Addition by Division

Cutlery Divided and Conquered

Looking at this past year of woodworking projects (and some more coming up), I think they can be divided into three categories:

  • Outdoor furniture, which focuses more on build quality than on the finish work.
  • Indoor pieces, which demands a high-quality fit and finish.
  • Quick solutions that aren’t meant to meet high standards, but get the job done.

Adirondack chairs and planters, for example, certainly fall into the first category. Cutting boards and trays, shelves, boxes, and a walnut bench (coming soon) clearly fall into the second. And the third category includes projects like the dog feeder stand, Jenga blocks, garden boxes, and this week’s project: the cutlery dividers. Oooh, ahhh.

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Custom Project: Balcony Tray

Finished Tray

Not too long ago, I got a cryptic email from a work colleague. It read in part, “Take a look at this amateur drawing I did in 2 min. What do you think?”

The drawing was in an attached PowerPoint file. For a moment I wondered if I was being subject to a phishing scam. Or maybe this was a test of my email security practices? But after a thorough forensic analysis, I concluded the email was legit and opened the file. In it was an illustration of a tray with two sets of legs sticking down from it. My friend, it seemed, was asking me to make him a custom dining tray. I agreed and it turned out to be an engineering puzzle that was fun to solve.

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Full of Compressed Air

Powered Up

Question: What do you feel when you come across a piece of machinery that no longer works? Do you feel sadness that it’s not able to fulfill its potential? Confusion as to why it isn’t working as it should? Anger that some kind of engineering injustice is being inflicted upon you, it, and the world? Joy that this is proof that machines will not rise up and challenge humanity for supremacy? Or nothing? Maybe you feel nothing because it’s just a machine and this is kind of stupid and there are more important things in the world.

I think most people probably go with “nothing,” because they are normal, well-adjusted people with better things to spend their time thinking about. Not me, though. I feel compelled. Compelled to see the machine returned back to its rightful working state.

And that’s why I spent too much time and too much money resurrecting an old air compressor.

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Duct, Duct, Goose

Centralized Dust Collector and Ductwork

As I’ve been working on more and more projects in my shop, I’ve become increasingly annoyed by the mess — not to mention the health hazards — caused by sawdust. It’s not like I’ve been letting machines just spew out dust willy nilly; I’ve been following the well-worn path of cheapniks everywhere by connecting a shop vacuum to my machines. But, shop vacuums really aren’t made for this purpose and it’s annoying (not to mention a tripping hazard) to move the vacuum to each machine as I work around the shop.

I guess you could say I had approached another one of those lines between adolescence and adulthood, like drinking amber liquids from cut-crystal glasses; hiring professional movers instead of begging friends for help; making beds after sleeping in them; preparing entire meals instead of opening a can of smoked oysters and a box of crackers. It was time, in other words, to be a man and install a central dust collection machine and permanent ductwork in my shop.

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Cornhole in One

A few months ago, I decided to make some outdoor games for when friends come over. I started with a simple oversized Jenga set using leftover 2x4s from the dog kennel demolition. And while folks do seem to love Jenga — especially when a falling tower has the potential to break a toe — I decided I needed to add a less destructive game to the mix. Cornhole to the rescue.

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The Box Is the Present

Finished Box

When one of my nieces finished graduate school and celebrated her 27th birthday last year, I told her I was making her a present and it would be done “soon.”

“Soon” is a relative term, of course, and by geologic standards, she barely had to wait at all; I ended up only a year behind schedule and finally gave it to her a few weeks ago. I thought I’d take a moment to write about its construction here.

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Crown Molding: Adventures in Angles

As I’ve written about in recent posts, I’ve been doing some work in our living room and on the fireplace in particular. Re-painting it and re-crafting the mantle were two projects from this spring. Both projects turned out well, but something was missing. The room just wasn’t “finished.” What it needed was some crown molding to give it that final flourish.

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Softening the Hardscape

As previously described, I’m incredibly lucky to have a large shop on our property in the form of a four-bay garage. However, being a four-bay garage, it sits as a rather large and imposing structure at the top of our driveway. It’s not exactly inviting.

In an attempt to rectify this, I decided what was needed were some wooden planters filled with colorful flowers. This would soften the brown and brick façade and also give me a relatively quick and easy weekend project to work on.

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For the Bird(houses)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been busy working on a wide variety of projects, including rebuilding small engine carburetors, taking down fencing, building garden plots, creating a wildflower field, replacing a well pump, and minor auto repairs, among other things.

It’s one of the “other things” I’m writing about today: building and hanging birdhouses. A dozen of them, actually, from small chickadee abodes to huge owl boxes. They’re fun to build, relatively easy, relatively cheap and provide joy for years. Building them is the easy part. The hard part is mounting them high enough on trees. But that’s nothing a little cleverness can’t solve.

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