Laziness & Old Friends Lost

How do they do it? Other bloggers are able to put out content on a consistent level. I managed it for a short time, but lately I’ve had a bit of “Writer’s Block”. I know what I want to write about but when I get in front of the keyboard everything goes blank. That’s been a large part of the reason that I haven’t written anything since April. Another reason is I’ve been struck with an extreme case of laziness. That’s right, I said it. Laziness!

I was supposed to have given you a day by day account of the class I took with Mike Pekovich, from Fine Woodworking Magazine. Let me say right now that it was a great experience and I’m glad I took the class. My wife says she loves the cabinet and shows it off to visitors that stop by. Only thing is it’s sitting on a console table because she has no clue where to hang it. I truly enjoyed doing the Kumiko panel that adorns the cabinet. I’ve even made a couple of additional framed pieces of Kumiko. I’m even planning a class, for the Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild, to pass on what I learned from Mike.

The other kink, in my plans, was being laid up for 6 weeks, following a total replacement of my right knee. More time that was available to me to write, but I spent that time watching TV instead. Binging, I think they call it. But, I digress. I had the time to write and had plans to use it, but I didn’t. Laziness, again. I must say though, my walk has gotten a lot better since the surgery. So, I can’t complain too much.

As the holiday season approached, I’ve spent some time in the shop. It was great to get back there after being laid up for a while. So far, I’ve turned 9 pens, which were gifts for my coworkers. I’ve already handed them out and I think they liked them. I’ve also made one cutting board, which will be a gift for a dear friend. I’m through making for this holiday season but I’m planning for next year, already.

Probably, the last thing that interrupted my writing and contributed to my Writer’s Block was the passing of my dear friend, Tom. We had lost track of each other and had not seen each other since my wedding almost twenty-five years ago. He had been my best friend during a time when I needed one. We were room mates at a time when we were both recovering from our first marriages ending. It was a time when we both drank too much and realized we had to stop. We supported each other as we both got back out into the dating scene. He was a great friend and a great guy.

Tom’s ex-wife, Jackie, sent me a message on Facebook, that he was sick and in the hospital. She said if I wanted to see him I should go, because the outcome was not promising. I went to see him but he was not awake. A couple of days later, I got the text that he was gone. All I could think about was time wasted. I’ve looked for any of the good that came out of his passing. One was reconnecting with Jackie and the other was gaining a new Facebook friend, Tom’s daughter, Alexandra. She probably doesn’t remember when we met face to face. She was about a year old when she attended my wedding. She can be heard and seen briefly, in the video of the wedding. She was a bit of a chatterbox.

I guess the best advice I can give anyone is to make time. Seek out that lost friend before it’s too late. Enjoy life. Sorry if this post turned out to be a bummer. I’ll get back to the regular scheduled stuff in my next post. May you have a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year. ‘Til next time.



Spring has finally sprung. All that is, is in the glory of renewal. Just as Easter symbolizes a rebirth, so does Spring. The trees are budding, the grass is greening, and all is good. Today was my eldest son’s birthday. Like many parents have experienced, he moved his family halfway across the country. This means birthday greetings were limited to a pleasant chat on the phone with him and his family. It was a good visit but not quite the same as face to face.

How does this fit into the topic of renewal you might ask? Well, it’s like this, I wasn’t always the best father while he was growing up. His mother and I divorced when he was around ten years old. It wasn’t the most amicable situation. But with age has come reflection, wisdom, and the hope of redemption. My redemption, I hope.

Due to custody arrangements, I was limited to every other weekend with him and his siblings. I missed out on so very much of their young lives. I worked long and odd hours. I missed school programs, Scout meetings and other important events. It wasn’t till many years later I realized the stupidity of my past and decided it was time to make changes in my life. For the most part, the change has been good, though not always easy.

While I was looking for something, in a storage area in our basement, I came across something that made me stop and take note. It was a tool tote, that Andy had made for me many years ago. It had been a Father’s Day present he made while in Cub Scouts. It still touches my heart when I look at it. It’s nothing fancy. Just some boards nailed together with a wooden dowel for the handle. It’s painted gray and he painted pictures of a hammer, saw, and screwdriver on it. It was a nice little tote and I loved it.

At that time in my life woodworking was not the passion of my life. I wouldn’t take it up till several years later. I took part in other crafts to keep the creative juices flowing. I used the tote to carry those items around. Since RA had taken some of the finer, intricate skills from my hands, the tote had been put away, till it was rediscovered. With its rediscovery comes renewal. Renewal of purpose. Renewal of family and faith. The faith in family.

So, my son Andy, this blog post is for you. I’m not a rich man, with lots of money to shower you with. But I am a renewed man with much love to share. So Happy Birthday, Andy. I love you.


I Don’t Have ADHD. (Oh look, there’s a squirrel)

That’s kind of how I’ve felt, lately. There always seems to be something I need to do, or start to do and something else gets my attention and there it went. I had plans for a couple of other posts, but that damn squirrel ran by and I had to chase it. Of course, I didn’t catch it. But I’ve decided to learn from my shop dog, Holly. Stay on task till the job is finished or someone makes you come inside. In her case, it usually involves camping out under a tree, with a squirrel or a possum in it, staring straight up till I make her come in. Even then, she doesn’t always budge.

I know, you’re asking yourself; “Where is he going with all this about dogs and treed possums and squirrels?” Well it’s got to do with staying on task. My shop is full of projects that are half complete or in pieces. They are that way because something else got my attention and distracted me. Mind you it was probably one of the other unfinished projects that distracted me. But you get my point. Focus is what I’ve been lacking. Focus is what I need to find.

I just started reading Mike Pekovich’s book The Why and How of Woodworking. While I’m not ready to give a review, I’m only on a couple of chapters, it looks like a fascinating book. I just finished the chapter titled “Make Shop Time Matter” and let me say it hit me like a ton of bricks. Words that I need to hear to get myself focused on the task at hand. Even telling me that it’s okay to occasionally set a project aside and come back to it later, or maybe, not at all. The main theme that I took from it was get to the shop every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes.

This made me take stock of the unfinished projects in my shop and decide how to proceed. There’s the cradle I started, for my daughter, after she told me she was pregnant with her first child. All the pieces were cut out of some beautiful curly cherry. The joinery was never done so the pieces are taking up valuable room in my shop. And besides that, my granddaughter is now 8 years old. In the words of Homer Simpson “DOH!”

There’s a gift project, that I started for my oldest granddaughter, 9 years ago. Luckily, if I get it finished, she can still enjoy it. Her birthday comes up in July and I hope to have it ready for her then. I won’t say what it is, because I don’t know if she reads her grandpa’s blog or not. Who knows what a high school junior reads nowadays?

I’m taking a class, from Mr. Pekovich, next month, at the Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild. I am really looking forward to it, for many reasons. The class is building a Wall Hanging Kumiko Cabinet. Kumiko is an awesome looking art. I’m looking forward to learning the skill. I hope these crooked hands can manage it. I also look forward to discussing Zen and the Art of Woodworking. Kumiko seems very Zen. I had to get permission from the wife before signing up for the class. When she saw a photo of the Kumiko cabinet, she was sold.

And it starts again. I start on one topic and I got sidetracked by another. It’s even invaded my blogging. So, before I chase that rabbit too far down the hole, I’m going to sign off for this post. If possible, I hope to post a couple of times, during the class with Mr. Pekovich. It may be a short post, but I’ll give it a genuine effort. So, until next time, keep making sawdust.


Winter (Please Go the *#!? Away)


You know, I always thought I couldn’t stand to live in a climate where you didn’t have all four seasons. This year I’m rethinking that position. As most of you know, winter this year, in the Midwest has been brutal. Just when you think things might be warming up, BAM, another round of snow and frigid temperatures. This has made some serious dents in my shop time.

Due to my years of procrastination, my shop has no insulation and only a couple of space heaters to keep it warm. When the outside temps are in the 30’s, I can put on a jacket and work with little discomfort. Unfortunately, lately the temperature has been in the 10’s and 20’s, too cold for my crooked hands. The medical community calls the resulting depression SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. What I call it can’t be printed here, as this is a “Family Friendly” Blog.

I have been getting a few hours of relief every Thursday, when I help with the Basic Woodworking Class, at the Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild. Nothing like the smell of fresh cut Oak or Cherry to lift the spirits. Plus, helping to bring the craft to new students is uplifting to my psyche.

The rest of the time, I’ve been searching the wide world of woodworking on the internet. It’s amazing some of the talent that is out there. I have several people that I have followed for years, like Christopher Schwarz, at Lost Art Press, and the Wood Whisperer, Marc Spagnoulo. Whether the written word or video, they always keep me informed. But there are others I’ve found whose work I have enjoyed, George Vondriska, with the Woodworkers’ Guild of America, April Wilkerson, Matt Cremona, Anne of All Trades, or just the Fine Woodworking Magazine website. All offer entertaining and informative content.

Some of these “Content Providers” are obviously sponsored by various tool companies. When you notice that every tool they use is orange or green you kind of figure that out. Some people think this is terrible and a complete sell out. To my way of thinking, more power to them if they’re providing quality content. Hey, I’m open to a sponsorship if some wonderful tool company wants to provide me with tools. All though, seeing my face, on a video, might scare small children and animals.

Enough of my ramblings, for now. I’ve got to go fire up the snowblower to clean the 4 inches of partly cloudy off my driveway. Be safe out there and I hope you’re making sawdust whenever possible.


Catching Up

As I’m sitting here, sipping a cup of hot chocolate, I realized I hadn’t written in about 7 months. For this I apologize to whatever readers I have out there and to myself. You see writing this blog is something I enjoy. It gives me an outlet to share a bit of my world with yours. A lot has happened in the last seven months. So, I guess, I’ll try to get you all caught up.

The last weekend in June and the first weekend in July, I taught another class on building a Holtzapffel workbench. I only had two students this time, but all seem to have a good time and were happy with the results. To be truthful, only one of the benches has been finished. The other is waiting to be finished after a family emergency took that student away from the class before completion. But I’m still helping him out, when time allows.

Also, in July, was a week of vacation for the wife and me. I used the excuse of a traditional lobster bake, in Maine, to make it to Lie-Nielson Toolworks’ Annual Open House. Of course, we also spent the better part of a week in Boston, as her part of the trip. This Missouri boy learned all about how to make it around a large Metropolis on a subway. It was definitely a new experience for us. We took Amtrak’s Downeaster, on Saturday morning to Portland, Maine. There we rented a car and made the drive to Warren, Maine, home of Lie-Nielson Toolworks.

Unfortunately, we were a little late making it to Warren and we missed out on the demonstrations offered during the Open House. But I was able to catch up and renew some acquaintances, as well as make some new. I was recruited by Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild Director of Training, Norm Carpenter, to hand out some brochures to prospective teachers. A virtual who’s who of woodworking talent, Phil Lowe, Matt Bickford, Peter Follansbee, and Megan Fitzpatrick. There were more, but that’s all I was able to speak to before the dinner started. After a wonderful lobster dinner, we were treated to a great presentation by Peter Follansbee. The keynote speaker was supposed to be Thomas Moser but he took ill the night before, so Peter stepped up and did an outstanding job, with no preparation. All in all, it was a great trip.

Once we got back to good ole Kansas City, it was back to the salt mine. My niece, Stephanie, was getting married in October and she asked me for help making centerpieces, for her reception. You see, she was the Flower Girl for my wife and my wedding, 23 years ago, at the age of not quite, 5 years old. So of course, I was going to help her.

All she needed was 30-something log cookies, 12 inches in diameter and finished with polyurethane. I figured, “No Problem, Right”. Guess what? Problem! It all started innocent enough. My brother-in-law dropped off the logs that they wanted to use. They were picked out by Stephanie and her mother, from a tree that was taken down on church property where my brother-in-law worked. Perfect, I thought, “Holy logs. What could go wrong?” Of course, that was the start of, let’s call it an adventure.

It all started with both of my chainsaws shooting craps. I ended up renting one from that big orange box store to get the logs cut into manageable sections for the bandsaw. Then came the realization that my bandsaw was about an inch and a half too small to cut perfectly round log cookies. So, I consulted with the Bride and her father. It was determined that she would be okay with one flat spot on each cookie. This gave me enough room to slice them from the log on my bandsaw. One crisis averted. Next, I coated each cookie with Pentacryl wood stabilizer. That worked good at keeping the bark attached to each cookie, a required preference. Then after a couple of days of drying time, the cracks started.

Thank God only about a third of them cracked, but I was left with figuring how to repair the cracked cookies. My first solution was to do an epoxy pour, just like on the internet. After the mess associated with about 5 pours, I decided to find another way. That other way was a good, old fashioned butterfly inlay. As stated on a T-shirt I purchased over the summer, “Stops Cracks in their Tracks.” Next came the usual sanding and sanding some more. That was followed by the numerous coats of polyurethane. Then it was wrap them up, box them up, and deliver to the Bride a couple of weeks before the wedding. I snuck a special cookie, with a heart shaped inlay in with the rest of them. I figured it would be for the Bridal parties table. Let me state emphatically, this was a learning experience and I love my niece dearly. But, if I’m ever asked by anyone else, ever, to do this again, I will politely decline.

With the wedding behind us, life moved on in its usual organized chaotic way. I took a couple of classes. I learned making Shaker Oval Boxes from John Wilson and made a knife in a class with Mike Jones, of the KCWG. I also taught a class, for the first time, on making a traditional six board chest. All students seemed to be happy with their chest when all were done. So I’ll call it a success. One other thing, in the middle of all the chaos, I turned 60 years old. A milestone birthday at which, I used to think my life would be over by then. Guess what? I’m not about to stop, now. I may move a bit slower and creak when I move, but I’m still moving.

Tonight, was the annual Christmas dinner at the Guild. Awards were handed out, warm wishes exchanged, and a great meal was had by all. So, I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. And with that, I think we’re all caught up. See you next year.


Finding the Time

Working a full-time job can really cut into my woodworking shop time. Not only the job, but the fatigue that comes with my RA. While I might have a couple of free hours in the evening, I don’t always have the energy to put them to good use. Sometimes I have the energy but my joints tell me “NO! We’re not moving”. And sometimes it’s something totally different, like this weekend.

While I know that I should be in the shop, I have several projects in various stages of completion. Today, is movie time with my youngest son, Justin. Since my wife doesn’t care for Sci-fi or Comic book movies, Justin is my companion for these movies. We have followed the MCU from it’s beginning 10 years ago and in about an hour we’ll be checking out Avengers: Infinity Wars. Since my children are all grown, I have to find the time to spend with each of the 3 of them. While the older two, Andrew and Amy, have families of their own, Justin hasn’t taken the plunge yet. He can find a couple of hours to spend with the old man, to see a movie and catch up.

A couple of years ago, I arranged a big gathering of the family for a special movie. My son, Andrew, has been a Star Wars fan since he was very young. Now his son, Damien, has gotten the Star Wars bug. When Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out, I arranged to watch it with the whole family, those that wanted to anyway. It was a joy to see the wonder, in the eyes of my grandson, as he watched it all on the IMAX screen.

Movie time with the children and grandchildren is great. But, I also have to work to find time to spend with the one closest to me, my wife. On this front, I admit, I could improve. Where will I ever find the time, I need. Well, it comes from time in the shop, here at home. I know that it’s family that is the most important place to spend my time. This may not have been a woodworking related post, but it was an important one for me. Don’t worry about finding the time for woodworking. It will come around. Worry about finding the time for family…it’s most important.



As I sat through another brutally, cold Kansas City winter, I came to the root of my problem. That problem being, it’s too cold to be in my shop working at my favorite hobby, woodworking. And with my RA, being warm while working in the shop is a necessity.  Let me start somewhere closer to the beginning so you can see my problem.

Back when I first got bitten by the woodworking bug, from watching Norm Abrams, I started collecting the tools I would need to pursue this craft. I started out by working in our attached garage and spilling out to the driveway, when necessary. In 2007, I built a 24×30 shop built in the back yard. It is basically a garage because the city says so. It has a concrete driveway that connects it with the front of our house. It’s a good thing to have when bringing in materials but an added expense to figure in. After the electricity was added, I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to make sawdust.

I was so consumed by my desire to make sawdust, that I failed to prepare for a Midwest winter. This failure to prepare for a winter spilled over into other issues, like storage. With no insulation up, there were no walls up. And with no walls up, there was nowhere to hang a cabinet for storage. This problem continues to show itself every time I bring home a new tool or wood for the next project. What really stands out are the used cabinets that I picked up at an estate sale, shortly after building my shop. They continue to sit on the floor and have become shelves to pile stuff on. Disorganization thy name is Kevin.

So recently, while looking for a tool in the various piles of stuff, around my shop, I had an epiphany. My own procrastination was the cause of my terribly disorganized shop. I decided that this was the year that I was going to make a dent in my shop organization problems. While I still have a couple of projects to finish up, I’ve begun making plans. I’ve sat down and drawn out a finished layout for the shop for tools and cabinets. Of course, before that can be put into action, I have to insulate and cover the walls. But, I have to start somewhere.

So, as I wait for winter to finally breathe it’s last for this year, I wait. And in true procrastinator form I say.” I’ll get to that tomorrow”.



I was watching The Wood Whisperer’s Friday Live this morning on YouTube, never mind that it was Saturday morning. Anyway, Marc Spagnuolo was speaking about a “Meet n Greet” he attended while on the road in Washington. He spoke about how just a few years ago it was thought that woodworking was getting old and dying out. But now there has been a resurgence and a youth movement, so to speak. This got me to thinking as to what my recent experiences showed about where the craft is going.

The bulk of my experience with the Woodworking Community, as a whole, is thru my membership in the Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild. I’ve written before about when I joined the Guild 13 years ago, it mostly, consisted of about 80 middle-aged and older men. That has changed dramatically in the last few years. The Guild now is closing in on close to 800 members and they are not just a bunch of middle-aged and older men, though many of those original 80, from when I joined, are still around. Now they have a new job, teaching the next generations of woodworkers.

When I was in school, Junior High and High School, my favorite class were the Industrial Arts classes. We had metal shop, wood shop, drafting, and electrical class. These were great classes with great teachers. Now days, our public schools have dropped these, for the most part, from their curriculum. I guess they are worried about being sued in our too litigious society. I believe the absence of “Shop Class” is being felt and a new generation is looking for an outlet for their creative side.

For me, this is most evident in the Guild’s “Basic Woodworking” class’ popularity. I’ve been involved with this class for a couple of years, minus time off for cancer treatment. This class is a 10-week class, for 12 students, that is offered 4 times a year. It is usually filled up within hours of being offered. I believe we are already filled for the rest of this year. In the class, the students make three projects that are designed to teach them skills that they will need in making almost any project. The first project is a cutting board with a handle where they learn about milling and gluing up panels. The second project is a Presentation Box that teaches miters, using a router table, etc. The third project is an Arts & Crafts inspired plant stand that teaches layout techniques along with different joinery techniques. Along the way there are lectures on various tools and some “sidebar” projects, like making a bench hook or a glue scraper. And the final week is a lesson on finishing with the Guild’s resident finishing expert, Craig Arnold.  All in all, a very well-rounded class.

My favorite part is the students. There are a very good mix of our society, today. Young and middle-aged adults, men and women, all races, it’s just a great way to bring them all together, woodworking. It’s really fun to be involved with this class. It’s also helped rejuvenate me and my love for the craft by sharing what I’ve learned thru the years. One of the great things is past students are recruited to be instructors in future classes. So, it keeps the knowledge going.  And what could be better.


Teaching? Me?

After a little bit of nudging, by the Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild Assistant Training Director Norm Carpenter, I agreed to teach a class for the Guild. Norm just kind of guided me to the decision. No pressure except what I put on myself. Starting this Saturday, March 10th, I’ll be taking a couple of weekends to share the knowledge imparted on to me by Christopher Schwarz, in September of 2008. I will be teaching 4 members of the Guild how to build a Holtzapffel Workbench. The first lesson will be how to spell Holtzapffel.

I took the class at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking in Berea, Kentucky. The class was a gift from my wife, Vickie, for my 50th birthday. It is still the best birthday present I’ve ever received. This was also, by his own words, the first workbench class taught by Chris. Of course, he has gone on to be the go-to guy for all things workbench. At that time, I was fairly green in my woodworking abilities. I’ve made some improvements since then. The biggest thing, at that time, was that I needed a workbench for my new shop.

My wife accompanied me on the trip. While I was in class, each day, she was exploring Berea for antiques and the like. She even got to explore the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. I couldn’t go since I was in class. One of the things I missed out on. But the class was so great. Learning from Chris and Kelly for 6 days was remarkable. I met some interesting people from all over the country. The student that drove the farthest came from Ketchikan, Alaska. Larry and I exchanged gifts later that year. I sent him three types of Kansas City BBQ sauce and he sent me some smoked salmon.

The one thing I remember most about the class was the aches at the end of the day. I was only a few years out from my diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis and the doctor was dialing in my treatment. So when I went back to the hotel, each evening, the first thing I did was take a long, hot shower. The saving grace was on Wednesday of the week. During a wine and cheese gathering, hosted by Kelly and his wife, he brought in a local masseuse to massage away the aches for those who wanted it. Let me just say, that saved my week. Friday evening, we all went up the road a piece, to a little Italian restaurant in Richmond, Kentucky. We had to go there because Berea in in a “Dry” county and most of the party wanted beer. It was a lovely restaurant and a good time was had by all.

The next morning was class only till about noon. Everyone was finishing up and loading up their benches to go home. All except Larry from Alaska. He was staying for another two classes before heading home. It had been an eight-day drive for him over ferry and highway, so he wanted to get his money’s worth. We all said our goodbyes and went our different ways. The wife and I stopped for the night in Fort Wayne, Indiana on our way home. The next day offered one of my most challenging drives of my life. We drove across most of Illinois thru the remnants of Hurricane Ike. I think having the weight of my workbench in the back of my truck saved us a couple times when the wind would gust. We were finally thru it just west of St. Louis. It was clear sailing on home from there.

This will always be a defining time in my woodworking life. For the first time I met and worked along side woodworkers from all over the country. And it was fun no matter how tired I was. I only hope my students will have as much fun.


In Pursuit of Heirloom Tools

If you’re a woodworker, in Kansas City, there are two things you can count on in January, Lie- Nielson will bring their Hand Tool Event to town and they’ll bring terrible weather with them. You may think I’m joking but one year they arrived to a huge snowstorm and today temperatures were in single digits after being in the fifties yesterday. Coincidence, who knows. One thing is for sure, woodworkers will come from miles around in pursuit of the elusive “Heirloom Tool”.

What is an heirloom tool? Well, simply put, a tool of such quality, that it last for more than a generation and is handed down to the next generation. I have a couple of heirloom tools that were handed down to me. The first is my Grandfather’s Stanley-Bailey No. 5 jack plane. The other is a Stanley #9 ½ block plane that belonged to my Dad. Are they great, perfect tools? No. They are user grade that were used by the two big role models of my youth. For that, they hold a place of honor in my shop.

I made my own trek to visit my friends from Maine.  Yes, I do consider them friends even though they take my money every year.  I’m just now getting to know the newer crew that came this year and last, but for many years we were visited by Curtis, Ted, and Tim. Tim and I would always compare aches and pains. Mine from my RA and his from his other job working on a lobster boat. That’s what makes the whole Hand Tool Event a great time. Oh yeah, there’s the tools, too.

I envy the guys that can go in to one of the events and go hog wild. My treasurer (Wife) severely limits my participation in the fun. Usually one tool a year, if I’m lucky. This year was one of the Brian Boggs designed spokeshaves. Last year I bought the concave one and this year the curved one. So next year will be the flat one. See I got this all figured out.  It’s just by the time I’ve upgraded all my hand tools to Lie-Nielson, I’ll be 92 and ready to hand them down to one of my grandsons. Heirloom tools, indeed.