The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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The Kitschy Woodworker


Like most houses, ours has its share of art work hanging in the halls and bedrooms, and like many home owners, I couldn’t tell you much about the artists who created them. My knowledge of fine art really begins and ends with the Art History 103/104 courses I took when in college because they were required. In fact, the only two pieces of art work in my home that I can speak intelligently about are The Starry Night by Van Gogh and Washington Crossing the Delaware by Leutze, and then only because those are my two favorite paintings.

When it comes to “art”, I have a greater affinity for historical documents, vintage propaganda posters, and what I like to refer to as kitsch art, “tin advertisements”. I have around a dozen or so examples placed around my garage (all reprints, I’m not a collector and I don’t really care if they are authentic or not).

To cut to the chase, last week I came across a tin sign still in its wrapper in the closet of our spare bedroom. I vaguely remember ordering it maybe three years ago BP (before Prime) as an adder to make the freight allowed minimum on Amazon. Rather than let it sit, I brought it into the garage with the intention of hanging it…somewhere. The one spot that is open where it would be visible happens to be a spot I’m saving, so instead, I fastened it to the front panel of a cabinet I made when I first began woodworking. I then had a brief moment of inspiration. While the tin sign itself is nothing special, I think it really made the cabinet pop, for lack of a better word. It then occurred to me that rather than using a panel for the door, a tin sign might make a nice “panel” on its own merit (with a plywood backer of  course). The skies the limit when it comes to the panel. They’re sold everywhere from Amazon to antique stores to yard sales. I could even double side the door to add to the fun.

A  Kitschy Cabinet…

The cabinet itself is nothing special either; it’s made of basic pine panels and constructed using rabbets, dados, stubby tenons, and screws; it was one of my first woodworking projects, after all. If I were to make another, I would probably stick to the same methods, though I would dress it up with some beading, tongue and groove back panels, maybe a shop made moulding, and of course cut nails in place of screws; I think that would satisfy the woodworker in me. The right kitschy sign, and the right finish (maybe a different species of wood), be it paint or stain, could make this a fun little project, and I could always use another wall cabinet in my garage.

Clamped and ready to be flattened…

A few passes with a jack plane is all it took..

Sanded smooth and ready for some linseed oil…

In other news, the other day I did a video on rehabbing the iron from my coffin smoother plane. During that process I noticed a very slight high-spot just in front of the mouth of the plane, so I decided to correct it over the weekend. I used the jack plane to remove the spot, just one shaving from the front of the sole followed by a very light pass over the entire sole, checked with the square for flatness. I then used 220g and 400g sandpaper to finish it up, along with two coats of linseed oil and a coat of wax, which was added last night. Now that I think I am a video woodworker, I filmed a short video showing the results (before the wax was applied). That plane, I am very happy to report, is now a very solid worker.



  1. Kinderhook88 says:

    I really like that cabinet. It’s simplicity is alluring, and the panel is awesome!

  2. Greg Merritt says:

    I really like the panel idea. Lots of possibilities. Kinda like the the old punched tin pie safes.
    The smoother looks as if it is working great. I bet it is a pleasure to use.

    • billlattpa says:

      Those old pie safe cabinets are what made me think this might actually work. I have an old furniture book with plans for one that I checked out and in it there isn’t any backer that I saw. I was thinking of making a double sided panel with a different sign on each side, and a 1/4″ plywood center panel to stiffen it up. I probably won’t add an astragal (is that the correct word) rather, I will just leave it be as that would be a bit to ostentatious for a cabinet with pulp art hanging in it.
      The smoother is working great so far. I don’t plan on using it regularly, but I did want to maintain it as a working tool. I’m always fascinated by the beech used for plane making; it’s hard and stable, yet works like a soft wood. I just love messing with it.

  3. Art Watson says:

    Love it! Why question inspiration, just let it take you to new places…..

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May 2016
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