I'd love to hear your questions or comments. Email me at or call me at 812-325-9823.

Nov 8, 2021


With all my bellyaching about a lack of people in the trades, I have finally done something about it! Well....trying to do something about it.

Last month I launched Working At Woodworking Podcast. I have twelve episodes outlined that should provide any hobby woodworker with the information needed to start their own business, either full or part-time.

You can listen to the podcast on any podcast player or the website,

blockplane for woodworking classes


Yaaa....we all hate Zoom. No more Zoom is the rally cry from college campuses to boardrooms. And I fully agree! It was great when we had to but it can't replace in person instruction. I have been hosting several people in my shop for one-on-one instruction/conversation/world problem- solving sessions.

I've learned a couple of things.

  • 1) People ask hardly ANY questions in a class with other people they don't know
  • 2) We get more done in one 2-hour session than we do in three or four half-day classes!
You get to ask the EXACT questions and work on EXACTLY what you want! We can cover a lot of ground especially when you come armed with lots of questions and problems to solve.

So starting next year, I will offer one Saturday a month of scheduled classes, typically 10-12 or 2-4. YOU choose the topic! It's YOUR class. You can bring one friend (small shop). If you have a specific project in mind you are welcome to bring your materials and I'll help you with the construction (you get to do the work). Send me an email with your thoughts. Cost is $45 per 60-minute session.

Virtual coaching is still available for people needing a little help with their woodworking projects, shop or tools over the phone or via Zoom. Visit my store for more information or ...

Sept. 23, 2021

Happy Fall!!!

Yaaaaa Fall! Temperatures have started to fall and soon the leaves will be too. The price for construction lumber has fallen a bit-not near 2019 levels but hardwood prices have been stubborn. Supply has improved...a little.

I am still as busy as ever, desperately trying to get caught up on my backlog. I'm starting to do more one-on-one coaching in the shop. It's encouraging to see the young people taking an interest in woodworking. Now if I can just get some of them go pro.....


I have gotten REAL frustrated lately! I get calls to build something, but I just can't do it right now...or anytime soon. I recommend another craftsman in the area and they are as behind as I am. Of course, there is always ..... oh, he died. There's George ....he retired. We NEED MORE CRAFTSMEN !!!!

I'm working on a Podcast called Working At Woodworking. The goal of the podcast is to hopefully encourage people to consider becoming professional woodworkers and serving their local communities. They could work full-time or part-time, specialize in specific areas like furniture repair or tackle a wider scope of work like cabinets, built-ins, etc. I know a lot of very skilled enthusiasts that maybe with a little nudge and some knowledge, will help relieve some of the demand out there. More details soon....

May 20, 2021

It Cost WHAT !!!!???

I met with Kerry from Frank Miller Lumber yesterday. He had good news and bad news. Good news- they have decent supplies of most hardwoods. Bad news- it's going to cost us!!! Domestic plywood? Very limited supply (so much for bookcases...) Baltic Birch plywood from Scandinavia/Russia? None until Fall....maybe! (So much for my new CNC machine.....).

I was hoping the skyrocketing prices in the construction lumber market, about 400% over last year, would not affect the hardwood market and my customers. Though the price increase is not as severe as 400%, it is steep and unfortunately not stable.

Well, at least I can take my mask off....sometimes....

blockplane for woodworking classes


Finally, after many encouraging emails and phone calls, I have launched a coaching program. Not the same as a classroom setting, coaching does offer many benifits to those who don't want the time and expense of travel, don't need a 6-hour class to find the answer to a 15-minute question, or simply can't attend an in-person class.

Using our smartphones, Zoom, Skype and email I will answer all your woodworking and other questions or walk you through a project. Bob from Pittsburgh is making great progress on a wood canvas canoe restoration. Julie from Indianapolis got her husband a 2-hour session for his birthday....opps! Use your time all at once or break it up into many small sessions. $45 per 60 minute session. Visit my store for more information.

March 10, 2021

Too Much Work-Not Enough Workers!

I am blessed to receive phone calls and emails almost daily asking me to fix this or build that. I am honored people seek me out but frustrated I can't help more people with their projects. I'm just swamped. All the craftsmen I referred people to are swamped! The Coaching program has helped. I have been able to get out o....err, help people work on their project with a little guidance and encouragement. The problem is there just are not a lot of craftsmen left. All my mentors are either retired or dead. We need younger people stepping into the trade and providing services. HHhhhmmmmmm..... that gives me an idea......
Here's to a Better 2021 !!!

