A long journey

Susanna’s sister, Sofia, is taking most of this year to travel around the world with her friend Linda.  She has a break in employment and decided to take advantage of it.  They are heading east from Sweden, and we hope to have them visit here this fall.

They are blogging about their journey.  You can read about it here: http://lindaosofia.blogg.se/. For those of you who read Swedish as well as I do, you can use Google translate to read it in English here.

A contrast in organization (or rather disorganization)

It was a nice surprise to get home to a newly reorganized library (or rather study – at least until I get bookshelves built for it so we can make it a library).

The craft supplies in order - thanks to Susanna

It was inspiring.  So tonight, after dinner, I headed to my own personal craft space (aka the workshop) to see what kind of shape that space was in.  Not so inspiring.  Maybe needs a little work.  What do you think?

A disorganized workshop - thanks to Chuck

So tonight I decide to take a little time and… well, no not organize the workshop.. take some time and come up with excuses on why it is so cluttered.  Here is what I have:

1. I am a little bit disorganized.
2. I just finished a project (well almost finished it).
3. It is just too damn cold outside to clean the shop.
4. I think I may be a little disorganized.


A good start to 2012

I started out the year by catching the cold that Ben has been fighting for the past week. A fine way to start a new year.

What are my goals for the new year?

I want to be better at finishing projects. I left a couple of projects unfinished at the end of 2011 – It is easier to start projects than finish them.

I want to build at least 6 pieces of furniture. Right now I’m planning a bookshelf and desk for the study. I’ll have to see what else pops up on the list as the year goes on.

Some other things I want to do this year (in no particular order): Go camping at least 3 times, take the boys to Six Flags, paint the house (yes big house project), take lots of hikes with Susanna and the dogs, bicycle into work more than I did this year.

I did start the year by finishing one of the projects left over from last year. I painted and installed the storm window in Ben’s room. So finally the scaffolding is down and the last storm window in the dining room installed. I also put primer on crown molding for the living room. I probably would have gotten more finished if I wasn’t fighting a cold.

I’ll post pictures later this week.

2011 in review

A quick review of what I did last year (and I’m sure I”m forgetting things as well) in no particular order:

  • Started posting on this blog more regularly (it is really a journal for me to use and look back on what I have done, but posting it on the internet gives me more incentive to write).
  • Went to Six Flags with Susanna, the boys, Mark & Jessica, and Sarah and Nick.
  • Drove to West Virginia for a family vacation.
  • Visited Washington DC (on the drive to WV).
  • Took the boys to NYC to watch the Lucia concert
  • Spent a very fun week in San Diego with work.
  • Replaced the front shocks and brake lines on the jeep (with lots of help).
  • Got a new car.
  • Did lots of hikes in the woods with Susanna and the dogs.
  • Visited NYC several times.
  • Went camping twice with the boys (once with my dad and once with Susanna) at Selden Neck State park.
  • Went to Australia
  • Visited Stockholm
  • Did a 5k fun run with the boys and Susanna.  Also did a second 5k fun run with Susanna (without the boys).
  • Visited with family (many holiday dinners at my uncle’s house and had both of my parents visit).
  • Did hikes with dogs on Sundays.
  • Watched a good friend fight a very serious illness – and thankfully survive and regain his health.
  • Planted a garden with Will and Ben.
  • Stressed that Susanna had to deal with the hurricane by herself while I was in Australia (thanks again to everyone who stopped by to help out).
  • Purchased a canoe (and repaired the seat on it).
  • Took an underwater acoustics course at NUWC.
  • Replaced the battery in my iPhone.
  • Switched from a long distance relationship to having Susanna live with me.
  • Found and lit sky lanterns with the boys.

I did lots of projects around the house (I had lost of help on some of these from Susanna and my dad):

  • Painted the barn.
  • Finished Ben’s Bedroom (complete renovation).
  • Painted the dining room.
  • Painted the living room (including a new ceiling and wiring)
  • Added railings to all the stairs.
  • Painted the porch trim.
  • Built a patio.
  • Refurbished and installed a bunch of storm windows.
  • Installed a high-bay light in the workshop loft.
  • Built shelves in the garage and workshop.
  • Built a compost bin (a good way to get rid of not-so nice red oak).
  • Improved the compost bin so Targa couldn’t jump in it.
  • Improved the improved compost bin when Targa figured out how to jump in the improved one.
  • Used the hose on Targa twice after he figured out how to get into the improved improved compost bin so that he no longer wants to jump in the compost bin.
  • Repaired a window with Will (one that he broke by accident)
  • Had the roof replaced.
  • Cleaned out the storage loft (mostly).
  • Got a piano (and had it moved into the house).
  • Purchased a couch for Will’s room.

