The Anne of All Trades Blog

Building a Mandolin

Another bucket list project was tackled this year in the form of building my first mandolin. I've been tinkering around on the mandolin since I was 13 years old, and building my own was actually the catalyst to start woodworking as an adult, but it took me seven years and a push from my good friend Austin Papp to actually do it. He, our friend Jeremy and I converged at our mutual friend Caleb James (a planemaker you might have heard of)'s shop to see if we couldn't build a mandolin (mostly from scratch) in five days' time. Even with three fairly experienced woodworkers and one very talented instrument maker on the job, it was a pretty hefty endeavor, but one we pulled off with flying colors. All of us finished the five days with a playable instrument in hand, and I brought mine proudly back to Seattle for some finishing touches and many years of playing enjoyment ahead. In this video you'll see a very condensed version of the mandolin building process, from carving the arch top and bottom, tuning the top, shaping the neck, fitting the truss rod, sizing, pressing and filing the frets, and sooooo much more. I couldn't be happier with my instrument and cannot WAIT to build another one.

A HUGE thank you to Woodcraft Gallery for their continued support of my channel. Shop online and find classes at

Another big thanks to for sending specialized tools and supplies for the mandolin building class. For a list of supplies we ordered through Stewmac, see below:

5777 White Plastic Binding 5787 Black Plastic Binding 0735 Mandolin Tailpiece (Nickel) 0321Waverly Ebony Mandolin Endpin 4018-BStrap Button Felt Washers (Black) 4982-SB Ebony button, chrome screw 6181 ColorTone Shellac 6010 Bleached White Bone Nuts, Gibson Style Blank, Mandolin 0764 StewMac Narrow Fretwire - Narrow/Low, 2-foot piece 0767 Adjustable Archtop Mandolin Bridge 0781 Mandolin Truss Rod 0748-N Truss Rod Cover Screw0615Truss Rod Cover for Banjo or Mandolin 2511-N Golden Age A-style Mandolin Tuners - Bright Nickel, w black keys 0991 Peg Head Overlay Veneer - Ebony 0719 Spruce Tone Bar Wood, Set of 20727 Red Spruce Top Wood For Mandolin or Violin 1054Unslotted Fingerboard Guitar - Ebony 4093 Kerfed Lining for Mandolin 0964-IP Pearloid Fretboard Side Dots, Package of 100003-IP Pearloid Dot - 6mm 10917 D'Addario Phosphor Bronze Mandolin Strings - EJ745082 StewMac Z-File Fret Crowning Files - Original 1175 Fret End Dressing File0942 Gauged Nut Slotting File Set for Mandolin - Medium 4323 End Pin Jack Reamer 0344 Peghole Reamers - Standard15643 Aluminum Radius Sanding beam 18" Long - 12" Radius 4577 Fret/Fingerboard Levelers - 8" Length 3770 Fret Rocker 1298 Binding Router Bit Set 5046 Archtop Bridge Fitting Jig 4365 Fret Press Caul with 5 Fret Press Inserts 6159 Pocket Truss Rod Wrenches (5/16")3910Basic Setup Kit 4152 Dragon Hand-cut Rasp - Large/fine4179Razor File - Tapered Curved0331 Ibex Archtop Plane - 47mm 3760 Fret Beveling File (3 3/4") 5767 Stickit Self-adhesive abrasive - 120 grit 0584 Brown Tape (3/4")1976 Bind-All Binding Glue 7000Super Glue Starter Package 0622 Titebond (4 oz. bottle)5030Color Tone Stain (Vintage Amber) 5038 ColorTone Stain (Cherry Red) 5104 ColorTone Stain (Dark Walnut) 5991 TrueChannel Binding Router Jig 2231 StewMac Fret Slotting Miter Box with Fret Saw 0689B ending Iron 0688 Mandolin Side Bending Extension

Posted on August 23, 2019 .

Building a Salmon Ladder

In this week's video I set out to answer one simple question: Can tape hold up a salmon ladder? This was a fun, silly project that, for some reason, has been on my bucket list for a long time. I’m hugely grateful to Diablo tools for their continued support in providing high quality, affordable cutting and abrasive tools and to Eastwood, who sent me a Versa plasma cutter to learn how to plasma cut. Though I’ve got a lot of practice I still need to do, the biggest thing I learned was the importance of adjusting the cutting temperature to accommodate for steel thickness. My first piece needed a lot of grinding for that very reason. One of the major motivators for this doing this project was a bet with a good friend of mine- I bet him that we could hang and support the entire Salmon Ladder system using just tape. And- I did. Three lines of VHB tape per side can safely suspend a body mid-air with plenty of jarring around. Granted, the steel for the project and my time making it FAR outweighed the $5 bet, but that doesn’t make winning any less sweet. And here’s the other thing about this project: I’ve always loved doing pullups. I’ve been pretty small my entire life, and I got picked on for my size a ton when I was a kid, so I always wanted to be really strong to make up for my height deficiencies. Being able to do a pull-up has always made me feel really strong, so I figured my shop was a great place to put a pull-up bar, and a great excuse to do a quick pull up every time I walked past. What’s more extreme and more awesome than a pullup bar? A salmon ladder! The only unfortunate part is that apparently, I’m not NEARLY strong enough to use it. I was, thankfully, however, able to find a few strong friends to prove not only that my salmon ladder design works, but also, that construction tape works wonders to affix ridiculous dreams to the walls.

Posted on July 23, 2019 .

$2 Nighstand Build!


My new apprentice Isaac needs some furniture. We need to build some basic skill-building projects, and outfitting he and his wife Ashleigh's new apartment is a perfect way to do so. Side Table, Nighstand, Bedside Table, end table, whatever you like to call it, we designed these super simple DIY Live Edge Side Tables to be cut from a single sheet of plywood and added the live edge top and shelf for an extra pop that makes them really special. In this video we go over cutting dadoes, reinforcing with dominoes, sizing, flattening, and finishing a live edge top, as well as attaching it to the base to accommodate wood movement and seasonal changes in the solid wood top. This is a fairly easy project that can be accomplished with a table saw, a dado stack and a handplane. Though I don't often work with plywood, Ashleigh wanted a painted base, so it didn't make sense to build these from solid wood. Plus, stylish furniture that's built to last? A fun side note is that we actually got the plywood in the discount section at Home Depot for $0.50 a sheet, the spalted maple came from the stack I’ve got drying in the barn, the scraps of angle iron were from the blacksmith shop build, and the stain he had leftover from refinishing a bookshelf. Oh and 8 dominoes per stand, so all in I think we were about $2 per stand, plus a little elbow grease.

Posted on July 4, 2019 .

Building a Raspberry Trellis!


Sick of the ugly mess that was our raspberry patch, I decided it was time for a strong and sturdy raspberry trellis. I brought my camera along to show how Isaac and I did it. We used treated 4x4 posts, half-lap joinery, and high tensile wire for the structures. Adding turnbuckles and other hardware available at most stores, we will be able to keep the lines tight and the structure beautiful for many years to come. Our raspberries now have proper airflow and support to create abundant, healthy berries that are easy to pick. This fairly simple DIY garden project can be scaled up or down depending on your needs.

Posted on June 30, 2019 .

Installing a Driveway Gate

A new puppy and a busy Seattle street meant installing a driveway gate was a necessary project. From setting the posts in concrete to sharing a few tips on hanging a tube gate, I had a blast building this gate with my friend Stu and Rigby Puppy is now safe and sound. I finally found a use for some LED lights I'd purchased a ways back, did some re-landscaping, and the whole driveway looks to have gotten a massive makeover. These Behlen Country farm tube gates are fairly easy to hang, but it's important you brace and set your posts properly to avoid sagging over time.

Posted on June 12, 2019 .

How to Fix Your Soil

Forest Gardening is a fantastic way to cultivate a healthy, hands-off organic garden. In my newest YouTube video, I'll show you the first step in the "How to grow a vegetable garden" query with this video: How to fix your soil.

We can take all kinds of helpful cues from the forest on how to best manage our own gardens, big or small. From garden design and plant spacing to using wood chips, weeds, and composted material to build up your soil, if you pay attention, everything you need to know about your garden is all available in the forest. Learn to make your own compost tea, fertilizer, and soil amendments using free things readily available.

A take on the Back To Eden gardening method, this method uses wood mulch and all kinds of mycelium, microbial and helpful fungal growth to create vibrant, healthy soil and a self-watering, no-weed garden! We re-create the conditions on the forest floor by using wood chip mulch. As wood chips break down the add to and condition the soil, we top dress with composted animal manure and green waste, fertilize with home brewed compost tea, and grow delicious organic vegetables. What used to be bare dirt, our organic vegetable garden is now full of rich soil mulched heavily with free wood chips from local arborists.

