Slöjd in Slippers


Today, I’m diving into the Woodworking Hobo Life, copy editing in my sweatpants and slippers. I might shower. I might not. The cats seem pretty happy – they can now beg me for treats and canned food 24/7.

I’m working on the forthcoming Lost Art Press translation of Jögge Sundqvist’s seminal book “Slöjda/Slöjd/Sloyd on Wood.” (I suppose the first order of business is to decide whether it’s “slöjda,” “slöjd” or “sloyd” … I think “slöjd” is the winner.)

What is slöjd? Jogge writes:

Slöjd is part of the self-sufficient household, how people survived before industrialization. Slöjd is the work methods that farmers used when they made tools for house building, farming and fishing, and objects for their household needs. For thousands of years, the knowledge of the material has deepened, and the use of the tools has evolved along with the understanding of how function, composition and form combine to make objects strong and useful.”

LAP acquired the rights a couple years back, and the book is now translated, edited and refined. What’s left on the “words” front is to consider the comments from the various editors and Jogge’s responses, decide on the final language then copy edit.

The book is already in an InDesign document (the translation will look like the original, with gorgeous photos and illustrations), so after the copy edit, I simply have to flow in the English text, make sure page numbers and captions are correct, and that all names/dates/web addresses have been double-checked…all the nitty-gritty before it goes to press. I love the nitty-gritty. I think you’re going to love this book. And I think I’m going to love working in my slippers.


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The Times, They Are A-Changin’*


Have chest, will (and can) travel (to teach, build, write, edit…)

Just a quick post to say that, as of today, I am no longer with Popular Woodworking.

But that doesn’t mean I’m leaving woodworking – far from it. I’m looking forward to lots more time in the shop as I build some commission pieces, and I’m working on a number of woodworking writing and editing projects. Plus, I’ve a couple classes already lined up for 2018, and am working on a few more. In short, this is nothing but a positive change.

Thanks for your support throughout my 12+ years with Popular Woodworking, and in the future. I can be reached via email at, and you’ll now be seeing – along with the occasional cat – a lot more of my furniture work here.

— Megan

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare

* And now, I can listen to Dylan in as I work in my shop!

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Dovetail Class Kit to the Baking Rescue

toothpicksYesterday, I reached into the cabinet for toothpicks so I could test the cake doneness for my annual Thanksgiving dinner dessert, a raspberry and marsala trifle. But I was out of toothpicks. Eek! Then I remembered I have some in my tool chest – they’re part of my “dovetail fixes kit” for a class I give on the subject, coupled with a bunch of pictures of period dovetails that look like crap but have held a joint together for 100+ years. In short, my primary message is that if your dovetails aren’t altogether Krenovian: Live with it; the build will (likely) stay together.

But if you simply must fix an “error,” read on.

“Cabinetmakers have been hiding dovetail mistakes from rich people for centuries.”
— the guy who taught Schwarz to cut dovetails

“Everyone who has ever cut a dovetail has &*%^ed up a dovetail.”
— Me & everyone else who’s ever talked about the joint

Baseline “Error” Fixes
1. Try to clamp it out. Put blocks on the tails, squirt a runny glue in there (white glue, West System epoxy) then clamp the snot out of it.
2. Bishoping (works only if the tails/pins are a bit proud). Wet the tail/pin, then tap gently with ball-peen hammer to mushroom it a little. Don’t peen below carcase surface.
3. Controlled spelching. That is, use a block plane to plane toward the baseline to consciously break out a bit of the grain to fill the gap(s).
4. White glue & sandpaper (while the glue is wet).
5. For big gaps, glue in shims, then flush after glue is dry.
6. Fix with Durham’s Water Putty, then paint.
7. Live with it; the build will (likely) stay together.

Splay “Error” Fixes
1. Kerf through middle of tail/pin then wedge it in the kerf. (Use contrasting wood and call it a design feature.)
2. Wedge the gaps.
3. Fix with Durham’s Water Putty, then paint.
4. Live with it; the build will (likely) stay together.

(Other) Errant Sawing Fixes
1. Cross the baseline? Glue in a flat or round toothpick. Flush. Color w/Sharpie.
2. Bite into a pin or tail while coping? See above.
3. Saw on the wrong side of your line? Squeeze yellow glue into the joint (floss can help) and tape it tightly to the adjacent wood. Let it dry, re-mark the cut, then cut again…on the correct side of the line.
4. Live with it; the build will (likely) stay together.

Assembly “Error” Fix
1. Crushed tail corner? Glue in a flat or round toothpick. Flush. Color w/Sharpie.
3. Live with it; the build will stay (likely) together.


Note: Ignore what the recipe says about one cake; always make two … you’ll need at least three more slices than can reasonably had from but one. And the extra makes a delightful Thanksgiving day breakfast.




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Opinions Are Like Assh…


I’ve spent a frustrating couple of hours researching how best to adhere tile on plaster walls that are in decent shape…or will be shortly, after I’ve scraped off the loose bits of adhesive that was holding the hardboard in place, to which was attached some nasty plastic tile in several spots, over which was glued Kelly-green beadboard. (Then maybe do a few brown-coat patches.)

