Wednesday, December 31, 2014

And, for those Last Minute Elf winners...

Well, the holidays are just about over, but the fun is getting ready to begin!  First, we would like to thank everyone who took the time to submit projects for the Last Minute Elf event. We had 28 entries, and all of them were winners in our book!  There were some great ideas in there, but, as you know, there can only be a few winners. So, without any further ado, here they are:

1) Best turned project: Adam Wroten's light sabers. 
The force is strong with young Adam, as he turned the handles on his light sabers. Using PEX tubing and some inexpensive flashlights, he is ready to rule the galaxy...

Adam's light sabers

2) The greenest project: Krishen Kota's lobster sign.
Take some scrap wood, put it together with a great image, and you have a beautiful hand-made sign that would be fit for anyone in your family. A great reuse of materials!

Lobstah, anyone?

3) The best project to fit inside a USPS flat rate shipping box:  Brian Igielski's candle centerpiece. 
This project's simplicity made it a favorite, with the sloping sides and alternating species of wood adding a touch of elegance to any holiday table.

Brian's Candle Centerpiece.

4) Best for a child: Chet Kloss' child block carts.
What child wouldn't love one of these colorful block carts? Chet made these babies to be fun, exciting and something that kids could enjoy for hours!

Chet's fleet of block carts

5) Best for an adult:  Marilyn Guthrie's flag box.
Not only is this a great box for a commemorative flag, it's also a beautifully built version of it. We loved the use of the splines to hold the edges together.

Marilyn's flag box
6) The coolest tip:  This one came from Gary Shuler. He made a number of cribbage boards as gifts, and gave us a few golden bits of advice, including making an extra board or two in case something should go wrong during the build, and finishing the boards before drilling the holes, making finishing a little easier.

And, for the best overall gift, it was a tough choice. We had to go deep into the monkey cage on this one to find out, but this year, the best overall prize goes to Brian Eve for his Coffee and Cream Roorkee Chair. I mean, who wouldn't be pleased to receive a fine piece of furniture like this?

The chair in all of its glory
Congratulations to all of our winners, and we hope you enjoy your gift packages courtesy of the Gorilla Glue Company!

By the way, we will have more opportunities for prizes, including the upcoming Get Woodworking Week. Mark your calendars for the week of February 8 - 14.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Last Minute Bench

Happy Boxing Day dear woodworkers. Have you given your saw its Christmas Box?

I haven't either, though I did wrap up the bench I made for my Dad for Christmas.

In the coming weeks I'll share more of the build and I'm working on a video showing my method for reinforcing the bench seat. In the mean time, here's a brief photo essay of the bench build.

Don't forget, now that Christmas is over, there's still time to share the gifts you made as part of the +Modern Woodworkers Association Last Minute Elf contest. You can read all about it here. Just send an email to and you'll be entered.

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas build as much as I did.

In order to flatten the bench seat, I hot glued it to a piece of melamine and ran it trough the planer.

Here is the bench leg, also hot glued to a piece of melamine, midway through being flattened.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Inlay your epoxy

So, how about that decorative box I was working on?  It looks nice as is, but if you think I'm done there, you have got to be kidding yourself.

Yes, I often let the wood grain speak for itself, but there are times when you want to embellish a project - to guild the proverbial lily - and make the project a little more special and personalized. Now, normally that might involve cutting a decorative inlay for your project, and that's great with the proper inlay kit, router bit and a steady hand. I've tried it, and have yet to really make a quality, perfectly matched inlay.

A quick epoxy trick makes beautiful inlays...
Fortunately, there is an easier way to get a sweet looking inlay for a project - using color tinted epoxy. In this case, I routed out the shape of a heart on the lid of this box and decided to fill it with tinted epoxy. It's simple to mix in about 10% by volume of an artist acrylic paint to make the epoxy stand out without weakening its bond.

As you can see, it's a very simple project. I used some Gorilla Glue five minute epoxy, but let it cure overnight just to ensure it was hard enough to sand and not gum up my sanding disks.

And, no, you aren't hearing things. Those are indeed the dulcet tones of one Marc Spagnuolo crooning the theme to Tom's Tips. This is the triumphant return of Tom's Tips, and I'm happy to see the animated open my sons and I worked on now being used!  I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Handle those miters

A small box is a great project to tackle. It uses little wood, yet pushes your skills to the limit. It can be as simple or as complex as you would want to make it.

Just think about something as basic as corner joinery. Do you want to try your hand at cutting some dovetails? Maybe finger joints are more your speed.

For this project, I was going for splined miter joints. They are plenty strong for a small box, yet look very slick. One of the questions I get a lot at my blog is how do you clamp miters and keep them tight. I mean, it's not easy to get a clamp on them, and they want to slide all over the place when they are covered with glue.

Fortunately, the answer is something as simple as reaching for a little bit of Gorilla packing tape. As this video shows, you can use the tape to capture the miter joints for the glue up, and with the tape still in place after the glue dries, cut the miter slots on your table saw with just a few passes.

It's a simple yet totally awesome technique for getting even the trickiest miters to close up tightly and it works like a champ.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

MWA Podcast Episode 66 - The Last Minute Elf

It's only a week before Christmas so if you are like us you are scrambling in the shop trying to get those last minute gifts completed. This episode Tom and I discuss some projects we are working on and some ideas for project that you might use. 

With the support of our sponsor Gorilla Glue we are running The Last Minute Elf until the 28th of Dec. If you have a project that you are making for Christmas send us an email at or send us a picture on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and we will enter you for a chance to win. 

It is hard to believe we have almost finished another year hear at the Modern Woodworkers Association. It has been a great year and we really look forward to what 2015 has to offer us and the community. We would like to wish you all a very Happy Holidays and New Year. 

We would love to hear from you, send us an email or better yet leave us a voice message at 828-484-1874. Leave us a comment or question and we'll play it on air.  

Thanks again for listening!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tablet Holder

Working from my desk I find that I have really started to rely on not just my computer but also my tablet and smart phone. I use the to quickly look things up or display notes that I am referencing. The issue I have always had is how to display them without just propping them up. With this in mind I started researching tablet holders and found some wonderful examples of everything from a space in a standard desk organizer to a slot in a rustic live edge board. 

In designing mine I decided to use an old piece of Locust that I've had for years and love the look of it just barely cleaned up. I wanted to keep the construction fairly simple to allow the wood to be the main focus. There are two slots, one for the tablet and another for my phone. I experimented on the width of the groove and depth to work best with my tablet and phone. I wanted them to be at about the same angle while in the holder. I roughed the grooves out with a drill and cleaned the rest of with a chisel and router plane. I wanted the bottom of the groove to by black so I tinted Gorilla Glue epoxy black, it worked great and looked exactly like I hoped. 

To give the holder a little more interest and purpose I added two slotted brackets morticed in to hold a couple of pens. The brackets and legs on the bottom are both made of Wenge. The great thing about this project is that you can personalize it to whatever you like. It was fun and will serve me well. 

I used Gorilla Glue wood glue and epoxy in this project and want to thank them as our sponsor. Be sure and check out there great line of products. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

The spirit of the season

This year, we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the War to End All Wars, World War I. Looking back at the carnage, it's amazing to think that the small actions that took place in Sarajevo in July of that year would lead to four years of misery, death and destruction on a scale that could hardly be envisioned.

And, yet, there was an act that took place in the trenches along the western front that defied logic. Early Christmas morning in 1914, British soldiers heard Christmas carols being sung in English - coming from the German lines. Wary of a possible sneak attack, the British soldiers held their positions until they could see their adversaries leaving their trenches unarmed. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle as soldiers from the warring nations exchanged gifts of cigarettes and plum pudding and sang carols together. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a soccer game.

While this is an extreme case of what the holiday spirit can do, we are invited each year to do something meaningful for those we care about - or maybe even those we don't necessarily like. Oh, sure, we can easily shop online for the trendiest and most expensive gifts out there, but as woodworkers, we can do something that many others can't - we can give gifts that represent care, thought and our very own time.

Through our woodworking projects, we show our care for those who are special to us. From the thought that goes into design or selection of an appropriate plan to the choice of wood to the skill we put into making our joinery tight, each step of the crafting process reminds recipients that a real person who cares about them took the time to make something for them. 

A cutting board I built as a gift a few years back - it gets used for nearly every meal.
It will be a tangible reminder of that person every time it the gift is looked at or used. From a hope chest for a daughter, a picture frame for a newly married couple or a cutting board for a talented cook, those gifts will speak to them years into the future, and may become part of the family legacy that will outlive each of us. 

That's what the Last Minute Elf is all about - taking the time out of our busy schedules to get to our shops to make those memories. No, the projects don't have to be fancy they don't have to be elaborate or expensive. By being hand-crafted and a representation of our care, they become priceless to the recipients.

So, get out into those shops, woodworkers. Make those memories for the special people in your lives. And know that one day, many years from now, the recipient will look at your work and smile, knowing just how much time, care and love went into making that special gift for them.

Remember, we are looking for your Last Minute Elf submissions, ideas and tips - the best ones will win prizes courtesy of the Gorilla Glue Company. Be sure to send them to

Thursday, December 4, 2014

MWA Podcast Episode 65 - Just Around the Shop

Show Notes:

Hello, everyone and welcome to this - the 65th edition of the Modern Woodworkers Association online discussion about all things woodworking. I’m Dyami Plotke of and I’ll be your host today.

This episode of the Modern Woodworkers Association podcast is sponsored by The Gorilla Glue Company - for the toughest jobs on planet earth.

What’s in the shop?
  • Chris
    • Is abandoning his shop for a tool bag
      • Chris has been making spoons
    • Chris is cutting a block of wood to hold a touch screen. He calls it a “tablet holder”  
    • Seems to think tools need to be sharp
  • Dyami
    • Step, what step?
    • The Dust Collector is about to suck
  • Tom
    • His new saw is on the way
Blog post that piqued our interest
  • This year, Marc is combining his traditional Holiday Giveaway Bash with his new The Wood Whisperer Live meetings.
  • Join him on Friday, 12/6/14 at 8:00 pm eastern

Goings on in the MWA
This year, mark your calendars for the week of December 7 – 13 for the fun. This year, we are looking for you to submit some creative ideas for easy to build projects for the holiday season.   We are looking for you to show off your absolutely awesome ideas for holiday gifts can can be built quickly, finished easily and shipped in time to make that special someone tickled to be the lucky recipient.

We are coming up with some special prize packages for the best ideas for some different categories, including:
  • Best Turned project
  • Greenest project (using recycled materials)
  • Best project that will fit inside a large USPS flat rate shipping box (12 inches x 12 inches x 5 1/2 inches)
  • Best gift for a child
  • Best gift for an adult
  • Coolest tip to build a holiday project on time
If you think you can build something to fit one of these categories, we want to hear from you. Be sure to submit your entry – photos included – to with the subject line that reads:  Last Minute Elf Entry no later than December 28 (we figure that you will be rushing to get the project done by December 25 or 26, and will want to spend some time with your families instead of posting pics to us… thus, the extra days!). Once we get the entries, we will read the tea leaves and pick ourselves a few winners.

Community Conversation
  • The old man is older.
    • Happy birthday to our resident shop monkey, Mr. Tom Iovino.
  • The Modern Woodworkers Phone Number
    • (828)484-1874
    • Leave us a question, comment or knock-knock joke.

Where you can they find us:
If you’re missing us already, you can subscribe to the show on itunes. Just search for the Modern Woodworkers Association. Once you’re subscribed, you’ll be sure never to miss an exciting episode. While you’re in iTunes, please leave us a 5 star rating. It helps our rank so others can more easily find us.

If you want to find out more about the Modern Woodworkers Association, be sure to visit, follow the MWA on twitter @MWA_National, like the MWA on Facebook or circle Modern Woodworkers Association on Google+. While you’re there, join the MWA Google+ community for project sharing, discussion and loads of woodworking banter.