Friday, December 30, 2016

"Shangrila" Series Pen #1

We were doing some yard work at my in-laws lake house on Lake Shangrila, Wisconsin, burning leaves, pruning some trees, when we pruned what we thought might have been a juniper bush. Turns out, it's aromatic cedar (one smell and you know). the branches looked incredibly gnarled and twisted, like they might have some interesting figure, so I grabbed a few and figured I'd see what I could get out of them on the lathe. Turns out (buh-dum-ching) the pieces are the ideal size for turning pens.

I turned it on the lathe, sanded to 1500 grit, and applied 6 coats of CA to finish. The pen kit is black with chrome trim and is a "twist" mechanism ball point.

Thus starts a series of pens, the "Shangrila" Series.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Hickory Chopping Block How-To

Finished product
So the plan here is to describe how to make an end grain chopping block. If you just want to check out pictures of it in its finished form, check out the other post.

Hickory End Grain Chopping Block Finished Post

Okay, new thing, there's going to be two posts on this chopping block. This one is just pictures and general description, the other will be a step-by-step of it how it was made.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

12" Danggai Knife Strip

Just in time for the holidays, someone picked up this knife strip.

I've got enough material left for one more like this, so strike while the iron's hot.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rustic Wedding Card Crate

My lovely spouse had the idea of having people drop cards off at our wedding into a box that looked sort of like an old-timey beer shipping crate. She found an example on etsy, and I gave it a shot.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Bowtie joints go by many names, butterfly keys, dovetail keys, bowties, or Dutchman joints. They have two big uses: First, they look awesome. Always err on the side of awesome. Secondly, they provide mechanical stability to a joint, and, especially in situations where wood is checking, splitting, or cracking, a butterfly joint can inhibit the expansion of that problem.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wedding Guest Bench

In the words of my wonderful wife, we will chair-ish it forever.

Hire these people if you want photographs that look this good:

I wasn't joking:

Yup, still not joking:
This is a live edge sitka spruce slab bench that we used in lieu of a guestbook at our wedding. Construction details and more pics after the jump.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Steak Knives Part 7 - Display Boxes

After spending 7 posts worth of effort making these, they really needed a good display box. And, so we have this break from knife making to discuss the making of mitered boxes with a sliding lid.

Steak Knives Part 5 - Sanded, but Unfinished v.1.0

I've been going through all of the steps I took to making these steak knives, and this post is essentially just a photo album showing what each species looked like after being sanded to 1500, but before the finish went on. Pics after the jump:

Friday, November 11, 2016

Steak Knives Part 4 - Shaping Knife Handles

As part of the steak knife project, I needed to contour the handles into something that feels good in the hand. That means moving from square corners to rounded contours. Pics along the way after the jump

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Steak Knives Part 3 - Testing Finishes 2

Okay, so I discussed what finishes I selected, now this post is essentially just to show and discuss the results of my little finishing experiment.

As a reminder, this is what I did;

1. I sanded a piece of scrap of bubinga, leopardwood, wenge, Carribean rosewood, redheart, and paduak. and zebrawood to 800 grit.
2. I finished one side of each with Tru-Oil.
3. A few days later, sealed the other side with dewaxed shellac and used Tru-Oil.
4. Formby's on a piece of each.
5. Lastly, I took a final piece and tried the submersion technique.

Results after the jump:

Steak Knives Part 2 - Testing Finishes 1

Since I've embarked on the adventure of making knife handles, I realized that applying a finish to a knife handle poses different challenges than I'm used to. First off, I hit up The Dusty Life for some suggestions.

A knife handle is different from something like a table top in a couple big practical ways.

1. It's going to be *handled* as in, subjected to both being in a hand (so needs to feel good there) as well as the wear, tear, and natural oils that are present on a human hand.
2. It's going to be near food and also will get wet when you wash it.

This means I needed to do a little more research.

Steak Knives Part 1 - Prototype

So I set out to make some steak knives. How hard could it be, right? Cut handle wood to the shape of the tang, epoxy and rivet the handle on, sand it a bit, and voila, no? Yeah. No.

After tracing the shape of the tang onto the handle material (or "knife scale"), I cut it out with a scroll saw, drilled holes for the rivets on a drill press, epoxied it to the knife, and then used a belt sander to contour the handle to the tang. It... uh... did not go super great. So, commence prototype v. 02. This time with less abject failure!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Steak Knives Part 6 - Gallery

Okay, so this is going to be a bit strange. I recently got married, and made steak knives for the gentlemen members of our wedding party. I've mad a multi-post series about *how* I made them, but since most people aren't going to be nearly as interested in how I picked the finish as they are in the finished product, I'm going to post the gallery pictures first, and the process posts next. So, without further ado, enjoy Steak Knives Part 6 (the first to be posted).

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Pyrography, which is an awesome name, is basically using a heat source to burn a pattern into something, often leather or wood. It can vary from pretty straightforward (e.g. some letters) to super intense, like this thing:
Just in case anyone was fooled, that picture is not of my work.

I picked up a Pyrography Pen and decided to give it a shot. My results were less dramatic, but functional:

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cherry Octagonal Dice Tray

Cherry, royal blue felt, 19 mm dice
This is an octagonal dice tray lined with royal blue felt, I've made this exact combination before, but these pictures turned out better than the last set (at least I think so), so I decided to post them.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Ash Octagonal Dice Tray - Pirate Green Felt

Ash, pirate green felt, 12 mm dice
These are just a few couple pictures to show the ash/pirate green color combo along with another good example of how a continuous grain pattern looks in a different wood.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

12 Inch Walnut Knife Strip

Just a couple pictures to give a sense of scale to a knife strip that's 12 inches long. Without crowding your knives together too tightly, four average-sized chef-style knives would fit comfortably.

As always, they're available on Etsy, and we can always customize one as well (some examples here).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Walnut Knife Strip, Two Strips

Two strips, both walnut
Honestly, you've all seen this before. This is just a way of showing how the same species can vary in appearance in subtle ways. Both strips are walnut. The top has lighter coloration, and a little more variation between light and dark in its grain pattern, the bottom strip is a very uniform color. Otherwise, nothing really to see here, except, of course, you're welcome to buy one.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Zebrawood Knife Strip 2.0 - To Australia!

It's hard to imagine that I'll ever sell anything to a buyer that's farther away than this. From Wisconsin to Woodville South, Australia, this knife strip is traveling over 9,900 miles to its destination. What a world we live in, eh?

More pics after the jump:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Small Rectangular Dice Tray - Ash with Cork Lining

Ash, cork, and 12 mm dice
Just wanted to provide photos of another wood and color combo. This time, ash paired with cork lining. As with essentially all of my pictures with dice, the gold dice are 12 mm (1/2") and the blue dice are 19 mm (3/4").

I have a gallery of small rectangular dice trays here,


I have them for sale here.

More pics after the jump.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sitka Spruce Slab

Sorry, not a great picture
Just a before shot of a live edge slab of sitka spruce, about 1 3/4" thick. I can't wait to get this thing into its finished form, for reasons that will become apparent in due time.

Sitka spruce is kind of uncommon in the Midwest. It's fairly common in the Pacific Northwest. The wood is light, 27 lbs/cubic foot (compared with 44 lbs/cubic foot for red oak). It's pretty soft too, with a Janka hardness of 510 lbf (compared with 1,220 lbf for red oak). That means its about 61% as heavy as red oak, and less than half has hard.

It, like pine, is described as being difficult to stain. The grain structure lends itself to blotchiness, apparently. Luckily, I have no intention of staining this piece.

Now the trick will be finding spruce in non-live-edge-slab-form...

Monday, August 15, 2016

Curly Maple Knife Strip

Curly maple, sometimes called "tiger," "flame," or "fiddleback" maple, is nothing more than maple with an irregular figure. It's not common, and because of its relative scarcity (and the fact that it looks really cool) it commands a premium price. I laid hands on a piece of highly figured curly maple that was just perfect for a couple magnetic knife strips. One sold the other day and here are a couple pictures of it.

