Not So Serious Business

Most of my projects don’t get many laughs. Or at least, I don’t intend them to.

I bet you’re probably in the same boat. We woodworkers spend a lot of time thinking about form, function, good technique, the right material choices, durability, safety and so forth. Most projects have an intended and practical purpose. And, I think those are all good aims. Materials are expensive, and shop time is often pretty short. Not to mention the fact that if you actually make your living—or even part of it—from the furniture or cabinetry you build, there’s not a lot of room for funny business. You follow your plans, turn out good work and move on to the next challenge. Get ‘er done.

That’s why some lighthearted woodworking is a really nice change of pace to see now and again. Take, for instance, this little YouTube gem a friend of mine sent me recently:

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Getting it Done in ’10

Ah, resolutions…

Depending on how you look at them, they could be the best or worst part of flipping the calendar to January.

Here are my plans for 2010: instead of vowing to drop 20 pounds or remodel my basement—both of which are equally unlikely—I’ve made a couple of woodworking-related resolutions this year. The first one should be easy to pull off:

1. I’m gonna tame my tangled mess of air compressor hose.

Sounds ridiculously easy, doesn’t it? Right now, it lays on the floor in a pile where it gets in my way, because the hose has a memory to it and doesn’t coil up easily. I kick it around and shove it here and there, but I need a better solution. Retractable? Maybe hung from the ceiling? This year I’m going to figure something out. (Advice anyone?)

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Whaddja Give? Whaddja Get?

I’m finally coming around from the self-induced food coma of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The wrapping paper is waiting in a big bag for the next run to the recycling center and, for the most part, the gifts are put away.

It sure comes and goes quickly, doesn’t it?

But, during this little lull between Christmas and New Years, and before these big holidays are entirely behind us, I want to put the brakes on for a minute. Seems like a perfect opportunity for us to reflect on the cool things we made and gave away as gifts. Or, maybe someone left you something particularly shiny and sharp under the tree this year. A new handplane or dado set, perhaps? Maybe some great new gizmo from your favorite woodworking supplier—or just as nice, a gift certificate to said supplier?!

So, tell us, whaddja give? whaddja get?

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A Little Holiday Merriment from the Folks at Ryobi

TTI CHRISTMAS CARDWhether you’re revved up for the festivities to come over the next few days, or if you’re feeling the need for a little holiday “lift” right about now, the folks at Ryobi have a clever video card to share with all of us.

Check out this link:

http://www.ttigroupna.com/holiday_greeting/#/home

Makes me want to grab a sheet of plywood and some tools right now. There’s always room to add one more holiday lawn ornament to the yard, right? Thanks for the fun, Ryobi!

Long live Frosty!

Catch you in the shop—after the holidays,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

Signing Off…In a Manner of Speaking

SIGNINGWORK1Last Christmas I asked my wife for a branding iron. You’ve probably seen them before in woodworking catalogs. I decided that if I had one, I’d be more inclined to sign my projects. It’s not that I’ve never signed my stuff before. I usually put my initials and a date on the bottoms of turnings. Somehow they seem more like signature pieces than, say, a table or cabinet. But, most of my larger woodworking projects have left the shop without any initials whatsoever.

Truth be told, I’m not really a “grandstanding” sort of guy. I wasn’t that kid in school with his hand up first, and I didn’t cut in front of the lunch line. Even now, I’m still pretty content to take my turn when it comes. Signing woodworking projects has seemed a bit, well, forward of me. So, that branding iron has sat in my tool chest unused for most of this past year.

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Holiday Countdown Has Begun

Holiday projects are prime time for brushing up on some skills while churning out the seasonal cheer.

Holiday projects are prime time for brushing up on some skills while churning out the seasonal cheer.

It’s official. Halloween is behind us and crops are coming out of the fields. Home Depot has the artificial Christmas tree display up right now, so the harbingers are all around us: December holiday season is right around the corner.

You know where I’m gonna take this, don’t you?

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Still Skidding

Who knew there were so many uses for pallets? You do, and the comments prove it.

Who knew there were so many uses for pallets? You do, and the comments prove it.

