Monday, December 30, 2013

Let's wrap up this year....

This year has been terrific. Oh, don't get me wrong - we had some hard times, especially with the fire on Mt. Charleston. 

Anyone with breathing problems probably had some issues while the fire was raging.

 But we got through it OK, and we were lucky. 

All in all, everyone I've spoken with about 2013 seems to share the same sentiment -- it was a pretty good year. I hope you can say the same about yours. 

As someone once said – it takes a village. And I couldn't have run the school without the help of many, many people in my life. I'd like to thank some of the people who have contributed their energy and creativity thoughout the year - in many ways, large and small. 

Eric volunteers at the shop on the weekends, and is my right hand dude. He's a huge help in keeping the woodshop in shape - from performing maintenance on the tools, like changing blades and belts and whatever else pops up. 

He has a serious case of "lathe bug" right now, so when he's finished with his work around the shop, you'll find him on a lathe, making bowls. 

There is a core of woodworkers who come to the shop almost every weekend, producing amazing work. But often - they simply work on perfecting their technique. You'll find Ann turning bowls or practicing her sharpening skills of lathe tools. 

Lupe is usually juggling a few different pieces at once. Why is it that the smallest people build the largest pieces?  

Here is her walnut bookcase, completed and in place. Wow. The finish on this has to be felt to truly be appreciated!

Lupe's energy and good attitude around the shop is so appreciated - she always has a kind word for other people's work, and is a willing hand when they need a little extra muscle. A Saturday at the shop wouldn't be complete without us sharing a beer together at the end of the day.

Kris builds amazing mixed media furniture.  

You'll find metal, fabric, wire, ceramic and glass added into her creations. She also makes amazing jewelry, like this pendant she made for me, with my beloved's muzzle on it. I can't wait until she opens an Etsy shop!

Her dad visits us from time to time, and has become our shop mascot and cheerleader. 

Chris T made some amazing pieces this year, and we're so proud that he was accepted into Columbia's Masters of Architecture program. I suspect he's kicking ass there.

There are so many more people to thank - and I hope I don't forget everyone who has helped me on this journey. 

My next-door neighbor, Danny, is a friend and pseudo-brother! 

 He's always helping me out by signing for deliveries when I'm not around, or emptying my heavy trash cans, or dragging out a board from his inventory that I might need to complete an order I'm building. Helpful suggestions? He's full of them!  We commiserate and kvetch over coffee, and I really do think we're possibly siblings from different mothers. 

Speaking of coffee, Beth treated the shop to a wonderful Keurig coffee maker system this year. She keeps us stocked with cups, creamer, K cups, and much more. She knows the way to our hearts! She's become a regular on the weekends, building amazing pieces. She started out making small projects like these, 

and has graduated to this: 

Finally, I know there are a lot of people I am forgetting...

Special thanks goes to Nancy and Mel for their generosity throughout the year. And to both John F's - I love your energy and enthusiasm for woodworking! Margaret - thanks for being my (not-so) secret angel. And to Dennis and John E - thanks for teaching classes at the school and sharing your wonderful talents with us. Andrew F - your help with that legal stuff earlier this year was such a relief - thanks so much for making that experience mostly stress free! Cheryl & Judy - thanks for the logs, and the beer and the cutting board madness!

Let's not forget the members of Sin City Woodworkers, who meet once a month at my shop - thanks for your support and participation in our group. We've been meeting for five years now, and it's one of the coolest things a woodworker can do in Las Vegas. (You can join here!)

Here's my year-end wrapup slideshow. I try to take a picture of every single person who takes a class - and hopefully I have captured everyone here. My apologies if I have missed you - come back to the shop and let me shoot a photo! I thank you all for your support. I hope you've learned as much from me as I have from you. 

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Catching a woodworking bug....

It started with this picture.  

A student of mine sent this photo to me, and said she wanted to make a table base similar to this design. It was going to be her first large piece - and I thought I'd share the process with you. It's nothing short of amazing. 

Since the top was wider than 24 inches (the width of my planer),  it had to be glued together in several steps. 

She used 8/4 lumber (that's two inches thick, for you non-woodworkers!) African mahogany. It is quite heavy, and just planing the top sections was quite a chore!

