Shak{ering} It Up – Walnut Sidetables Revealed

Hey, do you remember that one time Andy was building us two shaker walnut side tables, which I discussed here and here, and then I said I would update you when he was done, and then I didn’t?

Yeah, me neither.

So with that said, I’m totally on time with this reveal. Completely.

These tables made me realize why people use coasters. I still have yet to put any glass of any kind on them yet, and have dusted them more often than I’ve probably dusted in my entire house. It turns out when you have really nice furniture you like it to continue to look really nice.

I love the unique grain that each table has, despite looking similar in style. It’s hard for me to comprehend how on earth my husband built every single piece of these tables by hand—right down to the knobs on the drawers, which he turned on the lathe.

Here are a few more detail shots of the pieces, including the beautiful dovetails on the drawers. Mr.A says they aren’t perfect, but they look perfect to me.

Once we had these in place Andy told me the story of where this walnut came from. Almost 50 years ago, when my father-in-law was a boy in Ohio, he planted a walnut tree in his front yard. Years later when his father moved, my father-in-law chopped down the walnut tree and brought it back to Maine (yep, the entire log) and had it sawed here. He had it drying in his garage and when he gave it to Andy, he used it for these tables.

I love pieces that have a sentimental value to them, and I love the idea of passing these pieces with their stories down the line someday.

Now all we need is a new couch, because these babies need something just as beautiful to flank.

Much Love,

Heather

DIY Firewood French Rolling Pin

It’s 15 degrees out and I got covered in sawdust today. I am a happy woman.

After getting our lathe set up last night I was thinking about what I could make. I knew the project had to be easy, since I had never used one before and I’m most definitely a novice in any woodworking. Even though the lathe has chucks to turn wood bowls it would be too difficult for a first project. A light bulb went off this morning and I told Andy I wanted to try making a french rolling pin. About two seconds later he was headed to the workshop. I love that he got excited too.

We needed a 2×2 by 20 to 24 inch piece of wood. Unfortunately we didn’t have any so Andy found the longest piece of firewood he could and used the bandsaw & tablesaw to cut it to size. This piece happened to be maple.

Next he showed me how to find the center of each end with a square edge, and align the edges into each chuck on the lathe. Then he told me how to tighten it all down, line up the guide and a quick lesson in how to use the lathe & tools. Here’s some tips Andy gave me (in my words). Do not use these tips as “good enough” guidance. Lathes are extremely dangerous and I don’t condone using them unless you are already skilled with them, or have someone who is skilled with you.

  • Never use chisels as lathe tools. Ever. In a million years. Ever.
  • Don’t use a lathe without professional guidance – it’s way dangerous.
  • Wear a full face shield.
  • Take your time. Go slow. Pay attention. You simply cannot be rushed, or distracted, when using one. You will get hurt.
  • You have to have control over the tools – but you have to respect the how sharp it is.
  • If you tip your lathe tool too low, it can get pulled under the piece – along with your hand and arm.
  • If you tip your lathe tool too high, it can fling back and up into your neck/face.
  • Knocking the corners off right when you start is the most dangerous part, you pretty much want to barely touch the wood but have a very firm grip – it takes a while.
  • Baggy clothing plus spinning wood is a super bad idea. I wore a fitted shirt with my sleeve pushed up the entire time.

You’ll get used to the best grip for you. As the photo below indicates, I had a death grip on the tool right at the beginning while knocking off the edges. As I kept working with it, and different tools, my grip and style definitely changed.

It turns out I am left handed on the lathe. Your dominant hand is suppose to be on the bottom of the handle but it just didn’t work for me. I can definitely work with my right hand (as I did above) but it felt far more natural using my left hand.

It took a while to knock off the edges, but I finally started getting somewhere and getting more comfortable.

Near the end Andy helped me from wanting to briefly throw the rolling pin in the wood-stove. I just couldn’t get the ends the exact the same size and taper. Thankfully my husband is the shit. Andy showed me where it needed work, but stepped back and let me do it. It was awesome to have someone come over and give tips throughout and then leave me to it. Finally, Andy showed me how to sand the piece and he cut off the ends where the chucks were.

Total cost to make? $0.00.

Here’s it is close up. The final piece is about 18″ long. It’s a little short for a french rolling pin and you can tell it’s not totally even, but I love it. For the first piece I ever made and without calipers to make sure I was entirely accurate it’s not bad. Andy would have had me shave some more but I decided it was good enough. I am looking forward to trying my hand at another one.

Andy’s brother suggested I “whisker” the piece. Even though I haven’t yet, it’s a great idea. Per my brother in law, this entails taking a slightly damp cloth and gently rubbing it over the piece. Then you hold it in front of the wood-stove with high heat to raise the grain or “whiskers”. Once the grain raises you take a piece of 600-1000 grit sandpaper and wipe only in the same direction as the grain to sheer the “whiskers” off. This makes for a smoother piece and keeps it from whiskering out after the first wash—which can end up in your food. Once this is done, a little rub of mineral oil and it’s set for use!

It’s kind of awesome to know this was a piece of firewood just hanging out in our basement.

I have to admit something. This is one of the most relaxing  and satisfying things I have ever done. You literally cannot think about anything else except the present. For someone who thinks a lot, this is welcome. I also welcome the fact it was free.

Now to decide what else I can create. Maybe a set of wooden cooking utensils?

Much Love,

Heather

Woodshop Upgrades

Do you remember last January when I posted about my love of a lathe, and how I wanted Andy to update his shop a little?

I knew you did. You’re so good like that.

It’s been almost a year, so I thought I would update you on the four new pieces we’ve acquired. Soon after the lathe blog post last January, we picked up our Shop Fox band-saw and jointer from an industrial wood-shop supply place here in Maine.

Our next piece, our planer, was found through some interesting Craigslist selling & buying. We sold an old fridge, and our oil hot water heater. Andy ended up getting another call about the fridge—and per what he told me, only went online and searched our town name to see if it was still listed for some reason. He swears he removed the listing—and that he wasn’t specifically looking for tools or a sawmill.

I’ve decided to believe him, with a little eye squintiness and smirk going on because I’m not 100% sold.

The search turned up a Jet planer. Even though he wasn’t the first one to call he was the first one over there with a pickup truck, and cash to pay for it. He got it for about 1/4 of what it’s worth. A little sharpening of the planer blades brought it back to near mint condition.

Finally—are you ready?

No really. Are you? Because this is exciting.

We have a lathe. Not a 30 year old piece of junk lathe but a nice lathe. I’m not sure how the conversation started between Andy and our coworker, but I do know it turns out he was upgrading from his Jet lathe. We ended up buying it, with bowl chucks, for about 1/2 of it’s retail cost not including the chucks. I might be just a little excited.

To be clear, I’m still slightly intimidated by my scroll saw so I’m ogling the lathe from a slight distance at this point.

It’s just so wonderful. Andy got all the adjustments done he needed, and then cut a piece of firewood on the bandsaw and decided to turn a “woodworking mallet”.

There’s just something so wonderful about wood shavings all over strong hands from woodworking.

I think the finished product looks like a solid oak replica of an old corked bottle. I can just picture it white washed with a beautiful hand-painted label on it.

Even though it’s meant for woodworking, or so I’m told (I am admittedly very gullible in some aspects) I still love that this was turned from a piece of firewood.

That my friends, is why I love lathes.

Happy Woodworking,

Heather