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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On the Road: Austin

One of the things I love to do when I travel for work is find a good woodworking spot to kill some free time. On a trip to Austin in July, I reached out to Shawn Graham of Worth Effort Woodworking. Shannon Rogers and Chris Schwarz have taught there in the past, which is where I first heard about it.


Not just another Shawn

Shawn was more than gracious and even dedicated a youtube episode to one of the lessons he gave me. We also discussed how some of the principles he’s utilizing can help us back here in Cleveland at the NCCW. In his latest newsletter, he mentioned he’ll be focusing on production work next as the school isn’t paying the bills for now. Here are some shots of the shop, which I’ll be using for inspiration both at home and with the club.

I can’t encourage you enough to get out and see other woodworker’s spaces. You always leave with something new either for your shop, your designs, or your house (as seen below). This reminds me, I’ll be in St. Louis next week: WHAT SHOULD I CHECK OUT?

Some of the things I took home for my girls and myself.

Some of the things I took home for my girls and myself.

Shawn, if you read this, I wish you the best of luck and hope to see you the next time I’m in Austin.

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Naked…and Ready

Over the past several months, I’ve been battling the heat to crank out a hand tool bench for the NCCW shop with the help of a few other members. Here is the fruit of our labor.


Nicholson Bench

I first read about this style of bench several years ago in Chris Schwarz’s book on workbenches. This type of bench is referred to as a Nicholson or English Joiner’s Bench as it was first illustrated in a book by Perter Nicholson in the 19th century. Then last year a series of posts about getting into woodworking on the cheap popped up from woodworker Mike Siemsen. These were followed by the publication of a DVD entitled The Naked Woodworker.

This concept seemed like the perfect thing for the NCCW. What better way to get into hand tools than on a shoe string budget? Here a few pictures of the bench going together.

I ordered some lag screws and attached the sides and top permanently. Lastly, holes (lots of HOLES!) were bored and “Doe’s feet” or “Dürer Sticks” were made. The guys made them simply uses the plans I left – the didn’t even what they were making. If you don’t know what they are used for, please take a look at this video or this blog post.


While we’re educating, here are a few videos showing more principles behind this very intriguing and easy-on-the-wallet design.

Plans for Knockdown Nicholson

How to Knockdown the Knockdown Nicholson

Video on Work-holding Without a Vise

There are still things to add to make this better (holdfasts, shelf, bench dogs, crochet, etc.) but for now it’s up and running and ready for you to use. I also saw that the knockdown version is going to be the cover story for the next PopWood; I might incorporate some things from the article in as well.

I hope the club enjoys all the hard work the team put in on this fun and HEAVY project.

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A Slight Detour

A few weeks ago I was walking around the Home Depot with the family picking up various whathaveyous. One item on the list was another small, plastic adirondack chair for the girls. When you have two kids (with opinions, language skills, and an inherited competitive spirit), there are times when you realize you need two of almost everything. I’d been eyeing plans from Ana White for a while but said, let’s just buy our way to happiness this one time; I have plenty of other things on my building plate.

The impetus

The impetus

We can’t find one in the aisles so we go to the customer service desk whereupon the lady informs us they don’t carry those chairs. Without hesitation, equivocation, or a modicum of snark, my five-year-old says, “Daddy, can we just buy some wood and make one ourselves? I can help you.”

…Unwittingly teach your kids to scoff at consumerism. Check.

I looked at my wife. I looked at my un-phased daughter. I looked at my shoes. I closed my eyes. I opened them to glanced at my daughter, “of course we can Josie.” Later that weekend I found myself going through some #2 common pine I salvaged from the curb several years ago. Ana’s plans are always detailed and easy to follow so I won’t bore you with unnecessary commentary. I busted out the hand tools and power tools and got to work. Here are some shots of the construction.

When I put the back together I didn’t like how boxy it looked so I busted out the french curves, a coping saw, and finished things up with the oscillating sander and my block plane.


There are edges to break, holes to fill, and paint to be had (likely pink and/or purple) but for now I’m quite pleased with the detour.  This little lesson from a child to a parent reminded me to practice what I preach. Thanks baby girl.

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Un-Louvering Doors

You may recall my comments about not likely the louvered doors on the Living Room built in way back when the renovation started . I removed the doors a few weeks ago during the heart of the project. As part of my Father’s Day post, I started going through the therapeutic process of smashing removing the louvers. Here are some more detailed pictures of how I did it.

Once the slats were removed, I had to figure out how to install a panel without too much effort. I decided to make a rabbet all the way around the inside of the door frame to house a flat plywood panel. This goes with the simple Shaker style much more akin to our tastes. I used a marking gauge and router to put a rabbet all the way down the inside of the frame opening.

Things were going fine until I readjusted my clamps and accidentally bumped the depth stop. Ouch…that sucked.



I figured I’d have to do a patch and kept on truckin.

