Ok Better Living Through Woodworking

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Yesterday marked then end of Get Woodworking Week.  This is part 1 of the video I was preparing for the festivities.   Somewhere between the hustle and bustle of work and learning Final Cut Pro X, editing got a bit delayed.  Well, as they say, better late than never!

In this episode we start building a laminated butcher block countertop for my kitchen island.  We cover wood selection and milling of the pieces.

This is a great beginner project because it focuses on milling, glueups, and finishing without any complicated joinery and can easily be scaled down to cutting board size.  Admittedly you do need a jointer, planer, and tablesaw.  These tools, however, are staples of a power tool woodworker’s shop.  If you don’t have access to them, try searching around for a shared shop in your area like the Sawdust Shop or TechShop.

The book I mention in this episode is Understanding Wood by R. Bruce Hoadley.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a rock solid understanding of the properties of wood.

Enjoy and Get Woodworking!

I’m planning on doing some inlay work on the leg vise, endcap, and deadman of my new bench and wanted to find some really nice wood to use.  Something with lots of figure and interesting grain pattern to play with.  I also didn’t want to buy a whole 10 foot board just to get a small piece of veneer.

So, last weekend, I headed over to my friendly neighborhood lumber dealer and started digging through their shorts and offcuts bins.  After sorting through the stock I came up with this beauty.  It’s a 14″ x 21″ x roughly 1/2″ board of figured walnut.  Sure it’s a bit warped but for $7.00 it will make some pretty wicked veneer.  Were it not destined for inlay, I could see making some striking book matched panels for a cabinet out of it.

Next time you’re at your lumber dealer, have a look through their offcuts.  You might find a diamond in the rough and you’ll be well on your way to being a wood addict.

I was working on my bench last weekend and looked down and saw a few red spots.  I first thought, “did the lumber yard get red paint on this wood?”  Then I thought, “wait, I just milled that lumber.”  Finally it dawned on me, “Damnit, I’m bleeding.”

What had happened was, I was paring some wicked Douglas-Fir end grain and was using my left hand to steady the chisel I’d just lapped and sharpened.  The lapping left the sides of the chisel sharp enough to nick my palms.  I’d forgotten to detune those edges after sharpening.  At least I’m not the alone in this blunder.

The process is stupid simple.  Take your lowest grit stone, hold the chisel side against it, and draw the chisel towards you while tilting it up.  A few passes is all that’s needed to slightly round over the sides so they won’t cut you.


The stock dust collection on my 14″ bandsaw is mostly useless.  It came with a 1.5″ dust port under the table that on a good day could get 50% of the dust.  I found myself shying away from using the saw because of all the dust it let escape.  It was time for a better solution for my new shop.

I knew I needed to address two things:

  1. According to Bill Pentz’ excellent website, I needed two 4″ ports to support the airflow that my 6″ main needs.
  2. I needed to enclose the area underneath the table like Paul-Marcel did.

This post will be light on description and heavy on the pictures.

Lower Wheel Housing Dust Port

Adding a dust port to the lower wheel housing involved cutting a hole into the cover.  I traced the inside of the dust port onto the cover and drilled a pilot hole using plenty of WD-40 as coolant/lubrication.  With the pilot drilled, I cut the profile of the 4″ hole using a jig saw with a metal cutting blade.  The dust port came with an adhesive rubber gasket.  I stuck that on and reenforced with 4 sheet metal screws.  The screws protruded too far into the cover and would interfere with the rotation of the lower wheel.  Hitting them with a cutoff wheel mounted in a dremel made quick work of them.



Under Table Hood

My goal for the under table hood was to create good airflow across the blade as it passes through the table.  Since a bandsaw cuts downward, this is the place the dust leaves the kerf.  In order to get a good fit to the hood, I prototyped the shape with cardboard and blue tape.  This let me play around with the shape and fit much easier than with plywood.  The hood design I came up with has a front and back piece.  The two pieces are held together by the suction from the dust collector and the front can slide out for blade changes and tilting the table.

