Category Archives: Woodworking

Non-Roubo Power-Strip

I’m not sure if Chris Schwarz would approve of this modification to my Roubo bench, but so far I like it.

I added a very non-Roubo power-strip onto the base shelf of my bench. Note the bright red color courtesy of Costco. I attached small pieces of plywood with Gorilla-brand black duct tape hinges over each outlet. These hinged covers keep saw dust out of each plug and easily drop into place when the outlet is unused. In this location on the bench, the power-strip does not seem to interfere with any clamping capabilities, etc. and allows me to rapidly plug and unplug powered hand tools when working on the bench.

Asian inpsired open-front cherry sideboard completed

At long last, I finished the open-front side board project that I began quite a while ago.  I made this sideboard out of local cherry (and cherry cabinet grade ply) with General Finishes brand satin clearcoat.  The design was inspired by a photo in a woodworking magazine (I can no longer remember which one, its been so long since I started this project), and modifed by me to be open-front, have different dimensions and a number of other changes for the original.

I designed it to fit into a particular place in our home and to contain our stereo which is wired into our ceiling mounted speakers in our kitchen, and to contain our kids plastic bids of art supplies so that they are not always all over the floor.   Someday, if the sideboard is no longer needed for rapid access art-supply use, I may put doors and drawers on it.

Langdon Millers Falls #16 1/2 Miter Box Restoration

I just finished restoring an old Millers Falls Langdon #16 1/2 miter box.  Not sure of its age, but I am guessing  the nineteen teens or twenties?

I stripped the rust and grease and repainted and lubricated it.  I also added new oak sacrificial table tops.   The sacrificial wood table tops that I removed were some sort of fiber board that I assume was not original.  It was in very bad shape.  I forgot to take “before” photos as usual, so here are some “after” photos.

The miter box’s original saw was beyond repair, so I asked Lie-Nielsen to make me a new one.  They will now make replacement miter box saws to your specifications.  Only took about three weeks and the saw looks and cuts beautifully.   I asked them to make my saw with a 16″ blade length and 2 3/8″ high.  It is cut to 11 ppi crosscut.

An old Millers Falls catalog from the period says lists the original saw as only 2″ high, but I did not find that reference until after I had ordered the saw.   The 2 3/8″ high plate that I ordered seems to work fine, though.

Looks as good as new or better, with its new saw.  I think that it will see a lot of use in the shop.

SketchUp “Guide Lines” speed up drawing construction

I have found StektchUp “Guide Lines” to be another very useful tool.   They allow you to put dotted lines in measured locations on your construction drawing as reference points during construction of your model.   This saves a significant amount of measuring time, etc.  This is another tool that seems “hidden.”  I didn’t know it was there until reading a book recently.

To create a “Guide Line” (Google uses two words instead of “guideline” for some reason), use the TAPE MEASURE tool as usual, but toggle “guide lines” on before hand with the CTRL key.  See for more.

This is likely my last Google SketchUp tip for a while.  I feel that I have taught myself enough SketchUp to get by for now, and will be focusing on using these skills on some projects.

SketchUp Outliner Window

Another quick Google SketchUp trick that I am finding usefull…the OUTLINER window.

This tool, actually a window available under the WINDOWS menu, displays all of your “components” and “groups” in a single list or outline.   You can right click on one or more of the components in the list and click “HIDE”.  This makes it easy for you to HIDE all of the components or groups in your drawing except for the one that you are currently working on.  Once done working on the single component, go back into the OUTLINER and unhide all of the rest of the drawing.

SketchUp “SHIFT” Key Lock Movement

When moving an object in SketchUp using the MOVE tool, hold down the SHIFT key after selecting the object and moving it slightly in the direction that you want to move the object.  This “locks” the objects movement into only moving along the axis lines, and not in “free space.”   Very useful.

First SketchUp tip: left-to-right vs right-to-left SELECT window

I learned from Bob Lang’s DVD that if you use the SELECT tool by dragging a selection window from left to right across parts of your drawing, the program will only select the parts of the drawing that are contained within the window that you are dragging.  If you use the SELECT tool from right to left, the tool will AUTOMATICALLY select all of the parts and faces of the object even if you only enclose part of it in your window.

