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Scout-made Christmas Ornament 2009 November 6, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,SnowmanBulb1

Hallmark has their annual collectable ornaments, and we can have our own annual Scout collectable ornament! The great thing about our Scout ornaments is that they are made by our Scouts! Last year I wrote about a Scout-made Christmas ornament using paint for snowmen (you can find the blog entry here). This year’s ornament continues the snowman theme and will actually be a green ornament – not in color, but in eco-friendliness.

All you need is a white light bulb, and you have the start of a snowman. The reason I’m posting this so far before the Christmas season is so you can spread the word to your parents to save any burned out bulbs for this (yes, you can go buy a package of white light bulbs for this project, but why not reuse and recycle?)

You can decorate your bulb any way you or your Scout wants to.SnowmanBulb2 First thing we did was paint the screw-top, so that can dry before working with the rest of the light bulb (we painted it blue, but if I had it to do over again I’d paint it black, so it would look like a top hat!) We used a piece of orange foam for the nose. We sprayed the bulb with some spray adhesive and glued on a strip of cloth for a scarf and threw some glitter on it. We also painted on the eyes and a coal-smile using toothpicks. Toothpicks work great for painting small dots and fine lines.

You can wrap some wire around the top to create a hanger. I would recommend using a hot glue gun to tack down this wire, so it doesn’t slip. Then your snowman is ready for hanging!

If you are looking for a fun Christmas craft to do with your den, start saving your light-bulbs now. Your snowman is waiting for you!

In Scouting,

 – Scouter Jeff <><

Storing And Organizing Craft Paint October 5, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

One item I inadvertently collected as a Cub Scout den leader was PaintTraythose small tubes of craft paint. By leading two dens and working on countless crafts, I ended up with quite a collection – sometimes I feel like I have the entire color spectrum in my craft box!

One difficulty I always had was how to store them. I found a great solution at my local dollar store (the store I like to call the “Made in China” store). I found these small plastic baskets that were 3 for a dollar. They were about 5″ x 6″, and I bought because I thought they’d be great for a bean bag game. I took them home and never actually used them for a game, as I found they were great for storing the craft paints. Not only could I keep the paints from just being dumped in the bottom of my craft box, but I found that I could stack the trays of paint in my box. Plus, when I got to den meetings I used these to put paints out on the tables during craft time. I could even put similar color hues together in a tray.

I like being organized, and these trays were an inexpensive way to help me keep my craft paints organized. If you are looking for a way to store your paints (or other small items, for that matter), check your local dollar store.

In Scouting,

 – Scouter Jeff <><

Tabletop Campfire October 1, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

There are many great tabletop TableTopCampfirecampfires on the Internet. Here’s one that I made for a centerpiece for our pack’s 2005 Blue and Gold banquet. Actually, I made three of these for that banquet, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of Cub Scouts. Even though this was a stationary item, I wanted to have something to make it stand out. So I decided to have a flickering flame effect, done by using a battery-powered fan to blow the flames. While reading this, please note that what was done in a den meeting as a den project is noted by “we”, as in “we made a…”. I didn’t make all of this – my Scouts did a lot of the work on this centerpiece (which they should!).

I started with a 12″  x 12″ x 12″ box. I sealed the top with glue and cut off the bottom flaps. Then, I cut a hole in the center of the top of the box the same diameter as the fan that I bought for this project.  I then painted the sides blue and the top brown (to simulate dirt).

Then we wired the fans. We did this as Webelos for TableTopCampfire_FanAndWiringEngineer #6 (making a circuit – we substituted the fan for the light). The fans were connected to a battery pack with a switch in the line so we could turn the fan on and off from outside the box. We purchased the fans, battery holders, and switches from Radio Shack. This was the most expensive part of the campfire.

