Thursday, November 29, 2012

Leveling-up in Woodworking

Hey Stitchers!  Nick the Stitch here and really glad you're here with the gang.  It's been a pretty good day and the weather was warm and sunny and absolutely perfect for building wood stuff and stuff.  SCA and I have been working hard to get enough merchandise ready for St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church's "Kris Kringle Festival" coming up on Saturday and today is no different.

Except today, I made my first complex dovetail, and my first dovetail ever.

For those who might be new, I do a bit of building small things out of wood.  I recently finished about 24 wood clocks (12 outhouse clocks, 12 birdhouse clocks; 6 of each were out of reclaimed wood and another 6 of each were out of red cedar so fresh it was still showing a bit of sap in the grains), and in the past I've done about 5 or 6 oil bottle storage boxes.

One of the things I was really looking forward to building, when I was running my previous company Custom Glen Woods, was a corner curio bookcase for home decor.  It was 42" tall, 10" on a side with a 14-1/8" front.  Unfortunately I never got a chance to build it then, because of financial hardships of relocating, my truck blowing up more than Buster from "MythBusters", and life in general.

However, the Universe has been kind to me over the past several months and now that I can breathe a little in my life, I am building bigger and more complicated stuff now.

Like... my corner curio bookcase.  And today I achieved something I've been itching to do for a long time, a complex dovetail.  Like this....'re looking at the kickplate dovetailed into the bottom shelf.  And that was my first dovetail ever!  Took a crapload of math, as I did have a template for the pieces but they were all general-sized, not including the dovetails, which I had to mentally do the math as I drew the teeth.

Best part is, it was very nicely snug.  And if there's any wiggle in the whole structure when I get finished cutting the shelf slots and putting it together tomorrow, a coat of paint will fix that.

And yes, that is plyboard, but if you want I can do it in birch too.  In theory I could also do it in red cedar, but that's not for the financially timid (though you could brag to your friends and coworkers!)  If you want to order a corner curio bookcase (or two, or however many), hit up Marylin at Second Chances Art with an email and tell her Nick The Stitch sentcha.

Oh, one more thing... aside from a couple pilot holes drilled for access to cut out the shelf slots, I've done the entire thing with a saber saw.  No glue.  No screws.  Just a saber saw.  It's a damn good saber saw.  Well I did use a sander to smooth the surfaces, but it's cut entirely by saber saw and needs no glue or screws... unless you feel you really need it.

Will have more photos tomorrow night in my pre-festival lineup, so until then, stay awesome!

-Nick The Stitch

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I'm not dead! Yet, at least....

Hey there, Stitchers!  Nick the Stitch here, a little tired, a bit cold and sore but super awesome thanks for asking!  That is correct, I'm not dead.  I have been working really hard on a collab effort with Second Chances Art on some really cool, handcrafted products for the upcoming festival this Saturday at St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church.

St. Theresa is a little community-center church and school nestled in Belleview, on 301 just west of 441/27.  We had an opportunity to work with them as a vendor during their Fall Festival and had an absolutely great time.  If you haven't been to one of their events, and you're out of ideas on what to get friends or family for the holidays -- whether it's Xmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, or any other occasion or reason, even to just treat yourself to something nice -- then you have to hit this event.

We'll be at Booth #73, right across from the Main Hall, and yes there's plenty of parking, food and music, and awesome stuff to buy.  Also, yes, we will still be running our famous 10% discount when you pay for your entire purchase by credit/debit card (courtesy of those crazy cool guys at Square).

What will we have at this event?  Let's see... where to even start?

  • Wood clocks!  These beautiful handcrafted clocks go great on a wall or on a desktop, in either a birdhouse- or outhouse-style design.  Adding to the luxurious nature, they also come in either reclaimed wood or rich red cedar wood so fresh it was still purple when we got it.  They're varnished, have a battery-powered clock motor, and come with a battery in it as well as hands.
  • Doorstops!  Two-toned in rich red cedar and creamy pine, and varnished, these babies can take a beating and still hold the door open for you like the gentleman who makes them!  They come in 5-inch and 6-inch lengths.
  • Wood tree angel decorations!  Cute, country, a bit abstract and so heart-warming that you simply have to see them to believe it.  Ready to hang right out of the bag.  Best part is these angels are merciful on the environment, using wood that would've ended up in the landfill if we hadn't rescued it.
  • Scenery fences and woodpiles!  Great for the train scene or table landscaper in your family or friends, made of real tree branches, decorated and varnished for extra appeal and durability.  Don't just tell them you like what they do, add to it with a personal touch!
And if I'm really, really lucky....
  • Corner Curio Bookcase!  42" tall, 10" on a side, easy to assemble and disassemble for maximum portability, extremely light but cohesively stable thanks to a low-tech, simple trick in carpentry that requires no glue or screws!  (That is, unless you want to use some on it.  Point is, we make the CCB so that you won't need it.)  4 shelves, with three 12" tall spaces and a 4" kickplate.
  • Red cedar cubes and chunks for home decor!  Excellent, natural and effective bug repellant for closets, dressers, storage units, or general ambience.  We had quite a bit of leftover cedar wood after building all the stuff we've built in the past month that we couldn't just throw it away, so we got out our band saw and chopped these awesome-smelling pieces for ease and convenience.
If any of these sound like stuff you could use, stop by St. Theresa's Roman Catholic Church this Saturday (Dec 1st) from 8AM-2PM, or better yet why not email Second Chances Art for queries and prices?  Tell them Nick the Stitch sent you, everytime they hear that they give me an extra ration of bread and circuses.

Until next time, stay awesome.  Photos will be in the next day or so!

-Nick The Stitch

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wood Chisels -- FTW!

Hey Stitchers!  Nick The Stitch here and boy has it been a fun day!  Got a lot done, and a bit more to do before we get to the final assembly stage of the grandfather-style wood wall clock.  Hope you're having an awesome weekend so far, and feel free to crack open a cold one for me.

No, seriously, give me a beer.  I'm in the mood to celebrate.  And I'm not using power tools right now, so I'm safe.


Managed to get the side slabs chiseled out, courtesy of those wonderful three tools I got at Lowes for $10 and a hammer I've had for years.  Okay, here's something you should probably know right off the bat about them.  It's not exactly a good idea to use a normal hammer on a wood chisel handle end, because apparently it does a great job of marring and denting the handle butt.  However, given that the chisels were $10 for the set and I needed firepower, it worked out fine.  But if I could find a wood mallet capable of doing the same job, the handle butts wouldn't be so badly spanked.

I mentioned that I used to coping saw ($8 at Lowes, $2.50 for a set of 6 extra blades) to clean up the notches on the horizontal slabs, so here's what it looks like all pretty and everything...

...which looks a lot better than what I started with, after the saber saw.

Now, about the chisels... they may be cheap.  They may not come in big sets.  But when used properly and with a LOT of patience, they can be very, very good at what they do... see for yourself..., here's what it can look like with a better perspective to show depth control....

Here's a handy tip, if you decide to do something like this... if you have a piece that you're going to chisel (if you don't have access to a router) all the way across, after you mark where the sides of the slot are going to be, use a backsaw (otherwise known as a miter saw, you should be able to pick up a saw/miter box combo at Lowes for about $12-15) and PATIENTLY work the cut to your desired depth.  Then just chisel out the slot straight through (preferrably with a jig or a jig workstation, like the one I have or something you can set up with 2 C-clamps).

You could also do that if you weren't going completely across, but it's a bit more time-consuming -- but it can be done!  Patience and focus are key.

So tomorrow I get to paint and stain the slabs, weather accomodating of course, after I clean up the slots with a sanding block.  Don't get me wrong, the chisels do a great job at what the do, but sometimes things fit better when the surfaces are really smooth and even.

Hope you're enjoying this as much as I am.  Can't wait to get started on that computer desk in the next week or so... that's going to be fun!  In the meantime, stay awesome!

