Proper Measuring Methods

by Dale on March 24, 2013

Recently I saw a plan for a sideboard that described the measurement of the boards in a different way than I use. Following through the plan I had to change each measurement because of my training in describing a board.  The correct method, called “dimensional” is thickness x width x length. This isn’t just used by me, or my father’s father, but it is also the system used traditionally by craftsman, carpenters etc.

This is a point I make with the Beginning students at our school. I want them to think in those terms and be confident so that is one less thing for them on their set of concerns. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Any Arts & Crafts fan is well aware of the need for the quadrilinear leg. The beauty of quartersawn oak grain is such an important feature of the design that it can be the most important element. Due to the nature of the material any board that has quartersawn grain on the face will have flat sawn grain on the edge.

When used on legs, (especially larger legs) common too much of the Stickley style furniture it is necessary to have quartered grain on all four sides of the legs. There are several ways to achieve this detail, which is the purpose of this article.

The first and I believe the earliest method was to make the legs of solid wood and to veneer the flat sawn sides. I don’t like this method due to the abuse that the corners take when banged and bumped with various things during the normal activities taking place in most homes.

The regular thin veneer available for purchase is so thin that it just cannot take the punishment in the long haul. One solution is to make your own veneer, but make it thicker, say 1/8″ thickness. This is a very good solution but it requires a very good band saw, fine tuned, and special skills, a drum sander to smooth up the rough cut edge, and extra care and techniques for gluing it to the leg.

There are many articles that explain how to do this type of veneering. I like the finished leg, but not the method.MB_3blog image

Another method is the router table or small shaper set up with the lock miter bit and to 45o, the corners. This is an excellent solution to the problem and the legs will hold up to the abuse over time.  There are a few drawbacks to this method.

First, is the cost of the bit, which isn’t cheap, and the lumber must be flat and straight, for the corners to mate in a crisp point. The set up is time consuming and very precise, adding to the cost. Since most furniture projects have only 4 legs, it is not a cost effective solution to me. It’s really a great solution if you are in production and making 20 to 30 legs, which most of us would never have to do. Clamping the four pieces is also tricky and filling in the hole in the middle of the leg is another operation that has to be done.

Another system is to 45o all sides and then glue the four pieces together with masking tape, then clamp it. This system works and produces a superior leg but the method is precise and you still have to fill in the hollow in the center, depending on the thickness of the sides.

My preferred method is the 1/8″ veneered leg but I don’t make veneer, and glue it to the leg. I developed this system originally for a 2 1/4″ wide leg. I’ve also made 4″ legs and smaller – 1 1/2″ legs. The thicker legs are much more stable when laminated and I would challenge you to find a source for white oak in 16/4. Oak is a difficult wood to dry and very expensive in thicker sizes. I use 4/4 to make up the 2 1/4″ legs which will be explained in this article. The three piece lamination will yield a total thickness of 2 7/16 when the 4/4 is dressed down to 13/16.

I make up 17 quartersawn boards 13/16 x 2 3/8 x the length of the leg. Save best pieces for the latter. I also will mill a few boards the exact same size in poplar to use for clamping cauls on the outsides to allow for extra pressure and to take the dents from the clamps. MB_first_I glue up groups of three, taking care to use the best grain on the two outside surfaces and I can sort out the least desirable grain on the inside board. I then take the 4 leg assemblies and clamp them all at once with the poplar boards on the outside edges to act as pressure distribution for the clamps. I use pipe clamps as in the photo and put them as close together as possible, alternating on both sides.

After drying overnight, I remove the clamps and dress the legs down to straight and square, using a jointer and planer. First I edge joint the three edges side (flat sawn) to the jointer then plane the other flat sawn edge down to 2″ thickness. Now I’m left with four legs, 2″ x 2  3/8″ with the 2″ side being quartersawn. Now I have five boards from before that are 13/16 x 2- 3/8. I then glue the boards all together between the legs and on the ends, and re-use the poplar boards on the ends as before.MB_two image_blog

After the glue dries you will have a large slab — all together like a big cutting board. After scraping the ‘squeeze out’ off I rip the legs apart, on the table saw or band saw and make sure I leave at least 3/16 of the thickness of the “veneer” on both edges. You will be left with four legs that are 2 3/8″ x 2 3/8″. Now, use the jointer and planer to dress them down to 2 1/4″ x 2 1/4″ leaving 1/8″ quartersawn veneer on the flat sawn laminated edge.

Always chamfer the corners about 1/8″ and this hides glue lines from the “veneer”.


  1. It is a good practice to take the time to sort the pieces for color and grain. And to think about how they will look in the finished piece.
  2. I have my planer set so it leaves no snipe on the boards. If you have snipe that cannot be eliminated, you will have to make your legs longer and cut off the end with the snipe later, keeping all the snipe on the same end. (The snipe will leave voids without good glue adhesion)MB_4 blog image
  3. Plastic resin glue is the best glue for laminating. It gives more open time and dries rigid, and dark. Make sure you don’t use out-dated resin glue or test it on some scrap first. Follow the manufactures directions for mixing the power and water, and you will have no problems. I have used polyvinyl glue on occasion and had no problems. But you have to work fast to get the whole thing glued up before it starts to set-up.

Have you tried these methods? Leave me your comments


Dealing With Excess Glue Squeeze Out

by Dale on March 11, 2013

I think it’s true if you put five woodworking instructors in a room and asked them how they deal with glue squeeze out you would get 7 or 8 different opinions. That’s the creative mind at work!

The problem: if glue dries on a piece of wood and then removed without due consideration, when you finish there will be a light spot showing the tell tale glue mark. The glue must be either sanded or scraped completely away.

This can be a problem in woodworking because you want the best: No you want a perfect finish for the project. I recently read an article describing waxing the wood where the glue squeezes out was likely when the piece was dry-fitted and clamped tightly together. Next, glue the piece together with lots of glue. Then after the glue was dry you can easily pop the glue off. Next you have to clean the wax off with a solvent, like denatured alcohol. This was to be done everywhere it was waxed. As I read it seemed to be a much bigger task than necessary.
[click to continue…]


Truly Custom Woodworking Simplified

by Dale on March 6, 2013

As many of you know I did not start my woodworking career where I am today as a master furniture maker. I started out at eleven years old at the bottom of the craftsman-in-training ladder in a closet MB_long cabbookcase pngnailing down the floor for my father’s company. Many years later at the beginning of my business, making custom wood furniture and kitchen cabinets brought with it many questions from clients.

The questions came after a perspective client had viewed my work at a friend’s home or in a public place where I had built custom woodworking. It goes something like this, “Can you build that in cherry?”

The answer would be, yes, and then the next questions would come involving various aspects with which they were interested. Could I build it not quite so tall or wider? Could I build something like it but different?

The fact is I can build anything you need, want or desire MB_closckfrom any wood from which we can find a supplier.

The measurements come from your needs, as well as everything else involved in the design.

Truly custom woodworking is making what the client wants and the goal is to please the client.

Sometimes the client knows what they want, but can’t quite get it out of their mind onto paper.

But this is remedied by listening to those bits of information in their explanation that allows me to ‘see’ it as they do. I have been blessed with the ability to draw or sketch and can bring their mental picture to the paper for both of us to see and agree that we are heading in the right direction.MB_desk

Once we know we are talking about the same idea then we can begin the true design work. Once we are in agreement with the project bringing it to reality is only a matter of time.

The once beautiful idea is now a piece of furniture, shelving, kitchen or other woodworking project in their homes providing comfort or functioning to their benefit enhancing their life.

This is the joy of my career and I hope the pleasure of my clients.


Become a Learner

by Dale on February 26, 2013

When I began teaching woodworking classes for another school – now closed, I noticed something that just didn’t make sense. A typical class might have one or two seasoned, experienced craftsmen, some DIYers, and some absolute beginners and maybe a few in-betweens. The classes were great, everyone got along and it was a good atmosphere.

Due to the size of the class we would move through the project at a good clip to complete it by the deadline. Some good natured competition sometimes came to the surface. Who would finish first was always in the mixed, real macho stuff and lots of fun.MB_clock

Usually the more experienced students would take the lead. Maybe a few mistakes would occur, especially if I let my guard down a bit. But I always enjoyed this because we had a chance to really learn how to deal with mistakes just like everyone who builds custom furniture for a living. You fix, hide, or start over with a new board or my favorite – “design change!”

But the thing that baffled me and didn’t make sense was that the beginner student would consistently build the best furniture in the class. They didn’t finish first but they almost always finished best. When I thought about this I could only come up with one reason why.

The beginners came to learn something they didn’t know. They didn’t have any old bad habits to unlearn. They did exactly what the instructor (me) taught them to do. When they were not sure about something they came and ask about it and listened to the advice and instructions.

The new guys learn the most, take home the best furniture, retain the most information, and generally have the best experience. Not to say this is always the situation but it was consistently happening.MB_shakerboxes

When I planned my own shop I limited the students to a four person limit to prevent this from happening. With four students or less the “ego” of more experienced students isn’t so necessary and I believe it is easier for everyone to learn.

Honestly that is the reason I started my school, so I could teach the many things I learned from my father’s experience (that he learned from his father) and to teach students the many practical techniques I’ve learned in the many years I have been a professional craftsman.

In my life I was taught to learn the best way to do a job, develop the process until its perfect, and then do it as fast as you can. Working every day in custom woodworking, meeting deadlines, with the stress of supporting your family as a craftsman could cause quality to slip if you do not learn the best techniques.

Usually the best techniques are the simplest. These are the things I want to teach and it has taken a life time to know them.MB_become a leaner

So in these small classes you can come prepared to learn something you have never known whatever level of student you are.  Even when you know how to do something it is nice to learn an easier way. That way everyone takes home the best piece of furniture in the class.

Let me know how you best learn. It will only make me better with my students. Leave your comments.


Dale, The Cabinetmaker: A Traveling Professor

by Dale on February 18, 2013

Dale is currently away from his beloved Southern Indiana Hills, Workshop, School and family.  He is in Southern CA.  He is a featured guest instructor at the William Ng Fine Woodworking School for two back to back classes.

As one of this school’s award winning instructors, Dale will teach these accelerated courses with an intensive hands-on learning experience. Dale will focus on the finest woodworking techniques in a fun and friendly environment. Dale is a professional woodworker who teaches from practical experience rather than theory both in his own classes at the Cabinetmaker Woodworking School and as a guest instructor.

Below are discriptions of his classes: For more details on these two classes, click here. cab_1

Thorsen House Inspired Cabinet with Dale Barnard
(2/18/13 – 2/22/13)

The small curio cabinet was inspired by the wall cabinetry in the Thorsen House dining room. The details are all classic Greene & Greene. The class is fairly straight forward until we make the door, probably one of the most complex small cabinet doors ever conceived. A small project like this, chock full of details is not only fun to make, but a joy to own. This is high art indeed. There is a special small hiding place, but don’t tell anyone! Also available is a weekend glass class to make the stained art glass for the door immediately after the class. Most students do both classes.cab3-3

Class Details

Date:  Feb. 18 – 22, 2013 9am-5pm

Max Class Size:  12

Cost:  $725.00 + Material Fee $165.00
(Includes all Materials except Glass)

Instructor:  Dale Barnard


Art Glass Workshop with Dale Barnard
(2/23/13 – 2/24/13)

This class teaches the foil method, developed by Tiffany over 100 years ago. We will begin with the design and make our own patterns through glass cutting and soldering.