On complex drawings, I have found this to be very useful.  It helps you to select an entire object without accidentally overlapping and selecting its surrounding and interconnecting objects.  Cool.

This is the kind of SketchUp technique that I think I would never discover from trying to learn the program entirely on my own.   Trainings aids, DVDs and books are required to fully unlock the capabilities of the program.

Learning Google SketchUp for Woodworking

I had tried to learn to use Google SketchUp before to aid in design of woodworking projects.\

The program, on its face, is very easy to learn to use and really cool (and free).  Unfortunately, in my prior attempts to use it for “real” I have always been stopped by small details that I just could not get to work the way that I wanted, and I always reverted to pencil and paper.  The program is far more powerful than it looks, and there are a myriad of  tiny details and tricks that are hidden from the user.  This hidden power makes the program LOOK much simpler to use than it really is.   To do SketchUp right, it takes some practice.  But it’s worth it.

This year, prior to going to WIA last month, I became determined to learn SketchUp and fight may way through my hangups.  After all, I deal with technology all day and I ought to be able to learn to design using this program.

I’m happy to report, that after taking Bob Lang’s SketchUp seminar at WIA, and then practicing at home using Bob’s SketchUp DVDs, I’m now successfully using SketchUp to design furniture.  I love the program.  It is very useful.

For those of you wanting to learn to use SketchUp for furniture making, I highly recommend buying Bob Lang’s two DVDs. Bob makes clear the small “details” that turned SketchUp from frustrating to highly useful.  Bob generated many “ah-ha” moments that solved my prior problems.  Additionally, I bought the book  Google SketchUp: The Missing Manual by Chris Grover.  Between Bob’s DVDs and the Grover book, I have been making rapid progress at learning SketchUp at last.

I will post the small SketchUp tips that have made a difference for me as I come across them.

First tip, you need to learn to use the keyboard shortcuts.  I did not do this until now.  I am not sure that you can use SketchUp effectively without the keyboard shortcuts, particularly for the camera and view tools.

Woodworking in America 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio

I spent the end of last week at the 2010 Woodworking in America conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.  This was my second WIA show (I attend the first one in Berea, KY two years ago).

It was a fantastic conference, once again.   It has grown a lot since the first conference two years ago, but I miss the smaller size, frankly.  The new bigger conference has more vendors, etc, which is nice, but it has lost some of the intimacy that the first conference offered.  Other than that, it was once again a great time.

Some highlights from this year included John Sindelar’s mobile Sindelar Tool Museum.   To quote Popular Woodworking Magazine “This is one of the most jaw-dropping, drool-inducing tool collections you’ll ever see”.  It was…

This “mobile museum” is apparently only a tiny part of John’s full collection.  Amazing.

The classes at the show were excellent also.  I will blog more about them later.

American Girl “Stack-able” Bunk Bed Project

My six-year-old daughter got a pair of American Girl dolls for Christmas, and they needed somewhere to sleep.

So, after a little internet research I agreed to make them bunk beds, and my wife agreed to make the mattresses, pillows and quilts for the beds (I think that I got the easier job).   The photos below are the result, minus the quilts which are still in production.

I decided to make the beds out of red oak since it was easily available in the thin sizes that I needed.  They are finished with dark walnut Watco Danish Oil.

I also decided to make the beds “stack-able” so that they could be used as two twin beds, or stacked to form a bunk bed.  The stack-able bunk bed design will also allow for additional beds to be added to the top if another American Girl doll were to ever need a bed.  Note that each of the corner posts on the beds has a small square block (or tab) on top of the post that fits into a recess in the bottom of each bedpost that attaches above it, Lego-like.

I didn’t use any formal dimension or drawings for these, I just scaled them from the dolls and started cutting wood.

Below are the beds separated into their two “twin bed” format:

My wife made the mattresses and pillows from the scraps of one of my old oxford-style dress shirts that had become ink stained.   She is working on the quilts now, and will post them when they are complete.

In the photo below you can see that next to the beds is a “riser” level that goes between the beds when stacked to allow for more headroom for the bottom doll.

Below is a closer photo of the “riser” level:

All of the side rails and headboard and foot board joints are attached with mortise and tenon joints for strength.

The photo below shows the bottom bed with the riser level installed:

and finally, photos of the two beds and the riser level snapped together into bunk bed formation.

You can see the stack-able Lego-like connectors better in the photo below:

So far ” my client” (my daughter) seems to like the new beds and so do her American Girl dolls, Emily and Molly!

Galoot-in-Training (GIT) Project

My son (just turned 10), has been working with me in the shop since he was very small.  This year for Christmas, he made his mom a clipboard with only safety support from me.

Using the SawStop saw (purchased so that I could teach him to use the table saw), the Dewalt planer and an assortment of hand tools including a Japanese pull saw and a couple of hand planes, he made the clipboard below.  It is made from alternating strips of maple, cherry and walnut with hardware from Rockler.  The “ruler” on the bottom of the clipboard was his idea and it is made from a scrap piece of ebony.  He engraved the inscription on the top of the board and the ruler marks with my Turbo Carver high-speed engraver. Great tool by the way…I should post on that sometime.  The finish is Danish Oil.

My wife uses a clipboard everyday to manage the complex schedules of two school kids, so she will get a lot of use from this.

If you don’t know what a Galoot-in-Training (GIT) is, join the OldTools email list.   Basically, it refers to the younger generation of woodworkers that we should all be bringing up into this great hobby.  I am a strong believer that kids should learn to use tools and get their hands dirty, in addition to learning about the computers, etc of the modern world.   The true “Galoots” on the email list might insist that I should only be teaching hand-tool methods for my son to be a real “GIT”, but I have a broader definition of the term.

I hope that he continues to grow in this hobby and enjoy it as much as I do.

I recently noticed a post from Matt Gabardi about his concept for a “Legacy Guild” and I think that the concept is very interesting.  Maybe it is the similarity in our Italian roots, but the concept resonates with me.  To quote  the Guild’s goal from Matt’s website:  “Create a forum or blog for people who love woodworking
and want to share this joy with their kids and grandkids.”  A good goal.

By the way, Matt’s  infill planes are absolutely amazing.  Go see them.

The good, the bad and the ugly (online vendors)

Every year I do most of my holiday shopping via online vendors, and this year I think I did 100% of it online.

I always have mixed results with online stores, with some exceeding expectations and some failing miserably.  This year, I thought that I would post a few results to possibly benefit the good vendors and encourage the poor ones to improve.  After all, if enough if us post the poor vendors, maybe they will come up in searches and warn away other victims (I mean customers). 

These are not all workshop related vendors, but several are included in the list.

For 2009….

The GOOD (definitely use these vendors) Year after year, Amazon has provided me with good service at good prices.  This year was no exception.  Many orders, many good results. They also carry many tools (mostly power tools), and I have purchased both full-size floor-mounted shop tools through Amazon as well as smaller tools all with good results.  Sure, they advertise on this site, but this review is still the truth. Oh how I love, let me count the ways.  Great tools, great people, good prices, fast shipping…buy stuff now! (I get no advertising or any other support from Lee Valley, although I should). Good, prompt service and friendly staff.  They bailed me out when (listed under bad, below) left me hung-out-to-dry with 5 days till Christmas.  Buy from here, not from Banana (the name should have tipped me off).

The BAD (Do not use these vendors)  – I knew nothing about this hobby store before I placed an order…never do that.  They came up in a Google search for a particular item that I wanted to buy my son for Christmas (radio controlled vsTank...super cool and highly recommended!).  In stock and ready to ship with more than two weeks to go till Christmas.  Soon after I placed an order, I got an email from UPS saying "manifest received" and looking like it was shipping…so, I happily assumed that it was about to ship.  It did not.  5 days before Christmas, I got an email saying that one item in my order was back-ordered.  Did the rest of the order ship?  Couldn't tell.  The 1-800 phone number says that they don't answer the phone during the Holidays, web-chat support only.  Wait on web chat for 30 minutes.  Find out that, no, they had not shipped any of my order and now I had to pay for expedited shipping if I want anything to arrive before Christmas…I paid it only reluctantly since it was Bananahobby's mistake, and not mine.  I also paid for expedited shipping at another store's website to get the item that was not available at Bananahobby in time for Christmas.   I did a search on Banana Hobby complaints too late to help me, and found out that my experience with them was typical. 

Finally, when the item arrived, it was broken and had obviously been opened before shipping. I am still fighting with them to resolve.  They do not respond to emails or to chat messages.

Do not use!

If you want a vsTank, buy from above instead(note that Artistic Hobbies is not paying me and I am in no way involved with them).

“Woodwork” Magazine Discontinued

Apparently, our hobby lost a great magazine this month.

Woodwork” magazine, had been sold during 2008 to a new owner, and issued an excellent just-like-old-times “new” issue under its new owner a few months ago…but , NOW it is fully dead.  A letter from the publisher indicates that unforeseen problems have occurred, and that the recently restarted publication has been permanently discontinued.

The letter further stated that my paid-up subscription to “Woodwork” has been converted to “American Woodworker” , a sister publication of the parent company.  Yuck…

Woodwork had personality and depth of content.  It was unique and worthwhile, and had content for woodworkers of all levels and styles.  American Woodworker is an also-ran at best, and clearly targeted at beginning woodworkers.  Not at all an equal substitution. Oh well, my subscription will run out soon. I’ll give it an issue or two to see if it improves or is influenced by the old Woodwork.

Over the years, I have subscribed to basically all of the major woodworking magazines and I have developed definite favorites.

Hands down, my favorite is Woodworking Magazine.  No advertising, great content. Worth every penny.

Woodworking Magazine’s sister publication “Popular Woodworking“, is my second favorite.  By far the best of the “general” woodworking magazines.

A distant third is “Fine Woodworking“…it is a very good publication, but seems to me to have lost its personality in recent years.  It is a bit too polished, a bit too Martha-Stewart-perfect.  It seems almost formulaic to me.  But, I still like it, and learn from it.

All of the rest of the mainstream woodworking magazines, are only OK at best.  I still get several of them, but usually can read them cover to cover in under an hour.




“A Marquetry Odyssey: Historical Objects and Personal Work” by Silas Kopf

I recently met Silas Kopf at  a local book signing event.  I was fascinated with Silas' marquetry work already (from magazine articles), but his new book  "A Marquetry Odyssey: Historical Objects and Personal Work" is rich with color photos of his work and the historic work of others in the field of marquetry.  This is one of my new favorite woodworking books.  It is partly about Silas and his work and career, but equally a primer on the history of the craft.   Silas knows his stuff, both historically and with his tools.  Plus, he was a very open and personable guy.

More images, etc here at his website.

I have yet to try my hand at marquetry, but it is now high on my list of techniques with which to experiment.  Click on the image below for more info on the book.


Woodworking in America 2008 Conference, Berea, KY

Last week I got to attend the "first" annual (I hope) "Woodworking in America" Conference sponsored by Popular Woodworking Magazine and held in Berea, KY.  Click on the image below to see the conference website and details.


Probably, many of you were there, or have already read a lot about the show, so I will not go into any great detail other than to say it was "FANTASTIC".   If you can go next year.  DO IT!

The presenters, vendors and the attendees were some of the nicest people that you will meet, and it was a rare occasion to spend time with people that are even crazier about this stuff than I am.  A veritable army (or maybe  feeding frenzy) of hand tool nuts.

Someone mentioned that the conference organizers might be considering doing either a bigger show next year, or several around the country.  My vote would be for them to do several smaller shows (no bigger than this year and charge more if they need to) around the country, if those are the two options.  One of the best things about the conference was that it was a manageable size and attendees got to interact personally with many of the presenters and vendors.  A larger show would make that harder.   Also, the hands-on sessions (that everyone wanted) were hard enough to get into as it was.

I know that the organizers need to balance this with the economics of the conference, and I will likely attend again either way.  But I like the conference smaller and am willing to pay a higher entrance fee for it.

It was great to meet many of you last week in person and I hope to see you at the show again next year!