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Dwa (Large) Projects

Building a Sam Maloof inspired rocking chair was tops on my woodworking bucket list.  I'm usually pretty set on not following plans and forging my own way with designing projects, but this was one that I decided would be best to learn from the best.  I purchased a set of plans and instructional book and video from Hal Taylor Rocking Chairs.  His design  is the best in my opinion and his instructional materials really made this daunting project very do-able.  

I probably should have used a less expensive type of wood for my first try, but I was under the gun to deliver this as a gift.  This is made of solid Hawaiian curly koa.  It took several years of shipping pieces of curly koa through airline luggage to accumulate enough material to build this little beauty.  I did, however, use some curly maple for the black slats to add some contrast.  Of course, my nerves were on edge as I was making this as any mistake would be literally be a costly mistake.  If you aren't familiar with the prices on this stuff, lets just say it's not an exaggeration to say curly koa can be anywhere from 5-10 times the cost of regular domestic hardwood!

I couldn't resisting checking craigslist the last time I was in Hawaii and scored a couple small slabs of curly mango.  I managed to lug one slab home-it just made the cutoff for oversize luggage on the plane!  It was sitting outside under some tarp for a little less than a year when the  wife requested a desk.  So ! got to working...

The curly mango table top has a yin/yang inlay consisting of curly koa and curly maple.  I used it as an accent, but mainly to make cover up an unsightly crack and bug damaged area right at the knot in the slab.  The table base is sugar maple.  Of course, I went all out and used some really nice curly koa for the drawer front with dovetailed maple drawer sides. I made my own drawer pull out of macassar ebony and curly maple.  This was a fun project and I just love all the figure that was just waiting to show itself. 

On our Xmas trip back to visit the inlaws in Hawaii, I finally finished up the other curly mango slab just in time to give this as a Christmas gift to my inlaws.  Unfortunately, this one had a lot of worm holes/bug damage.  I took a lot of time picking out all the damaged areas and then used a clear epoxy to fill in the gaps.  It looked pretty awful with all the holes everywhere at first.  But once I sanded the epoxy flat with the table and added the finish, the top still looked pretty amazing.  To save time, I made a simple coffee table base out of desert mesquite back in my shop and shipped it piecemeal in my luggage.  

There's an odd recessed dead space right behind my sofa that always bugged me.  We used to stick random narrow kids toys in this area until the powers that be (otherwise known as the Mrs.) commanded that a bookshelf be built to house my son's ever growing collection of books.  I toyed around with different ideas, until I came up with this wall mounted bookshelf.  It allows me to still utilize lower space right behind the sofa for toy storage while giving me plenty of new shelf space for books.  I had a nice slab of sycamore lying around and decided a live edge bookshelf would look really nice in the family room.  The main challenge to this project was how to safely secure the shelf to the wall and ensure it would carry the weight of lots of books.  I wound up using pocket holes (made using a Kreg HD jig) on the top of each shelf.  I used extra long structural screws (I got lucky and found these substitutes for lag screws that actually had a small enough washer-type head that actually fit in the pocket screws.  Each shelf has three of these 5" screws attached to the studs.  The vertical pieces of wood (connected to the horizontal shelves with housed lap dado joints) really help to make this shelf rock solid.  I got lucky with this slab as it had a lot of quarter sawn figure. 

The boss (my wife) decided it I needed to build a cubby to store my sons books (and eventually toys).  She already had some of those square canvas bins you find at Target.  I used those to give me the rough dimensions and decided that I didn't want a boring rectangular shape.  Instead, I opted for a step design, very much resembling Japanese Tansu chests.  To save on cost and the need to glue up panels together, I opted for purchasing 1x12 pine boards from my local big box store.  

One of the best and most obvious advantages of woodworking is being able to make furniture exactly they way you want it.  I find that even the higher end furniture stores tend to have very uniform pieces--using the same species of wood, having the usual formatted look, and not having any unique "flavor."  I decided that for me to really justify my hobby, I really have to make pieces that you just can't buy in a store.  In fact, some are borderline odd, which suits me just fine.  So take a look the pieces I've made so far.  Hopefully, I'll be able to add more pieces every so often.  Enjoy!

With a new baby on the way, I needed to get a bigger bed.  Pressed for time, the wife and I went to (egads, I have to admit) a cheapie furniture store to check out bed frames and mattress.  All the bed frames were junk.  Plus I really wanted to maximize the space underneath the mattress b/c storage is at a real premium these days.  Here's the product of my last minute efforts to finish the bed before the baby makes its debut.  

I equipped each drawer with full extension drawer slides and made the drawers super deep and long.  I'm planning on stuffing these drawers with...well...what else....stuff.  I know you might be thinking it doesn't make sense to have drawers at the head of the bed since it'll be blocked by a nightstand.  While that's true, I still wanted the drawers there for long term storage of items that I don't use frequently.  I couldn't stand wasting that space.

For the head board, I decided to use a board of curly birch that I had been saving for quite some time.  The joinery on this project was really fun.  The bed is can be disassembled and reassembled easily without the use of any screws or bolts.  For more details, click here


My son is quite the crawler and while we have a crib, he winds up sleeping in our bed pretty much all of the time.  As such, I don't get much rest because I'm paranoid he'll flip over or crawl off the edge of the bed.  So I had to come up with some sort of bed rail.  The wife actually ordered a commercial bed rail from amazon that really sucked.  We wound up returning it and I decided to whip something up myself.  Introducing...."Baby Jail!" FYI: the rails are all temporarily connected with inconspicuous clamps located in hidden areas to avoid making permanent marks like screw holes in the original bed.  This way, when we outgrow the need for the rails, I get my original bed frame back undamaged. Here's a shot of my sister watching my little guy.

I've been waiting to finally work on my first live-edge piece of furniture.  I had purchased this slab of redwood about a year ago with the hopes that someday I'd be inspired to make something out of it.  Well, that day finally came.  I decided to make a small table as a gift for my parents.  The tricky part of designing this table was trying to come up with a base that defied conventional design wisdom and yet would still be very stable.  I had toyed around with making flat rectangular blocks to serve as the legs as is the case with a lot of Asian-style benches, but I decided to just go a little crazy  and let some pencil doodling be the catalyst for this table. 



This is a decent angled shot of the table and the base.  The shape of the base is a bit quirky.  I was a bit worried about how it might turn out--it's really different looking.  But overall, I guess I'm pretty happy with it.  Sometimes, you just have to let yourself think outside the box.  I could have tried to make the base out of some type of hardwood (e.g. cherry or jatoba), but in the end I decided to stick with redwood all the way.  I was hoping the curved design of the base would help dress up plain old looking redwood 2x8 's.  I'm not sure if it's a mission accomplished type of deal, but I'm pretty happy with the results.  More importantly, I think my folks are pretty happy with their new table. 


This is the bottom side view of the table.  This is a good shot of the odd shape I was going for in this table.  And just FYI, I used no screws or any other type of hardware to make this table.  If you're thinking that the base seems to have two plugs that might be hiding guessed wrong!  Actually, I glued up dowels to serve as reinforcing "floating tenons" to help reinforce the joints--so there aren't any screws underneath those wooden dowels/plugs.  It was tough realizing that the bottom of the tabletop wouldn't be seeing much action--even the bottom side of this slab is so breathtaking that it seems like such a waste to be face down without anyone to admire it.  Oh well, I put the best foot forward...or in this case best side facing upwards.







Look at the curl, burl, and figure contained in this slab!  Plus, this slab has a really nice combination of rich red-colored heartwood surrounded by warm yellow sapwood along the edges.  I was a bit unsure as to how to finish this piece.  Normally I'd use a simple rubbed on oil finish, but redwood is really soft.  So I took this opportunity to try my hand at using Behlen's Rockhard Tabletop finish.  This stuff gives good protection and like the names says, it does feel "rockhard."  I expected to get that plastic feel with this kind of finish and sure enough I wasn't disappointed.  I did try to mitigate that a bit by sanding the penultimate coat down to about 400 grit.  Then I rubbed on an oil/varnish finish.  Then after rubbing the finish out with 0000 steel wool, I polished it off with some automobile polishing compound.  The finish is smooth as silk and hard enough to give this table plenty of protection. 



Sorry, just had to post another view of this tabletop.  Can you tell I love all the action that's going in the grain of this table?  The ripples, burl, 3-D popping out quality, amazing colors--what more can you ask for?  Oh yeah, I also used a butterfly inlay to keep a small crack from widening.  As it turns out, I was able to use inlay stock that had some curly grain in it as well.  I love being able to let the wood speak for itself!  In any case, I hope you enjoy your new table mom & dad!


The Mrs. picked up crafting as her new hobby.  I found so much joy in woodworking that I really wanted to be supportive of her new interest.  To help her organize her growing collection of beads, flowers, and other supplies I remembered seeing this wall shelf in Fine Woodworking Magazine.  It's made of Alder and African Mahogany and it holds a LOT of stuff.  The shelf comes apart for easy assembly, disassembly, and transport.  

I happened to score a good deal on some slabs of curly mango wood while visiting the inlaws in Hawaii.  I was planning on working on the slabs on a later visit, but couldn't resist finding out what it would look like.  After a few hours of sanding and a couple coats of danish oil, I managed to "frame" this little bit of Mother Nature's art.  I slapped on mounting hardware and it now hangs on a wall at the inlaws' home. 

 I made this hope chest as a surprise gift for my mother-in-law.  She had mentioned that she always wanted one, but the ones she looked at were pricey and looked a bit cheaply made.  So I decided to build her a fancy hope chest.  It's built from solid cherry, curly cherry, quilted maple, and aromatic cedar.

Aromatic cedar is just wonderful stuff. While I was cutting it on my tablesaw, my whole shop never smelled so good!  I lined the entire inside of the hope chest, including the lid with the stuff.  Tip:  If the aroma ever wears off from your aromatic cedar, just take a little sandpaper to scuff the surface up.  Light sanding seems to expose fresh oils to the surface of the cedar (causing your closets or in this case hope chest to smell great and the moths to stay away).

I guess its become a habit now that on every trip to Hawaii, I manage to bring home at least one piece of wood.  In this case, I got this awesome piece of Koa.  The shape was a bit odd, but the figure and grain is just amazing.  I wound up making a three legged base out of jabota to house this slab.  The finished product serves as a charging station/table for the boss lady as well something to make me happy whenever I look at all that curly grain!  I thought the opening/gap in the back part of the table (due to the cut of the slab) might be a bit awkward, but it actually functions as a handy access outlet/port through which to pull the wires for the chargers.

So I finally decided to make a piece of furniture just for myself.  Go figure, I've got a shop full of all these furniture making tools and machines and I still pay my bills on a beat up particle board desk, keep my socks in a hand me-down dresser drawer made of junk, and shove my overflowing collection of magazines and books on a plastic bookshelf.  But after amassing more and more woodoworking, gardening, welding, and cook books I was quickly losing floorspace and enough was enough.  The writing was on the wall (or in this case, the floor) was time to make a bookshelf.  Of course, I figured if I've waited this long to make something for myself (shop furniture doesn't count!), it had better be unique and pleasing to my eye.  So here it is.  This is my maple and cherry bookshelf.  I liked the shape of this design and even though the spacing between the shelves may look a bit tall--look at the photo below and you'll see why.

Most of my books here are reference books on various hobbies of mine.  The odd thing is most of them happened to be oversized books.  So I custom designed this bookshelf to keep these very books in order.  I used 5/4 stock so that the resulting shelf thickness would be 1".  I figured the extra thickness would prevent sagging and I liked the uncommon beefier look (since most bookshelves are 3/4" thick).  Several coats of Tried and True Varnish Oil and some Renaissance Wax and this bookshelf was ready to be put to work.





Here's a shot of the top of the bookshelf.  I'll let that popular woodworker's saying say it all:  "Let the wood speak for itself."  


 Again, let the wood speak for itself.  So listen up!

On a trip to my alma mater, Cal Berkeley, I passed by a lumberyard and saw this beautiful slab of maple.  I knew I was going to make something out of it.  Fast forward 5+ years and I finally got around to it.  The slab is a good 3" thick and super heavy.  The slab was completely in the rough and there was no way I could joint or thickness plane this sucker with the machines I have.  If you're curious as to how I surfaced this slab, check out my techniques and craftsmanship link.  As for the legs, I wanted to keep the design simple as to keep the slab as the focal point.  To accomplish that, I found some 4x douglas fir header cutoffs headed for the landfill and created a three legged stand.

This is the underside of the table.  The legs and rails are joined with mortise and tenon joinery.  I had a couple concerns with securing the tabletop to the legs.  First, a solid slab this wide will undoubtedly expand and contract with humidity.  Secondly, the table is so heavy and oddly shaped that making the top detachable would make moving this beast less, well, beastly.  So I came up with this floating dowel idea.  When the dowel is pulled out, the slab top pops right off the stand.  As an added bonus, since the dowel "floats" the tabletop can expand and contract as much as it wants without causing any problems.

Learning from George Nakashima's trademark design, I used ebony butterfly keys to keep the slab from splitting any further.  Plus, the contrasting colored inlay just looks pretty cool.  In this single slab top, you have curly figure, burl, spalting, different colored heartwood and sapwood....just amazing stuff.  Nature sure does know what its doing.

My in-laws surprised me by getting me a new Apple desktop.  It's a really nice looking computer and my particle board desk just doesn't do it justice.  It's like seeing the Mona Lisa sitting atop a trashcan.  So after much prompting by the new Mrs., I finally decided to get rid of my junky desk.  I even used Google Sketchup on my new computer to make a rough drawing of my desk.  So here it is! 

Update:  Now that my son is 3 and eager to write/draw, my wife told me it was time I made him a little desk.  After toying with different design ideas, it made perfect sense to make a miniature version of my desk.  We bought the kid size chair at costco, but I went all out for the desk.  I used maple (with a few pieces with some nice curly figure for the tabletop), and curly koa for the drawer front.  I used mortise and tenon construction and even (sort of) handcut half blind dovetails for the drawer.  That's an expensive kids table, but since I only get a little bit of woodworking nowadays I wanted to make it worth my while.  Hopefully, he will be able to use this table for his kids someday (although, I did burn his name on the side of the table).

Here's a good shot of the tabletop.  I really love the look of quilted maple with cherry.  I know this design is something I've done before, but I don't mind using the same combination of wood for something I'm making for my own house.  I did play around with the actual shape of the desk a bit because I figured it would be good to change things up at least a bit.  Besides, I like making pieces that are unique.  So for this design I wanted to created a floating tabletop effect.  

My Mac is pretty awesome.  I can't get over the size of the screen.  I really like the streamlined design of my new computer.  This allows me to really showcase my desk and the computer all at the same time.  Here you can see that I employed a drop-front drawer for my keyboard and mouse.  I got the hardware from Rockler.  It's not super sturdy, but I'm still pretty happy with how it works.  They were the only retailer to have this type of hardware and what do you expect for $10.  

I know some of you might wonder why I'd put glass on top of a nice tabletop like this one.  The top really does invite you to run your fingers across it,  but I know this desk will be a magnet for un-coastered cold sweating drinks!  EGADS!!!!  It goes without saying that some protective glass was the only way to go.  I did splurge and got some 1" beveled 1/4 inch glass.  It really gives the table a nice finished look.  Oh yeah, after much hemming and hawing, I still wound up finishing this table with Tried and True Varnish Oil.  I know, I know, lots of people don't like how long it takes to cure, but I'm still pretty happy with using this product.  And I definitely don't miss the headaches I get from smelling all those solvents in other types of finishes.  Now the tricky part is trying to keep my desk clear of clutter and allow the quilted maple grain strut its stuff!

My sister commissioned me to build her a custom closet organizer for her house.  It was wasn't fine woodworking, but nevertheless it was fun.  I used pre-finished maple plywood with edgebanding.  I'm pretty happy with the way they came out.  It amazing out shelving can make things look so much more organized.

Plus, because I built some of these units at her house (1 hour drive away), I was able to justify buying one of those pricey Festool plunge cut saws.  Man is that sucker sweet!  The use of guide rails and the plunge function--geez, why didn't someone think of this sooner!  I'll be sure to use this saw to deal with my sheet goods.  

These shelves were for my sisters pantry.  the challenging part of this project was the shape of the pantry, I had to custom fit the shelves to fit the weird back wall.  Additionally, to give the shelves some structural support, I used a 2" thick square maple post with notched dados to house the shelves.  Some glue and pocket hole screws and these shelves can handle some serious weight!

Got CD's? 

