Tinkering, Building, Inventing

Let's Roll !



Prize Wheel Building Plans


I love to build something out of junk.  Seen here at age 9 with my go cart.


When I was 7 years old I opened "Sam's Fix-it Shop".  I hung a sign in an apple tree in our front yard and made repairs in our basement where I had a small workbench next to my Dad's.  I earned my first $5 fixing a neighbors radio.

Photo - 1962 - Age 9 - It started when I was very young.  I loved taking things apart, fixing things, building something out of nothing.  As a direct result of this, I tend to be a pack-rat.   Love to go to flea markets and pick-up junk that I will someday make something out of.  I save everything because it may come in handy for a project some day, and usually does.

SEE THE "CRA-Z-BOY CRUISER" BELOW - Built in 2012 at age 58.  A bit more sophisticated.


Sawing the Lady in Half
Crystal Casket

MAGIC TRICKS & ILLUSIONS - 1980's - 1990's

As a professional magician for nearly 20 years, illusions are a costly proposition, unless of course, you can build your own.  Over the years I built a vast array of stage props and apparatus, often with the help of my best friend, Bill Planter.

It is also advantageous if you can sell them to other magicians.  One of the tricks I invented is called, "Linking Dollar Bills".  Two $1 Bills are shown front and back and then folded together and heated with a lighter.  The bills "melt" into a single, (2) Dollar bill.

Click on the bills to purchase this magic trick

PHOTOS - At left above I'm pictured with the chase light frame and shimmer curtains I made with a Sawing-the-Lady in Half illusion I restored for a fellow magician.  Below I'm at work on a "Crystal Casket Illusion".   This apparatus was used by a fellow magician to make  NASCAR driver Davy Allison appear, at Davy's induction into the Hall of Fame.


This was a clever little trick that relies on the deceptive nature of its size.  Inside the wood base, which is only 3/8" thick, there are three magnetically triggered switches, something used in burglar alarm applications for doors and windows, and a battery pack.  When a magnet is in proximity of one of the switches, it turns on an indicator light associated with that location, which is only visible through the tiny holes on the back edge of the base.

The little rabbit has a magnet covered in felt as its base.   Someone from the audience places the rabbit under one of the three cups while the magician is not looking.  The magician is then able to locate the rabbit easily based on which indicator light is lit.



For a period of time, while I was in the construction business, I specialized in "backyard amenities".  Designing and building decks, arbors, gazebos, and other landscape design features was an enjoyable challenge.  I had a close relationship with Parson's Spa & Bath company who would sell a hot tub to one of their clients and I would provide the deck work.

 NW Profiles Magazine Ad

PHOTOS:  Above right is my own pool at our house in Tomball, Texas.  Although I did not do the construction, I designed and oversaw every detail of this installation.  A black gunite pool with two waterfalls, two fountains, invisible edge, remote controlled lighting, cantilevered deck and tropical landscaping, this was an exciting project.   Bottom right is a redwood deck for a client.

See Samuel A. Martin Interests for more

Waldenwood Home Pool

Redwood Deck built for a client in Huntwick Subdivision


My office building - click to visit website

Skywater Over Horseshoe Bay

Crossroads Regional Medical Campus



Having spent nearly 10 years in the building business in Houston, I supervised the construction of various office buildings, hotels, country clubs, retail centers, houses and Waldenwood Subdivision.   See Samuel A. Martin Interests for more commercial projects in Houston

Since moving to Horseshoe Bay, I have only built one office building. Pictured at left is the Gateway Atrium professional building located in Marble Falls.  Completed in June 2002, this building was home to Texas Tech University Hill Country. It was sold in 2006 to a dentist who occupied space on the second floor.

Beginning in 2006 I became involved in developing a number of large project in the Marble Falls and Horseshoe Bay areas.   These included a 1,618 acre residential golf course community called, "Skywater Over Horseshoe Bay" at a cost of $68 million dollars and having an estimated value of $1 billion dollars.  Another project was the Crossroads Regional Medical Campus anchored by Scott & White Hospital.




