Here's My Woodworking!
By Ron Lepionka
Holly Springs, NC
A few years ago, when I was thinking about retiring, my wife told me that if I retired, I needed to find a hobby. So
she signed us both up for spindle and bowl turning classes. The last time I had done any turning or
woodworking was in 7th grade shop class. Those classes interested me enough that when I did retire, I got a
lathe from Highland Woodworking as a retirement gift. I then took pen turning and tool sharpening classes from Highland Woodworking and
started making pens and bowls. Then I took a Build a Bookcase class and I was hooked. My wife
took the box making class also. I decided to expand beyond turning so my wife and I took a number of
classes to learn how to use the various tools and equipment – bandsaw basics, router basics, etc. I
moved to NC and set up my shop about a year ago, acquiring a number of pieces of equipment. My first
project was a hand tool wall cabinet for my shop. My thinking was that if it didn't turn out, I would be the only
one to see it. But it turned out ok. Next was a cabinet for my outdoor TV and some cabinet doors in the
I then decided to try something more difficult. I picked a few projects and worked on them in increasing degrees of
difficulty. First was a children's picnic table and sandbox for my granddaughter. I used Western Red Cedar
and finished them with CWF. I painted the top of the sandbox with chalkboard paint.
Next, I got plans off the internet for simple end tables that I hoped to gift to my daughter. I found some old
oak flooring at a reuse shop and thought it would make a beautiful top to the tables. The table bases are
walnut with the reclaimed oak floor tops also trimmed in walnut. The frame is all 2x2's, the apron is 3/4 x 2-1/2 and the flooring base is 1/2 inch plywood. I finished them with General Finishes Seal-a-Cell and Arm-R-Seal.
The tables turned out better than I expected. They are 16 inches wide, 25 inches deep and 15-1/2 inches
I next changed course to turn three baseball bats to be used in game action. These bats are made from
Birch billets. They're finished with Behlen's Spar Restoration Varnish. I burned a logo and autograph into
each. I started with billets about 36 inches long and between 86-90 ounces. The bats are 32 inches long
and range from 28-31 ounces. They have been used in senior adult baseball games and have held up very
well. Each bat took about 12 hours to turn.
The next project was a desk for my other daughter's home office and I selected a cherry computer desk
project as a) it would be a nice piece and b) I would learn a lot from completing it. It is only the second piece
of furniture I've attempted, with the first being the end tables.
Plans for this computer desk were listed as for the advanced woodworker, so I had to study them carefully to
understand what I was supposed to do. I also watched a number of YouTube videos when I needed more
assistance. I had made a few mortise and tenon joints before but this desk required many more. I also had
to hand chisel 9 half-blind dovetails, which I had not done before. Also, I've used a router on my router table
before but had not done any freehand routing, which I had to do for the desktop edge.
First, I had to build the case, which is a 24-inch cube with 3-inch legs on the bottom. The case bottom fits
into dadoes cut into the sides, the back is rabbeted into the sides and the internal frame is dadoed near the
top, leaving room for a pull-out work shelf at the top. Blocking is attached on the right internal side so that
the bi-fold cabinet doors will stay clear of the drawers when pulled out. The case includes a pull-out work
shelf, a pencil drawer, a pull-out printer shelf and a file drawer.
Next was to build the open-base and then attach it to the case. The top is five 3/4 x5-1/4 boards joined
together. It is attached to the base using z-clip table top fasteners.
The plans also called for a drop-down front with a keyboard tray. Since my daughter uses a laptop, I altered
the plans to create a middle drawer instead. The cabinet called for 3 drawers but I replaced one drawer with
the pull-out tray for a printer.
I used cherry for the base and ambrosia maple for the top. Finished the project with General Finish's Seal-
a-Cell and Arm-R-Seal. The desk is 5 feet long, 26 inches wide and 29 inches high. All-in-all, the desk
turned out great and I learned a great deal.
I've found that you're never too old to start woodworking. Taking the classes has really helped me understand the
positives and negatives of the equipment and has given me more confidence in using all of it. It's also good
to reach beyond your experience level so you can improve.
Ron can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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