Unforeseen Challenges

After a day of work at Lee Valley Tools, I came home and found myself in my shop with a bit of time. I had a simple project already started and only a little more work remained before assembly. I finished cutting the 6mm mortises with my Festool Domino Joiner and began the glue-up, which consisted of five rails attached to two end caps with floating tenons.

It was a simple, straight-forward assembly process. Or so I thought.

I started by applying glue to one mortise in a rail, driving in a tenon, and continuing until all the floating tenons were installed. This way, I knew that the floating tenons were already seated and I didn’t have to worry about the open time of that glue.

Next, I applied glue to each mortise of one end cap and used my dead blow mallet to drive each rail into place. This wasn’t particularly easy, so I drove them in as far as they wanted to go before starting the second end cap. Besides, aligning five mortise and tenon joints at the same time is very hard – it’s much easier to set them in one at a time, as is the case when they protrude different amounts.

With glue in each mortise, I began tapping the end cap into place, carefully aligning the Domino tenons with the mortises as I went. I got all the tenons started into the mortises, and then my 2-pound mallet started bouncing off of the assembly. Not good.

I reached for a pair of my favourite Jet Parallel Bar Clamps and started turning the handles to close the joints. Nothing moved. I kept cranking, applying as much torque to the handles as I ever have – so much, actually, that the whole assembly was trying to flip over itself.

As I applied all the force I could muster, I looked around the shop, wishing that I owned some heavy-duty I-beam clamps. There was no reason that this much pressure should have been required to close the joints. I hadn’t applied an excessive amount of glue that would keep the joint from closing. My Domino Joiner was set up to cut adequately deep mortises. Yes, it was. Perhaps the joints were so tight, the glue and/or air had no way of escaping the mortise and that was keeping the joints from closing.

Not having much luck, I added a third clamp for additional clamping force and weight to keep the assembly from flipping. I kept cranking and cranking. This was becoming more work than I’d done in the whole day up until now!

I applied a fourth clamp, moved the assembly to the floor and used my body weight to keep the assembly flat on the floor while I cranked on the handles. The assembly groaned, creaked and popped with every rotation of the clamp handle. Those were scary sounds, but they were reassuring since they indicated that something was moving. Or that it was about to explode.

After a ton of nerve-wracking creaking and 15 minutes of frantic work to pull the assembly together before the glue set, the gaps finally closed. I collapsed on the floor, exhausted. Or, at least I felt like doing that.

Challenging Glue-Up

A Different Kind of Scrolled Sign

I recently completed this sign for my friend Mike. It bears his and his wife’s names, and those of his three dogs.


I created the layout using a computer, then printed it out and adhered it to a sheet of Baltic birch plywood. I cut out the waste around the letters with my scroll saw and dyed the wood to create contrast before gluing it to the backer board for support.


I had a lot of fun developing and making this project, and Mike was thrilled to receive it and has been showing it to everybody.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like a custom sign of this style made for you!

Overflow XX

This is a nice, lightweight fret saw with a 12″-deep throat for increased cutting capacity. It is a German-made saw and can be purchased new from Lee Valley Tools Ltd.


A pair of thumbscrews secure the standard 5″ pin-less blades which are tensioned by the lightweight frame.


Overall, I do like this saw, but not as much as my fantastic Knew Concepts saws.

If you would like this saw, please leave a comment below with a brief description of the first project you would like to make with it. You may enter until the end of Thursday, January 22. I will then draw a winner at random. Even if you don’t get this saw, remember that there is still much more I want to give away.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my blog so you can be notified as soon as I post something new! Please tell your friends about my Overflow program.

Review the details of the Overflow program.

Overflow XIX – Bulk Items

These items are small and of little value. Unlike other Overflow items, these are first come, first serve. I would be happy to include anything from this page with anything else you may win in future Overflow draws – just let me know when that time comes.

1. Router bit boxes. They come in various sizes and are all empty. They could be useful for organizing or storing small parts. Or router bits. ALL GONE!

DSC_9238 2. Bent picks. I must have more than a hundred. Most look like the lower example, but a handful look more like the top one. If one were to make a nice wooden handle for a pick…

DSC_9220 DSC_9216

3. Old, white labels, 4 x 15/16″. They are adhesive backed and start to peel after a day or so when applied to wood or cardboard. One dozen per sheet. ALL GONE!


