Wood to the Moon

OK, I’m a space nut. And, if you ever find yourself in Washington, D.C., I strongly recommend that you take the time to go and visit the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.

The Air and Space museum entrance

From the moment you walk in to the museum, you come face to face with three important bits of NASA history…

  • Friendship 7, the Mercury capsule that made John Glenn the first American to orbit the Earth,
  • Gemini IV, the capsule that Ed White stepped out of as the first American to walk in space, and,
  • the Columbia, the Command Module for Apollo 11, the capsule that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the Moon and back for those historic first steps.

Wright Flyer of 1903

Just a few minutes’ walk through the crowds, and you will find yourself in front of the Wright Flyer, the first heavier-than-air aircraft that was able fly under its own power.

I’m sure right now, you must be wondering 1) What the space race and the Wright Flyer have in common, and 2) why is Tom featuring this on his blog.

Well, this week, we marked the 45th anniversary of the first Lunar landing by Apollo 11. And, in the many posts I have put onto Facebook and Twitter about the event, I discovered something fascinating…

Armstrong and Aldrin carried with them a small piece of fabric and wood from the Wright Brother’s plane to the surface of the Moon.

Apollo 11 launch

It’s amazing to think that only 66 years separated the first flight from the first Moon landing. And, while the Apollo spacecraft and the Saturn V rocket that propelled the trio to the Moon were built from cutting edge alloys, Orville and Wilbur worked primarily with spruce and canvas as their building materials.  Canvas because it was tough and spruce because it had tremendous strength, but remained flexible.

The pieces that flew to the Moon

Before the launch, each of the astronauts was able to pack up to five pounds in a personal preference kit. While most of the items in these kits included personal mementoes, Armstrong was able to work with the National Museum of the Air Force to bring a piece of the craft’s propeller and wing cloth in his.

Sure, it was a sentimental act, but it showed just how important wood was to the pioneers of flight – linking Kitty Hawk to the Sea of Tranquility.




Laguna tools

Souping up my ride…

OK, I’m no motor head. Neither my wife nor I own a high-performance sports car or huge engined muscle cars.

Quite the muscle car

No, we own two pretty pedestrian vehicles. But, that doesn’t mean that people don’t enjoy the hobby of restoring and modifying classic cars to run fast and look sharp.

A boy and his saw

And, while I do woodwork, my table saw isn’t as pimped out as the table saw of one Marc Spagnuolo…  I do have to admit, that’s one sweet custom paint job!

No, my modest Ridgid table saw has served me well for more than a decade now, and, as equipped, it has been one of the best performers in the shop. But, that doesn’t mean I didn’t make a few modifications to it. For instance, there was the time I built a dust collection system for it. That has helped. And, there are a bunch of jigs I have built for it, and those are nice as well.

The Osborne

But, the best thing I have ever purchased for the saw was my Osborne EB-3 miter gauge. I picked this up about ten years ago after watching his Normness use one on the New Yankee Workshop. It looked like a good design, and it came at a fair price point for significant upgrade over the standard miter gauge.

Standard Miter Gauge

Don’t get me wrong, the standard miter gauge is OK for a lot of tasks. I can attach sacrificial fences to it, and it does a decent job with other jigs. The problem is that the head on it is small, and it’s tough to get exact angles.

The Osborne, Extended

The Osborne not only has a nice wide non-slip fence, it also extends out to nearly 40 inches of width, giving me plenty of support for wide boards when crosscutting them. Plus, with that flip-down stop, I can make repeatable cuts time and time again.

Angle setting

The real strength of the guide, though, is how easy it is to set angles. Unlike protractor-type heads, the guide relies on an extending leg of a triangle to measure out the angles. There are plenty of detents to help you set common angles for different numbers of sides, or you can go freehand to match whatever angle setting you need.


There’s even a quick reference guide printed on the handle, so those hexagons are easy to set and cut …  without breaking out the calculator… right?

The entire guide can swing to work on either side of the blade, so left and right handed woodworkers should be happy with it.

Sure, it’s not gonna help my saw run a faster quarter mile, but at least it helps it be a better performer… isn’t that what it’s all about?


The weekly plan

The Weekendr.com Woodshed

Sure, it’s sunny, warm and green out there now. But, soon, the temperatures will begin to drop. The leaves will change colors. Then, the snow will start to fall (unless, of course, you live in Florida). Then, you will want to start using your wood burning fireplace.

And, that wood will burn more nicely – and be easier to get to – if rain and snow isn’t allowed to fall directly on it. That’s why a woodshed make so much sense.

The Weekendr Woodshed

This baby is brought to you by the folks at the Weekendr.com blog goes together quickly, provides plenty of space for firewood storage and, wow, it sure looks sturdy!

Link of the week

Wood Gutters Historical Information 

They have been found on homes for centuries, and still do the mundane work of channeling rainwater to where the homeowner wants it to go. They are wooden rain gutters, and they have a fascinating history.

Wood Gutters

That’s what makes this site run by WoodGutter.net so darned cool. It’s a look back into the history of these interesting bits of woodwork. Whether they were two boards nailed together into a V-trough or some ornately carved, these babies have an architectural story to tell even on today’s modern homes.

Woodworking convergence

The crazy thing about woodworking as a hobby is that – for the most part – it’s a solitary type of event. You get time away from everyone in your sanctum, alone with your thoughts.

I'm such a goof...

Yeah, for an extrovert (more like an exhibitionist) like me, that’s not gonna cut it. That’s part of the reason why I have been keeping this blog going for coming up on seven (???) years.

The other thing I have noticed is that other woodworkers seem to enjoy the whole woodworking community thing. That’s why I could feel the stars align earlier this week when everyone’s favorite Jersey-bred Italian woodworker Marc Spagnuolo paid a visit to Dirty Water lovin’ Boston-to-the-heart Wicked Pissah Tommy MacDonald’s shop to shoot an upcoming episode of Rough Cut.

Marc and Tommy MarcandTommy

While this fuzzy focus film grab isn’t as exciting as seeing Bigfoot in the wild, it does capture a fleeting glimpse of two of the biggest up-and-coming names in woodworking in the same shop preparing to build a project that will be coming out in the next season.

Now, this is hardly the first time two big-name woodworkers have gotten together. There was the time that Steve Ramsey of Woodworking for Mere Mortals met his new neighbor… what’s his name?

And, of course magazines always bring big names in woodworking – like Norm Abram and Steve Shanesy of Popular Woodworking – together for articles that go beyond the simple, “Here’s how you build that,” to shed more light on the entire process and the joy they get from the craft.

Norm and Steve

I think that’s why events such as Weekend with Wood and Woodworking in America are also catching on – it’s bringing together more and more folks to make the craft a whole lot more dynamic. And, local woodworking stores like Infinity Cutting Tools are offering classes, as are established woodworking schools like the Franklin Street Fine Woodworking School here in Tampa…

Well, folks, it’s a movement.

And, I couldn’t be any happier to be a small part of it!

I’m far behind, but catching up

I remember being totally caught up once. Back in 1986. It was the best 15 minutes of my life.

Ever since then, I’ve been playing an ever-maddening game of catch up at work, at home, in the shop. Yup, even there!

Remember waaaay back in March, when I started talking about building some dresser top valets for my nephews? Yeah, about that…

I got sidetracked with an important project for my coworker. And, I had the start of hurricane season. And, the little health thingy…

OK, enough of that. It is now time to get out and build my first dresser top valet, and I had a blast working on it this weekend.  I had milled up some walnut for these projects back in April, and the boards have been sitting since then, just waiting patiently for me to get off my butt and into the shop. Spread out on the bench That’s just what I did, carefully cutting the pieces to size and marking them per the plan. I have got to tell you, it was fun being out in the shop again, working at the bench making a pile of wood into a project.   One thing about the plan I am using is that it’s a router-heavy plan, allowing me a lot of time to use the router table. MicroJig Push BlockThese MicroJig Push Blocks helped to make the job a whole lot easier, and a ton safer, as I cut the rabbets and dadoes necessary to put the pieces together. The case comes together With some Bruce Springsteen on the shop stereo, I was in the groove – so to speak. I was able to get all of the pieces in place, and noticed that everything was going to plan. And, when the time came to glue the piece together, I felt that familiar nervousness – had I thought everything through?

Glued up

Well, you bet I did.  The piece came together nicely, with the base of the case already glued up and good to go.

The offcuts

I have been mothering over my supply of walnut because I am getting close to the end of what I have milled, so I will be carefully using it to ensure it can make it all the way.

The weekly plan

This Old House’s Cornhole game plan

So, you are outside enjoying the summer weather, but how many times can you reread that same magazine, break up squabbles between the kids or hear Uncle Earl gripe about the traffic getting to your favorite campsite? You know, what you need is a distraction!

This Old House's Cornhole game

And, that’s what today’s plan from This Old House offers – a simple plan to build a bean bag toss – or cornhole – game. Using some construction lumber and plywood, you can create a game that will make happy campers – or beachgoers – for hours.