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The glorious thing about being self-sufficient is that you can usually figure out ways to create what you need. My latest need arose after a bad case of Burning Thighs Syndrome, a malady caused by sitting on the couch typing on a laptop computer. Christopher Schwarz has helped many of us solve some pretty frustrating problems over the years.
Each generation, a new technology in woodworking enables us to work faster, with more precision and more creativity. You can fine-tune the depth-of-cut however you wish, but think of it as having three levels: shallow, medium and deep. Lots of folks have bought a CNC laser for engraving things like nametags, keychains and other quickly personalized trinkets. Cutting deeper into the wood with a laser creates a threedimensional eff ect, similar to lowrelief carving. On the software side, the Epilog is designed to empower even a novice computer user to get started creating quickly. Inlay: Using pattern cutting and relief carving techniques, the Epilog can cut out an inlay and the recess in which it fi ts.
American Woodworker magazine was acquired by F+W Media (parent company of Popular Woodworking) in 2014.
Start by ripping a 16″-wide panel from which you’ll cut both side pieces, then cut them to length. Before cutting the side profiles with your jigsaw, examine your stock to choose the best outside face. Then grab your rasp and some #120-grit sandpaper to clean up all your jigsaw cuts and you’re almost ready for assembly. To assemble, start by placing the benchtop on two 2″ blocks of scrap with the pocket holes facing up.
Next, locate the center of the benchtop and clamp a block in place to keep the center divider square as you drive the screws. To attach the back, flip the bench forward so it is lying on its face, flush the back panel to the top of the sides, then drive home the pocket screws.
To match my bed, I wanted this bench to have the contemporary finish that, according to Editor Christopher Schwarz, “all the kids love these days.” The goal was to have a dark mahogany look with a touch of grain showing through, while still masking the plys on the exposed edges.
It sounds like a lot to accomplish, but heavily thinned latex enamel paint works perfectly. After that, apply two coats of a glossy wiping varnish, sanding with #320 grit between the coats.
Adapted from an 1840s piece, this canted wall box is scaled up from the one you’ll find in John A. First, cut the two sides to length with your miter saw, then draw the side pattern on one piece.
While you can certainly cut the shelves and bottom to depth according to the cut list, it’s beneficial to first cut them a little oversized (the shelves should for now extend past the front of the piece), then do a dry fit of your pieces as shown in the picture at left, and carefully mark the final size.
If you’ve perused the pages of our sister publication, Woodworking Magazine, you might have seen this piece in the Spring 2005 issue. For this piece, we eliminated the complicated shelf joinery, and we adjusted a few sizes to better accommodate the lumber dimensions found at home centers. Next, instead of finding the appropriate radius with a trammel, bend a ruler or thin stick to create the curve. One support brace fits tight to the bottom edge of each shelf and flush with the back edge of the bookcase. With the construction complete, take the time to knock off any sharp edges (especially around the handle area) and sand the piece to #120 grit. Glen is a senior editor of this magazine, the author of several woodworking books and the host of several woodworking DVDs. Glen Huey is a former managing editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, a period furniture maker and author of numerous woodworking books, videos and magazine articles. Woodworking Projects shows the absolute beginner how to create twenty quality furniture projects with a modest kit of tools in less than two days of shop time while using only materials that are available at any home center. With my quadriceps performing as heat sinks for the laptop’s toiling battery, I had the hottest legs in Canada. Carbide-tipped bits and a whole new set of portable power tools, for example, have improved how we work and what we build.
When Epilog, a maker of CNC lasers, asked me to try out the Helix , a mid-size machine from the Legend Elite series, I jumped at the chance. They correspond to three diff erent applications: engraving, relief carving and pattern cutting. After you’ve set up your project in Corel Draw, the software included with the Epilog (which can be used with a wide variety of graphic-editing programs), you hit print and bring up a print driver screen, which Eplilog refers to as the dashboard (Photo 2). The major diff erences between the lines are capacity (the size and depth of the bed), power (expressed in watts) and resolution (dots per square inch). But it can be the foundation of a profi table small business or the tool that propels your woodworking to an entirely new level.

