November 2013

Cutting the tails for jewelry cabinet drawers

  • Posted on: 23 November 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

I decided to do dovetailed drawers rather than the simple rabbeted sides I had originally planned, mostly because of how well the sides and feet of this project turned out. Basically, if I had completed things in my normal crappy manner, I would have said 'screw it' by this point and opted for the simple solution.

My setup to cut dovetails on the outfeed tableThat said, I have not truly cut dovetails for almost a year. That's the key down side of being an amateur woodworker. The real skills for handwork take practice, and a hobbyist often doesn't get much. However, even given that fact, I've done enough of them over the past 3 years that I'm hoping these won't turn out horribly. (I set a high bar for myself, no?)

So I've gotten the extra poplar to make the drawer sides and backs, and the 1/4" plywood to make the bottoms, and I've thicknessed all of the drawer parts. And I opted to cut the slots for the drawer bottoms now, rather than after the side joinery is cut. I'm building these sort of the same way I've done simple boxes, and I dont' see a reason not to do that now.

Now it's time to cut the dovetails. I use what I think of as the Gochnour method, only because watching his videos on the FineWoodworking website is how I learned it.  I could just as well call it the Klaus method or the Becksvoort method. I start by laying the tails out on the drawer sides using a combination square and a bevel. I tried out a dedicated dovetail angle marker from Veritas a couple years ago and liked them so much that I ended up getting all three, the saddle square, the 1:6 ratio, and the 1:8 ratio ones. For these, I'm using the less agressive 1:6 angles.

Clearing between dovetails with a coping saw

Cut parts for drawers

  • Posted on: 14 November 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

Trusty Table saw and my maple push blockNow that the case is together, I"ve taken about the last week to get the parts for the drawers thicknessed and cut. The secondary wood for the case was always a 'find it when I need it' part of this project rather than something I got up-front. So I bought 4 6" poplar boards from Home Depot. Then I thinned them to 1/2" thick. This was all chop saw and table saw work. Originally, when planning the project, i was just going to put the sides into rabbets in the front and back boards, but since I've spent so much time and quality materials on the rest of the project, I decided that I have to do dovetails on the drawers. So I sized the side pieces to support that.  

Here, all of the 10 drawer parts are lined up. I won't cut the plywood drawer bottoms until I get the dovetails cut and the drawers dry fit. 

Drawer fronts, backs, and sides cut for the 10 cabinet drawers

Happy 100th Birthday to Albert Camus

  • Posted on: 7 November 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

Photo of Albert CamusThe great Algerian novelist and philosophical writer, Albert Camus, was born on this day one hundred years ago, in 1913. If he hadn't died at the criminally young age of 46 in a car accident in 1960, he would be 100 years old today. Happy birthday, Msr. Camus.   There's a great article about him and the things many people don't know about him, over at the Huffington Post today. The article is by Professor Robert Zaretzky, a history professor at the University of Houston.

Why is this important? Well, personally, Albert Camus' writings and outlook are at the core of my own personal beliefs and philosophy.  And he was a genuinely heroic guy. He actually journeyed into Vichy France during World War II and took up a leading, very risky position in the French Resistance. He edited the underground resistance newspaper, Combat, all through the war. Unlike many intellectuals, he stood behind his beliefs no matter what the risk. And he fought injustice wherever he saw it using the tool he had at hand, which is to write about it, whether it was about the Nazis, or how the Berbers were treated in Algeria, or how the poor were treated in France and the United States.

In this unintelligible and limited universe, -- Albert Camus quote

Between that, his generally progressive politics while simultaneously being one of the few French or English liberals who didn't fall for the Soviet lies about the promise of communism, his frank musings about the morality and justness, or lack thereof, of the acts of murder and suicide, and his fundamental concept of The Absurd, are all vastly, hugely important contributions to human history and thought.


  • Posted on: 6 November 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

Big DataWhile searching for a comparitive analysis between the features of the various versions of the desktop database application Microsoft Access, I was presented with an odd 13 minute long ad from Cisco on their new product supporting Big Data. Now, while I don't really understand what the product they were pitching actually WAS, I did key on one word in the presentation that I've heard more and more recently . . . 'Hadoop'. 

What the heck is hadoop, you might ask? I know that I certainly was asking that question. After doing some research, I found out that it's related to the concepts of big data, the habits of very large organizations to aggregate really BIG sets of data into really BIG databases. Back in the early 2000s, Google was dealing with the problem of trying to be able to mine the data they were getting from repeatedly indexing the entire Internet. 

Crap!! Walnut blight is in the East

  • Posted on: 6 November 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

Black walnut tree showing the signs of Thousand Cankers Disease. Photo by Jeffrey Beall. Distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.I tend to follow the news about North American diseases of trees ever since I got interested in the case of the American Chestnut back in the 90s. I'm a casual, interested observer. I had heard about the disease that was impacting the Black Walnut trees west of the Rocky Mountains in the early 2000s.  It seems that the trees, which originally came from the eastern forests of the U.S., had no natural immunity to the local flea-sized pest, the twig beatle, or more importantly, to the fungus that this little beatle carries from tree to tree. 

It's depressing to realize how little knowledge, particularly in treatments, we have of tree diseases. Right now, tree disease or insect infestations are devastating the global populations of black walnut trees, elms, ash trees, butternut, Japanese larch, some European oak trees, and many others. The only defense proposed by the foresters in the United States to the walnut disease, otherwise known as Thousand Cankers Disease,  is to attempt to quarantine the infected black walnut populations of the west coast, to keep it away from the valuable and widespread Walnut groves in the Eastern United States.

Al Jazeera story about the possible impact of Thousand Cankers on the U.S. Black Walnut industry

I hadn't heard until today, that the disease has already made the jump. It evidently popped up in Tennessee as early as 2010. But as with all things tree related, movement is slow. Even verification is slow. And in late 2012, the disease was also detected in Butler County in my own native state of Ohio. This is horrible news. The black walnut tree population, so valued by woodworkers in North America may be doomed. And this is probably the nail-in-the-coffin for the butternuts, who were already devastated by their own special disease in earlier decades. The disease seems to be close to 100% fatal to the juglans nigra (Black walnut) species.

Gorgeous Tree at the end of our Street

  • Posted on: 6 November 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

The tree at the end of our street in early NovemberLiving in Martin's Landing here North of Atlanta, we are surrounded by a wonderful southern deciduous forest. This has been the best part about moving up from Florida last year.  Last Fall, the autumn leaves came and went so quickly . . . I believe we had a dramatic windstorm right after the full colors came on, and it stripped most of the leaves off the trees within a couple of days. Still, I had time last year to notice that the maple at the end of our street is a stunning golden color that is gorgeous for a couple of weeks in the Fall. This past weekend, I actually walked down the street just to snap a couple of pictures of it.

Fall is my favorite time of the year. And as is required of our overly sardonic age, I'm now hearing people bemoaning all of the worship of the beauty of this time of year. It's been done too much, you see. Or so I hear from the hipsters. My attitude about that is quite simple . . . bollocks.  Fall *is* the best time of the year. The blustery winds, the cooling weather, the falling leaves, smells and tastes of the harvest season, the return of the holidays, the joy of learning a new thing as school starts again, the scudding clouds in front of a gorgeous full moon on a chilly night walk down a street sidewalk strewn with crunchy multi-colored leaves, all smelling of freshness and wet oak.

Liam's Toolbox Kit

Liam's new toolbox

Toolbox kit, ready for Liam to assembleI cut the parts and put it together as a kit. It was simple enough that he could see immediately how it had to go together. That way, I didn't have to do too much talking, which is always my biggest problem when I try to teach hiim something. This is how the kit looks when I showed it to him.

Sunday, October 27, 2013 to Sunday, November 3, 2013
Finished project?: 

Cool Video Series about Wine on Le Creuset website

  • Posted on: 1 November 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

Le Creuset Wine Video Series with Andrea RobinsonI just noticed today that Le Creuset has a very nice wine video series started on their website. For those of you who don't know, Le Creuset is a French company (obviously) that makes these gorgeous enameled cast iron cook pieces.  I also like to cook, and I have the same stupid weakness for expensive tools in that avocation as I do in woodworking. Le Creuset pieces are not cheap, which is why we currently only own one, a very nice red skillet I found in a factory outlet store in Ellenton, Florida about three years ago. Currently, I'm lusting after one of their Dutch ovens, but at a list price of more than $250, that one will have to wait.  (It's funny to note that they don't actually call their Dutch oven a Dutch oven. In typical Franco-centric fashion, they call them French ovens.)  Or perhaps a nice, large cocotte.  A Le Creuset store is as dangerous for me as is a Lie-Nielsen road show.

Paying for Sustainable is Good, but Expanding What's Acceptable is Better

  • Posted on: 1 November 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

Bob Taylor and Alton Brown on the Alton Browncast, episode #18.There was an interesting crossover to woodworking in the latest Alton Brown podcast.  Yes, I like Alton Brown; he cooks, he's funny, and he's a geek. Don't give me any shit about it. I get enough on the topic from my wife. She can't stand him, for some reason.  So the Alton Browncast is normally about cooking and food related items, but in the last couple of weeks, he's branched out to talk about other topics that interest him. Episode 18 has him doing a 90 minute long interview with the founder of Taylor Guitars, Bob Taylor. It's a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion; they talk about the start of the business, ways to market your work, the production process, and food and diet, among other things. (Bob has just recently become a vegan, for health reaons.)  

Taylor Guitars emphasize the wood. This is from their promotional materialsBut from my perspective, the most interesting aspect of the interview came in the first half, from about the 20 minute to the 45 minute mark. Due to the recent legal difficulty at Gibson Guitars over improperly sourced exotic woods, it's clear that the entire industry has had to take a new look at their wood supplies. And it sounds as if Bob Taylor has done more than anyone to come up with a new way of suppling their factories with the woods they need.  If anyone is doing yeoman's work at pointing us all in a new sustainability direction in this area, it sounds like Mr Taylor is at the forefront. It's an interesting listen to hear him talk, with passion and thoughtfulness, about travelling around the world to find the finest woods for his production; to Alaska for Sitka spruce, to three small mountain villages in Honduras for rosewood, and to Camaroon for ebony.  It's the latter tale that has the most intrugue, and raised the biggest questions for me.