Skip to content

Bogged Down No More…

November 17, 2017

Sometimes I have so much going on that nothing ever seems to make progress. Right now, I’m working on… well, I’m working on several projects all at once, it seems. That’s not unusual, is it? One of them is another collaboration with my friend, Rab Gordon, of Rainnea Ltd. It’s an interesting project in that it is driven by form more so than function. The client recently had a sgian dubh made and wanted a reminder of it that he could put on his desk at work. My guidelines were to use a provided cabochon and bog oak – and that’s it.

Honestly, it can be challenging to build something with very minimal information! So it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do.

And, of course, I had to go with something that would challenge me, right? I’ve made dovetail boxes before. And I’ve used bog oak plenty of times. I’ve yet to make a dovetail box out of bog oak, but that’s the plan. The goal, then, is to make a dovetailed desktop pen box out of bog oak with a lift-off lid that has the cabochon inlaid into the top of it.

Bog Oak Panels 01

I have an aversion to thick-walled boxes, so the first thing I needed to do was rip down some wood. I decided to give the new Luban 043 (copy of the Record 043) a try with the resaw attachment. I have to be honest with you, I wasn’t completely impressed by it, but I think I need to use it a few more times before coming out with a proper review. It served its purpose, though, and I was able to finish resawing the piece with my Ron Bontz rip saw such that it would require the bare minimum of cleanup afterwards.

Bog Oak Panels 02

A freshly sharpened Hock blade in my Stanley No7 made this clean-up an easy task. For being 5,000 year old wood, the bog oak planes wonderfully and the shavings look like curly black Shirley Temple ringlets.

Bog Oak Panels 05

Check out those medullary rays from the quartersawn oak! This really is some wonderful wood. But before I go any further with the bog oak, I want to brush up on my dovetails.

Bog Oak Panels 07

This first run is in mahogany. 

Dovetail Practice 01

Dovetail Practice 02

Considering it’s been a few years since I’ve cut dovetails, I was pleased with the final result. Nice and square, very few gaps, and just one saw cut past the scribe line. I decided to be useful while I was practicing, so I took a page out of David Barron’s book and made a device to help line up the tail board to mark the pins.

Dovetail Practice 03

But I want to get a few more done before I cut into the most expensive wood I have in my shop…

Stay tuned for more. And I’ll try to include an update on the other big project I’ve been working on. And the last batch of knives? And some other ideas I’ve been kicking around? I think it’s time to kick the blog back into activity…




A Woodworking Boone…

August 1, 2017

Walnut doors and the middling human

Almost all of the doors at the Daniel Boone Home are walnut, milled on-site.

Not far from our farm in Femme Osage, Missouri, is a national historic landmark – the residence of Daniel Boone. When I was little, my mom would take me to see it periodically. The middling human has been there several times now, as well. Even as a kid, I remember gawking at the wood floors and doors and built-in cabinetry, all made using local Missouri black walnut. I suppose even then I had an appreciation for the wood.

Staked Bench

Staked Bench – maybe not period? But of the period. And still cool…

The DBH has changed ownership several times over the years. In 2016, it was gifted to St. Charles County by the then-owners, Lindenwood University. It has also grown a lot over the years. In addition to adding an entire village of buildings, including a blacksmith shop, a general store, several homes of varying sizes, a church, a pottery shop, and a wood shop, it now boasts a large and modern pavilion and a properly supplied gift shop.

Something the County started doing that interested me greatly was the addition of monthly artisan events to their event calendars. On any given month, one of the various shops or artisans would be open and available to demonstrate skills or answer questions from visitors.

Pottery Event 03

Middling Human learning about pottery on a kick wheel from Matt Brennecke.

A friend of mine, Matt Brennecke of 33&Burning Tree Studios, is one of the volunteer potters, so I took the middling human along with me during the pottery artisan event. He was pretty excited that got to use a kickwheel, under the supervision of a potter, and get dirty with clay. He has expressed an interest, so he might be getting lessons at some point.

Pottery Event 04

It’s a lot harder than it looks!

We had a good time there, but what I was really looking forward to was the woodworking artisan day, which was scheduled for late June! I was itching to see the inside of the woodshop and get a chance to talk shop with some more handtool woodworkers.

Woodshop 01

The woodshop at the Daniel Boone Home.

So you can imagine my surprise when I showed up for the woodshop artisan day and found a guy setting up a powered scroll saw! He apologized and said he was a fill-in because the normal volunteers couldn’t make it. We still had a fairly pleasant conversation, but I really wanted to visit with someone who was intimate with hand tool woodworking.

Chatting with my mom later that day, I started complaining about the lack of hand tool woodworkers participating in that event. After a minute, I realized what I needed to do was put my shavings where my mouth was. So I contacted the person in charge of volunteers and told her I wanted in.

We met a few weeks later and discussed the opportunity. I showed her some of my work and discussed my woodworking experience and skill level. And I got approval to be one of the volunteers!

So… on top of the other things I have on my plate, I’ve added “Volunteer Woodworker At The Historic Daniel Boone Home” to the list. My goal is to get into the shop there at least one 8-hour day per month. I think that is do-able. Now I just need to figure out a few things I can make while I’m there! I have some items in mind, but I was also planning on walking through the various buildings on-site to see if there are any period pieces from which I might draw inspiration.

One of the benefits of volunteering there as a hand-tool woodworker is that I get permanent venue in the gift shop for things I make and can likewise sell stuff out of the woodshop when I’m down there working. It was a completely unexpected bonus, but I won’t say no to the opportunity! Time to get business cards made up, as well, I think…

Stay tuned for updates on my volunteer work there in the future. Once I have a schedule and a plan worked out, I’ll be posting times when I will be in the shop working. Anyone in the St. Louis area (or visiting) is welcome to stop by for a visit!

Woodshop 02

Interior of the woodshop

Woodshop 03

There IS a Roubo-style bench! It’s a little tall, but usable.

Woodshop 04

It has a nice leg vise, too!

Woodshop 05

There is a treadle lathe available, but it needs some fine tuning…

Not Bored Cutting

March 3, 2017

I recently had a need to make a cutting board for someone. I wanted to make something unusual, with some highly figured domestic woods – most likely maple and walnut. I prefer these species because their pores are closed (or at least very tiny), which I think is better for something on which food will be processed.

I had a really nice piece of curly walnut that was from the family farm. I also had some really great curly maple from Ohio – scrap wood I’d gotten from my ex-wife’s uncle several years ago when he built some shelves for their house. The problem with the walnut was that only part of it was highly figured; the rest was pretty plain. So I needed to come up with a design that took advantage of this.

In the end, I decided to cut the walnut into a wedge and then frame it with the curly maple.


When I posted pictures of it, someone asked me how I managed the angles. The big secret here is that I didn’t manage angles. I didn’t measure one angle! It looks a bit complicated at first blush, but it really isn’t. Hopefully you’ll agree after I explain.

Everything is just a straight measurement off of the center line. For the handle, the center line marked the point where I bored the hole. Then the shoulder measures out X” from the center line on both sides. Those points are connected to the center line at the end of the board to delineate the area of figured walnut I had available. Then the maple is also measured off the center line at the shoulder and then at the end.


I drew this all out on a template, cut it into three pieces, marked out my walnut and maple accordingly, then removed a wedge shape (overcutting to actually make two pieces) from the maple board so as to maintain grain continuity.

The cuts were all made with handsaws – panel saws for the straight cuts and a coping saw for the handle. The handle hole was bored out with a brace. I cleaned up and finessed the edges of the boards with my old Type 11 Stanley No 5.


When it came time to glue the three boards up, I knew I’d have a problem with the angles and the clamping pressure. My solution was pretty easy, though. I clamped the walnut board from handle to tip – not hard enough to crush the end, but just enough to make it sturdy. Then when I applied glue to the edges and clamped the boards across their width, the maple boards slid down until they hit the first clamp and then I was able to draw them tight.

I squared everything up with new measurements off the center line and trimmed it up with a backsaw and my Veritas low angle block plane. It was a fun exercise to do this all with hand tools, but if I make more in the future I’ll likely speed it up a little by using the drill press and bandsaw on some of the cuts.

I wanted to include some food safe wood butter with the cutting board and figured it would be a project the Tiny Human™ could assist me with. I pulled out my big block of bees wax, a bottle of food-safe mineral oil, and my double boiler kit (a hot plate, a handled pot, and a bowl with ring handles, all picked up at Goodwill for $5). We estimated about 2oz of wax (1/8th-ish of the 1lb block) and about 8oz of mineral oil, added both to the bowl and set the bowl in the pot (half filled with water) and turned the hot plate on medium.


After a while, the wax melted and the Tiny Human got to stir it all together. Then I poured it into small jars that used to contain delicious artichoke hearts. Once it cooled, it was ready to go.


After a bit of sanding, the board was ready for wood butter. I also added four little rubber sticky feet to the bottom of the board so it wouldn’t slide around in use.

I think the end result looks tops.

And as much as I enjoy working with wood, as much as I enjoy making things for other people, I REALLY love it when the recipient loves using the things I make for them.


Knife with zircote handle also by the Kilted Woodworker, by the way…


The Power Of The Fourth

December 14, 2016


I enjoy all aspects of a project – design, wood selection, construction, and finish. I like the fourth aspect best when it is hard to mess up. And you need to not mess it up because your finish can make or break your project! It’s important enough that many professionals send their pieces out for finishing. That leaves the rest of us to do it on our own.

If I’m not at all worried about the durability needed on the top of a dining table or end table, I’ve been using beeswax and a pollisoir when I can for a pleasant, tactile finish. But when it needs to have a bit more protection, I tend to go with a wiping finish of some sort – usually a varnish, but sometimes a 1lb cut of shellac.

When I have the option, I always go with the glossy version of a finish. It doesn’t muddy the figure in the wood and if you don’t want it to be glossy in the end, you can rub it out with 0000 steel wool (or the nylon equivalent) to bring it back to a semi-gloss or matte finish. You can never start off with a semi-gloss or matte finish and then try to make it glossy later. Well… you can make the top of it glossy, but you’ll have already lost some of the clarity of the final product.

Earlier this year, my best friend turned me on to Amazon’s prices for Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil stock finish. I picked up a 32oz bottle for under $20. This is one of those finishes that, if you follow the directions pretty closely, it’s hard to screw up. You can apply it with cotton rag or foam brush, you can re-apply after a few hours, and it builds up a protective, glossy finish in no time. Plus, it has a good shelf life, so I’ll easily use all 32oz before it goes bad.

If finishing a project has always been a challenge for you, you might consider picking up a bottle of it the next time you need to get some more finish. It’s hard to beat for the price.


* As with any oil finish, be aware that it will darken the wood just a bit and that you have to properly dispose of oily rags. Also, I don’t make any money from Amazon sales and I didn’t receive this finish for free or at any discounted price. Just piping up about a good deal.

Pangur Ban – The Scholar and His Cat

December 5, 2016


In the 9th Century, an Irish monk wrote a poem about his relationship with his white cat, Pangur Ban (Ban meaning “white” in Gaelic).  There are several translations. I like this one the most…

(Translated by Robin Flower)

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

And it seems an appropriate time to post such a thing, as I try to get back into my woodworking and writing and as we have added a new member to the kilted family.


This is Isabeau (named after the character in Ladyhawke), a mask-and-mantle bicolor tabby. She is just 5 mos old right now and seems to be adjusting well to her new surroundings. After a day confined to just a bathroom, I think I’ll give her a little bit of roaming room in the basement this evening. We will see about the rest of the condo later this week.



In the mean time, the Tiny Human (tm) is enjoying her and she seems to be doing quite good with him, as well. She has a solid motor on her and I’m hoping she won’t be too timid to be in the shop with me when I’m working with hand tools.



More Work With Studio D, Part 5

August 12, 2016

With the tops properly thicknessed, jointed, and cut to size, I began work on the butterflies. The first task was to make more butterflies. I began doing so with the remains of a small plank of bog oak I had left over from another project (a commission I have Caleb James, Planemaker working on). As I made some cuts to free butterflies from their matrix, I paused to admire how great a job my old bandsaw was doing.

Clean Bandsaw Cuts

Nice, clean cuts!

Apparently Karma thought I was getting cocky, because not two minutes later my blade broke. :\ The blade breaking was not in itself such a problem. It happens. It was an old blade and it broke at a patched weld. No, it was a problem because I had absolutely no idea where my other bandsaw blades were. At some point during my move into the condo, they were boxed up… and that’s all I knew.

I spent three hours looking through all of my boxes with woodworking equipment and tools for my other bandsaw blades – multiple times, actually – all to no avail. I growled in frustration and begrudgingly drove to Woodcraft to pick up a new blade.

An hour after installing the new blade, I found my other blades, in a box I’d checked three times but apparently hadn’t fully opened to see the blades quietly sitting on the top at the other end of the box.

Missing Blades Found

Masters of ‘Hide and Seek’…

*sigh* Regardless, I was back in business and quickly made a kaleidoscope of butterflies…

Kaleidoscope of Butterflies

A kaleidoscope of butterflies… (and some scrap off-cuts I probably won’t throw away)

After cutting them on the bandsaw, I use a bench hook and a sharp chisel to pare the sides smooth and add just the slightest chamfer towards the bottom of the butterfly on all sides. This chamfer is usually not more than one or two thousandths of an inch.

With butterflies all in order, I laid out some butterfly options to stabilize the split knot in the hall table. Everyone has their own methods for figuring out where to put these inlays – mine is to lay them out in various ways and take pictures, then examine and compare the pictures to see what looks best while also stabilizing the intended area.

In this case, I decided on two butterflies. Sticking them down in place with double-sided tape, I traced the bottom edges of the butterflies with my large Blue Spruce marking knife and then removed the inlays.

Hall Table 11

In order to properly delineate the edges of the mortises I needed to make, I chiseled out a wedge of wood along the entire border of each butterfly and used white pencil to highlight the wood to remain.

Hall Table 12

In preparation for removing the bulk of the waste with a (corded) router, I drilled a series of holes in each end of the butterfly. Chopping out the waste between the three holes leaves me a place to drop in my router bit. I have to do this because I’d rather use my smaller palm router, a Bosch 1608 edge trimmer, which does not have plunge capabilities, than my larger Bosch 1617.

Hall Table 13

After removing most of the waste with the palm router, I’m left with the smallest amount of wood along each edge.

Hall Table 14

This remaining waste is easily removed with a sharp chisel.

Hall Table 15

Once I have the waste removed, I fitted the butterflies in place and tapped them in about 1/8” or so to make sure they fit. They did, so I pulled them back out, added glue to all of the walls of the holes, and cautioned them to fall into place without a fight by showing them my joiner’s mallet. That didn’t work, so I had to resort to seating them with the mallet and a scrap of wood. They didn’t put up much of a fight and I could tell they were a very tight and pleasing fit.

Hall Table 16

They seated so well, in fact, that I didn’t wait but a minute to begin cutting them flush with my Veritas flush-cutting saw.

Hall Table 17

After a little bit of work with a block plane and some sandpaper, I’m left with this.

Hall Table 18

Not bad. I had a paper-thick gap on the end of the top butterfly and a tiny corner chip out on the near one; these things are easily fixed with a minor bit of epoxy later on.

Now to start on the smaller end table…


More Work With Studio D, Part 4

July 18, 2016

A few weeks ago, I borrowed a friend’s Festool AFT-55 (circular saw) and tracks so I could make some exact cuts on the hall table and end table. I love the precision of the Festool, but don’t yet use it enough to justify such a purchase. I would consider picking up something, though, if I continue with making large-ish things, like live edge tables. At $650+ for the new track saws, however, I might get more versatility from the Carvex jigsaw.

The only real problem I encountered with the AFT-55 was the depth of cut. The walnut planks were over 8/4 thick and the Festool could only cut about 1 7/8″. So I had to finish the rest with my Disston 26″ rip saw that was cleaned up and sharpened by Wentzloff & Sons (I got it, along with a crosscut, from Jon Zimmer , who still carries saws that are cleaned up and sharpened by Wentzloff).

Hall Table 05

This is the underside. I did that so it looked like I was a ripping beast.

While I had the Festool saw in my possession, I decided to rip two of the reclaimed Checkerdome douglas fir planks to proper size so I can make some headway on the workbench, as well. Those beams are almost 3″ thick. That meant ripping over 1″ with the rip saw. It might not seem like a lot, but those old beams are very dense and heavy and it took a lot of effort to saw through them.

Checkerdome Slab 06

Although I’d be a lot happier with a longer top, say something more like 8′, having a proper bench of even 6′ long will be a welcomed change. This is a good idea of how it will look, about 6′ long, 22″ wide, and just under 3″ thick.

Checkerdome Slab 08

The top of the new bench…

With the tops cut to size, I went to my friend Scott’s shop Saturday morning to put some time in on his 52″ “friend maker” (wide belt sander). I spent more time with the end table top than the other three because it had so much cup. I was able to get it perfectly flat and still retain 1 3/8″ thickness. The hall table was a lot straighter and I was able to keep it to 1 5/8″ thick. I’m not at all worried about this; I think the end table needed to be a little thinner than the hall table, anyway. If it was too thick, it would look chunky.

Checkerdome Slab 09

Douglas fir after a few trips through the 52″ sander…

End Table 07

End table top after many trips through the sander…

Hall Table 08

Hall table top after several trips through the sander…

Some of you might recall I talked about saving the cut-offs from the bog oak butterfly keys I inlaid into the conference table I made last year. Turns out, they came in very handy (once I was finally able to locate them, after sorting through many boxes of stuff)! I was able to lay them out on the tables, not to use as actual templates for inlay (because each one is individually scribed and inlaid), but just to give me some idea as to what it would look like.

Using these, I can easily adjust positions and determine the best design layout and evaluate what I need to make.

I still have some spare bog oak keys left over from last year – one large one and three smaller ones – so I’ll make up a few more and maybe even make some medium-sized off-cuts using two of the larger ones to see if having three sizes might show better.

Hall Table 10

Proposed butterfly inlays for hall table…

End Table 08

Not bad, but I want to see how it looks with a transitional size between the two…

More to come later…


%d bloggers like this: