Monday, April 27, 2020

My 17 year old design...

Honestly, it feels like the tool I've used most during the last couple of weeks is my rice cooker. I don't think a day or two passes without pulling out this bad boy and making some comfort food. 

I might be getting rusty with my other tools, though...

Someone called me with their "emergency" and needed a 24" circle cut from plywood.  Sure, no problem - I had the plywood in stock, and told them they could drop payment through my mail slot in the door, and I'd cut it and have it ready in a day or so. 

Hands free woodworking - just like the big pizza chains!

Imagine my dismay when the depth stop on my plunge router slipped, and I cut a partial circle in my bench top while cutting their circle.

  It's a good thing that sacrificial top is easily replaced, but it still pissed me off. 

All is not lost, though - I've actually started building furniture for myself again. I'm getting rusty in the shop, and that's not acceptable, so I pulled our a few old sketchbooks and thumbed through them, trying to decide what to build.

Some of these pieces have been rolling around my brain for years, with never enough time to make them. 

I guess that time is now. 

Years ago, I used to wear a lot of neck ties; I have a really nice collection of them. 

Over the years, I collected some really amazing ties - hand-painted ones with woodworking motifs such as C-clamp designs, or saw blades or whatever I could find. I don't wear them anymore, but I just can't bear together rid of them.

So I've been staring at the box of ties for years. Then I remembered this prototype door I made years ago, at a woodworking class held at Anderson Ranch.

The class was taught by Roseanne Somerson, but the first couple of days, Gail Fredell stepped in to teach it, too. If you know anything about woodworking in America, you'll recognize these two names... bad-ass woodworkers, both!

In the class, we generally focused on design and textures, and then were cut loose in the shop, to actually make something. I designed these two doors for the front of a tie cabinet that I had in my mind, and then... these doors hung on a wall in my studio for 17 years.

 You read that right. Seventeen years.

I told that to a friend the other day and he was shocked that someone could have a design rolling around in their head that long.

I have another design in my brain that is older than that, so if this shutdown lasts much longer, I wouldn't be surprised if I start working on that one!

 I bought a unit of Sassafras a while back, with the intention of finishing the bedroom set that I started in 2013 or so.  The pile has dwindled down to half its size.

It's the classic case of the cobbler's children walking around in worn out shoes - my stuff always gets put on the back burner. So - with a stack of wood and all the time in the world, I finally started these doors.

The "tie" seemed the trickiest part, and I decided to make those parts from a contrasting wood - in this case, some very nice Mahogany I had in the shop. 

A few tricky cuts later and I had the start of the doors.  The older prototype of the doors utilized half-lap joints like this one,

but that joinery seemed clunky to me, so I decided to use Festool Domino joinery instead. 

That added a new complexity to the design - how to cut the dados for the door panels. 

Stay tuned to see how I solved that one! 

It feels great to finally be starting on this cabinet, and let's face it... it's about time!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Some moments of zen...

2020 has been a year that most of us would like to forget. 

No explanation necessary.

So I thought I'd do a little recap of happier times, and certainly more interesting times. 

Here's a little walk down memory lane... 

I hosted a birthday party for a fellow woodworker - her friends arranged it as a surprise. 

She lives in San Diego, and runs a woodshop called The Shop. She does amazing carvings, here's link to her Instagram page - you should follow her!  Click here for The Shop's link.

The five of us spent a very fun afternoon at the school, talking shop and eating cake!  And laughing! 

Seeing their remarkable friendship was inspiring. 

One of my customers is into sky-surfing. 

I've written about his project before, but I keep finding scraps of his plywood around my shop, reminding me of this project. 

I had no idea there was specifically plywood made for aircraft - with special adhesives to ensure no delamination. Who knew?!  

You could pay me a million dollars to sky surf, but he sure raves about it.

 I'll pass on that new hobby. 

Speaking of hobbies- I worked on a few PineWood Derby cars this year. Parents who don't have tools at home come to my shop, and I work with the kids to help make their cars special.

We had a couple of winners this year! 

These kids were adorable, 

and the parents were SO happy that their kids could actually compete, without having to go out and buy a ton of tools to make that happen. Who knows.. maybe someday, these kids will enroll in a class of mine!

I did a little bit of traveling this year, visiting my sister and her husband in North Carolina. They live in the middle of nowhere, on top of a mountain. 


They’re above the clouds, it’s pretty amazing. 

They are both artists, and truth be told - I think they are truly the talented ones in the family. They exhibit their work in galleries, 

and this pandemic shutdown has really affected artists all over the world.

Here's my brother-in-law's website - his encaustic pieces are simply gorgeous.

My visit with them was far too short. We explored nearby Asheville, it's filled with art wherever you go. Like Sedona of the east...

