My "First Project"

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Project by Phil Brown posted 04-19-2007 06:57 AM 2226 views 1 time favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m starting to find my way around this awsome website, enjoying the great projects and comments posted by the contributors. In particular “first projects” touch a place in my heart.

I remember the sense of accomplishment as this little keepsake urn came alive in my hands, turning some scrap wood into something tangible and meaningful.

In 1988 after almost a decade of slugging furniture from one end of North America to the other, through extreme circumstances, unruly weather, back injuries, loneliness, and even an attempt on my life while sleeping in the bunk, I was able to get off the road for awhile. I’ve been off and on the road a few times over the years. More on than off it seems.

I accepted a position in the furniture storage facility, handling thousnads of pounds of household goods during the day, and driving on office moves into the wee hours, but, getting home every night. The renovations on our house improved with what free time was available, my artwork matured and a real desire to create in wood came about. Much of my previous woodwork had been related to renovating, carpentry and making picture frames from old windows for my drawings and stained glass work.

One day an ad appeared in the company lunchroom offering a used Sears radial arm saw for sale. A salesman had won some money and purchased a new saw for his woodworking hobby. I professed interest in the sale but not at the $250 required. He took me to his home and showed me his projects, and inferred that he really wanted the saw to go to a committed woodworker, someone who appreciated the value of such a piece of equipment. I bought it and tried to learn all there was to know about accessorizing the machine and how to maximize its functionality, which I did through the many books written on the subject. Jon Eakes book on how to tune radial arm saws was indispensable.

Not having a router at the time and being gloriously in love with my new saw, I purchased the Sears molding head cutter. Should have bought a router. The first piece through the gate got smashed and literally ripped from my hands. I conquered the beast and successfully molded the profile on the lid of the urn. The raised panels were accomplished by setting the blade at a compound angle and making multiple passes. Smoothing the coves was accomplished with sandpaper wrapped around a piece of PVC pipe. I didn’t dare run the sunburst wedges through the molder, fearing the loss of my fingers. I hand sanded the roundovers and was discouraged at the outcome, and that the layout of the wedges wasn’t symetrical. I finished the piece with polyurethane, one of the few pieces I haven’t stained.

I took it into work to show the guys what I’d made from some scrap 1×4 spruce and masonite discarded from a damaged furiture storage pallet. I immediately received two orders for hope chests from my peers which were both given as presents to their spouses, one as a wedding present. I’ll post these as another project. I did purchase a router to profile the sunburst adorning one of the chests.

-- Phil Brown, Ontario

21 comments so far

View Diane's profile


546 posts in 5205 days

#1 posted 04-19-2007 07:08 AM

Very nice, it doesn’t look like a first project to me. I see why you got orders right away the way you did.


View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 5393 days

#2 posted 04-19-2007 08:04 AM

I love the design, the carvings and raised panels.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 5148 days

#3 posted 04-19-2007 10:08 AM

Phil that is one heck of a First Project. Very creative and your artistic talents are very obvious. I think that you are in for a very bright future as a woodworker. Congratulations.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5242 days

#4 posted 04-19-2007 12:32 PM

all these amazing “FIRST” projects makes me wish that I had started bigger!!

well done!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Wooder's profile


163 posts in 5268 days

#5 posted 04-19-2007 01:29 PM

Phil, what a great story and moreover, what a great urn! Your talents are show the mark of a great craftsman. Thanks for sharing your life and projects.

-- Jimmy

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5396 days

#6 posted 04-19-2007 03:47 PM

Nice work! I’ve played with those sears moulding cutters on an old craftsman saw. Kinda dangerous.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1527 posts in 5207 days

#7 posted 04-19-2007 04:13 PM

I never played with the moulding cutters, but my dad had one of those saws and I saw it grab a piece of lumber and hurl it pretty far more than once.

I love it when people manage to take cheap wood and do amazing things with it. You did.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 5167 days

#8 posted 04-19-2007 04:21 PM

What a great story! Thanks for sharing your accomplishment; nice job.


View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5381 days

#9 posted 04-19-2007 04:39 PM

A very nice box Phil,
Is that front panel in segments?
I bought about six of them molding cutters, real cheap. The first time I tried one it flung the board across my shop. I quit right then. They are now still in the boxes they came in. Being a collector, I never throw anything away.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View gizmodyne's profile


1785 posts in 5172 days

#10 posted 04-19-2007 04:55 PM

Very cool. It is interesting to see how the radial arm saw has faded from use.
I have thought about buying a used one. They have way more cutting capacity and function then mitre saws. Plus they can be placed up against a wall. Most chop saws need clearance. Do you still use yours?

Thanks for sharing.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View PanamaJack's profile


4483 posts in 5159 days

#11 posted 04-19-2007 05:03 PM

Wonderful first time piece. I still have that same problem with my radial arm saw from time to time! That problem lies with not using it much. Mostly I use a table saw. Nice story on your art work.

-- Carpe Lignum; Tornare Lignum (Seize the wood, to Turn the wood)

View rentman's profile


230 posts in 5176 days

#12 posted 04-19-2007 06:41 PM

wow very nice

-- Phil, Chattanooga,TN

View woodspar's profile


710 posts in 5181 days

#13 posted 04-19-2007 07:50 PM

First project? The bar is being raised pretty high around here. Nice work.

-- John

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 5259 days

#14 posted 04-19-2007 10:00 PM

Phil, this is a very impressive ‘first piece’. Many woodworkers wouldn’t aspire to making one of these until after many years of experience.

I’m interested in your creative process. Did this evolve as you made it, or did you sketch some drawings and work to a plan?

Sears Craftsman Radial Arm Saw – Wow – does that bring back memories. My very first attempt at woodworking was in 1957 after a friend gave me one of these with all the accessories available at the time. It could do every thing – or so the promotional material stated. As this was long before John Eakes, I never did get this beast set up to cut true. And yes, I had my share of wood flying around the basement shop. In fact, one went right through a window. That was the end of my woodworking ambitions. The untamed beast so frightened me I never touched it after that.

Perhaps I never gave it a fair chance, but it was that experience those many years ago that dampened my initial interest in woodworking until I saw some of the stuff my late father made in his retirement shop.

Back to your project. Why do you refer to it as a urn? First a coffin then a urn – mmm – what are you telling us Phil?

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View Napaman's profile


5535 posts in 5159 days

#15 posted 04-20-2007 01:24 AM

my first project was a box too…but nothing like this!!! Beautiful!!!

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

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