Saturday, June 27, 2015

Getting your Shop in Shape? ....Tools for Sale

It must be the season for tool-buying/tool selling. I've been getting tons of emails from various people here in Las Vegas, selling their arsenal. Some are upgrading to better equipment, some are getting out of the woodworking field completely. If you're looking for some gear, you might want to check out these items.

This Powermatic Model 66 is up for grabs - this is a solid tablesaw, and a great deal for someone who is looking to start off with a good saw. It has a mobile base, and a new power switch. If I were just starting off and wanting something  accurate, with a big capacity, I would jump at this saw. He's asking $850 for it... call me if you're interested and I'll connect you with the seller. 

Another buddy of mine moved out of town and has these tools up for sale: 

a Jet JTAS-10XL left tilt cabinet saw

A Grizzly GO654 6" X 46" jointer 

and a JET 1.5 HP dust collector with micron filter. 

These tools are listed here, in case you're interested:

There's a lathe bug going around town, and here's a great deal: Randy is selling his lathe, and to tell you the truth - if I had just one more corner of spare space in my shop, I would be buying it. It's a Steel City 5 speed Wood Lathe, with a granite headstock and lathe bed... i.e... it's a heavy mutha'.  It has a 12" swing and 27" between centers. Here's a link to the manual.

He's asking $250 for it - interested? Send me an email and I'll give you his contact info.

Finally - I'm ending my co-dependence with this beast of a radial arm saw:  This 14" brute can crosscut a 30" panel, and cuts dados like a breeze. Before I had my panel saw, this was THE go-to tool for trimming things like doors, tabletops, or plywood. 

I'm selling it with the mobile base (it weighs 700 pounds!) and Freud dado set, as well as an extra newly sharpened 14" Freud carbide blade. 

If you build large pieces and need to trim wide boards, this saw does that in seconds. 

In many ways, I think of this when cutting with this saw; 

this beast is a wood eater. 

Happy tool hunting, everyone!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Looking for a simple and reliable joinery system? DowelMax might be the one for you...

There just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. 

For me to build everything I need to build, for me to teach everything I'm asked to teach, for me to do the paperwork required to run a business... just not enough time.

 People say to me "how cool– you get to build furniture for a living!" But they don't realize the building furniture is about 35% of it, and paperwork and MBS comprise the rest of my day. Picture this -  you're picking up lumber on a Friday afternoon, when it's 110˚ and you're stuck in miles of traffic, thinking about all the work that's piling up at the shop. 

Like I said - never enough time!

So when the good folks at DowelMax sent me one of their doweling jigs and I agreed to use it on a project, I am embarrassed to say that I just never found the time to do it. Really embarrassed. It's a great looking device, and I knew it had a ton of potential.

There are always people building very cool projects at my shop, and it dawned on me that one of them could focus on this doweling jig, learning its ins and outs, and mastering how to use it.

You know Lupe was the first person who came to mind. 

Oh, you know Lupe – the one who tackles ridiculously hard projects and blows through them like she's building a birdhouse. 

She made this bookcase.   

And this sewing cabinet.

And who can forget her series of twelve lectern bookstands? 

And these Adirondack chairs, that she sold before she even unloaded them from her van!

And this rocker. 

And this stool! 

These two bent laminated chairs might have been the most difficult project of all. 

 I'm probably forgetting some of her projects, there have been so many in the four years that she's been working at my shop. I really respect her work ethic. She's a woodworking monster!

Truthfully, she's one of those once-in-a-lifetime students, who  teaches me as much as I teach her. 

When she told me she wanted to build an eight drawer dresser, and was focusing on learning new techniques, the DowelMax just seemed like the perfect solution. I asked her to write a guest blog, so put your feet up and grab a cup of coffee or beer and...Enjoy! my best Ed McMahon voice..... Here's Lupe.......


I have been a student of Jamie’s and actively learning fine woodworking for approximately four years. I feel so fortunate to have found such a great teacher, who is a master of her craft, and pushes her students to do their best.

Because I am still learning, my goal for each personal project is to use or learn at least one new technique that I haven’t done before.

Allow me to illustrate the above with this piece. The title for this project is THE DRESSER.

The object of this exercise is to build a dresser. Material of choice: Cherry Wood. Approximate target dimensions: 60” long x 15” wide x 31” high. Additional requirements: Eight drawers, with tapered or slightly curved legs to add interest.


I absolutely love the craft of woodworking. I can’t get enough of it, and look forward to each cut and assembly. However, I am the first one to admit that I don’t enjoy drawing or rendering artwork, but realize it is a necessary evil. I don’t like following workshop plans either. In the few projects I have made from plans there is always a mistake, and one has to backtrack to find it and correct it.

For this dresser project, my “pre-planning”, was a brief consultation with Jamie and a series of odd sketches on scraps of paper to see what I wanted to accomplish. Decisions had to be made regarding material, dimensions, overall joinery, etc. As usual, with the final result in mind, my approach is to “wing it” or “jazz it” as I go along. These are my notes...

New Technique for this Project: Dowelmax

When making a dresser, there is a myriad of possibilities regarding the joinery. One could use mortise and tenons, domino floating tenons, things can be butt joined, screwed, etc.

Then Jamie mentioned: “Would you like to try the Dowelmax jig? It is a doweling jig that a company in Canada is making.” I figured, why not? This will give me the opportunity to use a new technique!

This jig is a very simple, yet very precise tool. It is a jig made to fit any piece of wood measuring 3/4” to 4” in thickness, and allows you to create joints in almost any configuration attached with very strong dowels. It works using registration marks that are marked on each working surface. When following these marks and drilling in the corresponding areas, the fit is perfect within the joint. It is a doweling jig on steroids.

This jig comes with multiple accessories - spacers, drill bits, an index pin, etc.

However, it all boils down to this little gizmo...

The main part of the carcass will consist of two frames - a top and bottom - where everything will be attached. Here are the cut pieces for the frames...

The frames are assembled with dowels using the Dowelmax jig;

Using this jig is quite simple, as long as one keeps track of the surfaces to be drilled and the registration marks.

Look at the results - perfect joints, done quickly and in a fraction of the time it would take with other methods.

Frames are glued and clamped.

After the frames are completed, the solid sides are also attached with the doweling jig.

Here is the completed carcass, fully attached with dowels.

I applied a couple of Danish Oil coats to the interior, as I did not want to install the hardware first and oil around it afterwards.


The drawers were made quickly and efficiently using a dado blade to get all the necessary cuts for the joints done. After setting the dado blade, it took less than an hour to cut all the parts for eight drawers. Drawers are made of 1/2” cherry veneered MDF, and 1/4” bottoms. The reason to use a tongue and dado standard method to make them, is because of the thinness of the non-wood material.

Let’s face it, MDF is ugly. The edges were disguised with iron-on cherry veneer.


To install the hardware, I used set up blocks for the drawers, and for the carcass I took the time to make a little “spacing jig”. With a little device like this, it took me 2 and half hours to hang 8 drawers. A record time!

Drawers are oiled... Hardware is installed... They are fitting perfectly.

Small disaster / set-back in construction...

Things were going well, when I started working on the legs. I glued and installed them, and alas, I hated them! I made a lame attempt to glue layers of wood and later rout them to create a taper....  Ugh... Totally disgusting. What was perfectly good craftsmanship went downhill in a couple of hours due to a set of poorly planned legs.

Jamie was the first one to hand me a mallet and an old chisel - she didn’t hide her disgust either - we dismantled the darn legs, breaking the sides of the carcass... Seriously, if it sucks, it sucks! One has to admit it and make it right.

To fix it, we used a track saw: Festool TS 55 REQ. With it you can control the depth of blade on this saw, and cut a perfectly straight line.

The dowels were strong and were still holding the damaged side together. Finished up the job with a thin kerf Japanese saw.

After removing the part, I went ahead and made a strip with the same dimensions, making sure it had the thickness and the necessary taper to achieve the desired finish, and reattached it with dowels. Using the Dowelmax for registration and precision was a cinch. Did the repair job in a few hours.

Back in business, with the finished tapered legs.

Final Steps

The remainder of the project, was not too difficult, although it was time consuming due to the proper fitting of the rest of the components.

Had to cut and fit the drawer faces, and work on the top. The top had breadboard ends consisting of long tenons created with a dado blades mounted on a radial arm saw, and long mortises routed using a spiral bit on a router table. Further refinements on the edges were achieved with the Festool track saw. The fit was nice and tight and the joints were allowed to float on the ends.

The next step was to oil the parts. This step is probably the most time consuming for me, as I apply at least five coats of Danish Oil to all my projects. Each coat is progressively applied with finer and finer grits of sandpaper.

Here is a picture of the top and drawer fronts being oiled.

At this point, one has to mind the details: A little chamfer of the top’s edge (to make it more delicate), design and assembly of the drawer handles, carefully hanging the drawer fronts with an appropriate 1/16” gap all around, etc. It is summer here in Las Vegas (with over 100 degree days), I expect that as it gets cooler the gaps will widen.

Here  is a picture of the final assembly work...

Behold the finished product...


In summary, I used three brand new techniques for me in this project.

  1. Dowelmax used to assemble the carcass and join the repaired parts. In a scale from 1 - 10, I give this little jig a 9. I will definitely get one of these for my arsenal. The jig is around $250, which a fraction of what a Domino tool would cost you, and it does nearly all what the Domino does. The big advantage for me was that I could line up all the parts by “feel”. You see, I am slightly handicapped with very poor eyesight - I don’t have proper depth perception, straight edges and lines are distorted by one of my eyes, and without proper lighting it is a challenge to find registration marks. With the Dowelmax, all I have to do is keep track of the surfaces (which is quite simple with this device), and do all my registration by feel from an edge. In other words, there is no need for measuring when using the jig. Using a Domino is easy as well, but I have to put on a magnifier lens to see my registration marks. All in all, this little jig is remarkable.
The only reason I don’t give it a ten, is because of the bolt design. Every time I needed to loosen or tighten the screws, my fingers ended up too close to the main bolts, and I managed to cut myself several times on the back of my thumb as I was using it. It was not a serious cut, but serious enough to be annoying and having to reach for bandaids as a consequence.

The other warning, is that the joint will be quite strong and will resist impact against the grain of the dowels. However, the joint will be weaker laterally, if one does not apply enough glue. The proper amount of glue is crucial for a strong fit.

Overall it is a great little device, with great engineering and quality components; it was easy to use and I was delighted with it.

  1. Use of a Festool track saw to cut precise straight lines while controlling the depth of cut, saved the project. Festool tools are pricey, but they have been the best money I have paid for tools in all these years. They are precise and their integration with their dust collector is exceptional.
  1. Learning about the breadboard end technique. This is the first time I use this technique. It is elegant, and hopefully it will keep the top from warping. The expansion and contraction is a good reminder of the beauty and living nature of wood.

And there you have it. From beginning to end, it took me approximately 80 hours to complete this project. It was a nice challenge, and I can’t wait to start the next one.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

From sketch to reality...

It's always interesting to watch the progress of a piece, from start to finish. 

Well, at least it is to me! 

An old customer stopped in a few weeks ago, asking about a gift for her husband, who is retiring. She asked me to design a shadow box that would hold some of her hubby's memorabilia, like four mission flags that he had collected over the years, as well as some commemorative coins and military swag. After much back and forth communication, we came up with a box design that could sit in his office, with various spaces to hold his gear.   

People often have a hard time visualizing the end result, so simple sketches help. Here's our final sketch: the interior of the box.  

Luckily, I had some cherry in stock, so I was able to get started on it immediately. And since I teach box making in one of my classes, getting the pieces cut was a breeze. 

I felt like the mahogany plywood bottom panel was staring at me the whole time, but Denny said that wasn't what he thought of when he looked at the grain. Hmmm... what was he seeing?...

Speaking of grain - check out this birthday cake! 

As always, the box is glued together as a whole piece, 

and then cut open. 

Add some hardware and  interior dividers and... BOOM! We've got a keepsake box. 

The coin ledge at the front of the box holds two different rows of coins, and pivots forward to reveal a small secret stash area. Sweet.

I'm not as crazy as some people (Lupe) when applying a finish, so I only apply two or three coats of oil. Oh, and a final application of paste wax. You can't forget the wax! 

The oil really made the colors POP!

 Luckily, the glass shop up the street was able to cut a piece and polish the edges while I waited. This piece came together very quickly!

I have to say that it feels great to make pieces like this for military families. And it's nice to take a break from building BIG pieces and get back to smaller projects. 

Next up.. I'm finishing the dining room chairs that have been lurking in my shop for the past several weeks... stay tuned!