Monthly Archives: July 2015

Mr. Sellers Perfect Timing.

I swear I had nothing to do with the timing of the linked article from Paul Sellers blog.

However, his fortuitous post supports my contention that the world today may indeed, be ready for something of a shift in the way we view success, the way we determine self worth, and the way in which we participate in our own lives.

While there is certainly a hint of indignation in his post, Mr. Sellers does effectively, at least to my mind, continue to encourage a certain fearlessness to those who dream.

It is as though he is shouting to the world that “It’s good to want to be self sufficient. It’s good to use your woodworking talents as a means of being independent. DO IT!!!, for gods sake, its OK. Don’t be afraid!”

So refreshing. So encouraging to see and feel that I am not alone. So good to read such a naked call to arms.

Just sayin.

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Rediscovering the Woodwright.

So today, I stumbled across this article…..

If you read the article, you may have noticed the section on “Artisan’s Revenge” or some such. It is an interesting and hopeful notion that there may still be a seat at the socio-economic table for professional woodwrights like me.

Happily, I have discovered others out there, both in the blogosphere and through school, that share the same hope.  Folks who mirror a number of the same ideas that you can read about in several blogs like Paul Sellers blog

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Love him, or leave him, Mr. Sellers, among others, present an encouraging case for the future of the artisan in the modern economy. He calls it “lifestyle Woodworking”

It’s interesting to me that the very nature of modern economics has forced a development of an entrepreneurial spirit. Not yet fully developed perhaps, but alive and kicking.

This is, according to the Atlantic article pinned above, due to several factors.

In my view the term “job security” no longer has the same definition as before.

With a significant percentage of the workforce being what would traditionally be referred to as “under employed” there is a significant swell of outside-the-box creativity both in job hunting and defining employment, as well as folks creating as a means of employment.

Whether it be because traditional full-time jobs have been fractured into part time positions, or because workers string “gigs” together to pay the bills, one thing holds the potential as a happy byproduct of “underemployment” ….. Time available to create!

So, to take the lemon of unemployment or underemployment and make lemon cello out of it, there seems to be fertile ground and willingness to rediscover artisanship as a viable means to support one’s self.

This is encouraging. Part of me mourned my decision to pursue what many considered a dying art/trade.

Still, because I love it, and because I’m actually good at it, I soldiered on, always hoping that the demand for handmade, high quality, “things” made from wood, would experience another revival.

It seems I am not alone. Nor are artists who paint, nor blacksmiths(something I am determined to learn to do), or writers, or people willing to collaborate in developing new ways of doing business independent of established economic norms.

It might just be that folks are tiring of being defined by how large their house is.

It might just be that we, as a species, might be on the brink of redefining the level of satisfaction we derive from our work. We may be at a place where, when freed up to create, we find that it is satisfying to “live to work”.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be in a place in our lives where we had food, shelter, family/friends, and something we did that satisfied us as our job?

Maybe not so far fetched.

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A Day Off … or … OCD Tiny Shop Manipulations.

Since having brought home my newly constructed workbench, I have been puttering around in the Tiny Shop of late. What starts out as “just going in there to wipe another coat of home brew finish on the bench” turns out, more often than not, to be most of the day taking everything out of the shop, sweeping, and putting it all back in mostly in the original place. I say mostly because, I tend to tweak the configuration when I succumb to my compulsive need to have my shop “just so”.

Moving this bit there. Arranging that bit here. All in a continued effort to have an efficient shop that is ready to roll, once power has been sorted, and lights have been installed.

I am nearly satisfied with the current configuration. I don’t think I will really know what the final configuration of my ” Tiny Shop” will be, until I have power and lights and a couple projects completed and under my belt. For now at least, this is what I have been able to come up with. (somewhere in a previous post, I have pictures of the “before” condition of the shop as well as a shot of the initial set up of tooling.)



It’s tight. But definitely has the bones of a good, productive little shop. Key to it’s viability will be setting it up for maximum use of space. Also, I will need to be much more diligent in planning out each project. This is actually a very nice side benefit to the “Tiny Shop”. Developing and refining project forethought translates very well into other areas of my craft. I suppose the anal retentive in me will figure out how best to apply this enhanced forethought.

In the meantime, I am working on wrapping up the checklist of still-to-do tasks and tooling needs. A sub-panel needs to be hung on the wall there behind the tool box with appropriate wiring from the house, and circuit breakers installed. Romex, outlets, and lights all need to be installed. And for God’s sake…..I need to hang a vise on that lovely workbench in the back. It is just so …. unhappy looking without one.

Ah well, as time and the ever elusive funding permit, I will keep plugging along on the odds and ends. More to come!!!!

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After all the mental gymnastics, after all the dithering over wood selection, after all the work to laminate a 5″ thick x 8′ long, x 22″ deep bench top, after hand cutting 16 mortises and 16 tenons, after assembling, flattening, and nit-picking, my bench is FINALLY together and resting comfortably in it’s new home.

I had the day set aside today to join a friend of mine and go pick up my bench. He has a truck with a trailer, so this was a huge boon to me. We got it loaded, and commenced the ENDLESS 6 mile sojourn to my house and Tiny Shop.

Once home it was right to work setting the top, and tool till. First, the till got a nice coat of home brew wiping varnish, as did the tops of the top rails of the trestle base and very back edge of the bench top along with the bottom of the top. Then it was on to the rest of the bench.

I had to resist the temptation to just slather on a coat on the top, no……I was methodical, and patient. Starting from the very bottom, I worked my way up the bench until every surface had been coated with the homebrew. After the excruciating agony of having to actually work through each facet of the benches base, I was ready to coat the top.

Heavens to Mergatroid….what a transformation. I took the above picture about ten minutes after finishing the application.

The last bit of hand wringing to be done, is going to be over the vises. I think I have settled on Lee Valley’s offering(s) for both the front vise and end vise. High quality, well built, and no question among fellow woodworkers regarding their longevity. Add to that the ease of installation, and it’s a no brainer. That will be a separate blog post though. I need to put the capitol together first, so it may be a while before that post graces this blog.

In the meantime, here are a couple of more pictures to close out this post. Im off to go sit in the Tiny Shop, and just admire the bench.



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Well….sort of.

Recently, I have been remiss in my blogging duties. Aside from being insanely busy, I have also been working very hard to get the “Tiny Shop” up and running. Progress has been slow, and tedious, but it continues.

As any of you who have been reading or have gone back and read the many posts that incessantly chronicle my preoccupation with work benches, know, I have been slowly building a traditional-ish workbench for my “Tiny Shop”.

Finally, I can post a couple of pictures of my nearly completed workbench. It is built entirely of BORG (Big Orange Retail Giant) dimensional lumber. 2″x6″ x8′ boards were laminated for the top. The trestle is made up almost entirely of 4″x4″ material with the exception of some 2″x8″ boards that are the lower stretchers of the trestle.

Joinery is all hand cut mortise and tenon. These M&T joints are fortified by 5/8″ carriage bolts, washers, and mating nuts. I decided to put two of them through the tenons to ensure the kind of heft and “stoutness” that I was after for this bench. Definitely overkill of the highest order, but quite satisfying for me. The M&T joints were nice and snug fitting, but I wanted a really , REALLY stout bench.


Currently, the trestle is glued, bolted, and wonderfully stout. The only things that remain to be done are construction of the tool well, attaching the top to the trestle, and finishing the bench.

The last time I built a bench, the “Beloved Bench”, I left it unfinished. There are two schools of thought on finishing wood working workbenches. One is NOT to finish it at all. The thinking goes that it is better to leave it unfinished so that no “slickness” develops on the bench top, thereby making some hand work operations more difficult.

The other school of thought, is to use some sort of oil finish. This gives a modicum of protection, and allows for easier clean up of glue and other contaminants.

Since it seems that I am doing all the things with this bench, that I did NOT do on the Beloved Bench, I have elected to finish this bench.

Since I am painfully, economically challenged of late, I have decided to use a “home-brew” wiping varnish on this bench. It is cheap, it is proven, (and proven, and proven) and it is stone simple.

Once the bench is sanded and ready, I will mix a batch of finish that is a mainstay of countless cabinetmakers and furniture builders. It is a blend of 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 spar varnish, and 1/3 turpentine. The turpentine thins the oil and varnish so that they penetrate deeply into the wood, and also help to dry-cure the finish just a little faster than normal. After a couple of thin coats have been applied and cured completely, I will “finish the finish”off with some quality paste wax. It should be beautiful.



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Idea for a “smarter” tiny workshop.

Hello all,

As the tiny shop continues to crawl towards operational status, I have been spending a good deal of time in deep, deep, thought. Well, deep for me anyway.

Some of these meditations center on “what to build”, some on “how to build it”.

While my first love has always been, and shall ever be, traditionally built fine furniture and cabinetry, I find that in my …*ahem* … advancing years, that I am becoming less and less focused on the traditional, and more and more focused on more modern styles. This was blasphemy in my early and middle years working wood. Ideas on simply never put voice to as they were too sordid and dirty to even consider. I felt as though I needed to go to confession and light a candle to St. Chippendale after having these musings. So, it was unusual that I should find myself thinking of more modern designs.

I suppose I got a bit bored with the more traditional and the “tried and true” design viewpoint.

I have also been looking for ways to maximise the shortage of floorspace that I have in the tiny shop. Below, is an example of the sort of thinking that I have been impressed with and intend to use in the tiny shop.



The multi purposed, easy to put together little stands will be perfect for the out feed side of my saw, as well as the help I kneed when assembling.


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