Category Archives: BlogNotes

Blogging about my adventures in woodworking. Yes, you will read it.

WD-40We call it “WD-40”. Originally, it was called “Water Displacement, 40th formula”, and it was developed 1953 by Dr. Norm Larsen, founder of the Rocket Chemical Company, attempting to create a formula to prevent corrosion in nuclear missiles, by displacing the standing water that causes it.

It’s really quite an amazingly diverse product, and it can be a heck of a good tool in the shop too. I thought I’d share what this cheap can of lubricant can do for you in the shop.

• Lubricate and Protect. This is, of course, it’s main function. There’s usually a good amount of cast iron in every shop, and if you get water on it, even for several minutes, it can leave a rust stain. Spray WD-40 on cast iron regularly not only to displace moisture (it’s in the name!) but to also lubricate – as in joiner beds and fences and table saw tops. You won’t believe how much easier (and safer) it is to push a piece of stock through a jointer once you’ve lubricated it with WD-40 by spraying some on the bed and fence, and wiping it off with a paper towel. Try it. You have to do it fairly often, but it’s worth it, believe me. And no, it’s not going to stain or otherwise interfere with a finish on your wood – that comes from me, and a test by Fine Woodworking.

• Removing glue. I haven’t tried this yet, but supposedly you can clean dried glue from virtually any hard surface with ease: Simply spray WD-40 onto the spot, wait at least 30 seconds, and wipe clean with a damp cloth.

• Degreasing your hands. When you’re done working on the car and your hands are greasy and blackened with grime, use WD-40 to help get them clean. Spray a small amount of WD-40 into your hands and rub them together for a few seconds, then wipe with a paper towel and wash with soap and water. The grease and grime will wash right off.
• Lubricating, part 2: Try WD-40 on the end of a screw you are about to drive to make it easier to turn; coat on files or rasps to keep sawdust from building up; spray onto drill and forstner bit flutes so wood doesn’t build up in them.

I’m guessing there are many more – if you know of any more uses of WD-40 in the shop, please let me know and I’ll it here!


1 Comment

Posted by on June 4, 2014 in BlogNotes


Tags: ,

On the Eighth Day, God Made the Craftsman

craftsman's tableSo on the eighth day, God saw that he needed a special person to take the natural resources he gave the Earth and fashion it into things that people would need in their lives, both practical and beautiful, so he made the craftsman.

He said, “I need someone willing to be passionate, ready to fail, will overcome being told that it won’t work, won’t be useful, will be ugly, and is a waste of time, yet will still persist to bring to fruition what he cannot see but knows is there, and will be beautiful and useful.” So he made the craftsman.

“These craftsman will have to be, above all, creative, resourceful, patient, talented and passionate; they won’t cut corners, but will strive for perfection. They would need to be part architect, part engineer, part artist. They would be have to willing to fail, willing to sweat, strain and even possibly hurt themselves in doing so”…so he made the craftsman.

“I will give them the ability to breathe life into their work, to be able to leave a part of them in everything they make, as I have done with everything I have made. They will find great satisfaction in that which their hands wrought, and what they craft will outlive them.”…so he made the craftsman.

“They will take what I have created – metal, wood, glass, leather, stone, gem and clay and fashion into beautiful objects to enhance man’s lives – an engagement ring for a young couple; a piece of furniture to recline on; a ceramic vessel for wine, a stained glass window in a house of worship…or a coffin for a young child.” So he made the craftsman.

“I cannot promise him riches, a high station in life, or an easy time of it; but I can assure him satisfaction, respect from others, and even awe from some that only wish that they could do what he does, this craftsman I need.”

So if today you look around you and you see something not made by a soul-less machine, not merely a copy of a copy of a copy, something useful and beautiful, an object with personality and charm that seems to have in it, in some intangible way, a piece of another person, think of the craftsman that created it, that used he or she’s years, if not decades of experience, who has an abiding passion for their craft, to custom make that piece so that your life would be enriched.

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 31, 2014 in BlogNotes


Price / Shipping Ratio

shippingI hate to ship my pieces. Hate it! I’d rather sand by hand – heck, by cabinet scraper.

I hate trying to find a box the right size, correct packing material, wrapping the item – ugh!

Rant = over.

Shipping is part of this game of being a professional woodworker, if you are making pieces to be sent all over the United States. We’re lucky that we have such a large audience; 20 years ago, before e-commerce became mainstream, you’d either be doing local only work, or taking out ads in national print media. Today, we can literally have a customer anywhere there is an internet connection, a shipping address, and a buyer. We’re blessed in that regard.

Shipping is a devil we have to deal with. However, not only is there the physical issue of shipping – the boxing up, the shipper, and so on – but the cost associated with shipping and the potential buyer. Maybe you never though about it that much, but shipping cost can make or break a sale.

Let’s role play here a little bit. Let’s say you are interested in buying the exact same table from either guy A or guy B. Guy A’s price for the table is $900, and his shipping charge is $100. Guy B’s price is $750 for the table and $250 for  shipping. Assume that both tables would be coming from just about the same distance, and using the same shipper and shipping time. Just based on a quick gut reaction, which guy do you think you’d go with?

I’m guessing guy A – the table is $900, and his shipping charge is $100. Was I right? If I was (and I bet I was) why was I right?

Because you didn’t want to pay more for shipping – which you really feel little perceived value from. People don’t want to pay anything for shipping – or very little. How many times have you been tempted to buy a product because there was free, or cheap, shipping? That’s why you chose guy A, because you wanted to pay the least amount for shipping – even the total price you’d pay either guy would have been the same – $1000.

The take-away here is don’t charge for actual shipping price (in most cases). Especially if you are making bigger pieces like a coffee table, or larger. Once you box or crate that puppy up, you’ll be charged by dimensional weight, used in shipping and freight, which is a billing technique which takes into account the length, width, and height of a package. Weight has little to do with it. Don’t believe me? Look up rates for a 40 pound package going from NY to LA, ground rate. Never mind I did it for you! A one foot square box would cost about $65; a box 43x33x23 would cost $281!

So what to do then? Build the cost of the shipping in – at least in part. Guy A above has it about right, in my estimation, 10% of the price of the piece. It’s fuzzy math, to be sure, and other things must be taken into account – the cost of the piece, the size of it, actual shipping cost – but what you don’t want to do is scare off a customer to a sale because of a high shipping cost. People understand that for furniture, it’s going to cost some coin to ship it; but they will get turned off to the idea of buying from you if shipping – a low perceived value service – is too high.

Final word – build in a large part of the shipping cost into the price of your work, and charge a lower shipping price. 


Posted by on May 29, 2014 in BlogNotes


Tags: ,

How to Print on Wood

WoodprintI came across this technique from Woodworking for Mere Mortals – how to print a graphic on wood! Here’s the great thing – you don’t need anything all that special to do it!

So what do you need? An inkjet printer,  a non-porous surface (such as the left-over glossy piece of paper left behind from an address label sheet) a piece of wood (preferably light in color, such as maple or holly), and some lacquer to protect the image once transferred.

You can see the YouTube video below….






Leave a comment

Posted by on April 29, 2014 in BlogNotes



New Mission Workshop Catalog

NMW catalog TBWe finally have a catalog to offer, and a pretty darn nice one at that! To get it (in PDF format), click here.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 14, 2014 in BlogNotes


Ukelele & Mandolin Stand

Ukelele stand


I recently took up playing the ukelele; I’ve always wanted to play a string instrument, but the guitar was just too obvious – everyone plays the guitar! I wanted a different sound, and something relatively easy to play, and the ukelele was the ticket.

However, when not practicing, I had no real good place to put it down; a table top took up too much room, and just leaning it into a corner was too iffy. The commercial stands sold are very ugly and metallic; functional, yes, pretty, like my ukelele, no.

So, I created this mahogany stand for it (after several prototypes). It hangs the ukelele (or your mandolin) in a bendable, yet solid foam covered cradle, so the instrument is not having it’s bottom or side roughed up, had it been laying down – and it’s very easy to shape the cradle arms in or out to suit your instrument’s needs. My ukelele’s head is asymmetrical, so adding a slight twist to the cradle when installing it was right for me – we can discuss your instrument’s needs upon ordering.

Perhaps just as important as a great way to set your instrument, this piece just looks great – a fine complement to your beautiful ukelele or mandolin – unlike some cheap ugly metal stand. This piece would look great in your living room, office – or wherever you practice.

While this piece is in mahogany, obviously other wood choices are available, and can be combined. I could see this piece in cherry, with the top of the two “boomerangs” on the base being ebonized, or blackened, for contrast. Or, if you are the more adventurous type, we could try Zebra wood, or Purpleheart, or Yellowheart. Possibly, I could match your instrument’s woods as well.

ukelele stand



Leave a comment

Posted by on April 3, 2014 in BlogNotes, Furniture


Tags: ,

Simplicity in Design

Ukelele stand

My new ukelele / mandolin stand.

   What IS simplicity in design? For me, simplicity in design is taking away from a preliminary design, until you can take away no more, and still have function. A common chicken egg, for example; You cannot take anything away from the egg – the shell, and yolk, the white – and still have an egg. Likewise, a human cell. If you take any part of the cell away – the Nucleus, the Cytoplasm, the Membrane – it cannot be a cell anymore; it ceases to function. Likewise, I feel great design reduces a form to just what is needed, an no more. That is not to say that there can be no embellishment, such as a corbel that may add a feeling of balance, or a chamfer that might make a top look lighter; however, adornments that are only there for the sake of themselves, should be avoided, in my opinion.

“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” – Albert Einstein.

   Why is simplicity important? People have an innate habit of adding to something to make it more desirable. A woman puts on jewelry; a woodworker puts dentil moulding on a shelf. The thought is, “more is better”. In my view, less is more. It’s easy to add adornment; it’s much harder to take away what is already there and achieve better form and function.

   Is simplicity subjective? It can be. A motorcycle is not as simple as a bicycle, yet they are essentially the same form. Yet a bicycle with the bare minimum needed to move, stop, and provide comfort and safety, is simplicity. There are points when a form becomes as simple as it can be.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann.

“Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” Frank Lloyd

   Is simplicity the best design goal? No, not always. Sometimes, people want ornate furniture; Federalist or french period furniture comes to mind ( the French were especially ostentatious). They may want to impress themselves or company. They may feel more really is more. However, even in these cases, “more” can be overdone. Can you put too much jewelry on a woman? How much inlay can you put into a piece before it’s too much? If the piece could produce a sound, would it sound like a world class philharmonic, or a 3rd grade jazz band? Even classical music can have too many instruments that don’t add to the experience. Likewise, furniture designs can have too much ornamentation that doesn’t move the piece forward (design-wise), and harmonizes with the function, but rather pulls it in different directions.

“You know you have achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

   Simplicity in the workshop. What type of shop do you have? Are you trying to make a living at woodworking, or do you just do it as a hobby? Somewhere in between? Simplicity in design can serve a craftsman very well in building the piece, as it keeps the number of requires parts to a minimum. The benefit of this alone is increased safety, due to number of machine operations; cutting down on environmental impact (from the amount of electricity used to the amount of wood and harsh chemicals like polyurethane and mineral spirits), wear and tear on machines, let alone the craftsman. Less pieces to make and assemble, less chance of making mistakes – all add up to more profit.

This is why I strive for simplicity in design, and feel it is the best way.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 12, 2014 in BlogNotes

%d bloggers like this: