I work in a tiny, leaky, antique shed. Workspace is a precious commodity that keeps getting taken up by scraps and in-progress pieces and just plain junk.
I always like a tool whose name indicates its purpose. Oh, what's a screwdriver do? A citrus squeezer? How about a box cutter? The function is all right there in the name.
In many ways, a speed square falls right into the category. It tells helps you determine "square" - that is, when one edge or line is exactly 90° to another, and it helps you do it quickly. Done. Right? Wrong.
It's a problem we can all relate to. Anyone who has ever opened a paint, finish, or stain can knows the problem: if you don't use it all, you have to close it again. Hammers provide too much direct force, and can bend the lid, the lip, or the can itself. A rubber mallet is better, but you could shoot paint or finish out at you, and you'll cover the mallet in the material, which could get transferred to another project. Plus, if you're like me, the mallet always seems to be in another room.
Here's the problem many intermediate-level woodworkers face: you want to take on a big project, a truly ambitious one. Say, a dining table that will be the centerpiece of your home and can fit eight to ten people. And you do the research, figure out some techniques, and they're a little bit of a stretch and you'll be trying them for the first time in the middle of a big project. And then you start shopping for the wood, realize how much it's going to cost, and all of a sudden, that next-level project doesn't seem like the best place to test out some new joinery.
There's corner of my yard that is a bit of an eyesore. It used to hide my pool pump, but the cheap stapled grid surrounding it fell apart in the sun. I wanted to replace it with something that would hold up well, and also contain a bit of the pump sound. Of course, it had to look great, too. Take a look at what I came up with.
At its core, a chair is simply a seat with a back. And while they often have legs and arms and complex joinery for strength, sometimes, a little physics can accomplish the same thing.
I got a lathe last year, and soon, the addiction hit hard. There's something incredible about the hands-on approach to shaping wood that makes you lose track of time fast. Like all skills, you need practice. But turning is immensely satisfying work; you can go from a straight block of wood to a finished project in just an hour or two. And crafting heirloom writing instruments is a great way to get started.
Podcasts. You know 'em. You listen to 'em. You're moved by them. You laugh and are entertained by them. But are you inspired by them? Do they light a fire under your butt and make you want to get into your work space as fast as possible? Do they make you want to complete your workout faster so you can get home and make stuff? Do they make you thankful for your creative bent, and the creative work of others?
Here's our thinking: podcasts, as a medium, are great accompaniment for a lot of things. There are certain podcasts you listen to on your commute, specific shows that work best for cleaning the house or cooking dinner, those to
On the side, my wife and I sell some of our handiwork at craft fairs, barn sales and vintage markets. When we got started, we had mostly folding plastic tables and white table cloths. And as you know, nothing, except maybe a grilled hot dog on a paper plate on the Fourth of July, looks its best on a folding plastic table and white table cloth.
Rare is the craftsperson who couldn't use just a little more workspace. Maybe not more square footage (though I'd certainly take some), but perhaps more work surfaces to spread out projects, or some more storage to keep track of all the bits and pieces that come along with any technique.
Building this custom tool cabinet will certainly help.
Truly one of my all time favorite experiences is engaging in a methodical, creative activity while losing myself entirely in the world of an audiobook. As a kid, I’d listen to sci-fi / young adult books while building dioramas or piecing together big puzzles, and as an adult all that’s really evolved is my taste in literary genres. Here are some of my all time favorite audiobook recommendations that I’ve actually listened to in the woodshop.
When Erin discovered Anne Steensgaard's CatchMe keyholder online, she became instantly obsessed. Functional, beautiful, and full of organic textures and charm. Unfortunately, the piece is only sold in Boila stores, which are all located in Denmark or Sweden.
But, she knew she couldn't rest until she had some
Last weekend, I was hanging out with a friend in his garage, and he dropped the F-bomb. This is not typical for this friend, so while a little surprised, I was mostly intrigued. He'd made a mistake and installed something backwards, which, according to him, he does 60% of the time because it's impossible to tell which end is which. He says he's tried to identify it, but tape doesn't work, and a Sharpie marker wouldn't show up on the black surface.
So I says to him,
Did you know you can make your own sketch and shop journals with just the materials you have on your shelf? Now you can scrap those yellow pads for something a lot more classy.
I've wanted to build a boat ever since I sunk my small dingy on the Trinity Lake as a kid. Once I have the space, I will fashion a sea-worthy vessel and take it out to brave the ocean, or at least a sizeable pond.
It's time to actually build something for the shop upgrade. First up, we take a look at how to build wall cabinets from scratch (sheet goods at least).
My first "workbench" was a simple table-style surface. 2x4 legs, 1/2" plywood top, held together with black drywall screws. I built it in my first apartment when I was twenty-two, with my first (and only) power tools: a circular saw and a drill.
In the back left corner, I mounted a shiny, new, bright blue Irwin swiveling bench vise. It was awesome to have it there when I needed it - holding metal stock and angle iron for cutting, helping me bend rod and pipe, even keeping dowels and small wood parts in place while working on them. Unfortunately, these activities constituted a very small amount of the projects I was doing, and mostly, the vise just got in the way during the other 97% percent of tasks.
So, for the past few years, that vise has just been in a storage crate, and I get it out and try to hold it in place when I need it. Which, in case you can't guess, does not work. Ever. So, I wanted to come up with a solution that would allow me to install a machinist's style swiveling benchtop vise, without having to permanently install it, or drill holes in my benchtop and have to thread and tighten nuts and bolts every time I use it.
I have a million e-mails. It's not actually a million, but it makes my soul feel that way. I know this feeling. It happens when I've been staring too long at a screen, clicking reply until I lose track of time and space and what name I'm supposed to sign in the sendoff. (It's Chris. My name is Chris.) The only way to fix it? Get away from the computer, turn on some music, and build something.
So let's go out to the shop and build a box that will never, ever have e-mails in it. Here's a simple woodworking project that can get you back to working with your hands, but isn't too fussy or complicated. And the cool part — it uses just a few basic tools and single board. When it's done, you'll have a stylish, versatile, stacking storage solution that will come in handy in any room in your house.
Note to the wise: a box usually isn't enough. Many tools in the shop need a bit more protection. When tools get neglected, edges get dull and things get lost. A tool roll is a simple way to keep those small collections of specialty tools in top shape and exactly where they should to be when you need them. Here's a simple way to make your own.