San Francisco, CA, US

Im a woodworker who recently relocated from Chicago to San Francisco, a true Midwesterner trying to adjust to West Coast ways. I began woodworking in 2001 by taking hand tool classes with Jeff Miller, and just never stopped. So far, Ive designed and built a few cherry tables, a dozen Adirondack chairs (of which Im most proud, for their senior-citizen friendly height and curved back), and bread boards.

Birthday: 03/17/1977

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Build a Ryczka: Part Two

The plan, cut list, and instructions for two variations of the ryczka, a Polish step stool.

Build a Ryczka: Part One

This step stool is an ideal first project for new woodworkers, and a Polish family favorite. Part Two will include a plan to download and step-by-step building instructions.

What I Know Now: Letters to My Beginning Woodworker Self

Dear Beginning Woodworker: While some of the following may seem obvious, they aren't... at least, not yet.

Wood Shop Al Fresco Redux

Almost one year ago, I wrote about plans for my outdoor workshop. Here's what worked... and didn't!

Wood Shop Al Fresco

The joys (and constraints) of creating a work space on my back deck. It's the only space I have, but it's space nonetheless. Plus, find out how I chose a workbench design for working outdoors.

Recent comments

Re: Build a Ryczka: Part Two

EngrMike, you're right about the 2'x4' sheet. When I was just starting out, I liked to have plenty of scrap on hand in case of mistakes, of which I've made a few (and I always have a use for plywood). I like your suggested order of operations, too - good thinking!

Re: My first box

This is absolutely gorgeous! Nicely done. I like your choice of color and detail. Simple but striking.

Re: Shop Manager Bill Peck: How I Got Started in Woodworking

Thank you for such high quality writing and woodworking. It's great to see the photos of how much you've done with a limited number of fairly inexpensive tools. This San Francisco resident is pretty envious of that basement. ;) Can't wait to see how it turns out.

Re: Start Woodworking: Build a Magnetic Wood Knife Holder

I love it! I know several friends who want these, and it would make an excellent Christmas gift. Terrific use of scrap that feels too "substantial" to be scrap, too.

Re: What I Know Now: Letters to My Beginning Woodworker Self

Thank you, Patrick. Sawnjuh, I did a bit of searching and found a good starting point for classes in San Diego, from the San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association. Here's the link:,%20College,%20Learning

Good luck!

Re: How to Sharpen a Handplane Iron

This is an ideal how-to on sharpening. It nicely covers the content of a sharpening class I took, as well as all of the tools used. Definitely one to print and keep in the shop! Thanks for writing this.

Re: What I Know Now: Letters to My Beginning Woodworker Self

Oh, thank you! I'm envious that you live near them. They are an incredible family owned and operated place.

Re: Katrina woodworking shop

Wonderful space! I'm envious. Thanks for sharing it. I hope that you didn't lose any tools during the storm, and it's great to see a thriving woodworker and shop post Katrina.

Re: 7 Great Books for Getting Started in Woodworking

This is a great list, Gina. Thanks for sharing it. I would have definitely added the Getting Started in Woodworking set to my Christmas wish list a few years ago. It would make a wonderful gift for woodworkers of many levels!

Some of my favorite books are two by Aldren A. Watson, Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings (the single most valuable tool reference I own) and Furniture Making Plain & Simple, and What Wood is That?: A Manual of Wood Identification by Herbert Edlin. In addition, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, by Matthew Crawford, has become a manifesto, even if it's focused more on motorcycle repair than woodworking. No matter what the medium, it is an important work on creating things and working with our hands.

Re: Wood Shop Al Fresco Redux

Hello, neighbor nava1uni. Please let me know if you ever come across affordable shared space or a bulk wood order you'd like to share. PeteQuad, thanks for giving me a reason to buy ANOTHER Bench Horse! :)

Re: Wood Shop Al Fresco Redux

Chris, thanks for the link to your blog. I'm definitely going to check it out.

JP017, I don't currently keep any stock, I'm sad to say. As you well know, it can be more affordable and give you better use of more wood. We don't have a basement and almost no garage space. Lord how I miss having wood from around the house!

Re: Wood Shop Al Fresco Redux

Lund, you win! I hail from Michigan, and "near freezing temps" carries a lot of weight with me. :)

Re: UPDATE: Book Giveaway: Made By Hand by Tom Fidgen

I work almost exclusively with hand tools, due to working on a deck with nearby neighbors or in my living room. I'd love to learn how to better translate power-tool plans to more hand-tool friendly ones. Thanks for doing these giveaways!

Re: UPDATE: Book Giveaway: Make Your Own Walking Sticks by Charles Self

A walking stick is on my project list for this year, just to see how different it would be from my $16 mass-manufactured ones. They are part of our hiking mantra, which is to go "slowly slowly, poley poley." :)

Re: Wood Shop Al Fresco

Thanks for the responses! All of you have been so resourceful and helpful. I wish I'd gotten email notification of comments, because I had no idea they were here and now feel terribly rude.

The near-constant rain of the past few weeks has made working outside an impossibility most of the time. I have decided to add an indoor bench (jpierce, I'm ogling the Blum "Pony" in another browser window, which I didn't know about until you mentioned them - thanks!) but will keep the exterior set-up for most power tool use and projects that will produce a lot of dust. The Blum, or something like it, could easily fit in our living room and I think my dear husband secretly loves the fact that it can be easily broken down and put away.

tomcarver and cybritton: Rain has been the worst for me too. I'd purchased plastic-coated/laminated MDF for the bench top, thinking that it would offer some moisture protection, but the top was just too slippery to use safely. The exposed MDF (between the coating) became too moist and warped and flaked anyway, and this just from the times that it was briefly uncovered (I usually had it wrapped in a tarp). For the outdoor bench, I will definitely use plywood or similar as other people have suggested. I've been keeping my eye out for used or scrap butcher block and plywood on Craigslist and Freecycle.

cahudson42in: A Festool like yours is a dream. I'm so glad to hear you think it's worthwhile. I'd just love to have one. A girl can dream!

I loved your thought as to whether some part of the deck could be enclosed on three sides with a shed roof top with marine fabric used as a roll down/drop down 'door'?. The landlady said no and, believe it or not (to add to my California irritation), said that the neighbors would argue it was an extension to the house and call the zoning commission. I didn't test this, because I'm sure it's quite likely given what I've learned of San Francisco politics and laws.

Branman: You wrote "Of course you are nuts. I think the bedroom is a better place for a shop. I recall having my Legacy mill in there awhile ago. Sleep on the foldout couch or a murphy." I'll take that to my newlywed husband tonight and see how he feels about giving up the Tempur-Pedic and the dining and living room furniture from his grandparents and mine. ;) I think I have a better chance with the living room.

You also wrote "Enjoy the quest...but you will still want a better shop." But of course I do! Dealing with life in one of the most expensive cities in the US is a reality for the moment, but it doesn't mean I don't WANT a better shop. It's just not going to happen (here) anytime soon. Like most other people right now, we're squarely in "make do" mode.

doozer, your tarp solution sounds ingenious. It is something I can try on the deck and plan to. I appreciated that you wrote that it "didn't make a big impact on the appearance of the house (important if you are renting or plan to sell up at some point)." You truly understand the constraints of being a renter! Thanks for the sympathy and your idea: It's such a creative way to work within current constraints.

tarsier recommended The Crucible in Oakland. Thanks to your testimony, I'm signed up for a carving class, which I know nothing about. I was so pleased to see that The Crucible is easily accessible via public transit, so I can get there quickly via BART, seeing as how we're going on year six of no car ownership.

Jaytease: Thanks for the cultural empathy. Let me know if you go to Bay Area Woodworkers or similar. I'm making "engagement with the larger local woodworking community" a big goal this year.

jpierce, I love your attitude that you can always make do. That's where I am right now, and I'm trying to have fun and stay creative with it rather than focus on things I want but can't afford. There's just no use in that right now and figuring out how to make do is much more fun anyway!

McKay: I purchased a Suncast storage box (this one: and it's working SO well. For the record, Suncast products are Made in the USA, which is incredibly important to me and possible others. We snapped it together inside of 10 minutes and my tools are staying super dry in the rain right now. I'm still keeping an eye on the rust inside, but all of my tools are also in their own cases inside of the box for extra protection.

kareardo, my power tools (which I don't use all that much compared to hand tools) have NOTHING on the family screaming matches from the neighbors, which wake us up at 5:30 AM some days. I relish the chances I get to run the router for a while in productive retaliation. :)

Re: Getting started in woodworking series project

Thanks for the taking the time to post this. Beautifully done! I am planning to build this bench this weekend, and also liked the plan.

Did you use MDF for the top, or is it wood? How long did it take you to make the bench, all told?

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