Shak{er}ing It Up {Part One}

I am what I refer to as “ornate sensitive” when it comes to furniture. I like my lines clean and simple but warm. Furniture most people wouldn’t consider ornate, I do. I certainly have an appreciation for ornate furniture, for the craftsmanship that goes into it.

Yes, Andy teases me about this, especially because it’s entirely arbitrary and confusing. I can see a dresser with curved drawers on the front even if the rest is basic and find it ornate; a week later I can see a vintage side table with turned legs at a flea market and love it.

Your guess is as good as mine why I feel this way. I guess I just like my details and art on the walls and pieces I can easily change out, and not incorporated into my furniture.  The best way I can explain it is that I have a visceral reaction to the thought of ornate furniture in my house. I know that’s weird, but it’s true.

What this essentially comes down to is that I like Shaker and Mission style furniture. So when Andy showed me these side tables from Fine Woodworking and asked if I wanted him to build me two out of walnut we were given I eeked with joy. I loved the simplicity of them, how they let the wood speak for itself and the clean lines. Even though I really love the straight legs, I wasn’t too picky either way. Andy decided to go with the turned ones since the walnut grain would look gorgeous through them—and it meant he could use the lathe.

The lathe almost always wins.

Andy has been working so hard lately on things for the house, and getting his wood shop in order, he really needed to do something or himself. Making fine furniture is something he loves to do for us as a family so when he gets the chance to he absolutely will. I let Andy have some time to himself down in the wood shop but when I couldn’t take it any longer I grabbed the Nikon and headed into the cave.

I never get tired of seeing, and being amazed by, the beauty of wood behind bark. I mean, look at this.

The further I walked into the shop, the more pieces I saw coming together. First I saw Andy on the Jointer shaving the bark off the sides of each board and beautiful walnut shavings methodically coming out of the base.

Then I looked up and saw the back workbench covered in walnut boards. Beautiful, dark, rich, walnut boards. Andy informed me these were going to be the top of each side table.

A glance to my left showed some of the legs ready for turning, and a few more boards glued up together to make the other legs. Andy showed me how they were glued and said if you glue the faces when they set up and are turned round it will be harder to tell they aren’t once piece—as long as you match the grain and color.

It’s hard to believe each of these legs were ripped from pieces that looked like this.

I still haven’t decided whether we’ll be using them in the livingroom or up in our bedroom. I’m just excited to start getting some handmade shaker furniture around here. I think of these items as heirloom items we can eventually pass down and I love the thought of it.

I’m so excited to see how these turn out. Today Andy has been putting the tops together and turning the legs, so I’ll be back later this week with an update on them. You may wonder why I didn’t wait until they were done to post on this. I try to show things in real time so I knew I had to write about these as soon as I could. Just. So. Excited.

Until the next update you can just imagine me doing the running man with a huge dorky grin on my face every time I walk into the basement and see these in process.

I love being married to a carpenter/construction/work ox.

Happy Woodworking,



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,


Poplar + Cherry Bookshelf With A Side of Martini

flickr *0ne*

With the acquisition of the new bandsaw and jointer, the very talented Mr. A has set out to make us a nice curly poplar (aspen) and cherry bookshelf. I am very excited about this as it is a win-win situation. I love when he makes furniture and we will be able to toss two other shoddy bookshelves. I also love cherry wood, it’s absolutely beautiful. My relationship with poplar is slightly different though. It’s not poplars fault, really.

Get in your Delorean, we’re going back in time.

Mr. A and I were living together in a rented house and decided to have dinner with our friends. Long story short, I made the mistake of trying a dirty martini. What possessed me to drink vodka tainted with olive juice I will never know remember.  It was a rough night.  I learned from my mistake and have not touched a martini since (and it took a good year before I could eat another olive).

A few months later we bought our house and realized we had a lot of poplar trees around us, thus constituting some of our firewood that first winter. We (Mr. A) chopped down and stacked the green (i.e. moist) wood on our deck to dry, poplar included. Did you know moist poplar smells like a roughed up dirty martini? I didn’t.  I clearly remember an Elaine – Seinfeld-esque dance and gagging when I first placed foot on that deck after the stacking had finished. Just. Too. Soon.

Delorean back to 2011.

Thus I forever associate the smell of wet poplar with a very long not so awesome night. Thankfully poplar has no smell when dried leading me to be very thankful the bookshelf poplar is bone dry. It is also absolutely gorgeous.

He took the wood from looking like the board on the left, to the board on the right.

Here’s a better photo of the “curly” grain.

In a rare, sasquatch like sighting, here is a photo of Mr. A himself putting the frame together.

I can’t wait to see what this looks like when finished. He gave me a sneak peak of the cherry moulding and I have to admit this thing is going to be incredible. Yes, bookshelves can be incredible (nerd shout out).  Since I do this blog in real time, I’ll post more on this later!

Happy Building,