Progress Photos: Building Rachel's Woodie Hoop (round wood toy inspired by a hoola hoop)

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Blog entry by Mark A. DeCou posted 09-19-2008 03:12 AM 15403 reads 3 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

With all of the “Hoopla” associated with my recent blog, and Quixote's Project posting on the subject, I just about had to submit and build the toy for her.

After all, using the thorough 2-Step plans she provided, how hard could it be?

Well, just count all of the Steps I used, and add up the dollar amount of all of the tools I used in the process, and it’s a pretty daunting little project, for a fact. Sure, buying a plastic ring at the big department store would be cheaper, but this project isn’t about “easy”, or “cheaper.” It’s about a daughter.

I must first confess though, that I had no intentions of actually building a wooden hoop for Rachel, until all of the comments and encouragement came in from the LJ Community.

I learned my lesson (keep my mouth shut).

But, really, thanks folks, you’ve pushed me into being my daughter’s hero today.

And, also to be honest, I spent more time trying to talk her out of the project, and then getting the photos and writing up this response blog, than I did actually making the silly toy hoop.

Of course, all of this whizz-bang picture posting would all go faster if I had a computer that had been built in the new millenium, and didn’t have phone line dial-up internet. Maybe someday I can upgrade.

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Back to the Story:
So, the Wife kindly offered to do some of the mowing this week to free me up to work on the Woodie Hoop. Actually, from all the rain we’ve had, much of the mowing looked more like “haying” this time.

One of the advantages of living in the country, is that there aren’t any neighbors to impress with a manicured lawn with perfect cross hatched wheel marks in our yard. So, we do it when we need to, or have time, and not before.

Photo 1:

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So, with the help with the yard this week, I submitted to making a wooden hoola hoop.

Quixote showed his progress on a hoola hoop with his daughter, and commented that the kids at his daughter’s daycare called it a “woody hoop.”

I like that name, so I named my project “Rachel’s Woodie Hoop”

The process to build a wooden hoop light enough for the intended purpose caused me to scratch my head some. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on it, of course, but still wanted a satisfactory final product, one worthy of a daughter’s possessions.

Cutting The Wood Strips:
I chose to use Poplar. Why Poplar?

I had it on hand, and it didn’t have any knots in it. Bending strips with a knot just breaks. I had some Pine, but it was buried under a bunch of other wood. So, the Poplar would work.

The board was 96” long, and 3/4” thick. If I would have had 1” thick material, I think it would have worked better, giving me room to clean up the edges after the glue up.

So the first step was to joint the edge carefully, and set the table saw fence at 1/8”. I know, I know. All of those magazine articles show cutting the narrow strips from the off-side of the blade. But, if I do that, I never get two strips that are exactly the same thickness. Do those guys actually make things, or just write articles?

I could run all of the strips through my surface planer to get a consistent thickness, but when I’ve tried that in the past on thin strips, invariably, they “blow-apart”. Using a small drum sander would work great, but hey, I don’t have one.

Since I decided to do the bending with dry strips, I cut them thin. I could have used thicker pieces if I had soaked them in water, or steam, but that takes more time. I simply thought that the dry strips would work, and be quick, and I was mostly right.

Photo 2:

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The Bending Form:
When I took the Sculpted Rocking Chair class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking back 8 years ago, Marc taught us to build bending forms that worked with the natural flex of the wood. I have used that information many times, on way more projects than just Maloof-Inspired rocking chair runners, and so I decided to make an outside gluing frame, where the narrow straps would naturally hold themselves in place. Seemed much easier than it was, but you get the point.

Ok, so settling on a diameter for the hoop depended strictly on the size of particle board scraps I had to make it from. Using this scrap, I was able to get a 27” diameter ring made while leaving enough of a band around the outside to clamp with, and to leave the ring strong enough not to break if it were to get dropped on the floor, or knocked off the bench.

