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Five of my favourite woodworking books…

28 Aug

I have a nice selection of woodworking books. I prefer to buy used books simply because they’re cheaper, and they are available. Plus I like the hunt. The selection is always different in every thrift store. It’s amazing what you can find!

Of the books I have, these are my five favourites.

This book may not look like much from it’s cover, but it is SO amazing! It is delightfully clear in it’s layout and illustrations, it covers most of the woodworking bases, and it is my number one pick for a woodworking manual. I have several (in one form or another!), and this one is the best.

The book even has quick flip markings along the page edges so that you can navigate to specific section with ease.

The book is illustrated in simple black and white, but the illustrations are first rate and appear timeless. Each machine has a proper introduction covering accessories, setup, techniques and tips.

There are many charts interspersed in the book, pilot hole sizes, joint strength, choosing adhesives and finishes. The list goes on.

And last but not least there are full colour photos in the middle of the book to help identify woods.

This book was recommended reading for my woodworking course. I flipped through it halfheartedly when the teacher passed it around. THEN-

we later watched a video of Flexner. He demonstrated many techniques on stripping and refinishing furniture and explained some principles of finishing. His skill was striking. He made it look so easy and yet we knew from our recent trials that he was just a GENIUS. My awe of Flexner while I watched that video ultimately led me to search for this book…

…which I DID find in a used book store about a year after seeing the video. SCORE! This time I did not halfheartedly flip through the pages but I veraciously read the words of a genius.

The book reads very well, Flexner is very good at explaining finishing without sounding too dry or wordy. He cuts to the point. Which is exactly what I want from a finishing book. Too many technical terms and my mind binds with the certainty that I won’t be able to understand finishing.  Thanks for keeping it real Flexner!

Yes! This book makes me feel warm and fuzzy. It was published in 1989 right about the time when I would watch this show with my mom and dad. I loved it, and I have fond memories of those hours watching Norm with my family- long before I thought of pursuing woodworking.

For $4 I had a nice trip down memory lane and a new favourite book.

The book itself is a collection of projects and meant to be a companion to the tv series. The projects are pretty simple and I don’t find myself needing to reference it often. But it’s well illustrated and I might look at it to see the construction of the joints etc for possible projects.

The furniture is all based on classic designs so they are all something I could imagine making at one point or another.

But really this makes it to my top five simply because of what Norm symbolizes to me; good times. I also owe my love of power tools to him. I consider myself a hybrid woodworker, as do most woodworkers now-a-days, but Norm is kinda a part of me now.

I practically salivated when I unearthed this at a book fair along with 16 issues of Finewoodworking magazine. I look at this book fairly frequently. The shop is a constant work in progress, so I pick out different elements in the book each time I revisit it.

I often look here for ideas on how to solve dust, storage, and layout issues. Maybe I even dream a little.

And frankly shops are just fascinating. Especially other people’s shops.

One of my favourite things is to learn from other woodworkers directly. Everyone of them has a wealth of tips and tricks to working more efficiently. This book is fantastic. I have another book similar to this- but this one is simply more comprehensive.

As woodworkers we have to be on our toes, we must be one step ahead of ourselves to be certain that we catch mistakes before they happen. And then find the best solutions for when we inevitably do make mistakes. We must keep safety at the forefront and find ways to save time where we can. We must find WAYS to accomplish strange feats, and then find ways to duplicate those strange feats reliably. We are resourceful, we are tenacious, and we are devoted.

…what I mean to say is, this book is a great body of pooled knowledge. It reminds me of how inventive the best woodworkers are, and I feel inspired by them every time I flip though this book.

This book is probably the one I reference the most. It also features some pages on how to choose certain tools, and tune up others etc. These “features” are sprinkled throughout. Like the workshop book I often am evolving as a woodworker so I take away different tidbits from each perusal.

I don’t claim that these are the best five books to own, they are just the ones I own and that have proved to be MY favourite.  I might post every once in a while on some of the other books in my woodworking library. I wish I could drop in on other woodworker’s libraries- what are your favourite books?

The toy chest is done!

24 Aug

I’ve had this post waiting for a while- but here it finally is! I finished this project just before my vacation so that I could leave with a clear conscience (so this was delivered roughly 5 weeks ago). I know this toy chest is not ground breaking in any way, and for good reason, I was keeping the design simple so as to complete the project relatively quickly and without spending a dime- the entire thing is made of wood I’d salvaged. I donated my time and skill towards this birthday gift for my nephew.

