Cool Woodworking Projects. Really.

There are a few contradictions in the daily life of an online editor at F&W Media. Sometimes I wrestle with some confusing questions. Is woodworking popular, or is that just a catchy combination of words for a magazine title? Does the amount of time you spend looking at a screen directly increase your abilities in the shop? How do we get young, digitally savvy people interested in building things? Or, in other words, is there such a thing as cool woodworking projects?

Not just for reasons of job security, I’m going to answer “yes” to all of the above questions. But the rubber really meets the road at that last one – on project plans. There are tons of people, of all ages, interested in building things. We all started with the little plastic building blocks made in Denmark. We’ve grown a bit more mature and now we’re out hunting the web for a grown-up equivalent. The only real stipulation is it has to be cool! Well, here are three Popular Woodworking projects to choose from – and they even go on sale this Wednesday. So stock up!

Cool Woodworking Projects from F&W Media (Not an Oxymoronic List)

1. The project that will make you say to your sweetheart, “You really won the dude (or dudette) lottery when you found me!” This project is a confidence builder. It looks great and it works great. You’ve seen me blogging about it for a few months, most recently for its potential as a nice piece of furniture. Best of all, it only takes two days and a super-short list of tools. Click here to read and watch more about the “Two-day Traditional Tool Chest!”

Cool woodworking projects basically look like this.

Cool woodworking projects basically look like this.

2. The project where Robert Lang sports an awesome mane and beard. I haven’t built this one yet, but I am in the market for a new workbench, and I’m starting to lean 21st-century. Bob hit it out of the park with this design, combining elements from Roubo-style benches with his own take on hybrid woodworking. It’s also a knock-down bench, which means you can take it on the road with you. Click here to see the Bob at his coolest and to buy the “21st-century Workbench” project!

3. The project where Mario Rodriguez goes Biedermeier on you. Come on. You think smooth was just invented yesterday? They had smooth going like crazy back in Europe while we were still hacking away at the western forests. Just look at the lines on the “Elegant Writing Desk” if you need any proof. I suppose you could attribute it entirely to Mario – he is pretty cool, actually – but it is a great example of an updated classic!

Classic joinery (also known as woodworking) never goes out of style. What are the coolest projects you’ve completed recently?

Dan Farnbach

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About Dan Farnbach

Dan apprenticed and worked in two professional shops during the years after college. But sweeping shop floors only goes so far toward learning woodworking. These days Dan is online editor for Popular Woodworking, and is learning new skills every day. He divides his time between Boston and Maine.

8 thoughts on “Cool Woodworking Projects. Really.

  1. RWSmith13

    I am trying to finish a fairly large tool, I’ll call, chest, to put all my hand tools and other various woodworking tools plus storage for my Festool systainers. It has drawers and a bottom section that I can put some of those space eating systainers in. I don’t have a finish on it yet….made it basically out of birch plywood as I really didn’t care about what it looked like compared to what it did for me. I have a bunch of planes, chisels, etc that my grandfather passed down and it was time to get them out of boxes! He was a master woodworker for Wurlitzer, the piano, jukebox, organ company in Tonawanda, NY. I really need to take the stuff out and put some poly on it and also put some wheels on it so I can move it around. As usual, I’m off doing other stuff. Need to focus and get ‘er done as per Greg above!!

  2. Bill Lattanzio

    If you want to build it, and you could use it, and you had fun doing it, then it was and is a “cool” project. If you don’t get stuck on labels like “hand tool woodworker” or “hybrid woodworker” or “Normite” then you may actually enjoy yourself and make some nice stuff instead of becoming stuck in one narrow-minded ideology for no other reason than somebody told you it was the only way to do it. That’s my two-cents, but for what it’s worth my credit is good. Good luck with your woodworking.

  3. ChrisHasFlair

    Dan,

    Interesting post. While the projects you list may be popular, they don’t show up anywhere near my list of cool projects unless all three were rolled into one as a simple design with flowing lines. I guess that’s why I’m a wood artist.

    Chris

  4. gregwest98

    I’ve been keeping up with the “Maker” community for quite some time – as long as Make Magazine has been in publication. I was also a member of a FabLab (membership-based machine shop with basic CNC machines) for a year and used their CNC equipment a bit; at least until they doubled their membership cost. The overarching philosophy amongst the makers seems to be “Just build it”. This is interesting as it applies to woodworking.

    I’ve seen quite a few woodworking projects in that magazine and on the related websites and none of them seem to have any experience with wood. As a result, the projects seem to me to be ugly. Indeed, most makers seem concerned only with functionality – if it works, it’s good. Aesthetics does not enter into the equation at all. I find that attitude inspiring; I’ve often delayed projects because I didn’t know the “right” way to go about it or I thought it would end up ugly if I didn’t do everything in some time-honored way.

    The CNC projects are the ugliest. Most of them are designed by someone with a bit of experience in mechanical engineering and are designed to be made out of flat material like MDF or (in the best case) plywood. Sort of like any other flat-pack furniture I guess. The joinery is just butt-ugly and no attempt is made to hide it. But they get projects done. That community seems to go for projects that are “cooler”; for example a trebuchet that flings tennis balls (something I witnessed at our local FabLab.)

    I like the “Get ‘Er Done” philosophy. My wife has, in general, been most happy with projects that I completed by her need-date rather than those that looked like works of art. I can carve a beautiful relief of a Camellia but if what she needed was a quick table for something (that she’s just going to throw a cloth over anyway), they she’s less than impressed.

    Most of the people I’ve met there are young and very technically savvy. I’m not sure how this dovetails with your point but it has made me think about my own approach to woodworking.

    1. Dan FarnbachDan Farnbach Post author

      FabLab is something I had seen once or twice online but forgot about. Maybe you’re right that there is something there. I’ll have to look into it further. Thanks for sharing your comments and ideas with the Popular Woodworking community!

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