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.
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You can bookend my 30 years of woodworking with two volumes. Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop: A Practical Guide to Traditional Woodcraft” (U of North Carolina P) marks the beginning. Today, Steven W. Semes’ “The Architecture of the Classical Interior” (Norton) makes sense of all the conflicting mishmash of “design speak” tossed about. Hope I have another 30 years in me so the Semes book will someday be a midway milepost in a long, rewarding journey.
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.
Lay a leg flat on your work surface, with the countersink side of the thru-holes down. Stick a piece of threaded rod in each hole. Take a stretcher that is marked to have one end adjoin the top of this leg, stick a dowel center in its dowel hole, line it up against the leg, using the threaded rod for positioning, You want the top of the stretcher to be even with the top of the leg, or just slightly above it. Give the end of the stretcher a whack with your rubber mallet. This will leave a mark indicating where the matching dowel hole in the leg needs to be drilled. Repeat with the lower stretcher than adjoins this leg. Then repeat for the other leg that will form this trestle, and the other ends of the two stretchers.
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One you have the vise jaws shaped so that the vise moves freely, mark and drill holes in the fixed jaw for the bolts that will hold it to the bench. With these drilled, reassemble the vise and mark the location of the holes with an awl. Disassemble the vise and drill the holes through the stretcher, then reassemble the vise and bolt the inner jaw in place.
In terms of size, this bench is another Sjobergs that is a bit on the small side, though it is actually far more squared than some others. While its length is a bit disappointing at 54″, the width is over 24″ wide which does provide for more diverse projects. Even better, this product still features the incredibly 500-pound weight capacity and continues the Sjobergs trend of avoiding joints that are not as durable as they otherwise could be.
The front edge of a woodworker’s bench is usually lined with square holes positioned at regular intervals. These holes hold bench dogs and holdfast clamps in place for securing work pieces. Beneath the top of the bench, some cabinetmaker models feature single storage drawers, others several drawers and even cupboards incorporated into a case-like base.
Chris I blame you for all these altars that are being built today and now you thinks we over thinks ’em–huh. You whipped the masses into a frenzy— now Woodworkers are trying to out pretty each other–out wood species each other –out Rube Goldberg each other. I made 2 benches in 30 years neither had a through dovetail but many were made on them and I have no idea but I would bet a dollar that neither weighed 280 pounds but they both had tons of wood on them. If you want the bench as a destination god bless but it was intended as a mean. Thats my rant I could be wrong

Skirting tradi­tional woodworking – sometimes seem­ingly allergic to it – this book shows you things you didn’t think were possible with wood, and many things you wish you had thought of first. The variety of the finished pieces is won­derful and makes for a nice read. Including 89 artists in total, each brief section con­tains background information, inspirational thoughts and technical details on how each artist completes their work. Wood Art Today 2 covers furniture, turnings, boxes, sculptures and more. One of the things I like most about it is you can open it up to any page and start learning about a specific artist and the work they do. This one is a lot of fun. 

“The Wheelwright’s Shop” by George Sturt (Cambridge UP). Here is the real deal. At the turn of the 19th century, a guy comes back from college when his father falls ill and can no longer manage the old family wheelwright business alone. He realizes that he has stepped into a vanishing world of “kindly feeling” when the “grain in the wood told secrets to men.” Thanks to Sturt, the old English way with wood is still alive in the pages of this remarkable book.
“The Complete Guide to Woodworking features detailed plans for 40 stunning projects for woodworkers of all levels, plus more than 1,200 step-by-step illustrations. It also includes expert information on setting up a workshop, safety, how to use and look after tools, and much more. For beginners and experienced woodworkers alike, this is the ultimate step-by-step guide.

Over 1,400 color photos and drawings illustrate the methods, from simple butt joints to angled tenons and complex scarf joints. A project as simple as a box, for example, has a dozen ways to solve the joinery question. And, since many joints can be used interchangeably, Joinery leads you through making the right choice for your project based on the function of the piece, the time you have to work on it, your skill level, and your tooling.


If you decide upon construction lumber, you want kiln dry lumber. Green lumber will warp on you as it drys. Dig through the stacks and pick out the straightest, cleanest pieces. Generally, the boards that are sitting loose on the stack are those that other people left behind, as they sorted through looking for better. Be prepared to move them out of the way, and to dig down to the better stock. Be nice, though, and put everything back when you're done.

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. 

Regardless of which type of screw you use, you'll need to flip the panel and use a countersink drill to on all of the exit holes. Drilling MDF leaves bumps, the countersink bit will remove them, and will create a little bit of space for material drawn up by the screw from the second sheet of MDF. You want to remove anything that might keep the two panels from mating up flat. I set a block plane to a very shallow bite and ran it over what was left of the bumps and over the edges. The edges of MDF can be bulged by by sawing or just by handling, and you want to knock that down.
One quality about this bench that is definitely lacking is space – both tabletop and storage. The Olympia Tools does provide an adequate shelf, but it does not come with any drawers, nor does it offer the option of adding them later. The table top is the smallest we saw at 50” long and 2’ wide, though the width is actually better than most of the other table we reviewed. Still, a significant chunk of that width is occupied by a trough. This trough is designed to hold smaller workpieces to keep them from falling or getting knocked over, but it removes about 6” of width from the tabletop.
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