Finishing Puzzle Table

After routing the jigsaw puzzle design, I made a base out of four mitred lengths of black walnut to raise the table up off the ground. That way, it didn’t just look like a cube sitting on the ground.

Puzzle Table17

Then came finishing. Let’s just say that it required some patience to get an even coat of finish on the edges of each of the 169 puzzle pieces.

Puzzle Table16Puzzle Table15

After the finish dried, I set it up for some studio photographs. This one shot captured the essence of the table pretty well, I thought.

Jigsaw Puzzle Table1

Find all the details for Jigsaw Puzzle Table on the product page.


Shop Stools, Revisited on

It’s official! I’m now a contributor to the Craftsy woodworking blog.

My first article, fittingly, is about shop stools. In the article, I discuss some basic principles that make a good shop stool, then provide some practical ideas backed up by photos from the Shop Stool Build-Off.

Read the article on the Craftsy Woodworking Blog.

Craftsy Blog

Routing the Puzzle Pieces for Puzzle Table

After gluing up the four sides, my next step was to rout in the puzzle pieces.

I used three combination squares referenced off of each edge to lay out a grid, which represented the size and location of the puzzle pieces.

Puzzle Table10

Pencil can be difficult to see on black walnut, but I found that roughing up the planed surface with 120-grit sandpaper made the lines easier to see.

Puzzle Table11

I routed the jigsaw puzzle design with a 1/8″ spiral bit, doing one line at a time.

Puzzle Table12 It was very gratifying to see one surface completed.

Puzzle Table13

Next, I rolled the cube and continued routing puzzle pieces into the other faces.

Puzzle Table14

Assembling Puzzle Table

After a week making the inside surfaces glossy and blue, I was back to making sawdust.

I mitred the ends of the panels with my sliding table saw, using a stop block to ensure that they were all the same length. I appreciated the fact that my carefully-painted surfaces were able to just sit on the sliding table and glide past the blade, rather than be pushed across the table and risk scratching them.

Puzzle Table5To make assembly easier, and for reinforcement, I cut mortises in the mitres with my Domino Joiner.

Puzzle Table6 Using Domino floating tenons, all I had to do was get them started in the mortises, then use a mallet to drive the parts together.  Alignment was guaranteed.

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The floating tenons are strong, too! I first assembled the sides in pairs.

Puzzle Table8 Then I put the two halves together and clamped the entire assembly with web clamps.

Puzzle Table9

It was really exciting to get to this stage, but the next stage is pretty exciting too – cutting the puzzle pieces!

Roots of Flair: Accepting Wood Movement

At some point in time, every woodworker has cursed the fact that wood expands in humid weather and contracts in dry weather. Because of it, lumber that was once straight became curved, twisted, or both. Parts that once fit snugly became loose, or impossibly tight.

Turning green (freshly cut) wood was how I learned firsthand how much wood can move, and how quickly it can move. I got hooked on turning goblets, which were fun to turn, and could be turned in an afternoon. I learned a lot about grain direction, wood’s strengths and weaknesses, and, after about a week’s time drying, how much wood could change shape as it dried.

I have added three goblets to my website that are for sale, at a price of $30 each.

DSC_9196 As long as we are dealing with solid lumber, wood movement is inevitable. Don’t ignore it and don’t fight it. Accept it.

When designing, I take wood movement into consideration. Sometimes that means using wood cut a certain way (e.g. quartersawn) to focus the expansion and contraction in one direction. Other times, it means using reinforcement (e.g. battens) to keep things aligned. And sometimes, it means just letting the wood do whatever it wants.

If you are interested in learning more about turning goblets from green wood, I recommend Turning Green Wood by Michael O’Donnell, one of the books on my page, Recommended Readings.


Puzzle Table

Recently, I received a commission to build a coffee table with a jigsaw puzzle design on the surface. The idea was to use a dark wood on the outside and paint the inside blue.

Puzzle Table Sketch

I wanted straight-grained walnut for the outside so not to distract from the puzzle pieces being routed on the surface. Since I wasn’t able to procure enough rift-sawn or flat-sawn walnut, I took 8/4 (2″ thick) flat-sawn walnut and cut it into 1/4″ thick strips. I then arranged them in a slip-match pattern and glued them to a substrate of 1″ plywood. This was to help keep the wood stable as it makes its way across the continent to Florida.

Puzzle Table1 Once the glue was dry, I cleaned up the surface and levelled the joints with a card scraper.

Puzzle Table2 Then I glued walnut onto the edges of the table and used cauls to distribute the pressure evenly.

Puzzle Table3

My next steps are to prep the opposite face for painting, before mitering the ends and joining the four sides into the box.

Puzzle Table4

Single-Slab Cherry Coffee Table, Part II

In Part I of this project, I cut mitred returns in the cherry crotch slab and joined the three legs to the table top with Domino floating tenons. I then cut and fit five maple dovetail keys.

Cherry Coffee Table 1

Due to the way that the wood dried, neither the top nor the legs were particularly flat, so I simply used a sander to make them fair and smooth.

Cherry Coffee Table 2This is an excellent example of how my designs are influenced by the materials I use. The overall size of the materials dictate the dimensions of the piece, and the shape of the live edge and grain patterns influence where cuts are made and where dovetail keys can be used in best effect.

Due to the height, this piece works equally well as a coffee table and a bench.

Check the product page for more details on this coffee table/bench.


Roots of Flair: Exploration of Texture and Latch Installation

Part of my attraction to wood was the way it felt. In its natural state, wood was covered by bark that covered the undulating live edge. After being sawn into boards at a sawmill, the surface was covered in rough saw marks. Then, as the lumber was processed, the roughness was typically removed by planing or sanding, leaving a smooth surface that showed the grain clearly.

While smooth surfaces certainly had their appeal, I had always been attracted to texture. These surfaces begged to be touched.

Brushed Cedar Box 1 and Brushed Cedar Box 2 were created shortly before I started Flair Woodworks. With these two boxes, I used a wire brush to exploit the difference in hardness between the heartwood and sapwood. As I worked the wood, the bristles deflected off of the harder areas (where the tree grew more slowly) and scraped away the softer areas (where the tree grew more quickly). This process created shallow channels following the grain, as if it had been eroded by years of water flowing over it.


Brushed Cedar Box 2


Brushed Cedar Box 1

The boxes were finished with plated brass hinges and a sprung latch. Positioning the larger part of the latch on the bottom half of the box gave it a more grounded appearance.


Brushed Cedar Box 1, open

For Brushed Cedar Box 2, I mounted the hasp upside-down with respect to Box 1. In doing so, I discovered that since the latch was sprung, there was a practical advantage to this orientation – the lid could be closed and secured in a single motion.


Brushed Cedar Box 2, open

I have decided to offer the boxes for $70 each. Additional photos are available on the product pages.


One-Step Joinery

No matter how much time I have, there never seems to be enough. For that reason, I make many of my decisions based on efficiency. My decision to use a hand tool or a power tool for a given task is dependent on what I feel is more efficient for the task at hand.

In my effort to be more efficient, I also examine the processes that I’ve learned along the way and assess whether or not steps can be eliminated to save time. I encourage you to do the same, and if you think of any shortcuts, please share them here in the comments section.

In this video (duration: 10:41), I talk more about my thought process and explain my one-step joinery procedure which saves a lot of unnecessary time laying out, cutting, and fitting dovetail joints.

Perfection May Be a Goal

It’s not uncommon for we humans to strive for perfection. We can drive ourselves insane and spend our lifetime trying to achieve it. As David Savage would say, “perfection is a terrible taskmaster”.

The creative people over at The New York Times created a program that reads their articles and scans for haikus. They choose the best and publish them on a Tumblr page. This one, I think, is… gee, dare I say it? Perfection!

Laura Collins-Hughes - Perfection may be a goal

I keep my favourite quotes on a page titled Quotables.