Posts Tagged With: woodworking

Reclaimed Chestnut Box


Chestnut Box, approx 7″ x 7″ x 5″

I have had a small piece of reclaimed wormy chestnut set aside for awhile, waiting for the right project to come along. My idea was to use it to make something for some friends of ours. They have been making things out of found and reclaimed stuff, and this old barn board seemed to fit right in with that.

chestnut-box03I was able to keep quite a bit of the character of the old surface while still getting the board straight and flat enough to use. The oil finish brought out that texture and the deep, weathered colors of the wood.

The box actually has two compartments – the lid lifts off to reveal the main one, and the bottom “secret” compartment is held together with magnets. The box therefore has 2 bottom panels, each made of reclaimed spruce salvaged from a discarded piano. The knob on top is walnut, and is the only part not made of reclaimed wood.chestnut-box02

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Stuff that Works

“Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall”    — Lyrics by the late Guy Clark

This is not a forum for advocating anything in particular, including any brands, types, or manufacturers of tools. But when I find something that works unexpectedly well for me, it makes sense to put it out here. I spent quite a long time pounding away with a chisel and mallet, cleaning out and squaring up the rounded corners on the Shoji Style sliding doors.





Each of the two doors has 12 square acrylic panes, with four corners each. That’s 96 corners to clean up, in some pretty tough white oak.

I tried several different chisels, trying to find one that would work quickly and do several corners before it needed to be sharpened. A couple of no name chisels failed very quickly. My old Stanleys and newer Lie Nielsens did relatively well. Finally, I settled on a Lie Nielsen mortise chisel to chop out the majority of the waste , then clean it up by paring with a Stanley bench chisel. This combination worked great. After pounding on the Lie Nielsen mortise chisel for over half of the corners, its edge is still in great shape – it’s going right back into the drawer with no need for sharpening. And that Lie Nielsen mortise chisel is a wonderful tool. But this post isn’t about the chisel. It’s about the mallet.

“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.”   — Song lyrics by Paul Thorn


Blue Spruce Toolworks Mallet

I have to admit that I bought the Blue Spruce Toolworks mallet because it looks great. A classmate at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship had one and raved about how wonderful it was. When you hold it, it weighs WAY more than you can believe. Like its filled with lead or something. The Blue Spruce website says it is, “totally infused with acrylic resin to fill every cell.” I don’t have any idea how they would have done that to a gorgeous piece of tiger maple. But it looks great, with the African blackwood handle, and feels balanced and ergonomically perfect in the hand.

img_0934But here’s the amazing part: after beating on chisels, not only on this project but many others, there is not so much as a scratch on the mallet. Blue Spruce Toolworks claims that the acrylic infusion “helps prevent crushing of the face grain.” I can vouch for that. How does a mallet not get dented and scratched with use?

The Blue Spruce Toolworks mallet is a tool that works. I won’t ever have to buy or make another mallet. It feels great to use, works perfectly, and, yes, it still looks great!

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Sliding “Shoji-Style” Doors, a Work in Progress

Kitchens never seem to have enough space. A pantry with double doors swinging outward require room to open, and must be accounted for when arranging other items. In our case, the kitchen table and chairs must be placed to give sufficient room for the doors to swing open.


A work in progress.

As an improvement, I am building a pair of sliding by-pass doors. Most everything in the pantry is small enough to access with only one door open anyway. So, there is limited down-side to this modification. Eliminating the need for the doors to swing open is a significant up-side.

I wanted a door that was strong, and light-weight, and would not look too out of place in our kitchen. After building the cabinetry from quarter-sawn white oak, the natural choice for the doors would be to continue with the same material. But to keep the weight down and to add a lighter tone, I have gone with a door that has acrylic panels which I have covered with a rice paper style film.

The doors are about 25 1/2″ wide and 78″ tall. The outer frame and center cross piece are 7/8″ quarter-sawn white oak. The interior muntins are 1 1/2″ x 3/4″and are placed 1/8″ back from the styles and rails. The corners are joined with some major mortise and tenon joints, and the muntins are also mortised into the outer frame.


