The American Craftsman Workshop Update Sept '09

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Blog entry by Todd A. Clippinger posted 09-09-2009 07:32 AM 3769 reads 1 time favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I hope that everyone had a good finish to the summer by spending quality time with the family over the long Labor Day weekend. My wife, Rita, and I went kayaking with friends on the Madison and Yellowstone Rivers here in Montana and we covered 17 miles between the two trips. Bald eagles and other wildlife were abundant and the scenery was – well it’s Montana so it was beautiful!

Kayaking the Madison River

My apologies for not being very active this summer here at LJ and for the lack of providing real nutrition for the woodworker. Fortunately, I have been busy with work and I have only had time for an occasional comment. I often make most of my visits to LJ when I am in between coats of finish and I just need to clear out of the shop to let things dry.

I started the summer off with another Shaker inspired bench which I shipped to clients in New York. The bench reached the clients in great shape and they were very pleased with the quality and design of the piece. I was quite honored to find out that they have quite a collection of Stickley furniture, so my bench sits in good company:)


This was the bench that I used to make the video “Design Thoughts on a Shaker Inspired Bench.” I feel that there is much information out there on how to construct furniture, but not enough information covering the design and thought process. I hope to provide more of this type of information in the future.

Besides some home remodel and repair work I had an order for master bath cabinetry from some of my regular (and best) clients. They are made of curly maple. I have not even taken finish photos of these cabinets yet and I am not sure when I will make time to get some good shots to share with everyone.


I just wrapped up the staining and finishing of some french doors for these same clients. I took the opportunity to make a video about using toner to add color to a project. I hated to pass up the opportunity of using a real project to share some good information on using toner. I am sure that it will take a few days to get the video put together. So don’t hold your breathe – you might just pass out!

French Doors

I also got a refinishing project for a local coffee shop. I have to strip and refinish 10 small tables. Half are 24”x24” and the other half are 30”x30”. The tables are in the Arts & Crafts style and are not terribly difficult to deal with. The color of the tables originally had a warm burgundy red to them and they have faded out to a golden oak. The coffee shop has two outside walls that are full length windows and the sunlight is a bit harsh on everything that it comes in constant contact with.

The tables were made by another local furniture maker that no longer makes furniture on a full time basis. They are made of quartersawn white oak and are well constructed. Refinishing the tables is cost effective and preserves the investment that they have made in these fine tables. You can see the before and after color in these photos.

The tables need refinished.

Table Completely refinished.

I also added adjustable feet to the bottom of the tables. On various tables throughout the coffee shop you will find napkins used as shims to keep the tables from rocking.

The coffee shop will be missing two tables at a time as I take them out for refinishing. So I used some scrap poplar wood that had accumulated in the shop and made a table to fill in for the ones that I take out. The table is equal to two of the tables pulled together so they are not really losing any seating. I often find the customers pull two tables together for larger groups.

Here is my 10 hour poplar table. The wood is a bit soft for commercial applications such as a restaurant but the finish is holding up well. I used ML Campbell’s MagnaMax Satin. The stain color? Java! That is what I call it but it is actually brown Transtint dye covered with Sherwin William’s black walnut BAC wiping stain. This adequately covers the green tones that poplar can exhibit.

Guess what color it is? - Java!

Finally, I have a review to do on some new tools that I got. I had to see what all the excitement was about so I got a set of Tommy McDonald's Major League Tools. This set includes a chisel mallet, a wicked sharp marking gauge, and some marking and chisel guide blocks. I have a project coming up next that I will get to use these on. (Note the lovely model.)

Major League Tools

I will do a review and let you know what I think. My first impression is quite positive, but I will need to use them to form any real opinion here.

So Stay Tuned to the American Craftsman Workshop and until next time – Be safe in your own shop.

Peace, Love, and Woodworking

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

23 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18266 posts in 3670 days

#1 posted 09-09-2009 08:16 AM

Great to see you back on line :-)) I have a question for you: Will lacquer alone pop the wood on a nice piece without any other treatment?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3879 days

#2 posted 09-09-2009 12:29 PM

Very interesting. Thanks for the post!!!!