One's still available (just in case you're interested) on the Etsy store.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

General Finishes - Spiced Walnut

I made a rustic crate. It's basically just a box. But, we wanted it stained darker rather than the bright yellowish color of pine. So, off to General Finishes we go and to their swatches. We opted for an oil-based liquid stain, specifically Spiced Walnut Oil Stain. After the jump are some pictures of how it turns out on pine.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Elongated Octagonal Dice Tray - Maple with Cork Lining

Maple with cork lining

Another dice tray went out, this one maple with a cork lining. Finished with Formby 30063 Tung Oil, 16-Ounce, which is an easy-to-use, fast-drying, wiping varnish. It turned out nicely.

As always, they are available on Etsy.

Elongated Octagon

Octagon (domestic hardwoods)

Octagon (exotic hardwoods)

Small Rectangle

Large Square

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Square Dice Tray - Black

Those dice have so much space!
I received another custom order for a dice tray. For this one, the request was 9" x 9" square, wood stained black. The quadrilateral design is closer to the small rectangular tray, but larger, than it is to the octagonal designs. Staining it black, however, was a new wrinkle. Pictures and discussion after the jump.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

General Finishes - Black

Three Coats of Stain on Red Oak, Six Coats of Varnish
I received a commission for a square dice tray, with the request: "can you stain it black or ebony?" Well, yes indeed sir; I can.

General Finishes makes a family of stains, gel stains, that are thick and seemed to me to be ideal for the task of "turn this non-black wood into black wood." I used General Finishes Black Gel Stain. A quick overview of it is after the jump.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Small Rectangular Dice Tray Gallery

Like I've done with the octagonal and elongated octagonal dice tray. I wanted to create a central gallery for the color and material combinations that I've made and photographed. 

Pics after the jump.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Small Rectangular Dice Tray - Ash with Black Felt

Just wanted to provide photos of another wood and color combo. This time, ash paired with black felt. As with essentially all of my pictures with dice, the gold dice are 12 mm (1/2") and the blue dice are 19 mm (3/4"). 

More pics after the jump.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Small Rectangular Dice Tray - Walnut Red Felt

Designing something to be used involves a surprising amount of factors. Typically, nearly everything you use that has been produced by a major corporation has been engineered to death (well, it ought to have been at least). Someone has thought through the ergonomics of how it's used, how its user will react to using it. Someone has thought through all of the minor details of how others will perceive its use. Here's a fun fact about my operation: I have precisely zero engineers. I do all of the design myself, and, spoiler-alert, I'm not an engineer (yes, presses are stopped).

Here's a thing I never considered when designing the original octagonal dice tray or even when designing the elongated octagonal dice tray: a deep tray with high sides can obscure other players' views of your dice rolls. At a small tabletop game, it's not that big of an issue. The sight lines involved don't block the dice rolls. However, at big games, like a big wargaming session or at a con, the larger distances change the sight lines and can mean that rolls are hard for other players to see. Plus, at those games, there's a higher probability that schlepping your gear is an issue, so smaller actually can be better.

Enter the Small Rectangular Dice Tray.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lie-Nielsen No. 102 Low Angle Block Plane

Hand planes are tools that are easy to overlook in the modern shop. We have jointers for cleaning up and squaring the edge or face of stock, planers to thickness it, these tasks were traditionally done by a stable of planes of different size and shape, each powered exclusively by elbow grease. Can you function without a hand plane? Absolutely, I've managed to do so for essentially my entire woodworking life...

... until this little beauty walked into my life: the Lie-Nielsen No. 102 Low Angle Block Plane.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Puzzle Board on Lazy Susan - Father's Day

This one's more function over form
Let's cut to the chase: This is a 3 foot square of plywood covered in green felt, bordered with ash rails, and sitting on an attached lazy susan, The Manhattan Project it is not. It is, however, functional.

Monday, June 20, 2016

General Finishes - Weathered Gray

I made a handful of frames from some wood from my great-grandparents' barn in Oklahoma. Barn wood is unique looking. Over the many years it sits in the beating sun, exposed to windswept dust, and rain. Exposed to the elements like this, the bright tan color of wood weathers to a gray. Different parts of the wood fibers wear away, winter and summer growth rings have different density so they wear unevenly. This combines to create the unique appearance of barn wood.

