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

Designing a Multipurpose Shelf Unit

Like the proverbial shoemaker’s children that are perpetually barefoot, my own home doesn’t have a whole lot of furniture that I built myself. I save most of my woodworking energy for building projects for the Woodworker’s Journal or when I do “pro bono work” for the Shakespearean theater company that my wife works for (the latter has consisted of mostly creating large, freestanding poster displays and a collection box).

But every once in a while, a project comes along that I have difficulty saying no to. In this case, I was recently contacted by a prominent local business owner who lives in a gorgeous house only a half a block from one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline that California has to offer. He asked me if I would consider building him a large L-shaped shelf unit that would wrap around a partially curved wall in his home office/man cave.

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If at First …

As print readers of the Woodworker’s Journal know, we design a good number of the projects that are featured in our pages. And that is especially true of our shop projects. For example, in the April 2012 issue of the Woodworker’s Journal (on newsstands soon), we present a downdraft sanding cart. If I must say so myself, it is a very nice and truly functional project. How do I know that? Well, because I’ve tried it, of course. But, you might ask, how did we know it would work properly before we built it? Good question. How can we be sure our projects, specifically ones like this, whose primary feature must be functionality, are all we want them to be? It is a short answer, really: we build prototypes. We test out the ideas that we have with knocked-together mock-ups made from MDF, plywood or whatever we have lying around the shop.

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Brazilian Walnut TV Stand

Sometimes the most unlikely wood combinations turn out better than you’d imagine…

This TV Stand is made from 3/4″ Brazilian Walnut tongue and groove flooring. I made the raised door panels from solid Brazilian Walnut from a local wood specialty store. Top Trim molding and bottom skirt are American Walnut also purchased at local store. It measures 52” wide, 30” high and 18” deep.

It is only finished with rub on urethane. No stain.

The end insert panel is made of luan which surprisingly matched the walnut.

The piece is actually much darker than the pictures show.

I will have tiny slivers to show for years. J

– David Rafferty; Bloomfield Hills, MI

Do you have a project you’d like to share?  Click here to send it in!

Matt Becker
Internet Production Coordinator

Console Front

Console Top and Front

Console Top and SIde

Console Top

Fresh February Content Coming Soon!

Even though we’re just days away from Christmas, our staff has propelled “full speed ahead” into 2011 to bring you lots of fine content for the February print issue. It’s due to arrive in your mailbox very soon. But Matt Becker, our Internet Coordinator, says I can share some details about the articles you’ll be reading at your leisure shortly. And so I will…let’s get a jump on the new year straight away!

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Fingers Crossed for Chestnut Revival

A few years ago I had the good fortune to run across a supply of wormy chestnut lumber. The tree was felled here in Ohio, and the gentleman who owned the lumber remembered where the tree had stood in the 1920s when he was a boy. The boards were thick and wide—virgin timber that can’t be replaced. After significant consternation, and with much care, I decided to use that lumber to build a tool chest for my shop. We ran it as a project in our June 2008 print magazine.

Among many varieties of lumber I’ve had the chance to build with, this chestnut is the most special to me. You probably already know that American chestnut trees have been all but extinct in this country since the middle of the last century. Massive forests of native chestnut, which once covered much of the eastern part of the United States, were wiped out by a blight that came here from Asia around 1904. Within a period of only 50 years or so, it decimated the species, leaving stands of dead trees in its wake.

The blight continues to weaken and kill the few remaining native chestnut saplings that spring up from old stumps today.

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Family Woodworking

Bear ShelfMany woodworkers have someone in their family who was a woodworker as well. They might remember hanging out in the shop with their dad, or their grandfather – or these days, their mom or their grandma.

In my case, both my grandfathers were woodworkers. Admittedly, there were aspects of this I did not cherish as much as I should when I had the chance – college students, for example, do not appreciate Grandpa’s sense of humor in starting the band saw, located in the basement shop directly below the guest (aka my room!) bedroom, at 7 a.m.

These days, however, now that both of them have passed away, I do put a high value on the woodworking I have from them which still lives on in my home. It’s not monetary value – no one in my family was ever named Maloof, and my grandfathers, while good woodworkers, were both definitely hobbyists when it came to “straight-up” woodworking (although one did make a living as a carpenter for a while).

Lazy SusanNo, it’s the value of having things that I can see and touch, and that my daughter, who never knew either of my grandfathers, can see and touch as well, that passed through their hands and their shops. Somewhere, I once read something about how all the people that you have known connect you to both the past and the future. My grandfathers’ woodworking connects my daughter to a century of which she has no memories, and my grandfathers to a century which only one of them lived to see. It’s possible these shelves, cabinets, lazy Susans, boxes and so on, may even connect them all to the next century through my daughter. I think that’s pretty cool.

How about you – do you have anyone in your family whose woodworking you remember? Do you still have any of it in your home?

Joanna Takes
Senior Editor

Spice Cabinet

What Are Your Favorite Finishes?

Whether we like the process of finishing or not, no woodworking project is really complete without slathering on some protective finish. Years ago, I was a “poly” only kinda guy. Back in the 1980s, oil-based polyurethane is pretty what seemed to fill the hardware store shelf under the “Wood Finishes” sign. So, that’s what I used. It smelled bad and dried slowly, but once the finish finally hardened up, it was fairly tough. And I could count on its consistency and characteristics every time.

I’m glad to say that my finishing palate has expanded some since then. Continue reading

A Miter Saw Station for Many

Sometimes being Woodworker’s Journal’s “Field” Editor, I feel like I’m way, way out in some field. What I mean here is, I’m one step removed from the day-to-day feedback we receive in our home office from readers about what we publish. A lot of mail comes in, but generally I don’t get to see it. I work from home, which is several states away.

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