Archive for December, 2012

Settee Creation With Wood

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Great-gramma and her beau used to do some serious clutching on her parents settee. That is when the old Puritans were in the kitchen churning butter. The small sofa is not all that conducive to spooning, but if you do things right …

The whole idea of what the Canadian’s call a Davenport originated in the early 1300’s, when some French-guy came up with a piece of furniture he called a “couche.” At that time, you could spoon on one of these things. As a matter of fact, in Frog-speak “coucher” actually means “to lie down.” The one big difference between a couch and the economy-sized model is best posed as a question:

Have you ever heard of a settee potato?


You can get all stylish; adding cushions, padded armrests and rocket engines, but we’re going to stay truly mission-style with the one below. The bulk of a settee consists of three pieces: Where you set your butt, rest your back and the legs to lift it from the floor. It’s somewhat like a park bench if the coach hid the steroids.

Arms are optional, as is the length of the unit. This one will accommodate two square pillows, but if you want a third cushion, measure and cut for the extra length. While oak will work, if you want to make one that will take on extra girth, go with an ipe wood or jatoba.


The cut of the pieces of the wood, again, is for a pair of peeps. Go get:

  • 4 posts that are 2¼-inches square by 34½-inches
  • 3 rails that are 1-by-4-inches that are 52¼-inches long
  • 13 slats, ½-inch-by-21¼-inches-by 5-inches
  • A pair of cleats 51-inches long by 1-inch square
  • 4 1-by-4’s that are 24¼-inches long

Get It Together

Set-out the slats and the rails, mortising all of them 5/8th of an inch deep. As you see above, you’ve got the precise dimensions for this part. While you’re slicing-out the mortises, get them as square as you can.

Also, be aware, we’ve added an extra ½-inch to the posts so the corners can be sloped on the top ends.

Purchase some super-durable stainless steel nails to hammer into the posts where they criss-cross the rail tenons. Use standard wood glue to schlep the joints together. Clamp, let dry and finish it off with paint or stain. However, you can refrain from this if you use ipé. It ages much better than your great-gramma without an inch of rouge on her cheeks.

Let’s Build a Mission Style Library Table

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

It almost seems as if Frank Lloyd Wright invented the mission style library table. His simplicity of structure in his furniture makes it an ideal piece for any interior. But guess again. This type of inside furnishing actually came about before America turned into a country. Invented between 1735–45, it was most likely put together using white oak.

So, what ya say we try our hands at making one of these undemanding, functional pieces of pre-Constitution furniture?

Stuff You’ll Need

You want to buy lumber that’s un-warped. Obviously. Take down this inventory of things you’ll need to order (then cut once you have whatever material you decide to use at home). While hardwoods can be rough on the tools, rest assured, the final product will last well-over 300-years by picking something high on the Janka Hardness Scale. The super wood known as ipe is about as tough as you can get. Be informed though, the table will be heavy if you employ ipe.

Table Saw Time

  • The top will need to be 1-1/8th-inches thick. Cut it down to a rectangle measuring 34-inches wide by 46-inches long.
  • The shelf will need to be 7/8th-of-an-inch thick. Cut it 42-inches by 22-inches.
  • The side rails require a plank that’s 7/8th-of-an-inch thick. All four of the pieces need to be cut 6-inches wide. Here’s the twist: Two should be 37-inches long, the other two need to be just 25-inches.
  • The 2 stretchers, where the tenons of the shelf will be inserted, should be 1-1/8th inches thick, 3-and-¾ inches wide and 25 inches long.
  • The slats; you’re going to need to slice-up 10 of these. Their dimensions should be 5/8th-of-an-inch thick. You’ll chop them to be 17-inches long and 1½-inches wide.
  • The four keys need to be a ¾ of an inch thick, 2-and-7/8th-inches long and 1¼ inches wide.

What it Will All Look Like

A lot of us are visual by nature. We want to see where everything goes. Well, there you have it. We’ll start first with the side view:

See, all of the measurements are right there. Now, we move to the front view which could likewise be the back view:

Details, Details

Glue the mission style table’s ends together right off-the-bat. Let the goo harden before inserting the tenons of the shelf. Place the side rails where they belong. Make sure you cut the mortise leaning toward perfection.

For the keyed tenons, the length of mortise should have be about 1/8th of an inch more on the top. You’re doing this so the tenons can’t shift sideways. When it ages it shrinks and that shrinkage will rupture the shelf. You can always fill the gap with some flexible wood filler which will adjust for slippage.

Fasten the top in one of two ways: Hardware or wooden dowels. Your choice.

Staining it is also up to you. A water stain works well. Let it dry, give ‘er a soft sand-job and do it again if you haven’t gotten the right shade to your liking.

Lastly, it needs a good shellacking. Let it dry to the touch, do another light sanding number then take some thick, pasty car wax to polish it up. You probably will have to add the wax a few times.

Bingo! All done. Now if you could only show it to Frank Lloyd Wright. Actually, probably not him. He was known to be extremely cranky.

Happy Holidays!

Overview – Making a Wood Porch Swing

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Wood porch swings aren’t just for geezers. Romantic types will spend the early evening making googly-eyes at each other and even kids enjoy a good rock-and-forth on a wood porch swing.

You can buy one from you’re favorite Big Box hardware store, but unless you and anyone that joins you are over 150-pounds apiece, you’re probably purchasing an invitation to a trip on your bum when the seat has had enough of your weight.

Getting Underfoot

Our suggestion is to first see if the overhang on your porch can handle the weight. Test it up-to 1-thousand pounds. That way you can use some nice hardwood that may have put on a few pounds because of its grade.

And building it you want to create one that’s wide enough to comfortably seat 3-folks. Not a trio of string beans, people that have some meat on their bones.

You can buy some ready-made plans when you pick-up the wood, but you may need to make some modifications along the way.

Wood? What Kind?

The most imperishable wood is ipe wood. This stuff would survive an alien invasion. Other types could be jatoba or tigerwood. All three are stronger than Mighty Mouse.


Square straight up-and down, side-to-side wood porch swings might work well for the purple guys from another galaxy, but us humans enjoy a touch of rounding where our knees hang over the seat. How long you make the butt-part is easy. Ask a few buddies and the spouse to sit in a kitchen chair. Measure the distance from their knees to their back.

The back support is key. You want it to roll gently from your shoulders to your bottom.

The pair of armrests should be the absolute correct height and length. Take out the tape measure and head over to your favorite chair in the house. Measure the armrests, making sure you add 4-inches to the final numbers. This way you have extra room to attach it to the back and seat of the swing. Once again, remember not to assemble the armrests in such a way that where your wrist sharply hangs-over the edge. Round and smooth is in.

For the frame, you’re using stainless steel bolts. For the slats, stainless steel nails. And why would you spring for the best? Because stainless steel will not cause discoloration of the wood.

Before assembling anything, stain and seal first. It’s a pain to do this once it’s finished. Any nicks or scratches can get a simple touch-up after the thing is put together.

Hanging it in the Heavens

You need help here. Mighty Mouse is off fighting Oil Can Harry. Just grab two of your neighbors.

Mark the spots that can take the additional weight. On the bench itself, you need to install 4 swing supports. Buy some heavy-duty chain that can handle a thousand pounds or more of stress.

Attach the chain to the swing first. It should be fastened securely on the back and front of the swing. Put ‘em in places where they’re a little out of the way,

Use enough of the metal so that when it’s folded in half, it’s going to hold the project. Measure and cut so that the bottom part is around 3½ to 4½ feet from the ground. Climb the ladder and measure with surgeon-like precision where the supporting hooks will be punched into the super-strong rafters.

You stay on the top rung. Have your buddies’ lift the swing while you fasten it in place on both sides.

Lunge toward the fridge, grab three cold ones and one at a time take your position on you new wood porch swing – watching the clouds as they pass over.

The Symbols at the Bottom of the Page – What is NAWLA

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

It all started on a train headed to Bean town. A trio of guys were on the rails, headed to a meeting. Turns out they had something in common. They were all headed to the same place, a face-to-face with the same lout that owed them a bundle of money for lumber they sold the fellow.

One of the people dishing the straggler was John Clark of J.S.H. Clark & Co. of Newark, NJ. In a way, that’s when the now-named North America Wholesale Lumber Association came to life.

Back in the Big Apple

After the confrontation in Boston, Clark gathered a group of compatriots in April, 1893 at the Imperial Hotel in New York City. Fifteen different lumber wholesalers heard Clark’s spiel, one that suggested creating a group called the “Wholesaler Lumber Dealers Association.” The purpose was to share notes on not only how to collect from deadbeats but to create a “think tank.” An organization which would cover everything having to do with being a wholesale supplier of timber products.