So I made this stereo cabinet for my sister and her husband.  They have a charming house and it seems as though they've taken quite a liking to some of the pieces I've made for them.  So after hanging out there for a bbq, I noticed that there were tons of CD's and a stereo just sitting on the floor.  It didn't take much for me to start dreaming up a new home for the CD's and stereo.  In the end, I guess I was inspired by the look of those classic Zenith TVs that were really popular in the 70s and 80s.  Of course, it didn't hurt that I had a single board of curly lyptus just screaming to be used.

Now that I think about it, I'm gonna have to give my brother-in-law some grief for keeping this dinosaur of a stereo around.  As you can see, the door uses flip top hardware.  I tried to make this project as symmetrical as possible.  I left the back of the cabinet open for ventilation.

Look at all those CD's.  I made sure to maximize the number of CD's I could fit in this unit.  The nice thing about having "customers" who aren't too picky is being able to design the size and shape of a project in whatever way I want.  I made sure I used an actual CD to help figure out the dimensions of the CD drawers.  Each shelf of each drawer holds about 40 CD's for a whopping total of 240 CD's.  Plus the great thing is the CD's won't collect any dust whiled tucked away in their fancy new digs!

I just couldn't bring myself to slap on a store-bought drawer pull.  Though, towards the end of the project I definitely felt the the urge to just get the project done.  Ultimately though, I took a little extra time to design and make pulls like the one here.  These were made from macassar ebony scraps I had saved for an occasion just like this.  I'm really pleased with the way they look. 

Of course, I had to dress up this project a little bit more with some extra touches.  Here are some variable spaced dovetails with extra thin endgrain pins. 

While remodeling my house, I noticed that space was a bit odd.  The old existing setup only had one sink and I wanted double sinks.  Since I couldn't find a stock vanity to fit this space, I decided why not just build my own vanity.  So here it is.  I managed to fit two sinks with lots of storage space and I splurged a bit and made the floating panels out of quartersawn red oak.  I sure like looking at those interesting grain patterns.

Even though it took me over a year and a half to get around to completing this towel cabinet, I think it still matches fairly well with the vanity cabinet.  Again, I used quartersawn red oak for the door panels.  I added crown moulding to give it a more finished look.  And the great thing about making your own cabinets is I was able to take advantage of this space and made the cabinet a bit deeper than typical cabinets.  This sucker stores a whole lot of towels, soaps, and other stuff!  Plus I couldn't resist but add a towel rack to it as well.

This was my first real attempt at making a large piece of furniture using hardwood.  Feeling guilty for all the grief I've given my sister over the years, I decided to fulfill her request that I make her a table.  I wanted to make a table employing some different woodworking techniques.  You can see that the contrasting wood species of different colors really adds to the visual appeal of the piece (The light brown/beige wood is solid birch and the reddish wood is Lyptus-a specially grown variety of Eucalyptus from Brazil).  I kept playing with alternating the colors of the wood throughout the table. The entire table is made of 100% hardwood.  The only pieces of hardware used for this table were some figure 8's I used to secure the tabletop to the frame.  Aside from that, no other nails or screws were used.  Even the drawer pulls (which were made entirely in The New Chinky Workshop) were attached by glue and not screws or nails. 

This is my newly installed bamboo fence.  This was somewhat woodworking related, but I did have to learn a little about concrete/foundation work and land surveying in order to set the posts properly.  Plus, working with bamboo is quite different than working with solid lumber. 

It all started about a month ago when we were experiencing unusually high winds in Southern California.  The old post and fence that use to be here blew apart.  I tried to shove it back in place, hoping it would stay intact.  Of course that home improvement course of action lasted for all of 23 and a half hours.  After procrastinating for two weeks I finally decided it was time to do something about it.


BEFORE:  After 20 some odd years (installed by the previous owner), the 4x4 posts were rotted through.  Surprisingly the fiberglass panels seemed to be in excellent condition.  At first I thought about being cheap and re-using the panels for the new fence, but ultimately I decided my labor demanded that I design something that I could look back upon and say, "Damn, that looks good!" 

The demolition went fairly quickly, but then I started to worry because I discovered the existing posts were sitting in concrete.  All the how-to books I read about installing fencing mentioned digging up a large hole in the dirt and filling it up with concrete.  Here, I had to either work with a small pre-existing hole or consider busting up all of that concrete with a jackhammer!  It's a good thing those home centers sell everything under the sun.  I managed to to find some steel anchors that fit into the existing hole.  A little manipulation, elbow grease, and concrete and I was able to set the posts securely into the ground!  Can I just say my neighbors across the street could hear my sigh of relief.

AFTER:  I really like how clean the fence looks.  While I was intalling the fence, my five year old niece stopped by and gave her honest feedback (as only a five year old can).  She announced in her kindergarten voice, "The fence looks very Chinese."  Needless to say, I had a big chuckle.  This is after all, The New Chinky Workshop.  She was right and even though I don't know how she meant it, I'm almost certain she meant it as a compliment.  Accordingly, to reward her kind words, I let her pick a few strawberries from my aspiring strawberry patch--but that's another story.  I suppose the bamboo and the contrasting red/yellow color combination does look very Chinese or Asian at the very least.  This sure beats the old fence by a long shot!  Let's hope this fence will last more than the next 20 years!



Nearly three years after my best friend got a new place, I finally managed to give him a "house-warming present."  Being busy with work and not having much motivation during my off-time to start making sawdust, I kept putting off making this house-warming gift.  I knew I was going to give my buddy a table of some sort, but nothing really came to in terms of making something that he'd really like.  I knew my friend liked having unusual looking pieces of furniture and I guess I was sort of stuck in a rut...that is, until fate led me to design this little one of a kind oddity.

The inspiration happened when I was at a construction site.  A large video store was being remodeled and they were going to throw away thick pieces of tempered glass and cutoffs from large douglas fir ceiling beams.  Seeing all that good material going to the dump just seemed unholy to me.  Plus, I just couldn't get over how beautiful and thick the glass was.  I quickly grabbed a pencil and started doodling.  After some revisions and adjusting because of the materials I had at hand, I came up with this design.

My friend was really surprised when I delivered this to his door.  I called him up out of the blue and made it sound like I need to talk about some serious stuff...I neglected to tell him that the serious stuff was some serious furniture from The New Chinky Workshop. 

He seemed to really like the table.  I made sure he knew that this table was made practically 100% from stuff that was headed to the landfill.  Plus, there's absolutely no nails, screws, or any other type of hardware in this table.  It's basically an odd shaped table made of douglas fir wood, tempered glass, regular woodworkers glue, and a simple polyurethane finish.  As an added little tidbit you might like to know--the table top weighs nearly 2-3 times as much as the entire wood base.  I did say the glass was really thick!

This bed frame isn't too much to look at, but I feel compelled to post this photo up as this projects fits into the tool puchases justification category (In all honesty, I need this photographic evidence to help assuage my guilt for spending mucho dinero on my tools).  Indulge me for a second and follow this logic:  Even though I spend a lot on my awesome tools, it was because I had such awesome tools that I was able to whip up this bed frame up in a jiffy.  Because I was able to whip up this bed in a jiffy, I saved time and money.  Therefore, my tool purchases were and are justified.    That's my argument and I'm stickin' to it! 

So this project all started when I picked up some Rubbermaid under-the-bed storage bins on clearance at a ridiculously low price.  I was excited at the thought of utilizing all that wasted space underneath the bed all the way home from the store (I know I sound lame, but cheap thrills are better than no thrills).  When I put the containers to the test, my existing steel angle iron bed frame was too low.  Of course, you can't honestly think that a little thing like furniture of the wrong dimension would stop the master of The New Chinky Workshop.  Accordingly, I scrounged around for some scraps and came up with this simple bed frame.  Considering I didn't have to buy any new lumber or finishing products for this project, I think the whole thing cost me a little less than $20 dollars to make.  What a steal!  I figure that has to justify the cost of a my minimax jointer/planer, bandsaw, my Festool sander & vacuum, my four routers, five different sanding machines, scrollsaw...well you get the idea.  Yeah, right!  But hey, if  you're a woodworker, you know you've engaged in some permutation of this line of thinking.  Come know it's true!


This was my second attempt at incorporating live edges for a tabletop.  I bookmatched two slab cuts of claro black walnut.  The grain and figure of this piece was pretty amazing.  The photo here doesn't do it justice, but trust me, the look of this top in person is pretty breathtaking.  To reinforce the glue joint, I inlaid two dovetail keys and one center diamond shaped piece of Macassar ebony.  My goal for this piece was to let the tabletop be the centerpiece. 





