Cover image of The Avid Woodworker |  Woodworking | Finding that Work - Family - Woodworking Balance |  Leh Meriwether

The Avid Woodworker | Woodworking | Finding that Work - Family - Woodworking Balance | Leh Meriwether

Updated 9 days ago

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An audio show that talks about the joy of woodworking. Leh Meriwether, a full time lawyer and part owner of his own law firm, shares how he balances Work, Family, and Woodworking to build useful pieces of art that family and employees can use everyday. His work encompasses a variety of projects, including his children's furniture, dining tables, his desk at his office, and fancy pens that his own employees use to impress clients (just to name a few).

Read more

An audio show that talks about the joy of woodworking. Leh Meriwether, a full time lawyer and part owner of his own law firm, shares how he balances Work, Family, and Woodworking to build useful pieces of art that family and employees can use everyday. His work encompasses a variety of projects, including his children's furniture, dining tables, his desk at his office, and fancy pens that his own employees use to impress clients (just to name a few).

iTunes Ratings

34 Ratings
Average Ratings

Worth you time

By Larry_100000 - Feb 16 2015
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Very good content. Keep up the great work.

Great Podcast

By Dustin (Nebraska) - Dec 19 2014
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I am a beginner and love all the tips. you have been a great help.

iTunes Ratings

34 Ratings
Average Ratings

Worth you time

By Larry_100000 - Feb 16 2015
Read more
Very good content. Keep up the great work.

Great Podcast

By Dustin (Nebraska) - Dec 19 2014
Read more
I am a beginner and love all the tips. you have been a great help.

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Cover image of The Avid Woodworker |  Woodworking | Finding that Work - Family - Woodworking Balance |  Leh Meriwether

The Avid Woodworker | Woodworking | Finding that Work - Family - Woodworking Balance | Leh Meriwether

Updated 9 days ago

Read more

An audio show that talks about the joy of woodworking. Leh Meriwether, a full time lawyer and part owner of his own law firm, shares how he balances Work, Family, and Woodworking to build useful pieces of art that family and employees can use everyday. His work encompasses a variety of projects, including his children's furniture, dining tables, his desk at his office, and fancy pens that his own employees use to impress clients (just to name a few).

Rank #1: Episode #003 – Simplifying Your Workshop – Part 1

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Episode # 3 – Simplifying your Woodworking Workshop   Part 1

In Episode # 3, I talk about how to simplify your workshop to get more woodworking done.   Over the course of the next couple podcast episodes, I discuss the 5 things you can do to simplify your woodworking shop.

This episode is following what was discussed in Episode # 2 – 5 simple things you can do to find more time to woodwork.

What is Simplifying? 

When I say simplify, it is more than just organizing.

  • Organizing is certainly part of it.  But it is more than that . .  it is cleaning house and determining your needs.  If you just organize – you spend time and money on storage and containers to store things you probably don’t need anyway.  It is about getting rid of things you never use.
  • Running out to buy organizational “stuff” is usually just a waste of money if you start with the organization.  I have been there, and when I started simplifying my shop, I threw away a ton of boxes and shelving, etc. because they were just holding junk I was never using.  I also had a huge bond fire for wood I just never used.
  • If you buy organizational items before you follow the steps I am about to talk about, you will just buy more stuff to store the stuff you probably don’t use already.  (I love using the word “stuff” . . . it is a little broader than “junk.”
  • Often, organization of the stuff is not addressing the problem.  Often, the problem is you have too much stuff, and the stuff you should have does not have an assigned space.

Advantages to a Simple shop:

1)     Safer –

  1. Not tripping over things
  2. Dangerous tools are easily put away so small delicate hands do not find them.
  3. Easier to control dust.  Dust is a danger issue – not just for fires, but for your health.  Trust me on this issue.  I am going in for another CAT scan for the polyps in my sinuses.

2)     Easier to clean –

  1. This can save you money – can quickly clean up the saw dust before it gets into your HVAC and burn out the motor – or potentially cause a fire.

3)     You can get to your projects faster.

  1. You are creating room to just go into the shop and have fun.

4)  Saves you money

  1. You think twice about buying that new tool, gadget, or cool piece of wood.
  2. When you know where everything is, you avoid buying things twice.

The Five steps towards simplifying your shop

1)     Survey your existing workshop

2)     Analyze your woodworking flows

3)     Clean House

4)     Organize, design, re-design your shop

5)     Develop new rules and systems to maintain the simplicity

Step 1 – Survey your shop and decide what you want to do in your shop. 

1)     If you love to build furniture, then you will most likely need to focus your shop on a table saw and a large workbench or assembly table.

2)     If you are a big turner, you may want to focus your shop around your lathe, band saw, and drill press.  You will also be thinking about a place to store your pen or bowl blanks.

3)     Bottom line is decide what you really love doing in the shop and determine what you need to have in place to do what you want.

4)     You are not at the organization stage yet.  You are just deciding what needs to be in the shop and imagining a clean shop with nothing but those specific items.

Step 2 – Analyze your previous woodworking workflows

1)     Review your woodworking flow.  What habits have you gotten into while woodworking.  Which ones are good and bad.  A bad habit might be one that is forced by necessity – like placing your cold drink on your table saw (that can cause rust) because there are no other places to put it.

  1. Where do you put your drill or chilsel while working?  On another tool?  Does your table saw because a table that you have to clear every 30 minutes because there is junk on your other spaces?
  2. How do you like to work?  Do you have a temporary tool table that is just used to hold the immediate items you are working with?
  3. Decide what habits you want to get rid of.

2)     What worked for you?  When did you feel like you were able to get in the shop and just jump right into a project, and complete it as fast or faster than you thought you would?

  1. Try to determine what made that possible.  Had you set up a portion of your shop to handle a specific workflow?
  2. I have done that a few times.  Once with my kitchen table and with the stool I recently made for my Mother for Mother’s day.

3)     What did not work for you? 

  1. What project took forever because you had to move everything around in your shop, or because you had to find that piece of wood you knew you had or because you were looking for that drill bit, tool, router bit, etc.
  2. When did you get frustrated with something during your workflow – something was in the way – that old pill or scrap bits of wood you kept thinking you were going to use.
  3. Pulling out my sharpening stuff – slows down the hand tools

4)     What tools are in the space that shouldn’t be there or should be more readily accessible

  1. Do you wish you had your circular saw more accessible?
  2. Do you wish you could quickly grab a certain drill bit quickly without looking throw a loose drawer full?
  3. Do you have a stack of wood piled up somewhere that could be replaced by a tool on a stand like a scroll saw, planer, joiner, or other tool?

5)     What are your core tools. Pick out the tools that you know you use on the vast majority of your projects.

  1. Do you have a tool you use all of the time or on the majority of your projects?
  2. Do you have your go to set of hand tools?
  3. You might have some tools that you have not touched in months or a year?  Do you really need that tool?  Can you sell it on craig’s list.

6)     Map out your space. You should layout your workspace and determine its dimensions.  Determine the location of key features in your workshop.

  1. When laying out your shop, take into consideration the location of windows, wall space, existing shelving units, potential spaces that could be turned into storage areas out of your way.  Measure the length, height, and width of shelves and furniture.
  2. Make note of the placement of doors and how they open (they may limit placement of your tools).
  3. Pay close attention to you electrical outlets and existing lighting if you are on a budget.  You can always install lights later on, but if you are on a budget, you may want to plan a little in advance.
  4. This is also a good time to think of a potential usable space.  Take note of space you might be able to use for storage like: behind doors, above windows, underneath stairs if you are working in your basement.

7)     Recognize the limitations of your Workshop. Identifying the limitations of your existing workshop will help you during the next two steps of purging and organizing.  Things to consider and take note of are:

  1. Unusable tiny spaces
  2. Existing storage or lack thereof
  3. Too many windows or low ceilings
  4. Awkward shaped space
  5. Not enough lights or electrical outlets
  6. Limited wall space

8)     If you have room, see if you can create zones in your workshopDo you have a place where you can focus on cutting, a place to focus on sanding, a place to focus on finishing.  If you can visualize a potential for those spaces, it will help you when you get to the next phases.

Now that you’ve done you have surveyed and analyzed your space, you will be much more effective at cleaning house and you will have much less to organize.

As you go through steps 1 & 2, write down on what you notice.  Nothing is more frustrating that organizing your shop, and then realizing that you forgot to leave room for that sharpening station you were planning on building.

The post Episode #003 – Simplifying Your Workshop – Part 1 appeared first on The Avid Woodworker.

Jun 10 2013



Rank #2: AW #016 – The Simplest Way To Woodwork Fast

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What is the Simplest Way to Woodwork Fast?

Well, before I answer that question, I need to give some background.  Today’s topic was born out of my own two recent mistakes. If you have not noticed, I have not been able to podcast for a few weeks now.  I recently had some free time and I had to make a choice between podcasting and woodworking.  Sorry everyone, but I choose woodworking.  I needed some therapy time.

The sad thing is that if I had applied the advice I am about to give, I would have had enough time to woodwork and podcast a couple weeks ago. So, over the course of the next several minutes, I am going to tell you about  two things happened to me recently that really pissed me off.  At the end of that, I will give you my answer, but I bet you will have already figured it out by listening to my own foolishness.  Of course, once I realized my mistake, I was able to fix it.  The problem is, I did not learn from the first time I made the mistake.  I had to make it a second time for it to start to sink in.  Then I realized, perhaps I need to write it down, admit to it everyone, and talk about it to make it sink it so I do not make the same mistake.

First time I messed up.

Recently, my oldest son got for his birthday a lego robot.  You know, those kinds that are entered into competitions and you program things for the robot to do on a playing field and it has to perform those tasks based upon your programing.  Anyhow, it is really cool, but the problem was that he did not have a desk in his room.  He had been doing his homework on the kitchen table for all these years.  Since I did not want lego parts strewn all across the table that we would have to constantly move, I realized it was time for him to have a desk.  Well, of course, I am a woodworker, so we are not going to freaking go buy a desk.  I am going to make one.

My wife and son made it clear, it does not have to be fancy.  He just wanted something quickly so he could start building a robot.  I was on it!  I ran down to the shop excited.  I put all my other projects on hold because I was going to build this quickly.  I went to my bookshelf of magazines and started pulling out all the issues about desks.  Of course, I have been thinking about building a bridge over the dry riverbed in the back yard, so when I saw a couple issues about building bridges, I had to check those out and set them aside for later (think I might have ADHD?).  Next thing you know, my workout room is filled with magazines piled all over the floor.

Then I determined (after spending a couple hours dreaming about other projects I might build from the magazines), that the projects in the magazines were more than what my son needed right now.  So I decided that I was going to take a slab of ambrosia maple, rip it, re-saw it on the bandsaw to book matched pieces, and then use what was left over to make the legs.  I got to work on it, forgetting how difficult it is to work with slabs that are 8 feet long and nearly 3 inches thick.  I rushed through the ripping with my 10 ¼ inch circular saw so I could rip it again on the bandsaw.  I rushed through re-sawing it on the bandsaw, forgetting that when you work with 8 foot long pieces, the slightest movement at one end can twist your blade and make it not cut straight.

Then I looked at my watch, hours had past.  While I had some pretty pieces of wood that were bookmatched, they were were not the same thickness and the cuts on two of the boards were . . .  well . . .  they sucked.  Arggh!  This was going to take a while to fix, and I told my family I could knock it out in a day.

I will tell you what I did in a couple minutes.

So the second time I messed up.

My wife and I have a couple that are friends of ours and they sell certain craft projects on the weekend for fun and for fun money.  The husband actually makes very good money and they do not need to do this.  It is just something they enjoy.  Well they recently asked me if they could sell my pens there too.  It would benefit them because we could share their ‘booth’ fee at the craft shows and they would also have more in their booth to sell, thereby attracting more customers.  I said that I was interested, but I needed to see how many pens I could turn over the course of a couple of weekends to make sure they had plenty to display before their next big craft show.

So this past weekend was Memorial Day weekend.  Saturday was taken up in large part by an event at the Georgia National Cemetery with the Scouts.

Check out the Video here.

Monday I went out to the boat to see about getting it started for the summer season and getting it into the shop to replace the water pump in the motor (it was that time).  Well, I could not get it started and became frustrated with the boat.  An hour later, I gave up and my dad and I decided on the way home that it is time to sell that boat.

I only give that background so you understand when I got home, I was in a bad mood.  I felt like I had wasted the morning and valuable shop time with a boat that we now have to get rid of.  I got to turning my pens.  When I was pulling out the pens and blanks, I found a pen that I had already set up the blanks to be turned.  I just needed to turn it and assemble the pen.  Now, this pen was not on my list of pens to work on.  It was something that I did not have on my plan, but I thought I could rush through it and turn it quickly and get it finished to include with the other pens I had already planned on turning.

Well this particular pen involved cutting a tenon free hand for a particular piece of pen. The freehand was not a problem.  The problem was the measurement of the freehand.  I rushed it and cut the tenon too long.  By this point I was becoming really frustrated.  Woodworking is supposed to calm me down, not piss me off.  Well, I thought I could fix that problem in the assembly.  I again rushed to a solution, only to find that I had again, made an error in judgment and totally screwed the pen up.  I was so mad I threw the pen that I had just turned into the trash.  I had tried to disassemble it, but that only resulted in the copper tubing in the inside of the tube breaking loose of the shaft.  AARRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!  More time wasted and I am mad to boot.

Ok, so what is the common denominator in these two screw ups?  Yes, I was, but my woodworking ineptitude is not the issue.  The issue is I was trying to woodwork fast.  I was rushing everything and screwing it up.  So, how did I resolve these two problems?

I realized that the simplest way to woodwork fast is to SLOW DOWN!  Ok, so I know that sounds counter intuitive.  But it is so true.  When you rush, you make mistakes.  When you make mistakes, you have to start over or fix the mistakes, which, in the long run, takes more time.

So, I can illustrate this by applying this principle to my exact situations.

In the desk situation, I stopped working.  I left the shop.  I was so mad at myself that I had almost wasted the entire day.  It was now 5 o’clock and I did not have a finished desk.  I slowed down. I asked myself what does Baldwin really need at this stage?  Something simple.  I pulled out a sheet of paper and just started making notes.  I went to his room with a tape measure and looked at what space I had to work with, and a simple solution just hit me.

