12 Lighthearted Questions for Matt Vanderlist of Matt’s Basement Workshop

We woodworking bloggers might not be here without this guy!

Matt Vanderlist of Matt’s Basement Workshop and Spoken Wood Podcast AND Wood Talk Online Radio took time out of his busy schedule to answer 12 of our lighthearted questions.

1- As the grand-daddy of woodworking podcasts: what podcast did you listen to and say: “I can do that!”?

There were three shows I listened to early on that convinced me I could do this crazy thing called a podcast.  First was Adam Curry’s (yep…THAT Adam Curry of MTV) “The Daily Source Code“.  Adam was always talking about how wide open it was for people to make their own content and would ask people to send him clips to promote their shows.  So I took the plunge.

In fact, my sign-off “Straight Grains & Sharp Blades” was inspired by Adam.

Adam’s a pilot and always wished his fellow pilots “Tail winds” in reference to having a good flight with tail winds pushing you the whole way.

Non-pilots would leave a message for his show and end it with “Tail winds”, so one day he said something about ONLY pilots could say that and everyone else would have to come up with their own phrase.

So I did just that, every pilot wants “Tail winds”? As a woodworker I often wanted “Straight Grains & Sharp Blades” when I work on my projects.

The other two shows at the time that heavily influenced me to give it a go were “Dawn & Drew” a couple still podcasting today.  And a now long defunct show, called “Who’s your daddy?”  These two shows convinced me if they could do it, I could do it.

2- What was your first paid commission?

A set of side tables for an old co-worker of my wife. Like so many people, she was convinced somehow “custom woodworking” was cheaper than buying it a big box retail store.

Sadly, I was green enough to say “OK” and take the job. If I calculated the time it took me (minus the materials) I probably made $.25/hour.

3- Did you grow up wanting to be a Cytotchnologist?

I never even heard the word until a college guidance counselor (Mrs. Garza) approached me at a career fair on campus.   She said it was a career with a lot of promise and good pay.

I’ve been doing this for 16 years now, I’m still waiting…

4- Have you ever taken a chisel to work and looked at your sharpening skills under the microscope?  

Nope, I work with a light microscope silly! You’d need an electron scope to get those kind of awesome pics.

All it would look like on my scope would be a re-enactment of the last solar eclipse.

5- What’s with the hat?

Keeps my head warm in a cold drafty basement.

Actually it was a gag gift from my wife on Xmas a few years ago, apparently I didn’t get the joke until much later.   So quite literally, the joke is on me.

6- What tool, that you inherited from your grandfather, do you value the most?

It would have to be two things; a pair of chisels that I underestimated their shop-worthiness for years and a small adjustable square.

The adjustable square is the perfect size for tool setups and so much more, that I go into a complete freak out if I can’t find it.  But the pair of chisels is what surprised me the most.

They’re a set of simple wooden handled chisels from all places…Montgomery Wards…and I remember as a kid using them to pry open cans and as screwdrivers.  It wasn’t until I was attempting to teach myself how to sharpen my tools that I reshaped and honed them and made this discovery that they take and hold a sharp edge like no other chisel I own.

7-  Have you ever built a project and then couldn’t get it out of the basement?

YES!  In fact getting this project out of the basement was probably the closest my wife and I have ever come to divorce.

It happened in my first shop at our old house.  The project was an armoire style entertainment center and I swear to this day I measured for the clearances to get it up the stairs and out the door to my garage so I could apply the finish.

What I didn’t account for was the extra height added by the moulding on the top of the unit (added at the last minute because “it just needed something up there…”).

When we were attempting to get it angled to go up the stairs, the finished ceiling dipped a little lower at the base of the stairs and it got wedged.

Shortly afterwards all hell broke lose and my kids and the whole entire neighborhood were treated to some of the most colorful language anyone had ever heard (almost entirely spewing from beautiful wife).

Needless to say, eventually when cooler heads prevailed we removed part of the moulding on top and discovered we had just enough clearance to get it up and out of the basement.

8- What’s the latest you have ever turned off the shop lights?

I’ve been known to stay in the shop until as late as 1 or 2 in the morning.  Typically when this happens, the wife and kids are off visiting friends and family out of town.

9- How many different woodworking catalogs are in your bathroom right now?

I think only one and it’s from Winter 2009? I now do a lot of my shopping and perusing with my iPad or iPhone when visiting the little woodworker’s room.  I bet after reading, that people will think twice about borrowing them in the future.

10- I know you spend your days staring into a microscope, did you create the Spoken Wood Podcast simply so someone would read to you at work?  

Pretty much yes.  I’ve always been amazed at the number of requests I would receive, before I launched the Spoken Wood Podcast, for more audio only content.  A large part of the audience listens to the show while commuting, working out, walking the dog and at work.

Add to it the requests for recommendations for favorite blogs and authors and it only made sense this would work.  I can’t take all the credit for the idea though, it was largely inspired by two other podcasts I’m huge fans of myself;

Escape Pod – a science fiction podcast in which short stories are read to the audience, and Slate Magazine’s daily podcast – where the host reads articles from their website.

I figured I enjoyed it so much and so did their audiences why not do the same thing with woodworking?

11- How many hours a week do you spend watching woodworking videos and reading woodworking blogs?  

I can’t say for sure.  It’s surprisingly low when you think about it.  I’m slightly preoccupied creating my own content.  But I’d say it’s a fair guess to estimate I spend easily 2-3 hours a day.

12- What project are you most proud of?

This is where I answer with the old “that’s like asking which of your kids do you like better?”.  But when push comes to shove, the one project I absolutely love hands down is our kitchen table.

I haven’t talked much about it before, but it’s big and heavy and covered with scars.  It doesn’t look pretty to most people and I’ve only recently come to appreciate its significance.

Besides being the place we gather around to eat and do homework and play games and talk and…whatever else it is we do there,  it’s also a reminder of the woodworker I started out as and the woodworker I’ve become.

It’s made entirely of ash and I designed it less for show and more for just being used.    There’s a lot of things I would do differently now if I were to build it again, but there’s also a lot of the beginner woodworker foolishness that I wish I still had.

When we first get started many of us don’t realize there’s limitations to what we can do with our materials and our designs.  We just jump in feet first and start swimming to the shore.  At some point we realize we’re in over our heads but by that point it’s too late.  You either finish swimming or drown.

I’m afraid of deep water, so I guess I kept swimming and never looked back.  That’s the personality flaws in myself I wish I could exploit more than ever.  The “I’ve got nothing to lose” and the “what do you mean you can’t do that…I just did  didn’t I?”

I think that’s where conventional thinking messes us up in our endeavors.  If you don’t experiment and fail once in a while you’ll never find out what you can actually do.

Many Thanks Matt!!

12 Lighthearted Questions for Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench

For this installment we reached out to Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench!

1- You are an Emergency Prep Manager, a weather nerd , a mac nerd, a tool nerd, a sports fan, a shop monkey, an educator,  a cook, a husband and a father of two boys,  never mind all the great blog articles you put out each week: where do you have time to fit in any shop time?

It ain’t easy! Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife – and I don’t really watch a lot of TV at night. Getting out into the shop at the end of the day – even for an hour – is a tonic for me. Gives me a chance to clear my mind of the stuff that goes on during the day and get into the groove. I also like to take a chunk of part of the weekend – a few hours really energizes me.

2-Is it about the tools or the wood?

The wood wins hands down. Tools are nice, but when there’s no wood (or no projects to work on), they sit out there in the shop by themselves. The wood – on the other hand – calls to me. And, when a board goes through the thickness planer, and I see the figure, color and grain pattern, there are moments when I still have to catch my breath.

3-What is the most surprising poll result you have seen?

Just how many people hand-cut their dovetails.  It’s an awesome skill to have, and I am jealous as heck of those who can cut them that way. Given the fact that a high-end saw and set of chisels will set you back more than the cost of a premium router jig, I thought more folks would go that way for sure.

 4-How many pieces of furniture in your home have you built?

Wow… I sure have built a lot of it. There are entertainment centers, blanket chests, desks… let’s just say that a big part of planning for projects involves deciding where they will go.

5-What sports will get you out of the shop?

During football season, I end up going into my shop. The local radio broadcast of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers games is better than what’s on TV. But, I will get out of the shop for college basketball. And, coaching my sons in their basketball leagues will get me away from the bench and make me put down the Wood Magazine. 3-2 zone anyone?

6- I see you use a Tormek system.  How many different sharpening techniques have you tried?

How many fingers do I have to count on?  I’ve done scary sharp (sandpaper), oil stones, diamond stones, a Work Sharp and then the Tormek. Each of these methods has its pluses and minuses… But, that Tormek really does make it easy.

7-You are a great story teller. I enjoy how you set up each story with an analogy.  Is there a book in your future?

Funny you should ask that. Tom’s Workbench actually started as a book called Knothead: Adventures of a budding woodworker. Once I got started with the blog, it sort of became the beast that ate the book. I would LOVE to write a book one day about woodworking… One of these days…

8-Being a self proclaimed weather nerd do you obsess about the current weather conditions and the effects they might have on your wood projects?

Not really. Since I woodwork in Tampa, I know I’m building with the impacts of high humidity in mind all the time. I try to make allowances for expansion and contraction at all times, or I build with plywood. So far – knock on wood – no troubles…

9-Red or White?

Red. Big red. Zinfindel. Shiraz.  Boooyah…

10-What tool do you own that is so bad, you would never think of giving it away to a friend or in good conscience sell on eBay.

It’s a router bit. A lock miter router bit. I think I’ve spent more than 20 hours (over a few days) on that sucker and never got it to work. Ever. It sits in my shop – I can’t bring myself to throw it out, but I’d never give it away.

11-When creating a dado: table saw or router?

Depends. I dig the table saw a lot. Plowing dadoes with a dado stack while using the rip fence is very convenient. But, the larger the piece gets, the more I rely on the router.

12-What project has been sitting in your shop uncompleted for more than a year?

It’s not in the shop – it’s in my oldest son’s room. I built a ‘home office’ system for him – lower cabinets and upper bookshelves with a desk spanning the two units right under his window. Nice place to sit and do homework. I still have to trim out the unit, build the upper doors and do some other finishing tasks on it… I think I put the cases and desk in place back in 2009… One of these days, I’ll get to it… 🙂

Many Many Thanks To Tom!

I’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions.  Who would you like to hear from?

Northeastern Woodworkers Association’s Fine Woodworking Show

I was fortunate enough to attend the Northeastern Woodworkers Association annual Fine Woodworking show again this year in beautiful Saratoga Springs NY.  This is the 21st year for the all volunteer show, and it is really worth the trip.  There is a showcase room with some very impressive work by local members on display.  The show floor is a nice mix of smaller dealers, local sawyers and hands on demos.  While there is certainly attention given to the young ones, with a toy section devoted to kids- giving them the opportunity to use tools and build toys, the participants in the show were, well,…..let’s just say I was the only one there sporting a Modern Woodworkers Association t-shirt (know what I mean?).  Although I did speak with some fellow Wood Whisperer members! Paul Sellars was in attendance and had a similar observation you can read about on his blog.

Peter Sellars giving demos and promoting his new school

I sat in on Paul Sellers demo.  I am very excited to attend a three day class with him in May at his New Legacy School of Woodworking which is opening this month right here in Eastern NY.  My hand tool skills need sharpening!  I picked up Paul’s book as well- Working Wood 1 and 2: The Artisan Course with Paul Sellers, which looks great, and I am still getting through it.

Tico Vogt and the LCM (large carcase miter) Shooting Board.

Tico Vogt, a show favorite, was on hand to debut his prototype of the LCM (large carcass miter) Shooting Board.  I had a great chat with Tico and was able to give the LCM a spin. I don’t see a need for me to own it in the near future, but I was impressed and I liked the biscuit feature.  You can read more about it on his blog.

Chuck Brock and me.

One of the highlights of the show for me was the chance to talk with Chuck Brock.  Everything you’ve read and heard is true.  He is the ultimate gentleman.  We had the nicest chat about woodworking, work, and even mutual acquaintances.  Lot’s of vendors at these shows should take a note from Chuck.  Stop selling your wares and just introduce yourself and have a chat with a woodworker.  That’s the best thing about any of these shows.  The chance to talk with others who love what you do.  The sales, etc will happen regardless.   I own the plans and DVD to The Low Back Dining Chair, it’s certainly on the list.  Chuck prodded me in his southern accent “Now what are we gonna do to get you building?”  Sometimes that’s all the incentive one needs…

Here are some pieces from the show that caught my eye:

Wegner Chair, Charles Trabold. Syracuse, NY
Maple, Walnut, Oak and Bubinga

Maloof Rocking Chair
Thomas Wetzel
Middle Grove, NY
Tigre Maple

Lounge Chair Kitty Scharl of Voorheesville, NY Mahogony Oil, Poly

Lounge Chair
Kitty Scharl of Voorheesville, NY
Oil, Poly

Pedestal Table
Howard Jackson of Altamont, NY
Cherry, Maple Veneer
Oil Varnish

Mission Style Mantle Clock
Paul Ryan of Coeymans, NY
Walnut Stain, Laquer

I’ve decided to join the association, although I am not sure how much I’ll be able to participate given the location, but dues are only $25 annually and I think it’s important to support groups like this.

12 Lighthearted Questions for Kari Hultman, The Village Carpenter

I am introducing a new portion of my blog entitled 12 Lighthearted Questions.

The idea being that I send out 12 informal questions to a variety of woodworkers on the blogs and publish their responses, unedited.  Hopefully it will provide a unique perspective into some of our favorite woodworkers and to serve as a way for them to share a little more insightful information about themselves, with us, the woodworking community.

Why 12? Well, there are 12 inches in a foot, 12 eggs in a carton, 12 steps in the program, and 12 seemed to be the right number of questions that a woodworker might actually take the time to respond to!

