Name/Handle:

Kenbo / Kennyearrings1 / Acutabove Woodworking

Making Since:

That’s not a question that is answered by simply stating a year.  I got interested in woodworking at a very young age and starting making projects at the age of 10.  I never really got serious about it until I was much older and it wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that I decided that this was the hobby that I wanted to excel at.  How long have I been making sawdust?  Depending on which starting date you go by, I’ve either been at it for 37 years, or I’m a new comer with only 17 years of experience.  Either way, I’ve got a long way to go and there is always something new to learn.

Hails From:

I “hail” from Ontario, Canada.  I live in a large city and that can sometimes present a challenge with neighbours living so close and the noise of power tools.  I do have some pretty understanding neighbours though who admire my work and don’t mind a little woodworking noise throughout the year.  The one good thing about living in a large city is that tools are never hard to find as we have an abundance of woodworking suppliers within the surrounding area.  Lumber however, is a little harder to come by; especially if you want the exotics.

Primary Genre:

Kenbo Scroll Saw Portrait

Scroll Saw Artwork

I don’t really have a primary genre when it comes to my woodworking.  There are those that would argue that my main “squeeze” would be the scroll saw, but I would have to disagree.  Although I have excelled at the scroll saw and I thoroughly enjoy working on the Excalibur, there are so many areas of our hobby that are interesting and exciting to learn, I would hate to pin myself down to just one of those.  I do everything from furniture making to wood turning and although I am skilled (through practice and learning from my mistakes) at all of them, I am by no means an expert in any particular area of the craft.  I still consider myself a novice at this hobby and I will continue to learn in all aspects of it as long as my body will allow me to do so.  What’s my primary genre?  I like to take a rough piece of wood and turn it into something special that will outlast me and those who come after me.

Size Shop and Type:

My shop is a smaller one in my opinion.  It measures 12’ X 24’ (288 square feet) and it is a separate building from my house.  I would have loved to build bigger, but unfortunately the city wouldn’t allow me to build any larger than that.  I’ve thought about building another story, but the city will not allow that either so I seem to be stuck with my 288 square feet of a sawdust making structure.  That being said, there’s a lot of punch packed into that little building and it definitely serves the purpose of providing me with place to perfect my hobby.  It is one of my favourite places to hang out.

Kenbo Shop 2 Kenbo Shop 1

Favorite Tool & Why:

Kenbo Tool Chest

Tool Chest Made By Kenny

My favourite tools in the shop might not be what you’d expect.  It’s not the Excalibur scroll saw or the SawStop PCS or the 735 planer or my Delta midi lathe.  The favourite tools in my shop are ones that most folks might not notice.  I have a small carver’s mallet that lives in the tool well of my workbench and there’s just something about that little mallet that makes me happy.  I have a couple of old saw sets that belonged to my grandfather that hang above the door to my shop and although they have never been used by me, I just love having them there and I keep telling myself that I “really need to learn how to use them one day”.  I have an old antique Stanley 3” level that belonged to my great grandfather and for the most part, it lives in my tool chest and rarely sees the light of day but when it does come out of the drawer it definitely makes me smile.  There’s a small red wagon that hangs from my ceiling in the shop (you may have seen it in one of my weekly Youtube videos) that belonged to my father and although it’s not a tool, it is one of my favourite things that lives in my shop.  I have a favourite square that hangs on the wall, just in front of my bench and it is my main go to square and gets used for everything.  I’m truly surprised that I haven’t rubbed the finish off of this square yet.  I have a favourite center punch that I always use and although it might seem strange to have a favourite punch, there’s just something about the way this one feels in my hand and that way it’s shaped that makes me hope that I never lose it.  An old hand plane that belonged to my father is also one of my favourite things and is currently in the process of being restored.  I’m looking forward to working with that plane and it also makes the list of one of my favourite things.  A favourite tool doesn’t have to be one that you work with every day, or even be one that you use at all.  It just has to instill some memory or feeling that makes you smile and feel glad that you are a woodworker.  I have a lot of those little things around my shop, and the above list is only the tip of the iceberg.

