Thursday, November 9, 2017

Blueprints are done!!

I started drawing floor plans in September 2016.

Bought the land in December 2016.

Interviewed over 2 dozen timberframers.

Collected cost data for the entire project into a ridiculously large spreadsheet.

Collaborated with Downstream Construction in the design of a beautiful timberframe.

Modeled the entire thing in 3D.

Figured out how to turn that 3D model into 2D blueprints.

Had the entire design tested by a structural engineer.

Went through a few rounds of revisions.

And now, 14 months later, I'm the proud owner of stamped and approved building plans!  :)

That was ...really hard.  I had to level up several skills along the way, but it's done.  Thank the gods it's done!  It really wore me down.

I'm about to undertake one helluva woodworking project.

Here she is, folks....

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Work continues on my brother's house.  I put together a 51" x 61" black walnut butcherblock countertop for his kitchen island.

And I've got a desk top to flatten and smooth still.

Desk Top
And as if I didn't have enough going on, my sister-in-law is getting married.  I'm making her a set of Stickley reproduction bookcases.

Quartersawn White Oak

Driveway is in

After clearing the smaller trees out, we had an excavation crew come in with the big machines to knock over the big ones, clear the area where the house is going to be, grade the driveway, and lay down some stone.  This is just a construction-grade driveway for now as it's going to get dirty and muddy with all the heavy machinery rolling in when we build the house.  Nothing fancy.

It feels so amazing to finally have vehicle access to the land.  We didn't waste any time and started the campfires right away.

Thursday, June 29, 2017


 Sorry for the blog hiatus.  I've been up to my ears in research and planning for our house project.  And I've been up to my ears trying to finish up the trim carpentry on my brother's house.

Day 1: The clearing begins!

Day 2: The clearing continues!

I found the "E" tree.  Now I just need to find the other letter trees to spell my last name.

Boom!  Driveway construction begins.  

Up to this point we haven't had vehicular access to the site.  I can't wait to stop parking in front of the neighbors' houses.

Friday, March 31, 2017

We bought some trees!

Apologies.  I've been busy.  A fellow woodworker and follower of this site politely suggested I share what's going on with the rest of my readers.  (That I actually have readers still blows my mind).  

TL;DR - My wife and I bought 19 acres and are planning to build a timberframe house next year.  Meanwhile I am doing all of the interior window and door trim on my brother's newly built house.  My Arts & Crafts End Tables project is on hold.

So that's the short version.  If you want the long version, I'll try to document the journey so far in the next few posts.  Let's start with the fun stuff...  pictures!

Workshop Gremlin #2 thinks the new shop location will suffice.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

DIY Keva Planks Complete!

The finally tally is 1,212 planks, with a total cost of $120.  Not too shabby.

I'm not 100% convinced I picked the right color rope.  If it continues to bother me, I'll change it later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Plank you very much.

Alright.  So.  It turns out 1,000 of something is an exercise in tedium.  It's easy to just say you're going to make 1,000 of something, but the reality of that number is lost among all the millions and billions we hear about on a daily basis.

When's the last time you did something 1,000 times, on purpose?

Step 1: Order Lumber

Dunham Hardwoods, hard rock maple, 4/4 thickness, 5" wide, 60" long.  Done.

Step 2: Slice it on the bandsaw.  

6 boards, 15 rips per board = 90 rips.

4/4 lumber is already 3/4" thick.  Coincidentally, Keva Planks are 3/4" wide.  Ripping 5 feet long x 1/4"+ thick strips over and over again results in quartersawn hard rock maple strips, which is the most stable choice really.   If that makes you feel any better.


One of the boards had some resistance in it and it pinched and snapped my carbide-tipped bandsaw blade.  *Grumbles*

Step 2.5: Order a new Lenox Tri-Master.

In the meantime, swap to a spare blade and keep ripping.

Step 3: Thickness Planer 

Plane the strips down to an even 1/4" thickness.  90 strips / 12 at a time x 4 passes through the planer = 30 passes.

Step 4: Sand to soften the four long edges.

Did it by hand with 120 grit.  Took 1 minute per strip, so about 90 minutes total.  4 long edges x 90 strips = 360 long edges.

Step 5: Wax the long strips

It's easier at this stage.  2 wipes of wax x 90 strips = 180 wipes.  Let it dry.  I didn't buff off the excess.  It'll wear off with life.

Step 6: Crosscut to length.

I did stacks of 7, with 15 crosscuts per stack.  90 strips / 7 in a stack x 15 crosscuts = 192 crosscuts.

Step 7: The crosscuts weren't perfectly square.  Awesome.

So now you have to shoot the end of every. single. plank.  The planks should be able to stand on end, unaided.

1,000 planks, 2 ends per plank, 2-4 shoots per end = 4,000 - 8,000 shoots.

This is just the last 10%.

Step 8: Sand to soften the 8 short edges.

8 edges per plank x 1,000 planks = 8,000 edges.  One swipe of each across 180grit sandpaper is enough.
Box on the right has been shot.  Box on the left has been sanded (and are done).

I think that's it.  The ends aren't waxed, but I don't think that's going to be a problem.

Branding Irons Unlimited

A couple years ago, my wife decided she wanted to buy me a custom branding iron so I can apply a maker's mark to each piece of furniture I build.  It took me a really long time to figure out what I wanted my mark to be.

Here's where I ended up...

My last name is Erwin, originating from the Clan Irvine in Dumfriesshire, Scotland.  The etymology reveals that it's probably from Celtic words connected with Welsh ir, yr "green, fresh" + afon "water".  The clan was situated along the Irvine River in Scotland, thus their name.

So my last name means "green water", "fresh water", "water of life" (whisky!), "green river", "river of life", et al.

Next step: what is the celtic symbol for water?   

This is where it gets a little vague.  Symbology is messy stuff and symbols tend to get adopted and converted to other meanings as time passes.  But several sources have associated the triskele or triskelion or triple spiral with water (among many other things).  

The triple spiral dates back 5,000 years to a burial ground at Newgrange.  Interestingly, the spiral and triple spiral symbols have appeared in a variety of world cultures spanning the globe, throughout human history.  There's just something about spirals.

So while the Irvine Clan actually has a coat of arms, and a symbol all their own, I'm choosing something that isn't so on the nose.

So here it is.  My name, my handwriting, my mark.

I'm amazed at how crisp and fine those lines are.  Branding Irons Unlimited did a great job.  This is one heavy duty, quality made tool.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

DIY Keva Planks

My son (Workshop Gremlin #1) is turning 4 this month.  I set out to find a gift to give him on his birthday.

He has tons of toy trucks and cars, tons of LEGOs, a big bag of randomly shaped building blocks.  He doesn't really need more of those, but I didn't want to buy him just another toy.  I like buying him things that stimulate his brain.  He's a smart kid, let's keep his brain moving.

I stumbled across Keva Planks, showed my wife, and as quick as that, the decision was made.  I'm building him 1,000 Keva Planks and a box to store them.

First step: The Dovetailed Box.  I made this out of pine, which really demands the sharpest of tools.  Geez.  But it's so nice to work with soft wood for once.  Planes with ease and a gentle shooshing sound, smells wonderful, and is plenty strong.

The cambered clamping cauls work like a charm!

I've got it on four small casters so it slides around.  I may drill holes and make some rope handles for it.  We'll see.