Sharing the Shop

Oak Stool“Hey, Rob, do you think I could make some stools from these?” was the question posed to me last November while I stood next to the young man’s pickup truck in the church parking lot. A University of Minnesota student and family friend, Levi, was showing me a pile of 4-inch thick disks that he had sliced off an 18-inch diameter oak tree earlier in the week. (Levi was more than comfortable with a chain saw, as he had grown up working in his family’s apple orchard in Wisconsin.)

Continue reading

A Vacation from Woodworking? Impossible!

A few weeks ago, my wife and I embarked on a trip to Belgium for our first vacation since our honeymoon three years ago.  With visions of waffles, French fries, chocolate, beautiful architecture, and amazing beer racing through our minds, I was likewise excited to spend two weeks with few (if any) thoughts related to woodworking.  I lasted less than a day.

Continue reading

Flummoxed Over Flooring Finishes

Calling all flooring guys out there! I’ve got a flooring conundrum to share with you. Care to offer some advice?

Here’s the deal: I’ve had a hardwood flooring project on my to-do list for a long time. It’s my shop floor, actually. A couple of years ago, I got a great deal on 900 square feet of hard maple “shorts.” Tongue and groove, beautiful stuff. My plan has been to lay it over the current flooring in my shop, which is plywood subfloor. Not that I mind plywood, but it gets banged up pretty easily and doesn’t look as nice as a hardwood floor. At $1 per square foot, it was a deal too good to pass up.

Continue reading

Planning Any Shop Improvements?

It’s ironic (and embarrassing) how I push things down my “to do” list, especially when it comes to shop improvements. Case in point: three years ago I bought a window air conditioner to get through those steamy summer days. I don’t mind sweat equity when working hard on a project, but I really don’t like to drip sweat on cast-iron tools or into a wet finish. That, and my boss was coming into town for a big photoshoot. I wanted the shop to be nice and cool. My version of a red carpet, I suppose.

Anyway, I installed the air conditioner in a south-facing window because it was the best option. We got through our photoshoot in cool comfort. Then, a week or so later the rains started. Continue reading

Keeping Warm?


This little blue-flamed wonder added months to my woodworking season during many cold Minnesota winters.

The other day I was out in the shop blowing a summer’s worth of dust off of my furnace filter. Call it the Minnesotan in me, but I’m already hunkering down and getting ready for much colder days to come. I guess it’s one of those instinctive things you do when you’re used to winters that last from sometime in October to past the fishing opener. You make sure the heat is ready to go.

I take my furnace for granted. Although I leave the heat off when I’m not working, my little forced air furnace can bring the temps up from the mid 30s to a balmy 62 in about 15 minutes flat. It’s a wonderful luxury, and it isn’t much bigger than an air conditioner.

Continue reading

So Many Reasons for Thanks

FALL2009RESIZEDIt’s pre-dawn on Thanksgiving morning as I write this. The sun is just starting to color the eastern sky, and the house is still quiet. I’ve downed my first cup of coffee, and the cranial hard drive is coming up to speed. All in all, a very good time to reflect on things.

While I’m generally not one to wax poetic, I also don’t spend enough time thinking about the many good fortunes I have and actually verbalizing them. The simplest things are the easiest to overlook, especially in the frenetic pace we tend to live our lives.

So, here goes…a few personal reasons for thanks:

Continue reading

Got Rules for Your Tools?

When it comes to staying organized, drawers work for me.

When it comes to staying organized, drawers work for me.

“Put things back where you find them.”

Can you still hear that one ringing in your ears from childhood? I can, but in my shop, it’s one rule I really do try to live by.

Some woodworkers wonder what kind of real work gets done in a clean shop. I guess for those folks, clutter helps get the creative juices flowing, or at least it doesn’t grind productivity to a halt. But the “Oscar Madison” approach sure doesn’t work for me. Continue reading