Compost Bin

Now that Marilyn has retired, she wants to spend more time in the garden and she has been studying composting.  The order was put in to the manufacturing department (me) for a cedar compost bin with 3 compartments that she saw in a magazine.  I used SketchUp to draw the bin and made it using the drawing for dimensions.


SketchUp Drawing of Compost Bin. It has 3 compartments and the sides are removable. They can be stacked to the level of compost.

Work in Progress

Some completed posts with boards to be used for the sides.

Drilling Holes

Each guide had 7 holes for 3″ screws. 280 holes had to be drilled for the guides.

Spreading the Glue

Lots of Titebond III was used because it is waterproof. Each post was secured to the base with two 6″ screws.

Squeeze Out

I think there is enough glue so it’s time to draw the post down with screws from the bottom.

Looking Good

Almost looks like the drawing!

Delivery Vehicle

The completed bin without sides was quite heavy so I recruited the help of a neighbor to lift it onto a utility trailer for transport to the garden.

Ready for Use

In place and level, Marilyn is anxious to start composting.

Birdfeeder Project with Neighbor

I have a very nice neighbor Tom who is stuck inside this winter because his left eye quit working.  His doctor says it will return to normal but there is nothing that can be done other than let time take it’s course.  I asked if he wanted to do a small project in my wood shop to keep him from going stir crazy and he reluctantly agreed because he has no depth perception.  I promised that anything he did would be safe because his guardian angel (me), would be watching.  The project was a fly through feeder made of Cedar.  Since I had made several of these in the past, I knew that this project could be completed in about 3 hours and that Tom could perform many of the operations safely himself.  Here are a few pictures of Tom making and shaping some of the components and finally holding the completed feeder.  Tom is an avid bird feeder as I am so it was an excellent project to initiate a relationship that, hopefully, will bridge the gap between neighbor and friend.


Cross cutting

Using a compound sliding miter saw, Tom is cutting boards to length

Assembling the base

The base was made by ripping a warped 1 x 12 in half, jointing, then re-gluing and sanding flat

Gluing uprights

Gluing the uprights to the base prior to securing them with deck screws

Gluing sides

Spreading glue for attaching the sides to the base also held securely with pneumatically driven brads

Routing roof shingle

Each half of the roof is made from 3 shingles that must nest to avoid water infiltration. Here Tom is routing the notch in a shingle.

Completed feeder

Tom with his goofy eye holding the completed feeder

Turned Log Bird House

Ever wonder what to do with nice logs that you come by when someone cuts down a tree or you find in the woods? How about hollowing it out and making a nice home for our feathered friends? Here’s how this project proceeded from start to finish.

Logs selected for turning

These logs were very dry. Different diameters were selected for the top and bottom so the birdhouse would have an overhanging roof.


Drilling for screw chuck

Drilling the top for mounting on a screw chuck


Screw held by chuck

The screw is held by the chuck ready for timber to be mounted


Top mounted in chuck

Here the top is mounted and ready for turning


Truing the blank

I wanted this top to be completely round so I took off all traces of the weathered exterior of the log


Shaping the top

Shaping the top


Refining the shape

Refining the shape


Tenon for mounting

A tenon was formed to provide a place for the chuck to grab during the hollowing process


Top hollowed

The top was hollowed and a lip was formed to fit the bottom


Lets take a look

This looks like it will work


Bottom blank mounted

The bottom piece of the birdhouse was mounted between centers


Turning a tenon

A tenon was turned so the piece could be chucked


Drilling for hollowing

With the blank held by the chuck, the hollowing process begins with drilling as much material as possible using twist drills and Forstner bits


Fitting for top

The cap will fit on the diameter just turned


More drilling

Forstner bits up to 2-1/8″ were used to minimize hollowing with scrapers


Inside hollowed

The hollowing was completed using scrapers. It was then turned around and a finial decoration was added to the bottom.


