Chop prep

As I stated yesterday, we celebrate Thanksgiving this week here in the the United States. And, after that, we move into the other holidays of the season that lead to feasting. And, you bet, I’m planning on spending some time in my kitchen this coming month.

Knife and fork job

Which means, it’s time to start getting some items in the kitchen back into shape. First up, this cutting board I had made a few years ago. It was a proof-of-concept build I had made before batching out a few boards for the holidays, and I haven’t had the heart to do away with it…

The board

But, as you can see, it’s all knife scarred, dried out and ready for a little bit of love. So, out to the shop it went. Since the boys have been talking about all of the delicious food they plan on eating, I had to put them to work in the shop doing the hard work.  Steven had the job doing the sanding on the cutting board and oiling it up.

Sanding Steven

With a 100-grit pad on the random orbit sander, the young fella proceeded to sand out all of the knife scars on the board. It wasn’t too tough, but he enjoyed using the sander, bringing the board from its rough state down to as smooth as the day it rolled out of the shop.

Wipe it in

The next step was to wipe on a heavy coat of mineral oil. Steven spent a good time wiping the oil into the board, ensuring it soaked evenly into the wood, making it look like a million bucks.

Dominic, well, he had another important job. With all of the chopping, slicing and mincing that has to happen with the holiday feasts, it was critical to sharpen the knives. Fortunately, it was an easy task with the Tormek sharpener.

Dom sharpening the knives

Dom first graded the stone to the rough setting before he put the knives into the jig to do the sharpening. This ensured that the stone was set for coarse sharpening, stripping the old metal shavings out of the surface of the water stone.  A quick clamp into the jig, and the boy was busy regrinding the bevel on the knives. It was a piece of cake for the young fella…

Grinding on the wheel

After coarse, then fine, grinding, Dom loaded up the strop wheel with some honing compound, then ran both sides of each edge over the strop wheel.

Honing the blade

You know when you have a really sweet edge on your knife when you can just cleanly slice it through a sheet of paper with just the slightest bit of pressure. You should have seen Dominic’s eyes when he did this little trick… he was amazed.


Now, with everything tuned up, the boys have gotten everything into shape for the big holiday feasts to come.

The equipment

I guess this means that I’m on the hook now, doesn’t it?


MicroJig Art

The weekly plan

WWGOA How to build a wooden knife block

I make no bones about it – I love to cook as much as I love to woodwork. And, with the holiday season preparing to get into full swing, cooking it about to move to center stage.

The knife block

Just as in a woodworking shop, there are many tools in a kitchen, and they have to be treated with great respect and care so they can do their jobs well. Some of the most important? Your kitchen knives. From the largest chef’s knife to the smallest paring knife, each should be stored carefully to keep the sharp edges safe from contact with skin and as honed as possible to do any number of kitchen chores.

Today’s plan from the Woodworkers Guild of America shows how to build a simple yet effective knife block that also has room for a pair of kitchen shears. Using simple tools and an easy glue-up method, a custom knife block is well within your reach!

Link of the week

Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker

Fearful of Maryland cops, the cabbie dumped Calvin at the gate of the Beltsville Agricultural Experimental Station and raced back toward the D. C. line. Without the workday and-parades of lab-coated scientists lacing between the brick buildings, the concrete paths of the station seemed cold as tombstones. 

Thus begins the newest writing adventure of one Roy Underhill, famous host of the Woodwright Shop. Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker is Roy’s first foray into fiction, and if it is as good as his other writing, we are all in for a treat.

Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker

While this isn’t a woodworking book per se, it’s not Roy’s first bit of writing I have fallen in love with. As a public speaker, I have routinely referenced the work he did in Khrushchev’s Shoe, and I would strongly recommend you do the same.

Oh, and my birthday is coming up, so family members, please work together to see if perhaps Roy might be able to send over an autographed copy!


OK, so you start working on a project. You either buy, find or draw up your plans. You source your wood. You think carefully about how you are going to make your cuts. You think about what tools you are going to need, and if they need to be sharpened.

Yup, you are ready to build. Then, you get to that one point in your project where you reach for something small and seemingly insignificant – the glue bottle, a screw, a sheet of a particular grit of sandpaper – and BAM, it hits you like a 2 x 4 to the head – you are out!

Doesn’t that just drive you nuts?

Oh, it’s happened to me more times than I care to admit. And, every time it happens, I have to stop everything and shoot off to the store to grab what I need. For me, it’s pretty convenient, because I have one each of the competing home improvement centers less than a mile from my home and a few woodworking specialty stores about a 20-minute drive from the shop. But, for some of you guys and gals who live further away from the nearest retail outlet, I’m sure it has to be a momentum killer.


