Friday, August 29, 2008

Unusual Kids Furniture

If you're the kind of woodworker who likes to design as well as build his own furniture, here is a website that's loaded with inspiration. The WebUrbanist blog is running an eight-part series about unusual furniture design. I particulary like the "10 Pieces of Unusually Awesome Furniture for Kids."
The cool thing about most of this unusual furniture is that people (and kids) would actually use it--as furniture.

[Thanks to]

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oak by Any Other Name

For most American woodworkers, oak is often the wood of choice. And there are good reasons. It's good looking. It’s a friendly wood to work with and you can be certain the project will last a lifetime. And oak is readily available and moderately priced. So you can see why it's so high on the list.
But shopping for oak is not as simple as it might seem. Should you buy white oak and red oak? Quarter-sawn, rift sawn, or plain sawn? members got answers to these questions in a free download, and you can too. Here's the scoop on how to make the right choices for your next oak project. And after you get the download, sign-up to get the twice a month e-newsletter from PlansNOW. You get woodworking tips, free plans and techniques, and updates on the latest project plans.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Coming Off Injured Reserve

We're always happy to welcome one of our WoodNet Forums friends who's been on "injured reserve" back into the shop.
WoodNet Forums member The_Bag says:
It's been awhile since I've been able to do any woodworking due to a shoulder injury and resulting surgery. This past weekend I decided it was time to give it a try. Without too much discomfort, I made this small simple cherry table for my girlfriend. There's a pretty big difference in color between the legs and the rest of the table. The leg stock was milled 30+ years ago and the rest was milled about 2 years ago. Finished with BLO and lacquer.
More photos and comments here.

Simple Router Trammel

Circle cutting is easy with a router and a shop-built trammel. And the trammel doesn't have to be anything fancy. In fact, on the rare occasion that I need to cut circles, I just use a scrap piece of hardboard. Then when the project is complete, the hardboard goes back into my scrap bin.
You can probably figure out how to make one just from the photo, but complete instructions are here (still easy).
BTW: You can get more useful ideas like this sent to your computer each week by signing up for Woodsmith magazine's free weekly e-tips.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Shop Buddy

Some kids love spending time in the woodshop with Dad or Mom. WoodNet Forums member KeithS took a couple photos of his daughter trying out a new Lie-Nielsen block plane.

My five year old daughter is my shop buddy. She's the only one of the four kids that likes to spend time out there, and helps out with sweeping, playing in piles of plane shavings, and generally making me smile. Yesterday afternoon, I turned around and she was giving a good, long stare to my L-N block plane. I asked her if she wanted to hold it, and she jumped on that. I vised-up a small piece of maple, showed her how to hold the plane in her small hands, and away she went. She was making some nice little white curlies, smiling the entire time. It was an awesome time!!
Comments and more photos here.

Wooden Radio

I don't listen to the radio much these days. But if I did, I would seriously consider this radio, the MAGNO Wooden Radio. It's pretty pricey, but it does have AM, FM, and Shortwave, along with its wooden case and knobs.
The description at says the designer, "Singgih Kartono chooses wood for his radios not just based on aesthetics but on his appreciation of wood's simplicity and organic vitality. The Magno radio combines the most current mp3 player compatible electronics with sustainably grown woods."
What more could you ask for? They've got a smaller one, too. has lots more information about the radio and its designer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rare Comic about Wood

Wood is about as common a feature in everyday life as you'll ever find. But it rarely makes it into the comics. So I was especially pleased to see it as the topic in one of my favorite web comics: xkcd, a comic of romance, sarcasm, math and language.
See the strip here, and look around while you there. This stuff is great.

Hardwood Floors

Skil tools is starting a new series of home improvement videos--what they're calling their Skil Zone Vidcast. And the first is online. The topic is refinishing hardwood floors and the presenter is Bill Link.
Lots of good information about prepping the floor before you actually start applying the new finish. Check it out.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Easy Zero Clearance

Most table saw inserts have wide throat openings around the saw blade. This makes it all too easy for narrow cutoffs to fall in the opening and possibly bind against the blade. In addition, there's often chipout along the bottom face where the workpiece isn't supported.
To solve these problems, try this zero-clearance technique. Instead of replacing the insert plate, use a large piece of ¼" hardboard that rests on top of the table saw. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
To locate the top, set your rip fence for the desired width of cut first. Then slide the hardboard against the fence and carpet tape it in place. Turning it into a zero clearance top is just a matter of turning on the saw and raising the blade. And the nice thing is you can use this insert many times before it needs to be replaced.
You can get lots more woodworking techniques from Woodsmith and ShopNotes delivered to your computer each week by email. Sign-up is free.

Alder Cubes

Most woodworkers like the look and feel of wood. Most of us work with boards and sheet goods. Designer Brent Comber pushes the envelope a bit with several of his designs, but if you love wood, you'll love his work.
The photo shows Alder Cubes, pieces of Alder wood with dark resin in between. I think they're primarily design as seating for art galleries or lobbies of large buildings. The designer says:

I have always loved the spaces created between the trees in a forest. I was inspired by the positive and negative shapes and the play of light against dark.
His website has several interesting and beautiful designs. Don't miss the "Shattered" collection of Douglas Fir.
[As seen at ThisNext]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fine Plywood Homes

One of the many things I like about the web is the collections of old photographs and advertising illustrations you can find here. One of the best sites for art from the 1950's and 60's is

Looking around there a few days ago, I came across this 1959 illustration for the Douglas Fir Plywood Association. (Click on the illustration for a larger view.)

Plan59 has something for everyone. The hats, the cars, and the now politically incorrect portrayal of the role of women are a hoot.

No Splitting Headaches

I used to live in a house with a wood burning stove that we used a lot. I'd order one or two cords of firewood in the fall, and then, as time permitted, split it down to a size that would fit in the stove. Not only was this time-consuming and a hassle, but on more than one occasion, I actually whacked a finger that didn't get out of the way in time (I always wore heavy leather gloves).
Now Karl Bunker writing in Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools blog has the answer--one that I'm sure you traditional tool fans have already figured out--the froe. This would have saved me so much time and trouble. Live and learn.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is This a Mess or What?

Over in the WoodNet Hand Tools forum, member Crooked_Trail posted this photo of his workbench covered with shavings, as he was having fun with some of his molding planes. He also apologized for such a messy shop.
I don't know, it doesn't look that messy to me. Other guys in the forum didn't think so either, but they sure liked his workbench.
More comments in the forum.

Jigsaw Puzzle Table

I'm always on the lookout for creative new designs in wood, and I recently came across this table at sawitfirst, an online furniture store in Britain. The table, from Smartistart Design, is actually made of jigsaw puzzle-shaped pieces. From the catalog:

Made entirely from solid beech, the Jigsaw Puzzle Table consists of individual jigsaw shaped pieces that fit together to create a unique occasional table.
Available in two sizes, they are great fun to put together. The table can be used individually as a side table, or combined with other units to create larger tables. Standard size side table has twelve pieces. Coffee table size has twenty pieces.
More photos on the catalog page.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why End Grain Burns

It has happened to all of us... You're routing a decorative edge or a round-over on a panel. When you rout with the grain on the sides of the panel everything is fine. But when you rout across the end grain, it looks like your whole project is about to go up in smoke.
Wood burns when it gets too hot (no surprise there), and heat is caused by friction between a cutting tool like a router bit or saw blade and the fibers in the wood.
There are several things you can do to reduce the chance of burning:
1) Always cut with a clean cutting edge -- a cutting edge that's free from pitch (gum) which can increase friction and cause a hotter cut. And the cutter should be sharp. A sharp cutting edge slices the wood fibers, but a dull edge mangles the fibers.
2) Feed the workpiece faster across the cutter. When you feed a workpiece into a cutter at a slow rate, the cutter is making more cuts in the same spot on the board (more than it would at a faster feed rate). This produces a great deal of heat because the cutter isn't just cutting -- now it rubbing or burnishing the wood.
3) Reduce the speed of the cutter. By slowing down the cutter, the amount of tool-to-wood contact is reduced. So, like moving the wood through the cutter faster, there's less heat produced and less chance of burning.
You can get more woodworking tips like this delivered to your computer. Visit to sign-up.

Bench Plane Restoration

Over in the Hand Tools forum at, member leonard_bailey has posted photos of his restoration of a No. 3 bench plane. Other members asked how he did it, and he explains his technique.
Click through for the "after" photo.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Perfect Dadoes Everytime

Dadoes are grooves cut in boards across the grain. They are also cut in plywood and other sheet goods to accept another piece of plywood, as a shelf being let into the side of a cabinet. And they add strength to the cabinet. All pluses.
But they do have one drawback: chipout along edges of the dado. This doesn't matter much if the dado doesn't show in the finished project, but if you're using some expensive hardwood plywood, this can be really frustrating, and worse.
Digging around in the video archives at ShopNotes magazine, I came across this video from a couple years ago, showing seven techniques to avoid chipout when cutting dadoes on a table saw.
If you're not familiar with ShopNotes magazine, do yourself a favor and get a preview issue. Also, check out Woodsmith's Table Saw: Tough Cuts Made Easy softcover book for lots more table saw techniques.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Design with Plywood

When we use plywood in a project, we typically cover the edges of the panels to hide the plies. But as I look around at what furniture designers are doing these days, I'm seeing more designing with plywood as plywood. And it looks terrific.
Here's an example, a plywood crib from a company called 4-pli. It's made of Baltic birch plywood and finished with low-VOC milk paint. Visit their website to see what else they're doing. Some of it is really beautiful.

Walnut Bed Completed

The guys at WoodNet Forums continue to outdo themselves. Member rick4212 has posted photos of his just completed walnut bed.

This is my first bed and I found making a bed to be one of the more challenging projects.This is all made from the same tree except for the figured panels. The bed is a king size 80" x 78". I still need to make the bed bolt covers. I will be turning them on the lathe. The finish is BLO with a varnish (Waterlox) top coat.
More photos and comments at WoodNet Forums.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tying Down a Load

They say there's a right way and a wrong way to do everything. Experience tells us that the right way is usually the more difficult way, too. Well, here's a situation in which the easier way is also the faster and safer way. When we leave the home center or wood store with some lumber, knowing a couple simple knots will make securing the lumber an easy job.
Here's a link to a series of short videos from ShopNotes magazine, showing you how it's done. It's also an effective way to show everyone how really cool you are: "Man, that guy knows everything!"

ShopNotes 101 Hits the Streets

When the 100th issue of Woodsmith magazine came out and I saw the workbench in it designed to commemorate the occasion, I laughed. The cherry cabinet holding up the maple slab work surface was nicer than anything I had in my home. But craftsman have always created nice things for their workshops. My grandfather was a wheelwright for the Scottish National Railroad in the early 1900's. I have his tool box. A big, rough gray box, but when opened, it's all mahogany, fancy joinery, and beautiful finish.
Following in that tradition, the latest issue of ShopNotes magazine features plans for a Fine-Tool Cabinet, made of cherry with glass doors. After woodworking for a while, most of us have picked up a few really nice hand tools, maybe we got them as gifts, maybe we got over-eager at a tool auction, maybe we bought them ourselves when our spouse was looking the other way. This cabinet would be the perfect place to store and display them.
Issue 101 also has plans for a mobile air tool station and an adjustable tenon jig for the table saw. It's on the newsstand now, or visit for a closer look. You can also get a free preview issue.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An Ugly Project???

Sometimes we're our own worst critic. Over at WoodNet Forums, member Purds posted photos of what he called "an ugly project," and said he was glad he was finished with it. He said he made too many mistakes, and he didn't like the finish, and he doesn't like to way the sap wood shows in the cherry, etc., etc.
Well, the other forum members were having none of that. The dresser looks terrific, and they said so. But Purds' attitude is pretty typical of home woodworkers. We all make mistakes, and they're all we can see when we look at the finished project. But most people don't and won't ever see the goofs. All they see is a beautiful cherry dresser. More photos and comments at

BTW: If Purds is really unhappy with the dresser, I'd be happy to haul it away for him... you know... just so he doesn't keep getting upset every time he sees at it.

Sander "Holding Pen"

Recently, I was working on a project that required a lot of sanding. I quickly became annoyed at having to turn off the sander and wait for it to stop vibrating before I could set it down.
So I created a small platform, a sort of "holding pen," for my sander to sit in while it stops vibrating. It's just a piece of hardboard with a few small strips of wood glued to the top to create the "holding pen." A piece of carpet is glued down to the hardboard.
The platform just sits on top of my workbench (you can clamp it to the workbench if you want). When I want to set my sander down, I just place it in the carpeted area--I don't even have to turn it off.
The carpet absorbs the vibrations of the sander and keeps it from jumping off the bench. But there's another benefit as well. The fibers of the carpet actually help clean dust and debris off the sandpaper.

You can get shop tips like this delivered to your computer each week from the editors of Woodsmith magazine. Here's the sign-up.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tea Table at WoodNet

Over at Forums, member willc has posted photos of his just finished tea table and it looks great. He says he couldn't get a photo that shows the true color of the wood, but the tiger maple still looks terrific.

He also explains how he applied the finish. You can read all about it and see more photos here.

New Covered Seed Tray

As summer winds down, it time to think again about feeding our feathered friends this fall and winter. And, just in time, the newest book from the editors of Garden Gate, Autumn GardenScapes, has a unique design for a bird feeder.
It's a simple wooden tray and a couple uprights with rounded top and bottom ends. Surrounding the tray and uprights is a piece of 8"-dia. duct tube that's been separated along its crimped seam and spread open over the uprights. Neat.
Complete plans are in Autumn GardenScapes. You can get a copy at your local newsstand, or visit to see more of what's in the new 100-page softcover book.

Scenic Overlook

Here are photos of a beautiful wooden scenic overlook or lookout. It's the Aurland Lookout in Norway.
Curiously, many of the comments about it in the Neatorama blog are negative, as they are at the website. Despite being made of (or sheathed in) wood, people seem to be objecting to it being there at all.
Both sites have lots more photos, best at You might be wondering what keeps tourists from falling off the edge. It's in the photos.

Power Tool Drag Racing

One thing most of us have in common is that we're power tool junkies. With that in mind, I'll point you to an article in the New York Times about a recent power tool drag racing competition in Seattle.
Just what this article was doing in the NYT I have no idea. But if the photo is any indication, it looks like it would have been a gas to be there.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Solutions for the Small Shop

Most of us do our woodworking in small shops and shared spaces, so being organized is important. But if you're like me, that's easier said than done. The editors of ShopNotes magazine have a large, modern shop to work in at work, but they also work in small shops at home and have brought that experience to the projects in their new book, Small Shop Solutions.
Topics include plans for the Ultimate Shop Makeover (it's on the cover), plus how to build your own shop accessories and space-saving storage. And, being a ShopNotes publication, there are tons of tips and techniques to make your time in the shop more productive.
It's a 100-page soft cover book, no advertising. It's $9.95 and shipping is free. You can get more details and photos here at the

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Edge-Gluing Technique

Here's an idea that might make gluing up panels a little easier. When edge-gluing several boards to make a panel, I start by laying the boards in order on the pipe clamps to be certain that they're arranged the way I want them. Then, I carefully stand each board up on edge to apply the glue.
The only problem is that a board on edge (especially a wide one) will tip over at the slightest bump. And when one board goes, they all go over -- just like row of dominoes.
To prevent this from happening, I clip a spring clamp on one end of each board. The spring clamps the board up above the pipe, and the handle serves as a stand.
You can get more woodworking tips and techniques from Woodsmith delivered to your computer each week. Here's the sign-up.

