Thursday, October 20, 2016

New hand tools...

Have a look.. 6 new hand tools!  Updated Tools section at Pirollo Design!  Performed the photography today.

This was supposed to be completed a month ago but had major issues (out of my control) to deal with in my small artisan business. So I was in suspense for a month waiting for things to settle. The Courses tab has been beefed up with new photography and sub-categories as well as a more up to date Blog section. I will be creating short videos on each of the tool pages to demonstrate how to effectively use the tools. Two more tools are in the pipeline before the end of the year. I enjoy learning and challenges, so spent time designing and prototyping these tools. The design and prototyping stages were actually fun, but sourcing the hardware was at times frustrating. It’s all good now, I am significantly more knowledgeable in this space than only 3 months ago.

The hand tools are predominantly shaping and measuring tools. I created these tools to address processes I use in my own furniture making. For example, the depth gauge address the issue of determining the depth of holes or mortises. I would find myself using small bamboo sticks, pencils, etc. to perform this measurement. I knew there had to be a better way. Another example, the measuring tool helps considerably in transferring measurements from one board to another. Possibly more of these small hand tools before the end of the year.  More info at

Friday, July 29, 2016

New product, handcrafted bench dogs...

I have been successfully using these hardwood bench dogs in my furniture design+build studio for over 8 years. Why not make them available as a product. For most woodworkers, time is both limited and valuable. I have the setup and expertise to make these. The result is more free time for woodworkers to do what they love.

Hardwood bench dogs are better suited to working with wood than metal ones. This solid hardwood bench dog has a 3/4 inch diameter round profile. The round bench dog is intended for use in workbenches with 3/4 inch round holes. A spring-loaded bullet catch is press fit into the sliding part of the bench dog. This ensures that the bench dog makes a solid fit with the workbench hole.

The length of the bench dog is 3.75 inches which is ideally suited to most workbench thicknesses. To ensure positive clamping of thinner stock, a raked flat notch is recessed on one side of the bench dog. Leather is applied to the face of the raked flat face of the notch to prevent wear on furniture components clamped against the bench dog. The bench dog can easily be lowered into the dog hole when not in use, and raised for use.

The bench dog can be raised to match the thickness of the stock that is being hand-planed, assuming there is a 3/4 inch through-hole in the workbench surface. The hardwood bench dog eliminates the risk of marring the metal sole or blade of a metal-bodied handplane. The hardwood used in the bench dog design is oak.

The price for each handcrafted bench dog is currently $11.50 and available through WoodSkills

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New web site...

After 9 years of blogging here, I have a new place for blogging. Along with a new web site.. WoodSkills , a new blog is now integrated into this new site.  The new site and blog will allow my readers to view my blog directly at the web site. I've had to replace the existing WoodSkills web site with a new, up to date one mostly due to new web site conventions and standards. I also decided to continue blogging here at The Refined Edge for the next while.

With the advent of mobile phones and tablets, it became critical to have a web site which rendered well on the different devices. The Internet was the wild west many years ago, web sites would render well on one browser and fail miserably on others. Today, technology has evolved to where modern web sites need to render not only on the desktop but also on mobile devices and tablets.

Other news. I have had to undergo some major surgery recently and am currently on the mend. The post-surgery recovery period limits what I can do, so not much in the way of physical activity for a few weeks. I am planning to get back into the shop later this summer, (mid-August). At this time, activities such as hand-planing are restricted as well as lifting objects. So this effectively rules out woodworking for a few weeks :( This is me on the day of discharge from the hospital. I'm up and about now and improving every day.

Please visit the new WoodSkills site for new blog posts and other information, offerings.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

New course! "Start Your Own Woodworking Business"


Over the winter and with time on my hands, I devoted another few weeks to developing a new course on Starting a Woodworking Business.I had a health scare, was sidelined for a while and this prompted me to hunker down and put into words my experience with starting woodworking businesses.The course is loosely based on my book with the same title. In today's economy it is becoming more important to become self-sufficient, secure jobs are a thing of the past. I should know having been downsized 3 times. Woodworking is a growing field and we need more woodworkers to go into business and market their unique designs. It is the business side of woodworking that drove me to come up with new and higher quality work. In this course, I guide you through the process of starting and setting up your own woodworking business. I am sharing my 20 year expertise and knowledge in this course.I provide the necessary expertise and answers questions about starting your own woodworking business in this information packed course. 

Downloadable video lectures include all subjects pertaining to starting your own woodworking business. Each video lecture guides you through the learning process of starting a woodworking business. The Start Your Own Woodworking Business Course is derived from twenty years of woodworking and furniture making expertise in a business environment. 3 hours long. 23 lectures. Course can be downloaded or on DVD. Available through WoodSkills

New, updated woodworking course...


What I've been up to. So I decided to update the Woodworking Course I have been marketing. I hunkered down and added new graphics and images to the course. It is now much more interesting to watch and hopefully a great learning experience for someone wanting to learn woodworking. The comprehensive course content is similar to what it was, the lectures are all there although a couple of lengthier lectures ( bandsaw and veneering) have been broken up into 2 individual lectures each. In the process there is a new Course Overview that I will include here. This was a huge amount of work and I broke it up into manageable pieces over a period of weeks. I enjoyed the process and it re-acquainted me with some aspects of woodworking I had been neglecting! Available through: WoodSkills

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

An Excerpt...

An excerpt from the "From Hi-Tech to Lo-Tech: A Woodworker's Journey" book. This is the period when I experienced doubt about continuing in my current career and making a go at woodworking instead. Or should I say, this is but one period where I experienced this. I would ultimately make three attempts at full-time woodworking and it has worked out for me.

"This course helped me considerably in understanding the finishing process. After leaving the Cabinetmaking program, it was felt I had the necessary knowledge to begin working on my own furniture projects. Through the Cabinetmaking program, I had become intimately familiar with many woodworking machines and learned many techniques. Rough lumber could be processed and dimensioned parts created for furniture. We were taught how to work with cut lists. It was also taught how to profile the edges of boards and how to create joinery, both simple and compound.
The year was 1995 and many thoughts were racing through my mind. The thought of a career in woodworking preoccupied my mind more. I began to read stories about other people that had transitioned from a career into woodworking. At this period in my life, I was young enough to appreciate that there were many years remaining in my computer career. It would not be wise to leave such a career and instead struggle at a woodworking career. This introspection helped me to understand myself and to newly define my goals in life. Of course, the issue of money and supporting myself was at the forefront. The current computer position at DEC compensated me very well and I was able to maintain my house, a car and also outfit my new woodworking shop. Being single at the time, my precarious financial position was clear if I were to lose my employment or quit. This motivated me to continue in my computer career and to advance my knowledge to remain relevant.
Over the next while, I continued to pursue my woodworking hobby in my spare time while working at my day job. My new workshop area continued to be outfitted with additional tools and machinery; careful not to clutter the limited space in the workshop. Having created a few band saw boxes encouraged me to create larger boxes with more traditional joinery. These would be square and rectangular boxes. I had in mind to create a series of small boxes and install music mechanisms in them. The boxes would be straightforward with hinged tops. In the early 1995 timeframe, work began on these small music boxes."
Available through WoodSkills

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Update...

My recent book has been updated. Same content, same number of pages, but structure is different. Writing this book has made me go back and recall accomplishments, failures and the struggle of being a furniture maker in today's disposable society. Received print copies this week and it looks great! There is an eBook version available at the web site also. Orders are welcome through . Updated this post with cover from new book. Below is a description of the book.

Norman Pirollo, successful founder of White Mountain Design, White Mountain Toolworks, Refined Edge Design, WoodSkills and Pirollo Design, chronicles his fascinating journey of transitioning from full time employment to self-employment at woodworking. He faced many obstacles throughout the journey and financial support was often at the forefront.

Norman narrates his creative journey from childhood through adulthood. Perseverance, fate and critical decisions all combined to map out the direction he followed in life. Often seeking creativity and challenges in life, woodworking ultimately became his creative outlet. Follow the riveting story of how his hi-tech career gradually evolved into a successful woodworking career. He owes a great deal to his former hi-tech career which provided him fulfillment for a number of years. Discover how Norman acquired the skills and techniques to be able to craft heirloom furniture today. Delving into and studying the history of furniture design has provided him the language and background to develop his own contemporary styled furniture. Read how he immersed himself into the contemporary furniture world to develop a style and voice of his own. Find out how, through twists and turns, Norman acquired the expertise and proficiency to become an award-winning furniture maker. The opportunity to work at something he truly enjoys has ultimately brought solace and independence to his life. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Latest News....

Currently working on a furniture commission for a client. There is no deadline, although this sometimes prolongs the project. A famous saying I like to quote "If it weren't for deadlines, I would never get anything done".   However, I'm able to juggle the commission with another project further down, so all good!

Was informed this week that one of my furniture designs ( display cabinet) is included in the upcoming Furniture Society book "Rooted", due out in September. The book is a collaboration with Schiffer Publishing. I am invited to the book launch in September in NYC. I might just go as this is an opportunity to talk about my work with attendees.

In other news...

I've had my nose to the grinding wheel these past few weeks. Yes... writing another book and why did I decide to do this in the lazy days of summer :)  In the final stages of the manuscript.. then editing, re-writing sections of it, proof-reading, etc. Planning to make an announcement about the book later in August.

The summer is quickly going by and I haven't even been on vacation yet, hopefully next week for a few days!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Artist Talk...

I was recently contacted about giving an Artist Talk to a local arts organization. It didn't take much to convince me, especially after the organizer mentioned I would be paid a honorarium for my efforts. I then began work on developing on a comprehensive power point slide show of the evolution of my furniture, wood sculpture, and wood art. Gathering all the photos and information of a six year period was probably the largest challenge. It was then a matter of piecing everything together in chronological order with notes and talking points for each slide.

There was a period of two years where I would create elaborate scale models of furniture to determine their appeal, I enjoyed talking about this period. I have since embraced CAD design and most of my design work originates on a computer with small maquettes created afterwards. Creating the scale models of furniture, many of which became sculptural work, was a prolific, exciting time for me. I began to experiment with combining alternative mediums to wood over this two year period.

Technical considerations such as how to attach metal to wood and how to attach glass to metal came up. The issue of expansion and contraction is somewhat different with extremely stable material such as metal and glass. Metal and glass don't noticeably expand or contract with environmental changes such as wood does. Another interesting technical issue that came up was the lack of a compression characteristic in metal. The slots or holes which I use to insert metal components need to be created very precisely for precision fitting. 

Working with metal also involves slightly different tools and processes. I don't even prepare the metal components in the work space I work with wood to not contaminate wood with metal filings. Once these issues were overcome, the design possibilities available to me were unlimited. The media I previously created my designs with was somewhat limited to different types of wood; domestic, exotic and figured. Today I can incorporate metal, glass and possibly stone in my work, along with my predominant medium of wood. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Case for Dowels...

My latest book is complete and published, I can get back to woodworking now. Writing, editing, and publishing a book is such an intensive process, it demands total focus.

In many of my cabinet assemblies I use dowels to attach the sides to the top and bottom. The use of dowels gives flexibility to the design of the corner joint. For example, I can offset the side panels away from the edge of the top or bottom and in the process work the protruding edge of the top and bottom into a shaped contour,chamfer, rabbet, etc. The alternative would be to use specific corner joints which need to have the side panel and top or bottom panel intersect right at the very edge. An example of this would be a dovetailed joint, a box joint, or a rabbet and lip edge. If you've ever read up on James Krenov and his work, you will find that he embraces the dowelled corner joint for these very same reasons. This is where I received the inspiration for this type of joint and its virtues.

Creating the dowelled joint involves accurate measurement , but most importantly it involves the little jig you can see in the photo, the dowelling guide. This is a piece of wood with the exact dimensions of the panel I am dowelling, the length and thickness. The dowel holes are marked with arbitrary spacing and the dowel guide holes are bored out on the drill press. I use this dowelling guide to create the dowel holes on both of the mating surfaces, in this case the side panel and the top or bottom panel. There is some skill involved in aligning the dowelling guide to both surfaces since the holes for the dowels need to be perfectly aligned. Marking and orienting the dowelling guide to the correct edges becomes very important and I make many pencil marks in the process. The old adage, "measure twice , cut once" is better written as "measure and mark three times, drill once" for this process.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Latest Book...

My latest book is now complete and off to the publisher. I will be receiving print copies next week and an eBook version will be available in a few days. Orders are welcome through . Updated this post with cover from new book. Here is part of the blurb for the book.

Norman Pirollo chronicles his fascinating journey over a 40 year period. Follow the riveting story of how his hi-tech career gradually evolved into a woodworking career. Read how Norman overcame obstacles and through determination and perseverance, finally attained his goal of self-employment at woodworking. Discover how Norman acquired the skills and techniques to be able to craft heirloom furniture today. Author Norman Pirollo shares his creative journey from childhood through adulthood. Perseverance, fate and critical decisions all combined to map out the direction he followed in life.