Nihoa (Hello) From Shanghai and Kona Hawaii

I have been away a long time.  I have been living and working in Shanghai for the last five years.  Lots of changes since my last post.  The wood shop is gone.  We sold our home and moved to Holualoa, Hawaii.  We are on the Big Island about 3 miles up the mountain from Kona.  We purchased a small coffee farm and my wife is working the farm while I finish my time in Shanghai.  Look for Kona Sunset Coffee this fall!


End Table – Finished!

I spent two hours installing the caning and finishing up the coffee table tonight.  The caning on the shelf was pretty straight forward and it seems to have turned out pretty nice.  I think my father would approve.  I hope my sister likes it.

Time to kick back, drink a scotch, and think about my father and grandfather.


The table is now back in my sister’s home.


End Table – Almost Ready for the Finish

Here is the coffee table almost ready for finish.  A little more sanding and cleaning and it will be ready for staining

Assembled and Ready For Finish
Assembled and Ready For Finish

I found out from my mother that my father built this table when they lived in their first apartment.  I was less than one year old at the time.  That makes this table close to 55 years old.  She went on to tell me that he built the table because they were poor and they could not afford new furniture.  There is also a bookcase than my father made at the same time.  My older brother may have the bookcase.

End Table

Stripped and Rough Sanded

My father built this coffee table when I lived in Racine, Wisconsin.  My mother told me that I was less than one years old.  This makes the table over 50 years old.  When my father passed away, my older sister inherited the table and it has been in her living room ever since.

Recently, she asked me to refinish the table.  It had 40 years of wear and tear on the finish, however, it is made from walnut and the wood is in pretty good shape.

Table Top Witness Marks

Table 1

I tried to completely disassemble the table, unfortunately the base is glued to the frame.  Why my father did this I don’t know.  Further, upon inspection of the construction, the center section of the  walnut top appears to be a wood laminated piece of plywood salvaged from some other piece of furniture.  There are stain marks on the underside that clearly show it had once belonged to another piece of furniture.

Shelf Caning
Shelf Caning

The picture shows lower shelf disassembled from the frame.  It has very interesting caning  and I am trying to decide what I am going to do with this.  Last night I tried to remove the caning.  It is too old and looks like my father used a lot glue.  The quality of the miter joints is not that good.  I will probably replace the wood frame rather than salvage it.  I have to decide if I am going to attempt to replace the caning or do something different.

I have stripped the finish and rough sanded most of the wood.  All surfaces are in good shape.  I expect to have the entire table fully finished sanded in a couple of weeks.  I am not sure what I am going to do with the cane shelf.

Cedar Chest Complete


I finished the cedar chest quit a while ago, however, I did not post the completed project because Amy is going to get surprised Christmas morning!

I decided on a satin urethane finish.  I just could not bring myself to put a glossy coat of shellac on the walnut veneer.  It just did not seem like the right thing to do.

If you click on the picture, it will expand to full size and you can see in more detail the “before” and “after.”

Merry Christmas!

Almost Ready for Finish

I am back sooner than I expected.

DSC02759I had the opportunity to glue up some white oak and spin the legs on my lathe.  Again the idea is to match the style of the details on the front of the cedar chest.  They look pretty good and the height of the cedar chest is now around 19″ off the floor.  This is a good height compared to other cedar chests that I have worked on in the past.

I need one more day of detail work, final sand and clean my workshop and it will be ready for the finish.


DSC02749No one, including myself, like the first leg (shown in the last post).  The square block on the top of the leg did not seem to look correct against the square bottom where the leg mounts.

This morning, I machined off the square block.  It only took about 5 minutes and it eliminated the most difficult part about turning the leg.

My sister like the new look of the leg.  I will refine the design one more time and start turning all four legs.

I will be off-line for the next couple of weeks.

Legs for the Cedar Chest

DSC02747As I stated in my previous post, the pictures I found of the cedar chests manufactured by the Lakeside Craft Shops showed fancy turned spindles that act as feet.  I did not see any designs that I liked so I decided I would replicate the details on the front of the chest.

I made two of these this morning.  One from walnut and one from white oak.  The walnut was too dark and my eyes kept going to the feet every time I looked at it.  The white oak is better.  The picture shows the new leg with a beautiful stain on it.  This is the color stain I am considering for the entire chest.

(The picture in the post is slightly distorted.  If you double-click on the picture, it display the correct aspect ratio.)

I am pretty sure I don’t like the leg design.  The square base does not look right to me.  I will have to see what my sister thinks.

Cedar Chest Update

DSC02737DSC02734Here is a quick update on the cedar chest. The old finish has been almost completely removed.  I have a little work to do to clean up the bottom.

Additionally, after researching the manufacturer, we decided that I would replace the missing legs.  Quite frankly, some of the pictures of cedar cabinets I found on the internet have unattractive legs.


What I proposed to do is to make legs that are similar to the design of the detailed spindles that are on the front of the cabinet.

DSC02732aFirst I will measure the spindle to get the proper proportions.  Next I will do a rough drawing using AutoCAD Lite.

I will probably make the legs from cherry.  That means a trip to the mill.

I will be offline for the next several weeks.  I should be back in the woodshop around the middle of December.  More posts to follow.

Amy’ Cedar Chest

My sister, Amy, Asked me to refinish a cedar chest that has been in the family for some time.  As usual, it looked pretty rough coming into the woodshop.  Somebody has obviously put on a coat of glossy urethane on what probably should be a shellac finish.  The bottom feet were a little rough and later, after I researched the manufacturer, I discovered the feet were actually missing.

The interior is in very good condition.  It is unfinished cedar.  With a little sanding, it will look and smell like new.

The exterior was difficult to judge because of the glossy finish.  I quickly sanded a small section and discovered a beautiful walnut veneer.  This should be really something once all the old finish is removed.

I always like to research the manufacturer to see if I can date furniture that comes into the woodshop.  It turns out that this cedar chest was manufactured by Lakeside Craft Company in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Based on what I found on the internet, this cedar chest was probably built between 1912 and 1919.  I will keep looking for more information to see if I can get closer on MFG date.

The first step in the process was to strip the top to confirm the wood underneath the finish was worth the effort to refinish.  Once all the finish was removed, I was able to confirm that it is an unusually thick walnut veneer (0.040″) with what looks like cherry or maybe mahogany surrounding the perimeter.  The top cleaned up real nice.








My next concern was the front face of the chest.  There is a decorative burl maple insert, some trim pieces and dental molding around the bottom perimeter.  These can be a real problem to clean the finish off without damaging the wood.   Everything cleaned up ok.  Not perfect but close enough where I can get a good finish on the product.  I was also able to remove some of the trim pieces without damaging them.  This makes it much easier and less time-consuming to sand down the walnut veneer.



I assume it will take me another two weeks to remove the remaining finish and sand the chest so it is ready for the new finish.  In a later post I will discuss the missing feet.  I need to negotiate with my sister to see if she will let me return it to the original condition.  I am also considering the stain color and appropriate finish.  It will probably be shellac.  More to follow in the next couple of weeks.


It seems like someone is always bringing in broken chairs to my woodshop with the hope that it can be repaired.  Here is the latest piece:

Chair that usually come in are badly worn on the finish, loose at the joints and sometimes split at the seams.  This one was all of the above.

Fortunately, this piece was old enough where the glue in the joints failed.  I was able to knock apart all the pieces.

The wood underneath is old (more than 100 years).  It is probably mahogany or cherry.  Good stuff.

 After I get them apart, next I do any repair and strip the finish.

I use chemical strippers rarely.  They are messy and a pain.

In a lot of cases, I sand off the finish to the bare wood.  On spindles like the ones on the front of this chair, I chuck them up in the lathe and turn almost all surfaces.


















I let the owner select the stain color from several samples I put on the bottom of the chair.

It took less than 10 days to complete this repair and refinish.