Started the Guitar Build

In my last shop update video I mentioned that I only had a few commissions left and then I planned to go on a 52 week spree of building cutting boards, bowls and boxes.  I also mentioned that at some point I wanted to build a guitar.  At the time the guitar was more of an after thought though.

As I thought more about it and did some research I couldn’t get the thought of building a guitar out of my head.  Before I knew it I was in the shop resawing some mahogany and walnut to make blanks for the pieces that would eventually become the guitar.  So much for the boards, bowls and boxes idea.

I am by no means a luthier (guitar builder).  I’ve never built a guitar in my life.  I have however played the guitar for the vast majority of my life.  That combined with my passion for woodworking really can only lead one place.  It’s time to build a guitar.  I love the Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar.  I’ve wanted one for about a decade and a few years ago my wife surprised me with one of them.  It, in my opinion is the perfect acoustic guitar.  The neck feels great, the size is perfect and it sounds amazing.  Because of this I’m modeling my guitar on the J-45.  I purchased plans for the build from Stewart-McDonald.  Based on the research that I’ve done they seem pretty reputable in the world of guitar building.

I’ve already produced three videos documenting the guitar build.  I haven’t gotten too far into it.  The videos are basically all the beginning work.  Milling the lumber, making the blanks and some other miscellaneous parts that I know I’ll need.  Here is the first video in the series thus far.

In this video I mill the rough lumber in to blanks for the guitar.

After milling the lumber, I glued the blanks together to form the pieces that I’d need to start building the guitar.  You can what me do that in this video.

Finally in the third video of the series so far I take care of a few housekeeping tasks. These include squaring up the neck blank, sanding the blanks for the back and soundboard as well as making kerning for the guitar.

So as you can see I’ve been pretty busy getting things ready to really dig into this build. I’m pretty excited about it while being a bit apprehensive at the same time. I’m worried that my guitar won’t even come close to the quality of a J-45 and that all the time I will have spent building it will be for nothing. Anyone can go pick up a crappy guitar for a few hundred dollars and call it done. I really hope that this build lives up to my expectations. I guess only time will tell.

I hope you continue to follow along with this project. I can promise that it’ll be a lot of fun. Win or lose I’m sure to learn something new!

Thanks for reading.

Shapeoko 2 Test Run and First Project Fail!

I got a used Shapeoko 2 about two weeks ago from a friend of mine and I tried it out for the first time today. Originally my plan was to just cut a simple shape to take the machine for a spin. Part way through cutting it I decided to make an inlay for the cut out shape. This didn’t go so well.

I decided to cut out a heart shape. Then decided to cut another heart from walnut to contrast the oak and make a heart inlay. I thought maybe my wife would like it. Just a little nick-knack type of thing.  No big deal.  The first step is to set everything up in Easel, the software provided by Inventables, the creators of the Shapeoko 2.


I went through all the set up options without an issue.  Cutting the heart recess went fine as well.  While waiting for the Shapeoko 2 to finish cutting the heart recess I decided to create the inlay.  I prepared the piece of walnut and got it all set up, making a few changes in Easel to cut the outline of the heart as opposed to a recess.  This is where I must have gone wrong because when the walnut heart was cut out I attempted to inset it into the recess and it wouldn’t fit.  The walnut heart was too big for the recess.  I’m sure that I did something wrong in setting up the cut for the walnut heart.  Perhaps I changed a setting that I wasn’t aware of or maybe I accidentally changed the size without realizing it.

Even though the impromptu project wasn’t successful the test run of the Shapeoko 2 was.  And in the end that is really all I set out to do.

Shapeoko 2 CNC Mill
Cutting the heart recess
Cutting the heart recess

Extending, Turned-Leg Dining Table

This was a pretty fun build. Definitely easier to do that some of the other pieces I’ve built. Take a look at the build video. 

The client wanted a distressed table. She provided me with a very popular photo of a DIY dining table online. I’d post it here but I’m not sure if I’d be violating copyright laws or anything so for that reason I won’t. At any rate, if I had a dollar for every time someone sent me this photo I’d be a wealthy man. The table in the photo she sent is essentially a turned leg table build from lumber you’d get from one of the big box stores. SPF lumber to be exact. I wrote another post about using SPF for furniture. You can read that HERE.  The short of it is that I don’t advocate for it. At least not yet. 

The table I built is from oak, a wood used for furniture construction for 100’s of years. 

The video leaves out what I’d consider the most interesting part of the build, turning the legs. This was a lot of fun and I was looking forward to showing it. Unfortunately the battery died in my camera and I didn’t capture enough of the process to even make it worth including. 

The distressing was done by applying the stain and then sanding it back once it dried. This gave the table a weathered or ashy look, which is what the client was looking for. Here is a before and after photo of the distressing. 

 What do you think of the distressing?  Is that a style you like as well?  Let me know in the comments. 

Thanks for reading. 

52 Weeks

Currently I have one commission to finish up as well as one more table to build, also a commission. It has been a long time since I’ve only had one job on deck. For a while I was worried. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I was concerned about not having to run around my shop finishing work that I’ve been hired to complete. 

However now, after some thought, I’m excited by the idea of not having to build anything in particular. I’ll get to build the things I want to build and on my own time. Maybe I’ll even have the option of building something I can pick up with one hand. 

So as a result I think I’m going to do a 52 week challenge of sorts. 52 weeks of bowls, boards and boxes. Each week, once I finishing up these last commissions, I’ll make either a bowl a cutting board or a box of some kind. Already I can see the bowls becoming more of a loose description for vessels, vases and other bowl like art pieces. But “Bowls, Boards and Boxes” sounds better than “Bowls (including vessels, vases and various bowl like art pieces), Boards, and Boxes.”

This will be great. Each project is pretty small compared to the things I’m used to building. I’ll get to flex my design muscles a bit more and I’m pretty sure I can turn out a small project each week without using up too much of time away from my wife and the kids. I’ll also have the opportunity to try out new techniques and hone some skills that I normally don’t have the opportunity to use. 

Of course at the end of the 52 weeks I’ll have a large collection of bowls, cutting boards and boxes. I’ll have to figure out what to do with all of them. Have suggestions?  Leave them in the comments for me. 

I’ve also been toying with the idea of building an acoustic guitar. That’s a topic for a different post though. 

What do you think of this new idea? Have you ever presented yourself with a similar challenge?  How’d it go?

Thanks for reading!

Modern Woodworker’s Association Part II

For those of you familiar with the MWA’s typical show format you probably noticed that the episode I was interviewed in did not include their famous five questions. That’s because we were running long and Tom had to be somewhere. As a result Dyami and I continued talking and did the questions. He released the clip as an additional episode. You can listen here!

Five Questions

Construction Lumber for Fine Furniture?

When I started woodworking I began with tutorials you find on different DIY websites. All of these sites advocated for the use of construction grade lumber or SPF which stands for Spruce, Pine and Fir. You know, the stuff you find at your big box store, 2×4’s and 2×6’s. The same lumber that was used to frame the walls in your home. Honestly, at the time I didn’t realize there was a significant difference between wood species and types.


As I continued woodworking and gained more knowledge I soon realized that SPF was not the ideal lumber to use for building furniture. Although there is something to be said for buying your lumber that is already dimensioned to a specific size. That makes building a project around those specifically sized pieces of lumber pretty easy. SPF, while kiln dried, is not dried to the same standards as rough cut hardwood that you’d find at a lumber yard. Typically SPF has a moisture content of around 25% or so. The ideal moisture content for furniture construction is around 6% or 8%. This is a HUGE deal. All wood moves, it expands and contracts but wet wood moves SIGNIFICANTLY more. It cups and twists and bows and bends. That relatively flat table top you just built from 2×10’s will not be flat in six months. That thing is going to look like a potato chip.

So, once I realized this I stopped using SPF for furniture. Now I build from hardwoods, mostly oak, maple, mahogany and walnut. I can’t help but think about the old SPF though from time to time. It’s easy to work, readily available and very inexpensive when compared to hardwoods. You do give up some durability. It is much easier to dent, ding and scratch SPF than it is oak.

So, my first thought here is this. Can you even build a piece of “fine” furniture from SPF. That depends on your definition of what fine furniture is. To me, generally it means a piece that was built with traditional joinery, think mortise and tenon and dovetails and the like. It also has to be built from good materials. Now, the joinery isn’t an issue with SPF. Pine will join together just as well as the most expensive pieces Purpleheart will. But what about the quality of the material? I’m not 100% convinced that SPF is up to par. That being said it can be finished beautifully if it’s done right. But that is not an easy task to undertake. The biggest hurdle is the blotching you get when you try to add color to SPF. I suppose that SPF is durable enough, certainly not the most durable but we build workbenches out of it, a piece of “furniture” that is meant to take abuse. So for the sake of argument, lets say that SPF is choice enough for furniture construction.

How do you get around the moisture issue? Well, you could buy it and let it sit in your shop for months and dry it out. Who wants to have a lumber rack filled with SPF though? Not me. Are any of the boards off the big box store rack drier than others? Well, only a moisture meter will tell you that. I have read that buying 2×12’s that are 12′-16′ will give you the driest SPF in the store. But that negates any convenience of buying dimensioned lumber because you’ll have to cut your pieces out of all those 2×12’s. Not necessarily a bad thing but it’s something to consider. Does SPF warrant the extra work that you’d put in to building a piece from walnut?

I began this post by saying that I’ve built several pieces from SPF.  Some I still use today.  This is my coffee table and it’s one of the first pieces that I ever made.  It’s built from nothing but a bunch of 1 by lumber.  It’s several years old at this point and I intend to build a new one in the future.  All in all it’s held up pretty well.

SPF Lumber coffee table
IMG_6942Here is another photo showing how much the table top has contracted since I’ve built it though.  This is because the wood has dried out and is physically smaller than when I bought it and built this piece.  It has shrunk about 1/8″ on each side.  Not exactly my idea of “fine” furniture.

I do feel like SPF could be a viable material for furniture.  Would I call it fine furniture, probably not.  But it could certainly be a way to let those who can’t afford a custom built walnut piece enter in to custom, handmade furniture.  I’ve certainly considered offering it as an option for my clients.  I haven’t as of yet though.  Perhaps I need to get myself some 2×12’s and do a few experiments.

What are you thoughts on SPF and fine furniture?  Do you build furniture from SPF, do your customers care or even know the difference?  Have you had issues with SPF moving dramatically on you after building a piece?  Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Turning a Harry Potter wand

I love being a woodworker. Primarily because it allows me to make things. This morning my Son asked me if I’d make a Harry Potter wand for him. He is very interested in making movies and he is always trying to come up with different props for his films. Personally I think he is more interested in collecting the props (read: toys) than he is actually making the movies. He has only completed a few stop motion Lego movies.

At any rate, I knew that I had a scrap piece of Walnut in the shop that would be perfect for this quick project. So I went down to my shop, chucked the wood in my lathe and turned out this wand.

I get a great sense of pride knowing that I can whip something up really quickly that my children will have fun playing with for a long time. Even if he breaks it tomorrow, I can always build a new one and the new one will probably be better than the last. It makes me wonder if Makers had the same sense of pride when they made something 100 years ago, when most kid’s toys were made at home. Perhaps it was so common that they thought nothing of it. Now it might be more of a novelty sensation. We live in a “throw away” society. Most people buy furniture designed to last 2 years at best that is made from particle board and screws. In my house that stuff is luck to last 6 months. I’m pretty happy knowing that this wand will be around long after he has lost interest in playing with it.

Standard iPhone Lens vs. Wide Angle Lens for iPhone

I’ve been making YouTube videos since January and I’ve decided I’d like to step up my game a little.  Unfortunately I’m not in a position to spent a few thousand dollars on professional video and photography equipment, so I decided to give something else a try.

Currently, every video I’ve posted has been shot on my iPhone 6 and edited in iMovie, Apple’s fee video editing software.  I think the quality is pretty decent considering my experience level with making videos but it could always be better.  The standard camera on the iPhone is pretty good but it has its limits.  Particularly when it comes to the options available by different lenses that can be purchased for DSLR cameras.  So, I found some lenses that will work on my iPhone.  I purchased this set on Amazon.

610U4vnLQ7L._SL1000_ It comes with a wide angle/macro lens and a fish eye lens.  I have no idea what the fish eye lens does but I’ll play around with it and see if it’s something I can use.  Either way the price was right for the set so I decided to give it a try.

The video above shows two different clips.  One using the iPhone’s standard camera lens and another using the clip-on wide angle lens.  They were both shot from the same angle in my shop from the same distance away from the subject.  Originally I thought that I’d use the wide angle lens all the time, as I do with the standard lens on my iPhone.  I just use the same settings all the time on the iPhone.  Probably because there are no additional settings.  After viewing the clips side by side I now think that the wide angle lens will be something that I’d use for specific shots.  Definitely for shots that will require a larger view of my shop when I’m working on larger pieces.  Plus using the different lenses for different shots will add some variation to my videos.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  Have you tried these clip-on lenses before?  When should a wide angle lens be used compared to a normal or standard lens?

Thanks for reading!