Growing Up with Norm & Roy

I was born into a family of Carpenters and Contractors. I’m referring to my father, who built houses by himself from the ground up, as well as my PBS friends, Roy Underhill and Norm Abrams. Roy built stuff using old hand tools while Norm used the latest in power tools. Norm started out with the This Old House series with Bob Vila. He was the on site carpenter doing all the hard work while Bob Vila just ran his mouth. Norm finally broke away from This Old House to start his own show, The New Yankee Workshop. Norm is from Massachusetts and filmed his show in the New England area.

At the same time Norm was doing his thing Roy Underhill built his own little empire on PBS with his Woodwright’s Shop, the longest running “How To” show in history. It always amazed me how Roy could build a complete project using only hand tools in a half hour episode. Roy’s bubbling, overly enthusiastic personality was contagious. Born in 1950 Roy is just a year younger than me so we could relate to him. Roy continues to teach Woodworking classes at his Woodwright’s School in North Carolina.

Roy Underhill


Norm Abrams


I still enjoy watching their original shows via YouTube. There’s still a lot I can learn from watching how they went about their craft, whether it was done with power tools or hand tools. Thank you Norm & Roy.


Clean Clean Clean

If you’re going to have an indoor woodworking shop in a 10′ x 20′ room you’re going to have to do a lot of cleaning. I woke up this morning with a plan, use my router, mounted on its plunge base, and guide it along my new dado jig designed to rout housing joints in wood. A housing joint is the British equivalent term to a dado in American English. I’m working on my new bathroom shelf unit and I need to rout 4 dado slots in the vertical sidewalls for the two center shelves. Combined with the unit’s bottom shelf that generates 3 shelves inside the cabinet and the open top shelf as well. It’s a simple design that shouldn’t require any nails or glue to pull off.

I’ll be adding two cleats to the top & bottom of this shelf unit that will be mating with their opposite French cleats affixed to the bathroom wall above my toilet. I’m using 3M Command Stem fasteners instead of using any nails or screws. I’ve downloaded a similar design I found on Google Images so you get the idea.


Baptisms Are The Best

It’s always an honor to be a witness to a child being baptised in our church. It’s one reason I always carry my camera gear and sit in the 2nd row up front. I get a clear view of all those special occassions that I want to capture for my church. In a way I’m known to most of our congregation as the photographer who sits up front. LOL Some have grown to know me simply as Bob!



Living With Imperfection

I’m a practical woodworker of German lineage. What that means is that time and effort are more important than getting things perfect the first time. In the past I’ve built woodworking shops with all power tools that would produce super accurate cuts that were perfectly flat, plumb & straight. That kind of equipment was expensive, requiring a lot of room and time to calibrate everything.

I’m 67 now, living in a 10′ x 20′ one room apartment with elderly tenants on both sides of me. I’m forced to scale things down because of finances, space and the noise and dust that power tools produce. Before there were power tools there were hand tools that were used by craftsmen that produced beautiful work that lasted for hundreds of years. Although my intention is not to make heirloom quality furniture anymore I do want a project to be pleasing to the eye, hand and sense of accomplishment. I take pride in my work.

The one asset I have in abundance is time. I have every minute of every day to accomplish my projects. Because of my limited budget a finished project can, potentially, take months. While I wait for funds to become available for specialty tools and supplies I busy myself with making my own tools. Things like saw tables, router tables and jigs for all my work can be made economically and in a relatively short period of time.

In the past 30 days I’ve built myself a nice router table, two shooting boards, and two bench hooks. All these dramatically speed up the accuracy and quality of my tasks. Because of the shooting boards I can cut close to marking and sawing lines, knowing that I intend to use those shooting boards and my block plane to finish the edges to my final dimensions in short order. With this philosophy I don’t sweat the small stuff. I can own a powered jigsaw table instead of a larger, noisier, more expensive table saw that utilizes carbide circular saw blades to produce exact finished cuts. Now, that comes later in the workflow.

As time progresses I will add more hand tools to my arsenal that will help speed up the finishing edges. I have my eye on larger, more versatile hand planes that will cost me a month’s spending money. I’m already saving for the one I want. Before retirement in 2010 my weekly take home pay would allow such purchases every week. Now it takes one to two months to save for my toys. Now, on retirement, I have time on my side, learning to patiently wait for the right time and place to pull the trigger on my next tool. It’s all good! The only question now is which toy/tool to buy/make next? Will it be that Lie-Nielsen bronze #4 1/2 finishing plane or the new workbench butcher block top for the larger, more solid workbench I lust over? Only time will tell! 🙂



Rockwell Bladerunner X2

Each month I try to add one tool to my growing arsenal, allowing me to expand my capabilities and increase my speed and accuracy involving my woodworking hobby. I got started in woodworking many decades ago, having grown up in a family with generations of carpenters, contractors and woodworking enthusiasts.

To that end this month’s purchase is a type of powered saw table utilizing a jigsaw mounted upside down on it’s own sturdy base. The Rockwell Bladerunner X2 is a second generation tabletop tool that is capable of cutting wood, plastic, metal & ceramic goods accurately and smoothly.

As with all my purchases I did as much research on this product before plunking down the $99.95 for this portable, versatile tool. My initial questions concerned the quality of a saw that sells for so little while promising hobbyists an accurate, easy to use saw.

Scrollsaw/jigsaw tables are not new to the market. There are plans all over YouTube showing you how to build your own. I considered this option and decided to purchase the Bladerunner based on Rockwell’s good reputation for quality made tools.

I did build my own router table just last week that works great using my small handheld Dewalt router. That tool was purchased with two bases, a fixed base and a plunge base. By mounting the fixed base upside down in my new router table I’m able to get two power tools for the price of one. The router motor releases from its base in seconds to allow  insertion in the plunge router base for handheld use.

The Bladerunner X2 is lightweight, portable and easy to setup. It took me all of 30 seconds to insert the safety guide and put in a new blade. The key to any saw, handheld or powered, is the quality of the blade. I opted for a package of 5 Festool 486548 S 75/2.5 Fine-Cut Jigsaw Blades. In my opinion they are the sharpest, highest quality blades on the market. Instead of buying a variety pack of blades I bought the specific blades designed for clean, fast cuts in wood. For $11.00 I got 5 blades I know I’ll use on a daily basis.

The Rockwell Bladerunner X2 tabletop saw comes with a metal fence and partially metal crosscut guide. I immediately added a hardwood extension piece to the crosscut sled to improve performance. The build quality of the accessories isn’t the best but can be modified in this fashion to be sturdy and accurate.

I’ve only made a couple of cuts with my new saw and can tell the addition of Festool quality blades was a good decision. There’s little vibration and the resulting cuts were smooth, square and put no heavy workload on the table’s saw motor.

So that’s my initial report on my latest acquisition to my tiny shop. The whole assembly weighs less than 15 pounds and has a built-in handle making it a snap to put on my workbench. The rubberized feet grip my workbench top providing a solid non-slip tool. It works for me! 🙂


More From Portland

My 2nd photography student just emailed me these shots from her home after the storm. I’m adding them to my collection and sharing them with my 5,000 blog followers. 🙂 Thanks Annette!portland-january-2017-01




News From Portland

Wow, I found out what good friends I left behind in Portland, OR this week. Every one of them, 6 altogether, emailed me with news of the Northwest snowstorms they’ve been experiencing. Of course some sent pictures of the deep snow there this Winter. They are not used to such heavy snowfall as the Portland area doesn’t have snow removal equipment to clear the highways.

I know they got hammered because all 6 emails came from different friends simultaneously. Two of them were photography students so they sent lots of pictures. LOL Well done!

I still consider Portland my home for 10 years with lots of friends who still care enough to keep communication lines open. They are also all followers of my blog so I know they’ll be reading this post. 🙂 Thanks ladies for being such good friends! 🙂 The photos posted below were taken by Pat Nelson, a good friend & photographer in Portland, OR.



The final two photos were taken by Liz Campbell, one of my former photography students. You go Liz, great shots!



First Snow Day At The Oregon Zoo

Share Your World – January 9, 2017

Share Your World – January 9, 2017


If you lost a bet and had to dye your hair a color of the rainbow for a week, what color would it be?

bright red

If you could choose one word to focus on for 2017, what would it be?


What was one thing you learned last year that you added to your life?

That God takes care of us, always!

If life was ‘just a bowl of cherries’… which fruit other than a cherry would you be..?

banana – because I would have more appeel! 🙂

Therapy Puppies

I ate lunch at the Uxbridge Senior Center yesterday and had an opportunity to photograph two therapy puppies brought in by their owners. They were two bulldog pups just as cute as you have ever seen. The small Monday turnout of seniors enjoyed the opportunity to play with the energetic puppies. All I had with me was my Nexus 7 tablet so I took these pictures with it. They didn’t turn out too bad after all. The shots were loaded into Photoshop and spruced up a bit. 🙂


After The Storm

The first big snow of the Winter of 2017/2017 dropped 8″ of snow on Uxbridge and over 14″ of the white stuff on Boston and the coast. I’m only going by what I just cleaned off the top of my SmartCar which is a pretty flat area and therefore an accurate assessment of the total accumulation. When the sun came up this morning our regular maintenance guy, Mike, was already out plowing the parking lot as well as any empty car slots. I quickly went out after snapping the pictures seen below to clean my car off and move it out of the slot so Mike could plow my slot. There was no need for verbal communication as he knew exactly what I was doing.

The snow that fell was dry and very powdery. It was a snap to brush it off my car. I have a long handled snow brush that reaches nearly all the way across my tiny roof. It only took about 5 minutes to completely clean off my car. My SmartCar, with positraction rear end and good snow tires had no problem moving out of my plowed in parking spot. I had great control and traction all the way.

So here’s a glimpse of my first snowfall in the Calumet Court Government subsidized senior housing complex. I fear it’s only the first of many to come this Winter.