Computers have been an integral part of every business I have been in and ultimately became a the basis for other businesses.  I taught myself to program and wrote commercial software in the late 70's and early 80's.

Later I began building and repairing computers.  Using junk computer parts, old door knobs, brass tubes from ceiling fans and some plywood, I built this working computer/clock. All of the workings of the computer are exposed and fully functional. I donated this to the Boys & Girls Club as an educational tool.

Ultimately, this evolved into building websites.  MegaIQ was formed in 1997 and built, hosted and managed over 200 websites The commercial hosting and design components of the company were sold in January 2007 to Imagine Solutions. 

MegaIQ continued to develop websites on a selective basis choosing to focus on unique sites for preferred clients until 2012.   While I still maintain a few websites for friends and my own businesses, I no longer accept new clients.

Wallpapers To Go Website   Susie's Travel Time    Simmons Ranches

Computer Clock

MegaIQ Website Architects (1997 - 2012)



Years ago I came up with a game which we attempted to mass produce and market.  Since then I have limited my game projects to reproducing games I've seen elsewhere, or inventing new ones.  Making copies of these games provide a great gift for people who have everything.


Houston Challenge Game
Game I created for mass market in 1984.


"Five Easy Pieces"
Play 5 Easy Pieces game.
Click on the image to get your free copy of this game.

Here's my latest game:
"Five Easy Pieces"

Five Easy Pieces was re-invented in 2009 to give it a more commercial theme.  Based on the popularity of NASCAR the game is now called, "Speedway".

Speedway Game Board



This is a game that's been on the market for years.  With each roll of the dice you flip down one or more tiles corresponding to the value on the dice.  If you roll the dice and can't match the number rolled, your turn is over and your score is whatever tiles are still standing.   Low score wins.  The objective is to turn-over all 12 tiles and Close the Box.

The box is made of a plywood base framed with 1/4" thick wood side walls.  Overall it is approx 12" wide x 10" deep x 1.5" height.  The tiles are 1/4" wood, cut to 1" x 1.5" in size.  Each has a hole drilled through it from side-to-side.  A clothes hanger is run through the holes on the tiles and secured with two small wood blocks on each end that the wire is run through and bent.  The end blocks are then secured to the wood frame of the box.  A 1/4" x 1/4" wood rail is mounted in front of the tiles to serve as a stop block for the tiles when they are flipped down.



One of my favorite project challenges is creating unique costumes for Halloween.

PHOTO: My ex, Martha, as "The Rose Bowl Queen".  Made from a plastic laundry hamper, paper mashe and a toilet seat.

Rose Bowl Queen


Years ago I built a baseball themed table for the son of my girlfriend using my old baseball spikes, socks, pants and wooden bat. (Right)

When I became involved in the Hole in 1 Sports Bar & Grill in 2011 I decided to build a few more of these to use as occasional tables at the restaurant.  For these I purchased used shoes, skates, spikes, pants and socks from Play it Again Sports and other resale shops.  The legs are just 2x4's covered with pillow stuffing held in place by the clothing, mounted to a 3/4" plywood top and a bat, golf club and hocky stick mounted on a 1/4" piece of plywood to provide the third leg.

Sports Themed Occassional Tables

A table for a baseball fan.

Golf Table prior to assembly

Prize Wheel



A "Prize Wheel" for the Hill Country EDC Tourism Committee to use at trade shows.

The wheel is 30" in diameter, made of plywood, has a ball-bearing hub and attaches to a wood table base stand or a floor stand with a wing nut.  Each wedge is colored with glitter and clear-coated.

Many people have asked for building plans to make a similar device for their organization.  As it took considerable time to create an 18 Page plan with 38 Illustrations and comprehensive detailed step-by-step instructions, I am offering these prize wheel construction plans at a small price of just $14.95.





Purple Martin birds can each eat 5,000+ mosquitoes per day.   This is a real asset when you live on the water.  Wanting to attract more birds, I built this Martin House, from scratch, without plans, using scrap material laying around the garage.  It is made in three section that connect together with hook & eye fasteners for easy cleaning.


