Picture Frame Jig

Picture frames are four pieces of wood stuck together. How hard can that be?


Getting those corners to match up perfectly, have all four corners be exactly 90 degrees and have those joints be strong is not easy to achieve without some help. My next project involves making a picture frame so I decided to take some time and make a couple jigs.

The first step is to make the main picture frame jig. Thankfully the interwebz are full of ideas, and I chose David Picciuto’s jig. He has a nice video describing how to make it, but my quick summary is: “It works!” I did a quick test with some scrap wood and the glue up went perfectly.

Next I’ll work on making his spline jig to reinforce the corners.

Piano Book Shelves

We’ve lived in this house for 6.5 years. For that entire time, our piano books have sat on the floor in the box that they were packed in (or scattered messily around the box.)

I decided this would be a good wood working project to tackle so I flipped through a bunch of plans and settled on the tower bookshelves from Wood Magazine, partially because I previously purchased the digital back catalog of the magazine so the plans were “free.” The plans recommend oak or maple but I thought I’d go for cherry.

The project began with a trip to Crosscut Hardwoods to buy the most expensive piece of plywood that I’ve ever purchased (though it can get much more expensive than this!) I got a 3/4″ piece of cherry plywood that was nice on both sides, a 1/4″ piece that was nice on only one side, and a 1″ thick board.

I was pretty nervous about cutting into the plywood, but I was also excited to use my new table saw with a big sheet of plywood. My old saw was too wimpy and too unsafe to do big pieces. I cut about 25″ off one end and then ran the rest through the saw. The saw ran like a champ, and combined with the assembly/outfeed table, it never felt unsafe.

After cutting some strips of hardwood and using it as edge banding on the plywood, the main joinery is done using biscuits. I’ve done a little bit of work with the biscuit joiner before but never this much. It really is simple and makes quick work of some of these bigger glue ups.

Next up was the base and the top trim pieces. Those were a little tricky as the plans recommended biscuit joints on the mitered angles to hold the joints together. That worked but I think I’d probably choose a different method next time because it took forever to get my cheapo biscuit joiner dialed in for that fancy cut. In the photo below you see a scrap piece filling in the empty back so that the band clamp can squeeze evenly all the way around.

The final construction step was to build the drawer, install the drawer slides, and then cut/attach the drawer front.

For a finish, I chose to keep it simple and went with a wipe on polyurethane. It does give a bit of a plasticy finish but that build-up is also extra protection for the books that will be sliding in and out fairly regularly. After the coats of finish were done, I put on the 1/4″ back and reinstalled the drawer.

Once we figured out where to place it in the room, I took the time to attach the top to a stud with a strap. It’s very easy to tip over and with a three year old running around, it wouldn’t take long for it to topple over.

This project was a nice way to dabble in some nicer furniture. This was about the biggest thing I can comfortably handle in my shop so I won’t be tackling a dining table anytime soon, but I’m happy I did this one.

It’s pretty easy to see the different colors of cherry woods, but I’m hopeful that as time goes on, the cherry will all darken up to the same color. But even as it is now, I’m very happy with it and admit to walking into that room just to check out the bookshelves. It’s a nice step up from the cardboard box mess on the floor.


Martens Woodshop On Instagram

I’ve been using Instagram a lot more than Facebook. I get more interaction with random people who are interested in the same things as me, and it generally feels like a happier place.

I want to use Instagram even more to connect with the woodworking community, but I also don’t want to bombard friends and family who don’t care about that stuff. So I’m segmenting my posts under two accounts. The @benwmartens account will still be normal day-to-day, family-life pictures. The new @martenswoodshop account will have lots of pictures all related to woodworking and will show day to day progress along with the finished project.

If you like it all, it’s easy enough to just follow both, but I won’t be offended if you don’t like seeing lots of progress pictures for my projects.

Some day I dream of supplementing my income with woodworking and maybe this is the first step down that path. For now, it’s still totally a hobby but maybe I can start building a brand.

Shop Vac Cart

I’ve really enjoyed having dust collection in my workshop, even if it’s just a simple shop vac with a cyclone. I kept it under my workbench, but the mess of wires and hoses basically meant that it stayed there. It was a pain to dig it out to vacuum out the car or anything like that.

I finally made a version of Jay Bates’s shop vac cart. The cyclone hangs above the shop vac so it uses less floor space and gives me a space to collect all the various attachments. It’s also very easy to move around.

The project was pretty simple but I’m always amazed at my ability to mess up the easiest things. The end result is good enough though and I think it will be helpful. One negative that I didn’t forsee is that the hose connection is now ~5 feet off the ground and most of my dust collection parts are near the ground. That just means I need a little bit longer hose but maybe that will be offset by being able to move the cart closer to the machine I’m using.

New Crosscut Sled

I’ve written before about making a crosscut sled for the table saw. I used the first one so much that it kind of wore out and I had ideas for improvements so I made another. They’re incredibly convenient especially for the smaller toy projects that I was doing. It’s a very safe and precise way to cut small pieces (among other things.)

My new table saw had miter slots that were a different width so I needed to build another sled. This time I incorporated some t-track and a flip stop that slides in that track. This allows me to get repeatable cuts with the stop but I can also flip it up after I set the position of the piece to avoid any binding between the blade and the stop.

The process was pretty much the same as previous builds, but because I had a much more precise saw, I decided to spend extra time squaring up the fence to get perfect 90 degree cuts.

I used my big square to get it initially set close to 90 and then did the 5 cut test to see how far off I was. Watch that link to see it in action, but basically you make a cut, rotate the piece, make a cut, rotate, etc. You do that 5 times and then you measure the width of the last slice at the top and the bottom. That helps you calculate how much out of square your sled is because it really magnifies the error. I was so far off that it was plainly visible to the naked eye. How could that be when my square said I was spot on? I futzed with it for quite a while and then got frustrated and walked away. During my break, I realized that the only explanation was that my square wasn’t square. Indeed it wasn’t! So I changed up my method of dialing it in and got it to a point where over a 40″ cut, I only deviate by 0.001″ from being perfectly square. That’s insanely perfect. In fact, it’s so good that I suspect I’m within the margin of error for my setup and my measuring tools. Plenty good enough for me.