A week off work to be in the shop to work!

The week before last I took some leave from the Army to get a couple of commission jobs done for clients. The plan was simple, I would wake up and hit the shop just like I would if it was my full-time job. But before we get into just how productive I was going to be with an entire week in the shop, I need to mention a little hiccup that would cause a couple of ripples over the week. So there I was the Friday before my big week off running a few twelve-inch red oak boards through my Ridgid thirteen inch thickness planer (13-12=1)… well the math works out, right? After a couple passes I hear a terrible noise a planer just shouldn’t ever make and quickly turn it off. Somehow even with the powerful fan on the planer to eject the shavings and a 2hp dust collection sucking them out, a large amount of chips got jammed up in the dust ejection port causing the loud noise and commotion. This not only broke off several blades from the fan it broke the belt that powered the fan and whatever else unseen damage. Now I’ve owned this planer for a while now and it has worked perfectly up till now. I get little to no snipe and the blades are not only cheap and double-sided but also easy to swap out. So long story a little shorter, I contacted Ridgid’s Warranty department and they had no record of my warranty. The lady then told me I could take it to my local Home Depot and they might be able to help me. Well after speaking with the folks at Home Depot that handle their tool rentals and repairs I was able to drop it off for repair and wait to see if it would be covered under warranty.

Ridgid Planer

Now, let’s get back to my week in the shop. Of course now this week is over shadowed by the fact my planer is in the shop… no big deal right? It was awesome to be able to wake up every morning and get right in the shop after some breakfast and coffee. I really hope that this week is just an image of what my post Army life will be like. One project that I needed to finish this week would be a couple of Plaques for the local chapter of Team Red, White, and Blue (Team RWB) which is a Veterans outreach organization that I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with. I used my CNC to engrave their logo and some text on the Red Oak blanks that I made. This of course was made possible by a local cabinet shop that planed the wood to thickness for me since all the events above left me without a thickness planer. I used paint (yes, I said PAINT) to really make the logo and text stand out against the natural grain of the Red Oak.



With one project down, it was time to knock out the next one on the list. This one was for another non-profit organization who serve Veterans. The Augusta, GA Chapter of the Retired Military Police Association commissioned me to build a Military Police sign that they could hang at the restaurant where they hold their chapter meetings. For this project I used my CNC to cut out the letters for the sign and then mount them on a board with a pair of replica Harpers Ferry Pistols. This is the insignia of the US Army Military Police Corps.


The week was a productive week even with the loss of one of my tools but it would have been nice to get a couple more projects done. The Army much have realized that I needed just a little more time and last weekend we received a four-day weekend. This allowed me to get one more final commissioned project finished. The wife of a couple I know who both serve in the Army had contacted me about making an American Flag Coin Rack to give to her husband as a retirement gift to celebrate his 20 years of service. For those of you that might not know, in the military it a tradition to get what is commonly referred to as a challenge coin. This is a way Commanders can give a small token of appreciation for doing a good job. So needless to say that one could collect quite the collection of coins over the period of a career. The design that I came up for used Walnut, Sapele, and Hard Maple to make up the colors of the flag.



Luckily, I received a call that my thickness planer was repaired under warranty and that I could pick it up. The folks at Home Depot couldn’t have had better timing. This coin rack would be the crowning project of the week. I was filming the build in hope of making a video for Woodshop Confessions, when what was destined to be a pretty sweet overhead shot of me ripping down one of my boards for the flag went horribly wrong. I had mounted my GoPro on one of those small adjustable tripods and then used the flexible legs to attach it to my rip fence with the camera hovering over the blade. That my friends is when it all went down hill fast. Oh and by downhill I mean GoPro vs. Table Saw! Let’s just say that the table saw one. To add insult to injury I didn’t even get some sweet footage of the demise of my GoPro.



I still hope to be able to put together a video of the build when I get some time. I tried to shoot as much video using my cell phone as I could. The only issue I have with filming with my cell phone is that I don’t have very much available memory so I can only shoot for a few minutes and then I have to download it to the computer. Which wouldn’t have been so much an issue other than a big PITA… but I can’t even count the times I thought it was recording only to find out that it had used all the memory up and had stopped recording. But more to follow on that. So back to the build… I found a website that gave me the ratio used for all the parts of the flag. The stars were cut out using my CNC and then the rest of it was constructed using more “traditional” means. To hold the coins I made some trays using the maple so it would blend in with the “white” stripes of the flag. The rack will be mounted on the wall with a french cleat (yes, I know… I love french cleats). I made a small frame on the back of the coin rack that would allow for the cleat and lift it off the wall by about 3/4 of an inch and create a nice visual effect.

IMG_2960I was very happy to be able to cross a couple of projects off the list and get some valuable shop time. This time also concreted even more in my mind that this is what I need to be doing. But doing this full-time will have to wait a few years. In the mean time I plan on continuing to get in the shop when I can.

Intersecting Box Shelf

An intersecting box shelf is a simple but elegant way to display items in your home or business. As many other projects the ability to customize it makes it very appealing. I worked with the client who commissioned the project on the design, joinery, and wood selection. We decided to use Sapele as the primary wood with Walnut splines in the miter joints. It’s important to keep in mind the location that the project is going. In this case the client had a specific wall that it would be hung on so available space and other features like matching the angle of the cathedral ceilings were important. As with most of my projects the first thing I did was to draw in up in SketchUp to get the dimensions and proportions down.

Shelf SketchUp

The lumber was purchased from Steve Wall Lumber in Mayodan, NC. It is about a two and a half hour drive for me but I haven’t found anywhere closer that has the quality and prices that they have. I only charge customers for the lumber used in a project but always estimate on the high side when purchasing. This way I won’t have to make another long trip if I mess up a part. Once I got the lumber back to my shop I let it acclimate for about a week before starting to mill it up.


Since I am using rough cut lumber for this project I will have to mill it down and then cut it to its final dimensions. A common mistake that I have done way to often is to get exciting about making saw dust and cut it down to much. Since I can’t afford a board stretcher I need to plan ahead and take a few precautions. The first thing I do is to mark each of the parts out to a rough dimension on the boards with chalk. I use chalk since it is easier to see than pencil and we don’t need exact lines here. Since both boxes that will go into this shelf are the same dimensions I’ll have eight identical parts.

Layout Since I have a six inch jointer in my shop I need to rip the boards to 6 inches wide on the table saw. Again we are just worrying about getting them to their rough dimensions right now.


Once the boards are ripped down I take them over to the miter saw and cut them down to rough length. Since the final length of each box is going to be twenty-one inches I cut the parts to twenty-three inches.

Rough Length

From there I take the material over to the jointer where I will joint one face and one edge of each board. If you purchase your lumber S4S (Smooth 4 Sides) like sold at most home improvement stores you won’t have to do these steps.


Once all the parts have been jointed I will use the thickness planer to bring the lumber down to 3/4 of an inch and to make both faces parallel to each other. This will be the final thickness for the shelf parts so if your wood isn’t acclimated yet to your shop I would plane them a little on the thick side so that if you need to mill them additionally later you can.


The final step in the milling process will actually bring our parts down to their final width also and that is to rip them to five and a half inches on the table saw. I use the side I jointed as the reference side on the fence of the table saw.

final width

We now have to cut the boards to their final length and add the mitered edges to each end. Since my miter saw is only really accurate at 90 degrees I like to use the table saw to cut miters for boxes and frames. To help make sure my table saw blade is exactly 45 degrees to the top of the table I use a digital angle finder.


To set up for my miter cuts I used the miter gauge and clamp a scrap board to it to act as material support and as a zero clearance backing for the cuts. I make all of the cuts on one end of each board first.

miter 1


To ensure that all eight boards are cut the same length I cut the opposite miter using a stop block that I clamp to my temporary fence on the miter gauge. This makes for quick and accurate cuts on each of the box sides.

Miter 2


Now to attach the two boxes together I will be using half lap joints. Each box will intersect each other at two different points so it is important to be accurate. I first layout the location and width of each of the half laps by using a engineer square and the board that will fit into the joing.


To set up for the cuts I raise the table saw blade till it is exactly half the width of the boards. I screw a scrap board to two different miter gauges to use as the jig for making the half laps. This is one good thing about having a band saw that has the same sized miter slots as my table saw. I recommend testing your set up with some scrap boards before doing this on your actual work piece.

half lap

Once all four of the slots are cut for the half lap joints its time to do some sanding. Doing this now before assembly of the boxes will make things a lot easier in the finishing process. The outside edges and faces are sanded to 150 grit sand paper but the inside faces get sanded to 220 grit.


Once the sanding is done (for now) it is finally time to assemble the boxes. To minimize the glue squeeze out I tape the inside edges of the miter joints with painters tape. Then I apply glue to both sides of each joint and align all the sides together and for this first box I used strap clamps.

assembly 1 To demonstrate another method of clamping boxes with mitered joints I use painters tape again. But not only do I tape the inside of the box sides I also adjoin each of the four sides end to end. I apply glue to each of the joints and then fold up each side onto each other and then add tape to the final joint.

assembly 2


I find this method to actually be easier than strap clamps and it still provides enough clamping pressure for a tight joint. once the box is together make sure you check them for square. Since we are joining two boxes at two separate points being as square as possible will make a difference.

Assembly 3

Once the glue cures on both boxes it is time to cut the slots for the splines in each of the mitered joints. The jig I use I found a picture of on Fine Woodworkings website and adjusted it to fit my needs. There is a million different versions of spline cutting jigs out there and you just have to find one that you like. Instead of using a stacked dado set in my table saw I just use the standard blade and then adjust the fence and jig to cut the quarter inch slots.


I cut slots for two splines in each joint of each box. Now although this does strengthen a miter joint the main purpose behind these splines is decorative. To make the splines I resaw some scrap walnut I had to a quarter of an inch and then glue them in the slots.



Once all the splines are glued in I sand them flush and then finish sanding both boxes. This is the last step before attaching the boxes to each other so it is a good idea to make sure you do all your final sanding now. I sand every surface up to 22o grit sand paper.

sanding 2

Once all the sanding is done I apply some glue to the inside of the half lap joints and then align and attach the boxes to each other. If the joint is tight you might have to use a mallet to help snug up the joint.


Now all that is left is to apply some finish to the shelf. For this project I wanted to use a Tung Oil and decided to use Waterlox. I have used that on several other projects and have been very happy with the ease in applying it and how the finish comes out. To apply the finish I take a few cotton swabs and put them in a small clean rag to use as the applicator. I keep small salsa jars to put the finish in so I’m not keeping the jug open any longer than I need to.


I really like how the Waterlox finish brings out the grain in both the Sapele and the walnut. I apply three coats of the finish, waiting twenty-four hours between coats.


The completed intersecting box shelf


Walnut splines

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Time to upgrade a bit

It would seem that I’m either organizing or improving my shop all the time in some way shape or form. So much so that a good amount of my available shop time gets spent fiddling around and tweaking things to make the layout fit my work flow. I have found that when I am working on an actual project I am more efficient because of a neat and organized shop. As some of you might know, I have started making build videos of projects I am making. At first it was just to share with the rest of the woodworking community what I had going on in my shop. It has since since morphed into not just showing what I was doing but how I was doing it and that in turn became what is now Woodshop Confessions. Now I realize that this comes at a time where there is a virtual rise of woodworkers and other folks making videos of their craft. But I love the fact that there are so  many creative people from every experience level sharing what they’ve made. My list of subscribe channels on YouTube goes on for miles.  If fact if you ask my wife, I’m either cleaning or organizing my shop, watching woodworking videos on YouTube, or a combination of them both. Oh and lets not forget that she mentions falling asleep to the sound of power tools coming from my ipad.


I never realized how much work goes into filming and editing all those videos until I started. Being the new guy I have a lot of work to do. In order to try and improve the quality of Woodshop Confessions I decided that I should do some upgrades. I found three areas that I believe that I can make some improvements on the production side of my YouTube Channel and those are the video, audio, and editing quality. Well four if you count me getting more comfortable with being in front of a camera.

The first of these categories that needed attention was the video. I started off using my Iphone to record the video and although the quality was not bad at all, I quickly discovered that available memory on the phone was an issue. This was because I have the 16GB Iphone and with all the cool apps that I have it didn’t leave much memory for other things like recording HD video. I would end up doing a little recording in the shop and then go inside to dump the video on the computer…  then run back into the shop to record some more. To fix this issue I purchased the GoPro Hero3. I found  a great deal on it due to the release of the GoPro Hero4. This really helps make things a lot easier and allows me to record HD video for over two hours with my current SD card I have installed.


The next two improvements on the list is the audio and editing equipment. I would like to ask for your help in making these upgrades. I have started a Kickstarter Campaign to raise some money to purchase a lavalier microphone, a better PC, and better editing software. I would really appreciate your support in this endeavor. You can visit my Kickstarter page and make a small donation or just share this post or the link to my Kickstarter page will all your friends, family, or if you don’t like crowd funding posts then please by all means share this with your mortal enemies.(https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/706728814/new-editing-and-audio-equipment-for-woodshop-confe). I have added a few rewards for pledges of donations as a small token of my appreciation. If we successfully reach our goal of $1500 by the allotted time I will use those funds to purchase the equipment needed to increase the audio and editing capabilities. I’m sure this won’t fix my looks or the stumbling and mumbling I do on camera… but we can hope!


Thank you very much for taking the time to join me. If you have not seen Woodshop Confessions before than I encourage you to swing by and check out some of the videos I have posted. There are links to all my social media sites on www.merzkecustomwoodworking.com.