Summer Seating Dilemma

IMG_2321A few months after moving into our house in Cleveland, I had to take a two-week trip to Europe for work. This was the first time I’d been away from my wife and daughter for such an extended period. Time zone differences made communication tough but on the third day I finally got ahold of my wife. For me it was noon in a noisy convention hall; for her it was dinner time IMG_2326with a hungry toddler. During our call she shrieked and said, “Oh no! Something just made a loud crashing noise in the garage.” Buglars? Rodents? Aliens? Worse. Shoddy workmanship. The previous homeowner erected shelves in the garage, which decided to partially collapse at that exact moment. We had a myriad of items on the shelf, which were now strewn about the floor. I stood helpless thousands of miles away while my wife picked up the mess. It sucked.

When I got home, I took down the remaining shelves and repurposed the boards in our hard-to-access attic above the garage. They remained there until this spring when another DIY project (installing an attic ladder and OSB above the garage) relegated them useless. They were a bit bowed and in need of a serious clean up so I figured I’d just chuck them and move on. However, having consumed so many episodes of Reclaimed Audio, I knew I couldn’t follow through. So, on Memorial Day, with grandpa’s saw in hand I got to work solving another summer seating dilemma: my little one needs a chair like her big sister for use outdoors.


Breaking down stock on the driveway

I talked about building my older daughter’s chair before but realized I never put up the pictures of it completed and in use. She picked out the stencil and color scheme. Here is a gallery of pics showing how she helped with the painting and stenciling.

Fast forward to today and I have parts milled up and ready for another chair. Here are some progress pics.

I’ll continue picking away at this with a slim chance of getting it done by the end of the summer but it’s still fun to see something old become new again.


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Belated Mother’s Day Post

Helper Tower and Rolling Pins being used on Mother's Day

Helper Tower and Rolling Pins being used on Mother’s Day

The bleakness of blog content is all for good reason: I’ve been busy building stuff. In my last post I talked about getting into the drawers on The Dresser and prior to that I mentioned the strong desire for my oldest to go into the shop. All of those things have continued, in earnest, for the past three months. As proof, I offer up this short story from Mother’s Day.

My mom is the artsy type so picking a gift for her is pretty easy. We’re lucky to have a local art collective down the street; it’s perfect for last minute Mother’s Day gifts. I picked the little ones up from their sitter shortly before Mother’s Day and we went in to check out the wares. After a few quick passes around the store, we’d found something perfect for grandma. Done…right? Not exactly.

All things taste better when you've made the tools to make the things

All things are better when you’ve made the tools to make the things.

You see, I’d already picked up a cool gift for my wife and she isn’t one for unnecessary jewelry or knick knacks. Therefore, there was no logical reason to get something for my wife. However, the girls had other plans…They picked up this and that asking if we could get it for mommy and I stood my ground, saying no. But, we stumbled upon a ring holder dish, which my oldest pointed out needed to be replaced after my wife broke hers a few months ago. I agreed and figured I’d just chalk it up to fatherly weaknesses with daughters.

Then her eyes lit up, “Daddy, let’s put this back. We can make one. In the workshop.”

So we did.

When I arrived home, we immediately went downstairs. She had a vision of what she wanted and was on a mission. She picked out a choice piece of cherry from her scrap bin and asked to cut a hole in for mommy to put her rings. I gave her a lesson on how to use the drill press and she learned about Forstner bits as well. Then we busted out the French curves and she traced a pleasing design. I roughed everything out and she helped clean up the design at the oscillating spindle sander. She then sanded (I sanded her sanding), which was followed up by her shellacking of the piece (which was followed up by me putting shellac on when she went to bed since her attempt was a bit runny).

The next day she asked to go downstairs and make her own holder for her Frozen necklace. She didn’t want any curves or finish though; that would take too long and she is after all, only five.



See? I told you I’ve been woodworking.

Currently, I’m in the midst of two huge DIY projects for the house but now that the Cavs aren’t eating up my non-woodworking evenings, I think I’ll get back to blogging a bit more regularly.

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Revisiting an Old Friend

If you’re new to this blog, then you may not have heard the saga that is The Dresser. You might’ve seen it in the background of nearly every picture since April of 2014. For the past six months I’ve been picking away at the drawers (seven of them) in between other projects. I’ve made lots of progress updates on IG but nothing over here on the blog. I hope to remedy this today.

Back in September I had some time after finishing up my little girl’s adirondack chair. At the time, and still to this day, I needed get started on a Dining Room table for us but I’m not completely clear on my design. Tom Buhl and I have started a dialogue on this and I plan to draw upon his vast design and build knowledge (thanks Tom). Anyway, it was September. I was hesitant to get started on the drawers because I’ve never cut a dovetailed drawer, let alone seven. Furthermore, I’ve only ever fit a drawer once and now I need to do it seven times.

Fortunately, I got over my fears and started cutting wood. I didn’t want to set up the dado stack because I have two different sizes of plywood for the bottoms so I just used the regular combination blade. This is one of those times where I can’t believe how easily things went. It only took about an hour to cut the bottom grooves in all the parts.

This post is long overdue as the work’s been done for many months. I makes me wonder: maybe, secretly, I don’t want this project to end. After all, it’s been a fixture in my shop for so long I’m not sure what I’ll do with all the space. My oldest was in utero when I bought the wood. Alas, I need to make room for the Dining Room table build, which is next (ish). All the dovetails are “cut” but I need to fine tune them and glue up the drawers. Hopefully I’ll have some gumption left in the tank after all this yard work I’ve been doing for the past month. Wish me luck.

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A Review of Grandpa’s Workshop

Her first reading

Her first reading

It was a day or two after Christmas 2012 when I first read Grandpa’s Workshop to my then 2-year old daughter. I didn’t realize it then, but I may’ve been reading the most overlooked and unheralded book in the Lost Art Press catalog. At the time, I was exactly one year into our new life in Cleveland. My wife was 8 months pregnant with our second, I was in the midst of a serious job scare, and this was one of the only gifts under the tree.

She didn’t take to it like a duck to water but she didn’t reject it either. She sat down in her toddler bed looking at the pictures and listening to me tell her about the tools. Her unsteady and exuberant hands didn’t tear the pages or destroy the binding.

IMG_1305It’s now over three years later and we’ve read it in earnest many, many times – especially in the past six months. My heart skips a beat when she asks to read it before bed. She points out the different tools and references them later during the story or when we’re in the shop. She even corrected me the other day when I called a something a hammer instead of it’s correct name: “it’s a mallet, Daddy – like the one you made me.”

The book is a series of mini stories, which makes its format perfect for little ones with short attention spans. You don’t have to labor through the entire book when one or two pages suffice. At first I thought it might be a bit scary or grotesque but it’s proven to be none of these. Sprinkled throughout the story are pictures LAP readers will find charming like tool chests, workbenches, saw benches, etc. She notices these things and either recalls a time in the shop or asks to see something the next time we’re down there. She even peers over my shoulder while on Pinterest or on a blog to point out things she’s seen in the story.


Employing the lessons…

And, to me, this is where this book is worth it’s weight in gold. It’s a visual map into her father’s world and tiny peek into his soul. It reinforces the lessons I teach and it makes Sylvain’s adventures tangible, and relatable, to her. She knows what it’s like to get a bunch of scraps and put them together into something magical. She asks to go downstairs and work on things constantly. Last month she asked to make a clipboard. She painted it purple and does her homework on it everyday; I was flabbergasted. She see things and asks to make them; buying is her second option.

I didn’t know this when I bought it, but Grandpa’s Workshop is a book for makers. It’s not just there to solely read to your grandkids. It shouldn’t be pigeon


Maker II

holed into anything other than a great sets of stories to inspire the next generation. My oldest daughter is a maker. She works in countless media but her greatest creation, although unbeknownst to her, is her making of an inspired father every time she asks to read this book.

I’d like to see it on the shelves of my local library and in the classroom, but I’ll start with a second copy for her understudy. The little one is three now and mostly concerned with pink, purple, and glitter glue, but she’ll come around. And if she doesn’t that’s ok too. In the end, I don’t want just woodworkers (that’s a bit of a lie). I want strong-willed girls who think about the their buying habits and try to make things with their hands at every turn (that part isn’t a lie).

Back in 2012, I snapped a few pictures and sent a heartfelt email to John and Chris thanking them and the rest of the team for their efforts. This post is reaffirmation of that email only with many board feet of lumber and bedtime stories about Pépère’s shop elfs under our belts. My social media is peppered with proof of what this book can do for your budding maker. Here are a few final pics illustrating the power of this book and its message.

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It Takes a Village

In today’s final installment of Colin’s Toy Chest build I’d like to send a special shout out to the many people who made this build possible. ChuckM for helping miter the mouldings on the rickety miter saw at the shop, MarkY for teaching me CNCing, my wife for her steady hand on the letters, and Brian for his wonderful craftsmanship on the handles. Without their help I may have never hit the deadline and made a little one-year old so happy.

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Developing a Fondness for Milk Paint

During my last project I was extremely perplexed with the consistency of my milk paint. I think it was inexperience more than anything. This time I had a strange clarity, which gives credence to the old adage about getting off your duff and getting into the shop.

I’m not sure if it was the slightly modified ratio or the extended setup time but I developed a strong love of milk paint during this build. I think Schwarz’s recipe (2:1 water to paint) is a bit too running for my taste. I like the 1:1 ratio a little better but with a moderately heavy hand on the water. Plus, I let the mixture set over night this time and the consistency was perfect and easy to use.

I started with a base layer of the orange persimmon from my previous bench build. This was good in theory but if you followed me on IG during this time, you’ll note I put about 100 coats (or maybe six) of Federal Blue to get the top color I desired.

With the color finally right, I called in the steady hand of my wife to paint the letters using white acrylic from Michaels. She’s a perfectionist and normally really good at these things, but the uneven textures, cheap brushes (?), and slight imperfections of the CNCed letters made this impossible to get exact. She was mortified at the job she did but I assured her it was fine. I took some 220 sandpaper to each letter and got rid of all the areas where her hand wandered. It looks a little rustic but that’s kinda the vibe I was after.


You can make out the less-than-perfect details (if you squint)

If anyone has experience painting letters like this, please leave a comment below. We tried strategic blue taping but that was tedious. I really got into every nook and cranny with sand paper and modified plastic scrapers to make the lettering areas as smooth as possible. Also, I’m not opposed to finer or higher quality brushes but this is a new area for us and I simply don’t know the tools.

So, with sandpaper in hand, I selected a few areas to sand thru to the orange layer. Then it was time for some polyacrylic top coat.

In my next, and final post, I’ll show off some glamour shots and give a few shout outs to those that made this possible.

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Working on the Top

Two years ago I tried my hand at online ordering of wood from Shannon over at Hardwood to Go. I got one of those Surprise Packs hoping to get some small pieces to make cutting boards at our community woodshop. What I received was a few boards for doing such along with an 8ft tall piece of mahogany measuring about 12″ in diameter. This was not going to become a cutting board.

The big one in the center

The big one in the center

I broke the boards down with Grandpa’s saw and figured out the best grain match. I threw in some dominoes and glued it up.

With the panel glued up, I turned my attention toward breadboard ends. I’ve always like the aesthetics of breadboard ends and on the previous toy chest I tackled this for the first time. You can read about it here. I used a technique from Marc over at The WoodWhisperer but after doing some digging, I found this video from Brian McCauley. I’m partial to doing this with the Domino because I think it’s easy and doesn’t take up much time. In revisiting some of the comments from both videos I noticed comments about wood movement issues. Now, both Brian and Marc were making large dining tables whereas I’m making a lid to a chest. I think size matters here but still, it got me thinking…

One of the complaints was even at the “sloppiest” setting for domino width, there is only 3mm of movement on each side. The claim is this isn’t enough space allotted for wood movement. I really don’t know the answer but I think I came up with a solution by “elongating” the mortises. The method is pretty easy: plunge in at the widest setting and then move toward the center. Don’t plunge and move at the same time. Instead plunge, recoil, move, and plunge again. The picture below shows the results. You’ll note a bit of discrepancy in the height of the holes but it must’ve been user error; I honestly don’t know how this happened but it didn’t affect the glue up or the results.

Elongated Holes

Elongated mortises

Next up was gluing them on, pinning the dominoes, and putting on some finish.

The last, and final step, is finishing the case.

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