Category Archives: Last Minute Elf

Mele Kalikimaka from the shop!

Our final Last Minute Elf winner comes from our friend Doug Moulder who just blew me away with his entry. Again, very simple (once you get the hang of it) and elegant.


Here’s two sets of Shaker oval boxes that I just finished making for my sister’s Christmas present. I got all the information on “how to”- from the May/June-No.247 issue of Fine Woodworking-pages 38-43, by Pete Baxter. The video (Matt Kenney) on It was great on watching how to do the bending.

They are pretty quick to make after you make the bending and drying forms, and practice some on the bending technique.

One set ( #2,3 &4 size) is walnut sides-with clear quartersawn Douglas fir top and bottom-and the other 3 piece set is mahogany sides and the top is quarter sawn sycamore-“lacewood.”

I don’t care how they were built, they are stunning. Very well made and executed. Who wouldn’t want something like a set of those in their home?

SuperGeneralDoug, since getting nice, straight cuts is essential for that kind of work, our friends at Infinity Cutting Tools want you to have a super-premium blade to make sweet cuts. That’s why Infinity Cutting Tools will be sending one of their Super General Thin Kerf 10″ saw blades. They are a very cool blue, easy on the ears and leave a beautiful cut line.

Congratulations, Doug!  Hope you enjoy it!


MicroJig Art

Up on the workbench! Quick! Quick! Quick!

Day three of the Last Minute Elf, and we have a stunner of a project for you from our friend Mike Boulant.

IMG_1881 IMG_1884

I’ll let Mike tell you a little bit about these honeys:

These photos are 2 dartboard cabinets I made for my brother and brother-in-law this year.  These were two of the most complex projects I have attempted, but there wasn’t a ton of material and it only took 1 day to get all the components milled and cut to final size, including the joinery.  So the time criteria should count as a last minute elf project.

What took the remainder of the time (approximately 2 weeks) was the finishing process.  I used Arm R Seal for the first time.  The dry time between coats is MUCH longer than I am used to with spray lacquer.  I pre-finished all of the door panels and interior parts because I was worried of messing up the cork on the back and I figured I would get better results that way.  I ended up doing about 4 coats of gloss and 2 coats of satin for the final top coats.  I sanded between each coat with 360 grit and 600 for the final coat.

I used 4/4 Cherry for the case and veneered the 1/4″ MDF door panels with walnut.  My inspiration for the project came from two sources. Initially, I watched Brian Grella’s video series on his cabinets.  I took the inspiration for the cloud lifts on the doors from him.  But I love the chunky box joints for the case construction that Marc Spagnuolo has used on some of his pieces.  I’m proud of how these turned out and hopefully they will be enjoyed for years to come.

Wow, Mike, I’m gonna tell you those are some impressive gifts. And, since you said that finishing was one of the problems you experienced with the piece, well, do you have an awesome piece of tooling coming your way!

How about an Earlex Spray Station HV2901, which will allow you  to get into the wonderful world of spray finishes – and the efficiency of an HVLP system. Use it in good health, and we look forward to the other projects you have up your sleeve in the future!

Jingle to the shop!

You know, for the past eight plus years I have been doing this blog, I have been thoroughly impressed by the creativity of the readers when they have sent in projects for contests and when they just want to show them off.

Today’s Last Minute Elf winner is no exception.


This incredible looking frame – made by Steve Henry – features gorgeous curly maple and a sweet looking live edge. Where on earth did he source this awesome looking material?  Let me have Steve tell you:

Here’s a live-edge picture frame made from some curly maple rescued from the firewood pile!  Makes a nice impression, at zero cost.

The FIREWOOD PILE!  Holy smokes, now that would have been a huge loss had been turned to ash. Not only does Steve’s project meet Last Minute Elf specs, it also gets the cheap elf stamp of approval.

A project that sweet deserves a sweet prize pack!  So, Steve, when you find yourself out in the field trying to get some awesome straight line cuts, our friends at Bora Tools want to send you their WTX 50 inch saw guide, the 50 inch extension (that’s 100 inches of cutting length!) and their Bora Saw Plate.

We have a few more days left in the Last Minute Elf event, so if you have any ideas you want to submit, my hairy shop assistant Iggy is standing by!  Be sure to shoot him an e-mail at

Ho Ho Holy Smokes!

Wow, can you believe that we are now in the Last Minute Elf week?  Where has the year gone so far?

Now that we are just 17 days away from Christmas, 18 days from the start of Kwanzaa and we are in Hanukkah, it’s time to come up with our first entry and winner in the Last Minute Elf contest.

candle stand

Dan Zehner submitted this first project, which is both clever and green. If you have access to an old barrel – whiskey, wine, water – whatever – you have the material you need to build this graceful candle stand.

Dan said that this is easy to build with just two tools – a drill press to create the bases for the candles, and a sander to round over the edges of the staves so there’s no chance of splinters. Pretty clever!

Since Dan’s project will keep fingers safe from fingers, how about keeping his fingers safe from saw blades and router bits?  Dan, congratulations!  You are going to receive the MicroJig prize pack!

Oh, and while you have the option to finish the piece or not, you might want to have the ability to choose a finish that will work on a very tight timeframe. That’s why Wood Magazine published this Countdown to Christmas Finishes article a few years back. Believe me, you will enjoy it!

Get to Elfin’!

Ready? Set? BUILD!

The holiday season is upon us like a full-court press, and if you are building, now’s the time to get busy. Of course, at Tom’s Workbench, we want to help make building those gifts easier for you – and those of us who will be waiting until the VERY LAST MINUTE to start building.

We like to call it the Last Minute Elf.

Again, what we are hoping that you will do is share with us some of your most awesome last-minute gift build ideas. We will mention everyone, and my trained Shop Monkey and I will be selecting the best of the best for some fabulous prizes. How fabulous?

Glad you asked!


How about package of a GRR-RIPPER 3D Push block, two GRR-RIP blocks and two Zero-Play guide bar systems from our friends at MicroJig? Nothing makes for a better holiday than accurate work – and safe fingers! (And, no, you won’t get the ones that Iggy has worked with…)


Or, maybe an Earlex Spray Station HV2901 is more your speed.  If you ever wanted to get into the wonderful world of spray finishes – and the efficiency of an HVLP system – this may be just what the doctor ordered, provided courtesy of our friends at Wagner/Earlex.

saw plate

Looking for table-saw accuracy from a circular saw (if you ever work with sheet goods, your back will thank you!)?  Our friends from Bora Tools are offering up their WTX 50 inch saw guide, the 50 inch extension (that’s 100 inches of cutting length!) and their Bora Saw Plate. One heck of a prize.


And, if you are cutting on that table saw, you are going to want a super-premium blade to make sweet cuts. That’s why Infinity Cutting Tools is offering one of their Super General Thin Kerf 10″ saw blades. They are a very cool blue, easy on the ears and leave a beautiful cut line.

My fellow shop simian and I are working to bring in a few more sponsors to improve the prize kitty, so stay tuned!

How do you get in on this action?  Easy. Just be sure to send an e-mail to with a photo of a holiday gift you have built. The idea is something that doesn’t take a lot of time or material, but will make for one happy recipient on the big day.

In the meantime, we’ll post the best ideas on the site the week of December 7 – 11, and we’ll name the winners by random draw or by my hairy woodworking friend throwing banana peels at random entries.

Now, get out there in the shop and get to Elfin’!

Looking ahead for holidays

Gosh, we are just a little bit less that one week from Halloween …


Which, of course, means that all of the stores put their holiday displays up about four weeks ago, right after they pulled the back to school stuff off the shelves.

shop 'til you drop

And, just as merchants need to plan ahead for the busiest season of the year, so do we woodworkers!  To help with this effort, it’s time to bring back the ever-popular Last Minute Elf event!


If you have been here in years past, you know what this is all about – we are in the last week of October, and you think you have TONS of time to go out and build a project or projects for the loved ones on your list. It’s going to be something over the top impressive, and you just know everyone’s going to just be wowed.

inspiration, please strike!

Only, of course, to find yourself totally stressed out in your shop the last few nights before you have to give the gift trying to figure out what to build in the first place.

What we’re looking for is for you guys to share your ideas for simple projects to build that don’t require a lot of time, material or crazy advanced skills to build or execute. Be sure to send a photo, a few dimensions and some simple instructions on how to build the piece. Maybe a few words on how the project was to build or why it was so important for you to build it.

Iggy will check out each of the projects, and for the week of December 7 – 11, we will feature the winning entries on this blog. If your project is chosen by my furry friend, I will beg, borrow or plead for a few gifts from my sponsors and anyone else who wants to help with the effort.  I will keep everyone up to date on what we come up with.

Be sure to send your entries to, and be sure to put Last Minute Elf 2015 in the subject line.

I’m out of my elfing mind…

Yeah, I decided to get into the Last Minute Elf mode this weekend, and I have got to tell you, it was a crazy one to get some new projects started!  After all, we’re closing in on the last few days before the holidays really take off, and my wife’s birthday is just a day away…

But, hey, that’s why we do the Last Minute Elf in the first place, right?

So, I decided to build a few cutting boards from the plans that the folks at Bell Forest Products have. They are simple designs, and take only a few hours to crank out, so why not?  I sorted through my lumber rack and saw that I had plenty of maple. Since maple is an awesome cutting board material, I was in hog heaven.  But, I wanted to get some other species to do a little accenting.

An array of woods...

So, I dug around in my shorts… bin, that is. And found a bunch of really sweet woods to serve as accents. Some purpleheart, walnut, cherry and African mahogany. What the heck, right? They looked pretty, and I figured they would be great looking pieces.

Iggy supervising the glue up

Iggy came out to the shop to supervise the build. After all, when it comes to building gifts, the monkey has the gig down cold.

With the boards glued up, I simply traced the outline of the pattern onto each of the boards, and then used the drill press to bore out the holes for the handles and the band saw to rough out the outline of the boards. I then turned to my router table to do a little pattern routing to make the boards all the same size and shape. All was going swimmingly, until I had an oopsie…


Oh, well, one of the boards was going to to need a handlectomy…

OK, so I turned instead to plan B for the shaping, which involved some abrasive shaping. That seemed to work pretty well, taking the boards down to the lines and refining the shape.

abrasive shaping

Not too shabby. After that I turned back to the router table to put on a round over bit to make these boards a whole lot smoother and softer to the touch. I was careful to use my GRR-ripper push block just to keep my hands safe… remember, nothing ruins the look of maple quite like giant blood stains…

Round those edges

Now, all I have to do is sand them down and finish them with some mineral oil. I hope the recipients like them… I guess time will tell!