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.

Flint’s Fine Furniture

This is another restoration that turned out really nice.  Again, my wife came home and asked if I could repair her friend antique table.  What she brought home was a beautiful round table with incredible hand carved pieces.  The only problem was it was covered with layers and layers of old paint.   You can see the paint layers on the table top.

On the bottom of one of the rails, there was a brass tag with the manufacturer’s name, “Flint’s Fine Furniture.”  From this I was able to date the furniture back to the depression era.  This was probably built between 1920 and 1930, although it could be older.  Flint’s Fine Furniture did not make expensive furniture but is was well-built and the carvings are wonderful.  I made sure I clean the tag and returned it to the orignal position.

The carvings were very difficult to clean off the old paint.  I finally conceded that I could not get all the surfaces down to the original wood so I decided to paint the carvings flat black.  I also had to replace the table top.  It was cheap and thin veneer.  I damage the veneer when I sanded off the paint.

Here is the finish product.  Not bad!  Not bad at all!!  The owner is very happy with this restoration.  This is another piece I hated to give back!



Several years ago my wife approached me and asked if I could repair our neighbor’s mother’s dinning room chair.  I told here I would give it a try.  The next thing I knew I was turning a new leg for a broken chair.  When I was done, the chair looked like new and my neighbor’s mother asked me if I would be interested in fixing her rocking chair.  This was my first attempt at a serious restoration.

The following weekend, my neighbor’s mother showed up with a broken rocker and a bag full of parts.  It looked like this:

I kept asking myself, ” what have I gotten into?”  One of the rocker rails was missing and 14 of the 25 spindles were damaged beyond repair or missing.  Yet, there was something about this chair that captured my attention.  I am not sure if it was the hand carved back, leather seat insert or the spindles themselves that intrigued me.

I started our trying to match the wood.  I am pretty sure it is red oak; however, the  chair was so old the red had faded.  I settled on white oak. Itwas the closest match I could find.  I purchased a rough cut 8/4 x 6″ x 10″ board from the local mill and started turning spindles.  I also had to trace the other rocker rail and duplicate the opposite side.  This was difficult since the angle of the sockets (pin and socket construction) was a mirror image.

Sanding the old finish off took a lot of time.  The good spindles were particularly hard.  It took many hours on the lather with sand paper to get down to the original wood.

Once all the pieces were replaced the assembly went pretty quickly.  I took a scrapped spindle and covered it in different areas with several different stains.  I would have gone with a dark stain to try to match the original finish; however, my neighbor’s mother picked a lighter stain.  It is the same color that I used on my desk and it is a beautiful finish. 

The last remaining obstacle was to find a replacement leather insert.  This proved easier than I thought.  Apparently these leather seats are still commonly used today.

Here is the finished chair:

It turned out better than I ever expected.  My neighbor’s mother was delighted and she paid for all the materials (+$200) and bought me a round of golf at my favorite course.

I really hated to give this back.   This is truly a unique work of art and I have often contemplated reproducing it but I have not figured out how to drill the holes for the sockets in the base to get the spindles in the right location.


For those of you who have read my blog from the beginning, you know that I started this as a requirement of my Information Technology class in the UCONN Executive Masters of Business Administration program.  I am happy to report that on April 9, 2011, I graduated, with honors, from the program! 


GrandMa’s Urn

My mom called me up and asked me if I could make and Urn for Grandma.  I was flattered when she asked; however, I asked why didn’t she just buy one ( I was hoping she would tell me that my Grandma said she would be honored to be buried in an Urn built by her grandson!)  My mother replied she was too cheap to buy one.

So I build a couple of Urns like you see in the pictures:

Grandma’s Urn

These are made from oak using raised panel bits.

They finished with a golden oak stain and many coats of polyurethane on the exterior.  The inside is painted with a glossy white enamel paint.  The hinges are brass and I include a keyed lock to make sure the Urn stays closed.

My Grandma is 94 years old and still going strong.  Her mind is slipping but I expect she will live for a very long time before she ends up in the Urn.

My father pasted away shortly after I built these Urn’s.  His ashes were intended to be dumped into the Mississippi river, however, my brother never got around to that.

Now my father resides in the other Urn and sits on top of my brother’s fire-place.

You can buy Urns on the internet for under $200.  I am sure time and material for this project greatly exceed these prices!


January 2012 – Update

Grandma died on Christmas day 2011.  She finally ended up in the urn.  Rest in peace.

My Computer Room Desk

Every woodworker who owns a computer dreams of building his own desk.  This is mine.  It is actually part of a grand project to redo the library in my house.

I looked for a design for some time.  I finally found this one in a woodworking site.  I think it cost me $10.

The material is oak.  I used walnut inlays to accent the top

As always, raised panels and full extension draws


I found this new stain from General Finishes.  The color is Candlewood.  It is a beautiful and deep color.  I have used this on many follow-up projects.

The Rest of the Bedroom Set

I finished up my son’s bedroom set by build a corner desk and three drawer dresser.  The material again was birch and I matched the design rounding all corners with no exposed pieces of hardware.


I must have finished the bed set sometime in 2002 or 2003.  This furniture served us well but in 2009 my son finally grew out of it.  I ended up keeping the desk for my wife’s hobby room and I sold the bedroom set to a college student for a couple of hundred dollars.

Garage Project

In 2002 I moved to Connecticut.  I confiscated a portion of the basement for a woodworking shop but it soon became apparent that it would not do.  I decided to build another garage and recreate my workshop.  Below you will see a picture of the finished workshop.  It is a long story and I have dedicated a page called “The Work Shop” to explain what happened from start to finish.


A friend of mine posted a comment about his woodworking experience.  He like turning bowls on a lathe.  It turns out that the next project in my history is turning candle holders.  The picture below is of my boys and the candle holders we made together.  They presented these as a gift to their Aunt Gail.  The material is cocobola.  Great turning material.

Everyone who owns a lathe ends up making a lot of bowls.  Here are some of mine.  The material is walnut.

Bird Houses and Feeders

Probably every woodworker at sometime in his career builds bird houses.  My wife loves to watch and feed birds.  I have been building this Bavarian style bird feeder shown below for a very long time.  I have probably built more than 20.  They make great gifts!

I started out building these from cedar.  They turned out great but cedar is expensive and the bird feeders only lasted one or two seasons.  The cedar weathered ok; however, the birds and squirrels like to chew on the wood. 

I switch over to composite material (plastic deck boards) and these bird houses last for many seasons.

I am often asked how I make the roof tiles.  I start with a 1 x6 board and I cut 1/8″ wide strips.  I stack these up and cut them into 1.5″ long blanks.  Each roof requires a little more than 350 tiles.  The next step is to cut the 45 degree chamfer on the bottom on both corners.  This is easily done with a jig on a router table.

All the tile must be glued onto the roof before the roof sections are cut into the final triangular sharpe.  Fortunately, my wife does not mind gluing the tiles.

The spindle on the top of the feeders are custom made on a lathe.

Here is another picture of the last batch of bird feeders.  (You can also see some of tools in the background of this picture.) I am still looking for a picture of the matching bird house.  I know I have a  one somewhere in my database.

Bird House

If you click on the link above, you can see a picture of the matching bird house built from cedar