I put on a first coat of finish, then scuff sanded with 320grit sandpaper once it had cured.

Then I followed with a second coat of finish. The finish is still wet on the top of the toy chest lid here. I have it propped open with a finishing pyramid so that the finish will not glue the lid shut!

After finishing the outside of the chest I added the hinges and a chain to limit the travel of the lid.

And finally here is the toy chest in it’s new home…

Now this toy chest is happily in it’s new home.

Where my nephew can enjoy it. As I mentioned in an earlier post I need to add a soft close piston because my nephew loves the chest so much that he opens and closes it repeatedly and sometimes on his fingers. Time to child proof. You’ll notice that in this photo my sister turned the chest around so that the hinges face him and he can’t open it!

Stay tuned for a post on my favourite woodworking books!

Vacation withdrawal…

8 Aug

Three nights ago I returned from vacation. I scheduled a post to be published during my absence so that I wouldn’t have too much dead air around my blog- thanks for reading!

I will take a moment to digress here…I received a comment about my last post that I would like to address. I do seem to dance around the topic of what it is I actually DO at my job. The truth is that it’s hard to describe! Also I am not clear on how much I can actually disclose about the building methods we use to create the cabinetry in private jets. Getting pictures to show here could also prove problematic. But I will put some feelers out and see what I can do about a post dedicated to aerospace work and what it entails.

Now, back to my two blissful weeks of vacation! Here are some photos of some of my vacation activities… in beautiful Colorado!

There were many day hikes…

… with views

… and with weathered wooden bridges

The rain would come every afternoon- so early hikes were a good idea.

The hummingbirds held fierce duelling matches to drink at the feeder. I was sad that the olympics coincided with my being away from a tv or internet connection-  these little birds were IT in terms of watching competitions.

I was sitting in the living room reading one day and noticed something delightful about this coffee table…

… the stretcher of the table had birdseye maple on one end. I always marvel at these sightings of highly sought after figured woods that pop up as inconsequential. I’ve seen random strips of flame maple in flooring, chopping boards, dining room tables, and just yesterday I noticed someone had made some LARGE cauls at work out of birdseye maple.

The main entrance to the cabin needed some beefing up/ weather proofing.

Time to fill in the gap!

A new threshold and a new door sweep and we were back in business.


This new to us table was acquired and it was decided that it should be stripped of paint- an afternoon project right? Wrong. It took two days.

Four or five layers of paint later, we discovered that the table was painted for a reason…

Fair enough- it will get painted again. But there was a limit to how much vacation time could be spent on this table, so it promptly filled it’s roll as a game table.

Next up I attended my first rodeo!

Unfortunately during our hikes there were substantial sections of forest affected by spruce beetles.

Loads of trees are still standing but lifeless. Sections of forest seemed a bit treacherous to hike through with felled trees across the path left right and center and ominous creaks from those about to fall.

Here’s a look at how many trees were affected in one area. Evergreens should never look like this!

This hike had terrifying  steep drop offs that were not to my liking. But darn those views… they were worth it.

If this “smile” looks tight lipped, it’s because I’m thinking about the hike back DOWN the path with sheer drop offs AND storm clouds are rolling in.

As was the case on most of our hikes,we managed to only catch the beginning of the rain before hopping back into the car and heading back to the cabin.

A trip into the city was made to do some thrift shopping. High on my list of things to look for while thrifting are books on woodworking of course! Here are my finds…
Though I have most of the fundamentals covered by now, this book had a few ideas I hadn’t heard of and has some machine tuning info in it that I find valuable.

I like the clean lines of the furniture pictured in this book so I figured it’d be a good addition to my library.

And finally I found this awesome book on traditional wood carving. I’m very interested in practising wood carving so this will come in handy. I paid $6 for all three books!

Many hikes were had, many novels read…

…many games were played, many outings were made…

…and yes even woodworking factored into my vacation… and it was lovely.

Vacation withdrawal aside, I’m pretty happy to be back home and I will be happily reunited with my shop soon- I think.

You had me at Gorilla glue…

20 Jul

I’m super ecstatic! As far as I’m concerned it’s Christmas day. I won a prize pack of Gorilla glue!

The acceptance speech is as follows…

I’d like to thank the academy. I’d also like to thank  Gorilla Glue and Andy Brownell for their generosity. I’d like to congratulate my fellow winners. And finally I’d like to thank Chris Wong and Matt Gradwohl from #woodchat for the opportunity!

Now I wait for the mail.

Looking forward to using each and every one of these items- yes even the box.

Using those transferable skills… to make a leather tool roll

15 Jul

This week I worked on making the  leather roll for my new chisels.  I decided to make one instead of buying one.

Following some advice from local crafters, I cut the leather off  a damaged leather couch on a curb  a while ago and kept the leather for a rainy day project.

This is that project. To be clear, I don’t know how to work leather, but I like making stuff- so when a project such as this comes along- I give it a go. Working plans for this roll consisted of this sketch and relative measurements(the sizes of the chisels, and the lengths of leather I had to work with)

The process wasn’t unlike woodworking, I had a raw material that had defects and rough edges. I cut one straight edge…

Then I brought a chisel into the picture to get an idea of how large my pieces needed to be.

Then I carefully cut each piece down to size keeping my chisel handy to double check my relative measurements.

Since I’m modeling this roll after Lie Nielsen’s design, I then cut round corners. I found that a disposable tape dispenser has several pleasing curves on it. I used various parts of the dispenser to trace my knife around curves.

Here’s the result- now onto sewing!

I used some office supplies to keep the pieces aligned.

I hit the web to get some much needed advice on sewing leather. A #16 needle is best, and polyester or nylon thread. Also a walking foot for the machine helps. I did test runs on scrap to no avail. I ended up using someone else’s sewing machine- worked fine!

Next I drew out each pocket line and sewed the divisions. I would like to find rivets eventually to reinforce the tops of each pocket, but for now I’ll be careful not to put too much force on the seams. If you’re wondering the spacing was 2″ between pockets.

The flap then got sewn on along with a tie to wrap the roll up with.

And I added the chisels! You’ll notice there are quite a few pockets to grow into! I’m going to add carving chisels among others.

I realise that the roll keeps the chisels from getting dinged but what I didn’t know was that the leather protects the chisels from rusting. All in all I’m pleased with my leather roll, I didn’t focus my efforts on getting it perfect, but on getting it done quickly. And now I have a lovely place to store my chisels!

For better or for worse… additions to the shop

10 Jul

The UPS fairy visited my shop this past week- while I was at work. I couldn’t wait to head over to the shop this past weekend and unwrap my new lovelies. I mentioned the need for them in a recent post; clamps and chisels!

So here are the new additions… for better or for worse

I chose the jrs because of the price, and because they are 30% lighter than regular k-body revo clamps. When I handled these Jr’s though I felt like they were much more delicate than the regular Revos that I use at work… I guess time will tell how well they stand up to regular use. I got four 36″ clamps to compliment the other sizes of clamps in my oh-so modest collection.

For the chisels I chose  A2 steel Lie Nielsen bevel edge chisels, sizes 1/4″, 3/8″ and 3/4. I did research on which chisel sizes people recommend getting, and the results were inconclusive- most answers varied wildly depending on the woodworker. So I chose sizes specific to the types of projects I see in my future. Oh yeah and I got the longer handle while I was at it.

The clamps already found a nice place to hang out, but for the chisels I plan to make a leather roll to store them in. Seeing as I already have scraps of leather, I couldn’t justify the $75 price tag for a LN roll. That’s a project I imagine I’ll have completed by the end of the week- time to get sewing!

I made progress with the toy chest this weekend and a wrap-up post will follow soon. Looking forward to getting the toy chest out of the shop and getting back to some cherry tables I started a while ago!

Summer time and the livin’ is easy… but hot!

4 Jul

As the full swing of summer has kicked in here, I have become aware of the problem of a sweltering shop. Lucky for me I was out and about and noticed an air conditioner on a curb close to my neighbourhood this weekend. The owner of the air conditioner was  moving house and was eager for me to whisk it away and assured me that it worked perfectly. I love getting free stuff! I cleaned it out thoroughly, tested it and then brought it over to my shop.

This turns out to be the best window to set my air conditioner into- the other two windows are such that I would have to remove all of the panes to fit the air conditioner, leaving a lot of space around it to fill in. Frankly I was too worried about how easy it would be to break into the shop with such a set up.

As it happens this air conditioner must have been fitted into a similar window set up in it’s previous home because there were metal tracks that mated perfectly with the window tracks.

I inserted a filler strip of wood into the space between the mating tracks to keep the air conditioner from from rocking front to back.

I then added filler strips to keep the air conditioner from sliding laterally in the window track. I trapped the wood in the tracks by lifting the window and inserting the wood strips, then bringing the window back down.

And finally I wedged two pieces of wood in the window track to keep the window locked down over the air conditioner so that it won’t budge.

All that was left was to seal the perimeter with duct tape. The closest outlet is a few feet to the left of the door, while this isn’t ideal, I’ve heard that air conditioners are best plugged directly into the wall. So I’d rather not run and extension cord along the more convenient wall to the right of the door. I lift the cord over my head to get in and out, which isn’t often, so I’m willing to deal with a minor inconvenience for a cool shop.

And there it is! Now I won’t see a hot summer’s day as a deterrent to heading over to the shop!

New life from old wood… the toy chest gets glued up!

3 Jul

Last time when I left off with the toy chest, I’d fitted all of the parts, and was then ready for sanding/gluing/finishing. I had a few weeks of distractions in between, but progress was made this weekend in the shop.

I finally began sanding today. After about an hour I had dust everywhere and stopped to assess the situation.  I found a way to adapt the port on the sander to fit my shop vac hose. So. Much. Better!

Once all the pieces were properly sanded I started by gluing up the base of the toy chest. I assembled it on top of the flat surface of my table saw to make certain the base sat perfectly flat.

Surprisingly the glue up went well for the rest of the chest. It’s a good thing I remembered to measure both diagonals to check for square because I needed to make adjustments.

The front and back of the toy chest is made of a re-purposed closet door. The door had an amber finish on it, I sanded away most of the finish but still need to get around the raised panels- not looking forward to that.

The front and back of the chest are comprised of  re-purposed closet doors which are made of douglas fir and some other softwood. The parts I built around these  are made of pine, I’m hoping the contrast won’t be too jarring. As it is the closet doors have an annoying juxtaposition of dark wood laminated with a lighter wood. I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to glue contrasting boards together like that, but  seeing as this was a project all about recycling and re-purposing wood, I decided it wasn’t the end of the world. The bottom of the toy chest is also made with wood I found on a curb. The remaining parts of the toy chest I made from pine that was originally intended for a home reno project that got abandoned. I’m going to use the hinges that I salvaged from the closet doors.

So next session I’ll probably be sanding the remaining amber finish off, installing the hinges, and soon the finish will also be done.

Another reason not to put things off!

26 Jun

Back at my shop…

I’ve been ignoring a glitch in the shop for a couple of weeks. The rolling base for my table saw stopped rolling. As a result I haven’t been able to move my table saw back up against my bench. This made for a large gap that off cuts could fall into.

To my surprise the problem was that one of the casters fell apart. Three wheels were moving while the fourth kept the saw grounded, unable to roll.

A possible reason for the caster failure is this; I have a professional cabinet saw and it came with an industrial mobile base- the two are only compatible if you buy a conversion kit. The store I bought the saw& base from didn’t bother with a conversion kit and simply put down a length of particle board across the straps of the mobile base. This left a good 8″ of sliding room (front to back) for my saw to travel on the particle board as I wheeled it around. It may have slid too far back and put too much pressure on that caster (although the casters are rated for 1000lbs).

I of course ignored the problem because I thought I’d have to shop around for a replacement. Then a few days ago I remembered that I should be calling the manufacturer of the rolling base to get the problem sorted *forehead slap*. I put the call in and the problem was resolved in under ten minutes. I received a replacement caster in the mail the very next day- free of charge.

Changing it went smoothly.

Needless to say I’m a happy customer.

And so now my table saw sits happily butted up against my work bench again.

Keeping in mind the possible cause of the caster failure, I decided to take some precautionary measures.

I tacked down some wood scraps to trap the saw in the center of the particle board. Now at the very least this conversion has made my saw safer, if not my casters more long lived.

Here’s a short video I took showing the condition of the broken caster.

Did I mention I bought a drawing tablet?

21 Jun

Just a test, but I’m willing to let it see the light of day.

Though the image kind of looks like a dog with shades and ear muffs, I promise no animals were harmed in the making of this sketch.

Maybe I’ll refine this sketch and have it printed onto a t-shirt – for my own personal amusement.

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