And as a fact, the whole glue-up eventually did fall on the floor, tipping off the work table, with about a dozen clamps on it. So, I was glad that it wasn’t too fragile.

I had been in such a hurry, that I had overloaded one side of the balance, and so when my back was turned running for more clamps, the whole system ended up on the floor, just missing Rachel’s toes in a pair of flip flops. That could have ruined the whole game, but it all missed her toes thank God.

I used a circle cutting jig I made about a dozen years ago. And like things go, it was built for a different router than I am using this time. So, add another 15 minutes, making the old jig fit the new router.

Photo 3:

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Cutting the Circle:
Using the circle jig, and a 1/2” shank router bit with a 3/8” down cutting spiral cutter, I made several light passes of about 1/8” deep, going around and around until the particle board was cut clear through. Since my centering point was in the piece I was removing, I made extra careful movements on the last pass around the circle. I put plywood scraps under the sheet so that the circle would not drop when it was cut.

I had a helper, Riley, that liked to clean the dust out of the cut groove.

Photo 4:

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Looking back on this step, I should have cut the outside of the circle form first. The reason is that later, I will need a ring to place the clamps around. I didn’t figure that out until the first glued strips were in place, and I had to take them back out and quickly cut the outside circle on the bandsaw.

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Trimming the Relief Gap:
The method of strip gluing that I’m going to use is the one that Quixote showed in his tutorial, only I’m going on the inside of a circle, instead of the outside of the circle like he did. I liked the continuous strip method, with overlapping splices he showed, and so that is the method I used.

To make the starting point, I marked a cut line for the jig saw, so that I had a starting place for the first strip. After the glued assembly is dry, I will sand off this starting point to make the circle round, which I’ll show below.

Sorry I don’t have any fancy tools for this step, just an old Jig Saw that my grandfather let me have when he moved into town from the Farm. You have to use what you have. My moto is to “make do” with the budget and tools you have. I don’t use this tool often, but when I do, I’m glad I have it, and it makes me think of Granddad again, which is always nice.

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Getting Ready for Glue:
I decided to use some normal PVA style wood glue for this project. For other bending projects I use a two-part Urea Formaldhyde glue that I learned about watching the old re-runs of David Mark’s television show. It works great for bending, but at this point, I just want to get this project finished quickly, and the PVA should work fine.

Another thing I learned from Marc Adams was to use paste furniture wax to cover my gluing forms, so that the glue doesn’t stick. I’ve had this can about a dozen years, and it still works great for such things. If the manufacturer wants to send me a commission check, I’ll repost the photo with the brand name shown.

Photo 9:

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Gluing the Strips:
Now, I must tell you that I didn’t spend the normal amount of time planning this glue up. I put the first strip in dry, and then spread glue on it, and then did the next strip, and so on. I had plenty of help, and it was still a chore. Three of the wood strips broke suddenly, and had to be tossed, as I did the bending dry.

If I am to make any more of these Woodie Hoops, I will presoak the strips in water and pre-bend them. My plan then is to use the plugged-up rain gutter on the edge of my house roof (good reason not to clean them out – you can use that excuse if it will help you.)

After the strips are wet, then I would prebend them on the bending jig, clamping them in place WITHOUT any glue, and then let them dry. That should give them a predetermined bend, and relax them some when the gluing is actually done. Next time it will work better.

I am hesitant to use wet wood with PVA glue. I have soaked strips before and used PVA glue, and always worried about the wood being so wet that the glue would be too diluted.

Of course, I could use a polyurethane style glue, but Man, what a mess that stuff would make on this project. I try not to use it unless I have just have to for the application.

The kids enjoyed helping with the gluing. Spending as much time running for a rag to wipe their finger off than actually spreading glue, so my fingers made most of the mess.

Another thing I did not plan well enough for was the limited work space I tried to use, and the messy situation this project caused.