Purple Martin House under construction
Purple Martin House - in use


Crash Reminder Taillight Shadow Box


My step-son, David, had a horrible single-car accident and plowed into a tree on the side of the highway.  The next day I found one of the car's tail light assemblies about 20 yards from the tree.  So that he would not forget how lucky he was to be alive, I built this shadow box to display that souvenir.

The box is made from a 1" x 12" pine board with 1/4" masonite back.  It is wired with a DC converter to supply 12v to the lights.  The bulbs are on three independent flashers making the tail lights blink sequentially.  There is a convenient toggle switch on the front and a Score Board sign showing the outcome of this challenge. TREE 1 - DAVID 0

Moral is, don't pick a fight with a tree!



When I was in high school, there was a couple who lived up the street from us in NY named Oswald.  Henry and his wife were both PHD's in mathematics and into the whole pop culture of the 60's.  They had invented a variety of psychedelic lights that were in the shows at Woodstock.  My best friend in high school, John DeSanto, was a drummer and the Oswalds would allow me to use their various lighting devises to put on a light show for my friend's band, "Uncle Good".

This project was my attempt to recreate one of those devices, which I thought was really ingenious.  My attempt was a success.  

Click on the picture so see detail photos  ---->

COLOR ORGAN LIGHT BOXES - These are wooden boxes with (18) light sockets on the back panel, wired in three channels of (6) sockets each, placed randomly around the back panel (not in rows).  Each channel will respond to a different frequency range by the controller.  The bulbs are 10w Clear, Colored bulbs.  The face panel is a piece of plastic diffuser that is used in 2'x'4' Floresant commercial lay-in ceiling fixtures.   There are different patterns of diffuser.  These boxes are 16" x 24" x 8" made of 1/4" masonite back, 1/2" plywood sides and 3/4" corner molding to hold the plastic.  These are then connected to a Color Organ controller which I purchased on-line as a kit.  The color organ takes the musical input from a direct line connection and splits it into three frequency ranges (Lo, Medium and High) and switches the three channels of lights in each box On and Off in pulsation with the notes in the music.

Click on the picture so see detail photos  ---->

POLARIZING PROJECTOR - One of the other fascinating lighting devices that the Oswalds had created was a Kodak Carousel Projector onto which they mounted a disk of polarized plastic, rotated by a small 1 rpm motor.  The slides are made up of  multiple layers of cellophane (cigarette pack wrappers), with random cuts of shapes made on each individual layer, a piece of polarized plastic on one side of the cellophane stack, sandwiched between two pieces of slide glass and inserted in an aluminum slide frame.  The polarized plastic side of the slide toward the back. The light passes through the slide's polarized plastic, is diffused by the cuts in the various layers of cellophane, then through the rotating disk of polarized plastic which causes the diffused light to dance in a rainbow of colors.  I not built this device.


Celestial Light Box

Color Organ Light Boxes

Home Made Flight Simulator Game Console


With a goal of getting my pilot's license, I purchased a Yoke and Pedals to use with Microsoft Flight Simulator X software, which I have on a computer attached to my flatscreen TV.  Needing those controllers to be in front of the TV and wanting to be able to move them out of the way when not in use, I set out to build a rolling "cockpit" assembly to mount the controllers on.

This was made by bending two pieces of 1" electrical conduit into the 'C' shape shown.  These are held together by attaching 1"x12" cedar platforms to the C rails.  A single layer piece was used for the pedals and a 2 layer piece was used to attach the yoke to.  It is then bolted to the base of the chair and has a caster under the pedal platform to carry the front weight.

The propeller was cut and sanded out of a pine 2"x4" and bolted to a panel that also provides an attachment point for a 4-port USB hub so there is only one cable going to the computer for the four devices.   A blank CD ROM disk is mounted on the panel behind the propeller and a plastic nose cone is glued to the hub of the propeller (which spins freely).

The keyboard is mounted using two metal bookends that are screwed to the bottom of the Yoke platform, bent slightly and stuck to the keyboard with double stick foam tape.

A table with cup holder and ashtray is mounted to the underside of the chair seat using pieces of 1/8" galvanized pipe that I polished with a buffing wheel.  I have since removed the table as just being unnecessary for me.

Two 90 degree couplers and a short piece of conduit provide a little extra stability for the frame and its attachment to the base of the chair.



What to do with all those shot glasses? 

Some good grade 1"x2" for shelves with 1" diameter holes countersunk 1/8" deep for each glass (using a paddle bit) to prevent sliding.  Grooves are cut on end caps with a Datto blade for the shelves to fit into.  A 1"x6" with a sculptured edge was used for the base and a 1"x4: with the sculptured edge for the top is all there is to it.  It has a stained and lacquered finish.

Crossroads Sign


LEFT:  This is a model I built of the directional signs that were designed for our Skywater Over Horseshoe Bay development in Texas.  It has a 1"x12" pine base.  The sign frame is 1/2" ripped pine.  This is grooved to accept a 1/4" masonite sign panel which has printed self-adhesive vinyl applied to it.  This was one of the samples the sign company supplied to get a color acceptance.  The rocks are decorative landscape stone, in this case, white limestone.  They are glued using my favorite adhesive, "Weldbond".  I then filled the center with potting soil.

RIGHT: "V" shaped model sign that mirrors a 16' tall billboard sign we used on our Crossroads Regional Medical Center project.



A friend of mine's daughter was infatuated with horses that looked like a Dalmatian.  On the internet I found the breed and a link to a ranch that raises "Knabstrupper" and the owner sent me a photo of their horse named, "Axxion" with permission to have it blown-up and framed for my friend's little girl's room.  My friend Charlie White, Jr. produced the 36" x 50" vinyl print.  I made the frame out of 1" x 4" Rough Cedar with a 1"x2" Rough Cedar outside frame run edgeways around the 1x4 frame.   I found some brass starts in various sizes (Lonestars), which are mounted on the top and bottom rails of the frame, and small horseshoes, mounted on the two sides of the frame.  It was then stained with Dark Red Mahogany Minwax stain and given a few coats of lacquer (to match furniture in her room).

Below: Making a set of 4 matching frames for my friend's new house in 2009.


In my Garage Workshop - 2009

In my Garage Workshop - 2009


My friend and I built this simple mobile out of hangers, string and toy animals for her daughter's room as well. 

The trick to building mobiles is to assemble everything and then balance it by shifting the string on the hanger wires. 

Don't try to guess the fulcrum point on each horizontal wire as you're building.



This is a totally UNIQUE invention.  Before this I had a jet ski ramp.  If the waves came up high enough it would float the skis off unless they were secured.  It also made it difficult to cover, service and maintain the skis.  When I had the opportunity to have a new dock built across the back of my property, I started planning for a lift instead of a ramp. 

What is on the market, that doesn't require an overhead structure, are lifts with the motor(s) mounted on pedestals.  I was headed in that direction, but thought these systems were flawed in one sense or another and my real goal was to not have anything exposed above the dock.  I considered a hydraulic lift mounted in the lake and a variety of other concepts.  One day at the local marine store I saw a jet ski sitting on a trailer that was tilted up.  The idea of a see-saw hit me.  Because of the design of my dock, I had enough space below the deck to mount winch motors.  By making the platforms a see-saw, I could tilt them up to be a ramp or tilt them down to be at dock level.  By shifting the fulcrum slightly, they would naturally tilt up and the winches could hook onto the platforms from underneath so as to pull the platform down rather than lifting it up.

As you can see, the platform frames are made of steel.  It's actually  4" x 3" angle and the fulcrum pipe is 8" diameter mounted on 1/2" steel brackets that straddle the wood frame of the deck.   This is not a project for the faint of pocketbook.  It was fairly expensive.

I'm in the process of putting a set of plans together for this invention.  If you're interested in purchasing a copy send me an e-mail and I'll let you know when they are ready.


Rainfall Fountain at The Hills Road house


A neighbor around the lake from me has a fountain in their backyard that looks like a rainfall.  I decided to try to build one using some PVC pipe I had laying around.  It worked out really well.

It's nothing more than a 10' length of 4" PVC pipe with holes drilled in it to let the water flow out like a rain shower. 

In testing the idea I discovered an issue with feeding the water in from one end of the pipe.  The holes at that end of the rainfall were not putting out any water because the force of the water coming in was pushing past the first 20 or so holes.

To solve that problem I ran a 3/4" pipe inside of the 4" pipe to disburse the incoming water throughout the length of the 4" pipe in a manner that insured it would be more evenly distributed.

Once I got the piping working correctly, I made the cedar framework to house the pipe.  The next challenge was figuring out what size pump I needed to bring the water from the lake up to that height and provide a constant flow.

I was fortunate to have picked the right size pump (1350 gallons/hr) on the first try.

Since this was more an experiment than a planned, permanent improvement, I did not document all of the dimensional aspects of this project.   It was also unique in it's location associated with my boat slip, whereas it would usually be built with some sort of troth or pool for a base to catch and re-circulate the water.  As such, I do not have detailed plans available, however, I have documented the key aspects of how I made this work, which can easily be duplicated and adapted to your own application.  I'm making this information available for FREE.  Please come back here and send me a message, with pictures, if you implement this technology.


In 2011 I purchased a new home and initiated a remodeling project which included re-landscaping the front yard.  As a focal point I replicated the idea of the rainfall fountain however this time I constructed a large, guitar shaped concrete pool at the base, 10' tall stone columns, a copper colored sheetmetal canopy and used an above-ground swimming pool pump and filter system for recirculating the water.



I adopted two ferrets as pets, and have a large 4-story cage, but, wanted to give them the freedom to go outside and play whenever they wanted.  I adapted my fireplace to a living area for them and ran a pipe from the clean-out trap in the floor of the fireplace (see lime green circle in center of floor) out through the clean-out on the back of the chimney.  The clean-out on the chimney is on my deck, which is about 8' from the ground.  As you can see, I ran 4" PVC Sewer pipe (has the holes already in it) from the flexible pipe going into the fireplace, all the way down to the ground level.

There is an opening on the deck level and at the base of the pipe at the ground level.  The ferrets freely go in and out as they please.



A friend had a party where they have a potato shooting contest.  I built this potato gun as Mr Potato Head and received a trophy for best decoration.  It didn't shoot very well.   The body of the potato gun is in his stomach and you load it from his butt.   It shoots out of his hat.  I'll let you figure out where I put the trigger button.


My mother saw a planter box in a catalog and asked me to make her one like the one in the catalog.  This was the result.

My step-daughter was headed to college and needed some compact furniture for her dorm room.  She saw something in a catalog (see top right image) that she liked, so I duplicated the basic concept out of pine and saved a fortune!!!  Bottom picture is her dorm room furniture.



My father smoked cigars for a while and accumulated a number of wooden cigar boxes.  My mother decorated one of them as a gift for me.  She embossed my name in a piece of copper covering the top of the box and decorated the inside with wall paper.  Having several more of these boxes laying around, I began decorating them as gifts for friends. 

This is one I am currently working on for my friend's 5 y/o daughter.  The top photo shows the original box with some decorative wood plant-on pieces and wood letters that I picked-up at Michael's, laid out on the box. 

I've stained the box Red Mahogany and painted the plant-on pieces gold.  The letters were painted white and then coated with a Pearl top coat paint.

The oval in the center was covered in Silver Leaf.  The big G in the center is covered with diamond crystals and the rest of the oval is spotted with various colored gemstone crystals with a glitter grout.  This was coated with several coats of clear lacquer.  The lacquer dulls and darkens the gold paint, so the box was masked and the gold resprayed on the plant-ons to give it more metalic luster.

There will be a new pair of brass hinges, a brass hasp with a small brass luggage lock and the inside will be finished in pink and lavender felt.

Having accumulated a bunch of Altoids boxes, I checked to see if they would sit comfortably inside the cigar box and two layers of 10 boxes each fit perfectly.  These were painted 10 different colors (2 of each color) and decorated individually.

Alas, a treasure chest full of 20 little treasure chests.


At 5 years old, Gianna professed to wanting to become a veterinarian.  She had a familiarization with animals like no other child I had ever met.  She also had a substantial collection of toy animals.   I thought it would be nice to build a zoo to house her collection of animals.