I also worked in the woodshop:

  • Built two shelves (one for each boy).
  • Built a fence for the router table (after watching Mark struggle with the crappy existing 2×4 oak board used as a fence).
  • Submitted my desk design to the Design Matters Blog for a design critique (and got lots of good feedback).
  • Built a lumber rack (pile) in the garage for the red oak I had cut in the spring.
  • Built a shoe rack for the mud room.
  • Built a finishing table for the basement.
  • Built breadboards for Christmas.
  • Built a bunch of wooden swords and guns for the boys.
  • Built a storm window for one of Ben’s room.
  • Took a class on saw sharpening.
  • Made a saw bench.
  • Drove to western Massachusetts with Susanna to pick up a trailer load of cherry boards.

I also left a couple of projects unfinished at the end of the year (but I’m doing better than in the past):

  • The living room crown molding.
  • The storm window for Ben’s room (needs paint).
  • Finish cleaning the storage loft.
  • Repair the keys on the piano.

Small Projects

I completed several bread boards last month.  They were Christmas gifts, so I didn’t post any pictures when they were made.  Actually, it wasn’t just a project that I made.  The boys assisted as well (mostly sanding).  However, they each made one by themselves (with my help – I did the table saw work, but they did use the router table and drill press with assistance). They were actually a pretty simple (and quick) project to complete.  I constructed them from maple and sapele and finished with an oil/wax mix, and purchased dipping cups to go with them.  My initial thought was for them to be the right size for sliced bread and an oil dip.  However, the dipping dishes wound up a little small for that (next time I should get the 4oz dipping dishes).  Maybe they will work as sushi plates.

Bread Boards

We recently picked up a piano.  Ok, so we didn’t pick it up recently, but it took a couple of months to get it moved from the garage into the living room.  It still needs to have some of the key tops replaced (I have them on order) and get it tuned (I’m leaving that to Susanna to arrange – I don’t play and can’t really tell the difference between an in-tune instrument from an out-of-tune one).  A new piano meant we were short a piano bench.  I decided to make a quick build piano bench out of red oak (and yes, I’m finally getting low on the red oak collection that Rob Sawyer and I picked up two years ago – but not to worry, I have a whole tree worth of red oak drying in the barn that should be ready for next summer).

The design is pretty simple.  Four legs, aprons to support the legs, and something to sit on.  Basically a piano bench. The only design feature is tapered legs (on two sides).

First step was to mill lumber from the rough oak.  No problem, I even found some thick stock so I could make 4 legs that were  1 1/2 inches square without gluing up.

The next step was to cut the mortise – I used a straight bit on the router table.  I used stops for the start and finish of the cut and cut no more than 1/8″ in depth on a pass.  However, I didn’t like how close the mortise was to edge of the leg (I was being lazy and didn’t want to drill another hole for router table fence to get the spacing right).  And once the mortise is cut… well… one is stuck with the location.  So back tot he lumber pile for another piece of thick oak. The original 4 legs are in the fire pile, and I made 4 new legs (and no more than 2 minutes to adjust the router table fence).  They turned out nice.  The only thing I would do differently next time is do a better job measuring where the router bit started and stopped cutting (maybe get the mortise closer to the top of the leg).

Cleaning up the legs with the smoothing plane

Next, I cut the tapers on the legs.  I don’t have a tapering jig for the table saw, so I used the jointer to make the tapers.   I don’t remember where I exactly I found the technique (maybe wood magazine?), but it requires two passes on the jointer – the first by starting the cut at the 1/2 way point of the taper.  It wasn’t a perfectly clean cut, but not bad at all – only requiring a little work with the smoothing plane to finish.  I finished the legs by hand planing chamfers on the bottom of all the legs.

I milled and cut the aprons to length. Then,  I cut the tenons on the table saw (using a dado stack).  Then the top and bottom shoulders were cut away by hand.  I rounded over the ends of the tenons with a chisel and cleaned up the shoulders.  I did a dry assembly, checked for square, then everything went back to the bench to be cleaned up (smoothing plane then cabinet scraper and finally a light sanding by hand).

Cleaning up a tenon

Finally tonight I did the glue up.  The joints came out pretty good (this was the first time I made mortise and tenon joints not in a class).   This week I will apply a dark stain and finish the piece.  I plan on cutting a top out of plywood, and Susanna will cover it with padding and fabric (to make a padded seat).  I did set aside oak to make a plain top if the padded seat doesn’t work out (I’m worried that the pad may make the seat too high).

What would I do differently next time? I would start the tapers lower on the leg.  I think one of the tapers actually ends under the start of the apron.  The mortise and tenon joints are pretty tight, but not perfect. It wouldn’t take too much time to add some shape to the front and rear aprons, and that might make the bench stand out a little more.

Next project: Maybe painted bookshelves for the library/study.  I’m trying to figure out the best way to use a single sheet of plywood to make as many shelves as possible.

Getting ready to glue up the legs and side aprons
The bench glued and clamped
Ready to go to the basement to be finished