Community for Waves – A Woodworking Workshop in Coastal Peru


Almost a year ago to the day, Dave Aabos, executive director of Waves for Development, showed up at my doorstep to pick up a couple of my handplanes (for bodysurfing) to take down to Lobitos, Peru, where he’s devoted his efforts to develop sustainable surf travel. As I passed them off, he joked that next year I’ll be down there teaching the community how to build their own. I chuckled passively and wished him luck down there, thinking little of it.


Now my girlfriend, Staj, and I are preparing to leave for Peru at the end of the month where we’ll spend two weeks working with the locals and teaching workshops; just as Dave had predicted. But, we can’t do it alone, so we’re calling upon our tribe to help us out with this project. We’ve created a Kickstarter to raise $4,000 and we’re over halfway there, but this final push is what matters most. In return we have some awesome rewards for your contribution, including your very own handplane for $165. Anything helps, so please consider helping us share our passion for woodworking and creating a social entrepreneurial opportunity for Lobitos.

Find all the details and a video on our Kickstarter here.

Screen shot 2011-09-19 at 6.06.49 PM

PA - Waves Pic Group

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Woodworkers Tale – The Hemloft

[photo via: flickr // runthesundown]

My buddy, John, turned me onto to this great website and 10-part story about Joel Allen, once a software designer and failed 26-year old retiree who devoted himself to carpentry, for the hell of it, essentially. The dude’s story is pretty phenomenal. He landed some big home construction jobs with a portfolio consisting of a storage shed he built in a week on his parents property. After work every night, he pursued a vision of building a damn spectacular hidden tree house in the woods outside of Whistler. No permits, no land acquisition, no shop. Just dedication, skill and some eccentric characters along the way. I’ll let Joel tell the story.

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Shop Dog

We all know canines are man’s best friend, but do they make good employees? Handfuls of shops I’ve visited have 4-legged folk running around, so I thought I’d give it a go and bring my pup, Oso, into the mix.

He’s not great at sweeping. By the time he finishes barking and attacking the broom he typically passes out into the dust pile.

Here he is gluing up a desktop. He’ll spend the rest of the afternoon gnawing at the glue in his fur, which is better than chewing the workpiece, I guess.

At the end of the day, he typically takes credit for our projects, demanding a BoneUs [boom!], or a big stick and long hike also suffice.

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New Houzz Post // Seven Crucial Measuring Tools

Got a new post up on Houzz. It’s the first of an ongoing series of essential tools for the home woodshop. I kicked it off with, in my opinion, the tools that are most influential to the success of any project: measuring instruments. Hope you like it as much as I love my combination square…

///There’s also a bitchin’ discussion going down in the comments section about women and woodworking so be sure to check it out. Future post material? I think so…

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Spreading the Wealth

I may be young and have a lot to learn in the realm of woodworking, but that doesn’t mean I don’t already have much to share. Recently, asked me to contribute to their site in the form of DIYs and tool profiles for developing woodworkers. I’m elated by the opportunity to further combine my degree in journalism and my real world development as a carpenter.

Direct your mouse here to check out my first installment.

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Dirtbag Deluxe #3 – Trunk Junkie

A while back I was asked about the possibility of outfitting a Toyota Corolla. Yes, the small Toyota sedan that gets much better gas mileage than it’s more popular dirtbag counterpart, the Tacoma. A solid opportunity.  Every vehicle has the potential to be an #adventuremobile, it just has to be given the opportunity. Turning my back on no deserving vehicle, I responded to ski/climb guide, Sheldon Kerr, that I’d doodle on some graph paper for a while. 



Have you seen those awesome dining tables that expand by pulling the spare leaf out from underneath the tabletop? They’re awesome, right? Now imagine one of those dining tables in your trunk, only you sleep on it. That’s the design basis for the Trunk Junkie. 

Sheldon wasn’t worried about irreversible damage being done when removing the back seat. I’m proud to say, however, that the seat could be replaced, should you want to do a dumb thing like that. She asked if I’d install a flat platform to make stowing rubbermaid bins easier. Since space isn’t exactly prolific in a Corolla, I couldn’t bare leaving eating up the concaved spaced below the platform, so I threw a piano hinge on it so Sheldon can stash some maps and socks in there. 

The final design aspect was a lockbox in the back. Installation was a bit tricky, but turned out to be pretty bomber once it was in. Grampa asked if that’s where she’ll be stowing her marijuana, but I’m pretty sure it’s for a computer, ect. 

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Walnut Wrap Table

My buddy, John, approached me about building a table to house his record player and vinyl collection. I agreed on the terms that he teach me to shape a surfboard (more on that to come.) John pretty much relinquished control over the design to me on the basic grounds of “make it look cool.”

The recycle bin filled pretty high with graph paper before I sketched up the concept for something totally out of the ordinary. I settled on incorporating live-edge early on, I just didn’t know how exactly. Then it clicked.

Working with live-edge presents it’s own difficulties with clamping, squaring, etc. Toss in some mitres and the mix gets that much more fun. Getting the edge to match through the tables entirety was no easy feat and I spent many a minute sitting on my stool and scratching my noggin to avoid any miscuts on the saw. After all, one wrong cut and the whole piece is thrown off.

Here’s what the table were to look like if you stretched it back out:

The clamping process was no joke either.

Doesn’t exactly look sturdy from the looks of it, no? I wouldn’t let myself fall asleep one night until I developed a way to make the table structurally sound without taking away from the freestanding look of the piece. I stared at the ceiling thinking about how miserable work was going to be the next day having not gone to sleep when it hit me. Why not throw some more mitres into the mix?

This simple design can withstand all 175 lbs. of my non-steroidal muscle.

I’m so stoked on this design that I intend to make it my first production piece of furniture. Contact me if you’re interested!


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A Word About Kickback

I was in the midst of whistling along to Whiskey In the Jar while cutting plywood on the tablesaw when, quicker than Jerry could pluck a banjo string, I was on my back, staring at the shop ceiling. I just been struck in the abdomen by a 10xfourteen” piece of plywood at 110 MPH.

 I had just fallen victim to the cutback. Anyone operating a tablesaw is aware of its capability to eat fingers, but what’s often forgotten (and perhaps, more dangerous) is kickback. 

 So what exactly is kickback? When milling wood on a table saw, wood is guided along a fence the desired length away from the blade. The wood is essentially pinched between the saw blade and fence, which means should the working piece be twisted or skewed, it may be grabbed by the blade and projected in the direction of the blade (which is you.) Solid stock wood can also have a tendency to bind, meaning it could pinch the blade, also causing kickback. Riving knives look like a shark fin that sits directly behind the blade and is used to prevent binding. I’ve watched this simple piece of metal prevent countless kickbacks and wouldn’t consider milling stock without it. Especially now. 

More info about KICKBACK: The Nightmare Explained 

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Dirtbag Deluxe #two

Got the opportunity to outfit another Toyota Tacoma with a Dirtbag Deluxe. Teresa Bruffey, a dirtbaggin’ climber from Seattle and fellow friend of semi-rad mastermind, Brendan Leonard, came to me with dreams of camping in relative luxury and we got to work.

First things first, I had Teresa fill out some dimensions for me. Measuring pickup beds is tedious and tricky, but she nailed it, preventing me from miscuts during the prep stage.

With the measurements comes design time. Teresa is the kind of client you hope for, because she had a good idea of what she wanted in her head, voiced it concisely and then let me take it and run. Even better, is the design she had in mind was a great setup. A guide friend of hers had shown her a setup with an adjustable sleeping platform that allows a solo camper more headroom for comfort, but should the event occur that sleeping space is needed for two, the platform adjusts to sit flush with the higher platform. A great use of space.

Bouncing ideas off one another, I strongly suggested she opt for a flip-up access door above the main drawer. This allows access to items in the drawer from within the canopy, without having to get out, open the gate and pull out the drawer. Very convenient in inclement weather. I incorporated the same idea in the first DBD-lux, but this time I upgraded the accessibility with a piano hinge, so it’s more of a door than a pull out panel.

With only a one minor bump in the road and two wild dogs on the loose, I was able to get the Dirtbag Deluxe installed in one day, which was important since Teresa traveled down from Seattle and had work the following day. Perhaps down the road, I’ll be able to outfit customers on the road…

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Float the Grain

I found an appropriate stopping point in the shop the other day, but didn’t bother blowing the sawdust off my jeans. I was headed to the Grain Surfboards workshop in Portland, Ore. for the remainder of the day.

I don’t think the Grain guys were expecting sunshine during their week-long workshop, because as soon as the rays crept over the asphalt, Mike LaVecchia and and Nolan Collins of Grain opened the garage door at Instrument HQ and dragged the building stands out to the curb.

The variety of shapes and sizes offered good insight on the design aspects and construction of each board. All Grain boards are built upon a balsa skeleton then lightly glassed since wood boards are more durable and require less toxic substances to remain intact. Typically decked using northern White cedar (thuja occidentalis) local to their home in York, Maine, the Grain guys took the logical step and substituted white for Western Red cedar (thuja plicata) local to the Northwest stands. Nolan was stoked on the western red, saying he’s not used to such grain definition.

I’d had a handful of questions for Mike, but when the time came I’d had a long day in the shop and couldn’t shift into journalistic interview mode. Instead I opted to hang out with the crew and merely observe from a craftsman’s perspective. The closest I got to interviewing was sharing my theory developed the night before about the value of surfing to the carpenter. A natural substitute to the Nettie Pot, a couple close-outs or inside battles induce the surf drip, thoroughly cleansing all sawdust from the sinuses.

The ground surrounding the Grain class looked like a hamster cage. Wood shavings planed off the rails carpet the asphalt. I’m not sure the destination for these particular shavings, but Mike tells me back at the Grain barn in Maine, all shavings are composted by the property owner.

A beautiful part about the Grain class was the lack of power tools on the premises. Each stand had a collection of tried and true hand tools; hand planes, combination squares, spoke shaves and freshly sharpened Ticonderoga pencils. Mike couldn’t overemphasize the importance of the spokeshave and board shaping. A cousin of the recognized hand plane family, the spokeshave is essentially a wood blade with wings, or handles. The design makes it a perfect match to refining the contours of a rail with control you couldn’t get with a flat-bedded plane. Mike’s years as a boat builder and mastermind behind Grain was evident in his use of the spokeshave. I’m pretty sure he could have shaved a balloon with it.

If I’d had more time, I would have made the commitment to the weeklong course, but my shop is a pool of projects right now, and unfortunately all I could manage was an afternoon with the Grain class. Floating in my project pool, however, is a wood surfboard kit. Hmm.. maybe I’ll get to that one of these years.

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