Again, the photo here isn't all that great, but the added light gives you a little more taste of that amazing grain and figure I was talking about.  I've had different people tell me, they thought the top resembled an owl, a dragon, a happy face.  The eye of the beholder is always right, right.  Or that's usually the case when it comes to subjective thing like taste in furniture, art, music, or that kind of stuff.





Here's a front view of the small bedside table.  This table was given to my friend as a gift.  She had told me she didn't have a lot of space and I knew that she just loved the walnut burl she had in the dashboard/paneling of her car.  So I thought this little beside table would fit the bill nicely.  When I gave it to her she was all smiles, so hopefully she really did like it. 




I know I said I wanted the tabletop to be the centerpiece.  But I also thought that some curly walnut for the drawer front, would just spice up the piece just that much more.  I couldn't resist and I'm glad I used this instead of plain straight grained walnut.  To finish the piece off, I attached a shopmade pull made of macassar ebony and cherry wood. 



For forty years, my backyard neighbor allowed his yard to run wild.  Every fall I had to cut down branches from his tree that was leaning over the wall and dropping tons of annoying little leaves and debris right into my swimming pool.  I'd curse under my breath about having to deal with all that extra work.  Then one day out of the blue, he hires a tree service crew that completely cut down two big trees from his backyard.  As annoyed as I was with all that stuff falling into the pool every year, I took for granted that the tree created a nice privacy screen and helped to create a quiet atmosphere in my backyard.  I didn't have time take a picture of the backyard with the trees intact.  Like I said, he really did call those tree service guys out of the blue.  Well, that old saying about being careful of what you wish for proved to be accurate on this day.  I really don't like how it's so wide open in the back.  I almost feel naked with no trees to provide shade and privacy.    Plus the view of the brick wall as the centerpiece is quite unsightly.

So faced with this problem, I put on my creative thinking cap on and came up with this solution! 

I could have saved myself a lot of time and just bought some of those cookie cutter lattice deals at the local home improvement store, but by now you should have figured that the easy way out would never fit the bill at The New Chinky Workshop.  Besides it's been a while since my shop has earned its keep.  With the cost of my labor I had to come up with something I've never seen in a store--otherwise it just wouldn't be a good ROI (Return On Investment--the only thing I remember from taking Bus Ad 101 in college).

I needed this screen up super quickly because, well, as I said before, I felt naked now that the trees were gone--and the sunlight was beginning to chafe!  This was a tough problem to solve as it's all concrete save for a narrow drainage area right next to the wall.  Thus burying the lattice into the ground wasn't an option.  I had to use containers for a growing medium and I didn't want to screw anything permanently to the wall either.  So I decided the easiest solution would be to reclaim the planter benches/boxes I made from a few summers ago and incorporate them into a new design.  I figured why not save time and materials and make life easier on myself--err, truthfully, I guess in this case, taking the easy way out was the way to go.

Although kiln dried responsibly managed redwood lumber did cost quite a bit, I decided I didn't want to skimp on good materials as I'd regret it later after putting in the time and effort to building and designing this bad boy.  Well, I remembered my days of doodling a star design in the hopes of building a nice room divider screen someday.  Well, even though the scale is a lot bigger on this project, the star pattern seemed like it was just calling out to be used here.  The basic design employs three narrow lattice forms that are used for the ends and the middle (right above each respective planter box) and then two large lattice screens right above the benches.  I avoided being too skimpy with materials and decided to stick with good sturdy sized stock and not cut the pieces into flimsy strips.  Of course that meant the posts had to be secured well.  I enlisted the help of my nephew (yes, I know child labor!  Gotta use them before they catch on!)  Before you get all up in a huff, I paid prevailing wages--some ice cream and a glass of you guessed it..."refreshing beverage" beverage time [see blood oranges in my "Other Hobbies" page]).  His help made it much easier to check each supporting post and beam for plumb and level.  Then I put in four screws and two bolts for each post.  It's pretty sturdy, but only time will tell if this thing will hold up. 

Most of the lumber I purchased had sapwood running through it.  I tried to use as much heartwood as possible for its weather resistant qualities, but I also liked the streaks of sapwood for its aesthetic appeal as well.  Overall the streaks of beige sapwood works nicely with the red heartwood.


This here is where the extra labor (and I mean extra labor!!!) really made this project unique.  I was playing around with different designs when my sister told me why not incorporate an auspicious Chinese character into the privacy screen for good measure.  Now that's what I call a New Chinky Workshop signature idea!  I liked the idea so much I enlisted my mom to help pick out a suitable character.  So the rough translation of this character is "inviting good fortune." 
Actually, it's four different characters written together to convey a very auspicious meaning.  I'm hoping this will be "feng shui kosher" and the meaning of the character will come true.  A swimming pool in the backyard yard is supposed to "collect" auspicious energy.  So I figured the pool can take care of good luck from the ground while this character can "collect" any good fortune that happens to make its way up to the lattice's level.  I sure hope good fortune does come along because it sure took me a long, neck-aching time to scrollsaw out this character!  And there were three of them at that!  (But I had a trick to solve that problem--but sorry, a magician never reveals his tricks).  It's secured in place with a brass rod on its vertical axis and to keep the character from spinning I tied a piece of monofilament fishing line on the horizontal axis (you can't even see it!)

I've enlisted child labor before (my nephews), but this time I wanted to show that I can also rope in some adults to do the grunt work.  Here my sister is sanding out the finish off of the planter boxes.  Sanding sucks so I have to reiterate my wholehearted belief and enthusiasm for family slave labor!!! 






All that was left was to add some type of creeping vine.  I had a fun time going to the local nursery and getting advice as to which vines would be suitable for my application.  After looking at lots of different options, Bougainvillea was the winner.  Hopefully in time the vine will climb up on the lattice and really provide some privacy.  But until then, I'm pretty happy just looking at this handywork instead of that ugly old wall.


Update:  This photo was taken about a year or so after I took the photo above.  I really wanted to get this privacy screen up and running, so I decided to place more planters in lieu of the benches.  Plus, the bougainvillea didn't grow fast enough for my liking.  So I made another trip to the nursery and decided to take a chance on mail order plant catalogs.  After planting some passionfruit vines and akebia vines with my existing bougainvillea, my hair-brained idea finally is starting to make sense.  I can't believe how quickly those vines grow.  My plants still have a way to go, but I figure it won't be long before I get some thick cover blocking the view to my neighbor's yard.

 This is a pretty ordinary looking coffee table with a not so ordinary quality about it.  My mom has been lugging around a small, short coffee table from one part of the house to another.  The table isn't really heavy.  But for an older lady, it gets pretty heavy after moving around every couple of weeks or so.  Plus, over the years, the plywood top started to show signs of wear.  She recently asked if I could re-surface the tabletop or maybe attach some sort lightweight material to make the table easier to wipe down and look a little more presentable.  

In response, I decided to go a step further and just build a new table out of balsa wood.  That's right, I said balsa wood, the lightest wood on earth.  It's a really basic table:  Four boards of 3/4"balsa wood laminated together to make the tabletop; and a base consisting of four legs and four aprons mortised together.


Balsa wood is great for its lightweight properties, but there were challenges.  First, the soft, easily dented nature of it convinced me to use a very durable and hard film finish.  I opted for Behlen's Rockhard Tabletop Varnish.  I'm not a huge fan of thick film finishes, but I needed this table to standup to some abuse.  Second, balsa wood does not take to screws very well.  Because of its relatively soft characteristics, screws will tear out fairly easily.  I knew securing the tabletop to the base using screws just would not last over the long haul.  So I went back to my good old trick of using doweled pegs to join a tabletop to a base.  Since balsa wood glues together well, I glued four small blocks of balsa wood to the tabletop and four corresponding blocks to the base.  Once the glue from the blocks were fully cured, I could trust that a doweled peg running through corresponding holes in both blocks would hold the tabletop and base firmly together.


Big News!!!  Or should I say, Double Big News!!!

I became an uncle again and again!!!  My sister just delivered a set of fraternal twins.  I was madly trying to beat the clock with this latest project and I just barely made it.  I hope my sister is as excited about these cribs as I am about the twins.  We've never had twins in the family.  I can't get over how neat twins are!!!


I'm not sure what to call these--bassinets, cribs?  Well whatever they're called, they do a decent job of gently rocking back and forth.  I had a couple of goals when I designed this set of baby rockers.  1)  They had to be sturdy, but light enough to carry.  2)  Since babies grow quickly and space is always a premium, the cribs needed to have a simple knock-down feature for easy storage when not in use.  3)  They had to look nice, as I hope these will be handed down to rock other future babies to sleep. 

I used some nice pine boards I had laying around from a prior project mainly because of their light weight (I generally don't like working with pine).  To reinforce the pine boards across the grain and to give some it some aesthetic flavah, I inlaid mahogany (left crib = african mahogany; right crib = honduran mahogany).

I was forced to elicit the help of my mom.  I can't sew for squat.  I once sewed up a hole in my jeans and I made them look like Frankenstein's forehead.  Anyway, from what I can tell, my mom used a double layer of a floral patterned, tough fabric and then sewed three separate seams to reinforce the fabric.  I'm continually amazed at how she can sew like a fiend.  She also custom made a bed/mattress sheet (with elastic) for some store bought baby mattresses my sister bought when she was pregnant with the twins.  Maybe I got my knack for customizing stuff from her--Thanks Mom.  Here's a nice top view of the cribs.



Here you can see that the two end plates are held together by three poplar stretchers.  The stretchers are in turn secured firmly with wedged mortise and tenons. 




To solve the knock-down disassembly problem, I employed wedged mortise and tenons.  The stretchers span the entire length of the mattress.  I then used the mortising attachment on my drill press to make a wedged shaped mortise in the stretcher.  After that was completed, I made some angled wedges out of some leftover mahogany stock to match the mahogany inlay. 



To create the needed resistance on the opposite side of the wedge, I secured a square pin into the poplar stretcher.  I could have used more mahogany, but I had the perfect piece of jatoba scrap already cut to size.  It actually gives the project a nice contrasting color.



The feature I like best about these bassinets is their ability to be taken apart at anytime.  I guess perhaps that's why I always loved Transformers and Voltron as a kid. 

***On a tangent, I have to say that we were poor growing up and instead having a real Autobot Transformer, I had to build imaginary transformers from Pic 'n' Sav "Legos".  I think that was probably a good clue that I liked building things.  So for you parents or future parents out there, even cheap old fake Lego's can teach your kids a lot more than expensive action figures.  On a tangent to a tangent, I personally feel that official Lego's nowadays really don't foster imagination.  I mean kids are supposed to follow plans to build some pre-set robot, castle, whirligig, etc.  I think the preset nature of these LEGO kits can be a bit stifling.  I suppose that's why I don't like following woodworking project plans and instead like designing things off the cuff.  Whew!  Tangent and Tangent to a Tangent over.***

Once these bassinets are taken apart, they don't take up much space and store away really easily.  The photo (left) shows all the parts for one complete crib.  Pretty cool, eh?

With the thought of the twins someday running around my sister's house, I was really worried that her 1/4" glass top dining table would pose a serious hazard.  So I decided to make a wooden trestle table to house that thin piece of glass.  Here's how it came out.  Of course, I just had to model my auxilliary mobile assembly table as well.  






Here's a side view of the table.  The tabletop is a hefty 1 1/8" thick.  I decided to make a trestle table because:  1)  I've never tried making one before and 2)  It seems like a simple and quick way to make a table.  I made quick work the mortise and tenons with the use of my Leigh FMT.  I do regret not making the vertical columns a little thicker.  I only had enough oak to make these spindly looking columns.  Sometimes you're forced with what stock you have at hand.  The table functions just fine, but I'm not happy with the aesthetics of the piece.  Oh well, function over form in this case. 



I call this the mobile baking station (I know, I know, I should give it a catch-ier name like Bertha or Mildred, but I'm working on it).  Another sister of mine recently got into baking and I decided to design and make this latest creation.  The three goals I had in mind were:  1)  Create a countertop with ample space for rolling out dough; 2)  Provide lots of baking friendly storage; 3)  Make the unit mobile--for when you need to get access to an outlet for mixers, etc. 

In the end, I really enjoyed employing different woodworking skills/techniques to this project.


Here's another view of the stand.  I had to strike a compromise in designing this station to the right dimensions.  I didn't want it too big because of kitchen space constraints.  But I also didn't want it too small that I couldn't create enough storage space.  Among the woodworking elements I used:  Raised panel doors, Mortising for flush ring pulls, laminating for a tabletop, making breadboard ends, fabricating pyramid plugs and cloud lift end caps, applying specialty hardware and casters.



Here's a pic of the baking station partially opened.  There are four main compartments.  Three of the four compartments have raised panel doors and the remaining drawer has a raised panel drawer front (without the frame).  You can see that the right and left raised panel doors can get in the way when they're opened--see below for how I solved that problem.




This is a closeup of the left compartment that will be used to store away baking pans and sheets.  The door closes shut with the aid of a magnetic catch.  Here you can also see one of the heavy duty caster rated to handle a load of 250 lbs. per caster.  That means, this little baking station can handle roughly half a ton worth of weight!  Now that's a lot of flour and dough!

Tip:  If you're going to put casters on a project, shell out a little bit more and get the double locking variety.  The cheaper ones at your local orange or blue borg (Home Depot/Lowes) will lock the wheel, but will still allow the swivel to move around--definitely a recipe for disappointment later down the line.  On the other hand, these double locking casters prove that old addage to be true:  Buy cheap and regret it forever or Buy quality and never look back.  Once these double locking casters are engaged, the unit doesn't move...period.



The center of the baking station is equiped with two pullout drawers which ride on full extension ball bearing drawer glides.  Not only will these drawers pull out and close smoothly, they also extend all the way out for easy access to items lodged towards the back of the drawer. 

The top drawer is for smaller items like rolling pins, wax paper, measuring spoons, etc.   I made the dimensions of the lower drawer to house stackable tupperware containers for dry goods.  There's nothing like being able to customize a project exactly the way you want it!  I know using a raised panel door solely as a facade and without hinges is a bit unorthodox, but I think this keeps the drawer aesthetically pleasing (and in keeping with the other compartments of the baking station). 




The right compartment of this unit is what's really exciting for me.  I had the to opportunity to install an appliance lift hardware for the first time.  While designing this unit to house a Kitchenaid 6 quart mixer (my sister still attempts to make a caveman grunt b/c of the horsepower in this unit), I came across the idea to install this specialty hardware.  In the closed position, the lift enables a mixer (or other appliance up to 60 lbs.) to be tucked away neatly into the cabinet. 


To extend the lift, simply tug on the wooden platform until it extends all the way out and engages the safety lock.  This hardware does two great things: 

1)  There's no need to hoist up a 30 lb mixer with your lower back and

2)  You don't have to waste valuable countertop space to use the mixer.    





This is a decent picture of the countertop.  I applied five coats of salad bowl finish and let the final coat cure for two weeks before I even gave my "client" the okay to use it. 

This photo and the one above illustrates the advantage of having 270 degree full wraparound hinges.  These specialty hinges allow the raised panel door to swing around and rest adjacent to the cabinet side, thus avoiding getting in the way.  While designing for this wraparound feature, I decided to attach a towel rack to the inside of the raised panel door.  I figured that this was a nice feature to add and it didn't really take away from the look of the baking station once the door is closed.


The only other thing to account for when using full 270 degree wraparound hinges is that using typical protruding knobs/pulls would obstruct the door's travel.  I originally wanted to make matching pyramid shaped knobs out of lyptus, but I had to find an alternative because of this problem.  I settled on using flush ring pulls.  These little buggers are hard to find and they cost quite a bit, but I was able to find a good deal on them.  After installing them and seeing the polished brass finish on the completed baking station, I think not only are they functionally necessary, they actually give the project a more refined look. 

I did enjoy making and using these pyramid shaped lyptus plugs on the front and back edge of the the tabletop.  This gives the project a more detailed and refined look--borrowed from the arts and crafts/Greene & Greene aesthetic.

This project is a completely original design.  I came up with the design piecemeal every morning during my long morning commute.  I wanted to make this coffee table to replace an ugly and storebought particle board coffee table that used to sit in the family room.  I wanted to give it an Asian feel--employing splayed legs and a upwards-flared tabletop.


Here's a view of the coffee table along its length.  I glued up three separate slices of the same lyptus board to give it a balanced feel.  Then I wrapped the tabletop with brazilian cherry.  The tabletop is finished with two coats of danish oil and three coats of polyurethane gel.  I originally used gloss polyurethane applied with a brush, but I didn't like how it made the tabletop look like plastic.  I'm convinced that from now on I'm going to stick with wipe on finishes.  They're easy to apply and the results really let the wood shine without looking like plastic.





