Monday, 30 December 2013

Cole Builds a Workbench

   Cole is the son of our friends and he is very interested in woodworking.
Some times he would come by and I would give him some wood to whittle with but I was pretty certain he had the malady of woodworking. Any boy his age that can whittle wood that long instead of playing video games must be sick. No need for a doctor as woodworking is a benevolent infliction of the genus homo sapiens.

   "What tools should I get if I want to do more woodworking", Cole asked me.
   "A workbench", I replied.
   " Umm, I meant tools....", he said again.
   " A workbench is a tool and should be your first tool when possible."

  He asked if I would help him build one. I agreed also I knew his mother was growing tired of the piles of wood chips under the kitchen table.

  First we need a top. As luck had it I came into possession of a used maple laminated work top that is 1 1/2 " thick. Lots of salvaged large dimension boards from cribbing used for steel deliveries. Some old drawers from the post office renovation that could be reworked and installed under the bench.

  The top was cut to finished dimensions first then we started on the legs and feet for the base.
The legs are through mortised into the feet and then wedges are driven into slots in the tenon to secure the legs without the use of glue. A bench gets a lot of racking and the wedges hold well and are easily repaired if need be.

  Cole mortised the holes on the awesome mortising machine which has a drill bit inside a square chisel. You pull down on a lever and behold. Perfectly square holes in the wood.

  I handed him a handsaw and showed him how to cut the tenons on the ends of the legs. I could tell he didn't find that as exciting as the mortise machine. A little sweat needs to go into a good bench.

  At the end of that first day he offered that I could go ahead and work on the bench without him so it could be finished. Ha Ha, no way buddy I thought.
  I told him I could wait for him to return whenever he was ready. Again he didn't find that as exciting as the mortising machine. He was beginning to realize that working wood takes more time in the shop than it does on the DIY channel.

  "Will this have a vise?", he asked. I said I would find something for him which turned out to be a nice one from Lee Valley. It's of good quality and good price. It should take a beating for many a year. I also managed to get a couple of bench pups with it for holding work on the bench.

  So we gave it a break for a while. I was beginning to wonder if he would return but sure enough he did contact me as Christmas break was on the horizon.

 On Friday we worked on assembling those legs and feet and burying those wedges into the tenons. We topped off the legs with a stretcher to allow us attachment to the work top.
Once the top was on we put in some stretchers between the legs. Getting nice and sturdy now. Enough for one afternoon.
  Saturday the vise was installed and some wood faces made for the vise and attached. I laid out marks on the bench top for him to bore all the holes for the bench dogs to fit in. Three rows of eight holes. Not as amazing as the mortiser again but he soldiered on to the last one.

  Next we put together some cases to insert drawers into and trimmed the fronts of them. Cole learned to look at the nail and not his thumb when hammering. I was going to say something but some lessons are best learned by oneself. Cole's eyes popped wide open. No tears, just disbelief.

   "Man that hurts", he said.
While he was walking back and forth holding his hand I told him why the accident had happened but it didn't seem to make it feel any better. It never does though.

 As I was laughing I offered him this advice, "Think about something else".
It never worked for me either but after a short bout with nausea the throbbing stops, not to mention the hot flash sweating.

 The top was cleaned with steel scraper cards. That was a fun lesson in sore and burning thumbs.

  "They feel better the more you use them", I lied to him.
He wasn't going for it but he kept scraping anyway.  I gave him some mineral oil to wipe onto the top, it helps keep the wood in good shape and repel some stains. Looking good.

  Enough for today. Cole had a family thing on Sunday so he would be back on Monday.

Monday, last day.

 Time to make and install the drawers. I did most of the drawer refurbishing as it was quite tricky. He'll get there soon enough. Cole went on to design and build some handles during the time I worked on the drawers.

  The handles he was working on were pretty cool but didn't really come together in the end for him. It was a valiant try though and good to see him take the initiative. You are powerless to work wood if you are afraid to fail. I was intrigued by his design. I might try some myself later.

  Like a true woodworker Cole looked to the work of others and made some handles similar to the ones I put on my assembly table. He figured those out by himself and I think they are very good. After some measuring and math work we had those handles installed in the centre of the drawer fronts.

