A Custom Soft Sauna

I’ve completed a prototype of a project that’s been on the go for a few months now. Essentially, it started with how many of my projects start; I looked at something that someone else was doing or has done and naively thought to myself, “I could do that…”

The idea of creating a semi-portable near infrared sauna out of canvas and wood is not a new or original idea; at least one company in the states offers up this idea commercially. The soft saunas I saw out there didn’t exactly meet all the requirements I think would be best suited for my lady and I though, so I took to outlining what would. I wanted something that was made out of natural and accessible materials, something that was large enough for my lady and I to use at the same time, remained semi-portable and that didn’t cost upwards of $4,000 CAD. 

The end result was something I could piece together for $700, discounting my time and energy designing and fabricating. And it’s got me thinking how much cheaper it could be if I came up with a simpler design and were sourcing the materials at higher quantities from their origin of manufacture… even with my time and energy.

I’m logging this project as something worth revisiting and toying with again in the near future. I really look forward to making another one.

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Working with some scrap waxed canvas, I exercised some free form stitching without measurement or any real plan. Before stepping into any sort of design or patternmaking, I took some 1" diameter wood dowels to determine how well I could interface the fabric and the wood.

The Making of the Character Series Shotgun Case

First things first, I began with measuring out the shotgun. In this case, I'm working with a 12 gauge Fox Savage Model B with a 30" barrel.

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Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned:

  • Wool liner should have binding tape; no raw edges, at least around zipper opening
  • Zipper rivet missing; afraid of punch tool not being strong enough to punch through canvas and binding
  • Divider rivets should have been initially punched only on one side of the canvas
  • Leather stitching attaching canvas should have been brought closer to outside edge
  • Rivets should have been punched at each end of outside leather stitch
  • Reverse stitching should have been shorter so that they are hidden behind the binding tape
  • Binding tape needs cleaning up at zipper start
  • Binding tape needs more clearance from zipper teeth
  • Finishing stitch on binding tape needs to be closer to the binding tape edge to prevent wavering
  • Leather to be thinner on D-ring anchors, as it sticks out a little too much along spine
  • Four rivets should be used on each D-ring anchors
  • Stitching on leather required more consistent speed control; varied too much on one side

Successes:

  • Never stitched binding tape so uniformly, especially by hand
  • Hatch stitching looks incredibly straight, most likely due to time spent laying masking tape guides
  • Taking the time to grease the thread and needle for the leatherwork truly paid off
  • Time spent, using materials in stock, given market price payment made, allowed for a quality prototype to be made, sold and used for advertising; the sale of a next unit balances my total expenses on the first prototype and the next unit, bringing me up to par

Character Series Shotgun Case

This past month has been a wide shift of gears. I now look out the windows to new surroundings in what feels like a completely different province. Perhaps it wasn’t exactly one month, but several. Judging by the content I’ve been placing on this site lately, it’s clear to me my mind has been elsewhere!

Anyways, planting roots in a new home in a new place, my first order of business was getting a studio space set up where I could put my Pfaff to work. I have a lot of materials on hand at the moment and have been putting the word out to family and friends that I’d like to see them disappear. A couple promising projects are popping up requiring measurements, materials sourcing, design work, estimating and prototyping, but one project in particular didn’t require any waiting or decision making.

When I was asked if I could fabricate a soft takedown shotgun case, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a couple years now; I was already familiar with the cases on the market, all the materials I’d needed were on hand, and I had already gained a bit of experience working with these materials across other projects. For this case to be complete, all I had to do was pattern out the design I’ve had in mind for years, grab the materials and get to work.

Here is the result:

 

A couple years ago, I’d like to think that I could have accomplished an equivalent result, but the me now, perhaps in a completely different place in my life, would be quick to identify all the little things that I hadn’t completely figured out yet.

I continue to make mistakes and see plenty of room for improvement, but also, plenty of things came to fruition with this project and I look forward to detailing them out.

Project specifications:

  • 30″ barrel 12 gauge (or smaller) shotgun (either over/under or side by side)
  • Materials
    • 16 oz waxed cotton canvas, blue
    • Heavyweight Irish wool, heather
    • 5 oz full-grain cowhide leather
    • Bonded Nylon #69 T70 thread
    • YKK zipper
    • Solid brass rivets and D-rings

Mechanic’s Toolsets in Service Manuals

I have yet to come across a service manual for a car, truck or motorcycle which includes a comprehensive list of tools required for each maintenance or repair procedure. The manuals will most definitely include Special Service Tools (SST), but when it comes to listing whether the case cover bolts require a 1/4″ ratchet and 8 mm socket, you are left on your own to determine this fact. I can easily see why technical writers and publishers would have to draw this line when creating a service manual, as it may be assumed that the manual is being read in a workshop fully stocked with all the generic tools one would hope a mechanic would have, but what if you are adventure touring on a motorbike, or privateering in the Dakar rally? Without a truck bed, trunk, or a mobile workshop following you, it’s absolutely necessary to know which tools you need specifically for the kind of maintenance and repair you plan (or don’t plan) on performing.

I’ve only been riding 4 and a half years, but I quickly had to redefine what it meant to be mechanically prepared. I had once been used to heaving a large, heavy toolbox in the back of the Land Cruiser, prepared for just about anything happening (and enjoying that nothing ever did). Then with my first Yamaha dual-sport, a small 350 cc, lacking any form of storage besides an 8″ x 6″ x 2″ tail bag, I had to learn how to pack minimally and hope for only the most basic problems to occur, if any. Riding with friends helps, when some coordination is made ahead of time to split the tools amongst each other, but it’s not always guaranteed that the tools required to remove the carburetor on one bike would allow for the same thing to be done on another bike.

This is where many people simply draw a line for themselves and sign up for roadside assistance, carry cash for a tow, or are one of those types who touch their seat, grips and footpegs and simply sell it the moment something else requires touching.

Who actually goes to this length, to determine precisely what type of tools they require, if say, a tire tube is punctured, or a spark plug needs to be removed, or the valve clearances need to be adjusted? Who has actually performed all the repairs on their bike and made note of which tools are needed for which tasks?

Happenstance Guidance

If Google were to tell you what I search the most… it would be dictionary definitions and encyclopedia articles.

From a young age, I remember being drawn to words and meaning. I’m still obsessed with understanding, and it’s for the most part why I’m so drawn to what the internet has to offer. I enjoy my silent habit of going about my day and taking a word I see or hear and casually putting it under the microscope. The most satisfying words to me are the words that are most commonly used which we happen to be least conscious of using. For example, “wiktionary this” and “wiki that“.

I wonder… how many people can say they’ve looked up “this” in a dictionary? Or noticed that the wiki page for beards rivals most Wikipedia articles for depth of content? Only Google knows, I guess. I should probably write about all the benefits this simple habit brings me one day, but what I want to specifically lead into now is this: nothing has brought me closer to understanding myself in relation to the world than by-chance looking up the noun “medium“. That may be a dramatically embellished statement… but let me try to unpack it.

Like most cases when I look up seemingly random words in the dictionary; I’m first, struck at how flexible words can be in English, and second, amazed that I take satisfaction in looking up what feels like the obvious. This is, after all, a word I’ve used countless times throughout my spoken life. But this word got me seriously thinking… Of all the detailed definitions, the two that impressed upon me most were “The means, channel, or agency by which an aim is achieved.” and “A format for communicating or presenting information.

This is precisely what I’ve been attempting to figure out for the majority of my life; what my medium is. This is why we go to school, this is why we find a job, this is what makes us individuals with purpose and how others may find value in us. This is the interface between each one of us and the world; where individuality is born. But has anybody ever actually put it this way? Does everyone realize this early enough? Do we see each other by the means which we achieve our aims or the way we communicate information? I don’t think we do consciously, but I believe it certainly defines us unconsciously.

This makes me consider my portfolio, which happens to simply be a placeholder on the website at the moment, if anyone’s actually noticed. I have delayed posting anything until I’ve determined what sort of format I want it to be; the kind of content that I wanted to include and who it is that I want to tune it for. I have kept revisiting this hesitation with the questions, “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, and “how?”… when I believe I should instead just be defining “the medium”. What could offer myself and those who view it more guidance? What will interface with the rest of the world in a way that displays content consciously while subconsciously hints towards that unique and identifiable “me”?

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