New is good. Old is better!

I would LOVE to own a $4000.00 Powermatic 10″ table saw like this one.  The quality of the
cuts would be amazing and sometimes I feel that it would be hard NOT to make perfect furniture with a tool like that.    Unfortunately, I don’t think that will ever happen.  And that’s ok, because I have a perfectly capable 1953 Craftsman table saw that was originally bought for $53.88.  No, I did not put the period in the wrong spot.  I even have the original

The original receipt for my table saw. Check out the date…10/22/53…that’s a piece of history!

receipt to prove it!  This saw, along with many of my other tools, were handed down to me from generous people who wanted to see the tools take on a second life.

Most of the tools I have acquired are what many people would consider “vintage” or “antique.”  I like that.  These tools were some of the best back in their time, without all of the bells and whistles.  Very basic, but solid.  So, why can’t they still be great tools?  Unfortunately, many of these classic tools have sat in wet basements, unused for 10,

Original magazine that came with my table saw!

20, or 30 years.  But, with a little TLC, I am trying to revive some of these old beasts to give them a second chance in creating some fine woodworking projects!   Hopefully, after seeing how easy it is to restore some of these oldies but goodies, it will inspire you to actually buy that old tool you may find at the garage sale for $5.00!

Now, for some before and after pics of a few of my favorite well broken in tools!  First up is the 1953 Craftsman table saw.  A little cleaning, polishing, and then a fresh paint job was all this little guy needed!

BEFORE – 1953 Craftsman Table Saw

AFTER – Shown with a new on/off switch mounted on the front (instead of on the back-yikes it was dangerous) and a thrown together outfeed table made from left over wood.  Yes, it already has saw dust on it!

1953 Craftsman Table Saw in my shop - restored and working like a champ!

This next tool was given to me by the gentleman who installed my furnace.  He explained to me that as a child he spent hours with his father in their wood shop building wooden Christmas decorations that they would sell for extra cash.  His father passed away years ago and all of his old woodworking tools had been sitting in his basement collecting dust and rust.  When he saw the beginnings of my wood shop, he decided that he wanted his father’s tools be put to use.   This drill stand was a lot of fun to restore (which really only involved taking it completely apart, cleaning the rust off with a wire brush and scouring pads, and then polishing it with steel wool).  The data plate shows that it is a “Mall Drill Stand” Model 28710.  I haven’t been able to find ANY information on this specific drill stand, but a little digging on the company shows that the Mall Tool Company was bought out in 1956 – so it has to date pre -1956.  I would love to find out the full history of this tool, but for now it works great and looks pretty classic too!

BEFORE – Vintage Mall Drill Stand

AFTER – Mall Drill Stand

Mall Drill Stand data plate

The drill that came mounted in the drill stand is a Shopcraft Model 9748 drill.  Nothing special – A single speed 3/8″ drill.  It works though!  Again, I haven’t been able to find much information on the drill.

Shopcraft Model 9748 drill – mounts in the drill stand

As my brother says, “I’m a firm believer in…” you fill in the blank.  I say, I’m a firm believer in NOT reinventing the wheel and not buying something brand new when you already have something that does the job.  Would I like a $3000.00 Powermatic drill press?  YES.  Can I justify spending $3000.00 on a Powermatic drill press?  Ye…well, no I guess not.  I’m content to use a 1950s era Mall Drill Stand!  New is good.  Old is even better!


“The Anniversary Table”


No power tools, no screws, no nails. Just simple joints made with hand tools and all reclaimed wood – chestnut and walnut. Pretty inspirational woodworking! Someday I’ll take a project like this on………

Drum Stand Lamp

One of the rooms in our house has been dubbed “the music room” because of the large number of random musical instruments hanging on the walls, on the shelves, and in the corners.  So, when E and I were at a yard sale a few summers ago, I couldn’t pass up a $10.00 high-hat drum stand.  After a few minutes of brainstorming in the driveway of the sale, I decided to make a lamp out of the upcycled (as those crazy tree huggers call it) drum stand lamp.

I returned home with the drum stand and found a scrap piece of hardwood (if you know what kind it is feel free to tell me!)  I drilled holes in each end of the 3″x 3″ x 16″ piece wood and mounted it in my lathe.  I turned it (pun intended) into a pole that matched the diameter of the drum stand’s metal locking nut on one end and the light socket on the other end.  There are different lamp kits on the market, but a $8.00 one
similar to this kit at Home Depot should work just fine.

If you do not have access to a wood lathe, a chair leg or vertical banister post stained to the color or your choosing will also work.

Add your favorite new or reclaimed lamp shade to the top of the lamp and you have a one of a kind lamp for under $20.00!

Fire and Wood

If you haven’t figured out by now, two of my favorite things are fire and wood.  Ironically, they go hand and hand, but one tends to obliterate the other!  In September 2010, we decided that our back yard needed an area where we could sit around a fire, talk, jam on the guitar, etc.

Our backyard is not level at all, so I had to build a retaining wall to level a spot for the fire pit area.  The project seemed out of my league at first, but once I started researching retaining walls I found that it would be doable.  The main thing I realized was that water was going to be my biggest enemy.  Water can build up a huge amount of pressure when it has nowhere to go.  That is what causes basement walls to crack and leak, driveway walls to fall over, and newly built fire pit retaining walls to collapse.

There are several drainage options when building a wall, but the one that seemed to fit best was a French drain.  A French drain system consists of 3 components:  Perforated drain pipe, soil filter fabric, and drain rock (gravel).

With the drainage system chosen, I began building the wall.  First I had to dig a roughly level trench into the hill in the shape of the retaining wall, stepping it up with the contour of the hill.  I also dug a trench for the drainpipe that would drain the water that collected behind the wall.  Once the trenches were dug I poured a layer of paver base

Drain pipe exiting below the wall

rock (crushed rocks) and compacted it using a tamper.  I then used leveling sand to fine tune and level the bottom layer of the retaining wall stones.

To prepare the drain system, I used two sections of perforated drain pipe, connected them with a “T” connector, and then connected a third section of drain pipe to dump the water out below the bottom of the retaining wall.  I then wrapped the perforated drain pipe in a soil filter fabric to prevent the drain pipe from clogging up with dirt.  As the wall continued to grow layer by layer (and trip to Home Depot after trip to Home Depot for retaining wall stones), I backfilled the wall with pea gravel which would help the water drain quickly from behind the wall.

Once the wall reached the final height, I purchased a dump truck load of soil to back fill the area behind the wall.  I topped that off with several loads of limestone gravel for a nice and level surface.  Almost two years later, the wall hasn’t budged and is as solid as it was the day I built it.  A very doable project!  This was a little more than a weekend project, but well worth it!

The finished product!

Installing a free-standing wood stove!

If you have never felt the heat coming from a wood stove loaded with Oak on a cold winter day – you don’t know what you’re missing.  We just made it through our first winter using our new Dutchwest 2462 Extra Large Catalytic Wood Stove.  I am happy to say it heated our 2500 + square foot house nicely.  Most days it was 70-72 degrees on the first floor and 66-68 degrees on the second floor (which is the perfect sleeping temperature).  The stove worked so well we didn’t even try to turn our furnace on until mid-December, which is when I found our furnace had died and needed to be replaced.  We could have continued to only use the stove through the whole winter, but lazyness set in and I did not want to wake up at 6:00 am to start a fire everyday.  So, the furnace would kick on when I felt lazy and we would save money and enjoy a toasty house when I felt motivated!  We burned through about 2 to 3 full cords of wood (fire 24/7 until mid-December and then 3 or 4 days/week the rest of the winter).

I want to show what was involved in installing a free-standing wood stove in a house that originally had no fireplace and no wood stove.  It was really more simple than you may think.

Step 1:  Decide on a stove.  This was probably the hardest part of the entire process.  It is really a balancing act.  You can purchase a “barrel stove kit” (50 gallon drum conversion kit) for $45.00 or a beautiful Vermont Castings stove for $4000.00+.  We’re not rich, but we didn’t want to burn our house down, so we settled for somewhere in the middle.  I am extremely glad we decided to go with a catalytic stove because I hand split all of our firewood for the year.  The catalytic stove uses a catalytic converter much like a car to burn the smoke (at 1100 to 1200 degrees) which increases the efficiency, saving trees and my back.

Step 2: Plan.  It pays to go with a stand-alone fireplace/stove store instead of a big box store like Home Depot.  We purchased our stove from Buttelwerth Stoves in Cincinnati – They know what they are doing and will help you through each step of the process.  Stoves require certain clearances around them and there are quite a few safety requirements….because…it’s fire…inside your house…I went through the Hamilton County Building Department permit process (several hundred more dollars) because I want our insurance to cover our house IF something ever were to happen.  And it’s the law…so…

Step 3:  Bite the bullet and plop down a whole lot of money.  It hurts but it is well worth it- Especially when the power went out this winter and E (wifey) and I looked at each other and smiled…because we still had heat and light from the fire!  What a nice night that was.  Cozy and quiet.

Step 4:  Build or buy a hearth pad.  If you don’t already have a wood stove, you will need to have a hearth pad to prevent burning the floor out from under the stove.  Again, worth the money.  I decided to build our hearth pad myself – which was fun and saved us several hundred dollars!  Here’s how it went:

Layer 1 – Cut out carpet under hearth pad area (scary when we JUST bought the carpet)

Layer 2 – .20 gauge steel sheet metal (last line of defense for any hot embers that may somehow slip through a crack in the hearth).

Layer 3 – Micor (high R value insulation board to prevent the subfloor from bursting into flames).  The red goo is a fire barrier sealant.  Another line of defense from burning the house down.

Layer 4 – Wonderboard!  (Base for the top tile layer).  I used Flexbond mortar to attach the wonderboard to the Micor.

Layer 5 – Tile and grout…and a handmade walnut frame with cocobolo splines

                                            Walnut frame with cocobolo splines

The guys from Buttelwerth Stoves then came in to install the chimney and the 550 pound stove.

And the final product!!!

A wood stove fits well with my other hobby of woodworking.  The worst that can happen if I mess up a woodworking project is that the project will keep me warm for the winter!