I should have set up some sawhorses outside in the drive way to do this gluing process on. To be honest, I did actually think about the sawhorses before hand, but they were already covered up with other projects-in-process, and I didn’t want to spend the time cleaning them off.

Now with hindsight, I should have used the sawhorses outside.

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Photo 11:

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It’s the Process that’s Important, NOT the Product:

Having two kids help with a messy glue up while dealing with fast tack PVA glue was a pretty stressful scene. I had to keep reminding myself that we were making a memory here, not a Product.

To be honest, remembering that wasn’t easy, as anyone knows who has done stressful glue-ups with lots of extra “help.”

Still, I kept my attitude in check, and we all had a fun time together. I had to focus on that during the process, though, working to make it a reality.

I’m sorry I don’t have more photos of the gluing process. My hands were so covered in glue, and things were so hectic, that I couldn’t take any photos for about 15 minutes of the process.

AND the Wife couldn’t take any photos either, she was mowing, remember?

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The Clamping Process:
Ok, so we’ve made about four rings of wood around the circumference, getting glue everywhere. I quickly wiped up some excess, and started running for clamps.

I thought I had enough, but by the time it was all over in 15 minutes, I really could have used some more.

Another thing Marc Adams taught me is that you can never have too many clamps. He said to buy more every year. I try to do that as I can afford to. “Clamps” appear every year on my Christmas-Want-List, and most of the time my family comes through with some.

Photo 12:

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Is This All Just An Advertisement?
As a side note, I’ve mentioned Marc Adams several times during this blog. He pays me nothing for mentioning him, and in fact, he will probably never know about it.

I haven’t talked about him much over the years, but I can assure you that if you take the time and financial investment in training at a school such as his, it will not only help you with the class project, but for years later, you’ll still be using what you learned.

Before I had children, I learned how to do many of the steps in this Woodie Hoop Project from the Marc Adams class I attended in the year 2000, never realizing then how many times it would come into play in future projects, such as the Woodie Hoop.

End of Day 1
Now, the clamps are all tight, the extra glue wiped up, and everything is ready to wait. From the time I decided to do this project for real, and the time the clamps were all in place, about an hour and half has passed. It seemed like a full day’s work, but it really didn’t take that long.

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Start of Day 2:
Ok, it’s now morning (Thursday) and I take off all of the clamps and hang them back up, which takes a while. It was at this point that I made the decision that we were making just one Woodie Hoop.

Originally, I made enough strips for three or four, or five, thinking they would make great gifts for the extended family this Christmas. But, they may not get a Woodie Hoop, time will tell.

Since I pre-waxed the gluing form, once the clamps were removed the glued ring just sort of released itself nicely.

Photo 13:

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OK, Now What? Think, Think, Think.
I now have a ring of wood, with dried glue stuck all over it. Now, What?

The first step is to flatten one side, then flatten the other, then shape the outside, and then shape the inside, and then router the edges, and then paint it. Easy enough huh?

Here are the steps I used this morning, taking about an hour to finish up the Woodie Hoop.

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Flattening the Bottom:
I used my jointer to carefully run the hoop around the cutter, carefully keeping my hands on the outfeed table, and keeping the pressure on the outfeed side. This works really well. Still, it is pretty scarry.

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Making the Top Parallel:
I used the table saw to gently nibble away the uneven top side of the hoop. I carefully held the hoop tight against the fence, while feeding the hoop into the blade just fast enough to avoid a lot of burn marks. I’ve learned the key to making cuts like this with a dull blade like I normally have, is to take small bites, and easing the fence in closer with each pass.

When I finished cutting, I had a hoop that was flat, with a parallel face, a little more than 5/8” thick. Seemed good enough for this project with such easy provided “Plans”.

Photo 16:

Just a small amount of burning, easy enough to sand off. The hoop will be painted, so the biggest concern I have is to make a consistent surface on both faces so that I can later round it off with a router bit.

