Designing a Hopper Window

Hopper Window Open

I’ve never built a window. I never had a real need to. That is until someone contacted me about building a window sash for a stained glass window she designed. As much as I tried to convince her that a fixed-pane window would be easier, less expensive, and quicker, she insisted on a ventilating hopper window. My first thoughts on a design are shown here.

Hopper Window Layout

My immediate design concerns revolved mostly around keeping it weathertight. How do you design a window from scratch to account for keeping out wind and moisture?

Obviously, carpenters and millwork shops figured this out 100 years ago or more. Plus, common sense dictates allowing for drainage so water doesn’t accumulate and cause decay of the wood.

The design of this window started with the sash. The stained glass will be trapped  and vacuum-sealed between two panes of glass. This assembly will be installed into a rabbet on the exterior side of the sash and set with modern glazing compound by The Stained Glass Store.

The customer wants me to make the sash from kiln-dried walnut from trees that were harvested on their property. The sash with be treated with a clear penetrating oil finish like Penofin before delivery to the stained glass shop.

The sill and jamb will be made from a less-expensive wood and will be primed and painted for weather resistance. The sill will be sloped 12 to 15° to help shed water. The head and sill will be joined to the jambs with dadoes with waterproof glue and screws for added strength.

I plan on using butt hinges at the bottom of the sash. To hold the sash open for ventilation, there are a variety of window stays I can use. I’ll want to have them on hand before I start building just so I can make sure everything will work as planned after assembly.

For weatherstripping, McMaster-Carr has a wide variety to choose from.

This seal will be used on the bottom of the sash to keep out wind and rain.
This seal will be set into a rabbet in the stop that surrounds the jamb and header on the exterior side of the sash.

Hardware stores and home centers have a variety of weatherstrip materials to choose from, too.

There’s no guarantee that any of my plans will actually work until I get into the assembly process. But for me, half the fun is finding the answers to some of these problems and watching it all come together in the end.

First Impressions: Triton TRA001 Plunge Router

Triton TRA001 Router

I’ve written before about how router’s can be frustrating at times. This was particularly in reference to a 15-year old Porter-Cable 690. There are a lot of fans of the P/C 690s and they are a good router. At least they used to be, but that’s a topic for another post.

Tom Walz at Carbide Processors saw my complaint and somewhat tongue-in-cheek commented that what I needed was a better router. So he sent me a Triton TRA001 3-1/4hp plunge router to try out. (Side note: If you’re looking to buy tools, you need to check out Carbide Processors. They even make custom tools.)

I’ve been watching Triton Tools for a number of years. Originally developed and manufactured in Australia, they were known for their innovation and quality. Now, it’s hard to get any solid information on the complete history and evolution of Triton Tools, but they eventually had financial trouble and were purchased by an outfit in the United Kingdom. Some manufacturing was outsourced to Asia. (If that upsets some of you, let me remind you that most power tools are manufactured overseas.) I did find this dated article online from 2011 that sheds some light on the Triton history.

There were a number of years where Triton Tools developed a reputation for poor quality. I believe that they overloaded the supply stream with too many product offerings and didn’t spend enough time and resources on quality design and better manufacturing oversight.

But Triton Tools stuck around. And they want to convince you that their tools will stand up to the competition. They offer a 3-year warranty, as long as you register the tool within 30 days.

The photos below detail some of the features of the TRA001. The most notable feature is the 3-way adjustment for bit depth. One of the handles features a center button on the outside. You press this button to make coarse adjustments to the bit height to get you in the ballpark. A spring-loaded collar on that same handle engages a rack and pinion system. As you rotate the knob with the collar pulled against the know, you can fine tune the bit height. For even finer control, use the micro-adjust knob to sneak up on that final bit height. Then you can securely lock it in place with the plunge lock lever.

The router is quieter than most. Its soft-start feature means it won’t torque out of your hands when starting up.

Overall, I’m impressed with the TRA001. But I wouldn’t recommend this router for use in a router table. Unless it’s the only router you own. If you’re going to use a plunge router in a router table, you need to remove the plunge springs. To Triton’s credit, they make this as easy as removing a cap.