Some finished bird houses

Completed bird houses with little finials turned on the bottom

The bottom was cross drilled with a 1-1/8″ Forstner bit and a perch was glued in place below it. The bottom has a small hole drilled in it to drain water. It will be fun seeing our new tenants in the early spring!

Garden Bench Project


Completed Garden Bench

I found the plans for this project on Minwax’s website. This looked like a neat little project that would beautify our yard so off to Kettle Moraine Hardwoods I went. White oak was selected for the bench parts and the entire thing was assembled with dowel joints. I really like dowel joints because, if they are done correctly, they are as strong or stronger than mortise and tenon joints, easier to machine (if you have a Dowelmax jig), and they align perfectly. Titebond III waterproof glue was used as the adhesive because the bench will live outdoors.

I made mdf patterns for some of the parts so I could easily trace the configuration without having to do multiple layout work.  The pictures tell the story about how the project proceeded.  The bench was finished with clear Thompson’s Water Seal so as it ages, it takes on a gray weathered look.  Pay particular attention to the doweling pictures because the Dowelmax jig is an amazing device.



Rough lumber before milling


Milling the first surface before planing to thickness (no my hand isn’t over the cutting head)


Planing to thickness


Dust collection is essential when jointing and planing


MDF patterns for tracing


Edge jointing before ripping operation


Band sawing thick lumber so less planing is required


Project pieces cut and labeled


Some pieces were glued to achieve proper thickness


Oscillating drum sander for smoothing band saw cuts


Drilling using the Dowelmax jig


Closeup of the Dowelmax jig


Components drilled and ready for doweling


Dowels in place ready for mating part


Each back slat had two dowels in each end


Gluing front to back

Arms were attached using stainless steel screws. The project turned out real nice and we now have a beautiful garden bench that is functional and comfortable gracing our back yard.

Landscape Timber Flower Pot


Landscaping timber drop offs

I hate to waste material left over from a project so I try to come up with an idea to use it.  When I can’t think of anything, it becomes the old standby, a flower pot!  I recently had drop offs from some landscaping timbers that fit into this category.  Using a chop saw, the timbers were cut at 45 degree angles to uniform lengths.  The table saw was fitted with a dado stack wide enough to accommodate a piece of cedar for the bottom.  The timbers were glued and cross nailed together to form squares.  Finally, the squares were stacked and doweled and nailed together to form the completed flower pot.  It will be interesting to see how long the pot lasts in the harsh outside environment because the corners are not very tight.  Oh well, if it falls apart, the junk man gets it later than sooner.


Mitering the corners



Dado stack ready for grooving bottom slot

















Cutting grooves with dado blade


















Bottom grooves cut



Drilling drain holes in bottom




















Gluing the corners



















Cross nailing the corners



















Final glue up



















Completed flower pot ready for action


8 Side Tapered Flower Pot


Flower pots with plants


Wood flower pots are very nice in appearance and each year they take on a new personality depending on their contents. I wanted an 8 sided Western Red Cedar pot about a foot tall with a 12 degree taper. Consulting compound miter tables readily available on the Internet, I determined that the correct settings were 4.56 degree miter and 22.06 degree bevel. Since I wanted to make a bunch of them, I made a couple of jigs, one with a 85.4 degree angle for the first cut (Jig1) and the other with a 99.2 degree angle for the second cut (Jig2). It is very important to use the jigs in proper order when making the parts.
These jigs allow me to cut the correct miter on both sides of each piece using a standard fence on the table saw. The other benefit is that each side can be made any length and any width, depending on what you have to work with. The first step is to rip to a uniform width, in my case about 7.5″ wide. Since I made 2 pots on this run, I cut 18 pieces 12″ in length using a stop (2 pieces were for setup and goof ups).
The table saw was set to a 22.1 degree bevel and, using the jigs, the fence was set to cut the taper so the bevel was continuous the entire length. After the first side was cut using Jig 1, I switched to Jig 2, reset the fence, and cut all the second sides.
I tried various methods of joining the sides and settled on a spline joint because it was both easy and strong. The trick is to cut the groove without touching the saw’s bevel adjustment. Simply replace the saw blade with a 1/4″ dado stack and adjust the fence to cut the groove on the edge leaving enough material on each side of the cut for strength. Here is where I burn a setup piece determining the position and depth of the dado blade. Since this is not a furniture grade project, I cut the groove deeper than the spline material to allow for ease of assembly and expansion. After a couple of months outdoors, everything warps, shrinks, cracks, etc. so why bother making it “perfect”? OK, so I cut the grooves using a push block to keep the side against the fence while applying pressure downwards to maintain depth. Since we didn’t change the saw bevel setting, the grooves will be at a perfect 90 degrees to the face of each side! Sweet huh?
Next, the splines are cut using a narrow rip jig exactly 10″ wide. If I want a 1/4″ wide spline, I set the fence at 10.25″ and safely cut the narrow pieces. It is necessary to have a zero clearance insert for this operation otherwise you risk the chance that the workpiece will be trapped between the blade and the hole in a standard insert resulting in smoke, ruined pieces and possible kickback. I use the same length for the splines as the sides on the uncut blank, so the splines are a tad short when inserted into the tapered dado but, like I said earlier, this isn’t fine furniture. Using waterproof glue, the splines are glued in place to produce 1/4 assemblies. How do you hold the pieces in position while the glue sets? Again, I made another jig by simply assembling a piece and glue a couple of boards to a piece of plywood with the same taper. We’re not trying to clamp the edges together, but rather hold the pieces together while the glue sets in the spline. Once the glue sets on the jig, simply slide the pieces in the taper and the jig holds the sides in position.
Brutal outdoor conditions will separate the joints anyway, so it’s not necessary to make each edge perfectly aligned so long as the spline has sufficient glue. The jig works great in achieving this objective. After the sides are joined 2 each, next join the 2 assemblies to make a new assembly with 4 sides. The 4 sides will lay on a flat surface when the glue dries without any additional fixturing. Finally, glue the two halves together and use a band clamp to draw them tight. Not much pressure is necessary because the glue joint in the splines is what gives the flower pot it’s strength and stability. Make sure the final glue up is done on a flat surface.
Almost done! The pot needs a bottom that will drain excess water. If necessary glue up stock to achieve a width about an inch wider than the opening in the bottom of the pot. Cut the bottom square an inch oversize. Next, set the saw blade to a 12 degree bevel and cut the square so the smallest part of the taper is about 1/2″ longer than the opening at the bottom of the pot. Layout and cut the corners of the square to make an octagon, again with a 12 degree bevel. Drill about 5 holes 1/2″ diameter in the bottom for water drainage and drop the octagon piece in the pot. It should self align and not drop through because of the tapered beveled edges. Once you’re happy with the fit, apply glue to the edges of the bottom, drop into place and add a few brads to keep everything in place. I stain the pots with a waterproof deck finish for appearance. Add some rocks, soil and flowers to bring the pot to life!


Jigs for cutting tapers


Cutting boards to length using a stop


Setting a 22.1 degree bevel


Positioning fence for first cut. Note that the part is positioned to take advantage of the full width of the board. Make the cut, leave the same side up and rotate 180 degrees and position the bevel against Jig 2.


Positioning fence for second cut. Once the blade is positioned to take advantage of the full width of the board, the part is brought to the front of the saw and cut using Jig 2.


Setting dado blade to cut groove


Cutting groove


Ripping 1/4″ splines using a narrow rip jig


Applying glue to groove


Applying glue to spline


Jig for holding sides together while glue sets


Gluing jig and completed sub-assemblies


Half sub-assemblies while glue dries


Completed assembly with band clamps


Make bottom 1″ wider than measured opening


Verifying taper angle


Bottom piece cut and drilled


Bottom is glued and pinned


Applying waterproof stain