Power Tools Complete (for now)

Power Tools Complete (for now)

I was happy when the power tool work was done that evening so I could get back to squaring up the rounded corners with a chisel. Easy peasy. The next task was to cut some leftover 1/2″ plywood into panels and apply some glue. The glue up was more tricky than I thought but it worked.

I installed a small dowel into the gaping hole, flushed it up, and sanded it down. The final step was to spray paint the old hardware, re-attached, and sit back to admire.

Love me some rustoleum all in one

Love me some rustoleum all in one

Here’s what it looked like in the end. I gotta say, I’m pretty happy with the results.

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The Beginning of the Naked Nicholson

It started with a bunch of good promotional videos and blog posts over at Lost Art Press and the need to outfit our community shop with a decent hand tool area. It continued with a conversation with my buddy, and fellow NCCW member, Charlie.

Here’s Charlie.



Charlie working, uncomfortably, on the Naked Woodworker saw benches

Being hand tool enthusiasts we both knew the shop needed a workbench made specifically for handwork. The current shop surfaces are fine for sanding or routing but don’t have the necessary holding power needed for good hand tool use. To get the most from hand tools, a solid bench is needed to withstand and counteract the forces associated with sawing, chopping, and hand planing. Fortunately, there is a great design for an inexpensive bench, which fits the bill. Here are the two versions we used for inspiration: from Chris Schwarz and from Mike Siemsen.


Enough wood for two versions (one for Charlie’s apartment and one for the shop)

Ugly. Heavy. Free. Perfect.

Ash: Ugly. Heavy. Free. Perfect.

Charlie and I headed to Lowes with just a few loosely tied together thoughts in mind. We purchased 2 x 12’s of nice looking Southern Yellow Pine for the longer parts. Use the techniques Chris describes here if you’ve never done this before – we were able to get some primo stuff by going through the pile. Then we looked to the ugly, but useful, ash sitting on the community rack.

What happened next, and is still happening, is exactly why I joined this club. Over the past three months a number of different members have lent their blood, sweat, and brains into the bench taking form in the shop. The membership is moslty power tool based and won’t understand why this bench is going to help (for now). However, they are enthusiastic and available when needed.

Coupled with the knowledge from Mike Seimsen’s video on work holding it’ll serve us for years to come.

This has been going on for a few months as you might’ve seen from my fairly sparse pics on Instagram. I’ll be trying to catch the blog up as we continue, and hopefully complete, the build soon.

Fun stuff.

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How I Saw: Ignatius J. Loncao (1918 – 2015)

July started out on a sad but celebratory note for my family. July 1 marked the passing of our family patriarch: Grandpa Loncao. The obit is here if you’re curious. At 97, with his two daughters by his side, he peacefully shed his mortal coil and joined the likes of many before him. He went out in very much the same fashion as he did everything else: an example of how things should be and beacon of hope for those cherishing in family, dignity, and tradition.

Grandpa Loncao

Grandpa Loncao

The weekend of July 4 was spent celebrating his long and storied life. I’m not sure if I laughed or cried more but to a small Italian family like mine, a laugh:cry ration of about 1:1 is par for the course. The weekend’s final event was capped by a truly inspirational eulogy at the hands of my Aunt Sue. After hearing her words, I’ve added the following to my life’s goals: have one of my daughters speak as eloquently about me when I’m laid to rest.

Onto woodworking.

A retirement gift, which hung at my grandpa's until we reluctantly moved him out in 2011.

A retirement gift, which hung at my grandpa’s until we reluctantly moved him out in 2011.

When we moved Grandpa out of his house in 2011 I ended up with a bunch of his tools. He was quite happy to see them being put back to use after many years of languishing in his basement. I also took the picture to the right, which was a retirement gift from when he was a maintenance man at a state-run facility near where we lived. This picture hangs prominently in my shop as a reminder of the times I spent learning from him. Whether it was a story about this childhood, the war, or raising a family I always felt richer after a conversation.

There were, and still are, many tools to work on but the first order of business was rehabbing two old Disston D8’s. I did this a few years ago and I thought today was good a time as any to take you through my process. I used a tutorial from Matt Cianci, The Saw Wright, to clean up the plate. I bought some Brasso to clean up the saw nuts (hint: wear a respirator…I didn’t and didn’t like the effects). Finally, I shipped them to Bob Rozaieski to sharpen the saws. The results have been priceless.

I’ve used these saws to breakdown nearly every piece of furniture I’ve built since 2012 when these saws went back into service. I sold my Ridgid sliding compound miter saw shortly afterward. I’ll never look back at all. It brings me great joy to know his tools will shape the furniture of generations to come.

When my second daughter was born in 2013, Gramp came down from NY to meet her. Shortly after meeting her, I distinctly remember running down to the basement to get his saws and show him what I’d done. He felt them in his hands. He looked at me with wonderment. There was a lot of history and pride in that moment; a moment I won’t forget; a moment I’ll pass along to the next owner of these saws.

One day.

How it's done

How it’s done

This post was a little bit more personal than most. Thanks for indulging me.

Posted in General Philosophy, Shop Stuff | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments