The Damaged Pinky

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If you know me, then you know I don’t do woodworking for a living. I’m actually a sales rep for one of the largest building manufacturers in the country. I sell patio block, mulch, and concrete mix to Lowe’s and Home Depot’s in the Cincinnati, Dayton area. Unfortunately, I got hurt at work.

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Part of my job is to get my stores ready for spring by making patio hardscape displays on the shelves of the garden department. While in one of my Home Depot’s, I removed the old display and had to put a shelf in its place. In order to get the beam locked in place, I had to hammer it down so that the little nibs would lock in the hole properly. I got the right side of the beam hammered in place, when I was working on the left side. Being right-handed, I was using my left hand to hold the beam against the rack pushing it forward while swinging a 3 lb hammer with my right arm. Just as luck would have it, hammering across my body, I barely nicked my pinky finger with the end of the hammer. Had I not been swinging so hard, it would have just caused a blood blister, but because I was wailing at the beam with such force, the blow blew the tip of my pinky open. As soon as I felt it, I knew it wasn’t good, but I didn’t know how bad the cut was until I went to the bathroom to clean it up. Once there, I realized I had to go get stitches as I could I open up the top of my pinky finger.

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I traveled to a nearby hospital where they put five stitches in my finger. I also found out through x-rays that I broke my bone as well. I have to wear a splint for the next month. I always thought that if I ever cut one of my fingers open, it would be from a band saw blade,  chisel, or a knife. I never thought it would be from the brute force of a 3lb drilling hammer.

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The stitches came out last week and I should be fine in about a  month. I’ll need to keep the splint on my finger as the bone heals, but it’s not a big deal. The protrusion of the splint from the top of my finger keeps me from hitting my pinky on objects. I take off the bandage everyday and clean the wound. You can see how much my finger has swelled from the blow. I feel stupid for hitting my finger, but it was more of an accident than anything.

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Another Dresser Turned Wine Cabinet

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Last year my wife and I bought an old dresser at an antique show in Columbus, Ohio. We had a spot in our dining room we wanted to make into a bar area and the dresser was small enough that it would fit nicely in that spot.

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I had to remove the drawers to make room for the wine bottle storage I was going to build so, I cut off the rail and drawer runners that were between the two drawers.

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The dresser was old and someone in the past tried to repair the case by driving nails through the side of the case into the end grain of the tenon. I took the tenon out and drove the nails back out through the side.

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After the nails were gone, I glued the case back together to make everything sturdy and square.

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The cabinet was going to be painted so, I bought some birch plywood and cut up pieces to make a box that would slide inside the case. I also trimmed the edges of the plywood with oak to match the rest of the case.

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The old dresser had a bit of detail to the rails that I wanted to match on the box I was building.

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I took my No 8 hollow molding plane and planed a shallow recess down the middle and rounded over the sides with my block plane.

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I had to carefully build the box to fit inside the case. It needed to be loose to slide in, but not too big that it wouldn’t fit. I made the box an 1/8″ smaller than the length and height of the opening of the case so that it would fit. I used simple rabbet joinery to join the sides together and a dado down the middle for the divider.

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The moment of truth. After building the box I prayed that it would slide in the case. Thankfully it did.

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My wife painted the case with black milk paint. She also sanded and stained the top and drawers with a gel stain. I then applied two coats of Waterlox varnish on the top and drawers.

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I wanted the left side to hold wine bottles so, I built diagonal grid out of solid oak and used dadoes for joinery so that the other side of the grid would slide through. This too had to be fitted carefully so that it wasn’t too tight to slide in. After everything fitted well, I took it out, stained and applied Waterlox varnish to the grid.

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Here’s the final cabinet sitting in the same spot. We removed one shelf as we felt the wine glasses hung a little too low. The cabinet came out well and was dirt cheap to build.