I recently went back and read all of her amazing blog posts from 2007 on and I’ve chose Kari Hultman, of The Village Carpenter, as our first candidate. She was graceful enough to accept:

12 Lighthearted Questions for Kari Hultman, The Village Carpenter

1- Was there a woodworker in your family growing up?     Nope. My Dad is a retired nuclear projects engineer. I learned at a very young age not to ask him what he did for a living, because he’d tell me. In engineer’s details.

2- Who is your biggest woodworking influence?       Probably Chris Schwarz. I discovered his blog soon after I started mine, and his enthusiasm for and research into traditional woodworking helped steer me in the right direction.

3- What book would you buy as a gift for a novice woodworker?         If he/she were interested in working with hand tools, I would suggest Country Furniture by Aldren Watson. I haven’t read many power tool books, but the book that got me started in woodworking was The Complete Manual of Woodworking by Albert Jackson and David Day.

4- Does being a graphic artist influence your woodworking?      Definitely. Principles in design are found in all the arts and crafts: balance, composition, negative space, pattern, hierarchy, contrast…

5- What flavor ice cream?     Turkey Hill’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough!

6- You seem to use a lot of pine, which most woodworkers won’t touch.  What’s your favorite wood to work with?     I do love pine, especially the smell. My favorite wood is Pennsylvania cherry. Its workability, warmth, and depth are superb.  When it’s finished, it glows.  Plus, I can get it for a buck fifty a board foot. I’m never moving from this area.

7- I am a big fan of the drawer hanging jig you blogged about.  What is your favorite Jig?     It’s a jig that holds thin and small boards based on a design I found in an old woodworking book. I wrote a post about it: http://villagecarpenter.blogspot.com/2007/12/my-favorite-jig.html     (I did read all of Kari’s blog posts, honest I did!)

 8- Do you compost your sawdust?      I use it to line the walkways between my raised flower beds, and my dog (Daisy) uses it as a cloak of invisibility.

9- What is the 1st thing you do when walk into the shop?     This is silly, but I’ll often walk through my shop with my arms outstretched, looking from side to side, ala Vanna White. It’s sort of the way I “hug” my shop. Crud. Did I just write that out loud?

10- What is the most complicated joint you have ever attempted?      It’s not a complicated joint, but it was challenging for me—the through dovetail and tenons on my new workbench. The fit had to be such that the joints would hold the top tightly but could be pulled apart for transport. And look pretty.

11- What would woodworkers in the blogosphere be most surprised to learn about you?     I once stood in line for two and half hours to get Norm Abram’s autograph.

12-  What project is on your bucket list?      There are a number of antique tools that I plan to reproduce. Some involve engraving and inlay, neither of which I’ve ever tried, so I’m very excited.

Apparently this is Kari's secret to keeping her nails looking so nice!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank You to Kari for being such a great sport and sharing her “innermost” secrets!  And Thank You for all the years of amazing blog posts!  I can’t imagine anyone reading this does not read Kari’s Blog, but please head over there and show her some love!

Let me know what you think and hit me me up with comments and suggestions.  I’d love to hear from you.

Twin Cradle Series, Part 2: layout

One of the reasons I looked to Sketchup was the ability to create templates for the pieces.  While the pieces themselves were not really that complicated, it was extremely important that they not only be accurate, but also symmetrical. Templates seemed to be the best way to go. I have used story sticks in the past but I had never really created or worked with templates.

I did my research, watching the wood whisper’s videos and getting advice from my friends on google+.

I own a design company, so I am fortunate enough to own a 48″ plotter. Making full size templates super easy.  Printing full size in Sketchup was another story. I struggled with this for several days. But luckily, again, I was assisted by my friends on google+, including none other than Bob ‘Sketchup’ Lang.

At my local lumberyard I invested in several sheets of 1/2″ MDF.  As always, I brought my trailer. It’s bed is 48x 60. A perfect size for most of my needs and wide enough for a sheet of ply, or so I thought! Since my shop space is a premium I usually have the sheets cut in half for easy handling at home. They cut the 1st piece but when we went to put it on the trailer it wouldn’t fit. What the…? Anyone, anyone? Well it turns out that a 4×8 sheet of MDF is actually 49″ x 97″!! Who knew? Ok, well maybe you did, but I didn’t and the guys at the lumberyard apparently forgot. So, a couple of cuts later I was on my way.

With my full size prints, my new MDF and a can of spray adhesive I created my templates.  I must admit, the simplicity of the shapes made me feel I was being a little silly, and I could have laid this out by hand. But given the curves and the need for exact placement of the through tenons, this made sense and prove to be a worthwhile exercise for me. And besides I was taking true advantage of sketchup by figuring it all out ahead of time.

More on MDF in an upcoming post.