No more apartment woodworking

DSCN1545Since my last post, quite a bit has happened. The biggest change is that my wife and I bought our first house this past spring. Its a nice cape cod with a two car garage and plenty of room in the back yard for a small shop. I am hoping next summer I’ll be able to build said shop, maybe a 12×16 if the city allows it. For the time being, I am in the garage. The last six months of 2012 I spent my time building a hutch for some friends that got married. Well even into the first part of 2013. I was bound and determined to get it done so the blog suffered. After that, came the house buying process and moving. Then I finally finished my Bow Back Windsor chair that I started last year. And just recently, I took a Fan Back Windsor chair class with Curtis Buchanan at Kelly Mehler’s school. That was a great a time. Curtis was a fantastic teacher, and despite his laid back demeanor, he is super precise and his attention to detail helps to make for a great chair. You can see some more from the class on Greg Pennington’s blog. So now this week I am finally finishing my Arts and Crafts bookcase that made two years ago. Then I’ll get on to the coffee table I promised my wife, a new workbench, shavehorse, and more chairs. Once I get this book case finished, I promise to take better care of documenting my builds and writing here. If anyone is still reading….



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Happenings around here…

So lately work has taken a hold of my life. However, my weekends were also pretty well used up through out October. Fortunately it was woodworking stuff. SAPFM meeting, Midwest Tool Collectors, and finally Woodworking in America. So rather than spending a bunch of time typing, I am just going to put up a bunch of pictures so I can go do some woodworking.

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My first chair

This past August I started working with my friend Jim Crammond building a Windsor chair. Jim is a hobbyist woodworker who happens to enjoy making Windsors. He also teaches classes at Tillers International in Scotts, MI on how to make Windsor chairs and stools. I met Jim through the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association and bugged him to give me a one-on-one lesson.

I got the interest in learning to make one of these chairs after seeing a sack back that Mike Dunbar made at Roy Underhill’s mill. (Talk about name dropping!) Since seeing that chair I bought John Brown’s Welsh Stick Chairs and Drew Langsner’s The Chairmaker’s Workshop. Since getting these books and seeing all the different styles, I really came to love the comb backs, sack backs, and the stick chairs that John Brown made.

So after meeting Jim and convincing him that it would be a good idea to teach me how to make a chair, we decided to start with probably the simplest of the Windsors, the bow back. Jim’s thought was that the bow back gives you lessons in use of the drawknife to make the spindles and back, steam bending to form the back, turning the legs and stretchers, carving the seat, and assembly.

On my first visit, we split out a red oak log for the spindles and then shaped those with a drawknife and spokeshave. On my last visit we split out a piece of red oak for the back, shaped it, and then steam bent it. I also started to turn the maple legs. Hopefully I’ll be heading back to Jim’s in a couple of weeks to make some more legs. I am guessing it should take three more visits to get the turning done, make the seat, and then assemble it. So far the whole process has been great. Jim is a very good instructor and courteous host. My only regret is that I can’t really practice any of the lessons learned in my current living situation. Unfortunately there really isn’t any room for a pile of logs, a shavehorse, or a lathe in an apartment. I also have serious case of shop envy.

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Just a lock to go

With the exception of putting on the lock, I am done. Since I painted the chest, I built the last two trays, and installed the pulls, chain, and casters. It took me longer than I had hoped but I am happy with the way it turned out.

Now I can finally get started on some new projects. A friend of mine got me a pile of cherry so I am going to make a coffee table to match my little side table I made a couple of years ago. The other thing I am going to make is a bow-back windsor with my friend Jim Crammond.  Hopefully we’ll be able to get started on that next weekend. The bow-back isn’t really my favorite style, however I am really just looking to learn the techniques.

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Some paint

This weekend I took my full size tool chest and small chest down to my friends house for paint. I decided on Original Milk Paint’s soldier blue over barn red for my full size chest. The smaller one I just used the barn red. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough to time to get the large chest completely done so I’ll have to go back next weekend to finish it up. This was the first time I used milk paint and I thought it went quite wellFor the full size chest I gave it two coats of the barn red and then two coats of the soldier blue. The blue went on bit thinner than the red so I think it will take at least another coat to cover everything up. The smaller chest I gave two coats of the barn red. I then went over it with fine scotch-brite pad and finally ragged on some boiled linseed oil. The oil really made the paint pop. I also managed to get the trays dovetailed but only got one completed  and fitted in the chest. Once I get it back home I’ll finish the last two trays, install the hardware, and fill it up.

Saturday I was able to get together with Jim Crammond, a woodworker who I met through the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association. I went to his shop with no real expectations except that we share a mutual interest in Windsor chairs and hand tools. During my visit, Jim gave me lessons in riving, spindle making, and turning. Though none of this was formal, I still learned quite a bit and had a great time. Hopefully I’ll be able to get together with him again the future and maybe make a chair.

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Coming together

Well, haven’t had much time for woodworking lately. I’ve been busy with work which is a mixed blessing. More money in the bank but less time at home. Fortunately I was able to get some time this long weekend and make some more progress on my tool chest. Since my last post I was able to put on the dust seal around the lid and install the lid. I also got the wood to start finishing the inside; poplar for the trays, white oak for the runners and tray bottoms. This weekend I ripped those boards and jointed them. I made up the saw till and installed it and the board to separate the bottom of the chest. Next came the runners on the inside which were attached with nails and glue. Finally I got all the boards ready to start dovetailing the trays. I am hoping to get those all together throughout the rest of the week and this upcoming weekend. Then I’ll just have to install the rest of the hardware and paint it.

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It’s about time….

Today Megan Fitzpatrick announced that Popular Woodworking is going to be releasing the Woodwright’s Shop on DVD. This totally made my day.

In my own little world of woodworking, I haven’t had much time lately to work on my tool chest. The dust seal is on the lid, the hinges are on, the rest of the hardware is in hand, and I have a pile of poplar and oak to cut up for the insides. More on that later.

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A bit more

Well work has been slow lately so I have had a bit more time to work on my tool chest. Getting home after an eight hour day allows me at least an hour a night, sometimes more, to mess around. So last week I worked on getting all the rails and stiles fit together for the lid. Then last weekend I was able to cut the piece for the panel to size, plow the grooves in it, and assemble the lid. Somewhere in there I realized I wanted a panel gauge to help with layout, so I cobbled one together. I used a piece of pine for the fence, poplar for the beam, and oak for the wedge. Its not much to look at but it got the job done. Then I moved on to the upper skirt.

Last summer when I took the sawbench class with Chris Schwarz, I wrote about how it was a mixed blessing to be able to try out all of his nice tools. When I got back I ended up ordering a Lie Nielsen large shoulder plane. Well this time I got the Veritas rabbet plane from Lee Valley. I still really want that Lie Nielsen Bronze No. 4. Sigh. Anyways I got the rabbet plane so I could use it to help with dovetail layout. This was a trick Chris showed us that I have seen others use as well. I think Chris said Allen Peters is where he got it. The whole idea is that you put a small rabbet on your tail board the width of the pin board and about 1/32″ deep. (Two business cards is what we used to set the depth stop.) It works great. I also got it for making normal rabbets, imagine that.

So I dovetailed the two opposite corners of the upper skirt, clamped the pieces to the  carcase, and then laid out the base lines for the other two corners. I used my miter box to cut the pieces to length. Once I got the four corners dovetailed, I assembled the skirt dry so that I could clean up the edges. Then I put it on the carcase with glue. I wasn’t sure the best way to do that so I stuck the whole thing on the carcase and got it where I wanted. Then I took one end board off, put glue on it and then stuck it back on. After that one end piece was dry, I glued up the other three pieces using the first piece as my reference. Then I just trimmed the ends and smoothed everything with my trusty Stanley No. 3. Hopefully throughout this week I’ll be able to get the lid fitted and put on the dust seal. Then I can move on to the inside. I also need to order hardware and paint. Not sure how I want to finish it. I’m liking General Finishes Coastal Blue over Tuscan Red. Then again I like black.

The last picture I took while standing on a sawbench against the wall of my “shop.” From the wall behind the bench to the edge of the bed and is about 6 feet. From the door behind me to the wall at the end of the bench is 7 feet. Just thought I would throw that out there for anyone who complains about being “stuck” in a basement or single car garage. I’d love a single car garage right now.

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A little progress

I haven’t done much with my tool chest since getting it home. Last weekend I was able to put a chamfer on the bottom skirt boards and glue them onto the chest. Today I planed the pins and tails flush and went over everything with a smoothing plane. Then I nailed the front and back boards of the skirt into the bottom boards of the chest. As can be seen in the pictures, work has been in the living room which I think the wife isn’t to fond of. I did my best to keep the mess to a minimum and vacuumed up right away. I need a real shop….

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Dovetails, doughnuts, and popsicles.

Well after 23 hours and 1700 miles in the car, I am back home from a great week in North Carolina. Last week I was one of the lucky ten who was able to spend 5 days with Roy Underhill, Christopher Schwarz, and Megan Fitzpatrick at the Woodwright’s School building a tool chest.

This was my second trip to Pittsboro after taking the sawing class with Chris last summer. I had a hard time deciding between taking this class, the woodcraft week with Roy, or a chair class with Elia Bizzarri. I ended up choosing the tool chest class for lots of reasons, the main two being I wanted a full size chest and I couldn’t pass up the chance to hang out with two of my biggest woodworking heroes.

The week was pretty much like this:

  • A quick primer on Chris’s ideas behind the book, The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.
  • A lesson on how he dovetails.
  • Cutting dovetails for the carcase.
  • A look at vintage tool chests.
  • Cutting more dovetails for the carcase.
  • Attaching the bottom boards to our carcases.
  • A lesson from Roy on turning handles.
  • Cutting even more dovetails for the bottom skirt.
  • A lesson from Roy on frame and panel construction.
  • Cutting tenons for the lid stiles and using an awesome vintage mortiser for the rails.
  • Sleep.

By the end of the class everyone had a carcase with bottoms, the bottom skirt, and the components for the upper skirt, lid, and dust seal. I had to leave my bottom skirt off to get it in my car but was able to at least get all the tenons and mortises cut for the lid rails and stiles.

Somewhere in there we managed to find time to goof around, eat donuts, muffins, cake, and popsicles, and visit Ed Lebetkin’s tool store upstairs. I got a nice Sandusky wooden jack plane and Simonds No. 10 26″ crosscut saw. Oh and a nice hat like Roy wears. On Wednesday night we stayed late and ate pizza at the school. Every other night was ended by a trip to the City Tap around the corner from the school.








I had a great time as could be expected. Roy is such a treat. The man has such a knowledge of woodworking and knows how to demonstrate it in interesting and entertaining ways. Chris was a very generous instructor who was always gracious and never condescending. He had his tool chest there and let everyone dig through it and use his tools as needed. I once again got to use his Lie Nielsen No. 4 which I absolutely love. I also tried out the No. 8 which is a monster. Megan was the surprise guest instructor of the class. She was there on her own time to help out. She gave people pointers on sharpening and cutting dovetails amongst other things. She helped with glue-ups and cut stock for the skirts and lid components for everyone. And she added another element to the comedy show that is Roy and Chris.

As with last time, the people in the class were from various states. Myself representing Michigan, there was also Connecticut, D.C., Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and of course North Carolina. This was a great group of guys ranging from someone who had never cut dovetails to guys with several projects under their belts. There was even a classmate of mine from the sawing class.

So if you have the means, I think anyone interested in hand tool woodworking owes it to themselves to get down to the Woodwright’s School and take a class. The experience is one you will never forget. You’ll meet great people, get to try out all sorts of vintage tools, and spend time with an icon of woodworking.


By the way, check out both of Chris’s blogs and Megan’s as well. He has pictures and videos up from the class. I think Megan will eventually as well. She at least has one about Peter Ross, who I forgot to mention stopped in to drop to visit. He also gave Chris the giant Roubo holdfast Chris blogged about.

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