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Recent Projects:

It was finally time to dress up some picture frames I had around the house.  Of course, with photo frames so cheap nowadays, I had to dress mine up to justify the time and effort.  I was saving a small piece of curly redwood for quite sometime and thought this would be a perfect project to use it up.  The inside and outside borders are made of european beech.  My new favorite frame is framing a couple of my favorite photos of my wife, son, and me (the proud papa)!

I had a narrow piece of figured koa with both heartwood and sapwood that was just perfect for this frame.  The lighting here is poor, but trust me when I say the figured grain is pretty awesome looking!  I'm sure my son's Grammy enjoys looking up from her desk to see a nice photo of her best little guy all framed up nicely.

Proverbial wisdom has it that when it comes to gift giving, it's the thought that counts.  Well, I've taken that to heart with my woodworking.  It's great to give a store-bought gift, but there's something extra special knowing that you're giving something that you made with your own two hands.  In this day and age, you can buy just about anything at a borg store often at suspiciously cheap prices.  Of course, those prices likely reflect use of inferior materials and maybe even the use of sweatshops.  On the other hand, stuff made in The New Chinky Workshop consists of quality materials and are fabricated from a sweatshop of one--namely me!  And don't get me started on how hot my shop can be during the summer.  In any event, hopefully the recipients of pieces made in The New Chinkyworkshop appreciate their customized pieces of wood.  It's either that or they think I'm too cheap to just buy them a gift!!!  *Harumpffff*  (Wood + My Labor = Not Cheap!!!!)


This was a gift for my dad.  He's really into the whole having pride in the family name so I came up with this idea.  I cut up a cross section of log I had lying in the backyard and scrollsawed the Chinese character out (This character happens to be my family name).  Then I put a red velvet backing and voila, I made my dad a customized sign that is definitely not available in stores.

I wanted to come up with a unique personalized photo frame to give as a gift for my mother-in-law. After surfing the net for ideas, I didn't see anything that I really liked, as is usually the case.  But looking at aspects of different designs, plus my own idea of what I wanted the frame to look like, I decided to create a frame that resembled a Japanese Torii.  The frame was made entirely of curly Koa (the stuff is beautiful, but costs a pretty penny).  The photo is sandwiched between two pieces of plexiglass and hung from brass pull chain.  The great thing about this design is you can put a photo on both sides! 

 Just a beautiful piece of wood?  Nah, it's a fully functional knife block that just happens to make the woodworker in me smile every time I reach for my knives to cook.  I had been saving this curly maple cutoff for quite some time now.  It wasn't enough material to make a table, but I'm inclined to think that it was destiny for this board to become my knifeblock.  I didn't have enough leftover curly maple to make the support piece, so I found an even smaller cutoff of black walnut that seemed to give a really striking contrast that works out even better.  To jazz it up a little more, I added an inlay of curly maple into the walnut.  Pretty schnazzy, don't you think?

Here's an angled shot of my new knife block in all of its shimmering glory.  I just love the rippled look of curly maple!  And yes, I know that my knife handles aren't all matching.  I kind of like my hodgepodge assortment of knives.   

My collection of knives have different thicknesses and widths, so of course I had to try and customize the slots to fit accordingly.  I designed most of the slots allow the knives to rest horizontally to avoid dulling their sharp edges.  I did incorporate my sister's advice to add six vertical slots for future knife purchases (e.g. steak knives).  I guess good ole' sis knows me too well.  hehe    Oh, I almost forgot the other beautiful thing behind making this knife block.  I didn't want to bust out with a whole new board of maple to make the inside parts of the knife block, so I rummaged through my scrap pile of cutoffs and made good use of some otherwise unused scraps.  Since they're sandwiched inside between my curly maple sides anyway, I figured no one would really notice...well, that is until now.    FYI, this block contains the following woods:  maple; white oak; red oak; cherry; european beech; walnut; and alder.  How's that for a good mix?  It might be hard to see, but you can actually see the rings in the endgrain of the knife block.  That and having the surface feel silky to the touch are the benefits of carefully sanding up to 600 grit.

Want to see my set of knives living in their new home?

Here they are!  I even made a slot for some kitchen scissors.  I may have made some of slots a bit too close to one another, but it still works and there's always next time.

Of course, I had to include my brand.  As it turns out, the color of the walnut support block matches perfectly with the imprint left by my branding iron.  The swirling grain of the walnut is pretty darn impressive.  Boy, am I happy I made this knife block!  I figure it was about time I made something for myself!

This bandsaw jewelry box is made of birdseye maple and curly koa.  I made this as a gift for my mother-in-law.  She loves curly koa--so I think the light colored maple really helps to accentuate the curly koa.  The box if finished with hand rubbed oil and wax.

I decided to divide up the drawers into four separate compartments.  I think the extra storage is a good idea.  I didn't intend to make the drawers look like the Windows logo, but there it is. The spray-on felt lining for the drawer interior is a product made by DonJer.  It works fairly easily and IMHO is the only way to go for contoured surface applications like this bandsaw  box.

A buddy of mine wanted to give a jewelry box to his girlfriend as a birthday present.  He pretty much gave me free reign on how I wanted to make it.    So here's a photograph of the box taken at sunset.  I had my nephew hold up a red towel to give the photo a better backdrop.  I'm not much of a photographer, but ah, yet another hobby to learn later down the line.







The showpiece of the jewelry box has got to be the lid.  I sorted through my special stash of figured woods and found this unique board of birdseye maple which fortuitously had some spalting in it.  I rubbed in my own brew of tung oil, boiled linseed oil, and thinned polyurethane to help bring out the birdseye figure. 




I wanted to make this jewelry box scream "CUSTOM-CRAFTED!!!"  So I kept trying to think of something to personalize the box.  Then one morning, while I was lounging around in bed on a saturday morning, I had an epiphany.  My friend and his girlfriend both have names that start with the letter "J".  So came up with this nifty design.  "J" loves "J"--that's the cheesy kind of stuff lovebirds chirp for--enough to make me gag, but I'm trying to be professional here and focus on the task at hand.  Instead of using a wooden pin, I remembered I had an extra scrap piece of brass brazing rod.  A little twisting and I had created a pin to lock the lid to the box.  To unlock the box, just slide the brass pin out!  Pretty cool, if I do say so myself.




To open the box, simply lift up on the heart and it just so happens that the brass rod can double as a temporary lid support.  If you're wondering what kinds of wood were used, here goes:  The box frame itself is made of cherry sapwood--hence the lighter tone.  The box's raised platform and the letters "J" are jatoba (brazilian cherry).  The miter keys in the platform are sugar maple.  The dividers inside the box are made of cherry heartwood.  And last but not least the lid and the heart handle are birdseye maple.







Of course, that's not all!  The box itself hides a secret compartment in the platform.  Just lift up the box from the platform and voila!  This is also a good shot of the contrasting joinery I used in this project.  For the box, I tried my hand at box joints.  And for the platform, I used reinforced miters to give the entire box a different look.

I think I scored on this project and if all goes well my buddy will score with this gift as well.  Heh Heh. 






I recently got interested in grilling pizza.  I still catch myself drooling over my stainless steel bbq from Costco.  The thing grills like a beast.  I was never a big fan of Italian food until I ate at Buca di Beppo's.  One of my favorite dishes there is the thin crust margherita pizza .  Of course, my tastes call for a more liberal dousing of sweet basil.  So after trying out my bbq for pizza making, I'm convinced that everyone should try grilling pizza--it's fun and inexpensive and you can make it to suit your own taste.  I was using the two biggest spatulas I had and that worked moderately well, but I wanted the real deal.  My first quick and dirty version of the pizza paddle was made in less than 1/2 an hour and it showed.  It looked more like a picket sign than a pizza paddle.  After a few laughs, I went back to the drawing board and came up with these little gems.  I had some really junky scrap wood that I jointed and planed.  After laminating the boards together, I cut out the shape and hand chamfered the edges to allow the pizza to slide onto the paddle easily.  A little hand sanding, a drilled hole for hanging, and a quick brand with my branding iron and voila--a nice pizza paddle board.  To give it an aesthetically pleasing yet food safe finish, I rubbed on a coat of walnut oil.  (Just be aware that walnut oil might not be a good idea with someone who has allergies to nuts.   I can't wait to try these guys out.  As an added bonus, if anyone happens to be naughty, these double up as a giant spanking paddle!!!

*singing withh background accordion music*  

"Whe'ennnnn the moon hits your eye like a big piz'za pie, that's amore..."

UPDATEThe pizza paddles work just perfectly--that is for grilling pizzas.  I have yet to use them as giant spanking paddles FYI.




JUST ADD CRAB!!!  Continuing on with the food theme are these crab cracking mallets.  A few years ago, I had the pleasure of eating at a restaurant serving crab boil--crab, clams, fish, sasuage, potatoes, and corn cooking in a spiced broth---mmmmm, delicious!  Inspired, I had to host my own version.  So I herded up the clan, ignited my outdoor propane burner, spread out some butcher paper on three banquet tables and we were ready to eat.  But wait, what does this have to do with woodworking?  Well, I had some scrap pieces of wood left over from a previous project, so I quickly made some mallets and some matching mallet boards.  They don't look very fancy, but they work like charm.  And the crab boil tasted great.  It was all the more satsifying listening to everyone hammering down with their mallets. 






While we're talking about food, what's bruschetta, pizza, and other Italian dishes and without fresh basil?  (That happy face is supposed to be a tongue sticking out for hunger).  In anticipation of the spring/summer bbq and outdoor cooking season, I started planting herbs from seed more than a month ago.  I found that the plants on my kitchen garden window seem to do lightyears better than those outside in the yard.  I mean, geez, look at the leaves on this basil plant I grew from seed!!!  I was using clay and plastic pots, but they didn't look nice in the kitchen, so I decided to get to work.



I used my stash of reclaimed lumber (wood I obtained through dumpster diving).  I used my keller dovetail jig to cut some quick but sturdy joints.  You can see the inside of the boxes weren't finished.  I didn't want the dirt to react adversely to any applied finish.  I also made a shallow tray/box to catch any water that drained out of the taller garden box. 




(Left)  Photo of bottom of box.  I drilled out drainage holes and if  you notice, there are two cross braces that were glued and nailed down to keep the bottom board from dropping out.  This is important because the bottom is removable (as seen in photo below).  I wanted to be able to easily transport the plants out of the box, should they ever outgrow their confines. 







I took this photo because while there's sweet basil on the right, some of you might not recognize the herb on the left.  It's a southeast asian herb used a lot in salads and springs rolls.  I believe it's called Rau Ram (Polygonum Odoratum).  In any event, this is my favorite herb of all time.  But, basil is climbing up the ranks quickly.

I've also got a small Thai basil plant growing (not pictured) that smells wonderful.  I love using it to cook up quite a few dishes.  I got lucky and found it at my local borg of all places!  It was being sold under the name Cinammon Basil.  Yum.


UPDATE:  While the boxes look pretty nice, I think the combination of having to add water to the plants coupled how wood likes to expand & shrink really pulled a number on the box sides.  The boxes are still holding up, but in hindsight, I'd probably be better off just using plastic pots.  But I must say this wasn't a failure b/c these boxes helped me nurse some herb seedlings that are now vibrant herb bushes growing outside in the ground.  Oh by the way, with all my new herbs, I discovered a great recipe for an excellent French five-herbed rub for marinating shish kebabs!  Email me if you want the recipe. 


The great thing about woodworking is you really can make personalized gifts limited only by your imagination.  I thought it was funny when my father-in-law professed himself "The Cat Whisperer".  So of course that was the inspiration for this gift.  This Cat Whisperer photo frame is a good example of a gift that is simple to make, but really means something special (which you can't buy from a store).  I used baltic birch plywood and burned the letters with a woodburning pen.  As you can tell, I never did get an "A" in penmanship (*sigh*).   

This is the back view of the frame.  I made this simple pivoting leg to help support the frame.  It's a simple support that pivots off of a wood dowel that's glued into the two cubed blocks of scrap (which in turn are glued to the back of the cat's head).  This support works like a champ!  I love simple designs that get the job done. 

A super quick project completed in less than a few hours?  I didn't think it could be done, but it can!  My friend who was visiting from out of town wanted to make a footstool so she could rest her feet while sitting on a chair.  We toyed around with different drawings and ideas for the shape of the footstool and wound up with this final design.  It's amazing what a little imagination and trial and error can do for one's creative juices!  She designed the dimensions to fit her petite feet.  As an added bonus, should the footstool be needed as a chair to sit upon, the sorta-football shape is perfectly shaped to support ...err...shall we say one's arse.



You gotta love the contrast between the darker endgrain pins and the lighter long grain tails of the dovetail joint.  That and we decided to add a slot for easy carrying.  A little birdie told me that the slot also helps with airflow (or other gaseous elements) should one choose to use this footstool as a seat for one's tushie!  Pretty nicely shaped footstool, I think!








If you look carefully at the front side of the footstool, you'll notice some knots.  At first, I was thinking I sorta wanted clear straight grained pine for this footstool, but my friend suggested that the knots would actually give the piece more character.  Sheeshie--foofoo, artsy fartsy way of putting something nicely?   Well, in the end, she's right!  The two round dark knots are nice, but I really like the knot that we sliced right through.  You can see all the crazy grain and the color change in that one little section.  Besides, wood is a perfectly imperfect why not show that off?  Oh yeah, the piece was finished with Tried and True Varnish Oil--Non-toxic and not too foul smelling, but it doesn't smell like a big tray of chili cheese fries from The  Hat when you're craving for a late night snack.


This photo may seem a bit out of place, but I just had to share another example of why the investment in my shop is justified...well, in other words, let me assuage my guilty conscience for a moment.  

I decided to buy one of those rear camera systems so it would make parking my truck a little easier.  Let me tell you that Costco sells nearly everything under the sun.  In this instance, Costco got me.  The camera works fairly well.  Whenever I shift my truck in reverse, the camera lights up and I can see how much space I have to go.  However, I was really, really disappointed with how the monitor was to be mounted in one's car.  Basically, an adhesive backed piece of velcro is to secured onto the car dashboard.  I realized quickly that after a half day of parking out in the sun, the adhesive would become runny and the velcro sticker (along with the mini-monitor) would shift around leaving a sticky mess on my dashboard.  Needless to say, I was not happy.


After brainstorming on where and how to secure a new location for my rear parking camera' montior, I settled on the area right underneath the ashtray between the driver and passenger seat.  This space was pretty much wasted, so I figured this would be a perfect spot for my little custom project.  However, the unusual shape of the center console and this area as a whole presented a bit of a challenge.  I had to play around a little bit to get the things to fit correctly, but that's the beauty of being able to use woodworking to solve a problem with unique circumstances. 

Sorry, I didn't have a chance to clean up the truck before I took this photo.  



TA-DA!  Here's the end product.  I used box joints to join a few pieces of scrap maple hardwood I had lying around in the shop.  I was lucky that I used box joints because the center console flared out just a tad.  Had used a joint with rigid 90 degree angles, the stand would not have worked.  The box joints allowed me to flare out the vertical pieces of maple accordingly to create a snug fit.  I was pleasantly surprised how securely the stand fit into this area without the use of any type of screws, bolts, or other clamping device.  I didn't bother with matching the contours of the gear shift console to my wooden stand.  Actually, it works out even better, because the small gaps give me a little extra space to slip a few pens and pencils.  I thought about spray painting the stand either black or a matching gray color, but I decided I liked seeing a splash of warm yellow colored maple wood in my otherwise drab truck interior.

 On a class camping trip, I wanted to make a gift for out teaching assistant/camp chef.  We took a group photo and were able to develop within an hour.  I thought it would be nice to use a piece of our camp firewood to make a rustic picture frame.  This was a green piece of curly eucalyptus that destined to go up in flames!  

Here's another picture frame I made for our hosts at The Blue Ox Millworks in Eureka, California.  Both Eric and Viviana Hollenbeck were incredibly gracious hosts.  If you happen to pass by this area, definitely stop by their shop.  They give tours and the work they complete there is amazing.  Plus, they have an amazing collection of antique woodworking machinery that still works today!

My nephew Brent made this boat after looking through some samples in a toymaking book I had lying around.  Of course, I helped him use my bandsaw to make the cuts.  But he used the oscillating spindle sander, drill press, and did some final hand sanding.  For those of you who are packrats when it comes to hardwood scraps, this kind of project is a perfect way to clean up shop.  These scraps are different shades of red oak and jatoba.  It has one light coat of Tried & True Danish Oil / Beeswax Blend.  He's probably a bit too old to really play with this toy, but it'll be a nice toy for his younger brother Derek (not quite 2 years old).


This was a spur of the moment project that came out nicely.  My sister really loves her turtles--so much so that she deals with the hassle of washing out their tank once everyday.  She recently got a glass aquarium/terrarium to house the little guys.  During the summer, there's plenty of light and warmth to keep the turtles moving about, but during the winter, their green shells need some artificial light.  Which is how this project started out....




My sister had already bought a small light fixture for her smaller tank, but it didn't fit onto this new glass tank.  After some brainstorming, I decided to make a  wooden lid to house the light.  I started off by custom sizing a couple of small notches/mortises into which the plastic light fixture could snap securely.  Then I cut out a half-circle to provide the light bulb with adequate clearance.  Then it was a simple matter of building a wooden frame to sit on the ledge of the tank. 




Here you can see the light being turned on.  After finishing the lid, my sister suggested making a stand to give the tank a finished look.  I had plenty of beechwood scraps and wanted to see if I could get another woodworking disciple (namely, my sister)--so I put on the New Chinky Workshop thinking cap and came up with this design. 

I guess I really like the aesthetic look of flared legs.  After showing my sister how to use the bandsaw safely, she started cutting away and shaped the final end product on my oscillating spindle sander.  I didn't use any plans or drawings, but instead just winged it. 






The picture here doesn't really show it that well, but the lip on the base of the stand incorporates dovetail joints that I cut out on my scrollsaw and hand chisels (We were pressed for time, so I wound up cutting the dovetails myself).  I think this project came out fairly well considering it was a first project for my new "pupil."  I guess I'm calling this the Turtle Temple






Here's an upclose introduction to Penny  and Nickel.  Nickel (left) has a pale white spot on the right side of its shell and is pretty mild mannered, but eats like a champ.  Penny (right) is our resident idiot turtle.  He/She is always impatient and always tries to steal food from Nickel. 

The only problem we discovered is that most of the food is too big for Penny's mouth.  Not long after finishing this stand, I observed Penny trying to eat the large bits of food with no luck--I felt sorry for the little guy because he looked like he/she was starving.  Then I saw it take a gulp of something that at first glance resembled turtle food, but actually was Nickel's crap!!!  Ever since then, I've only felt sympathy for Penny--I mean come on, how can you not feel sorry for a creature that's so hungry that it has to resort to eating its buddy's crap!!!  I'm sure it'll relieve you to know that my sister feeds Penny cut up pieces of turtle food pellets.  Penny still tries to steal larger pellets out of Nickel's mouth with no luck, but at least he's willing to settle for smaller pieces of food instead of feces. 

During the winter, I always get the feeling that the turtles are a little sluggish because of the cold.  So my daily ritual includes taking them out for a little sun bathing.  It makes sense--turtles are cold blooded and need to sun themselves to heat their bodies up for movement. 

I couldn't resist putting up this picture.  I wish I could say that they posed deliberately for this photo, but unfortunately, they don't do pet tricks.  I just got lucky.  Call it turtle calisthenics!  And a one...and a two...breathe in...breathe out.





I guess you can probably tell that I'm quite fond of these little guys.  I couldn't help posting up this additional photo.  These guys crack me up.  They both seem to really like the larger rock in the tank.  Location, location, location-- that big rock is prime real estate.  I guess even for turtles, it's true that it's a seller's market.  I'm not sure if they should be called squatters or flamboyant baskers. 


This is a side/top view of the tank.  You can see one of the little guys perched on top of a rock.  It's pretty amusing seeing them guys sun-bathe (and yes, the do that--in fact, you can see them streching out their legs and just laying out).  The only question is whether they need to apply sunblock or turtle wax--Hah! 




Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I made a plywood bottom for the base freestanding.  Whenever I'm taking photos (as in the pictures above), I can remove the plywood base to expose the glass bottom of the tank.  In the alternative, whenever the Nickel and Penny experience vertigo (seeing themselves walking on glass could possibly be traumatic for a turtle I'd imagine), I just slide the plywood base back onto the stand.


The beechwood stand and lid were both finished with Tried & True Original Wood Finish, a blend of boiled linseed oil and beeswax. 



Sad Update:  

Nickel ran away from home.  Well, I'm not sure if he ran away or a local cat took him away (I think it's the latter--Nickel wouldn't abandon the happy home I provided for him).  I left for the weekend and put Nickel and Penny in separate containers outside on my patio.  I put penny in the glass aquarium and nickel in a tupperware container.  I had to separate them because Nickel would eat all of his and Penny's food and then there's that whole crap-eating fiasco (see above).  I asked my sister and her son (my nephew Brent) to help me feed them while I was gone.  A few days later, I got a phone call during the drive home with the news that Nickel was missing!  My sister and Brent looked for Nickel everywhere but to no avail.  Brent was so upset, he cried about it, thinking that maybe Nickel would still be around if he brought the turtles inside the house--what a considerate little boy.  Of course, I told him not to worry about it.  My other nephew Victor, Brent, and another sister helped me look for the little guy.  So far we've had no luck and I'm thinking that the recent super hot weather really spells doom for a freshwater turtle like Nickel.

I'm a little bummed about the whole thing, but hopefully he's survived somewhere out there in the "real world."  Heck, maybe he's in a better place--Turtle Heaven.  The biggest bummer about the whole thing is Nickel was such a cool "show pet."  Just the other night, I threw in a giant cockroach  into the aquarium (instead of just killing it, I thought I'd give my green guys a little extra nourishment).  Well, if you read the excerpt above, it goes without saying that Penny is too dumb to really make a meal out of them roaches and his mouth is too darn small to do anything more than tickle a cockroach.  As for Nickel, geez, the little dude went to town on that six legged bugger!  I know, that sounds a bit  gross, but it is rather entertaining in a Discovery Chanel sort of way.  *Sigh*  Nickel was a pretty awesome little pet.  I'm glad that before I left for my trip, got a chance to pet his little head.  *cue the Barbara Streisand song "MEMORIES"*


So I have new pets.  My sister decided that she didn't have the room or the time to take care of two tortoises that she purchased a while ago.  Because of that, you can call me the new proud foster parent of two Russian Tortoises.  Thankfully these are tortoises and not aquatic turtles.  Despite getting quite attached to Nickel and Penny, I think this time around I want to avoid having to change their water all the time.  Tortoises are just more hardy and I think they are pretty darn cool.  There's just something really cute about those wrinkly little guys.

Here's a photo of the little guys.  I stuck my thumb in the photo just to give a sense of how big these tortoises are.  I did have an extra large plastic bin that served as a makeshift home, but maybe that paternal instinct got the better of me (I never realized I had fatherly reptilian blood in me--oh well, maybe that's why I get cold in the morning ).  The challenge was to create a sturdy outdoor enclosure that would be:  1) tortoise friendly; 2) keep potential troublemakers (e.g. cats, opossums, crows) away; 3) ensure againt a great tortoise escape;  4) not require too much housekeeping; 5) and be aesthetically pleasing.



I fired up that noodle between my ears I call a brain and designed this gem I like to call Tortoise Paradise (although the name Tortoise Shangri-La is also making a strong push).  I had quite a bit of large bamboo left from my fence project and I decided why not use it for this enclosure.  Then I made a trip to the local orange borg to look for materials.  I could have used chicken wire, but that would have been really unsightly.  I thought about using wooden lattice, but I didn't want to deal with eventual rot and discoloration that comes with using wood.  Fortunately, I found this plastic faux cedar lattice that really looked like the answer to my Tortoise design predicament.  I'm glad I had a nice shop setup because trying to cut this plastic lattice material was a bit unsual, but it worked out in the end. 



I even created a flip top door out of this lattice material.  You can see the lid is supported by more bamboo.  I did use some chicken wire to complete the project.  To prevent the tortoises from digging themselves away, I first dug out about six inches worth of dirt and used chicken wire to create an underground barrier.  After burying dirt and redwood bark mulch on top, the enclosure started to look pretty fancy.  Then I got around to thinking that it would be great to plant some food here for these mostly vegetarian tortoises to eat in the event I forget to feed them.  So I found some plants in my garden with leafy greens and transplanted them to the enclosure.  To complete this Tortoise Shangri-La I threw in some river rocks and a hollowed out log to give the tortoises some variety to their new home.  Just FYI, it seemed meant to be that one of my neighbors up the street had cut down a huge tree and I was able to pick up a small chunk of it.  I fired up my bandsaw and hollowed out a half section of the log and now shade can be had by my new little companions.  A few days later, I went to a local pet store and saw a smaller version of a hollowed out log for about $20!  I love it when I can save some money just by using stuff I have lying around or find somewhere for free!

I guess I'm a little paranoid that a cat or some predator might actually be able to lift up the lattice doors on this enclosure.  So even though it was probably overkill, I decided to make a lock to guard against any potential tortoise catastrophe.  I originally went looking for some type of storebought lock, but couldn't find anything that would fit.  So out of necessity I wound up making a lock that I think works even better than anything I could have bought.  A scrap piece of redwood 2x6 and a small piece of bamboo were the ingredients this winning creation.  Want to see this lock in action...? it is!  Works like a charm (I've always wondered about that expression.  I mean honestly, how many people can say that they've actually experienced the magical powers of a charm?)  I think in this instance, maybe I ought to say, "Looks like a charm," instead.  I really like the "pull it out of one's a_ _ out of necessity" quality behind this lock.  It also doesn't hurt that it almost looked like I meant to design this lock all along.  I probably shouldn't advertise how accidental this creation really was, but ah, I'm just happy it worked out. 






I have always heard a lot of about aromatic cedar, but never worked with it first hand.  My most recent trip to my lumber dealer resulted my purchasing a long board of aromatic cedar.  This species of wood is often used to line closets to deter moths from chewing through your clothes.  Of course if you buy a small piece of aromatic cedar at home depot or lowes, you're gonna pay extra--about $3 for a small and boring looking piece rectangular cedar.  This is yet another instance of why being able to make things yourself not only can save you a few bucks, but also allows you make something exactly the way you want. 

Tip:  Whenever the aroma fades from your cedar, use a little sandpaper to rough up your cedar to expose fresh wood--the aromatic oils from the wood will be released and it'll smell great again. 

I serendipitously got a hold of some green burl wood just lying around on the ground after some tree limbs were cut down.  I've never worked with burl before and the hefty price tag for this stuff has always kept me from even thinking about using it on a project.  But I was able to score a few small pieces of this for free.  The down side--the pieces were small and the wood was freshly cut, so moisture was a problem.

I decided I wanted to bandsaw off one side to see how it looks.  Here it is after some quick sanding and light coat of oil.  The rest of the pieces were coated with a wax emulsion (to keep the wood from cracking or splitting while I let it air dry for the next year or two).  I checked it with a moisture meter and the stuff reads about 36 percent moisture content.  I'll have to find a place for this to sit and dry out until about 6-8 percent moisture content. 

I don't know what I'll make out of this.  So far I'm thinking maybe a nice clock or a pen holder.  Or if I ever get into turning (highly unlikely) I've got some stuff to work with.


Here's another piece of that amazing burl!  'Nuff said.








It was only a matter of time before the "mad scientist" woodworker in me struck again!  One of my other hobbies is gardening (I'm actually getting quite into gardening, as of late).  I've been starting seedlings in the kitchen garden window, but as is the case with plants, they grow quickly and space is at a premium.  I didn't have room for a full on life-size greenhouse, so I thought why not make a mini-greenhouse for seedlings  that are a little too big to stay indoors and a little too fragile to handle the relative cold of Southern California winter nights.  A little dreaming, some leftover scraps of pine, my packrat nature, and a quick stop at my local plastics dealer was all I needed to get to work.


I wanted a fast and easy way to make this greenhouse.  A quick inventory of my router bits resulted in the decision to use rail and stile joinery to make frames to hold the acrylic sheets in place.  I got to work gluing up the pieces and added a lift up roof for easy watering access.  It was great, because my packrat nature came in handy as I had been sitting on some mismatched hinges and drawer pulls.  And for a project like this, aesthetics wasn't the objective.  My goals could be summed up succinctly:  quick, functional, and free!  Oh yeah, I almost forgot, saving some small mini casters from two years ago paid off as I used them up in this project. 


And just when you thought this was an ordinary run of the mill mini-greenhouse...SHABAM!....The greenhouse sides and top can be removed for easy access to my plants.  I finished this project off by using a plastic container to catch any runoff water.  We'll see how my plants like their new hotel. 





This is a sushi hand roll stand I made for my sister and brother in law.  I made a set of these and a set with five holes.  I used a food safe salad bowl finish to complete the project. 





This stand is made of pine and avocado wood.



And if  you like the background, again it's my favorite wood--curly lyptus.








We recently had our kitchen remodeled using a granite countertop.  Typically, any wet kitchen towels/rags would be washed and draped on top of the countertop.  To avoid having rags everywhere and to encourage faster drying time, my brother-in-law and sister suggested making a small kitchen towel rack.  Of course, I could have made it a quick and boring "box-y" project, but I figured I'd give it a little more artistic flair!

I used birch for the vertical columns and I think the dowels purchased at the Orange Borg (Home Depot) are made of either birch or avocado.  The curved parts of the piece were made of some tropical hardwood that I couldn't identify.  The amazing thing about this lumber is I got it free. Apparently pallets are sometimes made of this stuff because it's really durable, hard, and very heavy.  After the pallets are used up, they sometimes are just tossed into the dumpster!  I really enjoy being able to put these kinds of scraps to good use.  And to think this beautiful wood was going to the dump!


Here's a photo of how the rack would look like while in use.  Since this piece will handle wet rags, I wanted to be sure the wood would be fully protected.  So choosing the right finish was especially important.  To give the grain of the wood some depth and color, I used Olympic antique oil and then topped it off with several coats of wipe on polyurethane. 





24 Wooden Sticks + Some Brain Power = ......?

.....Presto!  A Puzzle Box!!!

On a recent trip to Vermont, I had the chance to visit a Norman Rockwell Museum and I really liked some of the portraits, but didn't like the big price tag on pre-framed replicas.  So I bought myself three pieces of Mr. Rockwell's artwork (postcard size) with the idea that I could make a decent custom wood frame myself. 

Again, I was in between projects, so I wanted a quick and easy way to make a frame.  I originally thought of building a 45 degree spline jig to reinforce a miter joint on the corners of the frame.  But when I checked out my stash of router bits to cut the profile of the frame, I thought why not use my rail and stile bits and do away with the miter joint altogether.  The joint is strong and it still looks good from the front.  So I grabbed some scrap pieces of cherry and routed out the rail and stile profile.  To provide clearance for the acrylic and artwork to slide onto the frame, I had to cut a rabbet on the back of the frame.  After that, it was a matter of a simple glue up, cutting up a piece of acrylic to size and using an exacto knife to cut out the matting.  Making the frame was relative quick and easy.  The only down side is you can see the rail and stile profile on the sides of the frame.  I don't mind it so much, especially since is was so quick to make.  And oh yeah, cutting the matting without the proper tools made it kind of hard.  I'm sure having a mat cutting tool/setup would have made that part much easier and more professional looking.  But for now, this budget project works for me.   

My niece picked up painting as a hobby.  I had no idea our family had a bit of the painter's gene in our DNA.  I, for one, can't paint or draw for diddly squat.  Well, Georgia O'Keefe is her favorite artist and she likes to paint reproductions for fun.  I think she did a darn good job on this one.  Mounting the canvas itself onto a wall would have looked nice, but the recipient of this gift (my sister) wanted it framed.  The tricky thing was this painting wasn't on a flat, thin piece of paper.  Instead a thick canvas was used (about 3/4"-1" thick if I remeber correctly).  I had to make a special frame using 8/4 lumber to create a deep enough recess to house the painting.  Overall, the choice of birch matched very well not only to the painting, but also to the surrounding decor of my sister's house.




Here's a shot of the backside of the frame and painting.  You can see that the canvas was stretched out onto a pine frame.  I recessed the entire painting deep enough into the birch outer frame without causing the frame to look too bulky.  Then the corner miters were reinforced with spline/keys.  I pulled two pieces of string/wire taught to secure the canvas to the frame. 

So far, the frame is holding up very well.  Even though I'm focusing this discussion more on the wood frame than the painting itself, I'm not forgetting that it's the painting that's the real attraction.  A wood frame should accent the painting not detract from it.  So I think in that respect, this frame did it's job.

I was so impressed with my niece's talents, I decided to surprise her with the first ever "The New Chinky Workshop" easel.  (See Below.)



At first, I tried looking for some free online plans on how to make an easel.  But after a lot of searching, I didn't really find any plans to my liking.  Plus, I keep learning my lesson that I really enjoy making up my own plans as I go.  I've never liked using someone else's plans.  Most of the time, I'm lazy about dreaming up a design, but ultimately, I always come to find that I enjoy that part of woodworking just as much as actually making sawdust!  Problem solving and design is a lot like exercising, you may have a hard time starting up, but once you do, your muscles (and in this case, your brain) will undoubtedly get stronger.

I decided on a tripod design for this easel because it's relatively light-weight, folds up quickly and can be easily adjusted.  This is the easel's short position--I suppose you could just sit this on top of a tabletop.  But ah....I built in quite a few extra on...


My niece lives in a college apartment, so it goes without saying that space is always a factor.  So when not in use, this easel folds up into a very slim profile for easy storage.  Sweet!!!



The rear leg of the easel pivots off a single butt hinge.  To create an relatively "infinite" variable distance for the rear leg to splay out without compromising the easel's stability, I attached a brass chain and an open brass eye hook.  Depending on how open the rear leg needs to flare out, the chain can easily be adjusted.  This works like a charm.




When the easel is folded up and in storage mode, I realized that the legs would sometimes rattle around.  To prevent this, I first installed a hook latch and eyebolt to lock the front frame to the rear leg.  Then I came up with the idea of using some leftover wire/rod stock to shape a catch.  The catch prevent's the leg extensions from flaring out without compromising the extensions' ability to slide up and down the wooden t-slot.  It's a bit difficult to describe this feature and how it works.  It makes a lot more sense when you see it in person.  But I've included a few photos just to give folks an idea of what I'm talking about.




An additional feature I really like is the easel's abilty to adjust to canvases of differing sizes.  A small canvas can be easily supported by moving the bottom rail up.  Then the shorter top rail can be moved down creating an almost clamping action to hold the canvas in place.  In some designs I saw, only the top rail was adjustable.  It seemed odd to me because I felt it was just as easy to make both top and bottom rails adjustable.  I mean why slum it, when you can make something just the way you want.  Sorry about the woodworking snootiness, but I gotta be me!!!!









You can see the easel's max capacity (right).  Pretty sweet, no?  All it takes is a quick twist of the star knob and you can adjust to your heart's desire.  I could have used wing nuts, but I decided to P I M P out this easel just a bit.  So it was off to Rockler to pick up a few plastic star knobs. 

Oh and before I forget, the other unique thing about this easel is I was able to use my stash of hardwoods from my dumpster diving days.  The different color woods don't really match, but I've been told the miss matching colors actually makes the easel look more artistic.  Sounds like a lot of hogwash to me, but gotta love people who sugarcoat things.  In any case, I didn't have to spend more money on buying 6/4 and 8/4 stock.


Finally, this is the easel in fully extended mode.  Each of the three legs of the tripod have wooden extensions that ride on wooden t-slots.  To extend the easel out, all it takes is a twist of the star knob and some gentle sliding of the extension bar.  To secure the extension in place, another twist of the star knob tightens down a t-bolt.  This system works surprisingly well.  

Like all of my projects, in hindsight, the design and problem solving aspects of woodworking makes this hobby so much more rewarding than just following a recipe or plan.  Even when I cook, I follow recipes to get a general idea, but I always add in my own variations just to spice things up a bit.  So for those of you who are just stuck to the idea of woodworking only with plans, my advice is fight that feeling and try designing on your own.  You'll feel much more accomplished and satisfied when you slap on that final coat of wax on your newly completed and UNIQUE masterpiece! 


It was only a matter of time before I made an accessory of sorts for the painting easel above.  I had tried to inspire my niece to get back to painting as a way to relieve stress and provide an outlet for her artistic talents.  So after dropping her off to college, I took her to a couple of art supply stores and got her a few paint brushes and some new paint colors.  I told her that this wasn't so much a gift as a sort of barter agreement of sorts--in exchange she was to paint me a nice painting of one of my planes or my workbench or something having to do with my workshop.  Forget Van Gogh, O'Keefe, Picasso--instead I'll have something better, my very own personalized memorial of The New Chinky Workshop! 


My niece had been storing her tools/paints in a Ziploc bag--which for me is a blasphemous way to store one's tool, be they woodworking tools or painting tools.  So this painter's toolbox was born!

I started with some clear yellow pine boards, as they were lighter in weight than most of the hardwoods I had available in the shop.  The grids house the various painting spatulas and tools and tubes of paint perfectly.  I then wanted an open space (right side of box) to store the rolled up paintbrush canvas bag and any other miscellaneous large and odd items. 

When the paintbrush canvas is unrolled, it needs two stiff pieces of cardboard to help prop itself up for easy access to each brush (see photo above).  I wanted this unit to house everything, including the pieces cardboard.  So the small reddish pull on the bottom of the box actually allows a small "door" to be lifted up, exposing a compartment to house the two pieces of cardboard.  As a bonus, I left the compartment high enough to provide extra clearnace to house a painter's palette.  A couple of coats of polyurethane gel and my own version of art was complete! 



This toolbox is made of African Mahogany and Purpleheart.  This was a fun project that enabled me to practice different joinery techniques and woodworking skills.




Here you can see that I also made a shallow tray that sits in the toolbox.  I was really happy with how I was able to save the offcut from the tool box handle and use it to make a smaller handle for the tray.  To invert the colors of the respective handles (the toolbox handle has purpleheart on the outside and African Mahogany on the inside whereas on the tray handle its vice versa), I resawed the offcut, shifted the pieces around and laminated the two resawn halves together.  I liked the effect. 





The photo isn't that great, but if you look carefully at the inside of the toolbox you'll see how I was able to keep the tray off the bottom of the toolbox. 

I glued on a couple strips of purpleheart into grooves I made on the inside of the toolbox to act as supports to elevate the tray. 

The handle on the tray is secured using sliding dovetail joinery.








(Top) A pushblock made from Honduran Mahogany.  (Bottom) a sanding block also made of Honduran Mahogany, Lyptus, and cork.  I'm not so sure that I'll ever use this push block (but I did learn how to properly sand and prepare a finish on this project.  The sanding block, well, this is something I could see myself actually using instead of just keeping it on display.  Nevertheless, they were fun to make.  I think this has got to be the most expensive push block I will ever, ever make.


Here's a simple mallet made of walnut and some unknown tropical hardwood.  I was able to salvage this wood from discarded pallets!  I guess my woodworking obsession has removed all remnants of dignity from me as I can now say I'm not above dumpster diving for wood!    The walnut handle is tapered and secured to the mallet head with a dowel and ebony plug.












My good friend from college bought herself a house a few years back.  I decided to make her a housewarming gift and made this letter box with some hooks for hang to hang three sets of keys.  The letter box is made of solid pine and poplar.  She's going to get married soon and I like to think that maybe the letter box added to her marriage karma.   

Update:  My theory about marriage karma was right!  She and her husband are now proud parents to an adorable little boy and girl.


Crepes are one of the best things ever invented!  I for one don't care for salty crepes (they just seem very unnatural to my mental taste buds), but I love sweet crepes.  Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, honey, almond powder, nutella, bananas, ice cream....mmmm.  After watching some crepe places make the crepes live, I was captivated by a small wooden tool they used to spread the crepe batter evenly on the hot plate.  When I went home it occurred to me that I can pretty much make anything out of wood, so I came up with this version of the crepe trowel.  I can't wait to put it to use!


I have to admit that the idea for this box comes straight from a book.  The author of the book named this box Tsunami.  I laminated six different solid pine boards together and used a bandsaw to cut out the shape.  And a belt sander was used to give the jewelry box that curved look.  Everything about the box is made of solid wood for the exception of the black velvet lining in each of the drawers. 


My sister drives a Honda Accord coupe.  Unfortunately, the area right below the radio controls and in front of the gear shift is oddly shaped and does not contain any trash container.  So I made this custom-designed box to store trash for her car.  The box looks like a house, but once it's placed into the car, it looks like the box came straight from a dealer.  The box is made with through dovetail joints--created on my scrollsaw.

This is a completely original design.  Sadly to say, there are commercial versions of this that look way better.  Oh well, it was a fun project nevertheless.  I wanted a business card holder that could protect the cards cards from damage when closed, but could also  be opened up and be used as a stand to sit on top of a desk.  The wood came from a log that was destined for the fireplace.  I rough cut, milled, and surfaced the wood by myself using my bandsaw, jointer, and planer.  So from start to finish, this project truly was born in The New Chinky Workshop, save for the fact that I didn't actually plant the tree that the wood came from.  

For a while I had been using metal hammers and a rubber deadblow mallet.  Then I read a magazine article about making your own tools and that inspired me to make my on mallet.  So I came up withis design.  This too was made from a log that I cut up from the firewood pile.  Of course, I had to put my signature on it.  I now reach for this mallet instead of a regular hammer.  As an odd tangential point, I hosted a crab boil a while ago and my mom grabbed this mallet (as it was closer to her than my other hand-crafted dedicated crab mallets), and whacked at some tasty shellfish.




After I made a train table for my Nephew to put all of his Thomas the Tank Engine trains on, I started contemplating making my own train tracks.  A box of four pieces of track like the ones on the right costs $20!!!  I made mine out of scraps.  See if you can tell which one is store bought and which ones are made the New Chinky style.  I made these before they had special router bits to make the male and female connectors.  I used my drill press, scrollsaw, and bandsaw to make these pieces of track. 

This was a "What the heck can I give to someone who really loves "basketball" gift.  I made this out of scraps and burned the lines with my burning pen. 

Here's another bandsaw box made of solid pine.  I picked out this particular board because the brown streaks really added to the wave design of the piece.



I saw these stands as I was walking on the street during my schooling days in the Bay Area.  I decided to make my own version and give them out as gifts to people.  Each one doesn't really serve much of a purpose, but it does look rather neat.  These weren't very hard to make and I guess they can serve as mini-stands on someone's desk.

I made a box to store some chisels I gave as a gift to a friend of mine who wanted to dabble in woodcarving.  My philosophy is everyone's inner "me" that yearns to woodwork should be nurtured and given every opportunity to develop--how's that for a crock of _____.


The lid to the box slides into a groove.  Of course, I had to brand the box with my signature.The box is entirely made of solid yellow pine.

After seeing a picture of this photo album on a woodworking messageboard site, I thought I'd give it a try.  I used my bandsaw to slice up bookmatching pieces of curly maple and I laminated a strip of walnut to give it some visual contrast.  I have to thank my mom for taking me to a fabric dealer where I found lots of leather string.  The brown, black, and maroon leather strings really add a more finished look to the photo album.  I finished the project with several coats of Olympic Antique Oil and buffed it with a thin coat of Renaissance Furniture Wax.





(Right)  Bookmatched birdseye maple trimmed with lyptus.  I purchased heavyweight scrapbook paper in various colors and reinforced them with small donut shaped stickers found in an office supply store.  Thanks to my sister for helping me put on each sticker onto each piece of paper. 

Opening the album probably would have been easier with brass hinges, but I like the look of leather on this project. 



This is a simple box I made from pine and walnut.  The sides of the box are joined by through dovetails I cut on my scrollsaw.

My mom is an avid grocery shopper--I guess it's hardwired into Asian    moms.  In any case, she usually buys a bunch of bananas and inevitably, they tend to turn brown quickly.  I had heard of banana racks before, but had never seen them.  So I did keyword search for banana racks online and saw a picture of one.  I came up with my own version of it.  I had to make the proportions a little off to make it fit on my kitchen counter top.  And if you're wondering how I got that piece of wood to curve like that--I cut thin strips of wood and glued them up together in a molded shape. 

While I was cutting some fruit on one of those flimsy plastic cutting boards, it occurred to me that somehow wooden cutting boards feel better when the knife hits them as opposed to plastic.  So I decided to make some cutting boards, but I wanted them to be different than the storebought kind.  I mean, why not make something customized, something that you can't buy at a store.  So I originally tried to come up with two different colored cutting boards--one to be used for meats and one for non meats.  I came up with the maple cutting board with walnut trim and vice versa.  Unfortunately, my mom would get mixed up as to which one was for meat and which one was for vegetables.  So I decided to make it really easy to remember and put a pig shaped inlay into the meat cutting board.  I cut the pig out of brazilian cherry.  And FYI, if your wooden cutting boards look dried out, coat them with walnut out (available in fancy grocery stores--makes cutting boards look brand new).

I had some scrap pieces of european white beechwood and I decided to glue them up and make them into a small cutting board.  I'm pretty pleased with the way it came out.  The sound and feel of a knife cutting on a wooden board instead of plastic is the only way to prepare food.  This is where one of my best friends would quote some saying from the Food Network.


I recently was asked to make some more cutting boards.  This time I thought it would be neat to try and make the face of the cutting board out of endgrain.  I had a bunch of old, heavy discarded tropical hardwoods that were previously used to make pallets lying around.  I jointed and planed them down to about 2" x 2" thick.  I glued the strips together and then crosscut them.  Then by flipping the strips over, I was able to expose the end grain for the top and bottom of the cutting boards.  By flipping the strips over, I now had face grain in which to glue the crosscut strips together.



As an added bonus, the endgrain of the strips had really neat grain patterns.  With a little artistic alignment, I was able to get this configuration.  I then used a belt sander to sand the endgrain flush, trimmed the edges square on the tablesaw, and then chamfered the edges with my block plane.  Finally, I finished the boards with Tried & True Original Wood Finish.  It's an expensive finish for a cutting board, but I wanted the grain to really stand out as long as possible. 

Making this cutting board was an exercise in how scatterbrained I can be, but how fun it is to come up with quick fixes on the fly--here's what I mean by that--My newly purchased Makita 3x21 sander has a dust port that didn't quite fit with my shopvac or dust collection hose.  Of course, I didn't discover this until I actually had to bust out the sander for use on this cutting board.  After failing to find a hose or fitting that would match this sander, I decided to make my own custom fitting.  To see more about this scroll down until you see the Makita Sander.

With all these cutting boards, you might guess I like making cutting boards. Actually, making them is a bit tedious for me.  There's not much too it except making sure the joints are perfectly flat, clamping the pieces together, scraping and sanding, and rubbing on a foodsafe finish.  All in all making cutting boards isn't that interesting.  However, I enjoyed this latest cutting board because I had to come up a design to allow the board to sit on top of my new kitchen sink.  I made two separate boards--one for meats and one for other items.


Here's a nice picture of how the board can be placed on top of the sink, leaving one of the two sink tubs open.  This configuration is great for cutting washing all in one work area.  Plus any offcuts of vegetables can be pushed off into the sink/garbage disposal.

The board actually doesn't sit on top of the sink.  This is an undermount sink--which means you really don't want to put any more weight than is necessary directly on top of the sink.  For this reason I made the board is a bit longer than the sink.  In doing so, the board rests entirely on the granite slab.  Thus any force from chopping or cutting will be placed directly on the granite slab and not the sink. 


To prevent the board from moving around or even slipping off the countertop and into the sink, I custom fit two strips hardwood to the bottom of the cutting board.  These strips prevent the board from moving backwards or forwards (causing the board to fall into the sink).   I think these two cutting boards will get lots of use. 




I saw plans for this box in a magazine and decided to try making my own version for a friend who got married not too long ago.  The box is made of birdseye maple and quartersawn european beech.  The one of the left has black walnut as the inside trim and the the one on the left has jatoba (brazilian cherry) for the corner tabs.  I used two pieces of plexiglass to hold the photo.





The plexiglass is held in place with some homemade ebony clips.  I wasn't happy with the store bought plastic versions of photoclips, so I came up with this idea.  The lid of the box pivots on brass piano hinges.   I only made two boxes, but I'm so pleased with the way they came out that I just might have to make some more later down the line.


I got this idea from our family friends as a gift for a young toddler.  It's a painting easel.  The stand/frame holds a piece of plexiglass in place for any budding picasso to work his/her magic.  I guess the beauty of this thing is the plexiglass slides out for easy cleaning. The frame is made of pine and finished with a kid safe oil and beeswax finish.