My woodworking mentor, Robert Van Norman, studied under the esteemed woodworker James Krenov. Robert remembers many of JK’s wise words, especially “trust your eye”. When it was time for me to hear those words, I remember feeling such relief and permission to embrace my inherent perspicacity. Intuition is essential in the design and creation process, and for developing work that reflects the maker beyond his or her technical skill alone. At times, the craftsperson is called on to explain the aesthetics of his design and saying “it just feels right” doesn’t always cut it. This article covers seven common design considerations, their definition and how they are generally accepted and understood. Not only will the article help increase design vocabulary and awareness, but it may also assist in problem solving and recognizing the aesthetic strengths and weaknesses of a furniture piece.

This is used to secure workpieces in place while you work on them – often for jointing. The location and capacity are the important things to look at. Most vices will come on a right-hand configuration either on the front or the side of the bench. If possible, it is a good idea to look for vices that can be repositioned. In terms of capacity, anything over 5” is solid while anything under 4” is likely a bit too small for all projects.
Be careful. Single 24x60" sheets of 3/4" MDF are pretty easy to lift. A doubled sheet is manageable. The countertop - 24x72" panel of 1-1/2" oak - weighs something over 100 pounds. It takes real care to lift safely. The joined top - 3" thick of oak and MDF - is past the range that can be lifted safely by one person. Don't try. Get a friend to help, or rig a block-and-tackle.
My bench is MY BENCH. In other words, it’s a thing of evolutionary beauty. I built the top 10 years before deciding on and designing the base. I spared no absurdity. It is supremely stout and the much maligned drawers are accessible from either side. The larger drawers have dust lids and can be extended to provide support for large workpieces or as a step for climbing on top of the bench. The top alone weighs more than most Roubos. So NYAH! Did I mention that I designed it to fit in with the Arts & Crafts vernacular? Who said you can’t build your bench to be furniture? Beautiful as well as useful shop furniture? Just sayin…
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The Fall 2018 issue of Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts features a variety of projects, patterns, and features, as well as interesting techniques. This issue is a part of the regular magazine subscription. It is also available from your favorite retailer or from Fox Chapel Publishing,www.foxchapelpublishing.com, 1-800-457-9112.   In This Issue Scroll down for a […]


This is used to secure workpieces in place while you work on them – often for jointing. The location and capacity are the important things to look at. Most vices will come on a right-hand configuration either on the front or the side of the bench. If possible, it is a good idea to look for vices that can be repositioned. In terms of capacity, anything over 5” is solid while anything under 4” is likely a bit too small for all projects.
Thanks! Great information. As an advanced novice worker, I finally decided to build my first bench a couple years ago. After reading several of your blogs knowing full well mortised dove tale leg joinery is yet beyond my capability, I elected to build Robert Lang’s “21st Century Workbench”. I also chose his VERITAS Twin Screw Vise in the face vise position. Used an old Craftsman face vise in the tail vise position. Constructed of laminated 9/4 x 31/2″ Pecan and 60″ long because of my small crowed shop. Super happy to this point. As I mature in woodworking I may live to construct one of a different choice at a latter date, but I’m 73 so we’ll see. Thanks again for the advise.
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The hits included Shop Tips, Woodworking: The Right Technique, Router Magic, Woodworker’s Problem Solver and the Woodworker’s Visual Handbook. Each of those books sold more than 100,000 copies because of the quality of the advice and projects. And the books still hold up well, as you can see if you view buyers’ comments on sites like Amazon, where most of the titles consistently receive 5-star ratings.
The Handplane Book is a complete guide to one of the best known and most collectable hand tools. It covers all the basics, including how to buy a plane, tune it up, and use it. Fascinating background information on the development and manufacture of handplanes shows the rich heritage of this versatile tool. Focusing on planes from the golden age of the handplanes (19th and early 20th century), it also profiles tools from many sources around the world.
Drilling a precisely positioned, deep, wide hole isn't easy, without a drill press. So I bought a WolfCraft drill guide. After experimenting with it, and drilling some test holes, I build a jig around it. I screwed it to a scrap of MDF, and then drilled a carefully-centered 3/4" hole. The MDF can be clamped more easily than the base itself, and the 3/4" hole will keep a 3/4" Forstner bit drilling precisely where it is supposed to.
Next is the shelf. Start with the 24x48" piece of MDF. Clamp this on top of the base, and pencil in the outside of the stretchers and the inside angle of the legs. Flip it over, pull out your trusty cutting guide, and cut it to width and to length. Cutting out the angles is simple, with a jig saw. It's not much work with a hand saw. If you took enough care with supporting blocks and stops, you could probably do it with a circular saw. Since I did have a jig saw, I used it.
We want to make these pieces square, and of identical length. Square is a matter of making sure the saw blade is square and that the cutting guide is square. The trick to getting the pieces of the same length is to clamp them together and to cut them all at once. For the 4x4's, that means making a rough cut in each first, so we have four pieces, each 3-4" longer than we need, from which we'll get our four legs.

So since more than half the book is taken up with instruction, I thought there wouldn't be enough room for 40 projects. Thing is, the projects are mostly VERY simple and functional. There really does not seem to be any sort of eye towards craftsmanship and design. And they are almost all ugly. The picture frames included are literally the ugliest I've ever seen. Obviously, style is in the eye of the beholder, but I can't be making furniture to go in my home that looks like that, and my home is Ikea, Crate and Barrel, and Bombay to give you an idea.
Great advice. May I add #11?…if you’re left handed (like me), build a left handed bench. It sounds obvious, but when I made my bench, I had looked at all the pictures in my books, laid out plans for a nice, traditional bench, built it, then realized my front vise should have been on the other end (I have no tail vise). I plane from left to right, and the front vise is always in the way.

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For one, the bench itself is a good size. While its width as a tad short at just over 1 ½’, the length is a great 5’ long. Even better, this bench is made out of birch wood. Birchwood is similar to beech in that it is strong but soft enough to prevent inadvertent dulling of your tools. However, birch has a bit of an advantage over beech in that it is not a porous which makes staining on the Windsor Design a more worry-free affair.
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