Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tablesaw injury and a jury of (obviously) non-woodworkers

There is an extremely disturbing article in Woodshop News that I've been thinking about for the last couple of hours. You can read about it here.

As someone who runs a woodworking school and routinely teaches people how to use a tablesaw, I get chills from this story. It also makes me think of personal responsibility and people who refuse to take it.

This judgement is wrong on so many levels, it's frightening. I agree with every point that the author makes, but my bigger issue is that the employer wasn't found to be at fault. Who removed the guard? Who showed the worker how to turn the saw on? You can bet that everyone that cuts a board in my shop has far better training than this worker; it's my responsibility to provide that training. And the buck doesn't stop there. Everyone who approaches the saw must have their ducks in a row - safety glasses? Check! Push stick?

So I'm sitting here at my desk, trying to organize my thoughts about this. My two "children" (OK, schnauzers) are at my feet, trying to get me to play with them. Yesterday, while at the store, I picked up a couple of new doggie toys, and damn! How do they know I have two new toys sitting on my desk? As I was cutting off the tags from the toys, I glanced at the label on them.

Looks like a pretty fun toy, right? Well, check out the back of the label.

Now don't you think if they show a dog chewing the toy on the front of the label, you should be able to correctly assume that it's a chew toy? Did you read that second line - "not intended as a chew toy?"


I better close this for now, as one of my dogs just chewed off a small chunk of the toy, and is trying to swallow it. I'm calling my lawyer!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Secret Compartments in Furniture

Almost every cabinetmaker I know has built a secret compartment into one of their cabinets. This guy takes it to a whole new level!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Compound miter joints

One of the best books out there is Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking, Book 1 on Joinery. When I graduated with my degree in Furniture Design, I was smart enough to know how much I didn't know!

Oh, I knew the basics, but there were a lot of joints that I'd never cut. That's where Tage's book was so helpful. Not only did he write about each joint, but there were step-by-step photos to go along with each one. I put this book on my saw and cut every single one of those joints - like this finger joint.

It was like having him in my shop, giving me private lessons.

At the time, his information on compound miters didn't particularly seem that interesting. But they've now become one my go-to joint when I want to make something really interesting.

Yes, they're a little difficult to master the first time you cut them, but they're really worth the effort. And since the Wixey Digital Cube has become a permanent part of my woodshop arsenal, these joints come out dead on perfect.

Tage includes a chart for the various blade tilt and miter gauge settings you'll need. You pick the number of sides and the degree of slope you want, and the chart will tell you all you need to know. I have to say that in some cases, I've found that I've needed to tweak his numbers a bit, to get the corners to fit tightly. You don't want inside corners that don't meet, like this sample.

Splines really help out, too.

They make this joint strong, and help keep everything from slipping when clamping it together. I've used both band clamps and spring clamps, but prefer band clamps, as they don't mar the wood. But because of the slope, the band sometimes wants to slip right off the piece.

So... what can you do with this cut?

How about a trash can,

with a cool detail on the front?

Or a simple box

flipped upside down for a nice planter.

I love graceful angles, they're so nice to use when building things for your home.

I'm working on a post on the actual cutting of these angles. So if you don't have Tage's book, or you can't get the hang of cutting these, the upcoming post should be quite helpful. Start thinking of some things you want to build with this joint, because once you see how easy it is, you'll be hooked!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

2010 Las Vegas restaurant review

This list of some of my favorite restaurants has already been updated once, but as time goes on, we discover more great places to enjoy here in Las Vegas. So I'm adding some new favorites, and dropping a few that have turned into a disappointment.

The first full year that we lived in Las Vegas, we counted 34 different weekends that we had company! You'll discover friends and relatives you never knew existed when living in a resort destination! And although most of our guests stay on the Las Vegas Strip, dining there doesn't always guarantee you're going to find the best meals in town. There are so many hidden jewels for dining, some just a short drive away from the Strip. The places listed below feature some great food, and much more reasonable prices than what you'll find on the Strip.

As my family would say - Mangia!

Lotus of Siam
953 E Sahara Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 735-3033

A writer for Gourmet Magazine said this might possibly be the best Thai restaurant in the United States. Who knows if that's true, but this one must rank among the top. There isn't a bad meal on the menu, and there are some dishes there make me want to curl up and purr. Try the Catfish Salad, and don't forget the desert of Mango, coconut ice cream and sticky rice.

When you order, you'll want to specify the degree of spiciness, from 1-10. Somewhere around 1-4 is palatable, anything higher and you might want to bring a fire extinguisher. There isn't enough Thai beer in the city to put out that fire.

The location of this isn't far from the Strip, it's located in a funky, seedy-looking strip mall. If you look to the East, you'll find the infamous Green Door. Ask any Marilyn Chambers fan and you'll know what I mean.


Ella Em's Soul Food
775 W. Craig Rd. North Las Vegas

This restaurant was just received a "Best of Vegas" listing, and I couldn't agree more. Their food makes you feel as if you're sitting in the middle of Ella's kitchen, and she's cooking just for you. I'm working my way down the menu, and everything I've tried has that "homemade" taste. If you're taking their food home, ask for some extra sauces (barbecue or gravy) or you'll be sorry.

Hash House (two locations)
6800 West Sahara Ave or in the Imperial Palace

How did I miss this place in my first review? When they advertise their fare as "Twisted Farm Food", they're not exaggerating. Forget about taking visitors to the brunches and buffets here in town, THIS is the place that will wow them.

The Tractor Driver Combo is amazing, as are any of their breakfasts. When you see camera flashes going off all over the dining room, it's not because someone's taking pictures of a celebrity. It's because the plates are so outrageous, someone is sending picture of their breakfast to their friends back home. VERY highly recommended.


The Florida Cafe
Inside the Howard Johnson Hotel
1401 Las Vegas Blvd. S
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 385-3013

Who even knew that there are still Ho Jo's in America?

I'd been hearing good things about this place for a while, but we only recently dined at the Florida Cafe. It's located in the wedding chapel district, where many of the 24 hour chapels are, just up from the Stratosphere. Imagine getting married by an Elvis impersonator, eating Cuban food for your reception, and then hopping on one of the rides atop the Stratosphere for the beginning of your honeymoon. Talk about memorable.

Speaking of memorable, the Cuban sandwiches here are tasty and filling, and the cafe con leche will make you feel like you're in Miami. To add seven years to your life, try the crispy plantains. Yum.

Roy's (Two locations)

Summerlin or East Flamingo

Chef Roy Yamaguchi opened his first Roy's in Hawaii and luckily, there are two locations here in LV. If you're craving a meal to remind you of your last Hawaiian vacation, you can always count on some fabulous food here. Their presentation and recipes are amazing, but their extra attention to detail is what really makes this place outstanding. Put your name on Roy's mailing list, and you'll receive discount coupons throughout the year.

Firefly (two locations)
3900 Paradise Rd or Downtown
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 369-3971

I'm sort of on the bubble about this place - some meals there have been absolutely fabulous, and others, mild disasters! But they serve great food, and the people watching possibilities are endless.

Did I mention the liquor? Try a pitcher of Mojitos or Sangria for starters.

Then... DO NOT MISS the stuffed dates or the roast pork and red pepper Empanadas. Or the Filet Mignon Sliders. Much of the menu features tapas, smaller, appetizer sized portions meant for sharing. It's often noisy and the service can be iffy, but it's great for a different Las Vegas experience.

Major gourmet grub. Try not to rubberneck too much!


Sammy's Woodfired Pizza
(Multiple locations)

Even though this is a chain, their locations have a very "homey" feel to them, and their menu has enough variety to fill your every craving. This is my go-to place when I don't feel like cooking, but I want a "home cooked" meal.

Try their fattouche and the Ahi sliders for a real treat.


Viva Zapatas Mexican Restaurant & Cantina
3826 E Craig Rd
North Las Vegas, NV 89030
(702) 643-8888

Don't judge the food by the exterior! This little gem is sandwiched between a gas station and a muffler shop. It's at least a 10-15 minute drive from the Strip, but I think worth the trouble. What you'll save by not dining on the Strip will pay for the cab.

It's one of my favorite places in the city. You MUST order guacamole made tableside, and don't forget extra cilantro! Great food, great margaritas, and friendly staff.

10820 W. Charleston Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89145
(702) 214-3500

Speaking of Mexican food, if you find yourself out in Summerlin, you might want to check out Agave, if for no other reason to see check out the beautiful interior of this place. It's beyond fabulous, and worth the trip to this part of the city.

Their food is more "Americanized" and some people complain it's a far cry from authentic Mexican fare.


Try the Chile Rellanos stuffed with Rock Shrimp, or the Lobster Empanadas. Or the Barbecued Duck Quesadillas... authentic? Probably not, but damn delicious!

Did I mention the Tequila Bar? It's ginormous.

Kings Fishhouse
In the District, in Henderson 702-835-8900

One of the nicest things about King's is that they offer some fish that you won't find in the more mainstream seafood restaurants - like Sandabs, for one. Never had them? You MUST! on your next visit. Their oyster selection is vast, which is great considering we're in the middle of the desert.

Our only complaint EVER (and we've visited their place quite often) was with their sauteed spinach. After ordering some fried fish, it's nice to trick yourself into thinking you're eating healthy by ordering the spinach. But we've found that the garlic is not only plentiful, but often nearly raw. Great for keeping the vampires away, but not so great when it's oozing out your skin for the next three days.

My advice? Ask for it well done when you place your order, and you'll be fine.
They've finally updated their website to include a menu, and they even have a few recipes, as well. You may want to visit their site to see if they have a location near you. You'll be dreaming about the Sandabs for days.


BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse

10840 W Charleston
(702) 853-2300

A fun brewpub that not only serves great beer, but is kid friendly. Huh?

BJ's is a chain from SoCal, and serves some great meals, so that you can wash them down with their hand crafted beers. Try the beer sampler, if you can't make up your mind. I'm partial to the deep dish pizza, but hey- if I were sentenced to die in the electric chair, pizza and beer would be my last meal.

Do they serve beer in prison?

BJ's is also located in Summerlin, in fact, it's nearly next door to Agave (see above)... those people in Summerlin are damn lucky!


Lindo Michoacan
Multiple locations

You can tell by the menu similarities that the owners of Lindo Michoacan are related to the people who run Viva Zapatas. The good news is - the food is wonderful at ALL their locations. Everything I've ever ordered here is excellent, but shrimp lovers should try their Camarones Sarandeados for a really great meal.

As their t-shirts recommend - Save Water, Drink Margaritas!

Cheap (but fabulous!) Eats

Jimmy's Cheyenne Market
1370 W. Cheyenne (Corner of MLK and Cheyenne)

Jimmy's is my new favorite place to grab a quick bite. Don't be confused, this location is a grocery store that includes a deli inside. You know their food is good, when people drive across town just for their fried catfish or peach cobbler. (While standing in line waiting to order, one woman told me she orders a couple of extra pieces of fish to eat in the car, on the drive home. I wish I'd followed her advice!)

The store is undergoing a major renovation, but you can still pick up fried chicken, shrimp dinners, or the catfish, which is sold by the pound. Leave the frying to them, you'll be happy you did.

And don't forget to pick up some cobbler for dessert.

Capriottis Sandwich Shop
multiple locations

Capriotti's are located all over the Vegas valley, and feature outrageous sandwiches that you'll crave long after you've left Vegas. Unless you have an appetite like a Kobayashi, order a small. Their large sandwiches are off the hook, as Guy Fieri would say.

They have a HUGE selection of vegetarian "meats" not to mention the Bobbie, a Turkey dinner on a bun. It includes turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and mayo. Forget about a traditional Thanksgiving meal- pick up one of these and head to Red Rock for a picnic. URP!


Roberto's Taco Shop
Various locations

This little gem also started in SoCal in the mid 1960s and spread to Las Vegas, making many people here very happy. Besides being open 24 hours, and having numerous locations all over the city, their food is very reasonably priced, delicious, and authentic. The first time I visited, I ordered a TON of food, wanting to sample everything because it smelled so good! They packed up 5 huge bags of food, and charged me around $30. I thought they made a mistake and had undercharged me! Or had forgotten something. But they checked the bill and assured me it was correct. It was probably enough grub to feed 8 people.

I don't recommend eating in their various locations, I consider it more of a carryout, since there are only a few tables, all of questionable cleanliness. But their food is great, and you'll find yourself wanting to stop there on the way home from a long day. You can't make a meal this good for yourself at home. No way.

My favorite is a chicken burrito with guacamole; it's the size of my forearm and feels like it has a pound of chicken in it. For about $6.00 Talk about a deal!



Red Square
Mandalay Bay Hotel
3950 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 632-7407

I'm just guessing, but I'd say the average Las Vegan doesn't visit the Strip, unless they work there. Too much traffic, too expensive, the reasons are numerous. And while some of the Strip restaurants there are just wonderful, you can't live here and regularly drop a few hundred on a meal. It's insane. There is one place, however, that I feel deserves a mention here. It's a restaurant, yes, but it's also a bar, and that's the real reason to visit Red Square.

If the decapitated statue of Lenin outside isn't enough to draw you in, nor the 25' bar made of ice, the vodka vault might do it. Borrow a fur coat and hat and step into the 10 degree cooler, sampling one of 200 vodkas with your friends. The martini list is awesome; for something sweet, try a Key Lime Martini. For a severe buzz, try the Chernobyl.

Just be sure you're not driving home!

This place is everything that's fun about Vegas and more- great booze, lots of fun people, a truly amazing experience. I went there with a group of friends for my birthday celebration one year, and ended up doing shots with 4 tourists that were in town for a convention! I'm not sure, but I may have crawled home. Who can remember?

And I don't even consider myself to be a big drinker!

I could write about this place for two hours and not capture the true essence of this place. Try this link and see what everyone else has to say: Yelp:Red Square

One last thing- this place is expensive.... but it might be worth every penny.


A couple of final thoughts-

First- what a great city if you love food, like I do. I feel particularly lucky to have been raised by parents who exposed me to a huge variety of food at an early age. Foodwise, everything about this city is superb. The Asian markets sell sushi grade fish at very reasonable prices, and there's a Hispanic store here that has a produce department to die for.

Did you notice that I didn't include any sushi bars or pizza recommendations? That's because I'm very picky about those foods. I haven't found a really good sushi restaurant here, although there are many decent ones. The same thing goes for pizza - there are some decent pizza places here, but nothing that makes me want to drive across town, just for a slice.

Bottom line... the sushi I make at home blows away anything I can order at a restaurant. Same with my pizza. If you want some recipes, let me know.

Finally, when I just reread this, checking it for errors, misspellings, etc., it dawned on me that I sound like a big drunk! I'm not, but I do enjoy pairing food with an appropriate libation. In fact, I have a copy of Modern Drunkard magazine on my coffee table, but only because it has a killer martini recipe in it.

Speaking of Modern Drunkard, check this out: You know you're a Drunkard when...

Note: this post is my opinion, and mine only. I have no intention to tick anyone off, or offend any readers, and I certainly don't own stock in any of these places! Please drink and eat responsibly!

Vashe Zdorovie!