From the Bench: The Family Violin

My personal story is about endings and beginnings, father, son, and daughters, completing one circle and starting another.

My father, Henry Finck, was a professor of anatomy at the University of Pittsburgh; at home he was a craftsman in leather, weaving, and wood. He had a little shop in the basement when I was growing up, and that’s where I found my interest in woodworking. When he was a 13-year-old, he was already a precocious woodworker with an entrepreneurial bent—he purchased an industrial-quality jigsaw and started reproducing gingerbread trim for Victorian homes in his Baltimore neighborhood. He took up playing violin around the same time. Years later, his musical and woodworking interests would combine.

I was 10 when my father began planning his violin-building quest. At first I was puzzled when he told me he would start by building a guitar, then a viola da gamba, and then, finally, as if making a staged assault on Everest, the violin. Why not just build the violin, I wondered? Of course, I wasn’t grasping the benefits of building skill upon skill that this sequence offered.

My father had a lot on his plate with his job and three children to help raise, and progress on the violin project was slow. In high school I took up playing guitar and must admit I nagged my dad quite a bit to finish the guitar he had started. One summer, applying a bit of “child psychology,” I set about building a guitar myself with the hope that he might be spurred to complete his own. It never occurred to me that I would actually finish my guitar, let alone ignite a passion for fine woodworking and discover a career, but all of those things came to pass. In the mid-1980s I spent two years studying furniture making under James Krenov, and afterward I opened a shop and began building furniture.

By 1999, when I was 13 years into my furniture career, I was married with two young daughters and had assumed the role of primary child caregiver. At one point, running short of ideas on how to spend time with the little ones, I took my daughters, ages 2 and 4, to meet a woman offering Suzuki violin lessons to very young children. Since that first lesson, the girls have never put down their fiddles.

In time my father did finish his guitar, but the viola da gamba was only half-completed at the time of his death, and the violin was a dream never realized.

After my father died I was struck with the notion that I ought to build a violin. His unfinished viola da gamba and his unfinished dream were urging me on. Also, my older daughter was in need of a better instrument. Bolstered by a lifetime of woodworking skills, several feet of bookshelf dedicated to all aspects of the violin, most of the necessary tools, and some choice wood, I decided that the time was ripe to begin. And so I did.

Wonder of wonders, that first violin came out very well. And you can’t very well make a violin for one daughter and not the other. Both daughters took to their new violins right away, and I’m honored to say that they continue to play them today as professional violinists.

As that first violin took shape it hit me with the deepest certainty that I had come across my calling. I felt completely at home every step of the way. I shifted my career path soon after from furniture building to focus on making concert-quality violins and violas.

I’ve come to think that building a violin is a little bit of a nod toward making one’s mark in the world. So many of us look back over the generations and we see a grainy photograph of an ancestor, and that is often all that we have of them. But with the violins, my kids’ kids and their kids have something that can be handed down that’s tangible—but it’s alive too. If those future relatives are also violin players, well that’s an incredible connection through the generations.

Now, as I begin carving a violin, I think of the dreams of my father. And although I miss him greatly, I am comforted remembering him this way, and I often smile and silently thank him for propelling me along this beautiful path.

David Finck makes violins and violas in Valle Crucis, N.C.

From Fine Woodworking #274

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SketchUp: Creating Cutaway Views

In my previous blog post I showed how to use section cuts to create views showing the interior of your project. Another classic way to illustrate the inner details is to use cutaways. This video demonstrates how to create a cutaway view in SketchUp. Unlike section cuts, this method requires editing components so I’ll show you how to manage that with copies of the components and the use of layers. Everything is done with native tools except for drawing the curves along the cut edges. For that I used the Classic Bezier Curve tool from Fredo6’s Bezier Spline extension.



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STL183: The Call of the Cordless Tool

Leave a comment on this page to be entered in the giveaway of Craig Thibodeau’s book, The Craft of Veneering.

Peter Galbert’s FWW Live 2018 Keynote Speech – Unsurprisingly, the journey of a windsor chairmaker is rarely a straight line

Question 1:

From David:
I have avoided cordless power tools because as a hobbyist and renter, I seldom use the tools outside of the basement workshop. I’ve been told I don’t know what I’m missing, but it seems my wallet prefers it that way.  I’m most concerned about trying to commit to one brand/manufacturer or contend with the expense and hassle of having multiple chargers and batteries that aren’t compatible. Do you feel as though it makes sense to keep all of your cordless power tools within the same brand? Or is my concern unfounded? If you had to commit to a brand, what would they be and why?

Question 2:

From Harry:
How can I prevent Camellia from becoming all gummy. After letting a plane set for a few weeks that had been wiped down with Camellia Oil it was next to impossible to get the plane apart. I actually caused some minor damage it was stuck so hard.

Segment: Smooth Move

Ben: Not looking at the fine print on a router bearing

Anissa: Not looking at the sticker telling her which way to assemble a part on a dust collector

Question 3:  

From J:
Hey folks, I recently volunteered to be the shop manager for my local guild of woodworkers.  We have a 16” Oliver that apparently, according to some, must never have its bed waxed. They prefer it is cleaned only with kerosene, the reason being that it’s believed waxing a jointer bed will cause glue joints to fail. Any merit to this train of thought? Or can I just wax it and make everyone’s lives easier.

  • Mike recommendation of TopCote is now called GlideCote
  • Ben uses and recommends SlipIt

Question 4:

From Joe:
I’ve gotten very good at sharpening my hand plane blades as well as making my wood surface feel silky smooth off the hand plane.  When using a 2 pound cut shellac as a finish, do I need to rough up wood surface with sandpaper (such as 300 grit) so the shellac can stick better to the wood surface?

Every two weeks, a team of Fine Woodworking staffers answers questions from readers on Shop Talk Live, Fine Woodworking‘s biweekly podcast. Send your woodworking questions to for consideration in the regular broadcast! Our continued existence relies upon listener support. So if you enjoy the show, be sure to leave us a five-star rating and maybe even a nice comment on our iTunes page.

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STL182.5 – Veneer Master Craig Thibodeau

Normally here I post a bunch of links. I’m going to be honest, you just need one link on this, Craig’s website. Everything he discusses is easily found on his website, and the site itself is wonderfully done. It’s worth going to just to see how a real pro presents their work. Plus, while you’re there you can buy a signed copy of his book! -Ben

You can purchase an eBook version of Craig’s book The Craft Of Veneering, on the

Every two weeks, a team of Fine Woodworking staffers answers questions from readers on Shop Talk Live, Fine Woodworking‘s biweekly podcast. Send your woodworking questions to for consideration in the regular broadcast! Our continued existence relies upon listener support. So if you enjoy the show, be sure to leave us a five-star rating and maybe even a nice comment on our iTunes page.

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Links from Fine Woodworking issue #274

Article Image

Online extras from FWW issue #274 

Video: From the Board Room 

Mike Farrington has been making videos from his shop, “The Board Room,” and has amassed quite a following on YouTube. Here, he gives Fine Woodworking the YouTube treatment and shows off his kumiko skills.

Video: Cutting-Edge Sharpener

Contributing editor Chris Gochnour is always looking for new ways to be a better sharpener. In this video, you’re sure to learn a sharpening trick or two from this hand-tool aficionado.

A Look At Off-the-Stone Honing Guides

These honing guides may be worth considering, especially if you use sandpaper on glass or diamond plates

Video Workshop: Enfield Cupboard Made with Hand Tools

A well-tuned machine makes woodworking safer and more accurate, and makes your shop time more enjoyable


Article: Limbert Deconstructed (Coming Soon)

Limbert deconstructed At first glance, Charles Limbert’s designs might look similar to other Arts and Crafts furniture, but his work has distinct details that make his pieces stand out from other designs of the genre. Jonathan Binzen breaks out what makes Limbert’s designs unique.


Video: The Ballad of Peter Galbert (Coming 2/22)

Peter Galbert wowed the audience with his keynote at Fine Woodworking Live 2018. Online members can get in on the action now, too. Peter tells the fascinating story of how he became one of the world’s premier chairmakers, and why he still considers woodworking one of his life’s greatest passions.

Video: Lens Flair (Coming Soon)

For Ivy Siosi and Audi Culver, expressing their artistic side doesn’t end in the workshop. A major part of their story is told through Audi’s photos of their lives and work. What started as a graduate school project has turned into one of their greatest business assets.

Video: Hand-cut Tapered Dovetails

In this video, Chris Gochnour begins creating the tapered sliding dovetails by sawing out the sockets, and cleaning them up with a router plane.


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SketchUp: Reproducing a Reeded Bedpost

Article Image

I’ve been building a Sheraton 4-Poster Field Bed, with canopy and beautifully decorated turned posts. These posts have a reeded section of the bulbous turning as shown in the SketchUp model shown below. Only the Foot Posts have the reeds – the Head Posts are normally less decorated on these styles.

Each Post is turned in two separate pieces that are joined with a dowel connector. Only the two Posts at the foot of the bed have the reeded section as shown below.

I used the following method for creating the reed decoration on the Foot Post. I’ll show the steps here, but I’ve also attached a 6 minute video of this process.

Step 1 – Create the profile of the bulbous section of the turning


Step 2 – With Rotate Tool, copy the profile at 36 degrees to create the boundary of one Reed


Step 3 – Copy the curved outer edges  1/8-in. toward the center. Then use the Arc Tool to create the Reed profile with 1/8-in. bulge. Also create the Reed profile at the bottom.


Step 4- Pick the Plug-in Fredo Curviloft – Skin Contours and select the boundary edges of the Reed, validate, then finish.


Step 5 – Copy the face of the single reed using the Rotate Tool. Then type X9 to complete the array of 10 reeds.


Here is the final result after completing the array.


Step 6 – Replace the smooth turned section of the Foot Post with this section of 10 Reeds.

Here is the final construction still in the shop……




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Smoking Good Wood

Having just spent several days in the Hill Country of south Texas, I was able to grab a couple of chunks of mesquite wood that was literally just lying around. I intend to turn a couple of pizza cutter and ice cream scoop handles as gifts for my Texas host, just to see how it works.

The good news is that, if I make a hash of the job or have a good deal of leftover stock, I can always put it in my grill to get some authentic smoked flavoring infused into my creative cookery. This is something I do often with leftover ash lumber (the results are very close to hickory smoke flavor) as well as cherry and apple wood.

My question: is this something other woodworkers take advantage of, or am I an oddball in this regard (as in so many others)? And, if so, what species are also top-notch in the smoker?

Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal

DeWALT, Soft Starter Recalls

DeWALT, Soft Starter Recalls

Woodworker’s Journal Weekly recently has learned of two tool recalls in effect that relate to certain DeWALT corded drills and to the Soft Starter A10 device made by Raymond Innovations.

DeWALT DWD110, DWD112 Electric Drills

On Jan. 10, 2019, DeWALT Industrial Tool Company initiated a recall (number 19-059) that involves the DWD110 and DWD112 models of 3/8-in. variable speed reversing electric drills (model DWD112 pictured above). The drills are yellow with black accents and have a power cable connected at one end. DeWALT reports that the electrical wiring in these drills potentially can contact internal moving parts and pose a shock hazard. The recall includes about 122,000 drills manufactured in the USA and sold at The Home Depot and Lowe’s stores as well as other hardware and online sources between September 2017 and November 2018. The drills retailed for between $60 and $70. Also affected are around 8,000 drills sold in Canada.

Only drills with date codes 2017-37-FY through 2018-22-FY are affected. If the drill is marked with an “X” after the date code, it has already been inspected and is not affected. The model number is located on a label on the right side of the drill. The date code is etched into the body of the drill below the label. Consumers whose drill does not have a date code, or who cannot locate the date code should contact the company.

Owners of these affected drills are requested to stop using them immediately and contact DeWALT toll-free at 855-752-5259 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday or email at You can also learn more by clicking here or visiting and clicking on Service and Support, then Safety Recall Notice.

DeWALT reports that it is offering a free inspection and correction of affected drills.

Raymond Innovations A10 Soft Starter

On Feb. 8, 2019, Raymond Innovations issued a recall notice to customers who have purchased the A10 Soft Starter. The company has recently become aware of an issue where the internal components of the A10 can break down from electrical stress, causing the device to either short circuit to the grounded aluminum body of the Soft Starter or result in a total power loss. The symptoms of a short circuit are visible electrical sparks and a burn hole in the aluminum body, followed by a tripped circuit breaker.

Raymond Innovations requests that customers cease using their current A10 Soft Starters immediately. The company is offering a free replacement of an updated A10 with unlimited runtime versus the previous version’s 5-minute maximum runtime.

To receive a replacement A10, Raymond Industries offers the following instructions:

1) Cut off the plug ends of the original A10 Soft Starter with a wire cutter.

2) Take a photo of the Soft Starter with the plug ends removed, and email it to or forward a photo in a text message to the phone number 605.872.0988. Make sure to include your name and/or original order number, then dispose of the device.

Raymond Innovations will send an order confirmation of your new A10 Soft Starter to the email address provided at the time of purchase. The company anticipates shipping replacement A10 Soft Starters within three weeks.

When are Tack Cloths a No-No?

When are Tack Cloths a No-No?

When is it not appropriate to use a tack cloth in the finishing process? When is it detrimental to the next layer of finish? – R. Jones

Tim Inman: This will seem like one of my smarty-pants answers, but I don’t mean it to be that way. The appropriate time to use a tack cloth is when you have made that tack cloth yourself! Commercially available tack cloths are almost always made from sticky waxes embedded in cheesecloth. When you use these, you often end up smearing some of the wax onto the surface of your project. The result can be finishing problems when recoating. Over my years consulting with professional furniture restorers, I fielded many finish fault questions that eventually tracked back to waxy tack cloths. So I’m biased against them. Traditionally, homemade tack cloths were made by adding a little varnish to some solvent, then soaking a rag or cloth in it. This is fine when it’s like-varnish-over-like-varnish. But almost nobody will take the time and risk (fire risk from the leftover rags self combusting) to do it themselves. The goal of using a tack cloth is to remove all the dust and “no-see-‘ums” from the surface immediately before recoating. We have better ways now. Today, vacuums, soft brushes or lightly solvent-dampened cloths can work just as well. The old-timers used the best materials and methods they had available to them at the time. Times have changed. Be like the old-timers: use the best materials and methods available to you now.

Chris Marshall: Loose dust nibs and so forth are pretty easy to vacuum up after sanding, if done carefully with a quality shop vacuum outfitted with a fine filter. And, even if a few undesirables end up in the finish, I sand between coats anyway to remove them, then vacuum again. So, I don’t actually ever use tack cloths — I just vacuum thoroughly with a brush attachment (and a crevice tool when needed and proceed to finishing. I also never blow the debris off. That just floats it into the air — and you know what’s bound to happen then: what goes up, must come down … right into the fresh finish.

ORION® 930 Pinless Moisture Meter

ORION® 930 Pinless Moisture Meter

The new Orion® 930 Dual Depth Pinless Wood Moisture Meter from Wagner Meters is designed for professional wood flooring installers/inspectors, quality control managers as well as serious woodworkers, artisans and fabricators who need superior accuracy, versatility and ruggedness in their critical moisture measurement instruments. The device from Wagner Meters, a company with a 50-plus-year history, takes readings within the wood and not just on the wood.

The Orion 930 offers a “Dual Depth” mode, providing readings at 1/4- and 3/4-in. depths. In 1/4-in. mode, the meter will read the moisture content from the surface level down to 1/4 in. In 3/4-in. mode, the meter’s IntelliSense™ technology will be activated so it disregards surface moisture and reads deeper moisture content from 3/4 to 1-1/2 in. It scans a 2 x 2-1/2-in. area, and the LCD display offers moisture content readings ranging from 4.0 to 32.0 percent.

Measuring 1 in. thick, 3 in. wide and 5-3/4 in. long, the meter weighs 7.2 oz. and operates on a 9-volt battery. It has an auto-shutdown feature that turns off the meter after 60 seconds to preserve battery life. Wagner provides a protective rubber boot for the device as well as a paired on-demand calibrator, 9-volt alkaline battery and a foam-lined ABS plastic carrying case.

The base model Orion 930 Dual Depth Pinless Wood Moisture Meter sells for $359. A second version that includes an NIST Traceable On-demand Calibrator Platform is priced at $434. Both options are backed by a 7-year warranty.