Will it go round in circles?

Yes, I was born in the late 1960s, so that means I came of age in the 1980s. However, a quick look at my iPod, and you’ll see plenty of music from the 1970s on it. There was just something about the real horns, the funky bass and the awesome hair of the era that made that music something to listen to.

And, yes, you will find this gem on my iPod as well. Billy Preston’s 1973 hit Will it Go Round in Circles? Man, just check out the hair. And the horns.

Now, what does this have to do with woodworking? Good question. Since I’m going to build a round coffee table for the front room in my house, I am going to obviously have to cut out a circular top to make it happen. It seems like a no-brainer, but you have to remember that most woodworking tools are designed to cut nice straight lines.

A jigsaw

So, what can I do? Well, a jigsaw would be a good choice, and if you draw your circle well and cut closely to the mark, you can do a decent job of getting very close to a circle. For me, though, I don’t think I would go right to the line with the tool. While I can cut close, I would probably sweeten the cut with a sander.

No, if I wanted to cut a perfect circle right off the tool, I would probably want to find a centerpoint on the bottom of the glued up piece, then drill a hole and use some type of a jig that would cut the fixed radius on the piece. This way, I would be able to ensure that I could get the right size from the get go.

As far as I can tell, for a circle with a diameter of 36 inches, the best options are on the band saw or with a router.

Circle jig

The band saw route uses some type of jig (like this one from Fine Woodworking) to set a fixed pivot point. Form there, you feed the board into the band saw blade, and the saw does the work. No fuss, no muss. While it’s a great system, I’m not sure this one is for me. I never do well balancing boards on jigs and moving them.


For me, the easier option would be to build or buy a circle cutting jig for my router. With this, you drill the center point just as you would for the band saw jig, only you cut the top face down using the router bit to do the cutting in a few passes. With everything secured to your workbench on a sacrificial board, it should be a piece of cake to knock it out.

Now, to go get some lumber, put on some of that disco music and actually build the silly thing…


MicroJig Art



So, now that the Cotterman is done, it’s time to (literally) turn my attention to the new table for the front room in our home.  Now, in the back room, I had no problem going with a rectangular, rustic looking piece (which, by the way, has ended up being a great piece), But, for the front room, Rhonda was thinking something round to make it look a little more elegant.

A column base

A logical choice for a coffee table might be one large turned column It would free up some leg room underneath, I could get creative with the feet and it would certainly showcase my turning skills. Only a few problems. I don’t turn. I don’t have a lathe, and I really don’t (yet) have the skills to make something like this even if someone did hand me a lathe.  Besides, columns like the one I showed above are more for dining tables.

Round with shelf

Rhonda also had the idea originally of doing something with a shelf underneath – a place for us to tuck books, baskets and all of the other stuff you might expect to see in a living room, I dunno. There’s something about an elegant round table with a shelf jammed under it that doesn’t do anything for me.


Of course, I could go modern with bent legs – almost an Eames looking piece – with a ‘modern’ feel to it. But, something tells me I wouldn’t like it. Plus, you know, Ikea makes a lot of that mid-century modern looking stuff.

So, I got to thinking… Why not go for something a little more simple, yet classic? Something strong yet pleasing to the eye? In other words, how about some type of cross bracing connecting the legs under the table?

I had posted this picture a few weeks ago, and it really caught my eye. Nice, strong looking piece with a simple base, ample top and clean lines?

I will have to sketch out some ideas – maybe based on this, or maybe with a simpler x brace across the bottom. Either way, it will be something that will be a piece that guests will see first when they come to the house, so it’s going to have to look good.

No pressure, right?

The weekly plan

DIY’s Home Backyard Play Set plans

Now that the kids are home, out of school for the summer, you may start to hear the words you dread whenever school is out.

“I’m bored.”

the DIY playhouse

Well, here’s one way to keep the little ones busy this summer – why not build a backyard play set? This plan from the DIY Network comes complete with all types of high seating places, cubbies, ladders and hiding places to entertain youngsters until they start to gripe about having to go back to school in September.

Some ‘Man’pering

No, no post yesterday. After all, yesterday was Father’s Day, and I was celebrating a really fun day with Rhonda and the boys.

Rhonda made an awesome breakfast and an awesome lunch followed (I mean, Salmon with mustard cream sauce? Get out…).

Mr. Gruff

But, the highlight of the day happened when Rhonda and the boys took me to St. Petersburg to the Shave Cave for an old fashioned straight razor shave. Since I hadn’t shaved since last Thursday, I was ready for one! This place gave me the promise of what very sharp steel could do to whiskers. No guards. No training wheels. Just an edge, a steady, experienced hand and my skin.

mmmm, beer

Oh, and beer. While I was waiting for my turn in the chair, the owner offered me a glass of a nice summer ale. With Tampa Bay’s oppressive humidity already in full swing, who was I to turn down a glass of ice cold beer?

Waiting my turn

While I waited for my turn, I couldn’t help but get over a few things. The camaraderie that existed was like the barber shops I used to visit a long time ago when I was a kid. The barber’s tools carefully laid out, ready for each step in the process.

A vintage shave

It got me thinking about the barbers in days gone by who did more than their fair share of shaves this way. It reminded me about the resurgence of hand tools – how the skills that could have possibly been lost forever were brought back from the edge by flea market hunters and premium hand tool manufacturers who sought these tools out and learned the techniques.

One smooth customer

After four different towels (three hot, one cold), pre shave oils, post shave masks, a facial massage and some after-shave lotion, I rose from the chair feeling relaxed, refreshed and – as Rhonda said – ‘Man’pered for Father’s Day. I even got my own special shave brush to use at home.

It also gave me a new appreciation for how well sharp tools work, and let me know that perhaps now that I’m between projects, it’s a good time to break out the Tormek and do a little sharpening of my own. Hey, that wood’s not gonna shave itself.

Happy Father’s Day – belated – to everyone!

Stuff I’ve built: The Cotterman

OK, so the name is a bit of a portmanteau between a coffee table and an Ottoman, but you get the idea – it’s a table for our family room that I built out of some beautiful, clear Southern Yellow Pine.

The Cotterman

That’s right – the piece came from a pair of 2 x 12 Southern Yellow Pine framing timbers and a 12 foot length of tongue and groove boards for the bottom shelf. After building the piece and placing it in the living area, both Rhonda and I agreed that the piece needed some under table storage for magazines, our chess and checkers set and some other goodies.

Under boards

The tongue and groove boards were sweet, clear pine, and I had the option of either having them at their full six inch width or flipping them over and exposing a bead halfway down the middle of each board. I decided to go with the more plain looking side. I glued the tongues and grooves together, and secured them to the frame with a single Miller Dowel at each end, square in the middle of the center board. The two outside boards fit snugly between the frames, and with the glue dry, they won’t  knock free.

The top laid out

The finish started with the boys sanding the pieces with some 100 grit random orbit sanders (they need something to do during their summer break) until the parts were nice and smooth. Since it’s more of a rustic piece, I rounded over the edges with some rasps and sandpaper. Makes it look a little more weathered that way.

From there, I wiped on a coat of spar varnish. There’s something about that yellowed finish on the pine that really makes it look about 100 years old right off the rag. Once that dried, I sanded it down with some 320 paper, wiped it down with some mineral spirits, then put three coats of wipe-on polyurethane over the top to protect it against the spills that are bound to happen on a table like this.

Chess anyone?

With it in its place in the family room, I can see us using it for family game night, snacks for the big game, homework or whatever for years to come. It’s going to be a piece we use and appreciate every single day.

It’s not the size of the shop ….

There’s an old expression my dad used to use just about whenever we felt down or put upon growing up. Maybe our Little League team was down by two runs going into the ninth inning. Or, maybe it was a test we had to take that made up half of our grades. Whatever.

Anyway, it went, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Paco the Brave

I’m sure you are aware that the meaning behind this bit of pithy advice is that it doesn’t matter how big you are, it’s what’s inside that makes all the difference.

So, two weeks ago, when I introduced you guys to the Smart Vise, I asked you guys to show me the shots of your micro shops. The shops shoved into all too often overlooked corners of basements, garages and spare bedrooms. The shops that you need to step outside of to change your mind. Those shops that leave you scratching your head wondering, “Just how the heck did that project come out of that shop?”

Well, I had a few entries, and all of them were tiny. Small. Diminutive. Without any further ado, here’s what we got.


This is the shop of my good friend Paul Carroll. He lives a few miles from my house, and, yes, the shop he occupies fits neatly into a 60 square foot area. Not only does his shop serve as storage for the portable table saw he has to wheel out into the garage or driveway when the weather cooperates, it also serves as his home’s laundry room. It’s very neatly laid out, and you can see that just about every ‘permanent’ power tool has its own dust collection hookup. Believe me, every possible nook and cranny serves as storage, and I’d have to say this is pretty darned impressive.

James Little

This tiny shop belongs to the appropriately named James Little, and as you can see, it’s one of those shops that just looks bursting at the seams with stuff. But, you can see a few different work benches, a whole lot of storage and organization out the ears. Pretty sweet looking shop.

Warren Valente

This spacious abode is the hide out of Warren Valente. Shoehorned into his 10 x 15 foot shop, he manages to build some big pieces. Check out the harvest table and benches he has working in the shop in this shot. Of course, if he needs any extra space for outfeed on his table saw, he can just push the piece through the (hopefully open) window!

Rossetti storage

Next up is the small shop of Justin Rossetti. Man, talk about small. This guy has to move ALL of his stuff outdoors to get anything done at all. That’s right – there is no real indoor shop space. Basically, the only space he has to work is outdoors. The storage area is right off his kitchen, those, so his wife usually doesn’t mind because she gets to keep an eye on him and see what he’s up to.

Eric's shop

Eric Cole from Pennsylvania has a very neat looking shop setup in his condo. While it measures a tiny 8 x 12, he has it packed with a lot of mobile bases on his tools, so he can get things exactly as he needs them for whatever operation he has planned. This he got from Wood Magazine, and his next project is a knock-down workbench by Chris Schwarz so he can get into more hand tool work.

Micklus 1

Micklus bench

Micklus Nail Chest

The winner, however, has to be the cozy shop of George Micklus of Connecticut. When he’s not aboard one of our nation’s submarines (thank you for your service, George), he’s working out of a cozy 10 x 14 shed near his home. He actually downsized a bit from where he started (in his garage), because as his family grew, he was voluntold to move out to convert the space into a new master bedroom. His time on a submarine has inspired his shop layout, which includes a sweet looking workbench, an Anarchist’s Tool Chest and a few other projects designed to maximize storage and working area.

Iggy would like to thank all of you who submitted your shop entries for this contest. It’s amazing to see just how much goes into planning a workshop in a very small space. One thing is for certain, however, from here on out. I will never complain about having to work in a two-car garage ever again. I promise!

The weekly plan

Yellawood’s garden arbor plan

It’s the season when gardens grow and flowers are in full bloom. And, there’s nothing quite like the experience of entering  a beautiful garden through an arbor full of bursting blossoms and cool, green foliage.

The Yellawood Arbor

This plan, provided by the folks at Yellawood – one of the leading manufacturers of pressure treated southern yellow pine – is free of charge, doesn’t take much material and should provide you years of service in your garden.