Saturday, June 22, 2024

A simple hold down for the sled.

I've finished the first week of my two week residency program for advanced woodworking students at ESSA. Between opportunities to help guide and encourage other woodworkers, I've been busy doing a few things to help the shop. For example I made seven new wooden mallets for student use, new backing boards for the two compound miter saws, and a newly invented hold down for use on sleds. 

In teaching I’ve noticed that not all students have the same hand strength so holding down both pieces while cutting on a sled can be a challenge. For beginners, knowing where to place their hands during the cut can be confusing at first.

The inspiration for this simple device came from Marc Adams school where students are advised to use simple similarly shaped but thin hold downs to keep fingers a safe distance from the blade when using a compound miter saw. For use on the table saw sled as shown, the tunnel underneath provides for passage of the blade without cutting the device. The outside, placed anywhere on the device guarantees that the hands are away from the blade. The extra thickness of this hold down being glued up from 4 thicknesses of MDF provides pressure over wider, thin stock as would be used in box making. It’s also useful for holding down smaller parts, again keeping the hands a safer distance from the cut.

I've submitted a tip on this device to Fine Woodworking for their consideration.

In the meantime, the August 2024 issue of Popular Woodworking arrived in yesterday's mail. It includes my 6 page article on making a Torsion Table.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in living and learning likewise.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

a box with legs

I like to finish what I start, and so a mitered finger jointed box I started as a demonstration last week now has hinges, a walnut lift tab and surface mounted hinges. An oil finish and lining will come next. I show a simple method for installing a lining on my youtube channel here:

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning lifewise.


Friday, June 14, 2024

mitered finger joint demo box with legs

 I've taken a few minutes today to move a demonstration box from my last week's box making class toward completion. This box is assembled with mitered finger joints, a more advanced box making technique. 

Today in the shop I added a floating panel lid. I then cut the lid from the body of the box, and as you can see, I've been shaping feet to give the box a lift. 

After sanding the legs will be glued to the corners of the box. Before the lid is hinged to the body of the box I'll add a walnut lift tab to the front.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, June 10, 2024

demonstration box

These are photos of a demonstration box, one of two designs made by each of my students before the floodgates were opened for them to spend the next three days working on boxes of their own design. This box is made of white oak and cherry. The unusual color of the white oak is due to a state of decay at the center of the log before milling. 

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Five days of Box Making

I just finished a great 5 day box making class at ESSA. My 7 students made between 3 and 5 boxes of various designs. All claimed that they loved the class. 

In the past I've discussed the difficulties presented by unrestricted economic growth. That's the subject of this article in the New York Times that you can read as my gift. 

Statistics on economic growth only measure the flow of money from exercises of making and spending. I like to suggest that there are more important things than money that money offers no measure of. The care we offer each other is an example.

One simple way to gradually withdraw from the destructive economy would be to cease buying things made of plastic and to buy hand crafted things from wood instead. 

By doing so, we'll have invested in the learning and character of other human beings, and will acquire useful objects of greater lasting value.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

easy sharp has developed an easy way to sharpen chisels and small plane irons. I've tried it. It works. And while I had to make my own jigs to go on the drill press (I made three, one for ESSA, one for Clear Spring School and one for my home shop) Taylor Tool Company now sells the jig and supplies at a reasonable price.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, April 12, 2024



Making a mini work bench


vacuum veneered box


I discovered that some of my box projects are available on For instance this laminated box is one of my favorites from when I was doing some writing for Woodcraft Magazine.

I hope you enjoy it.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, March 25, 2024

Micro jig dovetail sled

 My new micro jig sled using micro jig dovetail clamps is proving useful in a variety of operations, including tapering the back legs of the children's rockers I'm making as preparation for a class at ESSA in the fall.

When I taught making children's rockers in the past, one week was really not long enough, so I'm working on various jigs to clarify and simplify a complex project. Hopefully, that will leave more time for carving the backs. When I had my last rocking chair class, it was with the Diablo Woodworkers in the San Francisco Bay area, and I received photos in years after showing me student's finally finished work.

In addition to using the micro jig dovetail clamps  to hold the work directly on the jig, they can be used to clamp blocks in place trapping the work in position or you can use their kit to set up stops using the same dovetail grooves. The jig can also be useful for box making.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Mentored residency in wood

 The deadline to apply for my mentored residency program at ESSA approaches. More information can be found on the ESSA website, including the application material.

As leader of the program, I'm author of 15 woodworking books and over 100 articles in various woodworking magazines including Fine Woodworking. While I'm best known for box making, I've also done a lot of furniture design published in books and articles and for individual clients. For instance, the table shown was for a contractor in Little Rock and is assembled with mortise and tenon joints and sliding dovetails. The rocks embedded in the wood are a theme used in some of my furniture work and boxes.
Residents in the workshop will have full use of the ESSA machine room, lathe room and bench room, my experience in helping to move to the next level in their work, and on campus lodging.

Larry Copas, a local woodworker with profound experience in all kinds of machine use will also be available as a resource to residents.
Any questions? I welcome you to contact me direct.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Adding legs to a box.

Adding legs to a box.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Method or madness?

 The photo shows two of my demonstration boxes from my classes for board and staff at ESSA. They are made of ash and have now received a first application of Danish oil made using the Sam Maloof mixture of boiled linseed oil, mineral spirits and polyurethane varnish. The oil finish darkens the wood and enhances the grain, bringing natural colors to life, while adding just a bit of sheen and protection to the wood.

The lids have their shape for specific purposes. Being resawn at a 4 degree angle leaves them thick enough at the back for applying surface mounted hinges, and thin enough at the front to not appear overly clunky and graceless. An additional advantage is that by careful resawing, two lids can be cut from the same piece of wood. 

You may be curious how wood can be planed at an angle as was obviously done. First surface the wood on both sides. Then cut the one piece into two using the table saw set at the desired angle. The taping the outside faces together back into the original shape, run it through the planer again, surfacing the sawn sides.  To further utilize the angle of the lid as a design feature in the box, the ends of the lid taper toward the front corners and the front corners of the box taper toward the front, providing a natural spot for the fingers to engage in opening the box. That subtle feature is more easily observed in the open box.

Is all this method or madness? Check the photo, and you decide. If you don't like it, tell us why.

Make, fix and create. Insist that all education become likewise.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Recipe Boxes

In my woodshop I'm working on recipe boxes at the request of the Historic Arkansas Museum Gift Store. They are made to hold 4 x 6 in. recipe cards and are made from Arkansas hardwoods. They are now nearly complete but for the application of finish.

I used surface mounted hinges that open to a 90 degree stop.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

I enjoy making jigs and sleds and for the table saw, and most of my sleds have involved wooden runners. I like to make them myself.  They're cheap and because they are wood, it is easy to mount them with screws. 

But I'm always open to new things. The plastic runner shown is high density polyethylene that is cut from a common plastic cutting board I purchased on Amazon here. The advantage is that it is stable material, can be machined with common woodworking tools, and mounted with screws just as I would one made of wood.

One cutting board will supply a number of runners, enough to last the typical woodworker a long time, or enable sharing with friends.

Make, fix and create. Help others get the point.

Monday, January 15, 2024

 Fine Woodworking sent out an email link this morning to my video on making the hidden spline joint. 

You can also find this video and more on my youtube channel

Monday, January 8, 2024

an inlaid music box

The small box in the photo is a music box left over unfinished from the production of my book Simply Beautiful Boxes. That book and its projects were compiled in my book  Build 25 Beautiful Boxes. While out of print, the book is available in a Kindle edition. 

I've installed a small movement that plays Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D and it's being finished for my Granddaughter Sylvie.

The box is made of elm and inlaid with walnut and curly maple. The inlay techniques are demonstrated in the book.