Woodlearner has moved to JOHNNYAWILLIAMS.COM

August 2, 2012

First, the bad news: I think that it’s time to terminate this little blog. It was a blast while it lasted, but my most recent update was over two years ago. So consider this post the last rites. But fret not Woodlearner-ites…all blogs go to heaven.

Besides, there’s good news too: I just launched johnnyawilliams.com, a sweet new site to promote my furniture business. There’s a proper portfolio of my latest work with plenty of pictures. Oh, and a bit of blogging too.

And now for two years of missed updates in six sentences: I wrote my last article for Apartment Therapy on finishing the red barn renovation! I moved to California to attend the College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking program! I even spoke at graduation! I moved back home to Connecticut! I launched johnnyawilliams.com! I started using exclamation points!

In conclusion, all is swell. Thanks for your support. Be happy in your work. I couldn’t be happier in mine.

– Johnny aka Woodlearner


The Chronicles of Barn-ia

March 13, 2010

Winter may be long and dreary, but it needn’t make you hibernate. With fewer distractions (read: warm nights and cold margaritas), the grey season is prime time to tackle big projects. Late last year, my Mum and I did just that, hiring a contractor to renovate our old red barn into a usable workshop space. Months later, as we prepare to spring forward, I’m glad to share some pictures of our winter progress.

For those of you dying for more details of the renovation, check out my weekly “Woodwise” column on Apartment Therapy. So far, I’ve covered everything from buying a woodstove to framing the interior walls. Yes, I’ve been cheating on Woodlearner with a more popular blog (call it “blog-dultery”) — but that doesn’t mean I’m calling it quits here. Spring is shaping up to be busy season with many reasons to write!

Before the big clean

‘Da lumber delivery

Installing the beefy beams

Sealing the cinder block walls

Our stud-ly new framing

Upstairs laying the plywood subfloor

Prepping the barn for new siding

My new old workbench

December 9, 2009

A month ago, I popped by my Dad’s to watch some Saturday morning footie. After the game (Arsenal wrecked Wigan 4-0), he told me of his plans to demolish a rickety old shed out back and asked if I’d like to dig around inside beforehand. It seems the previous owner was a cabinet maker and the weathered outbuilding was once his workshop. Expecting to find some old tools, I agreed – what I found was far better than any rusty hand plane. Sitting alongside one of the walls (I hesitate to call it a wall, because you could walk right through it), was a ten foot long work bench! My Pops had just assumed the bench, all covered in leaves and dirt and roof, was unusable. I took one look at it and fell in love with its roughhewn charm and splintery goodness.

This past Monday, my buddy Ben and I rented a pickup truck and hauled the heavy bench back to the barn. As it stands (or wobbles in this case) the bench needs a bit of work. I’ll have to build a new set of legs, detach the old vice (the only rusty treasure I found that day) and sand down the bench top. But as Ben said, if I’m not up to those tasks, I should probably find a new line of work. As he and I unloaded the unwieldy table off the truck, I caught a glimpse of what my future workshop will look like. I can only imagine how great it will look when my first equipment shipment arrives…tomorrow! Updates on that soon!

Other than drinking, this is my favorite vice.

This bench has mad soul yo!

Tools, glorious tools!

October 28, 2009


Maintaining your blog is a just like exercising – a week-long break turns into a month then two, until all of a sudden, you’re bookmarking recipes for something called “caramel pie” and avoiding your site entirely. But I’ve had my break (and eaten it too) and I’m dying to show you my trove of shiny new tools!

  1. Peltor H10A Noise Canceling Earmuffs – In a noisy shop, a good pair of muffs is an absolute must. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Lie Nielsen Dovetail Saw – This saw is to hand-cut joinery as Excalibur is to fighting dragons.
  3. Lie Nielsen Block Plane – After “borrowing” (read: repossessing) this tool from my bench-mate John all summer, I finally sprung for one of my own. It’s the little plane that could…and did…and will forever.
  4. Starrett 4” Sliding Rule Square – This tiny tool is hugely helpful in marking joinery, and as I found out today, laying out your bathroom curtains squarely.
  5. Makita BDF452HW 18V Compact Lithium-Ion Cordless 1/2-Inch Driver-Drill – Fine Woodworking knows best – they just rated this drill top dog among its 18v cordless competitors. It has a built-in LED light, a great hand-feel and (most importantly) a stylish aqua carrying case. Drilling has never been so fabulous!

Now if only I had a top-notch workshop to use these top-notch tools in! (Rest assured, I’m working on that and I’ll keep you posted in the coming weeks.)

10 things I learned about me

September 12, 2009

drawer dovetails

Not since elementary school do I remember feeling so sad to see a summer end. After rushing to finish my project, rushing to pack and rushing to make it to my bro’s wedding, I’ve finally had some time to reflect on the last 12 weeks. As I told the groomsmen, making furniture up in Maine was fun, but making friends was funner. So to all my teachers and classmates, I thank you. Your encouragement elevated me more than you can understand. The following list of things I learned this summer will hopefully hit home.

  1. The first rule of wood school is “wood moves.” The second rule of wood school is “WOOD MOVES!” Seasonal expansion and contraction can make or break a piece. More often it’ll just leave your drawers jammed shut.
  2. Working with your hands takes brains. Woodworking is a test of your patience, your perseverance and your problem solving skills. Oh, and there are fractions involved too.
  3. When your work isn’t working out, walk away. For your piece’s sake, take a break. Do whatever you have to do to clear your head. My method is a Margarita.
  4. Before I was a woodworker, I was a perfectionist. One week into woodschool, I learned that perfection is for suckers. That said, never lower your standards, just keep your goals realistic. And remember, mistakes are just “design features.”
  5. Oily rags can spontaneously combust. Don’t leave them lying your shop. No joke.
  6. Chattoyance is my new favorite word. It describes the luster that certain wood figure lets off. It will likely be my first child’s name.
  7. Lobster is awesome and all, but for god’s sake Mainers, put something other than butter on it!
  8. I know two people who have set off a Saw Stop table saw. Somehow, both times, the saw was to blame ; )
  9. Woodworking is an endless sexual innuendo. The phrase “That’s what she said,” is applicable in 99% of woodworking conversations.
  10. Oh yeah, and at some point, I learned how to make furniture.

I’m back in Maine this week taking a quick course on woodturning. I’ll be studying under Alan Lacer, one of turning’s true masters. I’ll report back later this week…

I did it

September 2, 2009

johnny williams television entry stand

After an emotional week of all-nighters and hard goodbyes, it’s best if I let the picture speak for itself.

Back to packing up – I’ll post more pictures and details once I’m home.

Been too busy to blog!

August 26, 2009

johnny williams furniture

Update on our frantic final week coming soon!