Friday, December 31, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Breezewood Village Craft Fair.

Breezewood Village Craft Fair. It is a senior center but the event is open and free to the public.

It will be on Friday, December 10th starting at 2pm. It will end at 3 or 4 depending on the turn out.

16000 Grayville Drive #2, La Mirada, CA 90638.

Small craft fair with multiple vendors. I know there will be hand-made jewelry, homemade candy and scrapbooking

Some of my woodworking will be there as well.  I'm sending some of the smaller more portable items like doll beds, step stools and canes.

If you are local stop by and see us.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Photo Update: Master's Project

I've been so busy taking out that Olive Tree and working on it, I'm a bit behind on posting my progress.  These shots are from much earlier in the year. 

The reason the Drafting Table was made was so that I could use it as a place to design the Master's Chest.

Here it is in use: 
You'll notice there is a wooden block at the top that I've added since I last took a picture of the drafting table.  This is a place to keep my drafting tools so that they are easy to grab as I need them. 

Be A Bob

Years ago when I was sitting in math class doing a whole lot of nothing my teacher had a poster on the wall that I remember clearly :

     Be A Lert , the world needs more Lerts

     I always thought it was funny and I have never forgotten it.

     Bob is my friend who graciously gave me the olive tree in his back yard that is supplying most of the lumber for my master's project. He also supplied the shovels, pick , rakes, tow chain, chainsaw (I have since bought my own) etc.Until he went in for eye surgery this 75yo man worked out there helping me dig, trim and so on.

     Now let me tell you, I'm 42 and have NO PROBLEM saying I'll work a 20-something guy into the dirt. But i gotta say this 75yo man with his 1920's work ethic put me to shame and outworked me till the day before surgery. He also managed to teach me a lot along the way. He did all this for nothing. It benefited him nothing. He is just that good of a guy.

     Moral?...while the world really does need more Lerts....Be a BOB, the world will never have enough

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Opinions Needed

I need your help / opinions.

I have decided to do a video about hand-tools: their proper use, care & restoration.

     So I need input...what tools, techniques do YOU think should be taught?  This is intended to pass old knowledge on to new beginners so most of you will learn little from it but your knowledge may be used & passed on. 

Things such as bending a ripsaw tip through its own handle to test the spring temper quality of the blade...."snapping" the wrist at the end of a hammer blow to achieve more power with less effort & how to restore an old hand-plane to new condition to be the basis of the videos.

SO PLEASE send in your recommendations and questions alike. They both are useful in moving towards making a video of this nature.

Thanks in advance :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Barefoot in a Wood shop

What is it like to be Barefoot in a Wood shop?

What’s it like for a Fireman to run into a burning house? I have no idea, but I guess he probably considers it just part of his job.

So this is how I ended up barefoot in a wood shop.

I work in Southern California. My building is a tilt-up made of concrete. No heating/ no air conditioning. Here in the winter time there’s only one or two days where it’s really cold. Heating’s not such a big deal. On the other hand, being in a concrete box when its 100 degrees outside means it’s 110+ inside. So, I don’t know how many years back, it was a really hot day and I was wearing combat boots (throw back to military days) which made it just that much hotter. So about 1:00 in the afternoon I got the brilliant idea of “I’ll just take off my shoes.” Concrete was cool and felt good. It was nice, like being 6-yrs-old again. It worked so well, the next day I just left my shoes in the car. And the following day, I just left my shoes in the car. Well, here it is years later and a lot of times I’ll wear sandals, but I can’t even find my actual shoes anymore. So that’s how it started. And it’s just a part of my every day going to work.

Working with no shoes, while it may feel really nice, it often times comes with its own little hazards. For the first 6 months, it was the most simple thing that became the most dangerous. You would think in a wood shop maybe it would be splinters or dropping things on my foot. But no, running right across the length of my shop is a seam in the concrete. You know, just like the ones you see in the sidewalk where the tree is at and it makes a little bump, maybe half an inch tall? Yeah, innocuous little thing. But for 6 months I’ve never stubbed my toes so often or as hard. It wouldn’t actually catch my toes so much as it would catch the ball of my foot and then slam my toes into the ground. Did you know most expletives don’t actually include all four letters? It seems at such times pronouncing four letters is much more difficult that it would originally seem. But after reinventing all the expletives and going through a box of band-aids, I finally got used to that stupid seem in the concrete.

So now all I have is the common problems. Sawdust isn’t bad; it’s kind of soft and squishy under your feet. I don’t waste nails or screws so they’re not on the floor all that often. And never once has my foot found one. And sometimes, yeah you drop something. But woodworkers learn early on some things are expensive and you learn to shove your foot under it, save it. And other things are sharp and you learn to dance quickly and save your foot instead. For someone who never took a lesson in my life, I dance a lot more now.

Now, the one that gets me; Sawdust is nice and squishy on the feet, but it looks like wood. So it hides the little ankle breaker blocks that come off of the items I’m working on. And that my friend, is the real threat to being barefoot in the shop. It’s as if a 6 yr old has left their toys out around you house. I now avoid the seam, without even a glance. I never drop screws or nails. But I can walk through a pile of sawdust finding the only block in a 10 foot radius and it will still drop me every time.

So with all of this in mind, if you decide to come by and visit, don’t come barefoot, you won’t be let in. I have years of being barefoot in the shop and have learned how to function safely. I’m the barefoot woodworker and you are not.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I was just watching a video on U-tube where someone was SHOWING how the secret compartments they had made worked. To say the least I found this appalling. They are called secrets for a reason! Am I upset because he is giving away trade secrets? Eh - whatever.

What I am upset about is that someone commissioned the piece to be made in good faith in order to hide something. If they choose to tell about their piece  - so be it. But for a furniture maker to be telling how & where & TO WHOM he sold this secret compartment is appalling.

For thousands of years before banks were commonly available it was the furniture makers job to make secret compartments to hide valuables in. Most often if someone could afford to commission a piece of quality - they could also afford your head in a ditch. Hence the tradition of keeping secrets was founded and enforced with a furniture maker until it became a point of swelling pride.

Then some yahoo (who does BEAUTIFUL work BTW) goes and puts it on U-tube for the world to know  not only who to rob...but how to open the compartments and where to find them!.....even worse some other country with cheap labor will steal his ideas (since he showed in great detail how the system worked) and mass produce them at 25% of his cost.
How does someone so talented make such a dumb mistake?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


    We all like receiving trophies. I make a lot of them for customers. But, like many I don't receive many myself.

     Today I received one of the best I have ever been awarded.

     Back up one year. My daughter's friend from High School was working on his Eagle Scout award.
He was to make a podium for the High School wrestling team.  One of the types that has a 1st, 2nd, & 3rd award levels.  He asked if I could provide (donate) the shop for him to build it and offer some advice on construction methods.  To which I agreed (what kind of a schmuck wouldn't?)   He came over a few days later and built the podium to the concept of a kit.  (Part of it he had to instruct younger scouts to finish the project, this is a leadership award after all).

     That was a year ago (+) and I haven't thought about it much since.

     Today he came back around saying he had been accepted to a prestigious college.  Letting it be known that it was in no small part due to his Eagle Scout award as his grades weren't all that good. What he brought with him was a thank you card. Written by his own hand.

And there you have it - MY TROPHY. A hand written thank you.  By a 18yr old boy turning into a fine man.

This card will be hung in my shop to remind me that while cash for a job well done may be nice (And a necessity of life) sometimes there are payments that are worth so much more.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Do you walk on water?

Neither do I. Although it seems many of us believe we do.

Point in Case:. I am a furniture maker working towards my masters ------------ .  I ask A LOT of questions. I ask my friends, family, other professionals around me.  Heck I've even asked strangers!...What do I ask them?  I ask "what do you think of this?" Or that? Or the other...Why?....because the more I learn the more I understand that I haven't learned much, LOL.

We are in a trade that is AT LEAST 7000YRS OLD (that is the age of the earliest known piece of furniture - a stool) and honestly I realize that in my short 42yrs I haven't had TIME to be exposed to everything that has been learned in this trade in the last 3 1/2 millennium.

Back to the case
     I walked into a friends shop the other day (He is a commercial cabinet maker) and he was making a dresser for his soon to be born daughter. He was using drawer fronts that were left over for a job a couple of yrs ago. Now dont get me wrong they were NICE drawer fronts - solid beech and 5 piece - and he had made the dresser to match them. Kinda. What he had done was make a European style cabinet and slapped a face frame on the front of it with a typical 1/4" back with the sides and front going flat strait to the floor. Now this is going to be a very nice Euro/American style cabinet. It is not however going to be a nice dresser.  
  It lacks legs...or ornamentation or supports to the back or quality drawers (He was ordering them made with a butt joint const.)  He put a roman ogee around the tops on 3 sides to 'dress it up' as he put it...but again this would look good sitting in your kitchen as a bank of drawers, but this was a DRESSER for a LITTLE GIRL! it needs a toe kick & a wall to be attached to as he built it.

My problem here is this : He didn't ask any of the 7 guys around with furniture making experience.
     Was he required to? No. Should he have?...Why not? We are all friends & more than willing to help in any way we can...We are all like surrogate dad wannabe's for him and happy about his new born to come. So there would have been no shame or downcast looks at him...We all know what we know & for each of us what we know is different from the next guy.

BUT apparently he believes he walks on water. He among all of us is the only guy to never ask for help, or advice and is insulted if advice is offered freely (So I didn't on this occasion). Its sad for me to think of his little girl growing up with furniture for the next 20yrs that her mother would be proud to have in the kitchen...but will always look out of place in her bedroom - especially that of a little girl.

     If you want to be good at anything - leave the ego at the door.  There is more to learn than you have time to and it never hurts to ask, all you can do is learn.

P.S.: It took me 15yrs to learn this lesson and still sometimes struggle with it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What some nice people have said on Etsy!

Maredyl says:
Got it yesterday,I love it. It is very very well made. I am impressed with the joinery. (Is that the right word?)It is the perfect size to keep in the kitchen and it is just nice to have such a well-made, handmade wooden piece instead of something plastic and made in China. Thank you, thank you!!!!!!
ciel04 says:
it is lovely, turned up quite quickly, and is the perfect present for my dad! thanks heaps
momoruth says:
love the wooden atc's are special now..thank you...I will be promoting this shop at my workshop
momoruth says:
Love the wooden cards...hoping you have more
heidimiso says:
Absolutely lovely. Love the bloodwood grainlines, the inserted zebrawood hand, and it's the right length. I intend to use as well as admire. Very skillfully made.
wmarymargaret says:
Great cards. Quick shipping. Lots of thanks!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Do I look like a furniture maker now?

Well here I am in the beginning of the next step: turning my log into lumber.

Guess what I found out about trees? God apparently didn't make them with the intention of going through my bandsaw. They are lumpy, twisty, and have this funny bark stuff on the outside. Which generally says my bandsaw is too small and the tree is more powerful than it.

Speaking of powerful trees, who'da thunk they were 85% water. And water weighs 7lbs per gallon. Don't think that's much? Go measure your milk jug. It's not that big of a branch. Now stack that milk jug on top of itself 9 times and tell me how heavy the branch is?

So with all of that said, I'm finding out both how strong I am and how out of shape I've become. And how much both of those effect being able to make a rectangular piece out of a round branch. Especially a branch that's too big around to fit under my 6" clearance on the saw. So you'll find a couple of things have happened. Some of the logs I've had to center split with a chainsaw first, while others I've used chisels, mallets, a hatchet even to remove the bark to thin them down. (Thinking about that - where did I put my draw knife?)

All this fun and I'm on branch one of five, plus two trunks and a burl of tree one out of nine! A lot more blogs to come about the trials/ tribulations and back pain of milling a tree.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First day of a Master?

If this was it take it back!  LOL.  I started today in earnest working on my masters project . My friend Bob was kind enough to give me an olive tree from his back yard. Sooooo

Step 1. Remove tree … Mother told me there would be days like this

Lets back up.  4 days ago I caught either bronchitis or walking pneumonia.  Couple that with the fact that I’m in season for my allergy induced asthma and that’s where I start today – not breathing.
So all day I’m dropping cough drops like they are my favorite candy ever (EVERYONE KNOWS that,  THAT is CHOCOLATE)  and we decided we are going to take THIS branch off this tree….that’s all just one branch.

Yeah, uh huh, 1 branch.  This tree is HUGE.  This 1 branch , one of the smaller ones, was 9ft long and 8” in dia. After pruning it to a ball head, with several smaller ones able to be used for lumber as well (I will have pen blanks for sale not TOO far down the road) in total I harvested 4 logs (5 1/2ft , 4ft,6ft and 3ft…remember I had to clean cut them all after they  were grounded)…..but lets not forget the foliage.

So here’s the count…. 4 logs and 2 truckloads of foliage .

So I take it back to the shop to mill it down to rough lumber. Getting there at 4PM. By 8PM I was calling Kat to bring me my rescue inhaler that I foolishly left at home, a 16 mile round trip for her – she loves me. . . or my life insurance isn’t paid up :/

By that 8oclock time I had accomplished exactly 3 things:
1.    (1)  I DID get 1 branch to the shop…..remember this started with step 1 up there LMAO yeah right
2.        (2)1 did get ¼ of 1 log milled down….the other 3 and 3/4  logs? Not so much.
3.      (3)  I got all the ends of all the logs painted to slow the drying process in order to allow me time to mill them & then air dry them

Remove tree?.....yeah right next time I’ll know better and I’ll have a better plan.
Why didn't I have a better plan you ask?...after all  I AM working on my masters project??!!
To this I say : I'm a furniture maker not a lumberjack or millwright!!! ( though I may be when Im done! )

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Where did he go, George?

Well the entire month of May was a blur.  Where to begin. 
My partner (who handles all of the advertising/ business end of the shop) went away for a weekend to visit friends the first weekend.  This meant things were a bit hectic, but manageable. So there was a post at the beginning of the month.

However, the second weekend her father collapsed in his home and had to be rushed to the hospital.  After a few days of poking and prodding and tests they really still aren't sure what happened.  But needless to say that weekend and the week after were a whirlwind. 

The third weekend of May we had her family reunion.  And with her father sick, we still had to figure out how to get everyone there.  Definitely stressful. 

So the last weekend of May we decided to take the 3 day weekend off and do a lot of nothing.  Sorry, but I think we needed it. 

While all of this was going on, I had someone come in and ask me to do a prototype of a credenza with the promise of many more to come.  I took the time to talk with them and decided to start trying to see if I could work with them.  There's an old phrase about how sometimes it isn't everyone else.  They told me about all of the people who they had tried to work with and all of the things they had done wrong.  I had given them the benefit of the doubt because I know sometimes you really do just find a lot of people who say they can do more than they can.  But after a few weeks of back and forth with committees to make every little decision and nit picking about things that weren't reasonable for anything less than machine production (I wanted to move a heat vent 1/32 of an inch), all with the promise of lots of work - but not a lot of pay per piece, I decided this just wasn't going to be a good fit.  I let them know and they didn't even bat an eye as they took their stuff.  Which tells me that was a point they were accustomed to getting with people.  Yes it was a job, yes it might have even been a lot of work going through the shop.  But when they start out that unrealistic, there's a point where it just isn't going to be worth the amount of work and headache and problems. 

So, it's June now and my daughter will be graduating from high school next week.  So a lot of preparation is going into the last weeks of school and organizing the family to see her walk and for the party that comes after. 

I'll try to get a few blogs posted - but as May reminded me, you can't always get what you want.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This Just Sold

Hand turned wooden walking cane.
The mesquite, a rich brown wood, runs all the way through the walking stick to ensure stability and strength.

The bloodwood and fiddle back maple serve as a vibrant contrasting accent at the knob.                                                    This just sold! And of all things it's going to Australia!    There are just two more. . a matched set. . available on Etsy. 

Friday, April 30, 2010

Future's So Bright

My shop has been in business now for 6 years. 
And we just signed a lease for another 3 years. Unlike so many around us, I'm not going anywhere!

The future's so bright, I've got to wear shades!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beeswax and Toilet Rings. An old trick that doesn’t work anymore?

Beeswax has long been used as a finish.
 The classic formula:
1 part beeswax,
1 part turpentine and
1 part shellac. 
Heat it in a glue pot, stirred down, applied while still warm and buffed in by hand until your arm falls off.  You can buy this mixture premade under the name Sam Maloof’s Finish.  But if you have to be hard-core old school, it just takes a little practice.
The problem comes with finding real beeswax.  Now you may know a bee keeper, and get lucky.  Or it iss available online from a couple of sources, such as Rockler or WoodCraft. 
You may have heard of a strange solution, that’s been used for a long time.  Toilet Rings.  But if you think you’re going to use toilet rings today, think again.  Somewhere 10 – 15 years ago beeswax became too expensive to use for that particular job.  So now it’s some kind of synthetic wax and sometimes you can get synthetic with beeswax mixed together.  But I have no idea how to separate the two.  What I can tell you, is that synthetic wax never hardens.  It’s a sticky gooey mess that stays a sticky gooey mess.  On your furniture, it ends up looking like what it’s preventing from oozing out of your commode.  So leave the wax wings in the bathroom and don’t bother trying to put them on your furniture.  Take it from a guy who destroyed a project. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

MY Shop

We often ponder the question, of “Who Am I?” versus “What Am I?”.  Some people do their job, because it’s what they do.  Some people do their job, because it’s who they are.  I guess the only difference is passion.  So let me tell you my story about Hal.  An old-timer, retired woodworker and friend. 

Hal owned his shop for 40 years.  The time came where he decided he was old enough and done enough and it was time to walk away.  To enjoy the sunset of his life and spend time with his wife.  So he made amends with all of his customers, sold off most of his equipment, cleaned out the rest and took it home to store it in the garage.  And then went back to turn in the keys on his leased space.  They did the walk through, everything was fine.  He gave the keys back and no longer had his shop.  He got in the car and started on his 40 mile drive to his new home.   He made it about 400 feet before he pulled over and broke down in tears.  He wasn’t sad, he wasn’t upset, and he wasn’t happy or overjoyed he was simply lost.  After 40 years he had no idea what to do, where to go, or who he was.  He’d lost his passion. 

So let’s jump forward a couple of years with old Hal.  He’s now a happy, energetic go-lucky type of guy.  He bought a new table saw, put it in his garage and now instead of 5 jobs a month, he does 5 jobs a year.  Guess you can’t take the man out of the shop, because if you do you’ll break the shop that’s still in the man. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

This Just Sold

This cute little step stool is based off of a historical design. It’s perfect for getting you (or a child) that extra height for high shelves around the house or garage.

This one was made of Recycled Douglas Fir and hand-dyed a vibrant red.  We have four more of Cherry and Yellow Caribbean Pine in the shop.  

Like most of our items, these stools are handmade by me in small quantities in our woodshop. This piece combines a sturdy interlocking construction with splayed legs for an amazing amount of strength and stability.

Speaking of AMAZING STRENGTH AND STABILITY! You are seeing that right, 4 of these little guys are holding up an SUV! (Thank you, to Frank’s AutoService for helping get the SUV on the step stools.)

So, I sold this on Etsy and it's such a small world that the woman who bought it was able to come over and pick it up as she was just about 10mins away from the shop!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Website for My Company

We've completely redone my business website.
New style, new colors, new pages, new links, new pictures!!!

Click on the title above or the link below to see it in FULL living color!!

I'm very happy with how it turned out, but we are looking for some feedback from everyone else. 

What do you think works or what doesn't work. 

Please feel free to be candid and let us know what you really think.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Woodworker's Supply Sale

Great sale of 20-40% on Woodworker's Supply surplus Router Bit stock.

Click on the image for the full ad page!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

How to Balance your business with your craft

The truth of it all is, people who have talent with hands-on skills aren't usually the most technologically inclined. At least that is the case with me.

I can build just about anything out of wood; I know many different joinery techniques and when to use with for the best use; I know what wood to use for what result; but sit me in front of a computer and most kids can do better.

I've gotten better over the years, but it's just not a skill set that suits me.

The first time I started my shop I believed I could do it all. I was prepared to build custom furniture for people. I quickly figured out that being in business for myself meant I had to do it all. I had to make the bid, I had to buy the materials, I had to make the invoice, I had to collect the payment and I had to pay my bills. And that was just basics when jobs came in. I also realized I'd have to advertise and do my own sales. Eventually it was just too many hats for me to wear. When those doors closed, I promised myself I wouldn't do it the same when it came time to reopen.

I met my partner about 9 years ago. We were friends and, as we got to know each other better, I realized she had the skills to wear the other hats I needed. So, a few years later, I asked her to be the "Office" to my "Shop".

She can't build the furniture, but over time she's learning this industry. What she can do is all of the accounting, advertising (to include photographing the finished products), some drafting/ design for bids, and she's learning enough to start doing more sales and buying. But she's someone that is good with a computer and office skills and, in direct contrast to the original point, she's just not that hands-on inclined.

My recommendation to all considering making a go of this industry - or similar industries - stick to your strengths and find someone to fill in where you are lacking!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mission Dresser featured

I've been featured again.
Check out this wonderful blog:

You have to scroll down a little on the right side, but you'll see the Mission dresser along the edge and a link back to it on Etsy!

Thanks again that wonderful blogger for featuring my work.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mesquite ACEO cards SOLD and why I won't make more

So this is the set of 25 Mesquite ACEO cards.
These along with two sets of 5 cards have sold.
I've got a few more listed here and about 12 more that will be listed soon. And those will be the last of it.
Now they are obviously popular enough, they aren't even hard to make and I'm mostly using leftover materials from other jobs, so the expense can't be the problem.

Unless you count the damage they cost.
To explain, mesquite is problematic to work. On the table saw the smell is overwhelming. And it eats up a blade in no time. My clothes end up stinking and stained from the dust mesquite creates.
But the worst part was the fire. That's right, working a bit of mesquite nearly set fire to the shop.

After running some mesquite through the saw, I stopped to take a break and turned off the saw and the dust collector that was attached. As I sat there talking with a friend, we realized we smelled something still burning. At first we figured it was left over from the when the saw was running. But after a few moments it was getting worse and not better. Looking over we realized the dust collector was actually burning! We rushed over to put it out and ended up with a hole that has since been patched.
Apparently, as the mesquite was running through the saw, it was destroying a nearly new saw blade and throwing sparks. The sparks were sucked throught the duct work into the dust collector where they ignited the sawdust.

So, I'll be making other ACEO cards, but mesquite is off the list.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Don't Poison Yourself, Stupid - Wood Shop Safety

Now we all know about the poisons that are around the typical woodshop. The stains, the lacquers, the sealers, the thinners, the strippers, the occasional exotic wood. And most of us, hopefully, have enough sense to use masks, or respirators, or gloves, or to otherwise protect ourselves.

This isn't about any of that.

This is about a much more insidious poisoning.

Now I clean my shop, 3,4 sometimes 5 times a week. Sometimes I feel like my job is sweeping, not woodwork. But we all have that nook or cranny or shelf in the back or way up high that we just never seem to get to.

Well in my case that shelf is on the top of a pallet rack about 12 feet high. Hence, the reason I never get up there. But last week I needed a box from up there. So feeling like a 10-yr-old monkey, I climbed up the side of that pallet racking, reached up there threw the box off and dumped 5 years of dust in my face.

Now we don't really think of dust much when it comes to poison. But let's think about what's in this dust. Yes, I now use the carb-green sheet goods like the rest of the state is required to do. But 5 years ago, let's face it, it was all formaldehyde, insecticides and god knows what else they put in that stuff.

But that's just the obvious stuff. Remember this is 12 feet up. And since I'm not storing sawdust, this is all micro-fine. You know the 1-3 micron range. The stuff they tell you, "wood causes cancer". So, yeah, there was old sheet goods, but how much of it was also oak and walnut (tanic acid) or 10 or 15 exotics: lacewood, ebony, bloodwood, ambonya all the stuff that will give you severe skin rashes. Yeah, they've all been in my shop too. Not to mention, anything that leaves as a fume lands somewhere and sawdust, we all know, is great at absorbing those things. So not only did I get all of the wood and whatever comes in that, but all of the residual chemicals that they soaked up for those five years.

So what was on that top shelf? Cancer, in powder form.

Now, anybody with common sense would have suggested, "Hey, use a mask" or "Hey, get a respirator". Yeah, I have both of them in the shop. No, nobody suggested it. No, I didn't think of it. After all, I only see this shelf about once every five years, "How bad could it be? All I've got to do is get a box down."

And so it's been four days of a sore throat so bad that I'm reduced to eating just one small meal a day. Hacking up parts of my body I didn't know I could live without. Eating cough drops like they are paying me an endorsement. Missing a day and a half worth of work and feeling my strength at about 50% loss.

Hey stupid, learn from the idiot who came before you.

Put your mask on, and clean that dusty old corner before you inhale that corner.

A few of my Favorites on Etsy!

Just a few of the wonderful things I've found on Etsy. Let them know you found it here!

Be sure you click on The Keep - this little picture doesn't do it justice.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Feeling Special - Mission Dresser Featured

WHOO HOO!! I got featured on this wonderful blog!

Well my Mission Style Dresser was listed on their Friday Favorites!

It's always nice to get the recognition. Please visit her blog to see ME! and more items she liked!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Repair Job Tips - Fix it right or fix it twice

What's wrong with this picture?

If you say it's that it is in 50 million pieces you're wrong. What's wrong is that someone who didn't know what they were doing tried to fix this first, at least tripling my labor.

For another example, I had someone call me panicked because his house cleaner had broken his wife's favorite mission style desk. He was in a panic and I had him bring it right over. Four hours later that damage, and some other problems he didn't know about were fixed and he was on his way and had the piece home before his wife ever knew. All because he didn't try to do it himself first.

Most of the time, repairs aren't my favorite thing. It's not easy to take something back to its original condition when it's something made in the last few decades. For antique pieces, add in problems like materials have changed and tools have changed and techniques have changed.

These nestling tables were a lot of work but I actually did enjoy it. As I took it apart to fix the damage, we discovered that someone had replaced two missing portions with just wood putty.

We couldn't even tell it was wood putty at first because these beautiful rosewood tables were dyed black! It took quite some time to delicately remove the dye first. The missing sections had to be re-carved out of rosewood.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Greening Blues

I was reading an article today about a company out in Arizona that has done some very Green projects. Using water-based finishes, formaldehyde-free items, recycled, reclaimed and salvaged products.

But the article brought up an important issue. To quote the article: There are several new products that Clark says she would like to incorporate more into her architectural woodwork projects.

Last I checked, a 4x8 sheet of 3/4" think bamboo plywood is $300 a sheet, making it 9 TIMES more expensive than the typical sheet of oak plywood used to build your furniture. At this point products coming solely out of Asia are at a high price point, but items where the raw material comes from America, ships to Asia and then is shipped back to America as a final product are basically dirt cheap. Why are our natural resources so cheap and disposable and there's aren't?

They go on to offer a suggestion: . . . until demand lowers the price, it is unlikely for now, she adds.

I think this is backwards. If the price lowers, the demand will go up. There is all of this funding for greening coming out of the government. Instead of using it to reward a large company for switching from paper cups to ceramic mugs in their break room, how about using it to subsidize some of these innovative, sustainable products coming onto the market. Lowering the price will bring the product to more and more companies, and the raised demand will help to keep the price down.

While we wait for this to happen. There are ways that our industry can go green without going broke.
Surprisingly enough, woodwork is a very green industry.

Here are some of the things already happening in our shop and many around us:
  • We use low-VOC (275, lowest in the Country). In California, EPA laws are stringent. My fellow California woodworkers will know that "stringent" is me being kind.
  • Many local suppliers are LEEDS certified. We are hoping to get our certification soon.
  • 90% of our waste is sawdust. We do our best to use up every part of the wood. There is a pile in the shop of off-fall that is often dug through to be used as part of other jobs, and anything not used gets given away as firewood. (Cherry makes a wonderful campfire.) .
  • In the last 6 years, we haven't bought a single rag. We recycle old clothes and linens from our home instead.
  • We rarely generate any paperwork - other than the necessary receipts/ invoices. Much of our work is done on the phone or in e-mails.
The next step can be to look to the local area. Trees are everywhere. And many get pulled out for different reasons. Too many of those end up at the dump. This is a wasted resource that can and should be tapped.

Unfortunately, I'm finding that local tree removal companies aren't as willing to work with me as I would hope. They are more willing to pay the dump and waste the resource than to let me take the tree. It's really discouraging to know that it's often the more basic green ideas, the ones that don't cost as much, the ones that could save everyone money, that are the least used.

Hopefully I'll be able to report back about some companies that are willing to work with us in a mutually beneficial way.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More about the Master's Project

I recently got a question about my Master's Project. So, I wanted to clarify a little bit.

Its for a Masters Appointment. This is "the light at the end of the tunnel".

18 yrs ago I met "my" master, Carl ( now deceased) who started me on this path. He was a certified master Coo coo Clock maker from the olde world, indentured servant school of learning. I have done my best to follow the system he laid out for me all those years ago & now it has come time to build my Masters Project.

When I am done it will be presented to a couple of recognized standing masters ( I am fortunate enough to know 1 personally & have met & made arrangements with 2 others).

If I get 1 nod of approval I'm a master in standing next to them - if not , I never will be. Its a make or break all test. If I pass this final test I believe I will be the first such appointed master since WWII.

My time is running out - the only CERTIFIED master I know is in his early 90's, if I don't do this soon the opportunity simply wont exist anymore to be passed on to anyone. In a sentence : I'm struggling to preserve an extinct tradition.

What I'm working on

Well work is moving along this week.

I've got a few trophy jobs in house - and thankfully the rain is holding off so I can get a finish on them.

In the meantime I've finished another cane:

The mesquite, a rich brown wood, runs all the way through the walking stick to ensure stability and strength.

The bloodwood and fiddle back maple serve as a vibrant contrasting accent at the knob.

The pictures just don't do this beautiful item justice. The true colors are deep and rich with a wonderfully polished gleam.

Includes a non-slip rubber tip at the end that has been installed.

It stands a approximately 33inches.

I'm also still working on some of the Heart Shaped jewelry boxes (see finished one here).

Here are two that haven't had the silver started on them, but that have been cut down and turned into a rough shape. Those odd ends are to for putting it on the lathe.

It's hard to imagine that something like that comes from something like this rough manzanita block.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A very "Green" Drafting Table

The drafting table is completed!

As mentioned before, this was built so that I can have a space to work on the design of my Master's Project. (see below)

This is made, primarily out of spare wood from around the shop. Even the butcher block top.

The top was a butcher block (Northern Soft Maple) from a home (where we built the replacement). The "I" of the legs was shop scrap left over from building that replacement butcher block.

The cross member, foot rest, was a fall off from a production built butcher block used for the island in the same home. Also Northern Soft Maple

The Fiddleback Maple of the pencil lip on the front of the table was from my personal stash. I try to pick up any in the lumber piles at my suppliers when I'm lucky enough to find a figured piece.

The back and front connector of the legs were a remnant from a large mall job a friend had. These are pieces of maple that were rejected for their grain, on a job that wanted straight grain.

The African Mahogany "/" of the legs were a remnant after a large job of trophies.

The four hand turned pins were random maple scraps from my firewood pile.

Two pieces of All-thread that were donated from a friend who was replacing lighting, are set at the back with hand turned Mahogany handles (also from the trophy remnant above).

The drafting arm itself (Bruning) was given to me by my high school woodshop teacher when the high school disbanded the drafting class. Sadly, the other 29 drafting arms in the class were left to rust and sold as scrap metal along with the desks. Worse still, I kept in contact with my wood shop teacher until he no longer remembered his wife, due to severe Alzheimers. A dear friend, sorely missed.

Because almost all of the parts were either kept from being discarded, left over from jobs, or donated, it was a very green job and in the end it cost $10.70 to build this. Well that was the price of the hinge and some copper plumbing end caps.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Master's project

It used to be, that to become a Master woodworker, a person had to pass one last test. He had to use all of the skills he had learned from the master he studies under to craft a final piece. It would be his Master-piece.

If his master approved of his work, the woodworker was now a Master himself. If he didn't approve of his work, he never would be. It's a one shot deal, there are no do-overs.

Today things are done very different in most trades. But woodworking is one of the oldest professions (in here we need to interject a little story: woodworking is in fact the second oldest profession. When the first profession was offered, a branch was broken off a local tree, thus creating a club and the second profession - woodworking. The club was then used to procure the first profession, thus creating the third profession - war. And eliminating a problem that would not appear for an eon, pacifism).

Back to the point: In woodworking there is still a respect for the ways of the past. Many advances have been made, but you'll find that much of that is about making things easier and faster. But those old ways still work wonderfully and still inspire the hand to touch the piece.

However, most have forgotten the test of the Master Piece. Few attempt it these days. But I'm going to be among those few. I'm going to create my Master's Tool Chest as my Master's project. Because I'm a furniture builder, my Master's piece needs to contain elements of that in it's design. It will also have elements of all of the things that I can do.

The biggest trick, I can't really use all of the modern electrical tools to make things easier and faster. That's right, no power tools. Am allowed to use a mill to cut, but everything beyond that, including the drying, must be done by hand.

The first step has begun. I am building a drafting table (Pictures of this will be coming soon) in the shop so I can design my Master's chest. This is not part of the master's project, so yes, I am using power tools on it. And I have acquired a private tutor to teach me to use a slide rule so I can relieve myself of that wonderful little gadget, a calculator. UG If the slide rule don't work out, I may end up making an abacus. I know how to use an abacus. :)

My next step is to obtain a log. That's right, not lumber, but a log. And I'll have to turn that log into lumber. Surprisingly this has been harder than expected. But I'll discuss the trouble with this later as well.

Be sure to check back often as I work my way through this amazing project!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Craft Show and Sightings

This past weekend the Craft Association (CHA) held the Super Show in Anaheim. That local we had to check it out. There were hopes there would be woodworking.

Unfortunately, the closest we came to seeing woodwork was the wood some of the stamps were mounted on.

On the good side, the trip earned me much needed points with the scrapbooking girlfriend. And we stumbled upon the end of a "Paint with Wyland" event.

As the crowd had dissipated, and all the scrapbookers were off looking for more deals, I had an opportunity to talk with Wyland for a few moments. He was gracious and friendly. Shortly after we left the event.

As we walked through the convention center, suddenly he was behind us. And we walked and talked about art and doing good with your art when you can and the like, all the way to the far parking lot. Apparently, he didn't get great parking either.

Walked away knowing the whenever his name comes up in conversation, I'll always say that the colors of his paintings pale in comparison to the personality of the man.

The Heart

Turned from Manzanita burl (number 5 on wood density scale) Natural voids have been hollowed, inlaid in pure silver and filled with a resin colored to off white/pearlescent

If you put 2 small fists together that's just a smidge bigger than this box....& it took a solid 3 weeks worth of work to turn , inlay & carve.....

This particular one was made for a sweet sixteen and the beautiful garnet encrusted pure silver heart was contracted by Jewelry by Geffre and then inset by me.

I have 6 more SLOWLY in process ranging in size from a small granny smith apple to a large red delicious. In my personal opinion - this is my best work to date.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What I'm working on

Two wooden walking canes. I've created these to be a very rare His and Her set of hand-turned wooden walking canes.

The exotic Bloodwood, a dark red wood from South America, runs all the way through both of the walking sticks to ensure stability and strength. The Lacewood serves as a vibrant accent at the knobs of each. The black point on each knob is Solid Ebony. Not a veneer.

They are finished with precatalised lacquer which is much more durable that the typical lacquer you would find on furniture...its been used to get those durable & beautiful finishes on rifle stocks for decades but has only become available to the public in the last 4 yrs & only available even to industry (other than rifle makers) for the last 6-7 yrs.

The pictures just don't do these beautiful items justice. The true colors are deep and rich.

I included a non-slip rubber tip installed at the ends.

The female of the set stands a approximately 32 1/2" inches with a delicate knob. The male of the set is the taller at almost 34" with a larger knob.

These are the third and fourth of a series of bloodwood canes. All four of this series can be seen here:

A welcome and who I am

Almost 30 years of experience in custom woodworking and furniture building.

I had the rare opportunity to study under a Master Artisan, who himself was trained in an apprenticeship in the Black Forest. This contact left me with a passion for the construction methods of the past. The more traditional methods of woodworking are preferred, but that doesn't mean I don't know about the modern techniques and tricks as well.

The intent of this blog will be to share a bit, teach a bit and learn a bit.

Feel free to ask questions, comment on something, and give suggestions!


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