Blackboard Tap List

Whenever friends come over, one of the first questions that’s invariably asked is “What’s on tap?” (sometimes it even comes before hello!). I’ve been brewing my own beer on and off since I graduated college. It started out as a way to save money on the yellow fizzy stuff I was drinking at the time, but quickly turned into a gateway into the wild and wonderful world of beer. This was just at the beginning of the craft beer revolution, when the most exotic beers available were Sam Adams Boston Lager and Bass Ale.

I’ve been thinking for a while that it would be cool to have a small blackboard or two to advertise what I had on tap without having to constantly field question, but for some reason, it never occurred to me to make one. Until the other day.

There I was wandering aimlessly around my shop, as I often do, just tidying up, gazing loving at my tools, sitting on my workbench (all woodworkers do this, right?), when I noticed a scrap piece of blackboard material I had leftover from the Wood Whisperer’s charity build a couple years ago. Then I looked at the Langdon mitre box I’m still getting accustomed to. And back at the blackboard material. And it occurred to me what had to be done!

I puzzled over wood selection for a little while before deciding on white pine. I remembered Shannon Rogers talking about how nice “good white pine” is to work and that our perception of pine has been poisoned by the home center, so I’ve been picking up a couple boards every time I visit the lumberyard. And what could be more New England schoolhouse than a pine-framed blackboard?

And I have to say I agree wholeheartedly that good pine is a great wood to work. The “good stuff” is very straight-grained with very few knots, and having the same hardness as swiss cheese makes it a joy to plane.

I had originally decided to mould a curved profile with hollows and rounds, but it occurred to me, as I was staring at 4 rough-cut pieces, that it was too late. Whoops. So I went ahead with a simple rabbeted detail. Each of the pieces received a 1/4″x1/4″ rabbet on the back to hold the blackboard material and a 11/16″(?)x1/4″ rabbet on the front to provide a shadow line and some visual interest.

I had originally planned to glue the panel in place, but when I went to glue it up it again occurred to my that whatever mythical material this “blackboard” was made of (something like rough melamine) wasn’t going to provide a solid enough bond. After failing to glue it up, I resorted to a picture-framing technique using brad nails.

I had some cut brad nails on hand, which turned out to be perfect. Cut nails are shaped like little wedges, tapering to a point on 2 sides while the other 2 sides are parallel. I inserted the nails the “wrong way”, with the tapered side against the blackboard material. With full-size cut nails, this would split the wood along the grain, but with the little brads, it just wedged the blackboard material tight to the frame. If I ever do one of these again, I think I’ll set the blackboard in a groove like a traditional frame-and-panel, but the brads seem to be going their job for now.

I finished it with a very light coat (maybe a 1/2 lbs cut at most) of blond shellac to control blotching, which I mostly sanded away, then two thin coats of Arm-R-Seal (gloss then satin), and wax topcoat.

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Shootin’ up

After screwing up several aspects of the last moulding I shot, I thought I’d redo it. And I remembered to document it this time!

This time, I had the advantage of being able to trace the previous moulding, rather than making it up as I went along. Granted, there was still a lot of ad-libbing and it’s not an exact replica of the original, but it’ll do.

The first step is to rough out the curve as a series of “steps”. I started off with a plough plane, switched off to a medium shoulder plane when the cuts got too deep for the plough, and hogged off some waste with a scrub plane and jointer plane (the scrub plane takes a bigger bite, but sometimes the weight of the jointer felt more stable). Hey, I paid for all these tools, I might as well use them all, right?

Then I chamfered all the steps with a shoulder plane. The goal was to reduce the amount of material I had to remove with the moulding planes. Not only are the moulding planes much more difficult to sharpen, but their high carbon steel blades are really soft compared to the A2 blade in my shoulder plane, so they lose their edge more quickly.

Because it’s a sweeping curve, I ended up using several different moulding planes to produce the complex curve. This was also important because it allowed me to pick and choose the planes that cut better (hey, they’re a couple hundred years old, they deserve a little leeway).

Finally, I cleaned up the transitions and chatter marks with a little freehand sandpapering. Voila!

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A little hooker

I recently moved into a new office space with a new desk, which is really the first permanent location I’ve had in about 8 months. Now that I have a permanent home, I thought my headphones deserved the same. And since I have a sit-stand desk, that’s a little limited…. Unless I rig something to the desk!

I thought I could find one of those Command hooks to hang them on, but they’re really designed to fit on a wall and only the teeny-tiny ones fit on the edge of a 3/4″ top. So I decided it was time to get into the shop :)

I designed it to attach with a large Command strip. The adhesive strip wraps around the desk, using a little less than 3/4″ on the  side and the remainder on the bottom… Hopefully that will hold over time!

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This is so awesome!

I couldn’t match the grain that well if I tried!

I was sorting through my walnut stash for the stiles and rails for the bottom case and the frame and panel door for the bottom case when I noticed this piece. The grain is a bit funky for a frame piece, but I kinda like funky and thought it could look cool next to the highly figured panel.

I tried a few different configurations until I noticed how perfectly this matched. I was sold!

Matching the grain this perfectly doesn’t seem like a big deal until you notice a few things: 

  • The panel is resawn and bookmatched 
  • These are from different boards
  • The panel is running north-south and the rail is running east-west

I couldn’t match it up that perfectly if I tried. But for the record, I’m totally taking credit for it.

Now I just hope I can get the panel and rail to line up that way in the finished piece…


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Book matching

Right off the saw

I saw this awesome figure and decided I had to use it to make a panel. Of course, it’s only 6 or so inches wide and I didn’t have my board stretcher with me, so I knew I had to try my hand at resawing. So I did what I did best: I winged it.

Ok, I actually did a test cut on some pine first, but that didn’t make me feel any more confident when cutting the actual piece. There’s a slight difference between slicing straight-grained pine vs. figured walnut.

I did the resawing on my bandsaw and it actually went pretty well. Many articles and books have been written on the subject of resawing and many gadgets and jigs have been created. Turns out all I really needed was some careful setup. I made sure the fence was parallel to the miter slots and that the fence and blade were square to the table. While making the cut, I had to pay real close attention to ensuring that the board remained tight to the fence. 

If I was slicing paper-thin veneer, it probably wouldn’t work as well, but I’m not cutting paper-thin veneer.

The most beautiful picture you've ever seen

Glued up, planed, and splashed with alcohol


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The Three Amigos

A grandfather clock is basically three boxes stacked on top of each other, right? So I must be done! 

Okay, well the (for lack of a technical term) bottom box still needs a face frame and a door and some moulding between the cases and feet and… okay, so maybe there’s quite a bit more work to do, but it’s looking a lot more like a clock than a stack of lumber!

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A Big Front Door

Laying out the curve

When I saw the cathedral pattern on this board, I knew I needed to use it as a solid door on the front of the case. 

After looking through my collection of grandfather clock photographs (what do you mean you don’t have a collection of grandfather clock photos?) I decided to use an overlay door. I roughed out the height & width about 1/2″ oversize to compensate for the 1/4″ rabbets I planned to cut around the perimeter.

To lay out the curve, I traced the opening onto a piece of paper, taped the paper to the door, and traced around the curve with a compass set to 1/4″. This gave me, more or less, a line 1/4″ bigger than the curve while preserving the outline.

The curve was cut on the bandsaw and cleaned up with a combination of bench chisels and good ole’ sandpaper. I used a shoulder plane to cut a 1/4″ x 1/4″ rabbet on the sides and back. The rabbet on the curve was cut mostly with chisel work.

It took a little fiddling to get the door properly fitted in the opening, but it now fits properly, with a little extra to allow for wood movement. Now I just hope it doesn’t warp.


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