Canadian Woodworking

Halloween costumes: a gateway woodworking project

Blog by Rob Brown
Nice Little Project

My son likes to spend time in the shop, but only if it doesn’t drag on for longer than an hour, maybe two.

My daughter’s limit is usually around 20 minutes, unless she’s taking notes for a project that she’ll be writing about in one of the “Kid’s Corner” columns in our print magazine. Then she’s super-keen and is able to maintain focus for five times that length. Maybe it’s because she knows she’ll get paid, not to mention her words will be in print for everyone to read. Everyone is motivated by something.

Dad, can we…?

As Halloween approached last weekend, my daughter didn’t have any interest in a costume, and I thought this might be the first time she wouldn’t dress up. After all, she’s in Grade 9 and didn’t think any of her classmates were going out. Well, she got a message from a friend from another school on Sunday night asking if she wanted to join her and a few friends. Game on. Now the question: What would she be?

A few of the other girls were going to be Daphne and Velma from the television show and movie “Scooby-Doo,” so naturally my daughter was going to be Scooby-Doo, the famous great dane, who’s always up for finding the bad guys.

The costume was pretty simple; brown clothing, hair up in “ears”, some make-up whiskers, a dog collar and a tag with “SD” on it. It was that last part that gave me an opportunity, even if it was a very small one. When opportunity knocks, open the door. I’m pretty sure they mean the workshop door. I mentioned to my daughter that we could make a great-looking tag out of wood and paint it up to be pretty much exactly like the original. She thought that was a great idea.

To the shop!

The next day we went straight from school to the shop to complete the costume. I had lots of 1/2″ thick Baltic birch sitting around, so that’s what we chose. It’s simple to work with and would give us a nice surface to paint.

An internet search for an image of Scooby’s tag came first, followed by some quick layout. At first, I thought it was a square, but as she pointed out, it’s a slight diamond so we settled on angles 5° off square. As always, I had to rein in her perfectionism as she measured and marked the lines. She rolled her eyes, then got back to the layout. I made one table saw cut, followed by a couple of mitre saw cuts (she’s not a fan of loud shop noises and whirling blades) and we had the basic shape trimmed to size. I showed her the disk sander, which she was comfortable with. Then it was to the drill press to bore a 1/4″ diameter hole. She was also good with that operation. Next, everyone’s most hated operation, hand sanding. She eased the edges and smoothed the two faces. Finally, we took it outside to give it a few light coats of blue spray paint. We let that dry and went straight home. This took 20 minutes. Perfect timing.

The next day, I picked up some yellow paint from the craft store so we could paint the “SD” and the edges. In fact, I ended up painting the yellow portion as she sat in a chair getting her hair put up into “dog ears”. It’s a lavish (dare I say spoiled?) life she lives.

Little by little

I’m hoping these short sessions involving practical things like making a unique detail for a Halloween costume will teach her that the shop can be fun and productive, even if she never really wants to make a woodworking project on her own. Having said that, there’s another reason why she might want to spend time working wood; her boyfriend is two months into his first wood shop class at high school and he’s really enjoying it. In fact, when he was over for dinner a couple of weeks ago, I asked him what his favourite subject was. His reply: wood shop.

I’m well aware that he knows what I do for a living, and that he may be trying to impress me, but I still like him. If nothing else, my daughter might want to do a bit of woodworking here and there just to stay ahead of her boyfriend, as she’s pretty competitive. From my perspective, whatever gets her into the shop building projects is a good thing.

Drawing blood

On a much different topic (thankfully), last week’s column drew a number of interesting, if not cringeworthy, comments. “Drawing Blood” was my cautionary tale about what can quickly go wrong in a woodworking shop if you don’t pay full attention to what you’re doing. If you want to read about what it feels like to drive a #8 screw into your finger, nearly cut off your hand on a mitre saw or hammer a nail into your palm, read the comments on last week’s column. A light read it is not, but it might be a very important read.

Nice Little Project

Here’s a complete Scooby-Doo dog tag. The woodworking was completed by my amazing daughter, while the poor painting was completed by her dad.

Nice Little Project

Disk Sanding

A disk sander makes quick work of rounding the corners of the dog tag.

Disk Sanding

Hand Sanding

Though everyone hates sanding by hand, it softens sharp edges and preps the surfaces for a nice coat of finish.

Hand Sanding
Last modified: November 3, 2023

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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