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
, 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
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
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