Monday, March 31, 2014

Fun with Plywood

People complain about Facebook all the time, but I really find it rather fascinating on several levels. 

Staying in touch with family and friends all over the world?  Check!  

Sharing photos of my students and their work? Check!

A free and effective marketing tool for my business? Check!

"Meeting" other woodworkers? Check!

I belong to a Woodworking and Furniture group on FB, and the 3600+ members in the group often share tips, post photos of their work, and ask each other questions when they're struggling with something, such as a technique or a new material.

One of the members posted these pictures the other day - and at first glance, I thought these panels were a mosaic.

 Turns out - they're made of plywood! 

Someone got really creative with a grinder!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Here's a neat sandpaper tip...

Even though we don't use full sheets of sandpaper at my shop, this is a great tip. One of my pet peeves is exactly what he describes in this video- dulling your sandpaper by grinding it against itself.

Sounds silly, but it's true - sandpaper gets dull pretty quickly, and if you can make it last longer, why not try this?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I hope this is a joke!

Damn, I hope this is a joke!

Meanwhile, back at the shop - classes have started back up and we're in "Full Cutting Board Mode."

There is an Adirondack Chair class starting tonight, and I have a feeling it's going to be one of those really creative gatherings - everyone in the shop is brimming with good ideas about making their chairs unique. 

The wood has started arriving - this stack of African Mahogany isn't going to transform into an Adirondack chair - but rather - a Morris chair. Yes, we do deviate from our stated mission.

These 16' boards make my back hurt, just looking at them. 

Running out of room? The only place to stack these board was on the panel saw. Let's hope no one needs to use it for a week or so. 

More Poplar, and Cherry... now we're really running out of room!

There are so many ways to put your personality into these chairs - that's why I always love teaching this class. Here's one of my favorites - a slick, retro version that was made by a really creative students of mine. 

As always - buckle up and stay tuned!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Makin' me proud

One of my past students called me the other day, to ask about a past project.

As we started catching up, he told me that he and his wife had moved away from Vegas, and he'd landed himself in a woodworking program in Tennessee.

He found a school called the Chattanooga Woodworking Academy,  

As we chatted about the school, he told me about their first project - a tool tote made by hand. Check out these photos of the totes - amazing work (and gorgeous wood!) from these beginners!

I couldn't be happier for him - he had a true passion for working with his hands, and I suspect he'll do great things in the future. Damn, I love hearing about past students taking their woodworking to new levels! Best of luck, D!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hand tools on steroids



All I can say is... wow.

Here is a terrific slide show about Abiel Rios Wong's work with hand tools. 

To say his tools are works of art is an understatement. 

Click on that link above to see his amazing work. I am in love with his mallets - and they're probably the simplest of his pieces.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Too many choices...

My frustration level was getting pretty high while working on this dresser. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the phone ringing every five minutes, with solicitors offering me deals on mortgages, or Google trying to sell me some ad space. All I know is - none of the phone calls were important, and they definitely affected my concentration. 

So I had pushed the dresser off into the corner, and decided to sketch some details for the drawer layout. 

I had printed up this scaled sketch sheet, 

 so it was easy to fill it in with some different door and drawer arrangements. People who visited the shop this week lent their opinions, and the general consensus was that everyone liked the layout on the bottom, left. It's funny - when you see something that is pleasing to the eye, you just know it.

There're still so many decisions to be made, to choosing the layout wasn't all I had to consider. The back of this cabinet is going to feature a carved area, similar to the headboard below, so I need to figure out what I'll be carving there. It's a very long, skinny space, which doesn't leave me a lot of choices.

Remember when Ned built his beautiful cherry sideboard? He did such a nice job on it that he kind of set my piece in motion, in my head. 

Which got me thinking about the tile inlays that he put into his piece. 

These areas were stunning! His craftsmanship was superb!

Damn, all these decisions were giving me a headache! 

So I decided to do what I do best -  and started prepping wood for some upcoming classes.  I must have had that saw running for four or five straight hours, and when I was done - all that was left was a big pile of toothpicks.  But I pretty much worked out all the details in my head while I was working. 

That's my usual MO...  

Hopefully I have everything straight in my head, and I'll start working on this piece again soon. At least that's the plan!

Thanks for the inspiration, Ned!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Analysis Paralysis... oh no, not again...

In one of my last posts, I mentioned a dresser I'd started. I actually had a few days off, so I spent some time making the various components. I couldn't decide precisely where I wanted to add this bottom stretcher, so I cut a few blocks at different lengths, and experimented until I achieved the look I wanted. 

If this were a house it, it would be considered "stick building" - which means something built on site, piece by piece.

That's the way dresser is turning out - I had a vague notion of dimensions and what I wanted the piece to hold, but no set plan for the details. 

It's not the fastest way to build a piece, but it makes you think, every step of the way. 

Once all the pieces for the main carcass were cut and domino-ed into place, I had a head scratching moment. Every time I worked out one design in my head, I'd discard it for another design. Too many choices!

Some woodworkers might be familiar with feeling like this - it's called Analysis Paralysis. And I had a bad case of it last week. I put the half-finished piece on a cart and rolled it into a corner - I needed a break!

Sometimes it's a good idea to just walk away. Grab a cup of coffee. Think about things. 

I've painted myself into a corner, and the best solution is to sketch my way out. The thing about sketching - some people hate it, or they say they're not good at it. But it's good way to work out design problems. And the cheapest way, too. Why waste wood?