Posted on June 2, 2019 .

Learn to Cut Dovetails by Hand


I love teaching people to cut dovetails because, contrary to what seems to be popular belief on the internet, they are not really all that hard. With some basic instruction, nine fairly basic tools, and an afternoon in the shop, I’m pretty confident anyone can cut a perfectly functional set. It may not be the prettiest set, but, in antiquity, dovetails were actually invented because hand forged nails were the only option at the time, and were too expensive to produce. If you go to an antique store and look inside the drawers of old furniture, chances are the dovetails you see are not going to be all that pretty. They weren’t meant to be the Everest of woodworking, they were meant to hold two pieces of wood together.


You’ll notice in this video I use a whole lot of fancy tools. I use them because I have them and I am proud to have purchased them from boutique toolmakers pursuing their dream of making beautiful things and in so doing, supporting their families with small batch tools of extremely high quality. I’ll go through the list of tools I use and love at the end of the video, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this video, you can cut dovetails with 9 basic tools that most people already have, in some rusty form or another, in their garage.

While this is meant to be a comprehensive guide to dovetails, here are a few tips covered in this video:

When I’m done chopping, I want to check every mating piece for square. I also want to make sure that there is no material sitting proud of the joint which will stop the dovetails from fully seating. Any offending bits of material get removed with the chisel and rechecked with the square.

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While I don’t like to test fit my joinery, I do want to make sure everything is going to go smoothly come final assembly. To that end, using a fat pencil, draw a line across the tips of all your pins and gently press the mating boards together. If there are any tails or pins that are still proud, the pencil carbon will transfer to the opposing board, and you’ll know where to remove a little material. It’s important to re-test often when doing this because removing material from one area might make another area seat differently. The real goal is to get confident enough in your sawing that you can assemble your dovetails sawcut to sawcut. The more fussing and fixing you do with your joints, the more hours you add to your projects and the higher the opportunity for introducing or exacerbating error.  

Before glueup, I like to pre-finish the interior of my cases to avoid glue marks and finish absorption errors later on. You want to get glue on every surface that will mate. It’s not super necessary on end grain to long grain connections, but I always say it can’t hurt.

When putting the case together, most yellow glues have an open time of about 30 mins. Well cut dovetails don’t need clamps, but it’s always nice to have clamps and cauls laid out and at the ready just in case. I also like to have a piece of wood slightly thinner than my tails to use to tap the tails together to make sure they are fully seated. Before walking away, I check the case for square, then let the glue sit. You can plane or sand your pins flush, then add the finish of your choice to really make them pop. I like to leave the baseline, so I don’t remove much material, and that is just a nice tell that the piece was handmade.


Before I go, I want to give a HUGE thank you to my sponsor, Woodcraft, for supporting me while I produce this kind of free educational content. Woodcraft is a great resource for woodworking tools and supplies- but more importantly, every store has woodworking experts who can answer your questions and build your community. Many stores also offer classes.

Posted on May 1, 2019 .

Sculpted Walnut Table for the Tiny House

While I’m waiting for the chimney parts and solar panels so I can continue work on the Tiny House, I figured I might as well get to work on the furniture that will fill it when it’s actually finished! To that end, my friend Erik Curtis (follow him on Instagram @encurtis) came out from Philly to help me build the sculpted table he designed for the space!

We had four days to construct it from walnut, and I’m super happy with how it turned out!


Erik and I met five years ago working together at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. When I was in Maine assisting Ashley Harwood teaching bowl turning at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship this summer, Erik happened to be doing an artist fellowship there as well and we got to talking about collaborating together on a project in Seattle over Christmas. For me, square is easy. Coming up with a square table or cabinet design is no problem at all. Erik specializes in sculpture and design, and he had plenty to teach me on the subject during his visit. I got to apply the power carving techniques I’d learned carving the alpaca sculpture with Michael Alm a few weeks ago, Erik showed me how to design using foam insulation (carves quick and easy) and he taught me a new joinery technique I hadn’t used to affix the legs to the top.

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It’s always fun to have a friend in the shop, and even more fun to have a concentrated block of time in the shop to devote to starting and (finishing) a project, a luxury I don’t often have between running the farm and keeping up with my writing, photography, and social media businesses. However, a goal I’ve set for 2019 is to find more hours in the day to spend in the shop, as I’ve got some really fun project ideas and a nice new shop in which to build them!

