Category Archives: Projects

Stuff I’ve built: My shoe rack

What has gotten into me? I spent most of the summer kind of lazing around, barely able to get out into the shop. Now, you can’t keep me out!  I’ve been bitten by the bug.

Nice shine, Steve

So, last week, I built a shoe shine box. And, on Friday, I came home from work to shine my shoes (actually, I had Steven shine them, but that’s a whole other story…) So, they were looking good, but the problem was that I was just throwing them onto the floor of my closet. Now, how the heck were they going to stay nice and shiny?  It was time for me to get off my behind and add to the organization… by building a shoe rack.

The former shelf

It was insanely easy to build, and while it didn’t involve a lot of fancy joinery, it is serving its purpose well. I started with a Douglas fir board that a friend gave to me when she was having work done at her house. It had been finished with some varnish, but that was easy for me to peel off using my thickness planer. Fortunately, the board had little twist in it, and it was beautifully clear. I planed it down until I had a nice uniform thickness – approximately 1 1/4 inches thick. I then straight line ripped both board edges until I had a piece that was four-square.

Thin strip ripping jig

Since the idea I had worked on separate slats, I set up my table saw using my Infinity thin strip ripping jig to ensure I was going to get consistent strips for the piece. I used a spacer to get 1/2″ thick strips for the cross slats, and set up for 3/4″ strips for the end pieces.


With the strips ripped, I turned to my Osborne EB-3 gauge to cut my strips for the end pieces to the right size – four 9 inches long, and three 7 inches long. That was a piece of cake.

GlueupI turned next to my square assembly jig for the glue ups. I laid out the pieces, alternating the long and short ones. I used some 3/4″ spacers to set the short pieces at the right height. Once I had those suckers lined up, I turned to the glueup.

Feel the pressure

It took some juggling, but I was able to get all of the pieces lined up, glued up and clamped up. As you can see, I glued up both sides at once, making this run a little faster. Of course, I had to remember to not glue the two middle pieces together…

After I got these babies out of the clamps, I ran both assembled sides through my thickness planer again to clean them up. That went faster than sanding, and it gave me a very good look. Remember, you just want to skim them, not remove a ton of material.


After that I cut the cross pieces that were 1/2″ thick to 26 inches wide. They fit perfectly into the slots formed by the short pieces. It was a snug fit, and that was good. I dabbed some glue onto the upright pieces and used my brad nailer to tack one brad into every intersection. Were the brads overkill? Who cares… they worked!

Now with shoes!

I sanded, paying special attention to round over the corners of all the boards. Douglas fir can be very splintery… Once I dusted the piece off, I could have finished it, but I just opted to set it on the floor of the closet and start stacking my shoes onto it. I might finish it later, but who knows, maybe there will be another project I want to start!

Stuff I’ve built: The shine box

So, at work, my bosses asked me to dress up a little bit more, which means no more work boots for me – unless, of course, I’m working on conditions like these:

Heavy weather

This now means that I’m going to be wearing more dress shoes. With dress shoes comes the inevitable chore of shining those dress shoes. Now, my dad served in the Marine Corps, and he is a whiz at shining shoes. He keeps his kit in an old Griffin Shinemaster box. It’s a classic.

Griffin Shinemaster

While it’s a neat, self contained design, a different shine kit caught my attention – the Esquire Footman Deluxe. (Dang, I need a hobby).

Esquire Footman

There’s something about this design that I really like. For instance, I can get at the items in the kit mid-shine with the open design, instead of having to take all the stuff out and lay the items on the floor, or ask the shoe shinee (is that a real term?) to move his or her foot to get that forgotten item.

Fortunately, there are TONS of these babies for sale on eBay, and the sellers all provide measurements, so I knew the kit would have to come in at about 11 inches from end to end, stand about 10 inches tall and be about 7 inches across. I had a board of some unknown wood (maybe one of you species types can help me out) that had been in my shop for the better part of ten years. Once I planed it down, it was the right width and looked handsome.

Plane down the edge

I started by cutting the two end pieces, and shaping a taper on the bottom halves of the boards, This is a very minor design feature, but I think it makes the piece look a little more graceful. I could have tried to taper in on the band saw or table saw, but a hand plane did the job in no time flat.

Getting groovy

After that, I used a 1/4″ router bit to rout a series of grooves into each of the side pieces. Since my plan was to capture the 1/2″ thick dividers in these grooves with 1/4″ tabs, I knew I had to make mirror images of each side so they would fit into the grooves. It took some mental gymnastics, but the grooves came out looking pretty sweet, with just a minimum amount of chisel work to make things perfect. And, yes, I did bevel the edges of the piece before I grooved it to ensure that the grooves would parallel the outside of the box profile.

Now, that's pretty groovy

Some quick work with a rasp helped curve the top of the box sides, making it look a little more elegant.

Feeling raspy

From there, I marked out where I wanted the top handle/step to live. I kept that piece at 3 inches wide to allow for a secure step, so I mated the two end pieces together and notched out the 3 inch wide by half inch deep recess for the board to sit in.

Make the notch

Once I did this, I cut the top piece to size, and made a rabbet on the end, ensuring the 3/4″ thick top piece could fit snugly into the 1/2″ deep notch, making a great fit that registered against the side of the box.

Snug in the notch

From there, I milled down the side pieces to 1/2″ thick, then using a rabbeting bit in my router table, gave each piece a 1/4″ thick by 1/4″ long ‘tab’ that would fit into the grooves.

Don't stick your tongue out at me!

I knew that only the bottom board would be glued in place, as it wouldn’t have a cross-grain situation. The dividers that break the piece into compartments just float freely. Assembly took a little bit of time to get everything into its respective groove, but it worked out great. I just took my time, glued the bottom board, slid the bottom and dividers in, then tapped the handle/foot rest into place, and clamped everything up.

Assembly detaisAfter the glue dried, I sanded everything down, then opted for several coats of lacquer for the finish. First, because it’s an easy, quick finish to apply that gives great results. But, also because it’s a spray, which can get down into the assembled compartments, saving me the work of having to reach in there with a rag or brush.

Assembled and lacquered

I really dig the front compartment with the cutouts that holds the cans of wax. The large compartment is easy to reach for the brush, applicators and shine rag. It’s solid as a rock, and just the right size for me to stash in the closet for when I need it. And, the beauty of it all – this truly was a one-weekend project, with the work being done in about four hours.

Nice shine, Steve

How well does it work? Well, I may need to make another one soon to give my son Steven, so he can start building his college fund. Hey, son, I have a nickel with your name on it!

Stuff I’ve built: The work trestle table

Wow, I have to be feeling better. The table I needed for work started out just a few short weeks ago as a 2 x 12, and now it’s home in my office, ready for me to conduct meetings, spread out and do some serious work.

The table in my office

This project was definitely a thought exercise for me. Could I build a project out of a simple piece of southern yellow pine construction lumber that I would like to use in my office, and had I accumulated the right tools and skills to build a classic trestle table?

From the first moments of picking out the board at the Lowe’s near my house, I knew I was going to be in for a treat. The 16 foot long 2 x 12 I chose was loaded with quarter sawn, nearly blemish free pieces that would easily become a top. While southern yellow pine is tough stuff, it still cuts great and planes very well as well.

That's a Nice Ash plane!

This project gave me some great freedom to design a classic looking piece using some tools – such as my scrub planes and Mortise Pal - that I usually never break out. I think the results look pretty darned decent.

The angled mortise

I also was able to convince myself that I could cut the angled through mortise that could hold the wedge to secure the base for this piece. Sure, I had my doubts, but a little patience and some sharp chisels go a long way toward accomplishing goals that seem out of your grasp.

Applying the milk paint

For the finish on the base, I went with some pitch black Old Fashioned Milk Paint to give it a classic look. I topped the paint with a coat of paste wax to prevent too much wear, but I figured now if the paint does start to wear off in strategic locations, it will only make the piece look that much more sweet.

The top took a coat of shellac, followed by a sanding with some 320 grit sandpaper. After that, I hit it with four coats of my wipe on finish blend. After that, I wiped on two coats of thinned poly just to give the table a little bit more protection from spills.

The table just before it left my shop

Now, it’s at home in my office, giving me a place to sit and contemplate my next project.

It’s all about that base

I am really starting to get old. At last weekend’s Woodworking in America, I told someone that I was Apollo era technology, and I had to stop to explain what I meant. Oy.

And, at work, I am the oldest of the public information officers. By a pretty good margin. One of my colleagues was born after I graduated college… grumble grumble grumble…

Meghan Trainor

But, every so often I ‘get’ a modern reference. For instance, I recently heard about this person named Meghan Trainor who wrote a song about my favorite musical instrument, the bass. What that has to do with the way she is dressed (and, she never picks up a bass guitar, which I also find puzzling), I’m not quite sure, but hey, I’ll go with it.

Just as with the music video, a trestle table is all about that base. After all, it’s all about that base, or there’s no table. So, I set out, to get my table base started so I could bring this sucker back to the office.

A trestle table drawn out

Unlike many modern iterations of the trestle table, I really wanted this one to be able to be broken down and moved. Sure, I have my corner office now, but you never know when someone might want to move me, and I’ll have to pack up the table to make the shift. So, no permanent joinery on the table base.

To make this happen, I started by attaching a pair of battens to the bottom side of the table. These battens will work together with the breadboard ends to keep the top flat. I spaced them so they would hold the tops of the trestles tightly, eliminating the need to screw the trestles to the table top.

The battens attached to the table

Oh, and how about those trestles?  I cut a pair of pieces for the two tops, some larger pieces for the bottoms and some straight boards for the uprights. Before I did any joinery, I ripped the two uprights in half, then notched for what would be the through mortise to hold the stretcher. With those cut, I just glued the legs back together, and voila, you have a nice, square through mortise.

Two halves make a whole mortise

To attach the tops and bottoms, I finally broke out the Mortise Pal and got to work. I routed twin mortises for the feet and tops of the trestles, then mirrored those on the tops and bottoms of the uprights, then glued them into place. That’s a fast joint that’s just not going to go anywhere.

The mortise pal was here

The stretcher was very easy to cut – I marked out the height of the mortise from the table onto the ends of the stretcher and marked out the length between the inside faces of the two uprights, then just notched those over at the Laguna bandsaw. Easy as pie.

The table, ready for finish

I hogged out for the through mortises on the trestle stretcher ends on the drill press, then chiseled a 10 degree angle on the outside face. I then cut a pair of wedges with an outside slope of 10 degrees. Those babies snug in nicely, and when tapped home, there is absolutely no wiggle on the table base.

Now, just a little bit of sanding and finishing, and I think this one will be ready to go!

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!