In Autumn of 2019, Nicole Spagnuolo emailed to ask if I’d like to record a video for The Wood Whisperer Guild. “Sure!” I said, forgetting – in my delight and honor for having been asked – that I vehemently dislike being on camera. We decided on a smaller version of Christopher Schwarz’s “Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” Then COVID hit, so travel was difficult and ill-advised, and it all rather slipped my mind.
About two months ago, Marc Spagnuolo reminded me, so we scheduled the shoot for Nov. 8-12 with Todd Tidwell, the videographer for the Guild, who would drive up from Texas (that’s a haul!). I blithely said something like, “I’ll prepare parts as if for a cooking show – several versions of things in different stages – to help move things along. I think it will take three days.” Then I forgot again…because apparently the mere thought of a camera pointed at me makes me lose about 20 IQ points.
I remembered a week before – thank goodness – and after a panicky visit to my lumber stack in the cellar, found I had just enough sugar pine from which to prep most of the the parts. But this was the absolute dregs of stock I’ve accumulated over four years of classes. Lots of having to cut around knots and be on the lookout for surface checking, and deal with twist and cupping. There’s a reason I hadn’t used these pieces already: too much of a pain in the ass. But needs must. And I had not a stick extra – so no prepping additional parts ahead of time.
For the lid pieces, I had to pilfer from a leftover class kit (I now have two-thirds of a tool chest kit sitting in my basement at home). And after messing up a part or two as the cameras were rolling, I had to steal from the skirt pieces of an almost-finished full-size tool chest that’s currently sitting in our machine room. (I guess I’ll use the skirt pieces in my basement to finish the chest in the machine room…which will leave me with a set of carcase panels.) Oh – and I didn’t remember to order hardware or paint until the last minute. (Thank you Orion Henderson/Horton Brasses for having the hardware I wanted in stock, and for shipping it quickly!)
So even though I couldn’t do it cooking-show style, I figured that would add only a day. So: four days; no problem.
I forgot that once the cameras fired up, I’d lose an additional 20 IQ points. Plus we all know the joke about open glue bottles, right? Pop that lid, and there goes 40 points. With 66 dovetails to glue up for the carcase, two skirts, dust seal and interior tills, and four mortise-and-tenon joints, well, I had the bottle of Old Brown Glue open and ready to grab the entire time. So now I’m down about 80 points. Every day.
With two cameras pointed at me, I found myself losing words I commonly use. “What are those valleys between saw teeth called again?” “What’s that tool you place at the end of a nail then hit it to sink the nail deeper? “Mullet…that’s a hairstyle…can it really be the right word for the offcut used to test the fit of a tongue-in-groove joint?” Sigh.
But most embarrassing? I cut shovetails. Even when I was starting out, I never cut shovetails. Mobius strips, yes (that is, I’ve flipped a pin board side to side instead of end to end more than once, and ended up with pins in opposite directions). But now I have. On camera. Marc has ocular proof of my shame. (Just after that mistake, we broke for lunch so I could get over it…and as I walked outside, a bird pooped on my head.)
In the end, it took a full five days…which is what Marc and Todd anticipated. They’re much smarter than am I – even though they’re around cameras all the time!
In the end, the tool chest looks pretty good (if I do say so myself). Now here’s hoping that Todd has enough not-stupid video of me – or can splice enough together to make me look pretty good, too. Thank goodness for skilled editors!
But despite my self-consciousness (and camera-and-glue induced stupidity), it was a lot of fun to record. Thank you to Nicole and Marc for asking me to do it (I feel truly honored!), and to Todd for his grace and kindness all week. And special thanks to Chris for letting me take over the shop (and for longer than I anticipated), and to both him and his family for tiptoeing around all week.
p.s. This one is about 15″ tall, 18″ front to back and 38″ long. Chris offered plans for a slightly different size/interior in SketchUp years ago; here’s the blog link.