Posted on January 14, 2019 .

TV Tray/Lap Desk/Sofa Table? Whatever You Call it, I've got a new Project!

When Erik and I built the sculpted walnut table for the tiny house, there were several mid-project design changes and design ideas. One of which we actually made, then realized we didn't like the way it looked. We spent a huge amount of time resawing and flattening this piece of black limba by hand, so I wanted to make sure I came up for a good use for it when we decided not to incorporate it in the original table design.


I saw someone eating breakfast in bed on one of my favorite shows, and came up with the perfect project idea: a bed table. This could be used as a TV tray, a tray table, a couch table, a workstation for working in bed, used as a tea party table seated on the floor... so many options, but most importantly, the Limba top found a table to go with it, and I couldn't be more pleased with the design.  

I had chosen Black limba for the sculpted table top because not only is it one of my favorite woods to work with handtools, it’s coloring and open grain structure make it a really nice match for walnut, which is what we were using for the leg stock. The original plan was to glue up and resaw a piece of black limba to create two bookmatched round pieces for the sculpted table. We cut down a slab and prepped it for the first glue-up, then I used the tablesaw to cut dead center on the piece and establish a starter kerf around four sides to act as a guide for the framesaw as we resawed it. The framesaw can be used by one person or two, but I was definitely grateful Erik was around for this cut. The saw cuts surprisingly fast because it’s sharp and there is a low tooth count per inch, but it was still quite a workout. Because we wanted to be sure to preserve as much thickness possible for the resawn piece, I added domino joints to align the panels. This is a largely unnecessary step, but considering how thin the panel actually got at the end there, I was really thankful I thought to add them. 


One tip for large panel glueups is to choose the show face before glueup, then adjust the glue line with mallet taps after the piece is in the clamps so the show face has as few undulations as possible.


With the panel out of the clamps, it was time to flatten it. It was too big for my surface planer, so I had to do it the old fashioned way. I started with a scrub plane, which has a curved blade that scoops material and cuts quickly. Wood grain is weakest when cut across the fibers, so when a lot of material needs to be removed, cutting across the grain, or traversing the grain is the most efficient way to do it. The scrub plane removes material in a hurry, so it’s a good idea to stop and check your progress often.

After the scrub, I use a jointer plane to finish truing the surface. This gets rid of the scoop marks from the scrub and ensures the panel is flat along it’s surface. Even with the jointer, I stop and check my progress with a straight edge often, marking the high spots with my pencil. When the pencil line is gone, I recheck and redraw my lines when necessary.


Despite my greatest efforts, the final thickness of the panel was a tad too thin for my liking, and, since the grain of the wood runs perpendicular to the long side of the table, I added some walnut supports along the bottom. You’ll notice that the middle hole in the supports is round and the fastener holes at either end are elongated. This will allow for seasonal wood expansion and contraction. The fasteners will hold the two pieces of wood together, but when the panel expands and contracts, the screws can slide freely within their slots on the supports. 

I really liked the way the scrap leg material curved outward. I wanted to utilize that as a design feature in these new legs. I used all the 3d design and carving I’d learned from my past two projects and put them to use on this one, designing curvey, faceted legs that came out exactly how I wanted them to.

This is a pretty simple two day project that would be made even easier if a few more power tool methods were used and/or available to be used, but I’m so pleased with how awesomely ELEGANT this piece looks. It’s light, I love the lines, and it’s built well, and thus should last a nice long time. Another win for Black Limba and Walnut if you ask me!

Posted on January 13, 2019 .

The Dream Shop is Done!

Finally, after a year of work, my dream woodworking shop is finished. What was formerly an old, broken down, moldy, condemned building is new and beautiful again. All my tools are out of storage and ready to be put back to work and OH BOY do we have some fun projects on the docket! After 3 years building furniture by hand in our tiny laundry room in the house, I cannot express the pure joy of having space for pirouettes and machine “apprentices” in my woodshop. So many of my friends showed up in huge ways to help me with this project, and I couldn’t have done it without them.

I love my new shop, of course, but what I love most is having a space that is warm and inviting, a space that inspires creativity, and a space where my friends and I can gather to build awesome stuff together.

Posted on December 16, 2018 .