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An Interview with Ana (Knock Off Wood)

I am sure you all know Ana:

Yes, THE Anna of Knock Off Wood:

Knock Off Wood

And I am sure, like me, you have about 50,000 projects bookmarked on her blog that you would love to build one day.  I am so so sad that I didn't find her blog when I lived in Arizona and had all of my Father's tools at my disposal!

But honestly, I WANT to build almost everything I see on her site.  Even if I could afford to buy it all, it really appeals to me to attempt to make it on my own.  So I am very impressed by what Ana does.  I wanted to do a special feature with her on my blog, but instead of having her post as a guest, I thought it would be fun to ask her some questions that I was dying to know and hopefully get some advice and motivation to start putting together some of my own furniture using her amazing plans.

And hopefully it will help motivate you to do the same.

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I read a LOT of blogs, and it seems you are showing up on just about all of them these days. When did you start blogging and why did you start blogging about your projects?

Just three months ago, I was not completely sure what a blog was, and why people loved blogs so much. Pretty embarrassing for a girl who once worked in the Silicon Valley as a Systems Engineer for a large computer company, but that's what happens when you marry a man from Alaska and become a stay at home mom in the middle of nowhere. You focus on sneaking vegetables into chocolate cake and figuring out that baby powder is like baking powder and has multiple uses, my favorite being dry shampoo.

Another cool trick I learned was how to build my own furniture. Now I could get my workout in (carpentry burns alot of calories), save a ton of money, have the home I always wanted, and satisfy my creative instincts. The only problem was people saw my furniture and wanted to buy pieces. Great at first, but even I don't look forward to building twenty identical bookcases in a week. I could not keep up. But I wanted to. I wanted everyone to have my furniture.

A friend suggested I blog about building furniture. Not completely sure what blogging is, I googled "furniture blogs." Nothing. "How to build Pottery Barn Furniture." Nothing. Then I tried craft blogs. And you all know what door was opened to me . . . an amazing portal to creative people, full of inspiration and ingenuity. I knew I had to add my own creative craft. I knew this was how I was going to share my furniture with everyone.

On October 25, 2009, I posted my first blog post.

(Aren't we all so glad she did!!)

I have seen the videos of your "shop." Tell me about it? What do you love about your shop? (My personal favorite is the pink sawhorse). What would your dream shop have that your garage doesn't?

When I met my husband, he owned a gigantic garage turned bachelor pad with a sleeping loft over a bathroom, a pool table, some cheetos, and a whole bunch of tools. And it wasn't long before I married him, and was also living in the garage with him. As awful as it was, we were able to build our own house out of pocket. And when I say build, I mean build - we hired no one. I was tying rebar while I was pregnant, painting ceilings in between nursing a baby. And that is what I love the most about my shop - my family started out right here in the garage.

Ana's house:

(And I thought I was impressed with the furniture)

Now that we have moved out, it seems everything else has moved in. Sometimes I wish my shop was just for me, no boat parked in the middle, no welder shooting sparks, no tricycles running over my tools. But I'll climb over the boat and close my eyes when my husband welds, and I'll stop and give my daughter a push on her trike, because I would rather my family be a part of what I am doing then them not.

As Knock-Off Wood grows, I understand the new needs for a more attractive shop. I need better photos. And I have a plan. We are going to build a false wall down the center of the garage, and half of the garage will be mine. I would like to see my tools stored in colorful hutches and cabinets, and a huge farmhouse table for my work bench. And some industrial track lighting.

Sounds appealing, but it's like having a side of the bed. Were you not happier when you were so in love that there was no defined bed sides? Practicality eventually sets in, and now we are going to have our own sides to the garage, too . . .

I know that one thing that is keeping me from starting on one of your projects would be my lack of tools, something I hope to change this year. What are the must have tools to get the job done?

Tools, or rather the lack of tools, is the biggest challenge for a new woodworker. With this in mind, I try to post plans that only require seven tools:

1. Compound Miter Saw. This is your kitchen aid mixer. Splurge, you won't regret it.
2. Circular Saw. These are less expensive. You will need this saw for a variety of uses, and you can actually use a circular saw until you save up for your Compound Miter Saw.
3. Jigsaw. Even less expensive. And yes, you could use it for a circular saw, but the cuts will not be as straight. Jigsaws are used for curved cuts.
4. Screwgun. Everyone needs a good screwgun.
5. Pnematic Nailer, shooting 1 1/4" - 2" nails. You are going to love your nailer. It's like a supercharged staple gun!
6. Table Saw. Unless, of course, if a nice man works at the hardware store and will make your cuts for you.
7. Hand Sander. Must have, cheap and will make your projects beautiful.

This is what a Compound Miter Saw looks like:

Isn't it pretty!  Just owning one would make you 
feel like you could build something.

What was the first power tool you ever purchased?

A screw gun and a jigsaw. When I was in college, I used a screw gun and a jigsaw to build all sorts of DIY projects. These tools followed me to the Bay Area after college, and I would use them to repurpose and refinish furniture.

(I am thinking if you don't have ANY tools, then starting 
with what Ana started with would be a good way to go!)

What big tool purchase should I be saving for?

Definitely a compound miter saw. This is your Kitchen Aid Mixer. You will want to splurge because as you build more projects and become more aware of your joints, you are going to want your saw to be perfectly accurate. You are going to want straight, clean cuts. And a cheap saw isn't going to give you that.

Also make sure you compound miter saw cuts a double bevel - as in will cut corners for crown moulding. You may not be ready for fancy crown moulding on your pieces right now, but someday you may wish your saw had that option.

In case you are reading miter and bevel and going *huh* this might help:

A miter is a cut (at an angle other than 90 degrees) along the length of width of the material, 
such as the kind you would make at the corners of a picture frame.

A bevel is a cut (at an angle other than 90 degrees) along the thickness of the material, 
such as along the edge of a table to prevent sharp corners.

If you're using a table saw, miters are cut by pushing the flat on the table at an angle to the blade. 
Bevels are cut by changing the angle of the blade with respect to the surface of the table.

What project, or type of projects, do you suggest a beginner start out with?

No angles, no doors, no drawers. Fewer pieces. Benches, coffee tables, bookcases, and easy console tables will be the most forgiving. Many, many people have had success with the Hyde collection. Also, I recommend using pine for your first project, because it's cheap and easy to work with.

You can check out the plans for the Hyde Console HERE and the End Table HERE.

Out of all the plans on your site, what was your favorite knock off? 

Definitely my Farmhouse Bed. There is no question, I love my bed. Many projects I build, and find myself gifting or selling because something better will come along. Not my bed . . . nope, still love it, even after all these years. I only spent about $120 on it and made it in one day. It was my first truly successful project, and many readers have duplicated my efforts with the same success.

Isn't her bed gorgeous:

You can see the plans for it HERE.

What project was the easiest to knock off? The hardest?

The more difficult plans to "knock-off" are the plans with the angles. I made a wine rack for a wedding gift for some friends, and struggled to get the big X just right. Also, all those stemware holders were rather tedious, but the end results are defintiely worth it.

As far as designing plans goes, the most difficult part is creating plans that people can build with the 7 tools I listed above. If we all had a New Yankee Workshop in our yard, well, we wouldn't need a Knock-Off Wood blog.

On average, how long does a blog post (plan) take you to create?

I generally allocate two hours to put a plan together and post it to my blog. Drawing up the plans can take as few as fifteen minutes, but exporting photos, coming up with cut lists, materials lists and instructions can take much longer. I am trying to spend more time on my plans to ensure accuracy and the greatest reader success.

But this time estimate doesn't include the amount of time I spend thinking about how I am going to design the plans, or any shop time I use to refine the building process. If we are going to include these steps, you could say I spend 24 hours a day working on my blog. Sometimes a plan will come to me in the middle of the night or while I am watching Winnie the Pooh, studying the furniture in the background.

(just trying to keep her inspired...)

What percentage of your plans have you actually built?

Probably more than half, in some variation or another. For example, the Farmhouse Bed has plans for the King, Queen, Twin, and Full, and I'm working on the California King Plan. I have built the queen and king, and it's really all the same. The same goes for bookcases, hutches, coffee tables, tables, and benches. When a project comes along that I am skeptical about the results, I will go to the garage and build it before posting plans. This is how the pink sawhorses came about.

Your finished products always look great. And not just the woodwork. What is your favorite brand of primer/paint/glaze/varnish/you name it? What is your favorite tip/shortcut to completing a project?

Thank you. Finished products are all about the finish. Truly, even the most remarkable piece can be destroyed with a careless finish.

As far as a favorite paint or stain, I think this just depends on what finish you are trying to achieve. My current favorite is Antique White by Valspar, slightly distressed with a couple of coats of satin varnish on top. This is the finish I used on the Simple, Cheap and Easy bookcases. I also love using just a tiny bit of stain on a sock, hand rubbing the finish into the wood.

To get the best finish, clean your shop. Even a tiny bit of sawdust can show up in your finish if you don't sweep. Vacuum the actual piece to remove any sawdust. Then turn the piece over and paint or stain the bottom first. Then the insides. Then finally do the outsides. Work your brush in the direction of the wood grain. Sand with fine sandpaper between coats. And don't judge your piece until you are finished!

And last but not least, what do you want to say to everyone that reads your blog,
 but hasn't gotten off the computer chair to complete a project?


That if I can do it, so can you. I'm not especially handy or strong. I would not even consider myself to be an exceptional carpenter. It's the plans that make building easy. I hope you take an opportunity to look through the Knock-Off Wood Bragging Board - it's all reader projects. And most of them put my work to shame.

I also hope you just try. I could go on and on about how carpentry isn't just about saving money . . . it has saved me in so many ways. I have become a stronger, more confidant, less envious, generally better person through the satisfaction of building my own furniture.

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I have started saving my pennies for a compound miter saw.  My Dad will be so impressed.  I hope this post has motivated you to start one of her projects that you have been dreaming of...or at least watch Winnie the Pooh.


Mandi@TidbitsfromtheTremaynes said...

Hee hee I was just blogging about kleptoing my dad's miter saw and not giving it back!

I love Ana and Knock Off wood! sooo cool.

michelle@somedaycrafts said...

Great interview! What a talent Ana has!

Lyndsey said...

Love this girl!! Her site is my absolute favorite!!!!

Cynthia said...

Very cool! Thanks for sharing. I, like everyone else, have her blog bookmarked. I like to design/build my own PB knockoffs too. Having her do all the math makes it so much easier. Keep doing what you do Ana!

Katie said...

Well done! Hers is the first blog my husband and I are equally excited about.

Katie said...

PS Does she have to be gorgeous too? Is it not enough to just be super talented? Sigh...

Funky Junk Interiors said...

Fabulous review! I was glued to every word. Thanks for the great read!


Heather said...

Thanks for Interviewing Ana! I have fallen in love with her and he blog since finding it a couple of weeks ago. My Dad and I are currently working together to build the Logan Media Console and I'm loving every minute of it! :)

Anonymous said...

Knock Off Wood is the first blog I read in the morning. Ana is amazing, and her plans inspire me to throw out all my furniture. In fact, i'm moving in two months and will be making a pit stop at my daughter's house to drop off about half of my furniture because I plan on building from Ana's plans when I get to my new home.

Thanks so much for this great interview! Have a great week!

Julie said...

Great interview. I too just discovered Ana's blog a few weeks ago, and have had some sleepless nights thinking about the possibilities!! I ordered a nailer and compressor that should be here this week. . . next is the compound miter saw. I am so dang excited to see if I can actually build something!!

Megan said...

Bookmarked! Wow, what an extremely useful interview! :)

Like Leslie above, I'll be moving in a few months (and having a second baby in a month), and we are leaving the VAST majority of our furniture behind. I don't know if I'm more excited about replacing our godawful full-size bed with a king-sized Stratton or our rickety, old, not-my-style dining set with a farmhouse table. Now I just need to prioritize what needs to be built first when we arrive at our new destination 3000 miles away...

Alicia@Thrifty And Chic said...

How inspirational. I have a miter saw, table saw, and router but still have yet to do anything with them....hmmm. I'll have to check out her blog to get some ideas :) Thanks for such a great interview!!!

Becky J. said...

that is so great! i am not a wood person, but the honey is a contractor. makes it nice sometimes :)

Ana White said...

Lorie, thanks so much for featuring me, thinking about living in the garage while building our house with a newborn baby brought tears to my eyes. Tough times, but that's what makes us who we are!

Thank you everyone for reading. I am so grateful for your support. Ana

Christa said...

I just showed my husband Ana's blog this weekend. I've been after him to build me some entry way benches to store our shoes. So I sat him down and showed him that I now have "plans" so if he didn't start soon... I was taking over the workshop.

Amy E. said...

love the interview! thank you both for sharing!

i must admit i'm one of those people who has almost every one of Ana's plans on my "MAKE ME" list, but hasnt' touched a one. in my defense, i HAVE been building! my husband and i two big projects just this past weekend!

i'm sure i can convince him a compound miter saw is a "must have" item!

Kari Sweeten said...

Great interview!
Thank you for helping us to get to know Ana better! Love her, love her work!

Brooke said...

We are building the bunkbed from her site right now! Her plans have been super helpful! My favorite part of her blog is just the fact that it made me feel like it was something we could actually do ourselves!!!

Anonymous said...

woooooow. haven't come across anna until now. very impressed and i'm so glad you asked questions and we got to share :) awesome interview. i'm not crafty like that at all (she built her house. seriously. wow. she built her house. ama

thanks for stopping by my site last week :) i've been thinking about the cricket thing and i still don't think i could do...but $40,000 would be so nice...

happy monday :) hope today is treating you well!

Lee said...

Love her blog. We've done two projects and they're lots of fun to build as a family.

That's a great tool list. Can I suggest to readers that they buy a sequential trigger rather than contact trigger. The sequential ones are much safer.

gina said...

Wow, she seems like an amazing woman- so glad to have
'met" her. :)

Charlotte said...

I just found her blog last week and am loving it! So many idead, so little time. Thanks for the interview, it was great!

Tricia said...

What a great interview. Talk about a can-do girl. I too have about 5,000 projects bookmarked to make. Ah, maybe I need to get up and actually do it. ;)

jacqm said...

great interview! i've been wanting to make some of those very items...currently, i've furnished my house by recycling and curb pick-ups but i think i should start replacing them with things i've made myself.
Ana is Amazing!!!

Miss G said...

don't know how I missed this post back in February but my husband is currently building our changing table from a plan off Ana's blog! It is looking so good! Kelly

Lorie said...

She is pretty amazing! I love every post more than the one before!