Problems Holding Up My Drawers

This post goes out to those, like me, that have never planed down a bunch of drawer sides to fit into their corresponding openings. I was looking for a way to easily plane down the sides without awkwardly clamping, unclamping, checking the fit, clamping again, etc. At first I thought the split top nature of my workbench would help but as the pictures below illustrate, it didn’t.

With this new found problem I went to social media and the internet. I found the following:

First try, second try, third try. These are all valid but required more futzing around than I enjoy. I truly can’t stand jigs. Fortunately, a bit a serendipity happened shortly afterward on IG. But still, this was a “jig” and required me to glue up some boards to get a 17 1/2″ piece of scrap to support the drawers. Boo.

I went back downstairs and tried this.

Frustrated, I busted out the domino and some clamps and did this


Last night I trimmed it down and now I’m in business.


Now onto planing

I know there has to be an easier way to do this that’s more adjustable but I need to get to work on these drawers. If you have any suggestions, please let me know below.

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Manageable One Hour Chunks


Persnickety cherry

On the ride home from WIA, I told Brian I wanted to tackle the dresser with ernest and maybe get it done before Christmas. I set a goal of fine tuning and gluing up one of the seven drawers per week. I started out fast but ran into slight snag one of the large drawers. The pic below is from another post but it illustrates the point…this drawer just didn’t want to stay together – more on that later.
Like I was saying: I started off fast and had the first two drawers glued up within two weeks of WIA. In reality this was only about two hours worth of work but that’s how slow things can go. My main shop enemy is time. The only way to combat it is to have a plan. Sneaking away for about an hour isn’t too bad once the girls go to bed. Therefore, if I can break things down into manageable one hour chunks, projects start to materialize. The fine tuning of the drawers fits easily into this category and aids in shop-life balance.

When it was all said and done it took me six weeks of calendar time to glue up all seven drawers. There was the first push where three of the four large drawers went together; a second push to fix the fourth large drawer; and then the final push for the top three smaller drawers. If you’ve been following along on Instagram you’ve seen my posts of each individual drawer.For the blog I’m including the process of adding a butterfly key to hold the final large drawer together.

Learning my lesson from the splitting of the last large drawer, I made sure to use a backer board when chopping the remaining dovetails.

These drawers aren’t dead nuts square and neither are the openings so I’ll have to make adjustments as I fit them, but I don’t mind. It’s all part of the journey.

Ready for fitting

Ready for fitting

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George Walker Comes to My House (kinda)

Just to be clear, George has never been to my actual house. However, when I noticed my front porch column was completely rotted, my first thought was to bust out my copy of  By Hand & Eye.

My next stop was my father-in-law who was an industrial arts teacher before becoming a full time shop foreman at a machine shop. He busted out his drafting kit and gave me a lesson on how to create a simple scaled drawing. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted in new posts but I knew I didn’t want something you see in a new housing development where the 1x material dictates the dimensions and look of the columns. As I explained whole number ratios and pre-industrial artisans my father-in-law looked at me skeptically. He’s more of a tape measure and shop drawings kinda guy. Not wanting to get into an argument we tried a few different things and settled on the drawing below.


The plan

For the record: I pointed out the plinth to overall height was 1:5 and the cap to plinth was 1:3. He said, “nonsense.” I showed him the math. He’s not a convert but he was impressed.

So with a plan in hand, I headed to the home center to buy some pressure treated 4×6’s and PVC 1x material. The purchasing process was much more of a nightmare than I could’ve imagined but eventually I got the right material and on a hot June Saturday we took out the old “posts” (1×6 untreated hollow boxes) and put up the now structurally sound 4×6’s.


End of day 1

A few weeks later we wrapped the columns with PVC. I will tell you: this stuff isn’t great to work with. First off, it’s stinks when you cut it. Secondly, the fine dust gets all of your sweaty arms and face. Thirdly, it’s pretty expensive. But I’d do it all over again due to it’s longevity.


The look for most of the summer

My front porch looked like this for most of the summer and several neighbors commented that it looked great. But I felt George Walker cringing every time I pulled into the driveway and looked at it. I was determined to put some moulding on the columns but I couldn’t find any stock moulding at my local home centers. I looked online but still couldn’t find anything either (at least not easily). So, I took the leftover material from the posts and started playing around with different router bits.

I’ve never made my own moulding before but I think it’s something I’ll try in the future – just not with PVC. It was tough to hold when routing but I kept reminding myself this is more carpentry than fine woodworking. I was able to create a bunch of different mouldings in the shop giving me options when I went to install. I settled on a roundover for the top of the plinth and a small cove for the top cap. The final step was to send the family away so I could spend some time putting the trim and moulding up.

I still need to caulk and paint but the painting will likely wait until next spring where we” do an overhaul to the door and the rest of the trim. I’m quite happy with the results but if anyone knows of where to get good PVC moulding I’m all ears.

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Resource Sharing

The architects of the early ARPAnet likely didn’t anticipate the negativity of YouTube trolls or the Yik Yak hate speech fueling a raging race fire. However, I’d like to think in the deep recesses of their minds they dreamt about seemingly abstract entities, with avatars and blog personas, creating actual human, bonds. One of these bonds started about a year ago when I first read about the now defunct Lost Art Press Forum. That’s where I first heard about Brian Clites of Heights Modern and The Wood Prof fame.


Brian and the Boys

Fast forward a few months to December of 2015. Brian and I drove over to a local lumberyard to get some wood for upcoming projects. During this trip we discussed 2016 and the idea of going to each other’s shop once a month to bounce ideas off each other, help each other out, and get things done. So far we’ve done this only once but it was a tremendous boon to my confidence and my workflow.

Back in July Brian came over and gave me some pointers on how to fit half blind dovetails. He showed me the techniques learned from Chris Schwarz during an ATC class. This lesson was an example of how theory can only go so far and where experience takes over. Now, I’m still no expert but I have much more knowledge on when to pound a little harder or pare a little more. Combine these learnings with the sustained contact high from WIA and you get some serious progress in the saga of The Dresser.

You may recall, the last big hurdle was cutting the dovetails for the drawers. The piece won’t be complete once they are cut, but I’ll be in the falling action portion of the story for sure. As I organized pictures for the post I realized I started working on these drawers back in January of 2015. Ouch.


With that being said, as I post this I have two drawers completely glued up and the remaining five waiting for some shop to time to do the final fine tuning and add the glue.


The first drawer

Thanks Brian for the help on getting over the dovetail hump both mentally and physically. I think we’ve done those nerdy internet pioneers proud and I’m hoping for at least one more shop date before the end of the year.

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22 Hours in Covington: WIA 2016

Every year when the announcement for WIA comes out I get excited. When the announcement says it’s in Cincinnati I get more excited because it’s an easy four hour drive. I always want to go but it’s tough to justify a mini vacation given our hectic lives and relatively low amount of vacation time. That’s something for a different blog, but it’s incredibly frustrating when the job market dictates frequent job changes and those changes affect your ability to accumulate vacation time. I can easily see a scenario where my wife and I celebrate our 40th birthdays both having only two weeks of vacation. I digress…

Where was I? Oh yeah, I went to WIA last weekend. Brian Clites (the woodworker formerly known as The Woodprof) picked me up early on Friday morning and we headed down to Columbus for our first stop: Woodwerks. If you’re ever in Columbus, I highly recommend you stop here. I didn’t get anything but I still had fun perusing. We hopped back on the road and pulled into Northern KY around 2:30 PM. For the next 22 hours we crammed in as much woodworking inspiration as we could.

We only had time to visit the marketplace but this helped keep costs down. I met some people I’ve only known via the interwebs (James_Son_of_James, Dyami, Narayan, Marc Spags, and others). Plus I shook hands with peeps I regularly see in Cincinnati like Megan Fitzpatrick, George Walker, The Schwarz and his band of  Merry Pranksters, etc. Two highlights for me were seeing John Switzer‘s hand forged work up close and Brendan Gaffney‘s prototype sector. I left with a few things to keep me busy including some olive wood, which I’ve never used but want for some serving boards, and a hand saw vise from Brian (thanks!). Just before we left I spotted April Wilkerson who is a favorite of my daughter. She was gracious enough to make this video with me. My little girl was over the moon.


In the end, I wish I was able to stay longer, but this brief stint left me tremendously inspired and with a deep wantonness to get in the shop. And that I did. Check out my IG feed if you want a sneak peak.

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Breaking Bread

As I mentioned in the last post, I added to my cutting boards resume over the summer. I was fortunate enough to be the best man in my friends’ wedding and knew I couldn’t just get something off the registry. Not when the groom gifted me hand carved knives to temporarily substitute for the back-ordered blacksmith versions he ordered from Drew Langsner’s Country Workshops.

Thoughtful gifts

Thoughtful gifts

You see, Charlie and I have a kinship going on 20 years. The stories are many but for the purposes of this post I’ll just say we had a great time during his summer internship at North House Folk School. I had to be in Minneapolis for work first thing on a Monday morning. Instead of flying in late on Sunday, I left early on Saturday and flew into Duluth where I rented a car and drove up to see him. It was May 1st. It snowed. It was perfect. This trip was a turning point in our friendship as we transitioned many of our conversations from music, bands, and instruments to muses, banding, and hand tools. So when he asked me to be in his wedding, I knew my gift should reflect our relationship. Charlie is known for baking bread; a cutting board was an obvious choice.

Charlie on our hike many years ago

Charlie on our hike many years ago

I started by reviewing an old article from Fine Woodworking that I’d printed out when I first started woodworking. I had never made a cutting board long enough to cut up a large baguette and I knew this would be a good time to experiment and use up some scrap. I found some maple and some small pieces of purpleheart and padauk that would be perfect for “inlay.” I used the article to build a template for the long board.

The half inch exotics were still too clunky, so I resawed them on the bandsaw and then double-stick-taped them to a planer sled. When they came out of the planer I touched them up with a sharp hand plane. Next, I glued them up with a purposeful offset, roughed out the shape, and pattern routed them to the templates.

I was quite proud of the way they turned out. But, being short on time, I totally forgot to take any glamour shots when it was done. Fortunately, Charlie’s wife, Katy, sent me some artsy pics of the boards for me to post and share with you.


The only thing left in this story is to share some bread made by one friend and serve it on a gift from another.

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Cutting Boards: For Me Finally

I made a slew of cutting boards over the last two summers for my woodworking club. They didn’t need any this year, so I decided to finally make some for my house along with some for my recently married friends. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any glamour shots of their cutting boards before my wife wrapped them up; it didn’t help that the last coat of oil went on just before I had to leave for the rehearsal dinner. Next time I’m over at their place I’ll snap some shots and put up a post.

Now, back to me.

It started with a Pinterest board cleverly entitled, Cutting Boards. To date there are about 70 inspirational pictures on there as I’m fond of cutting boards. I really enjoy I see in Ina Garten’s kitchen when I watch her show Barefoot Contessa. I wanted the same aesthetic for our kitchen. Going through the offcuts I found a piece of gnarly, twisted ambrosia maple, which made the move from Cincinnati five years ago, and some #2 common  walnut. I thought it would be a good idea to fill the beetle holes with epoxy and then butterfly keys for some of the cracks. This is good practice for the big dining table I promised over a year ago. Here’s a  pictorial rundown on the process.

I ended up with two similar sized maple boards and two small walnut versions. The first set will stay on my kitchen counter and the others will be filed away as gifts or maybe I’ll try to sell them – I’m not sure. Here are some glamour shots.

Now onto more procrastinating…

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