Category Archives: Built buy others

I thought you were a woodworker…?


We just had these cabinets built for our living room.

The title of this post is the most common response I hear when people see our new built-in cabinets and find out that I did not build them.  Why on earth would a “woodworker” pay someone else to build custom cabinets?  Because it made sense, that’s why.  I don’t like to build this style of cabinet and it would have taken me a very long time, so I would have been frustrated and annoyed during construction.  By farming out the construction and to a custom shop we got just what we wanted and fast.


Before the “pro” showed up we cleared the wall of all obstacles.


Installed in a day.  Amazing, from my timeline.  At this point I took over (with help).  Paying a good painter is expensive and painting didn’t take very long.

This is not my trypical how-to type post.  I’m posting this to show that I do not DIY with every home project.  I limit myself to the projects I enjoy or the ones that I can not afford to hire out.  Maybe since this is finished I can go back to real furniture projects.

Bob Jones


Windsor Chair Kits Now Available – Everywhere


Is this chair factory made or handmade?  Both.  Keep reading if you are curious to learn more.

The best way to describe this project may be Frustration Free Furniture Restoration.  This is counterintuitive, I know.  The words “furniture restoration” remind me of sanding, staining, repair, and headaches.  It is just not for me, thanks.  A long time ago, I refinished a cabinet for my wonderful wife.  That project went so poorly that I sold my profile sander and swore to never refinish another piece of furniture, but a recent post on Woodnet may make me eat those words.


The “refinished” chair

Justin, a fellow Mississippian (transplant), posted some pictures of a Windsor chair that he completed in a day.  The project was a mix between a rebuild and a refinish.  From the pictures I hope you can see why I was impressed with his handiwork and requested permission to blog about it.


The “kit” (after a quick demolition) – a chair that Justin originally described as “clunky”

Justin started his project by selecting a chair that he found in an antique store.  In Mississippi, “antique store” = piles of junk, stored indoors.  He liked a few things about this chair; it was inexpensive, the spindles were made from straight-grain stock, and the crest rail was steam bent – not sawn or laminated.  With the proper subject (aka – kit), he began by knocking the chair apart.  Reportedly, all the joints were loose so this was not a violent process.


Original (left) and refined (right) spindles

After the chair was reduced to a pile of pieces, he put the legs and larger spindles in his lathe.  Those were reshaped to match styles of other chairs that he preferred.  The smaller, straight spindles were resurfaced with a spokeshave, adding facets that can only be a result of a skillful hand guiding a sharp edge tool.  These two steps were pure genius in my book.  All of the pieces now look (and were) hand finished and he eliminated the need for sanding.


Major reshaping of the crest rail

Not stopping there, he reshaped the crest rail with some judicious saw cuts, chisels, spokeshaves, etc.


Next up was deepening the dish of the seat with a gouge, scraper, and sandpaper.  This makes a big difference in appearance and should make the chair more comfortable.


What Windsor chair seat can be shaped without a drawknife?


All of the hand finished pieces ready for assembly

With all of the pieces “refinished” (actually reshaped) the chair was ready for reassembly.


The chair – reassembled and painted with red milk paint

One more construction note.  The joints were loose when he started, so epoxy was required to make the joinery stable.  Justin highly recommends a slow curing epoxy.  Assembling one of these chairs takes time and fast setting adhesives makes the process more stressful.


The red was nice, but the end result is a step up

Add to the red milk paint a coat of black shellac and judicious rubbing and Justin has a really nicely finished chair.

There are at least three great points with this approach to a “hand made” Windsor.  First, there were no special tools required.  Making a Windsor from scratch requires a significant investment in specialty tools (tapered reamers and such) that many woodworkers are not willing to buy for making one or two chairs.  Second, all of the joinery was pre-cut, which eliminated the most time consuming part of any scratch built project.   Third, no sanding away the old finish.  No further explanation needed on that point.  Thanks to the “kit”, Justin was able to take the chair from a loose collection of pieces to “finish ready” in a day.


Good spindles = chance of a good kit

Are you wondering how you could begin a project like this?  The primary ingredient is a good starter chair (AKA – the kit).  Look for a chair with as many traditional details as possible – round, delicate spindles for the back (rather than flat or bulky) are a good indicator. Many factory-made Windsors have leg turnings or construction details that are a significant departure from traditional design. These chairs should be a avoided if you want a traditional look.  Also look for components that were made from straight-grained hardwood (maple, beech, or oak are really nice).  Finally, it is best if the crest rail was steam-bent (look for continuous grain all the way around with no layers like plywood).

If you find the right chair (or one close enough to it) and the price is right, snap it up, knock it apart, and get to work.  Enjoy the refinish with minimal (or no) sanding required.  I may even give furniture refinishing another go now that Justin has shown me a method that does not require a profile sander.

Bob Jones

A Nice Dutch Tool Chest (not mine)


Travis from middle Tennessee saw my post on building a Dutch Tool Chest and offered to send me some pictures of his.  I think you will agree that he did a fantastic job on the build and has filled it with a nice set of tools.  The pictures prompted some questions from me, so I thought an interview type post would be fun.  So check out all the pictures and learn what you can from them.


“Can you give me some of your highlights from the build?”

“I used home center white pine. The top and fall front are glued panels. SYP for the locks, battens, and skids. I made the larger version because I do not have any other chest or cabinet for tool storage. As you can see by the orientation of the planes, I too am a southpaw. The #8 is the one I bought from you. I made a small drawer for inlay tools that always seem to get lost. It is a simple rabbeted construction with a nailed on bottom. I made no attempts to remove plane tracks or tear out. There is a lot of tear out and I am ok with it. I think I got the craziest grained white pine in America. One coat of primer followed by two coats of flat latex and one coat of wax. The hinges and hasp are from Van Dyke’s Restorers. The handles are home center zinc plated. I removed the zinc with vinegar. All hardware was treated with gun blue and oiled.”

That was not enough info for me, so I probed a little deeper.


“What would you do differently if you had it to do again?”

“Make it deeper front to back. At 11 1/4 inches the top compartment feels cramped.

Make the top compartment deeper top to bottom. I wanted to hang a small try square on one of the sides but there is no room.

Make the middle shelf narrower. Stopped dadoes would not take anymore time than cutting all the notches for the locks and battens, and would make it easier to attach tools to the fall front.

Use milk paint for the finish. I had some leftover primer and paint so I don’t feel too bad. I prefer the look of milk paint.”

“Do you recommend the small drawer below the shelf for others?”

“I would recommend the drawer if you have small tools that are prone to getting lost. I store inlay tools and a router adapter in there. I don’t use them enough to put in the top and I was afraid that they would get lost or fall out if placed in the open compartment.”


“How do you have the lid attached / stopped?”

“I don’t follow instructions well so I tried to do something different with the top. It did not go well and as a result the top was too narrow to act as a stop when open. At first I used a leather strap and that failed because of the weight of the lid. The attached photo shows my solution. Two blocks approximately 2 x 3 x 3/4 inches. The top of the blocks are cut at 10 degrees. They work great and take most of the stress off of the hinges. I recommend them if your vehicle is large enough that there is little chance of knocking them (when) moving the chest in and out.”


“Ok, what’s the significance of the donkey?”

“Two-fold: 1) I love donkeys. 2) Many people are put off by my sense of humor and I have been called a ‘donkey’ (paraphrase) more than once.”

“I have to ask.  Is there any political influence in the choice of the donkey?  Someone who reads the post will ask, so we may as well get that out there.”
“The donkey has zero political indication. It never even occurred to me. I’m not naive, honestly. I love burros.”

Many thanks to Travis for sharing and being willing to answer all my questions.  I expect this will help others who are considering building this chest.  Please, since the burro is not political let’s leave the politics discussion for other blogs.  Thanks!

Bob Jones

House of Chairs

Check out these super simple chairs. I’m going to have to try these one day.

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes


black finial

My family & I took a quick trip to visit friends in Maine. No class, no workshop, lecture, etc.  Just plain fun. Scattered about the self-proclaimed “house of chairs”  is a great mis-mash of ladderback chairs. When I began woodworking in 1978, I started with this book.

MACFAT cover


It showed how to make a “shaved” chair. Same format as a turned chair, but no turnings.

Here’s a turned Shaker chair –

shaker rocker



Many years later, I learned some about furniture history & found references to “plain matted chairs” and “turned matted chairs” – matted referring to the woven seats. (See American Furniture, 2008 for an article on shaved chairs – “Early American Shaved Post and Rung Chairs” by Alexander, Follansbee & Trent. )

Here’s a nice $15 version, from French Canada. Through mortises all over, rungs & slats. Probably birch. Posts rectangular, not square. Did they shrink that…

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Patchwork not required


Like most woodworkers, I watch more than one internet forum on occasion.  It is a good way to get ideas for projects and get help when you are stuck.  In a recent post on woodnet, I saw this great walnut chest and I requested that the builder let me post it here on my blog.  Why feature another craftsman’s labor? Because I was so impressed with his design and usage of premium materials.  See for yourself.


I really see no room from improvement. I really like walnut and I’m glad to see such premium boards used appropriately (not cut into skinny pieces).  Here are a few of the facts from the craftsman.

“I did not want to glue up any panels… This walnut chest was built from two boards, around 24in wide that grew next to each other (sequentially cut). Both where 5/4 and ended up around 7/8in. The carcass was built from one board, cut to stay in order around the chest, and the top from the second “book matched” to the front section.  The carcass is 37 1/2″ wide, 18″ high, and 17″ deep, with a total height of 21 1/2″ with base. Top is 38 1/2″ long and 17 1/2″ wide.”


Thanks to Doug for letting me repost!  I hope this post will give others good ideas of how to use premium lumber.  By the way, this lumber did not come from some super secret location. He bought it from Irion Lumber, which sells lumber to anyone in the US willing to pay for lumber + shipping.  Looking at their website is making want to burn the cherry scraps that I am piecing together for my dresser project and give them a lot of cash.  I have to get off the internet now…

There are other premium lumber suppliers online.  I bought the cherry for my trestle table (see past projects page) from Groff & Groff lumber and there are numerous others. Thanks for reading!

Bob Jones