Earlier this year, I agreed to complete a woodworking project for my wife. Actually, I offered and volunteered myself to do it. She has a particular storage need in her office, and because of the weird layout, access issues, scale, etc, it's not something that exists anywhere. It has to be custom built, and installed in the space.
The truth is, I've been avoiding it. It's a big project, and it was easy to move to the bottom of the project list when it was the height of summer. We had houseguests coming in and out of our home, and the days were long and full of activity.
But now, that season is over, and it's time to start building. I realized this week why I've been putting it off: I'm afraid. It's beyond my skill level, and requires a lot of moving parts that need to line up, just so. In any other situation, this wouldn't be something I'd agree to do, because it's too big of a leap; I need to learn to do too many new skills inside the same project.
The random-orbit sander is one of the first tools any maker or DIYer should own. In fact, I can't think of another powered tool that I use more, on nearly every project involving wood. The design is simple, and right there in the name - they move, in a random circular pattern, to sand wood.
A huge improvement over its predecessor, the pad or orbital sander, these guys use special shaped sandpaper disc to get your project smooth fast and with minimum swirl marks. Well, at least faster than sanding by hand, and with much less energy. But with great power comes great...opportunity to mess things up. These wondertools work, but there are
A well organized shop is a productive shop. But we all know that as our skills and interests grow and change and our projects vary, its nice to be able to switch out grab-able tools and organization systems to meet the needs of what we're currently working on.
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I love the idea of combining modern technology with natural textures. I keep my tablet in a case made from an old linen-covered notebook, and my sleek and shiny DSLR in a worn brown leather bag. So, I wanted to make a simple place to house my smartphone, while warming it up a bit. I went with the most natural thing I could think of: a big slab of forest tree.
I like this design for a DIY wooden smartphone charging station because it fits the charging cable nicely, but it isn't stuck in place, so you can remove and use it elsewhere without the stand.
Enough talk! Let's make one!
Have you ever had to cook dinner at a friend's kitchen only to find out they don't even own a cutting board? Not only have I had that happen for me, I've noticed this kind of thing happening in my friend's workshops. It's easy to get caught up in making things and overlook some essential tools that can really help you get things done right. I thought I'd share a few tools I use almost every time I work on a new project. Some of these are almost laughable, but I guarantee some of you are going to read through these 6 tools and think to yourself, "Oh yeah, I need one of those."
For the last couple of years, I've been mostly set on woodworking tools. I've been collecting my large, stationary machines for nearly ten years now, and although I do plan to upgrade a few of them, I've been able to accomplish most of what I've set out to do with a little creativity and patience.
The one standard machine that's been missing from my shop is: the jointer. I knew I didn't want to buy a tiny benchtop machine, or even a too-small 6" model. I told myself I'd wait until I was in my "forever" shop, then get the machine I wanted; one I could use for the rest of my life.
Once we bought our house last year, I started a Craigslist alert, and painfully watched every listing from ubiqituous Harbor Freight tools to overpriced secondhand things from people who have no idea that what things are actually worth.
Over the last eighteen months, only a few 8" models even came up for sale. The woodworking community in my town snatched them up as soon as they were listed, and so I waited. And waited.
And then - enter this Delta DJ20. Built in the 80s when machines were machines. Complete with parallelogram beds, dead flat and coplaner tables, and an awesome fence, this was being offered at less than the price than the new Grizzly it's based on, plus no shipping, no assembly or degreasing, and it came with a mobile base.
I made my offer, went to check it out, and - boom! - I'm now the owner of a vintage 8" Delta jointer.
These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.
If you're like me, the cast iron in your shop sits atop the most prized tools you have. Those tops are solid, durable, stay dead flat, and make working wood just a bit easier. But to keep them at their best takes a bit of routine work, fending off rust and staining doesn't take much but make sure you do it. Here's how.
When I built out my basement shop space last fall/winter, there remained a couple of unfinished spots that I knew I'd need to deal with. Case in point: this obscure glass window. (This half of the shop was intended to be a bathroom, and this would have sat right over the tub.)
Last week, I got a new, very large, very heavy stationary woodworking machine (more on that soon), which I'd planned to store right along this wall. So, I figured if I didn't trim it out now, I'd never do it, and it'd look exactly the same in twenty years.
So, I got to work. And it was kind of a disaster.
Small-parts storage is one of the biggest steps you can take in creating the perfect workshop zen. When all those little fasteners, nails, washers, odds and ends all have a home you can work in peace, not pieces.
Let's face it: modern hardware leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, it's inexpensive and abundant, but visually, it looks...well, cheap. No character. You spend weeks on a project, choosing wood grain carefully, sanding and planing to a glass smooth finish, and then you're forced to add some blindingly shiny yellow brass or bright blue metal to finish your project.
Of course, there are high-end hardware makers out there producing specialty hinges and components for period furniture, but I wanted a less expensive way to transform general home center hardware into something I actually want to use on my projects.
So, I called my dad.
Pocket hole joinery has a lot going for it. An affordable jig makes the process fool-proof, it comes together in less than a few minutes, and the joint itself is super strong.
The Kreg jig itself does most of the work, but a little knowhow makes the pocket hole clean and precise. This is especially important if the pocket hole will be visible, plugged, or filled.
Ready to make nice, sharp pocket holes? Let's go!
When it comes to sanding, the rules are simple. When you're dealing with curves and soft edges, you can use the contours of your hand to back up the sandpaper and naturally mimic the shape. But when it comes to flat surface: never sand without a sanding block. This keeps the paper flat, which means your final project will also stay flat.
I was in the bad habit of cutting a new one every time I went to finish a project, which sometimes meant I went against my best judgment and ignored the sanding block rule when working on flat panels and tabletops. (I know, I know.) So, I decided to spend an hour and whip up a block I'd be excited to
I'm a lucky guy. My family has allowed me to dedicate half our basement into a dedicated shop space, complete with a custom woodworking bench and a growing collection of tools. It's bright, clean (at least right now), and I'm slowly turning it into a functional workspace that will allow me to be as productive as possible.
But it took me a long time to get here. For nearly fifteen years, I worked out of dining rooms and back porches and portions of the garage, lugging my tools around in plastic totes and home center toolboxes, setting up shop on the washing machine, folding tables, and 1/2" plywood scraps screwed to 2x4s.
And, in the early days, it was that lack of a proper workbench that prevented me from thinking I could could use hand tools. Without a vise and hold downs, how could I safely secure my work for handplaning, chiseling, or sawing?The answer: a batten, which will take you 5 minutes to make and turns any flat surface into a work bench. Let's make one!
Earlier this week, for the Fourth of July holiday, some friends and I decided to try our hands at roasting a whole pig. We were cooking for 60-80 people, and wanted to do something more special than hamburgers and hot dogs, and figured: well, if we're going to try it, now is as good of a time as any.
We wanted to go with a Southern United States-style "pig picking," meaning lots of wood smoke, and cooking over low and slow temperatures. In order to get the whole animal ready to eat with such a gentle heat, we needed to start the night before. And that's where this story begins.
I'm a huge fan of having a few rows of dog holes in my workbench top. And, more than anything else, I use them to secure a holdfast - an ancient and genius piece of design that secures your work to the work surface with a simple tap from a hammer or mallet. When your ready to release it, just hit the back and it's free. Seriously - it's ten times fast than clamping, and you can fasten your work anywhere across the bench top. Brilliant.
To speed up the process even more, I wanted to come up with a permanent way to protect the wood from the force of the steel being banged into it. You can use a hardwood scrap between the holdfast and the workpiece, but I figured there's reason to spend twenty minutes once and protect my work forever. No digging around for scraps required.
I've heard it said that minimalism isn't really about "getting rid of stuff", it's about refining it down to the "right stuff". I'm halfway through a 30-day shop purge and I have a few lessons learned, a few personal reflections, and a lot more space.
Okay, friends. This is one of my all-time favorite DIY hacks. I learned it more than fifteen years ago from a book I got from the library, and committed it to memory. I only need it about once or twice a year, but it works every. single. time. I'm always super grateful to have it on hand, and so today, I'm sharing so you too can stop busting your hand and banging your knuckles every time you need to install a hook somewhere.