Category Archives: Projects

The summer commences

Here in the United States, we are commemorating Memorial Day, the day we set aside to remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by the service men and women of our armed forces who fought to defend the freedoms we hold so dearly. While the day was officially named in 1967, its presence as Decoration Day stretches back to the American Civil War. Few words ever captured the spirit of this solemn day better than those spoken by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in November of 1863.

It’s also important that I highlight some heartwarming stories that I had written from Memorial Days past, which showcase how woodworkers are helping to respect the memories of those who have served with distinction:

While we do take time to commemorate those who paid the ultimate price, we also take Memorial Day to be the start of the summer vacation season. From now until Labor Day in September, people make their plans to visit relatives, take a little time off and decompress from the serious, dark winter season.

Annette Funicello

And, just like some type of an Annette Funicello beach party movie, I plan on getting into the action… but, without all of the fun you would expect at a beach blanket bingo party.

You see, as the final finish dries on the hope chest for my niece, and the first communion cross hangs in my nephew’s room, I thought I was going to have a little down time to build something artistic. Maybe break out a few tools I hadn’t used in a few years to try my hand at a chair or something I had always wanted to.

But, then I was reminded by my long suffering wife Rhonda that I had promised – a while back – that I promised to build not one – but TWO – coffee tables for the house.

Round Table

The first one is going to be for the front room in our house. There, we have a couch and a pair of leather chairs with a big screen TV up front. Rhonda would like to see something round there, and this is the sort of look I am going for. A simple base, a few legs, something clean looking.


For the back room, where we have a sectional sofa, we are ditching an old Ottoman which has seen much better days, and Rhonda was thinking something rectangular. Here, she told me, was my chance to really go nuts. So, I was thinking something where I could do a little more decorative of a piece. Maybe show off some joinery, maybe something like this. I dunno.

While the mind boggles at the possibilities, one thing is for certain, there will be lots of fun on the sand… paper, that is!


MicroJig Art

The weekly plan

Build a wooden table hockey game

With the Stanley Cup playoffs in full swing, I know that I wish I could be out there on the ice, skating fast, digging the puck out of the corner and shooting some high-speed slap shots at the goal.

Then, I realize that I can’t skate all that well.

The table hockey game

Since that’s the case, I may have to play out my fantasies on a table hockey game. And, this set of plans from Minwax and American Woodworker gives me the chance to play for the cup just like the pros.

Game on!

A family heirloom

As I had mentioned yesterday, I just returned from a great family visit in Raleigh, North Carolina where both of my brothers and our families were together for the first time in forever. I seriously have got to change that. We had a blast.

The toy chest

Rhonda, the boys and I stayed with my older brother John and sister in law Kim at their house. While there, I saw a family heirloom I hadn’t seen in a long time. This toy chest was built by my dad when our family lived in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, and belonged to my brother since before I was born.

The inside construction

It’s a very simple affair – number 2 pine boards screwed to a series of interior battens with a plywood bottom. My dad took the time to carefully round over the tops of the interior battens to keep them from splintering, and there were traces of a lid stay which had broken off years ago. I imagine that was to keep the lid from slamming down on my brother’s small fingers.

The hinges

The hinges for the lid were pretty fancy looking brass ones, obviously held on with brass screws. One of the heads had snapped off sometime over the past 45 plus years, but, come on, that’s sweet looking!

The handle

The handles have a movable finger pull, allowing them to lay flat when not being used to move the box. They are still in very good repair after all of these years.

The lid

The lid is built up of four boards screwed together on a pair of battens. A few of the lid boards had warped, but other than that, it is in amazingly good shape, even after all these years. My dad definitely built this sucker to last, and that’s exactly what it has done.


The thing that makes this chest so special, however,is that I can see the crayon writing my brothers and I put on the inside lid of the piece. It’s almost like being transported back in time to me as a two year old, reaching into my brother’s toy chest to pull out a Tonka truck or some other treasure to play with.

