Archive | January, 2014

Another Year in the Books

5 Jan

Another year in the shop is at a close.  I spent the weekend cleaning and moving tools around, shoving them all in the back of the garage so I can pull the car in.  Too cold in the shop to enjoy time out there and chipping ice off the car in the morning is a drag.

I think this year marks the earliest I opened the shop and the latest I closed it.  Not that I have all that much to show for it in the house.  I built a big bookcase sort of thing.  It’s a nice project, but I have to say, I think it lacks awesome.

I did a lot of stuff around the shop, tricking out my tablesaw with dust collection, a Biesemeyer fence, a nice storage place for sawblades, and a much-improved fence for the router.  I really enjoyed doing the metalwork for the table saw.  I think it was the novelty that worked for me, I’m definitely not switching media or anything.

Funny, though, as I mashed all the tools into the back corner and congratulated myself on fitting it all in there neatly, my closing thought was “Gee, you know, I think I’ve got enough room for a band saw here.”  I’ve got a weird aspiration to build my own bandsaw using Matthias Wandel’s plans.  First off, I think it’ll be fun and satisfying, and I think I’m likely to end with a better saw than I would actually buy.

Second, what with all the tools of mine that decided to break this year, I like the idea that I’ll be able to fix it.  I’m down one router (But I’ve got parts to fix it.  More on that later).  That was the worst of a series of ticky-tack failures that dotted this year.

Oh yeah, I kinda built that…

Here’s the last of the shop projects for the year.  I finally got around to building an entryway organizer using the baskets I made a couple years ago.


More pics on skydrive (although alas, poor light, the camera and the unfinished wood combine to make the pictures kindof fuzzy.)

I’ll wait until it warms up to put on the finish.  The dream is that the kids will come in the door and stow their shoes underneath it, their backpacks and such on top of it, gloves & hats in the baskets, and coats on a soon-to-be mini coat tree.  Yup.  It’s a dream.  I’ll settle for everything piled up in a heap on top of it.

The wood selection is cosmopolitan:  Walnut frame and top, maple and Baltic birch plywood on the inside, and the baskets are Ash.

The top was cut from a single 11” wide 8/4 stick with some help from a friend with a really serious bandsaw.  You wouldn’t be fooled into thinking it was one board, but you might be fooled into thinking it is thicker than it is.  I have a 1.5” front lip on it, but it’s about ¾” thick.  The overall theme of the design revolves around pieces covering other pieces, rather than coming together in a plane.

Assuming I don’t change my mind, I’ll probably use an oil/varnish blend on all of it, except perhaps the baskets.  Them I think I’ll dye a bit darker and spray it with poly.  Maybe my wife will let me add a few Arts & Crafts details to it too.  We’ll see.

I probably won’t change this project, but after completing it, I think my design aesthetic might be changing.  I look at all the walnut I made this summer and wonder “where are the curves?”  I’ve always felt that walnut is one of those woods which looks better with soft edges rather than hard ones.

Hm.  I have a project in sketchup right now that might just scratch that itch.

We’ll see if I get after it in April.  Or perhaps the band-saw bug will be too strong.  Afterall, band-saws are really good at cutting curves…


Ikea Side-Table Kitbash

5 Jan

My wife picked up this $20 side-table from Target or someplace and plopped it in our entry hall.  I have mixed opinions about some of that cheapo furniture.  It’s made out of real wood (even if it is joined off-cuts), and they’ve learned how to make them less flimsy than they used to be.  Still.  I can do better.

I decided to redo the top and the drawer.  I’m not sure I like the combination of woods, but it was a good chance to practice matching up a nice top.  I really wanted to practice at that, because I think one of my biggest problems in making really nice furniture is that somehow my brain’s number one concern always seems to be to end up with the smallest possible scrap pile, rather than producing the nicest possible output.  So I figured here was a single, simple thing to practice changing my mindset…

You’ll no doubt notice that the top has quite a few knots on it…  So I didn’t exactly achieve my original objective.  But if you looked at the bottom of this panel, you’d see it was pretty free of knots and the grain matches a little better…  Yep.  And it’s also got that giant divot I made with a hand-plane…


So the top is an exercise in wood filler.  It still looks pretty good, and most of the fills stand up to close inspection.  (There were about ten places that are filled on that top, including fills on both the front and back edges).

The outside of the drawer looks pretty good.  I’m happy with that.  The strap is walnut and the end pieces are Bubinga, which is a close match to the original piece.

Click the photo for a higher rez image.


You know I love Norm Abrams and all, but I swear, every time he pulled out his dovetail jig, did something, and said “Perfect results, every time!”  I wanted to chuck a cement block through the TV.  I dovetailed the drawers with a new-to-me Leigh jig and, well, there were issues.  (Not the least being because I didn’t have quite the right bit for the job, I had to swap out the collar to make a fit.)

Anyway, much fiddling later, I have some dovetails that came out sortof okay.  I’ve never made a perfect result from a dovetail jig, like ever.  Ah well.  More practice.