Thinking About the Basics

So what are some basic skills for a woodworker? This is a question that I was thinking about yesterday working in my shop.  I think the most basic of skills is to be able to take a rough piece of lumber and dimension it down to the finished size needed to be able to be used, this includes cutting it to length, width, planing it to straight and to thickness, and making both all four sides parallel. That process is repeated many times in a project because that is the bases of each piece of wood you use in the project, unless you work with plywood or already dimensioned lumber in which case some of them steps have already been done for you. 

The question for most woodworkers is ” what tools and techiqnec do I use to get from rough lumber to dimensioned, ready to use lumber”?  Some use only handtools, some power tools and some use a mixed shop picking the tool they feel that is the best for the job.  Me, I like to keep it simple, I use the simplest tool and method I can to get the job done, sometimes thats is a handsaw to cut an 8′ board down to a 5′ board, but if I have more than three or four cuts I get out my circular saw and let it do the manual labor, if I have some wonky cuts I might get out my jig saw, if I am cutting really thick boards I’ll use a sawz all with a tree trimming blade in it, or if I am cutting timbers I use my electric chain saw.  There are many times in my work flow or I am working with dimensioned lumber and need repetitive cuts so I set up my miter saw with a stop on the fence and use it. Which ever tool I use it falls back on me knowing my basic woodworking skills and going for the tool that is the safest, simplest and quickest to get the job done.

Since one of reasons I write this blog is to create a record for my grandsons to read one day, I think I will start a series on basic woodworker skills for them. Most will find this repetitive and thats alright with me, some might even disagree with how I do things and again thats alright with me, but to those that this series may help remember there are many ways do this thing we call woodworking, learn the basics then go out and develop your own ways of doing it, be safe, have fun, don’t over complicate things REMEMBER it’s only wood, and BUILD BUILD BUILD.  

Miter Saw Stand, From a Water Bed?

I don’t know how many of these I have seen in the trash, its drawer bases from the old water beds. Well last week a neighbor ask me if I could help her carry one out to the dumpster because she didn’t want it any more, it was left over from a long ago wash up water bed that she was now using under a bunk bed. It was missing a drawer but other than that looked to be OK so I ask if she mind if I recycled it, which she thought was great idea. I thought at lease I could salvage the wood for a clamp rack I need to build, so off to the shop it went. I sat it up on my bench and while moving another table around that I had my miter saw on I happen to sit my saw up on top of the drawers and bingo I got the idea. It appeared that the center section was just wide enough for the saw with some modifications, I could set the saw into it and have a drawer on each side to hold odd and ends that you always need at the saw like a tape measure. Next I needed legs, then I remembered I had some folding legs, which are prefect, that means I can take it on job site with me. The frame wasn’t the most ridged so I made a strong back from 2 x 4 for it to rest on this also raised to a height that I like for sawing, I really hate beaning over a saw trying to see my mark. I knew the 2 x 4 wasn’t  going to stay true so I am giving them a couple of days to adjust to my shop then I will use a straight edge and adjust the table top so it and the saw is in one plane then I will screw everything down using wedges that way if it needs adjusted in the future it will be easy, put some new rubber feet I got on the legs and add a power strip so if I do take it on a job site its ready to go to work. I used it to cut 2 x 4s for my clamp rack, and while it still needs a fence it worked great. A friend of mine who is a carpenter already tried to steal it from me so now it’s on the look out for an waterbed frame so he can build his own, but I bet he just builds one from scratch. 

Fine Woodworking’s Comment and Apology

I would like to start by saying that I have been a reader of Fine Woodworker for thirty year I even have issue #1 (no it’s not for sale). I have depended on the high level of expertise in their article’s since I started my career as a cabinetmaker, and the same with Fine Homebuilding for my career as a carpenter.

I have work as a professional cabinetmaker and high end trim carpenter both residential and commercial and consider myself very good at it, I have always been passionate about it and never stop trying to learn my trade that why I am still a reader of FWW, I was trained at the University of Cincinnati as a cabinetmaker, but even with all that I still don’t consider myself an expert. working in this field you get boxed in and while you get to do quite a large assortment of jobs you really don’t change up the way you work very much, when you are on the clock you go with what works. You become very both proficient and efficient at the task you have do like installing crown, or building kitchen cabinets. After doing it every day it seems to narrow your view on how things are done, thats where the internet comes in for me. Its where I get to sample everyone else take on how things are done from the beginner to other seasoned woodworkers like myself and that is where the value is for me. It also reminds me of the passion I had when I was twelve years old, collecting pop bottles so I could buy my first jig saw and drill from Oakley Hardware to build my first woodworking project.

I listen to Fine Woodworking’s podcast and for the most part enjoy it, I heard the show where Asa put his foot in his mouth,  I think where Asa made a mistake, is he was wearing his editor’s cap and thinking in comparison to the magazine, and not thinking as an everyday woodworker would,  who reads and enjoys woodworking blogs. I still have to say I am glad this blew up and brought the internet woodworking community to his attention and I am looking forward to Fine Woodworking working with this community in the future. I think Asa has gone a long way to apologize to anyone who might of been offended and that say’s a lot about him, I think this whole thing will only improve things between a great magazine and the woodworking blog/podcasting community.


Controlling Moisture in my Shop

One of the big draw backs of the space I am using for a shop is the total lack of climate control. I have said in one of my last post that it is like an above ground basement, let me explain that statement, what I have is a block building with a brick face and a concrete floor with no windows or doors except the main entry door. There is no heating or air conditioning and it seems to sweat moisture around the wall and floor joint. With no windows I also have no air circulation except the fans I have placed to keep it moving in a around the shop.

Now I know I am going to have to address the heat, but I still have six months to work that out, and with the wall being 12″ of cement and brick it stays fairly cool although damp and with two fan constantly moving air ti has been comfortable, but a dehumidifier would help to at lease keep moisture levels to a decent place to store wood and build furniture and on my list of must haves, I am just trying to find a used one before buying new.

I am also considering painting the walls with a moisture blocking paint made for block walls like Dryloc, and cleaning and caulking the seam between the floor and wall with a hydraulic blocking caulk made for wet basements to try to stop any water that may be getting in that way.  This would help stop the walls from sweating and collecting on the floor around the shop where I have been seeing most of the moisture. The I would like to seal the floor with a good cement floor sealer.

 I could go all out and fur out the walls with some 2×3 and put up some 1 1/2″ solid foam board and cover it with plywood or OSB, but since I rent this space I really think my money right now is better spent else where, like on wood for projects. I really don’t want to turn this into a project where I build a great shop, but a shop where I build great projects.

Do I really need a Table Saw?

Now, that I have a larger shop than I have every had, having space for a table saw isn’t a question of room any more, I have plenty of room for my saw with an out feed table, but I have been working without one for a while now so I wonder if I really need or want one.

I guess this will become a question of what kind of work I will end doing in my shop, right now I plan on doing hardwood furniture and sculpture, none of that would use sheet goods which would be the main reason I would use my table saw these days.

I have really gotten comfortable with cutting hardwoods down on my bandsaw then planing them down with one of my hand planes, now this is where I would of used a joiner to straighten the same board then the table saw to cut it to size, but you all know this drill.

 Both work just as well as the other and it really comes down to personal choose. The thing I really do have to remember is now that I do it for my enjoyment which method is the one that I enjoy. Another think I need to remember is that because I have worked in the field for a long time I just know that as people find out that I have a shop again I will end up somewhere along the line doing a job for someone that will require me to build some cabinets or something else out of sheet goods. With that in mind I know I need to keep my table saw even thought I don’t see it any more as my go to saw when I want to rip a board down, but then again with it sitting there luring me with its seductive power I could just fall back into old habits.

Now What!

view from front

view from rear corner

 Well, I have all my woodworking goodies moved in, can you believe I had this stuff stashed in a tiny one bedroom apartment (well most of it ) some things were in a 5 x 5 storage locker but it was mostly wood. I still am missing my Jet 10″ tablesaw, it is being used by my nephew, and I have another Shopsmith Mark V that I still need to be collected.

 I got everything moved in the weekend before finals. Finished up my finals at school and then took a week off, so now I need to put this place in shape thats when I had that moment where I just looked around and said “Now What”! if you can bare with me and my many moments of mental meltdowns, I will share this journey with anyone that is interested.

This shop has some challenges, it’s like a basement above ground, but I think I can overcome most of them, or at lease live with the one I can’t. This will be the first shop that I have build that wasn’t for a business which gives me free rein not to worry about maximizing profit and it lets me build it for my creative side. I want it to be a studio as much as a woodworking shop since I want to explore woodworking as art more than function, along with doing some large sculptures and since my major at school is media production and graphic arts I really want t start pushing out some videos which I have already started filming .

view from other corner

My honest wish is that my journey putting this shop together will help others, I am sure I will do things that some of you would do different, but in the end I have to work to my own strengths and try to improve on my weakness’s by using better designs, being flexible, and being open to new ideas and giving them ideas a try to see if they can help me work better, or safer or not that I am worried about it, but faster.

In my professional  career as a cabinet maker I used very few handtools, I was trained use them  at U.C. , but just never really got the chance, and now I am looking forward to using them more in my work. Now I am not going to give up power tools by any means, but the combination of the two I feel will enhance both my experience and the end product and since I am not worrying about making money as much as I am about making art and learning, I can take my time and enjoy the process as much as the finish product. As always if you have any comment please feel free to leave them here, or contact me on Twitter , Facebook, or Google+ and have a great day.

"Coming Soon" My New Shop

Yes finally, I found a place to work at again. Its been four years and five months since I have had a actually shop to express myself in and do some honest to goodness woodworking in and man am I looking forward to it. Right now I am waiting on some electric work to be finished up, so I can start moving in and you could say I got shop fever. I know I should be studying for school and I have three papers to write, and a project to work on, but all could bring myself to do today was look at old woodworking magazines and think about all the projects I need to build, not only for the shop and home, but I already have people wanting me to give them prices on some work for their houses, that I hope is a good omen. I am going into this with the hope of that at lease I can make enough money the pay the rent, beside that what I hope is to use this space to finally explore wood as an art form. I want to do a lot of craving, sculpting, some painting, and stain glass. maybe even keep exploring this screen printing which has been cool, and I would love to find I way to incorporate screen printing into woodworking somehow. I also plan on doing a video podcast soon, it is what I am studying in college and doing a video podcast would be great experience for me as long as I can do a good job with it. So any feedback or ideas you have like always, feel free to contact me. You can find me on twitter, facebook, and google plus, or leave a comment here and have a great day.   


Advice for Beginners

One of the biggest setbacks for a beginners in art, craft, or woodworking for many is that their abilities don’t match their expectations, for most this isn’t a matter of talent, but a lack of experience in the technical techniques that is needed to achieve their goals. This happened to me the first time I tried oil painting, what I saw in my head was a long way from what I painted on the canvas and it wasn’t that I didn’t have the talent or the skills I just lacked the knowledge of the process.
 I’m a professional woodworker and the first thing I learned was the basics then I started learning more advance techniques then with confidence I started to experiment, a lot, and with that I developed my own style. When I tried to start oil painting I skipped learning the basics and was so disappointed in my results that ended up just putting it all away with the feeling that painting just wasn’t for me.
Well now, I am a student at Wilmington College as a art major, and one of the things that I have noticed is that many of these younger student go though the same thing that I did with oil painting, with some of the different medias they are trying working in, they forget that they are there to learn the technique and instead they get wrapped up into the expectation of their finished pieces of work, which is easy to do. They need to remember that these beginning pieces are just a byproducts of learning the techniques of the process. Many just need to take some time to try do the work a different way and to feel the freedom to experiment while not being afraid make mistakes, however it being a class, the emphases is always on the finish piece, and not the how it got there or if we were willing to take chances along the way. What I noticed is many of the students keep doing the techniques that they felt comfortable with, so they didn’t risk any mistakes and while there pieces came out good, some could be been much better, but as with all students we always have that grade to worry about and our senior portfolios to fill.
I think for beginners its important just to do a lot of work, do a large body of work that will help to develop your style and teach you more then any class or book. If your a beginning artist, crafter, or woodworker  learn the basics then color out side the box when you get the chance, take them chances, experiment with your work, yeah you will make mistakes and sometime you will do work that is total junk, but them are the ones you are going to learn the most from, but more than anything else have fun with it, don’t take your failures to serous and when one does go bad look at it to see what  can I learn from it, that failure is a great learning opportunity and then go try something else.

The Furniture at The Cincinnati Art Museum

Over Spring Break from school I went to the Cincinnati Art Museum to see the Cincinnati exhibit, mostly to see the woodworking and carving that was on display. Cincinnati was home of some great carvers and some well known furniture builders during the 19th century. I thought I would share some of the pictures with everyone so enjoy and if you are ever in Cincinnati the Art Museum is well worth a visit. 

Learning to be a Student Again


Hello woodworkers, no I have not given up woodworking, I have just been busy pursuing my education. I decided to go back to school at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio a private Quaker college where I am studying for a dual degree in Fine Arts, and Media Productions. yes friends I do plan on using this in my online woodworking hobby. What I am hoping to do is to get into producing online content for applications like iBook or working for a magazine. I am hoping that there will be a need for people who know SketchUp, video, photography and how to write, so they can produce manuals for products like Ikea bookshelves or Cannon cameras in iBook. Content that is straight forward and easy to follow with SketchUp models, art work, pictures, easy to follow writing, and videos of professionals assembling or using the products. Theses books can be downloaded from iBook and and will give the user a better experiences. 

I’m on spring break this week, so I am catching up on my art work. I am also preparing my images for my screen printing classes which has been a great class, now I can make my own company T-shirts. I have noticed one thing watching some of the other students in class that I also noticed in some woodworker classes I have taken. Students take classes to learn how to do a technique, but somewhere long the way they get so wrap up in their project that they get tunnel vision where the whole class becomes about that piece of work instead of learning as much about how to do the techniques needed to do that project. For me any art piece or woodworking piece I make in a class is a by-product of the class, a by-product of learning the process and I try not to get to focused on it, but instead put all that energy into learning as much as I can. I do that by talking to other students and helping them when I can and excepting their help and advice. I ask them about their mistakes and try the make note of them so I don’t repeat them and I tell them about mine and how I fixed them. I also started making better notes with pictures that I keep in Every-note, a program that I have came to love. This has made me a better student this year and I am sure that in the long run will improve my work whether its art or woodworking.