Where the muntins meet is a modified bridle joint. I am sure it is something that has been done before, but I haven’t found a photo of a joint done quite like this. I began by cutting  an “X” on the front of the vertical muntin about 1/4″ deep (with a Japanese Dotsuki Takebiki saw.)


Mock up of modified Bridle Joint

On the back side, I also cut 1/4″ deep and the full 1 1/2″ width of the muntin. I then made mitered cuts on the front and grooved the center to fit the vertical piece. I hope the photo of my initial mock-up offers a better explanation.


The finished modified Bridle Joint.

The doors will hang from a vertical track made by Grant. I set up the arrangement in my shop, hanging the track and attaching the rolling trucks to the doors, and they slide with the slightest touch.

The rice paper window film uses no adhesive — I guess it is just the static charge that holds it in place. In the photo, the acrylic sheets are held in with only tape. I will finish the door first, then permanently install the panels with small quarter-round pieces tacked in on the back side of the doors.

So, its a work in progress. I will finish the doors then modify the opening to remove traces of the existing hinges, etc. With a week off at the holidays, perhaps I can make some quick progress on this project.


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Tiger Maple Box


While taking a box making class in Maine at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship this Fall, I saw a box one of the instructors had made. It was a long, narrow box with a curved lid, constructed out of teak, and the shape kept grabbing my attention. The overall size was about 12″ long x 4″ wide x 3.5″ tall. I tried to make something similar from oak during class, but it the open grain of the oak just didn’t have the look I wanted.

I ran across a really pretty flitch of tiger maple a month or so ago, and purchased it with mandolin necks in mind. But after getting the wood home, it started to look like a box instead of a musical instrument neck. Figured woods look so fantastic, but all that figure means the grain of the wood is reversing itself. If not done carefully, there can be a lot of  grain tear-out.

round-top-box-02Most of the work was done by hand. I did re-saw the stock on the bandsaw to get close to the final thickness of about 1/2″. The box jointed corners were done with a router. The rest was done using hand planes and chisels. The box itself was constructed first, and the lid was made to fit. With blades being sharpened often, I was able to tame the wood’s grain.

In order to really emphasize the tiger maple grain, I used two colors of wood dye. The first coat was lemon yellow, which was applied and wiped off quickly. Next, I used a beechwood dye that really brought out the contrast in the grain. A few coats of shellac, and a bit of wax are the finish coat.

This just might be one of the prettiest pieces of wood I have ever run across. There isn’t much of it left, so I will have to come up with a way to make the best use of what I do have remaining.

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Lie Nielsen Toolworks Tour

While in Maine taking a class at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, our instructors arranged for the class to tour the Lie Nielsen manufacturing facility, which is just down the road from the school near Rockport.

Lie Nielsen Toolworks makes some of the finest hand tools you can buy today. I only have a few of their tools, but they are among my most favorite, and get lots of use. The quality is obvious to both the eye and the hand. They have a feel and balance in their hand planes, chisels, saws, etc. that elevate them above most the competition.

It was a highlight of the trip to see how a chunk of metal becomes a Lie Nielsen hand plane.

The foundry work is done by a small family owned foundry not far away. The designs and molds are done in house. Much of the machining is done on old Bridgeport milling machines. They have also incorporated CNC milling machines into the process, but handwork is still a fundamental part of the process. They work in small batches, with the goal being that today’s manufacturing will be sold within a month.

Here are some photos.

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The castings arrive in a web and are cut apart

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Initial Milling of the blanks

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After initial milling and powder coating

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CNC milling area

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Final milling on the old Bridgeports

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Squaring the side to the bottom

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Blades blanks

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Caps and parts in process

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They have a wood shop for handles, etc

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Saws are finished with hand filing

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Blades ready to go

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Final assembly by hand

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Finished, boxed and ready to go

It was a great tour. Unfortunately, no free samples were given out. But you do get a 10% discount when you buy in person in the showroom. And, yes, I did purchase a few items. Some chisels, a small router plane, and their low angle smoothing plane that was too nice to pass up.

