New Beginnings

The last time I posted I wrote about a new grandson and making a bed for him that will follow him for many years in to the future.  It is called a 3 in 1 bed and I have known about it since my first grandson, Kai, was born 8 years ago.  I offered then to make it for my son and his wife but it never came to be.

In the first 2 pictures are the new 3 in 1 bed made up as a crib.  There is a new side that makes it in to a juvenile bed.  And there are new bed rails and foot board to turn it in to a twin bed.  The third photo is the new bed and the cradle that I made for my other grandson, 8 years ago, when he was born.  Being used by a new member of the family, which is good.

Since then I have made a lot of pieces for the family.  Things like a dresser and 2 sideless side tables for my daughter and her husband.  A coffee table for my son in Austin, Tx.  That one was interesting as I needed to build a shipping crate around it and ship it by ground transport.  The receiving dock where it arrived allowed him to tear down the crate and put it in to recycle containers so that just the coffee table would fit in to his car.

The most prolific recipient of my woodworking has been my wife, known as Sissy to the kids and grandkids.  When she decides she wants something she just says as much and voila she has it.  I have made an 8 foot tall pantry, “Franken-table”, multiple little tables for a range of uses from being at the end of the couch to under the window with all of our plants on them to supporting out new 55″ LG flat screen TV.   She has friends who are jealous of the fact that she can get whatever piece of furniture she wants by just asking for it.

My big deal this year is what I call a commission although in the strictest sense of the word that is not what it is.  What happened was that last year I saw in the newspaper an advertisement from a local theater for woodworkers to participate in a fund raising event.  Basically one of the theater patrons had purchased a local horse farm over 40 years ago and when they bought the farm there was milled lumber in one of the stalls.  Not exactly sure what species it was they offered it to the theater for them to provide, free, to local woodworkers.  In exchange the woodworkers would make items that would be sold by the theater with the proceeds being split between the theater and the woodworker.

The majority of the wood was cherry and since it was at least 40 years old, some estimated it was more like 60 to 70 years old, the color of the wood was amazing.  Although the storage conditions were less then ideal so much of the wood was compromised: punky, rotted, soft, etc.  I decided that the wood was an ideal candidate to make a pair of sideless side tables therefore showcasing the wood as the sides of the drawers, legs and top.

I was worried about the strength of the wood as legs so I decided early on that I was going to glue thin strips of white oak to two adjacent sides of the legs and then position the legs so that they were the inner surfaces.  Although I do not know if there is an official woodworking term for this technique I called them boots.   I put an amber shellac on the entire piece as a finish brushing it out with Taklon brushes.  I purchased my shellac from The Shellac Shack on the internet.

The sale was in early October 2018 and I had the tables finished in plenty of time but was struggling with the handles / pulls for the drawers.  Conventional hardware purchased at a home center was not going to do.  I am aware of hardware sites on the web who specialize in higher quality fixtures like Horton Brass but I could not find a shape that was appealing to me.  Finally my sister who lives in Potsdam, New York stopped in for a visit and I was showing her the tables and grumbling about the hardware when she picked up a piece of wood left over from the build that was slightly decomposed and said ‘why not use something like this’.  Needless to say it was the perfect solution to a very custom build using wood that was no longer available.

The sale of the times; 21 in total ranging in price from $30 to $7000, was to be conducted initially by displaying the items for a week in the theater and allowing the public to come in and see the items.  At the end of the week anything that did not sell was to be auctioned on Saturday.  Each woodworker was asked for a floor price and an auction minimum (which was to be below the floor price).  I was curious to see what everybody made so I went on Wednesday with Sissy.

We were walking around admiring most of the pieces (the $7000 sculpture was impossible to admire because it was not possible to admire what that woodworker made) when I heard a couple say ‘I have to have those tables’.  Of all the pieces there only one project was plural and that was my tables.  Shortly she got one of the staff to help her purchase the tables and I got to meet the customer.  Her comment was ‘those handles are perfect’.

I have 2 major projects ahead of me.  A dining room table for Sissy.  She is leaning towards a draw leaf design.  And a 4 poster bed for my sister, Cherie.  When in Ohio a number of years ago I went to Keim’s lumber center and found the perfect cherry slab to use as a headboard for the bed.  I may be able to get it cut in half by a sawyer my son-in-law knows so that I can use it for both a headboard and a foot board.

In the meantime I have been keeping myself busy making nick knacks and what nots.  I spent a bunch of time making cutting boards.  Now I am on a jewelry box binge and I have played around with making games (Tic Tac Toe) and wooden bracelets.

That is all for now and I will write about the bed and table as they get farther along.

I created an Etsy storefront the other day and linked it to this blog.  I hope I sell something.


Bed for a Grandchild

My daughter, Krysta, is expecting her first child.  Wow, seems like it was only yesterday that we were going to Father / Daughter Dinner Dances and it was a big deal that she got a corsage from her Father.

When my first grandchild, Kai, was born I got a pattern for what is called a 3 in 1 bed.  I asked his parents if they wanted it and they declined.  I hoped there would be another grandchild so I put it away waiting for that wonderful day when I would be told our kids were bringing another little on in to the world.

My daughter and son-in-law, Clay, were excited about me making the bed so I got started.  The cut list went from A to BB.  And some of the components had as many as 26 parts.  Most of my woodworking is on the weekend as such it took what felt like months to cut out parts and making piles around my shop.

I was just about at the point where I was going to have to start something else because I really wanted to assemble something when all of the pieces fell in to place.  It is a great pattern in that in 2 week ends I had all of the parts assembled and I have now moved on to finishing.

Many people grumble about finishing and I am one of them.  I have tried poly, solvent and water based, tung oil, spar vanish and lacquer to name a few.  I had gotten to the point where I really like lacquer for 2 reasons.  It dried quickly and because of the solvent it would dissolve some of the previously deposited layer and form a bond.  The down side is that the fumes are essentially toxic.  If you do not do it in a really well ventilated space you are going to quickly start feeling funny.

I have been encouraged for years to use shellac but never crossed that bridge.  I had always heard that it was supposed to be put on with a cloth rolled up in to a ball.   Seemed intimidating.  Awhile ago I finally decided to do some research and see if it is something I would start using.  I watched several videos on and realized that putting shellac on with a brush is acceptable.  I read there is a good brush called Teklon.

Where is all of this leading?  All of the parts of the bed are together and I am putting on shellac with a Teklon brush.  The entire bed is made out of cherry.  I started with a 1 pound cut shellac just to coat the wood.  I have a new mix, probably between 1.5 and 2 pound cut.  That is building faster.  I have learned that if you take a paper grocery bag and tear it in to pieces then wrinkle it you can end up with a really nice ‘sandpaper’ to sand off the nodules in the finish.

Anyways, everything is falling in place to be ready for the estimated February delivery date.

I will post pictures later







Stacie and I went to St Johnsbury to see Beth Hart in concert on March 2nd 2016.  In case you do not know who she is and if you know Janis Joplin then you have found the Janis for this age.

When we were in St Johnsbury we went to The Fairbanks Museum and the Atheneaum.  Both of which were a great experience.

If you get a chance, check them all out.

Check this out:

Next Generation

So, my 6 year old grandson spent the weekend with us while our son went to a sibling dinner.  Of the 3 kids only Adrian has given us a grandson, Kai, so far.  Adrian, his sister Krysta and husband Clay and his brother, Dylan, spent the evening together doing what ever siblings do.

Kai was not the healthiest, at one point yesterday he was running at 101 fever.  But it is amazing how quickly they bounce.   A little Tylenol and off they go.

He gets up this morning at 4:30 with a coughing fit.  Stacie got up with him and settled him down while I slept in to 6:30, yippee.  After the morning shower, some tea and a bowl of cereal I decided to ‘attack’ my to do list starting with putting up the new T8 lights in the garage.  Kai was still not feeling the best so he was hanging out on the couch while Sissy went to church.

I few minutes later he popped in to the shop with his coat and hat on, it was chilly on Sunday morning.  He promptly asked ‘what are you going to help me make out of wood’.  Well, wasn’t that a pleasant surprise from his typically spend all day watching TV.

So I asked him what he wanted and his response was ‘a table’, about this high and this wide and this color.  The kid knows his mind.  A few hours later and having had to wait for the glue to dry for the top he decided he wanted to put the apron and legs together with screws or nails so it would be quicker.

When finished he had to show Sissy and take it in the house to find just the perfect place for it.  He fixed snacks and put them on his new table.   Somewhere in the whole mix he says to me ‘I think I am going to change my mind about what I want to be when I grow up’.  I said oh yeah, what is that.

‘A woodworker instead of a basketball player’.

There you go, that is how it happens.

A Return after a Long Absence

Even though I have not posted anything on my blog it does not mean that I have not been busy.  There have been many changes in my life since the last time I posted to this blog.

My wife and I used to own a Bed & Breakfast.  It was known as the Crystal Palace Victorian B&B and was located in Bristol, Vermont.  Over the years we had stayed at many B&Bs and it had always been a dream to own one.  In 2003 circumstances in our life allowed us to make that move and after an internet search and a very quick closing we became the owners of the B&B.  We ran it with many positive comments for 10 years but then due to a developing health condition we needed to start thinking in 2013 about letting it go.

After marketing it for about 18 months with 2 potential buyers, the perfect couple, local business owners, presented a serious offer and had the financial backing necessary to complete the purchase.

The B&B was 4500 square feet above grade with a full basement and that was my workshop.  Granted it was broken up due to walls, support beams, furnace and other objects related to owning a huge Victorian but still it was a wonder space.  It was heated in the winter and could be comfortable in the summer since it was below grade and somewhat cooler due to the surrounding ground.

As a result of the sale we moved in to a 720 square foot temporary residence.  Temporary because from the beginning we knew that we would be moving somewhere else but needed the time to find it.  My 2nd oldest son had built a 12×24 shed on the property that was supposed to be used to house lawn mowers, etc but in order to be able to continue to wood work I turned it in to a shop, sort of.  I realize a lot of people work out of a small foot print but for anybody who has done that is is a challenge.  It was not heated so building in the winter was out of the question.

To make matters more interesting our daughter decided to marry the young man that I wrote about in my last post from 2013.  Needless to say I could not have been more thrilled as he is a wonderful person and we get along phenomenally.   They set their wedding date for Sept 27th 2014 and it was planned to require a lot of participation from family members in terms of setting up and tearing down all of the structures.  My son in law works with a local nursery owner, Rockydale, and he offered for them to have their wedding on his wonderfully landscaped property.  It was a first time ever for that location.  The weather was gorgeous and everything went off without a hitch.  My sister, Cherie and her husband Baker played a huge role in the success of the event.

We started on Thursday Sept 25th setting up, worked through until only hours before the ceremony and then came back on Sunday to start tearing down.  The sale of the B&B at that point had progressed to the point where we could set closing date.  The requested closing date was before our daughter’s wedding but we put it off until Sept. 29th.   Needless to say we had a week of very hectic activity.

Fast forward, we spent a bunch of time looking for the ideal house for us to settle down in for the rest of our life.   Some of the aspects that we took in to account for the ideal house was: a garage, a quilt room, a woodworking shop, a first floor bedroom and at least 1 extra bedroom.   For the town that we lived in, Bristol, it is an older bedroom community and all of the houses that we found on sale did not meet many of those requirements and therefore did not end up on the short list.  What seemed interesting was that of all of the houses on the short list 4 of them were log cabins.  We did not think that log cabins was a construction style that we wanted to be in but at the end of the day we found a wonderful log cabin on 10.5 acres of land that met all of our requirements.

We closed on May 8th, painted and moved in on May 9th and 10th.  A bonus that was at the new house that we also did not think we wanted was a pool.  We have a 5 year old grandson and for those of you reading this who have children at that age will understand that a pool is like a magnet to steel, they are hard to separate.

The space that is to become my shop needed some work.  I have purchased and installed cabinets.   The walls already were plywood and insulated along with the floor.   It only had one window and was on the north side of the structure so was dark.  Again my 2nd oldest installed 4 new windows and a door.  He also hung 2 inch blue board from the rafters and I am going to have insulation blown in the space between the metal roof and the blue board.  The last things I need to do are install lights and outlets and a heater for the winter months.  I am leaning towards a Rinnai propane heater.

I purchase a garage in a box from ShelterLogic.  It is 12x20x8.  I am going to use that to store the rough cut lumber I own.  I have 600 bf of Pennsylvania cherry, 1000 bf of butternut, 1500 bf of hictory and 900 bf of Vermont cherry along with black cherry that was cut down and sawn from the previous property and other odds and ends.

As far as projects I have been busy with a honey do list for the new house.  I have made several small library like tables.  My latest project is what I consider to be a giant library like table.  It is 78 inches long, 28 inches long and 15 inches deep / wide.  Some of what makes it special for me is that I had a single board, sinker cypress, that I used for the top.  Since the board is wider then my planer, a Dewalt DW735 I needed to surface the board using a hand plane.  For many people that probably seems anything but unusual but this was a first for me.  I have several Lee Valley planes, a bevel up jack plane that I used to flatten the board.  What is interesting about the board is that it was through cut, flitch cut.  As a result in the center of this 12 foot board is a long oval cathedral.  I was able to center that in the table top.

I have had people who have seen the table so far call it the Frankenstein table.  The legs are 8/4 white maple.  The bottom shelf is going to be made our of some figured pine.  Before this I am not sure as I would have used those 2 terms together and I do not know where I got these boards but they certainly are interesting.  The skirts / aprons (whatever you want to call them) are cherry and the top is Sinker Cypress.

If you have never worked with Sinker Cypress it is an interesting material and story.  The story can be found at this link:  Cap’n Alex sent me a number of boards that I have been using for about 4 years now.  It is like butternut in terms of hardness.  If you look at the pictures on the website there appears to be some really pretty wood.  I did not get any of that.  What I got tends to be a little duller in terms of color and character.

I am closing with the fact that I am going to attach a few pictures of our new house.

Photo 35This is one of my end grain cutting boards Photo 62TAnother end grain cutting board 3Log cabin from the garage 4Garage from the log cabin.  The work shop is on the far right.

Trying New Things

Before the holidays my daughter’s boyfriend said he wanted to work with wood to make something as a gift for family members.  He said he wanted to make end grain cutting boards using some 12/4 brown maple that he had. 

I have a Dewalt planer and I have talked to friends who have upgraded it with a helical cutter head so that they can work with end grain.  But up til now I have not spent the $400 to buy the new head and upgrade my planer.  I told him that I was not sure how it was going to work.

He was persistent so I thought, what is the worse that can happen?  He spends a lot of time on the end of a random orbital sander trying to make a horrible surface smooth.  Technically why should I care as it was his time and not mine.

Interestingly enough I am a premium member of and find George’s videos very helpful and informative.   At the time we started working on the end grain cutting boards together George was in the process of creating and posting a video about that exact topic.  I did not see the video until after we had made the first set of boards and it is a good thing as I would have placed a lot of credibility in what George said and I would have taken a completely different path.

It was a lot of fun and something completely new to me that I had not done before.  I had gone to a show the weekend before Thanksgiving and there was a woodworker that I knew, Wayne, who as at the show selling all sorts of exotic cutting boards.  I appreciated the skill involved in making them but at that moment they did not excite my woodworking genes. 

One of the boards that we worked with had some spalting in it.  We did not know it until we had completed the first pass of gluing and were cutting them for the second pass of gluing.  He did not know what is was and I explained to him that it was microorganisms getting in to the wood and breaking it down.  That since the wood was kiln dried the process was essentially stopped and the bugs were dead.

To my great surprise my Dewalt was able to make a fairly decent surface on the end grain.  I should not be surprised because I have never regretted that purchase and it has been a workhorse in my shop and always exceeded my expectations. 

Clay ended up spending more time then was necessary using the sander to create a smooth surface.  Mostly because he was not sure how much time he needed to and because he wanted these gifts to be special. 

The next step was to treat the wood and when I made a long grain butcher block island I used mineral oil to treat the wood.  I have read it is what is preferred.  The local pharmacy sells it in a small plastic bottle, I think it is 16 ounces.  When buying it in that amount you need to pour it on the cutting board and wipe it around with a rag.  Wait for it to soak in and then repeat. 

After awhile he took them to his house where he has a heated garage and continued the process until he was satisfied.  I had not seen them for awhile and he brought them back to show to me.  I am going to take pictures later and post them but they are gorgeous.  Especially the one made from the spalted wood. 

For Christmas he completely surprised Stacie and I by giving us one of them that had a very strong spalted signature.  We were thrilled and have had it in the middle of our dining room table ever since.  It will hold a special place in hearts, always.

With that sitting on our dining room table I started to think about making some myself.  It was about that time that I ‘discovered’ the video from George V on  Basically George clearly said that cutting long grain in a  planer was fine and could be used to make the 2nd glue up very easy to do.  But when it comes to smoothing the surface of the end grain you need to build a router bridge and use your router with a large diameter bit in it.  I suppose it depends on which planer you have.  That clearly is not true with the Dewalt with the old 3 blade cutter in it and I am certain it is far from the truth if I had a helical cutter.

I have made boards mostly with scrap wood left over from other projects.  I have made thick ones and thin ones.  Large and small.  I have even started experimenting with gluing up boards going in different directions.  I guess I would have to say ‘I have been bitten by a bug’.  I now like making them and look forward to going to my workshop and making something new. 

Clay gave his cutting boards to family and was telling me last nite that they have used them and he has a concern.  When he finished them they were silky smooth.  Almost like they were made out of granite and not wood.  But since they have used them and wiped off the good they cut the wood has become very rough.

I know what is going on.  Basically when exposed to water the grain of the wood is popping up.  This is something that is written about a lot and there is debate as to the best way to handle it.  Recently I read about ‘burying’ this.  What you do is you stain the wood, put on your first coat of poly.  Both materials are probably water based.  This will make the grain raise.  After the first coat you sand the wood enough to remove the raised grain but not so that you break through the poly.  Then when you put on subsequent coats it will be smooth.

Does anybody have any suggestions as to what you do when the finish going to be oil?

What I am going to try with one of the cutting boards I have that I am working on is to wipe it down with water after I have sanded it all the way thought 320 grit.  That will raise the grain and I was going to sand it again.  I am not sure how many times I need to do this or even if the grain will ever stop being raised.  We will see. 

I will be posting pictures of the cutting board with spalted maple and some of my own work shortiy.




Teaching a new woodworker

Nick came over yesterday with the faux white oak top to his salt wafer fish tank.  Due to the exposure of the humidity in the air above the tank the  wood was seriously coming apart.  Nick wants to make some enhancements to the tank by adding LED lighting in the cover.  In addition he would like to have the front skirt hinge open as the way to feed his fish.

Nick mentioned that he had family members who were woodworkers.  I do not remember if it was his father or grandfather.  He wants to be involved in the process from beginning to end. 

We talked about going to the lumber yard to pick out the wood.  I showed him a lot of the different species that I had in my wood pile.  Things like elm, white oak, red oak, maple, butternut and cherry.  As we talked about the selection of the wood I mentioned to him that white oak was one of the most dense woods the cover as a result would be heavy.  But when we talked about other woods that did not weigh as much they did not have the benefit of being very tolerant of a humid environment like the white oak.

When we talked about finishing the cover he mentioned that light colored wood furniture was not consistent with their style but at the same time the fish tank had what he described as a massive base that is blond colored and so he felt funny about changing the color of the top.

The next step is a trip to the lumber yard to pick out white oak.  From there is will be planing the wood on my Dewalt.  Jointing the edges and doing glue up. 

I will post an update, maybe with pictures, as we get more in to the project.