I hope that one year thirty or forty years into the future, someone looks at one of the projects I built and feels the same sensation of awe I had this past weekend …

You’re helping me, smalls

I love to quote movie lines. Ask Rhonda. She’ll tell you.

  • Open the pod bay door, HAL.
  • We have both kinds of music – country and western.
  • We’re going to need a bigger boat.

After a while, she will just roll her eyes and walk off into another room. Good for her!

One of my favorites to throw around is from the movie The Sandlot. Whenever someone is giving me a hard time at work, I always have to counter with the line made famous by the movie’s character Ham Porter:


I usually mutter this under my breath whenever I mess up in the shop. But, there are times when working on smalls – or small projects, in this case – can help keep you sharp, even in the middle of a big project.

We are flying up to visit my nephew for his first communion, and I wanted to make him one of my small wooden crosses to commemorate the occasion. Moving the hope chest to the side of the shop, I grabbed a piece of walnut and a piece of zebrawood I had been holding on to for close to a decade now.

Glue applied

I ripped a few piece, got everything nice and true and slathered a little glue on the pieces to prepare them for glue up. Glue up?  How was I going to accomplish this? After all, I would probably need about two dozen clamps to evenly distribute the clamping pressure along this long stick I was trying to make… or did I?

Caul of the wild

Turns out, the cauls I had made a few years ago were perfect for this application. With a hump planed into the middle of the cauls, two clamps – one on each end – were more than enough to bring sweet, even pressure along the entire piece from top to bottom. Easy peasey.

Once glued up and out of the cauls, I turned my attention to joinery. Since the cross project needs only a simple half-lap, I turned to my table saw and used my regular combination blade to nibble out the material to make the cut. It took a little fussing, but the joints came out looking great.

Half laps

The half lap joints were nice and tight when fit, and a little bit of glue is all it required to get the pieces together. A single clamp on the piece held everything together until the glue dried.


With the glue now dry, it took just a few minutes to sand the piece down nice and smooth, ready for some finish. I went with the Rude and Crude method, starting with a coat of dewaxed shellac.

Ready for shellac

Once that cured. I sanded it down with some 320 grit paper (the finest grit I had on hand) and wiped on two coats of my home brew finish.

Et finis

Now that it’s dry, it’s ready for Uncle Tom’s signature and some wrapping paper.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a successful small project. It smells like victory….

You gotta have heart …

We are rounding the clubhouse turn on construction for the newest hope chest, and there is a special embellishment I wanted to add to the piece. Unfortunately, it was going to require an inlay, something I really REALLY have a tough time doing.

It’s not that I am a dunce (well, I am), it’s just that when it comes to routing patterns with even my trim router, it takes me a little bit of time to get the feel of what I’m doing. Which is a nice way of saying I waste a lot of material to get one good inlay.

The cut rig

But, first, let’s take a look at what I am inlaying.  This is a special piece of wood I was asked to include, and I wanted to get some nice slices out of it for the inlay process. So, I started by making a cut on one side of the board with the band saw so it would ride against the rip fence. I set the ripping ball bearing guide for a 3/16″ cut to peel off a few nice slices from this well-seasoned board.


As you can see, the first couple of whacks on the board really made some nice slices, perfect for cutting into inlay pieces.

The inlay kit

The next thing I had to do was rig the router for inlay work, which involves a special router guide bushing and a very fine 1/8″ router bit. With this attached to the trim router, I was ready to take my first tentative steps toward cutting the inlay.

The rig

I had to really secure one slice of the special wood in place to ensure it wouldn’t move. At all. So I secured the pattern to the piece and a plywood backer board with a screw. Then I tacked the piece down with a few brads. Then I stuck a few spare pieces as spacers under the sides of the pattern so it wouldn’t move.

Then I flipped on the router switch and prayed.

And, on my fourth attempt, I got a great cutout!  Woo Hoo!

Rout that lid

The next step was to put a special bearing on the guide bushing and clamp the same pattern down on the lid of the chest. This was going to be a little easier, since I had more space to work with. A few clamps, a little bit of router application, and blammo, I had the recess routed to take the inlay.

Now, for the moment of truth. Would the stupid thing fit?

The inlay ready to be driven home

Hey, I didn’t mess up too badly!  I glued the piece, smacked it down with a mallet until it fit the recess and broke out the belt sander to flush everything up. To get a real feel of what it looked like, I wiped a little mineral spirits over the board.


Woah. I’m going to say that went better than I expected.

Now, for the sanding and finish, and this baby will be ready to get off to the recipient and I’ll be ready to move on to the next project.


MicroJig Art

An abrade upgrade

So, remember when I was left with a divot after planing some cherry on the lid of my latest project?

Yeah, I was hoping you’d forget, but I knew you wouldn’t. But, that’s cool!  I’ve got this one nailed here. I went out and bought some new, fresh 80 grit belts for the sander and got ready to set to work.

Nice stuff, dude

But, safety first!  You will also notice that I’m wearing my full safety complement – which really needs to be dusted. But, hey, there’s no substitute for safety.

The rig

I also took the time to attach the dust collector hose directly to the sander. This way, all of the sanding dust was going to get picked up at the source instead of floating all around the shop.

I clamped the lid down to the bench and took the time to mark a pencil line across the piece. This way, it would help ensure that my sanding would be nice and even. The clamping? Well, that was to make sure the lid didn’t become airborne…


As I had explained in my should-have-been-award-winning 2011 post My Abrasive Personality, I started the sander across the grain, which just so happened to be with the grain on the breadboard edges, and worked it evenly across the surface. Surprisingly, it took very little effort to level out all the little imperfections in the lid, and fix the divot I dug with the hand planes. I even used a straightedge along the surface just to make sure I wasn’t sanding hollows into the lid.

Now, that's straight

To ensure I was sanding with maximum efficiency, I stopped every few minutes and ran the sanding belts against a crepe rubber sanding block to remove any sanding dust that embedded itself on the belt. Sure, I could have used a crepe rubber soled shoe, but a) I didn’t have one and b) I bought this crepe rubber block on a stick about a decade ago, and it still has plenty of life in it. Cost me a whopping $6. Woooo…..

The crepe rubber block

With the heavy leveling done, and the kids needing help to get their homework done, I decided to call it a night. But, I wanted to make sure I had the next tool ready to roll in the prep process.

Random Orbit Sander

Yup, the random orbit sander is going to get a workout, followed by a little scraping to get a nice, smooth finish on this beauty.

Then, the embellishment, followed by a finish and – hopefully – the presentation to a happy niece…

Frame, meet panel

I’m getting close now… so very close… with this latest project. In fact, this past weekend, the temperatures were very comfortable here in my shop and I was a woodworking fool.

Go for a trim

First thing I had to do was take those planed down panels and trim them up to size. That was a piece of cake with my Osborne miter gauge… held the panel nice and square to the blade, and kept my hands safely out of the danger zone while I pushed them through. That was an easy way to make that happen.

Since there is going to be a special embellishment on the project, I decided to go with flat panels for the chest. Believe me, there’s plenty of visual interest coming up on this project. So, I used my dado blade to put a rabbet on the back of the panels and decided to call it a day there.

Tiny little rabbets

From there, I knew I had to shape the bottom of the legs for the corners of this chest. There was no way I was going to assemble these things with square legs to the floor. In the past, I might have turned to the band saw or jig saw to cut away the majority of the waste, but I was feeling kind of plucky, so I decided to just use my spindle sander do to the work. All of it.

Some abrasive shaping

When you figure out how much time it would have taken to set up the band saw or break out the jig saw, I was done using the spindle sander. That was easy!

Those feet...

Talk about simple…

Ooooh, pretty

And, with a dry fit, everything seemed to work well. Now, it is a simple matter of deciding on a joinery option for the side pieces, then a glue up of the frame and panel, attach a few cleats, cut a bottom and then it’s off to the sanding and finishing…

Oh, and that embellishment… Can’t forget about that.