Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tea Caddy (dry fitting box)

Belated Happy Holidays!

Dry fitting the dovetails. I cut and pair the pins by hand then band saw and pair the tails.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tea Caddy (Chopping Dovetails)

Lots of dovetails to be chopped. Notice the waste areas are marked with pencil. Its real easy to make a mistake and chop out the wrong area if you're not careful.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tea Caddy (dovetailing box)

Its therapeutic to get back to the shop and to cut dovetails by hand. This is going to be a small but fun project, a reproduction of an eighteenth century tea caddy. I will post a picture of the original when complete.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

ZEN Woodworking Day

Have you ever had a perfect day in the shop? This would be a zen woodworking day. The kind of day when you didn't have to search for anything. It's the simple things that make a zen woodworking day. Maybe you left the ruler exactly at arms reach every time. You had to take an extra step for nothing. You put everything away, real time, without thinking about it so the shop was practically clean when the day was through. I almost had one of these days and then I remembered I left the band saw blade tensioned.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fall Cleaning, etc.

As you can see, I live in the woods. So this weekend, with the help of my kids, I cleared about 3/4 acre worth of leaves. Better late than never, and just before the first little snow flurries.

I also winterized my 1980 KZ250 thumper. The nearly showroom condition bike is great for short summer rides on a country road.

I am involved in a internal debate as to what will be my next woodworking project.

A Worthy Cause

Here is an awesome community service cause for this time of year. If you are a woodworker with a little extra this holiday season, it is worth a look. I would rather you go to to read the story yourself and watch the video.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

From My Earliest Brewing Days

I bought this book with my first home brewing kit in 1988, rode back to my college dorm, and with the help of a small electric burner, brewed my first batch of ale. Hours later, in the middle of the night, I awoke to my roommate cursing me up and down as the CO2 snored "blurp, blurp, blurp" from the airlock of the fermenter. Thus began my long journey into beer and brewing. The original kit was purchased at Home Sweet Home brew in Philly, PA. The ale turned out great. Incidentally, my second batch was a stout which I remember giving a sample to one of my friends which resulted in a sourpuss comment "eeww! tastes like Guinness!" as he spit it out.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wing Chair Documentary(construction complete)

The arm support is screwed and glued to the roll and the wing stile. This is the very final screw.

I placed glue in the front of the arm support only and elongated the rear screw hole to allow for movement in the wider, cross grain, wing stile.

Here is the final construction ready to go to the finishing department. I will also be placing metal support brackets at various places for additional support.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wing Chair Documentary (gluing arm post blocks)

Here I am shaping and gluing the arm post blocks. I really like the look of the vertical cylindrical arm roll on these chairs. Most traditional wing chairs made today favor the horizontal roll.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wing Chair Documentary (gluing wings and arm post)

I usually have a helper available when needed, but when necessity calls: I used double sided tape to hold glue blocks in place to clamp the wings to the back frame. The angles of the clamping blocks have to be right on, or the force of the clamp will really give you problems when gluing up. The glue blocks on the curved wing rail were saved from the original cut off, but a better idea would have been to custom make a block that fit around the wing stile also, preventing slippage. As you may have noticed, I changed my earlier plan, which was to glue up the back frame as a unit, in favor of gluing in parts. When you are not going by any plan or the plan is your own, sometimes you have to let the process fall into place.

I also glued the arm posts to the seat frame. I need to attach the arm rests and add a few finishing touches and the chair will be ready for the finishing department.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Going to the Phillies Parade(a few weeks back)

This is a photo of me and the kids all Phillied up before departing to the Phillies World Series Parade. The only thing that I don't like about the picture is that my wife is not included(someone had to take the picture). This was taken on Halloween day. Some Friday for the kids; no school, once in a lifetime world series parade, and trick or treating.

Wing Chair Documentary (gluing wing to seat)

Now that most of the sanding is complete, I am gluing the wings and back frame to the seat frame. At first I thought I would have to attach the wings and back frame to the seat frame as one unit, but this way seems to work(and is easier). I had to use a horizontal clamp on the wing rail to hold the clamping block in place.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wing Chair Documentary (corner blocks and sanding)

Life took me on a little personal side journey for a few days, but I'm back to the project. I have been working on some small but important things like these corner support blocks which are glued and screwed to the seat rails. Notice the grain direction of the blocks which can be important because the small movement in the wood will affect both sides equally.
I also started rough sanding the frame which will eventually be hidden under some nice upholstery. I tend not to spend too much time on areas that will be covered and secondary sort of taking a page from older period pieces which often were left rough in hidden areas.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mackeson Triple Stout

Mackeson XXX is one of those beers I've known about forever but can't recall trying. When I noticed that it is contract brewed in the US, I decided to give it a try. I used to brew an amber ale with lactose added to enhance the malt and add a fuller mouth feel. The Mackeson pours jet black, starts out with a punch of roasted barley reminiscent of a Baltic porter or imperial stout without the depth but ends quickly. Sweetness soon prevails over the roastiness. Nice creamy mouth feel no doubt a result of the lactose. Stuck in the middle; being too sweet for a session and not complex enough for a dessert beer. Kudos have to be given when large brewers adhere to tradition.