Even after all these years of woodworking, I still have yet to find a solution to this problem that works 100% of the time. For instance, to help keep me more organized, I have a special cubby where I store my sanders and the sandpaper that makes them effective. Years ago, I bought one of those accordion office paper organizers to hold the different grits of paper to keep them sorted out. The only problem is that I blindly take the sheets of sandpaper out of the organizer, then discover when I reach for the next one that – woah – I used the last sheet on the last project! Dagnabit…

I keep my fasteners stacked in their original boxes on a shelf over my front bench. Now, over the years, I have had to buy my share of special fasteners for some specific tasks. (Roofing nails? Seriously?)  Rather than throw them out, I just keep them tucked away on the shelf, just in case I ever need one. As you can imagine, this clutter prevents me from seeing – say – how may 1 1/4 inch specialty wood screws I have on hand for when I build a cabinetry project. Needless to say, I have found myself dashing out to the home center, project glued and in clamps, racing to get those screws home in time to reinforce the joints.

Finishing supplies? Glue? Faggetaboutit. The song remains the same.

I’m not sure what the answer is. I might need to reorganize the storage areas in my shop, disposing of what I don’t need and getting some more clear see-through containers to keep track of what I do.  I could also go in on large lots of products that I use more frequently, but that would involve some foresight on my part.

Besides, it’s a lot more fun to buy wood for projects and new tools, isn’t it?

Starting to think upgrade

I remember my first table saw. It was a Delta benchtop model that made all kinds of noise, had a 12 inch rip capacity and could barely hold a setting. I built some projects with it, and it was a definite step up from trying to cut everything with a circular saw.

My old Delta

Once I reached the capacity of that saw (which took no time at all), I stepped up to the saw I have – my Ridgid 3612.  It has been my trusty companion for the past 14 years, and we have built a ton of projects together. I’ve ripped and crosscut with it. Cut box joints. Dadoes and grooves. We’ve been inseparable, and it works well in my shop.

I’m beginning to wonder, however, if perhaps it might be time to upgrade the saw. There are some features of the saw that definitely mark it as dated. For instance, it has an old-style splitter instead of a riving knife. While I haven’t had a lot of issues with kickback, it has happened. I know that the new style riving knife design shortens the distance between the back edge of the blade and the splitter, reducing the likelihood that a kickback will happen. Plus, the fact that the riving knife rises and falls with the blade means that I can leave it in for non-through cuts (grooves and the like), meaning it will spend less time off the saw.

A traditional splitter

A riving knife

The newer saws also have shied away from the old-style open contractor style bases. My 3612 is wide open, and it took some wrangling to fit a dust chute onto the saw to control the dust that falls out from the cuts. The motor also sits out of the back, leaving a gaping hole where dust can still pour out from.  Newer designs – known as hybrid saws – have enclosed cabinets and much better dust collection, meaning less vacuuming after a session with the saw. Plus, with the motor inside the footprint of the saw’s cabinet, I can wheel the saw closer to my bench to serve as an outfeed table.

The back of a hybrid saw

So, I’m looking. The saw will definitely have to have a mobile base – that’s non-negotiable. And, it has to be able to spin a dado stack, which eliminates many of the portable jobsite saws. I also don’t think I need to go to 220 volts for the saw. That would make for a pretty expensive wiring job, and I have been managing with a 110 volt model for the past 14 years with few issues.

The Ridgid 4512

Honestly, I am looking very closely at another Ridgid saw. The current offering, the R4512, is a hybrid model complete with a mobile base, excellent dust collection and some very good reviews. However, I have looked at a few other models. I’m not sure where this is going to take me, or if I will even pull the trigger after doing a more thorough evaluation, but I will certainly be doing my homework on this one.

After all, I plan on getting at least another 14 years out of this sucker!

The weekly plan

Build a queen size bed with storage

Have I mentioned yet that I live in Florida? Oh, that’s right… I sure have! That means I won’t be shoveling snow anytime soon this winter, but it also means that I don’t have a basement. Which, as you might guess – means that any project that I build has to have a storage component to it.

The storage bed as built

One project I have been asked to build is a new bed. Rhonda is looking for something to replace the bedframe we bought waaay back when we first got married with something a little sleeker and with some storage space. Right now, I’m evaluating some plans, and I’m starting with this one by Anna White. I like the idea of converting cabinets into a bed riser, and this is probably how I will work my plan, but with some modifications. For instance, I’m not a big fan of the drawers pulling out at the foot of the bed…

Stay tuned… this could be my during-the-holidays build…

Link of the week

The Tape Measure clicks in 

You can find them in just about every woodworking shop: the ubiquitous tape measure. Whether it’s clipped to a tool belt, tucked in a tool box or laying on a workbench, these amazing little devices help us ensure our work measures up.

A classic tape measure

This article from Wired Magazine tells about the retractable tape measure’s history – from the flat tape to the metal case to the retractable mainspring. No, it’s not woodworking per se, but it sure gives you some valuable insight into how this important tool came into being.