Monday, January 18, 2010

Jim Whetstone: Talented and Organized Woodworker

Jim Whetstone (how's that for a cool last name?), of New Cumberland, PA, makes and sells woodworking projects which include beautiful gift boxes, complete with wood ribbons.

Jim developed a method of laminating contrasting pieces of wood, alternating their grain direction like plywood, and cutting them out on his scroll saw to look like pieces of ribbon. The alternating grain provides strength where short, weak grain occurs.

The strips of ribbon which wrap entirely around the box are glued into shallow dadoes, while the strips that make up the bow are glued on top of one another. Metal weights and washers are used to "clamp" the ribbons in place while the glue dries.

Jim takes great care to cut the ribbon pieces so they mimic the curls and fluid movement of fabric ribbon, which results in a very realistic product.

In addition to being talented, Jim is the most organized woodworker I've ever met. He knows the exact number of pieces he's made in his career (1,109) and has job folders and notes for each one. He keeps all his templates and photos of his work for future design reference, and has clever ways of storing tools and making maximum use of a relatively small shop space.

All his equipment and work stations are on wheels; wall and ceiling spaces are used for template and tool storage; and hinged partitions hold tools and reference material. When not in use, a box slips overtop of his planer, creating another work surface.

It's always a joy to visit another woodworker's shop, especially one who has so much to share.


When not in his workshop, Jim is busy with his other passion: photography. His newly-launched photography website can be found here. Some of the photos in this post were provided by Jim and are marked as such.


Dyami said...

Nice post, Kari. Jim has inspired me to get my butt in gear and get back to work on my shop (if I can just get the siding I started last July done first! Oh . . . and the Honey Do list too).

If you ever find yourself in NYC or Long Island, just drop my a line. I'd love to show you my shop. Not one quarter as finished, but I've got a head full of intentions I'll share.

Dyami said...

One question on my 2nd review of the photos. How does Jim's router lift work?

Adrian Baird Ba Than said...

Now that is a quality workshop,clearly a labour of many years love & consideration...
Let me hazard a guess,is he a quiet,considered chap?I wouldn't imagine a gobby,erratic guy(me)ever being that organised.
Lovely boxes too,a real signature style.
So,is that you turning into a roving reporter?
Cheers hen (yes,hen,as in female chicken,it's a Scottish term..)

Kari Hultman said...

Dyami, I'll definitely let you know next time we're up your way, but we don't get to NY very often. NY doesn't like me. I've gotten lost there 4 times!

The router lift is esentially a paddle that slides underneath the table surface. It has two tongs that pass on either side of the router, presumably underneath the router handles. The paddle pivots up and down to lift and lower the router. The two dowels on either side of the paddle rest in two little shelves that are attached to the router table and allow for this movement. I didn't actually look underneath the router table to see if the tongs were sitting beneath the router handles, so I'm surmising that's how it works. I don't know what the two holes in the paddle are for and didn't notice them until I reviewed my photos.

Black, he's been woodworking for over 40 years and has had a lot of time to put together his ideal shop set-up. Although, I'm not so sure if I had as long I'd come up with anything so organized! Jim is very friendly and talkative, but mild mannered for sure. I like interviewing people--next time I'm in Scotland, I'll write a post on you. How's that sound, love? ; )

Adrian Baird Ba Than said...

Sounds like a plan...
Hope you like demented Jack Russell obsessed with playing fetch,honey bun?

Dyami said...

Thanks for the explanation of the paddle. One more question, does it just lift the router for bit changes, or does it hold the router at a hight for use?

Al Navas said...


Thank you for the wonderful interview and insight into a wonderful person and woodworker!

Woodbloke said...

Hi Kari - nice shop...but your ref to a "relatively small shop space" could only have come from the US of A...things in Europe are a tad smaller generally - Rob

Kari Hultman said...

Black, my dog, Rosie, has the "chase-the-ball" part down pat, but doesn't quite get the "now-bring-it-back-to-mommy" bit. So, yeah, I'd love your dog, sunshine.

Dyami, I believe that the paddle just lifts the router to change bits. I didn't see any way to lock it in at different heights.

Al, sure thing!

Rob, ah yes, that did occur to me. We are a bit spoiled here.

Jason Kreger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Kreger said...

Hey Kari,
Great post. One quick question, how does jim deal with dust in his shop? Things look too tidy for him to be a "dustpan" woodworker but I don't notice and dust collection in the photos. Just curious

Kari Hultman said...

Jason, Jim has several small shop vacs attached to his power tools. He also built (before they were available commercially) an air filtration system and a vent that take care of fine dust floating around.

I asked him if he had cleaned his shop before my visit and he said he hadn't. He told me that he often goes through the shop and blows the dust off his tools and light fixtures, however.

Unknown said...

I had the pleasure of meeting Jim a few months ago and have visited his shop. I am a long time tool collector but consider myself a beginning woodworker. His shop is truely inspiring. Jim is not only an accomplished woodworker but a true artist. His level of organization is truly amazing and the routine cleanliness of his shop is impressive. I consider it a previledge to know him and be able to visit his shop(only 4 miles away) and be able to feed off his talent.

Jim Whetstone said...

I'm testing the ability to leave a comment.

Jim Whetstone said...

OK, good to go. The router is a Makita 3612 Plunge Router and is of course mounted upside down. The wood handle "yoke" pivots on dowels and pushes the router up. Once in position the router has a cam lock to hold position. There is also a fine thread plastic fine adjustment knob on the router. It, along with the yoke, produce very accurate heights. The tubes get filled with dust and must be cleaned out a few times a year. Gravity is a b---h!

Extremely Average said...

I am very new to woodworking and each time I see something like Jim's work, it inspires me all the more.


Dyami said...

Thanks for the info, Jim.