This is a close up photo of the curly lyptus grain.  You can't really see the grain in the previous photo.  But here you can see that the irregular grain of the wood appears wave-like.  This grain figure is sometimes referred as curly, flame, or tiger grain.  Curly grain figure is one of my favorite irregular figured wood.  You generally see this figure in maple or sometimes in cherry, I got lucky and found this grain in lyptus and my hardwood supplier charged me regular price.  What a find!  To create a more symmetrical design, I sliced up one board (shown below) and glued each piece of sliced up veneer side by side to create what's called a bookmatched effect.  The results, in my humble opinion are fantastic to the eye!!!  Don't you agree?





The reddish colored wood is from the same board of lyptus.  Even though the lighting may have been different in each of these photos, the contrast in color goes to show that a little oil finish darkens the color of the wood as well as making the grain "pop out."












This is a side view of the table.  In keeping with having the figured lyptus be the center piece, I decided to make small bookmatched panels for the coffee table sides with two thin strips of jatoba on the left and right side to create a framed in effect. 

You can also get a closer look at the splayed legs of the table and the other curved elements found one the rails of the table (horizontal pieces connecting the legs together).



This photo gives a good look at the proportions of the table.  I created the flared up tabletop ends using a combination of my tablesaw, gooseneck scraper, and sandpaper.  I think this was the most fulfilling project I've made so far.  As a final touch, given the abuse this table will likely take (my family will not use coasters even if you told them their life depended on it), I'm going to have a piece of glass cut to fit on top of the table.  Hopefully, that won't detract from the piece.  All in all, this is the kind of final end product that makes me feel I can justify all the $$$ I've spent on my tools.

Update:  I did wind up purchasing a custom fitted piece of glass for the top.  I splurged a little and had them bevel the edges of the glass about 1/2" in on the edges.  The bevel detail really gives the glass and the table a more refined and elegant look.

Here's an update on my most prized project as of August 26th, 2004.  This is a coffee table that I was commisioned to make by another one of my sisters and her husband (I have a lot of sisters--how many?  Don't ask ) .  This coffee table has very unusual dimensions.  It needed to fit into a rather large living/family room area and the size also had to accomodate an L-shaped lazyboy/sofa.  This piece is made of cherry, quilted maple, and ebony. 

As an added treat, you get to see my mobile assembly table hard at work.    FYI:  I did use the hydraulic lift feature to raise the assembly table's height when I needed to rub an oil finish to the legs.  This cart really did save my back!!!  Besides, I'm always trying to find ways to justify my various little toys!


The photo (right) doesn't do justice to how quilted maple looks in real life.  I spent almost two days sanding and preparing the tabletop before I rubbed on the first coat of danish oil finish.  The grain looks 3 dimensional, but when you run your hands on top, you'll feel a glassy smooth surface. 

To properly sand a surface for an awesome oil finish, you have be disciplined--sanding through each successive grit without skipping any steps is a must.  I started with an 80 grit belt on a belt sander to flatten the panel.  Then I switched to a cork block lined with 100 grit paper and removed all of the belt sander marks.  After that I used a random orbit sander switching through to each of the following grits:  120, 150, 180, 220, 320, 400, 600.


This is a what the tabletop looks like--the grain is absolutely amazing.  I sliced three pieces of quilted maple from one board and bookmatched them to create a symmetrical pattern.  Then I used the rich warm tones of cherry wood to frame the quilted maple panel.  This picture was taken at dusk, so the grain doesn't come out as nicely in the photo.



This picture was taken at the table's new home.  My humble suggestion to my sister was to invest in an area rug.  The parquet floor is really nice, but I think an area rug will really give the whole sofa, coffee table, and the wood floor a more complete look.  I'm no interior designer--just been "O.D.-ing" on HGTV and the DIY network.  



This is a nice table height view of the project.  If you look carefully, you'll see there's a gap between the top of the drawer and the drawer opening.  I deliberately gave the drawer a loose fit, especially along the height of the drawer.  As you know, wood expands and woodworkers need to account for this.  I knew that the drawer would expand along its height, not its width, so made the drawer with this in mind.  Plus, I know from another project that there's  quite a bit of change in the humidity from my shop to the table's final destination.  So I made sure that the drawer had plenty of room to expand and yet still easily glide along the table's runners.

The photo below was taken in direct sunlight.  I generally do not like to expose any furniture (or lumber for that matter) to direct sunlight.  However, I figured taking some quick photos wouldn't hurt too much.  Here you can see the exquisite grain running throughout this drawer front.  I used solid 3/4" thick quilted maple for the drawer front.  My sister picked out this drawer knob/pull design from an issue of Fine Woodworking magazine.  She felt that this small, slim design echoed the flared table leg motif without taking up too much space from the figured grain of the quilted maple drawer front.  The pull was custom made out of cherry and ebony scraps.



  In general, leaving wood exposed to direct sunlight causes unwanted problems like checks, splits, and loss of vibrant color (especially in exotic hardwoods like purpleheart, padauk, etc.).   But sometimes UV rays created by the sun can be a benefit.  For those that like the dark, rich tone found in older antique pieces of cherry, there are three (actually really just two for me) options:  (1)  Be patient and give your cherry wood furniture years to darken OR (2)  Stain your wood to give it a darker color--which I DO NOT LIKE TO DO--somehow I think using stain is a bit like cheating OR (3)  Allow your finished cherry wood project to sit in the sun one or two days and let the UV rays darken the wood.

My goal for this project was to strike a balance between creating a simple, elegant design and yet employing some nice looking joints.  You can't see it, but the legs are joined to the aprons of the table using mortise and tenon joints--extremely sturdy joints that will outlast any screws, nails, or anything else.  To the right (sorry the photo isn't all that clear), you can see a half-blind dovetail joint that joins the sides to the front of the drawer.  The cherry/ebony drawer pull is secured to the drawer without the aid of any screws or nails. 

(Below)  I used sliding dovetails to join a divider to the sides of the drawer.  This drawer is a push/pull drawer.  It really is one big drawer with a divder that creates two separate storage areas.  The drawer can be accessed on two sides of the table--definitely a plus for coffee tables that don't sit up against a wall. 

  My $0.02:   From an economic standpoint, most people would say it's a lot cheaper just buy furniture from a store--mechanization, cheap labor overseas, cheaper material costs due to large volume, etc. really does allow big outfits to mass produce furniture at cheaper prices.  Ultimately, it's impossible to compete with those factors in mind.

So I guess the way I look at it, if I'm going to spend the time and effort to build a piece of furniture, I'm gonna make sure there are things about it that will make it unique.  Otherwise, why build something you can just buy that's cheaper and won't take up too much of your time.  That said, I really try to make things you can't buy anywhere--there's nothing more satisfying that coming up with a design or an idea in your mind and making it come to life from raw materials. 


I finally finished the matching set of end tables for my sister's house.  I made the end tables out of the same kinds of wood as in the coffee table--quilted maple, cherry, and ebony.  I think one of the keys to success when designing a whole set of furniture is to be sensitive to proportion.  I had to fiddle around before I was happy with the right size for the end table legs--I wanted them to look proportional not only to their respective tabletops, but also in relation to the large coffee table.  Also, take note of how nice the area rug sets off the table.  I told my sister that the area rug really complements the furniture as well as her oakwood floors. 

A closeup shot of one the end tables shows the amazing figure of quilted maple.  One little detail I have to mention is that in the large coffee table the drawer front was joined to each drawer side with just one half-blind dovetail.  Whereas, here on both end tables, the drawer fronts are joined to each drawer side with two half-blind dovetails.  My thinking was since there's only one coffee table, it makes sense to use one dovetail.  Following that same rationale, a pair of end tables call for a pair of dovetail joints for each the drawer side.  You see, it's all about the little details.


Notice that the quilted figure of this tabletop is different than on the tabletop below.  I've heard people refer to this type of figure as "popcorn quilt".  It's very beautiful, but I personally like the larger quilt found in the tabletop below. 

Even though you can see the contrast in color between the quilted maple centerpiece versus the cherrywood trim, the difference isn't all that striking.  Well, when I delivered these two endtables to my sister, I got to compare them to the coffee table I completed about 6 months ago.  I always knew cherry oxidizes to a rich, deep color.  But being able to compare the contrast between a piece with 6 months of oxidation versus one just fresh out of the shop really highlighted this fact.  When first finished, cherry has a light brown color.  After some oxidation, the color turns reddish and darker.  All I can say is don't ever stain cherry (I'm referring to cherry heartwood--staining sapwood may be a different story).  Letting cherrywood oxidize naturally is a lot like giving an oyster some time with a rock--be patient and you'll be amazed with the breathtaking pearl you get!

This is my favorite tabletop between the two end tables.  There's something in the rippled look of this piece that just looks three dimensional.  Plus, on the left side of the panel, you can see there are four instances of quarter-sized burl.  I especially like the the uneven distribution of the quilted figure.  I find that this pattern is an asset when bookmatching for a symmetrical effect. 





I decided to give this table a name seeing as how this is in a way my first commissioned piece.  So here's the Palisades Breakfast Table.  I made this for my sister and brother-in-law. They wanted a small table to sit in their kitchen that they could serve breakfast on and yet not get in the way of kitchen foot traffic. 


This is the same table except the lighting was really bright.  I could have adjusted the brightness in the photo, but I decided to have at least one photo showing the effect of the early Sunday morning sunlight on this table.  Can you picture enjoying coffee (cream, sugar...or in my sister's case, Splenda), toast, and the morning paper on this baby?!

You can also see the breadboard pullout.  I'm not sure how useful this breadboard will be, but I guess it gives the piece a nice complete feel. 



The curved design of the tabletop is my sister's idea.  I think it's an unique and aesthetically pleasing design.  This photo highlights the beautiful grain of the solid european beechwood.  In particular, I was lucky enough to find an unusually figured grained board of beechwood, so I decided to have that sit on the center of the tabletop.  I wish I had enough of it to make the entire panel, but alas, wood is precious and we make do with what we have.


This diagonal view of the table shows the beaded detail on the edges of the tabletop and warm, rich color of beechwood.  I decided to finish the table with Tried & True oil and varnish blend.  This was the first time I used this product and I'm really happy with the results.  As a big plus, this stuff is has no heavy chemicals or metal driers found in many other finishes.  I can definitely tell the difference because it doesn't stink of chemicals and I don't have a headache after working with the stuff.  It does have the consistency of thick honey, so there was a lot of elbow grease involved when I rubbed the finish into the wood.  This particular blend combines true boiled linseed oil with rosin (pine sap).  After three coats, I polished the surface with orange oil and beeswax.  On the downside, this stuff does take a long time to fully cure.


I gave the table legs a very slight taper to keep the table from looking too bulky.  Also, I wanted to give this piece a little something extra-- something not found in storebought pieces.  If you look carefully at the top portions of the legs you'll see that I used through tenons--little nubs that protrude from the table legs.  I find that it's an eye-pleasing design feature. 






This is a closeup of the through tenons.  Typically tenons (male part of a joint) are housed in a mortise (female part of a joint) and do not show through to the other side.  I deliberately wanted the tenon to show through.  To do this, I cut out an extra long tenon and made a mortise that's visible from both sides of the the table leg.  To finish the joint, I rounded over the edges and lightly sanded them smooth to the touch.  Not only is this a nice decorative joint, it is rock solid and will likely last several lifetimes. 





Here's a picture of the tenons being formed on the aprons.  I still have yet to review the FMT.  I need to play with the jig and my Bosch router a little bit more before I can really gauge how well I like this setup.  But so far, I do like how the joint came out on this project.

You can see that these tenons are an integral part of the apron--a characteristic that makes the table all the more stronger.









I finished this nightstand made of black walnut, birdseye maple and maccasar ebony.  One of my best friends just bought a home and I promised him a unique housewarming gift--the downside is it took me forever to complete, but I'm happy with the finished product.  I came up with the design and measurements myself.  I'm especially proud that the entire piece has no hardware on it whatsoever, not even to secure the tabletop to the frame (just carefuly cut wooden joints and glue).  I'm also pleased with how the drawer pull turned out.  I actually designed the pull with the current top side facing down.  As a fluke, I turned it upside down and decided it looked better, so there it is.  I finished the table with danish oil and several coats of waterbased polycrylic.


Here's a close up the drawer.  The drawer side is made of walnut because I wanted the contrast to be distinct from the maple.  I made the dovetails variably spaced (the middle dovetail is roughly twice the width of the top and bottom dovetails) for a more handcut look and I tried to keep the pins of the joint as narrow as possible.  You can see the birdseye grain "pop out."  I love this stuff! 


This photo (right) is the underside of the nightstand.  I wanted to show how I secured the tabletop to the frame without using any screws.  I glued some walnut glue blocks to both the table top and the frame.  They are secured to each other using wooden dowel rods. 


Enough of the real furniture!   It's time to make    


 -style furniture.  Let me explain how this Frankenstein came to pass.  I had always wanted to make a rolling rack to store a bunch of folding chairs.  Anytime my family would throw a party or if someone wanted to borrow these chairs, we'd have to carry the chairs (two under each arm) until we had a good workout.  As the result of my tired arms and a desire to find a logistical answer to this ongoing problem, I devised this little gem.

I know the wheels seem a bit odd-looking.  They're 10" pneumatic swivel casters.  I did originally think they were a bit too big for what I had imagined, but Harbor Freight had them on sale, so I had to take a bite.  Plus, I specifically wanted pneumatic wheels because I knew I'd have to wheel this beast over quite a few obstacles that would normally leave hard rubber wheels sitting dead in their tracks.

I was originally going to make the cart out of cheap softwoodplywood.  When I got to the orange borg (Home Depot) the price of birch plywood was about the same price.  Naturally, I opted for the birch ply instead of pine ply.  I assumed that this would mean that I was gonna make the cart out of a better quality plywood.  Well, within making a couple cuts, I started noticing the individual ply's were starting to come apart!  Having already cut the sheet, I couldn't return it and so I tried to squeeze glue into the plywood and them clamped it up.  Just goes to show what kind of quality you get at the borg.  

I attached a couple of large pulls for easier manueverability.  And to hide the plywood edge, I trimmed it all around with 3/8" thick solid birch.  It's a pretty sturdy cart.  Not great to look at, but I'm proud of my little MONSTER!


Here's the cart with it's cargo all loaded up.  The cutout in the center of front facing board really helps to make loading and unloading much easier. 

At its first unveiling, during a family BBQ, I decided to give this monster a name....


...In honor of the Adams Family (reference the second movie) it shall be named....




I finally finished this bench!  I can't even remember how many weekends this took me to finish, but I'm realy happy with the way it turned out.  I researched various different types of benches and finally decided to make a traditional Scandinavian bench.  The benchtop is made from solid white European beech.  I wanted the tail vise and shoulder vise to provide some visual contrast, so I used Jatoba (Brazilian cherry). 




From this view you can see the square holes that help clamp boards firmly onto the bench.  I wanted a tool well to put some of my tools (some people think it's nothing more than a dust catcher, but I like it).  I used 1/2 inch Baltic Birch plywood for the bottom. 

    The base of the workbench is made from douglas fir 2x4's from the local home center.



Here's a upclose shot of the tail vise.  I wanted to dress it up and decided it was worth the effort to handcut some dovetails using contrasting wood.  As for the handles, I didn't (and don't plan to anytime soon) have a lathe to turn my own vise handles.  Instead, I bought a hardwood dowel rod and some round wooden knobs/balls.  I used a forstner bit to drill a hole into the knobs and used glue to glue the dowel into the rod.  The only drawback to this is I'll have to cut the handle if I ever want to take it out of the vise.


This shoulder vise provides for unobstructed clamping.  On a cast iron vise, the metal rods prevent you from clamp long boards vertically.  A sholder vise allows you to clamp boards vertically, even boards that are long enough to touch the ground.



During one of my best friend's persistent attempts to get me to exercise (I'm starting to learn that Father Time and Inertia are a terrible combination for one's gut and love handles), my friend dropped by the workshop.  He took out a pencil and started drawing what looked to me to be a rather unusual podium.  He's a high school teacher (which makes sense--he likes punishing himself by working out and likewise enjoys having to deal with the pubescent population.  I, for one, can't stand teenagers).  In any event, he wanted a unique looking podium.  Basically, it was a "Z" shaped podium.  The design wasn't in keeping with my usual design choice, but heck, the customer is always right, right? 

With a general idea of how my buddy wanted his podium to look, the challenge now was how I was going to come up with a joint that would actually work, given the high stress points of this design.   (More about this below)  For now, just look at the podium top--again, quilted maple is the showpiece.  For the bookstop (the thin strip of wood to keep books, papers, etc. from slipping off the podium), I had my buddy choose from a wide range of wood species.  In the end, he wanted to use some purpleheart.  I think he just admires that species because his kung fu instructor had some type of martial arts weapon/equipment made from purpleheart.  Again, the customer is always right.


This is the profile of the podium.  By the shape of this podium, common sense will tell you that the joints connecting the corners of the "Z" have to be very strong.  I'm still a little concerned with the podium's ability to withstand the rigors of high school kids.  Hopefully, the only damage this podium will face is some high school student's chewing gum.  To me, a podium should be built more rigidly, but then again, my version wouldn't look as cool.  Alas, this is for high school use, thus to borrow Andre Agassi's Cannon Rebel mantra:  "Image is everything."  

In response to the question, what do you think about this podium?

          "Like, like, Oh my god" (spoken with a valley girl accent) 

                                                                                              --teenage student








My solution for this woodworking challenge was to make angled dovetail joints.  I had to fabricate a wedge block for use with my Keller dovetail jig.  It took a little fiddling to get the joint to look right, but the results were pretty good.  The nature of a dovetail joint lends itself to providing lots of surface area for glue as well as plenty of mechanical strength.  The concern I have isn't with the strength of the joint, but more so the design of the whole piece.  As you can see from the profile of the podium (photo above) the center panel is fairly tall.  This lengthy height coupled with the angle of the joint makes for some "springy" action.  I could have inserted some sort of reinforcing triangular blocks or a center post, but after talking to my buddy, we both decided that the whole point of this piece is the unique Z-shape and we didn't want anything to compromise this look. 

The back (side opposite to the orator) highlights more of the dovetail joints.  Also, you'll notice that I laminated different types of wood together for the podium's base.  My friend said he didn't care what type of wood I used for the base, so long as the top was made of the quilted maple (what can I say, my love of quilted maple really  is infectious ).  I used my stash of reclaimed hardwood obtained during my days of dumpster diving for hardwoods.  After lots of work cleaning up and planing down the rough stock, it came out pretty nicely.  This really was like finding a diamond in the rough.  In fact, some of the boards I cleaned up turned out to have some light curly and spalted figure!  Can you say curly IPE?    I'll have to check up in a few months with my buddy to see how this guy has held up to the rigors of know-it-all adoloescent high school kids. 


I'm really happy that I finally finished this recent project for my shop.  It's a router station that's equipped with a router lift, lots of storage space and really effective dust collection plus it's mobile with the use of lockable swivel casters.  I made the entire station myself, tabletop, fence, drawers (***the knobs were store bought, I don't have a lathe***).  For more detailed photos, visit the ShopTours page.



This was my first (and only attempt so far) at making a rocking chair.  I used cheap old 2x4's and a rough idea of what a rocking chair is supposed to look like.  One of these days I'm going to have do-over and come up with a chair that will look and feel more comfortable.  Surprisingly, the chair is still holding up.



I guess once you get used to making tables, the process can be quick.  One of my best friends asked me for an end table.  His parameters:  something functional and won't take me too much time to build.  Luckily I had a less than perfect tabletop that I had been saving for quite some time that would be perfect for this project.  I even had two large chunks of cherry wood (recycled from a pallet) that after resawing would be perfect for legs.  I cheated by using biscuit joinery to join the legs to the aprons.  For this application, biscuits more than fit the bill.  A quick taper cut on the legs and figure 8 clips to secure the base to the tabletop and bam, my buddy has a functional yet eye-catching end table.


I was very happy with this gliding bench I made for my parents.  I didn't really have any plans for this bench.  I worked off of a photo I saw in furniture catalog and customized it to fit two comfortably.  The bench glides on ball bearings--smooth gliding action and super comfortable.  I finished it with a UV protectant varnish.    This was one of my favorite projects.




One of my best friends wanted a bookshelf to keep all of his books.  I told him, that since I wasn't all that into reading, I'd at least humor him and contribute to his reading cause at least.  It's a simple bookcase made of solid yellow pine.  I'm sure he could have bought a particle board version at IKEA, but for roughly $40 of materials, he got a bookcase made of real solid wood.  Besides, he has the assurance that his bookcase has The New Chinky Workshop stamp of approval.

This is a simple solid yellow pine console table that's to sit right behind a couch.  All of the legs are tapered on two sides.  The photo on the right has my brand on one of the side skirts of the table.  That's the little black mark on the upper left hand side of the table, right below the tabletop.  Sometimes there's beauty in simplicity.



This is table that started it all.  That's my nephew playing with the train table.  As you can see, he has a set of Thomas the Tank Engine toys on the table.  I made this entire table completely out of handtools.  I didn't even use a power drill.  In hindsight that made the project unnecessarily difficult, seeing as I mistakenly used red oak (a fairly dense and tough hardwood). 

My good friend had one last semester left before she finished up her MBA degree and would leave for the Bay Area.  So we decided this would be a good opportunity for her to become a New Chinky Workshop apprentice.  After playing with the idea of making a fold up table (I discouraged that idea), she ultimately decided she had to have a quilted maple/cherry coffee table--who can blame her.  To simplify the design, we decided to leave out drawers and curved legs.  I think that even though the overall design didn't employ too many complicated woodworking operations, the piece still has a classy, sophisticated look.  Sometimes that addage that simple is always best really does ring true.  Among some of the minor details:  Chamfered tabletop edge, slightly tapered legs, mortise and tenon construction.




Here's a shot of the tabletop.  I had my friend follow me to my local lumber yard and had her hand select the piece she wanted for the top.  I think she has a good eye!  Of particular interest to me were the small knots (left and right sides of the quilted maple) and burl (one small section about the size of a quarter, top-middle portion of the table).  These "blemishes" really highlighted the bookmatched pattern of the tabletop.  We were short on time, we barely finished in time to have her move this home in her UHaul.  I quickly slapped on two coats of Tried & True finish and topped it off with one coat of Renaissance Wax. 

Overall, it was a fun project and my friend really got to use most of the machines and tools in my shop.  This was a big achievement coming from a girl who's afraid of sharp objects.    Now she has a nice piece of furniture and some pleasant memories of The New Chinky Workshop.


This project took some careful thought and subconscious memories of watching MacGuyver. The side of my parents' house gets way too hot during the summer.  I didn't want to permanenty fix an awning into the side of the wall.  So I came up with the idea of using gravity and common sense to keep this awning standing.  There are a couple of L-shaped brackets that rest on a wall adjacent to the house, which allows the awning to stand up against the wall of the house.  As an added bonus, it works pretty well in keeping out the rain during the winter.  It hasn't flipped off once so far.


This wasn't one of my best pieces, but it wasn't too bad considering I sort of just put together some scraps for a simple outdoor table for my sister.  The thing that bothers me most about this piece is I couldn't find a dowel rod thick enough to look proportionate to the rest of the table.  But the table is still standing, so maybe it's not so bad after all.

I got really frustrated not having my TV on a stand, I found a spare pine board I had in the shop and designed this simple stand to house two different video game consoles.  I purposely cut out openings on the front of the drawers to allow for easier access to the game controls. The frame of the stand is made with through dovetail joints an the drawers were made with machine cut half-blind dovetails.  This piece too was made without the use of any nails or screws-just regular wood glue and solid woodworking joinery.

My sister wanted a footstep to do some sort of step aerobics or something.  So I came up with this design out of 2x4's.  It's nothing really fancy, but it's sturdy and I think I doesn't look half bad.




These are some planter boxes I made recently.  I saw an episode of the New Yankee Workshop where Norm made a similar project.  He painted his green and I didn't like his design all that much.  However, after that episode I was inspired and came up with my own plans.  I had to come up with a design that would allow me to connect the boxes with a bench.  The boxes are made of redwood and I finished it with an UV protectant spar varnish.

I'm convinced any kind of varnish (UV or no) is a bad idea on oudoor furniture.  Eventually, the finish will dry, crack, and peel.  To maintain its look, you'd have to strip the old finish, re-sand, and then reapply a new coat.  Too much work.  I'm thinking I'll have to try an exterior grade rub-on oil finish next time.  Maybe that'll work better. 

I've always wanted to work with a big chunk of Koa.  So on my last trip to Hawaii to visit the in-laws, I found a guy who was selling some slabs of Koa.  I didn't have my shop full of tools, so it was a fun challenge to figure out what I could do with the least amount of tools.  In the end, I wound up buying a cheap router and a belt sander (in addition to a portable tablesaw I already had for some home improvement projects) to finish the job.