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What Is A Workshop?

A workshop is much more than a building, more than just a place full of tools. It is the place where a craftsman imagines, designs, tries and fails, then sometimes succeeds in making something beautiful out of wood. Some shops are used to earn a living, some just as weekend get-a-ways, and time is spent in some shops with children to hopefully pass on the craft to a younger generation. In all shops new designs are forged, limits are tested, and forms of art are created. Creations that come from ones mind and from deep within ones inner self. A craftsman that creates with passion will put part of himself in everything he builds. Everything from sorting through lumber and surface planing to hand rubbing the finish is done with excitement, with anticipation of exactly how the completed piece will look. Time spent laying out the various parts of a design to get the best looking grain, as opposed to laying them out to get the highest possible yield, from the boards used. Inside the workshop you will find benches, tools, likely a lot of clamps, of course glue, various stains, oils, and finishing materials. These things are expected, but you will also find an atmosphere that is relaxed, almost stress free. Sometimes there is music playing in the background, and sometimes just the rythmic sounds of a hand plane repeatedly moving over a board's edge or surface. There is also the occasional outburst of noise like an air compressor turning on unexpectedly or a saw starting up rather quickly, but even the loud sounds are actually relaxing when you are the one doing the work. Many hours have been spent inside this shop, and God willing, many more to come. For me, being successful is defined as being happy and content doing what you do. Designing and building custom pieces from wood is what I love to do so I consider myself to be very blessed indeed, not in just creating pieces from wood, but in many other ways.

Several photos below...


The main "build table" where careful fitting and assembly take place.
Drill presses and tool storage
Emily at at one of the drill presses

A vacuum sanding table

A closer view of the build table with a cabinet started. It will sit like this for 24 hours for the glue to fully set up before unclamping and working the piece. Every step requires time.

Small wooden tool chests are placed on the different benches to hold just a few specific tools used for certain jobs performed on that particular bench. This saves time from having to walk over to the large tool chests/roller cabinets each time those tools are needed.
Occasionally the shop is used for things other than wood projects.  ; )


Daddy and Emily, our youngest (3 years old), in the shop. Emily is with me most all the time (and I enjoy every minute of it). She helps me do just about everything from spending time in the shop while working on projects to picking up supplies in the old truck (and on short breaks throughout the day we go fishing together.).


Photos of the various operations inside the DWC shop

Here we'll try to walk you through the build process. When your order is pulled out of the line-up, it is placed onto the clipboard in the shop. It will stay with the piece throughout the various steps, or operations, all the way to completion. This should give you a pretty good idea of what's involved in making your one of a kind custom piece that is just for you.

Selecting the lumber to be used on a project is the first step. After deciding which pieces to use, the wood is rough cut to size and goes to the planer. This accomplishes a couple of things... it smooths the "rough sawn" surface left from when it was sawn, and also gets the thickness down to where we want it for your custom piece. Most rough sawn lumber is cut at 1 1/8" to 1 1/4" ... which is a tad thick to work with for cabinets, and would be too heavy for you to hang on a wall as well.
Below: Our two younger sons demonstrating the "before & after" with one of the planers.

Daniel, our 8 year old, loves to help plane lumber. Here he is shown putting a rough sawn piece into a planer.
Andrew, our 10 year old, will help too but he would rather be working on a project of his own.Laughing Here he shown receiving the piece out of a planer. The same piece of wood but now with a clean, smooth surface. The planing process will be repeated for several passes until the desired thickness is achieved.

Above: Close up photos. This is white oak shown before, and after several passes through the planer.

After planing, the parts are laid out on each piece paying particularly close attention to the orientation of the grain in the wood. Placing the parts to be seen onto the pieces with highly figured grain makes for a more beautiful cabinet when completed. The pieces are cut to the desired size, ripped to the needed width, and all machining is done now to add rabbet grooves, etc. to each piece before assembly begins. Once the grooves are cut, cleaned with chisels, and the parts are ready, the sides, ends and door rails are then mitred to the exact length. Now ready for assembly, the glue is applied, and corners met together with the utmost precision possible. Once this assembly process is complete, the pieces are set aside to allow the glue to dry for a minimum of 24 hrs. Some glues say "workable" in a couple hours, but it has been my experience it is best to leave fully clamped and to let dry for at least 24 hours for the best results possible. You can always rush it along but something will happen somewhere along the way if you do... it always does. There is always plenty to do to prep for the next order in line so it's not like we're waiting and watching the glue dry.Smile  There are normally two orders started and "on the bench" at any given time. We use this term "on the bench" to refer to the orders that are currently at the top of the list. While waiting on the glue drying on the first cabinet, we can work on the next piece in line, getting it closer to completion rather than having lost time. When the glue is completely dry and the piece is workable, the first name on the list gets top priority on the bench and will continue to work on that piece until it's completed and ready for photos to email.

Sanding is next in line after the glue dries. We start at 60 grit, depending on the roughness of the surface of the glue joints, and work our way up through the other grits, getting finer with each paper (60, 80,100, 120, 150, 180, 220, 240, 320). The sandpaper will "scratch" the surface of the wood when using. Each grit makes smaller or finer scratches than the one before it until they are so fine that you cannot see or feel them. Once the last paper is reached the wood feels very smooth, but still not finished at this point. The piece is now ready for the first coat of Danish oil to be applied. This step is done entirely by hand on each cabinet... hand rubbed and hand buffed one at a time. The wood will usually soak up the first application of oil fairly quickly since it's dry lumber. After the cabinet and door are both completely oiled, we go back over both pieces with oil again leaving them "wet" with extra oil on the surface. This is where the "wet sanding" is done for the first time. Wet sanding, also done by hand, with a very fine grit of paper will create a slurry paste from the oil mixing together with the very fine sawdust created from sanding. This oily paste fills all the tiny (micro) voids that are too small to see with the naked eye, and thus creates a smoother surface than just sanding alone. After the first wet sanding, the piece is once again placed aside to dry and allow the oil to fully soak into the wood, then done in the same manner for the additional coats. This wet sanding procedure is done several times on every piece built.

After the oil finish is complete and had plenty of time to dry, a hand rubbed wax finish is applied, then buffed for added protection and a look that can be acheived by no other method. The wax is buffed entirely by hand and takes a lot of effort to make it nice. You rub until your arm is burning and feels like it's going to fall off, then rub some more. : ) It does take a considerable amount of time to get a piece waxed, but the wax over top of the oil finish provides protection from spills and moisture. It also makes the surface smoother to the touch than you ever thought would be possible. 

  One of the reasons the build schedule gets so far out is the amount of time involved to do the hand applied and rubbed finish. You just can't rush some things, and this finish is one of those things. It does provide the look and feel of what you would expect on a hand made piece though... very nice. This entire process is certainly taking the whole procedure to the next level, as opposed to just quickly finishing with a brush or spray gun, and is quite time consuming to say the least. Everything done along the way with your piece is done by hand and requires a lot of time to do correctly. There are no real shortcuts (believe me, I would have found them-ha), but each thing done to your cabinet, each step along the way, is just a part of what needs to be done. There are quicker methods for sure, and cheaper ways of doing it as well, but that's not what we're about. We hand build a custom pieces from start to finish, the old fashioned way, with an old fashioned time tested finish. The time it takes is just the time it takes, but well worth it when you finally receive your cabinet after enduring the long wait and getting your collection set up inside.

Danish oil being applied and rubbed into the wood with Emily by my side.Smile
Many different grits of sand paper used.

Hand applying and buffing the wax finish. You rub until your arm burns, then rub some more.Smile
After adjusting the knife rests with knives to ensure they sit level, a finished piece is ready for photos to email (and make someone's day once they hear that their long awaited for cabinet is ready to ship.Smile).

The finish is done, and the door is ready to be attached to the cabinet carcass. Laying out the location for the hinges, then drilling and mounting will happen at this point. Once the door is attached, and it opens and closes as it should, the keyed lock is laid out on the door rail. The hole is drilled to accept the lock,... paying particularly close attention to detail so the door isn't scrapped causing us to go back to the lumber pile and plane another piece to build a second door (has actually happened). The lock needs to grab onto to something when the key is turned so the mortise is located and cut into the side of the carcass to accept the lock plate or bar. This involves making sure the slot is located perfectly, not too close to the front, and not too far away. The slot is then cleaned up and adjusted with a hand chisel, texting often so not too much wood is removed with the chisel, so the lock turns right into the slot with ease and holds the door tightly with no "slop" or rattle.

Shown: A slot cut into the side to accept the lock.


Cutting the antler or wood knife rests to length.

Sanding and shaping each knife rest by hand.

The back is cut and the velvet is glued in place and trimmed to the edges. Velvet is pricey, ranging from the high $20's per yard into the $40's per yard depending on colors available from various suppliers, but looks very elegant as a backdrop behind your knives. It looks nicer than felt in my opinion on some styles of cabinets, but does cost more. Felt has been requested on custom cabinets and in the right applictaion it looks really nice. It is more dull in color without the sheen that velvet offers but for a display that is going to be touched a lot it is likely the better choice. Velvet has a way of getting "shine" marks when the pile is compressed. The carving set storage/display boxes are a good example of where we woudl reccommend felt. It can be used for the back of your custom display cabinet though upon request, like to match a gun cabinet, etc, or for those who just prefer it over the look of velvet.

The material covered back is then ready to be installed into the back side of the cabinet carcass. Once installed, laying out and locating each of the holes to be drilled for the knife rests is next in line. Once the locations are determined, the rests are individually cut from the antlers (shown in photos above). Each one is hand cut, sanded, and then buffed to a high sheen on the cut ends that face you. The rests are installed and adjusted to hold a knife in the most "level" position here in the shop, but each knife will sit a bit differently on the same pair of rests. Minor adjustments are allowed after receiving your cabinet as well, and instructions are included with each cabinet on how you can do this to fit your knives. The knob or door pull is also made at this time from the crown, or rosette, portion of the antler. It is sanded, and buffed like the rests, then located and installed onto the door. Wood rests are also available, as are other door knobs/pulls for those not wanting the look of the antler on their cabinet(s).
above: Andrew demonstrates the drilling on one of the drill presses.
below: Knife rests shown (both antler and wood) completed and installed inside the cabinets.
(click on the images to enlarge them)

Close up of antler crown knob and antler rests.
Close up of walnut rests.

The glass is installed and checked to make sure the door opens and closes as it should. Two metal hangers are located and installed on the back to allow for hanging your collection. For large cabinets, holes are drilled and countersunk on the inside for hanging directly into wall studs with screws. This way the cabinet cannot fall off the wall if bumped.

Photos are taken of the finished piece(s) and emailed for you to see before shipping. Boxes are then made, custom to fit each cabinet, and the packing begins so we can get it on the truck and on it's way to you. : )

Walnut, large single doors "matched set" with knobs and locks on opposite sides. 32" tall x 20" wide, walnut rests to match the cabinets, made so knives can point left or right on each pair of rests as desired, navy velvet, elec. fluor. lights.
Walnut 6 Knife Single Door model, 24" tall x 16" wide, requested with knives pointing right, antler crown knob, antler rests, keyed lock, black velvet.

It is our pleasure to go the extra distance on creating you a one of a kind hand made piece for your collection regardless of the amount of time involved. Designed and built for your collection, and there to pass down for future generations to admire and enjoy just as you do. There really are no words to describe how wonderful it feels to see your beautiful hand made knives hanging on your office wall, or in one of your favorite rooms. It's so much nicer than having to dig through drawers, closets, etc. to be able to look at them. You'll be amazed at how wonderful your collection can look displayed all together inside a custom Dorris Display.

the Dorris family
~dale, laura, steven, kristin, andrew, daniel, & emily

"From Standing Trees To Lumber"






In this section we will cover the process of drying "green" or fresh cut lumber.



Here are some pics I would like to share with anyone interested in seeing wood go through the various steps to get it ready to be made into something you'd find in your home. The trees were cut, then the logs were cut into boards with a portable sawmill, and then loaded onto the trailer where it sat for a few days waiting to get into the kiln. Here are some pics of it coming out of the kiln completely dried.

This wood is walnut and maple, and is dried down to a moisture content of 6%. This type of kiln in the photos is a dehumidifier. There are different ways to dry wood/lumber. In each of the different ways the wood is stacked the same... stacked in rows with small narrow strips ("stickered") between each layer so the air can circulate over, under, and around each edge. Air flow is critical so the wood dries evenly and also so mold growth is not happening while you wait.

1). Air drying
This method is free, but the saying "you get what you pay for" applies here. The lumber is stacked and usually left outside or in a large barn/storage building. This is definitely the slowest method possible. It will take a min of a year to get it even close, but will still need to dry... usually a couple-three years can be the wait expected if choosing this method. It is still not in the best of shape after waiting years on it, although it can be cut, worked, and used for projects, the wood still retains more moisture than if dried in a kiln. Air drying is not the best way to dry lumber because...
 1). it takes a few years on it to be ready to rotate into the "workable" stock, and
2). it also has a higher moisture content than kiln dried lumber.
This is because wood cells (shaped similar to the shape of a football) will get a hole poked into them when kiln drying which causes the cells to break. The result is they release moisture. The cell is no longer able to retain water/moisture with a hole in it, like a vase would no longer hold water if a hole were drilled into the bottom of it. Air drying does dry the wood and get the overall moisture content down to a "workable level", but some of the cells do not get punctured so they will retain moisture... not a good thing after it's turned into a piece of furniture (or whatever).

2). Solar kiln
The best choice if available. It dries the wood slowly (longer than a normal kiln) which is better for the wood. Slow changes are always best, humidity changing slowly is OK, extremely rapid changes are not good for the material and usually result in cracking.

3). Dehumidifier
A good way to dry wood with few cracks, and still have it fairly quickly. This load shown in the photos was in this type kiln for 18-19 days, not so long to wait.

4). What is commonly called a "pressure cooker".
This type kiln dries very quickly, about a week, and because of the speed it most generally produces lots of cracks, checks, and less than the desired grade when finished. Usually found in high production type facilities, they generally cut around the bad spots and use what they can. They are willing to get a smaller yield just because of the shorter wait time... quantity over quality.


Our two youngest sons, Daniel and Andrew, are standing in front of one of the kilns to give you an idea of the overall size.


Tracks on the inside floor and wheels on the carts allow for easy loading and unloading. 

a close up shot of checking the moisture content. This lumber was dried down to 6% content. It will need to sit in the shop for a few days before "working it" so it can have a chance to acclimate to the moisture inside the shop. It's always a good idea to let the wood adjust to where it's going to be when working it like if you were laying a hardwood floor... you'd want to bring the wood into the house where it's going down, and let it sit there and adjust to the temp/humidity in that room for a week or before working with it opposed to just taking it off the truck and nailing it fast.


More rails (or tracks) are then placed in front of the kiln so the rack or cart can be pulled out for inspection, and loading onto a trailer or truck. You can see some of the boards have quite a curve to them (like the bottom of a rocking chair). This is due to imperfections in the wood. Knots will cause the wood to shrink up around them and usually result in a wide crack right through the knot itself. This shrinkage will cause the wood around that area to pull in thus resulting in the extreme curve in a few of the pieces. This lumber will then be planed smooth, and to a constant desired thickness, once it has had time to adjust nicely to it's new environment.


A photo of the digital thermometer attached to the kiln (celsius).

The drying process with wood is critical and creates stability. The moisture content varies with different geographical locations. Wood on the pacific coast of CA will likely have a higher MC than wood in the mid-west, and so on, just because of the humidity found in that area. The humidity is higher in some places than others, as you well know, which will cause the wood to take on more moisture in some places than others (or lose some moisture depending on the location) once the finished piece reaches it's new home. Be it one of our cabinets, or a piece of furniture purchased from your local store, wood will take on (gain) and release (lose) moisture for it's entire life even after being turned into something other than a simple board.


We are happy with drying down to 6% in the de-humidification kiln. Some "experts" say 4-6% for dry climates and 6-9% for humid climates. The thing I see when looking at these numbers is that they both have 6% in common. It is a happy medium, or a place to start if you will. Air dried lumber will have a higher moisture content as it will not dry down as far as a controlled kiln. Air dried lumber may have a MC of about 10-12% to give you an idea of the difference between kiln and air drying.

All of the wood in the kiln is dried down to the same amount of MC. Different species will have different MC before going into the kiln though... some white oak may be 8-9% while some cotton wood boards could easily be twice that amount. I've cut quite a lot of cotton wood and you can see water run out of the wood once it is cut. Leave a large chunk sitting in a bucket, container, etc., and you will see water standing in the container within a very short time... cotton wood is very wet.


What is not cut into lumber makes firewood for heat.



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