My Basement Shop

I’ve had this blog for almost nine years and I’ve never bothered to show you my shop. I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I don’t think it’s all that special but below is a short video I posted to Instagram the other day.

I’ve had this shop for the past seventeen years when I bought the house in 2002. Before that, I had a shop in my parent’s basement when I started working with wood when I was a kid. Back then, I had a bunch of bench top power tools. Almost all of those tools have been upgraded. The only power tools that remains from the shop in my parent’s house are the band saw, jointer, and drum sander.

The king of the shop is my tool cabinet which I finished building in 2001. The inside has changed a lot over the years as I added to my tool collection. I doubt it’ll ever be finished as I’m constantly buying new tools to put in it and selling the tools I don’t use that much. It sits behind my workbench for easy access. The majority of the tools in the cabinet are antiques that I restored but I do have some brand new tools in there like a Lie Nielsen dovetail saw and a Veritas shoulder plane.

The workhorse of the shop is my Roubo workbench. Made from southern yellow pine, I based it off Chris Schwarz’s Roubo and Roy Underhill’s Roubo workbench. I use the hell out of it so it’s dirty. I never get any visitors to my shop so I don’t care that it’s not made from hard maple and looks perfectly new. I just use it.

At the end of the bench is my Emmert Turtleback Patternmakers Vise. I LOVE this vise. I bought it 20 years ago at an antique tool auction for about $500. It’s worth every penny. This vise gives me plenty of flexibility when clamping work pieces in it as it swivels 360 degrees and swings up. If you ever have a chance to buy one of these vises, do it! You won’t regret it.

In the middle of the shop is my SawStop table saw. I have no complaints about the saw. I tripped it three times. Twice was from the blade hitting my aluminum miter gauge. The third time it was the tip of my thumb. I was ripping thin strips of wood and every time I ripped the stock to make a strip, my left hand got closer to the blade. Like a dumb ass I didn’t notice the position of my thumb until it was too late. Luckily, it tripped and the tip of my thumb was spared. I sent the tripped cartridge back to SawStop and they sent me a free replacement. My thumb just needed a band-aid.

Another nice vise I own is a blacksmith vise. Because I do a lot of antique tool restorations, this thing comes in handy whenever I have to do some metalwork. It’s another one of those tool you don’t realize how nice it is to own until you use it.

On one side of my shop are my power tools. I’ve owned them for years with the Delta jointer going back to when I was a kid. I souped up my Delta band saw with a 6″ riser block and a 1 hp Baldor motor. My 15″ Powermatic planer is one of the best tools I ever bought.

In the corner of my shop is my lumber rack. I buy lumber when I need it so the majority of the boards on the rack are scrap wood. I have one or two boards of certain species but not enough to build a piece of furniture. I simply don’t have the money or the room to stock up on lumber.

One of my favorite power tools I own is my Jet oscillating edge sander. I wanted one of these for years until I pulled the trigger a couple of years ago. I love this machine as I use it on nearly everything I build. For years I used a home made disc sander jig attached to my lathe. My only regret about this sander is not buying it when I first wanted it.

All in all, I’m happy with my shop, I just wish it wasn’t in my basement. I’d love to own nicer power tools like a 12″ jointer or a heavy duty lathe, but there’s no way I could get them down basement steps. Or more importantly, get them back up when I move.

Making Herb Sticks

Last weekend my wife and I were cleaning up our booth in the antique mall when she decided to take things out that weren’t selling. One of the items was a bag of silver plated spoons that had been in the booth for six months, when I mentioned I could make herb sticks with them. I remember us talking about making herb sticks from old spoons several years ago but it was one of those little projects that never got done. So, I grabbed the bag and took them home to see if I could figure out how to do it.

Making herb sticks from old silver plated spoons is not my idea as I’m sure I’ve seen it done somewhere else, I just can’t remember where I saw it. The idea is pretty simple. Take an old spoon, flatten it out and stamp words on it.

The first thing I did was stick the spoon in my bench vise and squeeze the hell out of it. It flattened the face but there was still a bubble in the middle.

I then took it over to my blacksmith vise and squeezed it again. You can see in the picture that the spoon is actually tapered to the front so simply squeezing it in the vise will never get it perfectly flat.

I brought the spoons outside and smashed them on my anvil. I’ve owned this anvil for several years hoping that one day I would start making my own hardware and tools but it hasn’t happened yet. Actually, my wife wants me to sell my blacksmithing tools but I’ve been dragging my feet for months. I really don’t want to give up my dreams of having my own blacksmith shop even though we need the money.

After I pounded the hell out of the spoon, I taped it to my bench anvil and punched words onto the face. The tape does two things. First, it holds the spoon to the anvil so I can work with both hands. Second, it acts as a guide to line up the punches so that the letters will look somewhat even. I bought the punches at Harbor Freight for about $10.00 so they are nothing fancy.

Once I punched a bunch of words onto them like, lavender, sage, thyme, basil, etc. I painted over the lettering with black paint. Then, I rubbed over the face of the spoon with steel wool to make the paint stand out inside the lettering.

After a couple hours of work, I was left with a couple dozen herb sticks. We’ll take these to an antique design show in the spring to see how they sell. I’m not sure what I’ll charge for them. Maybe $4.00 – $6.00. If they sell well, I’ll make more. If they are dogs and no one wants them, I’ve learned not to waste my time repurposing old silver plated spoons.

I posted these pictures onto my Instagram Story last weekend and a few people gave me positive feedback telling me it was a really cool idea. Hopefully, I’ll have an excuse to use my anvil a lot more and my wife won’t make me sell it.

An Olde Way Shelf Support

Last year my wife, Anita, bought an old cupboard with open shelving. What struck me most about the cabinet was its shelf supports. So simple, they seemed like a no-brainer. Simply take a piece of wood, drill holes down the middle, then saw the piece in half. Stick each piece in the corner of the cabinet then make a stick to act as a cleat for the shelf support.

I’ve done the whole drill 1/4″ holes through a scrap piece of peg board trick for years. In theory, it should work out fine as long as you measure where the holes go perfectly, but with my luck, one of the four pins would be off just enough to make the shelf rock.

I’m also not a fan of those metal shelf brackets you screw to the cabinet by running dadoes down the side. They look too ’80’s for me and give the appearance of commercially made cabinetry.

When my wife wanted me to make a custom buffet cabinet for our dining room, it got me thinking about using the old style shelf support I saw in her old cupboard.

The build went well. I used 3/4″ birch plywood and trimmed the casing with poplar as I knew the piece would be painted anyway.

When it was time to focus on the inside, it was my turn to use the old style shelf support. I took two pieces of poplar 2″ wide and drilled 1″ holes down the center 2″ apart. Then I took each piece to the band saw and split them apart. Since all four pieces are the same height, attaching each one while they touch the bottom of the case assures that all of the semicircles are all at the same height.

I cut a notch at each corner of the shelf to fit around the shelf supports. Then I glued a piece of wood to the front so the shelf wouldn’t sag with weight. Super simple and gives the cabinet an old world feel.

The buffet cabinet was now finished and Anita eventually painted it white. As luck would have it, Anita found another cabinet she liked better at an antique show so this buffet was sold in our booth (which you can see in the back below). Doh!!!… oh well, it was still fun to build.

Porter Cable Restorer- Customer Service Excellence

A few days ago, I was working on this farmhouse table flattening the underside of the top with my Porter Cable Restorer sander. I wrote a post about the sander a couple of years ago saying how nice of a tool it is to use. Granted, I don’t use the tool all that much as I don’t work with reclaimed wood too often, but it works well as a quick belt sander.

I was sanding the top down when I noticed some black streaks on the wood. I stopped and turned the tool over when I saw the sandpaper drum moved to the right eating into the housing flap.

I thought to myself that I must have the drum in backwards so I flipped the sandpaper drum around and kept going. Then I noticed the sandpaper was now eating into the body of the sander.

I thought to myself “what the hell??” I looked at the sander to see if there was any way to tighten the sandpaper to the drum as I do with my oscillating drum sander, but there was nothing to tighten.

I had no idea what I did wrong as I’ve used the tool in the past with no problems. I follow the guy who invented the Restorer on Instagram, Robert Kundel Jr, and sent him a picture of the tool and asked him what I did wrong. He wrote back to me apologizing that there was an issue with some of the sandpaper drums not being made to spec and he would send me a new unit. Sure enough a few days later, a new unit arrived at my doorstep.

These are drums that were not made to spec. I bought them on clearance at Lowe’s. They are now going into the garbage. Lowe’s is now starting to carry the Craftsman Restorer which is more likely the same as the Porter Cable as they are both owned by Stanley Black & Decker. I’ll buy the Craftsman sanding drums for now on.

