Presentation: Bill Maloney – White Cedar Birds

This month’s presentation was delivered by Bill Maloney.

Bill has been making white cedar birds for most of his life. This craft has been passed down through many generations and is believed to have originated in Russia or one of the scandinavian countries, but Bill is not sure where his father, being Irish, learned it and passed it down to him and his brothers.

As a boy he was delegated one specific task in the process.  When he and his brothers were still young, his father passed away, but they continued the craft.  As his brothers reach High School age, they lost interest and taught Bill the rest of the process.  When Bill reached High School, like his brothers, his interest changed and he stopped making these birds until he got out of the Service.  At 85, Bill has continued to make these birds every since.  He demonstrates a unique and special love for his craft and is willing and eager to share it with anyone who is interested.  Bill doesn’t compromise on quality, but he does recognize there is a balance between quality, time and artistic expression.

Bill’s White Cedar Birds are all made from one single piece of wood and have no glue.  They are finished only with a coat of shellac and some wood burning to accent the piece.  Sometimes he will mount them on a stand, but prefers to hang them up.  Because “it’s difficult to get a bird to balance”, Bill will mount the ones that won’t balance on the string.

Information on Northern White Cedar:

The whole process of making the birds begins with selecting the right trees.  Every few years, Bill drives to Vermont and hand selects the right trees.  Though, it’s possible to make them from all kinds of wood, they are best made from straight-grained White Cedar.

If the bark is straight, the grain of the wood is straight.  The first three feet of the tree is not used because it contains imperfections in the grain.  However, the next 14-18 feet of the wood above the 3 foot base is used.  These are cut into 38 inch lengths for the trip home.  All of the bark is removed and only the sapwood is used.

Once the wood arrives, it’s put into a 55 gallon barrels filled with water where it remains until it’s used.  Often his stock will remains here for a few years.  Storing the wood this way stops checking and insures the highest quality piece.  White cedar is very easy to carve when wet.

A regular bird takes Bill about 30 minutes to make.  Hummingbirds take about 15 minutes each.  Bill teaches some class on how to make a bird and generally it takes a new student about 2 hours to learn the entire process and make their first bird.


It is very hard to make a mistake.  He has taught classes on how to do this in about 2 hours for an new student.

Once it’s carved, the piece is dried overnight.  The next day, the piece is shaved and sanded.  The carving process is done with a sharp 

Next, Bill uses a Swiss Army Knife with a thin blade to slice the wings.  This knife is ideal for this part of the process and technique is key to getting clean slices.  The grain of the wood help, but also the very thin blade prevents the need for a sawing movement.  Bill learned that simply moving the piece a little further from his body during cutting enables him to produce pieces much faster and with better consistency.  

Once the wing slices are made the bird wings are interlocked and set to dry.  The next day, Bill will add the details and finish with one coat of shellac.

How to Flatten Wood by Mike Smith


Mike Smith gave a presentation on how to flatten a board.

First when selecting wood look at the end grain

The left shows how a “flat sawn” log is cut. The end grain on the board would be in a circular pattern. As the wood dries the grain would flatten out which can lead to cracking and warping.
The right photo shows a “quarter sawn log.”  The log is cut so the end grain is straighter which makes the board more stable and less prawn to warping and cracking.

Mike discussed several ways to flatten a warped or cupped board.
First, acclimate the wood to the local environment/temperature. Leave it in your shop for a few days so to help eliminate movement and cracking.

One way to flatten a “cupped board” is to run it through a joiner (with the grain) with the cupped face down until that face is flat. Next run it through the planner

To create a straight side you could again use a joiner. You could also attach your board to a known straight edge as shown here then run it over your table saw.

If you have, a board that is warped/twisted places it on a sled and shim it so it doesn’t move. Starting with the high end, feed it through your planner taking SMALL bites (do both sides).

Another way is to make a box and set the wood inside. Next, mount your router on a stiff board so it rests on the side of the box. Use a flat bottom router bit protruding through the board and move the router along the sides and taking small bites off the warped wood.
Note: The bigger the router bit the slower the speed needs to be (see manufacturer manual).


Hart Square Day (27 October 2018)

Since 1986, as the first touches of autumn fleck Hog Hill on the fourth Saturday in October, Hart Square bustles with over three hundred knowledgeable artisans and docents demonstrating and sharing the craftsmanship and subsistence of Carolina’s pioneers. To enter the village on festival day is to enter the early 1800s. Here, visitors will witness everything from flax making, cotton baling, and tinsmithing to apple butter making and the sweet sounds of old time music. The Village is located outside Hickory. Tickets are available for $45 through either the Catawba County Museum of History (828-465-0383) or contact Bob Fields.

July 2018 Guest Speaker: Harold Dotson

The guest speaker for July (2018) was Harold Dotson.  Harold started out as a cabinet and furniture maker from Pickens, South Carolina.  He now specializes in custom rocking chairs.

Harold starts his chairs from a selection of 8/4 wood.  It leaves a lot of waste, but in the end he will use what’s left over for other projects or as firewood.  One very noticeable trait of Harold’s chairs is that he laminates the rockers with several thin strips of wood in a form. He uses epoxy on the leg and seat joints to prevent “creep”.  It forms a very sold and strong joint and he’s found it to be better than wood glue.

The slats of the chair are made on a bandsaw and are designed to make the chair more comfortable.  In fact, all of his designs are derived from 30 years of experimenting to find what works and what doesn’t.  Harold started with a basic design from a magazine back in the 1980s and progressed from there.

Harold shared with us the secret to a good rocking chair.

The chair becomes an extension of the person sitting in it.  A custom piece will become a family heirloom such as “Grandma’s chair or Auntie’s chair.”  The chair also has to have the correct tilt so it “invites you” to sit it. Lastly it has to “feel good” to the person.

Harold has one on one classes showing how to make the chair. The class includes the wood and allows you to keep the forms if you want to make more on your own.

Wood Identification: The American Chestnut – Castanea dentata

Presented by Randy Hock

Common Name(s): American Chestnut
Scientific Name: Castaea dentata
Distribution: Eastern United States
Tree Size: 100-120 ft (30-37 m) tall, 5-7 ft (1.5-2.0m) trunk diameter (Because of the chestnut blight of the early 1900s, very few trees of this size currently exist)
Average Dried Weight: 30 lbs/ft3
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .40, .48
Janka Hardness: 540



Natural Range of the American Chestnut Tree

The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century.  An estimated 4 billion American chestuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range.

Chestnut Blight

The blight was caused by an accidentally introduced Asian bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica). It was responsible for killing over 3 billion chestnut trees.  The wood in these standing trees was subsequently damaged by insects, leaving holes and discoloration.  The trees were thenharvested and converted to lumber which is now known as Wormy Chestnut.  Wormy Chestnut is preferred when a rustic or unpolished appearance is desired due to nail holes, discoloration, work and insect damage.

Before the early 1900s one in every four hardwood trees in North America’s eastern forests was an American Chestnut.  Together, chestnuts and oaks predominated the 200 million acre forest.  Every Spring so many chestnut trees erupted in white blossoms that from a distance, the hills appeared to be draped in quilts of snow.

The American Chestnut once provided food and shelter for animals and people alike.  Bears, deer and all kinds of mammals and birds feasted on the fallen chestnuts.  There were so many piled high that people would scoop them up with shovels from the forest floor.  Reaching heights of 130 feed and growing over 6 feet in diameter, American Chestnuts were home to squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays and scores of benign burrowing insects.  Because the wood was lightweight, rot-resistant, straight grained and easy to work with, it was used to build houses, barns, telegraph poles, railroad ties, furniture and musical instruments.

In the late 1876 a New York City nurseryman named S.B. Parsons imported Japanese chestnut trees, which he raised and sold to customers who wanted something exotic in their gardens.  One or perhaps all of these shipments concealed the pathogenic fungus Cryphonectria parasitica which chokes chestnut trees to death by wedging itself into their trunks and obstructing conduits for nutrients.  Asian chestnut trees had a resistance to Cryphonectria parasitica, but the American chestnut trees were extremely susceptible to the fungal disease which came to be known as the chestnut blight.

The chestnut blight was first discovered in New York in 1904.  Within 50 years, it killed nearly four billion chestnut trees.  Now few large trees remain in the chestnut’s native range.  Because the species has a resilient root system, the American chestnut survives here and there in the form of living stumps, which sometimes send up young skinny treelings.  Such saplings almost always succumb to blight by their teens or 20s, never getting old enough to flower and reproduce.

Working with Chestnut

American Chestnut is easy to work with both hand and machine tools.  It’s straight grain, light weight and highly rot resistance make ideal fence posts, railroad ties, barn beams, home construction, as well as fine furniture and musical instruments.  Chestnut splits easily, so care must be taken in nailing and screwing the wood.  Due to it’s course texture, turning is mediocre.

Although no adverse health effects have been specifically reported for the American Chestnut, other types of Chestnut in the the Castanea genus (C. sativa and C. mollissima) have been reported to cause skin irritation.


Precision and Accuracy in Woodworking

Presentation by: Bill Sutton

The May 2018 presentation was delivered by Bill Sutton.  Bill has delivered a number of presentations to our association in the past and today brings his experience to bear on the topic of precision and accuracy in woodworking.

Precision and accuracy

Precision and accuracy are both important, but it’s important first to understand the differences.  Accuracy refers to the closeness of a value to a known value. Precision refers the closeness of two or more measures to each other.  This is where we want to focus our woodworking – High accuracy AND high precision.  The bullseye chart shows what can happen if we lack one of these characteristics.


Some tools show up to 1/64th measures on their gages.  This doesn’t really matter.  What is important is that the parts are the same in the right dimensions.  Rulers and tape measures make it easy to read the wrong measurement and/or mark a piece incorrectly. Once its cut you can’t stretch it.  Rulers have a place, but typically we’re not building things that require extreme close tolerances.

In manufacturing, parts have to be done precisely so that the parts are interchangeable. This is not as important for custom work where each piece is custom fit to another. Story Stick

However, we don’t want to be sloppy either.  We don’t want visible gaps, or noticeable inconsistencies, etc.  The level of precision is different depending on the scale of the piece as well.

Tape measures are important.  There are certain dimensions that are critical.  For instance, a chair seat should typically be 17 inches.  Dining table height needs to be set so that the legs can go under it.

Old timers built pieces from proportions.   One of the tools they used was a “story stick”. A stick is chosen that is long enough to make a tick mark on the stick for each of the measurements.  Then use use the stick as your measurement instead of trying to record and remember numbers from a tape measure or measures.  The stick can be saved and used again and again if you need to produce another piece.

In addition, other tools can also make the measurements precise and accurate.  If you use a marking gage, use the thickness of the piece to size the scribe line.  Use a compass to find center.

Wood is constantly moving so it doesn’t need to measure in 1/1000ths of an inch. However, it is important to understand the wood and its nature when picking joints, etc.

World’s smallest Table

Worlds Smallest Table.jpg

If you want a table to be square and rectangular, but the pieces are different, you don’t end up with a rectangle, you get a trapezoid instead.  By properly measuring each piece from the same reference point, we can cut all the same size pieces with the same settings.  Then they mate up and fit the same.

Matching Marking & Reference Surfaces

When milling, pick a reference surface.  All layout should start from that surface.  Use a pencil to mark the reference edge (squiggle), then mark the top.   For dark woods use chalk.  The markings need to be clearly visible.


Legs are marked with a triangle pointing to the front.  This way we never mix up the legs or their orientation.

The last thing we want to do is cut a mortise in the wrong place and this will help prevent you from making that mistake. The way to do this is to lay them on the table and open them up.  Put them back together, then open them up the other way.  Then, mark the mortises.

Do the same thing with the sides and front/back.  Set the triangle.

Another area where it’s easy to make a mistake is when taper the legs.  Just remember that the taper is always on the side with the mortise for most shaker and period style furniture and you should be fine.

Band Saw Tune-up & Repair

Presentation By: Bruce Bogust

If you are a new member, or thinking about buying a new band saw the things to consider are: the vertical height in which the saw guides can be raised, the distance between the blade and the stand (called throat clearance), what material the wheels are made of and type of blade guides.  The saw blade needs weight to move the blade so steel or cast iron wheels are superior to the aluminum wheels. Roller bearing guides are better than the solid blocks.


Club President Bruce Bogust repaired the shop band saw. The following is a guide in case your band saw wheel bearings are making a funny noise (worn) or if the rubber on the wheels is deteriorating and needs to be replaced.

First, many of the parts are specific to top and bottom wheels so take a photograph of your machine as a guide to reinstall the parts in their proper place.

Peel off the old rubber tire of the wheels. To install the new rubber wheel (also called a tire) work the rubber back on with the aid of a screwdriver. Sometimes heating the rubber SLIGHTLY with a halogen light will aid in the installation.

Again, the pulleys and bearings on the machine are sometimes specific so ensure you note how they are initially installed on the machine. Remove the nuts that hold on the wheels and bearings.

One can purchase the manufacturers bearings or order generic bearings (often at a lesser price) from companies such as McMaster-Carr.

You will need three measurements if purchasing generic bearings. Bruce is getting ready to measure outside diameter, the inside diameter of the hole and the width of the bearing (shown on the right). If you get a “funny” number upon your measurement, it is probably a metric size.

If installing the bearing on a shaft or axle first heat the bearing with a lamp (Bruce used a halogen lamp) Place some light oil on the shaft. Using a pipe that is SMALLER than the diameter so you do not damage the bearing, tape the new bearing onto the shaft

When installing bearings in a race, cool the bearing to aid in the installation. You may use a WOOD DOWEL to help tap it into place.

Spin the wheels by hand to ensure they are free to move and are balanced. The previous owner drilled holes in the wheels as seen here to balance them

Check to see if the pulley is keyed then Install it properly. Check to ensure the belt runs straight.

Assuming the floor is level and flat use a large level to determine if both wheels are straight (called co-planning). The level should touch the top and bottom of both wheels at the same time. If not a washer, smaller than the bearing can be used to make corrections.

Install the blade so the teeth point down (yes… people have done it backwards).

Adjust the tension of the blade using the scale on the side of the machine. Another way is the blade should “ring” when plucked.

Bandsaw-10Use a credit card or dollar bill to adjust the distance between the blade and roller guide or block guide. The roller guides are superior to a guide block. (Potentially your machine could be retro fitted). In addition, “cool blocks” are available from Woodcraft if to help keep your blade friction to a minimum.

The pin at the end of the table keeps both halves level. Run a straight edge across the it. If you hear, a “click” (meaning they are not level with the pin installed) either use a stone to level it or take it to a local repair shop.

Use a square to check the table is perpendicular to the table (most table adjustments are under it). From the Wood Show they cut half way through a piece of wood, turned the machine off, then turn the piece of wood upside down and attempted to slide it on the back of the blade. If it did not smoothly go into place, something was not straight.

Table adjustments are at the back of the table and set at the factory so they should not need any adjustment.

Use a square and draw a straight line on a piece of wood. Cut along the line with the assistance of the fence. The line and cut should agree. If not follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to square your fence. Some newer fences have adjustments on the fence its self.

Turn the machine on and place a stone on the BACK EDGES of the blade to round them off a bit. This provides for a smoother cut as the wood passes the blade.


April 2018 Presentation

This month’s meeting presentation was a collaborative session with member participation and a competition for the best voted on Gadget, Tip or Trick.  Congratulations to Phil DeBerry for winning the $25 gift certificate to Woodcraft and to runner up Mark Willingham.  Entrants and their entries included:

Bruce Bogust –  Use masking tape on ends to cut pins for dovetails. It’s much easier to cut with the tape than to try to see the lines and it helps to easily identify where to remove material.

Stan Howell – Digital Protractor – Set on the table, zero it out, then you can get the exact angle relative to your work surface.  It works great on the drill press too!

Charlotte Bortmas– Charlotte is all the time looking for her pencil so she made a pencil holder with a retractable string clip to keep it close to her at all times.

Peter Stoffel – Sometimes it’s difficult to get a miter fence set exactly right.  Peter uses an index card to move the fence an eact.— F-clamp to lock down the

Phillip DeBerry (winner) – pack of playing cards – use for shims.  Make room for glue – perfect fit using a deck of cards when done play some poker.

Alan Grayson

  • Mitre Aid –
  • – Crown Moulding – measuring device for angles.
  • Cheaper Mitre Aid
  • –

Mark Willingham (runner up)- Dealing with Glue squeeze out. Use a straw to clean-up glue squeeze out.

Bob McElfresh – lining up hinges on a box.

Tom Willis

  • Board Straightener
  • Taper Jig for Legs

Randy Young – Ebony Plane

Greg Smith

  • White Pencil for marking walnut
  • Fake credit cards from mailings – saved and used for glue spreaders

James Garrett—Coat hanger bent to check drill press level

All of our entrants demonstrated tools, tricks and tips that are helpful for the craft.  Well done woodworkers!


Making a Grandfather Clock – Bruce Bogust

In this month’s presentation Bruce Bogust talked about building a 1750’s period Newport Grandfather Clock. This is the same clock design, with some modifications, that is offered in the November/December 1985 edition of Fine Woodworking Magazine. The plans are available online at Fine Woodworking Magazine.

Before discussing the clock build, Bruce brought in a Tea Table that has some of the same period production characteristics as the clock to demonstrate some of the skills that are useful to know in building the clock and period pieces.

The Tea Table shown here is from the same period and is unique in that it has a space under the talons on the legs. This is often referred to as an open claw. Also, there is no webbing over the claw. Similar to the Newport style, there is also a Philadelphia style from the same period. In making a claw, it’s generally a good idea to practice on some inexpensive woods before using up your good stock. Once you’ve figured out the pattern, you should be able to readily duplicate it.

The Tea Table pictured here is made from African Mahogany. It’s unique in that it has carvings on the knees of the legs. There is also the same pattern on each side of the leg. There are several ways you can do this. One way is to use carbon paper, but it doesn’t show up well. Another way is to use a ponce pad, i.e. a cheese cloth with chalk in it. You begin by cutting out your pattern and tap the pattern over the wood. The chalk comes through the pattern and sticks to the wood and provides the lines needed to do the carving. You may also use shim brass (2 thousandths thick) to transfer the pattern onto the legs.

The table top shown here is made from one single piece of wood including the trim on the edges. It is not a glue up. To do this, you start with a roughly 1” think piece of wood, make a pattern and screw it to the top of the wood. Then use a router to cut it out using this special jig . You can screw the jig to the bottom of the router. There are multiple stages of this process so when you get to the end, you just route the bottom and level it out in the center. image_540779759715241

The clock design was developed by the same people who developed the designs for this table.


Once you figure out what clock you want to make, the first thing you should do is buy the mechanism, or at least have a detailed set of dimensions including clearances, etc.  As Bruce did, you will probably have to change the dimensions of your clock to fit the mechanism.  The length of the pendulum swing, size of the mechanism, clock face,  weights and chimes can change the entire plan. Picture4

Bruce didn’t like the face that was included in his plan so he went to Colonial Williamsburg and took some pictures of the faces on some of the clocks and had a custom face painted with the image that he wanted.

One crucial step in the build is to create a mockup of the clock to get the swing length and size the movements.

In this clock design, there are four columns on the top of the clock. They are turned first into round stock.  You will need an index wheel on the lathe so you know where to place the columns. The flutes are hand cut with a gouge. Keeping them straight is very difficult and even small fluctuations are readily noticeable in the final product so this part of the build will require an extra steady hand and careful precision if you want to produce something that’s aesthetically pleasing.



Similar to the table, the moulding on the top of clock is cut upside down if you’re using a router.  This is not something where you can  just draw the pattern.

After routing, there are some places you simply can’t get into. Bruce used an old hand saw blade and file scribed and snapped the metal to form the shape. Then dremel/hand filed to get the exact pattern, essentially making a scraping tool with the perfect profile to make these mouldings.

As seen in the picture below, this clock design has several quarter columns.  These can be difficult to make.  These columns are ¼ of the actual column inserted into a recess. These were turned by using some paper to glue four pieces together.  This larger piece was then turned as a single unit on the lathe.  It’s important not to over pressure the lathe at this point because it will split the wood. Turn it round. Then flute it.

Flute Routing Jig


The jig above was used to index the column and act as a guide to route the flutes.  Once the column was mounted and indexed, simply side it on the router, turn and repeat.

Then use chisels to separate the 4 pieces where they were glued to the paper.  This method was taken from Fine Furniture for the Cabinet Maker – by Marlow.  You could also create a box and use a scratch stock to do the same thing.

The shells are made by design using the steps outlined in the same book.

This particular clock has a pine backing and old “aged” cherry was used everywhere else except the top moulding which was newer cherry.  This explains some of the coloring differences in the pictures above.

Bruce’s clock mechanism is about 14 inches deep and came with a plan for mounting points. Once that’s built, you’ll have to identify the mounting points for the assembly.

The basic body of the clock, base, center, and top is show above. There are some half blind dovetails used to assemble the base.  The legs/feet are cut on the bandsaw.  The top box of the clock have hand cut dovetails on all sides.

Picture8The rosettes on this clock are not the original ones from the plan.  Those were a simple daisy style.  Instead, Bruce used a Philadelphia style which was more to his liking.  The finials were built by turning the shape and then hand gouged to get the curved flutes.

This clock was started in early 2015 and finished in early 2017 working on different parts off and on in the workshop.  Bruce’s next planned project is the Amateur’s Masterpiece desk.