Tuesday, May 29, 2012


It has been said that serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts.

I've had the good fortune of meeting some very generous people along the path of running my woodworking school.

A few weeks ago, Steve from Vegas Valley Business Forms noticed that the signs in the shop were looking ragged. It's true, they're right in line with the swamp cooler fan, and the breeze has shredded the corners.

Steve graciously offered to print up some new signs for me, ones that would be more durable and colorful. Who knows, someone might actually read them!

So imagine my surprise when he walked into class last week with these two new signs - printed on metal and ready for hanging. He even printed them in my favorite colors, and included my handprints - how sweet is that?

Saturday is a good day for tackling tasks around the shop, so Nikki and Eric - the two shop interns - took upon the task. First stop was to design a wooden bracket to hold each sign. Here's the small prototype they came up with - perfect!

While Eric took down the old signs,

Nikki made the four brackets we needed.

Don't mess with Eric while he's working!

(You both did a great job, BTW! Thanks!)

Speaking of serendipity, those two paper signs we took down were also a gift - from three years ago, when another student - Rob - printed them for me. Rob moved away, but I know he reads this blog regularly, so I want to thank him again for those - they served me well!

And yes - I also want to thank Steve for the very nice gift - it was unexpected, but very much appreciated. He's an all-around good guy and generous business owner - I'm always thrilled when I see his name on one of my class enrollment lists.

Serendipity, indeed!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fun with plywood

We've got babies. A lot of them.

A few years ago, my buddy Charles gave me a banana tree. By sheer luck, I managed not to kill it, and it grew over ten feet tall. Then the babies started sprouting up.

Within a week or two, I had babies sprouting up everywhere, so transplanting them seemed the next step. You can almost sit and watch these things grow - they grow amazingly fast!

The only thing I had handy were some drywall mud buckets, so I cut each one down, drilled some drain holes in each one, and kept my fingers crossed. It's not the most gorgeous pot, but hey - it's cheap and I like using something that would normally go in the recycling pile.

A few weeks ago, I was shopping at McKillican Lumber and my salesman give me a something to play with - a nice sheet of Maple veneered plywood. At the time, I had no idea what I would do with it, but then something popped into my head - planter boxes!

Tage Frid's book on Joinery has a really helpful chart on cutting compound miters; I use his numbers so often that I keep a copy of it on the bulletin board in my office. It was an easy decision to choose a six sided box to hold each of these mud buckets. Hexagon shapes are gorgeous!

I decided to make them different heights, to add a little visual interest. That meant the bottom of each planter box would be in a different place.

The pieces were cut,

and then I made a template for the bottom.

Getting ready for a test fit.

The hardest part is clamping it together by myself.

But after the fourth one...

I tapped into my inner octopus and had no problem.

Yup, everything fits. Time to add glue.

I try to be really careful with glue - it causes so many problems later in the building cycle. So each time I glued a planter together, I took some time to shave off the excess with a chisel.

The first one - sanded and ready for color.

You know I love MilkPaint, so I pulled out the color chart and tapped into some southwest colors.

Pumpkin was my first choice, and probably my favorite. When I was a teenager, I painted my bedroom this color. (I can't believe my mom let me do that! It was pretty ugly!)

More color decisions!

I love this green!

And finally - the set.

MilkPaint raises the grain on wood, and doesn't give it any protection from moisture, so I needed to sand each planter, and then seal them with something a little more durable. Watco Danish Oil is my usual finish of choice (do you get sick of hearing me talk about it?) - but it wouldn't be a suitable finish this time.

So I mixed up some Natco - that's a home made recipe that is NOT Watco.

But it is durable - a mix of spar varnish, turpentine, and boiled linseed oil. It's great for anything that might come into contact with moisture, and is very easy to apply.

They're finally ready!

Stella was so excited!

We put a plastic liner around each bucket to keep them from leaking, and dropped them into a wooden planter box. A little mulch on top hides the plastic liner

Can we play now, mama?

I think I'll add some wheels to the bottom of each planter - they're pretty heavy, and I like to turn these plants every now and then. They like to lean toward the sunlight, so rotating them is the best way to ensure they grow straight.

It is Memorial Day, so I'd like to thank my military readers and their families for their service and dedication. You rock!

Here's my dad in his Navy days... he was so handsome! RIP, Jimmy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Finally - a Carving Class!

This has been a long time coming - I'm thrilled to announce that Dennis Patchett is going to be teaching a woodcarving class at my shop. Without a doubt, woodcarving is one of the most requested classes from students. I couldn't find a better instructor, or a nicer fellow, than Dennis.

Dennis has been carving for decades, and his period reproduction furniture might be some of the best work being made in our country. I'm not exaggerating.

Since this is the first time a carving class is being offered, I had to figure out some logistics - most people don't have carving tools in their arsenal yet. So - your enrollment in this class will get you a very sweet FlextCut carving knife; it's yours to keep. Sweet!

Hopefully, you'll get the carving bug and get many years of use from your knife.

Dennis will be going over some pertinent carving information - including sharpening, basic cuts, wood choices, carving tool purchases, and much more.

Enrollment is limited - and the class is already half full, so if you're interested, check out this link for more information.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

RIP - Eugene J. Polley

There wouldn't be an easy way to track it, but suffice it to say that I've built my fair share of tables.

All kinds of tables - dining tables, end tables, coffee tables, computer tables, book stands, lecterns, pedestals, displays, ritual alters, tiled tables - you name it, I've probably done it.

When my tables eventually end up in someone's living room, or bedroom, or office - I usually ask the new owner to send me a picture of how it looks in their home. (Most people never do, BTW.) Seeing the piece in place is a really nice conclusion to the building process.

Something in today's news hit me - an obituary that probably most people have missed.
Eugene J. Polley died on Sunday, at the ripe old age of 96.

His name doesn't ring a bell with you? It should.

One of his many inventions revolutionized the world. Most of us use his device every day. His claim to fame?
The world's first wireless TV remote. Do you know how many times people have sent me pictures of my tables in their homes with a remote on top of their table?

So tonight, when you're sitting on your couch, changing channels, lift your glass to Eugene and be glad you don't have to get up every time you want to change your channel.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Carving class now on the schedule!

Well, this is exciting!

I've finally worked out most of the details with Dennis Patchett, one of the finest wood carvers here in the Vegas valley. So I'm thrilled to announce that he's agreed to teach a carving class coming up in about a month.

Although all of the details are still being worked out, I'm already receiving an overwhelming response from people who are interested. And since the class will be limited in size to eight people - now is your chance to pre-enroll.

If you go to the school's webpage, you can read more about the course, and register for the class. There is a PayPal button that will allow you to send in a deposit and save your place in this class. I can't tell you how important it is to register early - I expect his class to fill quickly, as word spreads.

Meanwhile, here is a little insanity for your Monday morning enjoyment. Doesn't everyone think of opening a bottle of beer with a chainsaw?