Tag Archives: American Woodworker

Visit from the Highland Woodworker

C_BrockMost everyone looks forward to Friday, but this past Friday was especially fun. The Wednesday before was not so much fun – it was filled with wood dust, wood chips and  lumber stacking, but not in a good way. Wednesday evening I spent cleaning my shop and rearranging the tools for a visit from Charles Brock, the Highland Woodworker.

Chuck and his business partner Steve began their Friday at the American Woodworker and Popular Woodworking Magazine shop in Blue Ash, Ohio, filming clips for upcoming episodes of The Highland Woodworker, which is Web TV for Woodworkers. (If you aren’t familiar with Chuck’s online show, you should sit a spell and take in a few episodes when you have some free time.)

Screen CaptureLater in the afternoon, we drove to my shop where we filmed a short interview section in which I discuss some of my early woodworking adventures, talked about what I find relevant in woodworking and I even shared a couple of stories about my (and my Dad’s) early days with Popwood. From there we talked about jointers and jointer setup, and we spent a few minutes discussing aniline dyes in finishing – you have to make the tiger-maple curls “pop.”

All this film work will end up on The Highland Woodworker later in the year. And when I get an exact date, I’ll be sure to let you know. Until then, below is the current episode for you to watch. If you slide about 15 minutes into the episode, you’ll find a guy who looks a lot like me talking to Chuck about shellac, but do watch the rest of the show. There’s some great woodworking information to be found, and best of all, it’s entertaining, too.

Build Something Great!


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Eagan, Minnesota

#45–June95As you may have read in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been appointed the incoming editor of American Woodworker magazine – I begin the new position as of March 15. There is a rich history at American Woodworker. During the mid-90s, AW was full of articles from woodworking legends such as Toshio Odate, Frank Klausz, Don Weber, Kelly Mehler, Jim Tolpin, Mike Dunbar, Patrick Spielman, Silas Kopf and many others. As I began woodworking, I picked up a couple of issues at the newsstand. The issue that I remember best is from June 1995 (shown at left). It’s from this issue that I learned about breadboard ends. Almost immediately I signed up for a subscription.

This past week, I had the chance to visit the current headquarters of the magazine in Eagan, Minnesota to talk with and meet the staff that’s keep that magazine rolling in spite of an almost complete lack of corporate backing. IMG_0056(If you’re a current subscriber, you owe a huge thanks to Tom Caspar, Tim Johnson, Brad Holden, Joe Gohman, Jason Zetner and Shelly Jacobsen.) American Woodworker magazine will move its operation to Cincinnati in the coming weeks, although Tom Caspar and Brad Holden will remain in Minnesota and work remotely as editors. Other members of the team are moving on to new opportunities.

(If you’re not a subscriber to AW, may I suggest that you purchase a subscription quickly. Tom and his gang are working on issue #172, and the new regime takes over for the following issue. I can say with great conviction that you won’t want to miss a single issue.)

While in Eagan doing what I needed to do, I walked around the office, workshop and a couple of storage areas to see the operation.IMG_0058 On a wall in one area photos – hundreds of photos – are thumb-tacked to the walls. It’s a visual history of American Woodworker magazine. There are, of course, images of projects from the many issues, but what caught my eye were the photos of past authors and woodworkers. There is a young Mike Dunbar shown looking through a couple of squares while handsaws hang on the wall behind him. Another image is of a younger Thomas Moser seated in a Moser-designed rocking chair. There are lots more photos. (Sorry that my photos of the photos are a bit fuzzy.)

Those photos were not the only historical records uncovered. Back in one of those storerooms are box upon box of old American Woodworker magazine files containing scads of original transparencies – how magazine photos were taken prior to digital cameras. Each box held the contents of 10 to 14 issues, and each issue is broken into articles. I was able to find the folders for each of the articles in the issue shown in the opening photo. You talk about history – and memories. I cannot wait to get started. Get your subscription now.


Build Something Great!



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Broken Screws

IMG_1433A couple of weeks back, and a few times since, I’ve found myself talking or writing about brass screw installation and how to do it without problems, so I thought I’d post a few tips and tricks to refresh the idea if you’ve seen this in the past, or bring it to your attention if you have yet to read this anywhere. Brass screws are softer than steel screws (Duh!). But I’ve seen steel screws – especially screws sold at home centers – break many times, so keep that in mind, too.

The proper method to install brass screws is to drill and countersink your holes using the proper devices. I find that’s easy to follow if you’re driving 3/4″ or longer screws. Shorter screws, for me, present more of a problem, especially when driving screws for hinges. What I do is locate the center of my hole using an awl, such as a birdcage awl from Czeck Edge. Then I drive a steel screw of a matching size and with similar threads. I then pull the steel screw and turn in the brass screw.

ExtractorBut what do you do if your brass screw breaks as you tighten, or over tighten? Then you need a screw extractor as shown at the right. This is simply a tube that has saw-like teeth cut at the ends. You center the tool over your broken screw, and with the extractor chucked in your drill, spin the tool until it’s below the screw depth. When you break out the plug – this is basically using a plug cutter – the broken screw pops out. While this is actually a plug cutter, the biggest difference is that the extractor is correctly sized to an outside diameter which can easily be filled with a dowel, or other cut plugs.

There is something strange when using a screw extractor. The tool is meant to be spun in your drill while the drill is set in reverse. If after a few seconds your extractor is not going into the wood, change the spin direction.

Another interesting tidbit is that these extractors are difficult to hold in position as you begin the cut. If you have an area that you don’t want to hack up as the extractor wriggles around before it bits into the wood, there is a method of work that saves your surface. As I wrote above, screw extractors are sized to be easily replaced with dowels. To make that happen, they need to be sized to standard diameters, which means you can also drill a hole the exact diameter using a drill bit. If you drill a hole with a matching diameter through a scrap, then locate that hole perfectly over your broken screw, the hole guides the extractor. No marred surfaces.


The above photo was pulled from an issue of American Woodworker magazine. You should expect to hear about and read about many new things with American Woodworker in the coming months and years. Why? If you haven’t yet heard, F+W Media – owner of Popular Woodworking Magazine of which I am currently the managing editor  has purchased the company which owns and operates American Woodworker. You can read a press release here, if you’re so inclined to do so.


Filed under Hardware, Methods of Work, Shop Tips