As a long-time reader of Christian Becksvoort’s work, I awaited my pre-ordered copy of Shaker Inspiration: Five Decades of Fine Craftsmanship with some anticipation. It did not disappoint. In it, Becksvoort covers three majors topics: woodworking fundamentals, the business of woodworking, and building in the Shaker style. I was most interested in the last section, but each part offers something for new and experienced woodworkers. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the fundamentals section was Becksvoort’s discussion of wood movement and the painstaking steps he takes to accommodate it in his commissions. The wide-ranging advice for making a business out of woodworking covers the pratical considerations of setting up shop as well as those activities often overlooked in such an endeavor—creating a business plan, marketing, outsourcing, etc—and offers a solid introduction, though anyone not dissuaded after reading will want to further explore the subject before taking the plunge. Readers familiar with Becksvoort’s work in Fine Woodworking will recognize many of the author’s designs featured in part three, though here they are neatly encapsulated by illustrations, pithy commentary, and measured drawings. I find Becksvoort’s signature piece, a fifteen-drawer chest, and his reinterpretation of a Hancock village shelf especially appealing. Seven reproductions and a survey of original Shaker pieces (primarily from Mt. Lebanon, Sabbathday Lake, and Hancock villages) round out the section. Shaker Inspirations is a delight to hold as well as to read, the team at Lost Art Press demonstrating its usual care and attention to book design and production. Like the Shaker work which inspired it, Shaker Inspirations pairs form and function to create a delightful whole.
The first step in building a stitch and glue kit is to join shorter lengths of plywood into longer planks using fiberglass tape and epoxy. I began by pre-saturating the plywood with epoxy. There’s an ongoing online debate on whether pre-saturation is worth it, but I took the cautious approach in the hope of avoiding dry spots when fiberglassing the hull. Following Ted Moores’ Kayaks You Can Build, I only applied the tape to the insides of the planks. Omitting the tape on the outside eliminates the risk of a subtle bulge at the joint. Moving the planks around required a little extra caution, but reduction in effort and improved appearance is worth it.
The Pygmy Boats Arctic Tern is a hard-chined boat.
I’ve been contemplating a kayak build since almost as soon as I bought a second-hand plastic tandem. The tandem was adequate for my needs–low=key paddles in local waters with my son, but it handled poorly and was 70 pounds. A key selling point for stitch-and-glue kits is their relatively light weight–~40 pounds vs. 60 for a single-seat plastic boat. Other projects intervened, and by the time I was ready to build, a local kit maker, Pygmy Boats, had closed, one more victim of COVID-related uncertainties.
I’d given up on on building a new boat and settled for finding something second-hand, when a search turned up an unfinished kit being sold nearby. It had sat unopened in a garage for 18 years and was in decent shape except for a cracked bottle of epoxy hardener. It had leaked onto some components, the biggest victim a stained length of fiberglass. Since the plywood looked to be in good shape, so I did some light haggling and took the kit home. Hopefully it takes less than 18 years to assemble.
While I occasionally buy single issues of woodworking magazine on the newsstand, the only one I’ve ever subscribed to is Woodworking Magazine. Organized around a theme, each issue formed a cohesive whole with great techniques and projects. I was sad to see it fold in 2009. Popular Woodworking has re-printed the first eight issues, and they’re now available on Amazon. While I enjoyed every issue, I especially like issues 2, 3, and 4. I built a modified version of the Roubo-style bench featured in issue 4, and I’ve written before about the Stickley magazine stand from issue 3 and Shaker-inspired side table from issue 2.
Nancy Hiller has been profiling woodworkers in a series of posts at Lost Art Press and recently interviewedFine Woodworking’s Anissa Kapsales. I enjoyed the whole article, but what really caught my eye was the cover image from FW August 2019 featuring Kapsales’ take on a design by Poul Cadovius. It was almost enough to tempt me to pick up a recent copy of the magazine archive (mine runs through 2011) which has been on sale, but a look at finewoodworking.com showed they have the article available for free download. The design foregoes metal shelf standards (used in my favorite wall unit by Finn Juhl) in favor of drilled posts, an approach perhaps more amenable (if unforgiving) to the home shop.
While I’ve written about Shaker peg board before, a trip to two Shaker communities (the Mt. Lebanon, NY and Hancock, MA communities are close enough to visit in a single trip, but go to the Hancock community if you only have time for one) gave me a chance to get close up with several samples of original and reproduction
A rustic arm chair for the outdoors at Falling Waters Preserve.
Falling Waters Preserve sits on the Hudson a couple of hours north of New York City in Glasco. The site of a now vanished ice house (where works once harvested tons of Hudson river ice during the winter), the park now features easy hiking trails and scenic views of the Hudson.I spotted this rustic arm chair by the side of the trail positioned to take in a view of a waterfall. With its minimally-worked wood, it reminds me of Old Hickory furniture. I’m not sure how well the exposed screws and through bolts will hold up, but it makes an interesting alternative to other outdoor forms like the Adirondack chair, and you might be able to source materials on a woodpile.
My article on building a Japanese Writing Box is featured in the June 2019 issue of Popular Woodworking
I’m excited to see my article on building a Japanese writing box in the June 2019 issue of Popular Woodworking. Despite it’s small size, the project offers the chance to practice a variety of joinery and offers an attractive variation on rabbeted joinery, elevating a utilitarian joint.
Anticipating a basement waterproofing operation in the near future, I spent time late last year trying to clear up and clean out the basement. That work included reducing my wood stash. I was getting ready to throw out some soft maple (victim of an aborted credenza project from almost a decade ago) when I realized I had enough material in the right thicknesses to build one of my favorite designs, a square Shaker side table featured in Thomas Moser’s How to Build Shaker Furniture.
I first built the table in 2006, closely following Christopher Schwarz’s article in the Autumn 2004 issue of Woodworking Magazine. For the more recent version, I referred to Moser’s measured drawings and took my own approach. I glued up the top and squared it on the table saw, then marked the wide bevels before planing them by hand. I’ve cut these before on the tablesaw, but roughing them out with a jack plane then finishing with a smoother isn’t much slower than roughing them out on the saw and feels safer. The legs were roughed out on the band saw (much easier than using a jigsaw as I had in 2006), then finished with a jointer plane. The legs are joined to the wide aprons using Dominoes. I appreciated the ease of effort the Dominoes allowed when I chopped the dovetail socket and mortises for the narrow aprons framing the drawer. Handcut (they’re not pretty, especially with the soft maple prone to blow out on the tails) dovetails join the drawer, with a plywood bottom rabbeted into the bottom. I glued drawer guides into the side aprons, then drilled the upper guides to screw the base to the top.
Before joining top and base, I sanded them separately and wiped on several coats of boiled linseed oil. After the top was attached, I applied a coat of paste wax.
Elegant in its simplicity, this Shaker side table is perfect for the side of a bed or sofa. Image from the Autumn 2004 issue of Woodworking Magazine, available on popularwoodworking.com.
I first encountered Thos. Moser’s interpretation of a Shaker side table in the second edition of his How to Build Shaker Furniture in 1999. At the time I wasn’t equipped to build it (I had just started building simple pieces with jigsaw, circular saw, and drill, working on a flat roof or kitchen that could be easily swept out after building), but could still admire the graceful taper of the legs and and the beveled top. The table’s design makes it perfect for the side of a bed or couch, the embodiment of Shaker simplicity captured in the compact package. Continue reading →