If you would like any of these, please leave a comment below indicating what you would like. These are first come, first serve and I’d be happy to include any items from this giveaway with a future Overflow item, should you be selected as a winner! There is still much more I want to give away.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my blog so you can be notified as soon as I post something new! Please tell your friends about my Overflow program.

Review the details of the Overflow program.

High Tide – The Biggest Overflow Ever

After a busy Christmas season, I found some time to do some cleaning and organizing. I tackled the storage room, which houses parts, supplies, and infrequently-used tools. In an effort to consolidate, I have sorted through my inventory and filled up a number of boxes of things I didn’t need.

Many of the items would be very useful to most woodworkers, and some of them even hard to find. Others were common and of relatively low value and likely not worth shipping. These items will be sold off locally.

Due to the nature of some of the items, and the volume, the rules for this round of Overflow vary slightly from previous times.

How Does Overflow Work?

  1. Bulk bits. There are a number of things that I have in bulk that aren’t worth the cost of shipping and nobody is likely to want the whole lots. I will post these first, and, if you like, I can throw in a handful of these items in the box of whatever you win. You may ask for one, a dozen, or all of them. First come, first serve.
  2. The good stuff! I will post a picture and brief description of the item or group of items up for grabs. Most will be free (aside from shipping, which you cover), but I may be selling some things as well. There will be some hand tools, accessories, parts, hardware, random shop stuff, and books. Most items will be in good-to-excellent shape;
  3. Comment if you want it! I suggest you subscribe to this blog so you get notified when I post something. If you want the item(s), leave a comment on that particular blog post and let me know if you can pick it up or if you need it shipped. Be sure to read the post thoroughly to see if I have requested any specific information to be in your entry. (I will ship anywhere on your dime once my PayPal account is happy.); then
  4. When the deadline to enter has passed, I will submit the names of those interestedinto a Random Chooser and let the program draw a winner. I will announce the winner in the comments section of the Overflow post on my blog and contact them to arrange a pick-up time or shipping details. If the first person chosen changes their mind, the Random Chooser will select another name.

Why am I doing this?

I’m giving stuff away because I would rather help some fellow woodworkers than try to sell it. This is less hassle and more rewarding. I enjoy interacting with my readers and helping others get further in their woodworking.

I also want to increase the number of readers of my blog. Besides having awesome giveaways of quality stuff, I do some pretty cool woodwork, wouldn’t you agree? Please subscribe to my blog using the widget at the bottom of any page or in the right-hand column of my main blog page. You’ll receive notice of what I’m putting up for grabs as well as when I publish a regular blog post.

The ultimate purpose of Overflow is to get this stuff out of my shop (and into yours), so please, tell your friends.

Two New Yew Cribbage Boards

Orders have been coming in steadily and I have just completed two new cribbage boards in time for Christmas orders. Both are made of Pacific yew and feature very unique live edges. Each board has three full tracks and a scoring field, and comes with a set of metal cribbage pegs.

Click on either image for more details, or for information on how to purchase one.

Cribbage Board 16b

Cribbage Board #16

Cribbage Board 17b

Cribbage Board #17

Cutting a 3D Jigsaw Puzzle

18-Piece Puzzles

18-Piece Puzzles

People have always been fascinated by my 3D wooden jigsaw puzzles. “Wow! Is that ever cool?” they marvel. “How on Earth did you make this?”

“They are little gems.  I dared to unlock a few pieces from one puzzle and was pleasantly surprised to find that they are unexpectedly puzzling!  Devilish and nicely done!”

- Jonathan, a recent buyer

Well, I decided to turn on the video camera to record the process of cutting one while making puzzles for Port Moody Art Centre’s current exhibition, Winter Treasures. The process basically involved making a series of cuts, rotating each segment on edge, making another series of cuts, then rotating each segment again to make the final series of cuts. Cutting these puzzles took a fair amount of hand strength, dexterity, stamina and patience. I also needed to be able to put the pieces back together when I was done cutting!

The result was somewhat of a hypnotizing video. The soundtrack I chose was Colin James’ Far Away Like a Radio, one of my favourite tunes to get me in the groove for cutting puzzles. Enjoy. (Duration – 4:27)


January-April 2014 Seminars at Lee Valley Coquitlam

The next season of seminars at Lee Valley Tools Ltd. Coquitlam begins the day after New Years Day with Make Your Own Smoothing Plane taught by yours truly. Together, we will be making wooden, laminated smoothing planes while I regale you with tips, theory, options, alternate techniques and stories of goofs that I’ve made in my early attempts.

Later in January, I will be teaching the ever-popular Fundamentals of Hand Tool Joinery. This class will be a great introduction to cutting joinery by hand. I will teach and demonstrate core techniques for cutting clean and accurate joinery before you cut your own joint using tools including a hand plane, marking gauge, square, marking knife, saw and chisel. As you work, I’ll share some of my own tips and alternate methods of accomplishing the task, as well as insights into why certain tools might be preferred over others.

Cross Lap Joints

Can you think of a better way to spend a cold Saturday in the middle of February than in a climate-controlled workshop with me as you Make Your Own Veritas Wooden Spokeshave? Neither could the folks at Lee Valley, so this Valentine’s Day, you have the opportunity to be one of the first to take this class. Starting with a Veritas Spokeshave Kit and a fine piece of hard maple, we will work together to produce our very own adjustable wooden spokeshaves useful for all sorts of shaping tasks (including twisting table legs!).

The toned-down version of my Make a Monstrous Mallet seminar is scheduled for March 5. In Make a Mallet, we will each build a medium-sized mallet useful for normal tasks such as driving chisels or adjusting planes, or shelling pecans (mmm… candied pecans!). I’ll bring in some samples of mallet styles and sizes and you will be able to customize your mallet to your liking (sorry – no Monstrous Mallets will be made in this seminar!).

I really enjoy teaching seminars and they are fun for all involved. Come and learn some new techniques while meeting other passionate woodworkers, or bring a friend or family member for a fun and memorable learning experience!

Pre-registration is required and can be done by calling Lee Valley Coquitlam at 604-515-8896. Details of the aforementioned seminars can be found at the bottom of this post.


Make a Monstrous Mallet

Part of my work as a seminar presenter at Lee Valley Tools Ltd. is to develop new seminar ideas. In the soon-to-be-released January to April 2015 season of seminars, I am teaching four seminars, three of which are brand new. This one didn’t make the cut.

Make a Monstrous Mallet

Are you currently considering clobbering your crappy computer? Then, you need a Monstrous Mallet! Alongside Chris Wong, you will have the opportunity to use solid construction techniques to make a Monstrous Mallet. Made of solid hardwood, the hooped hornbeam head is heavy enough to flatten a Fiat or smoosh a Smart Car. Choose the standard-length handle which provides formidable flattening force or opt for the oversized handle for peerless pancaking prowess. Students must sign a wavier acknowledging that neither Chris Wong nor Lee Valley Tools Ltd. is responsible for any damage caused as a result of owning a Monstrous Mallet.

Note: these descriptions did not make the final cut: “ample annihilation ability”, supreme smashing swagger”, “puddin’-pounding perfection”, “peerless pancaking proficiency”, “a doubly disfiguring disposition”, “enviable elongating expertise”, “marvellous misshaping mayhem”, “covetable crushing capability” and “magnificent mashing mastery”.

A, um…, related video segment:


Come See My Work at Port Moody Arts Centre’s Winter Treasures Exhibition

I just signed a contract with the Port Moody Arts Centre to participate in their Winter Treasures exhibition, their holiday exhibition and sale!

The exhibit starts on Thursday, November 20th and runs until Thursday, December 18, 2014. It takes place at the Port Moody Arts Centre (2425 St. Johns Street) in the Canadian Pacific Gallery, 3D Gallery, and Suncor Gallery and offers a great opportunity to find a special gift for somebody on your Christmas shopping list.

I’ll be at the Opening Reception on November 20th from 6pm – 8pm and hope to see you there, too! My challenging 18-Piece 3D Jigsaw Puzzles, Dogwood Screwdrivers, spectacular Live-Edge Cribbage Boards, mysterious Anniversary Boxes, and sculpted shelf, Reign, will be on display.

18-Piece Puzzles

18-Piece Puzzles

Dogwood Screwdriver 1

Dogwood Screwdrivers

Cribbage Board 12b

Live Edge Cribbage Boards

Chris and Anniversary Box

Anniversary Boxes