The World’s Most Expensive Dowels!!

Yesterday I took the afternoon off and headed up to our house to do some projects in my shop.  I had some sanding to finish up on the loft beds I’ve been building, I built some drawer spice holders for my brother and I made some dowels from scratch.

The drive up the parkway is beautiful. The temptation to speed is great.  But given all my tickets, I usually set the cruise control and glide along. Usually, but traffic was flying. You know the theory about if you drive with the traffic you won’t get pulled over?  Well that was just disproven.  Speed trap+ 20 cops + 80mph = another ticket.

But more on that, back to adventures in woodworking…

I designed some dowels into my latest project and was quite proud of myself, for incorporating a new technique, new to me at least.  But it is funny how we absorb information.  Part of me had it in my head, that I had somehow come up with it on my own.  Anyway, I finally took out the Lie Nielson Dowel making plate I had bought last year (it was was one of those purchases that I added on to an order and thought “I really need this!”) dusted it off and made a little jig.  I struggled a little bit as my pieces weren’t small enough, and I ended up breaking a few.  So I did what all good modern woodworkers do, I hit the internet.  Googled Lie Nielson Dowel making video and there popped up Marc Spagnuolo and his video on Drawboard Mortise and Tenon.  Damn!  How do these ideas get in my head!!!  Oh right.

Back to the bench I cut my maple pieces down to a more realistic, manageable sizes.  I then broke out my block plane and took the corners off.

dowel 1

Next I cut those pieces into 6″ lengths. I learned earlier that a longer piece has a greater chance of breaking as it gets hammered in.

Dowel 3

I used my leather bound mallet to drive the pegs through the holes and voilà!  I made a dowel!

Dowel 5

Proud of myself, I emailed my wife to show her pictures. She responded back: “The worlds most expensive dowels!”  She was right,  by the time you add up the 280 miles round trip worth of gas, the speeding ticket, the lawyer to get out of the ticket, and of course all the tools I “had to have”, well yes I guess those are some pretty expensive dowels.

Dowel 4

Did I mention I also built a spice rack?


Said Spice Rack.

Here’s another great video on dowel making and a nice jig.

Thanks for stopping by the shop.

Pay It Forward: Get Woodworking Week

It goes without saying that I love woodworking and spending time in the shop.  But with a busy work schedule and an active family it’s not always easy to escape to the shop. Sometime I need a little push to get going (especially If I didn’t clean the shop last time!).  Well Tom Iovino started Get Woodworking Week a while back to get us all motivated to get into the shop!


I love my shop and the arsenal of tools I’ve been able to collect.  I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to afford a wide variety of toys tools.  It recently occurred to me while reading some forum post that not everyone who wants to “Get Woodworking” can.  Perhaps you are in school, you’ve been laid off, or well, tools just aren’t in the budget.  I’d like to help.

My father recently gave me some tools out of his garage.  There is circular saw, a jig saw, a hand sander, two drills and a hand saw.  The sort of things you might pick up at a garage sale.  These aren’t exactly Festool, but it will get you going.


I’d like to offer these to an aspiring woodworker, free of charge, to pay it forward.

Send me a note letting me know why you, or someone you know, could use some startup tools.  I don’t really want this to be a contest, I just want the tools to get into the hands of someone who needs them and will use them.  I’ll post your email here, but keep your last name between us.

All I ask is that you eventually build something for someone (to pay it forward) and send me a picture.  I will also throw in a $50 gift certificate to Woodcraft to sweeten the deal!

I’ll cover the shipping, but I have to limit this to the folks in the US.  I’ll choose someone Feb. 11th!

What do you say?  Send me a note below & Get Woodworking!


A Tree Falls in Brooklyn

I have always been intrigued by the relationship between woodworkers and trees.

I am reminded of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  The story of the relationship between a boy and a tree.  The boy grows up with with the tree. He would climb up the trunk of the tree and play with its branches, take its apples to sell, then its branches for his home, its trunk for a boat and eventually its stump as a stool to rest.

