Category Archives: Projects

Last night’s dinner

I used to make rugelach, and I know I will again. I found a recipe online, modified it, modified it again, and then finally crossed it with a puff pastry dough recipe.

Since I had hotdogs in the freezer, I decided that Friday night would be the perfect time for pigs in a blanket. I swear this was not the result of Trump’s chants of “pigs in a blanket: fry ’em like bacon!” But also yum.

Yesterday I started the puff pastry dough. I used margarine instead of butter because hotdogs, but I trusted the recipe from Serious Eats before and felt it wouldn’t let me down.

It’s a long process. Most of the time is waiting, but there are so many times of rolling it out before it’s finally ready to use. I knew I wanted to let it rest in the fridge till today, and that gave time for the hotdogs to thaw, too.

I pulled this out of the fridge, and it’s solid, so that’s a good sign. But I hadn’t yet cut it to see if the layers were what they were supposed to be.

Look at those layers!

Well, the layers look pretty good. Encouraging sign.

I was really hoping it would be cold enough today to roll this out with out any problem. I decided to use the cutting board to roll it out and cut it.

I decided to use the pastry cutter that I use for rugelach to crinkle cut the edges before rolling them up.

I do this with rugelach, too. But this going to wrap meat rather than chocolate spread.

There they go!

Put these in the fridge to cool for a little bit.

Egg wash! Almost time to put it in the oven.

Ready to go in the oven! Hope this turns out!

Oh maaaaan. Halfway done!

And done! Will make this again for sure. Some modifications, sure, but overall looks pretty good.

Woodworking: End table refinishing project (part 5)

Pretty stoked about having most of the components of the table, the time was drawing near to fully assemble it. But permanently. Not just by using gravity to keep the pieces together while they rest on cereal boxes.

With all the decisions up to this point, there was still a surprising amount of work to do, and that included figuring out the entire leg situation and even which screws to use.


The original legs made no sense to me for this table. They were farm-looking, and from the beginning I saw this table as mid-century modern with tapered legs.

“These are the Houston Astros of legs.” -William Hubbs Rehnquist

But when considering MCM legs, there’s so much to think about! From a design perspective, should the legs point straight down or be angled outward?

Straight down is a valid option!
Angled looks good, too, though.

I went back and forth between the two, and I decided on vertical legs. I’ll cover more of this decision next post.

And the legs themselves are important! Which wood? How long? How much?

Luckily for me, I have a lot of flexibility when it comes wood for this project. The table is made of at least two distinctly different woods as it is, so any hardwood should work, right?

Cue: trying to find the thing you want on the internet that should be simple but so, so isn’t.

I found a lot of legs that would be good if they didn’t have that ferrule at the end. I want the legs to be wood all the way down without a metal cuff. Imagine my surprise at how this made tracking down anything good substantially more difficult.

But there were options on Etsy that seemed very promising. Range of woods, hand-turned, decent reviews. Search over, right? Wrong!

The legs were made in Turkey. Hard pass on buying from Turkey. They’re killing Armenians again. Stop it! Stop killing Armenians!

Then I came across a lot of listings with legs made of “sustainable hardwood.” these were later described as being made of rubberwood. More research. Rubberwood is what’s left over when they’re done draining the trees of what they need to make rubber. It’s sustainable because the wood is trash otherwise.

A huge problem with rubberwood is that those with latex allergies are affected very negatively by coming in contact with it. While I’m not having guests over in the near future, I don’t want to think of my home as a hazard for someone I like. I also don’t know how rubberwood finishes.

I contacted a local woodshop because I’d prefer to buy local if I can. Especially during hard times for small businesses. No reply.

Finally I got through to a manufacturer in Illinois that directed me to a retailer in South Carolina. I ordered a set of four 19″ ash legs. Hooray!


I grew up with mainly two types of screws: Philips and flat head. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. I have never preferred flat head over Philips. Flat head is hard to grab at high speed. Philips is the only logical choice. But only if it’s between the two.

I had seen Torx over time. My bike’s disc brake rotors are held on by screws with Torx. Torx allows for more consistent driving and better seating of the driver. But Robertson does something similar. While Torx has a star pattern, Robertson is a tapered square.

I’m done with Philips if I don’t have to use it. I don’t want to strip screws, and I don’t want to have to remove stripped screws. So it’s down to Torx and Robertson at which point it was down to cost. For this size screws on amazon, Torx was the winner.

Just so easy to drive Torx!

And with the first side in, moving on to finish up the entire top part.

The DeWalt impact driver is earnings its keep for sure

With the legs on their way, I had purchased mounts on amazon that were supposed to work fine. I decided to mount those.

Yes, these are Philips, but I didn’t have an option.
The excitement I get from looking at these photos again is kind of awesome.

With the mounts successfully installed, it was time for assembly!

Very exciting day for me!

It seemed the legs were the last things to do, and shortly after I received them, I’d have a great end table.

When has that happened in 2020?

More next time!

Woodworking: End table refinishing project (part 4)

With all the parts glued and sanded, it was a huge relief and astonishing that the wood was clean. That meant I didn’t need to use stain to bury blemishes, and I could do a natural finish just with teak oil.

I had first learned of teak oil in woodshop, and we used Watco then, so I use Watco now. I chose it over Danish oil and Tung oil, and I was relieved not to have to use polyurethane.

The difference between a polyurethane coating and teak oil is the way the finish protects. Both can create waterproof barriers, but polyurethane sits atop the wood and and protects like a shield. A problem with polyurethane is that the shield can be pierced. A dropped coin or keys or tile coasters can ruin the finish. Tape can peel polyurethane off. But if it’s intact, it can even be fun to watch a spill bead up without issue.

Teak oil sinks into the wood, and the buildup creates the protective barrier. You have to put many coats to build it up until the wood just won’t absorb any additional oil. It’s tedious, sure, but the wood glows, and the finish is more resilient since it’s not a superficial coating. You do have to add more teak oil every so often to restore the finish, but that’s really not that big a deal. A drawback to teak oil is that doesn’t hide stains, so you gotta start with clean wood.

Teak oil also can fill some imperfections.

Remember how the side pieces used to look?

I never would have finished these this way.

And how they started to look way better as I got rid of the stain and chipping polyurethane?

The flat stain and dull finish made the pieces look old, but the wood looks great!

The teak oil makes it come alive.

Without stain, the teak oil brings the grain out of the wood.
I’ll admit that even I was a little surprised.

I had to do both sides of these pieces, but it’s not hard to imagine what the other sides look like.

Remember how the top part of the table used to look? All broken up?

I come in pieces.

And then how it probably looked before it came unglued?

There’s no confusion as to why this was free.

A natural finish suits this so much better, too!

I also would have accepted “OMFG!” as your reaction to this picture.

So with the top and sides done, the lower table portion was left. Here’s a refresher on how that had looked.

You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!

And then

Keep it together!

And the natural finish?

It’s almost unfair!

But there was a problem with this lower piece. I had tried to get away with the splits in the end where sections had not fully broken apart. I thought there was a chance that they were so minor that the teak oil would just bridge the gaps.

That felt increasingly stupid. If I had wanted to cut corners, why would I be doing all this work?

The only reasonable thing to do.

So it was back to glue and clamps to get a strong bond for the end. I should have done this earlier in the process, but at least I got there.

Not too much more to do to make this a usable table, right?


I just needed to get legs and assemble the table. Both those steps had unexpected complications.

More next week!

Woodworking: End table refinishing project (part 3)

Once the glue was dry, I started to sand the panels. Certainly it was convenient that my glue job set with proper alignment.

A little preview first:

I figured the end table had been constructed from one type of wood because why wouldn’t it be? Clearly the stain had been applied after it was assembled, and that is an approach. But it looked so flat and boring that I wasn’t even looking for any indication of inconsistency.

I still don’t know for certain why this was the case, but what I had picked up from that front lawn was put together from at least three different types of lumber. The base is made out of pine, so that’s now garbage. It can make sense that the base is made of a cheap soft wood, and the design is easier to turn on a lathe. But the top is made of two different hardwoods. If find that to be weird. However, certainly rescuable.

I started the sanding with the larger board.

I see potential, but I don’t know what lurks behind the awful stain.

The stain they used was ugly and flat. There’s grain that might actually look good, but so much can be buried under stain. I know from experience when I stained the coffee table to hide that yellow river. The wood got lighter and lighter the more I sanded. The 60-grit helped me remove the terrible brown and smooth out the seams.


I’ve used my Makita sander for all my projects. It’s held up fine for more than 20 years. After hours and hours of sanding, my hands buzz. For days. I feel like that’s not a good thing, but look at this progress! And switching to 100-grit and then 150 and then 220.

Why hide this?

I moved on to the side pieces. I had expected them to be the same wood underneath the bad stain.

That grain!

Same process of removing the old finish, but this wood is darker, and it’s not from stain penetration. It’s just a different wood. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I didn’t expect it.

Look at these color differences!

I knew the top would be a bigger challenge. This was the part that had come in two pieces, when I noticed too long a split along one seam, I snapped one of those two apart before gluing it up. A prior owner had tried to repair it when a different seam had split, but rather than clamps, it appears that tape was used. Then again, it could have been taped together until someone bought glue.


The prior DIY repair left an offset that I figured I ought to be able to correct during sanding. But I was most apprehensive about what I’d find under the many oval rings in the corner. My hopes of finishing with teak oil depended on clear wood underneath.

So here’s a gallery of that progress:

It’s important to point out the offset I had to resolve through sanding.

Offset created by a bad DIY job to fix it who even knows how long ago.

The legs that came with this piece don’t seem to match the rest of it, and I had resolved to get round tapered legs that match the mid-century modern stylings of the rest. That led to an entirely separate search for legs that are worth installing. That will be covered in another post.

Since it all looked clean teak oil is the way I decided to go. As I began my prep for that, I noticed that boards I hadn’t addressed were also splitting apart. But teak oil will fill some irregularities. I decided that it wasn’t an issue and that I’d try to get away with it.

This should be OK. Right????

You might think this is me asking for trouble. Find out next week why you’re right.

Woodworking: End table refinishing project (part 2)

The end table I picked up was from the Free Stuff section of Craigslist. It was on a front lawn, so I didn’t even have to enter a building or interact with anyone. When I approached the house, I saw someone leaving from it, so I confirmed that the furniture on the lawn was left there with the intention of being taken away by strangers.

Now, the table actually looked pretty good in the picture. It seemed as though it just needed to be sanded and refinished. There was a big stain on the top of it that needed to be removed, sure, but that seemed doable.

When I looked at the table itself, though, it was worse than I’d expected.

But that meant it was better than I’d expected.

Other items had been removed since the post was put up, but this was still there. Probably because it the top was split. I wouldn’t know how a lot more of it was split until later, but that it had remained on the lawn was good enough for me.

I wiped it down, put it in my trunk, and I drove away.

A split and that oval ring! Well, many oval rings. And more splits.

When I started to look at the split, I noticed that someone had attempted to repair the panel adjacent to the split. That part jutted out a little bit, and the gluing was a little thick with not enough pressure holding it together.

Then there were more discoveries!

Most of the screws that held the table together were stripped. So removing the screws became its own challenge.

I got a screw extractor set from Amazon, and I was surprised at how awesome and easy it is to remove screws with stripped heads.

And I got to see the repair job a prior owner had attempted.

Oh noes! Too much glue and poor alignment!
Remnants of tape to keep it together instead of using a clamp!

OK, so repairs had to be made, which meant that suddenly I had to get clamps of my own. I ended up getting some DeWalt parallel bar clamps. I figured I’d use them again, and buying them means I kinda need to use them again. I also bought some spring clamps so the boards would stay even while drying.

While I sanded the old glue from between the boards before gluing them up, I decided not to sand the faces of the boards. My friend Gerry agreed with that assessment of not sanding till later so I would avoid duplicate work, and that ended up being a good call.

But as I was prepping the top board for gluing, I realized that there was a split that ran too deep. I broke the boards apart at the seam with my bare hands like it was matzah. It would be three boards to glue up rather than two.

That was only on the top part, though!

The lower section was in three pieces already.

It could have been worse!

Friday afternoon I glued up lower section and let it dry for a little more than 24 hours.

Look at that thing dry! That was pretty much my Saturday.

Saturday night I did the same for the upper board.

That looks familiar, right?
It’s just a little smaller.

I decided that Sunday would be for sanding the lower board and the side pieces. I wanted to get as much done possible Sunday because Monday’s forecast called for very strong winds.

I was surprised at what I found as I continued to sand. That will be in next week’s post.

Woodworking: End table refinishing project (part 1)

I picked up a piece of discarded furniture the other day, and I’m going to be refinishing it.

But first things first–namely, my background in woodworking.

When I was 11, I took woodshop in summer school at Horace Mann Elementary school in Beverly Hills. It was the first of three woodshop summers. Two decades later it seems crazy to let someone of that age deal with all kinds of tools that can lead to permanent damage, but at the time, I just made sure to be careful.

I made a chessboard and a side table/stool. They’re still going strong, but they do need some attention. I tried to turn chess pieces at 13 when my summer woodshop class was at Beverly Hills High School, but those came out poorly. The Horace Mann shop didn’t have a lathe. Beverly’s did.

I’ve made things over the years, and the lessons from woodshop class and Mr. Bartkoski have stuck with me.

(Sidenote: I just now found out that Mr. Bartkoski passed away in January 2007. My day is now a little sadder.)

In the past decade, my woodworking activities have mainly been focused on refinishing things other people have made and people afterward have made worse, either because they actively didn’t care or because they didn’t know what to do.

For example, I was given my coffee table by a friend who was moving. After years of parties and little attention to cleanup by the people who lived in that house, the table looked pretty gross. But I saw potential.

Yeah, I know.

When I sanded it down, I found a stain that wended its way around part of the table. I don’t know what had spilled, but it’s many, many layers deep.

The stain remains!

I forewent finishing it with teak oil in favor of staining it and applying a polyurethane topcoat.

Gotta hide that ugly stain with stain of my own!

Ultimately, I am happy with the end result.

Minor blems, but I don’t care right now.

Recently I refinished some folding chairs found in the alley, but there wasn’t nearly the same level of filth.

I did the first of the set of six by itself and then the other five at once. The refinished one on the left looks better, yeah?

As you can see, I like to take things people have given up on and make them look like they’re not garbage. Some projects are easier than others, and there’s no guarantee that a project won’t amount to a total waste of time.

So I picked up a step-up end table that was on craigslist’s free stuff. I wiped it off, brought it back with me, and then let it sit outside. This one is going to be the biggest challenge yet. Stay tuned.