Link of the week

Mary May’s School of Traditional Woodcarving

So, you want to learn woodcarving. Why not learn from the best?

Mary teaches carving

Mary May is an incredibly talented woodcarver who uses traditional tools and techniques to create masterworks. Her site is loaded with videos, how-to guides, products and know-how to get you into carving or to make your work that much better.

If you had any desire to try your hand at traditional carving, Mary’s site is a great place to begin.




Laguna tools


Coming to an end

A breadboard end, that is. For my trestle table, I wanted to ensure it would stay flat for years to come. Sure, I could have just gone with some battens, but I like the way a breadboard edge just dresses up a table.

Square off the edges

To start that process, I was going to have to square up the edges of the table glue up. That was something easily accomplished with a track saw, but an circular saw with a guide would easily knock that out.

The edge coming together

I next took the time to cut the tongue that would hold the edge on. Using my dado blade and the table saw fence, I had that sucker cut in no time. With that done, I selected a few pieces of straight grained, warp free boards to use for the edges.

Getting groovy

I put that edge board into my vise, and with a straight cutting router bit, I started cutting the groove. Since the widest bit I have is 1/2 inch, and I was shooting to match a centered 3/4 inch tongue, I took a few passes to ensure I had it nailed. The edge guide allowed me to sneak up on the width of the slot, and by flipping the board end for end and routing from each face, I was able to ensure that the groove was centered as well.

Slip fitThe edge took a little tweaking with a shoulder plane to get it right on, and I cut back the edges of the tongue to back it off the side of the table. I wanted this one to be captured within the breadboard edge.

I drilled holes for three pegs into the end through the tongue, and pulled it off to elongate the outer holes to give the edge room to expand. I then reinstalled the edges and drove the three pegs home.

To the Tormek!

Because the edges were a little thicker than the top, I had to do some hand planing to get things down nice and even. A quick trip to my Tormek to touch up the blades on the strop really helped things go smoothly. Remember, those sharp plane irons shave, they don’t tear.

To the Tormek!

With the work done, I think the top is looking fairly good. it’s nice and flat, just in need of some final sanding before a finish.

Next up, it’s time to drop the bass – oops – base for this trestle creation.

It was so social

It’s good to be back home after a long weekend at Woodworking in America. Yes, the marketplace was great, and it was cool to be around all of those tasty new and antique tools. It was also a real trip to be in the classes with such luminaries as Roy Underhill and Don Williams. It was even better to see new instructors such as Wilbur Pan and Will Neptune.

Measure twice, cut once or else

But, there was so much more. For instance, I met some new friends who apparently didn’t measure twice before cutting. Who knew that was such a serious offense?

Frank takes off with the goods

And, there was this matter of a few people absconding with tools, such as this shady Frank Klausz character walking off with a Saw Stop fence.

Lee Valley Secret

How could we forget the strange case of the chained up Lee Valley cases, which apparently was some type of Build-A-Bear setup for woodworkers.

Podcasting from the conference center

We took the time to set up a recording of the Modern Woodworkers Association Podcast live from the conference center floor, which worked out very well.

You go, Mary May

We even dragged awesome wood carver Mary May (kicking and screaming) into the world of social media by goading her into getting a twitter account. Go figure…

While the hijinks were a ton of fun, as always, it was great to see so many woodworkers from around the country (and the world, Chris Vesper). Being able to pull together a gathering of more than 50 woodworkers on Thursday night in just a few hours through the power of social media.  Hearing about a few new workbenches that are going to be built. Drinking at the local microbrew place across the street from the hotel.Watching Steve Ramsey’s MeMo Get Together draw tons of folks.

The MeMo Get Together

And, as I had predicted last week, I am back feeling totally jacked about woodworking. I need to get back to the shop!

The building boom

Tomorrow, I am off to visit the guys and gals that put on Woodworking in America, and I am totally excited. Not just because it’s a great place to visit with friends (and dance on the tables of German-themed drinking establishments), or that there are awesome classes taught by talented woodworkers or that the marketplace is full of drool-inducing tools.

A rack of  Blackburn saws at WIA 2013

No, it’s because something about being in that environment ignites a spark in me.

Last year, as I was getting ready to head up to Covington, Kentucky, I was totally stoked. I had worked with the rest of the gang at the Modern Woodworkers Association planning a meet up. I had been in touch with the folks at Wood Talk Online about setting up a big get together. I was drafted into helping Roy Underhill run his audio-visual presentation (i.e. hauling a huge log around a conference room while he chopped at it with an axe).

Chop, Roy, Chop

But, I was totally blindsided by what was about to happen. You know, when you get a new woodworking book or magazine, you might bookmark a page about a particular project you might want to build. There is a totally different feeling, however, of looking at an example of something you want to build in person. That’s the feeling that overcame me when I saw Mike Siemsen’s Nicholson woodworking  bench in person. That’s the feeling that also overcame me when I saw Chris Schwarz’s Dutch tool chest in person.

Being in the room with these pieces, touching them, looking at them from different angles… it fired the right synapses and really brought it home for me.

The tool chest and workbench in place

So much so, in fact, that within a few weeks of getting back to the shop, I had started on my iteration of the Dutch tool chest, and, by the first week of December, I had my new Nicholson bench in place, ready to work. It was a veritable building boom!

I’m not making any promises this year that I will tackle the world, but the progress I have already made on the table in my shop this past weekend was definitely encouraged by the fact that I was going to be back in that environment.

It was Stephen Covey who wrote in the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that one of the important steps was to ‘sharpen the saw.’  In many ways this is exactly what the annual pilgrimage to be among my peers is for me…a chance to take a new look at my craft and recapture the excitement…

I’m no longer board

So, the dresser top valet is done, and I’m planning on going to Woodworking in America later this week. Which means, of course, that I’m just gonna cruise into the big woodworking summit with a clear workbench…


My little slice of heaven

No, two things triggered my newest project. First, where I work, I have a corner office. Granted, it’s the back corner… and it overlooks the dumpster… but it’s still a corner. And, I have plenty of space, but I need someplace in it to sit and meet with people, spread out some paperwork and get some work done.

There was also an article from Chris Schwarz about building projects from construction lumber, and how he digs deep into the bins to find the sweetest, tastiest boards. Since we get southern yellow pine by the truckload here in Florida, I thought I could go and search some prime wood out in the dimensional bins.

I had a plan – to build a trestle table for the office.

Board on the Jeep

So, yesterday, I headed off to the big blue box store and found this – a sweet 2 x 12, 16 feet long southern yellow pine board with a ton of quarter-sawn wood on the sides and very few knots. Oh, and it was dead straight the entire length. Something I have never seen before…

Cut up for the top

So, I took it home on top of the Jeep, and slapped it down on the bench. Since I had bought more than I needed, I decided I was going to take my time and cut out the knot-free boards from the edges, keeping the top of the table looking nice and clear.

Ooooh!  Planer shavings

As far as jointing before the glue up, the straight-grained pine yielded beautifully under the jointer plane’s blade, making the joints nice and tight.

Now that's a glue up!

It took a ton of clamps and a whole bunch of glue, but I was able to get the pieces glued up with just a little bit of wrestling.

After the glue dried and the boards came out of the clamps, I snugged the panel up between the bench dogs on the bench and those in the vise jaw. I then took my jack plane and started planing the assembly across the grain to level things out. With a sharp, cambered iron, a few swipes of wax across the sole and a whole lot of sweat, I was able to level the panel out – both top and bottom – in about half an hour.

Sweat equity

Now, there’s a whole lot more work I have to do. I have to make some breadboard edges and put some battens across the bottom to hold things flat, and then work on the trestles to hold the entire thing up.

I’m pretty sure I won’t get it done before the big trip to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but I’m pretty happy that I got done what I did.

The Weekly Plan

Wood Magazine’s Book Stand/Tablet Holder

This summer, with all of the heat in the shop, I have spent a lot of time reading. And, playing on my iPad. And, reading books on my iPad. Those things are just so versatile.

Wood Magazine's book and tablet stand

If I would have thought ahead, I might have built one of these nifty stands before the heat got cranked up, and it would have made my reading that much more pleasant. Made with simple, repetitive cuts, this stand can hold your place in a book by laying it over the top peak, or, by building the base with two extended pieces topped with some non-skid pads, can hold your tablet computer for reading, watching movies or in the kitchen while you whip up a quick recipe.

The plan costs $3.95 at the Wood Store, and could be downloaded to your tablet computer, just in case you want to bring that to the shop while you work. Just sayin’.

Link of the week

USDA Wood Handbook

So, how well does wood work as an engineering product? What should builders and architects know about this natural product as they design their projects?

USDA's Wood Handbook

This handbook, produced by the United States Department of Agriculture, answers these questions and more as it gives the tale of the tape on the mechanical properties of wood, plywood and other wood based products.

Definitely worth a read, and the price is right!