So I took some measurements and came up with a scaled drawing of what I'd built.  I cut and pasted a few of these "blanks," so that I could play with some different designs. 

Then I sharpened my pencil...

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Animals make me laugh out loud. 

The silly things that my girl Stella does never fail to amuse me, like this short video of her, after we tossed the ball around the yard. She's filthy and exhausted, but just... so.... happy. 

Gotta love her unbridled enthusiasm! 

That's what I love about animals - they don't censor themselves. They don't hold back, WYSIWYG.

This clip made me roar - I have known dogs like Cooper!

(Doubleclick on the screen below to bring it up full screen)

Friday, March 07, 2014

She's come a long way....

It thrills me to no end to see some of my students blossom into full-fledged woodworkers. Like I said– it takes about three different six-week classes before everything starts to come together in someone's head. 

That's only about a half a years worth of classes. Think about that– you too can become a woodworker in just 




Beth is a perfect example– she started out small with these projects. 

Then she graduated to furniture,

you can read about her dining table here.  It was nothing short of amazing. 

It's really pretty simple - becoming a better woodworker really boils down to just one thing - practice. 

And that's one thing that she has done - practice and more practice. 

Check out the wonderful tile that she inlaid into the back and side rails.  

She's on the cusp of many great things right now - and is working on another piece that I can't wait to share with you.... stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Now playing in the woodshop...

Anyone who visits my woodshop knows I play a lot of rap music. I'm sure it drives some people crazy, but that's what gets my blood pumping. I like it all - Eminem, Jay-Z, Missy Elliot. 

Here's one rap tune you won't hear playing, though....

Monday, March 03, 2014

A loss for Vegas - Sunday's aren't going to be the same

Sundays just aren't going to be the same.

Remember how the Sunday paper used to be something you'd spend your morning with - reading the comics, checking out the sports page, whatever...

I haven't subscribed to a print version of the newspaper in years. Instead - I get my news on my laptop.  I can browse the NY Times, the Beacon Journal, the RJ, or any of the major news papers of my choice - all from the comfort of my couch. 

One thing is for sure - every Sunday, I read Linn Mills' column in the RJ, where he gives gardening advice specific to growing things here in Las Vegas. In fact, many of my Sundays are guided by him - especially when he writes that it's time to get something in the ground, or that it's time to fertilize, or prune. In fact, I've written to him a few times, asking advice about caring for a plant with which I was unfamiliar. His advice about growing artichokes and how to care for them during the winter months was stellar. 

My bumper crop was due to his sage advice! 

Saturday, March 01, 2014

March Madness - Back to Building

Even though February is the shortest month, it feels like it's lasted forever! I couldn't figure out what the cluster-fuck was about, but I wasn't the only one experiencing it. it seems like everyone I've been speaking with has had a frustrating February.

And then I found this:

We are all influenced when Mercury is in retrograde.

When Mercury is Retrograde

Sometimes the other planets appear to be traveling backward through the zodiac; this is an illusion. We call this illusion retrograde motion.
Mercury's retrograde periods can cause our plans to go awry.

When Mercury is retrograde, remain flexible, allow time for extra travel, and avoid signing contracts. Review projects and plans at these times, but wait until Mercury is direct again to make any final decisions.

2014 Retrograde Dates

In 2014, Mercury will be retrograde during:
  • February 6–28
A major cause of stress at Mercury retrograde is frustration from mishaps, things breaking down, computers going black. But if we know its cycle, this makes it feel less terminal. If things go pear-shaped, see what's there to see. Take a break from the usual routine.


All I can say is - thank God that it ended yesterday! 

I finally got back to actually working with wood yesterday, it's been 2 months since I actually did something other than teach a class... and it felt wonderful! I've been working on a dresser/sideboard design for a long time - modeled after this piece that I saw in Asheville, North Carolina a few years ago. 

In fact, Ned built a similar piece in a Table Making Class - he did a terrific job on it, inlaying tile in the top and building it in Cherry. It's a stunning piece!

I'd always wanted to make a version of it. 

It's funny how a piece sticks in your mind. I'd ordered a few hundred board feet of Sassafras (Yes, Steve - I actually found some here in Vegas!) so that I could build this piece to match the bed I made a few years ago. 

Ordering a lot of wood allows me pick and choose the boards I want for my top. 

Because this piece is going to be a dresser, there are probably going to be a few things sitting on top of it - maybe a phone, or an alarm clock. So I decided to make the top of this a little differently than these two versions shown. I wanted a gap between the top and the vertical back board, so that an electrical cord could be fished behind the piece. 

So I made two executive decisions - to notch the top around the legs, and to raise the vertical piece up a bit, creating that gap. I have big plans for that back board... just wait!

Normally you'd notch the piece after the whole top is finished. But I thought that might be difficult, based on the size of the top. So I decided to notch one of the boards before I glued the top together. 

Damn, I nailed it! I notched it on the table saw, cutting the board vertically. It was a perfect fit.

 In fact, both sides perfectly. I'm so glad Mercury in retrograde is over.

Once everything was notched, the top was glued together. 

If you save a few rips of wood that you've trimmed from your boards, they act as clamp pads, so the clamps won't ding your edges.

And there is - the first thing I've worked on in months! If I'm lucky, I'll unclamp and plane it today. It's always exciting starting a new piece.... 

Or in this case - finishing a piece I started months ago. It feels good to be (saw)-dusty again!

Happy March, everyone!