Every cloud has a cedar lining

While rummaging through the closets to move the clothes matching the coming season to the front and those for the fading season to the rear, I uncovered the unmistakable evidence of the dreaded wool predators: silverfish and moths.

The bad news, is that some pricey garments were unsalvageable. The silver lining to the silverfish-moth problem was that it provided an excuse for a useful woodworking project.

Aromatic cedar is  the natural enemy of silver, and it smells better and it smells a lot better than mothballs. As I’ve noted in past posts, I’ve made quite a few cedar chests and gave away or sold most of them. I still have the first one I made, but it’s jammed full. Continue reading


A new tool box with an old-school look


The idea to start this project emerged when I snapped the handle of the spade shovel that’s been in the backyard through each of the four season for each of the past dozen or so years.

But the root of the project goes back more than 30 years when my Dad gave me a tool box he had built out of some pretty nice Douglas fir 1X6. It wasn’t like a gift for a birthday or a rite of passage. As I recall, I said something like, “Hey nice tool box.” And he said, “Take it. I can build another just like it in about a half-hour.”

I’m not sure if he did build another one — or anything else,  for that matter. Not long after that, he was diagnosed with the disease that would claim his life. Continue reading

Projects that follow us on life’s journey, and beyond


Not long after her husband died, my friend Lisa sent me what she described as an out-of-the-ordinary request.

“I know this is unusual,” she said in a Facebook message, ” but how do you feel about making a wooden funeral box for Dennis’ ashes?”

She didn’t specify exactly what she wanted, but she reminded me that when they got married, I built them a cedar chest similar to the one I made for my mom a year or so before. I messaged her back telling her I’d be honored to the make the box. It occurred to me pretty much right away that it should complement the wedding gift, which I’m happy to report is still in use. Continue reading

What did you do in the war, Daddy?

completeOne of my dad’s favorite scenes from the movie, Patton, came during the iconic opening scene with George C. Scott as the general standing in front of the giant 48-star American flag addressing his unseen troops before some unnamed battle.

“There’s one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home. And you may thank God for it,” Scott as Patton says. “Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you: ‘What did you do in the great World War II?’ You won’t have to say, ‘Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.'”patton_george_c_scott

My dad served under General Patton in “the great World War II.” And some of his stories from that time did mentioning taking a shovel to the mud of Fort Polk before heading overseas. And a few of them recalled some disturbing images, such as the liberation of the camps at Dachau and seeing the bodies of fallen GIs before men of the graves-registration units could take care of them. Continue reading

Move to table the policy of containment


The split-level planter’s table and the container garden.

For awhile several years ago, I kept a vegetable garden in the back yard. I had lousy luck with tomatoes, better luck with peppers and cucumbers and terrific luck with yellow squash. Later, I was told someone who had perfected the art of backyard gardening that any dope with with dirt and a shovel could grow squash.

In time, my enthusiasm for the hobby waned, probably coinciding with my aversion to the increased soreness that accompanied stooping over plants knee-high from the ground.

But even though my green thumb has a pretty wide yellow streak, I still enjoy planting stuff in soil and watching it grow, but on a smaller scale. So this spring, I decided to a modest container garden. And rather than having the containers scattered willy-nilly on the back deck and back yard. I built a little split-level planter’s table that sits neatly on the deck. Continue reading

A condo for the cardinals, doves and even the squirrels

feeder in NJ

Nearly all of the birdhouses I’ve built over the years were the basic four walls with openings representing doorways and windows, a little ledge out front and a pitched roof.

Typically, they were made from weathered cedar fence pickets that had to be replaced and hung from backyard tree limbs. After tossing in a handful of birdseed, it never took long for the birds to come. Some even built nests that would be used year after year.

The downside was that only a bird or two at a time could eat, and each spring the new leaves would obscure the house. And feeding the birds is pretty much an out-of-sight, out-of-mind deal — at least for me. Continue reading

Setting sail for a new (kitchen) island

kitchen island

Our house has an open-concept floor plan downstairs where there’s a clear view of the television from the kitchen sink and half of the counters. But those counters are a little too far from the stove. And working from the counters adjacent to the stove puts the cook’s back to the TV.

Since I’m the cook most of the time, I needed to remedy that.

Not long after moving in, we discovered the IKEA store north of Austin off I-35. We bought a couple of chests of drawers that were easy enough to assemble, not too bad to look at and reasonably priced.  On the second or third visit, a small kitchen island caught my eye. It had a butcher-block top and a stainless steel storage rack below. The price was OK.

So I asked one of the guys in a navy-blue Polo shirt with the yellow IKEA lettering to direct me to aisle where I’d find the island. We walked over and the guy showed me the empty space where the islands were supposed to be. Continue reading