Category Archives: Projects


So, now that the Cotterman is done, it’s time to (literally) turn my attention to the new table for the front room in our home.  Now, in the back room, I had no problem going with a rectangular, rustic looking piece (which, by the way, has ended up being a great piece), But, for the front room, Rhonda was thinking something round to make it look a little more elegant.

A column base

A logical choice for a coffee table might be one large turned column It would free up some leg room underneath, I could get creative with the feet and it would certainly showcase my turning skills. Only a few problems. I don’t turn. I don’t have a lathe, and I really don’t (yet) have the skills to make something like this even if someone did hand me a lathe.  Besides, columns like the one I showed above are more for dining tables.

Round with shelf

Rhonda also had the idea originally of doing something with a shelf underneath – a place for us to tuck books, baskets and all of the other stuff you might expect to see in a living room, I dunno. There’s something about an elegant round table with a shelf jammed under it that doesn’t do anything for me.


Of course, I could go modern with bent legs – almost an Eames looking piece – with a ‘modern’ feel to it. But, something tells me I wouldn’t like it. Plus, you know, Ikea makes a lot of that mid-century modern looking stuff.

So, I got to thinking… Why not go for something a little more simple, yet classic? Something strong yet pleasing to the eye? In other words, how about some type of cross bracing connecting the legs under the table?

I had posted this picture a few weeks ago, and it really caught my eye. Nice, strong looking piece with a simple base, ample top and clean lines?

I will have to sketch out some ideas – maybe based on this, or maybe with a simpler x brace across the bottom. Either way, it will be something that will be a piece that guests will see first when they come to the house, so it’s going to have to look good.

No pressure, right?

Stuff I’ve built: The Cotterman

OK, so the name is a bit of a portmanteau between a coffee table and an Ottoman, but you get the idea – it’s a table for our family room that I built out of some beautiful, clear Southern Yellow Pine.

The Cotterman

That’s right – the piece came from a pair of 2 x 12 Southern Yellow Pine framing timbers and a 12 foot length of tongue and groove boards for the bottom shelf. After building the piece and placing it in the living area, both Rhonda and I agreed that the piece needed some under table storage for magazines, our chess and checkers set and some other goodies.

Under boards

The tongue and groove boards were sweet, clear pine, and I had the option of either having them at their full six inch width or flipping them over and exposing a bead halfway down the middle of each board. I decided to go with the more plain looking side. I glued the tongues and grooves together, and secured them to the frame with a single Miller Dowel at each end, square in the middle of the center board. The two outside boards fit snugly between the frames, and with the glue dry, they won’t  knock free.

The top laid out

The finish started with the boys sanding the pieces with some 100 grit random orbit sanders (they need something to do during their summer break) until the parts were nice and smooth. Since it’s more of a rustic piece, I rounded over the edges with some rasps and sandpaper. Makes it look a little more weathered that way.

From there, I wiped on a coat of spar varnish. There’s something about that yellowed finish on the pine that really makes it look about 100 years old right off the rag. Once that dried, I sanded it down with some 320 paper, wiped it down with some mineral spirits, then put three coats of wipe-on polyurethane over the top to protect it against the spills that are bound to happen on a table like this.

Chess anyone?

With it in its place in the family room, I can see us using it for family game night, snacks for the big game, homework or whatever for years to come. It’s going to be a piece we use and appreciate every single day.

A strong frame

For the coffee table (the Cotterman, as Rhonda likes to call it. She’s still torn between calling it a coffee table and an Ottoman), the next step is to build a base for it. After all, if the top just sits on the floor, it’s going to be too low to hold my coffee. Right?

Nice legs

So, I cut four legs down to size. Since most coffee tables want to be about 16 inches high, I cut them a little longer than 14 and a half inches long to have the top land at the sweet spot. Fortunately, there was lots of extra wood left over from the original 2 x 12 to work with for this operation.

I also cut some rails for the sides of the table and cross rails that would help to hold the frame together and provide a strong surface for the table top to bear against and be screwed to. How did I attach them?  Sure, I could have gone all mortise and tenon on them, but, meh, with the shop as hot as it was and Rhonda wanting the piece as soon as possible, I opted to go the pocket screw route.

The pocket screw option

There’s a lot to be said about how fast projects go together with them. And, believe me, for what this table will be doing, they are plenty strong.

After just a little bit of work, I was able to get the frame together and just set the top on it to give it a test run.


