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.

Posted in Kids Furniture | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Home Improvement, Living Room | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Knockdown Nicholson, NCCW, Shop Stuff | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Noodling Around

A few months ago a co-worker commissioned me to build a Noodle Board. Never heard of it? Me either. Google it – it’s interesting and yes, you can do it at work without generating nastygrams from IT about your nefarious website traffic. I asked my 100% Sicilian mom about it and she said she remembers a few of her grandmother’s friends using it to roll out fresh pasta every couple of days.

The guy I made this for wanted it for use in making his mom’s pastry/dough recipes. I’m all for carrying on family traditions so I jumped at the opportunity. Of course, it took me three times longer than planned but turn out just fine. The client was very specific about the boards dimensions and actually made a drawing for me. 3/4″ thick x 22″ long x 25″ wide. Also, Cleats needed to go on each end to help keep the board from sliding when rolling out the dough. Capish?


Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Breakdown the soft maple board I’d chosen.


Step 2: Glue up.


Step 3: Kick yourself for not using cauls to keep the panel more flat when you glued it up.

Step 4: Flatten. Sweat. Rinse. Repeat.



I was only able to get one side flat using the jack plane. I broke down and drove to my community shop to utilize the 22″ drum sander for the rest.

Step 5: Attach the cleats with dominoes.

Step 6: Apply two coats of salad bowl finish.


Now I just need to sample the fruits of my labor when my customer makes some pastries for me to try.

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Mantel Do Over

When we started the renovation I wanted to do something with the mantel and wood beams. There were grand thoughts of barn wood and reclaimed oak. In the end, I was much more practical and it turned out for the better. Here is a where I started in case you’re curious. The picture below is for reference.

Ugly blah stain lameness

Ugly blah stain lameness

Taking down the mantel was a bit more work than I thought but I got it out and down to the basement for some planning and sanding. As the previous post shows, it worked pretty well. Unfortunately, in the chaos of living through a renovation, my wife disgarded the four little oak dowel/washers made by some carpenter back in the day when the mantel was attached to the brick. Sigh… more on that later.

First, the staining process. I loosely used this technique from Ana White’s site about staining “that dark espresso” color. Normally, I don’t like to do this but the wood was free (minus sweat labor) and anything was better than the old 60s brownish color that was there. My version involved General Finishes Oil Based Gel Stain in Java since it was actually easier for me to get (my Lowes didn’t have the Minwax stains in the colors I wanted). Both my wife and I were happy with the final color.

Installing it back required a bit more ingenuity. I didn’t want to screw from the top with anchors into the mortar joints like the previous install. The screw holes were plugged with putty and it didn’t look right. Plus the “back side” was rough and you could still see some mill marks. This look is more in keeping with our aesthetic so I wanted to reverse the orientation of the board. This meant I had to use the holes in the brick and attach from the bottom up (if only I had some type of dowels custom sized to fill the oblonged holes).


Top view of the oblong holes needing a dowel.

Thank goodness for good French craftsmen and a little bit of patience walking up and down the stairs.

The rasp made short work of oblonging these stock dowels.

The rasp made short work of oblonging these stock dowels. Note the sole surviving dowel from the original build in the background.

Each of the four had to be custom fit and then I used Liquid nails to give them some extra holding power in the holes.

A nice tight fit but not pounded all the way in

A nice tight fit but not pounded all the way in

After making all four dowels, I drilled holes from the bottom up and used hefty lag screws to attach the mantel.


Not too shabby

I’m really happy with the results. Now I just have to figure out how to get the beams down without jacking up the walls so I can do the same thing to them.

Posted in Home Improvement, Living Room, Mud Room, The Big Reno | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Old Oak: Real Old

A few months ago my co-worker informed me of some old beams from his 1850s house. It was one of the first 10 homes built here in our community. He brought me in a sample and I knew right away: white oak…old white oak. We did some experimenting on ways to cut it into smaller parts for a Lindberry Cart he wanted as a coffee table. He ended up aging some cedar boards from the home center instead but I did get a chance to use another friends kick ass Laguna HD16  bandsaw in the process. It made short work of resawing a 3′ long section I brought along. So choice.

These beams where part of the original structure to his house (sill plate maybe?). He removed them 10 years ago when he put on a two story addition. He knew they were worth saving but he had to cut them in half because he simply couldn’t move them as they were. They’ve been in his garage ever since. We moved them to his yard a few weeks ago since he’s tearing down the garage. He has no use from them and says they’re mine for the taking. Free of charge.

I’m not exactly sure what to do with them but I’ll be cleaning them up with some friends and resawing them into smaller boards.  I need another project, and more wood to store, like I need a hole in the head but I don’t want to pass this up.

What should I do with them? Should I saw them into smaller boards? Should I fumigate them before bringing them in? Would them make a good top for a Roubo? Any thoughts are appreciated.

Posted in NCCW, Shop Stuff | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments