What is a Scroll Saw?


A friend asked me the other day this very question. What is a scroll saw?  If found myself trying to describe the tool. I don’t think the person ever got a very clear picture. Despite knowing exactly what a scroll saw is and how to use it, I found I had a challenge to describe it so that someone who has very little woodworking experience could understand.  As a result, I thought I would create a project that I could use on this site that would answer the question; what is a Scroll Saw?


I started off by creating a power point presentation with all the points I thought I should mention.  I wanted to show the machine itself and its main component parts. I wanted to explain a little about scroll saw blades. And finally I wanted to show some of the things you can make with a scroll saw.


 I then set up my scroll saw and camera in a really tight space in my basement and began to experiment with video. This is a first for me. I’ve never done any video so there was a bit of a learning curve! After a few false starts, I had enough material that I thought I had covered everything I want to explain about a scroll saw.  I know the lighting needs improvement. If there are any more videos to come I will work on that.


Next step was the video editing. I discovered I really enjoyed this process despite the fact it was extremely time consuming.  In the end I think I managed to put together 2 videos explaining what a scroll saw is.


The next step was the biggest. I had to upload them to YouTube and set them so people could see them. This was another first for me.  My fear is nobody will ever see the video. On the other hand I’m afraid someone will see the video!  YouTube is a whole new world.  I am hoping that I will receive some feedback to see if I missed anything or if some things were not clear. I know I need improvement.


Once I had cleared the YouTube hurdle I figured I should just keep on going so I uploaded my power point presentation to a site called Slideshare.net.  So now both my videos and my power point are out there for all to see.


I don’t know if there will be more instructional videos in my future. We’ll see if there is any response to this one.  I enjoyed making it and I can show it to my friend and at least know I have answered her question of what is a scroll saw?


To view my video click on one of  the following Links:


Introduction to the Scroll Saw Part One


Introduction to the Scroll Saw Part 2.


To view my power point presentation click on the following link:


Introduction to the Scroll Saw at Slideshare.







A Weekend Woodworking Project

One of the best ways to spend a weekend is to start and finish a woodworking project over a weekend. It’s fun and interesting and you finish the weekend with a sense of accomplishment and something to show for your time. We all have many projects waiting for our attention on the weekend, but many of them are not a weekend job. They will take days or weeks to complete and before they are done, they begin to feel like a chore. Sometimes it is just nice to have a project that will be completed before you go to bed on Sunday night.


There are many places you can find your ideas for your weekend project including on line, in magazines and from friends, to name a few. One of my favorite resources is the Canadian Home Workshop Magazine that I subscribe to.  The magazine’s DIY section is the perfect source for a weekend project for any skill level.   The best part of the magazine is that it has all the important components for a woodworking plan. Each project has an indication of the skill level required, the tools needed to complete the project, detailed plans,  a cut list of all parts with dimensions and recommended materials, detailed instructions and finally a photograph of the finished item.


These projects are easily completed in a weekend, come with detailed enough instructions that you can make minor modifications to suit your needs or they can be followed exactly to get the desired results. I recently spent a weekend making a planter from the plans I found in the April/May 2013 edition of this magazine.  I made some changes that worked for me.  I used pressure treated wood rather than the more expensive cedar recommended in the article. I did not use the rope details and I made the planter much less deep than in the instructions.  I also used wood screws and glue for joinery as opposed to doweling.  I was able to cut all my lumber and do all my prep work in a couple of hours and the project only took another couple of hours to assemble.  With the glue and screws it is very strong and looks great. It is something I can use for years to come and it was a lot of fun to make. 


Check out the magazine’s website at http://canadianhomeworkshop.com for additional inspiration, plans and information for you next project.



When Is It Time to Replace Your Power Tools?

Let’s face it. I’m a wood worker and I love tools. I can’t walk through a hardware store without checking out the tool aisle.  I pick them up, test to see if they have power. Check the prices and of course, what new accessories are available.  It seems like there are new and improved models every month. Certainly every year.  But I have a fully equipped workshop.  So unless I need it, really need it, I don’t buy anymore. 


You can have too many tools!  I can’t believe I just wrote that but it’s true. Having too many tools means clutter in your work shop unless you are one of the lucky ones with endless amounts of space. It means you will have tools you will never use or tools you want to use that you can’t find. I got a great deal on a used radial arm saw.  It was through a friend; it was delivered to my workshop for me and set up. How could I refuse?  5 years later, I’ve used it once, it takes up about 20% of my floor space, and it has become simply a place that I stack wood. So once you have what you need to complete most projects it is time to stop buying the latest new gadgets or great deals!  They end up taking up space and creating clutter, the last thing you want in a workshop.