Next, I cut out some thin press board to fit inside of the box, as I TableTopCampfire_Switchdidn’t want to mount the electronics to the cardboard (due to their weight). I cut a circle in the middle of this to mount the fan to. I then cut holes in one corner to mount the battery pack to. The fan was held in by small machine screws, and the battery pack was held in by zip ties (which also held the batteries in the battery pack). To replace the batteries, I would need to cut the zip ties and replace them. I mounted this pressboard to the underside of the box lid with machine screws and washers (the washers help the cardboard to support the weight).

Our next step was to make the logs (because every good campfire TableTopCampfire_CloseUpneeds fuel!). We made this as a den craft project. The logs were just sections of newspapers rolled up then wrapped in tan masking tape. The masking tape’s texture gave our “logs” a wood grain look, which we were real happy with. We spray painted these brown (we used a craft spay paint which was made to look like wood). I think these came out great!

Then we took some small styrofoam balls and made the rocks TableTopCampfire_Rocks(because every good campfire needs to be contained!). We filed one side flat so we could glue it down, then I let the boys shape the rocks as they saw fit. Since we were working with styrofoam, this was very messy! I had some grey primer spray paint around my house, so I used this to paint the rocks.

Then it was ready to put together. We set up the logs in a criss-TableTopCampfire_Sidecross formation, to simulate a log cabin campfire. We hot glued the first two to the base, then the next set on top of the first set of logs. The logs were spaced apart so they wouldn’t block the flow of the fan. Next we hot glued our rocks around the perimeter of our little campfire.

Next we found some orange and yellow tissue paper and cut pieces to look like flames. We used white glue to glue it to the top logs. We even stuffed some real newspaper in the logs for effect! As I noted on a recent podcast, it did take some time to find the orange tissue paper. But tissue paper flickers so well with the fan!

One hurdle we had to overcome was getting enough airflow to cause the tissue paper to flicker. I tried cutting some vent holes, but this hurt the look and really didn’t give us enough air. So we ended up placing 1″ x 2″ wood spacers at each corner and lifting the entire box off the table. Not necessarily attractive but it did the job. These little fans took in quite a bit of air.

If I had it to do over again, one thing I’d do differently is to mount a light inside the box. I saw this on one on the Internet, and I thought that would be a great effect. I’m not sure how that would have worked with the fan’s spin, so I would need to test this first.

Although these were made for Blue and Gold centerpieces, they can have other uses. You can use them for a skit, a Cubmaster minute, or maybe a talk about the outdoors at a pack meeting (although you might need to make a larger one for a pack meeting). Or you can have an indoor campfire with some fire-free smores. I am going to use my indoor campfire as a training aid. What better than to have a talk about campfires and the outdoors while sitting around our tabletop campfire!

Making a table top campfire is a fun craft to share with the boys. Not only do they look good, but they can have many uses. And what shows the spirit of Scouting and the outdoors better than a campfire!

In Scouting,

 – Scouter Jeff <><

Cub Scout Buckets September 20, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

If you are looking for a fun and useful craft for your den, consider CubBucketmaking a Scout bucket. You can use the bucket to store craft supplies, snacks, their Scout book, some basic tools, and anything you want to send home. And you always have a bucket available for games that require one. Plus, if you put a cushion on the seat you have a chair always ready for the scout.

You can buy empty 5 gallon buckets with lids at many home improvement stores. Or you can call on your local painting or drywall contractor to see if they have any empty 5 gallon buckets and lids that you could take from them (or ask them to save some for you). Don’t be afraid to ask – you’d be surprised what people will do for Cub Scouts.

Now I have to confess that I’ve never made these, as I first heard about it towards the end of my time as a den leader (so I don’t have a decent picture to show you. The one for this post is “stolen” from an Internet site, and these buckets don’t have much work put into them, IMO). So I’m going to write on how I would do this if I was making it.

First, if you have a bucket that is not white, take some primer and paint the outside of each bucket. You might need more than one coat to get rid of any markings or color hue. I would use a water-based paint for this as the cleanup is easier. Plus, I would not use spray primer, as you’d go through a lot of cans of primer to cover enough buckets for your den. It’s your call if you want the Scouts to prime these, as it can be very messy.

