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.


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.

Found Treasure

While looking through my collection of photos, I found a picture of a box that I made many years ago. It was my idea of what a treasure chest looked like.

I have added this chest to my gallery under the year 2009.

Small Treasure Chest

Although relatively small (only 13″ long), it was made very sturdily and weighed a lot – even when empty. The box was constructed with 3/4″ red oak, dyed with a dark walnut aniline dye. I cold-forged the strap hinges and handles, and fastened them to the chest with pyramid head screws.

This chest inspired the large yew treasure chest I made the following year that was featured in the Taunton Press book, Blanket Chests by Peter S. Turner and Scott Gibson.


My Fastener Storage System

Last week, Tom Iovino featured my site on his blog, Tom’s Workbench.  This was part of his write-up about my work.

“Chris has a very skilled eye for design and incorporating bold, natural shapes in his woodworking projects.”

– Tom Iovino

He also included this picture of me in my workshop.


Ben Strano (@sonicfedora) spotted my fasteners cabinet in the background and asked for some details, so here they are.

Above my workbench, fasteners and small hardware bits are stored in clear plastic divider boxes with self-locking lids that prevent spills.  (I also have another group of them near my drill press where they hold screwdriver bits, countersinks, pen parts and more.)


The top shelf contains divider boxes with small box hardware, magnets, and 8-32 bolts for handles and knobs.  The next shelf has trim-head screws, boxes of nails, wooden plugs, and picture framing hardware.  I rarely access the contents of the top two shelves.

The boxes on the middle shelf hold round-head screws and the one below holds flat-head screws.  On the bottom row are boxes of 1/4-20 hardware.


Whether working at my bench or elsewhere, I appreciate the unwillingness of the divider boxes to spill their contents regardless of whether their lids are open or closed.  Whenever working on something that requires assembly or disassembly, I grab an empty divider box to contain all the parts as well as screwdriver bits, drill bits, hex keys or other small bits.

I’ve been using these divider boxes for just over three years and have been really happy with the system.  They contain and organize my hardware, make it easy to sort, identify and select, and do not create any problems in doing so.  Which reminds me that I need to buy some more of those boxes…

Hardware Inspires Me

Experienced woodworkers know that one of the keys to a successful project is to have the hardware that will be used on-hand before the planning stage is complete and building begins. While having a thorough (and accurate) understanding of the hardware is one reason to explore what is available, I also study hardware for inspiration.  The wide variety of hardware available today exhibits so many textures, lines and shapes.  Here are some of the pieces of hardware from the Lee Valley Tools Ltd. catalog that inspire me.

Sometimes I think about what the piece of furniture I might build would look like to go with a particular piece of hardware.

Cast Steel Hands from Lee Valley Tools Ltd.

Other times, I visualize a certain element of the hardware incorporated into a design.

Hollywood open handle from Lee Valley Tools Ltd.

Or I may imagine the pull or knob scaled up as a piece of furniture.

Playful Nature handle

The Eastside Culture Crawl is an annual event where artists of various mediums open their studios to the public.  This pair of antique nickel pulls with a decidedly organic design are from exhibitor Big Bang Boom.  Both are the same size and shape, but not quite identical.

These pulls are the type of hardware around which I could design something.  This page of my sketchbook shows some of the possible orientations for the pulls.

A page from my sketchbook

While sketching I focus on drawing as many possibilities as I can, regardless of whether I think they are good ideas or not.  I feel that the two pulls should be located close together to visually tie them together.  That suggests they would be used as door pulls rather than drawer pulls which are typically mounted in the middle of the drawer to prevent binding when opening.

Or is there a way to have them as drawer pulls close together and not have the drawer bind?

Black Locust Wall Table, Part III: Testing Blind Mounting Hardware

In Part I and Part II, I built this prototype table which was to be mounted on a wall.

The next step in the design and construction of the table was to install hardware that would allow it to be mounted to a wall.

The simplest way to attach the table would have been a pair of big lag bolts right through the table’s upright into a stud in the wall.  It would have been very secure but hardly elegant.  In a piece of a different style, lag bolts might have looked right at home but not with this table.

I needed something discreet – something that would be completely concealed when installed.  I tried three different mounting systems before finding one that I liked and documented my experimentation in the following video.  (Duration – 3:49)

Featured in a New Book!

Last August, I got word of a call for submissions from Taunton Press for a new book on blanket chests.  A few years earlier, I had built a small chest with compound-tapered sides and a coopered top.  I had also forged the hardware myself, including the handles and strap hinges.  I completed it the night of the deadline and sent off my submission.

When I learned that my chest had made it through the first round of selection, I was asked to provide photos to their specifications and complete a questionaire.  As long as I was able to complete those two tasks by October 19, my box would make it into the book.  I asked a friend to help shoot the box and we spent one sunny afternoon taking the required shots.  It was difficult selecting the best few from the over one hundred photos we took.  I submitted the questionnaire along with the photos.

The book, Blanket Chests, authored by Peter Turner and Scott Gibson, is now available for pre-order from the Taunton Bookstore.  It will be available in stores March, 2011.

I am in the good company of 29 other fine woodworkers.  I’ve taken the list of chests and makers from the Taunton site and added links to the makers’ websites.

Waterfall Chest – Brian Sargent, New Hampshire
Bermudan Chest – Austin Kane Matheson, Maine
Red Leaf Chest – Michael Cullen, California
Plain and Simple – John McAlevy, Maine
A Chest for Life – Laura Mays, Ireland
Modern Lines – Libby Schrum, Maine
The Un-Chest – Robert Schultz, Wisconsin
Chest of Blankets – Richard Vaughan, Australia
Dogwood Blanket Chest – Craig Thibodeau, California
A Chest for Work – Terry Moore, New Hampshire
Little House – Peter Pierobon, British Columbia
Sea Chest – Mitch Ryerson, Massachusetts
A Boat Builder’s Chest – Ejler Hjorth-Westh, California
Flower Power – Brian Reid, Maine
Danika’s Chest – Ted Blachly, New Hampshire
Chest in the Round – Gregory Smith, California
Curly Cherry Classic – Charles Durfee, Maine
Celebrating Arts and Crafts – Darrell Peart, Washington
Alabama Man – J-P Vilkman, Finland
A Wedding Chest – Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez, Massachusetts
Cabinetmaking Traditions – Bruce Eaton, New Hampshire
Pilgrim Century – David Stenstrom, Maine
Function Meets Elegance – Shona Kinniburgh, Scotland
Wood That Flows – Peter Turner, Maine
Treasure Chest – Chris Wong, Canada
Simply Proportions – Liza Wheeler, Maine
Box of Blue – Garrett Hack, Vermont
Chest as Storyteller – Jeffrey Cooper, New Hampshire
Unexpected Details – Carol Bass, Maine
A Pair of Oak Chests – Stephen Lamont, United Kingdom

If you can help me find links for Roberts Schultz, Bruce Eaton, David Stenstrom, Liza Wheeler, or Carol Bass, or if you have any corrections or broken links to report, you can contact me at