Category Archives: Woodworking Techniques

A Case For Pocket Hole Joinery

When I made my son’s table a couple of years ago, I had one rule that I followed regarding how it was to be built: Keep it simple since it is a child’s work table. It should not be made of expensive materials, and it should be, to the best of my ability, repairable should something happen. After all, kids tend to be a bit rough on their things.

The material I used was poplar – check on the inexpensive material. The joinery I chose to use to join the table legs to the apron was pocket holes and screws. Yes, some folks poo poo the idea of using pocket hole joinery as a “true” joinery method to be used in fine furniture, but, I never claimed this piece was fine furniture.

It is though, a functional furniture piece.

My son was playing one day and got a little rambunctious, and then fell into the table, splitting one of the table legs. He was fine, pretty annoyed, but carried on.

IMG_20130623_174425

This is one reason I chose pocket holes to join the legs into the apron – it was this scenario, along with the reason that should the table last into his adolecent years and beyond, I could easily replace the legs.

So that’s what I did here. I prepared a new leg, same as the others.

IMG_20130626_121757

Once ready, I simply removed the pocket screws, removed the old leg, and then placed the new leg in position and rescrewed into place. Repair complete.

IMG_20130626_123249

Double Dose of Goodness

The months of November and December have been great ones here at the shop. Allow me to explain…

November – The Puja Table is complete!

The Puja Table, the project that I had been working on for the better part of the past year, was finished back in November and given to my friend who it was for. This was my second furniture piece, and my first commission. When I completed my son’s work table and posted it on Facebook, he approached me about building him the puja table. After discussing some design items, and what wood to use, he gave me a deposit to buy the materials.

One of the reasons I did not cover the project in too much detail before (one blog post and one video), is that by the time the project was really taking shape, it was also getting to be a while since he asked for it. I spent a good amount of time sweating the details. I must honestly say he was more than patient though, which I really appreciated. My focus however, especially between August and November, was to finish it up to deliver to him before Thanksgiving.

When it was delivered, he was more than happy with the result. My first commission ended with a happy customer!

I had a few things I set as woodworking goals for this project.

  • I had worked with walnut some when making some paddle cutting boards and really liked how it is to work with. I helped “steer” my friend toward walnut as the primary species, as I really like the look of it as well. When I showed him some pictures online of projects made with walnut, he readily agreed.
  • Attempt a new joinery technique. This was my first attempt at sliding dovetails, which I used to join the leg pieced into the top. This definitely proved to be a challenge, especially with some limited tooling. With some finessing though, I was happy with the result.
  • This was also my first experience with spraying finish. In this case lacquer. Once I got the hang of it, things went pretty well. I did have to correct some overspraying and drip marks initially though.

Some pictures of the final piece. Click each for a larger view and info.


December – The Wood Whisperer Guild for Life!

I’m no longer one of those folks who can say that I never win anything. The Wood Whisperer had their yearly Holiday online party a couple of weeks ago, and as usual part of the festivities were prize giveaways. The prizes ranged from tshirts, USB thumb drives, DVDs, to Guild memberships. This year, saving it for last, the granddaddy prize was a lifetime Wood Whisperer Guild membership. When I heard my name as the winner, I had to pick my jaw up from my desk! I was surprised and excited beyond belief. I was now a Wood Whisperer Guild member for life!

Now, if you don’t have any experience with the Guild, you can find out more and sign up here. I joined the Guild last year when Marc had a one night sale (after the 2011 Holiday party) of 50% off. I was able to sign up for the three month option, which I then renewed that next spring for one year. Since then the Guild has been restructured to have various levels of access. You can gain access to the “a la carte” version, where you pick which projects you want, or an option to gain access to all the currently existing projects. Again, check out the link. There is a section that explains all the levels available that goes into more detail than what I am here.

So now the next question… why join the Guild? After all, there is a reason why I renewed my membership before winning the lifetime membership. In short, because it’s a great resource – both in knowledge and the community. The level of detail that Marc goes into in the videos that accompany each project is incredible. There is also access to help for your project, and interviews with experts that are recorded and posted if you can’t make a live event. Even if you’re not in a position to build the particular project that is ongoing at the time, the insight that you can gain when watching the videos can be easily brought to whatever project you are working on. Having that level of education at your fingertips really makes it a no brainer in my opinion.

So am I excited I won the lifetime Wood Whisperer Guild membership? “Heck yeah” would be an understatement.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

2 – The Dove’s Long “Tale”

Finally Episode 2! As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been working on a puja table for a friend of mine. I have not filmed much of the process since I’ve already been working on it for a while and while he’s been very patient, I do want to get it to him as soon as possible. The legs are joined to the top of the table with sliding dovetails that are 12 1/2″ long and visible from both sides. I did find there was some interest when I posted a picture online of the first sliding dovetail, so I decided to capture some video of the second one. I did run into some technical difficulties with the filming, so as I explain in the video, I apologize for any quality and issues with the content being a bit disjointed. But I do hope that folks will still find some value to the content. I don’t claim to use the most orthodox method here, but it worked for me, and as I’ve seen with much woodworking content, there is more than one way to get a task done.

The Four Piece “Vise”

It’s been pretty quiet on the Wood Lab blog lately (sorry), but not so quiet in the shop itself. I’ve been working on a Puja (meditation) table for a friend of mine the last few months. Part of this project involves sliding dovetails for the side leg pieces to be joined into the table top. I have a clamping straightedge that I used as a guide to route out the dovetails on the underneath side of the table top, where I then realized after the fact, the clamping parts left some marks on the side of the table top. These marks were enough that I would have been forever trying to remove if I were to sand them…

A good note to insert at this point: I don’t have a good woodworking bench, nor a decent woodworking vise. This was one of those “shortcomings” that I was determined to not let thwart me.

The solution? The “Four Piece Vise” (That’s what I call it anyway): Two wood screw type clams, and two bar style clamps…

Basically clamp your work piece in the wood screw clamps, then clamp those to your bench top. Now that I had the table top secure, what to use to remove those marks since I don’t (yet) own a #4 or #4 1/2 smoother?

If you don’t have what you’d ideally like, try to use what you do have… in this case, my Lie-Nielsen block plane served well.

With a little wax on the sole, and skewing the blade just a bit to handle some interesting grain, I was able to clean up that edge without much trouble.

Mill Boards In Two Sessions

When I began learning about milling wood, I always heard to mill in two sessions at least a day apart, in case the wood moves at all. Glad I remembered that, this was after one session a few weeks ago.