I have been in countless old homes that were built pre-drywall/cement board/Kerdi board that not only have original plaster walls, but original tile on said plaster walls. Hell – there are mosaics set in plaster that have survived for 2,000+ years. Under water.

The internet is full of opinions – but even those from recognized experts are contradictory.

“No! You MUST secure Kerdi board/drywall/cement board to the studs and tile to that!” Um, no. There are no studs. It’s solid masonry.

“Yes! Just paint it first with RedGard.”

“Yes – but whatever you do, don’t paint it with RedGard!”

“No! You must remove all the old plaster down to the brick, then install lathe and hang drywall to that.” No effin way.

“Yes – but don’t use/only use thinset.”

“Yes – but don’t use/only use mastic.”

“Yes, but only if you use mastic you’ve rendered yourself from Pistacia lentiscus.

“You fool. Don’t you know the correct term is Ceramic tile adhesive?!”

“No. You should just move.”



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Please Pardon the Mess


Is there any renovation project that doesn’t spill into the entire house? Not in my experience.

Though the bathrooms on which I’m currently working are on the second floor, I had to tear out the back wall of the pantry to get to the plumbing and run new electric. So most of the crap that was in the pantry is now on the dining room table, around which will be gathered 10 or so friends on Thanksgiving.

There’s no sense in re-building the pantry over the weekend; it’s going to become a small powder room when I get around to renovating the kitchen. And the current first-floor bath will turn back into its original form – a butler’s pantry.

That first floor bath is the one with a leaky tub – but it can hold a few boxes, and flats of soda, right? (I’ll simply re-hang the shower curtain to hide the mess.)

But I really should hang the door on the new guest bath…soon. Or at least hang a curtain.


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What’s Next?


I’m in the midst of painting – and hoping for one more warm(ish) day to finish – but most of the guest bath is now done.

With the guest bath nearing completion, I’m turning my thoughts (and wallet) to “my” bathroom – the one for which I cut a doorway from my bedroom into the original bath through what was the tub wall.

It’s a 7′ x 10′ space in which there will be a toilet and 5′-long vanity (that I’m building), and an adjacent 3’6″ x 10′ shower room. (With a curb – a walk-in is too complicated.)

I’ve long been coveting Tuilikivi 2″ soapstone hex tiles for the entire floor…but my eyes are (much) larger than my home reno account. So my plan is to buy the 33 sq. ft. (or so) of the soapstone tiles I need for the shower floor, and choose something else – something far less dear – for the rest of the flooring. But what?

I want it to be at least semi-appropriate to 1906 (and I’m not one to hop on design trends), so I keep vacillating between 1″ hex tile  and penny tile, both in white. Either way, I’d use a grey grout that picks up the color of the soapstone tile in the shower. The vanity top will be soapstone, to a) tie it visually together and b) I just love soapstone. The  walls will be white subway tile (up to the top of the shower head in the shower, and to a chair rail in the rest of the space).


This week, I’m leaning toward the penny tile; I like the difference in shape. Last week, I was leaning toward the hex tile; I like the continuity of shape.

At least I’ve narrowed it down to two!

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One Step Up & Two…Well, You Know


Per my last post, I set a deadline of Nov. 9 for finishing the guest bath. That was stupid.

But I’m getting close.

Over the last two days, I mitered, fit, painted and installed the 30 pieces of base moulding (it’s a three-part buildup). That was fun, what with having to run up and down to the basement two floors below to cut every piece…then run up and down again to tweak most of them. I need a larger miter box or a lighter chop saw (but I also need the exercise, so I guess it was beneficial?).

It took a bit longer than it might because there is nowhere in my house where I can paint said 30 pieces all at once, so I had to do it in shifts – and of course, because this was bare moulding, it needed multiple coats, with sanding in between. So that was most of one day.


I think this was the second shift.

My plan for today was to install the window trim – on one of the windows, anyway. On the other, the seal isn’t tight, and with the first heavy rain after it was installed, water got into the bottom rail. That was months ago. I’m still awaiting the promised replacement (and becoming increasingly irked). So while I’m going to wait on that one (it will be easier to replace without the sill installed), I figured I could finish the other and have things at least closer to done.

Well, except for the hole in the ceiling around the exhaust fan. I can’t fix that until the fan is operational, and that can’t happen until my roofer can fit me in to run the exhaust vent through the roof. And I can then get the electrician back over to hook it up.

But today, I am the problem. I cut and moulded the window sills maybe a month ago, measuring the window plus two times the width of the fluted trim that abuts it, plus another inch on either side. Then I chanced upon salvaged aprons and returns that match those in the rest of my house, which saved me the trouble of making said pieces (they’re complex mouldings, so I was delighted). But oops. They’re slightly different in size than what I’d measured.


If only I’d added 2″…

So I have to remake the sills. And to do that, I have to go buy more Southern yellow pine, then go into the shop at work.

Nope; not today. I think I’ll install the outlet and switch plate covers, then curl up with a book. After leaving yet another message for my window maker and roofer.

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