-Nick The Stitch

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thoughts and Lessons About NTS

Hey Stitchers!  Nick The Stitch here, a little tired from working today along with the gloomy grey weather, but highly energized about tomorrow's to-do list!  What a day, and I'm glad to spend a little of it with you.

It's been a fun week, making this grandfather-style wall clock, especially since I'm learning a lot about hand tools and what I am actually able to accomplish even when learning on the fly.  There is no better experience than trial by fire... unless that fire happens to be anywhere near wood, but just work with me here on it for a moment.

If you've been following this blog, you've probably seen some of the cool tools I've used -- like a saber saw, a jig tabletop workstation, and a vintage electric pad sander.  And while they're fantastic tools, don't get me wrong, there's one tool I've been itching to take for a test-drive... wood chisels.

Well, today I really worked out with them, pushed them and did some great stuff.  I learned why there's a flat side and a beveled side to them (and that the beveled side isn't just to make it fuel-efficient), plus how to etch sides of the areas where you're going to dig out wood, as well as how snugly the wood slabs can fit into the grooved slots.  It was really, really fun and extremely productive.

I don't have any photos today to show off, but there will be at least 2 or 3 tomorrow.  But there is one thing I mentioned yesterday, about the coping saw and why I like it...

While a saber saw is amazing at cutting wood, it's not 100% guaranteed to cut exactly the inside-depth or straightness you might need, especially if you're notching a piece of wood to slide into a slot with a flush front.  But with a coping saw, the cut itself is pretty close to 1/32" wide, and can give you the cleanest, sharpest edges you could hope for, as well as turn on a pin's thickness.  Which makes it a perfect tool to do dovetailing with, either squared or angled.

I did use a saber saw originally when I cut the slabs, but I cleaned up the notches beautifully.  And they work well with the slots in the vertical wall pieces, so I think this will finish by Saturday if I account for staining and varnishing time (which is probably not going to be quick, if the weather doesn't have sun in the next day or so).

By the way, I wanted to remind you that I will be hitting the St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church's Kris Kringle Festival (Booth 73, right across from the main hall) in Belleview, FL on December 1st from 8AM-2PM.  If the response to our various wall clocks and other stuff is positive, we might be hitting Renninger's in Mount Dora, FL sometime around mid-month and once a month after that.  But I will keep you posted on how that goes.  If you need more info or details, email me at and I'll throw it to you.

In the meantime, stay awesome and have a great Happy Hour.  Until next time........

-Nick The Stitch

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A woodcrafter walks into a bar...

... and says to the bartender, "OW!"

Okay, Stitchers, so that wasn't as funny for you, but I was the bartender!  ROFL!  Hey, you have to have a sense of humor to get through life, I mean cmon it could be worse, look at the platypus!  What is it, a duck?  A beaver?  A mammal?  Don't ever give him a multiple-option question, he'll be at it all day!


So yesterday, I promised photos of what I had done with the grandfather-style wall clock, except that the Powers That Be decided not to let my phone download them directly to my computer and instead I had to email them from my phone.  That sucked.  The work didn't.  In fact, take a peek at the pre-sanding of the wood pieces...

...and yes, that is a late-70's/early-80's-era, B&D electric pad sander.  Two-handed capability, though it was nimble enough to respond to one-handed use (but it does amazing stuff if you use two hands).
I got my hands on it when a neighbor's son a few years older than me was cleaning out his dad's old workshed that had a lot of powertools that apparently were kept in good running condition.  So Roy was seeing me struggling the week before to cut stuff with a mere saber saw off the concrete patio and was like "oh hell no, this ain't gonna work for him", and he gave me a bandsaw, the sander, the jig station you also see in the photo on the far left, and some parts like washers, pegs, and a huge storage bin with more types of things in there than I can figure out.  So Roy, if you're reading this, your dad was an amazing woodworker and I will do my best to make sure to keep them running well enough to hand down to another kid starting out.
Ever wonder why you see workers who are sanding concrete, stone, clay or wood always wearing a dust mask or respirator, even with a great ventilation system?  Check out the post-sanding pic...
Yep.  A LOT of dust and particulates.  And when you're reclaiming wood, you have no idea what's in the dust either, so if you do anything with that type of wood, either do it outside and wear a mask or just WEAR A MASK.  You do not want to be coughing up this crud for several weeks.  I did that once right before I quit working with clay, and now anytime I do stuff like that, I wear the masks.
So tomorrow, I plan to shoot my next stage (already in progress, due to my phone's insanity) where I'm using wood chisels to route grooves the various parts will fit into.  Oh, and I might photo my coping saw along with a part that I used it on to clean out the corner notches.  When I make the dovetails for the computer desk, that coping saw will be perfect, and I will explain why in the next post.
In the meantime, stay awesome and keep getting your groove on!  Until next time!
-Nick The Stitch

Monday, November 12, 2012

Grandfather! You're a big, bad...

...CLOCK!  rofl...

Hey Stitchers!  Nick The Stitch here with some tasty goodies and about time, wouldn't ya think?  In addition to needlecrafting, I do dabble in building some cool stuff in wood.  Granted, I'm not a contractor nor am I a school-trained carpenter, so if you want me to build a house.... yeah, don't ask.

BUT!  If you want something small, cool, and useful, then we'll talk.  I do custom stuff, so hit me an email and let me know what it is and I'll figure something out.

For example... I will be hitting the St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church's Kris Kringle Festival on Dec. 1st from 8AM-2PM EST.  And I will be bringing the birdhouse clocks, outhouse clocks and a couple Grandfather-style wall clocks that have key hangers (plus train and holiday wood decorations, the Whackadoos for the kids, and hopefully a few wood block cars).

At the moment, I've gotten from Stage 1... with the raw materials and my trusty saber saw.... Stage 2... pieces cut and ready to sand and chisel...

...which is on tomorrow's to-do list.  The parts are also going to be sanded and stained/painted, and if I do the whole jigsaw puzzle thing right, it will actually end up looking like an old-school grandfather clock you can hang by the front door.  At least, that's the theory.  Approximate size: 26" tall, 12" wide, about 4-1/2" deep.

So that's what I've been up to today.  And tomorrow's going to be dusty, dirty, and thirsty work.  But I believe it's a good day when I go home tired, sweaty and covered in sawdust.  What are some of your best types of end-of-workdays?  Sound off!

And stay awesome, because you are!

-Nick The Stitch

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Outhouse Clocks...

...because any time is a good time for a bathroom break.  ROFL...

Hey Stitchers, Nick The Stitch here and totally wiped.  So I'm going to keep this short but inspirational.  I hope you're having a great weekend so far.

Today was a gorgeous day to work outside and build clocks out of wood.  It was in the high 60's to low 70's, sunny with a little breeze, and very low humidity.  In fact right now, if you threw me into a pool, I would beat Bounty as "the quicker picker-upper", that is how dry my body feels.  So I'm rehydrating with water and tasty coffee.

Had to do a little touchup work on the Rustic Birdhouse Clocks being sold through Second Chances Art on Etsy (a collab project), and then just whipped out my saber saw and the wood planks and just tore them into Rustic Outhouse Clocks, complete with little crescent moon on the upper half of the "door" that I demarcated with the wood chisels (the moon I cut with the saber saw, which has a curve-cut feature).

I promise I will have photos, but I am just so exhausted from being outside and exposed to the low humidity all day that I simply don't have the energy to shoot them (plus I still have a little touchup to do, and there's 3 outhouses).

A huge shout-out to my neighbor Roy, he gave me a tabletop workstation that his dad used to own and it came in handy, especially with cutting thin strips of wood from a 1x4.  I have never had such straight-cut results in my life.  Thank you, Roy, I honestly hope Santa gets a hernia with all the good stuff he will put in your stocking.

And a good night to you as well, Stitchers.  Many blessings and stay awesome.

-Nick The Stitch

Friday, November 9, 2012

Holiday Wishes and Caviar Cabinets....

Hey Stitchers!  Nick The Stitch here to share some wisdom and insight on some woodworking things you may or may not be wanting to know.  What do they have to do with me?  Not only do I want to know, I want to use them and I'm fairly sure someone out there in Radio Land does too.

So here goes...

Okay, as some of you might know, I do dabble in woodworking.  If you have seen my Rustic Wood Clocks (now being sold through Second Chances Art, a collaborative effort), you know I can throw some wood together, yeah, so what, right?

Well, here's what you may not know about stuff I've built.  For one thing, I used to build and carve oil bottle storage boxes for my former company, Custom Glen Woods, down in Dania Beach, Florida.  Before I left South Florida, I also had a half-decent Foredom carving drill.  Since I moved up here to North Florida, I've built garden borders and planters, as well as decorative trusses, and the other weekend I devoted an entire day to cutting, laying and drilling plywood flooring in the front foyer room (which is not as easy as it looks, but then it's not exactly something I do regularly).

Now to the point of this post....

I have a shopping list of things I plan to build over the next few months:
  1. a computer desk with drawers and a cubby space;
  2. an art desk with a hideaway easel;
  3. apparently I'm being commandeered to enclose the front porch in screened windows and a couple doors;
  4. I'm also being commandeered to lay CDX plywood flooring for said front porch as well, preferrably BEFORE I screen it in; and
  5. a cedar footlocker/blanket chest for sale.  As in entirely in cedar.  Which is great against bugs.
Here's what I've been knocking around... you CAN actually DIY screen windows and DIY screen doors, and you don't need those god-awful metal railings, especially if it's for the outdoors where things won't be pressing against them easily to gain access.

Plus, when I get the birch 4x8 sheets and map out the pieces for the computer and art desks (and the cedar for the chest), well, let's face reality right now.  I am very good with a saber saw (which is also called a "jig saw" except that a jig saw is a different saw than a saber saw, it does the same thing but finer cuts), I am getting good with a coping saw, and I'm half-decent with a circular saw.

But I'm going to be needing something a bit heavier-duty to cut that much bulk wood, plus the 2x4s and landscaping timbers.  I could do it with what I have now, but I need a tool that has a guide bar to it, so I know I can get the accuracy I need ("Our door was built straight, but our door frame is out of line slightly.  And you can't just build a door out of line slightly!")

So I'm going to give myself a huge present on Thanksgiving weekend (probably closer to Sunday than Friday)... I'm going to be hunting deals, and when I find a good one, I am going to get....

...a portable standing table saw.  I know Lowes has deals all the time, but let's face it, when it comes to the uber-cool toys, there is no better time to buy than the holiday season.  A few weeks ago I saw a decent-powered one for just under $100, and the heavy-duty portables go for $150-190 right now.  But I'd be willing to bet I could get a heavy-duty for less than $150, even as clearance.

And why not?  I already have a drill press.  I already have a band saw.  I already have a two-handed pad sander.  I already have pretty much all the tools I can get away with.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love to get a router, but I can use my wood chisels for that.  Now all I'd need is enough wood to Get It Done.

The only question left is... what do I build first?  Expect a crapload of photos of the porch, the patio, the wood, the various stages of building, and the finished product.  Bob Vila would be so damn proud.

Okay, nighties all!  Stay awesome!

-Nick The Stitch

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tool Product Fire Warning!!

Hey Stitchers!  Nick the Stitch here with a Fire Warning for a tool you might consider getting for things like doing coring in wood planks.  I had the rather unfortunate experience with it and although it didn't burn down North Florida, I did at least want to let you know it might not be a good tool to get.

Okay, so here goes.

There are times, like when I make a Whackadoo Set or a Rustic Wood Clock, when I need to drill a 1" or larger hole in a plank of wood, and I simply don't have a regular drill or auger bit to do it.  So I use a coring bit.

Essentially, a coring bit is a serrated-edged, short metal tube that can be attached to a drill bit (which is usually included) and secured to the drill bit by a spring-lock (like a Lencor) or, in the case of this tool I was using (Porter-Cable), a removable nut that is screwed onto the back of the drill bit.  Either way, the bit has a hexagonal shaft that goes into the collet of a power drill or impact drill.

I had a set of Lencors, they do very well, but they didn't have the sizes I needed for what I was doing.  Mind you, the Lencor set, 6 pieces and the shaft, was about $50.  Never had a problem with them, even though using them strips the paint off but as long as you can read the impressed size demarcations, you're okay.

Unfortunately, when I went tool shopping with my dad, he saw the Porter-Cable 6-piece set for $20 and said, "I'm buying that, it's cheaper than the Lencor and it has what you need."  And unfortunately, my dad is not one who debates or considers other people's points, even and especially when the other people are, shock and horror, correct.  I had told him that the Lencor, which was $90, was a better brand and I like using Lencors because of the quality.  Needless to say, I didn't get Lencor.

So this weekend, I used the Porter-Cable bits.  Here's what happened...

1) While using one of the bits, the cutting end got so hot that the metal -- not just the paint, but the metal!!! -- had burn marks.  Not scorch marks.  Burn marks.  And it burned and smoldered the wood while I used it, and I wasn't going full-speed either, plus I was using it on old, flaky pine 1x4s.

2) When I used a second bit, the entire bit got so hot in 1 minute of medium-speed use that it melted the part of the base past the nub on the drill bit keeping it in place.  I could not remove it, that was how bad it warped.

Lowes refused to issue a safety warning on the bits, telling me to contact Porter-Cable and let them know, but they were nice enough to give me store credit.  My dad was surprised the bits failed but said to me, "Oh well, guess they aren't good!"

So here's the rule I live by when I shop for anything important, that I also recommend for others: If it's a really important item you will be using a lot and putting through a lot of hoops, just spend the extra money for a more reliable one.  The more you pay now, the less you'll pay later.

Okay, so that's my good deed of the day.  I cannot find the listing on Lowes' website, but it's in the Tools Department at the drill-bit set section.  Please be safe and stay awesome!

- Nick the Stitch

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Welcome to November... support the local craftsman in Summerfield, Florida, since the holidays are here and I've got too much stuff to store and you need something OTHER than fruitcakes or regifted garbage from last holiday season to give your loved (or not-so-loved) friends and relatives!

Now I know what you're thinking, Planet Earth... "Why should I get anything from a local craftsman in Summerfield, Florida, when a fruitcake or garbage I can regift from last holiday season is so much easier -- and cheaper -- at Wal-Mart?"

Well, here's your sign... QUALITY!  You won't find at Wal-Mart the high-quality care and craftsmanship I use in my products.  Hell, you won't even find ANY care or craftsmanship at Wal-Mart, because THEY don't use Americans to make the products they sell -- in addition to Chinese slave-labor, they don't even give their employees health care or vacation/sick time!  I'm a red-blooded American, born and raised in Florida, and while I may not be Bob Vila or Bob Ross or Bob Your Buddy, I care about making sure MY products last longer than the batteries that run them.

And let's be honest... when was the last time a big-box store slave -- err, employee -- not only knew where the products you were looking for were located, let alone even knew what the product you were looking for was without having a 20-minute search for an assistant manager to access the UNIVAC that had the map in it?

If you want to be re-invited to a party next year, get the gifts that will tell them, "I care enough about you that, while I spent a few bucks more on Nick The Stitch than the fruitcake at Wal-Mart would've cost, I think you'd appreciate some genuine, handcrafted American talent."

Shop away, I will be thrilled to make more.  And if you want, yes, I will in fact drop-ship and even mass-ship.  Just email me at or call me at 614-321-5009.  I can even take credit/debit over the phone, thanks to the boys at Square.

Why are you still reading this blog????  SHOP!!!  Support the AMERICAN Economy!

Oh... and stay awesome!  Thanks for all you do.