Stuff I’ve built: Katie’s Hope Chest

I knew this was coming up a while ago, and I couldn’t be any happier than I am with how this came out. This past weekend, the hope chest for my niece Katie achieved the state of substantially complete, and I think it came out looking pretty darned nice.

The hope chest

As I had mentioned before, it is a simple cherry frame and panel chest that I hope she will love once it is at her house and assembled. Yes, that’s the reason why I went frame and panel – so I can flat pack it and ship it off to her dad so he can do the final assembly at their house.

Dem boys

Before I could get the finish on it, though, I had to enlist a little help from Dominic and Steven with the sanding. Those guys, they can do their magic. Rhonda managed to snap these blurry shots of them moving a lightning speed as they sanded away.

I wanted this chest to be all about the little details. For instance, in order to ensure there wouldn’t be any cupping or warping of the top, I could have gone with a batten, but I thought that a breadboard edge would look more classic. I dunno, it does give a lot of personality to the piece.

The edge

As with many of the other pieces I have built, I like to inlay a penny from the year the piece was built, And, one day after buying lunch, I finally saw one … a 2015 freshly minted baby that just had to go into the piece. I dunno, it’s a nice look in the middle of the underside of the lid, so she will always know what year the piece was built for her.

The penny

And, as I had mentioned, there is an inlay of a heart. Well, here’s the story. When Katie, her sister and her brother moved into their home in Maryland, there were three trees in the front of their home. Each child had his or her tree to call their own. It turns out, though, that Katie’s tree was planted too close to the driveway, and it had to be cut down. She was crushed.

The inlay

Well, her dad thought ahead and had a chunk of the tree saved for some project in the future for Katie. Of course, with just a single round of tree, what could he do? Once I started the tradition of building the hope chests, Larry knew where it could go.

Since the inlay is some type of pear and the main field is cherry, the inlay will stand out more over the years as the cherry darkens with exposure to light.

The only things left to do are to finish the drilling the holes for the hinges, then pack the piece up and ship it off. I can only hope that she enjoys it for years to come.


MicroJig Art

The summer commences

Here in the United States, we are commemorating Memorial Day, the day we set aside to remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by the service men and women of our armed forces who fought to defend the freedoms we hold so dearly. While the day was officially named in 1967, its presence as Decoration Day stretches back to the American Civil War. Few words ever captured the spirit of this solemn day better than those spoken by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in November of 1863.

It’s also important that I highlight some heartwarming stories that I had written from Memorial Days past, which showcase how woodworkers are helping to respect the memories of those who have served with distinction:

While we do take time to commemorate those who paid the ultimate price, we also take Memorial Day to be the start of the summer vacation season. From now until Labor Day in September, people make their plans to visit relatives, take a little time off and decompress from the serious, dark winter season.

Annette Funicello

And, just like some type of an Annette Funicello beach party movie, I plan on getting into the action… but, without all of the fun you would expect at a beach blanket bingo party.

You see, as the final finish dries on the hope chest for my niece, and the first communion cross hangs in my nephew’s room, I thought I was going to have a little down time to build something artistic. Maybe break out a few tools I hadn’t used in a few years to try my hand at a chair or something I had always wanted to.

But, then I was reminded by my long suffering wife Rhonda that I had promised – a while back – that I promised to build not one – but TWO – coffee tables for the house.

Round Table

The first one is going to be for the front room in our house. There, we have a couch and a pair of leather chairs with a big screen TV up front. Rhonda would like to see something round there, and this is the sort of look I am going for. A simple base, a few legs, something clean looking.


For the back room, where we have a sectional sofa, we are ditching an old Ottoman which has seen much better days, and Rhonda was thinking something rectangular. Here, she told me, was my chance to really go nuts. So, I was thinking something where I could do a little more decorative of a piece. Maybe show off some joinery, maybe something like this. I dunno.

While the mind boggles at the possibilities, one thing is for certain, there will be lots of fun on the sand… paper, that is!

The weekly plan

The New Yankee Workshop’s sheep shearing coffee table

Oh, that wacky Norm, taking the design of a sheep shearing table and converting it to a coffee table. Can you blame him, though?

Sheep Shearing Table

I mean, the guy did a full 20 seasons of projects, and you knew that folks were going to seek out different looks that would fit their decor. Plus, wow, it’s a handsome looking table, something that makes me think about possibly what I might want to build this summer …

Total frustration

If you are a regular follower of my blog, you may have noticed that I started posting links to plans every Sunday morning. I figured, what the heck? Each week, I post a link to someone’s project plans that may inspire you to try your hand at a new piece, maybe look at a solution to a problem in your home or your shop or just entertain you.

Funny how?

Yes, I amuse you. Like a clown. In Goodfellas. You got a problem with that? (Oh, yeah, the language is definitely NSFW…)

But, I have got to tell you that recently in the online land of woodworking, I have seen some thing that just make me not such a fun guy. In fact, they make me downright frustrated.

For instance, this past week, I had a cool idea to perhaps explore the building of a desk design. One style that really caught my attention is known as a partners’ desk, where basically two people can sit and work at the desk at the same time. Most of the desks used by the Presidents of the United States of America are of this model, and it would be a really sweet design for a couple who works together at a home office.

An ornate Partners' Desk

Well, I started searching for partners’ desk plans, and I was initially excited to see there were thousands of links. Awesome! I soon discovered, however, that not everything that looks promising actually is.

Link after link I clicked, I was shown a brief flash of a nice looking website, but before I could scroll down the page to see what desk plans were being offered, the screen flipped, and my old nemesis – Ted’s 16,000 woodworking plans – would appear. Crap. (Click here to see what I really think about this nonsense) This was always followed by an auto-play video that would start to tell me how awesome it is to use the plans (stolen) assembled from across the internet to help my woodworking.


Not wanting to sit through this schlock, I would click on the back arrow of my browser, and blammo, I would get hit with a dialogue box that told me to hold on, my man Ted was serious about helping me become a better woodworker.

Grrrr… I’d rather poke my eyes out with a card scraper than read that crap, but that’s me.

Another sneaky little trick is a tad more subtle, but just as offensive. It’s known as a link farm, and while the site may look legitimate on the surface, it really only serves to make the owner as much money as possible while doing the least amount of work. These sites look like helpful blogs or tool review sites, but when you do a little digging, it gets easy to see what’s going on.

A link farm page for routers


First, if the page is something like 3/4 advertising to tools for sale on some online service – namely Amazon – you can bet that the site’s owner has set up an affiliate program. Sure, for the average woodworking blogger, it’s a great way to make a little cash to buy some nice tools of his or her own. However, if the site’s manager doesn’t disclose – up front – that they are working through an affiliate program, they are in violation of these agreements.

How can you tell if you are about to buy an affiliate product? When you mouse over the item on their site, you can see the site’s URL attached to the end of the link. This tells the servers over at someplace like Amazon that the link is coming from that page.



Another red flag is when you can copy part of the text, paste it into a search engine with quotation marks around it, and find the exact same text at some other well known online resource – Wikipedia, a woodworking magazine, etc. That, kids, is known as plagiarism, and you can get booted out of school or kicked out of your job for doing that in certain professions.

Again, a legitimate blogger or woodworker will disclose who they work with, let you know they are benefitting from the arrangement and actually does work to offer you something unique to them. Everyone else? Well, they are just trying to pull a fast one on you.

Another technique that makes me want to rage like the Incredible Hulk is known as freebooting, and you’d be amazed at what some people put up on their websites. Videos from people such as, I dunno, Norm Abram, Tommy MacDonald, Steve Ramsey and other luminaries of the woodworking world are posted to these sites, and – in effect – they are stealing views from the creator. Now, I have done a few videos, and I can tell you that the short, crappy ones I have produced pale in comparison to the works of a David Marks, so I can only imagine how much time, effort, energy, practice and sweat goes into making those. Give the credit to the folks who earned it.

Why does this matter? Easy. As a woodworking blogger, I know how much work goes into producing original content. It takes time away from me being with my wife and sons. It takes time away from other hobbies and chores I have to do. It takes away form time in my shop. So, when I bust my posterior to put out content, I can appreciate how much effort went into it, and how much it stings to see someone copy it and post it to their site as if they did the work.

What can you do? Gosh, I guess there are a few things. You can visit sites you know. You can check with others in the online woodworking community to see who they trust. And, if it looks shady, there’s a good chance it just might be…


So, anyone up for a rousing discussion about Thermodynamics?

Hmmm, I figured not. After all, this is a woodworking blog, and the only times we really like to be concerned about temperature are if we leave wadded up oily rags in a corner, the comfort level of our shops or how toasty we can make the marshmallows we are roasting over a scrap-fed fire to make some S’Mores


Instead, let’s take a look at another definition – A lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder. And, it’s one of those constants in a shop that needs to be battled on an almost daily basis, otherwise it has the power to overwhelm you and make your next shop visit that much more challenging.

Take my shop for example. It’s a standard two-car garage in a Florida house. However, because it is a multi-purpose room, it’s difficult – if nigh on impossible – to prevent the regular creep of entropy into it. Now, many times a week, Rhonda, the boys and I all head to the laundry equipment out in the shop to keep our clothes nice and clean. Of course, once done with the equipment, it’s not easy to put everything back where it started…

Laundry mess

The same thing goes for the cooler. Sure, it’s easy to go GET the cooler to stock full of cold beverages, but once its job is done, it could spend weeks here…

Hey, that's not cool

And, you know, we all use the bike, but after a long ride on some of the local trails, it’s just not easy to find someplace out of the way to put the bike…

The bike is now a clothesline

Gotta empty out the back of the Jeep Compass and not sure where to put the reusable shopping bags? Hey, how about behind the table saw?

Don't leave them alone in pairs

It’s not like I am going to whack on the rest of the family and not take swipes at myself. I mean, yeah, perhaps I should have removed the router bit I last used about three weeks ago – and maybe I should probably take the time to clean up the dust I made.

Router table

Oh, and yeah, it might be time to close the lid on my toolbox…

Close that lid!  close that lid!

And, how could I have let this area get all cluttered up with a strip of plywood from the bed project I am holding onto ‘just in case’ – and the miter saw station could use a big time clean up.

The miter mess

So, I guess it’s time for me to restate my old rule and break it out of mothballs. From now on, I do solemnly pledge/affirm that every time I go into the shop, I will put five things away. It may not seem like a lot, but before you know it, I bet the shop will be back into fighting shape.

At least I hope!

The weekly plan

JRL Woodworking’s flat screen TV entertainment center plan

A lot has changed over the past decade when it comes to designing and building entertainment centers. The formerly deep and heavy tube style TV’s have given way to lightweight, flat screen TVs with bigger, higher resolution screens.

The entertainment center

Since this has created a change in the way we approach our construction methods, I thought it would be a good idea to focus on a design that embraces the new reality. JRL Woodworking has a great plan for an inexpensive entertainment center that’s easy to build and looks great. An added bonus – it has tons of storage, something that makes keeping your entertaining space neater a whole lot easier.

Woodworker’s Safety Day 2015

In addition to celebrating my 1,500th post this week, I was also at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference teaching emergency responders how to work with the media. It was a great class, and I have got to tell you that I had a ton of fun.


OK, maybe a little too much fun, but who cares, right?

A big part of our classwork is helping our aspiring public information officers understand where they fit in during a disaster. And, according to FEMA, there is a very specific place where they do belong – front and center. That is a major rule laid out by the Incident Command System, which operates under they National Incident Management System.

The Incident Command System

Public information shares that top billing along with the Liaison officer, whose job it is to coordinate between agencies outside of the responding agencies, and the Safety officer, whose job it is to ensure that everyone gets home without injury if at all possible. Together, these three officers and the Incident Commander make up the Command staff.

Now that you are thoroughly bored, let me ask you why those three positions are so close to the Incident Commander?  The reason? Well, it comes back to an old expression – out of sight, out of mind.


Without a PIO, the needs of the citizens will be forgotten. Without a Liaison officer, the incident can become siloed, and no one thinks to reach out to the other affected organizations. And, if safety is overlooked, people get hurt or die.

With today being Woodworker Safety Day, how much time do you spend thinking about safety in your shop, or is it an issue of out of sight, out of mind? Sure, the tools we buy all come with operators manuals, but how many of us just skip by the safety warnings inside them? How many of us remove the safety devices from our tools because they get in the way? How many times do we make that one last cut and forget to grab the eye or hearing protection?

It happens. And, for the vast majority of times, nothing ever happens.

But, just as with any accident, that split second of carelessness can jump up and bite us hard. That’s why we have to think like Incident Commanders and ensure that we put safety front and center.


For instance, I know that my old table saw’s splitter did create an area where kickback could occur on behind the blade, but my new saw’s riving knife is a much safer option. I always keep my push sticks and other sleds handy, because I can work with more confidence at the power tools.

Safety aids

I keep my eye protection close at hand. After having my share of accidents where I was able to walk away from them with minimal damage, I am very happy to take the time to ensure safety is job number one, two and three.

Personal protectionWhile it may not be the sexiest part of woodworking, safety gear keeps you in the shop in command of your tools. After all, isn’t that the best part?