More Shop Tips

Here are a couple of things that I've found helpful lately in my shop. When I started making kilns for drying wood, the only thing available was too complex to wire for my experience, or chicken incubator thermostats. Well, technology has made some advances, I'm sure solely for the home kiln builder and now you can get this beauty.



This thing is a champ, accurate and easy. Here is a link to an Amazon page (not an endorsement, just a link, buy it where you like). It's $28 and much more trustworthy, plus it also senses humidity, but I haven't played with that feature yet.

Here is a favorite splitting tool of mine. It's an Estwing hatchet, available everywhere. I use it to create the initial score line when splitting as well as for splitting small parts. It's super slim which helps it "sneak" into the split without the crack running too far. This helps the wood separate along the fibers. Also, the handle makes it easy to hold while striking the back of the head and also to dislodge from the wood. Finally, the flare at the back of the head helps the split finish with a resounding "POP" when you drive it in. I reach for this tool all the time.



And my last tips for today is to share Wendell Castle's 10 Adopted Rules that Michael Fortune had on a poster at Fine Woodworking LIve



Crested Rocker Success Stories

We just finished up an advanced chair class building the Crested Rocker. Honestly, I was a bit nervous going into this one. The students all had experience, but many of the techniques that I've developed over the years to make it all work were untested on students. I am thrilled that all the chairs were a smashing success, comfortable and beautiful!!!

Here's some pics.


I will definitely be offering this again next year. I will probably add a day or two to the class to give plenty of time to focus on the details. The process that I teach in this class is really a language of using references to build any chair you might like, it's all about being able to design within a geometric framework that will make a great chair, regardless of the aesthetics that you choose. Of course, some experience is required because so much time must be dedicated to the finer points.



I'll be announcing new classes soon. I hope to do this rocker class as a birdcage, crested and perhaps even a design class with a special guest instructor. Stay tuned for more details


If you are looking for the experience that will enable you to take one of these classes, check out my August class at North Bennet Street School, there are still openings!

10 Commandments of Milk Paint

Ok, perhaps that's a little overstated, and I know for a fact that there are more than 10 important points to successfully painting a chair, but this is a list that I put together to stress some key details of milk painting.

Thou Shalt make Samples…Copious's essential to obey the proper drying times. If you let the paint harden fully, you get much easier results handling it. For instance, if you want to layer the paint colors, letting the undercoat harden for a few days will make it less likely to redissolve and mix with the topcoat color. If you want to wipe away lots of the color you just painted, doing it sooner while it's still soft will allow this. The paint gains hardness over days, not hours. If you want to polish it to a sheen, harder paint will be better, otherwise it's like trying to polish talc.

Thou Shalt mix thick paint (my favorite is from Real Milk Paint Co., let it settle and mix occasionally for hours and then add water to desired consistency

Thou Shalt let it dry…fully… at least overnight

Thou Shalt not try to “touch up” just painted areas, thus building up too much paint and causing problems

Thou Shalt rub off excess paint in-between coats with burlap or mirka mirlon pads

Thou Shalt sand any scraped or sanded areas after first coat of paint dries and repaint

Thou Shalt either let undercoat dry fully before changing colors or add very thin coat of shellac between colors to create separation of colors. The shellac should be nearly non existent in the mix of alcohol, just enough to keep the undercoat from dissolving. The first coat on top of the shellac will be a bit "slippery", so be prepared to let it dry and add another for a more consistent cover.

Thou shalt use trizact 3000 grit pad to smooth paint before final burnishing and oiling with burlap. This stuff looks like a Dr. Scholl's shoe insert, but it tames the coarse surface of the paint before oiling.

Thou shalt let oil dry, my favorite is a mix of satin 3054 osmo for the first coat and a mix of satin/gloss 3011 for the final 2 coats, both available from

Thou shalt smooth the finish after the first coat of oil with a gold mirka pad before moving on to the satin/gloss mix.

One of the biggest differences between the brands of Real Milk Paint and Old Fashioned Milk paint is that the Real Milk Paint is not able to burnish to a high polish before oiling. The idea is to keep it thin on the surface and use the burlap, mirka and trizact to get the texture smooth. It is the oil that gives the sheen. It may seem like more work, but the rubbing isn't as intense as burnishing the Old Fashioned Paint, plus, with Old Fashioned, it's more of a one way street. If you screw up  or want to add paint after burnishing or oiling, you might have trouble. I've actually painted Real Milk Paint on top of Osmo and other oils with no adhesion issues, it's just an easier paint to work with when trying to do fine work.  Good luck!