Traveler’s Guide to Inspiration

Networking Break. Evian Resort. Evian, France

Networking Break. Evian Resort. Evian, France

Occasionally life has a way of pushing opportunities upon us. It’s our job to take advantage of them. Letting them go will almost surely leave us with a bit of regret and remorse. If you follow me on Instragram, you might know I was in Europe for business recently. I was connecting in Newark when the terrorist attacks in Paris occurred. It was unnerving to say the least, and my thoughts go out to the victims. I had the chance to forgo the trip but I pressed on; not because I’m an incredibly dedicated employee, but because if I’d remained in the states, those who orchestrated the despicable acts would win.

Alley way (Diagon?). Cambridge, England

Alley way (Diagon?). Cambridge, England

Although I had little down time, I was able to take advantage of a few hours here and there to walkabout and see some places both familiar and new. All of my down time was spent alone, wandering the streets of many, many before me. The reflection was inspiring and refreshing. My journey took me to Germany (Frankfurt), Norway (Oslo, Trondheim), Switzerland (Geneva), France (Evian, Cluses), and the U.K. (Cambridge, Milton-Keyes, and London).

If you ever have the chance to venture outside the familiar surroundings of your city, state, or country, please do. Watching the world in a different setting, language, and culture will change the way you see things in your own world. You’ll realize it’s a shared world will plenty of room for us all.

Cab ride through the Alps

Cab ride through the Alps. Cluses, France to Geneva, Switzerland

Here are a few shots from my iPhone during the trip. The images range from cool pieces of architecture and furniture, to inspiring vistas impossible to capture with phone. I stood next to a 250+ year old tree in France, and found some new designs to add to my sketchbook.

This post isn’t totally dedicated to woodworking but I hope you’ve left with a little something more than when you arrived. Safe travels my friends.


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Milking It – Part III: Fin

I finished up the milk painted bench and I’m happy to report it’s been in use for about two weeks. My experience with “Real” milk paint wasn’t as easy as I’d thought. The acrylic stuff from General Finishes that I used here and here was definitely easier to use when coming from a paint-the-walls-with-latex background. However, I’m completely happy with the color and the new skill set I developed. My only sage piece of advice for newcomers is expect something different but it’ll work out in the end.

Here are some shots of the case construction.

This is what happens when you try to squeeze something in too quickly.


Here you can just barely see the remnants of the old domino on the outside. I was a hair off on my re-alignment but not enough to make a difference.

I had to get a little creative with the domino so here’s tip if you get into a similar pickle:

  1. Saw off the offending tenon (in my case it was in the top), and flu
    sh things up with a sander or block plane.
  2. Then setup to use the same registration method you originally used. I stood the top up on end and used the domino’s registration pins along with the fence. If you have same setting still lock in, you’re golden: the machine will eat through a domino. However, if you’re adjusted the setting, like me, move on to step 3.
  3. Unlock the fence so it can float. Now, manually insert the domino cutter into another hole in the board. Ensure the fence and machine face are aligned to 90 and lock in the fence. (see the pic on the side for the result)

Ana White’s design in fine but I thought it was a bit wobbly, even with solid joinery like dominoes. Therefore, I made some design changes. First I added a stabilizer to the back to help eliminate racking. Then I wanted to dig a little deeper and not just use straight 1×4 for the front. I tried to make some moulding using a cove bit in a hand held router but my it just didn’t look right. I don’t have the right bit. I headed back to the home center and trade in some 1×4 for some base trim. Here are details of my additions.

And here it is installed and in use for the first time. I have some coat hangers made of walnut but I need to go over design details with my wife. I’ll post some pics when that part is done.

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Milking It – Part II

After reading all the good advice today (thanks everyone!) I was quite confident going into coat two. I mixed everything at the 2:1 ratio of water to paint like yesterday. I sanded with 320 grit sanding pad and removed the dust with my vac. This time when I went to use the resulting mixture it was really quite thick and foamy. Again, like a mousse but thicker than yesterday. My first couple of brush strokes were dry and had some clumps of powder. I didn’t panic and instead added water.


Much thicker than yesterday even though it’s tough to capture with the camera

Luckily, I started painting from the back and underside, which allows me to work out the kinks before getting into the real show surfaces. Here is a few shot of what the “top” half of this batch (i.e. the first bit of paint I can take out of the can) looked like when I put it on the board. As I worked it back and forth it thinned out a bit but not much.

Is this how thick your milk paint looks right off the brush?

Is this how thick your milk paint looks right off the brush?

Then as I went from the top of the batch to the bottom things started to get thin. Maybe too thin.

With last board done I got a shot  of the freshly painted board and one with about five minutes of dry time behind it. I’m including this in case you’ve never seen how quickly this stuff changes as it dries.

Here are the results of day two.

This post isn’t really profound but I’m trying to provide some details on what this process looks to a nube. I firmly believe you need to just mix things up and see what happens. In this case, I’m letting experience (of the lack thereof) be my guide.