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Unlocking the Box

Unlocking the Box – A Course at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship

Earlier this Fall I traveled to Maine where I took a 2 week course titled Unlocking the Box, at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. This was a course in constructing Japanese puzzle boxes, which typically require several moves to open. We also looked into methods of creating secret storage spaces, locking mechanisms, and the Japanese art of decorating the boxes with elaborate veneer patterns called (I think) yosegi-zaiku.

First of all, the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship is an excellent school. The staff members are knowledgeable and helpful, the buildings are spacious and well-lighted, the equipment and tools are all top-of-the-line, and the instructors are excellent. Each of the workshop buildings has a Bench Room and a Power Tool Room. The Bench Room has most anything you might need – including a whole wall full of mostly Lie Nielsen planes. Each student gets a workbench to use during the course, and is also encouraged to bring some of their own hand tools. The Power Tool Rooms each have a couple of SawStop table saws, Powermatic Planer, a nice old cast iron Delta Planer, 20″ and 14″ band saws, 12″ and 8″ jointer, Festool sanders, etc. In other words, the place is equipped like a dream!

The course was taught by Kagen Sound and Clark Kellogg, woodworkers from Denver and Houston respectively. I was very impressed with their knowledge, teaching skills, and woodworking ability. They each have some beautiful work on their websites. Here are links: Kagen Sound and Clark Kellogg.

We spent the first 3 days or so learning the fundamentals of constructing a puzzle box. The process involves working on a smaller scale than I was used to, and it can get tricky trying to hold and cut some of the smaller pieces. Once we had an understanding of the basic concept, we were encouraged to explore whatever aspect of box-making we desired. Some moved on to elaborate mechanisms which required a dozen or so moves to open. Some created pieces with secret drawers and compartments. Some looked at the yosegi process and how the boxes are decorated.

If anyone is considering taking woodworking classes, I would encourage you to check out the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. In addition to the 1 and 2 week workshops, they have longer intensive courses, up to 9 months.

Oh, and Lie Nielsen headquarters and showroom is close enough to the school to visit during your lunch break.

Here are some photos:

The Workshop Building:
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Some of the work from the class:
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My always cluttered bench:
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The basic puzzle box design:
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Different phases of the process:
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A couple of my inlay patterns:
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Gluing up sticks which will be sliced for veneer:
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Kitchen Cabinets and Renovation


New Wall Cabinets Above the Fridge.

One of the reasons for the dearth of recent posts here is the amount of time I have spent renovating the kitchen. The project started with a new fridge —  that was slightly too tall to fit under the old wall cabinets. Those cabinets came out, the refrigerator went in, and I built a couple of new cabinets to go above it. The new cabinets looked significantly better than the old ones, and more wall cabinets followed until all the upper cabinetry had been changed out. Rather than staples, chipboard, cardboard, etc., the new cabinets are all quarter-sawn white oak faces with plywood carcasses and shelves. The casework is dadoed into the oak fronts then fastened with glue and screws. Hardware includes European hinges and solid cast brass knobs and handles in an Arts and Crafts style.


Base Cabinets with new Counter and Sink

The bottom cabinets had to be done all at once, since there would need to be a new counter and sink installed at the same time. Additionally, there was a corner cabinet which was very difficult to access — does everybody have one of these? You practically had to open the door and crawl back in there to find anything. More on that below.

Working out of a garage workshop, there is not all that much room to build large items– especially multiple large items like base cabinets. So, the project took more time as pieces got stacked in corners, moved around to make room, re-stacked, etc. And, coming up with a solution which allowed easier access to the corner cabinet took quite a bit of design time and numerous prototypes.










And, after getting the basic base cabinets built and installed, I decided to remove a small closet and replace it with even more cabinets and a bit of added counter space. This has a slide-out trash can that is very convenient, and space to store dog food, etc.

Next, there was the idea for an Arts and Crafts inspired oak and stained glass light fixture. Which would look great mounted to a tin ceiling, which had to be painted multiple coats of multiple colors of paint to get just the right look . . . .


Light Fixture and Tin Ceiling

There is still painting to be done. And a couple of pantry doors to be replaced with Shoji-style sliding screens. And the bay windows to be replaced. And a new floor.


All in good time.



Back to the corner cabinet. I used several heavy duty drawer slides, a couple of casters, Baltic birch plywood, and some Elfa baskets from The Container Store to build a corner cabinet slide out solution. Here is a quick video of how it works.

In addition to picking up some usable space in the corner, I was also able to gain additional storage around some of the areas where the kitchen walls run at 45 degrees. The original design had large wedges of inaccessible space there, which we can now utilize.

Now its time to take a little break from the kitchen and build a few other little things.



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Jewelry Box

It has been a long time between posts here. There have been several woodworking projects undertaken during the past few months, including completing kitchen cabinets and designing and building an oak and stained glass light fixture for the kitchen.

Jewelry Box 01

Oak Jewelry Box

One of the projects I completed back in February was a jewelry box – a late Christmas present for my wife. It is made of quarter sawn oak with brass hardware, including a really nice piece of “quilted” oak that is most visible on the inside of the box lid. The piece is 13″ x 9″ x 6″ high.

There is a tray inside that raises with the lid. I made the hardware for its operation from some brass stock. I had to make several models to get the geometry right, so that the tray stays level as it opens and closes.

Jewelry Box 02

Jewelry Box, with quilted oak inside top.


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Woodworking Show a Success!

show ad

Liquidambar Gallery Show Ad

WB Liquidambar

Show Installation

My first experience with showing some of my woodworking projects turned out well. With the help of the gallery owners at Liquidambar Gallery and Gifts in Pittsboro, NC, I ended up selling 33 of the 34 items I made for the show. That was well beyond any expectations I had. And while my two month run as featured artist has ended, the gallery owners have asked me to create some additional pieces to show and sell.

I will certainly plan to make more items going forward but first I will need to catch up on several other projects which have taken a backseat to preparation for the show. In fact, as February begins I am still finishing up some Christmas presents that should have been done in December!

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Showing my Work, Part II

Yesterday was the opening of my first woodworking show at Liquidambar Gallery in Pittsboro, NC. The gallery was busy all afternoon, with a constant stream of visitors. I am happy to say that my pieces were very popular! Sales actually began on Saturday, the day before the official opening. In just two days, they have already sold 9 items. The show continues for 2 months, so it would have been nice to have some additional inventory . . .  but who knew?

One of the pieces which sold quickly was a little box for storing tea bags. I just finished it recently and hadn’t yet posted a photo.

tea box 01

Tea Box

This box is about 9″ x 9″ x 3″ tall. the sides are walnut, and the top is quilted quartersawn white oak. The handle has a cutout of the Chinese symbol for tea, and is made of padouk and maple. The inside of the box has maple dividers to organize tea bags. This piece was designed to feature the oak top, which is one of the prettiest pieces of wood I have encountered. I made a few earlier attempts to make use of this piece, but this tea box is probably the best fit.

Since this piece went so quickly, I may try to find another distinctive piece of wood to make something similar. But the new owner of this box got something which is truly one of a kind.

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Reclaimed Chestnut Table (with a little Reclaimed Teak)

Reclaimed Wormy Chestnut Table

Reclaimed Wormy Chestnut Table

I have had a number of reclaimed wormy chestnut beams stored away for several months now. They were salvaged in southwest Virginia from a structure being demolished. My intention had been to make a steamer trunk from the wood. The beams appeared to have lots of character, with the typical nail holes, worm holes, gouges, discoloration, rough sawmill marks, etc. When I began to re-saw the beams into thinner lumber, I was able to get pieces nearly an inch thick from a couple of the beams. I had no intention of making a table, but these pieces of chestnut talked me into making a small table top from a portion of the lumber. The finished piece measures about 14 1/2″ x 24″ x 28″ tall. The legs are made from part of the chestnut timber as well, and have a slight taper.

The top begins with 3 pieces of chestnut which are glued up with tongue and groove joinery. The two “breadboard” ends are also attached with a tongue and groove joint,but I was reluctant to glue these pieces at a 90 degree angle, fearing that the joint could pull apart with expansion and contraction over the years. My solution was to add a “butterfly” to the configuration, and only the butterfly is glued in. This allows movement during expansion and contraction, but the butterfly and the tongue and groove should hold it tight.

Since I was using reclaimed, old lumber for the table, I decided to make the butterfly from some reclaimed, old lumber as well. The history of the chestnut and the pieces of teak used  for the butterfly could not be more different. The chestnut likely came from a tree which grew in southeast Virginia. It was milled there and used in construction of a building, which probably was part of a rural farming operation. The teak most likely came from a tree in southeast Asia. From there, it was cut, milled and transported to a shipyard where it became part of a ship’s deck. That ship, the USS North Carolina, saw action in every major naval operation in the South Pacific during World War II. When a new deck was installed on the battleship recently, I was able to buy a small piece of the original deck.

Both pieces of wood have had long, full lives in very different circumstances. I hope they will have equally long and full lives in their new role together as a top to this table.

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Reclaimed Chestnut Quilt Rack

First Quilt Rack

First Quilt Rack

I built a quilt rack for my sister-in-law not too long ago. I designed it to be built from reclaimed wormy chestnut which I had gotten in Southwest Virginia. The design incorporated an inlay piece featuring a quilt square of maple and padouk woods. The overall look was a nod to the Arts and Crafts style. I was happy with that original piece, and have just put the finishing touches on a second quilt rack, which carries forward most of the design elements. This piece, too, is made from reclaimed wormy chestnut from the same supplier.

Second Quilt Rack

Second Quilt Rack

The primary difference between the two is the treatment of the end panels. The most recent piece has side panels that mimic the “cloud-lift” curves at the top. The top and bottom rails now feature a through-mortise, and have a bit of texture on the horizontal pieces holding the panels. I again used the quilt square inlay, and octagonal top cross pieces through-mortised and rotated 45 degrees.

I am not sure which one I like better. They are both lightweight and sturdy, characteristics of the chestnut. I used a coat of garnet shellac on the first one, and the second one has a bit of color from an initial coat of Danish Oil. Final finish coats on both are General Finishes Oil and Urethane.

Working with chestnut lumber is a real joy. I did have to get a little device to detect any nails and other metal in the wood. But once it is clean, it is a very easy wood to work with hand tools. It isn’t something I can find locally, but I think it is worth the time and effort to find a source.

(click on the images to get a more detailed view.)


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New Project: Kitchen Cabinets

I had been thinking that kitchen cabinets would be a good project to tackle when I retire in a few years. The cabinets in our kitchen are the original ones, and are terrible, as in (cheap) particle board and staples. The fronts were finished poorly, they used cheap hardware, and there is a significant amount of unused space that could have been  claimed by constructing custom cabinets.

The refrigerator was also original, and nearly 30 years old, so we decided to replace it when the local Sears store was closing. None of the models that would fit in our original opening were very well made. Drawers did not slide easily, lighting was poor, and it was easy to see that these refrigerators were built to be inexpensive. So, we decided to to upgrade a bit to a model that had much better hardware, LED lighting, and well-designed interior spaces. Only problem, it was about 2 inches too tall for the existing space.

First cabinets in place

First cabinets in place

Prior to taking delivery, I removed the cabinets above the refrigerator, and used this as a good excuse to begin building new ones. We immediately gained a significant amount of storage space by making the new cabinets taller, and by taking advantage of some previously wasted space where the walls meet at a 45 degree angle.

The new cabinets are made with quarter sawn oak face frames and doors on birch plywood cases. The face frames are dadoed and rabbeted to accept the cases, and pocket screws are used in blind locations to hold it together. I am using a simple Shaker rail and style bit set for the doors, which operate with Euro-style hinges. The knobs and handles are from Lee Valley’s cast bronze Arts and Crafts style suite.

So far, there are two cabinets hanging above and beside the refrigerator, with some matching shelves above the sink. Two more top cabinets are in the works, and will be done in due time. (Of course, if I were retired now, this work would go much faster!!)

Cabinet in Construction

Cabinet in Construction

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Cutting Board Fun

Cutting Boards Nearing Completion

Cutting Boards Nearing Completion

There have been a few projects taking shape in the workshop lately, including the start of a new mandolin, a couple of cabinets for the kitchen, (with several more to follow) and a mountain dulcimer.

But the fun project lately has been constructing some cutting boards. Since seeing these designs on YouTube, I have been wanting to try my hand at the “Chaotic Pattern” and “3-D” cutting boards. With some maple, walnut and cherry in hand, I began by working on a “Chaotic Pattern” board. Primarily, this design involves cutting the board apart several times at a slight angle, flipping and rearranging the pieces a little bit, and gluing the pieces back together. It quickly gets very chaotic looking. This design takes a LOT of glue. I use a plastic spreader into which I cut very small notches to spread the glue evenly and quickly on the pieces. After trimming to size and sanding very smooth, the cutting boards get flooded with food grade mineral oil as the initial finish. This is followed by a combination of mineral oil and wax (both also food grade.)

Chaotic Pattern Cutting Board

Chaotic Pattern Cutting Board

The fellow who has made the videos of building these boards has several designs that are gorgeous. My favorite, though, is the “3-D” Cutting Board. The cuts on this board are very precise, and there is a significant amount of waste generated on the way to completion. The combination of woods creates the illusion of a three dimensional surface.

Will any of these become Christmas presents? Possibly, but I wasn’t making them for anyone specific. I would almost hate to cut on these boards for fear of marring them!

"3-D" Cutting Board

“3-D” Cutting Board

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Quilt Stand

I recently traveled to Galax, VA to visit with some old friends. While there, I had the chance to go by a little place that takes old barns, etc. that are about to be torn down and salvages the wood. They had the reclaimed wood sorted by species, and had pine, walnut, oak, cedar and chestnut. Most everyone has heard about “wormy chestnut” wood – they make flooring and paneling that has the look of wormy chestnut. The chestnut at this little place was the real deal. Very wormy. Very distressed. And it had a ton of character.

Reclaimed Chestnut Lumber

Reclaimed Chestnut Lumber

Chestnut is essentially no longer available, since almost no trees have survived the blight. It is hard to tell how the wood will come out when it is as rough as this lumber was. But I had a project in mind, and was thinking that this reclaimed chestnut might be the perfect material.

I didn’t have a lot of room to transport lumber, so I only bought about 20 board feet, some about 1 inch thick, and a couple of short sections of 2 x 6. Most of the nails had been removed, though I found a few more when I got it home. My planer blades also found one that I hadn’t, but those blades were due for replacement anyway. The photo to the left shows one board planed down, with the rest of the stock as it was. (Click the photo to see a larger image.)

My sister-in-law is a quilt maker, and she has talked about making us a quilt. She does beautiful work, and we spent some time on a recent visit with her looking at fabrics and patterns. She had mentioned wanting a quilt stand, so this seemed like the stock which would make a nice, rustic one.

Quilt Stand Design

Quilt Stand Design

I really like the Mission/Arts and Crafts/ Greene and Greene styles of furniture, and draw from some of their elements in my work. So, with that as a starting point, I evaluated the wood I had bought once it was planed and trimmed of unusable sections. My design had to be constructed from the wood available. I put pencil to paper early one morning and came up with a concept — even in the age of Sketch-up, I still like the feel of a pencil on a piece of graph paper. I can use Sketch-up, but it seems that I take more time on the technicalities of the program than I do on the design. With a pencil, an eraser, and a sheet of graph paper, my thoughts stay on the design, not how to portray it on a screen. After I have a concept on paper, I can refine it in Sketch-up and put together some more readable detail drawings.

I wanted to incorporate some of the “cloud” curves of Greene and Greene, and also the simple straight lines of Stickley, into a simple, straight-forward design. I also had one idea for making a “quilt square” from wood as a decorative element. I used only reclaimed wood with the exception of the quilt square. In addition to the chestnut, the little wedges in the ends of the through tenons are made from black walnut salvaged from an old piano.

When the sawdust had cleared, here’s what was on the workbench:

Quilt Stand

Quilt Stand


Chestnut is a very easy wood to work. It is very light, cuts and planes easily, and takes a nice finish. I used a garnet shellac for the first coat, and will continue the finish process with an oil finish.

I normally use Titebond III glue for most everything I build. This piece is held together with Hide Glue, the kind that can be bought already as a liquid in a bottle. It has a much longer open time, and with all the little tenons to be glued, that was important. With the intense heat only serving to shorten the drying time of Titebond III, I was afraid that the glue would be dry before I could get it all assembled and clamped.

The worm holes, nail holes and other distressed features give the piece a rustic look. The overall dimensions turned out to be about 35″ tall, 34″ wide, and 13″ deep.



To make the wooden quilt square, I cut and glued up maple and padouk woods into a block, and then sliced it into thin sheets on the band saw. This was my first attempt at creating an inlay like this, and I am happy with the results. The design itself is a traditional quilt pattern called a diamond star.


The through tenons ended up rotated 45 degrees, and the wedge was placed vertically to mimic the triangles in the quilt design. The cross pieces were trimmed to a hexagonal shape, with the last inch or so remaining square where the tenon formed.

A couple of years ago I built a steamer trunk from quartersawn white oak. (Click HERE to see the trunk) I may try to build a similar truck from reclaimed chestnut as a future project.



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Wooden Hand Plane

Several woodworking schools have classes on building a wooden plane. I have considered signing up for a course, but haven’t been able to make the class schedule work with mine. Recently, I found some plans on line at the Popular Mechanics website:  The plans are designed to use Hock  plane irons. I thought I would try building one on my own.

Yellowheart Wooden Plane

Yellowheart Wooden Plane

I placed an order with Hock Tools and after a quick trip to the lumberyard, I had a few pieces that had potential as plane bodies: some cherry, walnut, hard maple, etc. I ended up using a piece of Yellowheart for the main body, with the sole made of Jatoba. I followed the Popular Mechanics plans for a 17″ long plane. It was actually a fairly easy project. The Hock plane iron is very heavy and thick, much thicker than a traditional plane blade. I flattened the back of the blade with a course diamond stone, and polished it with Japanese waterstones, finishing up on an 8000 grit. The blade is made with a 30 degree angle, and I polished the angle face to a mirror shine on the waterstones as well.

Construction of the plane only took a couple of days. I finished it with boiled linseed oil, and a couple coats of wax.  It turned out looking pretty nice, and it works well, too.


Here’s a video of the plane making shavings.


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The Big Ash Workbench: A Work in Progress

The top has been made flat with lots of hand planing and some sanding. The leg vise and Veritas Twin Screw end vise have been installed, and here’s a photo of my progress to this point. The cabinet underneath used to be below my old workbench, and I have built this bench around the cabinet. Though it still has its wheels, there isn’t anywhere for it to go. I plan to build a permanent base for it later. There are several other items remaining to be done, including making the square bench dogs, tweaking the vises to perfect adjustment, and finishing the piece, probably with linseed oil.

In Progress

In Progress

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Completed Roll Top Cabinet

The Completed Roll Top Cabinet

The Completed Roll Top Cabinet


The roll top cabinet is finally finished!

Antique Dentist's Desk

Antique Dentist’s Desk

As I described in an earlier post, this piece was inspired by a “Dentist’s Desk” I had seen at a friend’s house. I liked the unusual look of the roll top, with its quick vertical drop after a tight-radius curve. Most roll tops seem to drop at a much more gentle angle. I also liked the beveled fronts on the shallow drawers, and while not copied, I incorporated a similar style to this piece.

I built this cabinet from quarter-sawn white oak, which remains my favorite wood to use for furniture. It is very stable with little movement, provides a tough surface, takes a finish well, and looks great, too.

This was my first attempt at making a roll top. The concept always seemed pretty straight-forward, but I wasn’t sure how to go about making something that would actually slide up and down freely. So many roll top desks seem to be very difficult to operate. When it was nearing completion, I waxed the track the tambor rides in, and waxed the tambor itself. I was very pleased with the way it moves — it works better than I had hoped.

The piece is finished to match the kitchen table and chairs I made a few years back. (with two more chairs currently in the works.) Once sanded and assembled, I covered the cabinet with a large piece of plastic, and set a bowl of ammonia in the enclosure. The fumes from the ammonia darken the wood. The longer the exposure, the darker the piece will get. I fumed this piece for about 4 hours. When removed from the ammonia tent, (and when the smell goes away) the white oak takes on a bit of a gray tint. To bring a bit of warmer tones to the finish, I then apply a coat of garnet shellac. I used a 1.5 lb. cut of shellac, and applied it as a hand-rubbed finish. I then applied 5 coats of General Finishes Oil and Urethane, also hand-rubbed, with very light sanding between coats. The final coat was not sanded, but was followed by a coat of Renaissance Wax.

The piece appears to have doors at the bottom. This is actually a drawer front, designed to hold a recycling container. I am not sure what inspired this little design detail, but it works well.

Door Front Drawer for Recycling.

Door Front Drawer for Recycling.

Completed Cabinet with Roll Top Open

Completed Cabinet with Roll Top Open

Roll Top Cabinet with Top Closed

Roll Top Cabinet with Top Closed












I am pleased with the way the cabinet turned out. One other little feature which I have not photographed yet is a “charging station” which goes inside the roll top to the left of the dividers. This  has USB and 110v plug-ins for charging phones, tablets, cameras etc. I will try to get a picture of that soon.

This was a fun project to take on, from design through completion. I got my first experience making tambor for the roll top, I got to use my 18″ band saw to resaw the wood for the side panels, I made a jig to cut the bevels on the drawer fronts, got a lot of use from my recently-acquired smoothing plane, and managed to match the finish on other pieces. With a little modification, this design could easily become a desk (like the piece that inspired it) or even a stand up desk. The basic dimensions for this piece are: 53″ tall (38″ to the inside top surface) x 34″ wide x 18″ deep.

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Computer Stand

A friend asked me to build him a stand to use for his desktop PC with some room underneath for a small subwoofer.  Here is the stand ready for delivery:

Computer Stand

Computer Stand

The stand is built from red oak. The size was specified by my friend, with the finished piece standing about 17 inches tall, and with a top measuring about  27 x 16. The finish began with a sanding sealer, followed by a walnut stain and completed with about 5 coats of General Finishes Oil and Urethane. A couple coats of Renaissance Wax brought up a nice, deep shine.

I softened the edges on much of the piece by chamfering the edges and corners.

Chamfered corner and edges

Chamfered corner and edges

And, I used some fun joinery to construct the piece. The bottom shelf is notched at each leg, and the legs are mortised to accept the shelf.  The very bottom of the legs are tenoned to fit a square mortise in the base. The top of each leg has a bridle joint to accept a top crosspiece.

I have used bridle joints now on several projects, including a dining room table and even on my current workbench. It is a very effective way of joining a vertical piece to a horizontal one in a very strong and stable manner.

This project was built with both power and hand tools. It was a fun project to design and build, since it incorporated a variety of processes. One of my original design criteria was to construct it with no mechanical fasteners — and I nearly succeeded with that. In the end, I used screws and metal clips to fasten the top to the undercarriage. This arrangement allows the top to expand and shrink in various environmental conditions without cracking or buckling. After looking at many other methods of attaching the top, I thought this way was best.



Here are some photos showing various components in construction:

pc stand 04

Mortise on leg to accept the bottom shelf


Legs fit into mortises

Legs fit into mortises

 Bridle joint at top of leg

Bridle joint at top of leg

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Gavel and Block

It has been years since I have turned anything on a lathe, but when I got a request to make a gavel I thought I would give it a try. I borrowed a friend’s mini-lathe, with the understanding that I would sharpen his set of turning tools in exchange. I glued up some stuff from my scrap box —  an assortment of white oak, padouk, katata and ash.

I found out something about the block, or “sound block,” as it is sometimes called. By hollowing out underneath, you can make the sound much louder.

The finish is just a light Danish oil treatment, followed by a couple coats of Renaissance Wax.

Here is the result:

Gavel and Block

Gavel and Block


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