Sunday, December 10, 2023

My December so far

How is it two weeks from Christmas already?

December has always been the busiest month for me - everyone wants something completed by the holiday.  

And I don't blame them. 

So here's what I've just finished - a sweet Cherry cabinet with storage above for books and computer supplies, and a lateral file drawer below. 

On a completely unrelated note, a friend and I went to dinner the other night at a new restaurant in town, and it has quite a story behind it. You can read about it here - it's a GREAT story!  

Winnie and Ethel's opened in the Huntridge Center in downtown. I'll say - that corridor on Charleston has some of my favorite places to eat! 

It helps that one of my old woodworking students is an owner, and I couldn't be happier for Mal and her hubby, Aaron.

 My dinner visit was terrific - and even though I'm a bit of a grinch about the holidays, I thought the holiday decorations inside were completely awesome.

Better yet - I'm a sucker for old-timey diners, and this place fit the bill. Meatloaf? Hell yeah! Malts and shakes - bring 'em on!

I'd highly recommend that you check out Winnie and Ethel's if you're a fan of 40's inspired diners.  I'm still thinking about their banana split!

Friday, November 17, 2023

Hardware dilemmas!

 Every year, this time change messes with me. I just can't get used to it getting dark before 5:00, and it messes up my internal clock, making me want to hit the sack WAY too early. 

So I've actually been starting my days early...well, early for me! Lately, I've been getting to my shop at 8 or 9 AM, and my favorite thing to do it put on some headphones and get to work. 

The nature of woodworking is often slow and it's easy to overthink things. So when I built this bookcase, 

I spent many an afternoon thinking about the drawer pulls. I'm not a fan of hardware at all, in fact, I try to avoid hardware on most of the pieces that I build. But these four drawers definitely needed a way to open them. 

On a slightly related note - something dawned on me recently. I'm a big fan of Mid-Century Modern furniture, which often has very specific hardware, or a lack thereof.   My folks had an AMAZING Mid-Century walnut bedroom set, and I think that set influenced my love of this style. Their bedroom set had inset pulls, and was sleek and contemporary. That style is such a huge influence in my work; why did it take so long for me to realize that!?!

Back when I used to build kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, I incorporated inset pulls, a slick little method for opening a drawer or door without using any hardware. 

But these designs are dated - thankfully! 

Still - I needed to come up with something simple and contemporary. 

I've always been a big fan of simple scooped pulls, so I cut out a few pieces of cardboard and experimented on these drawers, to decide where to scoop the drawer face. I settled on an upper right location, and made a simple jig to rout the scoop in each drawer face.  I didn't even have to remove the face to rout it.

And BAM! - another finished piece.

 I particularly love the curved sides in the upper part of this bookcase - which perfectly compliments the curves of the drawer scoop. 

I'm finishing up a terrific Cherry office cabinet (You can see the start of it if you scroll up and look at that those first two photos.) I just need to figure out the hardware situation on that cabinet and it will be complete. 

Again - the hardware dilemma hits me in the face!

Monday, October 23, 2023

A quick repair on my Northstar Slab Roller

 How can it be that a month has passed since I posted anything here? 

It's not like I've been sitting on the couch, watching football... ok, maybe on Sundays... but I've been pretty busy! 

In addition to a couple of current commissions, I've been making a ton of tile lately. Here are some of my favorite (older) tile that I am re-creating. 

Hopefully - I'll come up with some nice pieces to put in a table I'm building. 

I love using texture mats to stamp designs into the wet clay! 

It makes the glaze behave so much better. 

And these autumn leaves remind me of how much I love this time of the year. 

But the other morning, I was working on some slabs, when my slab roller started acting jiggy. As the rollers would turn, I noticed something odd happening.

Years ago, my friend Dave put a motor on my slab roller, which saves me from hand-cranking a giant wheel to make slabs. 

 This motor revolutionized my tile making - it is reversible and saves me SO much energy and time. 

So when the roller started behaving weirdly, it was time to figure out the issue. I pulled off the cover that protects the gears, 

and sure enough! I found a broken tooth! 

 No, not like this! 

Like this! 

That top right one has a broken tooth. I have no idea why I had a spare gear in my shop,   

but the slab gods must have been looking down on me!  

Within ten minutes or so, the broken gear was slipped off, and replaced with the new one.

 I'm so curious if a new one can be 3D printed or not - I guess I'll hit up my buddy Rick to see what he thinks. He's my go-to guy with 3D printing questions.  

But for now, I'm back in business - rolling out slabs and making more tile.  

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Awash in Walnut

 My shop is still swamped with Walnut, and I've been fooling around with coopered designs.  This storage stool  is about 18" tall, and can double as a seat, if needed. 

This one is much taller, and I'm still working on the lid for it.

What's a coopered design, you asked? Here's a pretty good explanation, click here.

But like I said - I'm awash in walnut, and a shop visitor asked me to turn some stool legs for him. As always - challenge accepted. 

Those legs were easy enough to make, but it's been a while since I cut a wedge slot. So I did a little research, and found this: 

Cutting the slot in the leg spindle can be a little tricky - I made a jig that the leg sits in perfectly.

Then I ran the jig through the saw, thus cutting a perfect 1/8" slot in each leg. I still need to drill a relief hole at the bottom of each slot. 

But each slot is perfect!

 I cut a few wedges, and glued the legs in place. After drying overnight, the extra tenon needed a trim.