We will be making the glass panels that fit the cabinet door made the week prior. glass_1

This is the panel made in the HGTV video on
(Click to view.)

I found working with glass surprisingly enjoyable because it is so different from working with wood, and I think you will enjoy it as well.

Class Details

Date:  Feb. 23 – 24, 2013 9am-5pm

Max Class Size:  12barnardglass2

Cost:  $295.00 Material Fee $85.00
(Includes all materials)
Instructor:  Dale Barnard


Please note that Dale teaches these same two classes as well as many others at his own Cabinetmaking School in Beautiful Southern Indiana. Check out his current Class Schedule (and student amenities) or contact him with a special project you have in mind.


Clamps! Clamps everywhere, help!

by Dale on February 11, 2013

An old adage that states,
“A woodworker can never have enough clamps.”MB_clamps

I thought that was true, until a few years ago I realize that I haven’t wished for more clamps in a long time, even years.

I think I finally have enough. I have them all: C-clamps, F-clamps, pipe clamps, spring clamps, wooden clamps and every other clamp. I have lots of each and all sizes.

You name it and I can clamp it.

I was wondering just how many clamps do I have? Well, I recently decided to count them. Well, I quit counting at 250. So I can accurately say I have over 250 clamps.

All those clamps in a two man shop. That sometimes has hour people working on similarMB_clamps1 projects. We make everything from kitchen cabinets, to grandfather clocks, chairs, and all types of furniture.

How did I acquire so many clamps? Well, anytime I found a clamp at a yard sale or flea market or antique mall that was priced at least 50% below retail then I would purchase it.

Also specific projects sometimes require specific clamps and I paid retail in those instances.

I like pipe clamps because they are not too expensive and you can make them as long as you would ever need.

My longest ones are 10 feet long. If I ever need longer clasps I can just get out a pipe union and connect another pipe. MB_clamps2

They give plenty of pressure and are excellent clamps; you can usually get 3 or 4 of them for the cost of one bar clamp.

Recently I found myself thinking, I wish I had another router, and I now have a new adage.

“A woodworker can never have enough routers.” How many do I have? Just counted 14 of all sizes …
better save that for another blog!


Woodworking on Houses – circa 1962

In 1962 the most highly skilled woodworkers who worked on building new homes were the trim carpenters. Most of the homes built were 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bath, living room, dining and family areas and the modern kitchen. They almost always had the attached two car garage as well. They were called ranch houses.

Across the U.S. this type of architectural style had different names but all used the word ranch in some way. This style originated in United States and became in vogue from 1940 – 1970 most architectural sources agree. I find it interesting there are now groups, mostly the generation that never lived it them trying to preserve these homes. But this review is my experience within the industry when I was trained in woodworking by my father and the same type of work done today.

1966 California Ranch

1966 California Ranch

In 1962 trim carpenters usually completed the tasks below:

  • hung all the doors, inside and out
  • installed doors, trimmed them out with casing
  • trimmed the wood windows with matching casing
  • installed 1/4″ plywood 4 x 8 sheets of paneling in family room on walls
  • ran baseboard at the floor on all walls
  • closet shelves & poles in place
  • installed plywood or particle board on all floors nailed by hand every 5″
  • the more expensive homes had crown molding in some or all rooms

All this woodwork was done with an 8″ circular saw (electric skill saw), coping saw, Stanley handsaw mitre box, crosscut and ripping handsaw,  one block plane, framing square, hammer & nails, a few chisels, with a folding bench for the mitre box and a set of saw horses. The tool arsenal also had one router, one electric planer, 1 or 2 electric drills and an electric sabre saw.

The trim crew had to pre-hang all the doors, install hinges, locks, door stops etc., the mitre cuts were done on the hand mitre box. Every inside corner on the baseboard and crown molding was coped with a coping saw and rasped to fit. Stair treads were cut with the power saw, a slight back bevel. Stair railing parts (usually beech) were cut with the hand mitre saw. It wasn’t unusual for one crew member to spend an entire 8 hour day continuously cutting 45° mitres on the ends of casing boards, especially when pre-hanging doors.

I worked on a three man crew. Actually it was a one man and two boys crew that consisted of my father, my brother and me, the youngest. We took all our tools to a job site in an English 1959 Ford auto. We carried everything in the trunk and backseat to the job site. This vehicle was about the same size as a Volkswagen Beetle.

We upgraded at some point to air powered nailers, a vast improvement over hand nailing and no more hammer marks caused by missing the nail. We still hand nailed everything in place to hold it secure for the air gun.

Then one day a kitchen cabinet installer brought a new invention into the house. It was the 9″ Rockwell electric mitre saw. He used it to cut the small 1/4″ x 3/4″ scribe molding that trimmed the cabinet top and sides. The rest is history. We find innovation after innovation; incredible improvements that bring us to today with cordless tools, even airless nail guns without hoses are today’s tools.  It’s almost unbelievable when you stop and think about it.

Most trim crews today drive a one ton full size van to move their tools from job to job. They have several sliding compound bevel mitre saws, a vast array of drills, saws, routers, air nailers, sabre saws (oscillating, of course), air compressors, Kreg jigs, the list goes on and on. The homes built today have also changed as they are more complex.

When you consider the quality of workmanship it takes to do a job with primitive tools, a bit more time, lots more training and more patience, compared to modern tools and methods one gains a respect for the old times and the work that was accomplished. A mitred casing joint back then was achieved with a hand mitre box and a well tuned sharpened block plane looks no different than one achieved today with an electric mitre saw.

The modern method is much faster and much easier. Were these tools available to craftsmen in 1962 or 1862 they would have embraced the advance in technology just as we are quick to acquire the new lithium ion battery technology in cordless tools today, as well as countless other new innovations.

The puzzle to old codgers like me is the poorly fitting joints produced today by people with all the new equipment that makes it so easy. Why would they leave a poorly fitting joint? Why would they leave a router burn in a prominent place for all to see? All I can say is there is no excuse for this carelessness. It appears that despite excuses of deadlines or high pressure to complete a job, the fact can only be they just do not care. Our job to trim a home in 1962 had deadlines and pressure as well, but craftsmanship was a stamp of your personal integrity.

That true craftsmanship my caring friends, will make all the difference in the world to the client and yourself!


Storage Problems and Solutions

by Dale on January 27, 2013

Storage Problems and Solutions

Forstner bits, drill bits, brad point bits, huge bits, plug cutters, screw driver bits (slot, Phillips, Robertson, torx etc) countersinks, taper bits, combination bits, and so many tiny bits, etc. etc. They are used in drills, drill presses, cordless drills and on and on.  Every craftsman must have them.

Recently I realized that every time I need a specific drill, plug cutter, Forstner etc. I have to open a drawer, remove a small box, look for the correct size and then use the bit and then reverse the process. There had to be a better, simpler and faster way to access the tool needed.

So I designed a multi-bit organizer station. The center is located near my drill press and drill storage area.

MB_long storage

Simple, fast and complete

See photos: Simple, fast and complete!

I’ve always found that the simplest solutions are the best.

If you make one of these you will have to fix a way on the bottom so the drills don’t fall through. Don’t try to drill the holes to exact sizes, they will get stuck. Drill them a bit oversized.

Now when I need a bit, I can get it quickly. The bits on the stair-stepped station aren’t all labeled on mine.  I sometimes measure the bit to be sure.

Of course, you could label them.

That’s up to you to customize the system to meet your own needs.

With my work schedule I haven’t as much time to work on the shop area as I would like.sorage two done_

Let me know if you like this idea well enough to do it.

Send me a photo of your solution to the problem.

Thanks in advance.


Cabinetmaker Challenge

by Dale on January 16, 2013

mb_begining image1

the begining

Those who know me know I thrive on a challenge. Last spring brought with it a new commission which would become a quest for perfection. For my readers who enjoy solving complexities while keeping both aesthetic aspects and true quality to your work, while pleasing the client, read on.

The new commission was to build a dining table 6 feet wide and 9’4″ long – with a half circle on each end. It was to open up and hold 2 leaves, each one 24″ wide and 6′ long. The table is supported by two pedestals – each one with three “S” curve legs- tapered, steamed, and laminated in walnut. Each of the  3 legs is attached in the center by a ring of solid walnut about 8″ in diameter.  The style and lines of the piece were stunning, this was easily seen from the drawings.
Stunning, yet complex.

The first problem was steam bending the 10 piece lamination which were about 2″ wide and 1/8″ thick at one end and 5/16″ thick at the other end. They were 52″ long. Steaming for half an hour at 2000 in a new steam box was simple enough, but getting them bent into the form before cooling off was another matter. This challenge took some effort and a change in tools to complete.

I eventually settled on using a pipe clamp fitted specially with a new 12″ screw with a welded nut on the end so I could use a pneumatic impact wrench (think automotive nut driver). I also had the wooden handles removed from about 20 “F” clamps and welded nuts on the ends of them for the same purpose. I decided to only try to bend 5 at a time – less pressure needed and less pressure on me. I then made an extra mold – so I could steam bend all ten parts for one leg per day.  After steam bending all ten piece lamination – letting them set overnight, then the next day – I glued the 10 together, using epoxy. I let the leg set up overnight in the mold.

One “S” curved leg completed – only 5 more to make. Ten days later, all 6 legs are finished and beautiful. Then I made the 8″ diameter ring – 2″ tall and a hole in the center leaving a wall thickness of about 1 1/2″. Making three flat spots on the MB_middle stageproper location for the 3 legs and made matching flat spots on the legs for gluing and screwing them together.

After assembling the 3 legs into one complete pedestal the real trouble began. The pedestal had entirely too much spring in the legs for the weight of the top. The top was wobbly – totally not workable. What to do? By pin pointing the specific facets of the issue, I saw my quest unfold. The three leg position was too weak to support the massive top. The client was opposed to amending the original design by adding a fourth leg, so the path was set. I had to strengthen the triumvirate I’d spent such effort on constructing. Though strong, the legs needed to be much tougher.

My first idea was to split the legs in half – long wise – and add an aluminum strip cut to the shape and epoxy it in the center then add another walnut veneer strip in the center to hide the aluminum. It seemed like a good idea.  I know a metal worker who could make the aluminum strip at ½” thickness. I paid him to fabricate the strip. But alas… it was too flexible. So I had another strip made, in steel this time, at the same thickness and heavier by far. The steel was very strong, strong enough to support the massive top! So, I had five more steel S curves made – split all the beautiful, weak walnut legs in half – laminated the steel between them and steamed and bent 12 more tapered walnut strips to laminate on both edges.

Next – after sanding and smoothing all six legs with the hidden steel core, I had to attach them to the ring in the center. I didn’t believe the walnut would be strong enough, so made two rings out of maple which were then laminated and turned on the lathe.  It would be a simple matter to attach the legs to the ring.

Also in the agenda was to fasten brass castors to the legs so the table would open and the pedestals would be free to roll across the floor space. I then bought steel slides and screwed and glued them to the top, fastening the legs to the top as well. The massive top was solid!

Mb_finish image6

the Finish

The quest almost complete! Now it was just a matter of sanding, staining and finishing on a larger scale then the shop is used to.I also got four good friends to help assemble that table and turn it over – no small task when steel is thrown into the mix. I also had to borrow them again for loading it into the truck and delivery, etc. The photos should help with setting a scale on the process. Hopefully the narrative was enjoyable! Just a little story about a time when I thought I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I almost gave up a time or two during the many hurdles of this project. Next time, I will know in advance what a grizzly bear this size of table can be!

Thanks for reading.

Please send me your comments!