26 December 2020

Incremental Progress Makes Me Smile

 I started woodworking 5 years ago.  Most of my learning has come from Paul Sellers and some from going to LieNielsen events once a year when the come to town.  I happily toil away in my workshop.  Most of the time, concerned/frustrated/angry of some imperfection in what I am trying to achieve.  Certainly, things are better now than they were 5 years ago when I started.  

Today I was finishing up a simple piece of pine.  It is angle on the long axis as well as one of the short edges.  This piece will be replacing the original locking piece on my Japanese tool chest.  The first lock either shrank when it dried or wasn't wide enough to begin with.  This pieces remedies this.  

There is nothing really complex about this.  What I noticed today however was that as I was applying the shellac, I didn't see brush strokes as I had in past projects.  I've gotten much better than say 2 years ago at applying finish.  When trying to get one edge to 90 degrees, it was initially giving my fits and then I just used some tricks I've learned along the way.  Suddenly it dawned on me, I've gotten better than I was 2 years ago.  I apply finish better, I can straighten a board more quickly.  I felt good for a few minutes to notice I have improved.  Life is good.

19 December 2020

Is it bigger than a breadbox?

My wife has been asking for a breadbox for the kitchen for a while.  Since I recently finished a half size dimension (1/8th volume if you do the math) Anarchist Tool Chest, I am looking for another project.  This seemed like the perfect project to start.  Below the initial sketch I prepared.  It is heavily influenced by the Wood Magazine Arts and Craft Nightstand (Nov 2004, issue 159) I built for my daughter not that long ago.  

I will need to refine the design a bit.  It should be interesting to see what the final product looks like.  My wife has given specs in terms of how the bread must be stored length and height wise so that provides some of the criteria.  I like have certain specs it needs to meet.  I'm hoping to make this out of cherry and maple and finish with shellac.  I think I have enough spare wood around so it won't require purchasing new wood.  Wish me luck.  I will share it when it's finished (probably 3 months from now given how slow I work).

12 December 2020

Delightful Little Hammer


Lie Nielsen used to come once a year to my area for a woodworking show.  I'd go and learn a lot of how to woodworking.  Next to Paul Sellers videos, this was the second source for learning how to woodwork.  Often there would be a few other vendors that would show up.  One of them is Kevin Drake from the Glen Drake Tool Company.  I always make it a point to buy something from him.  Kevin, in our interactions at this show, is how I learned to saw well.  I am very grateful for that.  About a year and a half ago, I attended a LN show and bought this little hammer.  I didn't really need another hammer as I am quite happy with the Thor hammer I use that Paul Sellers recommends but I bought it anyway to support the Glen Drake Tools.  I am a big fan of trying to be conscious of where I spend my dollars.  The Glen Drake Tool company is one business I like to support.

I like the way this hammer sits in my hand and how the weight is balanced directly in my hand.  The design also aligns nicely without having to look at the hammer.  It works really well for dovetails.  Lately I've been having some ergo issues due to working at home and my elbow has been bothering me (it's getting better).  Having the head closer to my hand reduces torque and reduces discomfort in my elbow right now.  Something to keep in mind if your elbow has been bothering you.

It's delightful to use.  In fact, all of the Glen Drake tools I've bought have been top notch.  Just to be clear, I've paid retail price for all of my tools from Glen Drake (and from all tool makers for that matter).

05 December 2020

I married well

 Recently, my wife and I celebrated a wedding anniversary.  She bought me this little ax for spoon carvings, etc.  Needless to say, I was very happy.  I indeed married well.

So why the ax?  When I go to my in-law's cabin, I'd like to relax by doing some sort of woodworking.  I thought it might be a good opportunity to do slightly different woodworking than I do at home.  As such, when I visit, I am going to carve spoons, bowls, and carve little figures.  The kit of tools and wood needed is small and I will enjoy it.

Of course, this has to wait till we are both vaccinated from Covid-19.  My in-laws are in a high risk group and I don't want to risk them getting sick. 

28 November 2020

Geppetto's Workbench

 In 2018, we surprised our daughter one day after school and drove down to Disneyland for a long weekend.  She is at an age where it is a delight for her to be there.  It is a delight for my wife and I to relive the experience through her.  Normally, I don't buy anything for myself.  One day, we were near the main entrance and there was a high end store full of items such as artwork.  While wandering about, we came across a resin cast version  of Geppetto's workbench.  It is a small box (about 6" long) that opens up.  The person I talked to knew the artist who carved it.  Was a friend of her mom's.  I was very excited to find this. If you every happen to have a reason to be at the happiest place on earth, keep an eye out for it.  

21 November 2020

Nailed It!

     Or so the phrase goes for a cooking competition show goes that wife likes to watch.  In Fine Woodworking, Ben Strano did a video earlier this year on a container organization system he uses for small parts.  


     My nails and screws were getting out of hand in little boxes or bags.  As such, I ordered some.  I really like them.  I had used a bunch of small nails not that long ago and was getting a bit low.  As such, I went and bought a bunch more to top off what I have.  The individual boxes of nails don't cost much.  It's mostly the hassle of going to a store to get them.  As such, when I got to buy some, I tend to stock up on other sizes.  I also have a collection of cut nails.  They come handy from time to time.  I try to keep some general woodworking/around the home supplies in the house so I don't need to rush out to the store for something.  When I order hinges from Horton, I typically order a few more to slowly build up some internal home inventory.  Having extras around for some reason give me great peace of mind.

14 November 2020

Advent Calendar - My First Design

In Jan 2020, my wife and I were sitting at our church's hall having a pancake breakfast.  2019 had been a good year.  We were reminiscing about Christmases past.  We both really enjoyed as kids the simple advent calendar's of the 1970s.  Each day you would peel open a door, see something nice or get a small treat.  It also allowed us as kids to countdown the days till Christmas.  My wife mentioned that she would really like one for our daughter.  On the back of a church bulletin I sketched out something (Figure 1).  The two design elements I wanted to capture were the secular and non-secular aspects of the holiday.  The choice of maple and cherry door fronts allowed for a cross to be seen.  The vertical approach of the 25 days/boxes allowed for the image of a tree.  It's my first design.

When I say my design, I mean that I didn't find any direct inspiration for it.  It is such an obvious and simple design for an advent calendar that I am sure somewhere someone has done something very similar to this.  If you happen to know of one, please comment below as I'd love to see it.

Figure 0 - The final product.

Figure 1 - The sketch during that initial breakfast conversation.

After the initial sketch, I did a more detailed sketch with dimensions, etc.  The second sketch was bit more refined but essentially the same thing.  I thought half inch thick stock would work well.  For the back I decided to use quarter inch thick cherry that would reside in clever rebates (more on this later).

I work with hand tools.  I don't enjoy dimensioning wood by hand (especially thickness).  I have a local place that will provide S4S to my specifications.  I broke down the stock using my favorite holdfast and gave the wood a quick hand plane finish to remove any marks left by machines.  

Figure 2 Stock prep

A total of 60 housing dados (they go by various names) would be needed.  Critical to this project would be alignment of the vertical pieces.  I used a pair of dividers to mark them off with the wood ganged up. and transferred knife lines on each piece while still together.  I also took the time to mark x's on where the dado would go so that I didn't cut a dado on the wrong side.  Even so, I came close a few times.  If you open two of the drawers there is a knife line on the wrong side of where the dado needed to go.  Such is life.  

I enjoy using a router plane which is good because I had a lot of them to do.  I either sawed or chiseled down the sides then used a chisel to remove the bulk of the waste and then used my router plane. I developed a rhythm and flow for this which was very nice.  It became very peaceful work.  In order to ensure a snug fit, all of the vertical pieces were numbered and custom fit to a specific dado.  

You will notice in the third photo below that the horizontal sizes are longer at the extreme ends of each level than all of the others.  That way, without much effort, I effectively have a housing dado in the back of the piece without having to carve out groves.  Technically, the top and bottom of each is only flush but that is ok.

Figure 3 Lots of housing dado work in progress

Now with the housing dados done, I needed to round over the ends on the sides.  I practiced on some scraps to get the number of plane swipes sorted out for the round over I wanted.  After doing that, I then used a bit of sandpaper to make the round over smooth.  It was reasonably quick and easy to do this.

I decided to not have drawer for each compartment.  That would have been a lot of work and not really added any value to the functionality of this piece.  I just needed to create a door.  I decided to recess the door in by about an 1/8".  By avoiding it being flush to the front, I avoided having to fix any that weren't perfectly flush.  To provide a positive stop for the door, I glued  some 1/8" thick cherry to the vertical dividers.  It was simple but took a while to come up with it.  

Figure 4 Side spacers to register door depth.

For the doors I was going to create, I didn't want to rely just upon friction for them to stay in place.  After much though, I did a mockup in which I drilled a hole in the underside of the horizonal piece, affixed a rare earth magnet, and then used a screw in the top of the door.  It was strong enough to hold the door in place.  Then, it was just a matter of marking out and drilling holes and adding magnets.  I worried about drilling through but I was careful and that didn't happen.  

Figure 4 Mock up and Magnets so doors stay in place beyond just friction

Glue up with fun to say the least.  I decided to do one row at a time, let it dry overnight, then glue up the next row.  That worked reasonable well.  I used TiteBond 3 as it's my go to glue.  I use it because when it dries, the color is closer to cherry than other glues.  If I had to glue it over again, I probably would go with a liquid hide glue for longer open times.  This is the first time in my life where I used all of my clamps.  In fact, for the last row, I had to go out and purchase two more clamps.  I hate the quote "you can never have too many clamps."  In this project, I needed more; sigh.

As for the doors themselves, I used long pieces of maple and cherry and carefully numbered them so there is continuous grain across.  Most won't notice this but it makes me happy. The final width and length sizing of the doors was done by using a shooting board.  I didn't want to make it so snug that it would be difficult to open. Since I was working when it was near our most humid max, I didn't need to account for expansion.  The kiln dried wood had also sat in my shop for 6 months so I know it was acclimatized.

Figure 5 Sizing the doors.

The last remaining woodworking involved ripping 1/4" cherry to width and length for and then screwing it in place (Figure 6).  After that it was a matter of finishing the project.  I went to my default favorite, garnet shellac for the cherry and blond shellac for the maple.  This was then followed by paste wax.

Figure 6  Attaching the back with screws.

All in all it took a bit more than 100 hours to make.  No doubt it will get a lot of use in my family by us and then hopefully by my daughter when she is grown.  My wife is very happy and proudly displays it on the fireplace mantle.

Figure 7  Finished product.  My wife is happy (and so am I).

07 November 2020

My Strop Saves the Day

I've been working on making a mini-anarchist tool chest.  I finished the lower skirting and was working on the upper skirting dovetails.  I noticed my chisel wasn't pairing endgrain very well.  I needed to get inside the house and prepare dinner (actually was a bit late for this).  Yet, I wanted to finish pairing the endgrain on the dovetails.  I took out the strop, gave the chisel 30 passes then used it.  The chisel behave completely differently.  Before it didn't want to cut the endgrain unless I used excessive force.  Now, it paired the endgrain like it should.  As I finished working for the evening I was proud of myself for 1. realizing the tool wasn't working like it should (i.e. sensitivity in my work) and 2. stropping can reestablish and edge.  It was a nice way to cap off the evening.

31 October 2020

Easy Way to Keep my Marking Knives Sharp

I have been woodworking about 5 years now and realize sharpness is very important.  I don't like sharpening any more than the next person.  I've found a simple solution to keep my marking knives sharp.  I bought one of those simple v notch knife sharpeners (think this one was around $25) that has a coarse and then a fine on it.  Since buying it, I sharpen my knife much more frequently than I did before.  While I'm out there sharpening my marking knife, I will often sharpen my pocket knife as well.  I am sure there are better ways to get even a finer edge but this is one that I use very frequently.  Now to get one in the kitchen.

24 October 2020

Some Assembly Required

As a hand tool woodworker, I don't like to S4S my wood.  I have a local company for a fee that will procure and provide width and thickness S4S wood for me.  In terms of length, they prefer to keep the boards at the length they get from their lumber supplier.  There is a set up fee for reach new dimension.  As such, I tend to determine what thicknesses I need as cutting to length and width isn't too difficult.  So, the widest board I need usually dictates what widths I will typically get.

Below is the starting pile to make a Shaker style chimney cupboard.  Though in theory it is kiln dried, I still like it to sit in my shop for 2 to 6 months before I use it.  This will be my next big project.  I'm very excited as I've wanted to do this for quite a few years and I finally feel that my skills are at a level to accomplish this.  My guess is that it will likely take me 200 hours to make this piece.  We shall see.

By the way, the photo shows the space I need to woodwork and it also shows how clean I typically keep things.  I am not obsessive about things but I do like to keep things tidy.  The wood arrived on short notice so I didn't do any special cleaning prior to the photo.  In a prior post I gave some other photos of the shop space (really it's garage where I park our cars).  Off to the right are a few more genuine woodworking tools (as opposed to home handyman tools) and a card table that collects junk.  Off to the left is a metal shelving system where I get about two and a half shelves to store this and some other wood.  Thought I would love my own separate wood shop, I can't complain about the space I have.  Life is good.

PS Just in case are wondering, the cost for this was $1000.  I'm guessing about half wood cost and half labor. If I divide this by the estimated 200 hours it will take me, my cost per hour of hobby fun is $5 per hour.  I have other hobbies where the cost can easily be a factor of 5 or 10 higher pre hour.  As such, I don't mind the money spent on the wood.  I do need to save it for it though.  Also, if I were really lucky, I would be able to make three projects this size a year and I doubt that's the case.  From a budgeting perspective that means if I can save $250 a month for wood, I easily cover my costs.  To help me do this, I can count on one hand the number of times per year I go to Starbucks or eat lunch out at work.  I enjoy those things as well but I enjoy the wood more.

17 October 2020

My First Painting - super fun

Back in 2019, one weekend my daughter was going to be off at the grandparents getting spoiled.  My wife and I had a long weekend to ourselves.  I found a place that does those wine and painting events and scheduled a nice date night that started with dinner.  My wife is an artist by day and hobby so she was super excited for this date.  I was looking forward to it but was a bit apprehensive as I have never painted.  It always looked hard (same way I feel about musical instruments).

It was a ton of fun.  The instructor takes you through the how to process and they and assistants area around to help. At the end of a couple of hours we had trees.  Of course we were nerdy and have branches that span across both paintings connecting them.  I carved our initials on one the tree and my wife did likewise.

If your wife suggests it, I say go for it or surprise her.  It will be a fun night.  What I liked about it was I got that same buzz and thrill as when I made my first Paul Sellers wall clock.  I was very new to woodworking and when I finished the clock I was super thrilled because it looked pretty good.  Also while doing it, at points you could feel the creative juices flowing (another thing I like about woodworking).  It's hard to get that buzz and it only took two hours of work.  I know that much like woodworking, painting is an art and that one can get better and better.  I will stick with woodworking but I will definitely take my wife on another date there.  It was too fun not to.

10 October 2020

Mid-Sized Tool Chest via Japanese Style Carpenter Box

For the past 5 years, I have been happily woodworking in my garage (my little slice of paradise).  Lately, I can see where I might want to work elsewhere.  There were two immediate drivers for this:

1.  My dad needed to rebuild his garage when a huge tree destroyed in the backyard fell over and destroyed it.  Figure 1 and 2.  When he rebuilt it, it was larger and he purchased an nice woodworking bench for hand tools.  Since he's an hour away and I visit weekly, I'd like to do some woodworking projects there.

Figure 1.  The tree that crushed my dads garage.

Figure 2.  Just to give you an idea as to how big that tree was.  The base was no more than 30 feet from the garage.  Given all the directions it could have fallen, my dad was lucky.

Figure 3.  The aftermath after most of the tree was removed.  Sadly the 56 Ford pickup took the brunt of it.  It has since been restored (at considerable expense).

2. I was planning to take a class in Jul 2020 at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking to make the Anarchist Tool Chest (ATC) (to store my other hand tools that I don't use that often or are duplicates).  I am not a tool collector but I do have more than I need (who amongst us doesn't?).  I had signed up in Nov 2019 for this class.  Who knew Covid-19 would happen.  The class was canceled.

When I started working on all of this, it was before Covid-19 was a thing.  The goal was to make a tool chest that would be of medium size and hold most of the tools I use.  It was not to be a minimalist tool kit but it wasn't to be a full blown tool chest either.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the tools I wanted and laying them out to figure out the size.  There will be a future blog on the tools in it.  I ended up wanting a tool chest with the exterior diameters of 29" long (driven mostly by saw length), 14" wide (driven by what I wanted in the bottom), and 11&1/4" tall (driven by the 1x12 material I could get).