Jan 21, 2021

New Year, New Challenges

2020 was.....ya. Among the many challenges we all faced last year one thing that came out of it was a 'cleaning house movement' so to speak. I received more inquiries about repairing furniture, restoring canoes, building work desks, bookcases and cabinets than ever before. As a result....I'm swamped! I'm still interested in helping everyone I can....I just can't do it real soon. If I can't help you, I do have a list of craftsmen who might be able to help. Here's to a Better 2021 !!!

blockplane for woodworking classes


Finally, after many encouraging emails and phone calls, I have launched a coaching program. Not the same as a classroom setting, coaching does offer many benifits to those who don't want the time and expense of travel, don't need a 6-hour class to find the answer to a 15-minute question, or simply can't attend an in-person class.

Using our smartphones, Zoom, Skype and email I will answer all your woodworking and other questions or walk you through a project. Bob from Pittsburgh is making great progress on a wood canvas canoe restoration. Stacey from Indianapolis got her husband a 2-hour session for Christmas....opps! Use your time all at once or break it up into many small sessions. $45 per 60 minute session. Visit my store for more information.

Oct 9, 2020

blockplane for woodworking classes


After an incredibly busy, and bizarre, summer, the cooler temperatures of fall and the changing colors are very welcomed! Interest in wood canvas canoe restoration is at an all-time high. Online sales of flag cases have been very strong throughout the year. Sales of soap rest were almost nonexistent during the spring and summer but have now started to pick up, maybe a sign of more people getting out and looking for some form of normalcy.

I have decided to not hold any in-person classes for the foreseeable future. Zoom or phone coaching is an option. Bob from Pittsburgh is making great progress on a wood canvas canoe restoration. Stay safe.

July 6, 2020

Rolling filler into the canvas.

Hoosier Woodworks on Journey Indiana

The local PBS station did a short flick of me working on a canoe.

blockplane for woodworking classes

Woodworking Classes On Hold - BLUE HERON CLOSING

Micheal Evans, the owner of Blue Heron Woodworking Supplies, where I have had the great fortune of teaching in the last couple of years announced he will close the store at the end of July and start to enjoy a well-earned retirement.

To clear inventory, Mike is offering 25% off all items except Festool (drats!!!). Lumber carries a smaller discount. The discount will be progressive as the closing date nears. Check out his website for full details Blue Heron Woodworking.

So, what about classes? Good question! I have a very small shop ( view shop tour). Two students max. I will probably set up some kind of coaching session in the shop....or maybe I'll add classes...what do you think? Email me!

March 27, 2020

My Work During The COVID-19 Outbreak

How has the Covid-19 effected me? Other than following all the rules regarding social distance and travel restrictions....not much. While comparing myself tho many of my neighbors I realize I've been pretty much 'sheltering at home' for the last 18 years! I'm still blessed with plenty of work though my online sales have dropped to near nothing, but that decline started last spring. No worries though, I have several canoes to restore, furniture to repair and custom furniture to build. God is Good!

The biggest change has been with the one class I teach at Indiana University. We have gone from meeting once a week to totally online. I've had to learn how to add voiceover to my slide presentation and video myself demonstrating different skills and uploading everything to YouTube. It's required a lot of time. I hope the videos are engaging enough I don't put anyone to sleep,...well, not more than in class....

So, if you have jobs that I may help with, don't hesitate to contact me. I'm working on several designs and bids for upcoming projects and would be happy to entertain yours!

Sept. 17, 2019

More Classes This Fall

Now that the kids and grandkids are back in school, football season is here and the excitement of Fall is nearly upon us, take a moment look over the classes I will be teaching at Blue Heron Woodworking this Fall!

blockplane for woodworking classes

Woodworking Basics, Sept. 21

You've watched the TV shows, you've seen YouTube videos. You want to do it but aren't quite sure how to get started. This one-day workshop will discuss the basic...more


Woodcarving is a fun and rewarding hobby. However, it can be a little confusing to get started. This 3 hour clinic will explore the many facets of carving: traditional mallet carving and chip carving. You will learn...more

Woodworking Basics, Oct. 26

You've watched the TV shows, you've seen YouTube videos. You want to do it but aren't quite sure how to get started. This one-day workshop will discuss the basic...more


This class will include basic techniques for sharpening chisels and plane irons using readily available sharpening supplies. This class will discuss but not focus on the various sharpening systems on the market today....more

Woodworking Basics, Nov. 23

You've watched the TV shows, you've seen YouTube videos. You want to do it but aren't quite sure how to get started. This one-day workshop will discuss the basic...more


You’re curious, you’ve been thinking about buying the Domino, but cheeeeezzzzz ….the price! Is it worth it? During this three-hour class, we will breakdown, analyze, scrutinize and play with the Festool Domino DF 500 Joiner. This class is not a ...more

Woodworking Basics, Dec. 7

You've watched the TV shows, you've seen YouTube videos. You want to do it but aren't quite sure how to get started. This one-day workshop will discuss the basic...more


Demystifying the confusing world of wood finishes! Learn how to determine what is the best finish for your woodworking project. We will cover varnish, lacquer, oils, waxes, polys, oil-based, water-based, wiping, sprays, and brushes. A good finish starts with...more

July 5, 2019

Only Two More Classes This Summer

Summer, as always, continues to roar ahead. Before we know it we will be raking leaves and wondering if the truck tires are good for another season. There are only two classes left in the summer schedule. The Fall schedule will be posted sometime in August.

blockplane for woodworking classes

Woodworking Basics, July 20

You've watched the TV shows, you've seen YouTube videos. You want to do it but aren't quite sure how to get started. This one-day workshop will discuss the basic...more

Woodworking Basics, August 24

You've watched the TV shows, you've seen YouTube videos. You want to do it but aren't quite sure how to get started. This one-day workshop will discuss the basic...more

To sign up for any of these class, please contact Michael at Blue Heron Woodworking.

Happy July 4th !!!

Finally, I hope everyone had a great time celebrating Independence Day! I've been spending a lot of time making flag cases. I never get tired of hearing the stories from family members of their heroes and what they did for this country.

Hoosier Woodworks Flag Case If you are in the market for a handcrafted flag case, made in the USA by a veteran, check out my Online Store here or visit my ETSY store here.

March 12, 2019

2019 Class Schedule

Yes, after an almost ten-year hiatus, I am once again teaching woodworking classes locally. I've teamed up with Blue Heron Woodworking here in Bloomington and will teach two classes a month. These classes are three hours long and geared towards both beginners and more advanced students. Check out the complete schedule at If you need any woodworking supplies, check out their extensive inventory.

blockplane for woodworking classes

Woodworking Basics, March 23

You've watched the TV shows, you've seen YouTube videos. You want to do it but aren't quite sure how to get started. This one-day workshop will discuss the basic...more

Hand Planes: Use, Tuning, and Restoration, March 23

Either a treasured tool used every day or a dust-covered, rusty relic of a by-gone era flung in frustration to the darkest recesses of the workshop: Craftsmen either...more

Woodworking Basics: A Simple Bookcase, April 27

In this three-hour class, you will use low-cost lumber to construct a simple, basic bookcase that you can take home. This is a good class if you have a little bit...more

Quick and Simple Cabinet Making, April 27

Boxes, or cabinets, are the cornerstone element in most of our furniture and household storage-- kitchen cabinets, bookcases, end tables, entertainment...more

Woodworking Basics, May 18

You've watched the TV shows, you've seen YouTube videos. You want to do it but aren't quite sure how to get started. This one-day workshop will discuss the basic...more

Making and Installing Trim and Molding, May 18

Simple little pieces of wood can make a dramatic impact on everything from a small jewelry box to every room of your house. In this class, we will learn...more

To sign up for any of these class, please contact Michael at Blue Heron Woodworking. December 5, 2018

2019 Class Schedule

Yes, after an almost ten-year hiatus, I am once again teaching woodworking classes locally. I've teamed up with Blue Heron Woodworking here in Bloomington and will teach two classes a month. These classes are three hours long and geared towards both beginners and more advanced students. Check out the complete schedule at If you need any woodworking supplies, check out their extensive inventory.

blockplane for woodworking classes

Woodworking Basics, Saturdays, Jan. 19, March 23, or May 18

You've watched the TV shows, you've seen YouTube videos. You want to do it but aren't quite sure how to get started. This one-day workshop will discuss the basic...more

Using Stationary Power Tools, Jan. 19

Discover the power, speed, ease, and accuracy of stationary woodworking power tools. This workshop will introduce you to the proper, safe use of the miter saw,...more

Woodworking Basics: A Simple Tool Tote, February 23

Practice your newfound woodworking skills during this three-hour class by making a simple pine tool tote. Take this useful workshop item home with you and keep all your tools in...more

Milling Your Own Lumber, February 23

You will save a ton of money buying rough-cut lumber and milling it yourself. You will discover the freedom of woodworking when you are not chained to off-the-shelf, pre-...more
August 28, 2018
Ford F250 tailgate bench

Ford F250 Pickup Tailgate Bench

I got an email from a lady asking, "Can you make a tailgate bench?" I replied that I had no idea what that was, but yes, I could probably make one. She said she had a truck tailgate that had sentimental value and would like it made into a bench that might become a family heirloom.

I had to learn more...

At our first meeting, the young lady explained she was from Alabama and meet her husband while he was at helicopter pilot school for the military and she was finishing her degree at the nearby university. They fell in love, got married and started a family. Then he got orders to a base in New Hampshire. So they packed up all their worldly possessions and loaded them into the back of their Ford F250 extended cab pickup truck. What didn't fit went into the Uhaul trailer they rented.

Sometime in the middle of the night in rural northern Alabama, a deer appeared on the road. The truck swerved, swerved again, and tumbled down an embankment, rolling over and over.

She and her husband with the baby crawled back up to the road. All three were miraculously all right. The truck was totaled. The trailer was totaled. The tailgate was the only thing that was not a bent, mangled, mess. The deer was OK.

She went on telling how the state patrol, emergency squad, and passers-by helped them recover a few clothes, wedding and baby photos and personal effects. The one item she insisted on taking was the tailgate. "That truck saved our lives! I wanted something from it to remember...." Transportation was arranged and they continued there way north.

The challenge in making the bench was dealing with the weight of the tailgate. It was heavy. I had fears of making a bench so top heavy that it could easily topple over. I imagined a pack of little kids running over, on and under the bench like a pack of exuberant river otter pups. One of them hits the tailgate back just right and over it goes, maybe crushing one....

To solve this problem I test the righting moment of the tailgate when standing vertical and at the targeted thirteen-degree angle of tilt back to find the center of gravity. I was pretty sure the tailgate would not be very comfortable but thought thirteen degrees was a good compromise between stability and comfort. I had to make sure the center of gravity of the heavy tailgate was well inside the back leg. I was also counting on the weight of the heavy southern yellow pine in the seat and front legs and stretchers to create a heavy level arm to resist the bench tipping over backward.

The bench is finished with several coats of satin polyurethane. This should protect the bench from whatever a pack of little otter pups could dish out. Yes, the bench is heavy, very heavy and should last for several generations. Surprisingly, it is pretty comfortable.

Oh, I forgot. She saved one more piece of the pickup truck--the license plate that is now mounted front and center on the bench.

July 17, 2017

New STORE !!!!

Finally, I rebuilt my Hoosier Woodworks Online Store ( It was several years old and though it served me well, it was dated and was NOT mobile friendly.

My new store (below) is built using the Ecwid platform and has great functionality, and is mobile friendly. I think I have all the bugs worked out but if you find any, please let me know. I also moved the store to the site for easier navigation.

June 23, 2017

Yes ... I have secrets ...

I read in a trade magazine about a contractor in Dallas, Texas, who is offering a service to his customers of installing permanent, build-in safes. Near the end of the rough framing stage, his crew moves the large, heavy safe into a specially constructed opening, bolts it to the framing then adds drywall, a door, and trim. Homeowners love the added security and peace-of-mind.

This got me thinking about my secrets. They're not huge, heavy safes but rather small little nooks no one but the homeowner knows about. There is the false bottom in a built-in wardrobe, the newel post that contains a bottle of 24-year-old scotch, the drawer that holds ^&())$+*67#2 and %&sdfdfy3&. There is even a bookcase that is a little more than just a bookcase ... and the desk with the hiding place for the expensive laptop when the owners go on vacation.

But none of this is new. Carpenters have been building secret passages and hiding spots for millennia, ever since people had things worth protecting!

January 10, 2017

500-year-old cabinet ... sort of ...

500-year old clothes press My Christmas break project was this simple cabinet. We turned our grown and gone oldest kid's bedroom into a laundry/storage/spare room. Since I get up very early every morning, I have always dressed in the laundry room so as not to disturb my lovely wife's beauty sleep. I stored my clothes on built-in shelves in the old laundry and wanted a similar arrangement. ( I gave up on "dressers" decades ago, probably because I lived out of a sea bag for so many years.)

ren carpenter My design requirements were a cabinet fairly narrow and about 45 inches high with a depth around 12 inches. I have this imagine of a renaissance carpenter, perhaps German, that I always admired. There were a series of these imagines of different 16th-century trade and craftsmen.

I made mine from common pine, as they may have in the 16th-century. I used rectangular head cut nails as they may have, except instead of wrought iron, I cheated and use cut masonry nails. For the trim, I really cheated and used my pneumatic nail gun. Hey, they have a rectangular nail head, too!

modern cut nail OK, the BIG cheat was with the joinery on the shelves. Historically, they would have used a dado joint for each shelf (a groove cut across the vertical side that the end of the shelf slips into, which is very strong) on the higher end pieces. On lower end cabinetry, the shelves might rest on a cheat attached to the side or simply pinned to the sides with wood dowels (not terribly strong, but adequate).

I used pocket hole screw technology. It's quick, very strong and quick. Pocket holes are used to build most kitchen cabinets in the U.S. today. They are not very eloquent, but if they're hidden ... they're fast!

pocket hole screws The most pleasant surprise about this design is the top. The "framed" top creates a wonderfully secure area to toss keys, wallet, cell phone, change, etc., without fear of them being accidentally swept off the top.

So, besides pretending to be a plumber and an electrician and relocating the washer and dryer in a new room, I built this handy little clothes storage unit ... errrr 16th-century-inspired wooden clothes press.

December 22, 2016

Check for pulse ... if you're not crying in your beer after watching this ...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year EVERYONE!

November 12, 2016

HHmmmm ... Persimmion!!

My wife came home from work and said, I have a job for you" as she handed a bag to me. She explained one of her co-workers had a cracked permission pestle. This was serious. "What,s he want me to do?" I asked. "He would like you do make him a new one, exactly like this one. It was his grandmother's and he told me all about being knee-high and 'helping' his grandmother make persimmon pudding. He'll pay you," she added. She had me at persimmon. "He would like to know about how much it would cost."

"Well ... I could make it out of maple. It's a nice hardwood, tight grain, well behaved, makes good treenware. ... I think this is worth at least one persimmon pie ... maybe two!"

After the long sigh, "I'll tell him," she said.

November 11, 2016

Bravo Zulu to all Veterans !!!

October 8, 2016

New Website Launched!!

Well, it's launched. It never really will be done. Websites need almost constant maintenance to ensure everything in functioning and content is updated and remains current.

I'm not smart enough to use one of those fancy web templates were you just fill in the blanks and grab and drag image tools. (Anyone remember Front Page?) Nor am I smart enough to actually HIRE someone to build and maintain my website! No, not that smart at all. Instead, I code. I use a $200 refurbished Lenovo desktop running Linux Ubuntu with Xmonad windows manager. I use Komodo to build web pages, GIMP to play with graphics and Filezilla to upload everything to my VPS server. Why? It's a hobby. And it keeps the sawdust from settling too deeply in the grey matter ... kind of.

Why Linux and what is it? Linux is an operating system like the ones that run Windows PC computers or Mac computers. The neat thing about Linux is it is a FREE, open-source operating system. You don't buy it, you just install it. No one owns it, yet thousands of geeks and nerds all over the world maintain and improve it. It is also MUCH less likely to get infected with a computer virus. You can download and install tons of free, open source software for word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, video, etc. Almost every popular Windows or Mac software has a Linux version. Tired of those "automatic" updates on Windows 10? Check out Ubuntu . It's been grandma tested and approved! To look for software, google "alternative software for Linux."

What's next? Troubleshooting and fixing bugs. In fact, If you find something, drop me a line. There might be a reward in it for you!

September 22, 2016

How To Buy Custom Cabinetry

It's time -- time to do something about those old, worn out "my grandmother had cabinets like these" cabinets.

You have several options:

    Don't Replace, Reface!

    You don't HAVE to replace your cabinets to get a new look, feel and functionality. New cabinets cost a lot of money. Often times you can save sufficient money by changing the look of your cabinets, replacing old door knobs, pulls and hinges and replacing drawer hardware.

    Here are some ways to Reface your cabinet doors, drawers and frames:
  • Paint: This is a relatively inexpensive and painless way to dramatically change the look and feel of your entire kitchen. Hand painted, with the brush marks visible is popular in some circles. Use tough, durable paint that will stand up to years of hard use.
  • Refinish: Very often a clear coat finish like lacquer or varnish simply wears out. If you see discolored areas around the sink, door pulls or above the range hood, chances are your finish needs refinished. This can be a relatively easy fix -- clean all surfaces, make any needed repairs, sand, recoat. You can change the sheen of the finish, maybe going from a gloss to a satin or add a little bit of interest with a semi-gloss.
  • Overlay: I remember in the late '70s when my mother had our kitchen cabinets redone. A company came in and installed plastic laminate "walnut toned" over all the visible wood surfaces. They replaced the old drawer boxes with new ones mounted on 3/4 extension slides. It really changed the look of the kitchen (happy wife-happy life!) and worked well for the next 25 years. Today, I would suggest trading "walnut toned" for real walnut veneer. High-quality veneers are available in dozens of species and offer a value in changing the look and feel of your cabinets. Brand new cherry cabinets might be outside the budget but not cherry veneer! How about figured maple face frames with bird's eye maple panels? Almost anything is possible with modern veneers.

Replace Hardware and Drawers

  • Door and Drawer Knobs and Pulls: Replacing these can make a huge difference in the appearance of your kitchen -- even if it is the only thing you change. This is an easy DIY job; just make sure you get the same size (center-to-center) pulls as the original.
  • Drawer Slides: No more sticking, stuck and broken drawers. New slides, especially full extension slides, can make a world of difference. Full-extension slides allow the drawer to be fully opened, allowing access to ALL the contents. No more lost and forgotten items!
  • Drawer Boxes: These are so much more usefully for storing kitchen items than shelves. If you have lower cabinets with one or two small shelves behind a door, you can almost DOUBLE the effective storage space by removing the shelves and installing drawer boxes on full extension slides. Now you can access 100 percent of everything in the lower cabinet without kneeling down, bending over or standing on your head!

Additional Cabinets

  • If your cabinets are in good shape, adding more cabinets may be the little kick your kitchen needs to make it more comfortable and efficient. Especially in older homes, it may be more practical to match the existing cabinets with something new rather than replacing everything. Old cabinets have a charm and style that is missing on a lot of today's "boxes." This is work I really enjoy doing!

Replacement Cabinets

  • Out with the old, in with the new! Sometimes there is no other practical choice. If your old cabinets are usable, I encourage people to donate them to an organization that may benefit from them. In Bloomington the Habitat Restore does a wonderful job recycling usable home furnishings and raising money for its cause.
  • Replacing kitchen cabinets usually means "kitchen remodel." Since you are ripping out all the cabinets you "might as well move the refrigerator" ... and you "never did like where the sink was located." Now we're rerouting plumbing and electrical and "if we move this wall ..." But it can lead to a wonderful new kitchen and dinning space that will enhance your lifestyle and add value to your home. Kitchen remodels offer one of the highest returns on investments (ROI) of all home improvement projects, usually around 60-65 percent or $600-$650 in increased home value for every $1,000 spent. (You can learn more about home improvement cost versus value at Remodeling 2016 Cost vs. Value Report. Interestingly, minor kitchen remodels have a higher ROI!

  • September 21, 2016

    Custom Built-In Cabinetry

    Hoosier Woodworks' custom built-in cabinetry becomes a permanent addition to your home, increasing your home's value and enhancing your lifestyle.

    The difference between cabinetry and furniture is cabinets are physically attached to the house and stay with the house when the house is sold and furniture leaves the house with the homeowners when they move. So a free standing cabinet, like a linen press or armoire, is technically a piece of furniture.

    Built-in cabinets would include things such as bookcases, if they are "built-in-to-the-wall," window seats, mudroom lockers, fireplace mantels and surrounds, inglenooks, etc., basically any permanently attached piece of furniture that is not a kitchen cabinet. Yes, the line is blurry ...

    So, why the distinction between furniture and built-ins? It basically comes down to how you think of your investment dollars. A $2,000 custom built-in bookcase will add value to your home (usually), whereas a $2,000 free-standing, against-the-wall bookcase (furniture) will not -- it's going with you when you move.

    This isn't a big deal in the overall scheme of things, but it is the first question I ask a customer when they call or email: "Do you want this to be a permanent part of your home or will you take it with you when you move?

    September 14, 2016

    Custom Kitchen Cabinetry

    Today, sadly, the term, cabinets generally refers to mass-produced, overpriced, particle board boxes with "photo transferred wood grain" purchased at, well, big box stores. Ahh -- a far cry from the days of ol' when cabinets were pieces of fine furniture designed and built to contain priceless treasures.

    "Cabinets should be furniture that your grandchild will fight over who gets it ... not who gets to take it to the dump!" Marc Adams

    I build custom cabinets for kitchens, baths, libraries, family rooms, etc., from solid veneer cabinet-grade plywood, the best available. I do this for several reasons: First, I like the durability and long life this material provides. Two, I like working with it! I HATE working with particle board and MDF (medium density fiberboard) in all of their many varieties. The dust is very irritating to the respiratory system and impossible to fully control. I don't like the fact the least little bit of water can TOTALLY destroy cabinets made from this material. It's only advantage is its cheapness. You get what you pay for. Three, I like the value. For a few more dollars, quality plywood offers the most efficient use of our natural resources.

    Strong, durable, easy to work, and environmentally sound -- all excellent reasons to ask for quality wood products!

    Saturday, September 4, 2015

    Unexpected surprise ...

    Recently while finishing preparing a 1902 B.N, Morris wood canvas canoe for new canvas, I needed to replace the second rib on the starboard stern at the stem. When I removed the plank I found something unexpected ...

    Apparently B.N. Morris took a different tack from Old Town and other builders in the stems. Instead of bringing the inwales continuously from stem to stem, Morris used a board! The cant ribs you see in the above photo are let in (inset) into the board. The board is scarfed into the inwale in the below photo.

    This is just one of several discoveries I made while restoring this boat!


    Boy, did I get an education ...

    I had to take my high school son to Wabash College (Crawfordsville, IN) to take scholarship exams. After dropping him off, I killed some time at the library and after lunch, explored the downtown shops. I wandered into a furniture store, the first furniture store I had set foot into in more than 15 years (after I discovered a spot on a sofa where the manufacture had sanded through the veneer exposing the particle board substrate -- then stained the entire thing anyway, all for only $999!). I’ve had a very grim view of furniture in the U.S. Many people just accept what’s in the furniture store or -- gulp -- buy their furniture in a box ... "some assembly required." Some people track down family heirlooms that were well-made to begin with and have stood the test of time.

    It was a human-owned store, not a national chain store. I was actually impressed with some of the lines. The salesman, probably the owner, said most of their merchandise was, in fact, made in the U.S., especially the upholstered furniture, most of it from North Caroline. He said some of the upholstery “packages” was made in Asia, shipped to North Carolina, installed on the frame and shipped to the store.

    This was reassuring. As a furniture maker myself (hence, my 15 year's hiatus from furniture stores), I’m glad to see some furniture manufacturing returning to the U.S. A mass exodus has been taking place in the U.S. probably since the ‘70s as furniture companies started to “outsource” production overseas. Much of this was economic; lower labor rates, fewer restrictions, less regulations but labor had a lot to do with it, too. No, labor unions did not drive jobs overseas. We did, or rather the lack of labor did. There simply were not enough skilled workers to fill the job vacancies. Many experts trace this back to the decline of shop and industrial arts classes in the junior high and high schools. I also believe many kids of my generation actually listened to our parents -- “go to college, get a degree, I don’t want you working in the factory or punching a time clock. ...” So we became lawyers (a LOT became lawyers!), a few doctors, many managers, executives, account representatives but few became brick layers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, woodworkers or plumbers.

    I wandered around some more, checking out the “space age foam” mattresses, kitchen tables and chairs. I spied some activity in the back. Two guys with tools in hand where hovering over some wooden parts and a rather beat up cardboard box. They politely said, “hi” and I inquired as to what they where doing, “a repair,” I asked? “Oh no,” they replied, “we’re putting these chairs together, we just got a big shipment in.”

    So there you go: Furniture in a box, some assembly required. They said about 10 years ago, manufactures started shipping furniture unassembled. The stores had to absorb this cost or had to pass it on to the customer.

    And I guess it saves on overseas shipping.

    Is there anywhere to buy furniture without assembly, furniture well built enough your children’s children will call it heirloom?

    Thanks, Roger

    New Online Store Launched!

    Finally, after what seems likes years of starting and stopping, I have an online store! I have had an Etsy store for a few years now, but I wanted my own. You can purchase some of my staple products; flag cases, soap rests, writing pens, rolling pins, cutting boards, etc. Click the link to explore!

    Getting this store up and running has been a long process. I spent a couple years as webmaster for the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and installed an XCART store. It works fine, in a canned sort of way. I wanted to avoid the expense and complexity of a prepackaged product. I had built a test store using PayPal years ago but was disappointed with the buy button. I played with Google Buy Now buttons but didn't think Google would be as widely accepted as PayPal. I discovered PayPal had developed an actual "shopping cart" where you can add multiple items. This was the functionality I was looking for!

    And a HUGE advantage of using PayPal is their PCI DSS compliance. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards are regulations set forth by the big credit card companies, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc., that govern how credit cards, debit cards, electronic checks, etc., are processed. Maybe some of you remember the days when your credit card receipt had your card number and expiration date printed right on the receipt. PCI DSS are the people who came up with the CSV security number on the back of your card. A couple years ago they came down hard on retailers who stored customer's personal data (name, address, card number, expiration date, CSV number!) on minimally secure servers. Remember the $4.5 BILLION T.J. Max security fiasco?

    Now, instead of going to all the expense and trouble of having a Fort Knox-like server ... I let PayPal do it! They're the computer, internet, programming experts ... I'm a woodworker. When you shop in my store and click the "Add to Cart" button, you'll notice a little lag time before another window opens. The window opens on PayPal's servers, not mine; hence the delay. You don't need a PayPal account to buy something. You can use your credit/debit card just like any other store. The entire transaction occurs on PayPal for maximum security and convenience. All I see is an email from PayPal with name and address and the items ordered and any special instructions. If there is a problem with the order like a return or something, it's easy to go into PayPal make the change. I am most impressed with them! Check out my new store at

    A Modern Sweep

    "Here you go," Dick said handing me the ancient stair part. "I need this to be left-hand." I've always enjoyed working for Dick, a contractor who specializes in custom homes in the upper price range. He always gives me unique and interesting jobs -- jobs other trim carpenters/woodworkers are too smart to take.

    So I had a 100-year-old right-hand stair sweep, hand rail and newel post salvaged from some long forgotten mansion. The homeowners had been collecting miscellaneous salvaged house parts for more than five years. It was my job to make them fit into the house Dick was building.

    At first glance, it seemed to be a pretty straight forward project. Calculate the radius of the sweep in the plan view from the hand rail to the newel cap, apply the pitch of the hand rail, cut everything out of a laminated blank and, presto, a perfect fit! Mmmmm... Better make a mock up.

    I've learned two things doing projects like this: Full-size drawings save time, aggravation and mistakes; mock-ups save material.

    So I made the full-sized drawing from my site measurements. I glued up some scrap plywood for the blank, cut out the plank and rough-shaped the new sweep. I could not wait for tomorrow to test-fit the new sweep. "Dick will be so impressed I got this done so fast!" I thought.

    Tomorrow came, and I did the test fit. Not only did the new sweep not fit, it wasn't even close! "Silly me, I forgot to subtract that one measurement from that another. This will be easy to fix," I said to myself.

    I was tempted to just go ahead and make the final piece, but decided another prototype would be in order. The second one was much better than the first, but not ... quite ... right. "Now what?"

    The more I looked at the original sweep, the more it did not look like a modern radius sweep. I needed help.

    A search through the public library database was not much help, so I started to browse the stacks of books. Finally, I came across "Modern Carpentry Techniques." Inside I found a chapter on stairs with nice diagrams and black-and-white photos of nearly the exact stair I was working on!

    Now the only problem was the pages, and pages, of algebra and trigonometry formulas explaining how to build such a beautiful stair! "Well, maybe I can figure this out ... at least there are pictures," I said to myself on the way the checkout.

    The math had me stumped after the second page. However, the photos and diagrams were of great help. I soon realized that my sweep was not based on a radius, a part of a cylinder, but rather an ellipse, which has a constantly changing radius! That is why mine looked so different from modern sweeps.


    Armed with this new-found concept, I started to redraw the earlier plan view. I knew the position of the hand rail and where the newel post had to be positioned. I decided to assembly a mock-up of the stair upon the drawing to get a true representation of the pitch of the hand rail. I made a block of wood to represent the outside dimensions of the handrail. I built a plywood ramp and positioned the hand rail block at the exact position in relation to the center of the newel post. The newel post had a cap that was attached to the sweep and the newel post. A finial was tacked to the cap to hide the fasteners and finish the post.

    Mouse-over graphics for description.
    Plan view of the layout
    I used a piece of scrap wood to represent the end of the sweep and cut a piece of plywood to represent the bird's mouth to be cut into the cap. With these positions defined, I glued eighth-inch square balsa wood at each of the four corners of the blocks. This defined the horizontal and vertical shape of the needed sweep.

    The walnut blank rough shaped. Now the challenge was to transfer the shape as defined by the balsa wood "corners" to the piece of walnut from which the new sweep would be carved. This was done with paper tracings and direct measurements. It was at this point that I realized my 30-year subscription to Wooden Boat magazine was starting to pay off!

    With the walnut scribed with plan and elevation lines, it was a simple matter to cut it out on the bandsaw. I did not cut out the bottom, wanting it for support as I carved to the final shape.

    Notice the 1       The bottom is defined and carved away.

    Carving was a great relief after the trials of the layout. I did have to invest in two new tools, a compound radius plane and a spoon plane (oh darn!). I also made scrapers to match the profiles of the different sections of the hand rail. This work went surprisingly quick and was most enjoyable.

    Finished shape       A new newel cap was turned and bird's month cut.

    The last stage was to cut the bottom off the sweep, which was a bit of a challenge since you need cut in two planes at once, so I cut wide then worked down to the line with hand tools. A final sanding, cutting the point for the bird's mouth, and it was done.

    The finished left-hand sweep and newel cap. Installation went smoothly; everything fit as planned. Sometimes, I just get lucky!

    Oh yes, that book "Modern Carpentry Techniques" -- it was first published in 1902!

    POSTSCRIPT- A very good customer gave me several years of Fine Homebuilding magazine from the '70s and early '80s. In one issue, Jan. 1980, I think, on the back page was a story about a craftsman in Illinois, who at age 80, was still working a few days a week in a shop he first worked at when he was 20 ... still building stairs with the traditional sweeps.