What a nice response we’ve had from you folks to our recent blog post about turning skids into usable lumber (“Skid Row”). Looks like we tapped into a good topic here. Keep your comments and suggestions coming in, please!

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus lately from the blog to get a big tool review ready for the January print issue of the magazine. And, aside from a lot of heavy lifting to hit that deadline, it’s added a third floor to my growing tower of skids outside the shop. Looks like it’s time to start cutting some of them up and figuring out what to build…

In that regard, I thought it might be fun to tally up all the many ways you have commented that you use skid lumber. Hopefully you’ll give the rest of us some good ideas for turning pallets into projects:

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Are You Scrap Savvy?

Woodworkers are no strangers to burgeoning scrap bins. What's your favorite way to thin this heard??

Woodworkers are no strangers to burgeoning scrap bins. What's your favorite way to thin this herd?

If you’re a regular eZine reader, I’m sure you’re familiar with our rather dubious but always proudly delivered “April Fool’s” edition. We staffers look forward to putting that together every year, even if some of you wish we didn’t! Last time around, I poked fun at what I’ll call our collective penchant for hoarding scraps—and I’m definitely including myself in that roast. Maybe you missed my announcement for a new support group for “stick” savers, so here’s a link:

http://woodworkersjournal.com/Ezine/
Public/Articles/Scrappers_Anonymous_4478.aspx

I hate to throw those little offcuts away, just as much as you probably do. And, these days, I’ll wager my next paycheck (thankfully I’m still getting one…) that we’re all keeping a bigger pile of them around the shop than ever before. The corollary problem to keeping too many bits and pieces, however, is not using enough of them. I suffer from this one, too. My pile under the miter saw just keeps on growing.

So, here’s the question for you: How are you turning scraps into useful projects?

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Splinter: A Supercharged Study in Wooden Design

All Images courtesy Joe Harmon Design.

All images courtesy Joe Harmon Design and used by permission.

If wood is strong enough for a bridge and light enough for a speedboat or airplane wing, why not use it to build a high-performance supercar?

This sort of thinking must have kept Joe Harmon, an Industrial Design graduate student of North Carolina State University, up late at night, because that’s exactly what he set out to do for his graduate project: build a fully functional, supercharged automobile almost entirely out of wood.

Yep, wood.

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Finalist Videos from Fresh Wood

Split Personality; Jonathan Cox, Brigham Young University.

Split Personality; Jonathan Cox, Brigham Young University.

In the current issue our eZine, I’m reporting on a really cool woodworking design competition that took place last month at the AWFS trade show in Las Vegas. It’s called Fresh Wood, and this was its third appearance at this show. Woodworking students — from high school to design school — pulled out all the stops to create some really fine projects, while putting their skills to the test.

You can check out the article by clicking here.

Art Furniture; Saarinen Balagengatharadilak, Fletcher's Meadow Secondary School.

Art Furniture; Saarinen Balagengatharadilak, Fletcher's Meadow Secondary School.

But, while my article brings you into the loop about the competition, it doesn’t get you into the “heads” of the students who worked so hard to become finalists. We shot plenty of video covering some exciting new products unveiled at the show, but regrettably, we didn’t videotape Fresh Wood. Time just didn’t allow for it … hey, even in Vegas you can’t upgrade to a 36-hour day.

Cantilever; Carol Jackson, University of Oregon.

Cantilever; Carol Jackson, University of Oregon.

Fortunately, the folks at Custom Made did shoot video in the Fresh Wood exhibit. They sponsored the Fresh Wood People’s Choice Award, and their blog has some great new segments interviewing several of the student finalists who talk about their inspiration, building challenges and methods of work:

http://custommade.com/blog/

The Chair — A Vehicle for Collaborative Learning; John Barry & McKenzie Stevens, Halifax County High School.

The Chair — A Vehicle for Collaborative Learning; John Barry & McKenzie Stevens, Halifax County High School.

I think it’s pretty enlightening to hear other woodworkers talk about these kinds of issues, because we all face them. Their insights might even give you some “take away” that you can apply to one of your future projects. Oh, and just for the fun of it, here are some more photos of finalist projects we didn’t squeeze into the eZine article. All good stuff!

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor