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About my woodworking experience...I've been woodworking for nearly 40 years. I started in the mid 70's, when my son needed a toy chest for his toys. All I had to work with was a small box of tools that I collected while working on an antique car (another interest at the time). I work on it in the evenings after work, using a ball-pien hammer, a can of used nails, and some scrap lumber I salvaged at work from an old pallet. I worked on it in a damp basement and didn't have a workbench, so I used part of another pallet to fashion a useable workbench so I didn't have to kneel on the floor. But after several evening, in about a week, I had a working toy box. It was pretty rough by today's standards, but it was sturdy enough that my son still uses it to this day.

Not long after the toy box project, someone gave us some used furniture-- some vintage pieces that needed refinishing. So my next project was to refinish a coffee table and a mirror frame. Not knowing you don't have to disassemble furniture in order to refinish it, my first order of business was to take the coffee table and picture frame apart. I ended up breaking the beautiful bevel edge mirror glass, cracked the frame, as well as the table pedestal trying to remove the legs. So the first tools I purchased specifically for woodworking was a bottle of glue and a pair of c-clamps. But somehow I got the table refinished and put back together. I had to put the picture frame aside for quite a few years until we could finally afford to buy a new mirror for it, but that too eventually was completed and we still use in the bedroom.

My job at the time didn't allow us to stay in one place for long, and sometimes we weren't fortunate enough to find a place where I had the space to continue with my woodworking, so it was off and on for about the next ten years. Then when our oldest got to school age, we decided to move back home, buy a house and settle down. Being a young family with several children, we couldn't afford much of a house at the time but found a realtor that help us get into an old 100 year old house. Nothing wrong with that you might think, but that was back when the TV show This Old House was in it's infancy, and people only looked at old houses like ours as, well, old houses.No one heard of buying old houses and restoring them, so our idea of doing so was considered more of a waste of time, than an investment. But over the next 20 years, we put a lot of sweat and tears into that old house, and thanks to that TV show, we turned the house into the showcase of the block.

One thing that help with the transformation of the house was it had an old garage at the end of the lot (after some research when we found some horse bridals, we found out it use to be the local tack house back in the early 1900's. But the little building attached to the garage was my workshop for the next 10 years (until we were fortunate enough to be able to replace it with a suitable garage and workshop, then another 15 years in the new shop) was spent working on house projects, both inside and out.

Outside the house, I rebuilt the porch-- floor, posts, and railing, including recreating all the original gingerbread trim. Inside I spent most of the time refinishing woodwork and floors. Eventually we remodeled the bathroom, added a second 1/2 bath, and remodeled the kitchen (we actually did the kitchen twice during the 25 years).

Over those 25 years, I was able to purchase a few major power tools as well as an assortment of hand-tools (most because they were "necessary to complete a current project" (at least that what I told my wife!), and was getting proficient at building furniture pieces. I built several pieces for the house, as well as friends and family.

I was especially proud of the second kitchen remodel (attached are some photo's). To family and friends, this was just another fool hardy project. We couldn't afford brand new cabinets, but we found a surplus store that sold mismatched cabinets, so I made notes of all the cabinets they had, then went to work coming up with a kitchen layout that would work with the cabinets they had. The big advantage we had was that we wanted the cabinets painted so they fit the vintage look of the rest of the house, so it didn't matter what finish was on the cabinets-- light or dark oak, mahogany, or maple-- it didn't matter. And so all the doors would match, I decided to make all the doors myself, so all I really needed was the boxes, so I didn't have to worry about what style doors were on them either. This way, as long as the cabinet boxes themselves were the right size, I could use them. Eventually I was able to work out the kitchen and fit cabinets all the way around the room. I even had a short wall that we didn't want the cabinets very deep, so I trimmed them all to make a panty style set of cabinets complete with glass doors.

Moving the workshop... As the years went on, the children moved out of the house, and as we got older the house maintenance got to be more than we wanted to handle, so we decided to move to a more maintenance free house (and closer to the grandchildren). Fortunately, the new house had a full basement, where I was able to setup my new shop-- and even had room to add some new equipment, and now I can say I have a pretty well equipped workshop with an assortment of power tools: planer, jointer, drill press, several types of saws: table saw, band saw (both floor and table-top), scroll-saw, radial arm saw. As well as all the various hand tools that help make the job easier. See Studio.

Eventually, I decided I wanted to try my hand at woodturning. So I purchased a midi-lathe and took a few classes. Like most other newly obsessed woodturners, I started scavenging for any wood I could find. We live in a gated lake-side community with lots of trees, and there's always a tree being taken down somewhere, so I found I had a treasure trove of material right in my own backward. As my turning obsession got bigger, so was my desire for a larger lathe, and eventually I was able to purchase one that allowed me to turn larger pieces. But as it turns out sometimes, the opposite happened-- my turning interest started to lean toward smaller items and I now use it most often for making pens.

I purchased the bigger lathe for turning larger pieces, but found those larger pieces required a lot more prep work, and most of all, was a lot more dangerous-- ask anyone that turns big pieces and they'll tell you it's not for the faint at heart. It's a scary thing watching a fresh peice of off-balanced wood spinning on a lathe! So I found I liked turning smaller peices-- cups, lidded boxes, shallow dishes, etc. Another item I started turning was cane sticks. Yes, you can just use a wooden dowel , but a tapered shaft can looks so much nicer! So I started making custom canes.

Then one day someone ask me if I could make them a pen. I was looking for something new to try, so I said sure. It was a small item I thought I could make in an evening, and shouldn't cost a lot to get into. Well, that can be true AND false. You can make pens with very little supplies, but the more of them you make, the better you want to make them, so the more you invest in all the little things that makes the pen nicer or the job easier.

Then one day I made the mistake of running across a website full of custom made acrylic fountain pens. The more pens I looked at, the more I drooled. I couldn't take my eyes off them! The site had a users forum, so I decided to joim and start asking questions. I was immediately told that I didn't have the right kind of lathe for making that type of pen--most penmakers use metal lathes for making their pens and I had a wood lathe. But that was the wrong thing to say. Anyone that knows me, knows I like a good challange. So I set to work figuring out how to make a fully custom all acrylic fountain pen with the equipment on hand. It took a while, and a lot of research, but one by one I was able to make each of the individual peices. They weren't perfect, but good enough to complete a full pen, and proove to myself that it was possible to make the pens with a wood lathe.

My pen obsession started about five years ago. Since then I've made quite a few pens, and they're still my favorite woodturning project. But I'm still making a variety of other items. When I got my first lathe, I started a tradition of making hand-turned Christmas ornaments, and hand-turned eggs for Easter. That's on top of the yearly hand-made Christmas gifts I make as well. This year I had another request added to my list of Christmas projects. My granddaughter is into the popular brand doll of the day, and wanted a set of bunk beds for them for Christmas. When my daughter mentioned this, she commented on how expensive they were, yet how cheaply they seem to be made and wanted to know if I could do better. Of course that's all she had to say, I was off and running scrambling to make a set of doll bunk beds in a week.

To view all my past and current projects, click on the two icons in the navigation bar along the left column. The "FLAT wood" is the term used for projects made from boards or lumber. Round wood" is the term used for projects made on a lathe from round wood or logs.


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