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Blog series by Steve updated 08-03-2018 11:32 PM 21 parts 12967 reads 22 comments total

Part 1: Organizing for the New Year

01-03-2018 04:39 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

I like to start off a new year by getting my shop in shape. After the busy holiday season, offcuts are piled everywhere, edges are dull and the deficiencies in the workspace are sharp in my mind. Shortly after Christmas, I set to work making a new stand for my lathe. The old one was designed to stand in the middle of the room and had storage on both sides. I ended up pushing it against a wall, which made that space either worthless or terribly inconvenient. The new stand—not a thing ...

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Part 2: Beetle Kill Pine

01-06-2018 06:25 PM by Steve | 1 comment »

I finished up my year-end inventory yesterday after counting almost 180 different sticks of wood, from full-sized logs to tiny sticks of exotic scraps I can’t bear to burn. Counting meant cleaning and organizing, so I took advantage of the suddenly clutter-free benchtop and built up some cabinet doors for my new lathe stand. Out here in the Western U.S. there’s been an ongoing infestation of bark beetles in our softwood forests. I’ve seen areas where the dead trees we...

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Part 3: Cabinet Drawers for Me (And Some Lathe Fun)

01-11-2018 05:22 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

My kitchen doesn’t have a dedicated pantry, so we use biggest cupboard we have for food storage: a large, deep cave above the oven. Not surprisingly, things stack up and easily get lost in the depths. I’ve been wanting some kind of slide out storage system for that space, and this month I finally had the opportunity. I designed a couple of tall, deep units and ordered some soft-close under-mount sliders that can take the expected weight. A single sheet of medium quality 3/4R...

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Part 4: Planer Fun

01-17-2018 04:48 PM by Steve | 1 comment »

I dug into my planer yesterday as part of my January shop rehab. Over the course of the year, I occasionally scrub off the pitch buildup on the rollers, inspect the knives and lube up the moving parts. Annually, though, I dig out the manual and check off the bigger items, like cleaning the drive chains and inspecting the v-belts. On pulling the gear cover, I discovered that a bolt holding one of the drives had come completely out. The gear didn’t come off the shaft, thank goodnes...

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Part 5: Sharpening

01-19-2018 05:01 PM by Steve | 5 comments »

Sharpening day yesterday. I don’t do this often enough, especially with my planes. Not sure why I procrastinate; it’s not an unpleasant job and the results are worth the effort. The chisels on the bench are new—a gift last year. Some sharpened up right away, others took some scrubbing. Today I’ll be cleaning and inspecting my table saw blades. I did take some time to do some actual work, though, tightening up some antique chairs. I don’t do furnitur...

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Part 6: Chair Finials and Lathe Disaster

01-21-2018 05:05 PM by Steve | 1 comment »

It took a few efforts, but I was able to turn replacement finials for my client’s antique chairs. The first few attempts were close in shape to Christmas light bulbs. Comparing them side by side, I could see that the shape I really wanted was more like a candle flame. I made two with tenons that fit into existing mortises. (The original finials came loose some time in the past and were lost.) A third had broken off at the waist and the client wanted to save as much of the origina...

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Part 7: Wainscoting

01-31-2018 05:12 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

It’s been relatively quiet in the shop the last week or so, as I’ve taken some time off to repaint most of the downstairs rooms in my house. The colors we chose, bluish-grays for the most part, seemed like a nice match with the beetle-killed blue pine I used for the doors on my lathe stand. I worked up a few sample boards and got my wife’s buy-in to install some wainscoting. After testing out a few stain options, I treated some shiplapped boards with teak oil (of ...

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Part 8: New Lathe

02-16-2018 04:41 PM by Steve | 1 comment »

I eagerly awaited this lathe, tracking it daily as it made its way across the country. When it got here, I realized that it was far too heavy to lift onto the stand myself. My shop hoist was tucked away behind a vintage Thunderbird that hadn’t been started for a while, so the setup for the lathe took a back seat to auto repairs for a day or so. (But that’s the topic of a totally different blog.) Once the hoist was free, I used to to move the old lathe bed off the stand a...

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Part 9: Back to Work, Finally

02-22-2018 04:35 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

My personal projects are winding down, and I’m (almost) through the maintenance process for my shop tools. So, for the first time in a while, I was able to get down to work. Earlier this week I was finishing up the last few bits of trim for my wainscoting when my three year old DeWalt miter saw began to screech. After just replacing the lathe, I had a sinking feeling that a new saw was also in my future. However, with some help from forum members and a morning of exploratory surgery,...

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Part 10: Almost Up to Speed?

03-01-2018 05:36 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

It’s been cold in my shop this week—temperatures hovering around the high 40’s or low 50’s. Those who live in cold climates will laugh, but with cold like this so rare, I don’t have any provision for heat. Even though the temps really aren’t that low, it’s not long before I’ve got numb hands (and a short temper). Despite the weather, I spent a lot of time at work in the shop, though most of it was spent on actually finishing a lot of personal...