Zebra Wood Humidor

WoodNet Forums member Sacha has completed the largest and most beautiful humidor I've ever seen.
"After about 3 months of weekend laboring my humidor is finally done. It's cooled with 2 peltier units and so far just humming along. Humidity is already there, temp is still pulling down, only a few more degrees and I finally have a safe place for my cigar collection. Wood is zebra wood veneer on the outside, everything on the inside is Spanish cedar, face frame and doors are cherry."
He posted a half dozen excellent photos on and has a link to his website where he's posted even more.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jointing on a Drill Press

As I've mentioned before, one the attractions of woodworking is figuring out how to do some technique when you don't have all the fancy tools like the guys in the magazines and on TV.
Here's a good example: a drill press being used as a jointer.
The idea is that you notch a piece of hardwood or plywood for the fence to fit around the sanding drum. The trick is to take an extra 1/64" or 1/32" off the width of the infeed side of the fence. Then position the fence with the outfeed side even with the sanding drum, and start jointing.
Woodsmith editor Terry Strohman shows you how it's done in this video.

Read a Good Book Lately?

How about three of them?
Here's a terrific offer from August Home Publishing (my boss) for woodworkers and home improvers. They're offering three 100-page softcover books for half price if you buy all three. They sold on the newsstand for $9.95 each. But now, for $14.95, you get all three--300 pages of woodworking plans, techniques articles, and home improvement storage projects. And just in time for woodworking season -- yes, Virginia, cooler weather will return.
Go here to see what's in each book. Then dream about spending some real time in your shop again.

Finding the Straight Grain

Recently, I was at the home center, trying to find a really straight 2x4, and knowing that even a straight 2x4 might bow or twist when I get it back to the shop, or worse yet, after it's machined it to its final dimensions. Anyway, I wasn't having much luck.
Then I remembered one way the guys in the Woodsmith shop get dimensionally stable lumber is to start with a wider board like a 2x8 or 2x10 that has a 2"- to 4"-wide strip of straight-grained material near each edge. They rip off the edges to get at the good stuff.
You can get more handy tips like this delivered to your computer each week via email. Sign up here.

Magnetic Tool Racks

Normally, I'm a big fan of anything that contributes to the organization of tools in my shop. I'm always setting things down (or even worse, putting things away) and then I can't find them. So I should be a big fan of magnetic tool racks. But I'm not. They're not attractive, and I worry they might scratch or ding steel tools.

Here's a great exception: BenchCrafted's MAG-BLOK magnetic holder. Whole earth magnets are embedded in strips of beautiful domestic and tropical hardwoods. This is something I would put in my shop and in my kitchen. Except for the exotic hardwoods, the holders are reasonable priced too. Lots of photos.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hand-Cut Dovetails Video

Over at, Joel has posted the latest in the series of woodworking seminar videos. This one is Hand-Cut Dovetails with Robby Pedersen. Robby has spent almost 20 years teaching cabinetmaking to young people. His shop and showroom in Story City, Iowa, is a destination stop for school children throughout central Iowa. Before starting his business making reproduction furniture, Robby ran the period cabinet shop at the Living History Farms in Clive, Iowa.
During this seminar podcast, Robby demonstrates cutting dovetails with the same tools and techniques used by pioneer craftsmen of the 1800s.
You can stream the video to your computer, or download it and watch it later.
These seminars are conducted in the seminar room at the Woodsmith Store in Des Moines, Iowa, often with more than 100 people in attendance. They've been doing this for three years, and many of the seminars are recorded and posted as podcasts. So be sure to look around for other seminars you'd enjoy watching.