Porter Cable Restorer

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This week while traveling through the Lowe’s stores I call on, I stumbled upon this sander in the tool aisle. It’s called a restorer that uses a sanding drum to sand wood. It was originally $129.00, but Lowe’s had it on clearance for $69.00. I thought it was too good of a deal to pass up so, I bought the tool along with a box of 80 grit sanding sleeves and a paint removal wheel.

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I’ve seen a tool like this being used one day while watching This Old House. Norm traveled to a cabinet shop that builds furniture out of old barn wood. They were using a Makita wheel sander to sand away all the dirt and paint to give the boards a clean look without removing the character of the old wood.  I looked on Amazon to see how much the Makita costs and read the customer reviews. You can read about it here. Even though the Makita has a 7.8 amp motor while the Porter Cable only has 3.5 amps, both machines use 4″ drums, so I thought picking up this Porter Cable restorer for $69.00 was a steal.

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I grabbed a piece of old flooring and tried the tool out.The restorer comes with a variety of sanding grits, from 60-120 so, I slid on a 80 grit sleeve and gently placed it on the wood being careful not to put too much pressure on the machine so it would not dig in.

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After a few light passes, the wood was clean from dirt and grime. I even hooked up my shop vacuum to the restorer and very little dust, if any, escaped. The beauty of this tool is because it is a sanding drum, it slightly bounces off the surface following any irregularities in the wood. Had I used a belt sander to sand the board, the bottom plate of the sander would have flatten any of those irregularities away. After I was done sanding, the wood still had an old look, but was clean from dirt and grime.

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Impressed with its performance, I decided to clean off the top of my workbench. You can see the difference between the sanded surface with just one pass with the restorer. The tool even has variable speed so I can gauge how aggressive the drum will sand.

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You can buy a wheel to remove rust and paint from metal for about $12.00. When I use this wheel, I’ll make sure I won’t hook up the restorer to my shop vac. It’ll be just my luck that I’ll suck in a spark that will ignite the dust inside the vacuum bag creating a dust bomb. No thanks.

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Refurbishing a Dresser into a Wine Cabinet

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Back in the summer, my wife bought a dresser from a couple in Kentucky on the Longest Yard Sale for $20. The dresser wasn’t in the best shape as most of the drawers were beat up , but we decided to buy it anyway because we knew we would be able to re-purpose it into something other than a dresser.

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We decided to turn the dresser into a wine cabinet so I had to remove the rails from the middle of the case. I grabbed my Fein MultiMaster and cut off the tenons that attached the rails to the frame.

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I cleaned up the middle of the case and strengthened the case where it needed with glue and clamps.

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The cabinet opening was 25 1/2″ square so I designed the inside to accommodate as many wine bottles as possible. I played with different measurements until I decided on 4″ square holes to fit the wine bottles.

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While building a couple of grids, I test fitted them to make sure they would hold a wine bottle without falling through. I made the grids from southern yellow pine and each bar is about 3/4″ square, 12″ long with a chamfer on the front.

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I built the rest of the grids and tested their fit again. The cabinet would be able to hold 25 wine bottles.

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Since the bottom of the cabinet was now open to the floor, I added a piece of 1/4″ plywood to the base of the cabinet.

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And because I added the plywood to the bottom, I had to trim a 1/4″ off the bottom to all my grids. Using my panel cutter and a hand clamp, I was able to cut all the grids to the same length.

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After test fitting everything together, all the grids came together nicely. I installed a 1/4″ piece of plywood to the back of the grids so that the wine bottle wouldn’t fall through the back.

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Satisfied with the grids, I turned my attention to the drawer and glued a new piece of wood to the bottom of one side as it was damaged. The drawer wasn’t opening smoothly so this repair helped out a lot.

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Because the grids were freshly cut wood, I wanted to age them to match the piece, so I brushed on an apple cider vinegar and steel wool solution to darken them up.

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My wife painted the inside of the case black and the outside grey with milk paint to let some of the original finish show through. She then stained the top with a gel stain and applied three coats of Waterlox varnish. This cabinet is now ready for years of use under its new life.

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Cincinnati Skyline

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Some ideas are born in my head, some are inspired by something I see. Scrolling through the internet one night, my wife showed me a picture of a city skyline made with pallet wood. I studied the picture and thought that it would be something fast and simple to make to sell in our booth. The first thing I had to figure out was the overall size of the picture. I measured the hand that was holding the picture and then measured my hand to determine the approximate size of the picture. I took dividers and set them to the size of the hand, then used that distance to step down the length and height of the picture. It was a little under 8 steps for the length and my hand was 5″ long when holding it in the same position as the picture. So, 5 x 8 is 40 with the measurement being a little under 8 steps, I decided the picture was about 3 feet long. Doing the same thing down the height of the picture, I came to a final conclusion that the picture is about 20″ tall  x 36″ long.

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The next thing I did was google image search “Cincinnati skyline”. Once I came up with a picture I was satisfied with, I printed and cut out the individual buildings. In the original city skyline above, it appears the artist glued a bunch of pallet wood together and then placed a large template over the whole thing, then traced and cut out the outline with a saber saw. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted my buildings to be an individual piece of pallet wood

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My pallet wood was 3 1/2″ wide, so I cut some paper 3 1/2″ wide as well. I then took my dividers and used them to gauge where the details of the building fall within the over design of the building. I then transferred those reference marks onto the piece of paper to draw the building.

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Once all my buildings were drawn, I lined them up to where I wanted them to lay for my  city skyline. The final two buildings are the Procter and Gamble buildings that are the same. So for that template, I simply trace around the wood for the first tower, then flip it over and use that side for the second tower.

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The next steps are the easy part. I ripped 1/8″ hard board down to 3 1/2″, traced then cut the shapes out on my band saw.

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The templates were the important part of the design process, because they will used to draw the final shape of each building when building the city skyline.

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Back to the band saw with a 1/8″ scrolling blade and cut out all the buildings. You can see the final buildings on the right are two of the same.

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I decided to use 6″ wide siding for the background. I had some scraps from when I was building my shed, so I didn’t have to go out and buy any. For the frame of the picture I used a 2×4 ripped to 1 1/2″ square with a 3/4″ square rabbet cut down one side. I then cut and fitted each piece with 45 degree angles on each end.

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Making sure everything fitted well, I test fitted the frame together without glue. I wasn’t too concerned about the expansion and contraction of the wood, because the siding is freshly milled and will more likely shrink a little bit. Once the wood shrinks, it will be able to expand and contract in the tongue and groove joints of the siding.

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I then test fitted the buildings in the frame. What’s great about this project is that it is simple to make and doesn’t require any sanding.

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My wife then stained each building with different colors of stain. She also painted the background of the siding with black milk paint. The 2×4 frame was brushed with a steel wool and vinegar solution.

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After gluing and nailing everything together, the final product is ready for sale. This is more of a craft project than fine woodworking, but it was super easy to make. The most time-consuming part was the design process. Now that it is made, I need to see if someone will buy it and at what price. Stay tuned.

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Soft Wax

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If you’re a follower of Chris Schwarz’s blog The Lost Art Press, then you probably know about the soft wax his daughter sells on Etsy. A few months ago, I was lucky enough to buy a can as she usually sells out within a few hours after Chris tells people more is in stock.

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My wife and I are constantly buying old pieces of furniture to resell in her booth. Almost always, the old drawers in dressers stick making them tough to pull in an out. When I heard Chris describe the uses of the soft wax, I was intrigued to see how well it works.

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I rubbed the wax on all the runners of the drawers and let it sit. You can see how it glistens the wood at the back of the drawer. After all the runners and bottom of the drawers were waxed, I tested their fit. The wax works perfectly! I highly recommend it.

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Now the dresser is in full working order and is much more appealing to any potential buyer. The only word of caution in using the wax is that it has a strong odor. So strong, my wife made me move the dresser to the screened in porch because it was stinking up the dining room. I’m not sure what exactly is in the wax to make it smell the way it does, but it kind of reminds me of a diesel fuel smell. I’ve read that Chris and his daughter are working on a new version with charcoal inside of the formula to cut down on the odor. You may be able to buy their new formula now.

 

The Skinner Irrigation Co Hand Drilling Device

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I’m not sure how unusual tools find me, but another has landed on my lap. This time it was an odd-looking drill press. I spotted it in a local antique shop and knew it was some sort of drill press with its flywheel and depth handle, but it was a drill press like I had never seen before. I could tell it was for drilling through pipe because of the claw like clamping pads that could wrap around pipe after adjusting the bottom arm.

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I brought the drill press home and after cleaning it up, I clamped one of my bar clamps across my workbench and attached the press to one end of the pipe.

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After studying the press a little bit, it dawned on me that I actually clamped the drill press upside down. The arm clamps down on top of the pipe, then the user turns the flywheel while pulling up the depth adjustment arm drilling a hole.

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I realized it was upside down because of a small level on the bottom of the press which guides the user to place the tool level.

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Here’s another view of the press in its rightful state.

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Luckily, there was a maker’s plate on the back. The tool was made by The Skinner Irrigation Co in Troy, OH. I googled the company name and found they were a turn of the century company that specialized in laying irrigation systems. Apparently this tool was used to tap into pipes to attach some sort of nozzles in a direct line with each other. Also, on the plate there was a patent number 893667 so I googled that as well. I found out that the tool was patented July, 21, 1908. You can read about it here. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/0893667.pdf

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The bit that came with the tool looks like a broken threaded tap. You can see that the collar doesn’t have a chuck so this must be a very specialized tool to do one specific job.

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Who knows how many of these hand drilling devices were made, but I’m glad this one found me.

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Building a Shed Part XII

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While browsing through the Weaver Barn catalogue, Anita saw this cool looking arbor over a couple of doors. We decided that an arbor like this would look really nice over our side window.

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To begin construction on the arbor, I grabbed some scrap cedar I had from building the shed and made about 24 slats. The slats were about 1  3/4″ wide by 13″ long with a little 1″ arch at one end.

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Designing simply from a picture can be tough, so I grabbed a scrap piece of 6″ wide cedar, cut out a 4″ diameter arch and placed it around my corbel to see how to design the overall arbor.

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The distance between the corbels is 6′ with the overall length of the arbor being 87″. I originally planned 25 slats about 3 1/2″ apart, but Anita thought it was a little too many slats.

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We ended up deciding to use 21 slats 4″ apart. I wanted the slats to fit in place so I cut some dadoes in the wood to house the slats. Using  my dovetail saw, router plane, and rasps, I easily cut the dadoes in no time.

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I cut a small dado on each of the slats as well and test fitted the arbor together.

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Since the slats had a dado, I decided the corbels should have dadoes as well to keep everything in line.

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I also wanted the arbor to fit inside the corbels so I cut notches in both the front and back where the corbels would go.

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I fit everything back together and drilled the slats to fit on the front and back. I used stainless steel screws so that they wouldn’t stain the arbor like galvanized screws would.

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Dry fitting everything together the arbor started to come together nicely, so it was time to stain it.

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I stained the arbor the same Benjamin Moore Cedar Bark stain we used on the shed.

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However, after living with the color of the stain on the shed for a few weeks, we weren’t too happy with the color. So, after the first coat of Cedar Bark from Sherwin Williams, Anita mixed in a pint of Leather Saddle Brown with a touch of Fresh Brew stain from Benjamin Moore. Since all three stains were water based, they mixed together well.

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After I applied the new coat, the cedar took on a much warmer color. We were very pleased.

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Anita helped me install the arbor so I don’t have any pictures of it being installed as I wasn’t in the mood to tell her to hold onto the arbor while I stop and take some pictures. I started out measuring the length of the window frame and calculated how much on each end the corbels would need to be in order for the arbor to be in the middle of the window. The window frame was 67″ while the distance between the corbels was 72″. That left me with 2 1/2″ on each side of the window. I marked the spot and then decided how far above the window I wanted the arbor to be. Once I got that measurement, which was 2 1/2″ as well, I nailed the left corbel in place with 2 1/2″ galvanized pneumatic nails. Then, I placed the arbor on top of the corbel, leveled it, and then shot nails in the arbor itself, attaching it through the siding into the studs of the shed. I then screwed my stainless steel screws through my pocket holes attaching the arbor to the corbel to tighten everything up. Next, I took the right corbel and stuck it up into the recess of the arbor, nailed and screwed it up just as I did to the left one. Finally, I screwed and nailed the back side of the arbor to the shed.

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As you can see, I think we made a good decision darkening the cedar stain. The cedar looks richer and blends better with the gray paint.

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The Workshops of Biltmore

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Last week, my wife and I went to the Biltmore Estate again for the fourth or fifth time. If you’ve never been there, there’s a little village on the estate where you can visit a farm, workshops and the ever important winery. Every other time we’ve been to Biltmore, we spent too much time at the house and the winery that by the time we arrived at the village, the workshops were closed. This year we decided to see the village before we headed inside the winery.

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I took some quick shots of the blacksmith shop and the tools they use. After I took these pictures, the blacksmith came back and showed us how he made coat hooks with a rose on the top (sorry, no pic). It was late in the day, so all the anvil work was done, he was simply polishing them up on a wire wheel. Biltmore sells these coat hooks in their gift shop for $42.00 each, but they sell as soon as he’s done making them.

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If you’ve never used a blacksmith vise, you need to get one. I use on in my workshop and they are far superior than a table top machinist vise.

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Not sure of the weight, but it looks like a 300 lb anvil. He had a smaller one in his shop right next to this one.

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The overall working space of his shop was about 10′ x 15′

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Right next door to the blacksmith shop was the woodworking shop.

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Inside was a bunch of tools I’ve seen before except for this cool little foot powered mortise machine.

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The woodworker wasn’t around so I don’t know what his responsibilities are for Biltmore. He could just make things for the gift shop, or he may do some repair work around the estate.

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The majority of the tools were old, but he did use electricity. I couldn’t really see what was inside the tool chest on the right.

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By the looks of these planes, I question whether or not he uses them, or if they are there just for show. A little too much dust and cobwebs on them for my taste.

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A newer lathe sat in front of the older one. He spent his day making these turn of the century ball in the cup toys.

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If you ever get a chance to go to the Biltmore Estate, make sure you give yourself enough time to visit the village before you head into the winery and get drunk like we did. haha

Building a Shed Part XI

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We’ve been building this shed for over a year now. Between the cold of the winter and the heat of the summer, this has been the biggest project I have ever taken on. The past few weeks, we’ve been preparing the shed for paint.

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I sanded the body of the shed with 80 grit sand paper with my random orbital sander. This allowed me to take off the glaze from the mill when the wood was being processed.

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The doors and corbels were sanded to 150 grit because we were planning on staining these elements. I filled the nail holes with some outdoor wood putty as I wanted the doors to have a finished look without a bunch of nails holes in them.

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My wife, Anita, went to Ace Hardware and bought Aura paint and primer by Benjamin Moore. This paint isn’t cheap at $70 a gallon, but we wanted to make sure the shed had the best finish on it so we wouldn’t have to repaint it every other year.

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With two coats of primer on it, we let the shed sit for a few days before we applied the top coats.

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The body was painted with two coats of Galveston Gray.

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The shed was starting to look really nice. The top trim and the windows would be painted with Iron Mountain.

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We picked Cedar Bark stain from Sherwin Williams for the doors and corbels. The shed is nearly done, but I still need to make a trellis over the side window and build a small deck underneath the doors. Getting real close.

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