Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Look Back – Way Back

This is the last post of 2012. As the year ends, it’s only right to take a look back. I’m looking way back. Four decades back. It’s been 40 years since I’ve become involved with woodworking.


As I dug through drawers in an older cabinet kept in my garage, memories of my first real project came flooding back. In one of the drawers I found the pencil shown above. It’s what I call a “first-grader” pencil – it’s the size of a convenience store cigar, about 1/2″ in diameter. Printed in black letters is “American Woodcrafters.” A now defunct wood supplier in Piqua, Ohio where Dad and I purchased lumber early on in our woodworking days.

I remember going there and walking around stacks of lumber housed in a concrete block building that, as I remember today, was a city block in every direction. In a small room adjacent to the warehouse area, my eye was drawn to a minimal stack of light-colored lumber with a bunch of lines running across the grain. I was mesmerized. What the wood was didn’t matter. I wanted some. After making my case, Dad allowed me to take a board home. Below is a box I made with that wood.


Don’t laugh. I was 13 years old. Ah go ahead, laugh. The design is first-rate don’t you think? (Sarcasm intended.) In all my days since, I don’t think I have every come across a box built quite the same. Upon closer inspection you begin to see my affinity with power tools taking shape. My dovetails are tight thanks to a router and jig, but there are a couple gaps and a few well-placed wedges. And not a scribe line to be seen. At the back corner, screws are giving way to age, but I don’t mind.

I can’t remember what I used as a finish, but in a raking light, as you look across the top, you see scratches left from #80-grit sanding belts, or maybe I used #100 grit. Back in the day, I didn’t have a random orbit sander – I’m not even sure if they were in existence. For for the past 20 years, given my lack of skills, my box has lasted just fine while perched proudly at the top of my refrigerator.


Years later I discovered that the wood I was drawn to was tiger maple. A wood that has become my favorite with which to work. In fact, when I build a project for publication, I often surprise editors if I opt to work with a wood other than tiger maple. Imagine finding something at an early age that plays a vital role in your livelihood as an adult. Was it a coincidence, or it was fate.  Best wishes in 2013. Until then …

Build Something Great!



Filed under Design, Jigs, Joinery, Power Tools, Routers

A Router Jig, or a Ingenious Method of Work?

A_BasePhotoThose of you who read this blog know my penchant for routers. My router, and a circle-cutting jig, made easy work of the inlay on my clock base, as shown at the left. Circle jigs are not used on every project. In fact, they are not used on most projects, but when you need one, it’s nice to have options.

Recently, I teamed up with Popular Woodworking Magazine for a new router-based DVD. “Router Joinery & Techniques with Glen D. Huey” is available as a DVD or a digital download. Click here to pick up a copy.

A_Router DVD CoverIn the DVD I talk about and demonstrate using circle-cutting jigs. There are jigs that replace a router base-plate and those that work with router bushings. These jig designs work in different ways so it’s good to have both in your shop. But there is a circle-cutting jig in your shop already and you may not realize it’s there.

Obviously, I used a circle jig to cut the groove at the center of the base for my white/black/while banding. (Not wanting to ruin my veneered panel meant no pin at the center on which to pivot my jig, so I made a plywood pattern of the circle, a large hole if you will, then ran my router – guided by a bushing – around the inside of my pattern to cut the inlay groove.)

I also used my router to cut the quarter circles for my fan inlay. At a 1 1/2″ radius, I could not use circle-cutting jigs as they are normally used. To make these cuts I drilled a hole in my router base then swung my router in an arc.

A_Veneer PanelI began with a veneered panel attached to front of my clock base. (I had my veneer bonded to a backer to make life easier. Bonding to a cross-grained back allows veneer to be worked and stored more like boards – no veneer softeners, newspaper layering or time lost waiting.) Before moving on, I used a straightedge and a pattern bit to create an area for edge banding.

A_PinPin placement was a snap. I used a Czeck Edge Birdcage awl to start my hole – really like this tool – then drilled for my pin. Measured 1 1/2″ from a 1/16″ inlay router bit toward the outside of my router plate, then drilled a hole the same diameter as my pin.

A_QuarterCutThe router slips right over the pin and because I was cutting in from the edge-band area, there was no need to plunge my cut. All I had to do was flip the router switch to the “on” position and rotate my router through the cut. A perfect 1/16″-wide, quarter-circle groove was made.

A_CutCompleteWith the grooves complete, I cut and installed my edge banding, installed stringing that straddled the veneer and edge banding to cover my seam and to define my fan area, then used my router again to waste away the fan area before installing the sand-shaded fans.

Is using the router plate as I did considered a jig? Is it an example of “out of the box” thinking? Or, is it a standard router technique?

Build Something Great!


Filed under Inlay, Jigs, Power Tools, Routers, Shop Tips

Seldom Used Router Technique Solves Problem

DoorYears ago at Woodwork Event shows, I taught seminars on router techniques. I shared tips on router joinery, jigs and fixtures associated with routers and talked about basic router uses. As I neared the end of the 90 minute seminars, provided there were few questions,  I would jump into “fill the time” mode. I would ask if anyone had a drill bit that cut 4 1/8″ diameters. Of course, no one had such a  bit, or if they did they would not admit it in front of others.

The reason for my question was to open my discussion of how you could use two router bits – a pattern bit and rabbet bit – to create a hole of any size. I seldom used this technique, but I sold it as a way to create holes large enough to act as supports for dust collection pipe. J-hangers, commonly used to hang plastic pipe, were easily broken. If, however, you had a hole at the center of a piece of plywood, you could hang pipe forever.

IMG_0343It’s a simple technique. Begin with a 1 7/8″ hole drilled at the center of your plywood – a drill bit of that diameter is not out of the ordinary. Step two is  to cut a 3/8″ rabbet around the inside of the hole, then using a pattern bit where the bearing rides along the rabbeted shoulder, remove the remaining material to open the hole 3/4″. Your hole now has 2 5/8″ diameter. Repeat the process two more times and you then have a hole with a 4 1/8″ diameter. The technique works. It’s fun to talk about, and any diameter is possible depending on the size of your rabbet cut and the diameter of the hole in which you begin.

IMG_0342Until this week, I thought hole resizing was about the only use for this technique.  As I worked on my  waist door for the Egerton tall clock, I found another use. My door, as can be seen on the original clock in the opening photo, has a shaped top. The door also has edge banding that surrounds the veneered panel. For that, I needed to cut a recess.

My table saw worked great on the straight sides of the door, but for the top I needed a perfectly sized pattern that was offset from the door’s outer edge by 1″ exactly. I could have drawn a pattern, but would that have been an exact match? Instead, I grabbed a piece of plywood then used a pattern bit to get a profile directly off the door. I then went to my router table and stepped two times using a 3/8″” rabbet bit and my pattern bit, then grabbed a 1/4″ rabbet bit to compete my profile. My adjusted pattern was an exact match offset by 1″ (3/8″” x 2 + 1/4″).

If you look at the photo above, you may think that the sized pattern matches the door profile and I could have simply slipped the profile down the door and went to work. You would be wrong. The photo below better shows the relationship of the sized pattern and the door profile. Using this technique was the perfect solution.


This technique works. Now I’m left wondering where else I could use it, and if there are other seldom used router techniques that could make work in the shop better.

Build Something Great!



Filed under Jigs, Power Tools, Routers, Shop Tips

Hollows & Rounds – No Way

IMG_0339In woodworking, joinery and casework are important. But just as in life, the devil is in the details. Great casework without strong moldings leaves the project lacking. This is especially true on tall case clocks. The hood’s scroll moldings dominate a clock, but it’s the other moldings that carry ones eye upward to the hood. Poorly designed base-to-waist moldings or shabby cove moldings used to support the hood can destroy the line of a tall clock.

Of the “other” moldings on clocks,  the base-to-waist cove on tall case clocks, due to the thumbnail edge detail, is a difficult molding to reproduce using power tools – you cannot add the thumbnail using round-over router bits as that would require that you invert your molding as it runs past the bit. It is with this molding that I most often thought that I may benefit with a set of hollows and rounds, handplanes specifically designed to produce moldings.

IMG_0330With all this in mind, I set out to find an easy way to make the moldings for my clock using power tools. The first step was to sketch the design I was after. Because I needed to move out 1 5/8″ and up 2″ I decided to use a 30/60/90 triangle design. The two parallel lines in my rather crude drawing represent the 3/4″ thickness of my workpiece. The thumbnail is oriented as it fits to the clock case. After I had the design drawn to scale, I transferred the profile to the ends of my milled stock.


The next step was to setup my table saw to make the cove cut. I set my blade height to match the arc of the drawn cove then skewed the fence so the blade entered and exited the cut at the two points of my profile (shown in the insert photo). Above you can see the long fence as it is skewed to produce the cove that I needed.

IMG_0334Take a look at the end results as the pieces are complete at the table saw. My cove is offset to one edge of the stock. It is this beefier edge that becomes the thumbnail area. With my fence back in use, I set the blade angle to 30 degrees. My first cut was with the stock standing vertical to my fence and the cove facing the fence. This removed the extra material at the top, back edge so my molding fit tight to the waist of the clock. A second cut, with my cove facing up, produced the flat area that fit to the top edge of the base section. Below you can see the results.


Next I moved to my router table to form the thumbnail. As I mentioned above, you cannot use a round-over bit to make the thumbnail unless you run your stock inverted and you have the router bit set extremely high above your table. It’s dangerous and I do not suggest you work that way. Instead, look at other router bits you have at hand. I have a 1/2″ bead bit that is perfect for this operation. In the photo below you see how I have the bit set to cut using only the top half of the profile. You also see a neat trick when you do not have a fence that offsets.

Insert 2

Calculate the amount of material removed as you make your cut, then on the out-feed side of your fence, clamp a scrap that is sized to the exact thickness. As the cut is made, your molding runs tight to the scrap and is supported throughout the cut.

A little light clean-up work and my new cove molding was ready to fit to the clock. I mitered the two corners then added a small bead along the top edge to complete the profile shown in the opening photo. While this takes some calculations to get the profile to perfectly fit into position, it is way faster than making the molding with hollows and rounds.


Build Something Great!



Filed under Design, Power Tools, Routers, Shop Tips

Inlay Tools With A Twist

IMG_0012 copyLast week I shared the two oval designs, one of which I planned to use on my tall clock. Which did I choose? I selected the oval drawn using Freddy Roman’s method from the Popular Woodworking Magazine article. The other oval looked almost pointed when routed. But with choosing Roman’s method, there was, of course, a problem.

If you have followed any of the work I’ve done with string inlay, you know that I prefer to use a heated pipe section to bend my string – I have tried to use a solder iron, but have found it much more difficult.

Take a look at the finished oval shown the photo above. Look closely at the round ends. Those ends are way smaller than any pipe section I have in stock. I shot over to my favorite hardware store for a new section, but found nothing acceptable. Was I resolved to use a solder iron and power through? Don’t think so. This is when they say you should think outside the box, so I did.

IMG_0009I went to my shop drill bit drawer and found a new method to bend small rounded sections of inlay. Could an old twist drill bit do the trick. I had to give it a try, so I locked the bit in a pair of vise-grips and heated away. Cool thing is that the bit – due to its size or to its solid body – was quicker to heat. That made the task that much faster.

I went about the bend just as I would using anyone of the steel pipes: wet my string pieces slightly, backed the bend using a piece of metal strapping salvaged from a lumber shipment that came to the shop, heated the bit then bent my string. Everything worked perfect. In fact, four bends later my inlay was ready to install. All I had left was to taper and fit the ends to try and hide the joint.


If you have string work in front of you that has small tight bends, give this technique a try. It works.

Build Something Great!


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Filed under Hand Tools, Inlay, Jigs, Shop Tips