Fraxinus Americana

As I prepare to build Squadron, a veneered cabinet made of Walnut and aluminum I have kept busy building another little cabinet made of Ash. I figured it would be a good idea to keep my skills up before I tackle that build. One can get pretty rusty if you take too much time off from this trade:) Fraxinus Americana is a knock off of one of JK’s cabinets from the 60’s. Yeah, yeah I am a Krenovian nut, but hey this style of work just feels right and I love the creative process of composing pieces.


8/4 chunk of Ash, my new favorite wood.


Here is the walnut I will be using for squadron, the poplar in the background is going to be used as substrate as the cabinet is going to be veneered. The sides, top and bottom will be slightly shaped so it is a necessary step to make my own plywood as hand planing poplar is a lot easier than Baltic birch plywood ūüôā


Chalking off possible grain selection for cabinet parts. I still like to rough cut out blanks with a handsaw.

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Some rails and stiles ready for finish milling and the layout of bridle joints.

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Then my Laguna 8 inch jointer gave up the ghost. This is the second starting capacitor to go in 2 years. Not a huge issue to fix, but still worrisome. I am pretty sure the motor is not long for this world.


Completed the bridle joints. Cut the mortises on the table saw with a tenoning jig and the tenons on the band saw.


The basic shape of the cabinet. I beveled the inside stiles 10 degrees and followed up by doing a 10 degree rabbet on the inside door edges. Doing that is nice detail, one door will open the other. I’ll include a pic of that in the next post. The cabinet sides meet the cabinet doors at 10 degrees also. It was important to make the outside stiles a bit wider as they later need to have that bevel cut into them so they meet square to the sides. The top will be slightly thicker than the bottom and the doors will be glass with 2 glass shelves in the cabinet. I am thinking about doing a hickory back panel. Shouldn’t take too long to build this one as there are no drawers and I have been taking this one back and forth to school so the kids can see the progress and I can speed up the build. Hopefully it should survive that process. It’s Ash so I’m thinking it should!

Wabi Sabi Cabinet

I made another wabi sabi cabinet in my spare time, not much of that these days, but enough for one of these little cabinets. This one is for a retiring administrator in my school, it is my 3rd one so far. The original design belongs to Robert Van Norman, Teacher and friend from Inside Passage School. My plan is to try and get these done in around 20 hours, preferably 15 if I can, I’m hoping to sell a few someday but I have to pick up the pace. ¬†The frame and panel back is what is slowing me down a bit. In the future I ¬†might go with a simple panel for the back with a french cleat for wall attachment. The cabinet will still have ¬†let go ( built out of square so the drawer pulls tight at the end of it’s travel), dovetailed drawers and hand shaped sides, top and bottom. The door is coopered, “curvery” can be either concave or convex. They make great Anniversary gifts, a bottle of wine fits neatly into the space or I was also thinking they would be ideal for a child’s baptismal candle. I have a friend who is making one for a Doctors stethoscope. Possibilities are endless.

This particular cabinet is made from Black Walnut, English Brown Oak, Port Orford Cedar, spalted Birch and Maple. Oh that little handle on the door pull was hacked off my poor fig tree in my living room. That poor tree, it cringes when I approach it.

Sweet Wabi





Cabinet Debra Done











Deb’s first water color, a gift for me. I framed it with wood left over from her cabinet. Thanks Big Sis. I hope you like your little sea cabinet, made just for you, just because ūüôā

Bits and pieces….


Some ¬†drawer fronts out of Olive, straight from Greece. You don’t want to know how much a brd/ft it is for this stuff. Got a chunk ¬†from Gary Chanin hardwoods in Edmonton.


Dovetailing has been fairly successful, some grain consolidation and one tiny wedge. I added some sweep to one pin, just playing around to see if I could still do it. You can see it in the pic above, that gentle little curve to the upper pin. Wasn’t brave enough to do it to all of them. ¬†I realize most, who aren’t into this level of woodworking, will think I’m whacked in the head, “why bother, can’t you just nail that stuff together?” ¬†You know how it goes….

Other things have changed, I wasn’t too keen on anything I made for door pulls. If you read my blog post on using the maker bot you will remember the idea to use ¬†rectangular pulls on the doors. I made some out of Olive and placed them on the doors. Too refined I thought- not fitting with the theme of this little cabinet for my sis. I think she will like the hand carved pulls better.

I made everything out of Ash, a suggestion by my fellow shop teacher buddy at school.


I also tried some Ficus, let me re-phrase, I also hacked apart my Fig tree in my living room and tried some real branches for pulls. I liked the look too, alas the tree didn’t have enough dead branches to make 2.


Drawers pulls were next. I was thinking a simple drilled hole, but I wanted to try a ¬†pull too. I will think about it more; the pull can always be removed and the hole drilled completely through. It might look cool with a porthole kind of pull. ¬†I can never seem to make my mind up during these builds. The K man used to call it “composing”, sometimes you just have to go with what feels right.



The pull started out as a strip of Ash. I ran it over a ball end mill on my router station and shaped the top with a block plane and spoke shave. I cut the tenon first with a straight bit on the router table. I finished all the edges with my knife, homage to the man…


Used more Port Orford Cedar for drawer bottoms. Still plan on placing beach sand in these with some of Debs shells and sea glass. I will add some beach finds from myself and my parents for her too. A family drawer and her drawer perhaps.



Surprise! Beach sand, robbed from my Mom’s house while she was on vacation. Trial run on what it might look like, hmmm sand getting into drawer pockets will probably not be a good thing ūüôā But I think I might have an old model building solution for that.

Just a few more details. I need to glue in the back panel and head off to school to use the mill for brackets for the back. One shelf will get some small starfish embedded and then a final polish with wax. Oh! and one surprise for Deb when I do the photography for this cabinet. I think she will like it because she had a hand in it.

How to not cut dovetails……


So it is that dovetailing these drawers has lead to a few problems. Let me first state that making microscopic drawers also requires microscopic dovetails along with macroscopic eyeballs, which I lack btw. The picture is deceiving, let me clarify.


At this scale, pencils, saws, markers and just about everything else becomes too big.

But I’m here to hopefully help a few people, so I better stop lamenting….


I started my dovetailing day by honing  chisels. In the pic above is an old Budda hand grinder I got from Ebay. It is pretty much as is except for the swiss pear handle I turned. I hooked up a grinder attachment stand from Lee Valley. This system is great for plane irons and chisels since the possibility of overheating steel is negligible. This method of sharpening produces a hollow grind which allows me to free hand hone on my Norton Stones.



8000 stone on the left and a 1000×4000 combo stone on the right. Only thing missing in the pic is the leather strop I use for final polish. I have a chunk of super hard leather with 15000 jewelers rouge on it. Makes for scary sharp tools.

As I mentioned, small dovetails present a few problems. The majority of dovetails saws are simply too awkward and too large for smallish work. In the picture below is the dovetail saw I made, layed next to my Lie Nielsen saw.


The long handle and small blade allow me to get “close” to the work. The blade came from a cheap hobby saw which I replace for a few bucks every year. The blade is a few thou smaller than my Lie Nielsen which makes for a super fine kerf.


I begin by marking half pins and waste areas. I always do pins first- for several reasons. Typically the most important piece of wood is the drawer front, first off it is highly visible, and generally with the stuff I’ve been building lately, the drawer material is a good chunk of change. I spend a great deal of time perfecting the shape of the pins. At times I’ll even try and add some sweep to the pins, for added appeal. Once done the pins are never adjusted. ¬†If I mangle the tails I don’t care; ¬†the wood is cheap and I make the drawer sides super long which allows me to cut off tails and re-start. Plus it is just easier tracing pins to tails. Try it, you might never go back.

A helpful hint though- practice your sawing. Dovetailing is all in the sawing and how good you are with keeping your saw square to pencil or knife lines.  If you can cut a pencil line in half you are well on your way to gap free joints.


Not a great picture but I wanted to show the technique I use to begin sawing, body position is so important when dovetailing. I clamp a piece of hardwood into my bench vise and bring the height of the piece to a comfortable level. If you are right handed you will find the right side of the pin or tails easier to cut than the left, again it’s body position, cutting on the left side of the pins or tails requires you to look over the plate of your saw to see your pencil/knife line, but you still have to keep your arm, elbow and shoulder in a straight cutting position. Practice, practice, practice…


Block of maple clamped tight to the scribe line. Using my plane Iron to bring the scribe line up tight to the block. Good insurance running a 90 degree block up tight to your scribe line. It helps to keep you square down the walls of the sockets.


Adding a super thin card scraper keeps you just off the baseline. When done you remove it and shear the back wall smooth rather than chopping it. A great way to keep the baseline crisp and even.


Running a wood shim that is an exact match for the web scribe line. This allows a uniform web rather than relying on your God given talent in keeping a chisel parallel to a  scribe line.



Tails ready for a trial fit.



Not too bad one little nick where I went a little too deep while sawing. Some dustology or a small wedge should take care of that.

Ebbs and Flows…

Work on Debra continues. I have been getting a few things done and trying out a few different door pulls. I headed over to Bisset stain glass¬† and got some “rain” glass cut for the doors. There is a picture down below on what that looks like, not sure if I am a big fan of the glass, I might change it.




Decided on inserting some mullions to the door glass areas. Bisset glass couldn’t make the starfish pattern I orginally wanted because the panels were just too small.¬†The idea was to fuse similar coloured starfish patterns into the glass panels.¬†I will think about sandblasting some designs or I may just leave the glass the way it is.


Mullions cut out on the table saw and routed with a box cutting bit on my router station.


Also began making shelf consoles to hold the two shelves in Debra. I decided on using some quartersawn white oak as it was a nice match with the bronze coloured striping in the Ash.


I like to hand carve the consoles, and then run them through a piece of sheet metal that shaves them to the finished size.


After each console is fit I treat the dowel end  with a product called chair doctor. A little insurance over expansion and contraction of the consoles.


Also began work on the frame and panel for the back. It will be made of Ash with Port Orford Cedar panels. When Deb opens the cabinet doors the scent will be a reminder of coastal waters and forests.


A shot of the frame and panel and some of the shelf consoles. The blue tape was placed to protect surfaces from shellac. The port orford cedar will be left raw, in its natural state, and the drawer pockets are protected from shellac to keep the drawers from binding up. Shellac, oil or wax in the drawer pockets will hang up the drawers after a few years so it is best to leave them raw wood.


A beauty mark!


This grain reminds me of low tides, ebbs and flows.



Cut up some shim material for the drawer pockets. The drawers will end up hitting the door levelers so I am shimmng the drawer up by 1/8″. The pieces are quartersawn so there should be no problems with expansion in the pockets.


Hand planing shim material for flat true surfaces.

So here is a picture of the glass I picked. Hmmm, just not quite sure. My wife thinks Deb will like it, since it is rippled and blends with the theme of the cabinet, oceans, waves, dewy rain soaked forests- you get the idea. The small pieces of wood surrounding the glass are there to hold the glass in place. They are pinned with small brass nails which are removable in case repairs need to be made.


A little off topic, but not really, I had a chance to visit Cabinet 13  this weekend. It has found a nice little niche next to a Mahogany side table.


Got an old vertical milling machine at school which still works fairly well. I plan on using it for milling the door pulls and drawer pulls. After discussing woods with RVN we both agreed Olive would be a nice match for Ash. It is super expensive for fiqured material, but well worth it. The mill works awesome for wood, quiet and with precise control. Only thing I had to watch out for was making the blank a bit oversize. I want the end grain facing up on the pulls so I had to be careful in the direction I moved the bed of the mill against the rotation of the bit.


A little too much spalting in this one. But the milling was easy enough.


I don’t know Deb, this little cabinet would be sweet for holding small planes and tools….maybe I should keep it?




Shop Tech


What the heck does this thing have to do with fine woodworking? Nothing you say! Let me explain before you run back to your Dewalt biscuit joiner. When working on Debra I started with a full scale drawing. I like to work out the major proportions and measurements of lengths, widths and thicknesses of ¬†door stiles, rails, cabinet parts and joinery. Plus, I have an affinity for drafting with T-Squares and Set squares, since I teach that skill to my students . With my full scale drawings I usually don’t overly consider the door pulls while drafting out the cabinet. However, I am at the point in the¬†Debra¬†build where the cabinet¬†awaits these items. Choices are endless for door pulls, but I always prefer making my own rather than buying metal hardware.

We have a 3D printer at school so I thought this would be a great opportunity to start using “Robo bot” for some old school cabinetmaking. Yes, it is a piece of shop technology for my design students, but I figured their Instructor should have a crack at it too. ¬†I have been designing a few different pulls to scale in a program called Google Sketch-Up. If you are a woodworker, I am sure you have heard or used the program. If you would like to try it, but are a little terrified of learning one more computer program, do not fear, it is a fairly easy program to learn. And it’s free! ¬†Some easy to watch videos can be found at ¬† . Rob explains things extremely well and his tutorials will bring you through the completion of a little cabinet. ¬†A great beginning for newbies.


Pretty basic, but the cool thing about the printer is that I can make a few different types of pulls, print them off and place them on my cabinets to determine if I like the style. A lot faster than carving one or two out by hand. I can picture the Jedi Wood Master Robert Van Norman rolling his eyes at me as I type this. But hey – it saves those little pieces of exotic woods for the real deal, and while those pulls are printing I can do other things like organize screw bins or polish the wheels on the Mach. So after I printed the pull below and stuck it on my cabinet, I took one look at it and said..”, I don’t think so”….. quick, easy, move on to the next one.


That squarish looking pull didn’t look quite right to me. I am thinking more rectangular and long for the next one. I am also leaning more towards recessing the pulls in the door in a smoothed out mortise of some sorts. Onto the next one….I wish I could get a hold of a woodsy coloured plastic for the MakerBot.



Looking better, maybe a little smaller, to be con’t…..

What’s under the hood?


Panzer IV/ Connor Davidiuk

Sitting around at school supervising the English Part A final and came across a twitter feed from an ex student who has kept up with his scale model building. I started thinking back, way back, to the times as a kid where I would build just about anything… model aircraft, tanks, battleships, go carts, tree houses, a wooden sailboat with my Dad. The roots grew deep back then, it is why I still do this, and why I teach it. For years I kept all those models and crashed a few go-carts. The boat survived years before we sold it. As I got older, I “reassessed” most of what I built. I distinctly remember the shivering cringe as I looked at the Churchhill tank I built at the age of 12. ¬†The solution? Best friends farm pond, and a few Winchester rifles. Over 240 models sunk or obliterated.

I look at some of the work I did before I went to IP , I should probably mention that I have been going back and forth to that school for about 4 years. All the training and years of experience I have working with this material and I cringe at some of the mistakes I have made. Most of it grain and attention to it. Did I say- lack of attention? How incredibly important that one little element is. It’s like final paint while restoring a car. ¬†Forgive me for using automotive analogies here, it is my other weakness. The thousand or so hours of ¬†body work before that paint is layed down. Grinding, cutting, welding, ¬†filling, blocking, guide coating, filling, blocking, guide coating, rinse and repeat. The dust, sore hands, barrels full of used sandpaper and empty Bondo containers. All the sweat equity, the hard and necessary work to get there, and in the end its the paint that one notices first, you know-the grain.

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So it is with this craft called woodworking, get the grain wrong and people will take notice. ¬†To the general public the outward appearance of a thing is ultimately the most important aspect of a thing; we see from distances first. Yeah, I could be wrong, but its my blog. The small details, the custom work, many will be innocently oblivious of the efforts. We as builders know it is the culmination of ¬†the small details that result in that beautiful thing. ¬†It is those “small details” that makes us feel fulfilled in our work and probably why a lot of us do the craft in the first place.¬†As JK wrote,¬†“Within the little details, there is a search for meaning”

I don’t think anyone has ever seen how much effort and time I put in to getting the drive shaft detailed just right on the Mach, but it was very important to me. I can assume Connor took no short cuts on the Panzer. . . I have a Wabi Sabi cabinet in my house and my wife has walked by it everyday for year. Then one day she reached out and ran a finger along a side and said, ” I never knew this was curved”. That was, without a doubt, the best part of building that little cabinet, when she saw beyond the paint.

Part of this craft or any craft is taking the time to educate those around us about it. Insert my job here….:)


At IP the school focuses heavily on grain selection and the manipulation of grain, many graduates are masters of it. Nicholas Nelson’s swiss pear cabinet and Lael Gordan’s Sitka Spruce beauty are two examples of well thought out grain selection, these guys are masters with the grain spray gun. ¬†Check out the IP website for more inspiring work. ¬†True not all woods are friendly and cooperative, and I can’t forget that these boards for Debra were leftovers sitting in back bunks at school. Grain selection with 4/4 stock isn’t always your best option. Crazy I am still learning this craft after all these years, yet another reason why I love it so much.


Nicolas Nelson/Swiss Pear/Gorgeous


Lael Gordan’s Sitka Spruce Walnut cabinet.

So it is that Debra confounds me at this moment. Door handles and choices for a suitable wood for drawers is not something I want to mess up. Pick the wrong rims on that Vintage muscle car and you have officially butchered it. ¬†I have looked at Boxwood, English Ash and even something as banal as Red Oak. I am trying to pick up on some of the colors in the Ash. The Ash is very white with some Bronze coloured striping through it. A beautiful piece of figured Olive¬†from Gilmers¬†keeps swirling around in my brain, a wood of Biblical importance. I think Deb would like that. However, ¬†there is also Anigre a wood from Africa, or possibly some quartersawn Sycamore, I have a chunk of that sitting not 10 feet from me right now; then of course there is…………………………………

I thinks I need to call the master next week and ask for his opinion….


Hopefully a few will lift the hood and take note of the dovetails…

Shop Helpers…


Thomas has become quite the little helper in my home shop. I always try and bring my work down to his level so he can see what I am doing. As I was checking for square on Debra, he decided I needed some help. At Inside Passage, we were trained to leave the makers hands on the work, a spoke shaved edge, planed surfaces, perhaps facets left by a chisel. Those will be the fingerprints of the builder…Oh so important in hand made anything..

There will be many “fingerprints” on Debra- not all of them mine..



As promised, I am continuing on with the flipper flopper install on Debra.


The flipper flopper will work more efficiently if you drill the pilot hole for the screw first. Finish by stepping up the drill bit one size larger and drilling just the flopper this allows the  flopper to pivot with out binding up on the screw.  You will also need to counter sink for the screw head to give the flipper flopper a clean look.


I ordered this 82 degree countersink from Mari-Tool in the United States. It also serves as the proper counter sink  when making your own knife hinges. With the small pieces of Zebra-wood I did the countersinking by hand. Also in the picture is a small jewelers vise which I made when I was being trained as a shop teacher. Finally, I  have found a use for this thing, it works perfectly for holding onto small shelf consoles and these flipper thingamajigs.


Not sure which size of drill bits I used, it will be dependent on the size of screw you decide on using and the size of the flopper.


So when you break a screw off inside your completed cabinet top…ah…yeah….. you’d better have a fix for it. Did I mention I was using base ball bat wood? Chase those freshly drilled holes in your hard woods with a steel screw first… teacher you say….Ha! I will always show my mistakes on this blog, nothing to hide folks.


After the flopper fiasco of 2014, I began work on installing the hinge hardware. Followed the method as taught by Krenov and RVN. You can refer to his book “Impractical Cabinetmaker” for detailed instructions on knife hinges. These are Brusso hinges that I got from Lee Valley. I posted the link below. Don’t ever make the mistake on buying a cheap knife hinges, go for Brusso or Sanderson hardware.,41419,41454

I also did a post on this @


Tape helps to move the door out, to minimize binding. The other piece is there to locate the length of hinge mortise so you can transfer the distance to the doors.


Getting set-up to transfer hinge location to door edges, I generally using a marking knife for this. I purchased a marking knife from David Barron in the UK, absolutely beautiful and well made.

I’ll post a pic of it in my next blog. A nice detail on these types of cabinets is to inset the door about a 1/16″ from the cabinet side. It provides a nice little shadow line and step.


The top of the cabinet took more time as I have an overhang. Typically the hinge would run off the edge but that would look very odd to have an empty mortise showing all the way through the top. I wrote a post on how to layout for hinges when done this way.


Layed out locations for splines in cabinet sides and the bottom. You can see the little round buttons or “door levelers”, ¬†they are made from Zebra wood to complement the floppers. Door levelers serve to keep the doors from sagging and they provide insurance on keeping those nice door gaps; and nothing sounds sweeter than a finely fit door coming to rest on wooden door levelers and door catches. In other news,¬†I decided during the build to go with two drawers instead of the one. Since I want to have sand in the drawers I thought one drawer would be a bit heavy to pull out.


Routing for splines in cabinet partition on a very poorly made router table extension off my Rigid table saw. I really have to step up  my game and invest in a proper router station.


That’s enough for one post…goodnight Debra ūüôā





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