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3229 days

#3 posted 09-09-2009 01:44 PM

I love the bases on those cabinets. When you post more pics, if you have any Sketch-up designs of those I’d appreciate seeing those :)

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3520 days

#4 posted 09-09-2009 01:53 PM

...I could almost hear those paddles dipping into the water… A great post Todd! I like the way you built a table to replace a table you were working on, good style! I also like how you use a mover’s blanket when working in a customers house!

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3887 days

#5 posted 09-09-2009 02:52 PM

Nice work as always.

I have a nice sharp marking gauge…....first time I used it, I scratched the wrong edge…......havent used it since

Again…..beautiful work as always

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4093 days

#6 posted 09-09-2009 02:57 PM

Topamax – Lacquer alone will make the grain pop. Many of the projects with figured wood in my portfolio have nothing other than lacquer on them and the grain just sprang to life as soon as the first coat went on. I usually use a satin or dull finish, but going glossy will create a deeper look to the finish. This would be similar to an automotive finish.

Jimi C – I may have to share some of my sketch book as I have not yet learned how to use Sketchup. I have it in my computer but I lack the time.

Kindlingmaker – I have a great reputation as a remodeling contractor built on simple acts like showing up on time, protecting floors and furniture as I work, and cleaning up after myself. This is a gold nugget for everyone and is one of the secrets to success.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View griff's profile


1207 posts in 3756 days

#7 posted 09-09-2009 03:50 PM

Todd , I enjoyed the update. I`v never been to Montana to see its beauty so thanks for the glimpse.

Your projects look great, I really like the bench. I wana try one, one day. I really like the Q/S tables. I Q/S about 300 bd ft white oak yesterday for a bedroom suit.
Looking forward to learning about the toners, Keep up the great work.

The window base and the vanity base looks great I like that design.

-- Mike, Bruce Mississippi = Jack of many trades master of none

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3642 days

#8 posted 09-09-2009 04:25 PM

I’m not a fan of Oak, but that QS top and legs just look GOOD! I also like the design of the bath cabinets – very elegant.

looks like you had a good weekend to balance out things! thanks for the update.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4093 days

#9 posted 09-09-2009 05:09 PM

I agree with you PurpLev. I am not a fan of oak but the QS is nice looking. But for this project I am just dealing with an existing situation.

You will notice that none of my projects are made of oak. If you want to add some wow factor I think it helps to use something other than oak. It is not a bad wood, it is simply overused in my opinion.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View rayzir's profile


15 posts in 3545 days

#10 posted 09-09-2009 05:26 PM

Thanks for the update. I really enjoyed your bench video too. Lots of good stuff to think about.

-- Travis (

View DocStock's profile


13 posts in 3242 days

#11 posted 09-09-2009 06:11 PM

Thanks for your update on projects you have been working on… I especially like the 10 hour table finish you made out of Poplar. I always hate the green tint you get out of the wood but after all it is used for painted woodwork. ANy tips or tricks on that finish you would like to share?

I am also jealous of the float trips down my favorite rivers. Mom said it’s been hot up there so it must have been great on the floats.

-- Glen

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4093 days

#12 posted 09-09-2009 07:11 PM

I used the stain first and applied a seal coat. Then I added the dye as a toner and sealed that in with my finish coats. It turned out really nice.

I am a huge fan of ML Campbell’s MagnaMax. It is waaay more durable than the previous pre-cats that I had been using. I was previously using Sherwin Williams T77-F37 and T77-F57. The MagnaMax is so durable that it acts similar to a post catalyzed finish. It is very suitable for table tops and cabinets in wet locations such as kitchens and baths.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 3714 days

#13 posted 09-09-2009 07:43 PM

Thanks for the post. I’m reeeaaally looking forward to the info on toners.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4093 days

#14 posted 09-09-2009 07:55 PM

I am downloading video at this moment:)

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3264 days

#15 posted 09-09-2009 08:00 PM

Welcome back!...and I envy you for your great break. That is a fine bench and deserves it’s spot amongst the Stickley’s…Great stuff…Im looking forward to your reviews and videos

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

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