  There are two camps of thought in the woodworking universe. One is to build a full height bench and have the vertically challenged wood chuck use a box to stand on. The other camp is to build to suit the height of the young maker. I chose the latter camp. As he grows he can add some blocking to the feet until he stops growing.
Here's Cole on his bench.
  If he is still using a bench when he is older then he will most likely build a traditional bench from maple with tail vise and side vise. Just like a pro. I'll help him if he want's me too. It is a very rewarding feeling passing on your knowledge to another. Woodworkers especially love to share their knowledge. I just hope he doesn't make me cut the leg tenons by hand.

Thanks for reading
Happy New Year


Thursday, 26 December 2013

Somers' bar is open

  As promised in the last post we finished up the the liquor cabinet and the doors for beneath the sink space.
The liquor cabinet is about 8 inches deep overall and sports these snazzy sliding doors. The sliding doors are a real space saver in the area behind the bar. The panels for the sliding doors are made by resawing some 2 1/2 in thick quarter sawn oak  into 1/4 inch slices and edge gluing them together. Makes it really nice with the ray flecks mingling amongst the grain of the door frames. As always click on the pics to see a larger picture.

Open Sesame

   Here is how it looks altogether. It was nice to finally stand in front of it and just enjoy a drink and some conversation. Bob's wine aerator works awesome.

Here's looking at the business side of the bar.

  I'll be back to hang the doors on the bar cabinet. Maybe have a little more wine?
Bob and Lynn are the nicest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. I can't say enough.

  It leaves me with a great feeling knowing that they will have many enjoyable moments with family and friends in the years to come around my work.

  Once again my skills have let me make someone happier.
I am most thankful to have this wonderful skill and the time to use it.

Who can I make happy next? Maybe you?

Thanks for reading

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Completing the Somers' Oak Bar

Hi everyone.

As promised in the last post I have an update on the bar install.
We moved the main portions of the bar to the Somers' house last week and assembled them.
Yesterday we took the completed arm rails over along with a few trim pieces to finish up the install.

Ready for the big finish.

View of the support system for the bar rail.

No bar is complete until you slip on the arm rail. Man she's a beauty.

A little final smoothing with a custom shaped scraper card. Best mitered corners I have ever executed.

Saturday Night is date night so Shannon and I donned the Nitrile gloves broke out the stain and got busy with the wood. Does anyone have some Barry White.

Staining complete and bar slipped into place. An oil/varnish top coat will go on later to seal the deal.

Fridges will go underneath with small cupboard on the end. Doors are coming along with the liquor cabinet that will soon be on the back wall. I'll show you those on the next post.

Working with Bob and Lynn Somers on this project has been awesome. Bob showed me where he wanted the bar and what he wanted parked under it and left the rest up to me.
The bar is not very big but the large panels on the front give it command of that area of the rec room.
The ray flecks from quarter sawing some of the panel trims really payed off creating some visual interest.

Oh yeah, the bar rail is just the right height and shape. Sweet dreams. And again thanks to Lynn and Bob for their hospitality. Cheers everyone.

Thanks for reading.

Somer's Oak Bar Project

  I love bars. Not the kind on jail cell windows but the kind you sit or stand at and guzzle some ale with your mates.

 Being a woodworker I marvel at all the framing around the panels. The custom molded trims. The layers of vertical and horizontal boards and how they build upon each other to give it depth. Lets not forget the arm rail that runs the length of the bar with it's ample sweeping asymmetric cove to cradle your forearms.

  I am somewhat of an expert considering that I have spent plenty of time drinking in front of them. Trust me my friends, a well crafted arm rail cradling your arms makes a nice place to put your head down for a little nap.

   I am lucky enough to have someone who has been waiting for a woodworker to build a bar to fit into his rec room. A nice bar to compliment his lovely oak billiard table.

   Taking a cue from the billiard table (pun intended) for the bar's design it was natural to go with oak. The billiard table is somewhat contemporary but has a nice style with lots of visual weight.

  The bar will have the customary frame and panel fronts. The panels will be trimmed with custom made moldings to accentuate the paneled fields. Layers of solid oak boards will be built up at the corners and along the base to add some depth.
There won't be any fancy carved corbels under the bar top as we are sighting along with the billiard tables lines.

