I guess I started out like most people in trying to make something out of wood at very early age however I didn't seriously start it until I was about 16 building my first real project a pair of PBK kayaks. By 17 I was rebuilding the entire wood roof for my antique car. There have been innumerable projects since then. Below are a few typically representative ones that I have pictures for.

My philosophy using wood is that if you do use it to make an item that will last longer than it would take to re-grow the tree then it's OK. Essentially have reverence for the tree and it's use. I won't use it to make gimiky fad items. One sees so much in woodworking magazines etc that you know will be thrown away in a few years. I like to build heirloom pieces that can be handed down to succeeding generations.

Dining Room Table

This table is my own design (the green Windsor chairs were commissioned from David Ambrose, a local chair maker in Elgin Ont.) however the idea for the tablecloth box between the legs is based on another reproduction table I had seen. The idea is that in early times, being that homes were simple and sparse, there wasn't always a lot of furniture for storing linen etc so this table has that ability by virtue of the hinge-lided box between its legs. This table is made entirely out of maple and has breadboard ends on the table top.

I almost lost the family jewels making the breadboard ends. I had been using a big Bosch "3HP" variable speed router (full blast) with a 1" straight cutter on the end to form the breadboard tongue. I had ear muffs on to eliminate the modest noise. After having completed one of the passes on the ends I slightly lifted the router and bent over to see more closely how it had gone. At about 45 of bend there was a horrible twisting-yanking feeling, ripping and clacking sound at my button fly on my Levis. I had completely torn the crotch out of my jeans with the 1" dia x 1.5" long "straight cutter" router bit winding down from 20,000RPM. The blood went out of my head like a toilet flush! I set the router down took off the ear muffs and called it a night. While I had come out of it without a scratch, seeing the gouged and bent steel buttons (not to mention the torn and frayed denim) in my now crotchless jeans I realized how close I had come. 10 minutes later I was trembling like a leaf.

There is nothing really remarkable about the construction. The box is mortise and tenoned into the legs thus making the legs part of the box (this can be seen in the corner cupboard finishing photo below). The rest of the table's construction is conventional. I will comment further about the breadboard end in that I'm not sure I would do it again. Apart from the incident above there is a lot of seasonal movement between the table top and the ends. While this was allowed for in the design using pins and slots I find the ends are constantly either protruding or recessed. Apart from that I feel the table was a success.

A Mirror

Not much to say here except gluing up the mitered round top was a challenge. Here you can see the flat "fat" look on the cross pieces I managed to avoid on the corner cupboard below.


Corner Cupboard

About the same time I was building the dining table above I also undertook this corner cupboard. The design is again my own and is sort of a collage of what I like in all corner cupboards.

I had picked up a fair quantity of rough sawn birds eye maple at $2.00/bd-ft. I decided that it would be good for this corner cupboard. After a first pass on the planer I realized how spectacular the wood I had was (there's birds eye and then there's birds eye). In a way this made the project slightly less enjoyable as I was deathly afraid of making any errors. Any wood of this caliber just couldn't be wasted.

Construction is classical throughout with old fashion mortise and though tenons on the raised panel door rail and styles. The windowed doors were particularly tricky as I wanted the steep sided edges you see on antique door (not the flat wide look like the mirror above). They have a thin, light look yet are strong. I could not find any router bits that were meant for this. In the end I used the raised panel (rail & style) bit at 90 degrees to the way it was intended.

Many reproduced doors have a single pane of glass behind the door while genuine antique doors have recesses for individual panes of glass. That is the approach that was taken here too. By the time the door pieces had their outer edge shaped and inner edges recessed there wasn't much to hold onto when going through the router however I achieved complete success in obtaining the look I was after.

The other part that was tricky was the long 45 miter on each side. There are no tricks to it just high accuracy and very careful work. They came out looking seamless.

I didn't want any plywood for the back even though most people wouldn't notice so I planed some maple to 1/2" thickness, beaded it and ship-lapped the edges. This makes the unit anchor heavy (as does the 3/4" maple everywhere else) but IMHO lends a class of distinction that is rarely found in corner cupboards today.

I have finished the unit, as I do all my pieces, in a TLV (Turpentine, Linseed Oil & Varnish) finish. Apart from that it remains uncompleted for want of custom forged rat-tail hinges and *moderately* bubbled antique glass.


Kitchen Trestle Table

This table is based on one I had seen at a local country corner store (in Ashton). The thing that immediately appealed to me was the basic design of the trestle. It uses wedges to spread and lock a spring cross member. While in principle it is not really any different than any other trestle table it was a unique approach. I also liked the potential that it could be disassembled without tools (the one at Ashton did have screws securing the top to the legs). I took this a step farther by coming up with a levered arm arrangement which secured the top to the legs. I made the table out of birch with some maple for the spring cross members. Construction is classical with mortise and tenon jointery. The legs and arms were tricky. There was considerable design work in advance to get the top securing arms to work right. I laminated the arms using 3 layers at 90 so that they would be strong and have dimensional stability. It looks simple but the accuracy required at the top led me to use my milling machine to make the top leg/arm arrangement.

It works like this. There are two end legs each with, essentially, rectangular holes for receiving the springed cross member. The cross member has an upper and lower spring member, the ends of which have wedges. There is a wedge box which can separate the wedged spring ends when it is slid outwards. To assemble the wedge box the spring ends are spread apart, the wedge box is slid onto (between) the spring members. When released the spring members will come together and loosely retain the wedge box. Each wedge box is then slid inwards and the ends of the cross member are squeezed together and inserted into each of the two end legs. After inserting the springed cross member through the legs it it released and will loosely hold the cross member to the leg. Each of the wedge boxes are then slid outwards and by interaction of the wedges it causes the cross member springs to spread apart and to tightly retain the legs. To prevent the wedge boxes from sliding back inwards they are held outward by separate loose wedges inserted downward into the wedge boxes. When these are inserted the table base is tight and rigidly secured.

At this point the table top is set onto the base. The table top has braces underneath on each end which also have "wedges". The end legs each have a pivoting arm hidden inside. When assembling the top to the table these arms are held inwards and the table top is set onto the base at which point the arms can be released (they tend to fall outward). The sloped ends of the arms tend to act on the wedge shaped braces underneath the table and will tend to hold the table top down. A separate wedge (with knob handle) is inserted horizontally inward between the two leg arms which causes them to spread apart and securely hold the table top down. That is essentially it. The only downside to the table is that if you have a 3-4 year old in the house they can't leave it alone and you'll always be reseating the wedges. :-)

Before it was done we had a set of Bird cage Windsors commissioned from David Fleming, a chair maker in Cobden Ont. A picture of him using his spoke shave next to his spring pole lathe can be seen on the creativity page(here) when your mouse is over the woodworking button.

Renfrew Weigh Scale

I have done several of these and while this is more a case of restoration (something I do fairly often) there has been some woodwork involved on occasion. The pictures above show a before and after of the same scale. This particular scale was not a true "Renfrew" but a collection of several different ones put together (not by me).

To start the scale is first dismantled and all castings and metal are sandblasted and finished with a durable black semi-gloss paint. IMHO sandblasting is the only way to properly deal with eons of rust on heavy metal. In the case above the top had to be remade as apart from being motor oil stained it was broken in several places (where ever possible I try to salvage authentic pieces). In the rare case as above when I remake the wood it is an exact recreation including jointery.

I spent a long time on the side rails ascertaining the stencil pattern. It was extremely faded and in many places missing but by careful studying (and some inference) I made new stencils out of plastic. After stenciling the wood was finished. All that's required of the brass is a clean and polish.

When finished they look like new! The make good coffee tables or end tables and have, of late, become rather "trendy".

Lumber Cart (from Ayr Ont.)

Picture coming soon

This is in a way another case of restoration however in this case the wood was so far gone (most of it was softwood/plywood replacement anyway) that the only thing I salvaged from the original was the iron castings. In this case I decided that, while I would recreate the wood pieces exactly from other originals, the type of wood was not going to be the typical ash or white oak but rather butternut. Since I was not going to be using this as a lumber cart but rather as a TV/stereo stand in the living room I chose butternut for it's beautiful colours and grain patterns.

There were several trips to lumber yards to take measurements of the various pieces, note how they were slotted etc. I also took another departure from original here in that the top wood pieces were typically nailed on and I didn't want any nails showing. To achieve this I made some angled steel bracing underneath. This is screwed to the side rails. It is also used to retain all the top boards by screws from underneath. To allow for dimensional changes that the cross grain top boards might experience the angle brace is slotted where ever a screw is to hold down a top board.

Apart from the deviations listed above it is indistinguishable from an original


I might as well show some of my first work. The kayak on the left is one of a pair I built when I was 16. It has marine ply frames with pine stringers and is covered in canvas. The design is a British PBK-10. It is a good all round design, maneuverable and rugged.

The kayak on the right is one of another pair I built in a month in the living room of an 8th floor apartment. Again stringer and ply construction covered in doped canvas (Weeee). Given the 16'-8" length the only way to get them out was with a 100ft rope over the balcony.....at night.

This design is a "Jacobs". It has a flat keel and a narrow beam. This makes it a bit tippy and strictly flat water only but it is also extremely fast (or effortless and silent). I can lazily beat 3 guys in a canoe paddling their hearts out. Rather than speed I enjoy going out silently in the evening when the water is like glass and listening to all the sounds of nature getting ready for an evening.

My next kayak, if I do it, will be a departure from woodworking but along the same lines as this boat. The plan is to build a pair of Baidarkas like this of George Dyson design. These are of bent thin-wall aluminum tube construction (lashed together) covered with heat shrunk nylon sewn onto the tube frame. George is an amazing guy who pretty well single handedly has brought back this impressive square backed, split bow, Aleut variant of kayak design (the Baidarka).

I have the 6061-T6 aluminum tubing (stringers) and 6061-T6 sheet (frames), the tubing benders and have even built a 20ft long steel tubed, 3/4" plywood topped "strong back".....I just have to get on it.

1760's Musket Case

This is an ongoing work in progress. It is the musket case I have designed, and am building, for my Brown Bess. The design is not intended to be historically accurate but rather to be functional and look "of the period" which happens to be the 1760s.

To start, I decided to build it out of Butternut which has a nice color and is light (not heavy). I also wanted to have box jointed corners. Since I had no means to make box joints I had to make a box joint jig before I started anything. Seems fitting that for a British gun I use British Machining methods - make the tool to make the tool to make the part ;-). The pictures above show what I came up with. Basically it is a sliding table (uses drawer slides) driven by a 3/8"-16TPI threaded rod lead-screw. The lead screw is driven by a 4:1 gear arrangement I made. One turn of the large gear produces 4 turns of the lead-screw or 1/4" table movement. Similarly 1 tooth of the large gear produces 0.0025" table movement. Thus by indexing the large gear I can produce box joints of any size and dial them in to any level of snugness in fit. The rightmost picture shows it in operation.

The picture above shows some of the parts cut out. The case & lid are being prepared for glue-up. I'm placing green painter's tape next to the box joints to minimize clean-up after the glue-up.

To be stored inside the case, below the musket, are the accoutrements needed for use. Namely a shooting kit which will contain things like powder measures, ball starter, pick & brush, tin of lubed patches, flints etc. A cleaning/service kit containing things like tools, brushes, jags, mainspring vise, funnels, oilers, pullers, punch etc. Finally there is a cartridge board which will be used when rolling my own paper cartridges (64). There are marks on the side for cutting the paper trapezoids (2" x 6" x 5.5" wide). The pictures above show these having just been rough cut out.

Also in the bowls of the case will be a forged iron support for the powder horn which will be mounted to a wood base. To mount and secure my powder horn which is the most complex shape you can imagine. It took a while to form fit the 3/4" x 1/8" hot rolled steel to the curved cross sections of the horn at 3 points, then with some blacksmithing techniques form the strap hooks on each one without ruining the previous curve. Then the challenge was to support these cradles at set heights and angles to form fit the horn. I used just about every trick I know to get it right. The horn angles upward partly because that's the way it is and also there were space constraints I had to meet on top of everything else. All it needs now is some paint and then to felt line the cradle insides. The forging makes it look of the period too. I have also since finished the butternut board it is going to be mounted to but that isn't in the pictures. The tape on the horn was just a rough guide for where the cradles should be. The support will cradle the horn and the horn will hold itself fast with its own strap wrapped around the bent hooks on each craddle tip. I also had to make a mount for my bayonet to go in the lid of my musket case that has a hope of resisting the tremendous torque that could be put on it if the tip of the bayonet is pushed yet look as if it belonged from the 1760's. The bayonet mounts to the tube same as it does on the musket (slide it on - twist - then push home). It is retained with a fine thread brass knob I made. The tube is mounted to a mortice & tenoned steel plate (invisibly welded from behind) and additionally braced to the ornate shaped steel angle. Since the angle is mounted in the top corner the only way it should move is by sheering the screws. It took a lot of planning & patient machining to get everything to fit right, be diminuative, strong & look authentic. To fit all these items (kits, cartridge board, horn, bayonet, range rod etc) into the case with the musket was a challenging excersize in 3D space planing.

While designing the case I also got to play artist as I wanted to put on stenciling which would augment the period look. Up on the lid center is a reference to the original maker that my Brown Bess is modeled after. I also put on the date and a royal proof mark. On the end of the case (not shown) is a reference to me and where I'm stationed. On the front and back of the case was a multi-part stencil (only 1/2 applied above but can be fully seen below) that has the crown and a reference to the Tower Armoury and the official name of my Brown Bess. Once the designs were complete I sent them out to be laser cut in mylar at a place called Sawdust & Noise. The laser cut mylar stencils worked extremely well. I highly recommend Sawdust & Noise! I was worried that small lettering (and extremely small "webs") were going to be an issue but the stencils worked flawlessly. I used stencil creme paint (and a stiffish brush) which has the miraculous consistency to excel at this stuff. It's one of those things where when you use it you say this material is perfect for the job.

The pictures above show the start of the wood finishing process. Notice everything is upside down. This is immediately after a first coat of Lee Valley's "Tried & True" finish. I find it really brings out the wood well but it is sloooooooow drying. The biggest pain was doing the inside of the sixty four 3/4" holes on my cartridge board. I'd stick my glove covered pinky into the can of finish - stick pinky into hole - twist/push, twist/push - repeat & repeat & repeat ..... The inside of a hole is pretty much all end grain (insert sucking sounds here). I have since put a second coat on and after that I plan to rub in a wax finish. This is where this project now stands. Once the finishing is done the large job of assembling it all together will begin. Stay tuned.....

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