More cutting board action

I can’t put all the cutting boards I’m working on online because some of them are gifts, but this particular one is for us so it’s safe. It’s also my first end-grain (butcher block) style board which has its own set of challenges.

My original design turned out to be a bit more ambitious than my skill set would allow (you can see an illustration in this post). Trying to figure out how to get the inlay look was feasible, but I realized it was more than I could do as I ended up burning through some expensive walnut trying to get the blocks laid out right. Plus, I was having bad tearout issues on my table saw with the walnut forcing me to use some more hard maple to make a full size block as well as building a new cross cut sled.

Unfortunately, the plans for the cross country sled fell through

This one is ‘accurate enough’ in the fact that a single cut was good enough to clean up with a quick run through the planer or the jointer & left the edges much, much cleaner.

My daughter helped me last night cut the strips for the board.

The Wood Glitter Fairy

Then I glued them together once again using a neat trick I saw on the Interweb tubes where you put down PVC pipe to rest the boards on & let the pipe clamps sit slightly below. Keeps the wood level & out of contact of the black pipe which can stain the wood. I also put some cauls on the top to prevent vertical shifting & it worked fantastically. The wax paper between the cauls prevented me from gluing them to the board :)

Wood sandwich anyone?

After the glue dried, I scraped off most of the drips & did my best to wipe off as much as I could so that it wouldn’t gum up the planer & fed it through to level the whole thing out. Then it was off to the crosscut sled to slice them into 1.25” thick strips.

Unfortunately, the plans for the cross country sled... wait, did I already use that joke?

You can see in the image I have a block of wood clamped to the sled. Is is a ‘stop’ so I could just slide the wood over until it hit, push the sled through, pull back, take off the 1.25” piece that was just cut, slide the block over & repeat. It almost worked perfectly, there seems to be about 1/16” variance in the new strips, but that’ll get taken care of with sanding.

I really butchered this one. Get it? Butchered? Fine, don't laugh.

The end result is stunning. I can’t believe it looks this good & it’s not even glued together. The joints appear to be very tight & I’ll start gluing them up tonight, but only 3 or 4 at a time so I can ensure they stay perfectly aligned. The slightest offset will be visible & my OCD won’t be happy about that. Then, I’ll either run it through a borrowed drum sander or just start working it with a sanding block & 60 grit to level out the height differences before I attack it with 120 & 220 on the random orbital sander plus round over the edges.

This is gonna be amazing!

posted by Robb Allen @ 11/25/2015 9:39:48 AM | Feedback (4)
In celebration of Dan Rather being attacked by a crazy guy

Tonight, I was able to strum along to REM's "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" and "Find the River", back to back.

It wasn't easy, nor completely painless, but I did it, which is an achievement.

The finger is gnarly with rivulets of scar tissue on the pad, and where there's scar tissue, there's very little feeling. Immediately outside the scars it hurts. A lot.

It's getting better, and being able to play La Pistola, even if only for a bit, brings me happiness. Hopefully within a few months I'll either have healed enough or otherwise gotten used to the nerve damage sensation enough to play back to my old level.

posted by Robb Allen @ 11/19/2015 8:26:54 PM | Feedback (1)
So this really happened

I was leaving work today. We have a door between the reception area & the office that is key entry only, but exiting you just push as a motion sensor unlocks it automatically.

A coworker was ahead of me and realized the door was going to slam shut on me. He waited for me to open the door and profusely apologized. I said “No problem. I’ve mastered opening doors!”

And proceeded to miss the door handle & run smack dab, face first into the door to the stairs.

posted by Robb Allen @ 11/18/2015 7:58:20 PM | Feedback (7)

Oiled down the cutting board today and it is complete.

First and not the last

Tomorrow, I have all day planned for the workshop. I have to get some screws to finish up construction of my bench, then fill in all the edges with wood putty & let dry. Then sand. And sand. And sand.

I have 2 more frames to build for the barn doors (those take about 30 minutes each, nothing too big). I’m trying to decide on the panel construction though. The dowels don’t work the way I had hoped & I don’t own a biscuit cutter, although I’m thinking of just biting the bullet & buying one. I was hoping to not deplete my budget, but that’s what it was for anyway. I can get the ends glued together precisely, by hand, but it’s the middles that will always be problematic.

And in between those projects, I’ll be building the next cutting board – this one is going to be epic. And is a bit intimidating. End grain AND ‘inlaid’


It’ll be walnut with a maple end grain inner-edge. Getting each block to align perfectly will be a challenge, but one I’m happy to take on.

Oh, and I need to finish up all my projects so I can clear off enough space from my bench to put my reloading press back on. I gotta pump out some ammo.

posted by Robb Allen @ 11/13/2015 9:46:01 PM | Feedback (7)
It’s not sawdust, it’s Wood Glitter

Last night my wife had most of the teachers from her preschool over to do one of those “Drink & Paint” parties where everyone gets sloshed & attempts to copy a painting. I took this wonderful opportunity to head out to the workshop & try my hand at building my first cutting board.

