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In the Shop: Birch Tealights

As all good things in the shop do, my latest project started with an idea. Could I make candle holders? What would they look like?

For my first few attempts, I’m sticking with tealights, and I’m spending time with the birch I got in December. I love the grain in general, but right now that it’s spalted, I find it more beautiful than before.

With the weather warming up as the Florida summer looms, I’m not sure how much more time I’ll get in the shop to play around with new ideas. For now, I’ll enjoy the outcome of my latest endeavor.

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This set has a natural edge to it and is meant to look like a couple of mushrooms. Tell me you see it. The other set I’ve done reminds me of upside down flower pots. I’ve got video of me making them – actually, stripping the bark from the birch – but no real pictures yet. I may have to fix that.

I’ve enjoyed making them, but (for now) it’s labor intensive and a set can take me most of the day out in the shop. Of course, that’s a part I enjoy so I’m definitely not complaining.

So that’s what I’m doing in the shop right now. In case you’re curious, yes, a tealight really does fit in the holder.

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Fiction: Where’s My Theme Song?

“Pop, pop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!”

No, that’s not right.

“I’d like to teach the world to sing…I’d like to buy the world a…”

Nope. I’m still getting this wrong.

“It’s Miller time!”

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. The pop. The fizz. That cold sigh as the top releases, and you know you’re about to drink a cold one. That’s what I do. My whole purpose is to make thirsty people, hot people, even (some) desperate people as happy as possible.

I produce the happiest sound ever heard by most adults of a certain age. Not the glug-glug of greedy slurping. Not the clink as the glass slams down on the table. Not even the satisified, “Ahhhhh” after a long swig.

Nope. I have a better job than that. I’m the reason for the satisfying crack when a seal breaks. I’m the reason your hand doesn’t sting. When you’re struggling to make those manly hands work, I get the job done in one smooth move.

Yeah, I’m the best. I know it. It’s not bragging if it’s true.

And when you’re covered in sweat, with a tongue like sandpaper, and clothes sticking to every inch of you, I’m your best friend. You need me. You’re desperate for me. You’d do anything for me.

Wouldn’t you? You know you would. If I’m not around, you can’t have what you want. And I think that deserves it’s own theme song. Something that shows how much you love me, want me, need me.

Maybe something like this…

You know you love me. And why shouldn’t you?

I’m your trusty bottle opener.

Custom turned bottle openers
Custom turned bottle openers

Available here – the bottle opener with an ego bigger than itself but that always gets the job done. It’s not bragging if it’s true, right?

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3 Types of Reclaimed Wood I Use

I get teased around here for looking for reasons to buy a new tool. (That might be true.) But my last purchase – a chainsaw – was necessary. I’d found a local tree company who hated getting rid of the wood when they cut down trees and were too happy for an eager woodworker to take some off their hands.

Every so often, I load the chainsaw in the back of my RAV 4, grab a tarp, and go find out what they have. So far, I’ve gotten oak and eucalyptus wood with birch brought to me from out of state. I don’t think these are the only reclaimed woods I’ll work with, but they’re a good start.

Florida Oak

Often called Florida Live Oak by the locals, I’ve got a big stack of oak in the shop that I really enjoy using. It’s a nice, solid hardwood that can be difficult to work with because of how hard it is. When you get it going, turned oak makes beautiful pieces. I’ve used it in everything from pens to bowls. By far the most interesting thing about oak, to me, is the interesting bark patterns that show up when I turn natural edge pieces like some of the bowls I’ve made.

Birch Wood

My dad lives in upstate New York and at Christmas time I asked him to bring me any wood he had and couldn’t use. What I received was a huge stack of birch. It’s a cool wood to work with because the color is different from piece to piece, from white to a light tan. Sometimes, you can see the color change in a single piece of wood. Birch is a wet wood which means that when it spalts, new colors are added to the grain which changes the appearance of the wood and adds an extra dimension to it. So far, I’ve made a box and tea lights.


Okay, to be honest, I haven’t actually had a chance to use my stash of eucalyptus yet, but I’m looking forward to it. What I find fascinating is that eucalyptus is so diverse. The oil can be used for respiratory problems, in aromatherapy, and as an essential oil that I use in my homemade pre-shave oil (yes, I make that, too). All that makes me wonder, what kind of wood have I got here? I’m really excited to try it because the pieces in my shop have really interesting branching patterns which should translate into unique grain patterns.

I’ve always felt better when I re-use something or find a new use for an old thing rather then throwing it away. Using reclaimed wood lets me take something unwanted, forgotten, and destined for a wood chipper, and turn it into something useful and beautiful. I still love the exotic woods and the acrylics I use, but using reclaimed wood makes me feel good.

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Find Me At: Tarpon Springs First Friday (My First!)

I think we’ve established that I love my shop. I love turning wood. I love making the things that pop into my head.

My “introvert card” might pulled over this one, but I really like craft shows and fairs, too. I’ve done a few since last fall at the Florida Estates Winery and a new one for Tampa Bay Cat Alliance. My next one isn’t a new event, but it is new to me:

Tarpon Springs First Friday

Vendors line up in downtown Tarpon Springs and people from all over walk through, find something good to eat, get themselves a drink, and hopefully find a gift or a unique item they can’t live without. I’ve been a few times and told myself I wanted to be a part of it as a vendor at some point.

That time has arrived. On Friday, April 7, my little (blue not red) wagon and I will arrive with tables, tableclothes, signs, and my entire inventory to see what the locals think of my woodworking. If it’s like previous shows, I’ll probably have to explain a few things:

No, I don’t work for a manufacturer.

Yes, I made all of these by hand.

Yes, the pens, bottle openers, wine stoppers, and brushes work.

It’s pretty cool to see someone’s eyes light up when they hold something I’ve made, amazed at the wood grain or that a person can actually make such a thing. Of course, when they pull out their wallet to buy something, that’s even better.

Are you a Tampa Bay local? Look for me in downtown Tarpon Springs on April 7, 2017!