Good Tools Work for You, Not Against You

Nearly every tool is designed with compromises. In some cases, the compromise is made to increase the ease of production (and therefore lower cost). Other times, the compromise is made to make the tool more appealing to a broader audience.

After using a tool for a while, these compromises become very clear. You’ll think, “I wish this power cord was longer”, “this handle hurts my hand”, “it’s hard to read these scales”, or “why can’t I cut a straight line?” Okay, maybe that last one is user error, but you get the point.

Once you understand the compromises you can identify the root cause(s) of the problem and begin to theorize possible solutions. I never shy away from modifying my tools to make them work better for me, as my philosophy reminds me that tools are meant to be utilized, and anything that makes them work better for me, or easier for me to use, is a worthwhile modification. Of course, this customization may or may not benefit others, since I am making these changes thinking about only myself.
The Intuitive Handsaw
This momentous video (13:03) highlights some compromises, specific issues, root causes, possible solutions, and technique modifications that can improve tool performance.

Working Efficiently in a Small Shop

It can be a challenge to work efficiently in a small shop, but I have arranged the equipment in the space of a 1-car garage to allow me to build with components up to five feet in length without having to rearrange. In fact, the only machine that is on wheels is my 13″ thickness planer.

Most of the things I build involve components not longer than five feet, so work goes very smoothly. Some machines have the capacity to work with stock greater than five feet as they sit and I sometimes take advantage of that, and other times I use a hand-held tool instead.

I have written an article for Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine that will appear in a future issue describing my layout, the benefits, and why it works well for me. If you work in a shop with limited space, I think that you’ll find the article interesting.

This time-lapse video was recorded during the Wall Shelf Build-Off, and illustrates my workflow in the shop, and how I use the limited space that I have. Duration: (10:18)

For more pictures of my shop, check out this post: Welcome to the New Shop.

Week Six of #Woodchat’s Picture Inspiration!

Start with a sketch, but make it quick. There’s real work to be done.
– Stefan Hartwing

(This quote has been added to my page Quotables, where you’ll find many more interesting quotes.)

For the past five weeks at #Woodchat on Air, we have been playing our new design game called #Woodchat’s Picture Inspiration. We looked at designs based on a photograph and discussed the creative process and explored potential variations. The discussions were recorded and posted on YouTube.

The first week, we started with a picture of shavings and came up with some really creative designs.

The second week, we examined a colourful scene from KaBoom! The Port Moody Art Explosion for inspiration.

In week three, we studied a photo of a metal bench that inspired a quilt rack built by Dyami Plotke.

The fourth week, our source of inspiration was a photo of an adjustable candle holder, that proved to be tougher to work with than we thought.

In week five, we looked at a photo of an art installation for inspiration.

That brings us to week six. For this week’s Picture Inspiration, our challenge is to design something inspired by this photo.

Jessica Anderson - Pattern Study 1

Inspiration photo: Jessica Anderson’s Pattern Study 1

Designs are due Wednesday May 28, 7pm (e-mail them to me, or share them with us on Twitter using hashtag #Woodchat), when they will be shared on #Woodchat.

#Woodchat on Air runs every Wednesday from 7-8pm, Pacific time.

Model Delivery Trike for Shift

Last summer, Shift, a Vancouver company, asked me to make a model of the cargo delivery trikes they use. Although this isn’t the type of project which I would normally build, the challenge of making a working model intrigued me, so I agreed to build it.

Using photographs of their trikes, I established some dimensions for the model and built a prototype for approval. The client liked what I did and asked me to go ahead with the working model. This is what I built.

Delivery Trike Front

Delivery Trike Back Delivery Trike Open This video shows the working details of the trike.  (Duration – 2:09)

Recently, Shift contacted me requesting another one and I was happy to oblige. Interestingly, the order was completed exactly three months and twenty invoices after the first.


Celebrate 5 Years of Flair with an Anniversary Box!

November 1st marks the five-year anniversary of my business and I think that’s an excellent reason to celebrate.

For the first time, I am offering boxes of this design which I developed.

Anniversary Box Closed

As with everything I offer, I make the entire product in my own shop. I really love the design and hope that you do too.

I expect to have the boxes complete by the end of November so they will arrive in plenty of time for Christmas. Whether a gift for someone special, or for yourself, this little box is guaranteed to create wonder and draw attention.

Since I want everybody to be able to experience my work first-hand, I’m going to make the decision to get one really easy. For the entire month of November, you can pre-order an Anniversary Box at a special introductory price of just $50 – including shipping within North America! (Contact me for shipping rates for other continents.)

On a more personal note, my father’s birthday is in November. He passed away from cancer twenty years ago, so I am going to donate $5 from each box sold to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Thank you for reading and for supporting me.  The first five years have been amazing and I can’t wait to see what the next five bring!

Chris Wong

Anniversary Box Open


Fun with Sliding Dovetails

I have put Insanity 2 on hold to work on some small boxes of a design I came up with many years ago.

The double-ended box relies on a pair of sliding dovetails perpendicular to each other to open.  While functional, it is also a lot of fun to handle – similar to twiddling your thumbs, but much more fun.  How much fun?  This much fun.  (Video – 0:48)

#Woodchat is Going Insane

Last night on #Woodchat, we had a look at Insanity 2 and discussed options for the back of the cabinet and shelves.  The discussion started at 13:21 and ran until 46:20.  I learned that my cohost, Matt Gradwohl, was equally insane.  Together, we decided that our viewers may have also been insane for following along (unless they happened to be wearing white lab coats and taking notes on clipboards).


Flair Woodworks on YouTube

Although I have always preferred writing over creating videos as a means of communication, my comfort level in front of a camera has increased, and with it, my output of videos.  I’ve posted them on my YouTube channel, but as long as you’re subscribed to this blog you won’t miss any and, as a matter of fact, you’ll know about them first.

Last month on episode #140 of Wood Talk, Marc Spagnuolo (The Wood Whisperer) talked about the video I created for Steve Ramsay’s (Woodworking for Mere Mortals) series, Inspiration Project.

What Inspires was my third most-watched video over the past thirty days.  My April Fools Day video, Magic Square and my three-part video on installing a Shelix cutterhead in my DeWalt thickness planer rounded out the top five.


I’m on TV!

Tri-Cities Community Television covered the Celebration of Wood show last month and I appeared on screen briefly around the 4:43 mark.

The video segment is on YouTube and can also be seen on ShawTV, channel 4 in Vancouver.  (Duration – 7:09)

Yes, I’m still waiting anxiously to get the footage from my PechaKucha presentation.