Click on logo for the 263 Art Studio Tour to find information on this year's Tour.

Crokinole Boards during early finishing process

Taking advantage of a warm summer day to cure finish layers on Crokinole boards

Spalting Birch wood Trivet. This kind of pattern and colour is a rare find!

Walnut, birch and purpleheart make an attractive combination. Here just beginning the process of applying 16 layers of varnish prior to a "rubbing out" finish. Each layer adds depth and richness to the wood tones. The "rubbing out" creates an incredible "silky" texture.


I plan to use this page to feature comments about my experience working with woods used in Friendly Forest Products items. Shop experiences, good and bad will also receive mention, and I will invite readers to send me their own experiences so they can be added here. I am not planning to make this an interactive forum as I do not have the time to monitor it effectively, and I do not plan to introduce the software to make such a forum automatic. There are very good exchange forums on line, and I will post a link or two of ones that I use.

I have a copy of the Woods of the World professional edition CD. It is my backup reference for all kinds of information about woods I use or consider using. Initially I got it to find out about wood toxicity, as I do not want to poison myself or build wood sensitivities that could prevent me from working in a manner that I greatly enjoy.

Living in northern Saskatchewan means that our warm season is short and our winter long, so the time for me to work in any unheated portion of my shop is also short. I have a small insulated / heated area and that limits the work I can do for much of the year.

I do most of the finishing / carving on my products in a "studio" area in my house. That gives me comfort and convenience for the most part.

To see my finished work, go to FF Products and from there to the sub-menu pages linked there. Wood is a gift from Earth Mother, and serves us in so many ways. In addition to being of great practical value for how we live, wood also is beautiful, reflecting the beauty of the trees from which it comes. If I respect the source perhaps I can also produce products that share that beauty. Enjoy a collaboration between the "Standing Nations" and this simple "two-legged one."


I am creating a separate page dedicated to the construction and decoration of Memory Box Chests I make at Friendly Forest Products.  Click on the image to go to this page which is still under construction.


"Leaf Table 2012 - 2013" is a birch wood table that I began in the Spring of 2012 and completed in January 2013.  Click on the table image to go to a page showing the details of the finishing process.  I have built up  a 12 coat layer of  Varathane Professional oil-based satin finsih and will do the "rubbing out" process once it has cured properly.  This table was designed and created for my own living room space.


Stage 1 of plate decoration.  Image was pencilled on bare wood and pyrography razor tip used to outline the  plant forms.  This photo shows the start of adding background texture.

Top view of stage 1

Background texture is completed.  Plate is  finished with a coat of varthane varnish to seal wood.

Yellow aniline dye is used to paint in leaf areas.  This is an alcohol-based dye which partially penetrates into the varnish layer

Secondary  painting with orange, red, green and red dyes over the yellow base.  At this stage the colour  is placed but not yet blended.

A brush with clear methyl hydrate was used to blend the dyes similar to blending of water colour paints.  The alcohol re-dissolves the dyes and allows for a controlled blending  of the colours.  Careful tilting of the plate allowed  colours to run toward edges as desired or re-absorbed by a drier brush and removed.  A lacquer-based metallic paint was used to highlight the two centre circles.

The finished plate has now been protected by several layers of clear lacquer.  A green fabric background  works better to show the impact of the colours and wood tones:



(January 20100  My wood burning / pyrography learning  goes on.  I am trying to add more animal images to wood and decided that practice on "scrap" pieces was warranted before I wrecked some nice plates I have turned recently.  With the exception of the image of Eagle, I have  used photographs of  wolf, bear and bison and  then made a   simple line  drawing of the main  tonal areas and outlines.  Once I have made these I scanned them into my computer  to  make reversible .jpg images that I can scale to a desired size.  I then print a reverse  of the animal I want  using a laser printer.  I take the laser image and place it face down on the wood (so that the image then faces in the direction desired), and then with lacquer thinner solvent rubbed onto the back of the paper, the toner ink dissolves and  transfers onto the wood.  Too much thinner and the ink can run and blur, but  a sharp line, with the  proper application of thinner, transfers rather well.  After the thinner has dried I used a razor edge burning tip to cut the basic image into the wood.  Then with another tip, I started to add shading.  Finally, with a razor tip again, I applied final hair lines etc.  I will show some images of what I have been doing here, but only using Wolf for all stages.


(December 2009)  I  finished  adding an image to a large (16 inch diameter ) birch plate.  I first burned the image into the raw wood, then I sealed the wood with  two coats of sealing finish, and then I added colour with alcohol-based aniline dyes.  I used a pallet of yellow, green, red and orange with a touch of blue for the chokecherry berries.  I also used a gold metallic paint for the trim around the Sacred Hoop image.  Although I liked the simple burned image  I also like the dressed up, coloured version .  The dyes work much like water-colour washes  on the sealed wood.  There is some dye penetration through the  finish because of the  alcohol base to the dye, but  it is manageable and can even be  partly flushed out with a wash of clear alcohol.  I started with a yellow base and then added  other colour on top.  Then I took a brush loaded with additional yellow  and blended the  colours.  When these had dried I applied a coat of urethane varnish.  This varnish seems to cover without dissolving the  underlying colour but  brushing needs to be kept to a minimum.  A lacquer spray or brushing would totally dissolve the  colours and I would have a huge mess ( I know, I did it once!)  I show three  images of the final piece under slightly different light and camera angles to  reduce glare.  The final three images are with flash and not natural light as were the first  images.  The images are thumbnails and can be clicked to see a large image.

(November 2009)  I am making a series of serving trays similar to those shown on Useful Gallery.  The bottom has a border of red padauk and I have added aspen dowels in that band to  give it a more formal appearance.  I am showing one of the finished trays with birch wood sides. (It is the method I also used to create the decorative border on the chess table top shown to the right.)

While I was doing this I recalled previous efforts and the frustrations of  doing this in more difficult ways.  So I thought I would pass on some of the experience I have gained;  When I make a series of these, I glue up a block  which I will subsequently slice into thinner sheets to serve as tray bottoms.  This time the blocks were 2 5/8 inches thick, the thickness of the centre block of birch wood.  I added the padauk and let the glue dry.  Then I added a brad point drill bit to my drill press, clamped a positioning fence/board to the  drill table to ensure that  the  bit would be centred on the middle of the padauk board.  I marked off the  locations for the dowel inserts and proceeded to drill the holes.  In the past I had clamped the  padauk board into a vise and  then drilled the holes.  This left the board  in a less stable vertical position than was achieved by having it already glued onto a larger and heavy block.  I needed  48 dowels of 2 5/8 inch length.  I used masking tape to  bind four  36 inch dowels into a bundle so that cutting them on the  mitre saw would not  result in the small cut pieces flying off in all directions.  I added a round of tape for each section to be cut and just marked  one as my cutting guide.

Once cut, I took the small dowel pieces into the house and into the microwave oven to  dry them and so to shrink their diameter.  Once back in the shop, with a  slightly smaller diameter piece of bamboo as a glue spreader, I  glued the insides of the drilled out holes rather than gluing the dowel pieces.  Having just dried them out to shrink them, the glue added to the dowel would undo that shrink effort.  They  had shrunk enough to  be inserted with no effort other than a light tap to ensure that they were all the way into the holes.  The glue from the hole  came into contact with the dowel and expanded them to make a tight fit in the holes.

I am now making the tray sides and  will assemble them after having carved images into the tray bottoms.  When I undertake  to cut  compound mitre cuts, as required for the tray sides, I have the full effect of one of my dyslexic traits come to haunt me;  I am prone to doing reversals, and  I need to triple check the proper positions of the board on the saw  to avoid  destroying expensive wood.  While I have a few other  dyslexic traits, the  reversal one probably gives me more grief in the shop than any other.  Writing down measurements also helps so that a 34 does not become a 43 between the measurement and the cut!

(August 20, 2008) I have finished and delivered ten pieces of  a set of furniture pieces for a Catholic High School Chapel.  The pieces were designed  to fit that particular site.  They were commissioned by a committee and the design needed to meet their   approval.  To facilitate  the process I created a web page  on which I posted the different stages of my proposal.   As a result no actual meeting needed to take place.  I have now also posted the images of the completed items  in the Chapel.  It was an interesting and satisfying experience in the main.. Click here to see this page.

(August 2008) In the Spring I was asked to create a custom chest for the jewelry and personal items of a friend from whom I was purchasing a large painting that I had admired for years.  I have created a page with more of the details of this custom piece.  I was able to deliver it  in June and then able to bring home the painting as well.   Click here to see this page.

(August 2008)  I have posted a page showing details of four simple armoire units that I made  to comply with a special request.   At the beginning of July the client came to take delivery and brought with him four painted panels that were to be inserted into the  doors of the armoire units.  Although the finishing of the armoires was going to be done by the client, we fitted the panels into the doors to make sure they worked  but then removed them to protect them  during transit.  The panels were painted by a deceased artist friend of mine, and  the armoire units are intended for her grandchildren and step grandchildren as a remembrance of their grandmother, artist Rose Mineau. Click here to see this project page.

I have posted a sequence of photos and comments about the process I have used to create cremonial rattles.  It is a topic on the Just For Fun page.  Click here to see the description.

My experience with Sears and Craftsman products

Over many years in the past I looked to Sears and Craftsman tools and products as having high quality and reliability.  Some of my earliest tools are still going strong and I had been very pleased with Sears warrantee and support services.  That is no longer the case.

Click here to see correspondence I have had with Sears Canada regarding a defective router.  Have a look and make your own judgements.  What have been your experiences with Sears over the past 10 years or so?  Let me know by email:

(See that others have had the same sorry experience that I have had.  Click on this link:



Designing a chair

Birch chair that I have just finished (Feb 12, 2003). It is a proto-type for what might be a walnut chair to go with a walnut chess table I built last year. The seat height is 17" off the floor, and also 17" deep and 17" across the front. The back rest is just below shoulder blades on a shorter than average person. The front rung is deliberately low so that the heel of the person seated can be hooked over the rail while the front of the foot is still on the floor. This was a special request of the potential client, and is actually quite comfortable.

These two 3/4 views show most design and construction details. The five back slats are 3/4" X 3/8" and follow right through from the back rest to the lower cross rail. I did use two screws to secure the back rest and another two longer screws to go through the back leg and into the seat to give added strength to the mortise and tenon joint holding the side rail to the back leg.

The seat is 1 1/4" thick and is so primarily for design proportion reasons. It is of biscuit-jointed and glued pieces to make the full seat panel.

The seat is secured to the chair frame by four aluminum angle brackets and screws. This makes it secure but still allows for a slight movement as wood expands and shrinks with humidity changes.

Building small tables

Laying out tapers on table legs. The first cuts have already been made and a template is being used to mark the second dimension cuts.

Using a bandsaw to make the taper cuts on the second dimension. When I have a single angle taper on legs I will use a jig and my planer or my drum sander. This set of legs had three angles to the full taper and needed to be cut out in this manner.

One of the legs is clamped in a workmate jaw and I used a portable belt sander to remove the bandsaw marks.

I have a jig that slides on the table saw guide bar. It has a vertical support against which I position a rail for the table I was making. This enables me to cut uniform tenons in a very efficient manner. I forget where I got the idea for the jig, but I want to extend a delayed thank you to whoever came up with the idea. It really works great!

The legs and rails of the table on which I was working as part of the finished unit. This table is a standard 29 inches tall and the chess board play surface is 27" X 27". It has a full depth drawer along one side. The table is of birch and the play squares are birch and walnut with a double border trim of Nogal inlay.



And then comes marketing!

And then comes the craft sale...! On a chilly November morning, in the dark, I am putting my materials outside on the deck to prepare for loading. Before I start I make the mistake of looking up a web site that tells me that I should be bringing 160 items to a sale IN ADDITION to the items for sale!


It is still dark out and the truck box is loaded... and everything fits except items I wanted kept inside and that squeezes things a bit...

Squeezed in behind the front seats... leaving the front seat open for my dog King to come along for the set up ride.

Having arrived in Prince Albert I have hauled things off the truck and near the display area I have been assigned. Now comes the interesting part.... will my imagined plans for display really work? I was given approximate dimensions for the booth space... will it be enough?

A check on the tables provided and I have a few concerns... one set of legs look like they could collapse when set up. This time I was a bit smarter packing. I sorted items intended for initial display in separate containers from items that would be replacements on the display shelves if the first items sold. Now to see if the theory really works in practice!

I have the table coverings out, the shelving in place, and stacking display units on the tables. Next comes lights and sign hanging and then arranging the items on display.

At last, the items are out and the lights in place... but something seems to be missing. I need something else to catch the eye. My location is in the lowest traffic area of the centre, and I need to catch the passer's eye in some way. Hmm. I'll go home and take a break and think about it before I return for the opening of the sale later in the afternoon. By the way, the total set up took nearly 3 hours. I'm really slow, aren't I?


I am back for the opening, and I thought of what I could try. I stopped off at a florists shop and picked up some red carnations and added them to the twig pot displays. That really did it! I needed that bit of bright color at eye level. The red runners on the table tops were not enough against the blue background. Looks good to me, and I hope things go well over the next day and a half.

I should have had a photo here of me bringing everything back home after the sale late Saturday evening, unloading things in the cold, and taking it all back into the house. But as you can see, I didn't take that photo. I just did not have the energy. I just wanted things inside and then something inside of me to fill a hungry stomach.

By the way, as far as things tend to go out here, the sale was a good success for me. I also have a few orders I will have to work on that will bring in a bit more income, and the feedback of customers and spectators alike was very positive. I actually really had a great time meeting people and talking about wood and working with it to make these things..

King was really pleased to see me when I got home... and he even insisted we play catch with his ball in the dark. Just to prove that things were really OK between us again.

After a few hours things are unpacked and on display shelving at home. Now I am busy finishing up special orders before Christmas.