Panel preferences

Now that I have the frame pieces done and the panels glued up for the chest, it’s on to do a little work preparing those panels. Man, there’s nothing quite like a thickness planer to make fast work of leveling these glue ups…

Thickness planer


By the way, can I take a moment just to revel in the fact that – dang – the grain on these boards looks totally SWEET!

Cherry panel

So, now comes the hard part – what kind of design do I want these panels to have, and what methods will I use to make them look their best?

A flat panel

Of course, I could just simply go with flat panels. Classic look, classic design. Since I plan on doing a special embellishment for the lid, I could go this route for sure. And, it would be easy. But, I could have just bought a sheet of cherry plywood and made it happen.  Not really what I had in mind to showcase the skills.

Panel raising on the table saw

Now, I could easily set up a tall auxiliary fence, tip my table saw blade oh – I dunno – 12 or 15 degrees off plumb – and run each of the panels through to raise them. Easy peasey lemon squeezy.

A horizontal router bit

I could pick up a vertical or horizontal router bit and do a fancier profile. Heck, the sky is the limit when it comes to those kinds of bits and the profiles they can cut. From the plain to the ornate, it’s definitely something to consider.

Now, I’ll just have to decide how I will make it happen, then it’s off to the races, and this project will be nearing completion!


MicroJig Art

Fine framing

Spring is in the air … along with all the oak pollen in the state of Florida. Ugh. I was so clogged up, that I even had to miss the Woodworking Show at the Tampa Fairgrounds. I was able to get some shop time, but it was in small bits and pieces as my allergies – and the grogginess of the antihistamines – allowed.

Fortunately I had all of the pieces cut to size. The next step was to do the cope and stick jointing that was going to hold the frame and panel chest together. Times past, when I tried using the cope and stick router bits, I would get strange results because I was using the set with my table saw side wing router setup, something less than ideal for that kind of precision work.

The sticking bit

This time, however, I am using a real router table and a router with a micro adjustment setup , which really helps make the whole shooting match go much more smoothly. I was able to dial in the bit carefully to cut the sticking – the side that holds the panel – into the rough pieces. Besides being decorative, the joint can be made very quickly, and it more than strong enough for what I want it to do.

Pushing the pieces through

Using a GRR-Ripper to hold the pieces down also helped ensure that the cuts were consistent and that my hands were well out of the way. Those bits are big, and they can chew off fingers with great speed – obviously something I wanted to avoid.

Using the sled

The coping cuts were easy to make using a coping sled, which allows the pieces to fit together snugly – the key to a good joint. By immobilizing the pieces, I was able to get the cuts to come out looking good and even with no tearout. A backing block is a must to ensure you don’t rip out as the bit exits.

A frame

Not bad work for being able to scratch out the time as it allowed. While I was at it, I also took the time to start the glueups for the cherry panels that were going to fill the frame. They are all glued up, and fortunately, are all narrow enough to be fun through my thickness planer to get them down to the right size for the frame.

glued panel

Now, if the pollen would only let up for a day or two, I might be able to get some more work done!

The weekly plan

Wood Magazine’s portable router table

Many of us have sweet router table setups in our shops that can do everything – joinery, edging, slice, dice, julienne….

But, what if you have to use your router in a table somewhere else? Or, what if you have no space for a permanent router setup? What then?

Wood Magazine's portable router table

Wood Magazine has the plan for you. Made from simple materials and designed to be used over a pair of sawhorses, this can easily be a secondary router table for your shop, a great portable one or maybe a primary one if you are space challenged.

Planing perils

So, after I got the parts all milled and cut out for the chest frame, I decided I would turn my attention to the lid of the chest, just to get it a little closer to finished, There was a little unevenness, and I thought initially that I would give the belt sander a go to get things ironed out.


Of course, as luck would have it, I didn’t have a coarse enough belt to do any type of leveling, just a 120 grit which takes a little too much time to abrasively plane the wood down. Something like an 80 grit – FRESH out of the package – would have been a smarter pick.

Oh, well, there was a quieter, more traditional way to do the deed. Hand planes. If you speak with a hand plane enthusiast, they will tell you in glowing, nearly poetic terms how deftly and gently they can do the work of smoothing pieces out, leaving them ready for a final finish with barely a drop of sweat on your brow.

Get back Jack

Yeah, right. I did feel for the worst spots (one area was about 1/16″ high…), so I figured I would start out with my #5 jack plane. And, it did OK, shaving off the high areas and leaving a not too terrible surface. Knowing this was just the first step, I wasn’t going to sweat this at all.

So, I figured I would move toward my next step – my jointing plane. I figured, “Hey, I want the lid of this chest to be nice and dead flat. Why not run the plane over the lid and let the long sole get a good, flat surface on things.

The jointer's jumping

Well, gosh, that worked well – for a while. In the middle of the panel it cut like butter, I was making such awesome progress, just feeling like the unicorns were dancing on rainbows right there in my very shop.

Ain't that pretty?

That’s when things went sideways. Or, maybe I should have reversed the grain direction. When I got to the breadboard edges, I pushed along the grain with the jointer plane. I’m pretty sure either I had too much iron exposed, the mouth too open or I was a complete hammerhead, and it just tore out like an S.O.B.

Replace your divots


Now, I have to decide what will be the best way to fix this problem. I’m thinking of perhaps just flipping the board direction, planing until the tear out is gone, then reduce the amount of iron exposed to try again.

Of course, a friend with a wide belt sander would be someone I use right about now…


Rough framing

So, this hope chest I am building is a frame and panel design. And, when it comes to building the frame, it’s important to make sure that everything is milled properly. After all, if you are using a cope and stick type of joinery system, everything has to be the same thickness so it all comes together nicely.

The lid

But, first, come on. Look at that lid!  It’s a thing of beauty! A little planing, a little sanding, and it will be something to look at.

Now, back to our milling operation. I had to identify the pieces I was going to need. The rails and stiles, where they were going to go, their dimensions… the works. So, I went to my wood pile, picked out a few nice looking pieces and cut them to rough length. I had to employ a sophisticated method of keeping track of which pieces ended up where.

Tape organizing

Yeah, amazing what you can do with a marker and some painter’s tape…

Once I had those pieces cut to size, I ensured that I had one flat face on each board. By breaking them down to smaller pieces, it was easier to remove any wind or twist in the pieces. After that, it was off to the thickness planer.

The planer

There were two reasons for this. First, I could get rid of some of the gnarly skip-planed look, making the surfaces a whole lot closer to finished. Secondly, and more importantly, was to ensure each of these pieces would be the same thickness, which would make joinery a TON easier when I got to the router table.

Planed boards

After planing and some straight-line ripping, my stack of boards is ready for the next step. Now, I have to find some time in the shop to take that next step!

The weekly plan

Popular Woodworking’s Weekend Pot Rack

If I wasn’t for woodworking, my favorite hobby would have to be cooking. And, just as in your workshop, having your tools in an easy-to-access, organized fashion helps ensure your cooking experience is a great one.

The potrack

This plan, designed and built by Popular Woodworking’s Megan Fitzpatrick, is an easy to build organizer that keeps those pots, pans and sauciers in a handy, easy to access location. The best part? You can build it on Saturday and be cooking with it on Sunday.

Bon appétit!

The busman always rides twice …

A day, that is.

Both to and from work on the PSTA 300X, a commuter bus that drops me off across the street from my new office in downtown Tampa.

Get on da bus

Sure, it has been an big adjustment. I mean, I have gone from having a 15-minute commute where I drove to an hour each way in the plush comfort of the bus. Fortunately for me, I have a few advantages riding the bus over driving myself downtown.

  • I don’t have to sit in traffic and grit my teeth
  • I don’t have to burn my gas
  • I don’t have to rent a parking spot near my office
  • And, I get to spend the time I would have been driving doing some reading.

Yes, the bus comes complete with WiFi, and my iPad allows me to do a little reading before I get to work. For instance, I can check in on social media, answer some e-mails and even draft a letter or two before I get to the office.

I also get to download and read the electronic editions of the woodworking magazines I subscribe to. Where before I had to set time aside to get to those magazines, now, I load them up on the iPad and I’m in woodworking heaven.

I also have a lot of time to peruse the products the woodworking stores have online to see what I need to acquire next to help out the shop. Sure, I don’t need many more tools, but it never hurts to think ahead and develop a wish list.

And, finally, I have some time to just sit and think. With my travel coffee mug in one hand, I can think about what I want to accomplish in the shop by the end of the day and what the next steps are in my latest woodworking project.

I just have to remember to look for my stop!