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: Amazon.com: 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!

measure_twic_cut_once_goof_last_word
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.

What Sizes do Table Saws Come In?

Table saws come in many different sizes and configurations.

Light duty portable saws come in 10″ models, and are meant to be placed on sawhorses or a folding stand.

10 Benchtop ang Portable Contractor Table Saw Rip Fence Mitre Gauge Push Sticks

Typical Benchtop Table saw, available on eBay. 

Note: there are “mini” table saws, you can see them on eBay too.  They are usually for craft and hobby work.

Jobsite saws are heavier, with 10″ blades, folding stands and sometimes wheels. Usually 1.5 to 2.5 horsepower.

Hitachi C10RJ 10" 15-Amp Jobsite Table Saw with 35" Rip Capacity and Fold and Roll Stand
My Hitachi Jobsite Saw, available on Amazon.

Stationary saws have 10″ or larger blades, larger power draw, and multiple configurations. Fence systems, sliding tables, dust collection, power feeders, stackers, and more are available as options. Cabinet saws may have scoring blades, and additional features for making clean and accurate cuts.

Powermatic PM23150K 3HP 1PH 230V, 50" RIP
Powermatic PM23150K 3HP 1PH 230V, 50″ RIP – available on Amazon or your favorite machinery dealer.

Another way to approach this is based on the work your saw needs to do for you. Is portability important? Do you make a lot of varied cuts? Do you make dadoes or angle cuts? You can configure a stock table saw with aftermarket fencing systems, shop wheels, dado inserts, and more.  Here is a link to popular table saw accessories on eBay, and Amazon.

Some of the newer saws have “slow start”, safety stop braking systems, and good connections for dust collection, blade guards, and anti-kickback features.

Buy the right size saw for the job, and you will be getting the best bang for your buck.  The table saw is the woodworkers primary wood cutting tool!

Thanks for the A2A! Fyi – I own a Hitachi 10″ jobsite saw, with a shop-made two stage dust collection system.

Can you put a TV over a wood burning fireplace?

The short answer is yes, as long as you have solid support for the mounting bracket.

But (you guessed it) I have some caveats:

  1. Mounting the TV above the fireplace may position it too high for comfortable viewing; Neck strain is not fun, so that is a concern. If the TV is a good distance from the seating, or above a low fireplace, then you might be OK. The TV should be at eyeball level or slightly above, for best viewing angle.
  2. If the fireplace throws off a lot of heat, and there is no mantle to deflect some of it away from the TV, The heat can have an adverse effect on the electronics over time.
  3. Wiring. Despite the fact that TV’s are becoming wireless, you may have to deal with a power cable, HDMI cable, optical (sound) cable, and additional cables for DVD players, Cable boxes, and TV receivers like the Amazon firestick. Plan for having wires, and running them inside the wall or in a wire management system. I also suggest having a good surge/power strip or a serious UPS (power supply) – our power grid is aging and you don’t want it to “take down” your expensive OLED 4K TV due to power fluctuations.
  4. SOUND. Flat screen TV’s are notorious for flat sound; I almost always recommend a sound bar with a subwoofer – you want to hear the sound emanating from the direction of the TV, with a subwoofer on the floor or mounted near the seating area. Rear speakers are good to get surround sound into your “sound field”. I have clients who mounted speakers in the ceiling; this is really bad as you are disoriented with a visual image in front of you with the sound coming from above. I appeal to your common sense – NEVER DO THIS.

From the Web:

Want to Mount a TV Above a Fireplace? Read This First | Bob Vila

Installing a TV Above the Fireplace

Where to Put the TV When You Have a Fireplace

So there you have it – you can mount a TV over the fireplace, but it may not be ideal – explore all your options before proceeding!

FYI – This is the Big Screen” at my “Man cave”:

60" TV at the man cave

60″ Sharp Aquos 3D TV with Samsung 3D Surround sound sitting on media console (big UPS is behind screen). Wireless subwoofer and rear speakers next to recliners. Center of TV is at eyeball height when seated on recliners across from TV. Image is of me describing a prototype k cup recycling device.

Keychain Display Cabinet

Finished Keychain cabinet

My daughter collects Keychains, which gave me a great idea – that they would look awesome in a display cabinet.

For her Birthday I made her a Keychain cabinet out of recycled materials (pallet wood, Pine cutoffs, and a piece of plexiglass for the door).

I found a pallet made of #2 pine, and used it for the case and door frame.

the shelves are adjustable with simple grooves on the cabinet sides, and some have 1/2″ cup hooks for hanging the keychains.

Everything was sanded with 100 and 220 grit sandpaper, and painted her favorite baby blue.

Here is a picture of the finished cabinet:

Finished Keychain cabinet
partially loaded with some unique keychains!
keychain cabinet detail
cutting and prepping the parts for the keychain cabinet
Keychain cabinet almost ready
Keychain cabinet detail, almost ready to wrap and gift!

The hinges are simple butt hinges, and the knob is a wooden knob painted to match.  the magnetic catch is a simple one from Amazon (you can order it here).  Of course I put a simple note on the back!

Now my daughter has a unique, Dad-fabricated display for some of the special pieces in her collection.

I hope your projects bring joy into someone’s life too!  Happy Woodworking!

Is carpentry and woodworking a good hobby to start?

Woodworking is a craft that is non-exclusive, and inclusive; almost everyone can do it!

Tennessee six pack carrier with bottle opener, Great gift idea, made in the chenkin workshop. painting by Kathy.

Carpentry has a great breadth – from Birdhouses and signs to elaborate carvings, models, Home repairs and functional cabinets. Carpentry also is a means to acquire tools, videos, books, and friends who share their love of the craft and knowledge of how to make objects out of wood.

  • Carpentry also brings together metal working (signs, hooks, table legs, hinges)
  • Painting – finishes, stains, decals, more
  • Repair work and upgrades
  • Reading and how to books

And much more!

Fireplace mantle with marble trim, Custom built for a client, courtesy of The Chenkin workshop.

The best way to get started is to Build, fix, or plan a project. Pinterest has tons of ideas, if you need inspiration.

Based on what you want to build, you will need to get some tools.

Pallet wood jewelry holder. product of the chenkin Workshop, finishing by Kathy.

Before you know it, you are on your way!

Of course, I admit I am biased. Carpentry is a Great Hobby to start!

Shameless self promotion (from my website):

Best of Luck and I hope to see you posting your projects on-line on Pinterest or Instagram!!