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Feature Articles

A Side Gate

…with appreciation to the Katz bros.

It all started when my wife decided we needed a new gate on the side of the house. The existing gate worked, but being 20 years old, it needed more than just a facelift—it needed a structural lift, too. I’m sure you know what I mean!

Linda found a design on the Internet—an Arts and Crafts gate with a cloud lift for the top rail (you can guess where she found that!). I had never made one before but have faced a lot of tougher challenges in my life. Read the full article…

Woodcarving—Where the Past Meets the Present

I love how people can’t resist jumping to conclusions—as if they can’t live without a firm judgment, a conclusion to every question, no matter what that judgment is.

For instance, people always ask me what I do. I tell them I’m a musician. Honest. And every time I say that, without exception, I’m asked: “Can you make a living at that?”

No, I can’t. Few musicians can. But I make a good living as a woodcarver. And I love my work. When I tell people that, they always respond with shock, as if there’s no connection between music and wood. Read the full article…

Curved Stairs: Part Two

In part one of this article, I explained that if you’ve built a straight stairway or two then you’ve already mastered most of the skills you will need to build a curved stairway. Tasks like setting hardwood treads, installing newel posts, and assembling the handrail parts are all very similar. There are really only a few things about a curved stairway that are unique. First is creating the curved skirt boards, second is making the tapered treads to fit your custom stairway, and finally bending the curved handrail to follow the rise and run of your stairway. There are a few tricks to learn along the way, but I’m certain that once we have walked through it, you’ll realize there’s no mystery—just a little extra work. Read the full article…

My Living Room Wall: Part 2

In “My Living Room Wall: Part 1,” I documented the design concepts, the firewood box, and the stone mantel-shelf; now we’re onto the cabinets and shelves.

Installing the tops and trim, the face frames and doors, as well as the tapered columns, took a lot of thought and a lot of time. Other than baseboard molding, I didn’t want to install any scribe molding or trim on top of the face frames, so the wood tops had to go in first. After calling around to a few local lumber mills, I found two 8/4 x 14-in. pieces of old growth Douglas fir, one 16-ft. long, one 14-ft. long. I bought them both: one advantage—besides world-class steelhead fishing—to living in Southern Oregon. Read the full article…

My Living Room Wall: Part 1

I’m fortunate not to be a packrat. I know many people who are. My father would never throw away anything! Which is probably one reason I’m so averse to saving stuff. I’ve even thrown away a few things I had to buy again! But there is one thing I’ve always had a problem with—books. My entire life, I’ve collected books. In fact, I still have most of my favorite first reads from when I was a kid. Read the full article…

Turning Stair Balusters

Design, Tools, & Lathe Work

My wife, Helen, is a grammar school teacher—third and fourth grades. For over twenty years, every weekday evening, as soon as dinner is finished, Helen carries a pile of papers to the dinner table and sets about grading each one, with diligence and care, because in the end—regardless of the ruling political party or that year’s favorite flavor of curriculum—Helen’s responsibility is to the children, her students.

Carpenters have a similar responsibility—though assuredly not one with such monumental impact. Read the full article…

Curved Stairs: No Mystery, Just Simple Math

Part One: Framing

I can still remember the first time I worked on a job with a curved stairway. By the time I got there it was sheet rocked with temporary treads. Up to that point I had built several straight stairs and even one or two that hit a landing and changed directions, but this curved thing was a complete mystery. The guys who had worked there the whole time shared just enough to really get me interested but they weren’t giving up many of their secrets. I made up my mind that if they could do it so could I. Read the full article…

Challenging Eave Returns

Hard lessons from a tough winter

It was the dead of winter in 2014, and the roller coaster that I own (better known as Megna Building & Remodeling, a residential remodeling company in NJ) had dipped down into a slow, flat spot on the tracks of my business. Feet of snow covered the land where excavators awaited the thaw so that work could begin and money could flow. But let’s rewind a few months to where this story begins. Read the full article…

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