A Tea Box for Christmas


As some of you may remember, last year around this time, I was going through a lot. My dad had passed away in September, and my mom followed him 3 days after Thanksgiving. Despite this, I somehow managed to turn my nascent woodworking skills into 3 different gifts. A simple cherry wine balancer for my sister, who handled all the funeral arrangements for both of our parents, came from Tom’s Workbench. For my son, who at that time was going into his last semester at Northeastern and actually starting a co-op at an accounting firm in Boston, I actually got my most creative and made a real, wearable bow tie made of cherry.

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But the subject of this post is the gift I made for my daughter, a Tea Box. She has gotten to be a big fan of hot tea and I figured this would be a good way to give her something useful to her that I actually made. I’m sharing more details on this one because it was simple enough to make and can be sized up or down depending on your needs. I went to my local Woodcraft to get the stock, since I had neither the time nor the tools to even try any resawing. I picked out some 1/4″ x 3″ walnut for the sides and bottom, and some 1/4″ cherry for the top. To get the dimensions, I simply grabbed a couple of teabags, placed them next to each other and measured. I can’t swear to the final numbers, but I believe that it’s about 6″x3″x3″, not including the top and bottom. Since the piece of walnut I picked up was long enough, I measured out the miter cuts so that I could glue it back up with continuous grain going around all four sides. The cuts were made with a 15-year old Delta miter saw that needed a lot of adjusting to get the perfect 45 degrees out of it.

TeaBox 1 TeaBox 2TeaBox 3

Once the cuts were made, I laid out the 4 pieces on top of a long strip of blue painters tape, applied glue to one part of each corner, and used the tape to line everything up and hold it together as the glue dried. This method worked better than I expected (things like this have a habit of not working too well for me) and the box was perfectly square after the glue dried. All it need was a little sanding to ease the corners and get rid of the glue squeeze out.

For both the top and bottom, I had to glue 2 pieces of the walnut (bottom) and cherry (top) together in order to make them wider than the box is deep. I then cut them slightly larger on all 4 sides than the box in order to incorporate bevels. and of course the top only has bevels on 3 sides to accommodate the hinges, which I also picked up from Woodcraft (Brusso, not sure of the size though).

TeaBox4 TeaBox5

The finish was a couple coats of BLO followed up with 3 coats of Arm-R-Seal. When she opened it on Christmas the look on her face was priceless and I know she’ll keep it around for a long time.
TeaBox 10 TeaBox 11 TeaBox 12

Posted in Projects

An Unforgettable Weekend

This past weekend, I finally had the chance to do something I’ve been wanting for the past 3 years-attend Woodworking in America, the annual conference put on by Popular Woodworking. Held just outside Cincinnati in Covington, KY, this has been the go-to woodworking conference for a few years now and after all the hype, I wasn’t going to miss out this year. I started out early Thursday morning-I had an 8 hour drive ahead of me and there was no way I was going to miss that night’s meetup with all my pals from the Modern Woodworkers Association. I pulled in around 4:30 and was almost immediately able to hook up with my friends from the MWA, Tom Iovino, Dyami Plotke, Kyle Barton, Sean Wisniewski, Chris Adkins and others. The pre-meetup meetup and the hotel’s free happy hour was a great way to start the evening, as I got to meet more of the folks I had only met through Twitter, Google+ and other online venues.

From there, we all worked our way over to the Keystone Bar & Grill just a few blocks away. It is hard to describe one of these meetups until you actually get to go to one. Every one who attended (not just this meetup, but the whole conference in general) is friendly, welcoming and approachable. I had a great night matching faces to the online personas, and meeting new ones at the same time. The night even ended up having 2 “You had to be there” moments-the first being what can only be described as a closing time discussion that gave rise to the phrase “Why are you here?”, one that surely will live on in subsequent years to those who witnessed it. The second should be known as The Rude Awakening. A good hour after returning to the hotel, we all got the wake-up call of a lifetime when around 1:30 or so we were evacuated because of a potential Fire Emergency. After we all dutifully slogged our way downstairs and outside (yes, some in PJ’s), all the woodworkers seemed to gather around each other again and shared some laughs until we were allowed back in. It seems towels with oil on them don’t get along with dryers very well. Go figure.


Anyway, Day one began in Roy Underhill’s TIMBER! session, where he took a 7 ft. long Tulip Poplar log down to a 4″ x 8″ beam, doing it only as Roy can-with a mix of humor, history and death-defying stunts. After all, the log was perched on 2 saw horses, which in turn were on a raised, kind of shaky platform. Damn.


Later on, it was on to Megan Fitzpatrick’s dovetail class. As I am a newbie to this stuff, this was just what I needed. Dovetails don’t have to be perfect, and there are creative ways to fix mistakes. After this, I headed down to the marketplace for the first time to do some scouting for purchasing later on. After a while, a bunch of us headed out for a gourmet lunch.


Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent in the Marketplace, looking at more tools and figuring the best way to distribute my budget. After a little of that, I found Tom, Chris and Dyami from @MWA_National setting up to record their podcast in the back of the Marketplace, and hung around long enough to capture some good-natured ribbing from Marc, Matt and Shannon of @WoodTalkShow fame.


From here it was on to the Online Woodworking Roundtable, where the host of the above mentioned podcasts along with a few other notables from the online community got together to discuss how they got their start online and how to get more folks involved to help spread the word. Overall, a great session and one they should bring back next year to continue the discussion. As usual, Tom was his usual shy, retiring self, so ill at ease in the spotlight 🙂


When all this was over and we had a few moments to catch our breath and take stuff back to our rooms, we hopped on the Trolley to head over to the Hofbrauhaus in nearby Newport for more energetic woodworking talk, very good food and beer (served in convenient 1 liter glass steins!), and more polka music than I’ve ever heard before. Overall, a great time with some great people.


Well, I just realized that this post is starting to ramble on a bit, and I haven’t even gotten to the rest of the weekend yet! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and take a look! I’ll try and post more as I have a chance.

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Posted in General

What Are You Waiting For? Get Woodworking!

GWW13 - Bevel

We’re coming to the end of Get Woodworking Week, the brainchild of my friend and blogger extraordinaire, Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench. I’ve been banging my head against the proverbial wall all week trying to come up with a topic to share, so I started thinking back to what got me into woodworking. And I think this is true of many of us that have taken up this hobby and that is to believe that we can make something, usually for our homes, that fits a particular need in our lives or household that really can’t be bought in any store, or the ones you can buy are pretty much crap, and we know we can somehow do better. In my case that item was a stool. What made this stool unique to me was that it was made to help my wife while she was nursing our second child. You see, my wife (actually ex-wife now but go with me here) is relatively short at about 5′ even, and when she would use the rocking chair to nurse, her feet couldn’t make steady contact with the floor in order to go comfortably back and forth. So, I came up with the idea of making a foot stool for her that was just high enough for her to keep her feet firmly planted, but with an angled top to keep her feet at a comfortable angle. Below is what I came up with.

The top came from an old drawer front, and the legs from a short piece of poplar from Home Depot. The tools involved weren’t much-a circular saw, jigsaw for the arch on the legs, and an old router borrowed from my dad with a round-over bit, screws, glue, some stain and wipe-on poly. That’s it. It worked out perfectly for her, and when she was done using it, my mom decided it would be perfect for her to prop up her feet while at the kitchen table. My mom used it up until she passed away this past year, a good seventeen years or so of continuous use between the two of them. It’s got it’s share of dings, but has held up pretty darn well. The stool is now back with me and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but I’m sure it’ll come in handy to someone somewhere.

It’s not much, but I made it, it got used, and that’s pretty cool.

Posted in Misc.

Been a Little Quiet Lately…

This blog has been too quiet for too long, which wasn’t at all intentional. Heck, I didn’t even finish out a full year before I flamed out. I’m not really sure what happened, but I don’t plan on letting it happen again anytime soon. I know-famous last words right? Thinking back, The basement/shop had just gotten so cluttered it was hard to even move around down there, so I took a very long, systematic approach to cleaning it out as best I could. Translation-I’m really slow. Many trips to the dump, Goodwill and the like at least got me some workable floor space. Meanwhile, my son, after spending the entire spring in Italy for a so-called “Study Abroad” program where he visited more countries in 4 months than I have in my life, stayed in Boston for an internship and additional classes all summer. So the extra muscle I was hoping to have on hand was only home for maybe 4 days to reload for the fall semester. With him heading off to his final year, and my daughter starting her first year down south in Savannah, it was a hectic couple of weeks.

A few weeks later though, my dad was medevaced  to Johns Hopkins with some major abdominal issues. Without going into the details, these issues began about 30 years ago and they finally got the better of him. Despite the best efforts of the Hopkins staff (and they are amazing believe me), he passed away surrounded by his wife and children 2 days later at 85. My son, who was very close to his grandfather, was called on to deliver the eulogy at the funeral a week later, and did an incredible job. Even though he seems to care less about woodworking (what 22-year-old really does), his mom and I are extremely proud of him. My mom seemed to be holding up very well, the kids went back to school, and life went on.

Around the middle of October, I finally made a real breakthrough in my shop, just going on a organizing blitzkrieg one weekend, and finally was able to arrange my workbench and other shelving/bench units along the walls, and a nearly clear main floor area. There’s still a lot to be done, but at least this gave me usable space. Now, all I needed was a project to start on, but work, life and a hurricane got in the way.

Fast forward to November, and Thanksgiving. My daughter and I drove up to Hanover, PA to pick up my mom and continue on to New Jersey to spend the holiday with my brother and his extended family. We all had a great time, feasting on a turkey that was roasted outside on their grill, all the while watching the Redskins beat up on the Cowboys. A great day with great people. On Friday we made the 4 hour trek back to Hanover to drop my mom off. We had dinner with her, and then headed back to MD. Then, early Sunday afternoon, I got a call from my sister that mom had just passed away. She had gone to the hospital earlier that morning suffering chest pains and shortness of breath. The doctors did all they could to revive her, but it wasn’t meant to be. So there it was-almost 2 months after my father’s funeral, mom went to join him.

So, they’re in a better place now, and I’m down here working to get there one day myself. Even though we were sad for a little while, they both had lived long and productive lives, passing away at 85 and 80 years respectively. We were able to share wonderful memories with family and friends in the past few months, and that’s taken away a lot of the sting of them not being around for Christmas for the first time. My ex-wife has also been a terrific friend during all of this, taking me and our daughter out to dinner once, and having me over for Christmas dinner with the kids.

I’m really trying not to too maudlin here, so forgive me if I have. This has been a very difficult post to write for me, but doing so has been a little therapeutic in a way, and I thank you for bearing with me.

Even with all this, or maybe because of it, I actually ended up getting into the shop and making gifts-out of wood no less! I made 3 small gifts in less than a month, which for me is monumental, and there’s still a fourth in progress. That’s the subject of my next post, so stay tuned. And although I never made it to WIA this past year, I still got to meet in person some of the terrific woodworker bloggers who’s exploits I’ve been following since I’ve gotten into this hobby-Tom Iovino, Kari Hultman, Mark Hochstein and Adam Weigand at a dinner in Gettysburg, and Dyami Plotke, who was kind enough to let me hang out at his shop for a little while while on my way back from Boston around Labor Day.

Anyway, enough mushy stuff. I hope this will be a fresh start for me doing more woodworking and writing about it. I already have the next few posts lined up with subject matter, including Tom’s awesome Get Woodworking Week coming up next month, so please stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Posted in Misc.

A Little Tool Aquisition

So, a few weeks ago, an local organization called PATINA (great acronym, right?) held their annual Spring tool sale and auction. This is my first time going to this event, or any event like this for that matter. Seeing as it also happened to be on the way to my folks house in PA made it an easy call. When my daughter and I got there about an hour into the sale, it was already pretty crowded, but seeing as this part was outdoors, and it was chilly with a brisk breeze, it may not have been as crowded as it would have been otherwise. I was amazed at the sheer quantity of tolls and other assorted things laid out on tables, in the backs of trucks, and in boxes. I only really had a couple of tools I was specifically looking for, and a hard-set budget of $100. Fortunately, someone had cautioned me to be careful of looking carefully through the chaff to get the deals, but being the noob that I am at this, that’s way easier said than done. I wish I had the foresight to take some pictures of all the old hand planes, saws and other tools, vintage and otherwise, that I saw here. I could have spent a lot more than I did, and I’ll definitely be back next year.

The two primary tools I was looking  for were a spokeshave and some sort of handsaw, hopefully a nice Disston or similar. My daughter on the other hand, started finding things that seemed really out of place here, like a 1970’s era GAF movie camera (a bargain at $2). I browsed through the first 3 or 4 dealers I came to before finding this saw. I knew nothing about it at all, other than the handle looked to be in good shape, the length was about right for me, and the guy said it was just sharpened. On the last point, I will say the saw does look to be freshly sharpened, although how well I have no idea. It seems to be about 8 TPI, which I’m pretty sure means its a rip saw. It was made by Richardson Bros. of Newark, NJ, and the medallion matches the mark on the saw plate. The handle has a small split down at the bottom nut, but is otherwise in very good shape. If anyone knows anything about these saws and how good or bad they are, please let me know.

I finally found a Stanley No. 151 spokeshave which needs a little work, but not bad for $10. I think I have it dated to around 1913-1919 as a type 2. This thing was obviously a user, as the blade that came with it has been sharpened a lot, and there’s barely any metal left between the edge and the slot for the screw. I also picked up an 8″ pair of dividers, a 24″ Stanley wood folding rule, and a random moulding plane. The whole batch of stuff came in at about $50, so I think I did pretty well.

I’ve also been working on cleaning out the basement/shop and have made a lot of progress. Hopefully I’ll be able to start working on a project or two in a couple of weeks or so. The first thing I may try is a keepsake-type box. No more details than that for now, as I’m hoping it’ll be a surprise for the intended recipient.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings, and if haven’t yet, head on over to the Modern Woodworkers Association, of which I am a proud member. Some great stuff going on with these folks.

Posted in General

Get Woodworking!


A few months ago, after Woodworking In America was over, Tom Iovino of Tomsworkbench.com (The man, the myth, the monkey) came up with this great idea that quickly evolved into Get Woodworking Week. The concept is simple-use our own experiences in this great hobby to encourage others to try and take the plunge themselves. You don’t need much to get started, and the rewards are infinite. My contribution to this effort is part personal back-story and part super simple project.

I, like a lot of other people, was originally bitten by the bug as far back as college, when as an Advertising Design major, made my own supply cart out of particle board that I thought was pretty darn clever at the time. It had a few drawers, vertical dividers to hold works-in-progress, and a flip-open top that gave me two usable areas when I needed it. Fast forward to married life. By that time I was already a fanatical viewer of This Old House and the New Yankee Workshop, but my budget rarely allowed me to do much more than some home improvement projects. Actual furniture making was out of the question, even though the fire was still smoldering to do so. Every once in a while, I was able to save up enough to buy a tool to add to my collection in hopes that it would eventually lead me back here. A nine-inch long piece of cherry.

Around Christmas time, my Mom was looking for a way to hang some cordial glasses she has underneath the cabinets in her kitchen, accessible but out of the way. Normal cup hooks from the big box stores were way too small for what she wanted, so I volunteered to make her something using what I had at home-except I didn’t have hooks big enough at home, so those came from Lee Valley. I laid the 4 hooks across a cherry board that I’ve had laying around for close to 10 years now, and came up with a length of 9″. I used my table saw to cut it both to length and to rip the width, although a jig saw would have done just as well. I then used both a #4 smoothing plane and a low-angle block plane to true up and smooth the board for finishing. Yes, I consider myself a hybrid woodworker (there’s a term you’ll hear a lot) and use the hand tools mostly for finish work at this point. None of my hand planes are Lie-Nielsen or Veritas, they are either WoodRiver or vintage Stanleys I got from eBay. I’ve learned to get the best that I can afford, and to only buy a tool when I actually need to.

