Making progress as you can see!

Making progress as you can see!

The past couple of days have been productive on this project.  Before my neighbor helped put it up on my workbench I had cut and sized the pieces of reclaimed fence boards used on the top and for the banding around it.  These have been planed on the underside to create a smooth glue surface.  Glues and #18 brads secure them to the plywood substrate.  I needed my neighbors help to slide the drawer unit between the legs to begin cutting the reclaimed material for that.  In the first blog about this project I explained the process of making the drawer unit.  The top was left off of it to make fitting the drawers easier.

These drawers are machine dovetailed, something my students are probably aghast over!

TVStand-ReclaimedWood-WoodworksbyJohn-DrawerFitting-3Not all work calls for hand cut dovetails but I will tell you that I don’t use this very often. Matter of fact, the jig I use I bought in the early 1970’s, it’s a Craftsman and old enough to be found on eBay, check out this LINK.  Same goes for the router, it’s also an oldie from Sears listed as a commercial grade with a 3/4″ h.p. motor.  When you think of all the choices you have these days for woodworking tools it’s hard to believe that Craftsman was one of the major players in those days.  I remember buying this router in 1972 or so.

How's that go?

How’s that go?

Now days I keep it set up with a dovetail bit and as you can see, have the original instructions that came with it.  Good thing too because I use it so seldom I couldn’t recall how to lay out the parts.  I begins with cutting your groove for the drawer bottom to keep from getting confused.  The pieces are placed in the jig “inside out” so labeling the parts as the directions say to do is essential.  Oldie but a goodie and still serviceable.  Pretty darn noisy though — ear protection required!

After they were glued up and dry, a coat of shellac was applied to them as well as the inside of the drawer space.  That will provide an odor free layer of protection for the drawer, I usually wax these as well.  When ever I use metal slides I use a full extension, ball bearing unit made by Dynoslide.  I get them from Woodworkers Emporium and they are rated for 100 pounds.  Here’s my process:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once I was happy with the drawer action the top of the drawer unit was glued and screwed into place.  Now it’s time to begin attaching the reclaimed fence boards.  I decided to rip a clean, smooth edge on them to make a cleaner joint.  As I mentioned, these are glued and nailed to the Maple plywood substrate.  The banding was then mitered and applied around the top.

Notching bottom boards to fit around legs

Notching bottom boards to fit around legs

The drawer unit will need to have the boards nailed on after it is in place between the legs.  The plan is to pre-finish those boards and glue/nail them on once it’s screwed in position.  To cut the notches for the leg I used a Japanese style razor saw.  Markings don’t show on these boards so a piece of tape is put on so I can see what I’m supposed to cut.  I was able to select one board with some interesting grain pattern for the front of the drawer unit.  I know it’s a rustic piece but I still want that continous grain pattern flowing across the front from drawer to drawer.  It’s really hard to see in this picture, the first step of the finish procedure was using a wire brush to remove all of the dirt (and who knows what else!) from the board.  Next it will receive multiple coats of clear, satin varnish.

Drawer Unit

Drawer Unit

We just had a rain storm move in, not too good for shooting the finish tomorrow so there may be a slight delay.  Hope not because I received the Bubinga for the next project — a Mechanical Cellarette.

Posted in Recycled Wood Furniture | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

All the Parts Have Arrived!

Finally, it’s time to begin work on the TV stand that it seems like I’ve been planning for a very long time!  When I accepted this commission there was a source for recycled fence boards here in Las Vegas.  I purchased a few of them, made a mock up, and then presented this to my client.  He approved the design and gave me the customary 50% down deposit.  However, when I went to pick up the required fence boards they were completely out!  They come from somewhere in California and it was several weeks before their supply was replenished.  Finally got them and they were different sizes and soaking wet.  After stacking them with stickers to dry out in the shop they are now workable.

Leg Bracket Error

Leg Bracket Error

The other hold up was getting the legs fabricated.  I sent my client some sources from Etsy and he picked out a style he liked from Blue Ridge Metalworks.  Since they were located in North Carolina I expected the shipping costs to be huge but was pleasantly surprised as they were considerably less expensive than the few local sources I contacted.  We did have a few problems with tracking numbers and forgetting to add a brace for the drawer unit but the owner, Jon, was quick to actually call me when asked.  He explained some growing pains due to expansion of the business and corrected the problems quickly.  Only slight concern I had was with a bracket being welded on that was proud of the leg by about 1/4″.  Luckily I was able to take away some of the wooden rim to make it fit as it should — much easier to chisel wood than it is to grind metal!