Once the primer dries you can have the boys decorate it any way they want to. There are so many ways to personalize it. You can buy some craft paints and have the boys practice their art skills on it, or you can get stickers for it, or can have them glue pictures to it, or all of the above.

You have two choices when it comes to a cushion for the top. If you have someone in your den that sews, and has a lot of free time, then you can see if they’d be willing to help you with this. You can get custom foam at your home improvement store and cut squares that fit the top, then cover them with material. Or you can buy chair pads, which can be found at home improvement and Walmart/Target-type stores. I personally wouldn’t attach the pad to the top, only because attaching them makes it more difficult to clean it or replace it. Since they have a bucket with them, they can throw the pad in the bucket and bring it with them. But if you want to attach the cushion to the top, a strong construction adhesive should do the trick.

If I had it to do over again, I would have the boys make a Scout bucket early in the program. This way the boys would always have a container to carry their book and anything else they need to have for a meeting. And they would always have a seat ready of we needed to sit for any portion of the meeting. Now if you know me, you know I don’t like a meeting where they sit for very long, so please don’t use these Scout buckets as a place for the boys to sit during a lecture. Boys learn better when they are standing and holding and working with something in their hands. But a Scout bucket is a great way to have storage and a seat, all-in-one.

In Scouting,

 – Scouter Jeff <><

Jungle Animal Kerchief Slides September 14, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Since the theme for October is “Jungle Safari”, what goes better withSafariJungle2 a jungle theme than jungle animal kerchief slides? You can make kerchief slides that you construct yourself, such as foam animals, or you can buy toy jungle animals and hot glue them to a cut section of 1/2″ PVC sprinkler riser. Either way, this can be a fun craft for your den or pack meeting.

If you want to buy them, there’s a company that sells animal “toobs”, that you might have seen at your neighborhood Michael’s craft store. This company, Safari Ltd, has great jungle animals. They are also for sale Amazon.com (just do a search in the “Toys & Games” department for “Safari Ltd Toob”). I found the selection at my local Michael’s fairly limited, but priced well. They had quite a few of the 12-count toobs for $6.99, but only one that had a jungle theme (the “Monkey and Apes” toob).

You pay a bit more, but get a better selection at Amazon.com. Amazon has the “Jungle Mega” toob that has 24 jungle figures and sells for $16.79. They also have a “Zoo Babies” toob that has 12 cute baby zoo animals that sells for $10.00, although 2 of them (the panda and the polar bear) wouldn’t fit the theme. And they have others that could fit this theme.

Since these figurines have some weight to them, extra glue would be needed to make them adhere better to the PVC pipe section. And as I’ve mentioned on my Golf Ball Kerchief Slide blog entry before, make sure you have a PVC pipe cutter – a PVC cutter is great tool for making kerchief slides.

Although not wanting to over-promote this particular company, I have used the Safari Ltd insect “toob” before for kerchief slides – they made some really fun bug slides! So check out their selection of “toobs” and see if there are other ones you think would make great kerchief slides.

Kerchief slides are always a fun craft for the boys. If you are looking at doing a jungle-theme kerchief slide, consider a “toob” of jungle animals, if they fit your den meeting or pack meeting budget.

In Scouting,

 – Scouter Jeff <><

Sunscreen Kerchief Slide July 28, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

The Cub Scout theme for August is “Fun in the Sun”. But who can have Sunscreenfun in the sun if you get sunburned? Since it’s easy to forget to bring sunscreen or reapply it, here’s a kerchief slide that will guarantee sunscreen is always close by (at least while your Scout is in his Class-A field uniform).

