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HAPPY 10th ANNIVERSARY—to “A Splintered History of Wood”

Ten years ago Harper Collins published my first book—A Splintered History of Wood: Belt Sander Races, Blind Woodworkers & Baseball Bats.

A Splintered History of Wood

A Splintered History of Wood

I got to travel the world—Venice and Cremona Italy, New Zealand, Tanzania, East Coast and West coast while researching it. I got to interview the likes of Jimmy Carter and Mira Nakashima. And I got to travel even more places while promoting it. It was selected by NPR as one of it’s “Best Books for Gift Giving,” and won a variety of regional awards. I gave presentations at dozens (and dozens) of libraries, book stores, clubs and conventions. It even became’s #1 “Mover and Shaker” for a brief stint.

The highlights were unexpected. One rough-around-the-edges fifteen year old kid approached me after I spoke to the Kansas City Woodworker Guild and told me A Splintered History of Wood was the only book he’d ever read; that alone was  reward enough for having written the book. A doctor used a chapter out of it for an article he wrote for a Mayo Clinic Journal on aging. And I met another fellow who was on a mission to visit every city and place highlighted in the book. And lots of people have gifted it to the favorite woodworker, historian or curiosity seeker in their lives.

In retrospect I learned writing doesn’t just involve writing new chapters in a book; it also involves writing new chapters in your life. And that’s what’s kept me writing, researching, building and speaking for the last decade.

Thanks to everyone that’s helped me on this journey. And Happy 10th Anniversary to A Splintered History of Wood (available at


About 30 days ago I posted the first of, what was supposed to be, a series of gift projects great for holiday giving. The snag was, 25 days ago I busted my pelvis—sort of negating the “series of gift projects” idea. Some day soon I’ll cover the “How to screw together a busted hip” project (definitely NOT a DIY thing) but for now here’s another gift project.

0-tic-tac-toe-jpegIt all got me to thinking there are 3 WAYS TO GIVE GIFTS LIKE THIS: 1) You can build the actual project and give it, 2) You can give the gift of time by offering to build the project with a kid, grandkid, friend or spouse, 3) You can give the gift of know-how by wrapping up the book in which the project first ran. All ways are good ways. Today we look at a simple TIC TAC TOE shelf featured in “Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects.” Stay tuned for more (unless I crack the other hip.)



A simple woodworking gift for holiday giving (#1)

Okay all ye DIYers, woodworkers, crafty people and gift makers, here is the first in a series of holiday gift project ideas for your perusal (and construction); from the pages of “Ridiculously SImple Furniture Projects.” It’s pretty straight forward—and as long as you’re gearing up to make one, you might want to think about making several. There are even printable plans at 

5-wine-for-two-rid-simple-layouts-dragged 5a-wine-2rid-simple-layouts-dragged-2
HAPPY sawdusting! (And if you want a signed copy of any of my books for gift giving, just give a shout.)

SAVE SOME DATES—Authors After Hours & Squash Blossom Farm

Here’s a quick “Save the Date” notice about a couple of unique events coming up. June 3rd, 6:45, at Valley Bookseller/ Daily Grind in Stillwater, Dale Mulfinger and I will be the featured in the “AUTHORS AFTER HOURS” program. We’ll be chatting about cabins, books, writing, and other magical things. Call Valley to reserve a spot (651-430-3385); attendance is limited to 20 people. More information at…/author…/E0-001-092328779-8. Then on the afternoon of July 30th, Lucie Amundsen (author of “Locally Laid”) and Teresa Marrone (author of LOTS of books, including the soon-to-be-released, mouth-watering “Dishing up Minnesota”) and I will be at Squash Blossoms Farm near Oronoco for an event which (at least for now) we’re calling “BOOKS, BANTER AND BLTs” We’ll be talking about (and doing) building, cooking, eggs, middle-farming, writing, homesteading and more. Lots of fun stuff planned. Roger and Suzanne have created a little slice of self-sufficient heaven at Squash Blossom—amazing place and people.…/…/… More information as it emerges—but, for now, SAVE THOSE DATES! Maybe even SPREAD THE WORD!


That’s Dale!



That’s Lucie!


That’s Teresa!


THE BIRTH OF A BOOKCASE (actually 4 of them)

I was asked to build a memorial bookcase for the Stillwater Library in memory of a long time library lover—Mabel Linquist. The mission was to design something to display new fiction books in the original rotunda area of the 1905 Carnegie Library. I began doodling—and my pencil kept drawing round things (hey, it’s a rotunda!) Another goal was to have the bookcase(s) flexible and movable. I began doodling with the idea of four “quarter slices” of a circle. As I circled in, I wound up with the preliminary design (below.)


4 bookcases

I ran the sketches by the folks at the library and all seemed to think it was worth pursuing. I built little foam core models to begin with, then went ahead with a full size mock up as shown below1) bookcase 3:4 viewIt seemed like a historical library needed bookcases with some history to them. So Librarian Carolyn Blocher and I rummaged through some old storage rooms and found two really cool possibilities: 1) Some shelves from the original 1895  library (Stillwater’s first) and 2) some cast iron brackets also from the original library. I goofed around with the shelves (turns out they were yellow poplar) and realized they might make the perfect raised panels for the sides. The brackets could become “back rests” for the books on top. It also seemed, since Stillwater was founded on white pine, that using that wood would be cool. I contacted Conrad at Forest Product Supply and discovered he had some slabs of white pine from a tree in Marine that had been downed in a storm. That’s be a good top, eh. So I went at itDSC_0891 I wound up bending wood every which way: Cutting curves, laminating thin pieces to make curves, and just outright bending stuff to make it curve. Twas a labor of love: Love of books, love of woodworking, love of the idea of a memorial bookcase.DSC_0882

A few weeks ago we installed them. And here’s how they look. The plaque below also gives a rundown of what the bookcases are made from.IMG_4310

The plaque:

1) Mabel plaque

Go check them out, while you’re visiting the library, checking out books. (One of the bookcases even has a magnetic panel with magnetized cars and animals that kids can play with while their folks are browsing the fiction area.


Woodworking FAQ goes international

You know you’ve hit the big time when one of your books goes international. Woodworking FAQ was recently translated into Russian!!


WW FAQ in RUssian

Woodworking FAQ

Woodworking FAQ

“Books Say Holidays Best”; a win-win-win thing

Happy cyber-book-Monday! Workman Publishing (in conjunction with my publisher) is running a WorkmanHoliday2015_1200x900_VF promotion. If you go to the link listed below and type HOLIDAY into the promo code box you’ll get 20% off. PLUS they donate a copy of their “Good & CHeap” cookbook to a person or family in need. Sort of a win-win-win thing. The link is

TWIN CITIES BOOK FESTIVAL-this Saturday, fun & free

The Twin Cities Book Festival is happening this Saturday (10-5)  at the FIne Arts Building at the Minnesota Fairgrounds. Dozens of speakers including Susan Cheever, Lin Enger, Amy Klobuchar, and Faith Sullivan. I’ll be there all day jawing about non-fiction writing, PLUS I’ll be building 7 pieces of furniture—along with attendees— for a writer’s studio. There are two stages plus pavilions and presentations for children, tweens and teens. Great deals on new and used books, authors signing stuff, and it’s FREE. For more info visit

Twin Cities Book Festival—Oct. 17th—fun, free and Spike will be there jawing and building

Twin Cities Book Festival—Oct. 17th—fun, free and Spike will be there jawing and building


Spike will be doing a presentation at the Two Harbor Library Thursday, July 23rd at 6:00 p.m. What’ll he be doing? Talking a little bit about the wonders of wood, building a Leopold Bench (someone is going to wind up with it) and talking about Cabin Lessons— and the highs and lows involved in building a cabin, family and book. He may even be showing off his wood cowboy hat. All are invited so come on down

Pleasant Hills Llibrary presentation, July 21st, 6-7 pm.

This is the Leopold Bench we’ll be building!!!

Cabin Lessons (Storey Publishing) available May 5, 2015


If you’re headed north this weekend, drop by Schroeder Town Hall this Saturday (July 11th, 2015) at 10:00 to hear me talk about our cabin and “Cabin Lessons” at the “Schroeder Area Historical Society Vacation Home/Cabin Tour.” I’ll talk about the trials and tribulations of building a cabin … and building a book … and building a family … all with my family. Later in the day there’s a tour of 6 area cabins (including Oma Tupa, Oma Lupa. For more information visit This will be a fine and fun event.Lundie cover Lundie schedule