Great Lakes Woodshop Home

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Skill Happens In Spite Of Your Best Efforts

I got to spend a couple hours in the shop this evening.  A loft bed has taken a lot of my time for far too long. Prepping the headboard posts for the last 8 mortises was the latest sub-project.  The posts are octagonal and have a bunch of leftover table saw marks from initial preparation.

Hand planing has been a very deliberate process ever since I picked up a Stanley #5 years ago.  I generally plan each stroke, or series of strokes to achieve a discrete goal.  Tonight was different.

I queued up some music and put the first post against the planing stop.  I tuned out; about 45 minutes later I tuned in to the post in front of me.  I had three planes lined up on the bench (jack, smooth, block) and 7 smooth sides of the octagon post.  I guess at some point everything clicked--at least with stock narrower than the plane.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wood Strikes Back

Mother nature gave me a little surprise in the middle of the night.  At first glance you might think "FREE WOOD!".  However, closer inspection reveals that this once mighty oak is rotten to the core.  I have a lot of woodworking in my future.  I just didn't think it was going to be so primitive.

On the bright side, nobody was hurt, and I get to make some changes to the deck.  Though not apparent in the photo above, just under half the deck now lies under the upper boughs.

Firewood anyone?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Project Plan: Walnut Book Case

Woodworkers Journal recently released a free walnut book case plan as part of their web ezine offering; every issue features three free plans from their vast library.  I usually enjoy reading Rob Johnstone in the ezine, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't like the free plans they offer, too.  More often than not, the plans do not appeal to me for any project, but I always at least examine them in superficial depth looking for a technique, or detail I haven't seen before.  The walnut book case hit me hard and I am immediately making plans to build at least two of these book cases.

The free download is is no longer available, but the plan is for sale all the time here.
I'm changing their plan to suit me and my tools, and I'd love to see some feedback on my design ideas.  I don't have (nor even asked) permission to post details from their plan here, so I will confine my commentary as much as possible to the obvious details visible in the above photo from their site. 

In essence this book case is a plywood box with ornamentation glued on.  Purists may scoff, but a dressed up plywood box is not a Bad Thing in my philosophy.  Using less expensive materials makes this project more accessible to those with lesser means; using 'bolted' on ornamentation makes the project more accessible to those with lesser skill levels.  Sounds like this project has my name written all over it. 

Ultimately, the modular nature of this project lends itself to skilling up or down in certain areas.  The faux fluted stiles on the front, for example, are easily produced by hand, machine, or pocketbook.  Every part of this case can be purchased at the home center store and merely assembled.  Or you can shoot higher.  All the moldings can be produced with planes, or a router and then cut free from boards.  Similarly, fine hardwood can be swapped for the plywood panels in the carcase.

My first change is lighting.  I really like the down lights at the top of the case.  As your eye goes down, though, things get a little darker.  I plan to put lights on the bottom at the rear facing up, too.  The shelves will necessarily stop about 3/4 of an inch from the back to allow the light to go up/down.  A book stop of  1/4" to 3/8" in height will be added to the back of the shelf.  I hope to create a back-lit effect to display all the contents.

The next change is at the bottom, or plinth, of the cabinet.  The wrap around molding is another faux effect.  I intend use real hardwood, hopefully walnut, for the plinth.  Maybe I'm reaching, but I want to try my hand at blind dovetails.  The bookcase seems ideally suited for experimentation because I can always back out and build to the plan.

The original plan calls for thin high grade plywood for the back.  I want to use 1/2" thin tongue and groove bead board.  This is the most uncertain aspect because I don't have the tooling to create the wanted effect and am unsure if I can buy my way out of the problem.  I may glue up a panel and make a crude scratch stock to do the beading detail.

Here at the end is my pie-in-the-sky wish.  I don't know if I can afford it, but I'd really like to use these rosettes in place of the stock circular style featured in the plan.

I went to the two local home centers and priced the plan as it is published.  The materials come in at roughly $225.00 per unit, including the puck lights.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hand's-eye View

Lee Valley ran a special on brass mallets recently.  I've been looking for an inexpensive brass mallet for a while and as luck would have it, I had a Lee Valley gift card burning a hole in my pocket.  I found out about them from a banner ad on

I was only looking for one, but got both of the Journeyman's mallets simply because of the now expired 2-fer special.  However, now that I have them they have to be called aspiring apprentice's mallets.  The purpose is to use them to drive some small carving tools.

Mary May, a renowned woodcarver, received a lot of ink and film coverage last year.  I have absolutely no artistic talent.  After Mary appeared on The Woodwright's Shop carving to a paper pattern glued to the wood, I figured I could at least attempt a simian imitation of carving.  I did a little research and purchased several very inexpensive carving tools.  I practiced a bit on balsa and it went well.  Poplar was a bit more work but still 'doable'.  Walnut on the other hand may have been wingnut for all it succumbed to the chisels.  So, I put a small carving mallet on the neat to have list; there was also the hope that it would be useful for adjusting planes.

The purpose of this post is to talk about their size, not their usefulness.  Catalog photos all too often leave out a natural human relation scale.  Here are some photos of the mallets in my admittedly large paw.

Small Head

Large Head

Gentle Taps

Mallet Parade

Firm Convincer

Precision Control

Just Because