It’s the “Table Height Winder” and “Table Height Winder Connection Point” (as Triton calls them) that I have issues with. They seem like an afterthought.

First of all, as with all routers, when mounted in a table, you need to drill an access hole in the insert plate for the wrench used to adjust the height. On most routers, this access hole is incorporated into the baseplate. On the TRA001, its a notch on the outside diameter of the base. That’s not a deal-breaker, but it makes it harder to guide the wrench to engage the micro-adjuster. (Bosch routers get it right — their micro-adjuster extends all the way to the baseplate.)

The wrench itself seems cheaply made to me. It’s got a hollow shaft that looks like it’s made of rolled sheet metal. The end of the shaft has a hollow plastic tip with slots that are designed to engage the crosspin on the micro-adjuster. Only mine didn’t. I should say, the slots would barely fit over the pin. While I could make adjustments, it wasn’t very secure.

If you go online looking at user comments about Triton tools, I think you’ll find most of them favorable. After spending some time with this router, I would agree.


Own the Entire Process

ShopBot Desktop

Sometimes, to succeed at a project, you have to own the entire process.

I have a ShopBot Desktop CNC machine in my shop. I was experimenting with it this weekend cutting a handwheel to be used on a light-duty benchtop woodworking vise. The toolpath files were developed by a friend of mine. It’s a two-sided part so there is a roughing and finishing pass on each side, for a total of four files (each pass a separate file).

The toolpath files were set up to reference the center of the wheel as the origin of the X and Y axes. Since I was using a 1/4″-dia. ballnose bit, I drilled a 1/4″ hole through the center of the wheel blank (a 2″-thick piece of ash). This way, setting the origin point of the X and Y axes can be done by locating the cutting tool in the center hole. The Z axis was zeroed at the top of the blank.

Cutting a Handwheel

Routing one side of the handwheel using the supplied files presented no problems. Though both the roughing and finishing pass took a couple of hours to complete, it looked great. Both toolpaths included “tabs” at each of the four quadrants to hold the handwheel in place in the blank as material was removed.

After routing one side, I flipped the blank over, again referencing the center hole as the origin of the X and Y axes. I started the roughing pass and all was looking great. Until the cutter cut through two of the tabs, which forced the handwheel to move inside the blank. I stopped the cutting and tried to figure out a way to complete the handwheel without scrapping it altogether. So I cut the rough handwheel from the blank, used double-sided tape to hold it to the CNC bed, and reset the origins of the Z, Y, and Z axes. After completing the final roughing and finishing pass, I had a complete handwheel. The only problem was, the X and Y origin was off just enough that the two sides didn’t quite match up.

So I scrapped it. And started over. Another piece of firewood.

I’ve got one blank left before I need to obtain some more lumber.

What’s the main lesson here? For me, I was at the mercy of using files that my friend had supplied to me. They worked for him on another project, but for some reason, they weren’t working out so well for me. So I’m asking him for the original design files to see what I can do to regenerate the toolpath files. Or at least find out if I need to do something different on my end. I need to see if I can find another way to make the process more accurate and foolproof. And while I’m at it, I’m going to try to optimize the cutting speed so this one project doesn’t take half a day to cut. I’m also going to have him explain to me his thought process on developing the files so I’ll have a better understanding of the whole picture.

If you’re in the business of woodworking, outsourcing some of your design work or parts can be a huge time-saver and eliminate a lot of headaches. But you need to own the entire process. What I mean is, you need to be intimately familiar with each phase of the project from the initial design sketches to delivery and installation. A sure way to wreck the budget and schedule is to be caught off-guard with an incorrect assumption from someone on your team or from an outside supplier. Stay on top of the project’s progress at every phase.

If you’re a hobbyist woodworker, owning the entire process means you’ve read and understand the plans you’re using to build the project before buying the lumber. Then you spend time selecting the best lumber for the project, taking care when milling it and fitting the joinery. Then you test out your finish on scrap material before applying it to your final project. No surprises.

Own the entire process.

Pay it Forward by Supporting the WCA Auction #WNlive

Woodwork Career Alliance

There’s a practical way you can help further the cause of woodworking education and help steer the younger generation into choosing woodworking as a career.

All you need to do is donate a piece to be auctioned off on Thursday, April 16, 2015 at the Cabinets and Closets Conference and Expo in Chicago. Your item should be small enough for a buyer to transport on their way home. Small boxes, turned items, carvings, small sculptures, and art pieces are all fair game. The donated items will be displayed online and bids can be emailed in advance of the show. The items will be present at the show with bids so far included.

All proceeds from the auction benefit the Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA). This organization works with employers and schools to help certify individuals in various woodworking tasks from measuring and layout to setting up and operating a CNC machine. You can read more about the WCA by clicking here. Proceeds from this silent auction will go to support education and travel by teachers and students to industry events like AWFS and IWF.

To donate your pieces to the auction, send them to:

Carroll Henning
Woodworking Network
400 Knightsbridge Road
Lincolnshire IL 60069


Be sure to spread the word about the auction and your donation on facebook and twitter using the hashtag #WNLive. The more we get the word out, the more we can help students and teachers!

Your Success Depends on How You React to This

Image courtesy of

About 30 years ago when I was consulting with architectural and engineering firms about their Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) processes and procedures, I always preached the importance of backing up their data. Back then, hard drives for personal computers were very expensive and nowhere near as reliable as they are today. The only way to reliably back up the data was to copy it to an external tape or backup device. There was no “cloud” storage with automatic backups.

One day as I was working on a long-term software project for a manufacturing firm, I was deep into programming some complicated software when my hard drive died. It suddenly dawned on me that I had not followed my own advice and backed up my hard drive any time recently. I immediately panicked and started to sweat. I realized all of my client files were on the hard drive. They were now gone. I even sent the hard drive off to a specialty company to see if they could recover any data. They could not.

So I was forced to start over with a major portion of my software project, starting from scratch in a lot of instances. But you know, the software I finished was way better than what I had been working on when my hard drive crashed and burned.

Now that I’m spending more time in the workshop, I sometimes make mistakes on projects. We all do. Sometimes the mistakes are minor and easy to fix. Sometimes it means cutting another part. And, at times, it means scrapping the project and starting over. When this happens, it’s normal to get angry at ourselves (or others), perhaps say a few choice words, or stomp out of the shop (or all of the above).

Sometimes it’s hard to swallow our pride and admit to ourselves that our ideas aren’t going to work. I recently worked for a few hours on a small project and realized it wasn’t going to work, no matter what I did. So I put it aside and tackled it from a fresh perspective the next day. I was much happier with the results.

What can we learn from these experiences? Sometimes catastrophic failures and mistakes can cost you dearly. Perhaps not always in financial terms, but in lost time and resources. But mistakes can make you take another look at what you were doing and rethink the problem. Often, what you come up with is a better solution than what you were working on.

There are times when something goes wrong and I simply turn the lights out in the shop and calmly call it a day. Tomorrow brings a fresh start. In the meantime, I give a lot of thought to what happened and why. And then I start thinking of ways not to let that mistake happen again. More often than not, the ultimate solution is miles ahead of where I would have been otherwise.

Yes, mistakes can cost us dearly. But they can also be the best teacher.

Coolbox redefines the lowly Toolbox

The toolbox you lug around on the job site is usually nothing more that a container for your tools. It’s a single-purpose necessity for keeping your most-often used tools handy.

A creative group of guys have set out to redefine what a toolbox should be. They call it the Coolbox. They call it “The World’s Smartest Toolbox.” You can see in the box above how much they’ve raised through crowd-funding on IndieGoGo. Their original goal was to raise $50,000. You can see how much their product idea must be hitting home with a lot of folks to have far surpassed their goal by several times. It’s one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” products.

The Coolbox it’s loaded with features you’ve longed to have on the job site. It’s a USB charger for your phone or tablet. There’s an integrated tablet stand. It’s got Bluetooth speakers for cranking out your favorite tunes. A pass-through power strip supplies juice to your power tools. LED lighting floods the area with light so you can select and use the right tool. There’s a whiteboard in the lid for jotting down notes, dimensions, or a shopping list for supplies. Built-in batteries supply power to small tools and the clock when you’re not near an outlet.

There are other features that are worth noting on the IndieGoGo page. You can pre-order one with as little as a $169 investment.

Oh yeah…the Coolbox is also a spacious toolbox to hold a lot of tools. Be sure to check out the video below.

Look to the Future: Get Kids in the Shop

When you do what you want to do, honestly and squarely, it does not at all deserved to be called work, but is the most splendid part of play, and every day is a holiday.

C. Hanford Henderson

Hands-on, technical skills aren’t being taught and encouraged in the U.S. public education system as they once were. So it’s up to parents, grandparents, and potential employers to fund and provide a basic understanding of woodworking and provide practical training. After all, not all kids are destined nor want to go to college. These creative individuals are bright and want to create with their hands, so it’s up to us to point them in the right direction and encourage their efforts.

One way to do this is to get kids into the workshop. Whether you’re a hobbyist woodworker or run a production facility with dozens of employees, letting kids see, smell, touch, and hear in a woodworking environment can spark their interest and imagination.

If you have a home shop, invite kids in. Show them how the tools work. Let them pound a few nails. Show them how a hand plane can put a glass-smooth finish on wood.

If you run a production facility, have an open house and invite local schools and homeschool families to schedule field trips. Give students a tour of your facility. Show them how projects start in the design department, are manufactured, then finished and shipped. Let them watch a CNC machine in action. Explain how computers and technology can be used in a woodworking environment. Invest in the lives of kids in your area. They could be your future employees. You can change the direction and life of a child.

One way to practically get kids in the shop is to help them design and build a project. Jack McKee knows how to do this. In his own words:

I took care of my kids when they were little and they liked woodworking. When I followed them into school, as a volunteer, I found other kids like woodworking too. Not only did I find I liked working with kids, I ended up working at a Montessori School teaching shop (including woodworking with kids) to 4-6 year olds. And I worked for the parks department teaching working to kids ages 5-12. It was the most interesting, fun and meaningful woodworking I’d ever done. I went on to write two books (see affiliate links below).

Jack’s books show how to use hand tools to build simple projects that kids can easily finish. In the end, the projects may not be worthy of entry at a woodworking show, but that’s not the point, is it? The goal is to help them develop their skills working with their hands and being creative with their minds.

Jack maintains a web site, Woodshop4kids. Go check it out.

Start thinking about how you can help kids in your area develop their skills and creative talent. You’ll be paying it forward. And that’s a good feeling.

Modular Cabinets are Key to Long-Term Organization


Shop Wall CabinetsWhether you’re trying to organize a production shop, garage shop, or your home, consider a modular cabinet design. It’s flexibility means you aren’t locked into a permanent arrangement of cabinets or their contents.

I am in the process of reorganizing the bench area of my shop and spent a lot of time thinking about how to go about it in a way that offered the most flexibility, ease of reconfiguring, and options for future expansion.

For my application, wall cabinets roughly 30-32″ wide and 32″ high would fit my space nicely. The cabinets would be a standard 12″ deep.

I decided to focus and start with one wall. The cabinets I would be building and installing aren’t permanently attached to the wall. Instead, they hand on a French cleat. So I ripped some 1×4 stock with a 45° bevel along one edge. I installed this cleat on the wall with the bevel up and facing the wall. A couple of long screws secured it at each stud location.

To make construction quick and easy, I cut the parts for the top, bottom, and sides of the cabinets the same length. Of course, you can modify the dimensions to suit your space and storage needs. I used 3/4″ plywood left over from previous projects. They’re shop cabinets, plus they’ll eventually have doors, so the mix of plywood didn’t bother me. Plus it’s a good way to use up project leftovers. The tops and bottoms of the cabinets are joined to the sides with pocket hole joinery. I didn’t feel the need to use glue.

Shop Wall Cabinet Shop Wall Cabinet

The backs of the cabinets are a bit unique from conventional cabinetry because they’re 1/2″ thick. I used Baltic birch plywood. The reason for the thicker back is twofold. I assembled the entire cabinet using pocket hole joinery. I used Kreg’s Micro-Pocket Drill Guide to drill the pocket holes spaced about every 6″ along all four edges of the back. The smaller pocket holes were more suited to the thinner stock. You can certainly use a standard or industrial pocket hole machine, but you’ll have to adjust for the stock thickness.

The second reason for using a thicker back is that it allow for mounting custom tool holders or racks. In some of the cabinets, I plan on mounting racks for hand tools like screwdrivers and chisels. Layout tools like squares would fit on custom brackets.

Once everything is joined with pocket screws, I added a bracket at each upper corner of the back to engage the French cleat on the wall. They’re 6″ long and cut from the same 1×4 stock used to make the French cleat. At the bottom corners on the back, I added some 3/4″ kickers so the cabinet would sit plumb on the wall.

And that brings me to the doors. If you’ll notice on most 12″-deep cabinets, things get lost on the back of the shelves. So I plan on using narrow shelves and mounting some items on the inside of the doors. This makes everything in the cabinet easier to access.

As with any organizational project, it’s a work in progress. But the beauty of a modular design is that you can rearrange and move things without a lot of effort.

You can download and take a look at my SketchUp model of the cabinets and how they’re built.

A Custom Shaker-Style Bench with Carved Sports Logo

randy02 copy randy

Making a custom project doesn’t always need to be as involved as having every part of the final piece be unique from anything you’ve ever done. A project can be “custom” just by taking a stock piece and adding a little personalization.

This Shaker-style sitting bench is simple enough that it could be mass-produced quickly using conventional shop tools or CNC machines. The customization can come by adding CNC- or hand-carved details to one or both of the rails. Of course, you can alter the overall size of the final piece per your customer’s request, but this design makes it easy.

To build this piece, I used a combination of power and hand tools. The carving was done by hand. I used 5/4 poplar for the legs and top. Because I was going to add carving details to the rails, I used basswood butternut for them. The rails are 3/4″ thick.

The legs are joined to the top with wedged through tenons in open mortises in the top. The rails have 1/4″-deep dadoes on the back that fit into 1/2″-deep notches cut into the legs. This allows the rails to provide strength against racking without the use of fasteners. I cut the curved profiles on the legs and rails at the band saw and sanded them smooth with an oscillating spindle sander. The rails were carved before assembly.

For finish, the carving was painted with acrylic paint. A coat of boiled linseed oil was allowed to cure for 24 hours before it was topped off with three coats of water-based polyurethane.

The design of the bench plus the ability to personalize it for each customer makes it appealing. It’s a popular project that gets a lot of attention.

I’ve created a SketchUp model of the bench. You can download it here.

Shaker-Style Bench

Why Your Email Address Matters

Besides texting and social media, email is still a primary means of communication. And if you run a woodworking business or plan to start one, your emails make an impression.

Obviously, the content of your email matters. If you’re communicating with potential or existing customers, vendors, or business associates, make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Make it look and sound professional. Use complete sentences and be succinct in your conversation.

But even before the recipient looks at the content of your message, the first thing they see is your email address. Does your email address match the domain name of your web site? (You do have a web site, don’t you?) In other words, if your web site is located at, your email address should be the same. For example,

When an email arrives in my inbox from or, it takes away the credibility that the sender is a viable business and takes their online presence seriously.

The first step in creating domain email addresses that match your web domain is to set up email forwarding with the company that hosts your web site. I use to host I set up email forwarding so that any email sent to any address with the suffix “” is forwarded to my email account at (or hosted by Microsoft allows you to set up email aliases. In other words, my default Outlook email address ends with “” But when an email arrives that has been addressed to, I have the option to reply to the email using the domain address. Google also allows you to set up email domains for business through their Google Apps. Check with your email provider to see if you can set up an alias for your account to use your web domain name. If not, it may be a good time to switch email providers.

And while I’m on the subject of email addresses, if you have employees or associates that work for you and they interact with customers or vendors, set up an email address for each of them as well.

In a competitive world, first impressions can be the difference between gaining a customer or losing a potential one. Make sure your email address is the first step that conveys a professional image for your business.