Who am I? Why am I here?

I've been a professional woodworker for over a decade, the past few years of which I've spent as Cabinetmaker at Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta, Georgia. I also teach woodworking classes, mostly at Highland Woodworking.


I'm writing this blog to try and show what can be done with very basic tools in limited space. I have a huge shop with big machines at work, it's true, but for my own personal projects I work in borrowed space: half of a two-car garage.


I also hope to write occasional posts about why I'm a woodworker: the pleasures of working and the beauty of the material.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Day Job

Here's a quick job I knocked together for one of our instructors. This sort of work is fun for me. Instructors at the science center often need or want to do something in the classroom or lab requiring parts that aren't available off the shelf. Being able to understand what they want, then translate it into something that  A) can be made, and B) will work, is key to this job. This one was easy, because as I talked with the instructor about what was needed, we were able to pretty much design it and sketch it on the spot.

So if you need a way to fasten an old pin-style poster holder to vertically mounted unistrut without having access to the end of the strut, here you go!



Next up: a portable outdoor summer cage for our tortoise & box turtles that will keep the chelonians in and the kids out!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Gardeners Vs. Squirrels

This weekend I needed to make a lectern to set on my desk in the office so I can stand while I work, but I also didn't want to miss the planting season so I made the prototype of a modular squirrel exclosure instead.

Why? Squirrels have been sapping my will to garden. Margaret and I have enjoyed gardening the last couple of years, but both the containers on her deck and our plot in the community garden are ravaged by squirrels on a regular basis. It's not just stealing produce when it's almost ripe, either. Whenever we work in the garden, they seem drawn to the freshly-dug earth, because within a day or two after we plant seeds or seedlings, squirrels come through and re-dig the area. I have no idea what goes on in a squirrel's brain, but my favorite guess is that new-tilled dirt looks like some other squirrel might have buried an acorn there, so they make sure there's nothing to be found. In the process, they uproot our beet seeds or lettuce seedlings. If we were in the backwoods I could take care of this the old-fashioned way, but we're inside the city limits so I am forced to watch in impotent rage . . .

This is quite demoralizing! So with some cheap fencing material and the Kreg jig, here's what I did:


I brainstormed some ideas before I started.

Hanging on to Christmas Fun

I was afraid my spoon blanks would dry out before I got to them, which is why I was storing them in a plastic bag full of chips from the carving process. Then I was afraid that fungus would get working on the blanks before I got them finished up, so I decided to wrap them in plastic and freeze them. The idea is that if the wood is below freezing temperature, the fungus will at least slow down until I can carve the wood. Those little white packages, lower left in my freezer, are my spoon blanks:





Will this work? I don't know, it's an experiment. I think it probably will. I know that wood can dry out while frozen (water can sublimate). Hopefully, double-wrapping the blanks in plastic will keep enough water in the wood to be easy to carve, while being frozen will slow the fungus down enough so I won't be working spalted wood (unless I want to, of course).



I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Spoons in January

From this:


To this:


In just a couple of hours.  Making spoons out of wood you cut down yourself is about as close to instant gratification as you find in a woodworking project.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Stocking Stuffers for Woodworkers



Once in a while someone asks me for advice on what to give their woodworking loved one for Christmas. In the past, my standard advice has been to get a nice honing jig, or better yet, a class on sharpening. Those remain very good gifts, because sharpening is fundamental to enjoyable working, and neglected by a large percentage of us working at all levels.

About a year ago, though, I decided that one of these might help

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Handplane Jig for Ladderback Chair Leg Tapering



Here's another hand tool jig. This one is more specific than the dovetail paring jig I showed in the last entry, because it's built to help with one particular step in one particular project. I use it to turn tapered square chair leg blanks into tapered octagons when I make the ladderback chair developed by J. Alexander and Drew Langsner. The dovetail jig can be used for joints of different thicknesses and widths, and I can even picture myself using it to fair up tenon shoulders. But this leg-tapering jig is so specific that I doubt it will ever be used for anything but this project.

First I'll show about making and using the jig, and then I'll explain my thinking a little bit.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Robert Ingham's Dovetail Paring Jig

I've been thinking lately about hand tool jigs for very specific operations. If you've used hand tools much, you've learned about the value of jigs for often-performed, generalized operations like making a square end on a board with a bench hook and/or shooting board. I'm thinking about more specialized jigs that don't get used for every single project, but come in handy for guiding a tool along a carefully limited path to produce consistent, accurate results. This baseline paring jig for dovetails is a perfect example.