Here's My Woodworking!
by Michael Sweet
University Place, WA
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
I am a hobbyist who has been working with wood for about 40 years, selling some things and giving others as gifts. I also carve, making things as small as ornaments to things as large as a totem pole. I make board games, animal carvings, masks, storage cabinets, valences and chairs. I use both hand and power tools. I look at myself as more of an artist than a woodworker. I am a retired draftsman who started out drawing with ink on acetate, mylar and linen. I think this experience proved invaluable for my artistic endevors.
Having lived in Chicago, Florida, Texas and Washington I have been exposed to alot. I live in University Place, Wa. and have alot of areas to get wood. Cedar being my favorite.
I am also a hoarder of wood. Hardly ever saying no to a free gift of wood. I was given about 350 brand new baby cribs from my brother-in-law who had to dispose of them for some reason. These were ash, maple and oak. My single car garage was filled! Not only cribs but changing tables and drawers. I have disassembled most of the cribs saving the slats, spindles and hardware. I use these constantly in my work. In fact, most of the things I make are based on remnants I have stored in my basement and garage.
Whenever I get the creative urge, or a gift is needed, I head down to my small shop in the basement. I keep my Powermatic 66 5hp with Bessemeyer fence cabinet saw in the garage on an HTC rolling platform. My shop is 1/4 size of my basement. It is stocked full with a 12" Delta bandsaw, stand-alone Shopsmith scrollsaw, cast iron router table, Foredom carving machine, 6" Delta jointer, DeWalt portable planer, a very large craftsman drill press, a Delta 10" chop saw, a Sears 7" sliding miter saw and a Jet mini lathe. I also have a Shopsmith that I don't use anymore. Since I am a carver I have all kinds of hand tools: Curved knives, European and Japanese chisels and gouges, adzes, axes and slicks. I also make my own carving knives out of old hacksaw blades.
Through the years I have saved most of my woodworking magazines and books for future use. I even made a database using ACCESS where I entered all of the projects with page numbers, book/magazine titles, and subject matter. Then I can go to the database and just type in puzzles, for example, and a list of which magazine or book will come up with the page number. I have the magazines stored in a filing cabinet.
There are a few things I have always wanted to make: Rummikub game, Go game, Shogi game, chair, totem pole, Carousel horse, dollhouse, and a marionette. Bizarre list, I know, but when it is in your head you can't get it out. A few of these projects can be seen below:
I haven't made the horse or marionette, yet, and my Go game is about 75% complete. Below are a few more specialized projects:
A few years ago I bought a beautiful book entitled,
Making Dollhouses in 1/12 Scale
by Brian Nickolls. It is a wonderful book with beautiful illustrations and chapters on various plans. I decided it was time to build a dollhouse for my granddaughter before she was too old. I picked a style and began looking for the wood. About 90% of the wood was found in my basement. I had to purchase some thin plywood for some items. Some of the plywood was given to me with the cribs and costs $350/sheet! I'm glad I didn't have to pay for that! The directions for the dollhouse were good but some details were not covered so I had to come up with a solution (like most artists have to do). I wanted this project to be completed by Christmas and worked through the day for weeks.
A couple of weeks before Christmas I became ill and was unable to complete the gift. When Christmas arrived I explained to my granddaughter how sorry I was but she said, "that's okay grandpa because now we both can work on it." What a gift that was! Whenever she would come over to my house we would both work on it. I let her saw some small stock on a miter box and do some painting. We even made some furniture. Her mother was lucky enough to find a whole dollhouse full of scaled furniture that filled the house. My grandaughter said she liked mine better.
This dollhouse was a labor of love and when I was finished my other daughter-in-law said she would like to have one for herself. The dollhouse is huge. A few things have fallen off from little kids playing with it. It bothered my granddaughter at first, but I told her most of it can be repaired. Now she has a little sister and she plays with it. I would have liked to put electrical in this, but the cost was too prohibitive.
The long piece of wood below is an elm tree that a friend let me have after he cut it down. I had been looking for a nice straight piece to make a Didgeridoo. I don't know how to play it but wanted to make one. They are usually made from Eucalyptus. As you can see from the photos it was quite a project, using almost all of my tools.
Below is a chess set that I am in the process of making. The pieces and board are painted to look like marble. It is a process that I came up with, not a packaged mix.
The aunt of my daughter-in-law saw my work on Facebook. She asked me to make a hanging plaque or picture for her music room. She is a piano teacher in Japan. After some back and forth suggestions I came up with the idea of a Beethoven portrait. I had a cabinet door given to me some years ago made out of oak plywood. I never carved plywood but liked the size of the door and the thickness, not to mention that it was right there in my basement! I used a Foredom power carver and a Japanese curved knife. I also used a variety of European chisels and a Colwood woodburner. I also made the frame.
You can view my Facebook photo album with more of my projects by
You can email Michael at
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