Tiny problem though: when you cut barn wood to the size of whatever you're using it for, you're stripping away those years of weathering and exposing fresh wood to the surface. After the jump is info about how I tried to counteract this problem.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Rasps Part 2 - Auriou Rasps

I just finished discussing the types of rasp and differences between machine-made and hand-stitched rasps, ultimately to rationalize why I bought the high-quality Auriou rasps that I did. Now let's take a look at what I got. Hopefully I can justify why I chose to spend more for the quality tool I bought. In my defense, the baseline is "life is too short to buy crappy tools" so I ought to be able to say "they're good tools" and meet it. However, I do want to show *why* they're good tools.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rasps Part 1

So I bought some rasps, which are hand tools a lot like files but instead of rough grooves they have an array of teeth that scrape wood away. I consulted the fine folks at The Dusty Life (who were crazy enough to put me on their podcast) about what to buy. Basically, I asked "If life's too short to buy crappy tools, is it worth getting great rasps?" I ended up getting great rasps.

A discussion on rasps, which is admittedly kind of a woodworking geek subject, follows after the jump. I broke up this post into two parts because it kind of got long. So, the first part is about rasps in general. The second will be more about the rasps that I bought and examples of them in action.

Dusty Life: Reprise

Holy crap The Dusty Life guys let me be on their podcast, again! This time we talk about the types of finish that are best for knife handles. And yes, I'm aware this is relatively esoteric and you folks may not care! Listen anyway, leave them a rating on the iTunes and such, which is kinda like leaving me a rating (I estimate that I have been on for approximately 1% of their total airtime, which is... not a lot).

Anyway, I've embedded the cast after the jump:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Elongated Octagonal Dice Tray Gallery

Walnut with cocoa brown felt lining
I've created this post simply to have a consolidated gallery of all of the octagonal dice trays that I've made. After the jump are all of the pictures.

My elongated dice trays are available for sale on Etsy.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Octagonal Dice Tray Picture Gallery

Black Poisonwood (Caribbean Rosewood or Chechen) with red felt lining
I've created this post simply to have a consolidated gallery of all of the octagonal dice trays that I've made. After the jump are all of the pictures.

My dice trays can be found for sale on etsy. I have separate listings for the domestic and exotic materials.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Magnetic Knife Strip Gallery

12" Danngai (Kingiodendron)
Over the few years I've been doing this I've scattered posts on knife strips all over this blog. I wanted to consolidate pictures in a central location, so they're after the jump:

Also, I currently have a couple for sale on Etsy, walnut, danggai, and purpleheart.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Dusty Life

Yo, people on the internets, there's a podcast called the The Dusty Life. You should listen to it. It's at the hard to remember address of:

Listen at SoundCloud or iTunes.

They even let me be on it! We talked about rasps. It was cool... assuming you are interested in hand tools used to smooth concave and convex surfaces. I've embedded it after the jump.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Elongated Octagonal Dice Tray 1.1 - Walnut with Various Linings

Wouldn't it be cool if this felt was actually from Champagne?
I received another order for an elongated octagonal dice tray on Etsy. This customer requested it be made of walnut with the champagne felt lining. The story of this version is much the same as the last: two parallel 6" sides go along with six 3" sides to make an elongated octagon that is vaguely oval-shaped. The sides are 3" deep, making a fairly deep dice-rolling-area. Instead of stained red oak, the tray material is walnut, which carries the naturally dark chocolate brown color you see.

Also, in addition to the champagne lining, I ended up cutting lining in cocoa brown felt that I took pictures of without gluing down just to give an example of another color.

Lastly, I experimented with using a cork lining.

More pics after the jump:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Walnut End Grain Cutting Board 2.0

Who would have thought the cheapest I found those peppers was at Whole Foods? Also don't worry, I just posed 'em there.
So I got an order for an end-grain walnut chopping block on the Etsy. I've done one of these before but wanted to update with some higher-quality pictures, which are after the jump.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hickory Wine Cork Trivet

So I made another wine cork trivet. The design is essentially the same as the last one: hardwood border with mitred corners, wine cork center to safely lift hot pots and pans above the wood. This one I made from hickory, which is a very hard domestic hardwood with brown coloring and dark brown streaking grain patterning. It's for sale over at Etsy. More pics after the jump: