I’m building two green and green styled adirondack chairs along with the Wood Whisperer Guild.   If you recall, I had a bit of buyer’s remorse over the ribbon stripe mahogany I’d picked out locally and decided to buy a rough lumber kit from Bell Forest for the second chair.  There are lots of differences between the two: honduran vs. fiji mahogany, S2S vs. rough sawn, hand picked vs. mail order.  I’m looking forward to comparing the process of building and the end result of these two chairs created with two very different batches of wood.  I’m also interested to see how time affects the color of each chair.  More science!

Rough Layout

Rough layout on the locally sourced mahogany was fairly simple and straight forward since I had so much of it.  The only major snag was that the boards I’d picked out varied from light to dark a bit more than I’d have liked.  From choosing pattern to tone, I’ve definitely learned a lot about what to look for when choosing lumber for my next project.


The mail order lumber was much the opposite as the locally sourced.  All but one board was pretty even in color but I was constrained on layout because all the pieces were cut to 4 foot lengths.  Since many of the pieces in the plan are over 24″ ate up more than half a board each.  If these boards were 8 feet long, I would have had many more options.  That being said, my only real issue with layout was fitting a side leg and front apron onto a single 4 foot piece of 8/4 stock. With the two end to end I was left with only 1/4″ between the them.  This made me a bit nervous because after a saw kerf I’d be left with ~1/16″ wiggle room on each piece.

Bell Forest must have had their mind reading machine well tuned because yesterday they sent me an email asking about the dimensions of my 8/4 boards.  They’d realized that, while they sent out an appropriate board footage, the boards weren’t well sized for layout.  They’re sending me an additional piece of 8/4 on Monday to fix the situation.  Kudos to them for realizing their mistake and being so proactive about fixing it!


I am lucky enough to have access to a laser cutter at work with which I made a template for my template.  Because the laser cutter can only handle 18″ x 24″ material, i cut the template in two pieces then traced the rough outline onto a piece of MDF.  Some quick work with the bandsaw removed most of the waste and the template was taped back onto the MDF.  Over at the router table, I trimmed the rest off with a flush trim bit.  I finished the template using the oscillating spindle sander to fair the curves.

All in all it was a really quick and easy way to make the template.  Definitely going to use this technique again in the future.

I excitedly received my pre-order copy of Marc Spagnolo’s book “Finishing : it ain’t over till it’s over” two days ago.  After spending a couple days with it I thought it only appropriate to swing grape soda microscope back around at Marc.

A little bit of a disclaimer here: I’m reviewing the pre-order print version of the book.  As I understand it , this is a limited print run and the book will be generally available as an e-book.

From The Back of the Book

“This book presents you with the “Wood Whisperer perspective” on the world of finishing: solid finishing advice explained in a way that any woodworker can understand and implement.  As an added bonus, you’ll have access to special online videos and other ressources that will further aid in your comprehension of the subject at hand.”

Entertainment Value

This category is a gimme for Marc.  His casual, entertaining “Wood Whisperer style” transfers well from video to print.  For those who have been following the wood whisperer for a while, you can easily hear Marc’s voice in the writing.  Scott Johnson’s whimsical illustrations further keep the tone of this book light and entertaining.

Score: 4.5/5 grape sodas

Production Quality

The book is nicely printed and bound.  Nothing fancy here.  The paper is nice and white and the text is typeset well making it easy to read under my dim bedside light.  The printing is black and white which felt a bit off for a finishing book especially the picture of stained pine vs. mahogany.  You can’t get a feel for the tone of the wood and the grain’s bit hard to see.  I’m guessing the e-book version will be in color and won’t suffer from the same issue.

Score: 3/5 grape sodas

Information Quality

I have to keep reminding myself that this book is meant to be a collection of practical advice to improve your finishing not an end to end explanation of the finishing process.  The advice is solid and well supplemented by the videos referenced in the chapters.  This is a good book to keep in the shop and quickly review during the various stages of finishing.

Score: 3.5/5 grape sodas

Overall Value

This was the hardest of the categories to evaluate because I pre-ordered the print version at $20 which came with a 3 month extension to my Wood Whisperer Guild membership (a $32 value at the yearly rate) so in some ways the book cost negative money.  I don’t have any information on how much Marc will charge for the e-book version.

That being said I am a bit disappointed by how short the book is.  Most of the chapters are only a couple pages long and I plowed through the whole book in the first night’s bedtime reading and was left wanting more.  That desire for more was mostly sated by watching the supplemental videos last night.  Those videos really help to ground the topics covered in the book.

Score: 4/5 grape sodas

Keeps Its Promise

This book delivers on it’s promise “solid finishing advice explained in a way that any woodworker can understand and implement.”  Though, I’m not sure what the “other ressources” are aside from possibly the appendix of Marc’s responses to emails he gotten about finishing or the list of URLs at the back.

Score: 4/5 grape sodas


Marc’s book is a solid collection of finishing advice that I think will make a great reference in my workshop.  Beginners will get a swath of useful suggestions while intermediate woodworkers will find plenty of tips that they didn’t know or just plain forgot to pay attention to.  As for advanced woodworkers; I can’t say. That’s out of my realm.

I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learned from this book to finishing my next project.

And now… punching the numbers into my own highly secret weighted grape soda score algorithm…

*boop* *beep* *click* *whirr*

Final Score: 3.75/5 grape sodas

(apologies for getting sticky grape soda on your new shiny book Marc)

Right click to download in HD

EDIT: I misspoke when I named my tablesaw as a PM2000.  It’s actually the older PM66 which is why I can’t get a riving knife for it. (Thanks Dean for pointing that out!)

There’s something oddly intimidating about staring down a camera for the first time in an empty room.  Add to that spending hours editing, watching yourself, noticing every odd mannerism and you come away with quite the humbling experience.  I certainly have added respect for the other video podcasters out there.  That being said, I had loads of fun making this and know it will get easier and more polished in the future.

Shop Location: Oakland, CA

Shop Type: Bottom floor of my warehouse loft.

Shop Size: 15’x25′

In this first episode we take a tour of my shop.  I go over what works and doesn’t work about the setup and have lots of mini tool reviews along the way.

(Link to the Fine Woodworking article I mentioned on Dust-Proofing Any Tablesaw)

I’ve been playing around a bit with creating WordPress themes.  I like the direction this is heading visually but there’s still more work to be done organizationally.

Wear your dust mask!

I bet that many drug addicts can look back on their lives and pick out the moment when everything changed.  When they went from being an occasional user to being an addict.  When their priorities shifted and the cost of the habit didn’t pose the barrier it once did.  I think today I reached that point in my life.  My drug: wood. 

It started off innocently enough, as most periods of experimentation do.  I knew I liked wood.  I’d even began to acquire a taste for the good stuff.  I’d driven almost an hour to the dodgy part of the bay area (San Jose) to visit Global Wood Source.  I came back, $50 poorer, with a striking piece of figured maple. It had that bumpy, lenticular, pattern that you’d find on school supplies in the 90’s.  With aspirations of veneering drawer fronts dancing in my head, that board was added to my modest lumber stack.

A single event does not a habit form.  No harm, no foul.  I can quit any time… until tonight.  I was doing rough layout for the Wood Whisperer Guild Adirondack Chair build when I realized I’d been taken in by my lust for wood at the lumber yard last weekend.

What did it wasn’t that I’d decided to make outdoor furniture out of Mahogany…. That’s excusable.  The Greene brothers would roll over in their cloud lifted, proud box jointed, ebony plugged graves if I did any different.  What tipped me over the edge were those few beautiful ribbon stripe boards amongst the FSC honduran mahogany.  I saw those and it was over.  Any sense of grain, color, pattern matching was out the window.  I set those aside, picked the rest of my boards, and loaded up my Subaru with my junk proudly hanging out the back hatch.  I was soaring high with my new score.  When I got home I pulled my girlfriend away from her homework to flaunt my stash.

Then came the hangover.  Those same gorgeous ribbon stripe boards tonight became a problem.  They just wouldn’t fit into the chairs.  They weren’t wide enough to make the backs.  I didn’t have enough to glue up into panels.  I spent hours pouring over them trying to fit them into the chairs without standing out.  Finally admitting defeat, I decided to shelve the boards and head back to the lumber yard this weekend to find replacements that would match the others.  No big deal.  After all, those ribbon stripe boards would make some killer panels in some cabinet doors… right…




It’s over.  I’m now a full fledged wood addict.  In the imortal words of Hunter S. Thompson “once you get into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can”

A month an a half ago I began an experiment.

My observations:

Being at work added stress to my day.  I like my job, but it can get real intense.

Being in my shop reduces stress in my day.

Having flexible work hours, my schedule tended towards getting in late and staying late.  By the time I got home, it was too late to run any power tools.

That morning, six weeks ago, I found myself rushing to get some work done on a project before leaving for work.  Not only was I rushed, but I was stressing about getting into work “late.”  On the drive into work I realized I had it all backwards.  I should put the activity that reduces stress after the one that adds it.

My hypothesis:

If I shift my day so that I can spend time in my shop after work, I’ll be a happier Erik.

Science in hand, I set my alarm for 7:00am and the next morning was on the 7:45 shuttle to work.  I arrived earlier that I ever have, including the first day of HR indoctrination.

My data:

Preliminary data supports my hypothesis.  The past month and a half have been great.  I finished my wall hanging cabinet build in time to give it to my mom on mother’s day.  My girlfriend has noticed a calmer Erik that has a schedule closer to hers.

So, here I am, “better,” reflecting on what inspired me to push my woodworking to the forefront of my life.

It wasn’t Norm.  It wasn’t Roy.  It wasn’t David.

It was Marc.  It was Shannon. It was Matt.  It was Chris.

These are our heros of the new age of woodworking.  In an age where facebook and twitter have replaced TV, these are the people that will be inspiring the next generation.

I find these blogs, these podcasts, these videos so compelling I had to try my hand at it.  I’m going to start modestly with some blog posts.  With luck I might work my way up to some videos.  I’m making a commitment to chronicle my way though the next Guild Build and the Hand Tool School as well as some random musings and experiences along the way.  After that’s done, I’ll take a look back and see if this blogging thing’s working out for me.

I’m not done decorating yet but hop along for the ride and we’ll see where this train ends up.