Open the Doors

Join us Friday, May 6th from 5-7PM at the Studio, 1002 SE 8th Ave. It’s our Spring Open House to celebrate the WIN program and the accomplishments of its high school woodworkers.

This is our first year working with Portland area students from Aloha and Franklin High Schools. We continued our relationship with South Albany and Crescent Valley High Schools from the Albany/ Corvallis area as well. The work these students are doing will impress you. What they’re learning being in the shop and at the bench is also something to note. There is focus, desire to do well, and commitment. Not always easy to say about high school students. But you can see it in the work these workers put into their pieces.


Come see the Studio, check out the student work, watch the big band saw at work. There will be refreshments and beer from Base Camp Brewing as always.






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Tools & Materials

You think you know something. You think you have it finally all put into place and then you tweak one little item like scale and everything changes. Take tools and materials for instance.

This will be our first workshop in our Carpentry/ Building tiny series of workshops: Tools & Materials. What’s to learn? I know tools, right? I know materials, right? But this is all for furniture making. Where the focus really is tiny. But when we start building a house, tiny or no, the needs change. Now we build for weather proofing, for space saving, for ease of sheathing, roofing, and fenestrations/ windows. For all these things, the rules change. The talk is about more than precision, it is about fluidity, about ease of use, accuracy, and speed.

Join us April 9 and 10 for this workshop as Brooks Nelson wows you with his insights on carpentry. This workshop will be about the tools that a carpenter needs, not a furniture maker. The tools that make life at the sawhorse go smooth. It’s a different set of skills a carpenter needs. Come and get some for your toolbox.

1-Top 10 Carpentry tools



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Why tiny?

You may not have noticed, but while you were asleep, the world changed. It looks suspiciously the same but it’s not the same as yesterday, last week, five years ago. It keeps changing, it doesn’t ask for our permission, and we are forced to change with it. Populations keep growing, the good watering holes get noticed and fill up, and Less is More isn’t just a catch phrase, it simply makes good sense.

The Studio is starting to run tiny House workshops on building. These are carpentry courses on tools and materials, framing a wall, making a folding chair, doors and windows. Basic essential classes that give folks interested in building tiny homes, a resource, a way to get started. Our first is April 9th. Check our site for more details in the Workshops section. We’ve done carpentry classes in the past but never directed towards tiny Houses. Why tiny?

I am not suggesting that everyone live in a tiny House. But there’s something about living a bit easier on the earth that has always seemed right to me. If we can help folks figure out a way to do this and, with an exclamation, do it using good design and solid construction principles, then I’m not just for it. I want to help lead the way.

Tiny Houses give us a chance to try out some big design ideas on a small scale. They give us the chance to design an environment where every construction detail is considered and done well. It’s an opportunity to create for our lives a sense of place that most everyone can relate to.

The world changed and it did not get simpler to live in. Building tiny is our way of making a part of it simpler again.

1-tiH framing wall 2015


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I had a neighbor who built furniture. He made a piece with this great set of doors filled with lines and ribbons of color. I asked him how did you make all this inlay? He said, Oh that’s not inlay, it’s paint. Oh, I replied.

Don’t get me wrong, paint is wonderful. But if you make furniture and you get a chance to put in some inlay, don’t hesitate. Take the plunge, learn to cut inlay and ground. It’s more fun that laying down ribbons of masking tape, I can tell you that.

SAB Detail Inlay


Inlay Secrets lecture Wednesday, March 2, 6-8pm. Join us. No paint.


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It appears to be so simple. A drawer. Everyone knows them, uses them daily, forgets what’s hidden inside them on a regular basis. Drawers, you know, the thing with the corners, and there’s space and they open or actually slide. How hard is it to make a drawer? What’s the big deal?

The deal is simply that drawer construction is box construction which is as sloppy or precise as you want to make it. But one thing, the drawer box, has to fit into another to make the agreement work.

3 Drawer Case class this week at the Studio.




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The Power of Repetition

How do we learn? How do  things stick in our head so that we can repeat them with accuracy? It is a well known and often ignored truth. Repetition. Trying, practicing, and trying again.

Your brain is no doubt larger than mine, but to get something in my head like French or into my hands like carving, I have to practice. Not much, not all day, not until I’m bored and tired of it. But I do need to practice with regularity and purpose. For an hour or more each day or a bit more if I can find the right groove. Sometimes less. I need to have the tools in my hand so that it feels right. The grip in my hands so it becomes familiar. The accent gets put in the right place so that it makes sense. The vocabulary  groomed once more. And again. L to Legacy shots 017

The power of repetition.









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The Power of the Band Saw

No machine in the shop is more important than your band saw. It’s as simple as that if you build furniture. If you’re a cabinet maker, then you’ll pick your table saw or router. But for furniture, no machine can do all the jobs that a good band saw can do.

Notice I said good. A bad band saw is not worth the steel it was stamped out of. But a good one can rip lumber safely and with a smaller kerf. It can do joinery work, it obviously can cut curves and shapes all day long. It can also saw up logs, resaw lumber into veneer or laminations. It is as versatile a machine as we have.

Join us this Wednesday at 6pm for a lecture on setting up and tuning your band saw for use. It’s a must if you want to experience the joy that sawing with a band saw offers.



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I’ve Had it with Chairs

I’ve had it with chairs. They’re supposed to be pretty, and functional, and hold up to big butts scooting them around on the floor. They have to be inviting, look like the human body, or the lap of a human body, and feel comfortable sitting in them for an hour. Too many requirements.

Go sit on a stump.

Okay. I’m over it now. My rant on chairs is only half made up. Chairs are one of the most difficult design problems to solve. They’re mostly air first of all. Describe a rectangular box around the corners of a chair and you have mostly space inside this box. So where do you remove the material to come up with the chair shape?

We, of course, as joiners build our chairs from the ground up, not grinding them from the stump down. We do this for purposes of strength, for weight considerations, and finally for reasons of beauty, real or imagined. It is one of the most challenging of furniture designs and great fun if sometimes irksome.

Join us at the Studio for our DESIGN: Open House Jan. 20th, 2016 at 6-7:30pm for a discussion on and about chairs. We’ll talk a little history, a little design, a little engineering and lay out the challenges one faces in designing the perfect chair.

Or stump.




Horseman side (2)






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Fed up with Finishes

Finishing is done by finishers. Finishers sniff fumes. Finishers teaching finishing forget fundamentals.

So I’ve heard.

Solvents are the key to understanding finishing techniques. Or at least an understanding of them will give you options for the finish that you apply. Come and learn how to apply simple finishes in our two day weekend courses, Jan. 30-31 from 10-5pm.

We will cover surface prep, sharpening scrapers [the key is the filing], chemical coloring, and then topcoats like waxes, oils and oil mixes, varnishes, and shellac, the miracle finish. Finally we finish the finish with rubbing out options, the key to successful finishing.

Come in to the Studio ignorant of all those mysterious cans of finish on the shelves and leave armed with knowledge, some practice, and a slew of sample boards for your shop. Never fear finishes again.


GR finishing




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What If?

What if we tried this again?

What if is a fascinating phrase.

What if our timing was a bit off?

What if our assumptions were wrong?

What if I hadn’t become a woodworker. Would my St. Vitus dance have taken me out?

What if I thought it was time for a change? Would I make the right choice?

What if I did this work only for myself, to please some interior motivation, some unconscious or semi-conscious need for symmetry or perfection or an attempt at perfection? Is that wrong?

What if I paid attention to that interior sense I have of what’s right or good for me? That sense that immediately knows when something, or someone, is off, not quite right, standing crooked but promising straightness?

What if I listened to my gut instead of my head? What if I listened to my heart instead of my head?

What if I learned from my mistakes? Wow, what if I learned from my mistakes? I had to write this twice it was so stunning a thought.

What if I needed to practice more?

What if I needed to presume my ignorance instead of my sure knowledge?

What if you came to the DESIGN: Open House Wednesday, December 16th from 6-7:30 pm to talk about possibility, choices, and what if ideas?

Hmm. What if?




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