Specialties:

Kenbo Ornate Wooden Clock 2

Scroll Saw Clock

I would have to say, that my strong suit or my “specialty” would have to be shop organization.  I am a firm believer in the fact that a clean and organized shop is a productive a safer shop.  I don’t waste time looking for tools or items needed for projects because I know exactly where everything is and I pride myself on keeping a clean shop at all times, even when in the middle of a project.  I love the fact that I never have to waste time cleaning when I first enter my shop because I made a conscious effort to clean it before I left the last time I was there.  I guess if I had to put my finger on an aspect of woodworking that I specialize in, I would have to say it’s an even match between the intricate fretwork of the scroll saw and constructing miniature models out of wood.  The patience to sit for hours at a saw and cut hundreds of interior cuts or the attention to detail it takes to make some of the miniature models that I do would make them both qualify as my “specialty” but I’m not a fan of labeling it as such because it might imply that it is the only form of woodworking that I do.  So let’s just say that I specialize in making sawdust and on occasion, custom fire wood.

 

Kenbo Wooden Army Model

Military Vehicle Model

What do you find most appealing to Woodworking?

Kenbo Sroll Saw Art 2

Scroll Sawn Tiger

The ability to take a piece of rough cut lumber and mill, sand, cut, shape and construct it into something that makes people “ooh” and “ah”, is something that only a woodworker can understand.  It’s the personal satisfaction of finding the inner project, hidden somewhere within the piece of wood that you have chosen.  It’s the ability to fabricate something that most folks wouldn’t even attempt to make and to do it with a sense of pride in your work that only you can understand.  It’s the quality of work, the crispness of the cut, the perfection of the joints and the flawlessness of the finish that makes us strive to get better, to try new things, to push ourselves, to not compromise our standards and to construct the best project that our current abilities will allow. These are the things that I find most appealing about my “primary genre”.  These are the things that make it that I always come back to woodworking with a positive attitude and a willingness to get better at it.

What got you into making things?

Kenbo Wooden Covered Wagon

Conestoga Wagon Crafted By Kenny

I’m not exactly sure what got me started but I can only guess that it derives from the days of seeing my grandfather and my father work with wood in their small little shops.  Both my father and my grandfather could be considered to be “arts and crafts” style woodworkers, making small items for decoration and there was just something about what they did that interested me.  I loved to hang out with them in their shops and watch what they did while I hammered nails into a piece of scrap to keep me busy.  Although neither of them did fine woodworking, they did enough to spark the flame that would start me on my woodworking journey and I’m glad that they did because I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Favorite material to work with:

Every woodworker has their favourite combination of woods to work with and I can say, without a doubt, that my favourite is maple and walnut.  I love the drastic contrast of the two species and the way that they work together.  There is definitely a challenge working with that combination when it comes to finishing but none the less, it is without a doubt my favourite. 

Any advice you would give to beginners?

Kenbo Jewelry Box

Jewelry Box

Plenty of advice here for beginners but we don’t have enough time for that.  I will touch on a few things though.  For starters, be proud of every piece that you create.  No one is good at something right out of the gate and it takes time to develop a skill.  Have some patience with your work.  Take the time that you need to create your project without time restrictions.  Taking your time and creating something without settling or saying that something is “good enough” is the key to honing your woodworking skills.  By always making sure that your work is done to the best of your ability, you lay the foundation to build your skills to a level that will not only be admired by others, but will also be admired by your biggest critic; you.  The last piece of advice I have is to pay close attention to the housekeeping of your shop.  Keeping your tools clean and organized will enhance your woodworking experience immensely.  A clean shop is a safer shop and when you don’t have to worry about tripping hazards and things falling over on you, you can concentrate more on the task at hand; honing your skills.  A place for everything and everything in its place may seem a little cliché, but it is one of the fundamentals of woodworking and it will go a long way to making your journey an enjoyable one.  Instead of spending an hour searching for a tool, spend that hour woodworking because you knew exactly where that tool was and didn’t waste any time searching.  Remember, it’s the job of the tools to make the mess.  It’s your job to clean it.  So before ever leaving your shop for the day, clean the mess so that you can return to a tidy and organized shop that is ready for you to create your latest masterpiece.

One or two favorite tips or tricks?

Keep a healthy coat of protection on your cast iron tools.  Whether you use paste wax or a Topcote style of protective layer, be sure to protect your iron from rust.  

If you are interested in the scroll saw, a newcomer to the tool can greatly increase their control of the blade by rounding off the back of the blade with a sharpening stone while the machine is running.  The lack of a sharp edge on the back side of a scroll saw blade will greatly reduce the chances of it digging in to the stock and wandering from your cut lines.

Rare earth magnets to hold your drill press chuck key will prevent you from misplacing it when not in use.  Just attach a magnet to the body of the drill press and snap your chuck key to the magnet each time you use it.
And finally, you can never have enough clamps.  Enough said.

Project you’re most proud of (email 2-3 pictures to me):

Kenbo Boat On Boat

Boat On Boat

There are many projects that I have a lot of pride in and it would be hard for me to pinpoint just one that I am the most proud of but I can pinpoint a project that would be considered one of my favourites.  The project is nothing spectacular and in fact, most novice woodworkers could complete the same project with ease.  When I was a young boy, I would visit my grandfather on the east coast of Canada during the summer months and he would bring me to his shop and carve small wooden boats for me to play with.  Of all the boats that he ever made for me, I had one left and I scrolled a ship in a bottle and mounted it on top of that boat.  Two completely different generations and styles of woodworking brought together in one special project.  Although it may not look special or spectacular to anyone else, it is pretty special to me.

Notable highlights or projects?

I think one of the most notable projects that I have created would have to be my dome clock.  It stands almost 6’ tall and is a mind blowing display of fretwork, complete with frosted windows and hand carved cabriole legs.  It is definitely a conversation piece and is one of the highlights of my woodworking adventure.  Another highlight of my woodworking experience would have to be my scaled model of a Conestoga wagon.  At almost 5’ long, it caused me to dive into all kinds of techniques from scrolling, to table saw joinery to steam bending.  I even had to learn to use a sewing machine in order to construct the canvas covering and some of the accessories for the wagon.  Custom made cargo and grain bags were a part of the fun and after many hours of construction, this project serves as one of the most involved ventures I have taken.  The entire project was an outstanding experience.

Kenbo Ornate Wooden Clock 1

Workflow and organization is a struggle for many people.  What are some things you do to stay organized?

Kenbo Valet

Wood Valet

When it comes to workflow and organization, I don’t seem to have any issues.  I think the reason for this is the fact that I think about a project for months before it is ever brought to fruition.  I try to run over every detail in my mind and do my best to work out the bugs before the wood ever touches the saw.  I’m almost over the top when it comes to planning out my projects.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t have problems and that there isn’t problem solving involved.  If it wasn’t for the problem solving, woodworking would be boring for me.  My workflow pretty much starts out in the same way for every project.  I get an idea of what I want to make and I run over as many of those details in my head as I can.  If there is a set of prints involved, I usually study them and make corrections or notes as I go.  If my project is the result of research and planning, I make sure that I have notes made so that I can answer most questions I have about the build before it even begins.  

Wooden Clock

Wood Gear Clock

The next step is usually the easiest for me; deciding what species I want to construct the project from.  Once I’ve decided that, I usually get into the milling of the wood.  I use all rough cut lumber for my projects and mill my own stock from 8/4 rough sawn to the dimensions that I require.  This is where planning ahead and running through the whole project comes in handy.  Instead of milling the stock for the few pieces I need to make first, by having the knowledge of the steps it takes to complete the project, I have the ability to mill the stock for future pieces and that saves me time down the road.  Instead of having to set up for a milling day, I can just pull the stock down from the wood rack because it has already been milled and ear marked for the future steps.  From there, pieces are dry fit together before ever applying any adhesive.  There are many folks in the woodworking community who neglect to do a dry fit of their pieces and in my opinion this is a very important step for the success of any project.  Dry fitting the pieces allows you to ensure the proper fit and make the necessary adjustments before the glue has been applied.  This allows for a much cleaner joint and a lot less sanding and repairing.  I do my best to sand as I go and once the project is completely assembled, I give it the final finish sanding and apply the finish.  This may seem like the most basic of workflows and I would tend to agree with you.  The hardest and most intense part of the entire process would be the planning and I can’t stress enough how important that is to any shop project.  Aside from the actual work flow and planning of a woodworking job, there is also the organization of the shop which helps in fluidity of the workflow.  Being sure that your shop is organized is a key factor to having an enjoyable shop experience.

Kenbo Wooden Hummer Model

Wood Hummer Model

I like to have work stations set up for different tasks.  For example, I don’t need to walk all around my shop to find the tools needed to drill one hole.  All of the items needed for that particular process are located in the same location as the drill press so it allows the process of drilling a hole to be simple, quick and trouble free.  This is a very simplified example but it applies to all stations in my shop.  If I am at the scroll saw and require a new blade, or a small square to set the blade or a stone to round the back of a blade, I don’t even have to get up from my chair.  All of those items related to the use of that tool are located within an arm’s reach and it makes for a stress free use of that tool.  There is eye protection and hearing protection located in close proximity to all tools requiring that particular safety gear.  Easily accessible safety gear that is easy to use is gear that will get used instead of being pushed aside and ignored.  Think about the items that you will use when working at a certain station and place those items at that station.  It will go a long way to helping you with your workflow and will give you more time to make sawdust and less time to run around getting the tools that you require.  Don’t just place things in your shop without thinking it through first.  Shop organization is just another project and it takes just as much time and thought as any other project that you might attempt.   

Kenbo Hasp Box

Hasped Dovetail Box

Have you ever had a “slump” or had to walk away from a project, and what did you do to get back on track?  If not, how do you stay motivated in your shop?

Kenbo  Ukulele

Wood Ukulele Build

There has only ever been one project that I had to put on hold.  I was constructing a wooden replica of a motorcycle and I was having issue after issue with pieces breaking, blades wandering and basically everything going wrong.  I ended up putting that project into a box and placed it on the shelf for almost two years.  I eventually came back to it and found that approaching it with a fresh set of eyes and two years of extra experience made the project go perfectly and effortlessly.  Sometimes, a little extra experience and a fresh outlook is all you need to be successful.  At any point in time, I have approximately three or four projects on the go at one time.  It’s very easy to stay motivated when you have several projects on the go at once.  It also prevents you from working on a project before the glue is completely dry.  Working on several projects at once also makes it very easy to keep the ideas flowing and have a fresh take on every piece.  When one particular project becomes stagnant, I just move on to one of the other pieces and return to the original project when I get around to it.  You would be amazed at what a difference a couple of days makes when you leave a project alone and return to it.  Those two, or three days can make the difference between a project’s success and a project’s failure.  Keep it fresh and keep it flowing and don’t allow projects to get stale by placing all your attention on it.  Remember, if you are in a hurry to complete a woodworking project, maybe you are in the wrong hobby.

Kenbo Dovetail Box

Dovetail Boxes

   

Where can people find more about you?

Kenbo Razors

Turned Razor Handles

I think this is the place in the interview where I pump out a bunch of shameless self-promotion and I’m okay with that.  I have a youtube channel in which a new show gets posted every Friday evening.  I try to provide everything from shop tips, to humour, to small woodworking project and large build series videos.  I also provide tool videos showing how to keep your tools at their peak performance.  I pride myself on giving my viewers a channel that is ad free and although I have had many offers to monetize my channel and make some money from producing my show, I refuse to monetize at the cost of subjecting my viewers to advertisements.  After all, we are here to watch woodworking videos, not watch commercials.
You can find my youtube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/user/kennyearrings1

I also have a facebook fan page for the show and that is available at:  https://www.facebook.com/kennyearrings1/?ref=hl
The current show for that week on my youtube channel is posted on the facebook fan page every Saturday.  As well as the usual weekly video posting from my youtube channel, you can expect to see build photos that would not be featured on the show.  So feel free to come on over and subscribe to my youtube channel and like my facebook page.  I’d be more than happy to have some more great folks aboard on the show.

Kenbo Wooden Tank Model

Tank Model With Wood Tracks

Anything else you want people to know about you:

For me, what you see is what you get.  I’m really nothing special and I am sometimes overwhelmed by the pedestal that some people put me on.  My woodworking is something that anyone can do and all you have to do is attempt it.  So the next time you are looking at some of my work and wishing that you could be as “skilled” as me, remember these two things…

  1. My heroes in woodworking were both “arts and crafts” woodworkers that never accomplished any amazing feats of fine woodworking.
  2. Regardless of how rustic you think your woodworking is, there is someone out there that looks at it in awe and wishes that they could have your skill set.

Thanks for reading about me.  Now get off the computer and go make some sawdust.

Kenbo


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