It didn’t take long for word to travel. In less than a month, 24 companies hopped on board representing states like MA, MD, MI, NJ, NY, PA and RI. Then in May of the same year, 50 members returned to the Imperial Hotel. That’s when the Association’s constitution was adopted and John Clark, since it was his idea, was elected the first President of the organization.

Flash Forward

In the 21st century, NAWLA has evolved into a group that represents its members through educational efforts that include publications, learning tools, networking events and industry information. The goal: To give its membership information and better understand current trends and opportunities.

The Environment and NAWLA

In 2002, NAWLA adopted an important document that spoke to environmental concerns of consumers and retailers alike. Considered to be a comprehensive “green” plan, parts of it read:

“NAWLA and its members salute all those who use sound environmental practices. We endorse the significant efforts being made within the forest products industry to assuage the public’s environmental concerns through the development and implementation of scientifically based forest product certification programs. We view the wise and prudent use of renewable resources as a cornerstone to the world’s long term building products needs, and support those firms and organizations that embrace these practices.”

But that’s not all. NAWLA embraced some strong language relating to those cutters who fall outside the boundaries of “green” forestry practices:

“Environmental destruction caused by illegal logging is wrong and creates negative perceptions of the forest products industry in general. To ensure against any form of illegal logging, NAWLA’s members have the responsibility to support high forest management standards and the commitment to use forest management and manufacturing practices that meet environmental, social and economic objectives. NAWLA and its members promote implementation of and compliance with constructive logging laws in all global timber-producing regions. NAWLA defines illegal logging as any violation of the laws and regulations of those regions. In regions where these laws are not in place, NAWLA supports the establishment of those laws and regulations that protect legal and sustainable trade in forest products.”

So, when you see the NAWLA symbol at the bottom of our webpage, you can be assured that all products sold under our roof follow the tenets drawn by the Association with which we are proud to be a member.

Sure wish we had a seat on that train in 1893. It’s always an honor to be around at the birth of a great idea.

For more information visit us at!

Making a Piece of Furniture Look Old

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Ever get something from an Amish furniture store? You know the place. All of the handcrafted pieces are usually unfinished. Some are quite elaborate. A lot of them are simple, though. But, again what separates these homey furnishings from your basic showroom is they are not stained.

Once you get the table, chair, hutch or horse-drawn carriage back to your place, it’s obvious that it doesn’t fit in with all the stuff you’ve already collected. It needs a touch of vintage-isity.

Not only will this article apply to the Amish-made purchase. It could help you age-up a treasure you carted into your house from a Yard sale or Garage sale.

100 Years from Now – Today

The unfinished pieces from Amish-land will require some widespread sanding. Every nook-and-cranny has to feel the touch of tough love. Got a palm sander? Schlep some 120-grade paper in it. By doing this you’re opening the pores of the areas that are about to get a touch of antiquing. Finished with that part, dust it all with a tack rag.

On the other hand, with that sparkling new-old piece of hardwood furniture that you copped at the yard sale no wholesale sanding is required. No need to tear-off the surface on the Yard sale thang. You just want to make a few imperfections.

Let’s say what you have is already kinda old. It’s time for some dinging and denting the surfaces. Make it look natural and not as if you went crazy with a screwdriver or hammer. You can also do this on the unfinished wood. Just do it after you’ve first stained the piece.

Other suggestions to distress the surface:

  • A heavy vase twisted a few times on the wood.
  • A cast-iron pan slam.
  • The tip of a warm iron.
  • An old key.

Water rings are pretty easy. Just take that empty can of spinach you threw away last night and spritz some brown paint on the bottom. The lip should make a nice mark. Do a practice run on some scrap lumber to perfect your artistry. You can also let a cigarette make a burn mark on an edge.

Stains Make the Age Stick

All the abuse you’ve performed on that piece of furniture (that did nothing to deserve it) will pop once you apply some stain. If the unit has paint on it, still rub a coat of the substance on it. The shade is up to you. Amish-style – nude wood – as we mentioned earlier, stain the beast all over first. Wherever the future treasure came from let it fluid soak-in for a couple minutes before wiping-off the excess. Give it an overnight dry.

Next day, carefully dab some more stain on the imperfections. You might even opt for a small tin of a darker shade. Stay inside the lines, dents or whatever you’ve done to the surface. Have a rag on-hand to wipe up any goof-ups. You don’t want the imperfections to look as if it were lipstick applied to your mouth as you’re off-roading on your ATV.

Now that everything has had a few days to settle-in, give the furniture a tung-oil rubdown. It will protect the surface. It will not make it all shiny like a varnish would. After the wood has sponged-in the tung-oil, take some superfine steel wool, dipping it in some pasty car wax. After that part dries, buff it with a totally soft piece of natural fabric.

The Symbols at the Bottom of the Page – What is NHLA?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Cave-dwellers in some foreign country haven’t the foggiest idea what the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval means. Same goes for the Underwriters Lab stamp. It’s not that they’re dumb; they’re just more interested in surviving.

Here in the States, in most cases, we’ve got the endurance part down. One way we keep ourselves on the cutting edge are trade associations. The truly good organizations create standards, rules to live by, education, political advocacy and information.

In the timber world, one such assembly is known as The National Hardwood Lumber Association. You see their symbol at the bottom of our webpage. Why? We believe in what they do and ascribe to their principles.

So, What is The National Hardwood Lumber Association?

It’s something that’s been around for more than a century. The founders wanted to set forth standards based initially on the inspection of hardwood lumber and grading rules for the measurement of said stuff.

But since 1898, the NHLA has branched-out into an Association that helps train the industry so that it can succeed in a global economy, which changes about every 9-seconds.

Dealing with Washington, D.C.

Politicians can always use a schmear of help when it comes to an issue. That’s where the NHLA makes a mark by looking after the hardwood industry. As a customer, it’s important to you. Ever gotten ripped-off by inferior junk from Crapganistan? NHLA is the buyer and seller’s voice. They ensure you don’t waste your time putting together some long-term project only to find-out later that the hardwood you used would be better for a nice bonfire than a deck.

Keeping the Hardwood Supplier Up-to-Date

In an information-rich world, your lumber supplier doesn’t want to spend half of the day on the toilet reading endless articles about hardwood. NHLA keeps the knowledge they need down to a manageable quantity. Sending out hardwood specific newsletters and emails, a monthly magazine and a perpetually updated website, your supplier is kept in the know (and not on the throne, flipping through a stack of reading materials).

A Teachable Moment

Since the NHLA knows its stuff vis-à-vis North American hardwood lumber grading rules, they offer classes to pass on their wealth of know-how. Here’s how they put it, “From the Inspector Training School where a career in the hardwood industry takes root to technical short courses to on-site company training by an NHLA National Inspector; NHLA has the experience to further your knowledge and your career. As such, NHLA strives to offer programs to meet the needs of all sectors of the hardwood industry at all career stages. NHLA currently offers an introductory class, Hardwoods 101 as well as a Leadership, Management and Development Program, perfect for up and coming young managers.”

Now you know about one of the symbols at the bottom of the page on our Internet site. For us, it’s a badge of honor. For you, it’s an assurance of quality.

Installing Hardwood Flooring – Part 2

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

When we last left you, you have already gotten the directions to get this party started. Now comes some of the really important stuff. Hop to it!


This is just another way of saying “arranging the planks.” You want to mix things-up, so spread-out your hardwood flooring into a couple of bundles. Put them in some order – like the really dark ones there, the next shade down over there, the medium and light hues over there. This will allow you to keep from turning the surface into slabs of single colors. An additional tip: Place their tongues from those piles in the same direction.

Kids in the Hall

Those who are doing a hallway along with a room should start in that area right off-the-bat. That way you’ll be able to meet the hall with the soon-to-be resurfaced room. You may be forced to slam ‘em together edge-to-edge. That the case? Cut a piece called a spline. You want it to be wide enough to snuggle betwixt the slot in the hall, around halfway into its groovy neighbor. Simply slide the groove of one side to the splined tongue.

Kissing One Plank to the Next

You don’t want the seams to align, right?

Stick the first board to the wall foundation you created in part one. You may need to take a half-foot from the top so that the seams will be staggered. Use a ½ inch spacer at the end where the top of the plank meets the walls, then start joining the wood. Make a couple of pilot holes in the tongues. Nail and countersink them, but not through the face. The tongues are where you hammer the fasteners. Row-by-row follow this practice. After you get the third row down, it’s time to simplify things by using the flooring nailer. Fiddle with the air pressure to ensure that you countersink the nails.