You can see the difference between the two drums. The used one is about an 1/8″ wider in diameter causing it to move while being used.

I always read about great customer service from Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley on woodworking forums. Robert at Inventor of the Restorer needs to be on the list as well. He went far and beyond what was appropriate. I would have been happy with just a new sleeve of correct drums as the sander still works.

The Console Table Build

My honey-do list usually starts out the same. My wife will ask if I can make something for her and then asks how much it will cost in wood. I told her it would probably run around $60 so we headed to Home Depot and bought some white pine boards.

I bought a few 1″ x 10″ x 6′ to use for the legs. One 1″ x 10″ cut in half and ripped into 2 1/2″ wide segments would yield me two legs. After I laminated three of the boards, I sized them to 2 1/4″ square and then turned them on the lathe. I looked at the picture she gave me but I turned the leg from feel of what I thought it looked liked. When I was done, we both decided the bottom part of the leg looked too “boxy” so I decided to turn another leg.

The second leg turned out better than the first. When I threw a picture of both legs onto instagram, one of my followers said that he liked the bottom of the leg on right but liked the top of the leg on the left. I agreed so I refined the leg so the ball of the leg looked more like a ball and not a fat lazy bead.

After refining the leg, I made five more freehand. I’m by no means a master wood turner. In fact, my wood turning is passable at best. The only lesson I’ve ever taken on wood turning is watching The Woodwright’s Shop over the years. I take a ruler, a parting tool, and some calipers and try to make the sixth one to look like the first. In the end, I think the legs came out pretty good.

My wife wanted table to be fourteen inches wide by five feet long so I laid the legs on the top and decided the dimensions of each part of the frame.

After cutting out all the parts of the frame, I attached them to the legs with pocket hole joinery. This is a simple table made from construction grade material so I wasn’t in the mood to start cutting a bunch of mortises for mortise and tenon joinery. Sorry.

I sized and glued the bottom shelf to the lower frame. Ideally this would be best suited for plywood due to the expansion and contraction of the wood however, after studying the original picture, this is how the table my wife wanted was built so I went ahead and made it the same way. Eventually there will be a nice crack in the middle of the shelf, but that will just add to the farmhouse look.

I made the drawers as simple as possible as well. I planed down some of the pine to 1/2″ thick and made the sides with rabbeted joinery and a 1/4″ plywood bottom. I then simply glued and nailed a drawer front to the box.

In the end, this is how the table came out. Not bad for a weekend build. My wife will finish the table with some sort of weathered look stain. I’m happy with it and it’s one less thing off of my honey-do list.

Here’s the table completed with a stain Anita put on. It’s for sale at a design show. It originally wasn’t meant to be for sale, but we had such a good show, we needed more inventory to sell.

My First Speaking Gig

After working with wood for the past 30 years, I have my first speaking engagement this month. I was contacted by a member of the Cincinnati Working Club a few weeks ago who asked if I would be interested in speaking in front of the group. At first, I was shocked and confused. I didn’t understand why he would want me to be a guest speaker, but after reading further into the email, he saw that I restore planes and have a nice tool cabinet full of antique tools. Apparently, he wants me to talk about my journey into antique tool collecting and describe the process of how I clean my tools.

I’m going to start off talking about my tool cabinet and how it came to be. I started building it in 1999 but didn’t finish it until 2001 as it sat in my parent’s basement unfinished. It’s undergone a few transformations over the years as I added and deleted tools from the doors and back. It actually looks nicer in pictures than it does in person as the oak veneer plywood tore off in places where I removed the tool holders.

From there, I’ll describe the process of restoring this Diamond Edge Jointer. I took a bunch of pictures of the process and will upload them to a thumb drive so I can plug it into their laptop. The group meets in a church basement so I’m not sure if there is a workbench down there for people to work on. The idea of actually doing the restoration while I’m there doesn’t make much sense so pictures it will be.

Bill told me that each meeting has between 65-75 people attendees so this presentation is going to be as big as a session at the Woodworking in America events.

If you’re a member of the Cincinnati Woodworking Club, stop by on Saturday Sept, 14th at Northminster Presbyterian Church 703 Compton Road in Cincinnati, Ohio around 9:00 and watch me be nervous as hell. Just please don’t bring tomatoes to throw at me.