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Part 11: A Productive Week

03-09-2018 08:39 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

Getting my resaw blade in place really opened the floodgates this week. I finished gluing up and planing my mid-century modern boards. I also finished up some leftover chaotic pattern boards that were still hanging around from the holiday rush. By mid week, I was looking at a stack of some 17 cutting boards, ready for sanding. The chaotic boards were made 1 1/2” thick and haven’t sold well in that size. As a test, I sawed one into two 3/4” boards and ran them through ...

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Part 12: Box Joints and Jewelry Cabinets

03-13-2018 04:08 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

I have a chance to exhibit at a local winery in about two weeks, so I put myself on a plan to get some jewelry cabinets finished in time for the event. These cabinets were based on plans for a hanging Shaker cabinet in Fine Woodworking a few years back. I’m on my fourth generation of design iteration. These are now taller than the original and have two doors instead of one. In this go around, I’ve changed from lap joints for the carcass to box joints, which should give a cleane...

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Part 13: Really Lousy Estimating

03-19-2018 03:51 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

I started out with a goal to produce seven jewelry cabinets by the end of this week, three in sapele and four in walnut. Along the way last week, I had to set three aside—to be finished later. Milling up the door frame elements, I only made enough for one (and a half!) sapele unit. I thought I would have lots of extra walnut, but it was just enough for four. I normally mill these with an up cut straight bit, but changed things up this time. This setup produced pretty good results...

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Part 14: Postponed

03-23-2018 03:52 PM by Steve | 3 comments »

My planned weekend show was postponed a week due to heavy rains. (It’s an outdoor event, and apparently ducks have taken up residence on the lawn where my table is supposed to sit.) The postponement was a bit of a blessing, as it relieves the pressure to get items done on a tight timeline—there’s a impulse to cut corners that I have to resist. Shortly before the cancellation was announced, I had resolved to focus on two cabinets, one sapele, the other walnut—get the...

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Part 15: Four Done, Three . . . for Later

04-03-2018 03:59 PM by Steve | 3 comments »

The weather cleared last week, and I was pleased to be able to field four completed cabinets at the spring opening of a local winery. Sales weren’t terribly brisk, but March is normally completely dead. Any sales at all are an improvement. Of the cabinets I completed, three were in walnut, the other in sapele. I finished this first cabinet in amber shellac. I have a lot to learn yet about this finish, I’ve looked at a few videos for guidance, and they tend to show an app...

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Part 16: Milling Around

04-07-2018 04:59 PM by Steve | 4 comments »

For Christmas last year, I received an Alaskan Lumber Mill from my wife. I think she gave it to me as a form of self-defense; over the past couple of years, the neighbors have identified me as they guy to call when a tree falls and they need help hauling it away. I’ve accumulated a stash of California live oak, avocado and juniper (cedar). There are not a lot of lumber mills in my area, and those we have charge more to cut logs into lumber than the resulting boards are worth, especia...

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Part 17: Experimenting with Black Acacia

04-13-2018 04:05 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

Some time last year, a local lumberyard cleared out the last of their black acacia for dirt cheap. The lumber wasn’t great—lots of splits and narrow pieces, but for the price, it was worth a gamble. After a few months in the shop, I finally broke out a couple of boards to make some beer flight paddles and a wine rack or two. For the paddles, I wanted to create a flat-bottom surface for the tasting glasses. Boring a partial hole with a forstner bit would leave a score around...

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Part 18: Wine Rack Prototype

04-17-2018 04:17 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

I spent the majority of the day yesterday finishing up the last elements of the wine rack I’m making from black acacia. I needed four stretchers to hold the front and back together, and as it’s been for all aspects of this project, I was afraid that the design was too flimsy. The stretchers were to be turned from acacia as well with tenons on each end. I decided on through tenons only because I could drill through both sides at the same time, ensuring that the mortises would li...

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Part 19: Run-Up to Another Show

04-26-2018 04:19 PM by Steve | 0 comments »

It was a hectic push to get ready for my last show, which was a fun time (if not terribly lucrative). This time, I set more reasonable goals, and even after a flurry of sales around tax day (which was unusual), I have plenty of wares on the shelves or easy to finish before May 5th. This wine rack is a new product. I finally decided on a thinned coat of Danish oil for the finish, followed by multiple thin coats of satin polyurethane, which should be able to take a little abuse. I...

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Part 20: Odd Custom Projects

05-03-2018 03:25 PM by Steve | 2 comments »

I generally see a trickle of custom requests in my shop, so it’s unusual to have two under way at the same time. The first was a soap cutting device for a friend who makes and sells boutique soap. Essentially, it’s cutting wires strung over a frame, then hinged so the entire device can be pulled down through a large cake of soap. Most of the comparables I saw on Etsy were bolted together plywood contraptions. I used some scrap maple for the frame with lap joints and dowels at t...

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Part 21: Single Task Table Saw Sled

08-03-2018 11:32 PM by Steve | 1 comment »

I’ve built quite a few different table saw sleds over the years but been happy with only a few of them. At the moment, the one I use most is a large version based on one I saw in a magazine recently. It came out pretty square and has T-slots for hold downs, which can be handy at times. For precise work, though, I found it to be a bit cumbersome. I cut a lot of quarter inch tenons from 1” x 1/2” stock for my jewelry cabinet doors. There are two doors per cabinet, so 8 join...

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