Remember, you always want to keep a ¾ inch spacer between the wall and the edge of the plank. And mind the seams so they don’t make a little-bitty creek-spaces across the horizontal surface.

Got a board that’s warped or bowed? Set them aside. Best bet, when you’re almost finished, take them back to the place you purchased them and get replacements.

Something’s in the Way

So, you have a fireplace, floor-to-ceiling beam or some other obstruction. Easy to fix. Cut the planks to wrap around the difficult points.

When you run into a corner, jig sawing is required. Cut to fit. Leave a ½ inch expansion gap at the end of the plank and a ¾ inch space along the edges.

Final Rows

You’re now going to leave the flooring nailer portion of the show. Drill a slew of pilot holes. Do not connect them to the sub-surface until you’ve put all of the planks in place. Obviously, unless you are extremely lucky, you’re going to have to do some cutting. Use your table saw for this part. After these modified planks are in place, stick a little scrap wood on the wall to squeeze everything in order. You’ll end-up face nailing and countersinking so everything stays steady.

Trim Job

Being mostly done with the floor, reattach the molding and baseboards. The baseboard should be flush with the floor. Attach it with nails and lay down a sheet of paper on the surface of the hardwood. Atop the paper (so that you leave an ever-so-slight gap) nail the shoe molding to the baseboard.

Nice work! Just don’t ever tell your neighbors that you did it yourself. Print out Parts 1 and 2 of this post and wish them good luck. You don’t want to end-up doing this for them unless you and they are interested in a relationship that may lead to doing something, somewhere else other than the freshly laid floor.

Installing Hardwood Flooring – Part 1

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Get ready to hop on a train to the “Land of the Two-Parter.” We want to make sure that everything is done right. No step-skipping here. That’s why there’s a part 1 (this piece) and a part 2 (the next article). Make sense? Then let’s slip it into first gear: Installing a hardwood floor. Incidentally, it’s a hell of a lot easier than laying carpet or puzzling together tiles.

Welcome Home

After you pick-up the wood, welcome it home. And if you choose the delivery route, forget about rainy days. Wait until its clear-and-dry for a few. Once it’s in your flat, allow it to acclimate to your indoor environment for about a week. The stuff needs to set inside at a temperature of around 70°. Do not allow it to rest on concrete. If you must, elevate it at least 5-inches above the material.

Whatcha Need

Collect these tools to do the job:

  • Table Saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Hammer
  • Drill and bits
  • Nail Gun
  • Jamb Saw
  • Flooring nailer
  • Mallet
  • Tape Measure
  • Pry Bar
  • Broom
  • Chalk line
  • Regular nails
  • Barbed flooring nails
  • Transition Strips

Along with those tools and supplies, here’s what else you need to have on-hand:

Starting Line

Sweep-up the bare surface where you plan to install the hardwood.

Time now to take on the first row of planks. Pencil some marks along the low-portion of the floor that will tell you where the floor joists are. Roll-out the roofing felt. To make the foundation strong, lay the felt in a perpendicular pattern to the marked joists.

Beginning at the longest length, likewise perpendicular to the aforementioned joists, measure the width of a floorboard, adding ¾ of an inch. Mark it and hammer some nails into the roofing felt. Pull the material flush to the unwooded floor. You’re now set to begin setting the wood on the edges.

Tool Time

Not wanting to split any of the sweet hardwood, pre-drill some holes. You’re drilling should be about an inch from the grooved edges. You want to spread-out the holes so they attach to the joists. You’ll do this on the first and last rows of flooring. These pieces will require you to nail ‘em through the face of said hardwood planks. Everything else is attached through the tongue.

Set the first board with the tongue pointed toward the middle of the room. Place a ¾ inch spacer against the opposite wall. Slip a plank against that opening. Drill a few more holes and tap-in some flooring nails to keep matters in place. Make sure you countersink every nail.

Stick the next plank to match-up with the layout line. Kiss the end groove with the tongue, pressing the pair of boards together for a tight fit. Drill and nail down the plank from wall-to-wall. The last one you’ll need to slice just to make it fit. Just ensure sure you leave a ¾ inch gap for expansion before you hammer it into place.

That’s it for Part 1. In the next edition, well get into things like racking, adding the rows, using the flooring nailer and the finishing touches. See you in just a few.