Member Project Spotlight: Walt’s Dutch Oven

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The featured project this month comes from one man’s frustration with leaving a charcoal chimney home during a camping trip with hungry, cold children, and a desire to learn to weld. See how Walt’s Dutch Oven box came to life at one of our monthly Maker Events. 

Tell us about yourself
I grew up on an island in the Chesapeake Bay, which sparked my interest in the outdoors. I hold degrees in Forestry and Wildlife Management and work as a pilot-biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which means I fly around North America from the Arctic to Mexico at 150 feet counting mostly ducks, geese, and swans. I am usually hunting, fishing, skiing, or camping in my spare time, and my inquisitive mind burns to bring a widget to market.  

How did you find out about DIYcave?
I learned about the Cave at Bend’s 2018 Fall Festival. It was my life-long desire to learn to weld that prompted me to walk up to the booth and learn more.

Tell us about the project you did at DIYcave?
Combined with my interest to learn to weld, I had the idea to build some sort of box to store and transport my Dutch Ovens and accessories. I also wanted to be able to cook on the box to reduce my impact on the outdoors.  

What was your inspiration for the project?
The inspiration came after a camping trip where I had forgotten my charcoal chimney, and it was my turn to cook supper for the group. Do you know how hard it is to start charcoal in the desert, without kindling or lighter fluid, and three kids less than 11-years old screaming that they’re hungry?! I vowed right then to my wife that I’d come up with something to never let this happen again.

How did you prepare for the project?
I attended the first Maker Event in January 2019, which was an introduction to welding. Then at the April potluck Maker Event, I explained to Aaron my Dutch oven box idea that had been rattling around in my head for two years, and then we literally drew it out on one of our napkins and discussed it with Tim.  

What are some of the skills you learned at DIYcave?
Tim was instrumental in getting me started. He took the time to help me select the right materials, set up the MIG welder and spool gun to weld aluminum, which is not the material where most beginners start, and how to use the large metal break. Once going, I got good at using an angle grinder to clean up my welds. Then Aaron and I used the Glowforge to etch a cooking temperature chart on stainless steel, and he suggested a nifty trick to put a pattern on the box. What’s odd is the Dutch oven box was a side project that came after taking the 3D printing class to prototype another idea.  

What were the easy and hard parts of your project?
The hardest part was getting the light correctly to see through the welder’s mask at my work. After that, it was breaking the aluminum to get the tolerances between the pieces correct. Cleaning up the welds was pretty fun and easy because there seems to be an artistic element to it.

Favorite project you witnessed (besides yours) while hanging out at DIYcave?
The Cave is full of so many wonderful and creative projects and the minds behind them that it would be hard to pick just one. If forced to choose, and I am biased, but I am most proud of seeing my teenage daughter’s projects come to life after she has envisioned them. She has made jewelry, several Glowforge projects, and a leather dog leash for Christmas to welcome her mom’s new puppy. She even had her birthday party at the Cave with a leather bracelet class. Hanging out at the Cave works to bring families together.

What advice would you give someone who wants to join DIYcave and start a project?
With the plethora of opportunities that the Cave provides, it can be a little overwhelming and intimidating to step inside and wonder where to start, and this is coming from a person who, with his wife, designed and built their own log home from the footing up. The fact is just the opposite as the Cave is full of creative and non-judgmental folks who are more than happy to help, offer encouragement, and genuinely want to see people succeed. Don’t be intimidated, just start!

Have a project you’d like to work on? Interested in becoming a member of our makerspaceLearn more and stop by for a tour.

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