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The Top

With the design in place, I could focus on the focal point of my piece, the top. I knew I wanted to use walnut, and I was 100% sure I wanted the crotch. The crotch is where the tree splits off in two directions, almost like a “V”. This seperation yeilds some of the most beautiful and interesting grain patterns, something I knew I wanted for my design.


Having an idea of what I was looking for, I knew the exact place where I could find it!




So in late May, with my wedding anniversary right around the corner, my wife said she would make the 80 mile drive with me so that I could pick my anniversary gift!  If you’ve never been to Hearne, its worth the drive! They have an incredibly helpful staff that answered all the questions I had and were very patient while I carefully made my selection. After an hour and a half of looking, I setteled on one of the first pieces we had looked at!


Unfortunately the build was put on hold for several months while my brother and I completed some high priority projects. It wasn’t until October that I was finally able to begin flattening and shaping the top. I began doing this the hard way….with hand planes and winding sticks.



I wasn’t able to accomplish much except for building up a sweat. I wanted the top of the walnut to be dead flat and the underside to taper from one end to the other. This would have been hours, no, DAYS of work to complete, so I decided to build a router sled. I used the article by Nick Offerman in Fine Wood Working, it was cheap and a hell of a lot easier than taking the galoot route.



I cut the slab from 6 feet down to 4 feet and from there it was simply pushing the router back and forth in the sleds trough.


I highly recommend this set up if you work with a lot of slabs.

With the top flattened and the bottom with a nice long taper on the underside I turned my attention to the edges. I didn’t like the look of the sap wood at the edges and there was also some rot, this made my decision of cutting the sides a no brainer. I made the cuts with my jig saw, following the path of the grain to keep the organic feel of the piece.



With the sap wood and rot cut off I could move to shaping the underside profile which I wanted to be a large round over. Not having a massive router bit, or a solid, straight edge to reference off of, this was all done by hand. I was s able to do the majority of the work with my block plane/spokeshave and then smoothed everything out with the random orbit sander.



The only work left with the top is the butterfly keys, which I’m putting a little spin on…


Aluminum staples that I cut on my band saw from a solid bar.


I still have tons of polishing to do, to get them to the mirror fininsh that I’m looking to obtain.

With the top as far as I can get it, it was time to start thinking BENT LAMINATION…….but that’s for next time!

Cantilevered Coffee Table “The design”

The inspiration for this project came from the readers gallary of Fine Woodworking Magazine. When I first saw Dave Boykin’s cantilevered table I knew that I would have to build a variation of it!


I wanted to push the envelope with this design, even further than Dave already had. In Dave’s design, there are two points of contact with the underside of the table and he uses straight lines throughout.  These two design aspects are how I planned to set myself apart. My original design (not that different from the final design) featured a single bent lam leg that connected to the top at one point using wedged, through, mortise and tenon joinery.


I scetched this back in May and with the help of some of my twitter friends @flairwoodworks @tumblewood @mansfinefurn I was able to quickly refine my design several times





Being able to get design input from other wood workers on the fly is why I love Twitter! I would post a sketch, receive critiques, refine the sketch, and then post again and do it all over.

This is the final sketch and the one that I am currently working directly from.


The next step of the project would be to select the materials.

Free Pallets + Tedious Work = Free Bench

This project all began at my day job. I work in a produce warehouse, so I am around pallets all day long. I started to notice that some of them used thick blocks instead of rails to hold the weight. I began collecting these blocks and after about a week, the trunk of my car was filled!

The first order of business was to pull every nail out of every block. I wasnt about to risk having a nail hit one of my blades, so I took my time. If a nail broke in the block, I discarded it.

After pulling every nail, I  jointing one face and then screwed it to a sled, so that it could be run through the planer.

After I had 2 sides of every block jointed and co-planer, I began the glue up. It took about 7 blocks to give me an average of 22″. This 22″ is my goal for the finished depth of the bench. As for the length, that is contingent on how many of these sections I end up with. So with all of the initial glue ups dry, it was time to prepare these sections for their final glue up.

I turned to my #5 to take down all the high spots before I would attempt to run them over spinning blades. I used a high angle of attack (55 degrees) on my blade to prevent some of the tear out that I knew would take place from cutting across the grain.

The bench is going to end up being just over 6 feet long and the longest clamps we own are only 5 feet. This is probably for the better, doing 2 separate glue ups allows you to be more focused on making sure everything is flat.


As you can see in the next picture, all of the time I spent properly milling these blocks has paid off.

Nice even squeeze out across every joint!

 After both sections are glued up individually, we will attach clamping blocks near the center, which will enable us to use smaller clamps and bring this beast together! After that, it’s on to flattening (I may want to re sharpen my blades to prepare for all of this end grain)


Until next time, “stop cutting corners….mitre them!”

Just give me 30 minutes

Just give me 30 minutes, that’s all I need!

I find that the majority of the woodworking I do is done in 30 minute increments and this is because woodworking is not my day job. I am a full time plant operations manager at one of the largest produce distributors on the east coast. It takes me a minimum of 1 hour to make it to, or from work, so for me to carve out any shop time during the week, I must plan strategically. This 30 minutes takes place at 7:45am or 7pm. I do this because I love woodworking!

 Thirty minutes of shop time is nothing. You could blow through 30 minutes just getting set up and cleaning up! Because of this, I am forced to thoroughly think out everything that I plan on getting done BEFORE I walk into the shop. My plan includes what tools I will need to get out, measurements that must be made, and how everything will be executed. Being forced to work under these conditions, I believe, has made me a better woodworker (or maybe just a more efficient one). Every movement is done with a purpose and was thought out the night before or while listening to “Wood Talk Online” commuting to and from work.

I love woodworking and if I only got 30 minutes of shop time a day for the rest of my life I would be fine with that.

If my math is correct, one year would be

10,950 minutes


182.5 hours


7.6 days


Black Oak

So we are currently in the middle of refinishing an oak kitchen table and chairs and the client wants the top of the table to be black. The only problem is that they don’t want the top painted black .They are afraid that if we use paint, they will lose the grain. Our original plan was to use a water based dye. This failed miserably, so it was back to the drawing board.

That night around 11pm my brother texted me, (he doesn’t do this often, he hates cell phones, but that’s a whole other story) he told me to find an issue of Popular Woodworking that he had given me several months back.  In this issue of Pop-Wood (August 2011)

 he told me  there was a recipe for turning white oak, BLACK! Knowing precisely where this issue was, I reached into the basket that is next to my bed. I had to  move a couple of Wood Craft and Rockler issues out of the way, but there it was. I pulled it out and used my phone for light as I knifed through the pages hoping not to wake my wife. The, “I Can Do That” project on page 24. “Lap Desk” by Mag Ruffman.

The article goes on to explain how if you let some rusty nails fester in an open container of white vinegar for at least 2 days it will instantly turn the oak black.

So my brother and I asked around to see if anyone had a bunch of rusty metal that we could have. His neighbor hooked him up with 2 paint cans filled with little rusty nails and I was able to get a bucket of screws that had been sitting on the roof of my warehouse for the last 10 years.

We now have way more than we need.

So we placed a handful of the little nails into a cup with the distilled white vinegar and let it soak for 2 days like the article said.


After 2 days the mixture did not look black, I began to worry that this wouldn’t work. I was wrong, almost immediately you can see the oak turn black. 10 minutes later and the we realized we had found our answer!

Andrew did a little more research on the subject and discovered that if you use black coffee as a wash coat before you apply the rusty nail solution it increases the levels of tannins in the wood, accelerating the chemical reaction, producing a much darker black.

To achieve the finish in the picture above the recipe was: wash coat of coffee+rusty nail solution+wash coat of coffee+rusty nail solution. Everything dries very fast, even in cold temperatures, so we were able to fly through this process.

Now that the test samples are finished, its time to let the client decide which ones we will be using on the finished product.


Skill Building Mallet……..DONE!!!

I havent had much time over the past week to work on the mallet, but today my goal was to have it finished. The first thing that needed to be done was to finish sawing off the faces.

With the faces all cut it was finally time to begin shaping the handle. For this job, my plan was to use a rasp and my random orbital sander (ROS). You may notice that there is now a vise in the picture, this was a Christmas gift courtesy of my sister that I finally got around to installing today. Getting that vise installed today was clutch. There is no way I would have been able to easily shape the handle without it!

 The rasp was the work horse, rounding the handle and blending it into the maple faces. I used the ROS upside down in the vise so that I could hold the mallet with two hands and really make the handle as round as possible. It was also at this point that I realized that I needed to do away with the sharp corners. So, I took the rasp to them also! I wasnt planning on making this mallet sculpted, but using the rasp was awesome!

So with everything sanded to 220 and hit with tac cloth I reached for the General Finishes Arm-R-Seal. This is my go to finish because there is no mixing involved and I can wipe it on with a cotton towel which helps me avoid drips.

So, it’s finished and I am super happy with the result and  not so sure I want to use it in the shop. Maybe I should  just keep it here as a decorative piece……..

So remember, if you want to grow your woodworking knowledge, push yourself to try  new things and roll with it!



Foot Ball is over. So what now?

So now that the football season is over, what are you planning on doing with your Sunday afternoons? My suggestion, along with everyone else in the woodworking community is to START WOODWORKING! Thats right, this week is the first annual…

Thats right! Tom Iovino from “Tom’s Tips” and htttp:// has initiated this annual event to keep the craft of woodworking not just an American tradition, but a Human tradition! Woodworking not only allows you to explore your creative side but it can offer you the opportunity to create something that will outlast you, your children, and maybe, your children’s children. 

You may say to yourself, “But, I don’t own a table saw or any of the other tools that it would take to build anything.”  I have the perfect solution…. give that big family tree of yours a shake by getting in touch with grandparents, aunts,and uncles to see if they have any old tools lying around that they never use. Chances are, if they have some tools and never use them, they will be more than willing to free up some space in their garage and give them a new home with you. It doesn’t take much to get started. I started out with a small mitre saw and a cordless drill. But that didn’t stop me from making my first piece of furniture several years back.

It was a basic step stool that I made for my 2 Yorkies so that they could make it into bed  without waking up myself or my wife every time they jumped off and then tried to climb back on.  This stool was all done with only that cordless drill, mitre saw, and some glue and screws. My wife and I still use this every time we clean the house to reach the ceiling fans or if  she needs to get some Tupperware down from above the microwave.  I will never throw this out, unlike almost everything else that we have accumulated from home centers.  

My mission as a wood worker is to create furniture  that will still be sitting in my great grandchildrens living room with my name etched into the bottom of it long after im 6 feet under.

If you’re looking for the following:

To be challenged

To be creative

To be a part of something that will out last you

To have fun

To see a smile on a family members face

Then its definitely time for you to

Im almost at the goal (sp)line…

I walked into the shop today with a lot on my plate, but I got right to work. The first thing I did besides push the car out of the shop and fire up my portable heater was to get cracking on the spline jig that I discussed in a previous post.

This jig was super easy and only took me about 30 min to put together from scrap 3/4″ plywood laying around the shop.

I addes the extra brace to make sure that the jig stayed pefrectly at 45 degreess.

With the jig finished, it was time to lay out the locations for the splines. But before I did this, I wanted to cut the first of the 2 angles off of the faces. A piece of scrap to prevent tear out, some double sided tape and my mitre gauge was all that I needed to get this done.

Piece of cake!

With the top cut, I was able to mark out the locations for the splines and quickly make the cuts. 

With time running out in the day I was only able to finish half of the glue up on the splines. 

All in all it was a very productive day in the shop, but I needed to do one more thing before I shut the lights off for the day. I had to flush-cut those splines to give myself a little teaser as to what this thing will look like!

Next up:

1) Finish splines

2) Cut the steep angle off of each face (this will probably have to be cut with a hand saw due to the severity of the angle)

3) Shape the handle

Positive outlook

I went into the shop today having some mistakes to fix. This didnt bother me because I had a solid plan to fix them and a positive outlook of the end result.

I used 2 blades and 1 chipper from my stack dado to take out 3/8′ from each mitre. I tilted my table saw to 45 degrees and moved my fence to the left side of the blade.

I cut out each mitre, making sure that the blades just made contact with the center walnut post. There is tons of tear tear out here but im not concerned about that because that will all be cut away soon.

I then ran some walnut through my thickness planer. I was able to get the splines super tight by checking the fit after each pass through the planer. I completed the glue up and then flush cut the splines with the faces of the mallet.

So I am very happy with the result and excited to move forward with this project.

Next up:

1) Spline cutting jig

2) Splines

3) Cut the angles on the faces

4) Shape the handle

5) Smack the crap out of chisels

Anything BUT perfect!

So I completed the glue up of the mallet using west systems brand epoxy to make sure that any gaps would be stabilized by the epoxy.  The only problem was that somewhere along the line during the marking and cutting stages I messed up….


The mitres are anything but perfect. This is a picture I took last night of the top of my mallet after I cleaned it up a little with my hand plane. The mitres are not tight like I planned. There are gaps. And gaps to woodworkers are just not acceptable, AT ALL!! So I needed to put on my thinking cap and my hour and a half commute down I-95 this morning was the perfect time to work out a solution.
I decided that to fill the gaps I would cut them out! My plan is to tilt my table saw to 45 degrees and cut a kerf (blade width) the length of each of the 4 mitres and then insert walnut splines. This should hide my mistake and add an extra visual aspect.
So the next time I’m in the shop I will clean up the remaining 2 sides of the mallet with my hand plane and then see what I can do about hiding those little imperfections.

Warning: this is not a blog showing perfection , this is a blog showing my pursuit of perfection. You will see all of my mistakes and victories along the way.