This is nothing more than a small tube of sunscreen with a PVC sprinkler riser section hot glued to the back. To prevent accidental spillage if the cap isn’t fully closed, I put the kerchief slide ring closer to the cap so that the cap would be pointed up. And since it has some weight to it, I put a little extra glue around the ring to give a better bond between the sunscreen tube and ring.

So next time you have an outing in your Class-A field uniform, you can have sunscreen close by.

Have fun in the sun, and be safe!

In Scouting,

 – Scouter Jeff <><

Golf Ball Kerchief Slide July 7, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

With July’s Cub Scout theme being “Be A Sport”, I thought I’d share aGolfSlide golf ball slide we made once. This was simply half a golf ball glued to a section of PVC, but the boys really loved it. And since boys like to see inside things, the boys enjoyed making these.

When I made it, my boys were older, so I let them cut the golf balls in half. But no matter the age of your boys, be warned – it is not easy to cut a golf ball in half. If you doubt your boy’s skill level in any way, it probably would be better to pre-cut these before the meeting. When we did it in our den, us parents “risked our fingers” and held the balls while the boys cut (we wore gloves to offer some protection).

I always found that a dove-tail saw made a great saw for crafts, so we used these for this project. As a reminder, Cub Scouts are not allowed to use power tools, so any kind of power saw would be against BSA policy for this project (and would also be very dangerous to use on something so small). Also, don’t be tempted to use a hack saw for this type of project. Hack saws almost never cut a straight path in any material.

Since the golf ball is pretty heavy for a kerchief slide, I had the boys hang the PVC section fairly high on the ball, so most of the weight was supported at the top. And these required a little more glue from the glue gun to keep the ball attached.

As a side note, I always used 1/2″ PVC sprinkler risers when I made kerchief slides. They are a little thicker and didn’t slip on the kerchief as much as a section of white PVC pipe would. And if you don’t own one already, one of the best tools you can buy is a PVC pipe cutter. It’s a quick way to slice the PVC for your kerchief slides.

Kerchief slides are a wonderful way to have a fun craft in a meeting. And they are a great way to bring in the monthly theme to your meeting. Since just about anything small can be attached to a section of PVC, the options for kerchief slides are nearly endless. And as I’ve blogged about previously, having a bunch of kerchief slides are a great way to deal with uniform burnout. Here is the link to that post:

Another Use For Kerchief Slides

In Scouting,

 – Scouter Jeff <><

Pictures – Take Them Early and Often February 5, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

A good friend in Scouting, Scoutmaster Steve B., had a great post recently on pictures, and it got me thinking. If I had a couple of camera2minutes with a new leader, one of the things I would tell them is to take pictures of the den everywhere they go. Take pictures early on in the program and take a lot of them.

Almost everyone now has digital cameras. Digital cameras are a great way to take a lot of pictures without necessarily having to develop them. I purchased our digital camera the summer before my current den started its Tiger year. We are now about to graduate into Boy Scouts and I have years of pictures cataloged and archived on CDs.

Now that we are about to graduate out of Cub Scouts, I am going tocamera1 give the parents a gift – a gift of CDs with all of the pictures I’ve taken throughout the years. So often, parents don’t bring cameras to events, and they are missing so many great memories. I made it a point to take pictures everywhere we went. Some were group pictures with everyone acting silly, some were action pictures of the boys doing some kind of activity. I’ve got pictures of the boys getting awards, making crafts, getting their shoes stuck in mud, packing up camp in the rain, and much more. And I have pictures of them as brand new Tigers and the same boys meeting with a Scoutmaster for their Arrow of Light Scoutmaster conference. I have 5 years of memories. It has taken a lot of my time to catalog and back up these pictures, but it’s worth it. These memories are priceless.

Some tips on dealing with digital images:

Backup – You must back them up to a CD, in case your computer crashes. A lot of work can be lost when a hard drive goes bad. I know this is an obvious point but I also know a lot of people who have lost pictures forever when they hard drive goes.

Cataloging – It is a good idea to catalog the pictures in some way so you can have them in some kind of order. I catalog them by their file name – A picture taken Christmas day 2008 would start with 20081225-# (with the # being the sequence of the pictures that day). This way they self-sort in a directory or CD. (Yes, I’m a little too organized for my own good!).

When You’re Busy – Don’t forget to get someone to take your camera and take pictures while you are busy working with the boys, so the memories aren’t lost.

Other Pictures – Don’t forget to ask the parents for pictures they take, so you can combine them with your pictures.

It’s Not Too Late To Start – Even if you haven’t taken pictures since day one, you can start now. You will still capture many great memories.

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The Cub Scout program offers years of many fun activities, adventures, and fun. And the boys grow so much throughout the program. So my advice to a new leader: be your den historian! Capture the wonderful memories that you will have over the many years of Cub Scouting adventures.

In Scouting,

-Scouter Jeff <><

Make Your Own Ceremonial Arrows January 30, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Scouting has a great connection with Native American culture. And since many ceremonies involve arrows, as a Cub Scout leader you are eventually going to need to get some arrows. You can go out and spend $12 – $15 or more on an arrow, but here’s a way to make arrows that look good and cost a lot less money.

arrowcompleted

Here are the supplies you will need:

Wood shaft – I used 7/16″ wood dowels I purchased at the craft store. It’s important to choose dowels that are as straight as possible. If they have any bow to them, make sure it’s not in the middle. If it bows at either end you can cut that out when you cut them down to size. These cost $0.99 each.

Arrowheads – I paid $1.12 each for these, from a local store that arrowhead1has all sorts of Native American items (it’s actually called the Indian Store, in Escondido, CA). When selecting them, choose the thinnest you can. (These can be purchased fairly inexpensively on-line, but you won’t be able to look at them first). I purchased stone arrowheads, but you can also buy them in metal or wood. Just be careful if kids will be handling them.

Feathers – I purchased full-length black-dyed turkey feathers from the Indian Store. They cost me around a buck and a half each. I bought one for each arrow I was going to make.

Here’s how to make your arrows:

Step 1 – Cut wood shaft – As I mentioned previously, you cut any bend out of the wood dowel if it’s at the end. When making your own arrows, you can cut them to the length you want. I cut my shafts to 25″, to fit a 30″ plaque (with room on either side of the arrow).

Step 2 – Notch both ends of wood shaft – I had a deeper notch on the end where the arrowhead would go. I measured the thickness of each arrowhead and made the notch on all the shafts to match the thickest arrowhead. I used my band saw for this, but you can use a small craft saw or a hack saw to make this cut. I drilled a hole in the dowel first where the notch would end. Then I cut the notch to this drilled hole.

Step 3 – Stain wood shaft – I had left over stain and gloves from a arrowstainingprior Scout project, so I didn’t have to buy this. I put two coats of stain on each shaft, using a cardboard water bottle case to catch any dripped stain, as I blogged about previously. I used a cotton swab to stain in the notchings.

Step 4 – Prepare feathers – I cut the feathers into thirds, all of arrowfeathersequal length. Since all the feathers had the same basic shape, I grouped the feather sections based on where they were before I cut them (i.e. all the sections from the middle of the feather were grouped together). This way each arrow had the same feather shape. I then had to cut down the shaft of the feather with a hobby knife, since it was too thick for use on an arrow.

Step 5 – Attach arrowheads – I used a hot glue gun to glue the arrowheadfinishedarrowhead into the notch. Then I had cord that I wrapped around the arrowhead using a whipping knot. This cord hid the notch hole. I put a dab of glue where the whipping knot went under the wrap, to keep it from unraveling. (Since this was a ceremonial arrow, this way is more for decoration. If you were to make an arrow you would shoot, I’d recommend stronger glue and a sinew wrapping).

Step 6 – Attach feathers – I shaved off a small section of feather at arrowfeathersattachedthe top of the feather shaft, so I could later wrap it to the wood shaft. I then put a thin bead of hot glue along the feather shaft to attach it. When attaching the first feather, lay the arrowhead down and have the arrowhead horizontal. The first feather will point directly upwards. After all three feathers were attached, I wrapped the feathers as I did with the arrowhead, using a whipping knot. This will hold it on the shaft, and will hide where the feather is attached to the shaft. (Sorry the picture came out a bit blurry).

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Cost – I had the stain, foam brushes, and gloves already in my den supplies, so I didn’t have to purchase them for this project. I made 10 arrows this past month for my boys’ Arrow of Light career arrows. It cost me $4.06 after tax for each arrow (sorry for the exactness – I’m an accountant after all). Since I made 10 arrows, this was a savings of $70 – $100 vs. purchasing these arrows already made. Since we are almost out of den dues, this was a great way to go. (Even if we weren’t out of den dues, this makes sense to do).

What I would do differently – I wish I had wrapped the far end of the feathers. I think this would have looked better. Also, in the end I wasn’t too happy with the arrowheads I chose. They were a little small, and didn’t stand out too well apart from the wood shaft. Neither of these affected the look of the arrow too much, though. I was pleased with how they came out.

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So here’s a way to make your own arrows for whatever ceremony you have coming up. And if you are willing or able to put the time commitment into making them, you can make good looking arrows and save quite a bit of money. A Scout is Thrifty!

In Scouting,

-Scouter Jeff <><

Adding Pizzazz With Ceremony Props January 24, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Nothing sucks the life out of a pack meeting like a dry, boring prop-rceremony. I’ve seen ceremonies that were so boring that they put a halt to a pack meeting – they can be like putting a car in Park when you are still driving. On the other hand, fun, exciting ceremonies add life to the meeting, and help keep the fun rolling. The recent Pow Wow training we had here in San Diego was all about adding pizzazz to your meetings. And one way to add a little pizzazz to your ceremonies is by making props that go along with the ceremony.

Recently, my son earned his second religious emblem for our faith.propbase Since he’s already received his purple knot, he was eligible to receive a “device”, which is a small pin that goes in the knot. Now, we could have just brought him up to the stage and handed it to him. But that would be boring. We could have handed it to him and read from a ceremony found on-line or in a ceremony book. Better, but still lacking. So I thought it would be fun to make a large purple knot to go with the ceremony.

It was easy to make. I had plenty of craft wood left over from projects. So I propbasegluingfound the ratio of a knot and cut the wood to fit this (the wood’s dimensions are 11.5″w x 7.0″h). I covered this in some purple fabric from the fabric store. Since I was out of spray adhesive, I took white glue and spread it out with a foam brush, so that the wood surface was evenly coated.

To make the knot, I bought some white nylon braided rope from the home improvement store. I laid it out on my propropeboard to see what length I needed for each section (about 18″) and cut it and burned the edges. I laid the knot out as it looks on the patch, and I then used a hot glue gun to glue the knot together, so it would hold its shape. I had some shiny silver spray paint left over from my son’s pinewood derby car last year, so I spray painted both sides in a water bottle cardboard base, as I’ve blogged about previously . Once dry I glued the knot onto the board with a hot glue gun to create the large purple knot.

As a side note, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as I made this. As I noted before with my giant Webelos Color, you can take anything down to your local copy center and blow it up on a color copy machine. This can be glued to a cardboard back for a quick and easy prop.

If handled correctly, the ceremony probably would have been fine without this. But when planning pack ceremonies, we should always be thinking of ways to make it fun. Handing awards out in a baggie, or just reading from a script is never fun for an 8 year old to sit through (or even a den leader like me). Instead, I’d rather look for ways to add pizzazz to the ceremony. One fun way to do this is to make a large prop of the award you are handing out.

Good luck to you, and may your meetings be filled with pizzazz!

In Scouting,

-Scouter Jeff <><

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