Our plants have arrived!

The Maple Valley store recently received our first shipment of plants for the summer season. We have partnered with a local nursery that is known for their unique and well cared for plants. Our plants are watered every day and are regularly fertilized. We have been guaranteed that our prices will compete very well with the big box stores. We have everything from roses to large maple trees. Below are a few of my favorite:
Coral Bark Maple 
    A good-sized tree with multi-season appeal, 'Sango-kaku' features green leaves that turn brilliant yellow in fall. After the leaves drop, the stems show off a bright coral-red color.
    Name: Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'
    Growing Conditions: Part shade and moist, well-drained soil
    Size: 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide 

Weeping Cherry Tree
This beauty has a cascading habit and compact growth that continues to develop more splendidly with each passing season. Each spring it dons a floral cloak of pure white so beautiful it rivals any flowering ornamental. Prune back after flowering to maintain shape. Very hardy, disease and insect resistant. Needs to be staked the first few years.  Botanical Name: Prunus x yedoensis
Growing Condition: Partial Shade/Full Sun. Moist,well drained soil. Plant in wind sheltered spot.
Size: 12-15' tall and 6-8' wide 

Kiwi Plant
The popular kiwi is a subtropical vine that grows up to 30 feet long and produces numerous fuzzy brown, berrylike fruit about the size of an egg.  Vines are winterhardy to between 00° F and 100° F.

Planting Instructions:
  • Kiwi is a dioecious plant.  Male and female flowers are produced on separate plants. Intersperse one male plant to eight female plants
  • Vines bear at four years of age and reach full production at eight years of age
  • Select a sunny, well drained site protected from the wind
  • Space plants 15 to 20 feet apart within the trellis system.
  • Fruit is only borne on current season's wood coming only from one year old wood. These laterals must be renewed every two to three years. Vigorous pruning is needed.

New Zealand Flax 
Bring a note of the tropics to your garden with the bold, colorful, strappy leaves of New Zealand flax. They are excellent as container plants that can be overwintered with protection, but in warm areas, they're spectacular planted directly in the ground. 
Light:Sun,Part SunPlant Type: Annual,PerennialPlant Height:6-12 feet tall, depending on varietyPlant Width:6-10 feet wide, depending on varietyFlower Color: Red, yellow, or green flowers, depending on variety; variegated or red/purple leaves depending on variety. 


Furniture Hardware from the Automotive Department

Furniture Hardware from the Automotive Department

When you build furniture that hasn’t been popular for a century, the hardware can be difficult to find. The Roorkhee chairs I’m building for a fall issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine feature an unusual stud that gave me fits. It’s a simple metal nipple at the top of each leg. The chair’s arm straps wrap Continue reading»

From Lincoln Logs to Lumber with a Construction Degree

Those considering a degree in the construction industry have many choices. From mapping out the design to welding a hammer, building a structure takes skilled minds working together towards the final goal. In the background is one person keeping it all organized, the construction manager.

These days everything is a science and that includes residential and commercial construction. An individual pursuing a construction degree will develop the basic skills set for building plus learn about the business end of project management. Study includes:

  • Construction science
  • Estimating
  • Bidding
  • Site Planning
  • Safety
  • Construction law
  • Business administration
  • Construction technology and software

Project management requires a well-rounded set of practical skills. With a degree, you get basic knowledge of drafting, blueprints, construction plans, computer software, building codes and administration. The construction manager works side-by-side with the architect, drafter, carpenter, plumber, electrician and crew.

Individuals with a degree in construction management have career options not available to the candidate without one. A graduate can look for an entry-level position in fields such as:

  • Construction sales
  • Project estimation
  • Engineering
  • Facility management
  • Project management
  • General Contracting
  • Surveying
  • Residential or commercial construction

Graduates with a construction degree develop both hands-on building skills and perfect that art of site administration. After completion of the program, you should be able to interpret plans and understand specifications, lines and abbreviations on drawings and blueprints. A graduate will have basic knowledge of carpentry and masonry, a full understanding of building codes, is able to prepare preliminary architectural drawings and sketches, as well as manage labor relations and deal with financiers.

There is little doubt that the construction industry is growing. A degree program will give you the training you need to grow with it. Whether you enjoy constructing a building from the ground up or rehabilitation of a historic structure, education is the key to success. Construction companies are going to consider an educated candidate before anyone else in this field. Having a degree will give you a head start. Salary and advancements depend on your skills and training, but education can put you at the high-end of the curve.

Today’s job market is competitive; you need every advantage to stand out in the crowd. No matter what field you go into, education opens doors. A degree in construction gives you opportunities. Get an education first and then move up in the world of construction.


Furniture for the 19th-century Transformer

Furniture for the 19th-century Transformer

Campaign-style furniture goes by many names, such as “military furniture” and “traveling furniture.” But its most curious name is “patent furniture.” It gets this name because many pieces fold up or transform into another form, and the designs were many times patented. The most famous example of patent furniture is the chair that converts to Continue reading»

A Cabinetmaker’s Bathroom

When we bought the house, the old bathroom had a Formica covered vanity and a linen closet which occupied a fifth of it’s interior space. When I finally got around to it, we gutted the entire room and could now start from scratch.
We wanted a turn-of-the-century look so I built wainscot from beadboard to surround the room.

I made a small door (to the left, in the shot above) that gives me access to the shower fixture & plumbing inside that wall (as long as I was at it, I thought I’d do it right).

Bathrooms can be somewhat sterile so we hung pictures and small objects to warm it up.

As there’s never enough room to hang towels, we shopped around for some cool looking hooks and used the back of the door.

Radius-edged tiles were used for the shower and the vanity’s counter top. Here you see a close-up of the wainscot meeting the tile.

I fabricated a towel rack and tissue holder for a strictly functional, turn-of-the-century look.

We purchased a medicine cabinet with mirrored doors. I sunk it into the wall and wrapped it with casing to make it appear like a framed mirror. I used the space inside an adjacent wall to give us more storage and made a special little door for it.

With the linen closet removed, I now had a long wall to build a serious vanity along. Drawers are so much more useful in a bathroom than door cabinets so I built it with fourteen drawers and a single door for the sink cab.

The larger drawers I built as pull out shelves so we could place cloth lined baskets within.

Any cabinet that holds a sink invariably has a door with a single, false drawer front above it (to hide the side of the sink). A while back I had saved one of the hand carved panels from a folding room divider (which I disassembled to use in a kitchen). I finally found the perfect place for this little beauty.

After we did the floor tiles, we placed one of my wife’s floor cloths (painted canvas) to make it easier on bare feet during winter mornings. The used a light mustard color paint for the walls and a dark green for the wainscot. It’s a handsome little room now with lots of storage for all the things you’d ever need in the bathroom.
Russell Hudson / 5/25/12


Mastery Field Trip Continued

To continue our story about sawing up a white oak log, our Mastery groups were at Mark Azevedo’s in Albany recently. He had made the first cut and next had to move it in position for a second cut. The job of helping Mark roll the log fell to Paterson, one of our Distance Mastery [...]

More Campaign Furniture Pieces to Explore

More Campaign Furniture Pieces to Explore

I’m in Charleston, S.C., this week to fatten myself up on grits and explore some of the antique shops for campaign furniture examples to study. First the bad news: Antiques of the Indies, the awesome King Street shop I visited last fall, recently closed. However I found that the owner had taken a booth at Continue reading»

Make Poplar Look Pretty

Make Poplar Look Pretty

Give this useful but unattractive wood a makeover.

By Kevin Southwick

The wood we know as poplar has many common names, such as tulip poplar, yellow poplar, tulipwood, yellow tulipwood, tulip tree, whitewood and canoewood. The “tulip” part of these names comes from the tulip-like flower the tree produces in the spring. Where the “poplar” part of these names comes from is a mystery, because the tree is not even a true poplar—it’s a member of the magnolia family. In fact, poplar is known as the “king of the Magnolias.” It’s also the tallest hardwood tree in North America.

Regardless of what it’s called, Liriodendron tulipifera Magnoliaceae produces very useful and versatile lumber. The tree grows fast, with a straight trunk and no branches near the ground. That translates to knot-free boards that are available in expansive widths and thicknesses. Poplar is economical, costing considerably less than other hardwoods such as maple and oak, and its finely textured lumber works well with both hand and power tools. These qualities make poplar suitable for many furniture and construction applications.

An ugly duckling

So why isn’t poplar popular with furniture makers? The answer is simple: The wood is just plain homely. Its color ranges from pale yellowish white to an odd shade of green, and boards are often discolored by dark gray or purplish streaks. To top it off, poplar doesn’t stain well with traditional wood stains. In fact, it can get ugly really fast because it blotches so easily. About the only time furniture makers use poplar as a primary wood is when the piece is going to be painted.



Poplar has too many desirable furniture-making qualities to be limited to “paint-grade” service. Fortunately, by using a special approach, it’s possible to make this ugly duckling glow beautifully. This process will transform poplar’s odd green color to any brown wood tone you like. However, dark streaks will still show—they’ll need to be avoided or placed strategically in the design and called “character.”

The key to giving poplar a rich, even stain color is to control its horrible blotching tendencies. This requires starting with a very effective stain controller (also called wood conditioner or pre-stain sealer). The commercial stain controllers I tested didn’t provide enough blotch resistance, so I developed a simple recipe to make a controller with the necessary strength. This recipe and the finishing steps that follow work well on any wood that’s prone to blotching.

After applying the stain controller, use a two-step coloring process for better control and color intensity. This coloring method combines the benefits of both dye and pigment stain. The dye provides a ground color as strong and rich as needed, and the pigment ensures that the color doesn’t fade and become dull over time. The dye and pigment colors shown here are both a medium-dark “warm” brown. They combine to create a rich chocolaty tone on both the green heartwood and pale sapwood. Your color choices may be different.



1. Prepare the surfaces by sanding to 180 grit. Be sure to sand by hand after you power sand, to eliminate swirl marks. Pay extra attention to the end grain.

2. To make the stain controller, mix one part General Finishes Clear Gel Varnish with three parts paint thinner. Apply the stain controller with a rag and allow it to soak in (Photo 1). Be sure to saturate the wood, especially the end grain. After a couple of minutes, but before the stain controller starts to set up (5-10 minutes), use clean, dry rags to remove any that has not soaked in. Be sure not to leave any wet spots or streaks—they’ll show up when you apply the stain. Let the wood dry overnight. This step is intended to seal the wood approximately 60%-75%, which is usually enough to control blotching and still allow the stain to penetrate.

3. Wash the partially sealed surface with a mixture of dish soap and water to “open” the top layer of wood cells so they’ll absorb the dye easily (Photo 2). This step won’t cause any significant grain-raising because the surface has been treated with the stain controller.

4. Hidden blotches will reveal themselves as the water dries (Photo 3). Areas that are extra-porous soak up more water. This means they’ll stay wet longer, so they’re easy to identify. The longer they stay wet, the worse the blotch will be. Fortunately, even super-absorbent areas can be tamed if they’re found and treated with extra stain controller before color is applied.

5. Mix TransFast Medium Brown Water Based Dye following the label instructions and apply it generously, using a rag (Photo 4). Allow the dye to saturate the wood, then remove the excess with clean rags. Allow the wood to dry until the water has completely evaporated (2 hours).

6. Check the workpiece and selectively apply clear gel to any blotches or end grain that are already dark enough from the dye step (Photo 5). This is your last chance for blotch reducing.

7. Apply a coat of General Finishes Medium Brown Gel Stain (Photo 6). Then let the piece dry overnight.

8. Apply two coats of 2 lb. cut amber shellac (Photo 7). Although shellac is a durable finish, I know that this table will often be used as a place to rest a coffee cup, so I’ll add a coat of oil-based satin polyurethane to prevent water rings.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker October/November 2010, issue #150.

October/November 2010, issue #150

Purchase this back issue.

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. Start by wiping on a strong stain controller to keep the poplar from blotching when you apply the dye and stain. Make a strong stain controller by thinning gel varnish with mineral spirits.

2. Wash the sealed surface with soap and water so the dye will soak in, rather than bead up on the surface.

3. Blotch-prone areas will stand out as the water dries, because they’re super-absorbent. After the wood has thoroughly dried, apply an additional coat of stain controller to these areas.

4. Apply a coat of medium-brown dye to create a uniform ground color.

5. Look again for blotching or dark end grain. Seal any areas that have gone extra-dark with a coat of gel varnish just before you apply the gel stain in the next step.

6. Apply a coat of medium-brown gel stain. Gel stain adds richness to the overall color and helps to keep the dye from fading.

7. Apply two coats of amber shellac to add depth and tone, followed by a more protective topcoat, if necessary.

Turn green to gold

Oxalic acid works miracles on poplar’s green heartwood. Simply mix a saturated solution of oxalic crystals in hot water and brush the solution on the wood. As the solution dries, the green heartwood will turn to a golden brown and the white sapwood will take on a warmer shade of pale. A second application of the solution after the first has thoroughly dried usually helps the results—and it can’t hurt. Oxalic acid is poisonous, so let the surface dry completely and then rinse it thoroughly with water to remove any acid that remains. Note that this treatment does nothing to reduce poplar’s tendency to blotch, so you’ll still need to follow the recipe to end up with a great-looking finish.

Oxalic acid is primarily used to restore the natural color of grayed, weathered, exterior wood—it’s the active ingredient in deck-renewing products. Restorers and woodworkers use oxalic acid to remove black water stains from wood. It’s available at most hardware stores.


Video: Sharpen the Tricky V-chisel

Video: Sharpen the Tricky V-chisel

I spent Saturday watching and photographing carver Mary May teach a class on ball-and-claw feet at the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, N.C. Mary, a traditionally trained professional carver, lives and works outside Charleston, S.C., and teaches carving classes all over the country – you can see her at Woodworking in America this year. And if Continue reading»

My Part at Woodworking in America

My Part at Woodworking in America

Now that I’m no longer on the staff of Woodworking in America, I get to do three things: 1) Actually attend some of the really great seminars from people like chairmaker Curtis Buchanan, carver Mary May, Yeung Chan and David Marks. 2) Present my own seminars on topics that are a bit on the nutty Continue reading»

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