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.


Roots of Flair

My style of woodwork has been influenced predominantly by the materials I had, things I saw, and ideas I explored. Naturally, my designs have evolved over the years. While reorganizing my workshop, I found a few unfamiliar cardboard boxes. They contained some of my work from around the start of Flair Woodworks.

I will be sharing photographs along with the stories behind each item, and many will be offered for purchase.

Breaking Down Slabs

The large majority of the wood that I have is sawn in slabs. While the live edges allow more design possibilities, there are times when I don’t need them.

Breaking Down Locust1


To process this slab, I start by aligning my straight edge just inside the bark. This results in the straightest grain with the least amount of waste. This wood is black locust, which I really like using. My sculpture, Something Like That is made of the same species.

Breaking Down Locust2

I use a carpenter’s pencil to transfer the location of the straight edge onto the slab.

Breaking Down Locust3


Then, I use my circular saw to make the cut. For large, heavy slabs, I prefer to use portable power tools to break down slabs into more manageable pieces. I use a circular saw when possible for efficiency, and a jigsaw for material thicker than 2.5 inches, or curved cuts (e.g. Relationship Study).

If the material is more manageable, I usually turn to my bandsaw for breaking down rough stock, mostly because it is safer to use with unflattened parts than the table saw.

Breaking Down Locust4

Due to the dusty nature of this operation, I prefer to do this work outside, weather permitting. It creates a lot of dust, and if there isn’t a breeze carrying away the dust, I try to hold by breath for the duration of the cut. Unfortunately, I can’t hold my breath for the two-minutes  it takes to cut through seven feet of 2.5 inch thick hardwood.

Breaking Down Locust5

If the saw doesn’t make it all the way through, I usually finish with a hand saw. I find it quite enjoyable pretending to make the entire cut with a hand saw at an amazing speed.

Breaking Down Locust6

This edge needs to be jointed to make it smooth and straight. Note that even if the cut surface is perfectly smooth and straight, I still check it a few days later to ensure that the wood hasn’t moved after being released from the rest of the slab.

Breaking Down Locust7Here’s the yield (minus the long piece at the back which is my straight edge). I will allow them to acclimate and stabilize before processing them further into rails and cross members for my vehicle’s roof rack.

Breaking Down Locust9

What a Mess

As I broke down the slab, I was aware of the massive amount of dust I was creating. My circular saw, which takes a 0.069″ kerf, removed 125 cubic inches of material. That’s equivalent to a 5 inch cube – a lot of dust to throw around.

The Festool TS 75 Track Saw is starting to make a lot of sense to me. Not only does it have provisions for dust collection, the saw has over 3 inches of cutting capacity and leaves a much better cut surface. Using a rail to guide the saw allows me to make perfectly straight cuts, resulting in less clean-up. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to wash the sawdust out from between my toes.


Fast-Action Clamp for Crosscut Fence

A reader recently inquired about the method I use to secure the crosscut fence to my sliding table saw. Grizzly provides a knob with a long male thread to pass through the slot in the outrigger and into the bottom of the crosscut fence. This is secure, but slow to remove when taking off the crosscut fence.

Crosscut Fence Clamp3

For a more convenient solution, I mounted a toggle clamp on a riser block. A large-head, 1/4″ bolt, threaded into the bottom of the block, rides in the bottom T-slot of the crosscut fence and a rubber bumper positions the pressure pad of the clamp solidly on the outrigger.

Crosscut Fence Clamp1 This is what the clamp looks like holding the crosscut fence in place.

Crosscut Fence Clamp2 While not quite as secure as the original bolt, this solution makes it considerably easier to adjust, remove or install the crosscut fence.

Here are some more photos of the clamp on its own.

Crosscut Fence Clamp4 Crosscut Fence Clamp5


My Next Move

2004-2015 Mallet

Last Thursday, I taught a seminar at Lee Valley Tools Coquitlam on making a hardwood mallet and later this week, I will be working my final scheduled shift with Lee Valley Tools, marking the end of a 10.5 year record of employment with the Company.

I started stocking shelves on Saturdays at Lee Valley Tools Ltd. while I was still in high school. I used the opportunity to get my foot in the door and prove myself as a hard worker while gaining hands-on experience with Lee Valley’s vast selection of tools and hardware. I learned a lot, and took time to practice and understand the intricacies of each tool and technique.

My knowledge grew quickly at first, and in later years, I used that knowledge to assist customers with purchases, teach seminars, lead in-store demo events, and participate at trade shows in Canada and Western United States. I enjoyed the environment at Lee Valley, and the opportunity to help customers on a daily basis by providing ideas and information.

Next week, I will be starting work as a Retail Sales and Support person at Clermont’s Ultimate Tool Supply (Ultimate Tools), located just outside of Vancouver in Burnaby, BC. While still firmly in the market of quality woodworking tools, I feel that this will be a substantial opportunity for me to learn more and continue to provide excellent customer service to fellow woodworkers, hobbyists and professionals alike. Ultimate Tools carries woodworking power tools and machinery from Festool, Felder, Hammer, Laguna, Mirka, Grex, SawStop, and Powermatic. They also carry Woodpeckers and Whiteside products and are the exclusive Canadian distributor of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.

While I’m sad to be leaving Lee Valley, I’m also very excited to be joining Ultimate Tools. If you’re ever in the area, please consider stopping by for a visit – I would be more than happy to show you around the store!


Cam-Action Hold-Down for Grizzly G0623X Sliding Table Saw

When I bought my sliding table saw, I wanted to get a material hold-down for the sliding table. Such an accessory did not exist for the saw, but another Grizzly sliding table saw with the same T-slot size came with one. I ordered the individual replacement parts for the hold-down and put it together myself. These parts cost me $210.50 when I ordered them in 2010.


Part Number Description


PN02 Hex Nut 5/16-18


PR03M Ext Retaining Ring 12mm


PRP32M Roll Pin 6×40


P04510215 T-Nut M12-1.75 V1.04.05


P04510616 Ball Knob M8-1.25


P04510617 Handle Shaft


P04510618 Cam


P04510619 Cam Bracket


P04510621 Locate Block


P04510623 Compression Spring


P04510624 Shaft


P04510626 Washer Large


P04510627 Shaft


P04510628 Handle Shaft V1.04.05


P04510629 Lock Handle


P04510630 Block


P04510631 Disc Gasket