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.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Backlighting Helps Prevent Finishing Flaws

No, not black light. BACK. As in, if you put a work light behind the surface you're applying finish to, at roughly the same height as your eyes or perhaps a bit lower, that light will reflect off the wet finish into your eyes, so any spot that you've missed will show up darker, and any little piece of sawdust or hair will distort the liquid surface of the finish and distort the reflection.




Try it! you'll see a difference right away.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Kiln Rebuild in the Works?




This weekend I had a chance to visit my friend Reed on his farm about an hour's drive from here. Reed has been everything from an advertising art director to a publisher to a woodworker. Before I started my present job at Fernbank Science Center, Reed and I built some cabinetry and furniture projects together, and we also built and operated a solar lumber

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ian Kirby's Sharpening with Waterstones

In the time I've been writing this blog, I have shied away from doing book reviews, because I want this blog to tell you what's going on in MY shop. But sometimes, what's going on in my shop is that I'm reading, to help jog my memory about a technique or construction method or tool setup that I want to use. For me, woodworking and reading about it have always been paired activities which make each other more interesting and rewarding. It's about time I shared some of my thoughts on a few books, blogs and magazines.


I
Some Books I Like

In 1998 and 1999, Cambium Press (later taken over by Linden Press) issued four books by Ian Kirby: The Accurate Router, The Accurate Table Saw, Sharpening with Waterstones, and The Complete Dovetail. These books are physically different from typical woodworking books, with a smaller format: 6 by 9 inches and 140 pages, compared with 9 by 12 and around 200 pages for most woodworking offerings from publishers like Taunton, Sterling, Fox Chapel, Popular Woodworking; and other titles from Cambium/Linden. So they're half the usual size, but also half the usual price, at $14.95. I like them all, and they're among the books I recommend students in my classes read.



The illustrations are all

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Metal Taps for Wood, and Studio Lighting Redux

This post is an update to this one from 2012, about jury rigging an adjustable light stand from an old tripod & hardware store parts. Since then I have discovered the wonderful photography site strobist.blogspot.com, which provides a crash course on building and using a portable studio lighting setup for still photography. The strobist site does a great job of finding and recommending affordable gear that's also easily portable. I wanted another light stand, but I hadn't run into another cheap old tripod at a garage sale, so on Strobist's advice I used one of my Christmas gift cards to buy the LumoPro LP605 portable light stand from Midwest Photo Exchange, along with a swiveling head so my stand would be capped by a cold shoe.


With the stand and cold shoe in hand, I saw that it would be easy to adapt one of the light holders I made before to be held in the cold shoe. Click through to see how I did it:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Drying Wood in the Microwave: or, the Cursed Spoon




Three rounds of 30-second exposures in the microwave oven, with a few minutes outside in between to cool off, will dry most spoons enough to be ready for finish sanding and oiling. And that would have worked for this spoon too! But nothing about this spoon was easy. It probably shouldn't even exist. It resisted being created at almost every step of the way. And I refused to listen.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Build a Workbench in a Weekend

Recently two students and I spent a weekend doing proof-of-concept for a class to be titled the same as this blog post. In my garage shop, we built 3 copies of the "Knockdown Nicholson Bench" featured by Chris Schwarz in several of his blog posts (both at the Lost Art Press and Popular Woodworking websites), and also in the December 2015 issue of Popular Woodworking.

It succeeded beyond my expectations. The resulting bench is a real pleasure to work at, and not too terrible on the eyes (I still prefer my master's Ulmia for looks . . . I wonder if he still has it.)

Here are photos.

 

 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

I'm in Transition

This is what my shop looks like today:




Under all the moving boxes and furniture is my shop, and parts for a built-in desk, blanks for a couple dozen spoons, a batch of half-made butcher blocks, and a cherry burl I hope to carve into bowls. But they're all buried under assorted non-woodworking items like CD's, financial records, boxes of ski pants and boots, kitchen tools, etc.

I'm in the middle of a move, or rather a series of interlocking moves including both of my sons (separately), my ex, our dog Sam, my partner Margaret's son, a woman from Rhode Island I've never met, and of course myself too. Over the past two weeks this cast of characters has been executing an intricate dance as each of us moves in and/or out of my apartment and Margaret's house. My shop, which usually occupies half of Margaret's garage, has become the staging area for much of this dance. 

Like all moves, this has been tiring, frustrating, enlightening, and a wonderful opportunity to shed excess possessions. Most of it's done, but it will take me some time to unpack, organize, and start working in this shop again.

Working towards this dance of moves, and through it, has kept me from posting to this blog. I'm hoping that's coming to an end, because since my last post I have tried and learned things about a new shaving horse design, Swedish pine tar, the state of cordless tools, spoon carving, internet crafts discourse, and other things I want to tell you about. Stay tuned - - I hope I live long enough to write all these posts and more.