The idea was hatched a year or so ago. A new magazine catering to the discerning, fine woodworking enthusiast. It was an idea that slowly developed and at one point became a reality. So a small team and I have been working at this and are happy to announce that the latest issue of WOODSKILLS woodworking and furniture making magazine is now available. Some of the features in this Furniture Maker Edition include furniture maker articles, profiles of accomplished furniture makers, best studio practices, contemporary furniture design, gallery, vacuum veneering, Moxon vise build, sharpening + woodworking strategies, wood selection strategies and social media for furniture makers. The terms studio and workshop are used interchangeably throughout the magazine. WOODSKILLS is a semi-annual publication, published twice yearly in late spring and fall.

As a follower and practitioner of James Krenov style of work and methodology, both hand tool and some machine techniques are included. Although the vast majority of articles refer to hand tools, machinery is not excluded. I find this to be a more realistic approach in this day and age. Machines can do the grunt work whereas hand tools are used to create joinery, shape and finesse furniture components, smoothing surfaces, etc. Advertising is at an absolute minimum and consists of curated advertising, a term gleaned from the art world. Advertising must reflect practices and products that our readers and the team at WOODSKILLS could use or include in their own workshops and studios. Available through woodskills.com (digital) or Amazon (print version) or Blurb (premium print version).

Furniture Designer + Maker Profiles
Darrell Peart, Craig Thibodeau, Jan Lennon, Brian Greene
Workshop Setups & Best Practices
Furniture Maker Articles
Vacuum Veneering
Furniture Design Gallery
Contemporary Furniture Design
Moxon Vise Build
Sharpening + Woodworking Strategies
Social Media for Furniture Makers

WOODSKILLS Issue 02 (digital)
WOODSKILLS Issue 02 (standard print)
WOODSKILLS Issue 02 (premium print)

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Web Site: www.woodskills.com

Makers and furniture…

Not long ago, woodworking was considered to be in a downward spiral of diminishing followers and practitioners. The pundits were proclaiming the demise of woodworking as a hobby and how fewer young people were taking up woodworking and interested in building their own furniture. Why bother, with so much commercially mass-produced furniture available at reasonable prices. In addition, style trends come and go and being saddled with an out of style furniture piece became an issue. Staying on top of style trends has become instilled in us through the proliferation of interior design and renovation shows on television. Furniture has slowly become a disposable or recyclable object instead of a heirloom piece to be handed off to future generations. When you think about it, this trend flies in the face of environmentalism and celebrates the creation of even more trash. Out of all this doom and gloom rose the maker movement.

This younger generation of makers has slowly begun to appreciate the creation of things with their hands. The increased waste going to landfills brought awareness to the never-ending cycle of consumerism. Let’s face it, people are much less likely to throw out something they have created themselves. The virtues of designing and making an object has returned people to their heritage of being self-sufficient, inventive and to not be reliant on industrially produced goods. Through handcrafting, people could imprint their own mark on an object and customize the design to reflect their own aesthetic. The current maker movement is simply an evolution of the arts & crafts movement which has defined creative people for countless decades. The maker movement is an updated form of the craft movement where new materials, technology and ideas are incorporated into craft.

Maker's markA spin off of the maker movement has been the return to creating one’s own furniture. In fact, a large and growing segment of the maker movement revolves around designing and building furniture. The best part of this is how young people have once again embraced the creation of their own furniture for reasons different than in the past. In the past, the younger consumer could not afford furniture so instead built their own. Today, the reasons for building your own furniture revolve around handcrafting, channelling creativity into a furniture design, and the process of creating an object. It isn’t so much about the result but the experience of getting there. Younger makers today are turning furniture design on its ear by shunning age old design constructs and paradigms, and instead embracing a fresh outlook on furniture design.

In the past, bolder and radical furniture designs were the product of reclusive studio furniture makers with limited means of communicating with one another. Today instead, younger makers are informed primarily through social media. Practicality and functionality of design have become the new criteria for furniture design. The furniture of this new generation of makers embraces universality and democratizes design. Social media plays an important part in design today within the maker movement. Through social media, furniture designs have become instantly available to both inform and influence other makers. Through social media, makers can quickly adapt an existing design to their own aesthetic or style. The process of fleshing out designs is considerably accelerated through social media and democratization.

