About Chris Marshall

Chris Marshall has been writing for Woodworker's Journal as a contributing editor and field editor since 2001. Prior to that, he spent five years developing home improvement and woodworking books. He's written five of them and has served as a contributing writer on many more. A wood and tool junkie since childhood, Chris thoroughly enjoys building projects and reviewing woodworking tools for the Journal. When he's not assembling new machinery, sawing parts, taking photos or crunching text for an upcoming story, he enjoys spending time with his family and a houseful of pets at their home in rural Ohio.

JET, Powermatic Parent Company Purchased by Private Equity Firm

JET BandsawThis just in: big news on the business side of the power tool industry!

This morning in a press release, Tenex Capital Management announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the machinery and tools business of Walter Meier AG of Switzerland. For those who may not be aware, Walter Meier Tools manufactures the machinery and equipment under the JET, Wilton and Powermatic brands.

Powermatic latheWalter Meier Tools is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, but the company also has operations in Switzerland, Germany, Russia, France, Taiwan and China. It sells through more than 3,000 distribution channels in 30 countries. Tenex, the purchasing company, is a private equity firm focused on middle market investments. The transaction is expected to be completed by October 31, 2013. No financial terms were disclosed.

Walter Meier logoIn the same press release, Michael Green, CEO of Tenex Capital Management, stated, “In Walter Meier Tools, we have acquired a strong company with great brands and a growing market share in each of its segments. The well-recognized brands of JET, Wilton and Powermatic define the resilience and durability of the products. We look forward to supporting the company and its management team in executing its continued growth initiatives.”

At this time, that’s about all the information we have here at the Journal, but stay tuned! We will provide updates as they become available.

Shop Cabinets, Production Style

Shop Cabinets

May 2013: One cabinet down, seven more to go. The process of “settling in” continues.

Whoever first said that if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life, must have been a woodworker. Or maybe a magazine editor. In any case, it sure sums up how I feel about my job, which is equal parts of both vocations. I’m pretty sure a coal miner would rather not dig more coal when he or she is off the clock, and I know quite a few schoolteachers that don’t dream about teaching once summer break begins. (My wife is one of them!)

But what do I do when I’m not building something for the magazine or testing a bunch of new tools? Well, oftentimes, I’m woodworking. Or I’m trying out some new tool. And whether I’m building for the magazine or for myself, the way I feel about it is exactly the same. The experience is equally satisfying, whether I’m earning a living or just wrapping up a personal project on a Sunday afternoon.

The top snapshot here will give you a glimpse of what I’ve currently got “cooking” in the shop, and as luck would have it, there are a few “down” days between getting the last issue off to press and starting our work on a new print issue. So, I’m squeezing in some time to work on a bank of four upper and base cabinets for the shop. It’s sort of an anniversary project, you might say. Almost a year ago to the day, I was moving into this shop space (see photo, below), and I’ve had these cabinets rattling around in the back of my mind ever since. But, while working for a woodworking magazine might seem like a gravy job to many folks that only woodwork after dinner and on the weekends, we on staff actually have way too much to do most of the time. So, like you, many of my woodworking projects take a back seat until I can get around to them. (My wife will attest to that, too. She’s been waiting for a new closet closet I’ve promised to build her for two years…)

May 2012: I’m just starting to move into the new shop. Paint is barely dry.

I’m really enjoying the process of working on these cabinets. For one thing, I can imagine how much they are going to improve my storage situation in the shop. I have boxes and boxes of shop stuff that still has no place to go … but soon, it will. It’s also nice to make multiples of the same thing. Usually for the magazine, we build one prototype of a project and then a second for the article. Changeover from one project to the next is pretty quick and constant, but this time I can take the Henry Ford approach. On the bench, I’m just about to assemble seven more sets of doors. It only makes sense to get one machine setup ready, then blast through them all at the same time, before moving on to the next phase. There’s a lot of repetition, to be sure, but that gives me time to think, plan the next step and enjoy the process of making something with my hands — even if that’s an exercise I’m blessed to be able to do about 50 weeks of every year.

Here’s to hoping that you find the same sense of satisfaction that I do in this wonderful craft we all share — whether you get paid for it, or not.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Senior Editor

May/June 2013 Issue Preview

 

May:June CoverSummertime is a chance to get out of the shop now and then, and the new June 2013 print issue of Woodworker’s Journal will give you several good reasons to get out and explore — whether it’s a new lumberyard or your back yard.

Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll find in the new summer issue.

If you don’t subscribe, visit our online store to buy your own copy of the May/June 2013 issue!