Photo 17:

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Shaping the Outside of the Ring:
I’m a guy that doesn’t really have any fancy tools. I’d like to have them, but paying for them is a real chore. So, I have a lot of hobby style tools, like this small bench-top belt sander. I use it constantly, and really could justify a bigger and more powerful model. Maybe someday I can afford that.

My main goal in shaping the outside of the hoop is to remove the “Start Step” in the layers. I carefully sanded it flush, over a long strip, shaping it so that the outside of the curve was nice and smooth. This is critical, since the next step will require a smooth exterior, as you will see.

Photo 18:

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Shaping the Inside of the Ring:
To do this job, I’m sure there are other ways, but this was quick and worked well. I took my bench-top spindle sander and clamped a curved scrap of plywood to the top of it. I set the spacing at the narrowest spot on the ring. After running the hoop around the sanding spindle a couple of times, the circle was smooth, and the hoop was the same thickness all the way around.

Photo 19:

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Rounding the Edges:
Under this pile of stuff is my router table.

Photo 20:

I decided it would take too long to uncover it, so I decided to round the edges over with a small hand held router. The router table mounted bit would be the safest and most accurate method, but I’ve become proficient in the free hand use of a router, and so my method was just as good, and faster than uncovering the router table.

I don’t really know which round over bit I used. I just grabbed one, and ran it around the inside and outside, the top and the bottom. I suppose it was about a 3/8” radius bit.

Photo 21:

When the routering was finished, I had a smooth and nicely shaped hoop.

Photo 22:

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Sanding and Painting:
I didn’t take time to photograph the sanding process. I just grabbed a used 120 grit piece from the orbital sander, and ran it around the circle several times holding the paper in my hand. This isn’t a job for the-piece-of-junk wobbly orbital sander that I have, but that’s another story for another day.

I primed the hoop with some white exterior primer, using a cheap acid brush for the job. I followed the priming job with some quick smoothing with #0000 steel wool, and two quick coats of exterior off-white paint.

After the top coat dried, I smoothed it with #0000 steel wool again, and it is now ready for Rachel to “paint” and decorate.

Off the topic a little, I noticed posting this photo that my $12,000 Drinking Glass from the Emporia Surgical Hospital is sitting there in plain view. It is my favorite shop glass, but that’s a different story for another time on health insurance for the self-employed.

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The next steps are for Rachel and Momma to decorate the “Woodie Hoop”. Rachel said this morning before school that she wanted me to put “lights” on it. There’s just no end!

I suggested that we paint it with pretty colors and put glitter paint on it, and she liked that idea. So, that’s the plan.

Momma and Rachel started the painting tonight, after supper, and after homework.

I’ll post the final photos as a “project posting” when they are finished with the decorations in a couple of days.

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When Rachel got home from the school bus tonight, I told her that I had a secret for her.

That always excites her.

A secret? What is it?” she whispered back.

I have your Woodie Hoop ready for you to paint,” I proudly replied.

Hooray, Hooray, oh thank you, thank you, thank you Daddy!” she responded.

Next I got a great big tight neck hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Right after that, she called to her brother, ”Hey Riley, Daddy has both of our hoola hoops finished.”

Skreeeeech! What?

Now I’m committed to making another one?

Maybe I can talk him into something else, like a toy truck, or a wood knife, or a wood tomahawk, something like my dad made me when I was a kid, all of which I still have.

A great end to a silliy little toy project.

A hero today, at least to one girl and a boy.

Thanks for reading along, now what do you need to go build?
Mark DeCou


UPDATE FOR 9-19-2008:
Rachel has her Woodie Hoop Painted three different colors with lots of sparkles on it. She took it to school today for Show-and-Tell, and demonstrated it’s use. She came home this evening after school, and did a bunch of “circus tricks” swinging it around her waist, around her neck, around one leg, around her arms, rolling it in the grass to her brother, and using it like a jump rope. It has been fun to watch her excitement this evening. She’s actually pretty good with the Woodie Hoop, surprised me how quickly she has learned to use it.

From what I can tell, the extra weight of using a wood hoola hoop, verses the plastic ones, is that it actually makes the hoola-ing easier to do. The weight seems to help keep the momentum going around the hip swinging. I can’t do it of course.

good night,

(All Text, photos, and project design is a copyrighted 2008 by the author, M.A.DeCou. All rights reserved.)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

24 comments so far

View Quixote's profile


206 posts in 4417 days

#1 posted 09-19-2008 03:27 AM

This absolutely beats taking the tire off your truck.


-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

View rookster's profile


67 posts in 4930 days

#2 posted 09-19-2008 03:30 AM

There are so many times you can’t be a hero, it’s important to seize the moments when you can. I just knew you could build anything, even a wooden hula hoop…

-- Rookster, (

View Tim Pursell's profile

Tim Pursell

500 posts in 4561 days

#3 posted 09-19-2008 03:42 AM

Great job Mark. “a great big tight neck hug and a kiss on the cheek” makes it sooooo worth while.


View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4546 days

#4 posted 09-19-2008 03:43 AM

Awesome memory of a lifetime you built today Mark. Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View lclashley's profile


244 posts in 4894 days

#5 posted 09-19-2008 04:04 AM

Great story! My wife and I got a big kick out of it, and she thought the clamping pic was hilarious. Thanks for sharing.

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 5106 days

#6 posted 09-19-2008 04:19 AM

that’s a fantastic story!
I knew you could pull it off.

Mark “Superdad” DeCou!

View Christopher's profile


576 posts in 4699 days

#7 posted 09-19-2008 04:37 AM

Your a good father Mark, your daughters are lucky to have you!

View Karson's profile


35223 posts in 5180 days

#8 posted 09-19-2008 05:10 AM

Mark: Congratulations on your accomplishment. A great big job and the pay is as good as a fat check. :>)

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Obi's profile


2214 posts in 5016 days

#9 posted 09-19-2008 06:02 AM

I gotta tell ya, Buddy, I really didn’t think you could do it. Please forgive me for doubting. having just laminated several pieces of Oak, that was the last thing I would have thought of.

Great, JOB! So how much do these things cost and where can i get me one? ;)

View TomK 's profile


504 posts in 4654 days

#10 posted 09-19-2008 06:33 AM

You ‘da man, Mark. That’s whammo!

-- If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it's free! PJ O'Rourke

View lazyfiremaninTN's profile


528 posts in 4732 days

#11 posted 09-19-2008 05:18 PM

You are the best daddy. Congrats on the completion buddy.

-- Adrian ..... The 11th Commandment...."Thou Shalt Not Buy A Wobble Dado"

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5026 days

#12 posted 09-19-2008 08:48 PM

Are not those kisses and hugs the best things God ever gave us. I’ll never forget coming home from work one day, this was when I was working in the foundry. Black as the ace of spades, and my daughter, Raenee, ran up to me and wanted a big hug and kiss. I said ” honey I’m all filthy from that foundry,” and she replied, ” but I love you anyway”. Well, needless to say, it not only broke my heart but made me feel pretty ashamed of myself. Thanks for the memories, buddy.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View oldskoolmodder's profile


802 posts in 4459 days

#13 posted 09-19-2008 09:28 PM

Great job Mark. I knew you’d come through for us… Uh, Rachel, I mean. hehehe

How much does this thing weigh, as opposed to the “real thing”?

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5079 days

#14 posted 09-19-2008 11:10 PM

Thanks for the great story Super Dad.

I just spent my whole afternoon reading it :)

All of Rachel’s friends are sure going to envy her.

She might end up taking orders for more Woodie Hoops.<(:O)

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5185 days

#15 posted 09-20-2008 06:02 AM

Thanks everyone, your encouragment has been wonderful.

Dick: How come it took you so long to read it? I didn’t spend that much time writing it?


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

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