My wedged leg was proud of the seat by a quarter-inch, and required trimming. I've always felt this step is pretty tricky - in the past,  I've trimmed them with a router, but that's tricky.

And when you see people just sawing away on a tenon, I cringe.  Let's say the chance for chipout is high. So I applied some duct tape around the tenon, which not only protects the seat top, but allows me to trim the tenon just a hair above the seat. 

Here's the important part - as I was sawing, I rotated the saw around the outside of the tenon, so I was always cutting toward the center. This way, you eliminate tear-out or chipping around the tenon edge. 

Viola~ no chip out! 

A little sanding makes this looks amazing. 

I turned a few more legs while listening to a podcast - and I'm getting pretty damn quick about it. 

When this seat gets oiled, it's going to be ridiculous!

Sooner or later, I'll be running out of walnut, but for now - you can find me at the lathe, making more legs. I have a few thoughts about some future stools I'd like to make, and I might as well use up those Walnut thin rips.

Monday, September 25, 2023

How can it be the end of September already?

How can it be the end of September already?

Time is flying by, and it's been nearly three weeks since I last posted here. 

But that doesn't mean I've been sitting around! I'm working on some fun pieces - both commissions and pieces for myself. And one for a friend.

And out of the blue - this popped up! 

I have no idea who nominated me, and technically, I'm not really a "carpenter" - maybe they just rolled woodworking into that category. 

Either way - I'll take it!

Stay tuned for some fun stuff coming up!


Tuesday, September 05, 2023

I love all things Mockett!

Are you an inventor? Or a tinkerer? And a furniture maker? 

Then this competition is for you!

I love all things Mockett! They make the coolest furniture hardware out there.

They've just extended the deadline for their design competition, and that's a good thing. 

There have been SO many times when I've wanted a certain piece of hardware - and I couldn't find it. As a maker, one of my super powers is being able to fabricate things that I can't find, which has led me to enter this competition a few times. (Never won, though.)

I didn't have time to enter this year's contest, but trust me - I've been working on a prototype of something for years. And I think I've finally perfected it.

Maybe next year is my year!

Here's a link to enter or read more: 

Good luck!


Monday, August 28, 2023

Don't buy what you don't need

 When you're new to woodworking, it's so tempting to buy all the gadgets you see in the stores. 

Trust me, I fell into the trap. 

I've owned everything from wood threaders (basically, tap and die sets for wood) to saw blade height gauges, to fancy-schmancy push sticks. 

After a while - you realize that most of those things are gimmicks - and that you can either make your own (much better!) or that you just don't need them. 

In my last post, I completed a solid walnut stool, made with 24 staves. I ended up cutting a rabbet in the bottom, so a plywood disc could recess into the bottom. I will end up covering it in leather, so it can't scratch the floor. Sweet.

On to the top....

I laminated a solid blank of walnut - again, all this material was given to me and it's gorgeous. I decided to make the top out of solid wood, instead of upholstering one.  

Hmmm... how to cut it into a perfect circle?....

Also - I wanted it to sit on top of the stool, so I needed to rout a lip along the bottom edge of the top, so it would fit in the recess.  

Which takes me back to my opening comments - buying gadgets. 

There are tons of circle cutting jigs for routers. Like this, 

and this, 

and this, 

and this. 

If you listen to one piece of advice - don't fall prey to buying stuff you don't need!

In almost every instance - you can make your own, for much less $$, and often - what you make will be better.

And here's the best part - making your own jigs is good practice for building furniture. 

So here's my circle jig - made in about 5 minutes out of scrap plywood. This one is  about 14" long. Pretty handy!

I actually made three - the largest one is about four feet long, so I can cut out round table tops. 

And I also made this small one, because I needed to put a six-inch lazy susan in the bottom of a sculpture base I'm making. 

All in all - these three took about 20 minutes to make, and I saved a ton. 

Here's the wooden top - I forgot to take pictures in the beginning, but I routed the rabbet first, testing the fit in the stool base. I made it a little loose, as I didn't want it to get stuck, should the wood shrink a bit. 

Then I cut the outside shape, dropping the bit for each of the revolutions, until it was cut completely through. Notice that I put some scrap plywood under it, so I didn't damage the bit or my tabletop. 

Finally - I wanted a special profile on the edge of this top. It's called a thumbnail profile, which is a nice, gradual curve.

Of course, I didn't have the right router bit in my shop!

 It's different from a simple round-over bit. 

 Well you know me... I wasn't about to buy an $87 bit, so I ended up putting a 40 grit disc on my sander and sanded the top, rotating it so that my curve was uniform all the way around the top. 


Finally - I thought it would be nice to put some leather on the bottom, to protect the tiled floor. I bought a square foot of a gorgeous brown leather, and cut the perfect circle in my Glowforge. Notice I did a few small test circles, to ensure that I had the proper settings for the laser.

 Once I figured that out, I cut the perfect circle - it took less than two minutes.

 I used some spray-on adhesive to fix it in place. 

All in all, this piece was so enjoyable to build. 

So I'll let you in on a secret - my neighbors have peacocks, and lately, they've been coming over to visit. The peacocks, not the neighbors.

They love to hang out on my patio, often peering in the window at me. Their eyesight is amazing. 

This stool will hold their bag of bird seed. 

OK, it's a little extravagant, but there's no way I can leave the bag outside. They're nosey AF 

and a little pesky when they know food is involved!