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Media Console

For the wife. A small media console in sapele on a mahogany base, built without even a sketch. 27.5" high by 15.5" deep by 34" long. Finished with wipe-on poly.

Bow-front dresser

I made this dresser a few years back out of birch and some local Maine cherry that I found someone selling on Craigslist. I'd never seen cherry like this. It  has three color regions. There's the...

Bowfront cabinet

This is a cabinet in birch on a base of douglas fir… there's also some cherry, framing the door panels. The finish is a quick wipe of linseed oil followed by several sprayed coats of dewaxed...


I made this a few years ago as I began the (seemingly endless) transition to being a self-employed woodworker. I followed Lon Schleining's Essential Workbench pretty closely.The top and base are made...

Flame Birch Desk

I love flame birch. I've experiment with different finishes for it, and have found that putting shellac on the raw wood mutes the figure to a certain extent. Boiled linseed oil seems to bring out the...

Recent comments

Re: 25th Anniversary Credenza

Sweet! Very elegant curves.

Re: The birth of a hobbit cupboard

Yes! Looks great. This is definitely my favorite way to do things, letting the actual presence of the piece guide its design. It's scary, and can be disastrous, but I think you get to realize things that you never could have realized from a drawing or even a mock-up. Plus it makes everything more exciting and engaging. Thanks for sharing.

Re: Bow-front dresser

Thanks, Mkreb!

The finish is Minwax Antique Oil - a wiping oil/varnish blend. I no longer remember how I applied it, but these days if I use it, I flood the first coat, let it soak in, the wipe it ALL off. Then two more coats, each time putting it on pretty wet, then waiting a few minutes, then wet sand it with 400 (1st time), then 600 grit (third and last coat), again wiping it off afterwards. You could probably rub it out with steel wool after a few days, but I haven't found the need. It's a really nice, silky smooth satin finish. Looks great, but hasn't held up to the cats all that well - but a rubout and another coat would probably have it looking new again.

As far as photography, the article in FWW from a year or two ago really taught me a lot. My set up is basically an old drop cloth, two halogen lights on stands, sometimes diffused with parchment paper (which won't readily catch on fire) clipped over them, and a pretty basic digital camera on a good tripod. I'm still fairly clueless, but no longer feel the need to say, "It looks a lot better than the picture, really!" I use a lot of flame birch, and so far the hardest part has been trying to balance a well-lighted shot and also bring out the figure, which is entirely dependent on lighting.

Re: Using end grain to make drawer front veneers

I agree, awesome. How do you feel about updating us in say a year, once the Conn. seasons have run their course? It's just such an unusual technique, as you say, and I'm really curious about how the wood movement plays out in the long term. This is the sort of thing I would never have thought to do on my own, in part for the fear of wood movement, gluing, etc., and in part because it never occurred to me. So I'm grateful and curious. Thanks.

Re: Shop Talk Live 6: On the Pod

fountainhughes: I would take a scrap panel (preferably the same species and grain type as the doors, to ensure similar results) and coat it just exactly the same as the doors. Then hit it with a single light coat of dewaxed shellac - Zissner makes a 2 lbs. cut of this called SealCoat, and it will work wonders in most situations. You could even cut the SealCoat further with denatured alcohol, down to 1 lb. Letting all coats dry, put the poly on the test panel. Let that dry a few days (the longer the better, as poly takes forever to cure), and then do some simple adhesion test like scratching it. Test it however you like - with water, heat, whatever. See what happens and if it seems sound to you, then go for it on the doors. In my non-expert opinion, of course.

Re: What I've Learned About the Online Woodworking Community

That first picture of Mike and the caption below are great. You could tell that he wanted to get back to topics like hand planing white oak.

Anyhow, while Asa's comments also rubbed me a bit the wrong way, I do think this was all pretty exaggerated. I have no doubt that he's very proud of Fine Woodworking, and he should be. In my view, it's the best woodworking resource in print or online. But if you pay attention, you'll find that he's not an arrogant person. He spends as much time poking fun at himself as anything else. And no one can deny that there are some real examples of what he was talking about. As he acknowledges, he shouldn't have said anything at all, as it wasn't particularly helpful, but in the end, what he did say wasn't as bad as people are making it out to be. He wasn't condemning all online content other than his own - he was merely pointing out that there is some awful stuff out there (and there is).

What IS truly disrespectful is the attitude that so many people adopted toward this. The rude and threatening comments. And I doubt that any of these people will do any reflection or apologizing. "jdmaher" makes some great points, but remember that everything cuts both ways. If you want a classy community, stay classy yourself. Peace,


Re: Shop Talk Live 6: On the Pod

So awesome! Just a non-stop barrage of expert advice and information. Jeff seems to know everything there is to know about finishing, and more. Thanks!

Re: Geo -Matrix walnut media cabinet

Here is the antidote to those little boxes of wood samples that say, "this is what cherry looks like, this is what walnut looks like." Wild

Re: How to make a sacrificial rip fence that never wears out

Also, I think this would be kinder to the blade itself, rather than having the teeth always rubbing against the fence. Great tip.

Re: changing table

The arrangement of wood (i.e. grain and color) in this piece is very interesting, and I think masterful. While a lot of the stylings are reminiscent of GG, it somehow feels more raw and organic to me - in a successful way. Nice.

Re: Shop Talk Live 5: Compounding Errors

Another great show, thank you! But...

First: I think sketchy content on the internet mostly weeds itself out. For instance, I saw a video on butterfly keys where the fellows had the best intention and made some good points, but also made some critical mistakes, and were ruthlessly criticized in the comments - more so than they really deserved, but enough to make sure an attentive information seeker didn't follow their exact procedure.

Second: Asa, what is the deal with you and your lacquer floor sealer under polyurethane? You seem especially proud of it. I wouldn't bring it up, but since the topic is misinformation on the internet, I'm almost positive there's no such thing as an "oil-based lacquer." Also, lacquer is a hard, brittle finish, and polyurethane is a tough, more flexible one. Assuming you get them to stick together, don't you think they'll want to go in different directions?

Third: just because somebody's done something a bunch, doesn't mean they understand the larger picture. What if somebody's built a hundred Shaker pieces, but ten years later, all the joints cracked apart? Conversely, just because somebody hasn't produced a beautiful piece of furniture doesn't mean they're not an expert at mortise and tenons, or upside down double twisted bent laminations, or whatever. Just looking at the immediate end result of a project doesn't tell you all that much, especially if it's based on a picture.

Just some food for thought. "Pins vs. Tails", call it.

Re: Workbench

Thank you all so much for the comments! Of course, the bench has acquired a few battle scars since those photos were taken…

davidcarve: The plans are from this article: http://www.finewoodworking.com/PlansAndProjects/PlansAndProjectsPDF.aspx?id=2882

It’s pretty much just like that one, but with a few joinery changes (I think he uses bolts to hold the stretcher together, and I used wedged through tenons), and some different woods and details. The same author also did an article for FWW about a cabinet to go under the bench, and I also used that same basic idea.

Thanks again -Nathaniel

Re: Maple & Walnut endgrain cutting board

Google, my friend, clarifies all: http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Walnut_toxicity_fact_and_fiction.html

I worked at a big architectural millwork/cabinet shop with a dust collection system that emptied into an almost literal train car size bin. Every time the boys milled up walnut, they pulled the train car away, because the shavings were all sold to farms. Short answer is that if you're a horse, walnut is bad. If you're a human, not so much.

Very cool cutting board, by the way.

Re: Flame Birch Desk

I based the keyboard front on an article from FWW by Charles Durfee (I believe). If you do a search on "computer desk" here, it will come up.

I used hinges made for a rule joint table and beveled the bottom of the front and the front of the stretcher to allow the front to cover up the stretcher and still open a bit more than 90 degrees (this is all better explained in the article.) I used rare earth magnets as catches to keep the front closed.

Thank you for the kind words. That flame birch is really magical.

Re: Shop Talk Live 3: Diminishing Returns

Thanks guys, I really look forward to and enjoy this hour of information and entertainment every couple of weeks. Keep up the good work!

I am wondering about something Asa says about a half hour in when talking about the lacquered kitchen cabinets. He says that lacquer makes a great sealer and most anything will stick to it. While certainly true for dewaxed shellac, I'm not so sure it's true for solvent-based lacquers. Personally, I wouldn't try to put a water based finish or a polyurethane over any other kind of top coat without first testing it on a scrap or an inconspicuous spot, and then doing some adhesion tests once it's dry. Adding a wash coat of dewaxed shellac between finishes will, in my non-expert opinion, increase chances of success.


Re: Chris Gochnour's technique for inlaying stringing

Cool, but I've always wondered: won't the stringing running cross grain present some problems in terms of wood movement? I imagine the contracting and expanding top itself overpowering the stringing and maybe popping it out, or at least knocking the joints out of whack. And yet, it's been done for probably thousands of years, so what am I missing?

Re: Why do you work wood?

My favorite writer said he used to ask himself something like: If I washed up alone on a deserted island with no way off, would I pick up a stick and scratch words into the sand? When it came down to it, the answer was yes, and you can tell from his writing. I feel like this sort of drive is inherent in most people who strive toward fine woodworking, and continue to do so for many years, since one doesn't tend to get rich by rubbing out the back of a cabinet with pumice.

For me, it is all about the slow progress of a piece. I dry fit more than necessary, just so I can take a break from some of the more tedious steps and see what I've done, and where I'm going. It's the growth of a creation that I love so much. I prefer to work from rough sketches rather than measured drawings and figure out the joinery as I go. This takes longer for sure, but it turns the whole thing into a sort of constant adventure.

Sometimes there's a thrill when the plane is set up perfectly and there's no tear out, or even just the rhythm of picking up a drawer side and cutting a groove, knowing that they're all stacked the right way so you don't have to think about it, but you don't have to anyway, because you've come to know each piece, you've selected them and you know which side is the outside and which side gets the grove just by the grain.

And then there are days when you cut the groove on the wrong side.

And there are pieces where you put on the wrong pulls and that's it, the whole experience becomes less than what it should have been, less than what it actually was.

To come to the point, woodworking for me is a many-splendored thing. I put equal importance in coming up with clever solutions, clever ways of doing things, as I do in uncovering just the right piece of wood and arranging it in an artistic way. I put my all into each piece of furniture (I'm trying to make a "living" at it) and really it's about the total experience. I am talking about lying awake at night thinking about a piece of joinery, or waking up in the morning and looking at every stick of wood in the shop to find just the right one.

But yes, if the end result isn't something beautiful and useful (as much as I can manage), then I don't see the point in doing it.

Finally, I would never with a straight face call myself an artist, but I feel like this question is like asking somebody "Why create art?" There are a lot of different answers, but my personal favorite is always the one that nobody can quite articulate.

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