Toy Chest Footlockers – A child’s coolest accessory!

One of the most Fun filled projects you can build is a Toy Chest for a child (even a big child).  This is a footlocker I built for my son when he was little, and he kept all his GI Joe’s in it.

Original Footlocker built for Stuart when he was little
Original Footlocker built for Stuart when he was little

The Footlocker was painted by a very excited 4 year old, with some minor assistance, and has some Stickers added (by same 4 year old) for visual effect!

It also features a removable top tray and ample bottom compartment.  Plenty of room for GI Joes and more!

With the success of the original footlocker, we soon realized that my Grandson Justice needed one as well.   Stuart sent me a detailed sketch, based on the original:

Toy Box Diagram from Stuart
Toy Box Diagram from Stuart

From this I made my cut list and detailed parts list, and got to work.

Justice wanted his Toybox in NYC Ambulance colors, to keep his Medic GI Joes safe.

Completed Ambulance Footlocker
Completed Ambulance Footlocker

This made perfect sense, as both his parents are in the FDNY.

I used paint from Home Depot, who did a great job matching the colors, as well as the brass hardware; Brass Piano hinge, handles, and locks. (underlined affiliate  links are to Amazon for reference).

The best part of this project was not about cutlists and clamps and assembly and painting.  Look at the smile on my Grandson’s face!

Presenting footlocker to Justice 2017
Presenting footlocker to Justice 2017

Thank you for reading this, and I hope your projects are as inspirational!

Toyboxes are bland when built.  It’s just a wooden box. But when you add some inspiration, like a theme or Idea,  they come alive and are unique and special.  Even if it is just a box with stickers on it, (themed or random stickers), that personalization is what makes it special.  Names can be added with letters from the local hardware store or Amazon.

Foam letters on Amazon
Foam letters on Amazon – There are lots of options for personalization!

OH, I didn’t stop at Ambulance footlocker toy boxes.  This one is based on the Death Star from Star Wars!

Death Star footlocker with Darth Vader plate
Death Star footlocker with Darth Vader plate

Darth Vader is actually a melamine plate I purchased in Kohls.  It was later painted in a Death Star Greyish white color, and presented with a package of Star Wars Stickers for Justice to decorate it with.  (Who doesn’t like Stickers)!

May the Footlocker be with you!


Saving a homes history – Converting an old alcove with Stained Glass doors into a buffet cabinet

The Finished Cabinet - with doors mounted, and in it's new home in a sunny room adjacent to the kitchen!

When remodeling their Kitchen, the owners of this Leisure World Home knew they were going to sacrifice their old bar alcove to streamline the kitchen.  The stained glass doors were custom made for the former owners, and quite nice to look at – almost like an old friend.

The Alcove with Stained Glass Cabinet doors, prior to demolition for new kitchen.
The Alcove with Stained Glass Cabinet doors, prior to demolition for new kitchen.

Rather than see this handmade artwork go into a landfill, I converted the stained glass doors into a Console/buffet cabinet with doors and shelves.

The cabinet was fabricated almost entirely from the kitchen cabinets that were removed for the new kitchen.

Detailed instructions on top of the center cabinet, which was removed intact.
Detailed instructions on top of the center cabinet, which was removed intact.
The Cabinet, actually three separate cabinets, starts to take shape.
The Cabinet, actually three separate cabinets, starts to take shape.

The Pantry cabinet from the old kitchen provided cabinet sides, shelves, and backs.  The frames from several cabinets were re-worked, glued, and biscuited/clamped together.

The cabinets in process of being glued and screwed together.
The cabinets in process of being glued and screwed together.

Because I wanted to keep the finished height to approximately 29 inches, I fabricated the top from 1/2″ furniture grade plywood, with an overhanging  wooden skirt on the front and sides.  Nail-on nylon glides were generously added to the bottom of the cabinet to prevent it from marring the floor.

The center cabinet had adjustable shelves, and the side cabinets were made with shelves that sat on cleats so they could be easily removed. Each cabinet had two shelves.

Painting the finished cabinet, in High Gloss White.
Painting the finished cabinet, in High Gloss White.

With several coats of paint, (Lightly sanding with 220 grit paper between coats), and wiping with a tack rag, the cabinet was ready for the doors to be mounted, and put in place!

The Finished Cabinet - with doors mounted, and in it's new home in a sunny room adjacent to the kitchen!
The Finished Cabinet – with doors mounted, and in it’s new home in a sunny room adjacent to the kitchen!

Here we have saved a homes history – an olde-style alcove turned into a buffet/server that will keep the homes legacy alive for many years.

With a little bit of vision and some creative woodworking, this cabinet kept a lot of wood and glass out of the waste stream, and will live on as a useful addition to the sunroom adjacent to the kitchen.

Thanks for reading – clicking on the images should open them full-size in a new tab.  Underlined product links to Amazon open in a new tab, and reference the tools used in the accompanying pictures.  They are affiliate links and help the author maintain his Starbucks habit.  Feel free to share this blog with your friends!

Erin and Daniels One of a kind Wedding Arch

Weddings are blessings, and being asked to build a wedding arch is both a privilege and fun project!

The wedding Arch started in March of 2020 (as the Pandemic was growing).  Here is the original sketch:

Original Wedding Arch Sketch
Original Wedding Arch Sketch

The arch was fabricated from 1×2 pine, left over from a project – almost exclusively recycled wood.  It took shape in a relatively short period of time

Wedding Arch under Construction

The Arch was assembled in 3 sections plus two planter boxes (one on each side) for stability.  The individual sections were assembled with 1-1/2″ Drywall screws in predrilled, tapered holes.  Titebond Wood Glue and Irwin clamps held everything together until the screws were tightened. (Affiliate Links to Amazon for pricing and description)

Alan C showing off the first assembly of the Arch
Alan C showing off the first assembly of the Arch

The wedding arch was painted White satin and made an appearance at the first wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Weinstein in Leesburg Va.

Erin and Daniels wedding ceremony
Erin and Daniels wedding ceremony
Arch at Erin and Daniels first Wedding
Arch at Erin and Daniels first Wedding
Wedding arch at the (Pandemic Postponed) third wedding
Wedding arch at the (Pandemic Postponed) third wedding

The Arch performed wonderfully, and was adorned with flowers that enhanced it’s appearance and function as a backdrop for an amazing and memorable  wedding ceremony!

Alan and Kathy in the arch post-ceremony
Alan and Kathy in the arch post-ceremony

If you are engaged and looking for an Arch, or a Huppa, I can definitely help you out! Thanks for reading!

The knot wedding planner
The knot wedding planner, available on Amazon



Wall mounted Bracelet Display

The cats love to smack the bracelets off the dresser and onto the floor.

Endless fun for the cat, and constant picking up for the owner.

This simple bracelet holder, attached to the wall with a simple French cleat (only 2 screws) – is a clear winner for nicely showing off your bangles without tempting the felines to have an all out smackfest!

Bracelet holder

The Bracelet holder is made of solid 3/4″ Maple with 1/2″ wooden dowels drilled into the sides in an alternating pattern to allow easy insertion of the Bracelets and Bangles.  It is approximately 11″ wide, 36″ in height, and 3- 1/4″ deep.  It has a 3″ wood cleat at the bottom, and a 3″ French Cleat at the top.

The piece is finished with 3 coats of Varathane semi-gloss finish, brushed on.  sanded with 320 paper in between coats. (links open to amazon product pages).

Bracelet holder by Alan Chenkin, handcrafted at the Chenkin Workshop
Two views of the Bracelet and Bangle holder, showing the staggered dowels.


Dowel detail, showing rounded end.

This project is a lot of fun, and required some accurate cutting on the table saw, rounding over the edges with a router, and a lot of fine sanding.  The cleats were blind fastened with a Biscuit joiner, Glued with Gorilla Woodworking Glue, and clamped overnight.  I used a DE Walt 1/4 sheet pad sander with 100 and 220 grits.  I finished sanding by hand with 220 and 320 paper.  Before applying finish, I wiped the dust residue off with a damp rag or a tack cloth.  It helps if you vacuum the shop and let the dust settle before applying the final coats, so no dust gets on the finish coats.

