I have been wanting to do a fun project for a while. Unfortunately, I never seem to pic something easy to do for fun. And these “fun” project always seem to grow in scope and complexity. That’s okay though. It keeps my skills honed and forces me to learn new techniques.
So I was cruising around the internet one night and I came across a picture of an old WWII era Willys jeep. I remember when I was a kid I had an uncle who had one and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. In fact, it’s how I learned to drive a stick. It made my creative juices start to flow. Could I build the grill out of wood? Now that would make a pretty cool footboard for a bed, or the front of a small bar, or the ultimate piece of wall art for a man cave, office or rec room. My brother Da-Da has a birthday coming up and this would look pretty cool hanging in his shop with all his biker trash paraphernalia. So with that I set out to build this thing as realistic as possible with the limitations of working with wood.
I started by drawing the front end using Sketchup. I actually downloaded a model that was already drawn but I wasn’t crazy about it so I used that as a guide to draw my own model. I could not locate an actual engineering drawing so I had to kind of piece together the dimensions from various sources. I believe I ended up with a fairly accurate dimensional representation of the actual grill.
Once I had the Sketchup drawing to my satisfaction I printed out scale templates of the complex parts (the sides where the lights go and the top/bottom pieces of the grill). I used these paper templates to create wood templates. Then I used the wood template on my router table and a flush cut trim bit (with a bearing) to make perfect copies of the wood templates. There’s a link below to the exact bit I used.
I used my homemade circle cutting jig to cut the holes for the headlights and a hole saw and drill press for the running light holes. The headlights work and the way I did that is pretty slick. I used a recessed shower light housing, cut a lens out of acrylic, and “fogged” it with 220 sandpaper. I also cut retaining rings with my circle cutting jig. I used night light bulbs and they put out the perfect amount of light. It all plugs up to a regular house outlet. The running lights are 2 1/2 inch utility trailer lights wired up to a 9 volt battery with an on/off switch.
I approached the assembly like a face farm with rails and stiles. Using that approach allowed me to use pocket hole joinery to assemble the components. Once it was all together, I hit it with a a few coats of OD Green paint with the Fuji Mini Mite HVLP sprayer and several coats of General Finishes satin polyacrylic. I also stenciled some lettering on the bumper using a military font. Classic 4077th MASH! I had never used a stencil before. It turned ok but I need to improve my technique a little. I got a lot of overspray and scatter. I’ll keep practicing on that. The last step was to staple some screen behind the grill to black it out and make it appear that there’s a radiator behind it.
I’m really pleased with how it all turned out. I’d be writing all night trying to tell you how to do it so why don’t you just take a look at my YouTube videos on how I did it. It’s a little more comprehensive than I could ever write here.