Sunday, June 25, 2017

A treasure revealed...


This isn't really about woodworking, but how many of us have gone to swap meets or estate sales, looking for old tools to add to our arsenal? This is a terrific video of one of those rare finds, where you spend a couple of bucks and wind up with something awesome! 





Monday, June 19, 2017

Sisters in the Brotherhood


Did you know I'm a journeyman carpenter?  


I completed my carpentry apprenticeship a long time ago, and I still like strapping on a tool belt from time to time, working on a home project.


 I thought this was in interesting little clip on women in the trades. They build the BIG things -  I'll stick to furniture building!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

My next "chainsaw"....


Next time I need to chop up some logs, I'm going to try this....


Sunday, June 11, 2017


Where does the time go?

 I don't have a good answer for that, but I know that I've been churning more and more pieces out of my shop at an amazing rate, along with teaching four nights a week.  And sadly - there is just no time to take pictures and write about what I'm doing. 

So - sorry for the disappearance - hopefully I'm back for a while!

While I don't do very much refinishing or repair, I'm a big fan of mid-century modern furniture. My parents still have a gorgeous walnut bedroom set that they bought when they first got married, only now it's down in their basement. You know what - the style still holds up and it still looks wonderful, some 60 years later! 

So I couldn't turn down working on this very nice mid-century modern desk - complete with typewriter return. A desk with a return is usually an L-shaped or U-shaped set-up, where one of the surfaces is a lower, so that a typewriter can sit on the lower desk top, making it the perfect height for typing. But - in this day and age, most people don't have typewriters anymore - so not much need for the lower desktop. The desk below is probably from the 60's, and the right side of the desk was a good 4" lower when if found its way into my shop. 

The first thing I did was raise the right desktop up, and luckily, I had an extra set of legs to use under the right drawer pedestal. My buddy Hugo made a flat metal plate for the level attachment, but old legs had to be adapted to work with the new height. Working on a piece like this is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. 


Since the owner of this desk loves the whole retro look to this piece, she decided to add some privacy panels around the desk, that will look like the rendering below. That will come later, but for now - I need to get the shell in shape. 



The drawers are pretty much toast, and I've decided to remake them. I've never seen  drawer slides like these before, but that's OK - I'm installing new ones anyway. 


Most drawer slides take up a 1/2" of space on each side of the drawer opening, so a drawer box is one-inch smaller than the opening. Not these! 


I've never seen this type, and the clearance is much larger. 


Oh well, the new drawers will have to be be built larger, to fit the new slides. 

Problem solved. 


The important thing is saving the drawer fronts, so I can re-use them on the new drawers.  


And - I'm missing one of these handles. Since the center part is wood, I think I can duplicate it, but the two brass ends will be hard to find. Maybe I can get them 3-D printed, I'm checking a few places for that. 


To save this drawer face, I had to remove this lock, and damn - 


the screws  on the back were stripped. 


Not to worry - I bought this thing a while back, and have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it. It's a pretty handy set of extractors, used in reverse in your drill. 


Pick the right size for the screw, grind the head in reverse, and then flip the other end into your drill and pull the screw out. The description says it removes bolts, screws and nuts screws #4 to #24, bolts #10 to 3/8 of an inch - and I'm here to say - this little device saved the day. With a little grinding, the stripped screws backed out like a breeze. 


Next step - new drawers, new slides, and then onto the privacy panels. Stay tuned!



Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial day - here's an old post on building a military flag/shadowbox coffee table



First off - Happy Memorial day! I'd like to thank all the veterans out there for their service, and then re-post something I wrote six years ago. (It's below)

Here's my pop, as a very young seaman. (Handsome fella!)




It started with a phone call.

Could I possibly design a coffee table to hold two military casket flags? It sounded like a really sad project. But then I learned that the flags belonged to a husband and wife, both who had served in the military many years ago. This table was being commissioned to honor someone's grandparents. To hold their flags, and to display some of their memorabilia, including medals, patches, coins and dogtags. What a nice tribute. I love a good challenge, especially one that is near and dear to my heart.

I grabbed my sketchbook and drew a few different versions. Once I had a few ideas, I drew them using my favorite drawing program - MacDraft. Mac lovers, I highly recommend this! Here is what I present to my clients, when designing a piece for them.

Once we nailed down a few details, like the type of wood she wanted, whether or not she wanted a shelf below, and the color of stain, I started this project by laying out the table legs on a full sized template of the tabletop. This table will eventually get a glass top, and the whole piece will be shipped back east to a family member. So I decided it would be best to plan on using a stock size of table top glass - a 24" x 48" piece. Designing that way works well, especially when the buyer is on a tight budget. These days, that's most of my customers!
Once the legs were positioned, I could figure out the lengths of the aprons (or skirt boards) and the position of the diagonal pieces that would encase the flags.

I'm very particular about grain management on the pieces I build, so I positioned the legs to ensure that the best (i.e. straightest) grain would be visible on the long sides of this table. Once I had the correct leg lay-out, I labeled them. (FL - Front Left, FR = Front Right, and so on.)

It's easy to screw this up, and I've been known to tear apart a table because I couldn't stand the way the ways the legs looked.


Since I'd already determined the length of the aprons, I cut them to length, remembering to add an extra 2.5" to the length, for the tenons on each end. The "inside" measurement is sometimes called an s/s meansurement, meaning shoulder to shoulder. Don't forget to add the extra inches for the tenons or you'll come up short. I cut a sample mortise so that I could do a "test-fit" when I cut the tenons.



Here are the tenons; they fit into that test piece perfectly.


After the tenons are cut, it's easiest to mark the mortises is to lay the apron right on top of the leg and mark their location. My 1-2-3 block helpsto align the tops of both pieces.



The tenons needed a little cleaning-up, because the shoulders were a little wonky. So I clamped it down and used a shoulder plane to clean them up a bit.

A Lee Valley shoulder plane is the perfect tool for this task.
And this bench clamp held the board down perfectly while I planed. If you hang around my shop for any length of time, you know how much this clamp gets used. It's simply indispensable.


The joint fit perfectly, so it was time to cut a small slot for the bottom to slip into. I put the joint together, and used a small saddle square to mark the location of the slot. I usually mark things like this with an X-acto knife, rather than a pencil. The line is much finer, and allows me to be more accurate.

I pulled out the double whammy of saws - this dovetail saw for most of the cutting, and then a Japanese saw for finishing the very corner of the notch.



It only took about two minutes per leg, maybe less.


Then I tested the fit with a scrap piece of the plywood bottom material. This was a great fit!


It's easiest to build furniture by breaking it down to a series of sub-assemblies. That way, you don't have to struggle to glue and assemble the whole piece at once. I've always found that assembling a piece into it's various components works best for me. So here, I assembled a mortise-and-tenon leg joint and pinned it together with small dowels. Pinning the joint together makes it incredibly strong.
I used three pins per leg and left the sub assemblies to dry overnight.


The next morning, the girls and I headed back to the shop.

You know what they had on their agenda.


Here is one side of the table, unclamped and in need of a little touch-up sanding. The other side is sitting on my saw, behind the cart.


I did a quick dry-fit of the table, to test fit everything one more time before it's final assembly.



This isn't a good time for any surprises. Here is the table, assembled and ready for the final fitting of the flag frame.



I cut a piece of scrap for a sample divider, to see where it would fall inside the table's "shadow box" area. The bottom sagged just a tiny bit, so I marked the location of the diagonal pieces and decided to run a small screw up from the bottom, to eliminate the sagging. Sort of like a wood plastic surgeon.

Then I transferred the length of the sample piece to the pieces of wood I'd cut.


One end was mitered, and then I marked the other end so that I could cut it to it's proper length.



A saddle square is perfect for this, especially one that has a 45˚ end.


