Being a lover of Japanese design and tools, I’m embarrassed to say I only picked this book up in the last year. I was anticipating a straightforward, almost encyclopaedic, approach documenting the history and use of most Japanese woodworking tools. I got that, but also so much more. The stories Odate tells of his youth and apprenticeship are truly jaw-dropping, and reveal as much about working wood in Japan as what life in a fascinating and secluded Pacific country was like when he was young. I was five minutes into this book, and I guess I had an astonished look on my face, when my wife politely asked how I was enjoying the book. I looked up in bewilderment, paused for about five seconds, and said “It would take me an hour to explain what I’ve learned in the last five minutes,” and went on reading. Even though this book has been around for decades, it’s worth reading today.
If you bought this superb polished table in a store, it would cost you a fortune, but our detailed instructions will help you make one for less than $100. And it looks like highly polished stone, but no-one would know it’s actually made from concrete with a wooden base. Also, you can embellish the top with leaf prints, like the table shown here, or personalize it with glass or mosaic tiles or imprints of seashells.
To mark the centerline, set a compass to span something more than half the width of the leg. Draw an arc from corner of the leg. The point where the arcs intersect will be on the centerline. With a centerline point on each end of the leg, place a scribe on the point, slide a straightedge up to touch the scribe. Do the same on the other end. When you have the straightedge positioned so that you can touch both points with the scribe, and in each case it is touching the straightedge - without moving the straightedge - scribe the line. Use scribes, rather than pencils or pens, because they make more precise marks.
The edges of MDF are fragile, easily crushed or torn. MDF is also notorious for absorbing water through these edges, causing the panels to swell. In Sam Allen's original design, he edged the MDF with 1/4" hardboard. This edging is one of the complexities that Asa Christiana left out in his simplified design. I think this was a mistake. MDF really needs some sort of protection, especially on the edges.
Fast forward to adult me. I’m a full-blown city girl whose idea of crafting mostly consists of small handheld tasks (i.e. jewelry making, crocheting, colouring books, etc.). I’ve completely forgotten about how much woodworking was a part of my childhood and how beautiful the work of it can be. Then NBC came out with what (in my humble opinion) is one of the greatest television shows ever created. Making It is a traditional competition style reality show that showcases the work of different crafts people from around the United States. They specialize in everything from paper crafting to (you guessed it) woodworking. Oh and it’s hosted by these two fabulous goofballs.
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.
With the inner jaw fastened to the bench, I used the router to flush-trim the jaw to the benchtop, across the top and down the sides adjacent to the top (stopping short of the discontinuity between the top and the legs). I'd thought this would be the best way to match up the jaw against the top, but I'd not do it this way again. It was very difficult to hold the router tight against the face of the jaw, and the result was a surface that wasn't as even as I had hoped.
@cahudson42 I bored the holes in my sandwich top with a 3/4" power auger bit with the drill in a portable drill guide that kept it vertical and in a way a bit like a plunge router. The guide screw of the auger was dead easy to centre over the laid out grid points. The holes are dead straight and clean sided. The auger bit was new which probably helped. As stated I have three rows from an end vise running the length of the front as well as from the front vise and holes in the front apron to support long pieces as well.
I wanted the left edge of the jaw of the front vise to be flush with the left edge of the top, the right edge with the left edge of the left front leg. So the amount of overhang on the left depends upon the width of the front vise jaw. The width of the jaw is, at a minimum, the width of the plate that supports it, but it's normal to make the jaw extend a bit beyond the plate. How far? The more it extends, the deeper a bite you can take with the edge of the vise, when, for example, you are clamping the side of a board being held vertically. But the more it extends, the less support it has. I decided to extend by 1-12", which gives me a 2-1/2" bite, and which should still provide solid support, given that the jaw is 1-1/2" thick. This means the top needs a left overhang of 12-1/4".
Before joining the top to the base, loosen the bolts and screws on the lower stretchers to create a little play in the leg posts. Align the top notches with the leg posts and tap the top into place with a hammer and piece of scrap wood, working evenly around the table until all leg posts are level with the tabletop. Tighten the lower stretchers and you’re done. A hefty thanks to Doug Merrill for this weighty idea.

Drill a pair of 3/8" holes in each end of the short stretchers, just over half of the depth of the dowels, using a brad-pointed bit. These stretchers already have a groove running their length, centered on the bottom edge. Precise placement isn't necessary, but keeping track of which part is which is. We need a hole in each end of each stretcher. Take care to keep these holes square, you don't want them running at angles.
I find furniture takes on new meaning when separated from the sterility of an art museum (such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s American Wing. Maybe that’s why I prefer the museum’s period rooms). Jeffrey P. Greene’s book is perhaps my favorite of recent period woodworking texts for its ambition and helpful exploded diagrams of furniture in its appendix.
Grouping George Nakashima’s The Soul of a Tree and Jim Krenov’s Worker in Wood with Nick Offerman’s Good Clean Fun might seem sacrilegious, but we like how the trio’s perspectives encompass the diverse spirit of woodworking. The older books combine photos of exceptional work with serious reflections on the nature of craftsmanship. Nick is equally passionate about wood and woodworking, but he’s more willing to admit that he’s enjoying himself–a good example for all of us to follow. 
When the holes were complete, I flipped the legs and drilled the countersinks with a 1" Forstner bit. Trying to drill a countersink when the center was already drilled would be impossible with a spade bit or an auger, but Forstner bits are guided by their edges, not their center, so they can handle this job. On thing about Forstners, though -- they have a tendency to skitter around a bit when starting, before they bite. An easy fix for this is to drill a hole through a piece of ply, and to clamp that to your work, creating a jig that will prevent the bit from drilling in the wrong spot.
Ok, I’ve had my morning coffee and now it’s about time to get out to the shop to see what I can do to make that bench a little more pleasing to my eye. I like that Craftsman flair idea. That was my intent at the time I built it, too bad I got lazy and rushed the job. It’s not like I was going to make hundreds of benches for someone else and would never see it again. I should have taken the time to make it the way I wanted it to look. This could keep me entertained for awhile. I see major surgery in the forecast! Gotta plan it all out just right.
With the inner jaw fastened to the bench, I used the router to flush-trim the jaw to the benchtop, across the top and down the sides adjacent to the top (stopping short of the discontinuity between the top and the legs). I'd thought this would be the best way to match up the jaw against the top, but I'd not do it this way again. It was very difficult to hold the router tight against the face of the jaw, and the result was a surface that wasn't as even as I had hoped.
This table top is also made from the hardest wood out of any manufacturer we reviewed: oak. In fairness, this can be both a blessing and a curse. The oak wood is extremely durable and noted for its lack of a porous nature. This means the top can withstand plenty of abuse from tool and workpieces. Moreover, you will not have to worry about liquids like lacquers and stains from being absorbed into the top. That said, the hard oak can also do a number on tool sharpness, dulling them prematurely if they are not carefully handled.
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