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.
I marked the holes by putting a dowel center in the end of a long piece of 1" dowel. Run it through the holes in the base plate, and bang on its end with a mallet. Rotate it a bit and bang it again, and repeat. Odds are the dowel center won't be precisely in the center of the dowel, so you'll be making a small ring of marks. The center of the hole is, of course, the center of that ring.
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I decided to make my own top out of white ash because I had access to a planer and jointer at my local college where I was taking an intro woodworking class. Trim and vice jaws are white ash as well. Everything else is built pretty much as jdege describes. A plunge router with a 3/4" spiral up bit really made quick work of the dog holes. Finished with Danish oil.
Linseed oil sitting in a bowl, or spread on the surface of wood, is perfectly safe. But a linseed oil soaked rag provides a vastly increase surface area, so the oxidation happens faster, and the rag can provide insulation, trapping the heat. The increased temperature speeds up the oxidation even more, which raises the temperature even more, and the runaway feedback can quickly result in temperatures that will cause the rag to spontaneously burst into flame. This isn't one of those "do not drive car while sunscreen is in place" warnings. This is one of those "keep your finger off the trigger until you have the gun pointed at something you want to shoot" warnings. Rags soaked in linseed oil will catch fire, if you don't handle them properly, and they can do so far more quickly than you might think.
The bench I will be describing differs from both of these in a couple of areas, the most significant of which is the top. Allen's top was made from three layers of 3/4" medium density fiberboard (MDF), topped and edged with 1/4" hardboard. Christiana's top was just two layers of 3/4" MDF. My top is two layers of 3/4" MDF edged with 1/2" oak and topped by a 1-1/2" thick edge-glued oak Ikea countertop. My top is more expensive in both time and money than either Christiana's or Allen's. If you're looking to build something fast and cheap, I'd recommend Allen's approach over Christiana's. The hardboard significantly increases the durability of the top.
Thanks Chris! I found this page while looking for a link to your e-mail address. I recently finished your erudite volumes on workbench design, and am about to embark on my own bench inspired by your take on the Holtzapffel design. As my vices and planer arrive, I’ve been agonizing over whether to use SYP or rough maple for the top. I don’t have a big budget, so all-maple is not an option. But after reading your ten tips here, I’ll stop agonizing — all SYP it is! This is, after all, my first of what I hope are at least several handmade benches. Your scholarship and craftsmanship are truly inspiring.
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If you opt for a bench with drawers or cabinets built into its base, don’t forget the toe spaces: Leave a space roughly three inches deep and four inches wide at floor level for your toes, just like kitchen cabinets. The absence of a toe space means you’ll be forever kicking the face or sides of the cabinets which is irksome and, with tools in hand, potentially dangerous. And you’ll have to lean over farther to reach the back of the benchtop.
David Ellsworth has been refining his style for years and now, with his first book, you get to see exactly how the “grandfather” of turning does it. Offering more than just turning information, a number of chapters in this book discuss topics that non-turners will be interested in. Having said that, turning is the main focus here. Ellsworth speaks to what he knows best – an open bowl, a natural-edge bowl and the highlight of the book, a hollow vessel with an impossibly small opening. He also covers basics like sharpening, design, finishing and more. One chapter even details the stresses that turning puts on the human body and how to get the most from this overlooked “tool”. A crucial read for a wood-turner and an enlightening read for a woodworker.
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.
Texture is the surface quality of a material. Texture has great potential to connect the observer emotionally to the work, inviting the person to touch and explore it. On a chair, for example, the texture of fabric can tempt persons to sit in it or immediately reject it. Smooth surfaces reflect light and can appear shiny making a piece feel light. Heavily textured surfaces absorb light. When considering texture, look at it from all angles and under different light conditions to see the full impact of its surface. To help determine scale with texture, the guidelines under pattern and proportion can also be followed.
A better solution would have been to route a rabbet into the side, so that the added strip always had thickness. The way I did it means that the strip I glued in is very narrow, and hence very weak, at a certain point. In this case, that's not a problem, because it's going to be sitting under the countertop layer. I also noticed that because I had only clamped the strip down, and not into the edge, there was a noticeable glue gap where the strip butted up against the MDF. Again, in this application it isn't visible. But if I was doing something like this on the top of a table, I'd make sure to cut a clean rabbet, and to clamp both down and in.
Thread the rods through one of the legs, then set the leg flat on the table. Insert dowels into the dowel holes. Place the matching stretchers into place. Put dowels into the dowel holes at the top end of the stretchers. Place the other leg onto the threaded rod and settle it down onto the dowels. You'll probably have another opportunity to whack away with your rubber mallet.
The end vise will have both jaws made out of 1-1/2" thick oak. The front vise has its moving jaw made of 1-1/2" oak, but uses the edge of the bench as its stationary jaw. So while for the end vise, if we mount it lower, we can make both the jaws deeper to compensate, for the front vise we cannot, so we want it mounted as close to the edge of the bench as possible.
After you have all the holes clean, set things up for your glue-up. You want everything on-hand before you start - drill, driver bit, glue, roller or whatever you're going to spread the glue with, and four clamps for the corners. You'll need a flat surface to do the glue-up on - I used my hollow core door on top my bench base - and another somewhat-flat surface to put the other panel on. My folding table was still holding my oak countertop, which makes a great flat surface, but I want to make sure I didn't drip glue on it so I covered it with some painters plastic that was left over from the last bedroom we painted.
“Introducing a new woodworking series in the tradition of Tage Frid…a series filled with essential information required by woodworkers today. For the first time ever, all the techniques and processes necessary to craft beautiful things from wood have been compiled into three comprehensive volumes: The Complete Illustrated Guides. Highly visual and written by woodworking’s finest craftsmen, these three titles — Furniture & Cabinet Construction, Shaping Wood, and Joinery — will establish a new standard for shop reference books.
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.
I will admit, I'm not a pyrography genius. In fact the last time used a woodburning tool, it was Christmas Day and was about five years old. It didn’t go well. A lot has changed since then. The tools have improved, there is a large and growing group of woodburning artists and there are great books to show you the basics and inspire you to pick up the art of pyrography. Woodburning with Style is the perfect book if you’re just learning. Not only will it teach you about the equipment available, it covers decorative techniques, lettering, portraits and more, before providing a chapter of inspirational projects and photographs to really get your imagination going. Pyrography is an art in itself but can also be used in conjunction with turnings, carvings or furniture making.
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.