I debated between poplar and pine.  One day at Lowe's I saw two beautiful pine boards.  Part of the edges were damaged on each (that I thought I could work around) so I got them at 50% off.  That is ultimately what drove the decision.

As to the construction design, since I would be making a large size traditional tool chest in the class (via the ATC), I wanted to do something different.  The two designs I pondered were a dutch tool chest and a Japanese style carpenter box.  Figure 4 shows my decision.

Figure 4.  My mid-sized tool box.  I used the YouTube videos by Treebangham to make this.

It was based on Treebangham's YouTube video (well worth watching for this as well as his other content):  https://youtu.be/bbeDvPNFbdI.  For Christmas 2017 I had made small versions of this as boxes.  As such, being familiar with the making process was a heavy influence.  Also, I like the simple construction design of this sturdy box.  I wanted this to be a sturdy piece.  It's beauty would be the simplicity of its design.  Also, garnet shellac as a finish would make it look good.  I debated on painting it.  Decided the ATC will be painted on the exterior.  For this shellac it would be.

As for it's construction, it's a lot of cut nails and screws.  The bottom is 3/8" plywood that is screwed on so that if need be I can replace it.

The bottom (Figure 5) holds the saws, hand planes, router, small plough plane, and a few other items.  1/2" thick strips of poplar and 3/4" thick pine off cuts were used to make spaces for the individual tools.  Then there are some runners to hold 4 small boxes made of 1/2" poplar.  Something funny happened.  I made the four poplar boxes not thinking too much about them.  When I showed my dad and brother, the commented "ooh, dovetails."  Having done handtools now for 5 years, I don't think of that as a special joint.  I mean, how else would one make a box (yes, I know there are other ways, but really).  There is a clever trick I used for the bottom that I learned from Paul Sellers videos.  I took some 3/4 pine scraps and ran 1/4" grooves in them via my small plough plane.  Then, the 1/4" bottom plywood is housed in this.  I didn't want to nail the plywood to the bottom of the box but I didn't want to go through the hassle of needing some blind dovetails.  I just made the grooved pieces, glued them in the bottom and then inserted the plywood during box glue it.  It's easy and a good solution.

Figure 5

Figure 6  The boxes that hold the top layer of tools.  Ultimately 4 boxes were organized by commonality of tools so that a box can be removed and taken to the bench.

I like the lid locking system.  It involves a piece of wood tapered along the length and width.  It's simple and holds all in place. Figure 7 & 8.  One side of the lid has an angled width making it easy to grab and the other side has a "hidden" hand grab area.  As such, it's easy to remove.  The finish is just garnet shellac on the outside and clear shellac on the inside.  I ran out of garnet shellac during the finishing process so I used what was at hand.

Figure 7 and 8.  Simple lid locking system and lid removal.

Though I haven't weighted it when full of tools, I am guessing it weights about 70 pounds.  As such, I can lift it but I wouldn't want to have to carry it far.  I had a number of ideas as to how to transport it.  Then, I lucked out.  The collapsible wagons that come up for sale time to time at Costco were a prefect fit (Figure 9).  If I were doing it over, I would definitely have taken this into consideration on the design specs.  Glad luck turned my way on this one.

In the future I will have a blog showing the tools that fit inside of it.  Given it's weight, I am already in the process of making a smaller (much closer to a minimal tool chest)  tool chest that will be based on the ATC design.  That way, in the future if I take a class on making the ATC, I will be familiar with it and that should help me in the class.  Also, that way if I don't take a class or build a full size tool chest, at least I have a mini one in that traditional design.

03 October 2020

Christmas 2019

I try and keep an eye out for projects that would make good Christmas gifts that folks would appreciate that don't take too much work per unit.  Paul Sellers had a video series on making small serving trays that work well for a coffee and a few cookies, a location to place one's key and pocket contents when coming home, or even for holding some smaller size tools.  

As such, I decided to make them (Figure 1).  I got a late start on these (end of Nov) which immediately stresses me out).  For these, I went to the local Woodcraft and purchased 1/2" thick stock.  To make things a bit more interesting to me I purchased some woods I had never worked with before (aromatic cedar, basswood, Sapele, mesquite) and some I have used a fair bit (cherry and maple).  I was curious how the new to me woods would be have.  The cedar produced amazing ribbons off the hand plane that had a really smooth feel almost as if it was plastic.    

Figure 1 Paul Sellers small wooden trays.

As for the construction itself, it is straight forward with bridle type joints and screws from the bottom.  I did a couple coats of shellac and then wax via 0000 steel wool.  They came out nice and folks loved them.

As I write this, summer is coming to an end and I have no idea for Christmas 2020 gifts.  If any of you have ideas, please leave me a comment below.  Thanks.  We shall see what happens. I don't see it as a failure if I can't come up with hand made gifts so I'm not too stressed about it.

26 September 2020

Letter to a friend

When I lived somewhere else, I ended up having a few really good friends whom I am still close to 16 years after I moved away.  One of them was like a father figure to me.  The age gap was about right.  He was a master woodworker and has had a successful business doing so.  We hadn't talked for a while so I wrote him a letter.  It sums up a lot of what I have thought about the five years so far.  Here is what I wrote:

" …. I've been steadily woodworking for the past 4 or 5 years now.  I really enjoy it.  The desk we (well mostly you) built back in 2000 was so enjoyable that I wanted to do more.  About 6 years ago I remodeled the garage (similar to what you did for my home in Everett).  I was all set to go with machine tools.  I needed to save up for a year after the remodel before I could afford the tools.  I decided I was gong to spend that time researching brands and tools I should get.  I really didn't know much about any of machine tools.  Well, during that time, I discovered hand tools and the way folks used to woodwork before machine tools became common.  It was hard to describe but I felt this huge pull to want to go this direction.  I didn't understand it at the time but I do now.  I missed working with my hands in the lab.  From about age 19 to 36, I was doing wet chemistry in the lab between schooling and work.  I really enjoyed it, more so than I realized.  In 2004, I took a job as a project manger in the biotech industry and haven't worked in the lab since.  The hand tools were a way of filling the void and it requires some level of attention to detail.

Please keep in mind I'm not trying to live in a different century.  I have done some projects (nightstand and clocks) for rough sawn boards but getting wood S4S by hand is not fun.  As such, I've found a local place in Livermore, where I live, that will mill up S4S wood to the widths and thicknesses I need.  As for lengths, they want to prepare the stock in 1o to 12 foot lengths.  That is fine.  Their prices are comparable to what I would pay at a proper lumber store for S4S.  It costs more than rough sawn wood but it takes care of the donkey work.

I've learned a lot and am "enrolled" in an online Master Class series by Paul Sellers.  Sellers has a lot of videos on YouTube.  I am not fast (couldn't do hand tools for a living) but then again it is a hobby so I don't need it to be fast.  I am at best average from a skill perspective but I find if I am patient, I can make things look pretty good.  It's been a lot of fun. I mostly work in cherry and have done a little with walnut and often will use some maple as a contrast.  Garnet shellac (sometimes called ruby shellac) is my favorite finish for cherry.

The one perk of hand tools is that I don't really need a lot of space.  I am working against one wall in the garage and have almost all my tools hanging on pegboard in front of me, under the bench, or on the side.  I have some storage shelfs in another part of the garage that I use to hold my wood. The cabinets, though nice, weren't really necessary in retrospect.  Such is life.

Attached are some images of various things I've made as well as my shop.    Next time I call (soon) we can chat more about woodworking.  I would love to see some of your recent projects.   …."

19 September 2020

Christmas 2018 & Saying Goodby to Some of My First Pieces

Two events collided in the late summer/early fall of 2018 resulting in more Christmas gifts.  After the large amount of work I experience the year before, I still wasn't that excited about making a bunch of handmade gifts.  The local school/church was going to have a Holiday Boutique.  My wife wanted us to have a booth.  She really wanted for me to make crosses with inlay.  I had want to try inlay, which I knew I could get from the local Woodcraft or Rockler.  Also, I had some scrap quarter sawn white oak that wasn't big enough for a project put perfect for making crosses.

At this point, I was three years into woodworking and I was starting to have a collection of items I had made (Paul Sellers style clocks, simple tool carriers, etc).  When I first made these items, they felt like children.   How could I ever part with them.  After having made a bunch of items, I felt ok.  Plus, whatever was left over would make good gifts for the family.

Figure 1.  The inlay crosses.

After making a few, I discovered it was easiest to run the groove, then cut to width then length and add the inlay.  I then planed smooth, cut a half law and assembeled them with glue.  Finish was my go to: several coats shellac, remove nibs with sandpaper, few more coats shellac.  Then wax via 0000 steel wool.  They came out nicer than I would have expected.  My wife loved them and I let her pick out whichever one she wanted.  Happy wife, happy life.

As for the show itself, my wife decorated the table, bought some other items to sell.   I felt happy and that we looked "professional."  As for the show itself.  It wasn't well attended.  It wasn't advertised very well and at the very last minute it was moved.  I was a bit disappointed about this but not too much.  Whatever was leftover would be family gifts so I was finished early this year.  I did sell one of my Paul Sellers clocks.  I was over the moon happy to have sold my first piece.  It was bought by another family I know well at the school.  All is all I was happy.

Figure 2 Our table at the show

12 September 2020

Christmas 2017

As we were moving closer to Christmas 2017, I was two years into my hand tool woodworking journey.  I wanted to make hand crafted gifts for my family. Given the large number I wanted to make, I needed to find the right kind of project that would tick the appropriate boxes.

One of my favorite channels on YouTube is one called Treebangham.  I really enjoy the builds, the way he does it, and the behind the camera banter he has with his wife while filming.  In 2015 (before I discovered him), he had posted a three video series on making Japanese Carpenter style boxes.  

Link to first video by Treebangham on the Japenese Carpenter Box

I very much enjoyed videos 1 and 2 of the series.  All kinds of lights went on in my head in his third videos.  Spoiler Alert - in his third video series, he had smaller boxes.  The smaller size or two were slightly smaller than a shoe box and looked like a perfect size for Christmas gifts.  So, I made up my mind then and there.  I reached out to Treebangham, and he was kind enough to share some dimensions of the smaller boxes.  Below is what I finally ended up making for my family.  

They are made out of walnut and maple (I like the contrast between the contrast between the two woods) and finished with shellac then wax.  I made a total of 19 (gave one away before taking the photo).  Before making all of them, I leveraged my manufacturing background and decided to make just one first.  I started in Oct 2017 so that I would have plenty of time to make them all (I was so wrong).  The first one came out nice but it took 10 hours or so.  However, I learned a lot in making it.  Whenever I finish a project, I write down in my woodshop notebook (an evolution of the lab notebook I had to keep for 18 years when I was a lab based scientist) what I would do differently or any insights I had.  That way if I go back and do it again, I am not starting from scratch.  In this case, I immediately made a second one.  It went easier and I got it down to something like 6 hours.  I also had further ideas on how to stream line.  Let the production begin.

While the first two were completely done by hand tools, if I wanted to make these on time for Christmas.  I borrowed some of my neighbors machine tools - chop saw, band saw, and contractor table saw.  The chop saw and band saw (re-sawed 3/4" walnut to approx. 3/8") really helped speed things up.  Table saws have always scared me (don't know why and don't really care).  

As I was cutting, to keep production mode flowing, I used 5 gallon Lowe's buckets to keep the parts organized.  On bucket per part type.  That way, I did a single operation per piece as I went.  After all the dimensioning was done, it was back to hand tools to smooth and fit pieces.  Then came the job of assembly.  I was going much faster this time around.  However, there were a lot to do and Christmas felt quite close.  I was up late several nights close to Christmas finishing and waxing and swearing that I would never make hand crafted gifts again.  I got down to a total of four hours per box.  A larger improvement over the first one I made.  I am sure I could get it down even further if I ever made them again.

They came out quite nice and were a hit with the family.  One of the funnier bits was that I didn't tell folks how to open them.  There is an angled wedge on the top that you push out then slide the box top one direction and then lift out.  It's not that difficult once you figure it out.  It was kind of fun watching various folks brains work to sort it out and then the a ha moment.

A few of these boxes were extras that I use to store woodworking items in.  Every time I use them, I smile because I think of all of the boxes that I made.

05 September 2020

Vax for screws

No, there wasn't a typo in the title but we will get there in a bit.

I was blessed in that one set of grandparents lived next door to us.  I spent a lot of time there and slept over often.  My grandfather was retired by the time I was born.  I have many fond memories of him and my grandma.  One of my grandfather's hobbies was to do woodworking.  He like to make picture frames but he made many other things including toys for us.  

Recently, I was talking to my dad and he reminded me of something my grandfather used to say.  Also, I was watching a YouTube video and saw someone doing it which made me think to write this blog.  My grandfather would say "use wax on your screws."  Except, having grown in Southern Italy and having come over in his 30s, wax sounded like "vax."  I love accents.  When I head the story from my dad, I could hear my grandfather's voice in my head.  He's been dead for over 40 years and I still miss him.  Life is too short.  He gave other good advice to me, even on his deathbed.  Using vax on screws is good advice and I do it to this day.

29 August 2020

Very Happy to be a Hobby Woodworker

NOTE:  Sorry for all the writing.  It's something I wanted to document (so hopefully some day my daughter can read it).  There are pictures of my little slice of heaven below if you want to skip to that.

In my early 40s, I have a watershed moment.  My daughter was about 9 months old an in daycare.  As most parents with young children can attest to, my daughter and my wife and I caught all kinds of colds for the first year or so while she was in day care.  There was one cold that after two or three weeks was handing on and on separate weeks I had taken some sick days to rest.  This was very unusual.  Typically if I take a sick day and rest up over the following weekend the cold subsides. This one wasn't, as such I called my doctor. I had been using the same doctor for 15 years and really liked her.  I considered to be my age when in actuality she was 15 years older.

When I called to make an appointment, I was informed that she had died from breast cancer.  I was stunned and without words.  Here was someone my age who had passed away.  We all know this happens but this one hit home.  There had been many things I had been putting off doing.  I was living in a condo and wanted to be in a house.  By having a house, I could woodwork.  Yes, I know it's possible in a small space but at the time I wasn't thinking of hand tools.  Also, my doctor dying made me think of the other things I had wanted to explore.  I was thinking that in my last 10 or 15 years of a working career I might want to be a woodworker or teach college chemistry.

Again, the impact of the death stuck with me to the pint that within six months we had sold the condo, I was teaching one night a week at a local college.  After a year or two in the home I had remodeled the garage and bought my woodworking tools to start my woodworking journey.

I learned a few things: 

 I still liked my career but I had to move to a small start up to appreciate that.  I had loved the big company I was at and am very grateful for my experience there.  In order to feel revitalized, I needed to be at a small startup when I could leverage all that I knew how to do to help a small band of folks push the frontiers of medicine.

I liked teach college chem a lot -the one night a week I teach at my almamater is very fun and I have great faith in the upcoming generation.  I didn't want to jump into it full time.  When I "retire" my dream is to teach two (possibly three) days a week.  It's so much fun. Plus since I don't depend on the money, I don't worry about getting laid off or if I don't dot the i's and cross all the t's.  I really do focus on trying to do the best job at teaching the students.  I don't care about all of the other stuff.

And for woodworking, I gave serious thought to doing it full time.  I have decided I will keep it as a hobby.  I enjoy working my hands and the pride in making things.  I have decided that I don't want it to do it for a living.  What I like about doing it as a hobby is that I really do get to pick and chose to do what I want.  I can take as long as I want and not have to worry about pay.  If I screw up and have made a piece of hardwood firewood, I don't worry about it eating into my profits.  I typically do a morning session, long lunch, then an afternoon session.  Three to five hours in the shop on one or both weekend days makes me a happy camper.

If you have been patient enough to read all of this, below are some recent pics (Jun 2020) of my workshop.  It is really just a wall or two inside the garage.  I can work with the cars being in  but I like to pull them out.  In a future post I will talk more about what I like and would do differently (ac, off a cement slab).

Life is good.  I still think about my poor doctor.  I feel sad she died young but I have taken that event to make changes in my life that I think she would be please with.  Now if I can just loose the weight she would be even happier as she looks down on me.

Figure 1.  The main workbench.

Figure 2 To my right side some tools I use less frequently.

Figure 3 The junk bench.  At some point I need to clean up this area and build a proper bench for the space.

Figure 4.  Two and half shelves I have to store my wood.