Monday, September 29, 2014

An Elephant Fell On It, really!

  I have been making repairs to wooden products at 10,000 Villages in Hamilton for a couple of years now.  It has involved re-gluing, refinishing and in a couple of case re-building all sorts of things from toys, to boxes to a large cabinet. It is probably my favourite form of volunteer work, the folks at 10,000 Villages are unfailingly grateful and undemanding about how quickly I get things repaired.  So most recently I got an email saying that a sewing box needed repair because an elephant had fallen on it. How many wood workers get to do elephant related repairs in their life time?

  That is the sewing box, hiding the problems caused by the falling elephant.

  There are in fact three things that need repair. A foot was broken off, which the folks at the store cleverly saved for me to reattach. 
you can see the left foot and where the right foot belongs.

The crack on the top is going to require some filling, gluing and clamping and at my best I can't make  the repair invisible.

  I have some pieces of sheesham wood that will enable me to make some filler that is 'sort of' the right colour, and then I will stain the section again to try and blend things so that the repair is not too obvious.

  The big problem is the handle, it is held on with nails and they've been torn right out of the box on one side and twisted pretty good on the other.

  Unlike the last box I repaired I will be able to get this taken apart and repaired with relative ease.  Once it is glued, drilled and screwed together I will touch up the stain if necessary and take the repaired item back to the store.

  On my last blog I wrote about a tricky repair on an Indian Box, I got the box fixed, but it involved in insertion of a very obvious brass pin rather than the hidden fastener that had broken off.  I am of the belief that if you can't hide your joinery, or the repair than make what you've ended up doing look intentional. It is the "if you can't hide it, flaunt it school of wood work".

  Shortly I will be able to post the photos of my latest project, it has taken up several days of designing, building, carving and finishing but since it is a gift for someone that reads the blog I can't talk about it just yet.  

cheers, ianw

       George Clooney's got nothing on me!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lovely Fall Day

  Lets face it, beautiful motorcycling riding days are winding down and there will soon be plenty of time to work in the wood shop.  So today instead of burying myself in a wood working project I went for a long, (all afternoon) motorcycle ride.  The day was lovely, the bike ran like a new watch and the miles (kilometres) rolled away by the hour.  When I am riding the bike I ponder world issues sometimes, but mostly I think about what I want to make and how to make it.  Today I was thinking about a tricky repair to a sheesham box from 10,000 Villages, I can't take the box apart to make the repair and that is what makes the repair difficult. I have formulated a plan, I think.  That will be a job for tomorrow or the next day, or soon since the box has sat on my bench for a week. 

  A wood working related project is shown below, so I haven't been completely away from wood.   I started taking a ten week course on Pyrography two weeks ago and this is the result of my first serious effort. 


  In the past I have used the Razor Tip Wood Burner that I inherited from my Dad.

  to add hi-lights to some of my 
smaller boxes and a couple of other projects.  By taking a course I hope to add some more skill with Razor Tip.

  You can see that first I outlined the leaves, as I have done before but next I used a fine tipped nib to add small dots to the leaves creating a shaded effect. There are many possible textures that can be achieved, practice will be required.  After I finished burning I put on water colour paint in a transparent wash.  All that remains is to give the project a couple of coats of spray varnish and I will be done.  I think the piece, which is 5 x 8 inches will become a lid or a panel for a box one of these days.

  *A foot note, 

 If you are going to be cutting plywood on a regular bases it is a good idea to bite the bullet and buy a saw blade specific for cutting plywood.  Steve Ramsey has a good little video on You Tube: Cutting Plywood: how to break down sheet goods, that is worth checking out. He uses the KREG Rip Cut while breaking the sheet stock down.  I know that there are woodworkers that have sworn off plywood, and I have really tried to use it less but there are some jobs that sheet stock makes easier, once you get it down to a manageable size.

  cheers, ian

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - Kitchen Cabinet Organizer

It has been a great week for wood working videos.  Monday is was organizing small parts. Today an excellent solution of corner cabinets in the kitchen.  I wish I'd seen this video a few years ago,because my Mother's kitchen had this exact problem.

  Great Job.

cheers, ianw

Monday, September 22, 2014

Small Parts Cabinet

Steve over at has recently posted a video showing him building a small pasts cabinet. 

Small Parts Cabinet

  Usually a project like this would drive a wood worker crazy, there are just too many little drawers.  In the video Steve comes up with an excellent method for making drawers quickly and easily.

 The corner stone of this building method is the use of dado blades on the table saw. With a dedicated cross cut sled and careful set up it is amazing what can be done with dado blades. It is 'old school' but effective, especially for cutting dados on shorter pieces of wood.

  Cheers, Ian W


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Friday, September 19, 2014

Shop Maintenance - boring but important

  Legend has it that Norm did everything in his shop but sweep the floors. In a one man shop we even have to sweep the floors. As important as sweeping the floors regularly, is on going maintenance. 

  I divide maintenance into two categories:

  The first category is maintenance that needs to be done immediately, for example changing a burned out light bulb or emptying a full shop vac.

  The second category is preventative maintenance,in that group I include sharpening, emptying the dust collector system,changing mitre saw blades, cleaning and waxing machine tops sorting out plans, templates, books and receipts.

  To address the second thing first:
  I try to keep the dust collection system from getting completely full because it is a bit of a production to empty the big bag and re-attach it to the dust collector.  I have found that if I put a large garbage bag or a paper leaf bag inside the lower bag of the dust collector it smooths the process.  I end up making less mess because I am not dumping the lower bag out at any point.  The paper bag also holds the bottom bag up while I re-attach it to the unit.

Click to enlarge

  Last evening I took some time and set up my sharpening station, a Worksharpan assortment of stones and some Scary Sharp granite slabs with wet sand paper on them.  I had a couple of chisels that really needed work but I also checked out the everyday shop chisels and knives to make sure they were in top shape.  I take an evening every couple of months to do this and so I always have sharp tools at hand when I am working.  Eliminating the interruption of having to sharpen something while working is worth the maintenance time spent.  I keep a strop available for honing all the time and I just don't like to have to stop what I am doing to sharpen a chisel or plane.

Makita 446L Dust Extractor Shop Vac 8 gallon Class L Dust Extractor Shop Vac

  Waxing machine tops is a job that gets done when I take time for a serious sweep and vacuum.  About once a month I go crazy on the shop, I sweep in all the corners, crawl under the benches and tools and really clean the place up. This is the job that I would happily give away to anyone, but like so many of the unglamorous jobs, it needs to be done.  Since I don't have a separate space for finishing, I need to try and keep the general dust level under control or every time the furnace runs the shop fills with a fine layer of wood dust.  After I get all the sweeping and vacuuming done I check out the tops on my table saw, band saws, jointer, and router table.  I make sure that the tops haven't attached any glue drops of bits of pitch and then put a light coat of paste wax on the  metal tops.

  I've found that my table saw and mitre saw blades need to be sharpened about twice a year and so I put the spare blades on and drop the other blades off to be sharpened, that is a job that is due soon.

  I the worst part of preventative maintenance is paper. To keep from losing my mind at tax time I try to gather up and organize the various invoices and receipts that I collect over the course of the year. Nothing is worse that knowing you've got a big write off for which you can not find the paper work.  

  And for excitement recently I was given a dozen or so really cool plans for scroll saw and wood carving projects.  They need to be labelled, carefully folded and filed in the appropriate folders. If patterns and plans are not dealt with correctly there is no chance of ever finding them later when you want them.  I know this from sad and bitter experience.

  Since any time in the shop is 'good' time even maintenance time is good time, just not as good as building time.  The hidden bonus is most of the shop cleaning time can be spend accompanied by a beer (except sharpening) which eases the pain somewhat.

cheers, ianw

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cordless Drills

The Tool Store
DeWalt, 18V Cordless Compact Drill / Driver Kit - DC759KA
Sale Price: $149.99 CAN

Makita 18V Cordless 1/2'' Driver Driller Kit BDF453H
Sale Price: $189.99 CAN

Hitachi DS18DSAL Li-ion 18V Compact Pro Driver Drill Kit
Sale Price: $229.99 CAN
Milwaukee 2691-22 Impact Driver/Compact Driver Combo Kit 18 Volt Lithium Ion
Sale Price: $249.99 CAN
For the best in Tools & all other top rated brands visit your online source for tools & supplies.
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     Currently  is promoting cordless drills.
I have used Hitachi 14 volt Nickel Metal Hydrate drills for nearly eight years.  The drills are going strong, the
batteries are dying away.

  If you are in the market for a cordless drill I suggest
that you check out a couple the available tools before
you buy.

  Often whether a tool is deemed good or bad is based on
whether the tool lives up to the purchaser's expectations.
If you buy a lower cost hobby tool and then work it like
a full time building contractor, you have no grounds for complaint  if the tool isn't up to the job.

  I dug up a couple of sites that offer recent reviews of cordless drills.

  1.  Top Ten Reviews.

  2.  Cordless Drill Reviews.

  I like to hear about other people's experiences before
I decided which way I am going to jump.  When the Hitachi's finally run out of juice I will look around and see what available, reliable and a reasonable price, when I happens
 I'll let you know.

  cheers, ian

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Miscellaneous Wood Stuff

 Over the last few days I have been out of the shop and away visiting family and friends.  While I travel around I am always looking for wood related stuff, so things to share and some things as inspiration.

