Friday, September 10, 2010


My choice to find a balance in the work that I do is a choice that was born in the inner most part of me. The struggle to resist the temptations of modern technology to produce the best work I can isn't really a struggle at all. Its been labeled as such. For me the true struggle is for one to limit oneself saying,"Well I only use these kinds of tools" or, "Power tools aren't for fine work". Now I will say that I don't use power tools for my joinery because I feel like that joints cut by hand are better,stronger, and more accurate. The essence of woodworking is to take carefully selected planks and shape them into something that looks like it was cut from the same tree. The fact that many can do fine joinery using only power tools is apparent everywhere. Just look in any woodworking magazine, and see the books dedicated to working only with table saws. I've seen makers cutting dovetail joinery with one of these beastly machines. My personal conviction on power tools is in line with something I read in the writings of James Krenov. The lesson here was why expend all of your precious energy in mill work, and then have nothing left for the finer things such as the joinery, or taking the time to read the grain and expose the best parts of each plank. In my own shop I've begun to separate things. I have a "machine room" which is the basement of my home. This is the place where Ive worked for years. I've done fine work in this space, but always felt intimidated by the crudeness of this space. Its perfect for the dirty mill work. In a completely separate but adjoining room I've set up my bench, and my growing collection of fine hand tools. This is the place where the "magic" takes place. The walls are painted a nice dark tan, and the window trim brown. There is a large brick hearth and log burning fireplace as well. This is a refuge, and where the dirt and grime of mill work is not allowed. This is a place where the rough sawn planks ascend into fine pieces ready for joints to be hand cut, and assembled. The lesson I've learned here, is that a balance of modern tools, vs the ancient tools can be combined and one can truly excel in the kind of work they do. There are no boundaries, but then again there are personal standards that are followed strictly. I do own a table saw, and have owned this machine for years. It cuts true, and fast, but the edges are all perfectly straight and square. A sharp blade leaves minimal marking, but this is hardly the surface of the fine work I want to leave behind.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Leg Up

This mystery wood Im guessing some type of pine was some of the most strangest wood Ive worked. Most of us enjoy the smell of freshly cut wood, or the feel and sound of chisel snapping the grain. Other than very heavy(good for my bench) this stuff was stringy, and smells pungent. Anyway, here are the legs, chopped, cut, beaten, and squared.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Alot has been said, and written about the getting the right bench top just for you. I've tried all the test of measuring from the floor to my pinky knuckle, and one where you keep your arms by your side, but extend you hands outwards as if pushing something down. My benchtop of 32" fell in between those too. I understand that a lower bench is nice for a planing bench, more leg muscles involded. Layouts, and hand saw cuts, even with the work elevated in my vise was too short below 32". So hopefully this meets the two sound bench heights somewhere in the middle of the road. My benchtop should finish somewhere around 32" high. Will the old Disston make it through, or better yet, make it true? So far so good as I take my time and a break to write this.

These massive mystery timbers will form the legs to my monster bench. Now remember Im not entering any how "pretty is your bench contest", just a straight flat accurate bench that provide, multiple quick holding operations is what I seek. If I make something and it ends up looking cool along the way, well thats just a bonus. Bonus number 1, My left thumb narrowly escaped death when it became wedged between the two massize unknowns! A quick crushing sensation, just a flesh wound, so Ill be on figthing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

4th Down and time to punt

I decided that there was no reason to continue on with the bench top I was working on in "The Glue Dance" post. I didn't like the feel of that bench, and not to mention the glue up didn't go as planned. This time, Ive selected some Mahogany that sat outside for a unknown amount of time, and its now "Sun Dried Mahogany" if you will. Today I moved planks around and ended up with a very cool looking book match on one end that Ive determined to be my face vise side. I cut out dog holes about 6" on center and have made arrangements with the first few planks to accept a European style tail vise. I will post pics after this section is flat, and just before the next stage of glue up. One thing I should have known but didn't do is its best to glue up the top in sections, rather than trying to wrestle a bunch of planks and the race against strong quick setting adhesives! All is well, and the other bench top will serve somewhere maybe a new glue up table.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Glue Dance Day 1

Everything is all ready for glue up. This is always much more fun with a friend, but I have my Lab who provides my much needed supervision. So here is all of the stock Ive got, and remember it was free so my “Kitchen Sink” bench top will be mostly cherry, with a little maple and walnut for added flavor.

I used every clamp I could find that of course was big enough. My battens were 2×4 wrapped in wax paper to keep everything as flat as possible.

Day 2-
I was did the right thing here and waited a full 24 hours for the glue to cure, and evaporate. Now based on the next photo you can see Ill be busy for quite some time. Cheers!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

One Saw Bench or Two

My first attempt at recording my thoughts, hopes and wishes on a work bench have changed and today Ive begun to bring forth my ideas into my shop. One of the things about woodworking as you may have found out for yourself, is sometimes in order to accomplish one goal, along the way your faced with sub tasks if you will that must be completed before the main goal can be reached. For me that was a saw bench. You may wonder why I need a saw bench to build my work bench and the answer is this. My power tools continue to collect dust the old fashion way, and my band saw is the only one that has survived my journey into hand tools. The band saw is like a big hand tool with a cord anyway. That cant be applied to the tablesaw, or router etc. The bandsaw has its purpose in my hand tool shop. The saw bench is for crosscutting all of the large stock that will go into my bench. I followed the design for a saw bench found on Christooher Swartz Lost Art Press. I changed some things such as the 10 degree splay is at the back of the bench rather than all four legs. That way the legs shouldnt interfere with my saws downward motion. I also added the rip notch at the front of the bench,goes along with the 90 degree legs to tell me or someone else which side is the front.
I did read in the Lost Art plans about having two benches stored on top of each other. I will more than likely make another. I liek this one pretty good, but I made it in a hour, and there are some things I would do differently. Not big things, but I like pretty, and this thing is kind of ugly. Maybe in about 5 years Ill like how it looks.