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Fit Irregular (Impossible!) Shapes with ‘Ticking Sticks’

The trick to fitting wooden pieces into impossible recesses is to learn about “ticking sticks.” These simple sticks – plus a sheet of paper – can make monstrous tasks into a easy job. Here’s how they work. “Ticking sticks” go by many names in the historical record, but they are the best technology for cutting a piece of wood to fit an odd opening. All you need to perform this […]

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Install a Grippy Liner on Your Bench Vise

I’m a huge fan of installing a grippy liner on your bench vise. Wood faces grip your work OK. Add the right liner and the grip will become fantastic. Here are some details on choosing and installing a liner. What’s a Good Liner? Most people prefer leather, cork, felt or a rubber such as Crubber. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Peel-and-stick cork is fast to install but isn’t very durable. […]

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The Hardware Drawer of Last Resort

Some of you will file this under “Bleeding Obvious,” but few people ever discuss their “junk drawers” in their shops. I call mine: The Hardware Drawer of Last Resort. It has saved my butt a thousand times. Actually, it’s not one drawer. It’s five. The one shown in the photo above is the “random fasteners” drawer. Every time I install some hinges and have extra screws left over that don’t […]

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Tool Troubles? Get Thee to the Grinder

I’m always surprised by how many woodworkers – even experienced ones – try to avoid the grinder. They will purchase expensive diamond plates or (worse perhaps) a ream of belt sander paper and an expensive granite plate all to avoid stepping up to an electric or hand-cranked grinder. This is not just a fear among hand-tool users who avoid electricity. I’ve met guys who will use an unguarded shaper with […]

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Folding Campaign Bookshelves in 1 Minute

For the December 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine I built a pair of folding campaign bookshelves based on a 19th-century pattern. Long-time readers of this blog know that I love mechanical furniture that folds up into tiny spaces and is durable. So 19th-century British campaign furniture is right up my alley. These examples have a Gothic look to them, but you could alter the profiles of the folding end […]

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Dugout Chair Part 8, The Inner Bark

Today I got smart and worked on this dugout chair before I took a shower – genius. Also, I found an easier way to remove the inner bark – with a chisel. Last night after dinner I went out to look at what one blog commenter has called “about the ugliest thing in woodworking history” and decided to see how easy it would be to chisel the inner bark away […]

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Dugout Chair Part 7, The Bark Flies

Before I could strip the bark off the dugout chair, I needed to shape the chair’s back. The bark had all my layout marks indicating the final shape of the chair. Armed with the TurboPlane, I smoothed out the steps I had cut into the stump earlier with my chainsaw. When I shaped the chair with a chainsaw, I sawed kerfs up and down the back of the chair that […]

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Dugout Chair Part 6, Remove the Rot

My progress on the dugout chair has been stymied by rains from two hurricanes, building two Campaign bookshelves and laying out a forthcoming book on carving by Mary May. But today I fired up my angle grinder to remove the rotted interior of this silver maple. I don’t have a ton of experience with an angle grinder. But if you’ve used an electric router, then you’ll quickly get comfortable with […]

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Sketch Your Way to Better Designs

One of my best woodworking tools is one I don’t write about much: my sketchbook. It’s an inexpensive spiral-bound thing I get at the grocery store, right by the romance novels. It’s always in my bag when I travel, and it’s on my lap when I’m “encouraged” to watch “Project Runway” with my lovely wife. I keep a mechanical pencil clipped to its metal spirals and use it to solve […]

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The Workbench X-Files

During the last decade I’ve amassed hundreds of images of early workbenches as part of my research into pre-industrial woodworking. Inevitably, some of the images don’t make a lot of sense and now populate a folder named: X-Files. These workbenches are from paintings and their features might be the result of a painter who doesn’t know much about woodworking. Or they could be a clue to a simple and neglected […]

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