varnished, and both tapas are oiled.


Table-mounted jigsaw

Inspired by Mistry MakeTool on YouTube (videos: table, guide), I decided to make my own jigsaw table. I don’t currently own a bandsaw, or even a scrollsaw, so this is my interim solution.

The top is 400x400mm (~16″ x 16″) and 200mm (8″) high. The box is made from 18mm MDF, with a 4mm hardboard top (smooth side up). Everything is glued (Titebond III) and key parts, such as where the guide attaches to the box, are also screwed.

I’m using a Ryobi 600W jigsaw that I purchased specifically for this project for around US$80. The foot of the jigsaw has been completely removed, and I’ve bolted the jigsaw directly to the underside of the table using the bolt hole for the foot. A couple of blocks either side of the jigsaw are there just to keep it aligned.

I pulled apart a very old Black & Decker jigsaw and used the blade guide wheel from that as the new blade guide for the table.

The build took around 4 hrs (mostly waiting for glue to dry).


My experience after a bit of use is that this tool is great for cutting thinner (12mm or less) thicknesses of timber, but it feels pretty dangerous when cutting metal. I’ve been cutting 3mm aluminium plate, and I would not recommend using the jigsaw table for that. The blade wants to try and lift the work piece from the table on the up stroke, and I had to hold the work piece down very firmly and be extremely careful when cutting. This doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem with timber.

Secondly, this model of jigsaw (Ryobi 600W 85mm, RJS850-K) allows the blade to twist/rotate quite a bit. My battery jigsaw (Ryobi +one) holds the jigsaw blade absolutely rigid, but due to a different locking mechanism, this particular jigsaw model allows the blade to twist by up to about 30 degrees! If you’re planning to build a table like this, look for a jigsaw that holds the blade absolutely rigid.

Drill lathe

One of my other projects required some wood turning. Not owning a lathe, or having done any sort of turning in the past, I reached out to the local wood turners association, but unfortunately got no response.

So I decided to make my own (very simple) lathe.

I mounted an old, cheap drill I had into a jig. The workpiece was simply bolted tightly to a large bolt and inserted into the chuck.

The American Black Walnut light surrounds turned out beautifully. very happy with my first ever wood turning experience!

Table-mounted belt sander

I needed to do a bit of sanding for a wood turning project (see drill lathe), so I made a jig to mount my belt sander at 90 degrees to it’s own table. This makes a handy belt sanding table – I used it for both wood and aluminium.

The belt sander is held in place with a large clamp so that it can be easily removed. In the future I may look at building a custom clamp for this.

The lines on the surface are guides at 90 and 45 degrees.

I’ve since attached the sanding table to the top of a small cabinet on castors so that I can move it around. It’s one of the most used tools in the shop now!

How to fix old LEGO train wheels

If you had a LEGO train set in the 80s or 90s, chances are that some of the wheels have come off by now, and they just won’t attach to any of the common LEGO axles.

These are the wheels I mean. They have small metal axles and attach to a thick 4×2 block. In my wheels, all the little axles are long since missing, and all that is left is a wheel with a small hole through it.

Lego train wheels

What I did to fix mine is drill the holes out to fit standard LEGO wheel axles, like in the image below (see ‘the plan’).

The plan

Train wheel plan

You’ll need:

  • A drill press*
  • A 3.2mm drill bit (optional**)
  • A 3.5mm drill bit
  • A 4.5mm drill bit

* You could try this without a drill press, but you won’t get consistent results, and you may get some tight wheels and some loose.

** The 3.2mm drill bit is used to set the depth stop to the perfect depth without trial and error. You can do this with a ruler or something else if you need to.

The steps are:

  1. Enlarge the hole all the way through the wheel with the 3.5mm drill bit
  2. Insert the 4.5mm drill bit and set the depth stop using the 3.2mm drill bit
  3. Drill the hole larger part way through the wheel until the depth stop is reached

The wheels should now snap perfectly onto the axle and spin smoothly without being too tight or too loose.

1. Enlarge hole to 3.5mm

Insert the 3.5mm drill bit in the drill press. Place a block of wood on the platform to ensure you don’t drill into the platform itself. Carefully but tightly hold the LEGO train wheel in place with one hand, and very slowly drill through the centre of the wheel all the way through. Because there is already a hole, the drill centres itself and ensures the hole is perfectly vertical.

Drill 3.5mm hole


  1. Although I wouldn’t normally recommend just holding the work piece between fingers, if you hold it steady and drill slowly you shouldn’t have a problem. The plastic is soft and shouldn’t snag.

2. Set up 4.5mm drill bit depth

Insert the 4.5mm drill bit in the drill press. Now lay the 3.2mm drill bit on the block of wood directly under the inserted bit and lower the drill press until the inserted bit sits on the 3.2mm drill bit. Now set the depth stop so that the drill press will not drill any deeper than that.

Setting the depth stop


  1. A depth of 3.2mm gives the perfect depth for the lego axles to click in place and allow the LEGO train wheel to freely spin. 3.5mm results in a tight wheel and 3mm allows the train wheel to move (too much slop).
  2. If you don’t have a 3.2mm drill bit, use the 3.5mm drill bit from the previous step, and then carefully lower the drill press a tiny bit more before setting the depth stop. It is best to drill the hole too shallow than too deep. You can always drill it a tad deeper later if the wheel is too tight.

3. Drill the 4.5mm hole

Finally, drill the 4.5mm hole in each wheel, lowering the drill press until the depth stop is reached. Remember to drill from the front of the train wheel towards the back!

Drill the larger hole


  1. Make sure you drill from the front of the LEGO train wheel to the back, like in the photo.
  2. Hold the LEGO train wheel securely, and drill slowly. You do NOT want the plastic shavings to snag and pull the train wheel upwards, or you’ll get a hole all the way through the wheel and it will be ruined.
  3. Drill down to the depth stop, not all the way through the wheel!


Hopefully your wheels now snap onto the axles and spin nice and freely! Have fun.

Caravan fun

I haven’t posted in a while – mostly because I’ve been busy on all my other projects – so here is a very quick update of progress with some pictures 🙂

First job was installing the roof.  Carbonised bamboo on either side, with a panel of Lawson Cypress in the middle and remote-controlled 12v LED down lights.

Roof raised ready for work on ceiling
Roof raised ready for work on ceiling
Working on the electrics for the downlights
Working on the electrics for the downlights
New ceiling is in!
New ceiling is in!
Roof raised under carport to work on ceiling
Roof raised under carport to work on ceiling

After a few camping trips, Wife and I were ready for a better bed. We decided to put in a a permanent (almost) full-size double bed to replace the folding table and squabs.  The mattress was made to order by a local bed manufacturer and is only 3cm shorter and the same width as a full double.  We also removed the wardrobe to get extra room for the bed.

The bed folds upwards to allow access to all the storage room underneath.

The kitchen was removed because we never used it and we always cook in the awning.  This allowed room for the bed, too, and I’m making new cabinets to fit the smaller space.

Out with the old table and bed
Out with the old table and bed
Half-way through making the new bed
Half-way through making the new bed

The next job were a few interior modifications. I added a shelf at one end for baskets (clothes etc) that folds up against the wall. We’re removing the wardrobe, so we need extra storage. Another shelf is planned for the other end, but hasn’t been done yet.  Also added a side for one of the beds – our girl was only 1yr old at this stage and we didn’t want her falling out!

Folding shelf - up
Folding shelf – up
Folding shelf - down, with baskets
Folding shelf – down, with baskets
Side on bed for baby
Side on bed for baby

Next up was a new floor to match the ceiling.  The old lino floor looked pretty horrible compared to the ceiling!

Out with the old floor
Out with the old floor
New floor cut to shape
New floor cut to shape
New floor glued down
New floor glued down
New floor finished
New floor finished

Currently I’m building the new cabinets to replace the kitchen that was removed (kept the fridge) and prepping the interior for painting!



Repairing a loose knot

Unfortunately the thicknesser knocked a large knot right out of the timber. The hole is not just unsightly, but may let water and dust enter the caravan from the ceiling space.
Large knot missing

Rather than try to fill the hole with bog, I made a fake knot to fill the hole, and then fixed that in place.  The first step was to cut a small piece of timber from the same plank.  I also removed the loose bark and other material from the hole – note that I didn’t shape the hole in any way – to keep it looking natural.

Cutting the blank

I placed the blank over the hole and roughly marked the shape (oversize!) with a pencil.  Then using a saw, wood file and bastard file the blank was shaped to fit the hole.  The process involved cutting/filing a bit, returning to the hole and marking more pencil, then returning to the vice for more cutting and filing.  Eventually the new fake knot was almost the right size.

Almost the right size

After some final filing the knot fit perfectly into the space left by the loose knot – not too loose and not too tight.  The edges of the knot are not vertical – they are sloped at about 30 degrees so be careful to account for this if you are replicating this process.

Perfect fit

The fact that there is a little space around the edge of the knot doesn’t matter – it makes it look more authentically like a knot 🙂  The final step was to use wood coloured putty to fill all the gaps around it.  On hindsight I should have glued it in place first before using the putty, but I’m hoping the putty will be strong enough to keep the new fake knot in place!

This whole process took maybe 20 minutes.

More middle bit

After tear-out problems preparing the ceiling panels with the thicknesser, I changed the router blades. The difference is remarkable – the finish is now so smooth it almost doesn’t require sanding. I couldn’t be happier.

The three central sections of ceiling panel were run through the thicknesser and honed down to 8mm. I then used the table router to create a sort of shiplap of about 15mm width along the edge of the sections. This allows the sections to overlap when glued instead of simply butting up against each other and triples the area to be glued for a better hold.

The central section is now completely glued up ready for cutting to length and cutting the circular holes for the spotlights.



photo showing the routed overlap. The boards are 8mm thick, the overlap is 4mm x 15mm.

The middle bit

I planned for the ceiling to be carbonised bamboo. This requires 3 sheets of bamboo, with some sort of join between each sheet. After a rethink I’ve decided to split the ceiling and add a central section of Lawson Cypress. The plan is for it to provide some contrast (it is light whereas the bamboo is darker) and tie in nicely with the kitchenette. This way I only need two sheets of the bamboo – one either side of the Lawson – and no panel joiners.

The section of Lawson will be around 700mm x 2000mm. To ensure that it doesn’t end up weighing too much, I am using very thin timber – the finished thickness will be around 8 or 9mm.

I started by selecting a few nice straight 2m lengths of Lawson ex. 100×50, finished. I cut 12mm slices on the table saw off the thinner edge for a size of 44mm x 12mm. I then ran these through my new (second-hand) thicknesser to get them down to 10mm. I was not impressed by the tearout – almost every piece has some tearout damage. I presume its due to the soft wood, but I haven’t checked the blades yet. They may require some honing.

I then glued the finished pieces side by side in three sections around 240mm wide each.

The next step will be to glue the three sections together and finally sand the entire surface to get a nice, smooth finish (hopefully getting rid of all that tearout) and bringing out the grain. I fear there will be a lot of sanding ahead…

Preparing the lid

Once the roof of the caravan (after being removed) was all squared up on the jig, the next part was to prepare the roof before any future work can commence.  The old covering was pulled off, and the foam insulation was removed using a paint scraper.  It was going mouldy in places, and also covered areas that need access to the fibreglass later, so it had to go.  The glue holding the foam to the roof did not lift with the foam, so this will be removed with acetone later.

The fittings, which were very worn, buckled and oxidised, were also removed.  Some needed a spray with CRC to get them moving – but first I carefully measured and recorded their original location so that the replacements will be mounted in the same place!

Total time around 2hrs for this part (so far) without removing the old glue.


Detail of one of the fittings

Removing old insulation in progress

Removing old insulation (in progress).  The water damage and rot is apparent here.