So from what I observe, things are looking up for furniture making and woodworking in general. There is a resurgence occurring in this decades old creative outlet. A new awareness of the virtues and benefits of creating objects using wood as a medium is occurring. I am fairly active on social media and an often awed by radical new furniture designs from this new maker movement. Along with this, the democratization of design will hopefully benefit us all as we can extract elements of shared designs to incorporate into our own work.

Norman Pirollo

Drawer makeover…

I have a small Krenov-inspired cabinet which I have enjoyed for the most part. The drawers not so much. The cabinet is solid beech but long ago the decision was made to make two stacked drawers with walnut fronts to provide contrast to the beech. I realized at the time that the contrast was not ideal, but for the sake of expediency, went ahead to see if it would grow on me. Well it hasn’t. Another idea at the time was to have through-dovetails to attach the drawer fronts to the sides. This provided another level of contrast and introduced yet another wood to the mix. Overall, I wasn’t pleased. So recently I decided to give the drawers a makeover and replace the drawer fronts with something more aesthetically pleasing and to provide not so harsh a contrast. Pic below of original drawer fronts.

My first attempt was to use some highly figured veneer I had stored away. It is commercial veneer so very thin. The veneer itself is beautiful, light in color and would make the interior of the beech cabinet pop. First step was to scrape down the surface of the drawer fronts and glued a piece of this veneer to each. Did this successfully and began to create the mortises for the new pulls. However, there is something about commercial veneer that doesn’t sit well with me and I was not able to get past this. The thickness of the material is paper (thick paper) thin and brittle, too fragile for my taste.

Since it would be necessary to scrape the surfaces to get a polished aesthetic, this was entirely not possible with this thin, brittle veneer. I typically use shop-sawn resawn veneers in my work. Instead, I created some band-sawn ambrosia maple with beautiful figure between 1/16 and 3/32 in. thick. I decided to go ahead with this shop-sawn veneer instead. Next I band sawed the drawer front to the thickness of this shop-sawn figured ambrosia. Applied the veneer to the drawer fronts and I could not be more pleased with the outcome. Shop-sawn veneers are more workable and forgiving with hand tools.

I then created two new wide pulls out of blackwood. A single pull instead of two in the original drawer front. Also decided on eliminating the upper and lower shoulders of the pulls to be able to have them thinner. This would not take away from the figured fronts as much. This step introduced a level of risk in creating the mortises, since there is no drawer pull shoulder to rely on to hide an imperfect mortise.

After some judicious mortising using chisels and a mallet,, then some paring, the drawer pull mortises were created as seen above. The most critical part of this step is to remove the top-most layer of wood; it is so easy to tearout the surrounding wood if the chisel cuts are not clean. Then it is simply a matter of cutting and paring to the correct depth of the tenon for the drawer pull. Contemporary-styled blackwood pull temporarily inserted below.

So very happy with the outcome and will be completely replacing the doors of the cabinet next. I intend to use veneered figured wood for the doors, similar wood (Ambrosia Maple) as the drawer fronts. I plan to write a detailed article about this in the next issue of WOODSKILLS Magazine


The idea was hatched a year or so ago but other projects came first. A new magazine catering to the discerning, fine woodworking enthusiast. It was an idea that slowly developed and at one point became a reality. So a small team and I have been working at this since the month of January and are pleased to announce that the latest woodworking and furniture making magazine WOODSKILLS is now available. Some of the features in the magazine are articles on hand tool use and techniques, profiles of accomplished woodworkers and furniture makers, best studio practices, contemporary furniture design, gallery, tool discussions. The terms studio and workshop are used interchangeably throughout the magazine.

As a follower and practitioner of James Krenov style of work and methodology, both hand tool and some machine techniques are included. Although the vast majority of articles refer to hand tools, machinery is not excluded. I find this to be a more realistic approach in this day and age. Machines can do the grunt work whereas hand tools are used to create joinery, shape and finesse furniture components, smoothing surfaces, etc. Advertising will be at an absolute minimum and consists of curated advertising, a term gleaned from the art world. Advertising must reflect practices and products that our readers and the team at WOODSKILLS could use or include in their own workshops and studios.

Instagram: woodskillsmag
Twitter: WoodSkills

 Available here: WOODSKILLS Issue 01 Magazine

Woodworking in 2018

I thought to write about the dichotomy occurring in present day woodworking. The clash between the growing movement towards traditional hand tool woodworking versus the rise in automation along with a plethora of machinery to expedite woodworking processes. This is from the perspective of a traditional woodworker wondering about how much current woodworking technology to embrace in his studio practice.  I write this because today we are bombarded on two fronts in woodworking. Go traditional with hand tools or go modern with the latest in technology or somehow combine the two. I lay out how I determined my own compromise and how I came to terms with the dilemma.

The machinery I speak of is becoming increasingly sophisticated to where an operator sitting alongside a CNC machine can quickly create components for a piece of furniture. At the hand tool end, the debate swirls around what constitutes traditional woodworking. Should wood be prepared and dimensioned by hand? Should this grunt work be performed by machines with the emphasis then shifting to hand tools? Can the use of power tools be combined with hand tools in a truly traditional woodworking shop? Would our woodworking forefathers have embraced machinery if it had existed in their historical period?

Interestingly, elements of this debate also occurred during the advent of the Industrial Age in the late 1800’s. The reasons then to not embrace machinery were somewhat similar. Machines were thought to remove the human touch and craft component from furniture. Skills which had been passed down through generations of woodworkers would be lost. Victory was achieved with the advent of the Arts & Crafts movement, but this was short-lived. Eventually, the use of machinery in woodworking won the battle resulting in the further distancing of woodworkers from their traditional craft. Over 100 years of woodworking production advancements later and traditional woodworking is once again being embraced. The reasons are similar to the repudiation of the Industrial Age with the only difference being that we are today on the cusp of full automation in production woodworking manufacturing. Developments to facilitate and expedite production are occurring at a faster pace than ever before.

So, although it seems strange today to embrace traditional hand tool methods, it is more relevant in light of the possibility of forever losing a centuries old craft. Thumbs up to the many private schools dedicated to teaching traditional hand-oriented woodworking skills today. Traditional woodworking has effectively ceased to be taught in mainstream schools, fewer and fewer parents immerse themselves in woodworking to pass down to children. Some have mentioned the traditional craft is on its death bed. Woodworking taught in schools today tends to focus on automation and heavy use of machinery. In the big picture, the resurgence of traditional woodworking methods using hand tools could not occur at a better time in history!

I must admit that it can be confusing for an entry level woodworker of which path to follow today. Is their work intended to be batched out or instead created as one-offs? The larger issue becomes the processes used to achieve this goal. The use of modern technology can be enticing, where visions of machines magically create components for furniture never ceases to amaze. Machinery manufacturers are constantly upgrading their offerings to where the learning curve for CNC is rapidly diminishing. This would be at the extreme end of full automation. At the traditional end, new and often improved releases of traditional hand tools continue to occur. High quality and precisely machined hand tools are widely available today. The single most common and necessary component in the traditional, hand tool equation is the necessity to manually push or pull a hand plane, saw or chisel in order to prepare wood, smooth wood or to create joinery. So a large component of manual labor is involved.

A woodworker with many years of experience may have come to terms with the direction they wish to follow. In many cases, they embrace a quieter, less hurried form of woodworking. Their woodworking passion is better served in the enjoyment of creating a piece rather than simply achieving the end goal. Instead, somebody just starting out will perhaps wonder why today they should be performing manual tasks such as hand planing, hand sawing boards and creating joinery by hand. After all, isn’t this why machinery was created, to facilitate the processing of boards used in furniture making? Hasn’t the trend in industry always been to make our jobs easier and more productive?

This is the dilemma facing many woodworkers today, specifically new woodworkers. I don’t pretend to have a solution and can only form an opinion through many years of experience in both camps. As a former hi-tech person and convert to a quieter form of woodworking, I would much rather work with traditional, time-proven methods than to embrace the latest in machinery whose goal is to make my life easier. I too faced this dilemma and have been minimizing the use of machinery in my woodworking. In the process, I have since learned to appreciate wood as a medium and not just to use it as a means to an end. The only machines I use today are effectively motorized hand tools, nothing sophisticated. This is where I draw the line.

In my studio practice, it is preferable for me to be closer to the wood and work with its characteristics and inherent beauty. Today, I use machines to prepare wood in the initial stages and to dimension it. Afterwards, all processes in my furniture making incorporate the use of hand tools. I will always seek a method to use a hand tool to perform a task before ever considering using a machine. So this is how I have come to terms with the question of maintaining traditional methods in my own work. I find this to be the best compromise in coping with an ever-increasing fast-paced, technological and production-oriented world.

Workbench accessories… Pt. 2

After completing and successfully testing the portable board jack in the previous post, I decided to continue on with workbench workholding accessories. At this point, two clamping attachments came to mind. The first, an edge dog, alternatively known as a bench puppy, was modelled after a College Of The Redwoods derived design. This particular design was gained from a Timothy Coleman article on this type of workholding device, also derived from a College Of The Redwoods design.

The premise of the edge dog is to use both the edge of a workbench top and one dog hole to hold a board on edge. This is performed through a unique design that hangs off the edge of the workbench top. When used in conjunction with a tail-vise, the edge dog excels at clamping the free end of a long or wide board along the edge of a workbench for jointing or other bench operations.

The edge dogs are customized to the spacing of the dog holes on a workbench, this would be the distance from the edge of the workbench to the leading row of dog holes. The measurement I refer to can be seen in the following images. I applied a leather face to the edge dogs and also drove a reinforcing wedge into the 3/4 in. dowel. The edge dogs are a combination of beech and maple, essentially what I had lying around in these dimensions.

A good example of how an edge dog can be used to hold a board on edge can be seen in the following image. One end is held by a edge dog whereas the other end is an add-on to a twin-screw vise which I discuss next. Instead of clamping a board to the surface of a workbench, the edge dog is used to clamp the board along the workbench edge and therefore at a more reasonable and lower height suitable for handplaning. Having a pair of these edge dogs allows either side of the workbench to be used. The edge dogs are created with opposing configurations as shown above.

My current workbenches do not incorporate dedicated tail vises. In place, I use a Veritas Twin-screw vise which performs as a tail vise when clamping boards on their face. When it comes to clamping boards on edge, the twin-screw vise can also be used along with bench dogs. The edge of the workpiece would be then sitting on the workbench top. However, this raises the height of the board considerably and is not very conducive to handplaning or jointing an edge of a board. Ideally, the edge of a board should be slightly higher than the workbench surface to effectively perform handplane operations. With this in mind, I created this outboard add-on to the twin-screw vise which extends the width of the vise movable jaw past the edge of the workbench.

Shown above, this newly designed outboard add-on accessory is an addition to the twin-screw movable jaw. In effect, the vise now becomes an enhanced tail vise capable of clamping boards on edge along the side of a workbench. The clamping is done in conjunction with the previously mentioned edge dog. Images of a board being clamped between these two accessories are shown below.

In these photos I am jointing the edge of a white ash board. I was surprised at how tightly the board is clamped with minimal tension applied to the twin screw vise. The friction from the leather pads contribute to this as slightly more tension was necessary before applying the leather pads. The outboard extension to the twin-screw vise is removable and can be adapted to either side of the twin-screw vise. I am left-handed so having it located to the right of the vise as shown, is more practical. For right-handed use, the opposite edge of the workbench would be used for jointing. As an added bonus, there is no racking of the twin-screw vise regardless of the clamping pressure I apply to the outboard extension.

Workbench accessories… Pt. 1

Soon after completing the Moxon Vise project and creating the illustrated drawings, build steps, images, video… I decided to work on a few other workbench accessories.

Workbench accessories – any workbench add-ons that facilitate the holding and clamping of boards or panels. Boards or panels can be mounted on their edge and along their length. You get the idea…

Workbenches can be large in size, massive in weight and beautiful looking but their ability to hold and clamp boards is one of their most important criteria. So holding or clamping a long, wide board along its length can be a challenging tasks of a workbench. In an earlier workbench I incorporated a sliding board jack that worked in conjunction with the face vise. This has and continues to work well since I had built this workbench from the ground up and allowed for the addition of the sliding board jack. With two of my newer slab-type workbenches, adding a sliding board jack was much more of a challenge. I did not want to modify the workbenches or drill screw holes through the tops. Adding an apron or skirt with dog holes along the length of the workbench top was an option, but this involved modifying the workbench itself.

Enter the portable board jack. I designed it to easily attach to the underside of a slab-type workbench top where it serves to support the free end of a long plank or board. It can either be left attached to the workbench or removed when no longer necessary. It can also be moved across the length of the workbench, relocated to the opposite side of a workbench, or moved to another workbench. The nice part is no modifications are necessary to the workbench.

After a period of testing, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it works. It is completely unobtrusive and designed to accept standard 3/4 inch or 20 mm accessories such as surface clamps, bench dogs and shop-made planing stops. The portable board jack can be adapted to any slab-type workbench top without an existing apron or skirt as can be seen in the images. A face vise at one end keeps the board securely clamped on edge. Jointing the edge of long boards has become so much easier and second nature to me now.

The hole arrangement on the portable board jack is optimized for the work I do but can be modified if necessary. I no longer give any thought to attaching or clamping a long board on edge and along its length to my workbenches. Often, I simply need a peg to be able to rest the free end of a board on. This allows me to quickly and easily flip the board around to work both long edges.

Now, I just selected my most-often used side of a workbench to work on and leave the portable board jack attached. In the future, I will possibly be creating another board jack for my other, similar workbench. This adds to the versatility since it will no longer be necessary to move the board jack from bench to bench.

Next up in the forthcoming installment or Part 2, a couple of cool bench accessories  that continue with the theme of attaching and clamping long boards to a workbench. These are boards that are too long to simply clamp to a face vise. It just makes it so much more pleasant to perform handplaning or hand tool tasks once a board or panel is securely clamped. I like for this to be straightforward so I can focus on the task I need to perform instead of spending needless time on securely attaching and clamping a board to a workbench.

Board Jack Plan

Follow our Board Jack Plan and build your own portable board jack. The portable board jack is designed to hold work along the front edge of a workbench. The board jack works in conjunction with a face vise to hold long boards or panels for handplaning or other bench operations. The board jack is both versatile, portable and self-aligns to the workbench top. It attaches to the underside of any workbench top with a slab top. It is easily adaptable to a workbench top with a thickness between 1 1/2 inches to 3 1/2 inches.

The board jack is easily positioned along a workbench surface. The position depends on the length of board to be supported on edge. The board jack design originated from a need to clamp the opposite end of a board along its edge while handplaning. With a long board clamped in the face vise of a standard workbench, there is no support at the other end of the board. Unless your workbench is designed with a horizontal apron or skirt and dog holes, it is difficult to support the end of a long board along its edge. When not in use, the board jack is quickly and easily removed and stored beneath a workbench.

An alternative is to incorporate a sliding board jack beneath the edge of a workbench top. Although this is an option, it is necessary to design the workbench with this complex feature. The portable board jack is instead designed to attach to the underside of a slab type workbench without any modifications to the workbench. All that is necessary are at least two dog holes close to the front edge of the workbench.  You will also be able to easily clamp long, wide panels along the front edge of a workbench using the portable board jack. The portable board jack is designed to be versatile. It can be placed anywhere along a workbench top where dog holes are accessible.

The portable board jack is attached to the workbench top using standard bolts. Quick-connect bolts allow the board jack to be quickly removed or installed, as well as attached to another area of the workbench. Several bench holding accessories can be used with the board jack including bench dogs and surface clamps.

Comprehensive information, board jack techniques, large photos and (16) detailed computer designed diagrams (CAD) included with the board jack plan purchase. Images and illustrations of attaching the portable board jack to a workbench are also included.

Board Jack Plan $12

Moxon Vise Plan

moxon vise planFollow our Moxon vise plan and build your own portable Moxon twin-screw vise. The portable Moxon vise is designed to hold work above the standard height of a workbench. The Moxon vise design is widely attributed to a Joseph Moxon. Joseph Moxon (1627 – 1691), was the hydrographer to Charles II English printer specialising in mathematical books and maps. Moxon’s 17th century book The Art of Joinery first described the double-screw vise. In this historical publication the Moxon vise was documented – a double-screw held to a workbench top with clamps or holdfasts in order to facilitate certain work.

A regular bench height at 35-36 inches is optimized for handplaning operations. When performing fine sawing and other detail work, a higher work surface is preferred. An elevated height of the workpiece enables you to have a clearer view of the wood that is being sawn. Instead of having to stoop down to a workpiece on a regular height workbench, the Moxon vise raises the height of the workpiece to where it is comfortable to work on without strain. You will also be able to easily clamp long, wide panels to the side of a workbench using this vise. The Moxon vise is designed to be both versatile and portable. It can be placed anywhere on a workbench top where dog holes are accessible. When not in use, the Moxon vise can easily be stored upright against a wall.

A normal bench height is in the area of 35-36 inches. With the Moxon vise clamped on to the surface of the workbench, an increased height of 41 inches is achieved. The additional height is a game changer when performing detail work. This Moxon vise design also has a small table set up as an extension in the rear. The small table can be used for mallet work and to rest tools. This Moxon vise design is attached to the workbench top using holdfasts and dog holes. Holdfasts excel at quickly clamping down jigs and workpieces to a workbench surface. The Moxon vise has been adapted to allow for holdfasts to clamp it down as can be seen in these images. Alternative methods exist to clamp a Moxon vise to a workbench, but this is the quickest, cleanest and most unobtrusive method.

Although the hardware and holdfasts used in this Moxon vise build is off the shelf, the plan can be modified for your own hardware and your own holdfasts. Once you have an understanding of Moxon vise concepts, adapting the design to suit your specific work methods is entirely possible.

moxon vise planComprehensive information, Moxon vise techniques and video, large photos and (14) detailed computer designed diagrams (CAD) included with the Moxon vise plan purchase. Images, video and illustrations of attaching the Moxon vise to a workbench are also included.

Moxon Vise Plan $12

Moxon vise build… Pt.2

The Moxon vise build continued and the vise was completed a couple of days after beginning the project. There was a considerable delay in determining the optimum length of the vise. This actually held me back since making it too short is essentially non-correctable later. Too long and there is a weight penalty as these Moxon vises tend to be heavy, especially with the Benchcrafted solid iron handwheels. Although the extra mass and weight can be your friend when clamping boards down, portability of the unit is also a consideration. I would need to determine the size of panels I most often worked with. In my work, I never go over about 20 inches in width so I set this as optimal distance between the screws. Then, using guidelines on screw hole placement provided in the Benchcrafted instructions, a final length of 28 inches was decided on. I did follow the suggested screw hole placement in the Benchcrafted instructions, this saved some time. Next was to mark the 3/4 inch screw holes and begin drilling, careful to have the holes in the front and rear jaws perfectly aligned.

Mortising for the captive nut in the rear jaw inside face was performed using bevel-edge and mortise chisels. Hard maple is well.. hard! In this case, the mortise chisels excelled at hogging out material from the 3/4 inch deep mortise. With a softer hardwood, lighter bevel-edge chisels would have been sufficient. I also oriented the nut so it would align well with the long edges of the rear jaw, mostly an aesthetic consideration.

After test-fitting the Benchcrafted hardware and ensuring it worked smoothly, the next step was to attach a large block of wood to the rear. This block of wood would both stabilize the vise assembly and allow holdfasts to be used to clamp the Moxon vise to the workbench top. Several other intermediate steps were performed, always careful to get alignments exactly correct. There is almost no room for error in making these vises since replacing either of the jaws is both time and material consuming. A more in-depth article on how I made this Moxon vise will be available at the web site soon.

A table extension and vertical support was then added after ensuring the stabilizer was effective at clamping down the Moxon vise to the workbench. The table allows me to extend horizontal boards for marking..i.e. dovetails. I customized the design to use an extra row of dog holes in the center area of my workbench. I have two of these workbenches set as my primary workbenches, so the Moxon vise will be completely portable between benches. The vise can also be located almost anywhere on the workbench surface as the holdfast locations are optimized to clamp the stabilizer block of wood at rear of the vise. I am using Gramercy holdfasts but any holdfasts can be set up for use with the vise.

More detail of the handwheel, screw, and captive nut can be seen above. The table is reinforced below both long edges for maximum support, this to allow for any mallet work. i.e. chopping out dovetails. A large design consideration was to not make the Moxon vise too heavy as I would often be removing it from the workbench top and/or moving it between workbenches. The table size was optimized for this vise and the type of work I do. When designing your own Moxon vise, you will need to determine the size of boards and panels you most often work with. The overall length of the Moxon vise is the most important consideration in its design, it is best to get it right the first time!

I am in the process of writing a more extensive article on this Moxon vise build and will publish it soon at the web site.


Moxon vise build… Pt.1

So I decided to build myself a Moxon vise over the holidays. Business slowed and I had the time to get going on this project. A Moxon vise was something on my mind for quite some time, it was simply a case of finding time to make it. Some time was spent on research to determine which version best suited my work methods. It is essentially a straightforward build, but critical to get it right to ensure the time and material investment is put to good use.

I’m not 100% sure of the origins of the Moxon vise design, but it is widely attributed to Joseph Moxon. Joseph Moxon (August 1627 – February 1691), hydrographer to Charles II English printer specialising in mathematical books and maps. Moxon’s 17th century book The Art of Joinery first described the double-screw vise. In this historical publication was documented the Moxon vise – a double-screw held to a workbench top with clamps or holdfasts in order to facilitate certain work.

The main criteria for me was to be able to hold work above the standard height of a workbench. Rather than piece together the hardware for the vise itself, I opted for the Benchcrafted Moxon Vise hardware kit as it includes everything mechanical. I would need to supply the wood and shape the vise jaws (chops). This would be for the basic vise. A more complex version with an additional work table behind the vise would involve several more steps. The overall length of the Moxon vise I decided on will be in the 28 to 32 in. range.

So after deliberating on the design, I simply went at it and worked on the front and rear jaws. Not having 8/4 stock available to me, I opted to laminate some 4/4 maple pieces instead. In the past, I have had success with the strength and stability of 4/4 boards laminated together. In selecting the boards, I mixed the grain orientations up so each of the laminated boards would counter the grain of the other board. This, in my opinion, balances out the internal stresses of the woods and keeps it all straight and stable. Laminating one of the jaws here with 4/4 boards. As they say, one never has enough clamps. In the pic above, this was almost the case, but it worked out. I do have other clamps, but for the most part, they are lighter.

To be continued…

The evolution…

Several years ago, 2006 to be exact, Michael Dresdner contacted me to ask about profiling my work and practice in an upcoming Woodworker’s Journal online publication. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to talk about my woodworking and how I got to where I was at the time. I was transitioning from primarily being a box maker to furniture making and the reasons for this shift in direction were discussed in the interview.

In that period, I had completed a series of courses at a high-end furniture making school and began to use hand tools more in my work. I recall that the year 2006 was an important juncture in my woodworking. I had embraced the Krenov philosophy and his methods of work. Reading and attending the fine furniture making school inspired me to increase the complexity and scale of my woodworking. I also learned to slow down my woodworking and focus instead on each and every piece rather than applying myself to creating in batch mode ( multiples). So my direction changed dramatically in the years 2006-2008 to where I now design + build one-off furniture pieces exclusively.

The most important takeaway from the interview would likely be the last line: “If you are tired of your day job, Pirollo advises, do what I did. Pursue your passion instead.” I completely believe in this quote to this day. It is never to early to pursue your passion. Get a head start, so if unforeseen circumstances affect your livelihood (career), you will be prepared. Early on my hi-tech career, I pursued many woodworking courses at the college level, set up my own workshops and struggled and worked at learning woodworking. After experiencing a total of 3 downsizings, I gave up on my hi-tech career and moved on to a career in woodworking. This had been my Plan B all along 🙂 The important part is that I was well prepared to launch a second career. You never know where fate will lead you!

I’ll let you read the article.
Norman Pirollo: The Refined Edge of White Mountain

Hand Tool Class


– Hand Tool Class can be Downloaded or Streamed
– over 3.5 hours with extra $24.00 in plans
– 24 video lessons from workshop basics to critical hand tools skills
– lessons can be followed in any order and stopped and repeated at any time
– all lessons are included in single price
– printable reference material included
Dovetail Jig Plan + Tutorial ($12 value) included in purchase
– Shooting Board Plan + Tutorial ($12 value) included in purchase

The video lessons include step by step hand tool sequences. Each lesson guides you through the learning process to develop the hand tool skills you are seeking. This Hand Tool Class is derived from twenty years of woodworking and furniture making expertise. The class is based on skills developed and used in a fully functioning furniture making studio. The class features separate modules on the following topics:

– setting up a workshop for woodworking
– up to date information on workshop safety
– hand tool overview
– lessons on handplanes and chisels
– lessons on clamps, hammers and handsaws
– lessons on marking gauges, rulers and squares
– learn to create handmade dovetails using a dovetail jig
– learn to make and use a shooting board
– learn to make and use bench hooks
– dovetail jig plan + shooting board plan ($24 value)
– hand tools class covers everything you need to get going with hand tools

For a limited time, receive WOODSKILLS Issue 01 & 02 (digital) $16 value with purchase of a class or course.

24 video lessons included with purchase of Hand Tool Class. 24 HD  High Resolution Video modules + Dovetail Jig Plan + Shooting Board Plan for $39.00

Hand Tool Class $39  (Download or Stream)

Norman maintains a blog of ongoing projects in his studio at Pirollo Design Blog as well as having written and published four books in the past year. Some of the books and magazines where authors furniture, work methods and philosophy have been featured:

The Wood Artist: Creating Art Through Wood (New Art Press)
From Hi-Tech to Lo-Tech: A Woodworker’s Journey (New Art Press)
Start Your Own Woodworking Business (New Art Press)
Rooted: Contemporary Studio Furniture (Schiffer Publishing)
IDS15 (Studio North)
Canadian Woodworking magazine Jan. 2015
Our Homes magazine Fall 2014
IDS14 (Studio North)
NICHE Magazine Winter 2013
Fine Woodworking Magazine  4 Bench Jigs for Handplanes  2009
Fine Woodworking Magazine  Essential Shopmade Jigs 2009
Woodwork magazine
Wood Art Today 2 (Schiffer Books)
500 Cabinets ( Lark Books)
Studio Furniture: Today’s Leading Woodworkers (Schiffer Books)
Canadian Interiors Design Source Guide
Ottawa Life magazine (Profile,work) 2012
Panoram Italia magazine
Our Homes magazine

Course Overview (short, lo-res) below.

Cabinet Build Class

I have recently compiled a series of 16 videos into an online class. The subject was a recent display cabinet. The design and build of the striking Krenov-inspired display cabinet seen above is discussed and demonstrated. The contemporary styled display cabinet features veneered sides and doors. The veneers selected are highly figured although they can be substituted with alternative veneers. The frame and panel back adheres to the Krenov principle of properly finishing the back of the cabinet. James Krenov is widely known for his classic cabinets on stand as well as the incredible attention to detail he brought to furniture making. He also brought a unique philosophy and vision to furniture making of which I heed and practice. A large part of this veneered display cabinet has been created using an assortment of hand tools although some machinery is used in the initial wood preparation stage. Follow me as I describe the steps involved in creating a masterpiece veneered cabinet on stand.

The following topics are covered in detail in this 16 part design and build class:

  1. Inspiration and design of the display cabinet
  2. An overview discussing components of the cabinet
  3. Wood selection and resawing veneers used in cabinet
  4. The advantages of using veneers over solid wood
  5. Detailed information on creating and using resawn veneers
  6. The process of applying veneers to the sides and doors
  7. Implementing bake-ins to create panels with hardwood edges
  8. Hardwood edging and the veneer press
  9. The veneer press and joinery used in the cabinet
  10. Card scrapers and the use of a shop-made drilling guide
  11. Dowel drilling guide in-depth
  12. The case construction process
  13. Frame and panel construction of the back panel
  14. Back panel detail and installation
  15. Final case assembly of the display cabinet
  16. Installation process of knife hinges for the doors

Each video segment addresses one aspect of the cabinet build. The design process as well as the methodology behind the build are addresses. This is not simply a class on how to build a cabinet on stand. The class will inform you of a similar design process that James Krenov used in his own work. Since I am an ardent follower of James Krenov, the practices I use in this cabinet build closely follow those of James Krenov. Discussions and demonstrations describe how the design of this display cabinet originated and the design considerations in its build. Information on wood selection and preparation as well as the joinery used in this cabinet is covered in detail. Tips and techniques acquired over several years of creating this style of cabinet are shared in this class. The process of creating and applying veneers is covered as well as information on the installation of knife hinges. More info in the Tutorials section.