Follow me!

I know you’re inundated with everything I post, but I thought I’d share all the possible ways you can follow what I’m doing and what I post.

Facebook –
I post many things throughout the day, so it’s probably the best place to keep up.

YouTube –
Sketch of the Day animations, Hey Chief! episodes, reviews, tips, and projects

Instagram –
I’m late to the game on this, but I do post some unique images.

Twitter –
Just about everything I post across multiple channels shows up here.

Google+ –
I’m late in adopted this as well, but it’s interconnected with my YouTube channel.

Pinterest –
You can find every Sketch of the Day post here, as well as most of my plans and videos.

Houzz –
Projects, tips, and some completed installations/projects for others.

Make Some Sawdust!


Chief’s Shop Quick Look: Kreg Jig HD

Kreg is launching an update to its pocket hole jig in the form of a beefier system for 1 1/2-inch and larger stock.

The Kreg Jig HD is a completely new pocket hole system that bores a larger hole and uses larger screws that Kreg says results in a joint that is 50 percent stronger than previous pocket hole joinery.

Out of the box it’s easy to see the difference. The drill bit is much larger in diameter (25 percent bigger).

And of course, the hole diameter drilled is significantly bigger.

Which accommodate the larger HD screws.

It comes with a quick-start guide describing assembly. The stop block itself requires no hardware – it simply slides in place (with a bit of encouragement).

There are two methods shone for setting the stop collar on the bit. One simply indicates spacing the collar 4 3/4″ from the bit shoulder, the other recommends inserting the bit fully into the jig and placing a nickel (1/16″ space) between the end of the bit and the stop block. I found the nickel spacer to cause the bit to drill too deep.

I also checked the bit against my other Kreg Jig for depth for 1 1/2-inch stock and found the 4 3/4″ recommendation to match.

Driving the larger screws worked fine. I did torque up a bit more than I would for the regular 2 1/2-inch screws, but not by a drastic amount. They’re self-tapping screws, so no surprise there. They do require a #3 square drive bit, which is included).

Kreg sees this new jig (and screws) being used for larger dimension outdoor projects, specifically calling out rail to post connections (2×4 to 4×4), drilling the holes on either the 2x or 4x material. They also recommend it for outdoor furniture and workbenches.

One caveat: Included in the packaging is a yellow slip of paper recommending you check with local building codes before using the jig to building load bearing structures (interior walls, deck railings, etc.).

I plan to design and build some large outdoor projects using the new HD – in fact I’ve a few in the hopper that could probably benefit from these stronger screws. At the least, I think I’d be able to use fewer screws on certain joints.


Compatible with Kreg Jig and Kreg Jig Master System bases (stop block must be removed)

Price: Jig $59.99, 35 HD screws $4.49, 125 HD screws $19.99

Jig package includes: jig and stop block, drill bit and stop collar, #3 square drive bit, 10 screws

Availability: Summer 2012

Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm  Comments (7)  

Hats In The Shop

My baseball hat collection is big enough that I could wear a different each day for a month, yet I still keep getting new ones. Sure, there are few that get retired, and probably A LOT that need to be taken out of circulation.

I wear a hat nearly every second I’m in the shop, unless I’m in certain assembly situations, and even then I’m more likely just to simply turn it around. Hats serve as my sweat band, my head warmer, and a shelf (the bill) for dust masks and/or safety glasses.

In my videos you’ve probably seen one hat in particular – my Chief’s Shop logo hat. It has been my primary/favorite hat for the past year or so. If it’s caught your fancy, then you’re in luck because I know have several available.

Click on the image below to go to my Store page, where you can order one for $15, which includes shipping (U.S. residents). If you’re fan from a far away land and want one, we can work out arrangements.

Published in: on May 7, 2012 at 8:58 pm  Comments (1)  

Beginner Power Tools: The Second Round

In my first Beginner Power Tools blog, I described the first three woodworking power tools I believe beginners should purchase. Now I’m on to the next three tools I recommend for beginners to purchase.

Circular Saw

You may think of this as more of a jobsite tool for carpenters framing houses, or weekend warriers building sheds or framing out remodels, but circular saws come in handy expecially with sheet goods (plywood, mdf).

With a straight edge guide, you can do most things that can be done with a table saw, which is why I think it’s a good tool from which to transition to a table saw. However, it’s often intimidating to folks, because of the volume of noise it produces, and because of the exposed blade. Modern circular saws have a blade cover that stays in place if the saw were to be turned on when not cutting. The cover is forced out of the way as a cut is being made (or if the user physically moves it out of the way). It has a spring tensioner, so the cover will swing back in place.

A circular saw will save you some money in the long term, as you begin making projects out of plywood, which is cheaper than solid wood in most cases.

I recommend a quality corded model at first before picking up a cordless option. It’ll be less expensive as well. You’ll find in your research references to the drive system in these saws. No need to pay too much attention to that for your first saw. Just go with a solid mid-range saw in your price range.


Love those detailed edges on table tops and shelves? The mighty router is responsible.

Not only can it give your work an expert-looking detail, it can also help you in your joinery. With a straight cutting bit, you can create grooves and dadoes, which are essentially channels where a mating part meets or rests. Look at a few solid wood bookcases – see any notches where the shelves rest in the side? There’s your dado. There are plenty of other joinery methods as well, including the dovetail, but that’s for another discussion.

With a good range of router bits, you can create tons of distinct profiles and edges to your work, or even mill your own trim and moulding.

A router will take some getting used to – it’s a lot of power in your hands – but with enough practice and attention to safety, you’ll be able to master it in a short time.

If you’re looking to create edge details primarily, then a trim router might be your best bet. It’s smaller and lighter than a standard router and can be slightly cheaper.

Miter Saw

Or chop saw, as many folks refer to this tool. This probably gets more use than any other saw in my shop, as it takes care of most of my cross cutting and miter cuts.

This saw may intimidate more than a circular saw in that the blade is very exposed during the cut. You’re generally safe in keeping your hands at least six inches away from the blade as you hold a board in place while cutting, but every situation varies. That being said, be sure to clamp your work piece in place as you learn to cut on the miter saw. Most models include some sort of clamping mechanism on the saw itself.

The magic is in the miter cuts (angles). Sure, you could use a miter box and hand saw, but you’ll be limited to the angles you cut, and you’ll exhaust yourself cutting anything larger then trim.

You’ll do fine with a 10-inch compound model (cuts angles on two planes). No need to worry with a sliding model for your first one – you can save some money there. Sure, you’d have a wider capacity cut, but you can crosscut wide pieces with a circular saw when you need to.

Before you purchase any tool, make sure you research them thoroughly by looking for reviews and asking user opinions on social networks.

Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Beginner Power Tools: The First Three

Everybody likes lists and I’m often asked by beginners which power tools they should get first – so here I’ve assembled a rundown of the three power tools I think beginners can start with comfortably and for the least amount of money.


No surprise here. Every house and apartment should at least have a drill, if no other power tool. Most are used for assembly of store-bought pieces of furniture, or various other “some assembly required” household items. Drilling pilot holes for screws is a must-have skill for many beginner-level projects. With additional jigs, such as a pocket hole jig, a drill can help a beginner gain confidence in pursuing more woodworking adventures.

Drills are relatively inexpensive, especially chorded and lower voltage battery models. Just know that the lower the price, the lower the quality. If you’re just getting started, I’d say go for one that’s priced somewhere in the middle of the pack. Be sure to pick up a good bit starter kit, with several drill bit sizes (from 1/16- to 1/2-inch) and driver bits.

Jig Saw

Arguably the first saw most people use learn to use. Of course it gets used most in cutting curves, but with a straightedge guide you can make adequate cross cuts (cutting across a board to length) for most projects. They’re not as powerful or effective as a circular saw for this task, but if you’re planning only to get by with one power saw to start, a jig saw would be it. Some models allow for the base plate to tilt, which would allow you to cut bevels. I don’t recommend jig saws for trying to rip (cutting down the entire length of a board to result in a more narrow piece).

With the right blades, you can cut through metal, plastic, and wood. Make sure you purchase a good assortment of blades.