  I did want to add some visual interest to the broad grain patterns in the oak as it can become overwhelming (read boring). I carefully selected and cut boards to present the medullary rays and flecking that are present in quarter sawn wood. My planks aren't quarter sawn but paying special attention to the annual rings on the ends of the boards I cut and re-sawed the boards so the faces I wanted would be at a right angle to the rings. This doesn't create a true quarter saw but it has the same effect.

This is how she looks today, just starting on the top. All the trims are done.

  For the bar top I do have a couple of true quarter sawn boards with straight running grain but I haven't made the final decision for that yet.

  It will of course have the arm rail hand crafted in my shop to finish it off and give me a place to lean and enjoy a cold one with the bars owner once it is all done.

Should have an update on the top soon probably be accompanied by the installation in the rec room.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Salvaged Headboard, New Drawers, Nice Bed

   Ryan asked me if I could make some wood side rails and attach them to some iron bed frames he had salvaged. I knew something could be done but there were doubts as to how effectively the rails could be mounted on the head and foot boards. The other option most likely to succeed was a platform with the head and foot board fastened to the ends. I can't remember who suggested it but we agreed on it. How about we add some drawers under that. Sounds good. If in the end the head and foot boards don't look right they can go without them anyway.

   For the visible parts of the frame I decided on oak. The showy grain of oak should go well with the green iron head and foot board. For the rest of the structure plywood should save on weight and time. The platform will be built in two halves so it can be easily moved. The added bonus of this setup is that the box spring will be properly supported down the edges and centre. Lack of support in the centre of the box spring ruins your mattress in a short time.

   I put some stain samples on oak and set them next to the bed frames so Tiffany could choose the colour. She went with the English Chestnut. Good choice in my opinion.The interior of the drawers will be finished with shellac. The shellac finish will not give off a volatile odour that soaks into your clothes. For a better look just click on the pictures.

Just beginning to assemble one of two frames.

One half assembled. The panels in the end were resawn from the same board and will mirror each other once the two halves are brought together.

Two halves assembled and stained and drawers are almost finished as well.

Drawers go in on the full extension self closing slides. Drawers are quite wide so they are constructed from maple plywood. It saves time and cost in the build and they are nearly indestructible. The top edge of the drawers are finished off with oak strips. The strips are left in their natural colour. I think it makes a nice transition from the stained fronts to the light colour of the interior of the drawers.

The drawer fronts for each side will be resawn from the same board so I can mirror the grain lines on the drawer faces. You won't find this at Leon's, but if you like a 39" flat screen and want to throw down two grand on particle board and cardboard go see Leon's. Do you really need another flat screen anyway?

Drawers in, looking good.

Picked these Arts and Crafts style handles up at Lee Valley. I always loose track of time in that store.

Lee Valley is the Willie Wonka's of wood working. Sadly they don't employee Umpha Loompas. They do however employ friendly, knowledgeable staff.

Here it is assembled, minus the drawers at this point. They're just going to go with the head board.

   So there you have it. Custom made. You want your headboard on that bed, no problem.
You want a well constructed piece, you got it. You want premium hardware, it's in it. You want  durability and longevity, use superior materials. Need more drawer space in the future? Just add another set underneath, plywood on top and jettison the box spring.

How's the score now?
Ryan and Tiffany 5, Leon's 0.

Sleep tight everyone

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Memorial Display Case

  A couple of weeks before Father's Day I received a message from Jocelyn. She asked if I could make a display case for a jacket which belonged to a friend of hers and her husband Nathan. The jackets owner had passed away last year and they received the coat and cherish it as a reminder of him. Jocelyn wanted the case for a Fathers Day surprise and hoped that I could get it done in time.

 I told her I could have it done in time. It was an awesome idea. I felt honored to make it. I asked her to spirit the coat over to my house so that I could begin work on the case right away.

   I wanted the case to convey a feeling of times passing but not so much as to distract from the coat it is harbouring. Think of an old wooden railing on a boardwalk, the weathered wood grain raised up and polished smooth by many hands. The case would feel old to the touch and the light should play well off the textured surface. Yes, that would do nicely.
  There is an ancient Japanese technique to accentuate the texture of the wood grain which they call Jin di sugi. To do this the wood was buried in earth for several years allowing it to decay. I didn't have that much time so I used a wire wheel on a grinder to remove the early wood and leave behind the late wood.

  A little explanation may be in order here. If you were to look at the annual rings in the end of a log one would see that there are wide rings and narrow rings. The large rings are early wood which grow during the spring into summer. The narrow rings, called late wood form in the late summer into winter. Late wood is much denser than the early wood and therefore the wire wheel will brush away the soft early wood leaving behind the raised texture.

  The case is built from oak with an ebony stain and a little shellac on top. The glazing in the door is acrylic as glass would be to fragile here. White felt finishes off the background area. Click on the picture for a better look.

  Jocelyn and her children presented the case to Nathan on the Saturday before Fathers Day in his office. One could tell he was deeply touched. We hung the cabinet on the wall so he can look at it often.

As always thanks for reading.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


  Here is a story that was twenty eight years in the making. It isn't about making some lovely furniture but I am sure you will enjoy it. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.

  A while ago my half brother Raúl and I had gone to Oakville to load some oak, cherry and walnut planks into a truck for delivery to my place. They were all about 8 feet long and 2 1/2 inches thick and averaged 10 inches in width. While loading I dropped a plank on it's edge landing beside my right foot and it then tipped and knocked against my leg. "Wow, that was close", I said to my toes. But my leg was struck by the edge of the board. " I'm good" said Leg which was unfazed and took it in stride, just another knock to go with the many that came before.

  After putting away the two thousand board feet of lumber at home that Saturday afternoon I realized there was a small lump on my leg that stung. Must have been that board I dropped. Just a bump, another knock for the tough guy I thought. A few days later the feeling went away and I forgot about it.

Fast forward 4 weeks.

  Raúl , (who is actually Paul and hasn't been innocent for a long time so I will no longer hide his name) and I were harvesting some firewood on a lovely spring day. A Saturday to be specific. We were enjoying the fresh air and sunshine mixed with the loud bark of chainsaws, the swirling blizzard of wood chips and the heady scent of two stroke engine exhaust. Ahhhh...... heavenly.

  As I was splitting and stacking the last of the wood the next day an area about 2 inches above my right ankle swelled up into a hard lump. It was sore to the touch giving me a shock like a wasp's sting. My work boots were rubbing on it and lightning bolts of pain were shooting through my leg. Probably too much working on Saturday I thought. The lump should subside when I relax for the evening.

  Monday night came and the lump was still there and sorer and larger than ever. Shannon talked me into going to Emergency.

  After a couple of hours at Emergency Dr. Whasthismane ruled out a clot but a further investigation was deemed necessary.  I went back two days later for an ultrasound of the lump.

  Dr. Ooh (again protecting the innocent) performed the ultrasound. His words were, " Oh.... Oh boy....... what is that? How did that get there?" I was almost off the exam table trying to look past him to view the monitor when he backed away and said, " Look. How did you do that?"

" I dunno..", was the best I could come up with.

"Head to emerg and maybe they can cut that foreign body out for you", said Dr. Ooh.

"Thanks Dr. Ooh", I muttered and headed out into the hallway to make my way back to triage.

  I ducked out of emergency and phoned Shannon (her real name) to let her know what was going on and I would call when they had the thing out.

After triage I was settled into an exam room. Not long after the doctor in residency came in. Dr. Beautiful (yes she is really beautiful) asked me some questions then explained to me that she would freeze the area around the swelling and attempt to extricate the foreign body from my leg right after she returned from conference with the doctor in charge of the ER.

  I began to think it would have been a good idea to get a coffee before I ended up in this room. No sooner had I finished that thought when Shannon walked through the door. Gotta love her. I guess she couldn't resist seeing them cut into me. I love her. I was so happy to see her and she could go for coffee!

  Shannon did so and we were just starting to enjoy our cups of joe when Dr. Beautiful returned.
I introduced her to Shannon and then the doctor went right to work. At the first flash of the scalpel Shannon sprang out of her chair and took a picture with her Iphone to send to our friend Chris. Well Chris just loves that kind of stuff.

   Shannon asked me if I wanted to see the picture. I declined. I am not good with the sight of my own blood. Just the thought of it was enough to give me tunnel vision and start the roaring sound in my ears. But I fought it off after a little sweating.

  After some attempts to find something inside my leg Dr. Beautiful came up with nothing. She did strike something a couple of times but just couldn't drag it out. She then brought in Dr. Incharge to see if he could help. He also came up empty but being a man with years of wisdom suggested we do a CT scan and go back in with the scan as a visual guide. "Sometimes the little things are the most difficult", he said.

  I was all for that. Now I could get back to coffee with Shannon while I awaited the scan.

  Following the CT scan the radiologist and doctor were having an animated conversation. This might be more than met the eye I thought.

  Unfortunately Shannon had to be leave for an appointment before the doctors returned.

  After a lengthy wait Dr. Incharge and Dr. Beautiful returned from a three ambulance ordeal. They informed me that the scan showed the object in question had entered near the ankle bone at an upward angle suggesting I had stepped into or on something. They figured it was a metal object by the looks of the jagged edges and it's thickness.

How the hell did that get in there? I am sure I would remember an object that long piercing my body. I began to think that maybe men in black suits had implanted a device in my leg and erased my memory afterwards. I wonder what the device would do?

  As they advanced with scalpel and clamps for the second time I suddenly remembered that I had at one time put my foot through a plate glass window on a folding overhead garage door.

A few minutes later Dr. Beautiful said, "Got it".

  The picture shows what they extracted. Not the penny but the 1/8" thick shard of glass.
A little souvenir from days gone by.

  Truly amazing how the human body can harbour an object. The glass has weathered the years much better than I. Disappointed about the Men in Black though.

  It was a great relief to have that removed and before I could leave a nurse came by and asked if she could see the glass and take it around for the others to see. I wish the ER moved as fast as the news does in there.
  "No problem, have fun with it", I had to find a rest room and get rid of that coffee anyway.

thanks for reading.

I still don't trust those black suits they are sneaky.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Maple Bookcases

  I've been busy building some bookcases for my friend Jody. Should have the finish on them this week.

  The cases are constructed from maple veneered plywood, and the moldings and face frames are of solid maple and the shelves are adjustable. The shelf parts will have solid edging on them soon and will receive the same finish as the cases themselves. Should look real nice once they are in there new home.

Here are some pics I took along the way. Click on the pics for a larger view.

After machining the plywood they are assembled into these rough cases.

The cases are linked together.

Mill and shape some solid maple wood and apply it to the face of the cases.

Mill and shape more maple and join them to create some nice crown moldings for the cases.

 Make some nice trimming for the bottom of the cases to finish them off.

And there you have it. 
It really doesn't happen that fast but what would be the fun in that.

  It'll be nice to get this large project out of the shop and get a little space back. Once I have some finish on them I will post some pictures. I am also working on a built in dresser and closets for our bedroom along with a seat under the window in between. I'll put up some pics of that in the future.

Thanks for looking

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Cherry Burl to Cherry Bowl

  Here is another one of a kind hand carved bowl.
I thinks this is the most fabulous one to date. Paul and I both put our hands to work on this one and what a beauty it is.

  We used the Arbortech power carving wheel on the Makita grinder to rough out the shape. Working with and around the voids and slowly coaxing out the secrets hidden in this lovely burl.

  When the burl could give no more we stopped grinding and moved on to the sanding wheels, then to the hand scrapers and finished up with a little sanding and finally applied a natural finish.

  Oh how it glows. It is one of a kind and it knows it. Enjoy the show.
Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Artsy shot for Marina and John :-)


   This bowl was from half of a burl that was harvested about twenty years ago by Paul's father. About five years ago he gave it to Paul and I so we could make something with it. We had many ideas for it but none seemed to do it justice until now. The other half was cut into slices to be used in box lids and soon to be used as inlays on some round table tops.

   We are always on the hunt for nice burls and are in the process of securing some more cherry ones Paul found recently. We should have some more for you to see in the not to distant future.

As always, thanks for reading.