The sizes that military flags are folded into are very precise. So the length of this piece is critical.


Here are the two pieces in place, similar to the drawing at the beginning of this post.



I decided to stain everything separately, instead of staining around these cross pieces. Here is the first coat. (Thanks for the help, Dan!)


Since this piece is going to be shipped across the country, I probably won't get to see it finished, with the folded flags inside and the top in place. But I always ask my clients for a picture of their piece, once it's placed into their home. If I receive one, once this table finds it's final home, I will post it here.

Now all that is left for me to do is call my client and tell her the piece is ready for pick-up. Those are always the best phone calls to make!




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Innovation in wood


In the past few weeks, I've gotten a few calls about making some growth sticks, better known as GIANT rulers. You know, the ones you hang on the wall, to chart your child's growth. 





Although it looks like a simple project, it's really harder than it looks, and shipping poses a huge challenge. Since most shipping charges are calculated both on weight AND size, shipping something six feet long is pretty expensive.

While doing a little research on making one, I came across a very interesting company that makes wooden games, toys, and educational products. It's Maple Landmark, of Vermont. 

This company's owner was named Vermont Small Business Person of the Year, and with innovative products (like the one below!) - it's easy to see why this company is a success. 




It may not look like this is a groundbreaking innovation, but I think his solution to this problem is terrific. (I love the way they can be customized, too.) I frequently struggle to find simple solutions to complex problems, and I'd like to buy this fellow a beer and see what makes him tick. I suspect he has some great ideas to share!


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hidden in plain sight...


Every woodworker that I know loves hidden compartments in their pieces - but this one really goes beyond the norm. 









Friday, May 05, 2017

A Woman's Job: The Woodworker and Farmer - Anne Briggs


It's amazing how many women come into my shop wanting to learn to work with wood, explaining that they've been discouraged along the way. Maybe by a parent, or a significant other - or even a teacher.... the thought of someone telling another that they "can't do it" boggles my mind. 

Noor Tagouri films a variety of videos focusing on women in non-traditional trades - chefs, mechanics, blacksmiths, chemists - it's a fascinating glimpse at women in the workplace. 


My friend Anne Briggs takes on two non-traditional trades - woodworking and farming!  Noor made a lovely video about Anne - click on the link below and scroll down a bit. (I can't insert the video here, so you'll have to look around for it.)

A Woman's Job: The Woodworker




Monday, April 24, 2017

Working on an old relic...


Back in the day, this Atlas Deluxe Sewing Machine would have looked like this, sitting on a base, with a top case nearby. 


By the time one of these machines found its way into my shop, it looked more like this...  broken and dirty. 



But despite the dirt and wear, this machine has some amazing details - the attention to embellishments and craftsmanship really jump out at you, which is probably why this machine has a near cult-like following among people who sew. 



Check out these small details and embellishments. 







Unfortunately, the base of this was demolished, and without it - the machine unusable. Now here's the weird part - a little research taught me that this machine was probably close to 60 years old. Here's a very interesting read about this machine. 




But here's the (even) weirder part - I recently purchased some lumber from someone who'd found it stored in a building he'd bought, and the wood was 60 years old. (He's found a bill of sale attached to one of the boards. (Oh, how I wish he'd have taken a picture of that receipt for me!) 

So - I couldn't think of a more appropriate piece of wood to use when building this relic an new base... a 60 year old piece of Oak. 


Building the base was a little tricky, as the power and pedal cords needed to be routed into proper channels so the base would sit flat. There were some very cool hinges that the Atlas machine had mounted on the back edge... of course I forgot to take a picture of those.  :( 








Meanwhile, it feels like I've been working on a lot of older pieces lately, like this steamer truck that turned into a military memorabilia chest.




Or this dog house, that needed steps...


Or this table.



 One thing is for sure - it is never boring in the shop! Next up?... two carving classes starting in the next few days.  Will you be joining us for a chip carving



 or a spoon carving class?