Finally, the actual construction of this piece can begin and started with creating one relatively smooth surface on the underside of the fence boards.  Since these are recycled I suppose you could call them old growth Redwood — just like the fence boards I used to cut working at Silvera Lumber in the 60’s!  Next up was sizing the plywood to fit the legs. Mass produced furniture uses MDF which is heavy, doesn’t hold screws very well, and also doesn’t have much structural strength to it. TelevisionStand-ReclaimedWood-WoodworksbyJohn-TrackSawI use domestic, 3/4″, shop grade Maple plywood.  To me the extra expense is justified by giving my clients a quality piece of furniture.  Breaking down those 4′ x 8′ sheets began with my old school track saw.  Although you can find many hi-tech versions on Amazon, this simple shop made guide combined with a Porter-Cable trim saw gets the job done.

Mock up and first visual

Mock up and first visual

The top of this piece is pretty straight forward as you can see in this first mock up of it.  It measures 20″ x 65″, there’s an edging glued/nailed to thicken and reinforce the edge.  Yes, any of my students reading this I used glue and a brad gun for this!  There will be two drawers in the unit below which I decided to make as a torsion box for stability and strength.  Since there is a span of five feet, this unit needs to be stable in order for the drawers to work properly.  Although I’m known for hand tool woodwork and joinery, when working with sheet goods glue and screws are in order.  I imagine this torsion box assembly could have been simply glued and nailed.  I’ve been accused of over-building but I’d rather have that reputation than one of cutting corners!

Since there are drawers here it’s critical that the assembly is square.  All holes were first pre-drilled and countersunk on the drill press.  These were then assembled into U-shaped pieces that will define the drawer spaces:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After these 3 assemblies dried it was time to attach them squarely to the bottom of the drawer unit.  This began by using the same setup on the drill press to pre-drill the holes.  They are glued/screwed on the outside edge only, the drawer sides are left loose to allow for any adjustments for squareness.  As you can see, all went according to plan.  Before attaching the top I’ll install the drawers and full extension slides, it’ll be much easier that way then working in a closed up area.  The drawer space is approximately 5″ high by 16″ wide and 12″ deep.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next phase will be making the drawers.  These will be made of 1/2″ Poplar with Baltic Birch plywood for the bottoms.  I know I’ve probably shocked some of my students in the construction process for this piece but I’ll also be machine cutting the dovetails for the drawer —- there are times and projects that call for modern processes rather than traditional hand work.  I promise, the other project I’ve accepted will feature more traditional work!

Posted in Recycled Wood Furniture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

So Many Projects — Thank Goodness, Plenty of Time!

No doubt you’ve heard that adage that warns us to be careful what we wish for?  Well my work had hit a low spot, probably due to the holidays, so I decided it was time to begin work on the John’s Armoire project I’ve had a few blogs about.

John's Armoire Plan

John’s Armoire Plan

After drawing the plans up and driving to Woodworkers Source in Arizona work began on this project.  Work that is designed to stretch my abilities which is something I always want.  If you’ve been following the blog you know the progress that I’ve made.  Towards the end of December I accepted two other commissions, both of which are fairly large so the shop would be pretty crowded if I attempted to work on all of them at the same time.  Luckily, they need parts that are outsourced so I should be able to space the work out — self discipline will be required.

One of these projects is a media stand that will feature a top and drawer section made of reclaimed fence boards. I just received the metal legs for them this evening so now it’s time to start work on this project.  I will blog it as work progresses.  The other project is for sideboard with a hidden liquor compartment. It will be made of Bubinga which I ordered from Woodworkers Source in Arizona.  The shipping shows it should arrive by the end of the week but the heart of this project is an appliance lift manufactured by Auton.  It’s been ordered and should be here in about 2 more weeks.  So that leaves me with a day to finish up what I can on the Armoire until it needs to be put aside for my paying customers.

I chose to make this a final day to work on the Armoire.  You may recall that it is made of Genuine Mahogany and I purchased all 8/4 material so I could resaw and build up the panels.  These panels are about 3/8″ thick and since they’re 16+ inches wide will require flattening with the use of hand planes only.  That’s okay with me because incorporating  hand planed surfaces is a feature of my furniture.  You know too, that I’ve recently experimented with adding video’s to this blog.  Thought this might be a good time to see how that works out so please, let me know your thoughts.

After setting up the camera on a tripod, the first panel I’ll attempt is the one that goes on the middle section.  It only measures 9 7/16″ x 16 1/4″ so is a good candidate for my first attempt at working this Genuine Mahogany.  These are only 3/8″ in thickness so flattening may be the wrong word to use, they’ll probably always have a bit of curvature to them but since they fit into a 1/4″ wide by 5/16″ deep dado they should be fine.

My glue of choice for laminating up panels is Gorilla Glue, I’ve never had a failure and I like the fact that it will not show a glue line when the panel is finished.  Also, the squeeze out from the polyurethane glue scraps right off without any problem.  After surfacing the boards to a uniform thickness they were glued up and the process began.  Here I’m using my Lie-Nielsen #5 Jack Plane to begin the process.  The corners are radiused slightly to reduce any tendency for the corners of the blade to dig into the wood.  Something I enjoy as a woodworker is the sound of the plane as it takes whisper thin shavings off of the wood:

For some reason, the center of the panel where the glue line is was a bit lower.  I placed a thin shim below the center of the panel to raise and support it.  Then, took a deeper cut with the plane, became a bit aggressive which got the job done as you can see here:

After smoothing out the aggressive cut, slightly deeper cut to level the glue line the final smoothing was done with a #5 Bronze smoother, again from Lie-Nielsen.  I’ll make no apologies, I’m a huge fan of theirs and shamefully promote their tools to my students. That being said though I encourage them to work their way up to a quality tool, I think you can learn a lot of technique honing your skills with lesser quality tools.  Then when your skill level and love for the craft warrant it it’s time to buy the very best.  This is the final video:

Dry Fit, Loving the Wood!

Dry Fit, Loving the Wood!

Of course, now I had to do a trial fit to see how the panel looks after rabbeting the back of it to fit into the groove.  As I suspected, there is a “wave” to the panel but it’s easy enough to fit into the groove.  I’ll cut a slight chamfer on the tongue part of the panel to make glue up as stress free as possible.  Refer to the plan at the beginning of this blog, this is the center section of the Armoire.  You may notice the mortises at the bottom of this picture for the drawer stretchers.  The top of the small drawers fits into the bottom of the stretcher in this photo.  Can’t hardly wait to begin assembly and oiling of this piece but paying customers always come first!



Posted in Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Johns Armoire | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of Tools and Wood

As I was thinking about this blog my initial plan was to make it a scathing one dealing with the lack of quality found in woodworking tools today.  These thoughts came about as I was working with my hand tool class, trying to teach them how to properly sharpen and then set up a woodworking plane.  The frustrations many of them had were due to the poor quality of the machining of those tools!  Incredible, I wouldn’t allow anything like those to leave my shop, even when I taught junior high school wood shop I demanded that my students work had a certain level of quality to them.  It really saddens me to see that the quality of a tool is trumped by the profit margin.  I’m well aware of the adage “time is money” and utilize it in my own commissions but, that being said; my bottom line is the quality of my work.  I suppose that being a one man shop makes that easier than being a large company with the “bean counters” cutting corners wherever possible to boost the bottom line.  After the students had left, I was talking with Jamie, the owner of Wood It Is where I’m teaching the class.  It does seem that the quality of so-called entry level hand tools is lacking.  It’s very hard for someone to spend upwards of $100.00 plus for a tool when they don’t know whether or not they’ll even enjoy woodworking.  On the other hand though, if they purchase a poor quality tool chances are they’ll be so frustrated trying to use it that they’ll give up.  It’s a conundrum for sure!


1970's era chisel

1970’s era chisel

I just sold my Stanley Jack Plane that I bought in the late 60’s and have built many pieces with for $60.00.  Probably more than what I paid for it back then but it has a relatively high degree of quality.  I sold it to one of my students and am sure it will serve him well.  I was looking at my first set of chisels that I used to knock out 2″x4″‘s for let in braces when I was a carpenter.  You can see the top of the handle is all chewed up from the framing hammer but it can still be sharpened, hold a pretty decent edge, and mortise out for a door hinge.



This really is a pretty pointless rant, I just wish that those who want to get into hand tool woodworking were able to buy some decent quality tools to get them started without having to take out a second on their home.  If any of you have tool recommendations I’d love to hear them and share them with the class.  We’ll be meeting for the next 5 Saturdays so give it some thought — thanks!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Things I’ve Read Now Put to the Test

I doubt that I’m the only woodworker out there that subscribes to a number of woodworking sites that send out information and, of course; lots of invitations to either buy or subscribe to something.  Even though the commercial part of it is annoying it does expose you to a number of ideas and processes you would otherwise not know about.  That’s why I’ve titled this blog “Things I’ve Read Now Put to the Test“.  For the most part  the advice I give students when asked about how to do something is to investigate all the resources they can, then come up with their own method and perfect that.  I suggest too, to put on a pair of blinders because that information we get via the internet always claims  to have the best, easiest, way to do anything!

In my opinion, Fine Woodworking Magazine is the most reputable source of information out there.  I bought my first issue when I was in the Industrial Arts department at San Francisco State and about 8 years ago sold my complete collection to a collector!  I now have an on-line membership and check out the latest issues from the library for reading.  In any case, I’d like to talk about some articles that came to mind as I was preparing for the upcoming Hand Tool Class.  The first was one by Michael Peckovich and had to do with a method he came up with to help his students as they cut dovetails.

Clear Pine; Radiata

Clear Pine; Radiata

It came to mind as I was making the project for the class, a dovetailed box made of Radiata Pine. This is a species I hadn’t heard of before and if you click the link you’ll find that it is a fast growing species of Pine which explains its’ very soft characteristic.  My guess is that it is fed copious amounts of fertilizer to yield a fast growing but not very stable wood.  See the picture at the right, I was dismayed to see how the end grain “chunked out” rather than cut cleanly like a harder wood tends to do.  There’s a belief that softwoods are easier to work with than hardwoods which I believe and this experience proves that!  With sharp chisels the edge grain can be cut cleanly and since that’s where the glue strength comes in I can’t be concerned with the appearance of the cut between the pins and tails.  I tend to worry about how the students will work with this and that’s when I remembered the masking tape trick.  Getting a clean scribe into this Radiata Pine is difficult due to its softness.  The technique Michael Peckovich described used painters tape, he found that the tape not only gave the students a better visual it also seemed to act as a stop for the dovetail saw as the joint was cut, you know what; it seems to work!

Pin board taped, ready to scribe

Pin board taped, ready to scribe

Cuts made, ready to chisel out waste



The process begins by putting a layer of painters tape on the end of the pin board.  I needed to re-scribe the shoulder line.  The tails are then transferred to the pin board and the tape is removed from the area that will be cut away.




As I began cutting to the line it was a bit easier to hold the saw onto the waste side of it.  Due to the soft nature of this wood, scribing a clean, crisp line was difficult so the tape actually acted like a barrier of sorts to help begin the cut.



This is the initial fit after chopping out the waste between the pins.  Really not too bad if I do say so myself!  It’ll be very interesting to see if my experience with the class is similar to the one discussed in the article — certainly hope so!



MDF Caul

MDF Caul

Another method I wanted to try prior to the class was to use soft pine as cauls for the glue up.  This is another “Things I’ve Read Now Put to the Test“. The usual way I go about this is to make cauls from some scrap material that has sections removed so that there is only pressure on the tails and the pins, which are slightly proud, have somewhere to go, here’s an example of one.  I’ll take a piece of MDF or scrap, mark the tail locations, remove them with a series of cuts on the tablesaw, and finally cut them into strips as shown.  This way clamping pressure is placed on the tails and the pins, which are usually slightly proud, have somewhere to go as the clamp applies pressure.

I recall reading an article in Fine Woodworking that mentioned using soft pine for the cauls because it’s soft enough for the pins to “dent” into when clamping the box together. Thought to give that a try as well, much easier to put packaging tape on a piece of soft pine than it is cutting grooves.  The other thing to try during the glue up came from yet another “Things I’ve Read Now Put to the Test” and that was just start the box assembly and apply glue to the sides of the tails only.  After seeing how the end grain “chunked out” from the Radiata Pine there certainly wouldn’t be any glue strength there!

Glue up

Glue up



For this project bar clamps were supported on some blocks.  After partially assembling the box my glue of choice; Old Brown Glue, is applied to the long grain sides of the pins and the box is clamped together being sure to check for square.


Clamped up with soft Pine cauls

Clamped up with soft Pine cauls

The soft Pine cauls that I’m experimenting with are covered with packaging tape to prevent the any glue from sticking to it.





Soft Pine caul with pin impressions

Soft Pine caul with pin impressions

After drying over night I wanted to see if the theory went into practice and if you look closely at this photo you’ll notice the impression of the pins in the Pine, it worked!

That’s all for this blog but these are things I can share with my class that starts tomorrow (1/17) at 11:00 am.  The class is more skill based than project based, looking forward to meeting with them and sharing my woodworking passion with them.

Posted in Hand Cut Dovetails, Hand Tool Woodworking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back in Teacher Mode

Well, I received an email from Jamie, the owner of Wooditis here in Las Vegas yesterday that the Hand Tool Class I’m scheduled to teach is a go, there is a full class sign ups so this will be fun!  Here is a LINK to the class announcement, the picture she put in there of me is from a show and tell session we had at one of our monthly, Sin City Woodworkers meetings.  The school is located in the general vicinity of the North Las Vegas Airport and I’ve taught a few other classes there over the years.  It’s a great venue to share my love of woodworking with others.  Funny thing about teaching — many times being the teacher I learn new things too!  The focus will be sharpening and setting up your tools, planing wood square/smooth, and cutting joinery by hand.  The initial project is a bench hook which is over built but will teach those things.  We’ll also be making a dovetailed box.

Last Saturday I also had a full class at a seminar on setting up, sharpening, and usage of hand planes.  This was part of Woodworkers Emporiums, Second Saturday events.  Had 11 attendees and felt it went quite well.  There does seem to be a resurgence of people interested in the hand tool aspect of woodworking.  With all of this it means the Armoire has to take a back seat but there are my two commissions in progress too.  Both of those are on hold until the parts that are being “out-sourced” arrive.  For the media table I’m waiting on the metal legs and the mechanical cellarette is waiting for the lift mechanism.  Good to be busy, keeps a man out of trouble!

Posted in Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking | Leave a comment

Dowel Making Video: My First Hi-Tech Attempt

Never stop learning, experimenting, and pushing yourself that’s my mantra!  Probably what lead me from running 10K’s, to marathons, and then trail ultras of 50-100 miles but isn’t that what life is for?  The next step on the Armoire will be to begin the complicated assembly process and the first step are the draw bored mortise and tenon sections that make up the drawer frame.  I thought I had some Walnut laying around but was wrong!  Luckily, I had a meeting with Jamie of WoodItIs to discuss my upcoming Hand Tool Class and asked her if by chance, she had a scrap piece of Walnut I could have.  Lucky for me she did, I needed to make the pegs/dowels for the joints.

Thinking that this would make a good tutorial entry for the blog I was somewhat stymied as to how to present it.  Lupe has made videos of demonstrations at our Sin City Woodworkers meetings and even opened a YouTube account to post them.  The members of the club enjoy those so I thought let’s give it a try.  I’d be interested in any feedback from you blog readers giving me any opinions or critique — didn’t realize that the sound would come through too, hope you like classic rock!

Step 1:  The process begins by cutting square material for the dowels.  In the past I’ve used the tablesaw but that’s a bit dicey so chose the bandsaw which is much safer for this step.  If you check out this previous post on dowel making where I used the tablesaw  ‘m sure you’ll agree!  The size needed is 3/16″ and you need to experiment a little to get the fence set correctly.  Too large and it’s hard to get the piece through the dowel plate, too small and you end up with facets on the dowel.  It ended up that the stock is about 13/64″ square, heres the first step:

Step 2:  The next step is one that really helps the process.  I’ve made what I call a “dowel sled” which is nothing more than a piece of MDF fashioned into a bench hook with a V-groove in it.  The square piece that comes off of the bandsaw is placed in it so a block plane can take off the corners turning it into an octagon — this makes putting it through the dowel plate much easier.  The hand motion of holding the piece in the sled while planing is the key.  This step ends with the use of a pencil sharpener at the end of the octagon:

Step 3:  Next up is making the actual dowel.  I’m using a dowel plate from Lie-Nielsen which is inset into a pretty fancy yet substantial holder.  To me, this is nicer than just having the plate float around on top of your bench.  A dead blow mallet works well here as well as supporting the stock while you gently “beat it” through the hole.

Step 4:  Here is a close up of the final step to this process.  You can see that the top split off so it’s best to make your pieces longer than the dowel you’ll eventually need.

Now that this is all said and done I must admit it was a huge learning experience figuring out how to first take the video but then upload to YouTube and insert into this post.  Appreciate any of your comments; good, bad, or indifferent so I can improve where needed, hope you enjoyed it!


Posted in Hand Tool Woodworking, Johns Armoire, Tool Sharpening, YouTubeVideo | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments