Category Archives: Projects

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.

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.

Stuff I’ve built: The dresser top valet

As with all summer projects over the past few years, this one took forever to finish. But, I’m very happy with the way that things worked out.

The dresser top valet

To recap, this plan came from Wood Magazine, and it is the proof of concept for building others for my nephews. The project didn’t take a lot of walnut, and I did make sure to grab a 2′ x 4′ sheet of high quality 1/4″ plywood for the drawer bottom and the substrate for the anigree veneer top.

Once the final sanding was done, I started the finish by spraying on some dewaxed shellac. Because there were so many cubbies in this piece, I thought spraying would work better than wiping on, and my suspicions were confirmed. After a sanding with some 320 grit paper, I decided to press my luck and spray on a few coats of lacquer, which came out looking really nice.

The drawer

The drawer has some great storage capacity. The original plan called for dividers, but I decided to go without, figuring later I could build or get some small containers to store items in there. The drawer runs beautifully on the two runners on the sides, and I was sure to wax up both the runners and the sides of the drawers.

For the handle, I picked up a simple pull from the local home improvement center. I think the antique brass look matched the walnut well, and I like the look a little better than a simple knob.

Loaded up

Once I got the piece into place, it was fun to load it up with stuff. The top is a great place to drop the watch, keys, iPod and other goodies, and the cubbies in the back hold the wallet, work ID, my multi-tool and other goodies. I took the time to drill out the back side of the middle cubby so I can eventually thread a USB charger cable through and move my phone there, but that would involve me moving the dresser… and right now, that sounds like too much work.

A beer sounds much better.

Now, time to clean up the shop and start planning the next adventure!

Revived from suspended animation

It’s definitely summer in Florida. Try as I might, the shop is always just too darned hot to get into to do a lot of woodworking. So, projects like the dresser top valet – remember when I started that project? – tend to sit in suspended animation. I was, however, able to get some time and energy this weekend to revive that project from its slumber and get it back on its feet. Kinda like the crew of the Nostromo mining ship in that movie Alien.


When last I left the project, I had pretty much gotten it to the phase where the frame was set up, ready for the top to be crafted.

The next step was to create a frame that would fit into the dados in the sides and back. This would be the outer edge of the top shelf where I could put my keys, wallet, multi tool… the works. Cut from four pieces of stock milled to one half inch thick, the frame was joined with stub tenons and grooves I had cut on the table saw.

After gluing and clamping those suckers together, I rabbeted out the bottom tongue of the groove out to capture a middle panel.  With some sanding to round over the edges, I glued it into the middle area to serve as the base of the lid.

The frame glued in

The original plan had that panel covered with some padded vinyl, but I opted instead to go with some anigre veneer. I thought that would be a cool contrast with the walnut. I stuck the veneer to the plywood substrate with hide glue and let it dry, then mounted it into the frame.

With the shelf

I dunno, but this is really starting to take shape. Now, I need to get the time out in the shop to build the drawer. Once that is done, it will be sanding and finishing… then I can declare this project done, and start thinking about batching out some of these for the nephews.

Once the weather cools down … or I am eaten by an alien. Whichever comes first.

I’m far behind, but catching up

I remember being totally caught up once. Back in 1986. It was the best 15 minutes of my life.

Ever since then, I’ve been playing an ever-maddening game of catch up at work, at home, in the shop. Yup, even there!

Remember waaaay back in March, when I started talking about building some dresser top valets for my nephews? Yeah, about that…

I got sidetracked with an important project for my coworker. And, I had the start of hurricane season. And, the little health thingy…

OK, enough of that. It is now time to get out and build my first dresser top valet, and I had a blast working on it this weekend.  I had milled up some walnut for these projects back in April, and the boards have been sitting since then, just waiting patiently for me to get off my butt and into the shop. Spread out on the bench That’s just what I did, carefully cutting the pieces to size and marking them per the plan. I have got to tell you, it was fun being out in the shop again, working at the bench making a pile of wood into a project.   One thing about the plan I am using is that it’s a router-heavy plan, allowing me a lot of time to use the router table. MicroJig Push BlockThese MicroJig Push Blocks helped to make the job a whole lot easier, and a ton safer, as I cut the rabbets and dadoes necessary to put the pieces together. The case comes together With some Bruce Springsteen on the shop stereo, I was in the groove – so to speak. I was able to get all of the pieces in place, and noticed that everything was going to plan. And, when the time came to glue the piece together, I felt that familiar nervousness – had I thought everything through?

Glued up

Well, you bet I did.  The piece came together nicely, with the base of the case already glued up and good to go.

The offcuts

I have been mothering over my supply of walnut because I am getting close to the end of what I have milled, so I will be carefully using it to ensure it can make it all the way.

Stars and Stripes … and a block?

It’s funny… the idea for the quick project I built this weekend came when I had my garage door opener installed. When the installer came in, he told me that the track that rail that opens the door shouldn’t be mounted directly to the concrete block in the wall, but instead to a wooden block that was mounted to the wall. He called it a shock block, and it supposedly prevented the concrete fasteners from rattling in the wall, expanding the size of the holes.

Well, I have this flagpole mount in front of the house that I mounted directly to the outside wall. And, over the years, the Florida breezes have moved the mount enough to loosen it. So, I wanted to put in a shock block… but I wanted it to look good.

The shield shaped block

I had this piece of pressure treated southern yellow pine that was pretty clear. I had been holding on to it for the past year or so, and I thought it would make for a good block. I clipped an 8 inch piece from the board and trimmed the bottom to roughly match the shape of the bottom of a shield. I thought it would look pretty good. It was nice, but way too blocky. That’s when I moved to the bevel.

Cutting a bevel

Using my mallet and a chisel, I was able to trim out a bevel across all five edges of the shield shape. Once I got it close to shape, I turned to a block plane, spoke shave and a sander to put in a nice, elegant bevel.

The bevel with the bracket centered

Once I had the block shaped, I placed the bracket that held the flagpole onto the block to get an idea of how large it would be. I traced the outside of the bracket, and carefully marked where I was going to drill some countersunk holes for the Tapcon fasteners that would hold it to the wall.

The boring part

On the drill press table, I used a 5/16 inch forstner bit to bore some recesses that would be filled with plugs and through holes for the shanks. Once I got to this part, I put on a coat of primer and a coat of exterior paint that matched my home’s trim. I knew I had to protect it from the elements…


Now, I painted both the front and back of the piece to protect it, and I ran a bead of silicone caulk around the top and side edges to ensure that no water could get behind the piece. I did leave the bottom uncaulked, just in case water did get behind it.

Once I got the block mounted to the wall, I filled the countersinks with some short dowels I cut to size, and trimmed off the ends with a flush cutting saw. Another coat of paint on the front of the block helped to ensure that the block would look its best and be protected.

Hung with care

Once the block was in place, I carefully mounted the flag holding bracket with stainless steel screws to prevent rust, then put our American flag into the mount to see how Old Glory looked. Not too shabby.

With Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Labor Day coming up, it feels good to have the flag properly mounted in front of the house. I hope my mounting system lasts for a few years.

It was my honor…

Please allow me to introduce you to someone who has helped me tremendously while doing my ‘day job’ as a public information officer for Pinellas County.

Len Ciecieznski

His name is Len Ciecieznski, and we worked side by side for the past 15 years. My first memory of Len was actually before I started at the Communications department. Back in the summer of 1996, he escorted a busload of citizens through the Property Appraiser’s office when I worked over there. And, in 1998 when I accepted my current job at Communications, he was the first staff member to come to my office to ask if I had lost my mind, giving up my office with a huge picture window to work in a place where I was going to be sitting in a tiny cubicle.

Since those early days, we have worked on all types of projects – from the serious to the downright silly. I remember the Y2K activation of the Emergency Operations Center with Len, and I can remember the long, tense six-weeks of the 2004 Hurricane Season, which saw PInellas County threatened by four hurricanes. Len and Lori Hudson on the set of Inside Pinellas Len flourished on TV. His butter-smooth voice and friendly presence led him to become the voice of the county. Whenever we planned a major event in our TV studio, Len was there, serving as the glue that held everything together.

He often lent his talents for other projects, such as this media training video we did 11 years ago. It still holds up as well now as it did when it first aired.

pinellas honors america

The event I will ever remember Len for, however, was called Pinellas Honors America. Just two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, our office orchestrated a huge event outside of the county courthouse for people to come to pay tribute to the survivors of the attacks in New York, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and to remember those who lost their lives. With Len’s leadership, the team of Public Information Officers were able to pull off a small miracle of cooperation to put on an event that people to this day remember vividly.

This past November, Len announced that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This is a very aggressive form of the disease, and as he bid his last farewells that day, no one – especially Len – knew what to expect. Chemotherapy. Operations. Radiation treatment. He has weathered the storm, going to battle every day to fight the odds and beat this disease.

A few months ago, he announced that he was retiring from the county. We all quickly decided that someone who had given so much for the county couldn’t be sent off quietly. So, we decided to dedicate the studio to him. I volunteered to build a commemorative plaque for him.

The plaque

Centering the design around the studio’s On Air light, I stuck with the golden oak used to hold that to the wall. It was made with a pair of bookmatched boards, with a cut out for the On Air light to protrude through. I used breadboard edges on the top and bottom to prevent any warping, and the shelf that the microphone rests on is attached using a sliding dovetail joint. It is glued only on the end behind the microphone to allow for wood movement.

This past Friday, Len and his family returned to the office for the first time since he left that November day. We had a big luncheon for the staff, and after that, we showed a video clip of some of his best work. Len had the energy to deliver some very funny remarks to remind us of the spirit he brought to work every day.

Then it was my turn. I got up and reminded everyone of the times we worked together. Other colleagues got up to say a few words as well. Then, we unveiled the plaque. Unveiling the plaque Both Len and I fought back the tears. As I handed it over, I read the inscription I had put on the back of the plaque. It had so much meaning, I needed for him to hear it from me directly:

To Len – My mentor. Colleague. And Friend.

After some group photos, Len and his family followed me out to the hallway to mount the plaque in its permanent location. Len and his family posing with the plaque From now on, anyone entering that studio will be able to draw from the spirit and energy Len brought to everything he did. This was, by far, the most rewarding project I have ever built.