welcome to my blog

designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
This blog is a record of my life in my studio.

Monday, October 31, 2011

My new lathe

The first woodworking mentor I ever had is a former luthier who now works as a manager for a woodworking consumer products company.  He still gives me tips on techniques, joinery, and how to use the wide range of products available to furniture makers today.

He was also kind enough to give me a lathe he had lying around.  The lathe is, of course, a unique tool that does things no other tool can do.  Namely, a lathe spins a workpiece, allowing you to shape the work by holding a sturdy knife up to the spinning piece.  It's a lot like how you would cut a decorative groove into a clay pot, spinning on the throwing wheel.

But a decent lathe

Change the size of many images at once with automator for OS X

I have dipped my toe into "programming", and it's already saved me five minutes! Now I can take hundreds of images that are 2000 pixels wide, and scale them all down to a Web-appropriate 640 pixels in just a few keystrokes. Even the most computer-averse knucklehead can do this, and I'll tell you how.

As a woodworker who maintains a blog and a website, I deal with digital images and video more than I'd like to. Not that I mind showing off my work, and adding visual aids when describing a new technique, but I could do without the process of getting the images ready for the web.

The biggest hassle is changing the sizes. But now, after following the simple two-step directions from MacTips, all I do is open Automator and press go!

I don't know what's been holding me back.  I guess I figured it would be hard to find directions on how to do exactly what I wanted.  But finding the directions was as easy as googling "change image size automator os x".  I can't wait to try another one.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Skipton's 180 gallon aquarium cabinet

Finally!  A post about the 180 gallon aquarium stand I made for Skipton's Unique Aquaria in Boston.  I have posted previously about this cabinet, but until now I haven't had the chance to take decent pictures of it in the store.  So here they are!

At the time, this cabinet was the best I'd ever made, from the design to the fit to the finish.  It also taught me a lesson about materials and larger tanks:

Friday, October 28, 2011

DIY Tool Upgrade: adding a 3 h.p. Baldor motor to the Delta 14" Band Saw

My Delta 14" band saw is one of (probably) hundreds of thousands of similar 14" band saws around the U.S. and the world.  The Delta 14" is perhaps the most common starter band saw of the past few decades.  Mine was a gift from a friend, whose father had put the old 14" in the garage after replacing it with a bigger, more powerful saw.  Many woodworkers graduate from their 14" band saw once they get serious about cutting through really tough, thick pieces of wood, such as when re-sawing, which is the process of slicing thin sheets of stock from the face of a thicker board.

Re-sawing allows you to make your own veneers and book-matched panels, which are so much more visually appealing than non book-matched panels, it's worth

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Building a 120 gallon aquarium cabinet and canopy step by step: a photo album

For my most recent custom aquarium cabinet commission, I decided to take pictures throughout the design and building process.  The resulting photo album isn't just a great way to keep my clients apprised of their project's progress.  It's also a treasure trove of teaching moments for anybody interested in building their own large aquarium cabinet. 

If you ever wanted to see how something like this is made, take a peek at this Picasa Photo Album - "120 Mafia" (so named because the aquarium will house African cichlids...a "Mafia Tank").  Many of the pics include captions explaining the picture and what's being shown. 

This particular build includes some innovations you won't see in many other cabinets, and information to help you incorporate these innovations into your own designs.  I also address some of the common challenges in designing and building cabinets for large aquariums.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I dream of HackerCraft

For some reason, I have an urge to spend a lot more time on the sea.  Along with that comes my desire to one day build my own boats.  I know that boat building begins with simple row boats.  But what I really want to build is a clone of a HackerCraft runabout.  Gorgeous!

Monday, October 17, 2011

My second table for Five Horses Tavern is finished

the second table
I have completed the second of two commissions by the owner of Five Horses Tavern in Davis Square for solid wood table tops.  The first top, completed in September, was to be reminiscent of Wine on Deck's Wine Wings, the second, a "matching" top with to complement the first table.

the first table
Both tables are now installed in the Tavern.  Attaching the solid wood tops to the iron pedestal bases required the use of plywood "interfaces" that allowed me to screw the bases to the table tops along a single center line, and then use table clips to secure the top to the plywood.  This allows the table to expand and contract freely over the seasons, and should prevent it from warping or cupping.

We shall see!  I am excited because this is my first time making something for a commercial client, which will be on view by hundreds of people every day.

The second top also represents the first project I made with my new Robland X31.  The X31's 12" jointer allowed me to use 12" wide boards in the glue-up.  I found an amazing 13" wide walnut board for this purpose, and it gives the table an excellent warm feeling.

See the table at Five Horses Tavern, 400 Highland Ave., Somerville, MA.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Resawing Tips

I came across a .PDF article, "Tip #47 Resawing", by Nick Engler, while researching band saw blade speed.  It's a great overview of re-sawing on the band saw.  It has a good explanation of the different types of blades, plus a discussion of blade speed, something I am very interested in tweaking on my own band saw. 

If you are interested in re-sawing, making veneers, or modifying your saw to be better at these tasks, I recommend reading this PDF. 


I came across this excellent web page about band saws while reading through a post on the Sawmill Creek forums.  If you're looking for another experienced woodworker's "take" on bad saw best practice, take a look at this page.  I found it interesting, especially since I happen to have acquired a 1.5 hp DC motor this past weekend...

New Baldor and Leeson motors: 2 hp, 3 hp, and 1.5 hp DC motors!!

By now everybody knows that if you need something, and it needs to be an exceptionally good deal, you can find it if you watch and wait on Craigslist.  So it was with the Robland X31 I recently purchased locally for $1,000.

And so it is with five motors I picked up today, about an hour west of my shop.  All motors were major scores.  They include: a 3 phase, 3 hp Baldor continuous duty, a 230 volt, single phase 2 hp Leeson motor, a 180 volt DC 1.5 hp Leeson, a Boston Gear reducer with a GE 1/2 hp spinning at 90 rpm, and a General gear motor spinning at 65 rpm.

I plan to use the gear motors for a wet grinder, and possibly a power feed.  I may also use the DC motor for a power feed, since these motors can be run at any rpm in their range. 

I plan to use either the 2 horse or the 3 horse motor on my Delta 14" band saw, which has a riser block, and which I'd like to use for re-sawing. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Festool Forum

Sometimes, I go to the Festool Owner's Group, at http://festoolownersgroup.com/

There are a lot of good conversations on their forums.  For example, this one describing how a Festool-centered woodworker made a large, 14-foot-long dining table: http://festoolownersgroup.com/fun-games-diversions/celebrate-7000-members-and-growing-with-the-%27show-us-your-shop-giveaway%27!/msg80118/#msg80118

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Making Bar Tables from solid oak

I recently began taking work for a finish carpenter based in Brighton.  He has a lot of experience and a complete wood shop, but when I offered to take any "overflow" work, he immediately offered up the task of gluing up six bar room table tops.

These tables were to be 2" thick, 28" square, and made from solid white oak.

Making these tables involved a few "firsts" for me:

45 gallon hex aquarium stand build

For pics of the finished piece visit my post at: http://idvwdesign.blogspot.com/2011/10/my-first-hexagonal-aquarium-cabinet.html

 But, if you want to see a cabinet being made, click on these links:

here is a photo album of my recent 45 gallon hex stand and canopy build: https://picasaweb.google.com/isaacvw/HexagonCabinetCanopy?authuser=0&feat=directlink

For more info about this project visit my post at: http://idvwdesign.blogspot.com/2011/10/my-first-hexagonal-aquarium-cabinet.html

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dye another day: Hardwood table tops get pop with trans-tint dye

Last week I was asked to make a companion table for a piece commissioned by Five Horses Tavern in Davis Square, Somerville.  Rather than try and make an exact copy (which wasn't a paragon of table top design, anyway), we decided to re-interpret the existing table's themes and wood species.  I saw it as a chance to

My first hexagonal aquarium cabinet & canopy

I was recently commissioned to build a cabinet and canopy for a 45 gallon hexagonal aquarium.  It was my first hexagonal cabinet, and it presented the unique challenges associated with 45 degree (rather than 90 degree) corners.  In order to play-up the hexagonal shape of the cabinet, I made special tapered panels for the front doors.  These panels, trapezoidal in shape, helped to give this burly cabinet a little height and lift.  Of course, it also gets lift from being 36" from the floor to the bottom of the tank, which is my standard practice with aquarium cabinets (for some reason I never see anything else over 34", more commonly 30").

The cases for the cabinet and canopy are 100% solid cherry, except for the lid on the canopy, which is of cherry veneered plywood with a cherry hardwood edge. 

Apart from the 45 degree corners, this was also my first time putting a hardwood edge on plywood using a miter lock bit to cut a glue-joint.  The doors are my first non-symmetrical panels.  This also represents my second attempt at making solid-wood raised panels. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wine Bars get improved wall bracket

I have been installing more Wine Bars in the past few weeks, and I'm happy to report that all of the installations are doing fine, and they look great!  I have made one design improvement, however: I added a 1/16" thick sheet of fine cork to the back of the wall bracket, where the bracket meets the wall.

This improvement is part of an ongoing pursuit of "heirloom quality" for all of Wine on Deck's products.  While I have seen plenty of wall-mounted products, from mirrors to wine racks to shelves, I haven't seen many products that combine good looks with long-lasting mounting systems.  I'm proud that the Wine Bar has achieved this difficult balance.  But there is always more room for improvement.  After all, heirloom quality might mean a product life of 150 years.  But it could also mean a product that lasts for 1,000 years, or more.  I strive for my creations to last as long as possible.