Kindergarten Shop Class–NYTimes

This was an article I was interviewed for a few years ago, before this blog, that I thought was relevant for Get Woodworking Week.

Kindergarten Shop Class

Check it out–

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!!