Wing Chair Documentary (wing glue up)

Tonight, I commenced the final step; the big glue up/assembly. Here I am starting with the wings which will then need to be clamped to the back frame. The unit(wings and back frame) will then be attached to the seat frame and, after some fine tuning/sanding, the chair will be ready for my wife to finish. I saved a small cut off of the original wing rail to use as a clamping block. The block is prevented from sliding with the help of some grip tape.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wing Chair Documentary(arm roll)

The arm roll is roughed out. The top angle has to be precise so that the arm rest will lay perfectly flat on the roll. A chunk of the wood(waste) was removed on the band saw to minimize some of the hand work.

One arm roll is nearly complete. The shape was done mostly with a block plane, spoke shave and file.

A very incomplete dry assembly.
Everything seems to be going together just fine.

Friday, November 14, 2008

From My Archives

This is a picture of a miniature queen anne style chair that I made a couple years ago. It has a triffid, three toed, foot, small shell carving on the knee, and a compass seat. The legs were made with a large dowel at the top to connect to the seat frame in the traditional way. The dowel was pegged to lock the leg in place. The chair is made of walnut. I love to leave parts that will not be seen rough which adds to the hand crafted feel. Of all the chairs that I have made, something about the flow of this design always strikes me as exceptional.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Miniature Wing Chair with Finish Applied

I am very lucky that my wife does all of my finishing work allowing me to concentrate on building. She has learned her end of the craft from industry experts and is really meticulous. The finish is built up layers of shellac and glaze to give a antiqued look, all done by hand.

Wing Chair Documentary (wings mortise, arm roll angle)

I have completed the mortise and tenon joint attaching the wing stile to the side chair rail as well as the top of the arm roll. The arm roll is at a 4 degree compound angle which will flair the arm rolls slightly forward and out. You know the design is working when the chair looks like it is about to walk away Loony Toons style.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Craftsman Plane is a Political Symbol

With the election a day away, I thought it might be time to get a little political. I purchased this craftsman plane a few months back. It was manufactured in the USA in 1960. The tool is incredibly heavy and well made. Now, I know that there are some specialty tool companies that still manufacture high end tools in the US, but decades ago it was common place for everyday items to be made here. Men and women could count on factory jobs that would pay well enough to raise a family. Travel through any state in America and you'll pass through towns that once were robust with manufacturing and all the frill that go along. I like to make furniture and I also sell high end furnishings for a living. The real furniture I sell is expensive but mostly made in the USA. So much of the furniture that is sold in this country is made in the far east. This furniture is not only made cheaply but it often ends up in the landfill after a few years(picture below bulk trash day in any town with furniture to go to landfill). Your grandparents were used to buying real furniture and taking it to the local upholstery shop for a makeover when they needed a change or refreshing. The upholstery shop employed skilled labor.
It seems to me that if we made things in this country, we would have to get used to paying a bit more, but real income would rise because regular people could count on real factory jobs. If we can't get back our manufacturing base then we will have to concede that our economy is like Europe; only a service economy. Lets get back to it and start manufacturing tools and wind turbines and real furniture. And lets drink micro brewed beer that is manufactured here in the USA!

Wing Chair Documentary (pattern for wings)

I've started working on the wings for the chair over the last few days. Here we have the patterns with the front part of the wings cut to shape. As you can see they are mortise and tenon joined. The shape is faired with the help of files and spoke shaves. Check out the Miller Falls cigar spoke shave(middle bottom). It works great for getting into tight radius like the sharp curve of the wing.

The top part of the wing is joined and shaped together.
I felt like I was making a whale when shaping the top wing rail.

The wings are joined to the back frame with a compound angle mortise and tenon.
Moving right along!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wing Chair Documentary (back frame)

I've been working on the back frame which is probably the easiest part of the project in that there is no tricky joinery until the wing frame is added. Everything is dry fit so that I can work forward to making and attaching the wings(which will be really tricky).

The back frame is attached with a simple scarf joint. ( the clamps are holding the back in place temporarily)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Old woodworking equipment

This is a really old lathe that I got from a friend and a great older woodworker named Don. It is a Goodell Pratt from the 1920-30's. I have it set up to a motor with a flat belt drive. It is relatively small with 18" between centers and runs incredibly smooth. I hope I work as well when I'm as old. I will post more on some of my old equipment later.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wing Chair Documentary (rear leg chamfer)

Here I am working on adding detail to the rear legs. I create reference marks to use as a guide to hand work the chamfer that you see on the right. It would Probably be easier to use a chamfer bit in a router with a stop, but I find it almost as fast and much more fun using a spokeshave.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shoals pale ale review

The first time I tried Shoals pale ale from Smuttynose Brewery was at a Beer festival in the late 90's. I remember enjoying it so I decided to give it another try. The case box was freshness dated which is a complete bonus. As much as I love to support the micro brewing industry, my biggest complaint is buying stale beer.

Deep amber color obviously coarse filtered with yeast and chill haze. Great head retention and foam laces glass top to bottom. Nice malty front with an orange hop presence. Serious hoppiness. More of a kettle hop than a dry hop. Bitterness is part hops part yeasty bite balanced with malty sweetness. Enjoyable.

Wing Chair Documentary (seat frame together)

The seat frame is roughed out and dry fit. The trapezoid seat means that there is some angle joinery(mortise and tenon). The rear legs will be stylized with a lambs tongue into a chamfer before the seat frame is assembled. The secondary wood is soft maple which was cut down in the mid 80's by a local farmer. It actually makes unique primary wood in that it has worm holes and spalting. Ive been watching the Phitin Phills try to drive in runs to no avail. Time for a beer.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wing Chair Documentary (rear leg jigs and knee blocks)

I just finished making the jig to cut the top angle of the rear leg. I got the idea of these jigs from a Chippendale sofa article in Fine Woodworking magazine.

As you can see, I glued and shaped the knee blocks that extend the leg letting it flow into what will be the seat area.

I spent a couple hours late last night making this jig. I rough cut the rear mahogany leg and the jig allows both rear legs to match each other. A second jig will have to be made to cut the top part of the rear leg so the angle of the seat back matches near perfectly. The things they don't show on New Yankee Workshop is how long it takes to make all the jigs Norm Abram uses. Once you make the jigs and patterns for chair making you can produce the next one much more rapidly.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wing Chair Documentary (shaping ball and claw)

The cabriole leg is shaped mostly with a Nicholson 49 file. I periodically give the leg shape as I complete the ball and claw to visualise the complete leg.

The ball is shaped almost completely with a 1/2" bench chisel.

My hands really react with mahogany(turning black). If this happens to you, soap and water won't work well; use lemon juice.

The talon is completed.

The ball and claw is complete.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wing Chair Documentary (Beginnings)

I started a new project this week and I thought that I would document my progress over the next month or two. This is an adult size wing chair. As far a the design goes, it is somewhere between a Philadelphia and a Newport style.

It all starts with a good full size plan. Any tricky joinery can be worked out and most of the patterns can be made right from the full size plan.

Above on the right I have a solid billet of Honduras Mahogany(the real stuff) with the leg pattern marked out. I am drilling out the mortise while the leg is still square. My furniture has mortise and tenon joints whenever possible. Dowels are much easier but not as strong.

Here's the leg cut on the band saw. A lot of work still left to do.

Here is the foot marked with a various reference points such as claw width, ball height, etc. I am sawing the claws to make it easy to remove waste. If you are interested in learning how to make a ball and claw foot, I would suggest buying a guide from Olde Mill cabinet shoppe at I have no affiliation with them, but they have a great book on how to make a ball and claw foot.

Starting to shape the ball.

Top and bottom of ball complete.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


As I'm sitting here late on Sunday enjoying a Ommegang Dubbel, I just realized that it is now brewed in Belgium. If you like Belgian dubbels than I would highly recommend Ommegang, and at $5 750ml its a great value. The original Ommegang that I have had in the past which was brewed in Cooperstown was good but not quite as rich and complex as the Belgian brewed. It also makes a great base for cooking mussels.(mix Ommegang, cream, garlic, onions, parsley, butter, sea salt and cook mussels for around 8-10 minutes; awesome)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What is your favorite beer?

I think it is kind of an interesting question; Over time beers from the same brewery change. Or is it your taste and taste bud maturity that causes change? The Sierra Nevada of the late 80's is not the Sierra of today. One of the greatest beers I ever had and certainly a turn on beer for me was champagne bottled Stoudts Gold in the late 80's. My memory of Stoudts Gold was that it had a luscious mouth feel, full malty hop balance, and superb drinkability. I can almost see the tiny bubbles rising in the glass as slowly as an Everest summit. While its still a good beer, its not quite the same experience. One of my favorite beer styles and one that I would like to see craft brewed is a Belgian style Scottish ale. Le Cheval Blanc of Canada used to make a tasty example. Scotch Silly is another fine example.


To my world of furniture making and beer which are two of my three favorite things in life. I often find myself, after a days play in the real world, in my garage wood shop and then finally relaxing with a real beer. I plan to rant about some of the projects that I am working on and hopefully rave about a beer or two(I am getting too old to go to three or four).

As far as woodworking goes, my interests are in eighteenth century furniture forms especially chair making. This is a Philadelphia wing chair frame that I finished today. I always begin with rough lumber. In the case of this chair, the cabriole leg with ball and claw foot and the rear legs are mahogany. The secondary wood which will be upholstered is soft maple and poplar. I will post some more pics on how I made this at a later time. I will also be talking about some of the cool tools that I have accumulated, many of them very old.

As far as beer goes, as long as it reaches me in good condition, I can appreciate all styles from light session beers to sour Belgians. Last night my wife and I shared a Maredsous 10 (triple) which is definitely on the list of best buys at less than $7 bottle in NJ. I was in the OBX for my vacation at the end of the summer and had a really good British style IPA that was reminiscent of a fullers esb and an excellent porter. They were made by St Georges brewing company of Virginia. St. Georges also had two Lagers, but lets just say they are a great ale brewery. The porter reminded me of some of the old Entire porter batches from Yards brewing(more on that later).