I didn't get photos while she was making the base, but it went together relatively easily, using two inch-thick poplar.  She kept hopping back and forth between sanding the top and working on the base. Here - she's getting some help placing the top on the base. 

It's a beast!

She used an ebony stain on the poplar base; it's a stunning combination. 

The top alone probably took 12-15 hours to make, at least half of that in sanding alone.  But when she applied the oil, all of the hard work paid off.

This tabletop seems to glow from within. 

And here it is, finished and assembled. She chose to oil the top, let it cure, and then apply a few coats of a wipe-on poly, for more protection. The result is crazy-beautiful! 

She made this for her daughter, so it's going to be shipped across the country. This piece is so well-made, and so sturdy, but I suspect it will be around for a long, long time. Imagine someday that her great-grandchildren might be dining on this table. It's kind of mind-boggling!

People ask me if I get bored with teaching.... are you kidding me? Projects like this one keep me excited about it! It's a rush to watch someone complete a piece like this; I'm not quite sure how to explain it. 

Right now - in the shop - there are many more heirloom quality pieces being built. Like an amazing rocking chair that one fellow is making for his daughter. 

Or - this Cherry chest of drawers, 

which one student undertook, just become familiar with working with plywood. 

These are just a few of the projects that you might see if you stopped by the school - if you're in the neighborhood, feel free to come in and see what we're building. 

Be careful - you might catch a woodworking bug....

Friday, December 27, 2013

A follow-up to an earlier post...

The procedure was a little dicey (OK, downright scary) and I asked the woman to send me a picture of the finished product, once she completed it. She promised she would do so.. and I love it when people do what they promise! 

Here's the photo she sent.

Terrific work! I love helping other people with their creativity!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A little refresher on using a tablesaw....

It sounds like several people I know are getting tablesaws this year from Santa. Good for them! So - a refresher course in using one seems like a good idea.

Here are two videos that I think are helpful. This first one is have NOT to use a table saw! Honestly, I can't believe this guy even made this video, although I know he was trying to be helpful. He's lucky he didn't lose something!  

And this next video (click on the link below) Will give you a little guidance, In case it's been a while since you've cut a piece of wood.

 Be safe everyone!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Do you mind if I brag?

Can I brag about one of my students?

Here's one of those success stories that I love blogging about... 

We just wrapped up to Table Making classes at my shop, and I had to share with you one student's tables. Before the class started - John sent me these two pictures. 

They're of pieces that he has in his house, and he hoped to build two tables to match this set. 

He spent a lot of time coming up with these sketches, and wondered if it would be possible for him to make these, with his limited skills.

Now - he's only completed the Basic Woodworking class, but what he lacked in woodworking experience, he made up for with sheer determination. And enthusiasm. That is more than half the battle. 

He started by making the tops, in this case - using mahogany plywood. A rabbet around the edge of the plywood was cut, so that he could frame in the top with solid African mahogany.

 The frame had to be fitted to the plywood, 

and he did a terrific job making both of these.

He set aside the tops and started work on the base - using mortise and tenon joinery. 

Again –John really nailed it! and got these bases glued together perfectly square, without wobbles or gaps. 

He decided to use the Festool Domino for attaching the shelf stretchers. 

The real key to making any furniture is to glue things together in sub-assemblies. For the longest time, you'll feel like you're not making any progress. 

Things go really slowly, and then...  BAM! 

The next thing you know you have a table! 

Or in John's case - two tables!

Since these tables needed to match some existing tables in his house, he took a sample of the wood to Sherwin Williams, for them to match the stain. 

Meanwhile, there was a lot of touch up sanding and detail work  to do - like adding square plugs to his table legs and tops. 

It's easy to get excited at this stage and rush the finishing. That's usually a big mistake! 

But John took his time and got everything stained and oiled separately, and then attached the tops to the bases. 

When they finally were set in place in his living room, they looked as if they always belonged there.

I can't tell you how excited he was when these were finished!  There is an amazing feeling you get when you finish your first piece and place it in your home. 

And when it's a good one - well, that's even sweeter!

Congratulations on a job well done, John!