Two-Tier Unknot Corner Shelf

two-tier unknot corner shelf

A friend asked me to build this two-tier unknot corner shelf as a Valentine’s Day gift for her husband. She specifically knew the shelf she desired and clearly described its design. The project was to be built with no hardware and install easily without a hundred screws damaging the wall.
two-tier unknot corner shelfI took a day or two to think about the project and decided to build a prototype of the shelf using a two by four. I drew a schematic of the shelf on a scrap paper and transferred the measurements to the lumber. I also constructed a corner jig out of plywood. The jig keeps everything square and provides something solid to clamp to as the glue dries. With the unit complete I experimented with various ways to install it. I placed a mirror hanger on the back of each vertical support, but with no support in the corner the unit was unstable and drooped away from the wall. After much thought and experimentation I discovered the easiest and strongest support was a mortise in the shelf and a tenon attached to the wall.

two-tier unknot corner shelfThe shelf was to be a blond color with a matte finish. While visiting the wood store the decision was made to use ash wood. I purchased a beautiful piece of 5/4 ash lumber  7 1/2″ wide and 8′ long; enough lumber for two complete shelves. The lumber acclimated in my workshop a few days and it was planed to an inch thick. I proceeded to (1) crosscut the length of each section. With all six sections cut to length I (2) cut 45 degree miters for the left and right sides. (3) Each section was then ripped to 3 1/2″ width.  (4) A stacked dado blade was used to make a 1/2″ dado across the back of the top  shelf sections. Pieces of ash were glued into the ends of the dado to create a mortise.

two-tier unknot corner shelfI waited for the glue to dry and (5) cut the corner miters on the top and bottom shelf sections. I considered various ways of strengthening the joints of the assembled sections. In the end the use of biscuits was the victor. Using a power biscuit jointer I cut biscuit mortises into the surface of each joint. Working one at a time each joint was glued with a biscuit and clamped. Gluing and clamping requires patience and scrutiny to insure each connection is square in every direction.

I waited a day for the glue to set and then started the finishing process. Using a random orbital sander I sanded every surface with 80, 120, 180 grit sandpaper. The sharp ninety-degree corners and edges were slightly rounded with the gentle touch of a cabinet scraper and a sanding block. Rounding the harsh corners provides a luxurious surface to touch and allows for a durable finish.

I applied three to four coats of polyurethane finish by hand, lightly sanding between applications.  The polyurethane finish hardened over a duration of few days and then sanded with steel wool to reduce the glossy appearance.  A super silky feel and rich luster was created on the finish by buffing the surface with rottenstone. I am happy with the complete piece. At my friend’s request I delivered the shelf days before Valentine’s Day. The photos with the books are of the shelf installed in their home.

Because I made two of these shelves I have another currently stored in my shop. Maybe I’ll install it in my home or perhaps someone will be interested in purchasing it from me. Either way, it’s a win. And please be sure to have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

two-tier unknot corner shelf schematic

2016 begins with Many Beautiful Things many beautiful things

2016 is off to a fantastic start! Amy and I celebrated New Years Eve with good friends, great food and awesome intoxicating concoctions at the Orange Squirrel. New Years Day provided an opportunity to rest and work on a few home improvement odds and ends. Also, we had the privilege of sharing brunch with superstar woodworker Jeffry Lohr and his wife Linda at their home studio. Brunch was especially cool because we shared the occasion sitting around Jeff’s gigantic live edge Frontier table. It was pleasurable to have the chance to converse, play with Jeff’s handmade yip sticks and watch our pets aggravate each other.

Amy and I wrapped up the awesome holiday weekend by attending the U.S. premier of the documentary Many Beautiful Things at Fitzgerald’s 1928. The documentary is about actor Vincent Schiavelli and the years lived in Sicily before his death.  Chef Francesco Palmieri prepared a delicious meal inspired by Schiavelli’s recipe books. Plenty of wine and specialty drinks rounded out the experience nicely. When the documentary concluded I had the opportunity to speak with director Aurelio Gambadoro, visiting from Sicily, and shake his hand.

And last but not least I decided to kick of 2016 by combining with my blog into one seamless experience. Please be patient with me as I tweak setting and continue to migrate all the pieces together. Hopefully in a few weeks everything will meet my satisfaction. My sights are aimed high for 2016 for family, friends and fun.

Family Christmas Craft 2015 – Giving My Father’s Puffin Whirligigs Wings

wooden alaska puffin bird wind instructions

A few years ago the Chismar family decided to stop purchasing Christmas gifts for one another. Instead, our family began to create unique crafts to exchange as gifts. The crafts include baked treats, wall clocks, rosaries, placemats and many other imaginative items. The craft exchange is always a hit with much excitement surrounding the reveal of each invention.

A few years ago my father decided to make everyone a puffin bird whirligig, replicating a whirligig he purchased on vacation in Alaska several years prior. The bodies of the puffins were carefully cut out and painted by my father’s hand. The wooden dowel used as the axle for the propeller wings were also cut, painted and inserted into the body. Unfortunately the propeller wings could not be completed in time for the holiday, so the project was packed up and stored in the garage.

About a year ago the box of puffin bodies was passed on to me, where it was stored in my workshop. This year I decided to add wings to my father’s puffin whirligigs. The original wings were plastic and attached to a dowel hub. Preferring wooden parts over plastic parts I created mini hubs and propellers from poplar scraps around the workshop. I spray painted the propeller assembly black and attached each to the axle dowel with a brass screw. It is my hope that we will enjoy our puffins for years to come.

The Little Match Girl – 2015 Woodblock Print Christmas Card

Hans Christian Andersen short story

Nothing says Christmas more than a tale about a little girl surrendering to hypothermia, alone on the street, afraid her father will beat her if she returned home. The Little Match Girl is a holiday tale penned by Hans Christian Andersen. The story is about a young girl forced out to the cold winter streets by her abusive father to sell matches to pedestrians about town.

Unsuccessful at her task and frightened to return home she huddles near a niche for warmth. To pass time and keep warm she begins striking matches. With each match strike the girl experiences wonderful holiday visions of food, fun and family. A shooting star reminds the girl of her grandmother explaining a shooting star is a soul entering heaven. The happy ending? The little match girl dies and joins her grandmother in eternal paradise.

Remembering the story I decided to make The Little Match Girl my Christmas card theme. The design process proved trickier than I originally anticipated. My first designs were of a shooting star, a flying grandma, the face of a little girl illuminated by a match, soaring Christmas trees and floating food. In short, the designs were too busy or gloomy. In the end I decided to join elements of grandma with shooting star and match strike sparks. It’s best to allow the imagination of the viewer to complete the scene.

Halloween Wood Carving Edgar Allen Poe Black Cat Sculpture

halloween wood carving edgar allen poe black cat sculpture

A couple years ago I started a small woodcarving based on the Black Cat story by Edgar Allen Poe. My intention was to gift the piece to someone on a certain, special occasion. Circumstances beyond my control prevented the timely completion of the piece and it sat in my workshop unfinished. This weekend I decided to dig in and get it done..

It feels great to have another forgotten project off the dusty workshop shelf and now presented on a non-dusty living room shelf. I have a “Santa” patiently waiting in the workshop for his turn on the carving vice. Inspired by completing the Black Cat, I hope to keep the momentum and have Mr Claus in the living room by Christmas.

On a side note, Amy and I participated in the first annual Watsessing Park Fall Clean Up on Sunday November 1st 2015. We had a fun time exploring the park and scavenging around for bits of trash to pick up. Everyone was there, Bloomfield High School sports teams and cheerleaders and even the Bloomfield Fire Department was there to lend a hand. We look forward to volunteering next year.

2014 Christmas Card Woodblock Print Postcards

2014 christmas card woodblock print postcards
It’s hard to believe Halloween and Thanksgiving is behind us now. I started a Halloween woodcarving which I thought I’d have completed by Halloween, somehow I was sidetracked. I’ll share that Halloween carving when it’s finished – which will hopefully be soon.
Continuing my holiday tradition I printed carved woodblock print holiday postcards to send to friends and family the weekend after Thanksgiving. The photo is a sneak peak, this year the prints were made with black, blue or gold ink. The card colors were chosen randomly for the recipients. Personally I am unable to choose which color I like the most, each color adds its own character to the design.
Both Amy and I hope our postcards shine a little holiday light into our friend’s lives.


Scrooge – Holiday Bark Carving Seminar American Woodcarving School Wayne, NJ

Sunday, December 1st 2013 I attended a bark carving seminar hosted by the American Woodcarving School in Wayne, NJ and instructed by owner / instructor Jerry Cetrulo. I always have a fun time hanging out at AWS and spending time carving with other people also excited about the art. The video features clips of Jerry’s instruction and a time-lapse of my piece as a student at the seminar.