I generally just heat up leftovers and eat at my desk for lunch, but yesterday I actually took off & headed over to the lumberyard to pick up 2 large chunks of walnut & hard maple to make a few cutting boards for Christmas gifts. Cutting boards are like training wheels for woodworkers, so I thought I’d go ahead & give it a try. It was also a plus in the fact that this was the first time I worked with rough lumber & not pre-milled pine or plywood.

Feeling rough

Left is hard maple, right is walnut. On top is a chunk of purpleheart I plan on using in one of the boards. Didn’t need much so I just bought a 2x2x12 blank.

Now that I have a jointer, a planer, & a table saw I can buy rough cut wood & mill it down to the exact size I need. First you run the wood on the finger-destroyer jointer to flatten the edge. Then, using that edge as a guide, you joint a face to flatten & square it.

Next, using the flattened face, you run the wood through the planer to get the piece to the exact thickness you want. You also use the jointed side to index against your table saw’s fence to make perfectly parallel faces.

Having thick wood is no longer a problem They call it 'walnut' because it sounds like 'wallet', which is where this stuff gets you

Well, almost perfect. Lesson #1 of the evening – your tools drift. Over time, fences move, saw blades tilt, and that which was perfectly perpendicular now is a  4 dimensional rhomboid. The fence on the jointer had moved ever so slightly. Because of this, I had more of an 89.4° edge rather than a perfect 90°. So I had to fix that.

I only realized this when I was indexing the wood against the table saw fence & saw a gap. So it took a bit of tweaking to get the fence right. I need a better square (add that to the to-buy list).

Once that was fixed, it illustrated that my saw blade was not 90° either. Had to fix that. Only took 2 cuts before I realized that.

Then I cut out perfect 1.4” rectangles.

Perfect imperfection

1.4”? “Robb, why not an inch and a half?” Turns out there’s only 1 math in woodworking – subtraction. If you cut your piece exactly to 1.5” and then realize the edge is not 90°, well, some wood has to come off. Lesson #2 – Cut proud, shave / sand / joint down to your final size.

With everything finally aligned correctly, I was able to cut out the strips I needed for the walnut as well as the maple. I decided in mid stream to not do an end grain cutting board but to do an edge board for simplicity. Lesson #3 – Know your limits & plan accordingly.

Maybe, just maybe this will work

Laying out all my slices, it was time to glue them up. Lesson #4 – YouTube videos skip the frustrating part of trying to get all the clamps in the right spots while juggling loose wood and getting the clamps to not run into each other, etc. I did put down wax paper between the wood & the black pipe because I’ve read that the pipes will leech into the wood if given a chance.

It's an adhesive AND a lubricant! The big squeeze

I used glue. Lots of glue. I’m afraid of a glue starved joint. Here, I’m using Titebond II which should be perfectly adequate for a cutting board. Once the glue does it’s job, the two pieces of wood will technically be one. In fact, you stand a better chance at breaking the wood in a natural fault line than you do at a properly glued joint. It’s that strong.

Until it does it’s job, however, glue is a $#(&*ing lubricant. As soon as I started applying pressure, each piece of wood moved in directions unknown to PhD level geometry teachers. The moved horizontally, some moved vertically up / down, the entire piece started bowing in the middle (I was able to counteract that with the top clamps), but even worse, a few of the strips actually twisted along the horizontal axis.

How? See Lesson 1. If you’re off, even by tenths of a degree, the wood will rotate to flatten its face to the one next to it. Lesson #5 – Glue up is messy, slippy, and things are going in directions you don’t think about. I gotta understand how to use cauls to level things out, how to apply pressure correctly so that shifting is minimal, etc. Glue up is critical to master, otherwise I will never get a flat, easily worked with laminate.

No amount of YouTube video watching can replace actual experience. It’s the difference between getting a degree in a field and working in that field. Books & videos can shorten the amount of time to become proficient at a task, but nothing, and I mean nothing beats hands on experience. Even Neo had to get his ass kicked a few times before his implanted training was effective.

The cutting board is in glue up right now. I’ll break it out when I get home tonight, scrape off the glue-boogers, then try to flatten it out a bit in the planer to counteract some of the twist. Finally, I’ll trim the sides, route the edges for a round over, sand, sand, sand, sand, and do some more sanding then finish it up with some beeswax & mineral oil.

The work itself is fun & exciting, but the learning is even better.

posted by Robb Allen @ 11/11/2015 10:00:52 AM | Feedback (10)
Beginnings of the barn door build

I picked up all the wood yesterday (my vw GTI can haul a lot more than it looks!). Today I started on the project.

First I picked the best boards for their jobs. I got 25% more wood than I needed to make sure I had excess should any ugly knots or tears show up. There were 12 1"x10"x8' and 25 1"x4"x8', all in spruce. The frame will be on both sides of the door (hence the large quantities of 1x4)

I started by laying out the 1x10s, then putting the 'frame' on it to get an idea of the crossbeam cuts. The door dimensions are 4'x7' and after all my cuts, I nailed it *dead on*.

Today, I got one frame done, all the horizontal frame pieces cut & drilled for pocket holes (they'll be on the inside so you won't see them). Waiting on some dowel centering pins to show up so I can glue up the 1x10s and then cut them to length.

It's a ton of work, but very satisfying.




posted by Robb Allen @ 11/8/2015 10:23:42 PM | Feedback (10)
I just got paid to make something out of wood

The company I work for is expanding the office into another part of the building. Between the 2 sections, they want some barn doors. I am going to be the one building them.

This is a great project for me. The construction of the doors isn’t beyond my meager skills nor does it require tooling that I do not own although part of the profits are going to purchase a nice thickness planer as well as a few things just to make life easier.

I have to transport quite a bit of spruce lumber back to my house in the GTI which is actually capable of doing so. I can’t fit a 4x8’ sheet of plywood in it unless I cut it to 2x8’, so a bunch of 1x10s and 1x4s should be no problem.

Doors. How do they work?

Interestingly, the cross braces will be the hardest part. Because of the width of the door, each panel is not a perfect square, thus to get the corners to line up, the board will have to be cut down a little. This is why I budgeted 25% more wood than it is called for.

And yes, I put this in my invoice


I’m also going to get some walnut, hard maple, and some cherry wood to make a few cutting boards for Christmas gifts this year (and some for us as well). Studying up on what makes a good cutting board, I realized people will spend stupid amounts of money on bespoke cutting boards. I mean…  a lot of freaking money. I may have to open an Etsy account.

Finally, for those of you who don’t do the bookface thing, I did this over the weekend

After much trial and error, I realized the table worked better oriented the other way Either I'm going to have to paint the table or strip everything back to bare wood to match

That’s a nightstand for my daughter, made out of scrap birch plywood. It took me about an hour and a half to cut all the pieces and assemble them. I need to veneer the thing & finish it, but construction wise it’s done and very solid.

I also am almost finished with the bench I am working on

Have a seat!

The top needs to be secured as do the rails on the sides, then I have to fill in all the pocket holes, cover the plywood edges, sand, & paint. In a few years, I know I’ll look back at my first real project and go “What in the hell was I thinking???” but for now, I’m happy with the results. Plus, I’ve learned a LOT from doing this.

And I’ve not chopped off any fingers in the process.

I call that a win.

posted by Robb Allen @ 11/4/2015 12:43:55 PM | Feedback (9)
Here’s your sign


I want you to think about what it took for this sign to even exist. Some bureaucrat somewhere thought that an effective way to combat illegal drug sales would be to pay money to have signs made & installed at the appropriate locations. These people actually believe in the  power of signs, hence why you have ‘gun free zones’.

How many drug dealers do you think saw that sign & said “Crap, I guess I’ll go home & look for gainful employment now since I can’t possibly violate a sign’s orders!”? If you said “As many as thugs who see the ‘No Guns’ signs in store windows & do not rob them because of it”, you’re probably pretty darn close to correct.

And they call us gun owners “knuckle draggers with low IQ”…

posted by Robb Allen @ 10/27/2015 8:27:37 AM | Feedback (6)
A glorious sensation

So, the finger is healing, quite quickly to my surprise. As I’ve aged, my Wolverine speed healing has practically vanished & now simply cuts take weeks to heal. My finger, however, has done a pretty good job of knitting itself back together.

The pad of my fingertip is still scabbed over & quite unappealing to look at, but yesterday I was able to go pretty much the entire day without a bandage. I have limited use since it’s still injured, but I can technically type with the finger, it’s just that it’s 100% numb & I can’t tell when I hit the keys.

Until now!

The thick layer of damaged skin is starting to slough off, adding to the unappealing looks of my finger. However, where that skin is gone leaves a very sensitive layer underneath. One that, while a little painful, can feel.

The utmost of my fingertip is my main concern. When I play guitar, that’s the part that needs to feel the frets & strings. I was worried I did so much damage that I’d not be able to feel correctly & make my already bad playing worse. But that doesn’t appear like it’s going to be the case.

The pad is still scabbed & healing and of course it’s still sensationless (unless I whack it on something, then it hurts like hell) but I know that’ll change as the scabbing comes off.

All in all, I’m a very lucky person. A jointer can do a LOT more damage than I got. Considering it could have dragged my hand into the rotating blade & taken off fingers, I’ve gotten a really bad ‘scratch’.

Hurray for feeling!

posted by Robb Allen @ 10/13/2015 8:02:31 AM | Feedback (10)