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It’s Been A Blast

Something happened in October that I haven’t mentioned. My blog turned 10 years old, which is quite an accomplishment. Especially since there are so few active woodworking blogs these days. Around 2009 and for several years later, it seemed that if you were a woodworker, then you had to have a blog. Now most of the woodworking action is on YouTube and Instagram.

My first blog post was dated October 9, 2009. I was working on our coffee table (seen in the image at the top of this post). It was an exercise in how to make an attractive table with nothing but straight lines. There isn’t a curve on it anywhere. And it was an early example of mixing two species of wood, in this case tiger maple and red oak. I never liked that I used oak plywood for the shelf. I created a free woodworking plan for it (here) which has an altered shelf very similar to the design of the top. This table still sits in our family room (and we have upgraded to a much nicer wool rug).

So, it is ironic that I am writing today to say I have come to the decision to end this blog. When I do something, I’m the kind of person who is going to do it the right way as best as I can. Which means I have put a ton of effort towards making this a good blog. The content has become 100% project related. This is not a blog where I write posts dedicated to the philosophical aspects of woodworking. To add content to my blog, I need to be building something. And as my day job has spilled more into what would normally be private time at home (in my workshop), projects are taking longer, there are longer gaps in my posting schedule and I really need to spend time doing other things around my house. There are certain repair jobs which are not getting done because of my perceived need to always build towards the next blog post. I have come to view this as being out of sync with the reality of things.

As I began to finalize this decision, my weekends already feel more relaxed. It’s now OK to do just a little woodworking on a Saturday or Sunday (or dare I say, none at all).

Writing here has been a lot of fun. I don’t consider myself a writer, but I do like to tell the story of woodworking. And I have accomplished a few things through blogging. Examples: I got a mention by Chris Schwarz at the Lost Art Press website (here). My blog lead to a post at SketchUp’s website (here). I have been mentioned in email newsletters by SketchUp (several times), Kreg Tools and Hock Tools. And links to my woodworking plans and blog posts appear at a number of websites here in the USA and at sites in other parts of the world.

Concerning my woodworking plans, over the years I have received a number of emails from people who have built projects based on them (a post about my favorite email is here). I long ago stopped tracking statistics concerning the number of plans downloaded so I don’t have reliable data on their usefulness, but the emails I get tell me people do build projects from them. Making high quality plans has always been a goal and a reason I had to get proficient with SketchUp and begin to understand Photoshop. I have had a lot of fun with woodworking plans and I’ve received a lot of satisfaction from them.

Once there was this guy who was blogging about a table he was making. It was a really good design and I liked seeing the updates. But right in the middle of the project, the blog went silent and eventually was shut down. I remember feeling a little let down by not being able to see the finished project. This is basically what I am now doing. If you are interested in seeing future updates on the Montreat Side Table, I’ll be posting updates at my Instagram account (@jeffobranch). I will move my woodworking plans to my Etsy shop, and I’ll keep this blog live until my current subscription at WordPress ends. When that happens, this blog will be no more. It is kind of sad to write this.

For those of you who visit my blog, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for spending time here reading what I write and looking at my photos and my finished projects. I truly appreciate and value your support.

Montreat Side Table: More Templates

Remember two blog posts ago how I said it has not been a scorcher here in Alabama? I spoke too soon. It is now officially a scorcher and while some parts of the USA are enjoying more pleasing Fall weather, we are setting record high temperatures. As I write this (10/03/19), the temperature hit 103 degrees, a record for this date. Tomorrow is forecast to be 99 degrees. In fact, all week has been close to 100 degrees with several records set. Then the week upcoming we will see a couple of days with high temperatures in the upper 70s. What a contrast and I can’t wait for cooler temps.

So, it has been easy to find other things to do instead of being in my un-airconditioned workshop. But with my trusty box fan close by, I found some comforting wind in my workshop and I made a little progress on my side table.

The first of two new templates

I have a couple of items on the to-do list before I can begin sanding for pre-finishing my side table. First, make a unique angular shape on the stretchers and second, drill for shelf supports in four of the side slats.

I considered my options for cutting the angular shape for the stretchers and decided template routing was the best way for me. I considered cutting the material away with a bandsaw and then smoothing the cut, but in the end template routing would cut away the waste and also leave a mostly smooth surface. But this means I need to design and build a template.

Stretcher Jig Long

The template design for cutting angles on the stretchers.

Stretcher Jig Long2

Template “in use” view. Note the red edge on the template itself.

In the images above the stretcher is in blue and the template itself has a red edge which helps define the needed angle. With screws, I can move the temple forward or backward as needed to zero in on the correct position. The yellow and white components help lock the stretcher in place and the base extends outward left and right to give me some area for clamping the whole thing to my workbench (without interfering with the travel of my router). After positioning the white and yellow components, I lock them in place with hot melt glue and then add screws.

Below is the template in it’s actual rudimentary state. I again used throw away materials to make the template.


The actual template.


A smooth edge after just a little hand plane work.


Stretcher fabrication complete.

This moment has been one I have looked forward to because these angular shapes are signature elements in this table design.

The second template

This template is pretty simple. I need a way to precisely locate holes which will get dowels inserted into them to support the middle shelf. Precision is needed because if one or more of the holes is misaligned, the shelf will rock or move slightly. For adjustable shelves, I like to make a simple jig and use it as a template for my plunge router.

Montreat Side Table Final

Note the holes on the inside face of two side slats.

Originally, I designed the adjustable shelf with multiple potential locations. In reality, I can foresee needing just two different shelf heights. At some point in the future I plan to place the subwoofer for our home theater sound system in this table.


A very simple template.


Just two holes per slat.




Note the angular shape added to the stretchers.


The top edge has the opposite angle on each end.


All of the construction for the table is now finished except the drawer. It is time to prep the oak and walnut components for finish. I’ll plane and sand these parts and then choose a finish. Since Tom Monahan of General Finishes has conducted two presentations to the Alabama Woodworkers Guild, I am switching to General Finishes for all my stain and top coat products. But I still have not decided which General Finishes products I’ll use.

By the way, today (10/06/19) the high temperature will be just 88 degrees. Thankfully Fall like temperatures will be here soon. 🙂

A Satisfying Repair

Problem solving a woodworking mistake can be very satisfying. As I finished my shop time last weekend, I had just made my final cuts on the middle shelf of my side table project. Unknown to readers of this blog: I made a bone-headed mistake which wasn’t terrible and the result was something I could have lived with, but at this point in my woodworking journey I just can’t let this be. And actually I made two mistakes. Not fixing them would bother me always.

I’ve read several woodworking magazine articles which detail the best ways to fix mistakes and with some luck, repairs can be invisible. I was hopeful I could make the needed repairs to my satisfaction. Let’s take a look at the numerous mistakes on a single piece of wood…

MST Middle Shelf Repair

The middle shelf in blue as it should be shaped.

MST Middle Shelf Repair 2

An overhead view showing the correct shape of the shelf.

MST Middle Shelf Repair 3

The yellow area is what I mistakenly cut away. The blue area is the resulting shape and size.

Basically, I cut the shelf to align with the inside edge of the front stretcher instead of the outside edge. I cut the front edge of the shelf 3/4″ too short (shown in yellow above).

Also, I cut an adjustable shelf like this undersize to allow for easy movement when the shelf needs to be moved up or down. But, I simply cut too much off the back edge of the shelf (see the yellow area at the back of the shelf). The result is sloppy work on what is really a nice white oak panel. Knowing how this table will be positioned in my home, the mistake at the back would not be seen. The 3/4″ mistake at the front of the shelf could be viewed as an acceptable design decision. But again, I knew these mistakes would bother me.

To repair it, I still had a cut-off from when I ripped the shelf to width. I know from past mistakes that with some luck, grain and color will match well enough that gluing a cut-off back in place can be hard to see.


Adding a slender strip of oak at what is the back of the shelf.


Small piece of filler oak ready to be trimmed.


Shown from the front, the repaired middle shelf.


Close-up, 3/4″ added to front edge. Virtually invisible glue joint.



The middle shelf now aligns with the front of the lower stretcher.

Note how the front of the middle shelf aligns with the outer edge of the lower stretcher. The future drawer front will align with both these parts making the leg offset of the components facing the front the same as the offset on the side and back components.

I’m all happy now. These mistakes were surprising because I was trying hard to make the notches for the legs as accurate as possible. Next time I attempt a process like this shelf, I’ll likely make a test shelf out of some inexpensive, thin hardboard. If I had done this in the first place, I could have easily determined the needed adjustments to get a good final fit on the oak shelf.

Live and learn.