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.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Test Driving Chris Black's Router Plane



Yesterday's mail included a package from Chris Black in North Carolina. Late last week I realized I have been thinking about getting a router plane for a long time, but never pull the trigger. Looking forward a few months, I have some projects in mind that involve lots of dadoes in pine or poplar, so I called Chris. In addition to the tools he makes for sale, like an awesome birdcage awl and the best sanding block (seriously, when my partner saw it she tried to steal it!) Chris usually has a small pile of really nice old Stanley and other equivalent tools that he's restored for sale. I called him up and asked what he has on hand.

Turns out everyone and his siblings have been asking for router planes lately, so Chris has decided to make his own wooden version. He offered to let me have a look at his “Mark II” prototype. I sent some money by PayPal, he shipped it, I received it. I like it!

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.