A.J. Hamler is the former editor of Woodshop News and Woodcraft Magazine. He's currently a freelance woodworking writer/editor, which is another way of stating self-employed. When he's not writing or in the shop, he enjoys science fiction, gourmet cooking and Civil War reenacting, but not at the same time.
A permanent connection
I just finished the most difficult project I’ve ever made. It was a project I never really wanted to do, but I was asked to do it and couldn’t – wouldn’t – refuse because it means so much to me.
Better late than never
What’s the longest it’s taken you to complete a shop task? For me, it’s about 30 years – give or take a decade.
Take a sick day, or two
Getting sick often means you don’t feel like doing any work. But for woodworkers, it frequently means that you shouldn’t even try.
An unexpected result
Despite your best efforts, sometimes things go sideways no matter how carefully you plan.
Woodworkers are nothing if not do-it-yourselfers. But there are a few things that baffle me that anyone would want to do themselves.
Remembering to open a blast gate is a pretty basic first step in effective dust collection.
After more than four decades of woodworking, there are still some basic things I can’t do. For those, I get help.
Using things while it’s fresh is always a good practice, whether in the kitchen or in the shop. Glues and finishes come immediately to mind.
Sometimes the hardest part of a project is the first step: Picking which side of a piece of stock to be the one everybody sees.
Whatever happened to NiMH tools? For that matter, do you even remember them?
Is it a thing of the past?
Wood prices and availability are getting better every day. But the quality, not so much.
Stop, look and think
Nothing kicks your brain into safety mode in the woodshop like a blood stain.
There’s such a thing as “Too Much Information.” Right now, though, I’m experiencing a different kind of TMI: Too Many Ideas.
What goes up…
Lumber prices are coming down. Whether you’re benefitting yet depends on a couple factors.
Just one small tweak…
Small tweaks to projects are often necessary, but they never take long. Except when they do.
Less than impressed
In his most recent “Taking Stock” column, Woodshop News Editor Tod Riggio discussed knock-off tool batteries. I decided to look a bit more deeply into them.
When I wasn’t looking
It’s amazing how some tools evolve for the better when you’re not paying attention.
Getting finished lumber today is difficult, but there was a time when just getting the timber itself was a Herculean effort.
The works of Shakespeare, abridged
Yea verily, creating a working pattern for a reproduction when thou canst not touch the original doth presenteth a challenge.
Free to a good home
There comes a time when you have to get rid of perfectly good tools for whatever reason – you never use them, you already own one (or more) that you prefer to use, you don’t need backups, or you somehow acquired too many. Who really needs five nearly identical circular saws?
The most beautiful woodworking joints are usually showcased for all to see. Except when they’re not.
Glad to have a sled
Sometimes, your favorite new tool is something you never even knew you wanted.
Time to take out a loan
Need to buy some decent Baltic birch plywood? If so, I hope you win the lottery.
I was robbed of some of my best wood supplies! Fortunately, I found the thief – she was upstairs getting a cup of coffee.
A scam for all seasons
Internet advertisers for furniture restoration have always exaggerated to make sales, but some just outright lie to the unsuspecting.
A turn for the better
After at least 15 years, an old “brand new” tool is finally ready to see some action.
A survivor jig
A jig I made for one-time use decades ago still proves its worth from time to time.
I didn’t CNC that coming
The “newest” spin on CNC is as old as pen and ink.
Wooden you like a bite?
Wooden utensils have been around for centuries, but this is the first time I’ve seen any like these.
Still earning its keep
It’s not the best router around – not even the best that I own – but it’s still a personal favorite.
A cordless convert
I finally decided to try a tool I’ve resisted for years and bought a cordless sander.
Developing a pattern
When making a reproduction, sometimes you make a lot of guesses. But other times, you can just let a pattern be your guide.
I’ve said here at least a dozen times over the years that there’s no such thing as scrap. There is, however, wood that’s just not very useful.
A fitting conclusion
I finally fixed something that’s bothered me for years. It took some scavenging to do it, though.
Room and board
Looking for extremely wide boards? A time machine can help.
Burl of any species is probably my favorite “exotic” wood to work with, and always pick some up whenever I see it. Well, almost always.
Works of art
I can’t tell you what art is, but I know it when I see it.
I think every woodworker has a file full of notes and sketches on dream projects they want to do “someday.” I know I do.
That ain’t how you do it
Woodworking photos used by non-woodworkers can be funny – and terrifying. The Internet is full of woodworking articles and ads written by people who are just content providers with no real idea what they’re writing about.
Gotta be this or that
Trying to remember things in the woodshop often comes down to a case of opposites.
Switching gears and new careers
It’s amazing how many people, when setting out on a career change, choose woodworking as the direction they want to go.
One last piece
You know the feeling when you come to the last piece of a wood in a special stash? I’m feeling that now.
A wood to revisit
The last thing I expected in a gourmet shop specializing in artisanal olive oil was a full crop of woodworking items.
Pouring my heart into it
This is another first for me: Using epoxy to fill some large-scale cracks.
I used my wife as an excuse to buy a new tool. Do I feel guilty? Nope.
Yeah, that’ll take some work
My daughter asked if I could fix an old, broken chair. Naturally, I said I could.
Temporarily out of service
It’s the oldest power tool I have, and after many years of good service it’s earned a rest at last.
On the level, revisited
I just had a scary, but not injurious, table saw kickback.
We all know about the myriad safety warnings associated with woodworking tools. But what about warnings for other things that impact using woodworking tools?
Although I know better, I would have been a lot happier with a recent lumber purchase if I had looked a little closer at both sides of the issue.