Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas gifts from the shop

Every other November, this Advanced Cutting Boards class is on the schedule. It's timed to end right around the holidays, so that everyone can complete four very cool boards, perfect for Christmas gifts. Or Hanukkah gifts. Or Kwanza gifts. 

Whatever - we're all inclusive at the school. 

We start with the board that takes the most work - we call it our confetti board. Some call it Chaos. 

Out of the four boards we make, it's probably the favorite. 

It takes three different glue-ups, and a ton of clamps. 

And gallons of glue.

And penetrating oil, to make the colors POP! 

We went BIG this year, with these boards are around 18" square. 

And - although everyone thought these would make GREAT Christmas gifts, most said they were keeping these boards for their own kitchens. 

Next up were our domino boards - they look small, but the tape measure should give you an idea of the scale. The inlaid plugs all had meaning - some represented a date, or a special number. (The one below is for a couple celebrating their 52nd wedding anniversary.) 

These were a big hit this year! 

Our leaf board was next - simple, and yet everyone had the opportunity to cut out the leaf of their choice. 

Finally,  the last board became the favorite for many. 

These Sycamore slabs came from Reclaimed Secrets here in town, and they did not disappoint.  

We spun and scooped them on the tablesaw, 

and while these were more for charcuterie or sushi, rather than cutting, they really turned out AMAZING. Picture some juicy greek olives in that bowl, 

or maybe some wasabi and ginger. The funniest thing about this class - when it started, everyone said that they took the class to make holiday gifts. 

But after seeing their work, no one wanted to part with any of them! 

Merry Christmas, everyone. 

Let's hope that 2021 is much better for all of us.... stay healthy!


Sunday, December 06, 2020

The end of the garden...

There are people back east who are plowing snow and shoveling driveways right now, which is exactly why I moved to a warmer climate!

Right around Thanksgiving, the temps started dropping and as much as I wanted to deny that winter might actually be upon us, I knew it was time to pull out the garden. It was entirely out of control, and to be honest, I hadn't tended to it in a while. 

The tomato plants took over the entire raised bed! 

And here's something really weird - usually, the tomato plants are overtaken by hornworms. I used to be terrified of these, but I've warmed up to them. 

But this year - there were almost none. Maybe two or three all summer.

That worries me, sort of like how bees are disappearing. 

 I trimmed the plants back, 

and found a few stragglers. 

These will certainly be the last of the tomatoes for this year. But - finally, decided to rip everything out, and get the bed cleaned up. I'll be starting some plants from seeds over the winter, and by February, the new plants will go in the ground.   

I love our long gardening season!

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Utter chaos in the shop this week!

Depending on your age, you may or may not recognize the theme song to this old TV show- Get Smart. It was a supremely stupid sit-com about a secret agent, and was released around the time that James Bond movies were starting to blow up. 

The secret agent - a bumbling Maxwell Smart played by Don Adams - worked for the government agency - CONTROL (and old-time version of the CIA) and fought to rid the world of KAOS, the old version of the KGB. 

Why am I rattling on about this?

Well, we've been surrounded by CHAOS in the shop for the past few weeks!

One of the current classes is Advanced Cutting Boards, where we make a variety of insanely beautiful boards, just in time for the holidays. 

It takes a ton of wood to make one of these boards.... each one takes the equivalent of three normal cutting boards. Add in three separate glue-ups, and a ton of sanding, because... well, it's end grain and that's just a bit more labor intensive to sand.

The good news? It's worth all of that extra stuff, trust me. 

So we start off with tons of wood, 

and gallons of glue.  

Three separate glue-ups are required... but again,

it's worth every bit of effort!  

We glue a sacrificial 2x4 on the back of the final end grain block, to protect the vertical grain of the wood while its being planed. It'll be cut off, after the board is flattened. 

Here's a sample, trimmed square and sanded. 

There's no repeated pattern on any of the boards we made, because everyone in the class sliced their board into pieces, and we all shared and traded. 

Once the board is oiled, the color pops, and the chaos emerges... hence - the name of this project! 

Even though you can't see their smiles, you could hear quite a few "oooh and ahhs" when oil was being applied!  

We have few other boards to make, and one of them might be even more popular than this one!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

How to clean a saw blade on the cheap!

We've been doing some serious cutting at the shop lately, and one of our favorite blades was thoroughly trashed.  The gum and pitch that built up on the blade was causing some pretty gnarly burning with every cut, and to tell you the truth -  I think it would have been disrespectful to take it to the sharpener without cleaning it. 

There are quite a few "gum and pitch remover" products out there, like this one that I've bought in the past. 

But one of the best products that we use is a household product that you might already have in your kitchen. 

And it's reasonably priced, too.

Yup - oven cleaner.

The blade was gummed up with hardened bits that almost seemed "fused" to the metal. 

But - spraying the blade and letting it sit on the metal for a few minutes will dissolve most of it.

A scotchbrite pad will help with the really stubborn bits.

When wiped clean, the blade almost looks new! It still needs to be sharpened, but at least I won't be embarrassed when I drop it off at Nevada Carbide!  

Support your local businesses - Nevada Carbide has been servicing our blades, router bits and making bandsaw blades for us for years. They're the best!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

How To Joint Wood Without A Jointer

 My buddy Adam sent me this cool video about jointing wood without a jointer... it's great! For any of you struggling to get straight edges on your boards, check this out!

 (Thanks Adam!)

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Another hidden gem of woodworking in Las Vegas

Just a few minutes from my shop is Transition Services, a nonprofit organization that provides meaningful work for people with developmental disabilities. 

I've driven past it hundreds of times, but until I met one of its employees, I barely noticed it.

 Recently, a few families donated the contents of their woodshops to me, and I found myself with mountains of tools and building materials. I knew exactly where I wanted to donate the things I didn't need. So when I delivered the donations, I had a chance to tour the facility.  You'll barely notice the building, it's deceptively small looking from the street, but once you enter and get your temperature checked, you'll find yourself in their gift shop, where they sell a huge variety of crafts that they create. 

I'll let you in on a (not-so-dirty) secret - I am a sucker for handmade soap. I  couldn't pass up their selections - very reasonably priced, and great smelling!  I highly recommend the Lemongrass bars, BTW. 

But that's just the beginning of their offerings - they make (and sell) everything from pet toys... 

to handmade cards (another one of my weaknesses), 


to keychains, 


All of these gems are created in their giant crafting area, which is BRIMMING with creativity.  Yes, Covid has changed they way they work, but it hasn't dimmed their enthusiasm.

Did I mention they have a cat adoption service and boarding area, with a cat trees that - YES - they make themselves. 

I love this sign, BTW.

But their connection with animals isn't limited to cats - they have terrariums with a variety of frogs on display.  

These amphibians seem to enjoy the attention - like this Yellow-banded poison dart frog, or bumble bee frog.

In better (healthier) times - they offer a doggie day care service

and will hopefully resume when things get back to normal. They have a wonderful doggie room, with a secure dedicated outdoor play area. Seriously, this place offers so many services that your head will spin. 

I didn't realize that the Property Brothers, Jonathan and Drew Scott, had a connection with Transition Services - you can read about it here. 

They raised nearly $90,000 which was donated to help this wonderful organization. 

Again, in better times, their outdoor area is the site of fundraisers and galas, and I'll tell you - seeing it empty was startling. And sad.

This pandemic has changed so much in our lives, but the people who are served here are really hurting. They've had to cancel a variety of scheduled events that bring in a much needed funds to keep this site going. 

Which brings me back to their woodworking program, which is what brought me here in the first place. Although they have a small woodshop inside their facility, where many of their works are crafted, this outdoor area is where much of the heavier work is produced. They wheel out their tools, and under supervision, cut and mill lumber. 

Again - Covid has severely impacted them - their woodshop coordinator had to leave his position, so they're in need of some help. (Any volunteers out there?) But even more so - many of their tools are in need of servicing.  And they have a huge need for some specific tools - a planer, for instance. 

So I'm making it my mission to figure out a way to get them a planer. I'm not sure how, but I'm exploring ways - from a fund raiser to a raffle. Or through another donation.  

If anyone has a planer they'd like to donate, let me know - this donation would be tax deductible, and would go a long way is helping these talented artists. 

Any suggestions out there?