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Small Woodworking Projects
By the Editors of Fine Woodworking

Book Review by J. Norman Reid

Many of us, perhaps most of us, have one or more major projects in our shops that challenge us to keep plugging away over a period of weeks, months or (gulp!) years. OK, I'm speaking for myself here, but I assume I'm not alone in this regard. It takes a lot of mental effort to stay with a major build from one weekend to the next and it often seems like we'll never finish what we once began with such optimism.

Sometimes, to break up the feeling of being stalled, you may need a smaller project or two that will bring the satisfaction of accomplishment more quickly. That is the objective of this book, Small Woodworking Projects , to present a series of shorter projects that, while individually challenging, need not take up a lot of shop time.

The 21 projects described in this book fall into four categories: boxes, accessories, tools and furniture. While they range in difficulty from the moderately challenging to the craftsman-oriented, few are beyond the capacity of patient and careful woodworkers of even modest skills. All are designed to build new skills and teach new techniques in a wide range of areas. The projects offer the opportunity to use both hand and power tools. While the projects are, for the most part, truly "small," many of them may require more than a single weekend to complete.

Six of the projects, described in chapters by leading authors from the pages of Fine Woodworking , illustrate the construction of a variety of boxes. Laura Mays describes building a box that can be repeated in varying styles by altering only a few details, the wood selection, color and shape of the facets, for instance. Bill Nyberg shows two ways to build boxes, the traditional way of making one rabbet before cutting the top off and a second streamlined process to make all the rabbets first. Doug Stowe demonstrates construction of a classic continuous grain mitered box that uses contrasting splines to add both strength and beauty to the finished product. Strother Purdy builds a jewelry box with removable trays. Seth Janofsky shows how to build veneered boxes with a parquet pattern and in the process teaches much about veneering. Finally, Steve Latta describes how he built the most challenging of the boxes, a Pennsylvania Spice box. Five chapters illustrate several types of accessory projects. Scott Lewis details how he made a cutting board that incorporates inlaid strips of contrasting wood in flowing S-curves. Christian Becksvoort tells how he built a standing frame that holds pictures on two sides. Another frame, this one Greene and Greene-inspired, is described by Kelly Dunton. Craig Thibodeau builds a veneered chess board and Christian Becksvoort shows how to build two unique lamps featuring curved wooden shades.

All of our shops need more tools , don't they? Four chapters show how to add to your collection with shopmade wooden tools. Michael Cullen demonstrates turning a carver's mallet. Bob Smalser shows his method for making handles for chisels. David Finck shows in simple steps how to make a wooden hand plane, or several. Finally, Michael Pekovich illustrates how he built a tool chest with drawers to lug essential tools to classes and jobsite locations.

The final section, featuring furniture, includes six projects. Judith Ames describes how she makes beautiful curved, pillowed seats for two. Tommy MacDonald builds a Shaker-inspired step stool that incorporates a slight design modification to enhance safety. Gregory Paolini shows how he built a portable Arts & Crafts book rack and the finish he uses to achieve a safe ammonia-fumed look in the final piece. Nancy Hiller builds another Arts & Crafts piece, a wall shelf with side pillars incorporating inlay. She too describes a method for finishing the shelf to simulate a traditional Arts & Crafts look. Christian Becksvoort (clearly a busy guy!) shows how he builds a classic Shaker side table based on what he considers to be the finest example, only one of which is known to be in existence. Andrew Hunter concludes the book with a six-board blanket chest built entirely by hand.

This book is not only instructive; it's also beautifully illustrated, as is typical with books from Taunton Press . Each project is fully-described, with clear plans and detailed discussions of construction steps, techniques suggestions and in some cases pitfalls to sidestep.

The woodworker who builds one or more of these projects will certainly learn new skills, as each project introduces new techniques and approaches. But even if you choose merely to use the book as an armchair exercise, you'll find it interesting. The mix of projects is quite exciting and I found myself absorbed in the details, even of those projects I'll probably never attempt. Honestly, I had trouble putting the book down once I started reading it.

There is something in this book for woodworkers at all levels, from beginner to advanced. It's a fun book to read and learn from and a good book to build from. If you want to find a project that stimulates your creativity and that you can finish in one or a few shop sessions, Small Woodworking Projects is a good place to start. If you're like me, you'll find it a great shopside and bedside companion.

The author is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of Choosing and Using Handplanes . He can be reached by email at nreid@fcc.net .

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Small Woodworking Projects
By the Authors of Fine Woodworking

Small Woodworking Projects is a stellar collection of approachable and quick-to-make projects from America's premier woodworking magazine, Fine Woodworking . It is the perfect answer for beginners who want to start small as well as skilled woodworkers with limited time and plenty of scrap wood they'd like to put to good use. And who wouldn't like a resource filled to the brim with neat little projects nice enough to give as gifts?

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