The laser beam produces smoke and fumes, so you’ll also need an external exhaust system or a portable fi ltration unit.
Ever since I picked up a king-size bed at a liquidation sale, I wanted a matching bench to hold my shoes at the foot of the bed. Using your circular saw and a clamped-down straightedge jig to guide the cut, begin ripping your lumber. With plywood it is more than likely that you’ll have patches in several places; so make sure these will not be exposed.
A clamped block ensures the center divider remains straight as you drive the pocket screws. Prepare for Pocket Screws To make assembly a breeze, it’s a good idea to cut all your pocket-screw holes in advance. Clamping these scrap blocks to the side panels provides a square platform for attaching the benchtop and creates the proper seat depth of 2″. This prevents the bottom shelf from rocking on the center divider as you tighten your pocket screws. Then use your countersink bit to drill four evenly spaced holes to secure the back to the benchtop, and repeat to join the back to the bottom shelf.
To thin the latex enough to allow a gradual build of color, begin by adding the paint to a cup of water.
When you paint the vertical sides, the paint will inevitably run down and fill in the corners. Finally, buff down any remaining dust nibs with #0000 steel wool then apply a coat of paste wax. Clamp the side pieces together, then clamp them flat to your workbench so the offcut area is overhanging the edge. Clamp them cutedge up in your Workmate then use a rasp, file and sandpaper to refine and smooth the curve, then set them aside. That way, you’ll get a custom fit; your shelf edges will match with the front edge of your box. We dug through the archives to find a fine bookcase, then did a bit of construction modification to allow the design to better fit the “I Can Do That” column. But by and large, this bookcase is close to our original project and a great piece to build. Use a clamp and stop block, or in this case one of the bookcase sides, to keep your shelves from inching forward as screws are driven.
Hold the ruler at the two points at the bottom edge as you bend the piece to reach the center point of the curve.
As shown in the photo below, with the shelf pressed against that clamped-in stop block there is no problem with creeping pieces. The finish is a coat of “Dark Walnut” Watco Danish Oil followed, when the oil is dry, by two coats of amber shellac.
The enclosed tool manual explains all the tools and shows the reader how to perform the basic operations in a step-by-step format. For the next generation, CNC lasers may also be one of those tools that transform our shops. Usually, the waste is just reduced to smoke, but when the laser is set on high, you may even create a small fl ame!
You can create very intricate patterns, perfect for medallions, awards, moldings or any design that will embellish a project.
Lasers are commonly used to make wooden clock parts, dollhouse furniture, models, 3-D animal sculptures and more. Most users in a fi xed installation opt to exhaust the fumes out of their shop with a hose or ductwork, but portable fi ltration units are available for mobile applications (like shows and fairs).
Having grown up in the information age, that part of the operation didn’t faze me, but I was surprised to see how easy the software was to use at its most basic levels.
It will scan back and forth or follow a continuous line, depending on how it’s programmed.
By adjusting rate, frequency, intensity and other parameters, a variety of materials can be engraved or cut. This shallow relief carving, based on a photo of a tree, cuts through one layer of plywood to reveal the layer below. After seeing many designs that were running anywhere from $250 to $400, I thought to myself “I can do that” – and with a sheet of plywood and some pocket screws, you can too. Using a paper pattern for the feet, trace the outline along the bottom, flip the pattern for the opposite foot, then connect the tops of the feet with a square.
To connect the feet, start by cutting a gradual curve until you reach the connecting line as seen in the photo below. First examine your stock for the best faces, then use your pocket-screw jig to make four evenly spaced holes along the ends of the three large panels. By not painting the corners first, you eliminate this fun “extra” coat and end up with a more even finish all around.
You’ll need to do this for the top shelf anyway because you must mark the angle on the front edge to match the side curves.

Glue isn’t necessary for this project because it’s small and nails will provide sufficient hold, but you can use glue if you wish. With the back, bottom and sides already nailed in place, you needn’t worry about reclamping; you can simply hold the shelf in place with one hand as you drill your pilots through the sides then drive the nails. And that’s something you should be on the lookout for as you read woodworking articles or skim the pages of your favorite catalogs. Also, find the top center of the sides then square a line off the top edge that extends just across the first line. Because you can start the cut from the bottom edge of the sides, there’s no need to drill a hole. Draw the profile on your sides, then remove the material with your jigsaw, or use a file and sandpaper. At the top edge, find the center of the piece then add a vertical pencil line across the toe kick.
To begin, do a simple layout of the shelf locations on the inside face of your sides (a couple short lines set in from the edges is all that’s needed). Install the screws to affix all the shelves to one side of the bookcase, then align the second side and add the screws to complete the installation of the shelves. To complete the bookcase, lightly sand the piece with #320-grit sandpaper then apply one layer of paste wax for protection. By replacing much of the complicated joinery common in woodworking with mechanical fasteners (biscuits and pocket screws) the learning curve is greatly reduced, but the quality and appearance of the project remains intact. For workshop applications, you can use a laser to create extremely accurate plywood templates, based on CAD drawings, for shaping parts on a router table. The most important are speed (how fast the laser moves over your material) and intensity (how strong the laser is, and how deep it will cut).
He can probably locate an Epilog in your area and help you contract some work or rent some time on the machine. The faces needing pocket screws are the bottom of the benchtop, the bottom of the bottom shelf and the back of the back panel. Once the consistency seems right, build up two to three coats of paint on your bench, until the wood reaches a rich, dark color but still has some grain peeking through.
For the exposed edges of the plywood, apply multiple coats (it doesn’t hurt to use the extra-thick paint at the bottom of your cup – the plys will soak up a lot). Clamp across the sides at the bottom and at each shelf, snugging the bottom and shelves into place. Then, drill pilot holes through the sides and into the bottom, and through the bottom into the back, and drive your nails. Once that’s done, for added strength you may also wish to drill pilots and drive nails through the back into the shelves.
Find a piece you like and see what changes can be made to match the construction to your skill set and tools.
Cut on the waste side of your line with your jigsaw, then smooth the curve with your file and sandpaper.
And the support braces have one hole per end (with the braces held tight to the bottom of the shelves, you need only the two screws for a secure connection).
If you bore near the curved portion, it’s possible to have a pocket extend into the curve and be visible in the finished bookcase. A clamp added after the toe kick is positioned holds the piece secure and tight to the shelf as the screws are installed. Once you’ve zeroed in on your settings for a particular project, you can save and recall them at any time. After seeing how quick and easy it is to personalize a project or engrave an intricate design, you just might catch the laser bug. To remove the wood for the top corner notch, first make several relief cuts – slice toward the line as if you were cutting a pizza. Notice that the sides overlay the bottom and back, and that the back sits on top of the bottom piece. Stay close to the line, take your time as you cut and slow the blade speed if possible – a slower blade increases your control as you cut.
This will make it easier to cut the final curve of the notch with your jigsaw or with a coping saw.
You could, however, forgo the jigsaw altogether for this cut, and instead use a rasp or block plane to establish the angle, then refine it with your file and sandpaper.
It’s crucial that the bottom piece be situated properly, as it determines the fit of the back piece.

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