Once I was satisfied with shape, I traced the pieces to 1/4″ plywood, cut them out on the bandsaw, and glued them together with 5 minute epoxy.



Performance and Future Improvements

I’m really happy with the dust collection performance of these two modifications.  The picture on the left shows how little dust escaped after ripping 12 2x10s in half for my workbench.  With the stock dust collection connected to my shop vac, this would have been covered in dust.

I could probably improve things a bit more by filling in between the gussets under the table to achieve a tighter fit between the hood and the table.  I could also try to improve the airflow routing so that it’s directed across the blade more.

If you have a high CFM dust collector like my Clear Vue CV1800 that can support a 6″ main, I highly recommend this retrofit.  Sure it’s unnerving to cut a hole in the side of your nice bandsaw, but you’ll thank yourself every time you use it.

It’s time for me to embark upon that woodworking rite of passage that is building a workbench.  The more I incorporate hand tools into my work, the more I need a sturdy bench that excels at work holding.  I’ve been mulling the design over for a while. I just moved into a new shop. The Wood Whisperer Guild is about to build a Benchcrafted Split Top Roubo.  The time is now!

Basic Design

My bench will be a fairly straight forward French (Roubo) style design with leg and wagon vises.  Look at the cover of Workbenches: From Design And Theory To Construction And Use (a fantastic read) and you’ll have a pretty good idea what’s in store.  Why this design?  Take 1 part weight, 1 part utility, 1 part time tested, and season with a dash of damn sexy.

Work Holding

Deciding on a front vise took me a while to puzzle out.  I debated between a leg vise and a twin screw vise.  The twin screw vise wins hands down for dovetailing wide boards while the extra depth of a leg vise wins at almost every other task.  What finally tipped the scale in favor of the leg vise was all the talk of Moxon Vises and Joinery Benches.  Those offer great answers to both the work holding and height issues with dovetailing and similar joinery.  So, I tossed one of those on the project list and went with the leg vise.

The end vise was a much easier choice.  Since the leg vise is so versatile, the only real use I see for the end vise is to work with the dog holes to hold boards while working their faces.  A wagon vise excels at this while not succumbing to the sagging and racking issues many of the other end vises have.

For the actual vise hardware I chose the leg and wagon vises from Hovarter Custom Vise.  These combine a traditional vise design with a clever quick release mechanism which does not require any separate latch to engage.  Also, I won’t lie, I wanted to do something a little different than the hoard of guild members who bought the Benchcrafted hardware.

Split Tops Are Not My Bag Baby

photo by by YoTuT

There’s been a lot of discussion about the split top design.  The sited advantages are: clamping options, tool holding, and a built in planing stop.

The ability to insert a clamp into the middle of the bench is a very interesting idea but when it comes down to it, I don’t think I’d use it for much more than assembly.  Holdfasts can take care of many of the jobs where having a clamp in the middle of the bench would help.  A split top assembly table?  Now there’s an idea.

The integrated tool rack is neat but hardly a reason to build a split top alone.

The built in planing stop seems like pure fantasy to me.  I don’t know how the rest of you work but idea that, at any given time, there will magically be a clear space in the center of the bench running its entire lenght to lift the stop out and flip it around seems astronomically unlikely.  Plus, what are you supposed to do with all the tools in that handy tool rack?

On the negative side, the split top seems like it would be harder to flatten with handplanes.  It also requires extra stretchers at the top to support the two halvs. This requires the use of metal fasteners to attach the top (something I’d like to avoid.)


Last fall I took a course on japanese joinery from Jay Van Arsdale.  The japanese are experts at building structures with no metal fasteners that can last for centuries and survive earthquakes.  This is not unlike the stress a typical bench sees so I’m going to embrace these methods.  In particular, I plan on attaching the long stretchers to the legs with a shitage kama joint (pictured above.)  Have a look at Jay’s site for another example.  This joint provides knockdown ability without any hardware.


Wood choice is an important design decision of any bench.  You need something that is strong enough to take a beating and stiff enough to resist sagging in the middle of the top.  On top of that a french style bench takes a metric (it’s french after all) butt load of wood.  After searching the local lumber yards I settled on Douglas-fir which is strong and cheap.  I ended up with a large collection of 2x10s and 2×12 which I stacked in my shop to aclimate a bit.  I’m not going to wait for the lumber to fully aclimate as Chris Schwarz mentions several times in his book that it’s not necessary for success.


6" square included for scale

A big bench requires big tools.  Big saws, big chisels, big bottles of glue and more. Look at the chisel over there.  Man that thing is massive!

For the saw I opted to go the japanese ryoba route instead of purchasing one of Bad Axe Tool Works’ Roubo Beastmasters.  Why?  While Mark’s saws are amazing, they are spendy ($275 vs $40 for the ryoba) and have a long wait list.  If I’m going to drop that kind of dough on another Bad Axe saw, It’s going to be a saw I’ll use more often like their upcoming miter box saw.  Plus, all my experience with japanese joinery is using a ryoba, so it “makes sense.”

Now that the craziness of the holidays is over, work on the top can start this week.  I’m super excited!

Marc Spagnuolo’s Coming up in 2012 post struck a chord with me.  There’s something empowering about calling out what you plan to do in the next year.  I think that’s the essence of a resolution that I’d never really understood.  In the last couple days since reading his post, my plans for the year have been constantly on my mind.  So, in order to do the same, I’m calling out my plans for the year.

New Workshop Setup

In October, my fiancé Vanessa and I bought a house.  One of the top priorities in our search was good shop space for me.   The house we ended up with has a 20’x20′ room on the ground floor for my shop plus a small 2 car garage.  Because we live in California, there’s no question about cars (not) living in garages. This lets me put my lumber storage, jointer, and planer in the garage leaving me with a reasonably spacious and beautiful workspace.

I’ve already made a lot of progress towards setting things up.  I had new circuits installed (a 30A@220VAC, 20A@220VAC, and a 20A@110VAC in both the garage and main shop.)  I hung a healthy amount of shop lighting.  I installed a Clear Vue CV1800 and ran ducting throughout the power tool area.  And, I setup a computer workstation with a large flatpanel so I can watch woodworking videos and look at plans from anywhere in my shop.

A few things have found permanent places but I’m still primarily working out of boxes of tools.   An outfeed table and storage cabinet under the tablesaw extension wing will give much needed storage to the power tool area while some closet organization will lend harmony to the hand tool and assembly areas.


One of the many things I left at the old apartment was my bench.  It was a massive, sturdy thing I inherited form a previous roommate who used it for sewing.  While it was passible for hand tool work, I’ve known for a while that a new bench was in the near future (see the end of Episode 02.)

Chris Schwarz and Shannon Rodgers have pretty well convinced me to build a French (Roubo) style workbench.  It’s simple, massive, and accommodates almost every board holding challenge you can throw at it.  To add pudding onto the galette, The Woodwhisper Guild is doing a derivative bench for this winter’s build.

My particular flavor of french treat will include a solid top,  some traditional japanese joinery, and the Hovarter Custom leg and wagon vises.  The lumber (stacked in the shop panoramic above) will be douglass fir.

Milling and top construction should start this week!

Kitchen Island Countertop

Hands down the worst part of our new kitchen is the center island.  It’s counter top is made of some tiles that I can only assume are trying to masquerade as potato chips.  Cutting boards can do little but wobble on the surface.  Our plan is to pull this top off and replace it with a laminated, long grain butcher block.  Vanessa has asked for this as a birthday present (on January 28th) so the time pressure’s on.  Thankfully it should be a fairly quick weekend project.


Bedside Tables

Along with a new house, comes a new house’s worth of furniture to build.  Our bedroom is the least well furnished of all the rooms and given how much time we spend there each day, it’s the obvious first candidate.  Bedside tables are a nice simple place to start.  I’m thinking something in cherry inspired by Harvey Ellis’ work for Gustav Stickley and the Limbert Side Table Shannon built.

Chest of Drawers

A chest of drawers is high on the list of furniture that Vanessa threatens to buy from Ikea.  While the many drawers make it a bit more daunting that the bedside tables, it will make a good followup.  The design will compliment bedside tables and will likely be heavily influenced by The No. 913 Bureau that Harvey Ellis designed for Gustav Stickley.

Film More Videos

This is the most “New Years Resolutionary” of all my plans.  I really enjoyed filming, editing, and releasing my first two videos last year.  With all projects planned, I’ll have plenty of content to publish many more this year.

Happy New Year and happy woodworking!

Ever since I watched Marc’s Scraper Sharpening w/ William Ng video I’ve been meaning to build some of the sanding blocks that made a brief appearance at around the two minute mark.  The design is incredibly simple, easy to make, and fit a 1/2 sheet of sandpaper.

To build one take a piece of 3/4″ birch plywood and cut it into 3 1/4″ x 5 1/2″ blocks.   Next cut some  5 1/2″ x 1″ strips of 1/4″ ply.  Finally cut a 3/4″ deep grove in one of the long sides of the blocks that’s a bit oversized for the 1/4″ ply.

To get the grove perfectly centered I started by aligning the fence of my table saw to cut a grove roughly in the center of the block.  I then cut the grove with one side against the fence then ran the oposite side trough to perfectly center the grove.  Next I snuck up on the fit by moving the fence away from the blade slightly, cutting again, and repeating until I got the perfect fit.

Now fold a piece of sandpaper around the block, tuck the ends in the grove, and wedge the strip in to keep everything secure.  The friction of the sandpaper will keep the strip from slipping out.  It’s also a good idea to write the grit of the sandpaper in pencil on the strip so you don’t have to keep taking the block apart to remember which sandpaper is in it (something you see William do in the video.)

These are so easy to make it’s worth banging out a whole batch and keeping one for each grit of paper you use.  If you want something with a bit more give, try gluing some cork, felt, or rubber to one or both sides and adjusting the block size to fit.


A couple weeks ago I had the treat of spending 3 days attending David Marks’ Inlay and Marquetry class.  David teaches out of his shop in Santa Rosa, California.  Being there was very literally stepping foot into the set of Wood Works.

This is the first woodworking class I’ve taken and I was pleasantly surprised at how much richer of an experience it was compared to learning from videos.  Having someone with such a wealth of experience helping troubleshoot your technique is a powerful way to learn.  In addition, wandering around David’s shop led to a couple AHA moments discovering little things he’s done over the years to make work easier.

So… Inlay? Marquetry?  What’s the difference?  Before this class I had no idea though it turns out to be pretty simple:

  • Inlay is the technique of cutting a shape out of a thin piece of wood, cutting a matching recess (mortise?) into a thicker piece of wood, and gluing the thinner piece into the thicker piece.
  • Marquetry involves taking two thin pieces of wood, cutting a shape out of one and a matching hole in the other, and glueing the first piece into the second.  Once completed this thin piece of wood is usually glued to a stable substrate or inlayed into a larger piece of wood

While some template router inlay was covered, this class primarily focused on a technique called Double Bevel Marquetry. Here you cut both pieces at the same time on a scroll saw with the background piece on top and the inlay piece on the bottom.  The table of the saw is tilted slightly (4 – 7 degrees) creating a bevel on each piece.  When dialed in with test cuts, this bevel ends up perfectly compensating for the kerf of the saw blade and you get two pieces that fit together with no gaps.  One of the beauties of this technique is that you can be a bit free form and stray from your layout lines.  Any move you make on one piece is matched exactly on the corresponding piece.

A sense of depth can be added to the piece by Sand Shading.  This is done by heating a pot of sand on a hot plate and placing one edge of the inlay piece into the hot sand.  This scorches one side of the wood, darkens it, and creates a nice gradient.

David had an impressive selection of bandsawn veneers ready for us to play with.  I came to the class with the vague idea of working on a cherry blossom design but it wasn’t until I saw the piece of curly claro walnut that bent just the right way that the idea snapped into reality.  When looking for some stock to use for the petals David suggested purpleheart (too dark), osage orange (to orange), resin impregnated box elder (getting there), then he got a gleam in his eyes, climbed up into his wood stash and came back with a small bock of pink ivory (one of the rarest woods in the world.)  What generosity!

Instead of boring you with the details of the build, I’ll let the pictures tell the story.  If you ever have the chance to take a class with David, he has my unmitigated recommendation.

A small sample of the palette of wood we were provided

A sketch of a cherry blossom with the woods I'll be using

Using the window thechnique to place the center of the flower

Gluing in a pedal

Nearing completion

Close up of flower in progress

Back filling with black dyed epoxy

Hey mom! Look what I made!

Obligatory picture with David

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In this episode I show you how to make a simple wooden saw vase based off the design from the Norse Woodsmith blog.  A saw vise is an essential piece of equipment for saw sharpening. Without one it’s virtually impossible to support the saw correctly while filing the teeth.  Unfortunately, buying a new or used vise is easily the most expensive part of getting started in an otherwise cheap endeavor.  Building a shop made vise is a workable alternative that lowers the barrier to entry.

Hardware Used

Saw Sharpening Links

Hand Tool School

A great resource for leaning hand tool techniques.  The most recent lesson (semester 2 lesson 1) is all about sharpening and has some great info on saw sharpening at the end.


Vintage Saws’ Saw Filing–A Beginner’s Primer

A veritable treatise on saw filing with the beginner in mind.  This is how I learned to sharpen saws.


Hand Saw Sharpening DVD by Tom Law

Lots of good information on saw sharpening.  This is obviously a transfer from VHS and the video quality suffers here.  Hard to get a good visual feel of the process.

I’ve been generally happy with my DeWalt DW735 Planer since I bought it several years ago.  It’s well designed, has good dust collection, and leaves a really smooth surface.  I’ve, however, been waging a constant battle against snipe.  If I took light passes it was manageable and I could clean it up with a plane but for heavier dimensioning, the snipe was pretty onerous.  I’d taken to leaving an extra six inches on every board so that I could trim off the almost three inches of snipe on either side resulting in quite a lot of wasted wood.

Motivated by the need to be a bit more creative with rough layout of my Bell Forest Adirondack Chair kit and one of the items on my shop TODO list from my Shop Tour , I purchased the Folding Infeed/Outfeed Tables for my planer. Sure I could have built something but at less that $50 and with only so much shop time they seemed worth a try.  After all, Amazon is pretty good about taking returns on items you’re not satisfied with.


The instructions were predictably laughable.  The single sheet of paper hermetically sealed in its very own plastic bag was little better than the assembly diagram.  Thankfully little more is needed to set up the tables than said assembly diagram.  Little more I say because the instructions completely omit any mention of adjusting the tables coplanar to the planer bed.  The adjustment method that worked well for me was to raise the planer to it’s maximum setting (careful of those knives underneath,) clamp a straight edge to the planer bed, and adjust the tables with the four screws that attach them to their “aprons.”  Working my way front to back a few times brought the tables into alignment.


Grabbing a scrap of poplar, I flattened one face on the jointer then took a light pass with the planer.  I tried to feel for snipe and couldn’t feel any.  I cranked down to a 1/16″ cut ran it through again.  Still couldn’t feel any snipe.  At this point I was pretty surprised.  I was expecting reduced snipe but not to completely eliminate it.  The machinist in me whipped out my dial indicator and took a measurement: less that 0.003″!!  I think I can live with that.



  • virtually eliminated snipe
  • relatively inexpensive
  • easy to set up


  • planer body blocks rear table from folding up
  • poor setup instructions

Recommendation:  If you own a DW735 planer, don’t think, just buy this accessory.  You’ll make up the cost in less wasted wood.  If you’re thinking of buying a DW735 (a good choice,) buy the package deal that includes the tables.  It’s less that $20 more and comes with and extra set of knives in addition to the tables!