I grew up with a love of nature and especially of trees.  So complex and so beautiful.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

We live on Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The park was designed in 1867 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who also designed Central Park. It is the only forest in Brooklyn.  That’s right!  There is not only a tree in Brooklyn, but an entire forest!  The park is 585-acres and filled with the most incredible trees this country has to offer.  It contains mature trees that were chosen and planted by Olmsted himself.

The tree that grew in Brooklyn

The tree that grew in Brooklyn



Beautiful specimens create an incredible landscape for a leisurely stroll, weekend picnic or an escape from the bustle on the other side of the tree line.

Superstorm Sandy hit NY and NJ pretty hard and it certainly took its toll on the trees of Prospect Park, taking down some enormous trees that will never be able to fully be replaced in my lifetime.

photo 1-1



After the storm, the family walked through our neighborhood backyard to access the damage.

photo 1-3 photo 3-1




Nature is so incredible how it can turn on itself and take down such massive structures.




Our emotions were running high, having just come from the armory where they were collecting clothing, food and basic essentials for those left homeless from the storm.


photo 1-2



Seeing so many ancient trees torn out of the ground or cracked in half like kindling was surreal.


photo 2-3



As Brooklynite I was just sad, so many great memories lived surrounding these trees, but as a woodworker I was intrigued and the wheels were turning. It was like being at a  beautiful lumber yard.

photo 2-1

The kids and I counted the rings, just like the families before us.










Here was a hickory 36″ trunk, 12-16 feet long. Wow! What a table that would make!


Over there a beast sized piece of oak cut on each end of the crotch of multiple limbs. That would make some incredible bookmarked panels, and the turning possibilities are endless.






Street treesThe sad part, as a woodworker, I knew that all this incredible stock was going to be ground up and turned into mulch. While the park may be our “backyard”, we share it with 2.5 million neighbors!  And then there’s the whole issue of the back hoe down Flatbush.  I did, however, recently discover several NYC wood salvage companies, and found this article regarding the wood from the boardwalks in the Rockaways.

I think it’s time to plant a tree.


…and the tree was happy

A Hobby Hiatus

It’s been well over a month since I’ve hit the shop and it’s been at least two months since I’ve posted something here. I’ve been feeling guilty.

I’ve been blessed with a ton of work, lots of family time lately and we just returned from a long overdue vacation, not to mention the holidays.  Life is good! So why am I feeling guilty?

Chris Schwartz seems to have a new blog post in my inbox daily. Marc Spagnolo and Shannon Rogers post lessons nearly every week. Pros like Chris Wong or Rob Bois seem to not only crank out projects at an alarming rate, they somehow have the time to blog about them. Then there are all retired folks posting their recent triumphs. Why can’t I keep up with any if them?

Then I have to remind myself– they do this for a living (or now have their retirement days to enjoy), I do this as a HOBBY!! The moment it becomes overwhelming or stressful, its not a hobby anymore. When I tell people I do woodworking, the first words out of their mouth is “where do you find the time?”  At the moment I find myself asking the same question!

It is true that I usually have a ton my plate, but that is one of the reasons I deciding to pursue my interest in woodworking– stress relief! I love being in the shop and getting in the zone.  There is nothing like it.

Life is full and sometimes you just have to prioritize. Sometimes you need to take a break, a hiatus if you will.  Our recent  family vacation was long overdue.  The whole family just needed a break. All of us returned so energized and ready to conquer the world! I guess you even need to take a break from your hobbies.

Hopefully I can end my Hobby Hiatus in the following weeks and get back “work”!!

The Do’s and Don’t of Yesterday: Warped Boards

Do unwarp boards with wetness and/or heat.  Wood, cardboard or other panels expands on its wet side (or heated side) curling downward.  Simply wet or heat the opposite side for awhile, and the board will straighten.  A board curled from laying on the ground will straighten simply by reversing it (while on the ground) until the warp disappears.

from The Do’s and Don’t of Yesterday by Eric Sloane.  A Treasury of Early American Folk Wisdom.

These are the people in my neighborhood…..

The Austerlitz Woodworker’s Show came as all things do, very quickly. My shop was quite full and quite active.  You remember I had an offer by an 8 and an 11 year old to ‘help’?  Well who could turn down help like that?  Their enthusiasm alone filled the shop.  I put my work aside and with the help of their mother, worked on turning pens and ice cream scoops!  What could be better?  I was able to put the finishing touches on the console table and build an ipad stand to display my work, I tried to squeeze in time to finish the shaker table but that just wasn’t going to happen.  I took a deep breath and said to myself “it’s all good, do what you can.  This is my hobby and I have to enjoy it.  No pressure!”  The rest of the day was fantastic, as my son and daughter taught us a thing or two about turning!

Austerlitz is very fortunate to have a thriving Historical Society which owns a 20 acre parcel of land that is the home of the Old Austerlitz Village. The village is a “living history museum of post-and-beam houses, a granary, a blacksmith shop, a one-room schoolhouse, a Christian Church and other historic buildings.”   The latest is a newly restored barn, which was raised just in time to host the show.

The ‘new’ barn.

Clark Olsen’s amazing screen and chair

I loaded in the morning of the show and but wasn’t able to fit into the barn.  So instead I shared the granary next to the barn with master craftsman Clark Olsen.





This town certainly houses some impressive talent!  The show consisted of 11 professional woodworkers and four hobbyists, all extraordinary in their own way.  The variety alone was was impressive, running the gamut from cabinetry, marquetry, classic shaker, windsor chairs, toys, furniture, even whirligigs.  Something for everyone!

Falling Water work by John Dunne

John Porritt taught me a thing or two about Windsor Chairs

I got an introductory lesson in marquetry from Herb Cook.

Clark Olsen’s Music Stand
































The best part of any woodworking show is the camaraderie.   Woodworkers are the kindest, most giving folk you will ever find.  That has never more true than in Austerlitz.

What’s a show without whirligigs!!!

The Lighthearted Woodworker….

It was an terrific day. Very inspiring.  I met so many great and talented people, not only fellow woodworkers, but people from this amazing community.  I wish I had taken more photos and had time to chat with more people, but you can only squeeze so much into one day.

I wanted to mention all that attended and really extend my thanks for welcoming me and for your generosity.

The Woodworkers of Austerlitz: Jeffrey All, Reggie Brantner, Herb Cook, John Dunne, Randy Ezinga, Tim Hawley, Dick Light, Scott Mesick, Chris Landy, Clark Olsen, Brian Polhemus, John Porritt, Howard Reznikoff, Steve Somlo and Michael Walters.

Max and Samantha manning the booth.

I would be remiss if i did not point out that not only did Max and Samantha hold down the fort while Daddy was off being social.  They also sold all of their turned bottle stops!!

The Austerlitz Woodworker’s Show

Several weeks ago I got a message on my machine by a gentleman by the name of Howard.  He asked if I was indeed a woodworker and would like to participate in a woodworking day in town of Austerlitz.  Austerlitz is a small community, there are only about 500 households and approximately 1200 people.  But as it turns out our town hosts over 18 woodworkers, at least that was the number Howard was able to track down!  Around 12 pro’s and 6 hobbyists.  Why so many in this town?  Are there others??

I was very excited by Howard’s call, I called him right back and said I would love to participate.  He gave me a brief outline and asked me what I would like to bring.  I guess I didn’t quite understand what he meant when he said an Austerlitz woodworker’s day.  You see, I thought it was going to be a gathering of woodworkers to discuss and share ideas on our favorite subject. You know, a local guild.  Then it occurred to me.  This was a woodworking SHOW.  I was expected to bring pieces of my work to display!!  Panic set in!  I had never shown anyone but family and close friends (and you folks) my work.  What did I have to show??