After I got the board flat and square (no sanding involved-hand planing leaves a surface as smooth as glass and is well worth the effort), I applied 2 coats of boiled linseed oil over 2 nights, which makes the grain really pop. Then it was 2 coats of Arm-R-Seal to complete the finish and seal it against things that happen in a kitchen. Last night I attached the hooks and think it looks pretty good for a short stick of wood.

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The point is, woodworking can be enormously gratifying even when doing the smallest of projects, and it doesn’t take that much to get started. The online community has a wealth of information-much of it free-and is extremely helpful and supportive to newcomers. I’ve made a lot of great friends here over the past few years, and hope to meet and make more in the future. Now get off your butt and Get Woodworking!




Posted in Misc.

New Years To-Do List

Wow, time flies! I just realized that it’s been over a month since my last post and thought I should do something about that. Although I’m not currently doing any woodworking projects, I’d thought I’d bring you up to date as to what I’m planning over the next couple of months. I mentioned in my last post that the major take-away from the mini-desk build, is that my “shop” is way too cluttered to function properly. So, over the next month, I plan to make use of the indentured servitude help from my home-from-school-for-a-month son to clean out and reorganize the various basement spaces as much as possible. Some of the larger things I’ll be getting rid of include a 5-drawer legal size filing cabinet, a disassembled daybed and various stuff that never made it to eBay and probably never will. Then comes the boxes of miscellaneous “stuff” (yes, it looks like I’ll use that word a lot here) from the kids’ rooms that at the time made sense to box up and put away, and now I think it can be sorted through and condensed (my 17-year old doesn’t need those boxes of crayons after all!). There’s also an kids toy box that’s made out of southern yellow pine that I’ll probably take apart and reuse somehow.

Whatever I don’t outright get rid of will go into the midget storage area (so-called because of the under 5 foot ceiling height) and maybe a small area under the stairs. Once that’s out of the way, I’m going to try and build the fold-flat worktable featured in the Oct. 11  of Wood Magazine. This looks like a great solution for my small shop space and budget. Then hopefully it’ll be onto a bench hook and shooting board for the workbench, and I think I finally came up with a way to do a crosscut sled for my crappy table saw.

Sometime over the holidays I ordered the Paddle Cutting Board package from Bell Forest Products with no one in particular in mind to give it to, or a time frame to finish it in, but just give a shot and see how it comes out. I really wish I had a band saw now, so hopefully I’ll be OK with my jig saw. I would like to start this by February, but we’ll see how goes. That’s when my day job starts to get very busy as we go into tax season.

I have a lot of long term projects floating around in my head as far as stuff I’d like to make or the house, but nothing on paper until I get other things squared away in the shop. I suppose some of the plans will change along the way, as most woodworking projects do. I hope to finally join up with the WoodWhisperer Guild soon as well, so I can keep up with those projects, learn new techniques and get more involved in that community. It really is incredible how open and supportive the woodworking community is. There are so many fellow woodworkers out there that I’ve gotten to know over the past year or so that I have helped me along in my journey that I consider friends, and I hope to actually meet them in person one of these days!

So, that’s all I have for now. I’ll put up more posts as I start cleaning up the shop and doing actual woodworking, or maybe even if I feel like posting a non-woodworking related thought or two. Who knows?

See you all next year!

Posted in Misc.
  • "I'm still waiting for that fucking shower, let's just put it that way."-Neal E. 2017 1 year ago
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  • "It's like Christmas shopping for someone you don't know for what they're going to like one year from now." -on trend shopping, 2016 1 year ago
  • "It was like Mother Teresa. It was on display for like 10 years until she degraded." Neal E. '16, on the novelty pastry attraction "Nun Bun" 1 year ago
  • “My biscuits are burnin’ ” -Neal E. 2016 1 year ago
  • "We hired him. He was decoration." Neal E. 2016, in reference to the presence of a paid performer at a holiday office party 1 year ago
  • "That movie turned me gay." -Neal E. 2016, in reference to the 1987 sci-fi film Predator 1 year ago

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