Archive for the ‘Woodworking’ Category

A post to my fellow woodworkers

It has been a long time since I posted a blog update…. Between the mad rush before the holidays and the impressively cold weather we are having here in Michigan, I have either been short on free time, or short on shop time.

But I wanted to post a write up for my fellow woodworkers – a blog post about a monumental day in the life of a woodworker that all of us can relate with.

This monumental event – the day that I bought my first BRAND NEW power tool!  Everything that I have bought to date has been used.  Used tools can be a great buy but sometimes you just want to go new.  So I’m dedicating this lengthy post to help aspiring wood workers understand what my thinking was going into this purchase.

First, what did I buy?

A 10” table saw from Grizzly Tools, specifically the G1023RLX 10” 3HP Left Tilting Cabinet Saw.

Grizzly saw

Second, why did I want a new saw?

There are several reason for this.  First, I wanted a more powerful saw.  I have been cutting a lot of really thick and dense hardwoods and the older saw with a 1.5HP motor couldn’t handle long rips of this thick material.  I changed to a thin kerf blade, but then the cut quality suffered.  The new saw did require me to run a 220 volt outlet though.  Another reason for the upgrade was that I wanted to have a saw that came with a riving knife, for the additional safety.  The final reason for wanting a new saw was for the improved dust collection that a cabinet saw offers.  Also, I went with the RLX to have the additional table length to handle sheet goods, should the need arise, and a place to mount router, for a router table.  Your mileage may vary.

Third, why did I choose this specific saw?

This needs to be broken down into to why the company I picked and then why this saw.

First, the company.  I chose Grizzly based on how I perceive their overall tool value.  In other words, their tools tend to be less expensive than some of the other big name woodwork tool company’s, while still maintaining good quality.  This is an issue that can of course be debated and disagreed with, but in my year long research for new tables saw I have found mostly good things about the quality of their tools.  It also seems that most of the naysayers haven’t actually used/owned one of the Grizzly brand tools and they are going off the negative perceived value of overseas made tools.  News flash: a large majority of tools are made over sea nowadays.  Some of the “higher end” tools have some striking similarities to these tools, except maybe for the color.  So bottom line, for me, it was a “value for the money” purchase.

Secondly, why specifically the G1023RLX over other Grizzly saws.  Grizzly has large variety of saws but if you want a 10” cabinet then you are looking at one of the G1023’s or the G0691’s (or shorter rip G0690). There is a third option but it seems sort of out of place compared to the other ones, both in cost and features.  From what I gather the G0691’s big advantage was that it had a riving knife and a Lesson 3HP motor – that would have sealed the deal for me.   But now the G1023 comes with a riving knife, so that leveled the playing field.  So without going through a side by side comparison of all the feature and spec on each saw, I tell you why I picked the 1023.  It really came down to the fact that this saw uses a serpentine belt system rather than the triple belt system on the G0691.  I like the idea of fewer parts and feel that in this case simpler is better.  The G1023 offers dust collection at the blade, but the G0691 doesn’t – every little bit of dust collection helps.  The other difference that didn’t really factor in, but could be mentioned are that the G1023 offer 53” of rip capacity compared to 50” and the dust collection hook up is on the back rather than the side.  Neither of these are deal breakers, but both worked to my advantage in this case.  In my opinion the only clear advantage to the G0691 is the name brand motor, oh and the color if you like the white over the green.

Setting up and initial thoughts on the saw:

Setting up the saw out of the box was pretty straight forward, the directions weren’t bad, but it is heavy so have a helper!  The blade stops came setup to a perfect 0 and 45 degrees to the table and was parallel to the miter tracks, so that eliminated some fuss up front.

The saw run strong and smooth with little vibration. I haven’t used the saw as much and I would have liked by now but overall I’m very happy with it.  The one thing I am disappointed with is the dust collection at the blade.  I don’t really feel like it does much to collect the dust!  I also found that the hose can become clogged very easily with small cutoffs, so a Zero Clearance insert is a MUST.

Thanks for reading, and if you work for Grizzly I’ll take a discount off the 15” planer that I hope to purchase this year!



Click-Stache Ballpoint Mustache Pen

Mustache-Lovers Unite!

Some of you may have noticed recently the popularity of mustache related items, from glasses, coffee mugs, straws, stickers, and the  like… all in the name of making it look like you have a mustache on your face.  Why, because mustaches are HIGH-Larious!  But not just regular mustaches.   They need to be large and fluffy, or long enough to be contorted and held into various shapes.  This is the Holy Grail of mustache awesomeness.

There is an almost cult like following with mustache lovers, and you either love mustache’s or don’t understand the crazy at all – a sign of any good niche.  Well, we are here to embrace your love of mustache’s and provide you with an extremely high quality ball point mustache pen that looks great and meets your mustache needs.   This is a exclusive! You will not find a pen like this ANYWHERE!

We like to refer to this product as the “Click-Stache”.

The Click-Stache is a ballpoint click pen that features simple lines and details, high quality Rhodium plating, one-handed click action, and takes a standard parker style ball point refill. The body of the pen is made from a hardwood called Holly, and the mustache itself is made from dyed maple. The mustaches are laser cut, hand assembled, and hand turned on a lathe. No cheap plastic parts or stickers here!

While using your pen at work you can quickly hold it to your face using the mustache to disguise yourself from annoying coworkers and angry bosses. Or use it to add some mustache sophistication when the need arises. Don’t be left without one!

We are offering a per-order sale right now on Etsy – get it now before the price goes up!


Don’t stain my wood!

I was watching TV recently and two different shows reminded me of my greatest woodworking pet peeve.   But before I go into that detail, let me offer some back ground as to what my issue is and where it originates.   My love of woodworking really exploded when I was introduced to the world of exotic woods through a show called “Woodworks”.  The host of the show, David Marks, was always using woods that I had never heard of.  Each wood was uniquely beautiful and boasted colors and grain that I had never seen before.  From that point on I was sold, and decided to only offer things done in natural wood with a clear finish to protect it.  “Stain” is a dirty wood in my house, because stain is just that…. Dirt.  I don’t want you to rub dirt on the finely crafted work that I created, so why would you want me to?

It is probably one of the most common questions I get asked: “what color are you going to stain it.”  The question is asked as though staining is how wood is always finished.  So I make it my goal to educate people to not cover up their beautiful wood, but rather appreciate the variety that exists in nature.

Now, this leads my pet peeve.  I was watching a recent show of “Son’s of Guns” on the Discovery Channel were they were building an old fashioned looking gun called a “blunderbuss”.  As part of the build they were restoring an old walnut stock and they used a walnut stain to “bring out the natural beauty of the wood”.  Really?  You are going to take a piece of beautiful walnut wood and then use a “walnut” stain on it?   You are already at your end goal of a walnut colored stock by virtue of nature and dirt in the stain will actual hinder some of that beauty, not highlight it.  I can’t be too mad at them, they are gun people not woodworking people.

The other show was “The Vanilla Ice Project” on DIY network (yes, the 90’s rapper).  They are rebuilding a million dollar house and bring in 3 huge and beautiful African Mahogany planks and promptly gave them a “nice dark stain.”  Mahogany is one of my favorites to work with and has a beautiful color and grain pattern.  Mahogany will naturally darken over time, but rubbing dark dirt on it is no way to do this.  If their end goal was to have some dark wood, they could have slopped some stain on some cheaper Oak wood.  I have worked with design and styling people before, and to be honest, they aren’t known for their practicality.  They are just trying to make real life match their vision.  I can respect that, but I bet they could have achieved their vision with another species of wood had they known, maybe they should consult me next timeJ.

Even professionals can fall victim to this as well.  I remember early on in my woodworking “training” watching an episode of “The Old Yankee Workshop” were Norm made a “Mahogany poker table” and the last step involved “mahogany” stain.  That pained me greatly!  Although, I also don’t pump finish nails into my project either, everyone has their own style – it is just not one that I agree with.  Maybe when PBS offers me a show we can revisit that table and do it the right way.

So the moral of the story is, don’t stain my wood.  If you are looking for a Mahogany/Walnut/Cherry finish, then I’ll start with those woods.  Also, stain can’t alter the look of the wood grain, so you end up with a similar color, but not the natural hues and features that come from nature.  The natural wood will look better and stay looking better longer then some colored dirt rubbed into the surface.  If you want something that stain can’t match, use some exotic woods like Cocobolo, Zebrawood, or Wenge (just to name a few).  No stain will ever match these woods and while pricey, they are truly spectacular!


Custom Umbrella Stand

I just wanted to share with everyone my latest unique creation.  This came as a custom request from one of my repeat clients.  We designed it together going through several variations before we found one that worked.  Thanks goodness for CAD!











The end result was this Art Deco inspired stand made from Mahogany and Australian Lacewood.  While the piece itself may not appear overly complex, the challenge was in the compound angles on the sides.  Each of the sides needed to have the exact same tapered angles and needed to be the exact same length.  The edges of each piece needed to have an exact 45 degree miter cut down the entire length each edge.  I actually ended up making this twice because I was so unhappy with the results from the first time.  The joints were not tight and the angles made the whole top look more like a diamond then a square.  The second take was much better!  Check it out:

The bottom of the stand is constructed of a mahogany veneered piece of MDF which is more stable than solid wood.  A solid piece of wood would expand and contract with the varying moisture levels, and this could split the stand.  To further eliminate any effect of standing water from a wet umbrella resting on the wood, the top surface of the Mahogany veneer was coated with a thick clear 2-part epoxy.  The rest of the piece is finished with 4 coats of a gloss wipe on Poly.

I’m extremely happy with the end results, especially after seeing how a small amount of variation can have a huge impact on the overall fit.  This solid umbrella stand will be greeting its new owners in their entryway with a collection of umbrellas at the ready for many years to come.

If you have a need and just can not find a solution, or just want something that no one else can purchase at a regular store maybe a custom piece is right for you!  See some additional pictures below.


Slight segway…

I’ve been pulling some ideas together for a blog posting on the reasons why people should purchase high quality handmade items, as well as situations on when it doesn’t make sense too.  This article on Yahoo today regarding things to NOT buy really highlights one of the thoughts that I had:

It touches on 2 points, the quality of “wood” furniture (point 2) and the joys of assembling said furniture (point 5). Take a read, hold on to that thought, and take a second before you make your purchase.


Graduation time

So last year I answered a custom request on Etsy.  This person was looking for a way to display her sons high school diploma along with the tassel and a picture of him.  I immediately understood her dilemma, what do you do with your tassel or diploma/degree after a while?  It either sits in a drawer or box to be forgotten about or eventually thrown away, mine are somewhere around here… I think.  After several conversations we figured out the prefect design:

The frame itself is 12″ tall, 27″ long, made from 3/4″ thick solid hardwood that is 1.5″ thick, and is comprised of a mixture of miter and half lap joints.  The only fasteners use on this frame are the screws that hold the hanging wire on the back of the frame and the points used to hold the matte and backing in place.

As it turns out that the height of the frame is really determined by the length of the tassel, and not the pictures.  The frame can accommodate a picture up to 7.5″ wide and 9.5″ tall.  Since this isn’t a standard size, custom mattes can be used to any size that you want.  It also allows you to do the same with a high school diploma which is about 6″x8″ or a full size 8″x10″ college degree.

Made from Mahogany

The picture and the diploma/degree have a plexi glass fronts to keep them protected, while the tassel sits in a box that has an open front.  I found that having glass in the front of tassel would smash it, there just wasn’t enough room with a standard frame thickness.  So I opted for an open front that allows the tassel to hang unhindered.

Made from Walnut

As always, these frames are available in a variety of domestic and exotic woods such as: Walnut, Cherry, Mahogany, Jatoba, Zebrawood, Lacewood, Bubinga, Padauk, and many other – just ask for pricing with your favorite wood.

This frame is a great time capsule, a way to capture the memories of your high school or college accomplishments.


Checkmate – step 4 – it all comes together

This is it, we are in the home stretch now… After the holes are drilled then you just need to shape the bodies and tops.  This is where your initial sketch and the realities of the project meet, and sometimes don’t match.  You need to be aware of the inner diameters of the holes that you just drilled so that you don’t cut areas too thin and destroy all your hard work.  I couldn’t thin the body as much as my sketch showed because of this.

While you are shaping the mills refer to your sketch for reference, it is easy to lose your place while turning.  Looking at the drawing will remind of your ultimate end design.  Once you get the mills shaped how you like them, sand them to remove all the tool marks and smooth them out.

The top of the queen had to be cut with a hand saw off the lathe, that added a bit of complexity, but I’m happy with how that turned out.  On the head of the king I left the cross round so that whatever angle you look it the cross will look the same.  I actually ended up making 2 heads for the king and having the buyer pick the one that she liked the best… just another advantage of buying custom!


At this point I would apply a finish, but since these are going to be painted I need to skip that step so that the paint will stick to the wood.  After the sanding I move on to the installation of the mechanisms.  Each mill manufacture has their own instructions for this, so follow those.  If you have made it this far then you should be able to figure that out!

Now you’re done!  Pull off the top and load it with your salt or pepper corn, push the top back on and give it a twist!   This still has an adjustable knob on the bottom (most have it on the top) for adjusting between a fine or a coarse grind.