Canadian Woodworking

In praise of simple projects

Blog by Rob Brown

In last week’s column I mentioned that I’ve made wooden hearts for my kids for Valentine’s Day over the past few years. Not only are they well received, but they’re fun to make.

They allow me to be a bit creative. I can include some texture, use figured wood, do a bit of pyrography or use another technique.

For this year’s hearts, I dressed a piece of black cherry and broke out a piece of curly anigre to glue on the face. I also added a piece of maple veneer between the cherry solid and curly anigre to give me a bit of contrast. The maple just showed as a thin line around the edge of the hearts when they were complete.

Both the cherry and curly anigre start with a medium tone and darken to a richer, deeper tone, so the contrast with the maple isn’t strong at first but will grow as time goes on.

After applying the two layers of veneer to the face of the blank I drew and cut out a paper heart the size of the wooden hearts I was going to make. I traced them on the blank, cut them out with a scroll saw and sanded their edges smooth. I already knew what font I was going to use for the initial. When grabbing some fresh bread from a local bakery a few days ago I noticed their sign had a font that would make a pretty eye-catching initial. I took a few photos of the sign. Luckily there was an “A” in the sign, but I had to make up the “J” by looking at the other letters.

A Simple Project

These are the completed hearts I made for my kids. They took about two hours to complete, from breakout to final coat of shellac.


This looks familiar

I put a piece of blank paper on my phone (which had the letter “A” adjusted to the size I needed), traced it, then used a piece of carbon paper to transfer its lines to the face of the first heart. At this point I used a pyrography pen to burn the letter into the wood then added some short slashes around the perimeter of the heart to bring more life to the piece. I then repeated the process with the other heart.

As a side note, it wasn’t until I brought the hearts home and looked at the others that I noticed the ones I gave my kids two years ago have the exact same slashes around their perimeters. If I had remembered that I would have mixed it up. Oh, well.

Finish line

Because it was Valentine’s Day, and I needed to have these hearts ready for action when the kids got home from school, I opted for a few coats of shellac, as it dries very fast and looks great. There’s an article in our current issue about the pros and cons of shellac, as well as how it’s mixed and applied. I also produced a video detailing how I apply it to furniture and woodwork. There’s a link to the video at the end of the article.

I usually have their Valentine’s Day stuff ready to give them in the morning, but the past few days had been so busy I didn’t have time to complete the hearts. Even for professional woodworkers, life gets in the way of woodworking sometimes.

The kids liked the hearts and they’re now living in their rooms beside the other hearts I made.

Complex, intricate pieces of furniture are a great challenge and are very enjoyable to make, but there’s something satisfying about making a project that will take only an hour or two to complete. It’s simpler and the payoff is almost immediate. I think everyone, no matter their skill level, should try simple projects from time to time.

Shellac is Fast and Easy – Shellac is a great finish when you’re in a rush. Considering it was already noon on Valentine’s Day, I had no time to waste.

Last modified: February 16, 2023

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

1 comment

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  2. Timely blog post Rob, I am doing some of my own simple projects as a bit of a buffer between furniture projects. I’ve been turning some French rolling pins on my lathe to use up some shorter 8/4 and 6/4 stock I had lying around. It certainly is nice to go from rough lumber to finished product in one shop session.

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