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Asa Christiana’s “Build Stuff With Wood”

There is no question what this book is about. The title is super direct; super simple: Build Stuff With Wood. Asa Christiana’s new book from Taunton Press could one day become a “must have” book for aspiring woodworkers. Why? The mission of this book is to help woodworking newbies gain confidence and new skills by building stuff that looks good and requires only basic tools. This isn’t a book about building bird houses (not that there is anything wrong with that). Rather the projects are simple, varied and have been designed with a dose of style. Yet, the thirteen projects are a natural progression of skill and material choice and are meant to move the woodworker along in his/her path with sawdust.

Asa Christiana is best known for his time as editor of Fine Woodworking magazine. As such Asa rubbed elbows with some of the finest woodworkers around. Hence the forward by Nick Offerman who wrote the cover article for Fine Woodworking #222, Nov/Dec, 2012. Concerning Asa, Nick Offerman compared the editor of perhaps the best woodworking magazine this way: “In superhero terms, he was Professor Xavier to the X-Men (and women) in the pages of FWW, and so I was as giddy as a dancing faun to make his acquaintance.” Nick had met Asa on the set of Martha Stewart’s TV show.

About Build Stuff With Wood, Nick says: “My favorite aspect of this book is the flat-out fun that courses through the creation of every project. Asa suggests some really hip furniture designs, but it’s also readily apparent that you can alter his plans to meet your own desires.” “With Asa’s clear and affable writing, a simple set of tools, and the affordable materials available at any home improvement store, the world is indeed your oyster. Have fun!”

Getting started the practical way
Build Stuff With Wood begins with a realization of what motivates creative types to make. Asa confidently talks about getting started in woodworking, to approach the craft with an open mind and a willingness to challenge the rules of design and material options. In fact the book takes a good look at design options on several of the projects included.

Project 1: A circular saw guide.

Also early on, Asa includes a chapter on tools and lumber. He came up with a list of 11 tools with which you can build 100 projects. While the woodworker can begin buying big-ticket tools, the list and the chapter on tools is realistic for the beginner. For example a table saw is not even listed among Asa’s 11 tools. For ripping stock (one of the main tasks a table saw does), the first project is a circular saw guide for ripping and trimming wood.

While project lumber or plywood can be acquired at the local home improvement store, Asa introduces the reader to the lumber yard and the world of luscious lumber. Projects in Make Stuff With Wood include a cutting board made from quarter-sawn white oak and a table made from live edge lumber. Crisp photos show the enticing grain of ray flecked oak and the deep, seductive color of walnut. Asa talks about sourcing such material making this task much less intimidating.

The initial work surface.

More about the projects
Project two – the rolling workstation is an example of the practical approach Asa commends to us. What you see in the photo above is a surplus cabinet in which Asa added the beefy top and rolling base. He painted the sides a nice bright color and the result is a good initial work surface with adequate storage and something that adds a shot of color to the workshop (I’m a fan of color in the workshop).

In addition to the circular saw guide and the rolling workstation, the thirteen projects found in the book include a creative twist on a bottle opener, handy cornhole platforms, a contemporary outdoor bench and planters, a white oak cutting board, two options for a modern coffee table…

Note the medullary ray fleck in this handsome cutting board.

Design options for a modern coffee table.

…also in Build Stuff With Wood, the live edge table with two leg options, floating shelves, a hanging lamp with veneer shade, a table design which can double as a stackable bookcase…

The hanging lamp with veneer shade.

The table/bookcase project (note the wedged dowels).

The book closes out with a cool smartphone holder/speaker project which actually has some challenging construction steps.

Conclusion
Build Stuff With Wood is a really interesting book and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about getting started woodworking or even if you want to get some nicely designed projects completed quickly. Nick Offerman called Asa’s design style as “hip” and I agree (examples: especially the hanging lamp, coffee table and slab table). Along with the handsome look of the projects and the materials used, the “stuff” in this book are constructed with simplicity in mind and don’t require you to load up your credit card with tool purchases. This book goes on my list of things recommended for new woodworkers and more experienced types as well.

You can purchase Build Stuff With Wood at Amazon.com.

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Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).

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Free Woodworking Plan: Build a Modern Kitchen Cupboard

Today, I launch my fourteenth woodworking plan titled You Can Build a Modern Kitchen Cupboard. The design of this cupboard started out as a traditional cupboard, but then slowly turned modern with the addition of birdseye maple as an accent wood to the painted pine and plywood. The contemporary door and drawer pulls are illustrated in a contrasting cherry wood, the little extension of the center face frame style and the curved ends to the cupboard top complete the modern look.

You Can Build a Modern Kitchen Cupboard is a fully illustrated 30 page document and includes multiple exploded views, a cut list and material cutting diagram for the plywood components. There is also a detailed SketchUp model available for download. Let’s take a look at some sample pages…

Page 3 – Main dimensions.

Page 5 – View showing door and drawer construction.

Page 19 – Overview of door joinery.

Page 30 showing the plywood cutting diagram.

The Modern Kitchen Cupboard is rated as a moderate skill level project due to the mortise and tenon joinery along with the raised panel in the doors. But, you could substitute more simple joinery for the M & T and the panels in the door don’t have to be raised.

Free Download: The Plan and the SketchUp Model

First, the link for You Can Build a Modern Kitchen Cupboard is below. I have double checked the cutlist for accuracy and have read through the plan repeatedly to ensure the instruction are correct and concise. If you would like to build a version of the Modern Kitchen Cupboard, read through the plan several times and if any clarification is needed, you can email me your question by using my contact page. I am always happy to help out.

DOWNLOAD THE PLAN FREE – CLICK HERE.

The SketchUp model is helpful to have on hand as you contemplate construction methods. The Modern Kitchen Cupboard 3D model includes a very good birdseye maple material as well as cherry and a good plywood material; so even if you don’t plan to build this cupboard, the model itself may be useful. You will also find screws and correctly positioned pocket screws.

Download the SketchUp model – click here.

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Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).

The Modern Kitchen Cupboard – The Making of Page 26

When I begin creating a new woodworking plan, each page usually goes through an exhaustive multi-step process before I call it finished and begin thinking about the next page. This is the reason a single plan can take two or three months to complete. For my current plan, You Can Build a Modern Kitchen Cupboard, I’m in my third month; but it will soon be finished. I try to make each page look different which means each page is a new page layout exercise. Exercise is a good way to describe the process because I normally make multiple changes to a page design as the page comes to life. Key among the decisions I make are those impacting the ability of the reader to easily understand the construction process described.

Take page 26 of You Can Make a Modern Kitchen Cupboard for example. Since I am on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina (see the awesome image above – Craggy Gardens along the Blue Ridge Parkway), I have committed some of my free time to this project with the goal of making big progress. I have just finished page 26 and thought I’d chronicle the design and communication considerations used to complete just this one page. First, let’s take a look at the SketchUp model…

Front, right 3/4 view.

Note the top has curved edges which overhang the sides. At this point in the woodworking plan, I have explained the construction process leading up to adding this curved edge top. The slender molding seen under the top will be added after the top goes on.

Page 26, Image 26A

As I begin thinking of what page 26 will look like, I’m considering two images, one showing the profile of the top, and a second, larger image which shows the method for attaching it to the cupboard. Most all images in my plans are numbered and in general advance in number from left to right across the page. The first image will be illustration 26A.

Adding the profile of the cupboard top.

The text shown above is dummy text pulled from the previous page. I use it to help visualize the possible arrangement of the page elements (other page elements are simply left overs from the previous page and are of no consequence at this point). Already, I am not happy with the look. The profile of the top is too small (the dimension showing the depth of the curve is not clear) and enlarging it will encroach on the space I envision for the second, larger image.

So, I begin thinking about showing just the right side of the top, focusing on the curved edge. Here is what I came up with next.

Page 26 with a partial profile of the cupboard top.

This look shows promise, but I still am not happy how the dimension portrays the depth of the curve; I’m not sure I am effectively communicating the 7/8″ extension caused by the curve. For this image, I exported a PNG file from SketchUp selecting transparent background prior to exporting. I then import the image into Photoshop and add the gradient on the left side of the image which helps explain that the rest of the top has faded from view. I keep thinking how I can make this image better…

Blue helps highlight the area to be cut away.

I decide this is the look I need to best communicate what should happen to the top; the woodworker simply cuts away the area highlighted in blue. And, I like the location of the dimension. By the way, I use “Dodger Blue”, a standard SketchUp color, to help highlight certain components when making plans. Here is what the top image looks like in 3D…

3D view of the image used for the top.

Moving on to Illustration 26B

This image will be more complex. I always begin a new image from a master SketchUp model of the project and save each new image I create as a separate SketchUp file. Often, I’ll see the need for a design change as I move through a plan and these changes are always made on the master SketchUp model (currently, this plan has more than 130 SketchUp files). For image 26B I want to be able to see through the top showing the wood screws needed to attach the top. Initially, I create the image below…

The top in place; note blue screws and the blue molding under the top.

Image 26B in place, but there is one big problem.

For the top, I have created a new material which is set to 50% opacity making the top see-through. My first thought was to create an image which can show the top going on and the addition of molding which goes directly under the top and wraps the cupboard on three sides. Sort of combine two steps in one image. What I see from this image are wood screws colored Dodger Blue as well as the molding (also blue) are not very visible. Also, there is one big problem with this image – it is facing the wrong way. I always create images which face the center of the page. This image faces away from the center of the page. So, this image is trash; I decide to remove the molding, turn the image facing inward and mull ways to make the blue screws more prominent.

New illustration 26B; no screws.

A separate image showing tiny screws highlighted in blue.

My Photoshop skills are pretty weak, but I can lay one image on top of another and adjust how they relate to each other. The second image above is placed on top of the first. A couple of notes here – the second image has a transparent background and I have turned off the edges in SketchUp prior to exporting. By removing the edges which show as black lines, the blue color in the screws is more visible. I adjust the opacity of the second image and since it does not have a background, the screws can easily be made more or less prominent.

Page 26 final.

Here, I have added the updated illustration 26B, updated the text and added identifiers for the parts. One thing I have not talked about is the shadow seen to the right and below in 26B. More than 2/3 through making this plan, I decided to add this shadow feature to the images within a box. I like the look and am slowly going back through the plan and updating boxed images (and adding a light grey background).

A Work in Progress

And I do mean work. I go through this multiple step process with almost every page, and there are currently 26 pages, so a lot of work and brainpower goes into each plan I make. This is still a work in progress, but click the link below for the still incomplete and slightly rough You Can Build a Modern Kitchen Cupboard

UPDATE 08/01/17: The plan is now completed – see it here.

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Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).