A Little Taste Of The Exotic

My favorite beer: Spotted Cow, craft brewed locally here in New Glarus Wisconsin.

My favorite restaurants: Local, family owned places win out over any chain/franchise store every time.

I prefer to buy my lumber from a small saw mill up the river as opposed to buying at a box store.

I guess I'm a domestic kind of guy.

But walking the straight and narrow is difficult, and sometimes I cheat. I'll drink a Coors Light or buy supper in a fast food drive through or buy boards at Home Depot. I've also strayed from the domestic woods I love and despite myself I've gathered a small collection of exotic woods. Most of them came from a random grab bag buy at one of my semi annual pilgrimages to the Woodcraft store in Madison.

I've horded these pieces for a while, but two things made me decide to dig through the dusty collection and liberate some of the selection. The first was the build itself. James Krenov often used exotics to highlight and draw attention to details in his work. I wanted to emulate that, but I found myself waffling in the decision. Working with exotics can be a little like playing with fire. Time after time I've read accounts of accomplished woodworkers, artists who have made their names in grain and sawdust, who have played with exotics and developed an allergy that has made it dangerous for them to be around sawdust at all. An allergy that steals their avocation and their art from them.

If I'm honest, the off chance of that happening is very scary to me. I've held those pieces of exotic on the shelf for a while because of that fear. I thought maybe I'd make the door pulls from black walnut and more cherry wood.

Then I received my copy of "To Make As Perfect As Possible: Roubo on Marquetry" and started reading my way through it. The book starts with an extensive listing of exotic woods, their properties and colors. It took me a while to work my way through that part of the reading, but the overall listing of it was fun and fascinating. It made me think more about my small horde and about how silly it was to have it sit there on the shelf.

I piled it up and planed down several pieces. I wanted to use two contrasting woods. Since the pieces came in a turners grab bag and I'm not very experienced outside my little domestic circle. To me the pieces look like Rosewood and Bloodwood.

Planing the blocks yielded some of the most entertaining shavings I've made. Looking at the color contrast in this small pile helped satisfy my worries that I had made the right choice.

I used the bandsaw to break down the stock into the dimensions I was looking for.

There was some great subtle grain in the bloodwood. I paid attention and set up to bookmatch the grain on the handles. It will be a subtle touch, but the kind that I like.

The rosewood broke down into four blocks to hold the handles.

I marked out the mortise on the rosewood blanks. I drilled them out and squared them with chisels.

Test fitting for a tight fit.

Then I used rasps to round the corners and smoothed them down up to 400 grit paper.

I set them out on the door fronts, I played with several configurations. horizontal, vertical, and asymmetrical. In the end, with some consultation from my wife, we decided that a standard vertical placement in the middle of the door height was the best.

I set them out and mortised the space for the rosewood tabs.

It's satisfying to stand the cabinet up, look at the results, and be happy with what you see. There was one problem I'm not happy about.

Maybe I was overzealous paring out the mortise, the grain of this pine is wild and weak in places with all the small knots and I blew out a significant chunk on the inside of one of the doors. I haven't decided how I'm going to repair it. I imagine it will have to be some kind of patch.

Other than the patch, the cabinet is in the home stretch. The final work will be the two small accent drawers for the inside. I'm using spalted maple for the fronts and cherry for the sides. I've been saving the maple board for just this kind of thing.

What will I do when I run out of these specialty odds and ends?

Ratione et Passionis


  1. Nice job on the handles!

    Daughter #2 lives in Madison and is under orders to bring me a New Glarus sampler 12 pack and 2 sixes of Ale Asylum's Nut Brown Ale every time she returns to visit in central Indiana.

    Isn't your day job medical? Any chance you're at the med center in Madison?


    1. Thank you Mike.

      One of the benefits to living in Wisconsin is all the great microbreweries there are around. I stray and try lots of things but a Spotted Cow (especially on tap) is where I live man.

      I'm a Surgical Technologist by day and I work at one of the hospitals in LaCrosse, about two hours west from Madison. I can walk a block from my house and see the Mississippi.


  2. Gorgeous. The materials and proportions of the handles are stunning.

  3. Really nice! Every time I travel to WI I have to stop for some New Glarus Moon Man and the Westby Creamery cheese.


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