A Tail of a Mongrel Woodworker

I have never liked the term hybrid woodworker for someone who uses a combination of power tools and his hand tools to do a job. I believe this is just what a woodworker does to accomplish his task. To me someone who limited their self’s to hand or power only seem more like a hybrid woodworker. The dictionary defines a hybrid as 2: a person whose background is a blend of two diverse cultures or traditions, Ok another definition is 3a: something heterogeneous in origin or composition, <a hybrid of medieval and renaissances styles>. So looking at these two definitions I guess I could really consider myself a hybrid, however a synonym of hybrid is mongrel and that works much better for me so from this day forth I am going to call myself a mongrel woodworker.

WIA Horay

This weekend I will be attending Woodworking-in-America in Covington Ky, to sit in with Mary May a classical trained carver. She will be one of the keynote speakers at the conference and I suspect draw many local carvers to the event. She isn’t only one of the top architectural carvers but a well known internet teacher, providing many hours of well done video instruction on her web site at a reasonable rate.

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.  

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.

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.

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.


Thanks Bessey for The 12 Days of Christmas

I don’t  often about companies unless it’s a product that I use in my work or have used in my years on the job a trust and I’m doing a review, to many tool companies try to lure us to add their tools to our tool boxes and workflow with fancy adds or gimmick like big give always or big flashy adds. This Christmas Bessey did something on Facebook that I thought was a very nice jester to their customers, they did their 12 Days of Christmas, where each day they ask a question on their Facebook page and if you commented on their post you received a small give of one of the clamps or one of their metal cutting snips. Now some might say its a gimmick, Ok maybe it is, but I think it is a great way to honor and give back to their customers besides being a great way to introduce themselves and products to new customers like I have been using Bessey clamps for years, but I didn’t know they sold metal working tools. 
I have many clamps, its what happens when one works wood for thirty years but as the saying goes “you can never have enough clamps” and the same goes for me. Over the years I have have change not only the project I build but the style I build them now. I build more instruments now, I do more carving, and I use more hand tools in my work flow, all making me be as creative with my clamping as I am with my project and Bessey has already thought of most of these solutions for me, thank you Bessey. 
More than any thing else I just wanted to say Thanks to Bessey in a time where we hear a lot about corporate greed it’s nice to see a company giving back to the people that buy their products. I know it will a factor in my future clamp purchases, if Bessey have what I need even if it is a little more $ I will more than likely go with the Bessey clamps. So again Thank You Bessey and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and I hope you have a most prospers New Year.
Sleepdog Woodworks