Starting with a sheet of 1/4" plywood, cut to cut down to 3'x6', I freehand drew a layout of walkways and habitats.   I framed the plywood with 1"x2" pine and bolted on 18" legs of the same material.  Using a piece of 1/2" pvc pipe for an axel and a couple of plastic wheels I had laying around, I added wheels on one end to make the table more movable.

Sections of the layout were stained to provide the appearance of different types of ground cover.  Some areas were covered with sand paper of different colors to provide other ground cover colors and textures.   3M Non-skid gray tape was used for the surface of the sidewalks.

Dozens of 3" pieces of 1/4" dowel rod were stained and glued into holes in the plywood to provide fence posts.   Steel hardware cloth was cut to provide some fencing material and tied to the fence posts with steel wire.

A kidney shaped hole was cut in one corner of the plywood and a piece of diffusing plastic from a flouresant light fixture was cut and heated to bend it into the shape of a bowl to fit inside the kidney.  The plastic was painted blue on the underside giving it the appearance of an aquarium pool.   Rocks and fake aquarium plants were added around the pool to complete that habitat.

A tree house was built from dead tree limbs screwed to the table top with a variety of dowels and wood sticks, tied with twine.   A tree was created from another dead tree limb with Spanish moss material spray glued to the branches.

One corner was built-up with rocks glued in place to create a mountain lion habitat.  Expanding foam, painted with various earthtone color spray paint and covered with Spanish moss provided another mountainous environment.

Several small bird houses with the fronts cut off and a gazebo shaped bird feeder were decorated to provide a few different huts and a "Visitor Center".  Picket fencing was available in the hobby section at Wal-Mart which was used to add variety to the fencing in the park.

Wrought Iron Entry Gates were crafted out of small wood dowels and flat wood strips and formed to fit in the archway entry.





I gave my mother's golf cart to my friend Becky and her daughter Gianna so they could run around in their neighborhood.   They asked if I could add a seat on the rear so more people could ride with them.

Commercially these are available for around $300.  At my place this gets done for under $50.  First the golf bag bracket, attached to the front seat back supports, had to be cut away.

The brackets were drilled with a 3/8" hole to accommodate the seat back of the rear seat.  Two 3/8" holes were drilled in each of the rear fenders to accommodate the seat bottom.  Two 6" steel "L" brackets were drilled and mounted to the back of the cart to hold the foot rest runners which are (2) 2"x4"x41" rough cedar.

A 4'x4' sheet of 3/4" plywood was cut into (2) 12" x 41" pieces for the seat bottom and (1) 8" x 41" piece for the seat back.  The two bottom pieces are screwed together.  The plywood was then painted with enamel paint to seal the wood.  Carriage bolts are inserted in the mounting holes in the plywood and hammered in so the square sub-head of the bolt is sunken into the wood.

Spray glue is applied to the face of the plywood (side with the bolt heads) and a piece of 1-1/2" foam rubber is applied.   The seat is then placed face down on a piece of vinyl ulpostery fabric which is stretched over the bottom of the seat and stapled to the back of the plywood.  I purchased the foam rubber, cut to size and a scrap piece of vinyl from a local upholstery shop for $25.  You can find these materials at any most fabric stores, probably for a little less.

Once wrapped in vinyl the seat section bolts are inserted into the mounting holes on the cart and secured with lock washers and nuts.

Total time to make this conversion was a few hours.

THE "CRA-Z-BOY CRUISER" - Built March - July 2012

110cc - 3-Speed Automatic plus Reverse - Motorized Recliner . . . with Headlights,Tail Lights, Blinkers, Beacon Light, Oscillating Fan, Back-up Camera, Musical Horn, Truck Horn, Strobe Lights, Heineken Pony Keg gas tank, Tool Box and Hand controls for steering, acceleration, braking and shifting.  This project took four months.

From this old go-kart . . . .

 . . . to this motorized recliner!
From this old dune buggy go-kart . . . . . . to this luxurious, poor man's sports car!
Click on the images above or Here to see project photos.


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Last updated March 25, 2013