On Friday we went to the beach in Port Huron, MI and my daughter collected rocks and shells. The rest of the weekend I worked on making a small box for her to keep those treasures in. Final dimensions came out to about 3.25”x2.25”x2”. Materials were white oak and Titebond III. Finished with three-ish coats of shellac buffed to a satin finish with steel wool.
Pictures taken in every woodworking project’s natural environment: outside in the grass on top of a scrap of figured walnut.
A small box is much harder than a big box.
The boards for this were resawn on the band saw from a single piece of scrap wood and then planed down to roughly 1/4″ on a thickness planer. I wanted crisp mitered corners, but the small pieces kept tearing out on the table saw and, frankly, I was closer to the blade than I wanted to be for those cuts, so I settled for simple butt joints. Now that it’s all together I quite like the look of the exposed end grain all around it.
You make boxes like this by gluing it all up as a solid rectangular cuboid (aka “a box”) and then cut around four edges to pop the lid off. Cutting the lid off is moderately harrowing; however, the upshot is you get continuous grain from the base to the lid and that makes woodworkers happy.
After the lid was free there was another hour or two pairing down high spots and squaring everything up with a sharp chisel. Then another hour or two hand sanding everything smooth from 100-220.
The little jagged tabs that align the lid and let it stay snugly in place were made by snapping some offcuts off with a pair of pliers and then artfully sanding them down. It’s a fun look and gives the design some teeth. It’s very satisfying to pop the lid on and off. And you can fit the box in the upturned lid as well. An unintended affordance, but delightful!
A Dad Goal of mine is that my kids grow up with little handmade curiosities like this littered about the house. My daughter smiled when I gave it to her and said “I’m going to put it in my room!”
Our previous methodology of storing our knives was a pile in one of the drawers. In a nod to safety we had a scrap piece of wood in there as a divider to keep them separate from the non-pointy kitchen utensils. It wasn’t the worst system. It wasn’t the best either. So I made a better one:
This took a few hours a few weeks ago and has made our knives a lot safer and easier to use. Grabbing one now doesn’t feel quite as fraught! I should have made it years ago.
The slots for the blades were made with kerf cuts on the table saw. I tried a few different manual saws because I aspire to being one of those philosophical back-to-basics handtool woodworkers. Turned out that the table saw blade was already the right width so I was able to save myself a lot of trouble.
Our drawer space is at a premium so having two rows of knives on the right lets save some space, while still making everything accessible.
This is highly customized to our random collection of knives. I designed it mostly by measuring the longest knives in each category (short ones in the front on the right, medium in the back on the right, long in their own compartment on the left) and then just going for it. Winging it is fun, but it did result in a lot of back and forth of test fitting.
The rows are slightly offset so that handles aren’t covering blades. I mean, of course they are, however, this wasn’t clear to me until I started to lay it out.
It’s a friction fit. We can easily remove it if we decide we want something else later on.
Made out of scrap pine and sealed with paste wax. I lightly rounded over all the edges with 120 grit sandpaper.
Finally finished this bench I’d been slowly working on. This was the second attempt at a similar design. Both found homes with friends. The first one will live near a firepit and this one will end up inside as a bench near an entrance. Final size is about 33″ wide by 16″ tall.
The wood came from scrap 2x4s and the box joint configuration created a surprisingly strong bench!
Started by milling the 2x4s on the thickness planer and table saw to get square edges and flat faces. None of them were acceptable without this step for the finish quality I was going for.
After milling, I cut the top and sides to slightly longer than needed. Then I attacked worst part of this project: the glue up. I didn’t want to have any screws or nails involved so gluing involved a lot of clamps and annoyances. Once it dried I evened out the legs and top ends with a circular saw, chiseled and hand planed everything reasonably flat and then sanded (a lot). Finished with a few coats of clear shellac.
I’d been wanting to try this technique for a while. After trying it? It’s neat, but oh-so-fiddly to get right. What I learned is that I never want to use 2x4s for “fine” furniture again if it can be avoided.
Made two cutting boards yesterday! I have the week off from work and so naturally spent a few hours in the shop. One is spoken for, but another is still available as of yet ($40). Edit: Both are sold! Talk to me if you want one though since I’ll do another batch later this month!
Dimensions are around 9″x12″ with rounded edges. Pattern is: red oak, oak, walnut, red oak. The walnut came from a friend who had it in his basement and the rest is from Urbanwood. Finished with Howards Butcher Block Conditioner.
Finished this cutting board yesterday. Made from oak and walnut. I love the grain on this, it’s wild and varied and unexpected. Measures about 8″x12″ with rounded corners and two usable sides.
The knot at the top is filled in with clear epoxy, which worked well and is a nice detail. I’m curious to see how it will wear over time.
Finish is a beeswax+mineral oil blend from Howard called Butcher Block Conditioner. Wood is from Urbanwood.
If you like the look of the above and would like one of your own, I’m open for commissions. Contact me and we can figure out a price and delivery date!
About halfway through making this I did something very dumb and ended up with four stitches in the side of my index finger. I’ll spare you the details, but will tell you the lesson I learned:
Your hand is not a clamp. Never use it as one, even if it seems convenient.
It was nice to confirm that my chisel sharpening technique is good. The wonderful person who stitched me up said it was a clean cut. Something I do after I hurt myself is google for similar injuries. It’s comforting knowing you’re not alone and a great relief when you don’t pull up any obits.
Due to the circumstances, I’m going to keep this cutting board because you should always keep your enemies close.
My friend, Kyle, needed a table for an upcoming performance art show related to playing and running tabletop games. He wanted a table that could act as a physical document of play. The table as a sort of participant in the games. After his shows he’ll be using it for running other games over the years, and likely it will also become a dining room table.
Beyond that the thought was to make something that looked natural and would also show its scars visibly. Over time, and with use, the table will pick up scratches, dings, and nicks. If someone spills something on it, the finish might run or dissolve and that is okay (and desirable!). The hope is that over time the table itself has a clear and readable history.
Here’s some additional shots of the table:
I source as much of my wood from Urbanwood as possible including everything for this project:
A Gnarly Slab
After a lot of searching I found the perfect slab of pine for the top of the table. Plenty of knots “ugly” spalting and damage from bugs. The price for it had been reduced and reduced again. Under many other circumstances it would be a terrible piece of wood to use for a tabletop. However, for this the gnarlier the slab of wood the better!
To get the right length and width for the top it needed to be subdivided and glued back together.
Here are some shots of dividing the slab up so I could get the right width and length from it and then planing it down to the right thickness:
Apron and Legs
For the apron and the legs I went with oak. It’s hard and stable and matches the pine top well. Similar to the top, we wanted legs with interesting details. The knots here don’t have much of an effect on the strength of the table, but they make the legs far more interesting to look at and give it a tactile feel. Here’s some progress shots just before glue up matching the boards together, and then after the hanger bolts were installed.
The table is finished with an amber shellac. Shellac should probably never be used for the top of a table. It’s not terribly durable and can dissolve in alcohol. At a minimum if you want to use shellac you should do a final coat of wax. Again though, it’s perfect for this: provides a nice finish that will degrade over time as people use it.
Here’s a before picture alongside a detail shot of it after the shellac was applied:
This was a really fun project! I can’t wait to check back in on the table in a year or two or ten to see what has happened with it. Woodworkers can often get obsessed with making our pieces as permanently perfect as possible. It was a refreshing challenge to make something that was intended to be used and show its scars proudly.
If you’re interested in collaborating on a project, or commissioning a table like this of your own, please reach out!
This past week at the farmer’s market Cobblestone Farm was teaching kids traditional candle making. My daughter happily jumped in line and made two candles. Today I put together a few candle holders out of scrap wood in the shop: