Thursday, February 27, 2014

A cool video on creativity and skill

As if I don't love Ira Glass enough.... 

Here's a terrific two-minute pep talk about becoming better. At anything - woodworking, writing, whatever. I just love this, it pretty much sums things up for me. 

In the very early 90's, I decided to tackle table making. By that time, I'd only made a few, and didn't really feel that comfortable with what I'd made. So I started on sets of five. 

Every table I made was different. Some were tall and skinny. Others were short, some had tapered legs, some had legs I turned on the lathe. Whatever – I just wanted them all to be different. It helped me concentrate on form, technique, assembly - everything a woodworker needs to get better.

And you know what? About 25 tables later, I was pretty damn good at it. 

That's what it's about - practice.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My favorite push-stick - and how to make one

It's easy to forget that some people don't know how to make a push stick. I guess I take that for granted, I've made hundreds in my lifetime. Probably thousands, now that I think about it.  

When I see plastic push sticks for sale in woodworking catalogs, I want to scream. Who would buy one of those? I just don't get it, they're a throwaway item – use it a few times, and after it gets abused by a saw blade - you throw it away. Why would someone pay for that?

Like many things in life - I just can't make any sense of this.

There are usually a half-dozenof push sticks hanging on the pegboard in the woodshop, but the other day, I noticed that there was only one hanging there - and it was already chewed up. From the look of this one, someone must have run it into the cutterhead on the jointer. 


I'm glad I didn't see that! 

There are all sorts of push stick designs out there, but most of them don't support your wood very well. Or some aren't ergonomically pleasing to the hand. I want to hold the stick low, but well out-of-the-way of the blade. And I want support over the piece of wood that I'm cutting.  After years of tweaking my design, I came up with one that is effective, comfortable, simple to make, and uses cheap scrap material. 

Generally, I use half-inch Baltic Birch plywood, which I usually have laying around the shop. This design needs a piece about 10-12 inches long, and maybe 5-6 wide.  In this case, I had a couple of pieces about 12 inches square. Each piece gave me four push sticks - if I'm lucky -  a month's supply at my school. 

It's easy to set the taper jig and cut some triangles. 

The angle doesn't even matter that much, I just want to make sure my taper jig isn't going to hit the blade.

Here I'm set up to make the cut, 

and in seconds - 

I have four pieces. 

Or in this case, eight pieces, since I had two pieces of scrap. 

Since most of the material that I work with is about a half an inch thick or thicker, I want to cut the notch on the end of my push stick slightly less than that, maybe 3/8".

 Gang all the pieces together, and with the blade lowered, start cutting the notch. 

For reasons you'll see you a bit - I cut the notch about 2 inches wide. 

Now I'm not recommending that you do it this way, but this is how I do it. Because of the curve of the blade, you have to raise the blade up higher than you would for a normal cut. You want the leading edge of that blade to be coming down in a more vertical position, which is only achieved by having the blade raised higher than normal.  

I set the fence so that it's going to cut flush into that notch, and I'm only running the wood through there until I hit the slot that I cut. You can only do this on a table saw that has a riving knife. 

Should I say that again?

You can only do this on a table saw that has a riving knife.

The riving knife will keep the wood away from the blade.  Without one - there's a good chance you're going to be eating a push stick. Yes, it can come back and smack you in the mouth!

Also, make sure no one is standing behind you when you're doing this! That little off-cut of wood can get trapped between the fence and the blade, and shoot out of the back of the saw. 

I mean it! Making these push sticks can be a little dangerous, so use your head! And don't write to me, telling me how dangerous this is! I'll bet I've made 5000 of these without any problem. (Knock on wood.)

So far, these push things have taken about three minutes to make. All that's left is a little detail work, like shaping, so that they feel better in my hand. 

Since these hang on the pegboard behind the saw, I stack them up and drill a hole for hanging.

I  traced a curve onto the back corner, using whatever I could find. If I'm feeling really fancy - I'll grab a compass and do it. I wasn't feeling that fancy today.

Honestly, you could probably do this without tracing the curve, but my OCD likes to keep them somewhat uniform. 

After they're cut, I smooth them on the sander. I think I'm at about five minutes now. 

And just like that - boom!

I have eight new push sticks in the shop. In about two-three weeks, I'll need to make more.

It seems like lately - I've been spending more time working on the shop, rather than building furniture. But I just ordered some wood from the lumberyard that's due in next week, and hopefully I'll get back to building soon. 

Just another day in the shop! 

Oh - by the way - we had a visitor at the shop today. As Ann was working on the lathe, 

She reached for this roll of paper towels, to apply some wax on a piece. Imagine her surprise when she peered into the center of the roll and saw this guest: 

yup, that's a black widow! 

We like shop visitors, but not usually ones with eight legs!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Finally - I'm headed back to some woodworking....

My buddy, Big John, shared this video with me - it sort of freaks me out to see this!

On another note - I'm finally wrapping up one of the busiest teaching sessions I've ever had. The students were creative and talented, and many of them have signed up for upcoming classes, hoping to up their woodworking game. Sweet!

I'm going to get back to building again - I've taken about two months off, so that I could concentrate on teaching. I have about five different pieces that I'm working on - in my head. I've started a few, and hopefully - I'll be sharing some of those with you soon. 

Also, a doweling jig manufacturer sent me a jig of theirs to test, so I'm trying to adapt one of my upcoming projects to use their jig. My first impressions are that it is extremely well made, and ... well... it looks complicated. 

Let's hope I'm right about the first part, and wrong about the last!  Stay tuned, I think it's going to be an interesting Spring in the woodshop!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Need to fix a wobbly chair?

What are the chances of me getting an email, asking how to repair a wobley chair, and then getting a link to this video in my email box within the same day? How strange, but it happened!

 I had to laugh when I read one of the comments on YouTube below this video - I had the same reaction - I sort of wanted to strangle this guy, too.  He's ever-so-slightly creepy and goofy at the same time. How is that possible? 

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Day gift in wood

Just for Valentines day, I thought I'd dig up these photos of a past project.

Hope your day is filled with good things.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Where to put your weed....

There's an intermediate woodworking class going on right now at my shop and we're working on compound miters. Compound miters are an amazing joint to master. We use this joint to make lamps, but not just any lamp!  

A few sessions ago one of my students made a stash lamp - I'm not sure what he was stashing it, but it was very cool. In fact, I made larger one.

 I'm not telling you what I stashed it either.

Last night in class, one of my students reminded me of this old SNL skit. It's so old - so the quality is really poor. But it's hilarious... Thanks for the laugh, Cassandra! 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Bid on one of my woodworking classes... and donate to a great cause

Want an opportunity to take a woodworking class, and donate to a great cause? You can participate in the local NPR's fundraising drive, and bid on a woodworking class with me! Even better yet - your bid is tax deductible!

If you've already taken the Basic Woodworking class, I'll apply your winning bid to another class on the schedule. 

I loveLoveLOVE listening to NPR while I'm working in the shop - in fact, I subscribe to podcasts of the various shows that I miss throughout the week - like Fresh Air or State of Nevada. 

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Adirondack chairs on steroids

One of the most favorite classes I teach is – Making an Adirondack Chair. If you're not from the East Coast, but you may not know what it Adirondack chair is... damn, you're missing out!

These are amazingly comfortable outdoor chairs, usually painted and sitting on the deck or near an ocean. I've taught this class dozens of times, and my students have made some amazing creations. They've made double ones, painted ones, thrones, ones donated the charity, his and hers models, and even indoor Adirondack chairs which have been placed in their living rooms or dens.

These are so comfortable that you barely want to get up out of them. 

I have an Adirondack chair class coming up, and I thought I'd post a few ideas of some amazing chairs that other people have built. I don't know who these people are,  but I think they're amazing artists! 

You can even make a "chair" for your four-legged friends!

I hope these pictures inspire some of my students to make some cool chairs this coming March.  I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Is it me... or is this just ... strange?


You really can find the oddest stuff while trolling the Internet. I found this today - and I'm just trying to wrap my head around it. (Click on that link to read more.)


Sunday, February 02, 2014

Amazing mini shoji screen

A friend sent me a link to this video - featuring Nagoya-based Tori Sugimura's amazing mini shoji screens.  What a great way to camouflage outlets around the house. 

The music that accompanies this video is really irritating, so you may want to  turn your speakers off!