Mark ( on January 17th, 2010

Next in the series of reviews of DVD’s from the SmartFlix Woodworking University, I’d like to review the DVD: Basic Box Making by Doug Stowe.  This DVD is one of many DVD’s produced by Taunton Press for Fine Woodworking.

boxmakingDoug Stowe is a woodworker from Eureka Springs, Arkansas and he has been known for his wooden box making for many years.  This DVD is a companion to his book: Basic Box Making and it covers the design and construction of  his boxes as well as many of the jigs and techniques that he uses to make them.

Box making is something that has always appealed to me.  The scale and scope of the work are such that beautiful and functional objects can be made with minimal material and in a relatively short time.  However, if you have ever made a wooden box, you quickly realize that a good deal of precision and detailed woodworking is required to execute one properly.  This DVD aims to demonstrate the skills and techniques required for every woodworker to do just that.

It is evident from this DVD that Stowe is a very good teacher.  He covers things carefully, and clearly, and in terms that a novice can understand.  However, that is not to say that the material covered in the DVD is elementary.  In fact, this is one of the better woodworking DVD’s that I’ve seen.  During the presentation of his box making techniques, Stowe covers the basics of wood movement and the stock preparation steps necessary to take rough stock to the point where the joinery can be cut for each box.  This info will benefit any woodworker in his or her quest toward any kind of woodworking project, not just wooden boxes.

Along the way, various jigs and techniques are covered as Stowe produces several elegant boxes made from domestic hardwoods.  Stowe actually takes the viewer through the construction and use of most of the jigs that he uses in his work.  Some of these are the: cross-cut, miter, box-joint and miter key sleds for the table saw and a spline cutting jig for the router table.  This is a big plus for viewers that may think that lots of expensive equipment is necessary to do accurate and precise work.  Stowe’s approach is decidedly low-tech but extremely effective.  This is evidenced in his discussion on jig building, including his router-table which is as simple and elegant as it gets!

The DVD also includes the construction of several box designs as well as discussions on sanding and finishing and hardware installation.  Stowe’s flipping story stick method for routing hinge mortises on the router table and attaching box hinges is worth the rental alone.  Throughout the DVD there are many other bits of knowledge from a seasoned woodworker/designer that are vary valuable in their own right – and as an added bonus the viewer gets to see how several beautiful boxes are made!  The designs that Stowe builds are a foundation for many other types of wooden boxes that can be made on the woodshop.  If you’ve ever considered making a wooden box this DVD is one that you should see.

Don’t forget, if you are a new customer and interested in renting these DVD’s, SmartFlix has offered readers of The Craftsman’s Path a $2 discount coupon for your use. Simply use the coupon code: CRAFTPATH when you check out!

Mark ( on January 12th, 2010

The moment of truth finally arrived and it was time to glue up some of the parts of the chair that have been worked on for some time now.  I can tell you that with so much time put into creating these parts and knowing how fast a botched glue-up can occur, it was with some trepidation that I approached this task.

Front Leg Transition PieceDrilling-Front-Leg-Transition-PieceBefore doing any glue-ups I needed to create some transition blocks that will sit atop the front legs where they will join into the arms.  These blocks started as 3″ by 5″ blocks at about 1 1/2″ thick and will get sculpted into the arms and legs after they are mounted with glue and screws.  Because of the compound angles of the front legs the angles for the screw holes were marked by eye to align with both angles of the front legs.  This was done on adjacent faces of the transition blocks with a white pencil.   Then the blocks were put into a vise at the drill press so that both of the lines were set square to the table and the screw holes were drilled.

Gluing-Front-Leg-Transition-PieceWith the holes in the transition blocks drilled, the blocks were held in position on top of the legs and the holes were started into the tops of the front legs.  These holes were drilled to depth after removing the blocks to allow the bit to reach full depth.  Next, glue was applied to the tops of the legs and the underside of the transition blocks and the screws were put in aligning the inside faces of the blocks with the inside edge of the front leg joints.

Front Leg Tansition LayoutBandsawing Front Leg Transition 1Bandsawing Front Leg Transition 2Front Leg Transitions in PlaceAfter the glue on the transition blocks dried, curves were laid out on two faces of the blocks.  These curves were done such that they can be sawed on the band saw and/or ground away to fair the  legs into the arms.  I cut two ends of the blocks on the band saw but kept the offcuts to help later with clamping to the arms.  The remaining material will be ground away when shaping the legs into the arms.

I spent a good deal of time dry fitting both the front and rear legs into their respective joints and dry clamping the assemblies to check the fit of the joints.  Because of time passing between the initial fitting of these joints the wood has dried out and a few small gaps appeared.   As a result I needed a couple of tiny shims the close the gaps.  Finally satisfied with the fit of the joints I moved on to the glue up.

Clamping Rear Leg JointGluing Rear LegsI can tell you that the few words that I write here will not convey the amount of prep work and effort involved in the glue up of the legs.  The rear legs were first and involved using a couple of 6 degree wedges to apply clamping pressure appropriately.  The joints were glues with a liberal coating of Titebond III one legs at a time.  Once the first leg was fully seated, then the other leg could be glued before clamps were applied.  After the clamping the excess glue was wiped away with a dry towell and the joints were left to dry over night.

Gluing Front LegsThe next day, it was time for the glue up of the front legs.  I rigged a temporary support to hold the chair up as the first legs was being glued.  The other leg was left in place as a clamping point until the first joint had fully seated.  Then the other leg could be glued and the clamps were applied.  No clamping blocks were needed because the front legs have a “built-in” set of blocks in the excess material at the joint that will eventually be ground away to fair the legs into the the seat.

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Mark ( on December 16th, 2009

Next in the series of reviews of DVD’s from the SmartFlix Woodworking University, this time I review the DVD: Router Joinery by Gary Rogowski.  This DVD is one of many DVD’s produced by Taunton Press for Fine Woodworking.

Router JoineryThis DVD highlights the use of what is arguably the most versatile power tool in a woodworking shop, for joinery tasks. Rogowski is a well-spoken teacher and in this DVD he clearly covers most all of the basic information necessary to get started using the router for various joinery tasks used to make furniture.

Included in the DVD are discussions on the various types of routers and their uses as well as descriptions of the cutting action of the tool and how it can be safely used in both free handed and router table orientations.  Simple animations show the cutting action of the bit as material is cut using various techniques.  Rogowski covers standard cutting and climb-cutting operations and when each should be used.  This information is definitely valuable for the novice user of the router to understand in order to avoid possible accidents with the tool.

Rogowski illustrates various joinery techniques including: dados, groves, rebates, half-laps, mortise and tenon joints (with both traditional and loose tenons), and through and half-blind dovetails using simple commercial jigs.  In this age where woodworking gizmo’s are available for nearly every possible job, Rogowski’s demonstration and use of a no frills router table made from a single piece of melamine and a single board fence is particularly refreshing.  The techniques that he shows for making and adjusting joinery on this simple router table are well worth the rental fee of the DVD.  Also shown are some other simple jigs used for mortising and dadoing operations with the router.

While no router DVD would be complete without showing the cutting of dovetails using a router and jig, it is notable that Rogowski uses probably the most simple of jigs available for his demonstrations of both through and half-blind dovetails.  In doing so, he illustrates that perfect dovetails can be achieved with simple tools and a bit of attention to setups while testing in scrap wood.

For anyone new to the router and interested in exploring its potential for making furniture joints, this DVD would be a good starting point to become educated.  The router is a versatile tool and with some basic knowledge and simple setups and jigs, a great deal of furniture joinery tasks can be accomplished both safely and extremely accurately.

Don’t forget, if you are a new customer and interested in renting these DVD’s, SmartFlix has offered readers of The Craftsman’s Path a $2 discount coupon for your use. Simply use the coupon code: CRAFTPATH when you check out!

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Mark ( on December 11th, 2009

The arms for the chair start with two rectangular blanks about 5 inches wide.  These blanks needed to be roughly shaped before the outlines of the actual arms can be cut out at the band saw.

Marking Arm BlanksThe shaping process for the arms involves two steps.  The first step utilizes a jig that facilitates cove-cutting a grove diagonally along the length of each arm blank.  This cove cut removes stock that will eventually become the area that your arms rest in when sitting in the chair.  The second step of shaping the arms will occur when they have been attached to the chair and more stock can be removed and the curves can be faired into the legs.  Before doing any cutting, I first marked the outlines of the arms on the blanks so that I could see their eventual orientation and not get confused while performing the following steps.

Cove Cutting Arms on Table Saw 1Cove Cutting Arms on Table Saw 2Cove Cutting Arms on Table Saw 3The jig for the cove-cutting at the table saw is a rectangular box with an angled portion that rides against a fence while transporting the arm blank over the table saw blade.  The angled piece allows the blank to travel, top face down, across the blade so that the resulting cove is cut diagonally through the length of the arm blank.  These cuts were done in a slow and methodical manner, raising the blade about 1/32″ – 1/16″ for each pass over the blade.  The jig was moved across the blade slowly to allow the blade to cut the cove as smoothly as possible and to also allow the significant dust to be cleared.  Even with this technique I stopped every few passes and used the shop-vac to clean the dust remaining on the table top.  The jig has handles with threaded rod through t-nuts to clamp the blanks in place as well as a handle to help push it through the blade.  I also used a Gr-ripper push block for added control and security.  The jig flips over and the handle reverses for the alternate arm to be cut with a reverse orientation of the diagonal cove.  The first two pictures show the right arm being cut and the last picture shows the left arm.

Marking Arm Outlines on Cove Cut ARmsBand Sawing AmsRough CUt ArmsGluing Rocker StacksOnce the cove cuts were completed I again traced the outlines of the arms onto the blanks (albeit a carefully due to the now undulating surface of the arms).  Then the arms were band sawed to shape and sanded with the oscillating spindle sander to remove the band saw marks along their edges.  In the picture you can see the rough shaped arms after cutting and sanding.

The other step that I completed at this time was to glue up stacks to the rockers.  These stacks consist of rocker strips and are located at the points where the front and rear legs will contact the rockers.  The stacks serve to elevate the chair above the rockers an additional distance as well as to provide material for shaping and fairing curves from the rockers into the legs.  This was a bit of a tricky operation as the stacks wanted to squirm away while they were being glued.  I again used the same rocker clamping caul to distribute the clamping pressure to the stacks.

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Mark ( on December 2nd, 2009

With the band sawing of the rear legs completed and the head rest holes drilled I set out to shape the rear legs and to band saw and shape the front legs.

Routing Rear LegRouter Fixture for LegsSome of the shaping of the legs could be done with a round-over bit in a router table however, because of the irregular curves of the legs some round-overs required a unique fixture to be used with the router.  This fixture is the donut-shaped piece that you can see in the picture.  The donut allows for the tight curves near the leg joints to be rounded over reasonably well.

I first completed the round-overs on the flat faces of the rear-legs with a 5/8″ RO bit at the router table.  Next I moved to the router fixture with the same bit and proceeded to round over the other edges (all except the inside long edge).  This operation was a bit tricky and required a good deal of attention to stay safe and to achieve good results.   Noting the direction of rotation of the router bit (as it related to the curves) was very important so that areas would not tear out during the routing operation.  I needed to always make sure I was routing down-hill or I stopped short of the bit exiting the piece.  I kept my hands a good bit away from the spinning bit and in some instances avoided routing all the way to the ends of the stock to avoid any chances of kickback or over cutting.

Shaping Rear Legs with SpokeshaveShaping Rear Legs with Rasp and SpokeshaveBecause I did not route to the ends of the work pieces on all edges, there was some cleanup to do with a spokeshave , rasp and file.  The ends of the legs will ultimately be shaped to final dimension when they are attached and faired to the rockers and arms at a later stage in the chair build.  However, there were also other areas in which the round-over bit was not able to do a complete job and/or where areas needed to be blended to create a flowing curve.  This hand shaping was actually quite enjoyable.  There’s something very organic about shaping wood by hand with these kinds of tools – it establishes a real connection with the material and form that you are creating.

Trimming Bottoms of Front LegsMarking Front Legs From Template 2Band Sawing Front LegsFirst Band Sawed Cuts on Font LegsMarking Front Legs for Second Cuts on Band SawOnce the shaping of the rear legs was completed I moved on to the front legs.  The first step was to trim the bottoms of the legs at an angle (~8 degrees).  Then, I was able to lay out the leg outlines from a template for band sawing.  The front legs were band sawed to follow this outline and then a secondary curve was free-handed to define the final leg thickness.  After the legs were marked, they were band sawed again being careful to maintain a square cut while accounting for the irregular surfaces of the legs.

Chair Dry Fit with all Four LegsChair Dry Fit With all Four Legs ShapedI followed a similar process to shape the front legs, using the same router fixture and 5/8″ RO bit.  However, due to the smaller size of the front legs I used a quick clamp (minus the soft rubber pad) to hold each leg from the center at the leg joint in addition to holding one end with my hand so that I could stay safely away from the router bit.  A similar bit of hand shaping was required after the rough router work.  With all of the initial shaping done on the legs I put them into position for a test fit.  It is starting to look like a chair!

Next up: Creating and rough shaping the arms