Archive for the ‘handmadewoodgifts’ Category

Checkmate – First steps

So here is a custom project that I’m excited to start for 2 reasons.  It is a set of salt and pepper grinders in the shape of a king and queen chess piece, which is something that I have on my to-do list.  Now I can say that I haven’t ever made these exact things, but there is no reason that I can’t!   The second reason is that when these are complete they will be sent to the other side of the planet… which is a pretty cool.

I plan to make several posts showing you the main steps in the process of producing a custom item.   The basic design requirements of these are that they are to be about 10″ tall and 2.5″ around.  My default woods for a project like this would be a solid piece of maple and walnut for the light and dark chess piece contrast.  However, in this case, the buyer would like to paint them herself.   So I will make them out of a less attractive wood called poplar, because no one will see it in the end, anyways.

The best thing to do when starting out is to put something on paper.  I usually start with a hand sketch like the 2 that I have below:


These are just guild lines to work out the basic shape and style, these aren’t to a true scale.  Also, the end product doesn’t end up lopsided (I never did do great in art class).   If I am really concerned about scale, I will sketch out ideas on graph paper.  If it is a really complex design that involves alot of thought I will draw in out in CAD ( I have a few projects in mind that might require this level of detail).

Of course the rough sketch is just a guild line.  As I get to turning the actual pieces I will often improvise and deviate from the sketch because in real life isn’t always the same as on paper.  Maybe an area looks to fat and needs to be thinned out, or a bead or detail look out of place… then it is up to me to do what I think looks best.

Check back soon to see what happens next!!


Personal Cross

As promised last month, here is a look at the gift I made for my wife’s birthday.  This idea has been in my head for over 2 years, and although it isn’t that complex, I’m glad I was able to finish it.

Religion is an important part of our lives and I have made a few more simple crosses in the past.   This one is a little more fancy than a traditional straight cross.  Although you have probably seen a cross of this style before, this cross was 100% designed and drawn up by me on the computer and I had some templates CNC cut from the drawing.   I had plans to try to produce these crosses in a production fashion from plywood and paint them, but that idea fell through for more than one reason.  Now I plan on sticking with my focus of using solid hardwood, in this case Jatoba, to do all the talking… no paint allowed!

I decided to add some additional detail with some old-fashioned nails, I think the heads of the nails are just the right touch.  I gave this cross several coats of a hand rubbed 100% tung oil finish.

Nail head detail

Nail detail

Now my mother-in-law wants one… A great Christmas idea for next year!!  Or maybe even Easter.

I have 2 different style crosses in 2 different sizes ready to be made.   The other style is much more round where as this one is pointed.  This one is the large one, about 18″ tall, the smaller one are about 10″

Of course you can always order one for your self in just about any wood, just ask!


He is risen


Sad sad day for custom Etsy lovers…

For those that aren’t familiar with Etsy, it is a website that is dedicated for selling handmade a vintage items.  They also had a section called Alchemy, which was an area to request an item custom made for you.  Etsy decided to take it down and revamp it, with no scheduled timeline to bring it back.  Most of my sales on Etsy have been through this section, or from repeat customers.  Now it is gone (for who knows how long) leaving no way for people to seek out custom items.

A group of Etsians have broken out and are starting up a website dedicated to custom requests called (U Name It, I Make It).  The website is still under development but they are moving fast on it.  So if you are in the need for a custom item, or gift idea, check them out!   Of course you can always email me if you need some custom woodworking done!

Also, I have a custom job coming up that has been something that I have wanted to make for myself, but now need to make for someone else.  I plan on making a series of post showing the process of going from design to final product.  So check back to see what it could be!


As the bowl turns…

One of the most relaxing wood working experiences for me is turning a bowl.  I don’t get to do them nearly as often as I would like to, but when I do there is something hypnotic about watching the shavings peel off the wood.  Every bowl is different and can contain some unique characteristics.  For instance this bowl here has some spalting (the dark lines that you see) and some bug holes, which both add some uniqueness to the bowl and give it some character.  Now, I knew when I turned it that it would have some of this, but you never know what the final look will be like until the bowl is finished.

Right now I can really only turn bowls up to about 8” in diameter.  That is because of the size of my lathe.  I currently have a small lathe right now and that is the one tool where the size of the tool affects the size of the projects that you can do and you don’t have much other options.  Huge bowls sound interesting and fun to make but I hear that bowls that are over the 16” range are typically too large and too expensive for most people, I plan to test that theory in the future.  If you want to start seeing me produce some bigger bowls, then contact me about buying some of my smaller bowls :)!!

Mahogany bowl with Cherry stripe

Maple burl bowl with bark vein


Wood bowls make great candy dishes, center pieces, salad bowls, general catch all’s (I have one on my desk holding paper clips), show pieces, haircut guides for your kids hair, and just about anything else you can use a bowl for.

I have a few bowls that were very green (fresh cut) that I rough turned last year so that they will dry out a bit faster, and a few others that need some repairing… hopefully I can get back to those in a few months.  I hope to make some matching pepper mill and bowl sets too.  But that is for another time.


A start to the new year

Well we are about half way through January and I have secured a custom order through Etsy.  Not anything really big, but a chance to make something out of the ordinary with my lathe and some left over oak wood.

I also have a few other conversations for custom work that I’m waiting to hear back on.  So wish me luck there!  If one of those come through maybe I’m show some step by step posts about one… or both.

I also took some time to finish up a project that I started a while ago… my wife’s birthday is right around the corner so it will make a great gift.  And no, contrary to popular belief, I did not start woodworking to avoid buy gifts for people ;).   I’ll post that after her birthday next month.  I have a few more finishing touches to do on it still, but have plenty of time – for a change.


Thirsty anyone?

Pimp cup goblet

Recently I made a goblet for my wife.   She has been always wanting a pimp cup so I was thinking about the best way that I could make one for her out of wood.  I settled on a design as shown.  Zebrawood on the outside, because no pimp would be without zebra print something, Purpleheart because purple is a stereo-typical pimp color and canary wood because is contrast nicely with the purpleheart.  These are treated  with an epoxy finish to keep it water tight.  A cup that any pimp should have handy.  Of course I can make it out of a variety of woods, or just a solid piece of wood.

Another option is the wine glasses with the wooden stem.  This one that is shown here is made from laminated cherry, not a solid piece of cherry.  Ideally I would make them out of a single block of 3” square wood, like maple, oak, cherry, or walnut.   The glass top gives it a nice contrast to the  wood.

I hope to make a few more glasses in the near future, and maybe a few other goblets out of solid wood, I have some extra Walnut turning blocks to use up.

If anyone has some interest in something  like this please let me know!  Add it with a matching wine stopper and have a complete drinking set!

Until next time,


I hate snow

I hate snow.

I’m trying to maintain a more regular shop schedule this year so I can make sure I have time to build up some inventory, and still keep a healthy work/life balance.  I would like to try and do some art shows, but don’t have nearly enough items on hand to display.  Don’t look for me out there this year, maybe in 2012 though.

Most of my work has been on a custom order basis, which is great to avoid buying things that I don’t need or that people don’t want.  But I also want to appeal those that need to see before they buy… novel concept, I know.  So between custom orders and new idea of things that I want to build, and trust me I have no shortage of ideas…., I’m trying to start the year off with a more regular schedule to build up items… and the snow is ruining it!  Tripling commute times and making me shovel and snow blow it away takes away from my shop time!

Hopefully I can get back on track next week and start to crank out a few more things.  Wish me luck!

If anyone knows of some good art shows in Michigan that I should try to get into, let me know.


Right frame of mind

So far I’ve shown you the pens and wine stoppers, all fun lathe items to make.  Now I’m going to take you to the world of flat work… but just for now.

I  first made a picture frame out of necessity.  I was given a water color art piece of a martini, a fantastic drink that keeps getting better with every olive.  It was purchased at one of the local art fairs here in Michigan (Arts and Apples), and given to me as a present (birthday, I think…).  While I probably could have found a store bought frame that would have been the right size, but I thought that this would be a great time to make my own.  So I made one out of curly maple, see the non-professional picture of it…

In the corner is a mahogany spline which reinforces the frame and I love the look of contrasting the woods.  You don’t need a spline on a miter joint, but you do need to reinforce it… a miter joint is not very strong and additional reinforcements are needed.  If you don’t like the look of the contrasting wood, a spline can be made out of the same material as the frame, or an different type of reinforcement can be used.  Nails could be used… but seriously??  I like to try and stay with traditional joinery when possible.

Here are some unique frames that I came up with:

This 5-picture picture frame was one that I thought would be cool to make.  It is created with half lap joints which are nice and strong.  I get a lot of inquiries about this frame, which can be custom made for all kinds of pictures sizes, but this is an expensive frame, prices vary but they are usually north of $150, which include glass and backing.  It is just a labor intensive frame to get all of the joints fitting nicely, but you get what you pay for!  If you are the type of person that needs to have an abstract, unique frame… then look no further.

This next frame came about as a custom order from someone looking for a way to house high school diplomas’, a picture, and the tassel.  It uses a combination of miters joints and half lap joints.  The half lap joints strengthen the frame enough that the miters don’t need to have splines, but they could still be added.  This frame runs around $110, which includes glass, backing, and a custom cut matte to fit the picture size that you might want.  This also allows you to use the frame for a college degree as well.

Walnut Graduation Frame

This final frame was custom made for a 30th “Pearl” anniversary.  I added a channel and inlaid some fresh water pearls and outlined them in some maple, which matched the splines.  The frame itself is made from exotic Jatoba.  The idea for the design was a collaboration between me and the buyer.

If you have something special you would like a custom frame for just let me know and we can try to get you what you are looking for.


Winos only –


2 Jatoba and 1 Oak wine stoppers

Another product that we offer are these hand turned wine stoppers. Like the wood pens, these don’t use a lot of wood (just thicker wood) so it gives you the opportunity to use expensive exotic woods without breaking the bank and they are a great way to cap off your left over wine – functional and stylish!

Some people say that they don’t need a wine stopper because they always finish their bottles of wine…. And to them I say “Show some restraint!” 🙂   No, not really.  But I like red wine and if my wife wants white… and it’s a work night… are we really each going to finish a bottle that night?!   If you answered “yes!” then maybe you need to be a regular visitor to  But for us, not so much, so why not cap it off and save it for the next day?

Jatoba wine stoppers with inset fresh water pearls

There are several different styles of wine stoppers out there ranging from cork, to silicon, to chrome plated, to stainless steel. I have only really dabbled in the chrome plated ones, they are more affordable then the stainless ones and look a lot nicer then the silicon ones. I personally won’t do the cork ones because they can transfer the taste of the wine from one bottle to another – bad news there if you are even a little picky about your wine. You can see them offered on our website here:

Custom personalization available!

I am also working on a special order for a large amount of wine stoppers to be used as wedding favors with a custom wood brand on the top. Of course in cases like these it can make financial sense to personalize them, but if you are getting just 1 or 2 then it would be cost prohibited.

If you are interested in having something like this done for your wedding, or other special event, email me at and we can discuss the details of what you want and volume discounts!

But of course, if your wine comes from a box then you really don’t need one… but thanks for reading along!


Wood Pens… the monster at the beginning

A sampling of some of the various pens that we can make

Hello once again.  We are now officially a few days into the new year and all the Christmas decorations are coming down and we are preparing for 3 months of a bitter cold and snowy Michigan winter with no work free Holidays in sight!

So I thought I would take a minute to showcase the item push me over the edge and down the path that we are on right now.  That is these hand turned wood pens!  I will go into deeper detail on different styles another time, as there are many of them with a wide range in cost.  Pens make great gifts for groomsmen, graduates, doctors, pastors, and anyone else that still uses old fashioned paper to write on.

Cocobolo gold slimline pen with cross clip.

Pen’s peaked my interest because they don’t use a lot of wood so it gives people the chance to use and see woods they otherwise may never know about.  For example, the piece of cocobolo I’m holding in the last post had a retail price of almost $20 on it… and that isn’t a very big piece of wood.  But cocobolo for pens can be very affordable, and beautiful (see picture on the right)!  So because of this I was able to experience dozens of woods from all around the world and put them into the hands of people that had never heard of them.

But being a woodworker at heart and seeing all the natural beauty of exotic woods, I couldn’t just stop at doing pens….

Until next time,