Then I took a breath and did an inventory of things I built and was proud of.  My cradle, an end table, a console table, an unfinished guild build shaker table, a few boxes.  Hmm, maybe I do have enough to show.  I’m not a pro, and I have nothing to be ashamed of.   My excitement returned.  My first woodworker show!! And where better than a mile from my house!

Now the self induced pressure was on. You see my wife and I are cursed with being over zealous and taking on too much.  We tend to put undo pressure on ourselves and squeeze all we can into a day, and our life. Preparing for this was no different.  As all ‘weekend woodworkers’ know there is never enough shop time.

Luckily, I have two children who heard the battle cry and came running!  Max and Samantha were very excited to help on “Daddy’s show”!  “We can turn pens for you to sell!” they happily declared.  How awesome is that?   So I had a promise of some finely turned items.

I now had to gather and put the finishing touches on the pieces I had.  The twin cradle I built was no longer being used by the 10-month-old boys, so we just had to fetch that from New Hampshire.  A console table I had in the basement needed a final sanding and a finish.  My Greene and Greene table was finished and just had to be retrieve from our apartment in Brooklyn.  The biggest item I had unfinished was a shaker table that I had started through the Wood Whisperer guild build.  I had everything but the top and the drawer complete.  Not much, but time was a tickin’….

12 Lighthearted Questions for Paul-Marcel St-Onge of Half-Inch Shy

I have recently added an arsenal of Festool products to my shop.  But before I made this significant investment I spent a lot of time reading and watching videos. If you have done any research on Festool, or many other woodworking tools, you’ve undoubtably come across Paul-Marcel St-Onge’s blog:  Half-Inch Shy.  His comprehensive videos were such an important of my research, that after watching him for hours on end I just had to ask him some lighthearted questions.

1- What was the first Festool item you purchased?

I had no tools or shop to speak of really; was borrowing tools from my dad so my first purchase was kinda big: CT-22, RO-125, PS-300 Trion, and TS-75.  The Trion was a now-broke-man’s bandsaw for the first couple curvy projects.

 2– Have you ever made a Hockey stick?

No… I wouldn’t know how to pre-load the stick with goals anyway.  It would be an interesting project to try a bent lamination for the blade.  Closest I get to ‘making’ a hockey stick is fiberglassing the shaft when it gets a nasty gouge in it; sure helps it from snapping early.  Learned to do that watching videos from JamestownDistributors on fiberglassing boats for repairs.

3–What tool do you think Festool is missing from their inventory?

What!? Hey, if they are missing something from inventory, I didn’t walk off with that Domino XL; nope, wrong guy!

I use the RAS-115 to sculpt often enough; a friend of mine and I have played with the idea of buying an extra dust shroud for it and modifying it so you could use a more aggressive blade rather than just a sanding pad.  Seemed to need more engineering than spare parts and duct tape would accomplish.  So that’s what I’d like to see… adapt the design of the RAS to make it easier to really hog off material for sculpting and not end up looking like Fozzie Bear.

 4- Did you have shop class when you were in school?

Well, that’s what it said on the schedule, but it was amazingly lame.  I had high hopes of liking it back then, but the class was dismal.  When I later started getting interested in woodworking, I remembered how bad that class was and wondered if it was woodworking I didn’t like or the class.  Blame is squarely on the class now 🙂

 5–What methods do you use when you are indeed a ‘half-inch shy’?

That’s always an interesting challenge, especially if you’re off by a Metric measure… I used to get really upset with myself about mistakes like that.  Still do, but at least the fix is an interesting (if usually time consuming) challenge.

Some things I’ve done…

  • Depending on where I’m at in the project, adjust the other dimensions so the short piece is the correct size 🙂
  • Put the missing material in the back where a clean joint makes it very difficult to find.
  • Buy marshmallows, chocolate bars, and Graham wafers and burn the part in question to make s’mores.

6–What is it with IT guys and woodworking?

That’s an easy question! In software, I spend a lot of time writing code that gets replaced 6 months later.  In fact, right now, I finished code to be released that is scheduled to be pulled in January.  There is no longevity.

Woodworking lets you build a project that is complete and can last generations.  It also lets you express your own designs… I like designing software so that carries over to the physical wood medium.  Then there’s problem solving; there’s a lot of that in software so the challenges of a woodworking design that has some tricky parts is another point of interest.  For example, on this diamond-shaped cabinet I’m making now, there are some parts of the design I’ve hardly thought about other than “I need nickel rods here”, but have no idea how they’ll get attached yet.  As I get closer to glue, I’ll think about it more 🙂

7– What tool have you bought and have never used?

I bought the ‘cool’ templates for the Leigh D4R jig and have never used them.  They make whimsical ‘dovetails’.  I may still use them someday, but they really have more a place in making toy boxes or hope chests for kids.  Not all together sure why I got them.

I try to buy when I need something not buy in case someday I need it.  That statement, however, is completely disregarded when I see shiny Bridge City things.

8–Is it about the tools or the wood?

Both!  I like nice tools, whether it be nice power tools or, especially, nice hand tools.  But if you have nice tools and butt-ugly wood, what’s the point?!

I have too much wood stored in a separate garage bay simply because I saw it and liked it.  Really don’t have the room to stockpile nice stock, but some of those boards won’t have equivalents available around here.  Here being Arizona; about the only indigenous stock we have are Nopales… ever dovetail Nopales? exactly…

For example, I have some very nice quarter-sawn Sycamore boards 16-18″ wide by 12′ with a lot of rust colors and spalting.  In this case, I bought the boards then thought of a project for them.  Very likely my next big project partly because I need the cabinet and because I want the space back in my shop!

9–Do you have any buddies, other than the online community, that are into woodworking?

I have a friend here in Chandler I met online who is into woodworking.  He makes excellent Maloof-inspired furniture for his home, and is fast at it, too!  Otherwise, my other friends are into everything but woodworking.  Conversations with those friends are like, “what’s your next project?”, me, “blah blah blah”, them, “oh, sounds nice.  A week passes.  Them, “how did that project go?”, me, “got a lot done, got the wood and dimensioned it; ready to start cutting”, them, “what?! i thought you finished it already”. -sigh-

10–Salsa.  Is there a blog for that?

Definitely… this one for Arizona happenings:  But when the past week has been in excess of 115ºF, you don’t feel much like going to clubs with inadequate A/C.  Coincidentally, this weekend is a big summer dance festival just over in Palm Springs, California.  Go if you’re close and not stuck dog-sitting!

11–What woodworker do you look to the most for inspiration? 

A friend I made online and have subsequently met: Roger Savatteri.  While he does woodworking, he also does a lot of designs in acrylic resins, fiberglass, metal, basically anything using hand-tools, power tools, CNC, and lasers.  He’s the type of guy who I call to setup an afternoon together in LA (where he’s from) to show him my goofy project design to see if he sees anything aesthetically messed up.  Couple days later, I’ll get a call, “hey, that one tricky part of the design, wouldn’t it be easier to do…”.  Genius.  Also the breadth of his design work appeals to me.

So while there are plenty of woodworkers whose works I admire, Roger is someone I became friends with and feel like I learn a lot from even over a casual conversation.

The only project of his I have photos of are The Ark that appeared in a FWW Design Book (#8 I think).  Bent laminates, veneers, laser CNC, metal working, acrylics and resins; doesn’t look it at first sight.

Ark - front view

Ark – front view

Ark - door detail

Ark – door detail

Ark – Interior Stands

12–What is the stupidest comment you’ve ever gotten on YouTube?

“Hey, nice shop asshole!  Thanks for the great videos; keep it up.”

It was a bit like a sweet n sour sauce: you just don’t know how to take it!  I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog or videos so I shouldn’t complain about this one…  I admit, I was tempted to reply “hey, nice comment asshole! thanks for the great comment; keep it up.” 🙂

Paul-Marcel St-Onge

Do yourself a favor and stop by Paul-Marcel’s blog, Half-Inch Shy and be sure to watched the abundance of valuable videos on YouTube.