Category Archives: Projects

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.

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!

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!

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!

Take it from the top

I miss my maternal grandmother. As we get closer to Easter, that was her holiday. She cooked the holiday meal for us, and I can remember her sending me back to college with a huge brown paper grocery bag full of leftover ham sandwiches, dyed Easter eggs and – of course – lots of chocolate. I was still her little grandson, even in my late teens.

The Lawrence Welk Show

The one thing I couldn’t get into? Her watching the Lawrence Welk Show. I know it was her kind of music, and I know it was her kind of entertainment, but I usually ended up watching baseball with my grandfather.

As with any good band leader, I’m sure Mr. Welk would remind his musicians during rehearsals that they were going to take it from the top when practicing a new piece of music. After all, that’s where the start of the music would be – at the top of the sheet!

Cherry boards

With my latest project, I am taking it from the top as well, literally!  The latest piece is a hope chest for the third niece turning 16 in my family, and it’s time to get my toes tapping out in the shop. First, though, I had to go through a one or a two boards in the repertoire…

Matching boards

Ahh, these two boards seems to come together in a harmonious fashion. I guess it was time to help make these babies sing. But, first, it was going to take a little time to tune up the pieces to ensure the sound was going to be tight. So, I used my Bora straight edge clamps to set a fence to ride against the rip fence, and used my Grr-Ripper to push the stack through, to keep my hands safe.

Straight line ripping

After sweetening up the fit, It was a simple matter to glue up the two boards that were going to make the top. No pressure, right?

Panel glue up

Wanting everything to stay true, I decided on putting an edge on the board just to make sure thing stayed flat. I turned to a tongue and groove router bit set and got the router table all set up for this kind of work. It took very little time, but it was ready to go in short order.

Router Bit Setup

After grooving the breadboard ends and putting a tongue on the panel, I glued the middle four inches of the tongues on the panel and slid the ends into place, clamping them. Of course they were long, but that’s fine, I would trim them later.

Edges in place

Now, just a little sanding and this top will be just about ready for its debut. And, since I was taking it from the top, now I know the exact dimensions I need to build the rest of the chest to, and I am sure I used the nicest looking boards for the most visible part of the project.

That’s music to my ears!