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:

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Turning Back to Old Friends

A new version of an old friend. This jig is modeled after one that Rob used as a young man in his dad's shop.

A new version of an old friend. This jig is modeled after one that Rob used as a young man in his dad's shop.

Regardless of the situation, when the going gets tough there is nothing like a tried-and-true friend to get you where you want to go.  Recently, I was building a pretty basic piece of woodworking for the print magazine. Building a project for a magazine is a little different than building for yourself in a couple of ways.  First, rather than simply coming up with the simplest and fastest way to get the job done, I try to include techniques and tools that our readers will find interesting and useful.  Secondly, when you are done with the project, about a quarter million people will have a chance to check out your work (and often share their opinion of said work).  So, when it came to deciding just how to plow the dadoes for the Modular Bookcases in the December 2009 issue, I went back to basics and built a copy of a jig that hung on the wall of my dad’s cabinet shop “back in the day.”

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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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December Issue Sneak Peek

BENCH DOG

Bill Hylton surveys two full-featured router tables in Today's Shop.

There’s a December issue of Woodworker’s Journal headed to your mailbox soon, and this issue is dedicated to one of our all-time favorite tools: the router. Here’s the inside scoop on what you’ll find.


Whiz-bang Router Tables: Bill Hylton takes a close look at two of the industry’s “top-shelf” router tables in “Today’s Shop,” and he discusses how installing a router in a table can help you take new “routes” in your woodworking projects. If you’d rather build your own router table, Sandor Nagyszalanczy has designed a versatile horizontal router table, and we’ll provide the measured drawings and step-by-steps so you can build one for your shop.

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The Value of Roughing It

There are cheaper ways to buy quality stock that with bar codes on it, but you'll have to tool up to make the most of those savings.

There are cheaper ways to buy quality stock than with bar codes on it, but you'll have to tool up to make the most of those savings.

When I started woodworking, and my tool budget was really lean, I bought my boards from the home center. It seemed logical to shop there. They were already surfaced, and that was necessary because I didn’t have a jointer and planer. Plus, I could see the knots, pitch pockets and splits easily, which gave me some confidence that I was finding the best of what was available.

I’d dig through the stack looking for the straight stuff. Usually I could find a few good pieces. If I couldn’t, I’d settle for less and live with some twisting and cupping. I didn’t like it, but what could I do? Even then I knew I was spending too much money on that wood. And, I was.

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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

Woodworking in Tough Times

Despite a bearish economy, great woodworking products are all around us—and many new products are right around the corner.

Despite a bearish economy, great woodworking products are all around us—and many new offerings are right around the corner.

These days, it feels like the “Great Recession” is never going to end, doesn’t it? Jobless rates are up, banks are on the ropes and home values are still falling through the floor. Tough times all around.

But, despite some huge potholes on this road to recovery, the woodworking industry is still forging ahead. Lots of new Lithium-Ion tools are in the pipeline. Better and safer table saws are already here. High-quality hardware and supplies are perpetually coming to market from names you trust. And, of course, there’s lots of good lumber on the rack at your local supplier. Rob Johnstone has called the past 10 years or so the “Golden Age” of woodworking, and I think he’s still right about that, even now.

So, I can’t help but wonder, how is the recession impacting your woodworking? Are you putting off a large tool purchase this year, or are you taking the plunge anyway to grab the best new features—or an incredible sale price? How about lumber decisions? Are you still buying hardwood this summer, or are you bringing more pine and plywood home instead? Maybe you’ve found other creative solutions to keep the lumber rack full—portable sawmills, home kiln-drying, and that sort of thing. Some woodworkers band together and buy a bunch of lumber to get a volume price, then split up the cost. I know I’m digging deeper into the scrap bin than I used to and throwing less onto my burn pile. It just makes sense.

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