So when is it time to replace a tool you own with a new model?  As I said, you could do this at least once a year but what’s the point?  Most older tools do a good job and get the job done!  For example, I have a compound mitre saw. Do I need the new one with the laser for alignment?  Does the old one get the job done? Yes!  Then I really don’t need the new one. And I so I don’t buy it!  I can’t say I am 100% true to this policy but I try. Sometimes it is just safer not to go to the hardware store!


It is time to buy a new or replacement tool when you don’t have one that can do the job or your old tool is no longer working correctly.  For example, at the end of my wood working season last year I did a little bit of work with my router. This is a really old tool. I’ve had it 10 years and bought it used from another friend who had it at least that long.  It’s been well used and has done a great many jobs, well.  But last year, it was a struggle to get the job done.  Somehow, the blade kept dropping, or rising. The cuts were uneven. But it was a small job and I finally finished it and put the tool away.


Well it’s a new season and time for a bunch of new projects. I got out my trusted router and table and set up.  Fortunately, I used some test scrap lumber and not my limited supply of “good” wood to set up the router. I quickly discovered that no matter what I did the blade either raised, just enough to wreck the cut or lowered, cut through the plastic collar on the table and ruined it.  So it’s time to retire this tool. Maybe someone could take it apart and fix it but after 20 years of service, I have a clear conscience. It’s time for a new router with all the new bells and whistles. Time to go shopping.

Beetles: A Natural Threat to the Canadian Wood Supply


Wood workers love wood and will collect wood from friends and relatives, campsites and any place wood has been abandoned. It is moved to be used as firewood, wood turning and lumber production just to name a few potential uses. The list is endless. 

Moving wood can be risky for your wood supply by moving pests to areas that are not already infected.  Everyone must be aware of the area they live and travel in and what is restricted in that area.  Some areas of Canada have signage posted regarding the movement of felled trees and firewood.

A good source of information regarding invading pests and the restrictions associated with them is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website. This agency’s mandate is the control and eradication of any invasive species that may impact Canada’s natural resources.


Asian Longhorned Beetle – A Success Story


The Asian Longhorned Beetle infests broadleaf trees such as birch, elm, poplar and willow.  The beetle weakens the integrity of the infested trees over many generations of beetle production, resulting in their eventual death.  Control measures include removing all trees that the beetle will infest within a specific area.

The Asian Longhorned Beetle was first detected in the City of Vaughan, Canada in 2003.  30,000 Trees were removed as part of the effort to eradicate this pest.  Restrictions regarding the movement of wood from within the affected areas to outside the affected areas, was prohibited.

No beetles have been seen in this area since 2007.  On April 5, 2013 the announcement was made, by the Canadian government, that the Asian Longhorned Beetle has been eradicated from Canada. For more details see the press release at Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website.



Emerald Ash Borer


The Emerald Ash Borer was accidentally introduced to Canada and the United States in the 1990’s.  It has killed 50 – 100 million ash trees since its detection and threatens to kill all 7.5 million ash trees found in North America.  There are large parts of Ontario and Quebec that are infested by this pest and all ash tree materials and firewood cannot be removed from these areas.

A list of all the regulated areas can be found at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website.


Mountain Pine Beetle


The Mountain Pine Beetle is native to Northern British Columbia where is plays a role in the renewal of the lodgepole pine forests.  Due to warmer winters, the Mountain Pine Beetle population has exploded, wiping out millions of hectares of B.C. forests. The Mountain Pine Beetle have expanded their range into Alberta and the jack pine forests.  They are expected to move into Quebec and Ontario within the next 20 years.


These beetles begin by laying eggs under the bark of a tree. Within a year the needles have turned red and the tree is dead.  In 3 to 4 years there is no foliage left and the trees appear grey.  The beetle spreads its blue stain fungi into the wood as it lays its eggs.  The wood from these trees is still usable for approximately 12 years after the tree dies.

The wood, when milled, has a silvery blue hue that one company is using to make Apple accessories. Check them out at badbeetle.com.

Which Power Tool Do You Buy First?


Which power tool do you buy first if you have no tools at all?  A good question and there are a few answers depending on your circumstances. The first rule is to buy the best quality you can afford. Buy bigger, more power or sturdier if you can. Today you may not need this caliber of tool but this will give you the versatility down the road to do more with the tool.   Also, buy the tool that you will use the most often. Whatever tool you will get the most use from is the best place to start your power tool collection.

The first thing to determine before you buy your first tool is do you have a project in mind or are you just starting your collection?  If you have a project in mind, make a list of the tools required for completion of the project and buy whatever is essential.  This obviously will be different for each project.

If you are just starting out and you are trying to determine which power tool to buy first, you need to think basic functionality.  Your first tools should be multi-purpose.  You need to get the most use from them possible.  The only tool I use on almost every project to some degree is my drill. That is where you need to start. With the power tool that you will use the most and for me that is the drill.  A cordless drill, to be precise.


The projects I have completed with my cordless drill are endless. From doing minor repairs to complete builds. I have built several decks, fences and many pieces of furniture, both large and small, with my cordless drill.


Things to consider when buying your first Drill


Read some Product Reviews

Why Cordless?

Battery size for Cordless?

One or Two Batteries?

Buy a kit with accessories or drill alone?



Product Reviews


My first step when buying any new tool, especially if I don’t have a lot of experience with that tool, is to read some product reviews on line.  Just search for what tool you are interested in and you will find many reviews. To make it easier, here is a link to a site you might find useful. 



Why a Cordless Drill?


Corded or cordless is the first question you need to answer. My recommendation here is cordless hands down.  If you have a good cordless drill, you can do all basic functions that are required.  An electric corded drill gives you more power but in most cases you don’t need it. The advantage to using a cordless drill aside from the fact that you don’t need a wall plug or extension cord is also about power. But for me, it is because it has enough power to do the job but not too much power that could result in a problem.


Your cordless drill is much more than a tool that drills holes.  It is also a screw driver or screw remover. As a screw driver, too much power can result in stripping the head of the screw and a real mess until you learn to control it.  The cordless drill handles screw driving effortlessly with much less potential for trouble.


Battery size for a Cordless Drill?


Here is a question that is best answered by your budget. The best today is 18 volt lithium ion batteries.  These batteries hold the greatest charge for the longest time. However, these tools can be pricy. I started with a 12 volt battery and 10 years later, with two rebuilt battery packs, the drill is still doing its job. Buy the most power you can afford. Don’t scrimp but there is no need to only buy the best. Some of the lesser powered tools will do a great job and you will never know the difference.


One or Two Batteries for the Cordless Drill?


Always buy two battery packs. This is obvious but sometimes overlooked or ignored. Always buy two batteries.  In large projects, batteries will need to be recharged half way through. Or you will have a vital piece of work to do and you will find the battery last used is dead. Always buy two batteries. It will save you time and frustration guaranteed. 


Buy a kit with accessories or a Cordless Drill alone?


There are some basic accessories that you will need to buy with your drill. An assortment of drill bits and some screw driving bits are essential. Any other specialized accessories can be purchased as required for each new project.  So, again, budget is a big driver here.  Some drills are sold in kits, with cases and other accessories. These can be well priced but there are only valuable if you will really use all the components in the kit. It is often less expensive, when getting started, to buy the basic tool and whatever basic accessories you need. You will find that you will pay less than the “special” kit price and you won’t miss any of those extra accessories.


So, if this is your first tool, buy a good quality cordless drill and a few bits and don’t worry. It won’t be long before you find a use for this new tool.  When you have your fully equipped workshop with countless tools, your cordless drill will still be the main go to tool you have.  It will serve you well.

Recycle Wood from Felled Trees by Making your Own Lumber

If you are like me, you hate to see the old trees cut down in your neighborhood and you wonder why no one seems to be recycling the wood.  All too often, I see the trees cut up and turned into wood chips for someone’s garden. So much potential lumber gone to waste!

With a few tools in your workshop you could recycle the wood into lumber that you could use for small projects like small pieces of furniture or jewelry boxes.  All you need a few tools, some time and some energy to haul those logs home.  The steps are as follows:


Step One – Split the log

Start with logs of 24 – 36 inches so that they are manageable to handle.  By using either an hydraulic log splitter or wood splitter and a sledge hammer you must split your logs into halves or quarters depending on their size.


Step Two – Square you log

Run two adjoining sides of your split log along your jointer in order to have a square and even surface.


Step Three – Mill your lumber

Now that you have a log with two flat sides, you can run the log against your fence on your bandsaw to cut your boards into whatever thickness you need.


Step Four – Plane your lumber

Now that you have your boards, plane them to desired thickness.


Step Five – Dry your lumber

Stack your boards in a dry well ventilated space with good air circulation.  Each board must have air space all around it for the air to circulate.  A fan is sometimes helpful to speed up the drying process. Some woods need to dry more slowly than others. Some will dry very quickly.

Air drying lumber can take up to a year for some varieties which is where the patience comes in.  But properly dried lumber will not shrink or twist after you complete your project which is so important to your finished work.


One of the best things about recycling wood by turning it into lumber is that frequently you will find fruit trees, walnut or other varieties of wood that you will never find at the lumber store.  This will give your projects a unique look and make them unique to you.

So while you are driving around your neighbourhood, keep your eyes open for trees that are being cut down.  Now you can offer to take some of those logs away, save them from the chipper, and make something special with them!



Always Dry Fit Before You Apply Glue To Any Project


Always dry fit before you apply glue. This is the best and most basic advice to any wood worker.  When you are assembling your project for the first time, you should always assemble it dry and make sure everything fits before you start gluing and putting in the screws.  I know this is great advice because when I first started making things from wood I ignored it.  I was always so excited to be at the assembly stage and so confident that it would all fit, that I would skip the dry fit phase. This resulted in a lot of wood for the fire.


So having learned this lesson in woodworking, you would think I would have given it some thought when building this Blog.  This is my first Blog after all.  What could go wrong during assembly?  Well live and learn.  I have made a couple of mistakes that made this Blog a poor fit for me.  I want to share those with you and tell you what I am going to do to correct them.


Writing articles on projects in progress


This is the first and most crucial mistake. I’m sure any wood workers out there can attest that at any given time they have 2 or 3 projects on the go with a couple on their “to do” list.  But life has a way of getting in the way and putting those projects on hold. Work, weather and other commitments eat away at our time.  Sometimes we finish these interrupted projects, sometimes we don’t. My mistake was writing about them before they were finished. 

When I started posting articles, suddenly I had an obligation to finish the project for the sake of anyone reading my Blog. Now my project suddenly started feeling like a chore. I needed to remember to take pictures at critical stages, write about the major steps and complete it within a reasonable length of time.

So what happens then?  Life.  Life interrupted these fine plans and some things did not get done. Now what do I write?  Now I feel like I’m avoiding posting to the Blog because what do I say?  This is was my first mistake.

So change number one.  I’ll continue to write about my projects and provide pictures when I can. But I will only post the article when the project is complete. This means I have removed all my “To Be Continued” articles from this Blog pending project completion. The benefit to you, the reader, will be that you won’t have to wait as long to see the results. The benefit to me will mean it will remove some of the pressure from me to deliver.  No guarantees of how many, if any projects I’ll deliver but when I have one, you’ll know about it.



Using One Source for my Content – Me


I don’t know how this happened. I just seemed to be always writing about me. What I was doing on a project or how I would do a project. That was never the plan. I don’t that enough information, skills or expertise to keep this Blog going on my own.

So change in direction.  All wood workers like to see other peoples’ work and learn about other people’s techniques, tricks and skills.  I am no exception. When I come across something like that I will share it with you in the form of a summary of what I found and a link to the actual information.


Refitting my Blog


So in the end, setting up this Blog without a dry fit resulted in a bad fit. A bad fit for me and as a result poor quality and little content for you, the reader. I’m going to take this blog in a light new direction. I want to share more content that is available on the web with you and more insights into wood working in general. In addition, if you have read my other posts, you know that one of my passions in wood working is Scroll sawing. So watch for more on that topic in particular in the coming months.

The Woodworking Show Season is Underway


There are several excellent Woodworking shows in the Toronto region during the cold weather. One of the best shows will be January 25, 26 and 27th in Hamilton at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.  I try to attend this show every year and I always thoroughly enjoy it.  Get there early to get parking close to the building or be prepared to walk a little.


A Great Selection of Tools and Accessories at Great Prices


A woodworking show is a great place to get great deals on power tools and accessories.  There are many booths demonstrating some of the latest technology as well as some hands on demos available.  If you are looking for a key tool to complete your work bench, check the prices now, and wait for the show.  Show specials can save you as much as 50% if you are lucky.

These shows have a great selection of accessories from sand paper to hand tools.  I usually buy a year’s supply of speciality sanding discs for my rotary tools.  Volume discounts are usually available. In addition there are hand tools for turning, blades for your various saws and every possible size and shape of clamp and other various gadgets that are a must have.

For the speciality woodworker there are booths dedicated to wood turning and pen making as well as scroll sawing, carving and marquetry.  If you are looking for a new hobby, there is a wide variety to choose from.


Canadian Wood Carver’s Championship


The Canadian Wood Carver’s Championship takes place every year at this show.  There are entrants from beginner to professional in all facets of carving. I love to grab a cup of coffee and take my time walking past the entries. The workmanship is phenomenal and the variety of items entered is always impressive. The work is inspiring.



A Great Source of Wood


In addition to the tools and accessories, the woodworking show is a great place to buy wood. You can get boards of a variety of wood as well as bowl blanks and pen blanks. You can usually obtain wood of a common variety along with rarer and more exotic wood.  If you are in the market for wood, bring a cart!



Live Seminars


There will be a variety of live seminars held each day of the show on the show floor.  These seminars cover a broad range of topics and are usually standing room only.  Topics from wood bending to hand planes to cutting hand cut dovetails will be taught.



For additional information go to the show’s website at http://www.hamiltonshows.com/Home.php.   I’ll be there and I hope you will be too!





Custom Woodworking



It feels like it has been a very long time since I posted to this blog. I did not intend to leave it so long but time got away from me!  Christmas is coming and that is a busy time of year for many of us. In addition, I don’t do a lot of woodworking in the winter because my workshops are unheated.  No way you can you use the machinery when your fingers are numb from the cold.

At this time of year, between shopping for gifts, working and doing necessary chores like getting my winter tires put on my car, the only woodworking I do is in my imagination.  I read other peoples’ blogs and woodworking magazines and plan my projects for the spring.  I might even print project plans or patterns for the upcoming summer woodworking season!

This year I plan on trying something a little different. Once things have calmed down in January, I will make some space in my basement and bring my scroll saw indoors.    This tool makes minimal dust and is fairly compact.  It will allow me to practice my technique, make some projects and keep me from suffering from woodworking withdrawal until spring.

Shopping for Christmas led me to some wonderful woodworking discoveries.  I went to the, One of a Kind Craft show that is held twice a year in Toronto, recently.  I was able to see many examples of the finest woodworkers we have in Canada. From pen makers to cabinetmakers and anything in between, they are all on display of the show.  A favorite of mine is the booth of scrollsawed jigsaw puzzles that are truly remarkable in their level of detail and craftsmanship.  Check out their work at http://www.forwoodpuzzles.com/.

One of the best examples of furniture building I have ever seen was present at the show. It is not often that a chair takes my breath away but that is what happened when I came upon the booth operated by Paul Lemiski.  Making fine furniture by hand can reach the level of art on rare occasions. This is the case of Paul’s customs woodwork.  The rocking chairs he had on display immediately made me think of pictures I have seen of work by the late Sam Maloof.  His chairs were truly works of beauty and the best part, for a rocking chair, were that they were also extremely comfortable to sit in.

If you want to see Paul’s work, check out his site at http://www.canadianwoodworks.com/. He has an outstanding opportunity available on his site.  You can either buy a chair, or pay a reduced price for a chair and spend two weeks with Paul at his shop making a chair of your own under his tutelage.  What a great opportunity!

So as you can see, I may not be doing much woodworking right now with the shop closed for the winter, there are plenty of opportunities to see great work, learn and be inspired for future projects and keep the woodworking bug alive all winter. 

Building a Bookcase from Wood

One of the first pieces of furniture a woodworker frequently attempts is a bookcase or shelving unit of some sort.  There are many things to consider when deciding on the bookcase size and style you are going to build.  First off, where will it be placed?  Will it be built in?   Will it be free standing or up against a wall?  How tall do you want it?   Will it hold hard cover books, pocket novels, knick knacks or dolls to name a few possibilities?   If the book shelf is free standing an important decision will be will it be open or will it have a back? Or will it have both a back and doors?


The answers to these questions are important to determine prior to building for a variety of reasons. The most basic is that you want the book case or shelves to fit where you intend to put them. You want them to be strong enough to hold what you plan to put on them. And finally you want to be proud of how they look.


There are plans available for book shelves that can be made in a few hours and more complicated bookcases that may take you a whole weekend. Style becomes at concern at this point. Do you want to create a bookshelf in the classic craftsman style to name one or will a plain box with shelves work for this project? Once you have determined what style you would like, your next logical step would be to choose your wood. Will the book shelf be made of solid wood or plywood?  You can use oak plywood and add a frame to the front of the box to end up with a high end look without the cost of using solid woods.


Another consideration goes into the construction. Do you want the shelves to be fixed or movable?  If fixed, then dado joints and glue are a good option.  If you want to be able to move the shelving, there are various kinds of brackets that can either be made or purchased that work well. One of my preferences are metal brackets that can be mounted in a dado on the sides of the shelving you. Then you use metal clips that can be moved to any height you need or want.


Once you have gone through the check list below, you are ready to go and buy your lumber and supplies and start building.  Remember to prepare a drawing with your dimensions indicated and a cutting list.  Cut all the pieces first and then you can assemble.  Go ahead and get started!



7 Point checklist before you can get started


Location for the shelves in the house or workshop



Style of construction

Shelves – Movable or fixed

Wood type – Solid or plywood



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