  So... here are a few photos that to took and the reasons why,

  The cabinet makers shop that was in this store is gone, I think it has been gone for a long time, but I love that they claimed "home of the dovetail drawer".  I wonder how many people look at that as they walk by and have no clue what it means.


French River Trading Post
Hungry Bear Restaurant

  This is the bench that sits on the veranda of the Hungry Bear Restaurant at the French River Trading Post on highway 69 north of the French River, well north of Perry Sound.  I have been stopping there for coffee, lunch or ice cream since I started driving north in 1978. I think chainsaw carving is way cool.


  Speaking of chainsaw carving, this is a two sided owl.  He looks good from both sides.

 In 1985 I worked for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources on the spring tree plant one the crew that planted these trees.  They were part of an orchard that was planted to yield superior pine cones.  It was hard work in black fly season and some days the flies made it the very worse job that I ever, ever did.  However the trees are great.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pocket Hole Clamping Jig

  I have been making some more bike carrier boxes in my shop the last couple of days. To hold the ends to the bottom I use pocket hole screws and waterproof glue.  Since the bottom is 14 by 7 1/2 by 1/2 inch  and I am using the KREG Micro Pocket Drill Guide the KREG RAC clamp will not fit the smaller holes I needed to make a jig to hold the pieces together while I drove in the screws.

underside of the Bike Carrier Box

  I made the jig some time ago and have used it on a previous batch of these boxes and other projects.

 I used to work for Kreg Company and so have driven thousands of pocket screws and have found that proper set up and correct clamping makes everything faster and the results better.

  There is no question that KREG has developed some clever clamps to work with their pocket hole system but a set up like this can be made with shop scraps and a bit of time and tailored to fit a particular need. e.g. the micro jig.

 By clamping the Jig down and then clamping the wood to it I am able to hold the pieces of wood together to form a butt joint, I have also used this jig when assembling butt joints that were not pocket holes. 

right angle clamp frame
clamp frame holding two pieces of wood,
before clamping.

  With the correct tools all jobs are easier.

cheers, Ian W                               

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Bird House Guy

  Saturday past was the Locke Street Festival in Hamilton Ontario. Along with bands playing, booths selling food and local politicians making promises that they will not keep, was the Bird House Guy.  He makes interesting bird houses all year and sells them one day a year at the Festival.

Actually this is a Bee House not a bird house.  Solitary bees need places to live too.

lots of holes

Know what bird you want to attract and make the bird house the best size with the optimum opening.

This bird house was inspired by a local church

  Obviously these are bird houses, and works of art made from wood. Don't let anyone knock you down because you are 'just' making bird houses.  With practice and inspiration the bird houses can be fantastic.

 Well done, Bird House Guy.

Friday, September 5, 2014

2 x 4 project

  If you wander around the internet like I do you are familiar with the 2x4 Challenge. My project is not an entry into the challenge but...something that I whipped up with an eight foot 2x4 left over from a fence repair job.

 The basic dimensions are easy and really the only tools you need  are mitre saw, Pocket Hole Jig, a drill and a sander.

  Parts List:

4 at  11 by 2 by 4
4 at  12 by 2 by 4

  I cut 45 degree mitres on the ends of the 12 inch boards.

  Seven of the frames parts were assembled in the shop using  wood screws and the last section was screwed together when placed around the tree.

completed frame, 26 1/2 inches across

  When I put the frame together I used Pocket Holes, this is how I clamped the frame together when I screwed it together.

   After I screwed the frame together I cut the over hang off with a hand saw and then sanded things smoothish.

  When the project is finally done you get this:

Cheers, Ian W


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Upper Canada Village Cabinet Maker's Shop

  Last week my Wife and I went to Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg Ontario. We arrived expecting to spend a hour or two and stayed for the entire day.  In fact we did not see and do all the things that were available to us. 
  The following three photographs show the working cabinet maker's shop. I loved the place.  It has about three major projects on the go and several small ones out but on the back burner. This shop has a big old work bench front and centre where the craftsman was flattening a pine board with hand planes. 

a wall full of tools. 

chairs made in the shop for use in the village.

  The village has a saw mill that provides raw materials for all the wood work in the village.  The cabinet maker gets wood from the village mill and then air dries in for at least a year before using it to make furniture, window frames and tools for use in the village.  What a great shop, lots of room and tonnes of natural light. 

  It was great to talk with the Village Cabinet Maker he knew the business from 1867 and has good hand tool skills as well.

   When we stopped for lunch we ate under a pavilion tucked away in a corner of the village. The wood work shows that they have skills and materials available that most of use can only dream of.

tenon timber framing holding up the roof. 

timber framing and a metal plate from the Village Black Smith.
  The saw mill cuts mostly soft wood but can cut hard wood like oak and maple.