Sanding is frustrating, especially for beginners when they realize how much time it takes to get a smooth surface. A power sander beats sanding by hand for sure, but it can also help shape a project.

Take corners for example. You could use a power sander to roundover a corner or an edge to add a softer look (and reduce a potentially sharp hazard). It might not be as perfect as using a router with a roundover bit, but you’ll get an adequate job done and not have to use another tool.

Here I’d recommend two types: a detail sander and a random orbit sander (ROS). If you can only get one, go for the detail sander. It will allow you to sand larger surfaces (but will take longer than an ROS), but it will include attachments that will allow you to sand hard to reach and unique surfaces. Be sure to get replacement sanding pads in various grits (roughness), from 60 grit (which will remove wood quickly and will be rough) to 180 or 220 grit (for creating a smooth finish).

Before you purchase a tool, make sure you research them thoroughly by looking for reviews and asking user opinions on social networks.

Buy a table saw now while you can still afford it

If you keep up with woodworking tools, you’ve probably heard by now about the Consumer Product Safety Commission looking into ways table saws can be made safer. This stems from a lawsuit filed by an individual who was hurt after using a table saw that had all of its safety devices removed.
I’m upset by this on many levels. First of all, if you remove all the safety gear (which is very good nowadays) from your table saw, and don’t observe basic safety rules, you deserve what you get. Second, there are lots of aftermarket jigs (not to mention shop-made jigs you can do yourself) that make things safer. Third, if you’re too dumb to figure out that you need to keep your digits away from a spinning saw blade, well…you don’t need to be running a saw. So in my opinion, this was frivolous lawsuit that should have never happened, much less have been won.
Now, because this person wasn’t smart or safe, future table saw purchasers will suffer. I’ll go ahead and predict that the CPSC will require more safety gear on table saws. And pretty much the only other thing you can do is add SawStop technology. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s essentially a technology that breaks a circuit (nearly instantaneously) when flesh comes in contact with a saw blade. (The demos are real cute – they use a hot dog as a finger surrogate.) The broken circuit, if you will, disengages the saw and if you happen to have come in contact with the blade you’re left with a minor cut, rather than missing a digit. Yes, it’s good technology. It’s been out a few years and I’m sure countless woodworkers and carpenters have intact hands that otherwise would not. I’m all for it.
What I’m not for is requiring all table saws to have it. Why? It’ll add hundreds of dollars to the cost of every table saw, no matter what level. Why is this bad? You pretty much take certain woodworking out of reach for average people because they won’t be able to afford a table saw. I agree, fingers are priceless. I won’t argue that. But for the hobbyist, it’s just not a justifiable expense. For a pro shop, it is.
And I don’t think this will stop with table saws. Lawsuits will follow for other tools where the blade is exposed (miter/chop saws, circular saws, etc.), which will in turn push the CPSC into action.
I’m not an alarmist, just a realist. And I don’t think this is a good thing.
Published in: on October 14, 2011 at 7:00 am  Comments (1)  

Pocket Hole Joinery

Get ready for the Simple Woodworking Bench project.

The bench project is assembled using nothing but pocket hole screws, which are all hidden underneath and inside. You won’t be able to see any of the screw holes once the project is assembled.

What is pocket hole joinery? Big pilot holes drilled at an angle through which self-tapping screws (they bore through wood on their own) drive into an adjoinery piece of wood. The pocket hole is essentially a guide guide hole for the screw. It’s pretty much the same technique as toe-nailing (nails hammered at an angle), which is how most stud framing is done – yep, the walls of your home.

This bench is built using 1x stock, which measures 3/4″ thick. For that, you’ll need 1 1/4″ screws. And, since the lumber is a hardwood (poplar), you’ll need fine thread 1 1/4″ screws.

Don’t have a pocket hole jig? Run down to Lowe’s to get one – they’re the largest retailer carrying it. There are a couple of versions available – the mini jig is about $20 (item #205297), a mid-level jig is about $40 (item # 255535), the next leve jig is about $100 (item #142733), and the top jig (which is a combination kit) is about $140 (item #168410).  I also recommend you pick up a right angle clamp –  #194999 – it’s about $28, but well worth it because it’s essentially a third hand. Go to and type in those item numbers in the search box and you’ll see them.

This video, which is pulled from the full video on building the bench, shows you the basics of pocket hole joinery.  Note: The jig you see here is an older version, but it works on exactly the same principle.

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

What’s The Hurry? Learn To Go Slow

I think I’ve heard old timers (you know who you are) complain more about younger woodworkers rushing through projects than any other complaint they may have about “those whippersnappers” who’ve taken up the craft.

The one tool that seems to bother them most is the band saw-whippersnappers seem to try to force the wood past the blade so fast that they are getting horrible jagged cuts that take up any time saved by having to be sanded, and sanded, and sanded…

I’m reminded of this every time I think back to one project. In the process of making this project, I cut through some 2x red oak (made from laminated 1x) and used both the band saw and jigsaw. Now, being between the age of a whippersnapper and an old timer I have the characteristics of both – the impatience of youth, yet the smarts to know better. Still, I made the mistake a time or two of rushing when using the band saw, which is especially a problem with the combination of a hardwood that is 1 1/2 inches thick. Fortunately, I only had to make the mistake twice before I settled down and took my sweet time.

Still, I had to work over a particularly long arc I cut on two parts (my two mistakes), so the belt sander came out and did its duty for a while, costing me much more time than I saved by rushing earlier.

The lesson: Take your time to do it right and do it carefully.

Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Study Your Lumber

While working on a project recently, I realized there is a skill I’ve developed that I pretty much take for granted. At this point, I don’t give a second thought to how I select a piece of lumber for a particular part in a project, other than its nominal dimension. 

But really, I do. When I’m at the store, I start my selection process. I’m looking for color, grain pattern, and any twists, wanes, or cups in the wood. Yeah, I’m that guy blocking the aisle while holding one end of a board at eye level, the other eye closed. I’m on autopilot then. 

When I’m in the shop, looking at the next part in my cut list, I’m already scanning the pile sitting before me, calculating which end (or middle sometimes) of the board I’m going to use. Autopilot again. 

Before I cut the piece, I’m analyzing grain pattern, and determining which face will be on the inside, or outside of the project. I’m looking for any imperfection that I either want to hide, or highlight, in the project. 

Perfect example. I wanted to use part of a board that had a nice wavy grain pattern, but a knot was prominent. By slightly adjusting where I cut (I had enough wiggle room on the stock) I was able to highlight the pattern, yet hide the knot. How? About 1 1/4″ of the part was going to be hidden by another part, so I adjusted the cut line to just conceal the knot, yet reveal the grain pattern I wanted. Sounds like I spent a long time analyzing that, but really it was just a couple of seconds. 

The point is, if you get into the practice of really studying the lumber you’re working with, and know the nuances of the project you’re building, you’ll be able to get great results without pulling out your hair.

Published in: on April 17, 2010 at 9:20 pm  Comments (4)  

Torque Down!

That little dial near the end of your drill that has the little numbers and then the symbol that looks like a drill bit. You know you’re supposed to use that, right? 

I’m no longer surprised when I find people who use their drill/driver without changing the setting (mainly because I come across SO many people who do it). They both drill and drive without changing that little dial. The clutch, as it’s called, basically keeps the drill from rotating once it reaches a certain resistance. Ever hear that clicking sound coming from a drill when watching home improvement shows? There you go. 

You should only set your drill/driver’s clutch strong enough to drive screws to the desired point – in most cases, slightly below the surface of the wood or whatever material is in your project. Farther is not necessarily better in this case. Over driving screws can lead to splitting a project part, which then gives you a weaker assembly. You might not even see the split, so be careful. You can even snap off the heads of screws by having the clutch set too high! 

When drilling, be sure to set the tool’s clutch to the highest setting. Most drills now have a little symbol in the shape of a drill bit at this setting. That gives your drill the maximum torque. With cordless drills, the higher the volts, the more torque (18v will give you more than 12v). 

One side note on drilling – when making a pilot hole (some people call this pre-drilling for a screw) be sure to drill with a bit that is the size of the shank of the screw, not the threads. 

Published in: on April 12, 2010 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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