Evolution of an Idea… or…

How What If?, What Else? and Why Not? works…

The WoodDot Design coasters sort of float around loose – and I don’t particularly like that. I mean, four (or more) coasters are nice enough in themselves but the presentation – the complete package – has been lacking. Oh, there is the X-Box (certainly no danger of mistaking the WoodDot Designs version for that better known one…) that is a bit too fiddly and delicate to produce.



And there was last year’s box Box (1/4″ walnut sides with a 3/8″ bottom) – that I don’t have a photo of – which worked well enough but it, too, is a bit fiddly to cobble together. (My woodworking mentor has just released an improved version of last year’s Box.)

Saturday I was showing Jan the jig I built for making miter cuts (for miter joints – primarily for picture frames) on the table saw when she asked what if I made a small frame to hold the coasters… What If?



Then, using a cut-off piece of the framing stock, I wondered if it could work to hold WoodDot Design napkin rings… What Else?… Why Not?… Well, that didn’t work so well but it lead to another refinement – which works (in my humble opinion) quite well. So instead of having coasters and napkin rings adrift in drawers or loose on countertops, they can be kept neat and tidy and put on display! Photos in a bit – I got ahead of myself and put on the first coat of polyurethane before taking a photo…

So, just like that, in just a couple of days, What If?, What Else?, Why Not? resulted in improved packaging and a more complete presentation for the WoodDot Design Coasters and for the Napkin Rings!

Could It Be…


I doen’t know, but I can’t seem to see one project through to completion without being distracted by the next What If, What Else, Why Not?

For instance, it has been two months since last posting anything – not because I haven’t had anything to post but, maybe, because I had too much to post and couldn’t decide on what to go with? So, what do I do? I figure I better restart SOMEwhere and see where it goes. Here goes…

The shop is up and running. The new floor is great. Tools include: table saw (new), bandsaw (new to me), router table (refurbished), dust collector (new), drum sander (new last year), spindle sander (new last year), drill press (new to me a few years ago), thickness planer (several years old but updated with new blades) and mortising machine (new last week!). Shop built jigs (cross-cut sled and miter sled) improve the accuracy and effectiveness of the table saw. Now, it is up to me to learn how to use these tools to improve my wood working….

I’m enjoying the experience of creating new and improved iterations of my basic designs. But, while making “better” tea-light holders or “better” whiskey flight trays (a new design with a ‘real’ handle), I keep thinking up new ideas or variations of existing ideas.

So, back to the ADD… Not-Quite-Finished projects/items: Whiskey/Beer Flights; Tea Light Holders; Napkin Rings and holder; Picture Frames; Coasters and boxes; Chimney Cabinet (ready for painting!) and a Quilt Rack. What Ifs interfering with these items: Replacement windows for the barn, new combinations of woods for all of the above items; Cutting Boards; Arena Checkers/Chess (and Chess Pieces!). And it doesn’t help (really, it does) – although it is great fun – to have a son and daughter-in-law working at a specialty wood company…

I am committed to a Holiday Arts, Crafts and Gifts show coming up in early December – but how much of which items do I need? Don’t know but I’ll make a bunch and see what happens. Also, with the Holiday (read Gift) Season upon us, this is a good time to revamp my Etsy shop with new items and (just maybe) some incentives…

So, stayed tuned…

Variation on a Theme with Recycled Wood

Last week we found 20 or 30 small pieces of molded trim that came out of a turn-of-the-century house in Grand Rapids, Michigan. These pieces are about 12″ long, 5″ wide nearly a full inch thick with a 3″ molding at one end. They also have multiple – at least 4, possibly more – coats of lead-based paint on them.


Since I have no desire to sand lead-based paint, I soaked a test piece in paint stripper, which did a good job of removing nearly all of the paint.


A scraper and some mineral spirits took care of the rest of the paint.

The piece was then cut to 3″ wide on the table saw – after I found and removed a couple of almost hidden finishing nails. The drum sander cleaned up the top and bottom and a bit of hand-sanding touched up the sides. A reveal was cut into the bottom using my recently completed router table. The WoodDot accent was added and wells were drilled to accommodate the sampler glasses and votive candles. (Tea light candles fit inside the glasses for another possibility. ) The unfinished piece was a hit at last night’s dinner party.

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Today, a finish of hand wiped mineral oil was applied. The oil brings out a golden glow in the flat surfaces which contrasts nicely with the exposed grain of the molded shape.


This was a fun practice piece and I am looking forward to expanding on the concept (joining two pieces together to hold three or five glasses/votives, experimenting with different widths, and testing different finished). While this particular piece will probably stay in our household, the design/item is listed in the WoodDot Designs Etsy Store.

Not Quite a Prototype

Here’s the result of my trying a couple of things in the shop: A Shooter Sampler Tray:


It isn’t really a prototype as there are too many flaws which cannot be corrected. The good news is, I learned from those flaws. The next one will be a prototype…

I used the router table (with the old top) to cut a rabbet or reveal around the bottom of the block. What this does produces a shadow and makes the block appear to “float.”

The top corners were chamfered to created the angled edges.

The wells for the shooter glasses were carefully drilled about as deep as possible without drilling through the bottom. The deeper holes hold the glasses better.

This practice piece is made of red oak and measures ¾” x 3¼” x 10″. Since this is just a practice piece, I didn’t apply any finish to it.

The prototype should be done by Friday…

New (Old) Material

We spent much of today doing yard work – mostly just winter clean-up. The sun was out, the wind was down and it almost felt warm. It was good to be outside. I took the new chain saw for a test drive through the tree we lost in December – fun stuff! Now the wood needs to be split and then transported to Little House or Maple Island for drying and, eventual, burning (we don’t have a fireplace or a wood burning stove here). Much of the winter debris – sticks and small branches went to the burn pile in the yard. Creating a fire-pit was added to the list…

While checking different parts of the yard, I “found” (in much the same way Columbus “discovered” America) two old and very weathered doors on one of the outbuildings. Now, this outbuilding is in a serious state of disrepair…


The doors in question are well past the point of no return as doors. But, the wood in them looks promising for repurposing as WoodDot Designs projects. And old barn wood has great potential for “artistic enhancement” (that’s one I learned while visiting the Chihuly museum in Seattle) into decorative and functional items…


And then, really old barn wood just looks cool – without enhancement of any kind.


Later in the day, while looking for something (didn’t find it and now can’t remember what it was) in the barn, we came across a treasure trove of old wood. Big pieces, little pieces, oak, pine, maple and who knows what else, molded trim pieces, dimensional lumber and old barn timbers… I’m excited about the possibilities with all this new (old) material!

New Directions

My woodworking is going in new directions.

One direction is toward larger items like Craftsman style furniture. This table, for example, came out of the shop this week.


This project (and my brother-in-law) taught me many new skills: squaring up lumber to improve accuracy; mortise & tenon joints; sanding techniques; gluing/clamping techniques; and, perhaps most importantly, patience.

Another direction is wood turning – using a lathe to create bowls and spindle items. I was gifted a small lathe last year and I have finally decided to learn to use it. I have to admit a great deal of frustration (mostly with myself) as I climb the learning curve.

Of course, I am continuing with my boat building and with the small, useful items I’ve been making. I suspect the new skills I am learning will improve and enhance all of my woodworking.


Spring is here! Sure, the calendar told us spring arrived on March 21st… but winter weather – and the snow – hung around until early this week. Of course, the weekend weather forecast calls for “…up to 1″ of snow” Sunday evening…

BUT, this week has been warmish enough for the pile of ice and snow in front of the barn doors to melt enough for me to open those doors and get into the barn! Hey, I know for some folks that isn’t newsworthy but for me it means spring is here! It is an exciting time of the year.

I’ve been in the shop learning new techniques – like how to use a lathe. This is very new to me and the learning curve is a bit intimidating: let’s take a sharp tool and hold it against a piece of wood that is turning at a pretty good speed… what could possibly go wrong with that? Well, I’ve got a good teacher and, with some patience and practice I might learn how to use a lathe without hurting myself. Anyway, the lathe opens up more possibilities for me.

It is an exciting time of the year! The countryside is coming alive. I’m learning new techniques. I have a shop space to build out and outfit. There are new tools to acquire. There are new ideas to work on. And… life is to be enjoyed!

Inspiration from the PNW

We were out of town for five days visiting family in the PNW. The weather was, for the most part, a very nice change from what we left in Michigan. While in Seattle, I found inspiration from the memorial service for my cousin, Bill Strothman, killed in the March 18 crash of KOMO-TV News helicopter. He was a special person and will be missed.

I also found inspiration for new WoodDot items while visiting the Chihuly Garden and Glass at the Seattle Center. I will be working on those items in the next week or so.

I am excited to be back home, ready to add new equipment to my shop and to be working on new ideas!