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Milking It – Part I

I tried my hand at milk paint tonight (Real Milk Paint).

Prepped and ready

Prepped and ready

I followed the instructions from company with the ratio provided by Chris’ in a recent post. I was a bit shocked by the “foaminess” or “thickness” of the consistency. My wife said it best when she said it looks like mousse. Having only used General Finishes “milk paint” in the past I was surprised by how this looked. It wipes on fine though.

In the end I think everything looked ok but I’d like some feedback if you read this before I put on the second coat tomorrow. Here’s how it looked after one coat.

Thanks in advance for help.

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Benching Ideas

Last winter my wife picked up this little number for $50.

Armoire wannabe

Armoire wannabe

It was a back burner project to give my mom a place to store some clothes in her make-shift room for her extended stays with us. I’d planned to put in some shelves and means of hanging some shirts. Then I was going to install some doors (maybe with a chevron pattern) while adding a walnut base and dabbling in Art Deco for the first time. I saw this little number at Crate & Barrel and thought it has some good characteristics.

Dude, really?

Dude, really?

As the piece took up space in my basement for several months, I was able to look at it more closely. I saw how crappy it was put together and the poor paint job from the previous owner. My wife came down to work on it and became disappointed with her purchase. I assured her I could make it work but she was able to pick up a more functional piece over the summer. Eventually I’d like to go forward with the plan using the country bumpkin below as a blank canvas but it’s quite solid and works. My To-Do list is too long to even think about that for now.

It works for now

It works for now

So, what to do? My wife wanted to put it out on the tree lawn for trash day but I said it’s $50 in wood once I take a hammer and nail pullers to it. In the midst of a very busy September I was able to find an hour of spare time to break this down into usable parts. Now that summer is giving way to fall we’ll be needing a place to sit down and take off boots and hang up our coats. A custom built in wrap around bench with cubbies and whatnot is in order but not in the cards given my budget and timeline.

I decided to hit up Pintrest and build a bench similar to this one Ana White has on her site. I’m thinking of combining some of the design principles from the Anarchist Tool Chest into this build and play around with moldings for the first time. After some passes through the planner, I think these old boards will do just fine…

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Nakashima Carpentry

After returning from two straight weeks of travel I asked my wife to help prioritize the upcoming projects. She’s having a party soon, so we she decided to finish off the living room ASAP. One of the last projects in the living room was to figure out what to do with the large, non-structural beams. My wife and I slopped them up on purpose during the painting project to ensure we’d actually do something with. The hideous blah 1960s brown is no more.


Here’s a reminder (before) picture for reference.

These beams are solid pine. So, just like the mantel project I figured I’d go with the dark stain to make things look cohesive. The only problem is these pieces are HUGE and there are three of them. The shortest is 13 ft long. I called in a few favors to help get the beams down, out came the Festool Rotex RO150, and the garage turned into a workshop.

The previous picture shows how badly one of the boards has checked and cracked over the years. I decided to channel my inner Nakashima and install some butterfly keys into this board. I knew they’d be covered up by stain but I was thinking more structural than aesthetic here. Plus I plan on using this technique in an upcoming dining room table build, so I could use the practice.

Next I got to staining, which was followed up by one coat of Arm R Seal.

The hardest part was getting them back up and installed. This required an emergency call to my next door neighbor since we needed one more person for the installed (thanks Chris!). Here they are in their final glory.

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On the Road: Boston

IMG_4554Work took me to Boston recently. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities. I never thought I’d say that as I’m a die hard Boston sports hater; but let’s not dwell on that. I landed on a early morning flight but the meeting I was supposed to attend was postponed. This gave me an entire day in Boston to explore while also cleaning out my inbox and facilitating some customer calls. #sweetgig

It’s September, the beginning of fall in New England, so the temperatures were moderate and brisk brutally hot. I logged in 9.6 miles of walking while checking out the Freedom Trail and many other places.

My first stop was North Bennet Street School (NBSS) since it was a pretty easy walk from my hotel. It turned out to be the first day of classes for new students. There were many bright eyed 18-year-olds away from home for the first time. I heard them greeted by either current or former students as I perused the lobby area. It was encouraging to know they were in good hands along with the future of the craft. The lobby had showcases with used tools for sale. There are also student pieces for sale and various cool books. I soaked it up and had some nice conversations. Unfortunately, I could not venture away from the lobby but it was still great to see this place.

Next up was a few stops on the Freedom Trail including a serendipitous conversation with the gentlemen working at The Printing Office of Edes & Gill near the Old North Church. He was demonstrating printing techniques employed by Paul Revere. It was fascinating and unexpected. He sent me on my way to the U.S.S. Constitution where a huge Restoration is in progress. They are outfitting the ship with all sorts of reclaimed live oak: way cool.

If you read this and have other ideas of things to check out on my next trip, please leave a comment below. I’m sure I’ll be back at some point.

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