I dunno… looks pretty good perched up there on top of the workbench. Since it won’t be there forever, I had to make sure the measurements were going to be perfect on this, so I trimmed the ends even with my track saw, screwed the top into place through the battens and set it into the living room. Then, the moment of truth. I called a young, strapping lad in to give me a hand.

Big Stevie

So far, I’d have to say that the table is pretty strong to handle this much beefcake. Now, to build a deck for the bottom part of the table for magazines, board games and the like, and this one will be ready for the finish.

The coffee table begins

True to my word, yesterday, I started working on the rustic pine coffee table for the family room in the back of my house (Hey, Ian MacKay, is that worded properly for you?). I figured it would be the best one to start with, because it was easy, and I knew I was going to go to the home improvement lumber rack for the material. Easy peasey.

Wrapped and ready

But, first, I had to pack up Katie’s hope chest to clear the deck. With a lot of bubble wrap, cardboard and some flat twine, I made it all happen. Now, hopefully it won’t get all banged up in transit.

So, off I went to the home improvement center, and picked up a pair of 2 x 12 eight footers. I am always amazed at the quality of the wood you can find there – these two boards were nearly blemish free, with absolutely no knots and mostly rift grain along the edges. they were something to see.

The boards

So, I set to work on the top first. I knew I wanted to rip out the flatsawn grain in the middle to get the rift edges for the top, and that’s just what I did. I knew I wanted to do this in two parts – since the top was going to measure out to about 24 inches wide, I wanted to glue up each half, run them through the thickness planer, then assemble the final piece.

After crosscutting the boards on the miter saw, I set to work at the table saw, culling the nicest looking stuff. Wow, was this really nice!

The halvesI got a fairly good looking grain match after juggling the boards, and then set up to glue everything together to make the two sides. It was easy with a few cauls and a couple of clamps.

The glued halves

Once the glue was dry, I headed over to the thickness planer to get the sides planed down nice and flat and a uniform thickness. Since the widest half was 12 and a half inches, any my planer has a 13 inch capacity, this was a piece of cake.

The top, without glue

Now, how about that look?  The joint is tight without a single clamp. When that happens, you know you have done something right… The last task for the night was to glue the two halves together, which was insanely easy given the condition of the joint.

Top glue up

Now, back to work tomorrow, but I hope to be able to bang out some more work on this piece in the coming days. Wouldn’t it be great to put together a handmade table in less time than it would take to assemble an Ikea model?

Stuff I’ve built: Katie’s Hope Chest

I knew this was coming up a while ago, and I couldn’t be any happier than I am with how this came out. This past weekend, the hope chest for my niece Katie achieved the state of substantially complete, and I think it came out looking pretty darned nice.

The hope chest

As I had mentioned before, it is a simple cherry frame and panel chest that I hope she will love once it is at her house and assembled. Yes, that’s the reason why I went frame and panel – so I can flat pack it and ship it off to her dad so he can do the final assembly at their house.

Dem boys

Before I could get the finish on it, though, I had to enlist a little help from Dominic and Steven with the sanding. Those guys, they can do their magic. Rhonda managed to snap these blurry shots of them moving a lightning speed as they sanded away.

I wanted this chest to be all about the little details. For instance, in order to ensure there wouldn’t be any cupping or warping of the top, I could have gone with a batten, but I thought that a breadboard edge would look more classic. I dunno, it does give a lot of personality to the piece.

The edge

As with many of the other pieces I have built, I like to inlay a penny from the year the piece was built, And, one day after buying lunch, I finally saw one … a 2015 freshly minted baby that just had to go into the piece. I dunno, it’s a nice look in the middle of the underside of the lid, so she will always know what year the piece was built for her.

The penny

And, as I had mentioned, there is an inlay of a heart. Well, here’s the story. When Katie, her sister and her brother moved into their home in Maryland, there were three trees in the front of their home. Each child had his or her tree to call their own. It turns out, though, that Katie’s tree was planted too close to the driveway, and it had to be cut down. She was crushed.

The inlay

Well, her dad thought ahead and had a chunk of the tree saved for some project in the future for Katie. Of course, with just a single round of tree, what could he do? Once I started the tradition of building the hope chests, Larry knew where it could go.

Since the inlay is some type of pear and the main field is cherry, the inlay will stand out more over the years as the cherry darkens with exposure to light.

The only things left to do are to finish the drilling the holes for the hinges, then pack the piece up and ship it off. I can only hope that she enjoys it for years to come.

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!

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!