(I need this sign in my yard!)

I got to meet one of their friends - Gayle, who is a glass artist.  That's my sister and Gayle below - best buds!

Gayle's glass studio was organized and so inspiring! I love visiting other studios - I swear, some day I will go on a road trip and visit all the woodworkers that I've "met" online, checking out their work spaces. 

some of Gayle's work - wow!

I'm not sure there could have been a worse year to open a restaurant, but my friend Jeremy did just that, opening Your Way, a neighborhood breakfast/lunch joint. 

I met him after working on the tabletops for his restaurant, and stopped by for his soft opening.

 His meals are healthy (well... maybe not the tots!) and prepared right in front of you - I hope he's safe and staying busy during this shutdown. Come to think of it - I'm going to call and see if he's open for carryout today!

 Speaking of restaurants - if you're from Akron, Ohio, you'll recognize this cup. A staple in the city, and I can't visit the town without stopping by for a burger.

Yes, I did my yearly visit to Akron, to celebrate my mom's birthday... happier times! Let's hope all of this craziness has settled down and I can visit again in October. 

Back in the shop, I was working on an odd commission - a fraternity paddle. Frat boys order a lot of items from me - signs, paddles,  whatever - but this paddle was especially odd. They wanted a flat paddle - BEEFY! And with a handle turned to resemble a baseball bat handle. 

 It started out as a block, 

and my buddy Denny cut the shape out with his CNC machine. 

The handle was turned on my "older than God" lathe - this may not be a pretty or fancy machine, but it has a lot of power and gets the job done.

And there you have it - a paddle with a turned handle.... not sure why they needed something so beefy, and I hope they didn't use it on someone!

There were a lot of "odds and ends" jobs - mostly repairs, which I've gotten pretty efficient at doing. Like repairing this table base, 

or making these shadowbox displays, that hold paintings. 

A remote controlled LED show surrounds the painting - what a cool concept!

Oh, sure - there were a lot convention displays to be made, like this grass seed display. Convention displays have to be made quickly, and usually - remotely. 

I probably make a half dozen of them a year, and have never met the buyers face to face. It's a weird way to do business, but in our upcoming economy, it might be the way we all do business in the future.

Dog steps? no problem!

I also did lots of little laser jobs, which have proven to be really fun!

A friend retired from the post office last year, and I made this silly keyring for her. I'll bet she's thrilled she's not delivering mail right now! 

I made this large wall piece for a friend - a family tree shadow box. 

The five frames are held in place with magnets, so it's easy to pop them off and add a photo. I even added the couple's initials, "carved" into the family tree. I have to say - this piece was a BIG hit!

But mostly, I've been doing a lot of cleaning and maintenance. 

There's never an end to it. 

There's never an end to it. 

This air cleaner filter has done its job!

We also had some pretty fun classes at the shop - this "making a mallet" class was terrific. Denny had found some plans for a mallet a while back, and we made a few, and then decided to turn it into a two-session class. 

The mallet head is glued and wedges into place, adding a lot of strength to it. 

And beauty! 

Splinters are always a hazard in the shop, 

 and one of my students gave me a care package! 

(Much appreciated!)

Last summer, I "met" a friend in the garden; he used to hang out on my artichoke plant, and I would see him every day when I went outside with Stella to check on the garden. I know this will sound crazy, but this we actually communicated with each other. When I would bend over to watch him, he would nod, or raise an arm to me. I know, crazy... but true. 

We got to be best buds, he's even climb on my hand and walked around the yard with me. 

And though it's hard to see, this video captured him eating breakfast.

Sadly, one day, he just quit showing up. I had done a little research, and learned that grasshoppers really don't have a long life span. And then - working in the garden, I found him. :(  

I suddenly understood why Tom Hanks cried when Wilson floated away in the ocean. 

Speaking of the garden... 

it was a wonderful year; the gift that keeps on giving. 

Closer to the holidays, we did another "instant gratification class - the giant wrist watches are always fun.

and the bottle openers we made were a huge hit. 


Adding a little lasered artwork to them made them even more special. 

We added a new project - these little tea lights made out of live edge scraps.

 They hold a box of matches, 

and this project became even more popular than the bottle openers! 

 Finally - the end of the year was tragic for me - I lost Stella, 

my constant companion

 and the best shop dog ever. 

I miss her every day, and life just isn't quite as bright without her. 

In this day and age,  there is a lot of sadness going around, and I'm sure her loss might seem trivial compared to the thousands of lives lost in the last month or so. 

Suffice it to say - loss is loss, and it all hurts. 

I hope you're all taking care of yourselves, and remember that better times are on the horizon. 

Stay safe.