Monday, December 30, 2013

End Grain Gluing

Do not zoom in if you have Trypophobia
Just a brief technical post, so be forewarned if you're not into the how-it's-made aspect of this blog.

I glue wood together all the time. I don't really like nails or screws that are visible. Sure you can plug a screw hole or put wood fill into a nail hole, but you can see that something is there. I think you can use plugs in a stylistically positive way, but only if you set out to add that to your design.

Gluing wood face-to-face has challenges, edge-to-edge is common, but anything-to-end grain presents a challenge...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cutting Board 2.2 - Maple, Large

Maple cutting board
Merry Christmas, one maple edge-grain cutting board found its way under a tree this year.

Bags Boards 2.0 - Chicago Blackhawks

North of the Mason Dixon Line...
I did Packers Bags, and hockey fans are something else, so voila: Chicago Blackhawks Bags Sets. Yes, I am aware that I'm not *supposed* to like the Hawks, but they're one of the Original Six, and are not the Bruins or Maple Leafs, so they're acceptable in my book.

More after the jump:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Zebrawood Knife Strip

Zebrawood Knife Strip

Knife strips, you know the drill generally.

Just like most of the knife strips I've made recently, this comes from a custom order that I received. More info and pics after the jump...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Zebrawood, Updated

Zebrawood, Unfinished
Zebrawood is a really cool material. It has a cousin in appearance in marblewood. Zebrawood, unlike marblewood however, does not have long, difficult to work, grain. It has a distinctive dark-light-dark patterning (um... zebra... so...).

More info after the jump...

Been Away Awile

Sorry. I got a new job and the transition left precious little time for woodwork of any kind, let alone blogging. I'll try to throw stuff up when I can, but it's probably going to be less frequent now than it was last summer.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bags Boards - 2.0, Green Bay Packers

 Looks like someone sure *described the general appearance* of a beanbag board and prompted me to make more.

This is version 2.0. It's an improvement over v. 1.0; I increased the width of the apron framing the board and opted for a higher-quality surfaced sheet of plywood to form a smoother board. Otherwise we're still working with officially licensed paint, vinyl decals, and a water-based varnish called Polycrylic.

If anyone else wants to *describe the general appearance* of a beanbag set then I'd be happy to make them. Base price is $150. Ask for some kind of bizarre paint job and I might ask for more money. Ask for it unpainted/varnished, and I might ask for less.

Go Pack Go.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bookmatched Wood

One aromatic cedar slab - bookmatched

One term that gets thrown about in woodworking from time to time is "bookmatched." Something built from bookmatched lumber has a distinctive look to it because the grain pattern on the boards will match. It matches because a bookmatched set of lumber is a tree that has been sawn, but kept together.

A couple reasons to bookmatch lumber: It doubles your wood if you're working with a big piece, and it allows you to do interesting thing with grain patterns.

More info/pictures after the jump...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cedar Slab

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." - Michelangelo
That is a slab of aromatic cedar. It's roughly seven feet long, roughly three inches thick. Its width ranges from 12-ish at its narrowest, and over 25 at its widest point.

I can't wait to get into working with this.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Ghost Maple Napa Cork Trivet

Look at that rippling flame figure
We recently went to Napa and tasted a whole lot of really good wine (as ya do). I snagged corks from the places we stopped, and eventually put them together into this trivet.

Details after the jump...

Ghost Maple

Wood has a story to tell.
I talked about ghost maple before, when I wrote generally about maple. I'm working with some ghost maple right now and one of the boards I had gave an excellent view of how the figure is created.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Happy International Bacon Day

Baked Beans
As I was informed by Ron Swanson's Twitter feed - it is International Bacon Day. Celebrate, eat bacon, brown a pound of it and use it to make baked beans.

It's delicious.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Marblewood Knife Strip

Marblewood, meet knives
You know the drill by now. Sell a knife strip, give that person a blog post. A friend of mine asked for a marblewood knife strip for his brother, so voila: One marblewood knife strip.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cypress Knife Strip 2.75 - Long Edition

Looking... sharp...

Someone in Florida contacted me recently asking if I could make her a knife strip from cypress. I said sure, but I don't have any cypress. She mailed me a board (it's more common down there than it is up here), and I made a knife strip for her.

A lot about knife strips have been written here, here, here, here, and here. (I need a tattoo that says "oxford commas for life).

Read on:

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Not a hill, nor a gang.
Cypress conjures mental pictures of Louisiana bayous, swamp forests, the genteel south, maybe a little Interview With a Vampire. Cypress trees, which grow large and commonly in the American South, are a source of good lumber for a variety of uses.

More info after the jump...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Green Bay Packers Bags Set

Because in Wisconsin we do tailgating right, that means we need bag sets that are up to snuff.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Plywood Blades

So many teeth, sharks are jealous
Saw blades, unsurprisingly, are cool. Also, there are hundreds of different kinds of them. One that's particularly useful is a plywood blade.

Long post on saw blade alert...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Update: Board Feet

Since I randomly talk about general woodworking things, I figured I'd explain what a board foot is. It's a term that is particularly important when buying lumber, designing projects, and pricing jobs.

When buying lumber, typically, you pay for it by the board foot. There are exceptions to this, which I'll list eventually, but most lumber is sold by the board foot.

Explanation after the jump.

Updated with wisdom from my dad.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Maple and Walnut Bamboo Skewer Knife Block 1.0

Now I just need a real katana
The thing about magnetic knife strips is that there are plenty of reasons why you wouldn't want one in their kitchen. You might have kids and not want the blades exposed. You might have overhead cabinets that make the strip impractical to hang on a wall, or maybe a ceramic backsplash that you don't want to drill through to mount the strip.

With that in mind, I figured I'd make a variant on a traditional knife block. Instead of the traditional cut out slots for your knives, I put together a more versatile take on a knife block that uses bamboo skewers to hold the knives.

Oh, I suppose you want to actually see it. I guess you'll just have to read on...

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cutting Board 2.0

Yes those jalapenos were grown in the garden,
Congratulations Jessica and Tom, to many many happy years!

Since it's kinda my thing, I gave them a cutting board for their wedding. Details after the jump...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Walnut Knife Strip

I sold another knife strip. It was another custom order, this time in walnut. It turned out great.

So far everyone who has gotten something has gotten a post about it. I'm going to keep that up until (and this would be a good problem to have) I have too many orders to keep it up.

Congrats on buying a knife strip man! More about it and care info after the jump...

Danggai Knife Rack 2.5 - Short Edition

Someone recently requested that I make a knife rack out of danggai for her, but she wanted it to be only 12" long. Well, here's the result...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Danggai - finished with butcher's block oil
This is a tropical wood from the Philippines. It's endangered, and you can only harvest it as part of a sustainable forestry project. That makes getting your hands on danggai mighty difficult here in God's Country of Wisconsin. My post on it will be brief (mainly because it's also hard to gather information on ), but read on...

Friday, July 26, 2013


Maple - unfinished
Maple - it's a stalwart wood in America. It's abundant, cheap, hard, strong, stable, and versatile in design. 

Flame Ghost Maple - finished with polyurethane
It comes in plain form, as well as highly figured varieties. "Ghost" maple, is just one variety.

More info and pictures after the jump...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cedar Chests 2.0

I just finished a pair of cedar chests. Aromatic cedar makes a nice rustic chest, and its powerful aroma makes a perfect box to store blankets or linens in. In fact, occasionally, you see them referred to as blanket chests.

Many more pictures and more explanation after the jump...

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Marblewood is a South American hardwood with exotic color patterning. Unfinished, it's a light tan streaked with lines of dark violet. Finished, the tan takes on lustrous golden hues and the violet darkens further.

More info after the jump:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reclaiming a Red Oak Plank

There was a board sitting in my grandpa's old building. Probably around 50 years old, complete with dirt, grime, and what looked to be at least one used motor oil spill, it waited patiently for its day in the sun. That day is not today; today was, however, I set it on the first step of its journey.

Today was the day I reclaimed it...

Measuring Raw Lumber

Measuring raw lumber isn't too complicated, but it has a few of its own terms. I figure if I just talk about it briefly then I can go ahead and use the lingo freely in subsequent posts.

Explanation after the jump:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Aromatic Cedar

Aromatic cedar (usually the tree is called red cedar or red juniper, but the lumber is called aromatic cedar) is a North American species that grows from the east coast through to the eastern part of the Great Plains. It's distinctive for its distinctive fresh smell; if you ever smell it, you'll know.

It ended up being grown extensively in Oklahoma. One of my family's roots runs through the red soil of that state and my great grandfather's farm was home to many red cedars, which helped serve as windbreaks during the Dust Bowl.

More on this species after the jump...

Tree of LIfe: Lignum Vitae

As promised, this is the first in a series of posts on materials. It's a touch dry, but it will be mildly informative, fill up some of my time, and streamline future posts by locating basic information about wood species in these posts.

Lignum vitae, Latin for "tree of life," is a Central and Northern South American wood that is hard. Really freaking hard. In addition to being hard, it's unbelievable heavy. It's also kinda cool looking.

A little more after the jump:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Janka Hardness

The Janka Hardness Test is a method of quantitatively measuring and comparing how hard different wood species are. It works by firing a steel ball into the face of a board and measuring how much force is necessary to sink that ball deep enough that half of it penetrated the wood. You end up with a measure of force in foot-pounds, (it's also listed in Newtons b). This allows us to say "Wood A is twice as hard as Wood B," and to say that with the weight of real measurable lab results. (I know, this is the internet and you all want arguments to be decided by who can type with the most visible anger and rage-destroyed thought processes... deal with it).

After the jump I'll put a list of woods and their Janka Hardness rating. I'll update it periodically and link back to this post as a reference point.

A Series of Building Materials Posts

I find myself commonly saying something like: "Maple, which is hard and light in color... yada yada yada." So, as a way to cut down on that, I'm going to write posts on materials that I commonly use. I won't hit everything, but this way I can streamline new posts by saying "I used maple" and link to a post on maple.

I'll probably do the same for some basics like differences between porous and non-porous grains, end-edge-face grain differences, and whatever else hits my fancy.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Chopping Block 1.0: Wedding Gift Edition

Congratulations Sergio and Jonathon (though honor compels me to suggest you swap that "o" for an "a"). Until the day comes that your wedding is just a "wedding" I get to say "happy gay wedding" (and see if I get a spike in google traffic from angry people searching for "happy gay weddings"). In anticipation, I have stocked an ample amount of Xanax for Gay Summer Weddings. Can't wait for those tickets to Italy!

But, in all seriousness, I'm thrilled for the two of you, and am very grateful that I made the cut and received an invitation. I made a chopping block for you guys. For Sergio and Jonathon, after the jump is some care stuff. For other people, more pictures and more info about the chopping block itself.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Magnetic Knife Strips for Sale: 2.1 - Birdseye, Danggai, and Marblewood

Alongside Magnetic Knife Strip 2.0, I now have version 2.1, which is largely the same as 2.0, just made from different, more exotic materials. Also, I'm selling them on the etsy. Check out the storefront here.

Pics and descriptions of the materials after the jump.

The Etsy

I'm putting some stuff up on the etsy to see if anyone out there on the interwebs wants to buy something.

Check it out:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Our Haul of Lumber

Yeah, we drove back from rural Cleveland with that. That's somewhere in the north of 150 board feet of lumber, a couple empty 33- gallon barrels that once contained the stuff they make marshmallows out of (seriously), and my backpack. We wrapped it up in a couple tarps because we expected rain (naturally because we tarped it there was no rain), and drove it along down the Ohio and Indiana Turnpikes, the Illinois Tollroad, and finally Wisconsin's blessedly toll-free freeways back to the Shaw.

Seriously, screw you toll roads...

Rye Barrel Aged Rye Strong Ale... and Coasters

Besides carpentry, I also dabble in home brewing. Have been since I was 13. Yep, 13. Anyway, for a few years my family and I had kicked around the idea of barrel aging a beer. The problem with barrel aging beer is that barrels tend to be big... really big... like 250 gallons big. I was at a beer and art show in Chicago with my girlfriend (everyone drank the beer, a few people looked at the art, let's just call it a beer show), and got to talking about the barrels are too damn big problem with one of the brewers there. He tipped me off to a company that distills small batch single barrel whiskeys and sells their barrels. Woodinville Whiskey Co., thank you for aging whiskey 8 glorious gallons at a time.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Art Deco Floating Coffee Table and End Table Set

This is a set of two end tables and a coffee table that I just finished. The table top is Honduran mahogany and the legs and rails are made of maple. Nothing was stained. I used a gloss polyurethane finish (Pratt and Lambert's Varmor, which you can't get anymore thanks to the meddling of dirt worshiping hippies). The design features a distinctive "floating" top, and the effect is heavily influenced by the art deco style, because art deco is awesome, obviously.

The coffee table is 17 and 1/2" tall with a top that is 16" wide by 44" long. The end tables are 26" tall with tops that are 16" by 16".

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rubbing a Finish

Rubbing a finish is an optional step that "finishes" the finish. If you zoom in to a microscopic level, a finish is rough (Note: "finish" here could be shellac, varnish, polyurethane, etc..., in my case it was polyurethane). Once the finish cures, ideally a few weeks if not a month, and becomes as hard as it's going to get, you can sand it and smooth that roughness out.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Red Oak Frames

I found some really sweet prints of Miller Park and the Promised Land, Lambeau Field (thanks Huckberry). They needed frames, so I grabbed a little stray red oak and whipped 'em up.


Big machine, eh?

That's my uncle's planer. It's a big BAMF of a tool. It eats up boards in a hurry and without much struggle at all. Talk about planers generally and a comparison to the one I use after the jump...

Oh, also these suckers are loud. Loud enough that they are the only thing we bother using ear protection while using. Loud noises, power tools, pretty sweet, right?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ludicrously Sharp Radial Arm Saw

Next on the Tour de My Uncle's Shop, is the radial arm saw. It's almost distressing how easily this cuts wood. Seriously, there's no resistance. It doesn't feel like you're cutting anything. It barely even sounds like you're cutting anything.

It's practically impossible not to be struck with a profound respect for the power, capability, and inherent danger of the tools we use when you're using this thing.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Update: Elmo the Altendorf Saw (Now With Humbling Picture of the Saw I Use)

Ever wonder what the most advanced table saw in the world looks like?

That's the Altendorf F45. Altendorf named it Elmo. No, I'm not really sure why, but I suspect it has something to do with Oscar's unwillingness to leave the trash can, Grover being weirdly lanky, and Big Bird being too tall to effectively use it.

You can balance a quarter on it's edge on the table surface with the saw running and it won't topple over. Why would you want to do this? Well, primarily to show off, usually at a trade show trying to sell them to woodworkers I'm told.

But seriously, that's my uncle's table saw. Altendorf is a German company that's been making saws for over a hundred years. The consensus among woodworkers is that they make the best saws in the world, and Elmo is their best. Their price reflects that. Nobody but professionals (or those with more money than brains) can afford Altendorf saws. Realistically, you should be running a high-volume shop to make owning one of these suckers worthwhile.

All that being said, if I'm spending a few days in my uncle's shop, you bet your ass I'm playing with this saw.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Reclaimed Tiles

To build the reclaimed tile wine rack, I first needed to reclaim some tiles. This picture was taken shortly after I cut them all down to be six inches wide.