About 10 years ago, somebody had given me four long oak spindles for a big stair case.  They had been just sitting in the basement doing nothing.  Why I even took them, I have no idea.  I pulled them out and knew they would be my legs once I had cut them to the correct length.  I then pulled a long piece of pine from my ceiling storage.  I had drawn out my measurements on my piece of paper with my notes.  In less than an hour, I had cut the base for the desk.  LESS THAN AN HOUR!  I knew that I wanted to still do the maple top, but did not have the time for it.  The original desk plan called for an ebony stained base (his bed is black) with the maple top just covered in Waterlox.  So, I just took some scrap MDF, cut it to size and attached it with some pocket hole screws, knowing that I could simply unscrew them later after I had finished the maple top.  I painted the MDF black and then slapped some lacquer on the entire project.

Of course, the staining and the lacquer took another day, and I left the desk in the basement for a week next to a window with a fan in it to pull the smell of the lacquer out of the desk, but the construction of the desk was actually completed in a total of an hour.  The following week my son had a cool looking (according to him) desk that he could use and I not have the time to finish the top on my schedule to do it properly.

If I had not rushed into the basement originally, I would have thought this through, conceived of the desk and built it in the morning and then podcasted in the afternoon.  Of course, then I would not have this story to tell I guess.

What did I do when I tried to rush my pen turning?  Well, after I threw my pen into the trash, I remembered what happened with the desk.  I went upstairs and left the shop.  I grabbed a hard apple cider, popped the top and just enjoyed a cold one.  I realized and calmed down.  I remembered to just slow down.  Woodworking is to make me calm.  Let me pause here.  I am not saying that alcohol is the solution to ones problems.  I rarely drink.  Just this day, I felt like having a cold one and did.  And no, I am not trying to advocate drunken woodworking, but I do weigh 270 and a hard apple cider is not going to impact my judgment.  I am just telling the story as it happened.  My wife asked me what happened and she listened to me while I vented.  She reinforced what I was thinking and just turn what I had intended to turn.  These pens are supposed to be for fun and some side money to fund the woodworking.  Focus on what you wanted to accomplish and knock it out.  If you don’t that is ok too.

After relaxing for about 30 minutes, I headed back to the shop, put away all the pens that I originally had no intention on turning, and only left out the ones I had planned on turning.  I placed them in the order I wanted to turn them to maximize my time (meaning I put the wooden ones together and the acrylic ones together, along with the type of pen, so I did not have to change the bearings but once.  The result, I turned 12 pens, each in about 15 minutes, just under 20 if you include the finishing and assembly.  If I had just done this to begin with, I would not have wasted an hour and a half on that other stupid pen I had to throw away.

The moral of these stories, if you want to woodwork fast, SLOW DOWN.  This gives you time to think through your project, measure twice and cut once, and get your project done in a reasonable time period with minimal frustration and maximum satisfaction.

You know the sad thing here.  I apply this principle at the office.  Why did not I not apply it sooner on my woodworking I will have to explore at some other time.

Quick Tip

The quick tip was inspired by Mark, who recently built an amazing canoe.  It is absolutely stunning.

Create a project log – log all the time you spent on your project.  You can learn from the log:  where you went wrong; what you did right;  where did you waste your time; how to improve for next time.

Check Out Alan’s Desk he built for his wife on his Lumber Jocks page.

The post AW #016 – The Simplest Way To Woodwork Fast appeared first on The Avid Woodworker.

Jun 14 2014



Rank #3: AW #015 – When to Buy vs Build Your Next Woodworking Shop Project

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In Episode number 15, I talk about when to build vs when to buy that next woodworking shop project.  If you are like me, you sometimes struggle with that dilemma.  I see a router station, drill press table, new storage system, or cool system or parts to build cabinets quickly at the store or on line and say, “That is nice!”  But then you say, but I can build that . . why should I spend money on that?

Then I get into my shop and suddenly have the following types of conversations with myself  . . . “ok well my wife really wants me to finish this table, but if I make this new workbench I would probably work a lot faster;” or . . . “gosh, if I could rebuild my router table to collect dust better, and allow me to adjust the router bit level faster I might use it more” . . .  or “if I would only build a drilling station to hold all my cordless batteries and drills, then I would always have a place to put drills and drill bits when I finish working with them.  But, I told my wife I would finish my dining room table before Thanksgiving.  Maybe I should go ahead and buy that new station so it will help me finish that project.”    

As the circular cycle of ‘I can build it vs. do I have the time to build it’ continues, I sometimes start to research the prices online to see if you can find what I am interested in cheaper somewhere else.   The next thing I hear is my wife coming in the shop and saying, “I Thought you were coming in here to woodwork. What have you been doing for the past two hours?”  WHAT?  I JUST LOST TWO HOURS OF WOODWORKING TIME?  ARRRGGGHHHH”

Well maybe that has only happened to me . . . a couple of times.  So, I finally got sick of losing precious woodworking time trying to make these decisions.  Last year when I simplified my shop, I also decided that I was going to put my shop on a budget like the rest of my life.  I decided that I prefer room to move in my shop over lots of stuff in it and got rid of a ton of tools that I simply never touched.  If I had duplicates, I got rid of them, unless I used them for cub scouts.  I did not want to continually get sidetracked with debates about shop projects.  So, I decided to ask myself three simple questions when it comes to building shop projects vs purchasing them.

I am going to share with you the three things I consider when trying to work through my purchasing dilemma.

1)            I first ask myself “Does the shop project that I am considering purchasing fully or nearly fully satisfy my needs.”  In other words, I don’t want to spend $100 on something that I have to then spend hours modifying to meet my needs.  If I need something for a specific task that I am going to use repeatedly, I want to make sure that it is set up in a way where I love using it.  If the answer is no, I will most likely custom build that project, but I still consider the following two questions.

2)            I consider my time and how much is it worth vs. how much the project costs itself.  This answer is highly dependent on your current circumstances.  If you woodwork for a living, you should be able to answer this question easily.  If not, you may be struggling financially as a woodworker.  But, I am not going to get into that here.  If you woodwork as a hobby, you may find this more difficult to answer.  For example, as a lawyer, I bill out at $400 per hour (and no, I do not bring this money home.  I am part of a firm, so it goes to pay the firm expenses – and sometimes I, as the business owner, have to skip a paycheck).  In the shop, I cannot say that my time is worth $400 per hour.  I am on a strict budget at home in the shop.  But, when I started selling the pens I turn a few years ago, I decided that I wanted to make sure I made at least $15 per hour on my pens.  That number has gone up recently only because I have gotten faster at making them.  Now I am at $30 per hour.  But, you get the idea.  If you think your time in the shop is worth $20 per hour, and you think a shop project will take you realistically 20 hours to build, then it might be worth purchasing that shop project if it costs you $400 or less (because you have to consider your material costs true).  If building shop projects is more about the experience and you are not too concerned about spending time on a shop project, then this question may not be as important to you as it is to me.

3)            What is my time deadline on a certain woodworking project.  In some cases, you may have promised a family member, a close friend, or even a client a certain project within a certain time period.  If you are running out of time to complete your project, and you know that a specific shop project will help you with completing your task, then you purchasing that project might be worth it to avoid damaging that relationship or that person’s confidence in your ability to complete projects as promised. The next your spouse considers your plea to build that piece of furniture, she/he may just go out to the store and buy it because they did not want to wait months.

So, I applied these questions to one of my most recent purchases, a drill press table that I attached to my drill press, and I am so happy I did.

Drill Press Before

Drill Press Table Package

The post AW #015 – When to Buy vs Build Your Next Woodworking Shop Project appeared first on The Avid Woodworker.

Apr 24 2014



Rank #4: AW #011 – 5 Simple Woodworking Dust Control Tips

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The Avid Woodworker – AW Episode # 11 – 5 Simple Woodworking Dust Control Tips

In this episode, I talk about a 5 Simple Tips you can do to control dust in your shop as well as keep it out of your lungs, and your house.  Before I get started with the tips, I briefly discuss why this should be taken very seriously.


For years, most woodworkers (myself included) have considered wood dust to be a nuisance.  But, with the sinus problems I started to develop in 2005, I started to realize that wood dust is harmful and should be taken seriously.   Frankly, the more research I performed, the more concerned I became and began to make changes in how I woodwork as it related to wood dust.  Here is some of the information I have found:

Before 1985, OSHA regulated wood dust under its nuisance dust standard of 15 mg/m3 (29 CFR 1910.1000, Table Z-3).  Today, it is considered a carcinogen.  The Report on Carcinogens (RoC), US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and National Toxicology Program (NTP) identify and discuss agents, substances, mixtures, or exposure circumstances that may pose a health hazard due to their carcinogenicity. The listing of substances in the RoC only indicates a potential hazard and does not establish the exposure conditions that would pose cancer risks to individuals.  Under NTP, Wood Dust [132 KB PDF, 3 pages] is classified as a  known  human carcinogen.

In addition, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks for Humans [37 KB PDF, 8 pages] lists wood dust as a carcinogen. Lastly, Toxic Woods [99 KB PDF, 4 pages] from Health and Safety Executive (HSE), (1997, October) identifies health effects of wood exposures and precautions, and includes a table of woods and their effects.

I could go on more, but I hopefully made my point.

5 Simple Woodworking Dust Control Tips

The first four tips are listed from least expensive to most expensive.  I also have some tips on how to make your common dust collection methods more effective and arguably less expensive.

1)  Dust Mask –  A simple, inexpensive mask will keep dust out of your lungs and sinuses and protect you from a health standpoint.  But, will not keep your area clean.  If you work outside it does not matter.  You can use disposable ones – I use the 3M tekk  N95 approved sanding valved respirators.  Here is an affiliant link in case you are interested.  3M 8511 Particulate Sanding N95 Respirator with Valve, 10-Pack  I went to buy a Cloth dust mask  the other day at the woodcraft store, but they were sold out.   The advantage to the cloth ones is that you can wash and reuse them.

I also discussed the advantages to using a sinus rinse to help control dust that might collect in your sinuses. NeilMed Sinus Rinse, Premixed 50 Sachets

2)     Ceiling mounted air cleaner.  You do not have to spend a ton of money to clean the dust particles out of the ambient air.  You can use an old box fan (or a new one) and attach a re-usable air filter to it.  Here are some pictures to show what is hanging from our ceiling.

This is the back of the box fan – Time to clean the filter again.

Picture of the side of the fan

I hung the fan upside down so I could turn it on.

As I mention in the podcast, the fan is old, at least 20 years old, probably older.  But, since it hand from the ceiling, I do not have to worry about kids putting their fingers into the blades.

3)     Shop vac with dust collection cyclone.

If you can’t afford a dust cyclone yet, pick up some pantyhose and put them over your filter.  I use a permanent air filter.  When it is time to clean the filter, you just pull the pantyhose off and most of the dust falls off.  It really extends the time you have before you have to clean the filter again.  It is also work buying a decent extension hose and floor sweeper to pick the dust up off the ground and lying around your shop.  I was lucky that my parents, who are avid garage sale shoppers, picked up a whole bunch of extra hose that I just bought connectors for.

Here are a couple examples of dust collection cyclones to improve your shop vac performance.
The Dust Deputy

Woodriver Small Dust Collection Cyclone

There are many more.

4)     Fixed dust collector with varying levels.  I have a Delta 50-850. Here is what it looks like:

There are many great options out there on the market.  To get the most use out of it, you have to set things up so that it is easy to use.  If it is a pain, you are less likely to use it.  I set up mine up with a combination of flexible hosing and PVC Pipes.

The picture above is of the switch that turns on the shop vac when you turn on your power tools.  Here is an affiliate link to it if you are interested in buying one yourself. i-socket 110m Tool and Vacuum Switch

5)     Miscelaneous tips to keep the dust out of your house

Use a piece of scrap carpet on your entry and exit to your shop so that the dust on the bottom of your shoes does not drag into the house.  Vacuum it often.  Keep a bench brush and broom handy at all times.  Use all the above steps to control the dust in your shop

A Few Updates from the previous episode

In episode #010, I talked about a Halloween Woodworking project which was arguably a little on the crafty side than on the purest woodworking side, but it continued to introduce my kids to certain woodworking principles such as how to plan your project (at a very simple level), how to take measurements, how to transfer those measurements to your project plans, how to transfer those measurements to your wood, and how to hand saw.

Well, I had planned on finishing up my wooden scarecrow and publishing the finished product as soon as I finished.  Unfortunately, after recording that podcast, one weekend was lost to a visit to the hospital (no worries, I am healthy now, just some bizarre infection that the doctors could not clearly identify).   Then, another weekend was spent working with the cubmobile  race that I was in charge of.  Fortunately, when I went down, I had a whole crew of other scout leaders to step up and help make sure we were prepare for the race.  I had to spend part of one weekend finishing up the cubmobile for my den.  Fortunately, both my sons helped finish the painting so it did not take too long.  The good news is that the cubmobile that we made (which looks like a hammerhead shark), wound up winning the overall race with one of the scouts in my den.

Here is a picture of the cubmobile.

Until next time, I hope everyone can get into their shop and build useful works of art.

The post AW #011 – 5 Simple Woodworking Dust Control Tips appeared first on The Avid Woodworker.

Nov 09 2013



Rank #5: Episode #004 – Simplifying your Workshop – Part 2

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The Avid Woodworker – AW Episode # 4 – Simplifying your Woodworking Workshop   Part 2

The Five steps towards simplifying your shop

1)     Survey your existing workshop and decide what you really like to do in your shop

2)     Analyze your woodworking flows

3)     Clean House

4)     Organize, design, or re-design your shop

5)     Develop new rules and systems to maintain the simplicity in your shop

In this Episode, we cover step 3.

You should consider certain ‘simple’ rules to apply even if you have a small shop.  If you don’t apply them, and your shop grows, you will have a cluttered mess on your hands.  Trust me, I know from experience.  I can also say with confidence that the time it takes me to work through a project has been shortened significantly since I implemented these steps in my own shop.

Before I go any further, I know that many of you out there already have pristine shops.  You probably went through these steps or something similar years ago.  I have seen those shops and they look AWESOME and I want to say “thank you” for the inspiration to get my shop into that position.   But, if you work a full time job, have active children, and volunteer in their activities (like Cub Scouts for me), it is very difficult to find time to get into your shop.  When I get the time to get into the shop, I want to build something, not organize it.  That is why I am sharing this information.  The steps I have taken and continue to take have allowed me to get more woodworking done.  All I ask those of you have gone through this already, is to bear with me for these episodes, and who knows, you may pick up a few ideas along the way, or, even better, you might have some great suggestions that I can add to what is in this podcast.  The next step in this podcast is to start blogging, and I would love to share great ideas with everyone else.

Now, onto Step # 3 – This Step can be both challenging and freeing when you get to the end of it.

Step 3 – Clean house

Now that you have hit this stage, you should have a good idea of your core needs in your wood working shop.  As you move through this process, you want to remind yourself of what your basic workshop looks like, so, if you hit a bump in the road, you can push through the clean house phase by referring back to what you initially envisioned.

If your shop had become cluttered like mine, this clean house phase can take several weekends.  My shop had become filled with “stuff” over the course of 10 years.  I kept saying that “I am going to use that,” or “this gadget will get used one day,” and the junk just continued to pile up in need, organized boxes that merely collected dust.

If you are like me, you often have a lot going on, even on the weekends, so you don’t have all weekend to clean house in your shop.  I would often clean until I had filled up at least two large contractor grade trash bags with trash.  I took many items to Good Will, took them to a recycling facility, or sold them in the neighborhood yard sale.  The first day of my cleaning, I burned an incredible amount of scrap wood.  I have a fire ring that has a grate over it to cook things on, and my oldest son even helped cooked dinner over the wood fire.  He was more than happy to help me burn all the dry wood I had.

            A good rule of thumb is do not schedule appointments during this clean house phase.  Turn phones and cell phones to voicemail.  Do not check email.  Turn off the televisions.  Schedule a sitter to watch the kids or explain to older kids not to interrupt (unless of course you are working on an area that they use and should help you with). Get plenty of sleep!   Here is why:

Throwing things away can be difficult for some people.  Rather than making a decision of whether I should keep an item, I would just throw it in a box because it was easier at the time.  Distractions can interrupt the momentum and energy of cleaning house.

Before you start, you should gather your supplies needed to clean house.

–        Make sure you have a large trash can with construction grade trash bags.  That way you can throw away most sharp items and not have to worry too much about them cutting the trash bag.

–        Have a recycling bin for those rechargeable batteries that have not been used in years.

–        Have a bin for items that you might want to take to Good Will.

–        Have a bin for items you are not sure about and label it “Not Sure.”

–        Have a bin called “Keep”

Let’s break it down by what you can do with what you don’t need.  This can often be the hardest part of the process:

A)    Trash – Most items that are broken or beyond repair should be tossed into the trash

            I don’t know about you, but I had so many little things in my shop that were ‘broken’ that I was going to fix or break down the parts and use for something else.  I found one item that had been down there from the last move over 10 years ago!  That went in the trash.  I had an arm from an old satellite dish that I thought I could use for something, but I didn’t, so in the trash it went.

            WOOD – anything that you would be afraid to cut on a table saw or a chop saw/ radial arm saw  by holding it with your bare hands – toss – unless you plan on a glue up (but I would only do that later) – Exception – if you are a turner – may be big enough for a pen or a bottle stopper.  If you think the wood is not appropriate for turning – toss it or burn it that day or the very next weekend.  Don’t even save it for the next bon-fire – it just takes up room.  Get rid of it.

–        If you really think you are going to use it, ask yourself if you have room to store it . . .  really.  If your dream shop with your specific woodworking flow does not have room for a ton of wood, get rid of it.  It will only slow you down and limit the amount of woodworking you do.

–        Throw away all the things that you have stored thinking . . . “I could use that one day.”

–        Trash old tools that don’t work anymore.  Why are you keeping that old cordless drill that you have not used in 2 years.  You keep saying you are going to fix it, but never do.

B)     Recycle items such as paper, glass, plastic or metal (be sure to check with your local recycling center or garbage collector to see what type of recyclable material they will take).

–        It is ok to recycle those old plastic tool boxes.

C)    Donate, Sell on Craig’s List or at yard sale – If you have a tool or project that is not being used and taking up space, you don’t have to trash it, you can sell or donate it.

For Example – I had old record player and radio from the 50’s I thought might be worth something.  It had sat in my basement for 10 years.  I had read on the internet how some of them were worth a couple thousand dollars, but I could not determine if the one I had was. 

–        At the end of the day, it was worthless to me because I had other projects more important – sold it at garage sale. 

D)    Return items that belong somewhere else.  These may be items that belong in another room, items that belong to someone else, or items that need to be returned to the store, library, etc.

E)     Don’t Know items are things you are having a hard time letting go of.   Don’t spend too much time on these so you can push through the rest of your clean house efforts.

Ask yourself the following questions if you are having a hard time with the “Don’t Know” items:

Do I love that old project?  – Ask yourselfHave you ever used it?  What are you doing with it?  Can you give it away?  Why is it just sitting there?

–        Throw in the attic?  Take a picture of it if you really want to remember it, but then sell it.

–        If you truly love an item, if it brings you joy every time you see it and it’s part of that “vision” you have for your space, then by all means keep it.

Do I need it? This is a no-brainer but be sure to get rid of duplicate items.  How many sanders do you need?  How many cordless drills do you need?  Try not to have duplicates unless you know you need them.  If you upgrade your router and don’t use the old one anymore – sell it on Craig’s list.  There are, of course, exceptions . . . You can never have enough clamps, and I have multiple hammers for when the Cub Scouts come over to work on a project in my basement.

Have I used it? Tools, wood, or gadgets that you’ve never used you should seriously consider getting rid of.

When was the last time I used it? Anything that hasn’t been used in over a year… again, you should seriously consider getting rid of them too.  If you have something that you consistently use once a year but not more than once a year, then keep it, but set it aside so it is not around what you use on a weekly basis.

Does it make my life better? I love quality woodworking tools.  So I ask myself: “Does this tool make my woodworking easier?”  If the answer is yes, then keep it, provided you have a place to store it.    If no, because you bought an upgrade – sell it!  Don’t wait – grab your smart phone, take a picture, and upload it to craig’s list.  Or, ask a neighbor if they want it.  I gave a number of my yard tools to my brother-in-law.  I had to stop working in the yard due to allergies (which I was not happy about because I actually enjoyed yard work).

 Can I borrow or rent it? Instead of taking up space with items you rarely use, consider renting it.  I bought a small sand blaster 9 years ago.  I have used it once on one project.  It just sits in my shop.  I have it set aside to sell on craig’s list.

Am I keeping it out of a sense of obligation or guilt?  – Sentimental items can be challenging

–  Cub scout projects – I take pictures of and then ask the kids if they want to keep in their room.  If the answer is no, then I let them know that I am going to find a new home for it (usually a bond fire).

–  Some items you can just create a space for in your shop – over the windows – hang from empty spots.

What’s the worst that can happen if I get rid of it? When all else fails and you’re still having trouble deciding, just ask what’s the worst that can happen? Practically everything can be replaced these days.  Heck, many things are cheaper to replace than repair.

I used to keep all kinds of wood  “just in case I might use it on a project someday” scenario.

I never used it.  Most of the time, I bought more wood and the pile of wood got larger.

As you fill up trash bags, remove them immediately!   This will prevent you from changing your mind.  Hopefully embarrassment will prevent you from rummaging through your trash the next day.  If you cleaned house every weekend for a few weekends like I did, leave enough time for you to take certain items to Goodwill or to drop of things at your local recycling center (if you are recycling electronics).    Get rid of everything before you start thinking . . . now that I know where that is, I might get to it someday.

Keep your vision and goal in sight.  Reminding yourself of how you want your workshop to look when you are finished puts you in control of your space.  That way, your stuff does not control your woodworking flow.

That’s it.  That’s how you Clean House.  You will be amazed at how freeing it is.  In fact, I need to do some more this weekend!  It becomes very empowering.

If you are taking on this challenge to Simplify your Workshop, I would love to hear how it’s going.  If you are having trouble Cleaning house, let me know.

I do want to give credit to a couple that partly inspired this series of episodes.   As I indicated in Episode # 3, I started my simplification in December 2012.  I had grown tired of the clutter in my shop and started to do something about it.  Around that same time, I found this fantastic podcast called Simple Life Together.  It is hosted by Dan and Vanessa Hayes.  They were putting into words what I was working on in my shop at the time, and gave me extra incentive to simplify my shop.  I did want to give credit to them for inspiring me in an unexpected way to take my woodworking to the next level.  If you want to check them out, their website is  The outline for the simplification process actually came from Vanessa Hayes at her website


265Stumpy Wrote “Well Done!  – Look forward to more of this Podcast.”

Pgoodman1981 wrote “Awesome  – I have listened to several woodworking podcasts and love them all, but I am particularly excited about the avid woodworker podcast.  Thank you Leh and I look forward to hearing more.”

If you have any suggestions you would like to make, or have any woodworking ideas you would like to share on the podcast, please let me know.

I am going to do my best to wrap up this issue in the next episode and discuss steps 4 and 5,

–        Organize, design, or re-design your shop

–        Develop new rules and systems to maintain the simplicity in your shop

The post Episode #004 – Simplifying your Workshop – Part 2 appeared first on The Avid Woodworker.

Jun 22 2013



Rank #6: Episode #007 – An Interview with Greg Coker – A great source for Wood

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An Interview with Greg Coker

A great wood resource for Woodworking projects

I first met Greg about 3 years ago.

Greg Coker

I had been hunting for something build my new desk at the office, and kept coming up short.  I went to a local lumber store known as Peach State Lumber.  They essentially introduced me to Greg, and I have been thankful ever since.

Greg has an uncanny ability to see what many might see as a nuisance or firewood like this:

And pull an amazing piece like this out of it:

These pictures really do not do the wood justice.  I took it at 6:30 in the morning with low light on my iPhone.  It was also less than 32 degrees and there was frost on the wood hiding much of its beauty.

These pieces had blue, purple, yellow, and red grains flowing through them.  I really had never seen anything like it in person before.  If I wasn’t already buying two 12 foot slabs of Walnut, I would have picked up these pieces too.

Greg works out of this huge open shop he built himself.

Here are some of the slabs he currently has in his shop.

Greg uses a Wood-Mizer sawmill that he purchased years ago when he left his full time job to do something more rewarding.

My son Baldwin:

Having too much fun. My photographer was taking a break

Here are a few more pictures from my visit.

Greg’s next challenge. What beauty lies in this triple cherry root?

Extra Boards anyone?

A 5000 pound log that Greg is going to test his new blasting procedure to try and split.

11 foot slabs. Anyone want to make a counter with a live edge?

Interviewing the big man. He loves to cut wood.

How to contact me

Leave a voicemail at 678-421-4166

Leave a comment at

Like us on Facebook at

If you are enjoying the show, please post a review online.  If you found the show in iTunes please put a review in.  It helps move the show up in the rankings in iTunes so more people can find it.

Until next time, I hope everyone can get into their shop and build useful works of art.

The post Episode #007 – An Interview with Greg Coker – A great source for Wood appeared first on The Avid Woodworker.

Jul 30 2013



Rank #7: Episode #006 – Keeping your tools sharp to speed up your Woodworking

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The Avid Woodworker – Episode # 006 – Keeping your tools sharp to speed up your Woodworking

Knowing that I was getting ready to build my sharpening station in my shop, I though it might be helpful to take a class on hand sharpening.  I signed up for a class with Terry at my local Woodcraft store this weekend and it was great.  We spent three hours going over hand sharpening tools and techniques for chisels, hand planes, and card scrapers.

Why is sharpening so important to woodworking productivity?  Read the old Irish Legend of the Lumberjack:

Story of the Lumberjack

 There is an old Irish legend, a story of two lumberjacks.  Both men were skilled woodsmen although the first was much bigger, welding a powerful axe.  He was so strong that he didn’t have to be as accurate for he still produced due to his sheer size.  He was known far and wide for his ability to produce great quantities of raw material.

In spite of his size, the second woodsman’s fame was spreading for his skill and accuracy.  There was very little waste in his efforts so his customers ended up with a better product for their money. Soon the word spread that his work was even better than his larger competition!

Upon hearing this, the larger man became concerned.  He wondered, “How could this be? I am so much bigger that I MUST be better!” He proposed that the two compete with a full day of chopping trees to see who was more productive.  The winner would be declared ”The Greatest Lumberjack in all the land.” The smaller man agreed and the date for the bout was set.          

The townspeople began talking.  They placed their bets.  The larger woodsman was the favorite to win with a 20 to 1 advantage.  After all, bigger is better!  The evening before the bout, both men sharpened their blades.

Morning broke with the entire town showing up to cheer on the lumberjacks.  The competition started with a the judge’s shout, “GO!” The first woodman, strong and broad, leaped into action.  He swung his axe vigorously and continuously without stopping knowing that every tree he felled brought him closer to his coveted title.

The second woodsman, wasting no time and jumped into action as well, attacking his trees with every intention of winning the distinguished title.  But unlike his larger competitor, this man stopped every hour and appeared to take a break.

The townspeople were baffled and worried (especially those that bet on the 2nd woodsman).  They murmured among themselves.  Surely, he could never win if he didn’t work longer and harder than his competitor.  His friends pleaded with him to increase his speed, to work harder but to no avail.  The larger woodsman knew the title was all his because he was not taking a break.  He was chopping down more trees every time the smaller woodsman took a break.  This pattern continued until the end of the day when both men heard the judge yell “TIME!”, signaling the end of the match.

The larger man stood, winded and exhausted but proudly by his pile of trees knowing he had given his best.  Surely, he was the winner! The smaller woodsman also stood by his pile of trees though, unlike his competitor, the smaller man was still fresh, ready to continue if necessary.  He also stood confident of his efforts having toiled mightily for the prize.

When all the trees were counted, it was announced that the second woodsman had indeed felled more trees and had won the title of “The Greatest Lumberjack in all the Land!”  He happily shook the judge’s hand gripping the new blade that signified the win. The larger man, and most of the townspeople, stood in stunned silence at the announcement for he was, after all, stronger with the larger axe!

Stunned, the larger man asked the smaller how was this possible.  He was consistently taking breaks.  What was he doing when he was taking a break?   To which the smaller woodsman responded, “Sharpening my axe.  My axe was smaller and therefore each swing must be more accurate in order to get more out of my swing.”

But I don’t use hand tools much, why should I worry about sharpening?

I don’t know where you are in your woodworking career.  If you have been woodworking for a long time, you probably know the value of a good chisel and hand plane.  If not, listen to those who have then.  They are fantastic.  I had been using sand paper for years before I learned about hand planes and how great they are.   This podcast is not going dive deeply into the about the merits of hand planes and card scrapers.  But I wanted to just wanted to briefly highlight two things:

–        Hand planes and card scrapers do not produce saw dust like sand paper does; and,

–        Hand planes and card scrapers cut the wood fibers.  Sandpaper lays them flat, which can really hide some of the beauty of the wood. (I learned this in class)

 So why would I spend money on a class when I can watch YouTube Videos?  

You can only get so much out of watching you tube videos.  The person in the video can’t tell you if you are doing it right.  For example, are stopping short on the number of strokes on a water stone (like I was).   Are you applying too much pressure?  Are you holding your wrist funny?

So, this is just a summary of some of the things I picked up.

1)     Why you want to avoid sand paper vs a water stone.  –  Problem with sand paper – series of peaks and valleys – you cannot get clean edge because you are only sharpening at peaks, not valleys because you start to track.  I use the below water stone set up.  The affiliate link I have below takes you to Amazon for more information. The one I picked up did not have an instructional video like this one appears to have.
Norton Waterstone Starter Kit: 220/1000 grit stone, 4000/8000 grit stone, SiC flattening stone

2)     Nagura Stone to rub on your 8000 grit stone.  It helps to remove particles and increases the grit on your stone so you can get more use out of it.

3)     Let the stone do the work – light and steady – don’t press harder – only damages the stone.  Can get more out of a 4000 by pressing even lighter

4)     Must have a flat back on your edge before start edge sharpening.

5)     Take out corners on smoothing/joining plane irons using sides of stones.

6)     Use diamond stones to sharpen router bits

7)     Wet is always better for sharpening than dry

8)     Turning tools should be sharpened every 30 minutes.

9)     Take a day 2 times per month to sharpen tools.

10) Flatten your water stone under running water

If you are enjoying the show, please post a review online.  If you found the show in iTunes please put a review in.  It helps move the show up in the rankings in iTunes so more people can find it.

Until next time, I hope everyone can get into their shop and build useful works of art.

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The post Episode #006 – Keeping your tools sharp to speed up your Woodworking appeared first on The Avid Woodworker.

Jul 17 2013



Rank #8: Episode #005 – The Final 2 Steps to Simplify Your Workshop to Get More Woodworking Done

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The Avid Woodworker – AW Episode # 5 – Simplifying your Workshop  To Get More Woodworking Done

 As a reminder:  The Five steps towards simplifying your shop

1)     Survey your existing workshop and decide what you really like to do in your shop

2)     Analyze your woodworking flows

3)     Clean House

4)     Organize, design, or re-design your shop

5)     Develop new rules and systems to maintain the simplicity in your shop

Step 4 – Organize, Design or Re-design your shop

Well, finally, we are at the organize and design phase!  It only took two previous episodes to get here.  I know as woodworkers, this can be the best part of this process because it gives us excuses for shop wood working projects.

I am not going into great detail on this or step 5 for a couple of reasons.  In some respects, after you design the look of your overall shop, the organization of your shop can really be broken down into zones.

For instance, I am going to build a sharpening station in the next few weeks so I can quickly sharpen my plane irons and my turning chisels I use on my lathe.  I am going to build it out of scrap wood to save my money for wood I want to use on my projects.  Mainly MDF left over from Cub scout projects like cub mobile

Start with a sketch.  It does not have to be in Google sketch up.  A piece of graph paper will work just fine.  Break out where you are putting certain stations, even the ones you have not built yet.

Empty the space. After cleaning house, your space should be much more open now.  It is even helpful to move as many items that you are keeping out of the space to get a very clear view of the room.  Make sure you have taken all the things you are getting rid of and taken them to the trash or recycling center, etc.

Before you put anything back into the space, “sort like tools with like parts”Look at the tools, gadgets, wood you decided to keep and start sorting them.  This is a crucial part of organizing.   For example:

–        Sanding area with the sanders and sanding paper

–        Sharpening station with sharpening tools, which would include a grinder as well as any sharpening stones.

–        A drill station with cordless and corded drills and drill bits.

–        A routing station with the router bits, well, you get the idea.

Remember your zones and start placing your items accordingly.  Remember how we talked about creating zones for your space,

–        Do you have room for a finishing zone?

–        What about a zone for cutting – table saw, band saw, chop saw –

Place frequently used items within arm’s reach for each of your zones.   This is where you might use peg board or slat board systems for your saws, hammers, chisels, etc.

Place seldom used items up high, down low or in back of your frequently used items.  Don’t take up precious real estate in the cabinets or on your peg board with things you don’t use very often.  Like, for me, I have a 10inch circular saw.  When I need it, nothing will replace it.  I use it for huge slabs of wood, but, I don’t use it that often.  So, I am finding a special place for it.

Think safety for yourself and the prying hands.

  • Heavy items should always go on lower, sturdier surfaces.
  • Sharp items or hammers that can do damage to everything in your shop in the small hands should be put away and out of reach.
  • Stains, paints, and other toxic materials should likewise be out of reach.  You may have to lock them into a cabinet.
  • The same goes for cleaning supplies.

Go vertical for storage.  You can also have multiple layers of peg boards.  You cabinet could include slides.

  • Install shelves above windows to store collectibles and decorative items.
  • Install a fold down workbench from the wall.
  • For the do-it-yourselfer, use up the space between the studs in your wall to create cubbies (or hire a professional)

Consider storing items under workbenches.  The stations I plan on building will take into consideration all possible supplies, so I do not have to hunt all over my shop for that one item.   In other words, the station will not just serve as a place to work on an item, but it will also serve to store everything I need for that item.

Use containers and containers within cabinets.  I obtained a 7 foot tall metal cabinet for free one time.  I bought some $12-$15 storage bins with internal compartments and a handle from Home depot and put misc screws – labeled it with duct tape and black magic marker.

Don’t use up all the space…leave yourself room to grow (or not).  Now that you’ve cleared out the clutter and have started to move things back in, don’t feel obligated to fill every shelf, cabinet or nook ‘n cranny.  Leave yourself space to add items or just enjoy having less stuff.  That is why it is so important to have a plan sketched out ahead of time.

Label everything you can!  Where possible, label your containers and drawers for two reasons:

  1. It is so much easier to find everything and return everything to its proper place.
  2. It is so much easier for your neighbors to return items they borrow to their proper place.

Step 5 – Develop rules and a system to keep your shop simple. Examples:

This is an essential part of getting and staying organized. Some say it takes about 30 days to make a routine habit. I think I take longer, but most likely, it varies for everyone.  Here are a few routines to consider:

  1. One in…one out.  Only buy or add something to your space after you’ve thrown or given something else away.  This really applies to a small shop.

i.          Exceptions to this rule – clamps – Unless the clamp is a cheap one that will not hold up under pressure.

2.  Before you buy that new tool, ask yourself,

i.          “Do I Need it, Will I use it, Will I love it?”

ii.          “Am I going to use that tool, really?” If the answer is yes, but sometime in the distant future, then you have to ask yourself if you are better off spending that money on a woodworking project.

iii.          “Is it going to replace a tool I already had?”

3.  Limit your shopping.  Instead of buying something you want right away, wait a week to see if your “want” wears off.  I am not saying you should not add to your tools to your workshop by any stretch at all.  Just be intentional with your purchases so that you to waste your money on a tool that you really don’t need.  You can instead spend that money on some amazing wood for a project.

4. Establish weekly clean up routines like I talked about in episode # 2

5. Stick to those routines and put everything back in their place.

6. Bring the kids into the work area and explain what is really off limits.  Explain what they can get access to and have a place for them to put it away.  I have a tub of scrap wood that the kids know that they can do whatever they want with when I am not home.

The post Episode #005 – The Final 2 Steps to Simplify Your Workshop to Get More Woodworking Done appeared first on The Avid Woodworker.

Jul 04 2013


Rank #9: Episode # 008 – Is Working with MDF really Woodworking?

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Show notes to come after the funeral

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Aug 16 2013



Rank #10: AW #014 – Finding Wood-Life Balance – In and Out of the Shop

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In Episode 14 of the Avid Woodworker Podcast, I wanted to discuss woodworking balance.  I don’t know about you, but my order of priority in life is faith, family, work, woodworking, health, and podcasting.  There are sometimes that I wish I could either move woodworking above my work in priority or actually make woodworking my work.  But without the work part, I don’t have the money for woodworking.

There are times where I have put woodworking above everything, only to hear about it later from the family.  You heard in an earlier blog that I have been putting woodworking above my health, which contributed to me getting to sick last year.  I am working on that, but for now, woodworking has still been ahead of my health.  I need to find a better balance here.  Or, perhaps combine woodworking and health by using only hand tools.  

To set the stage for this topic and what was the inspiration for this subject, I have to give some background.   For the past two months I have not been able to get to the woodworking like I wanted to for the following reasons.

1)     The cub scouts’  ‘crossover’ bridge has been in my shop for past two months.  So, while I have been working with wood, it has not been doing what I want to do.  In case you do not know what a crossover bridge is, it is the ceremonial bridge that the cub scouts cross over to become boy scouts.  We had been repairing it and refreshing it as part of the Webelos II project they had to do to cross over to boy scouts.  Part of the refreshing the bridge involved paint, so I had to put away my other projects because I did not want scouts to get paint all over my ambrosia maple or my slabs of walnut.

2)     The cub scouts have also used by shop to work on their arrow of light and plaque that will hold their arrow of light.

3)     We had snow here in Georgia not once, but twice.  These two weeks of snow put us seriously behind at work.  At one point we were so far behind in revenue, I was going to have to lay off half the law firm.  I even had to skip a paycheck.  Fortunately that is behind us and things are ok now and we made up for the lost weeks of work.  Needless to say, for past 2 weeks we have been killing it at work, leaving no free time for woodworking.

4)     I have been spending some serious time into trying to set things up at the office so I don’t have to work like a madman anymore, which would give me more time for family and woodworking.

So, now you know, I have not been able to woodwork.  I have been itching to make something, build something, and create a useful work of art!  So, last weekend, my shop was still a mess with items from crossover bridge.  My podcasting set up was a mess.  Months prior, I had thrown it together with scrap MDF to hold the mixer, computer, monitor, microphones Limiter gate, etc.  It worked ok, but it was not finished and wires were laying everywhere.

On Saturday, I decided to strip down my podcast station with the idea of fixing it, hiding wires, build the electronics into the table itself, and finishing the station.  I only had a few hours to work on it on Saturday, and had plans to finish it on Sunday.

Sunday came around, and my oldest son said, “I want to do something with you outside and turn off the TV and Video games.”  Wow!  How often does that happen?  But, I reeeaaaaalllllyyyyy wanted to finish my podcasting set up.   So I said, “You must be bored of your video games.  Let me buy you a new one so you can play all day and I can keep working in the shop on my podcasting station. “

I am totally kidding.  I, of course, set my project to the side, and we went outside.   How often does a 11 year old choose to go outside with his old man rather than play video games.  You have got to jump on that, no matter where you are in your woodworking.

What was even more amazing than my son coming to me to do something with me, was the confirmation I later received that I had made the right decision.

All the rain, snow and ice the past 12 months have destroyed my back yard.  I convinced my son to work with me on cleaning up the back yard by telling him we can build a huge bond fire in the fire pit with all the branches and leaves we pick up.  Bingo.  Boys love building fires.  I actually experienced several other learning lessons that day, and I know that this is a woodworking, not a parenting podcast, so I won’t go into those here.  It turned out to be an awesome day and we made a huge dent in cleaning up the back yard.

Here is where it comes full circle back to the woodworking. We had gotten the fire going really good.  So good, we just decided to cook dinner right over the fire.  So while cooking, my son said, “Today was awesome!  We need to do this more often.  I just wish it weren’t so muddy out here.  Why don’t we make a wooden platform out here so we don’t have to worry about the mud when it rains. “  Wahoo!  Back to woodworking, but with the son now.   Now I can combine two of my priorities together, woodworking and family.

All set up because I set my woodworking aside for an afternoon to spend time with my sons in the back yard.  We turned what would normally be a chore into something fun and now I have a spring woodworking project.

The Episode Quick Tip – Don’t miss opportunities to practice your finishing techniques

Ok, so I am going to try and add something new to the podcast. For lack of a better term, I will just call it the Episode Quick Tip.  It follows the same balancing theme, but inside the shop . . . balancing woodworking projects with woodworking skills and shop projects.

Recently, I have been struggling between devoting my entire time to making one heck of a workshop and getting back to certain furniture projects that I started or promised to build.  But, I cannot devote my entire time to shop improvement because, frankly, that would not be fair to my Wife.  She has made it clear in a loving way (and I do not disagree with her), that if I am going to spend time in the shop away from the family, it should be to benefit the family with a useful work of art the family can use.  The reasoning is, after all, what partially drew me deeper into woodworking in the first place.

In the past when I worked on shop improvement projects, I rushed through them so I could get back to my furniture projects.  This past weekend, however, I realized how this can really be short changing me as a woodworker.  The following paragraphs explain what I am talking about.

As I indicated above, I decided last weekend to work on my podcasting station and improve it.  I was unfinished, had electronics stacked on top of each other, and wires were everywhere.  I originally started with idea that I would just re-organize the station and move some of the electronics to under the table, where I would also store most of the wires.  But then I decided that I could paint the MDF and seal it up.  It was already getting stains and marks on it.  I decided to use paint because I have way too many cans of paint my basement and I need to get rid of them by using up the paint.

So, after I had painted it, I decided that I wanted the top to feel silky smooth.  I grabbed an old can of poly and began to wipe it on top of the paint.  But, between the cold basement and the age of the polyurethane, the finish did not sit well and there were all kinds of brush strokes on the top.  It looked terrible.  I started to say, oh well, nobody will see it anyways (which is what I said the first time I put the station together).  It was then that it hit me.  This is an opportunity to practice . . . an opportunity to try new ways to finish a project without worrying about screwing up because nobody is going to see the station but the family.  Yea, I am going to spend more time on each individual shop project, but I can practice certain techniques and ideas so I do not try them for the first time a project that really matters.

In summary, use your shop projects as an opportunity to practice your finishing techniques.  For me, finishing is my biggest weakness.  It is obvious to me now why.  I never practice.  I practice woodworking techniques when I make my shop improvement projects, but I never finish them.  I am going to start now.

Until next time, I hope everyone can get into their shop and build useful works of art.

The post AW #014 – Finding Wood-Life Balance – In and Out of the Shop appeared first on The Avid Woodworker.

Mar 03 2014