Hanging the finished Bracelet and Bangle rack was easy, as it was light and easy to position on the wall.  I predrilled the French Cleat with two holes for #6 x 2″  wood screws and finish washers, and leveled it with a small level.  The rack sits on the French cleat and is flush to wall.

Simple, elegant, and Cat resistant.

Leo the Cat at Computer
Leo the cat, at the computer, shopping for cat toys on Amazon.




Basic woodworking is fun and generates a sense of accomplishment and achievement!

Having owned a cabinet shop for ten years, I enjoy both building furniture and gifts, making useful items for friends and around the house.

In addition to great resources on the internet, acquire a “reading library” of woodworking books.  My favorite read is the John L. Feirer “Cabinetmaking and Millwork”  (Here is the Link at Amazon: Cabinetmaking and Millwork: John L Feirer: 9780684132778: Books ).
While the Feirer book may seem dated to some, the basic principles are the same, and you will get a piece of usable information every time you skim through it.
Beyond educating yourself, you will need a basic toolbox, patience, a good tape measure, pencils, and a working plan of what you want to build.  You can buy this in a kit. 

25 piece beginner tool set, from Amazon

Most items can be built out of basic 3/4″ pine and plywood for cases, 1/2″ plywood for drawers, and 1/4″ plywood (or paneling if you are on a budget) for backs of cabinets and boxes. I like Pine as it is affordable, readily available, easy to cut and sand, and takes a painted finish well.   Stick to these materials to start, while you learn the basics.  Hardwoods and exotic species are expensive, and good for high-end projects.
In addition to basic hand tools, I suggest getting a cordless screw-gun/drill, skilsaw, palm sander, power miter saw (10″), sawhorses, and a small table saw.  (This list is just basic, buy things as you need them – and don’t forget glue, clamps, screws, etc. etc.).

1000 piece fastener set, from Amazon
1000 piece fastener set, from Amazon

While there are many joining systems for wood, basic furniture can be glued, nailed, and screwed together.  I have biscuit fasteners, Krieg drills, air powered nail-guns, and more in my work shop. this depends on whether you will be “blind fastening” (no exposed fasteners) or using exposed fasteners (nails, screws) and filling or covering the holes.
Woodworking is a challenge, as you are the mechanic, building functional pieces using your methods and tools.  Don’t worry if you have some pieces that are “less than perfect” – as your skills improve, you will be able to build some really good pieces.

The attached pictures are an oak desk for my 8 year old grandson, and a great Tiki Bar on wheels!

Oak and Pine desk built for Authors grandson
Oak and Pine student desk built for Authors grandson
Tiki Bar on wheels
Tiki Bar on wheels, made with shop scrap, left over paint, and some old casters.
rear view of Tiki Bar
rear view of Tiki Bar, showing shelves for buckets, and plastic barware!

It’s always fun to build for fun.

This is a footlocker/toybox:

Footlocker Toybox
Footlocker Toybox

Be creative, be safe, and enjoy woodworking – where you get a real sense of accomplishment building, fixing, or even working on a new project!

Take your time, “Measure twice – cut once“, and enjoy building your own cabinets and furniture!

Don’t let this happen to you!!



If your flipped home is really a flop, what can you do?

With home prices increasing and many contractors and builders working hard to turn a profit fixing up a home and reselling it, there is ample opportunity for unscrupulous operators to conceal serious defects in homes.  I have seen bad roofs, aluminum wiring, and oddly placed jacks under beams and walls.  Not all contractors and fixer-uppers are bad, but they are out there.  If you bought a home that has dangerous problems that are intentionally covered up, you may be able to pursue some avenues for recovering damages.

Home Buying Kit For Dummies, available from Amazon Books

Most home inspectors have insurance and guarantees, so I would start there. Many are licensed as well, so if your inspection report has serious errors, you may have redress. (I am assuming you purchased a report, and did not accept one from the seller/contractor).

The licensing authority for home improvement contractors has the ability to fine negligent contractors. Also check the office of the attorney general for your state. there may be programs for grants for people scammed by contractors. Here is the one in Maryland, where I live: Guaranty Fund Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If the contractor intentionally and deliberately hid or covered problems in the home – like cracked or sagging beams, water damage, mold, etc., that should be considered fraud, and I would recommend contacting a lawyer (one who specifically handles this type of case) to pursue legal recourse. It would have to be properly documented and witnessed, so that your case can be presented in court. Weigh the cost of this carefully – collecting a judgement from a shady contractor may be difficult if you win.

The First-Time Homeowner’s Survival Guide: A Crash Course in Dealing with Repairs, Renovations, Property Tax Issues, and Other Potential Disasters – available from Amazon Books

A home is usually the largest monetary purchase a person (or couple) will make, and every one should use all due diligence when evaluating property for purchase, and consult with professional BEFORE signing on the dotted line and committing to years of home ownership. If you are a new homeowner, homes have maintenance and expenses, and you should be prepared to spend money on maintenance that is necessary to preserve your investment. It is important you learn the difference between an old roof that will need replacing soon, verses one that has been cleaned and refreshed to “look new”. A competent home inspector will know the difference, and if you buy a house that has clearly had work done to make it look “move in ready”, be prepared to spend your hard earned money to correct any underlying issues before purchase, and negotiate hard for discounts equal to the costs of fixing any of the underlying problems.

Home Maintenance Log Book and Planner: Home Repair Log, Month by Month Home Maintenance, Home Appliances, Project Planner, Home Repair and Renovation ... The Ultimate Home Maintenance Log Book
Home Maintenance Log Book and Planner: Home Repair Log, Month by Month It is crucial to keep good records! – Available on Amazon

Best of luck if this is your situation!

THIS COULD BE YOU. Funny House Flipper The Flipper Fixer Upper Coffee Mug


How to get the best lumber from Lowe’s or Home Depot!

Lowes and Home Depot both carry graded lumber (usually #2 and better), although you may see a lot of lumber with low moisture content for framing lumber – prone to splitting- and lumber from Fast growing trees that don’t have the same qualities as the older, slow-growing trees of my youth.  I will try to shed some light on lumber buying.

Lumber grading is usually visual, and based on the timber.  Graders can have variation within lots of timber, and a board that is a pristine  #2 on one end can be dunnage or scrap on the opposite end!

Lumber is graded and stamped, with mill numbers, Grade, and features like Kiln drying.

Rules and Specifications for the Grading of Lumber: Adopted by the Various Lumber Manufacturing Associations of the United States
Rules and Specifications for the Grading of Lumber: Adopted by the Various Lumber Manufacturing Associations of the United States

The more you know more about lumber, you can see why many DIY’ers and tradesmen have a concern about mass-marketed lumber at big box stores. There can be tremendous variation in grades, and QUALITY, depending on the mill and experience of the graders.

My advice is not to label the wood product of either store good or bad, but look at the stamp and inspect the wood when you purchase it. I frequently pick through lumber ALL THE TIME when I buy it, and it will vary from one side of the pallet to the other.  I even sight down the long end of the boards, to ensure they are straight – as opposed to cupped, bowed, twisted, or warped.

More Books on Lumber grading from Amazon

So understand lumber grading (don’t buy #2 common when you need a #1 select), buy the best lumber for your project, and inspect it when you pick it. No one wants to run from store to store picking boards, so make the best compromise you can.

I would also recommend that you speak to the Lumber Manager at the store, they usually are familiar with the product they have in stock, and can suggest material that is “out in the yard”

The Essential Wood Book: The Woodworker’s Guide to Choosing and Using Lumber
The Essential Wood Book: The Woodworker’s Guide to Choosing and Using Lumber

In this time of pandemic, I needed some Pressure treated lumber, which is in short supply – I ordered 30% more than called for, and crossed my fingers that the product delivered was “good enough” for the project. Fortunately, I got lucky!

How can you get into woodworking with limited finances?

Toy chest in Ambulance colors

There are lots of resources for learning woodworking.

You don’t have to apprentice at a shop, you can do it as a hobby. The public libraries have books that you can read on the topic, and free access to computers (for YouTube videos).

You can get free wood from used pallets and boxes, many people are happy to give them away.

Custom Shelf unit

This custom Shelf unit was made from plywood I had “left over”, and some “oops” paint from Home depot’s discount bin. (link oopens to wood project plans on eBay.  You can also get Wood project plans from Amazon.

You can find inexpensive tools (and wood) at yard sales and on-line sites like The Freecycle Network or Craigslist; you can even put out a wanted ad for specific tools.  eBay is a good source for tools as well.

Wooden Chess Table
Wooden chess table with inlaid blocks of walnut and Maple, custom made by Morton Chenkin.
completed Chess table at the Chenkin Man cave

chess table plans on Amazon

You just need to be creative, and find projects that are within the scope of your ability; Just google “how to make a (insert wood project here) from scrap wood”.  This works whether you are planning a birdhouse or a coat-rack.

I hope this inspires you to make the journey into the craft! Please post your progress and (shameless self promotion) keep reading The Chenkin Workshop

Best of Luck!

Hiding a closet in Plain Sight!

If you have a basement, storage room, or garage with some space for hanging storage – this tip is for you!

Closet space is at a premium in most homes, and seeing assorted clothes, jackets, and shoes from various seasons can be attractive and less than desirable.

There are several ways to solve this dilemma; firstly, you can buy a freestanding closet pole, like this one from Amazon:

closet rack

Or you can get a freestanding wardrobe, like this one:

freestanding wardrobe

Sometimes all you need is a closet rod and a shelf, but what is the easiest way to enclose it?

Wait, can’t see the closet?  How about now:

Hidden closet with hanging rod and shelf
Hidden closet with hanging rod and shelf

This 8 foot closet was made with 5 closet rod hanger brackets

Heavy Duty Shel and Rod Bracket in White

An 8 foot closet pole (or 1-1/4″ pole) can be Wood or metal.  available on Amazon.

An 8 foot shelf, 3/4″ x x 11-3/8 x 96″.  This can be a 1 x 12 pine board from your local Home depot or Lowes, or from your local hardware store.

But how do we hide it, you ask?

I used an 8 foot piece of 3/4″ EMT (electrical conduit) for the shower curtains we used.  The conduit is available at Home depot or Lowes, or from your local hardware store.  click the link for the shower curtains. (for an eight foot opening, you will need two, and the clips to hold them on the conduit). 

You will also need a mount for the shower curtain rod.  These from Amazon should do the trick, and you can mount them from the ceiling with anchors:

Stainless Steel Wardrobe Pipe Lever Ceiling Mount Bracket Closet Rod Bracket Flange Support Holder Pack of 4 (25mm/1'')

Once you have everything assembled, you have a closet and a shelf hidden in Plain sight.

Closet hidden in Plain sight!
Closet hidden in Plain sight!


What is the average profit margin for a cabinet shop?

Being a former owner of a cabinet shop, I must tell you that margin is only one measure of profitability, as there are capital investments in materials and machinery that span years, not to mention specialized tooling and skilled labor.

The cabinet/woodworking business is tough, as you compete with mass produced items that sell for much less than anything you could produce.

The key is having a niche market, or a “rent payer” product that you manufacture for a client on a continual basis. I had a florist supply that I made little mirrored boxes for; many times it paid the rent.

Alan Chenkin Fabricating Teak Countertop for Custom Kitchen.
Alan Chenkin Fabricating Teak Countertop for Custom Kitchen. Note the alternating Teak and Willow woods to resemble the deck of a ship.

You also have to know your business; computerized cutting programs save money and increase yield. Batching orders can reduce or optimize milling costs, and buying equipment at wholesale auctions can reduce your cost of capital equipment. Shops are always selling their surplus equipment, and a good deal equals money in your pocket. Saving 10% on materials by buying in bulk (i.e.; buying a skid of 40 sheets of plywood vs. the 20 you need), you know you will use the inventory – this can put 10% back in your pocket. My shop had a standing “inventory” of Plywood and lumber, usually bought at discount.

My thought on the matter is that cabinet shops have 3% to 10% profitability, depending on their market and flexibility in lean times. And lean times can be seasonal, especially if you build cabinets for the housing markets or remodeling.

I often miss my shop, but not having the rent/equipment lease/payroll/saw sharpener/dumpster costs helps me sleep at night.