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The Summer Heat is on in the Shop

It’s summer time here in Florida, and it’s hot, hot, hot, and oh yeah a bit humid to boot.

I’ve tried to not let it slow me down with regards to working in the shop, but I do have to work around the heat. During the month of July I got out early in the morning and worked till around noon. By that time of the day in July, the sun is high in the sky and the heat and humidity hangs from you. From the looks of it, August will be no different so it will be more early morning work in the shop till it gets too hot.

Still I have managed to turn out (no pun intended) some new items. In addition to trying to sneak in some summer turning in the shop, I have also spent some time cleaning and tuning up my lathe and other tools in preparation for fall.

The Eucalyptus by far has been my favorite wood to work with, both the ability to turn it as well as the color and grain of the wood which never ceases to amaze me. The colors of the wood range from a light brown along the outside to a deep reddish brown as you get deeper into the wood. Thus far I’ve been mainly making bowls with the Eucalyptus and even some bowls with candle holders in the center. They have been coming out very nicely.

I do have some of the Eucalyptus set aside that will be cut into spindles for other items such as pens, shaving sets, and even a bottle opener or two.

The Birch has been a pleasure to work with as well, and I have made some of that wood into tea light candle holders. While the Birch is a light colored wood, the spalting (coloring appearing in cut wood as it ages) has brought out some beautiful variations in the grain.

wooden bowls, bowls, candle holders
Eucalyptus bowls and candle holders

Also I have been playing around with making pen blanks. Using colored pencils I have set them into blanks and then turned them into pens. The effect is a splash of polka dots and color on the pens. It’s also another way to recycle something old and turn (pun completely intended) into something new.

Eucalyptus bowl and click pens
Eucalyptus Bowl and Slimline Pro click pens w/ colored pencils

Some planks of Cypress have also made their way into the shop that have been recovered from the local ship yard. I’ve cut a few into pieces that will be made into shallow bowls, and the rest of it is waiting to be cut either into spindles for magic wands and wine bottle toppers. I’ve really taken a liking to working with recovered and reclaimed wood as once you start digging into what looks like a tired old piece of wood you can uncover some hidden beauty.

Cypress planks
Cypress planks
Cypress bowl
Cypress bowl

In between that I have been lining up craft shows for the near future; including the August 4th First Friday in Tarpon Springs. Right on the heels of that I will be at Hippie Fest in Tarpon Springs on August 12th. These are both fun family craft shows with lots of great vendors, food, music, and crafts.

Other events in the Pinellas/Pasco area are also in the works and will be announced here and on my FaceBook page as they get closer.

Even though it has been a hot summer, I’ve been plugging away in the shop and look forward to seeing some of you out at the upcoming shows.

 

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In the Shop: Taboti Men’s Shaving Set

The rules of polite blogging probably mean you shouldn’t showcase your own work in the exact same way twice in a row, but I can’t help myself.

I’m really proud of this last project.

While I’ve had some extra time in the shop, I worked on all kinds of things: keychains, pens, bowls, and more but the Tamboti Men’s Shaving Set is my absolute favorite. Every piece comes from one block of wood, which means the grain is the same throughout. I did that on purpose to give the set continuity and because I wondered if I could.

Most of what I do in my shop starts from that point. I think, “I wonder if I can…” and then I go out and see if I really can. Sometimes a bowl cracks or the acrylic chips. Sometimes I can fix it, sometimes I can’t. I’ve had my share of small injuries and mishaps – cuts, scrapes, gouges, and a blister that made Michaela cringe every time she saw it. (Maybe I shouldn’t have shoved my finger in her face and said, “Look!” multiple times.)

Anyway, maybe I can be forgiven for showing off again this month. Maybe if you take a look at it, you’ll agree that it’s beautiful, too. Either way, what I see when I look at it is a continuing improvement in my woodworking abilities as well as the outcome of wondering “What if…”

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Love it and want one for yourself? This set is on Etsy or you can contact me for a custom order.

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A Story in Pictures: Making My First Box

I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself a creative person. Certainly not an artist. Ever since I began turning wood and making the things that pop into my head, I’ve had to rethink that assessment.

This week I’m off of work and in the shop. An idea came to me, and since I had the time and the wood, I gave it a go.

I started with beautiful birch wood brought down from New York – my dad came at Christmas and loaded his truck for me…

 

I had this picture in my head of what I wanted the finished product to look like. Since it’s a new project, though, there’s no way to really know. But you have to start somewhere…

 

I started with one piece of wood but ended up with two parts. Making sure it matched up was the first step. Then it was time to make the picture in my head match the reality of the wood…

 

For a first try, it’s not bad. But I’m not satisfied. Oh, my fiance tells me its beautiful. Even the kids were impressed that I made a box. The oldest asked if he could have it. I told him no, not this one. Maybe I’ll make him one for his own.

Maybe I’m a “typical” artist (whatever that means) or maybe I just need more practice. I’m proud of it, but it’s not what I saw in my head. Which is plenty of incentive to keep making more…

What do you think? I think I’ll make more and maybe one day I’ll make it exactly as I envision it. But until then, this is a good start.

 

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5 Things You Do When You Buy from a Woodworker

I almost called this “What happens when you buy from a crafter” and while I might technically be considered that for tax purposes, in my mind I’m a woodworker/woodturner. Yes, I make pens and wine stoppers from acrylic but my first love is wood.

I can’t speak for every small crafter or woodworker out there, but if you ever wondered what difference you’re making when you buy from someone’s Etsy shop or a booth at a craft fair or flea market, let me explain.

We talk about shopping local – which I believe in – and buying American (assuming you’re in America, of course). And those things are very good for local communities and small businesses. But there’s also the benefits when you buy from the small artist, the crafter at her kitchen table, or the woodworker in his (okay, my) one-car garage – even if we’re online and across the country from you.

You help me build my confidence.

I turn wood because I love it. Even if I never sold a single bowl or pen, I’d keep doing it. But it’s easy to wonder if I’m really any good especially when examples of people who do it better or more creatively are all around. When someone buys a pen or a bowl, you’re letting me know you think my work is worth paying for. It’s a huge ego and confidence booster – even if I am always surprised when it happens.

You’re showing approval and appreciation for what I do.

I just said I’d do this even if no one bought a thing. I meant that. But buying from me (or another crafter) means you like what we’re doing. You give me the nod to make more, try new versions, and/or keep cranking out more finished products.

You’re helping build a small business.

Right now, the business side of woodturning is what my fiance tells me is a “side hustle” – okay, if that’s what we call it now. My goal is to one day make this my main source of income, especially when I retire. I have a long way to go (Rome and businesses aren’t built overnight). Each time a sale is made, it’s another baby step toward a bigger dream.

You make it possible to buy supplies.

Going into crazy debt to make pens and bowls isn’t my idea of a good time. Each sale means I can buy a few more supplies. The plan for 2017 is to save up for a bigger lathe so I can do bigger and better projects. To save on buying supplies, you’ll see me using a lot more reclaimed wood and finishing projects that don’t require a lot of purchased hardware.

You’re supporting the little guy (or gal).

At craft shows, especially, people tell me I should let my “manufacturer” know they do good work. People assume I’m a vendor selling for a bigger company. Imagine their surprise when I explain that I made the things they see in front of them. I’m one of the little guys just trying to support my habit and build something. Every purchase makes that possible.

You should buy things because you need them, they’re beautiful, or you love them. You should buy from vendors and businesses you believe in, like, or offer the best price. But if you have a choice, buy from a small crafter. You’ll be doing so much more than buying a product.

Shameless self-promotion time! Check out my Etsy shop where I’m adding more items each month. Click the link below:

The Wood Dom

Looking for other small crafters to peruse through? Here are a couple I recommend:

Cardinal Moon Crochet – Peggy is talented and a personal friend!

Tasha Hussy Body – I love her shaving soap!

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5 Woodworkers I Watch on YouTube

My first lesson in woodturning and woodworking was in a local Woodcraft classroom. After that, once I started practicing and got my own tools, I could pay for more classes or I could do what many people do in today’s digital age – I could learn from YouTube.

YouTube it was. From the beginning, I looked for tips about techniques and tools as well as ideas on what kinds of projects to try. Over time, I’ve found some favorite channels for different reasons.

If you want a little insight into who has taught me some of what I know or you’re interested in woodturning and woodworking yourself, check out these five great YouTubers.

As Wood Turns

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll have seen pictures of my natural edge bowls. Take a look at what Alan from As Wood Turns does with it.

M. Saban Smith Woodturning

Okay, my geek is showing a little here, but the idea of making an ancient shield as a woodturning project is just cool.

RJB Woodturner

Right now, I’m not ready to start making my own pen blanks. (I’m having too much fun taking green wood and making bowls). But this is still very interesting…and something to think about.

Rebel Turner

Repurposed wood and simply beautiful work. Not much more to say. I get great ideas and learn a lot from Rebel Turner. He’s one of my top picks on YouTube.

Mike Waldt

If I’m picking favorite woodworking YouTube channels, Mike Waldt is it. He does great work, and he’s easy to follow and understand. I’m not quite ready for vases yet, but I know where I’ll go for tips and tricks on how to do it.

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How to Build a Woodworking Shop with Limited Space and Money

When I took my first woodworking class, I didn’t know it would lead to a home shop, an Etsy store, or a plan for a small business. All I knew is that I was curious and wanted to try it. Once I took the first class at my local Woodcraft store, I was hooked.

Plans were immediately set in motion to build a woodworking shop as soon as I could.

First, we had to move. No, we didn’t move so I could build a shop (it was a crappy apartment we couldn’t wait to get out of), but there definitely wasn’t any extra room. We considered leasing warehouse space to build a shop, but I couldn’t justify the extra expense for what might turn out to be a hobby.

When we looked at houses to buy, my only requirement was a garage. Thankfully, we found a great house in a beautiful neighborhood and (most importantly) it had a garage. We’ve never parked our car in it because from the moment we moved in, I began setting it up as a woodworking shop.

how-to-build-a-woodworking-shop-with-limited-time-and-money

For anyone who might be interested in getting into any type of woodworking, your first shop doesn’t need a lot of space or a ton of money. I share my shop with my motorcycle, the kids’ bikes, and the washer and dryer. Here’s how I did it without breaking the bank.

Figure Out What You Want to Make

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You don’t have to decide from the very beginning everything you’ll ever make. Believe me, the more you do and learn, the more ideas will come your way. But it is good to have an idea of what you want to do as this determines what kind of tools and accessories you need.

I knew I would make pens because I enjoyed the first class so much. I had a feeling I’d try my hand at other things eventually. You might want to make figurines, bowls, spindles, or any number of items. And if you’re not sure, YouTube is an excellent place to learn and get some ideas. I like Mike Waldt and RJB Woodturner.

Keep Size and Space in Mind

Size is important in putting together your shop. The size of the items you make determines the size of the tools you’ll need. The amount of space you have to work is a determining factor, too.

You would be amazed, though, at what you can make with smaller tools. Mini-lathes can turn bowls up to 10 inches in diameter and spindles up to 18 inches long. Bench top band saws can cut wood up to 4 inches thick with a throat depth from 5 ½ to 9 inches.

My first lathe came from Harbor Freight. Is it top of the line? No, but it was a good place to start. I had a gift card and a coupon (something they put out frequently) so the price was even better.

Table Top Tools are a Big Help

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If you can build yourself a flat surface in your shop, you’ve got space for tools. The garage already had one work space built in when we bought it (the previous owner was a carpenter). It fits three tools and gives me space to assemble pens and do other small stuff. When I needed more space, I bought a couple of sawhorses and a piece of plywood. Ta-da, another work space was created.

Throughout my work space, I’ve got several table top tools that do what I need and allow me to make all kinds of things: pens, small bowls, wine stoppers, key chains, shaving brushes, goblets, and candle holders. 

  • Mini-lathe
  • Table top band saw
  • Table top drill press
  • Combo belt and disc sander

None of these were the best on the market options. They’re middle of the road items that I waited for a sale, a coupon, or a gift certificate to buy. As time goes on, and I evolve as a woodworker, I’ll replace what I have with tools that are more powerful and can do more. I’m always looking at and pricing tools.

Choose Tools That Can Do Multiple Jobs

When space and money are at a premium, you need tools that can multi-task. A single tool for a single job isn’t practical. My wood lathe does several jobs and my other table top tools are used in home improvement projects all the time.

Let’s focus on what the wood lathe can do:

  1. Drill pen blanks with a two-jaw chuck and Jacobs chuck 
  2. Barrel trim the pen blanks after the brass tubes have been glued in. 
  3. Pens can even be assembled on the lathe with head and tail stock inserts so a special pen assembly press is not necessary.

The more you can get out of one tool with a few accessories, the less you’ll spend overall and the more space you’ll save.

Stay Organized

Image via Graphic Stock

When you don’t have a lot of space, the last thing you need is a bunch of clutter. I was fortunate enough that my garage already had existing shelving when I started. If not, I would have added it because it’s so important. Magnets and boards with hooks installed on the wall are big space saver too. Many of my tools are within arms reach right on the wall.

What really makes this work is that I put things away when I’m done turning. Sure, it can feel like a hassle when I’ve been in the garage for eight hours, forgot to eat lunch, and just want to take a shower, but it’s worth the effort. I never have to worry that I won’t be able to find a tool when I need it later.

If money is still a concern (something I understand well), let your family know what you’re trying to do. My in-laws have been extremely supportive and every birthday and Christmas, I receive gift cards meant to help me expand my shop and buy better tools. Of course, it probably helps that I keep my family in pens, wine stoppers, and bottle openers, too.

My point is that if you want to build your own woodworking shop, you can. Do your research, get organized, and be patient. Waiting for sales and only buying exactly what you need will keep you from going into debt or stressing about how you’ll afford a tool. Start with basic tools and work your way up to bigger and better.