Repairing an Early Victorian Table

We found this early Victorian table at Mary Catherine’s in the Short North of Columbus, and had to bring it home. It looks like mahogany, but the top was water stained, and one of the beautiful brass brackets on the lower shelf was missing screws; but the price was right, and I  was pretty sure I could get the wobble out with a little work.

Once home and flipped over, I found the aprons had come loose all around under the top. A little wood glue and clamping pulled those back together easily. The pieces slid right out, with a little careful effort, and keeping the glue only on the tenons will prevent splitting as the piece moves with changes in temperature and humidity.

Brass screws are a pain, but matching the parts is important to the look of the piece. Replacing the missing screws with new round headed brass screws means pre-drilling the holes to keep from breaking off the soft screws. You have to be careful driving them in, mahogany works nicely, but is a tough wood.

The last fix was a surprise, I found one of the screws had pulled out of the top. Nothing too difficult to fix though. I drilled out and plugged the old hole in the top with a 5/16″ dowel rod, glued it in, and replaced the original screw, good as new!

Sanding down the top was a tough decision, but the water marks were pretty unsightly, even though they don’t show up well in the pictures. A light pass with some 220 grit on a random orbit sander took down the remaining finish and water stains. I didn’t sand too far though, those scratches and divots are part of the character in old furniture. Nothing old should look new, the age is a sign of beauty!

Just a light coat of natural colored Danish Oil and a polish with finishing wax brought the color back to a beautiful shine. Now, I just need to come up with an appropriate medallion to patch the gap in the molding. It wasn’t part of the original design, but I think a little embellishment here would add another interesting detail to the table.

In the mean time, we put this table to use, in to our living room, holding up a jade tree… at least until we decide to keep it or sell it!



Building an Assembly Table Upgrade

It was time to replace my old ‘assembly table’… I had been using two pieces of a desk that I pulled out of a dumpster in college, butted up to each other and set on two sawhorses. It was flat, heavy and the surface cleaned up easily from glue, stain and finish drips. But, progress marches on and I needed something slightly bigger and at a more usable height.


Nothing fancy for the replacement. I built the replacement using 2×3 lumber for the legs, 1×4 pine to rim the work surface, and 1/2″ plywood for the top and shelf. I pre-cut all the boards and sheet at the hardware store to 6′ length, so it would fit in the back of my Subaru. The top is 29″ deep, and the shelf is 19″ wide. Dimensions were picked to get both pieces out of a single sheet of plywood.


First step was to build the carcass. Using the Kreg Pocket Screw jig, I build up the legs and stretchers to match the work surface dimensions I wanted. The table top will sits at 31″ high, so the legs are 30.5″ long. The depth of the carcass is 22″ deep to nest inside the 1×4 frame on the top. Overall length of the frame is 65″ for the same reason.


To build the top, I attached 1×4 pine around the perimeter of my piece of plywood, using construction adhesive and 3/4″ #8 wood screws.


Attaching the top is simple, more adhesive and screws through the top and into the stretchers. To reinforce the center of the work surface, I added ribs between the stretchers using more 2×3 lumber that I ripped down the middle. The bottom shelf is attached uing cleats and ribs to add support. This way, the shelf sits inside the bottom stretchers instead of on top.


Finished and ready for duty. It’s certainly not a heavy duty table, but serves its purpose for glue ups and finishing work. The flange round the outside gives good purchase for clamping, the only improvement I would make is to add an apron for light duty work.


Need something more robust? Check out these books from Popular Woodworking!




West Village Bistro Butcher Boards

In 2014, I had the privilege of building a set of cutting board for a restaurant on Greenwich Avenue, in West Village, New York, Monument Lane. It was the first time a product would be used in a commercial setting, something I was both excited for and nervous about, specifically that wood boards just can’t hold up to industrial dishwashers. In talking with the owner, I was confident they understood how to care for a sold wood board.


Six boards were ordered, an I used all clear hardwoods with closed grain: walnut, maple and cherry. Switching from one-off builds to small scale production was a lot more effective than I had been prior, something I’ve carried over: if you’re going to make one, make two… at least.

Finish was the same blend I use for all my boards: mineral oil and paraffin wax. I keep the beeswax out now because of concerns some have raised about keeping cookware vegan. Paraffin and mineral oil won’t go rancid and provide more than enough protection for a cutting board if they are cared for. Using a heat gun or hair dryer can help drive the oil into the wood.

Don’t ever put a board in the dishwasher. Most of the time they wash up perfectly with warm water and a damp rag; small amounts of soap can be used. Every six months or so, a coat of mineral oil with a dry cloth will keep a hardwood cutting board in shape for a lifetime.

Creeping on Monument Lane’s Instagram, I was absolutely thrilled to see these still in circulation after more than a year of use!



Vintage Paper from Geneva, Ohio

Over Thanksgiving weekend, my wife and I visited my Grandfather and Uncle. My Uncle owns and antiques store, Broadway Antiques, in Geneva, Ohio. The shop building has had many lives. Most recently a print shop, and before that a repair shop for horse tack.


One of my favorite things to do when I visit is rummage through some of the old print shop leftovers. Boxes of signage, ledgers, greeting cards and napkins are always a joy to look at. This time, I talked my uncle into letting me take home some of the pieces that I thought I’d have luck selling back in Columbus!

I’m trying out some of this vintage ephemera, and they are listed in my Etsy shop.

Read more about the history of Geneva: