Monday, December 28, 2009

Featured Project - Christmas '09 Gifts

Gifts that come from the heart are a joy for both the one who gives and the one who receives. We decided as a family this year to offer each other hand-made gifts. So out to the wood shop I went.

I was inspired by an article in Wooden Boat magazine about a handy tool box and I decided that that would be something useful for each family.

The Pine for these gifts had the large "bird's eye" figure in it, so it was a joy to apply a finish to, just to see it pop to life.

The handle is an octagonal shaft with a sculpted arm on either end that is as functional as it is beautiful. When the handle is in the up position, it locks the lower drawer shut, so you can move about freely with your stuff securely inside.

The hardware is brass, which compliments the light colored wood very nicely.

We filled the upper section of the toolbox with goodies, family photos and this carved ornament.

My thanks go out to Marty at for providing the pattern.

For my notoriously hard to impress Father and his fiancee', I designed and carved an Aspen trivet with horse motif and their names with an unity symbol between them.

Again my thanks go out to another chip carving master, Wayne Barton for writing the book from which these designs came from.

This January, Wisp Woods will turn one year old. To celebrate, I may switch to a new blog hosting service. Keep a look out for that.
Best wishes to you and yours for a blessed new year.


And look closely, please.

David J. Ulschmid
Designer / Craftsman
~ Wisp Woods ~
Arlington, SD 57212

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Featured Project - BC Cabinets Finished

Here are a few pics of the cabinets. I'm very happy with the way they turned out.

The whole group.
The individual pieces.
A pair of upper cabinets.
A space for a microwave with a set of small doors below.

The "Wisp" in these cabinets is found in this center cabinet. The board above the doors was selected for its pair of catherdral patterns that originate on each end and meet in the center with just a wisp of a connection.

The contrast of the carefully selected rift sawn door frames to the plain sawn panels, most dramatically demonstrated on the above set of doors, really makes me smile. This is a concept that mass producers mess up on all the time. Their grain matching within the panel and with the door frames is often simply awful. The grain is what your eye follows, and I hope that these cabinets are pleasing to the eye.

A big thank you goes out to the customer, for pushing Wisp Woods to a new level, and to Mrs. Wisp Woods for the loads and loads of support she showed during the construction.


And look closely, please.

David J. Ulschmid
Designer / Craftsman
~ Wisp Woods ~
Arlington, SD 57212

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Cabinets DONE

I just finished up the cabinets I've been working on since September. I'll take some pictures tomorrow.

This was such a great learning and growing experience. I've got a few new tools and jigs in my shop now. And my shop is heated, partially thanks to this project. I can now look forward to a whole winter of wood working fun.

David J. Ulschmid
Wisp Woods

Monday, October 5, 2009

Shop Talk - Cabinet Parts

Red Oak is a fabulous wood. Amazingly strong with grain ranging from simple and straight to dynamic arching. One of the great advantages to Oak is that Oak plywood is readily available. Below is a shot of the side pieces for the cabinets I am currently building. Most are Oak, but some are Birch. All the visible side pieces will be oak, but for the hidden interior pieces, we decided to go with Birch to save some money.

Here is a picture of some face frames pieces prior to glue-up. The chalk markings on them are called "Cabinet Maker's Triangles". These keep the pieces organized and properly oriented during the milling and joinery stages.

This has been my first project using loose tenons. I built my own horizontal mortising machine (more on that below) to make the matching mortises. This has been working great. It is so much fun to learn new methods of joinery, and I know I will be using this a lot in the future.

Here is the machine. The router is a Craftsman model and is the exact same one that is in my big router table. The lower table moves toward the router on ball bearing drawer slides. These have plenty of travel, and are smooth and secure. The upper table moves left and right on aluminum track riding in grooves cut in the bottom. These are tight fitting but slide nicely when waxed.


And look closely, please.

David J. Ulschmid
Designer / Craftsman
~ Wisp Woods ~
Arlington, SD 57212
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Shop Talk - Rough Milling

The first tool I pick up when starting a new project doesn't have a cord or a motor. It is the dullest tool, yet it never needs sharpening. And I bought it in the children's isle of a craft store. What is it? It is a piece of chalk.

With all the lumber laid out and grouped by color and figure, I begin the enjoyable task of marking out the parts. Guided by the cut list, I search for pleasing part combinations that make the best use of the wood in an aesthetic, efficient and structurally sound way.

This step, performed with the humble stick of chalk, has tremendous bearing on the appearance of the final product. It requires vision and is a skill that is improved upon with experience and thoughtfulness.

I am proud to say that this step is what sets my work apart from the mass produced home center and discount store offerings. Those who look at the finished product closely will notice immediately. Those who don't have a trained eye will be bugged by something in that value piece that just isn't quite right. When it is done right, it feels just so harmonious that, again, you might not notice right away, but it will feel right from the very beginning.
This stack of lumber is the beginning of something great. I can feel it!


Don't look too closely, the shop is a mess ;).

David J. Ulschmid
Designer / Craftsman
~ Wisp Woods ~
Arlington, SD 57212

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Featured Projects - Upstairs

A wise man once said, "One's mind, once stretched by an original idea, never regains its original dimensions". This is evident in our everyday life and can be a means by which you can improve everything around you. The idea need not be your own. As long as you understand the impact the idea has on your environment, as comprised by your location, state-of-mind, and relationships.

Perhaps at this point you may think I am being much too philosophical on a blog site about woodworking but, here is where I am going. It all comes back to what is commonly the last line of my posts here, "Enjoy! And look closely, please."

Look closely that your location. How did the things that surround you get there?

Look closely at your state-of-mind. Where is it taking you?

Look closely at your relationship to your environment. How do the places you spend the most time make you feel? What is missing? What needs to be removed?

I encourage everyone to explore the ideas that are affecting their unique environment and, by all means, challenge them. It is by looking within, and understanding what is there, that we can begin to move forward in a positive direction.

A common bond we share is that we all want to feel good, comfortable and safe in our homes. It stands to reason then, that we should feel these things about the items we consume, particularly the "durable goods" that will be a part of our environment for a long time to come (at least that is our hope when we put down our hard earned dollars for them).

But when we purchase items that we know are below our standards, what are we really getting? More importantly, what are we contributing, to our community, society and personal well-being? If the item was produced over-seas, you, in the case of a sub-par item, just contributed future garbage to your community landfill while taking away the work of local craftspeople. You've told society that you value low price over quality. And have potentially compromised your own well-being (can you say lead poisoning?).

Again, heavy words backing up a picture of a bookcase. I do apologize for my bluntness, but I keep my sharp tools in the shop ;).

Did you notice the differences between those two bookcases? No, I'm not talking about what is on the shelves. Is one "softer" or "smoother". Is one bigger, deeper or taller? (a description of the differences is found at the end of this post) Why are the differences there? How do they make you feel? What would you change?

Perhaps this bookcase isn't something you would want in your house, but you still need somewhere to put all your books. You need something that suits you. And only you know what that is.

Now consider this....

We all know the best tasting meals come from our own gardens. There is something special about enjoying the spoils of your labor. Sometimes the only thing better is a meal from your neighbor's garden (all the spoils, non of the toils). Think about how a simple garden can transform your environment. How it can tie a community together, and if done on a small scale around the country, can have such a large impact on society. This doesn't mean everyone has to be a green thumb and no one is obligated to do anything. I intend only to shed light on those around us, and the actions they take, that in a small, and impressively significant, way, collectively benefit the world.

You deserve something special and you have the right to get it from anywhere you please. Look closely at your options, and how they effect everyone's environment.

We've all made millions, if not trillions, of decisions that got us to where we are now. It is the decision making process within that determines our path in life. Be yourself. Make your own decisions, and know that when you pick up one end of the stick, you automatically lift the other end as well.

The two pictures above show a newel post I built for our upstairs. I also built a half-newel for the opposite wall, the base that the balusters join into and the upper handrail. This project is just part of the "fingerprint" I will leave on this house. I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out.

I love building things, because I enjoy making people happy. I'm inspired to be, and build, my best by believing the result of my effort will be shared joy.

How can I make you smile today?

Enjoy LIFE!

And look closely, please.

David J. Ulschmid
Designer / Craftsman
~ Wisp Woods ~
Arlington, SD 57212

Bookcase differences - The bookcases are the same size in every way. The feet are different and the tops-front of the side panels are different. It was an original idea of mine, to make these changes, against the urging of my wife. I'm happy I did, and she is too. Now our world is different and, as always, I can't wait to see what is next.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Shop Talk - We've got a lot to talk about.

Here is a quick update of what has distracted me from blogging.

I finished and installed our custom kitchen cabinets.

After an inspiring trip to the Minnesota woods to pick up some lumber, I decided to try my hand at carving. What a great way to relax during lunch breaks at work.

I completed the alphabet (minus the Q and W, they are so close to the O and M, and I didn't have enough board).

My favorite letter is "U" of course.

Another project is one that gives me great honor. To build picture frames for a family member who is in the military. The prototype came out great and was approved, so here is the stack of lumber ready for the rest to be built.

The Walnut spline contrasts nicely against the Red Oak.

Customizing one's home is one of the best advantages to being a woodworker, so now it is off to work on a newel post for a railing.

Best Wishes to all,

David J. Ulschmid
Designer / Craftsman
~ Wisp Woods ~
Arlington, SD 57212
Featured Project - Oak Cabinets

Wisp Woods is going BIG!

A recent commission takes Wisp Woods to new places. Daniels Olsen hardwood suppliers in Sioux Falls for starters.

Here is a Google SketchUp model of kitchen cabinets I am going to build.

I can't wait to go pick up the lumber!

As much of the building process as I can capture, will be on here for my client, and all of you, to follow along with.

Stay tuned.

David J. Ulschmid
Designer / Craftsman
~ Wisp Woods ~
Arlington, SD 57212

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Featured Project - Cedar Gate.

Ben (the same Ben from Ben's Kitchen Cabinet, see earlier post) from Volga asked me to build him a new gate to replace the one that his "kindly, civil servant" meter man tore off his fence last winter. Since I was apparently going up against someone with little respect for other people property, I knew I had to build something that was tough, but I also wanted it to have some extra special touches.

We loaded up the broken old gate into the back of my truck along with a stack of cedar 2x4s Ben had already purchased. I unfortunately got the flu the next day and didn't feel well enough to work on the gate for about a week. This gave me time to read up on construction methods to make this project great, a great gate, that's right!

I pulled from my library the following books:

Build it Better Yourself - A rather thick book from the 1970s DIY era.
Outdoor Projects - Includes many outdoor door designs.
How to build a Timber Frame House - There are so many wicked strong joints in this book.

Here are some pics of the finished project.

Here is the front of the gate.

Note the gentle sweep to the top edge of the planking.

This detail was selected from three Google Sketchup models
that I created and sent to Ben for possible design options.
Good pick, Ben! I really like it.

And this is the back, showing the structure. Tougher than a brick wall, yet much lighter. Good Wood, Good Design.
Cross bracing, the secret that holds timber framed houses together. These braces will help the gate resist both compression and racking forces.

No butt joints here, everything is accurately jointed and stainless steel screwed! Another excellent choice by my man Ben!


And look closely, please.

David J. Ulschmid
Designer / Craftsman
~ Wisp Woods ~
Arlington, SD 57212

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Featured Project - Maple Spoons

It all started with a request for a spoon, and it has ended up better than I could have ever imagined it would.

I've got to thank my Aunt G for her crazy level of admiration for my work, and all the inspiration she gives me to keep developing my products.

At her request, I made a first set of spoons out of what I am currently calling American Sycamore. The wood was light colored, a bit soft, and easy to work with.

My random sketching resulted in a sweeping handle, and in one case, an out of line bowl.

After carving out the bowl, I wasn't happy with the way the wood was cutting, so I sanded the bowl smooth. I also resolved to find a new wood species for my next set of spoons.

I take pride in the fact that my projects are born out of the eco-friendly process I like to call "reversing the consumption model". The quick explanation is, I use found wood, cause it's free. The nobel explanation is, I use recycled wood to create fine and durable wooden objects as my way of conserving and recycling.

You might wonder, "What kind of wood could you get for free, from the trash?", or you might jump right to judgment and think "No good wood could come from those pallets.". The answer to both of those questions is "Perfectly Good Wood". Case in point, my newest set of spoons.

This has been one of the greatest surprises so far from my pallet lumber recovery program. I initially picked up this pallet because I couldn't identify the thick timbers, and I already had a couple in my truck, so why not get this one too. When I was searching my supply for a tight grained wood for the spoons, I decided to give this one a try. I almost didn't believe what I discovered. I tried many times to tell myself it wasn't true. Had someone really constructed a shipping pallet from Hard Maple?!??!?? This can't be?!??!?? Why would someone do that?!??!?? Who cares, that is GREAT for me!!!!

This wood is a joy to carve and shape. It holds facets very well, and gives the spoons a nice substantial feel.

They can be found for sale at

And look closely, please.

David J. Ulschmid
Designer / Craftsman
~ Wisp Woods ~
Arlington, SD 57212

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Featured Project - Bob’s Club

Below are some pictures of a club I made for my Father In Law. I’ve had a lot of fun working with the timber of Hickory that I was lucky enough to salvage from the pallet stack. It is beautiful wood, turns well, and is incredibly hard.


DSCN8203 DSCN8205

No matter what task he puts it to, I know it will perform very well.

Enjoy, Bob!

Thanks for looking.

David J. Ulschmid


Wisp Woods

Arlington, SD

email ~

Find me on Etsy ~

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ben’s Open Cabinet

Find a need, and fill it!


Kitchens are busy places these days. Trying to maximize storage and functionality in the limited amount of available space can make it feel like the walls are closing in on you. The answer for many homeowners is to rearrange.

But what happens when you put a dishwasher where a fridge used to be? A unique opportunity arises to expand and customize your storage options.

Now is the time to reach out to a custom woodworker to create a design that solves your problems and makes you life just a bit easier.


The first problem to solve is, “What would we like the new space to do?”. In this case, a location for those clumsy cookie sheets, pizza pans, and other large thin kitchen items was the most pressing need.


Next, “How will we be able to match the current cabinetry?”. For this, you really can’t beat custom work from a small shop. Asking a large shop to produce to your specifications would be like pulling wisdom teeth sized nuggets of gold from your wallet. And would be as much fun as a root canal.

Small shops like Wisp Woods also take the time to build the right way. Construction details that make this a solid unit include:

Stub Tenon Joints: The face frames are jointed with time honored Mortise and Tenon construction, which means the joints will not loosen due to seasonal changes in humidity, as a screwed joint would.

Dado Jointed and Pinned Shelves: All three shelves (top, divider, and floor) are fully dadoed into the sided, and pinned with nails. This construction detail can be found on many examples of classic cabinetry.

Solid Back Rabbeted into Sides: The cabinet becomes much stronger when the a solid multi-core ply back is rabbeted into the sides. It not only keeps the unit square, but also provides a sturdy attachment method for screwing the cabinet to the wall.

Although this was a quick build, I am very proud of the results. I thank my friends for requesting this piece to be built. It has given me a chance to promote and advance Wisp Woods in the marketplace. I just know that it will provide years of extremely useful service in their home.


David J. Ulschmid

~Wisp Woods~

Arlington, SD 572121

email ~