On the hit show “Home Town,” now in its fifth season, some of the most interesting moments involve watching Ben Napier build unique furniture in his woodworking shop. It’s no surprise that he’s spun off his own solo show, “Home Town: Ben’s Workshop,” which just premiered on Discovery+.
In this new series, Napier shows celebrity guests his best woodworking techniques and gives them tips on making the perfect furniture for any space.
Viewers will learn all about what goes into their furniture, and you can find out which features and techniques to ask for when decorating your home, too. Napier’s mini woodworking master class may make you see your home furnishings in a whole new light.
Want furniture that pays homage to the past? Try turned wood
In the first episode of the series, titled “Finding His Rhythm,” Napier meets with the country singer Chris Lane to make a wooden mic stand. They create this curved stand by “turning” the wood on a lathe.
Napier explains that although turning wood is fun, it can be dangerous.
“I have busted my knuckles pretty bad on the lathe,” he says. “You’re taking a knife and sticking it into a piece of wood that is turning 1,500 revolutions per minute. It’s moving. That wood is flying.”
A dowel joint can help make furniture easier to move
A long mic stand can be bulky, and Napier knows that if it were in one piece, it would be hard for Lane to carry around on tour. That’s why Napier adds a dowel joint to the center so that the stand can be pulled in half.
So how does a dowel joint work?
“The dowel joint technique is really simple,” Napier says. “You drill a hole, and you’ve got a manufactured piece of wood that fits in there perfectly.”
Napier drills a hole into the center of the stand and hammers in a small, cylindrical piece of wood, explaining, “It’s like a nail or a screw before there were nails or screws.”
Now, Lane can pack up the mic stand easily and put it together on stage. This dowel joint is a clever solution and could be a great feature for those who move often, or even for those who want to be able to take their indoor furniture outside during parties.
Dado joints are perfect for some midcentury modern style
When the tennis pro Martina Navratilova visits Napier’s workshop in the episode “Just Enough,” Napier decides to make a bench for a local tennis court. He chooses a classic style: the Nelson bench, which he describes as “the typical midcentury modern piece of furniture.”
But what gives this simple bench such a unique, midcentury look? The long slats, of course!
These slats are put together with a special joint called a “dado” joint, made of notches that the slats fit into.
“The term comes from datum, the Latin term for ‘dice,’” Napier says. “So you think about dice as a cube. ‘Dado’ refers to a joint where you cut a cube out.”
Navratilova cuts these square notches herself and, together, the two paint this bench Wimbledon Green, before dropping it off at the tennis court.
While you might not want a piece of furniture in quite this shade of green, the style of bench could surely bring some extra style to your midcentury modern home.
Wood can be stained or dyed instead
When the astronaut Scott Kelly comes to Napier’s wood shop in Episode 3, “The Write Stuff,” they decide to make an oversized Mission-style chair to put in the local library. They want to make the maple wood a darker color, but as Napier explains, maple is difficult to stain.
“It absorbs it differently because of the grain patterns,” he says. “So, we’re going to actually dye the wood. … You spray it on, and then you’re done.”
Kelly and Napier spray the wood chair with the dye, which actually colors the wood, while a stain simply brings out a wood’s natural pigments. Dyeing is a bolder option, as opposed to the subtlety of a stain, but just know that as a homeowner, you have options!
Wood can create smaller furnishings, too—like lamps
In the episode “Squeeze It Baby,” the stand-up comedian Loni Love joins Napier for an ambitious build: a midcentury desk with all the conveniences of 2021.
They build a simple walnut desk with tapered legs and a minimalist drawer, then top it off with a charging station and a lamp with a shade made of sheets of wood—using a wide-belt sander to sand down four thin pieces of wood.
“For the lamp that we’re building, we’re actually going to take more of the walnut, and we’re going to build a frame,” says Napier. “And we’re going to take paper-thin sheets of maple that we will then slip into the frame. So they’ll be translucent. They’ll allow the light to shine through.”
It’s an impressive project, and a great demonstration to viewers of how much can be done with wood.
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