 

 

Rethinking the Simple 2×4

Outfeed TableOne of the luxuries of being a woodworking magazine editor is that I get my hands on “good” wood on a pretty regular basis. Clear, straight cherry and maple are often “on deck” for projects in our magazine. Recently, I built a couple of Arts & Crafts bookcases from some nice quartersawn white oak for our first “Small Shop Journal” project (February 2013 print issue). And, without spilling the beans prematurely, I just finished a project that I built from some extraordinary ribbon stripe mahogany for our June issue. It was too wide to fit my jointer … what a problem to have, right?!

Last fall, when I needed a few 2x4s for a home improvement project I was working on, I went to Lowe’s to pick them up. There, at the top of the pile, were a few of the clearest, straightest 2x4s I’ve ever seen. Some were even quartersawn — and for a woodworker that’s pretty mind-blowing when you consider how absolutely green, checked and awful so much of the construction lumber seems to be these days. It’s a wonder it even passes inspection on the way to market. Continue reading

Grizzly Adds New Tool Comparison Feature to Website

Grizzly ChartIf 2013 is your year to buy a new stationary tool, and Grizzly is one of the companies you’re considering for that purchase, they’ve just added a slick new search feature that could make the process quite easy. It’s a machinery comparison chart widget that generates an instant side-by-side cross-reference for up to four Grizzly machines at once.

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Strange Projects We Have Made

One of the things I love about my wife Amy is that she shares my appreciation for beauty in what some might see as macabre. But it can lead to strange souvenirs that present opportunities for unusual projects. And here’s a good example for you. A couple of months ago, Amy took our daughters on a vacation trip to New York. While there, they visited the store Obscura Antiques and Oddities in Manhattan. If you’ve ever watched the show “Oddities” on the Science Channel, that name should immediately ring a bell. The proprietors buy and sell just about anything and everything that’s, well, odd. It’s an amusing and often hilarious program that’s become a family favorite.

She came home with this bat specimen from Obscura encased in a block of resin. And her request of me was this: “Please build a frame for it so I can hang it on the wall.”

Now there’s a project you don’t get every day! So, I got on it straight away. The frame has bridle joints on the corners and is made of cherry. It actually doesn’t hang on the wall; she sets it on a deep windowsill in her office so sunlight shines through it. Makes a pretty good shadow.

It seems an eerie and fitting project for October — and one to offer up to the following theme: “Strange Projects We Have Made.”

I’m sure I’m not the only woodworker who builds something weird from time to time. Do you have a project or two from your past that you’d chalk up to “strange” in some sense of that word? It doesn’t have to be Halloween appropriate, just funky somehow. Why not tell other readers about it here by leaving a comment below?

Let’s see what sort of oddities we’ve conjured up from wood. As far as I’m concerned, “off the beaten track” is a refreshing path to follow now and then, don’t you think?  If it’s possible to improve on a plastic-dipped bat, I tried to do it justice here! Amy thinks so, anyway.

I hope you’ll fill us in on your “oddity” project! And spill the details of its “backstory,” too.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

 

 

For Rockler, Innovation Still Trumps Imitation

We all know that old adage about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. But it’s a notion that’s always struck me as a hollow compliment at best. In my experience, it’s much, much harder to create than it is to duplicate.

I was reminded of this just two weeks ago while attending IWF — a biannual woodworking trade show and one of the largest in the country. Here’s a textbook example from that trip of how quickly certain companies will jump onto the bandwagon of a good idea.

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Kiwi Window Trim…It Really is a Small World

This spring I moved into a new shop, and I’m finally getting around to doing the finish carpentry to wrap up the interior work. I decided to save some money and run the base molding, door and window trim myself. Every now and again, I really like this sort of trim work, and the contractor’s budget is long since spent.

To keep things moving forward on a Saturday afternoon, I decided to purchase my window and door trim from the local home center. It’s simply off-the-shelf 1x radiata pine — nice, clean and straight material that I could pretty much sand, cut and install. Now I wouldn’t think of pine as a home center species that would come from great distances — especially another hemisphere for gosh sakes — but this batch sure did. The SKU tag says it’s from, of all places, New Zealand.

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New Shop, Full Circle

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been busy painting, installing garage door openers and running base molding in my new garage/shop. It’s been a leisurely process, mostly in the evenings and on weekends, because I don’t have a big project on the drawing board quite yet. But, this new shop space is going to get very busy in the next month or so, as I’ll be working on a couple of big articles for our October print issue. (Yep, magazines work that far ahead — it isn’t even June!)

At some point between coats of paint or sinking nail heads, it occurred to me: this new shop kind of brings me full circle. When my wife and I bought our first home — a cozy little place at about 800 square feet — my first “official” shop was a one-stall garage. We continued to park in that garage, so the space was really tight. Then came a move to central Ohio, and the shop grew from one stall to two. We rarely parked in that garage — or more accurately, we really couldn’t.

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