Fall Fun

Multitasking gets a bad rap. I was always the kid with headphones on listening to music while walking to class, playing Nintendo, or just about anything else that let me. As the gray hair count increases I find myself listening more to podcasts and using earbuds. But still, the innate drive to do more than one thing at a time fuels most of my daily life. To that end, I find I need multiple projects going in the shop. This isn’t necessarily due to my multitasking obsession but it falls in line with my two shop setup.

Twice a month I “work” a shift at my local woodworking co-op/club. This means I need to have a transportable project at all times. With the ongoing emphasis on getting The Dresser done, I’ve limited non-dresser projects. However, around the middle of October I got to the point where transporting the dresser components wasn’t really practical. The carcase weighs a metric ton and the fully glued up drawers are a pain to lug around. Plus the accrued hop rash over the past six years is substantial so there’s no need to add to it.

Good thing I have two little girls who love being in the shop. They enjoy crafts and themed decorations for both the interior and exterior of the house. I hopped on Pinterest and got to pinning. At the time I’d been consuming a lot of Reclaimed Audio, so I wanted these projects to incorporate reclaimed or discarded lumber.

The first project was quite simple and involved the girls heavily when it came to painting.

The second project took much longer than anticipated.We had a fair amount of oak flooring at the shop donated by someone. I thought this would be perfect but I should’ve thought through the ramifications of pocket-holing tongue and groove joints before starting. Oh well, it’s rustic, right?

The pumpkins still need a paint job but I’m saving that for after the dresser is done since they really can’t go outside for a while. I’ll update you when I put them up. I hope Tim, Bill, and Phil would be proud of this project. It’s less store bought items in our home and more time in the shop with my girlies; that’s a win-win indeed.

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Those Who Can, Teach

My local club asked me to teach a class a few weeks ago. I was both excited and honored. We settled on a basic cutting board class as it was geared toward those who’ve never attempted a woodworking project or touched a power tool. I was pleased to see the ages ranged from 10 – over 60. The 10 year old girl was truly the highlight of the day. I’d found out about her during some dialogue on the club’s Facebook page with her mom. She attended with her dad and made a stellar cutting board. Her presence flies right in the face of those who think the craft is dead and that girls can’t do whatever.

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m uber passionate about getting young people, especially girls, into Making and doing things with their hands. This experience lit a bit of a fire to get into teaching more frequently. I need another activity like I need a hole in my head but there are certain things you can’t deny. Sometimes life  calls upon to do something and it’s best to just listen to the voice and see where it takes you. I’ll keep you posted if anything else materializes.

Here are some pics of the class and final results from the students.


As luck would have it, I just received the following message from the little girl’s dad this morning. To say it made my day is an understatement:

“I just wanted to thank you once again for the setting up the cutting board class last month.  My daughter really enjoyed it, and just this morning was talking about how much fun it was and how she hopes she can go back.  I just wanted you to know that you made a positive influence on a little girl’s life.”



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Blood Is Thicker Than Water

As discussed, ad nauseam, I’ve been trying to finish up The Dresser. The dearth of information here at the blog is due to the work I’ve been putting in on the drawers. Well, that and the holidays. I was hoping to document a few things while lounging on the couch but instead we’ve had the dreaded Christmas stomach bug visiting us this holiday season. Nice.

Anyway, getting back to Christmas: I’ve built at least one thing for the past seven or eight years. I thought I might break the streak until two stars aligned online. The first was a email from Rockler saying this bottle opener kit was on sale. The next was an email from my cousin asking for one in his stocking. My cousin and I are more like brothers so, I knew I could squeeze in one quick project.

The plans from Rockler are pretty self explanatory but I took a bunch of pictures, which I couldn’t post during the build without spoiling the surprise. Hopefully, you’ll find these useful if you decide to make them. It all starts with a knife scale of bloodwood and a few bits of metal.

It was an easy and fun build. Plus the little bit of metalworking got me excited to do more in the future.One lesson learned: I wasted a lot of epoxy just making one so I’ll definitely make them in batches next time.  And here’s a last piece of advice: watch this video from Lin over at Darbin Orvar (one of my daughter’s favorites). She has a few techniques I’ll be stealing for a production run in the future.

Merry belated Christmas and Happy New Year!


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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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