Here's the great thing about woodworking... it really hasn't changed much over the last few decades, even centuries. Sure, there are new tools and technologies that make things come together faster, light-weight power tools that cause less fatigue, and safety improvement measures like that table saw that stops if you put your tongue on it.    But the techniques are classic, and the purpose and design of hand tools are the same as they were for our grandparent's generation, and their grandparents before. All of which means - there's some staple, go-to techniques and joints and processes that every woodworker should know, and you don't have to make sure your sources are up-to-date before you seek out the best way to cut a mortise.

The Complete Manual of Woodworking A comprehensive book that covers tons of woodworking topics: woodworking design, hand tools, power tools, workshops, wood carving, joinery, finishing wood. You will also learn a lot about this natural resource we call wood. Filled with great photos, diagrams, and illustrations. If you want to branch out and explore other woodworking endeavors, you will enjoy owning this book.


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.
 6. The Complete Book of Woodworking by Tom Carpenter. Another great reference book you'll come back to again and again. The latter half contains a bunch of projects you may or may not end up making (I bet you won't) but the details covered in the first half are as good as any overview-style book I've come across. When I want to make sure my process is up to snuff when I'm working on a ManMade post, this is the one I check first. 
The top is supported by the top ends of the legs and the top sides of the top stretchers. Stand your legs on end on a flat surface (like my door) and see if they wobble. If you have an end that isn't quite stable, use it as a foot, where the leveler will make it's flaws unimportant. Check the top edge of each stretcher for straightness. If one has a bit of a bow, use it for a lower stretcher. It's less critical that the shelf be well supported along its length.

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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.

Mine is similar but a bit more robust. The top is a sandwich, two 18mm sheets of WBP ply with an 18mm mdf filling. The legs are mortise and tenoned together, the ends glued and pegged, the stretchers are joined with long bolts so it comes apart. I stiffened it by adding a very closely fitted cabinet underneath (it had to go in dead square) and it is now absolutely rock solid. 

A workbench needs to be heavy enough that it doesn't move under you while you're working, and stiff enough that it doesn't rack itself to pieces under the forces that will be placed upon it. It doesn't take many hours of planing a board or hammering a chisel for a worktable made of nailed 2x4s to come apart. Traditional bench designs use mortise-and-tenon joinery, which is strong and rigid, but not really suited for a novice woodworker who doesn't already have a bench.
All glue & stain benches are made using a solid maple frame for lasting durability and strength. Side Clamp Benches are made specifically for bar clamps, and are used for gluing projects or clamp storage. Benches feature an open top with 17 sets of 3/4"W grooves that accept bar clamps measuring 3’ and over. Lower center rail is adaptable for storage of hand screws and C-clamps. Side clamp benches are available with or without a drip pan. Glue & Stain Benches are made with a 1-1/4” plywood top covered with heavy-coated galvanized steel. Bottom shelf has a 4” rear retaining lip. Glue and stain benches are available with or without casters. Limited Lifetime Warranty.

4. Taunton's Complete Illustrated Guide To Finishing by Jeff Jewitt. This isn't the only book on the subject, but it's a great place to start. The real strength here is the bounty of color photos, which show exactly what's happening as you finalize your projects. It discusses finishing new projects, but also repairing old finishes and matching vintage pieces. It's not a "start here, end there" walk through, so you'll need to familiarize yourself with the way it's organized before beginning a project, but it is indeed a "complete illustrated guide" with encyclopedic-like thoroughness. Belongs in every library. 
With my second attempt at edge guides, I made the other rough-cut. On this, the edge guide worked fine, but the end of the cuts revealed that the saw blade wasn't quite square. So I adjusted the blade, clamped all four legs together, and made what would be the first final cut, if it came out clean enough. It didn't. I'd let the saw drift a bit away from the guide edge. So I adjusted the saw, moving the guide back half an inch, and tried again. the rough-cut parts were a couple of inches longer than they needed to be, so I had room to work with,. It's only the final cut at the other end that you only have one chance at.
Here’s a traditional Swedish farm accessory for gunk-laden soles. The dimensions are not critical, but be sure the edges of the slats are fairly sharp?they’re what makes the boot scraper work. Cut slats to length, then cut triangular openings on the side of a pair of 2x2s. A radial arm saw works well for this, but a table saw or band saw will also make the cut. Trim the 2x2s to length, predrill, and use galvanized screws to attach the slats from underneath. If you prefer a boot cleaner that has brushes, check out this clever project.
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.

Comprehensive is the only word to describe this three-book set on joinery, shaping wood and furniture and cabinet construction. The three authors answer questions you didn’t even know you had. They also do it in a clear, concise and visually pleasing way. Even beginning to list the topics covered would be futile. Safe to say, if you want to learn about something that would fit under these three headings, this set will steer you in the right direction. Each book starts out with the basics and builds on that informa­tion, finishing off with quite advanced techniques. 
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The wide variety of landmark furniture pieces, no matter the style, is what makes this book so visually stunning. That, and the fact that all of the 84 pieces that comprise the collection are beauti­fully photographed and a short description about each maker and piece is included. Many of the great makers from the last 100 years are covered – Sam Maloof, Wendell Castle, Tage Frid, George Nakashima – as well as many lesser known makers. If you read this book one hundred years from now, I’m sure it would be as thought provoking as it is today. These are 84 great pieces, and this is one great book. 
Comprehensive is the only word to describe this three-book set on joinery, shaping wood and furniture and cabinet construction. The three authors answer questions you didn’t even know you had. They also do it in a clear, concise and visually pleasing way. Even beginning to list the topics covered would be futile. Safe to say, if you want to learn about something that would fit under these three headings, this set will steer you in the right direction. Each book starts out with the basics and builds on that informa­tion, finishing off with quite advanced techniques. 
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.
Woodworking Business is an informative, common-sense-based book that may answer many questions for the amateur wood­worker who is considering going professional. This is not a gorgeous book. It doesn’t have glossy photos or beautiful graphic design. What it does offer is practical, down-to-earth tips while forcing you to consider the toughest question of all: Is running your own business right for you? Chapter topics include Setting Prices, Contracting Jobs, Getting Help and Everyday Lessons. Although it’s written from an American perspective, most of the information is pertinent to a Canadian reader.
Permanent or Portable? This is a distinction that decides much about your bench choice: Is it to remain stationary or must it fold, roll, or otherwise make itself scarce between jobs? Large, heavy benches are more stable and, in general, more adaptable to different jobs (sometimes several at once). But the bigger the bench, the more hassle involved with stowing it.

The original design had a height of 35-1/8". Their two-layer top was 1-1/2" thick, so their legs were 33-5/8" long. I want a height of 35", but I'm using a top that's 3" thick. My basement floor is anything but level, so I'm using levelers that are adjustable from 3/4" to 1-1/2". In other words, I want legs that are around 31-3/4" long. (If you're not using levelers, your legs need precise lengths. The levelers give about 3/4" of adjustment, so precision is less necessary.

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.
If you remember, when drilling the MDF I finished the holes from the other side using a Forstner bit. It made for a clean hole, but the positioning wasn't as precise as I really wanted. So for this, I decided to clamp a length of scrap MDF to the back side, and to drill straight through. My Forstner bits were too short, so I bought an extender. And then I found that the spade bits I was using gave a cleaner exit hole. Whooda thunk?
Mine is similar but a bit more robust. The top is a sandwich, two 18mm sheets of WBP ply with an 18mm mdf filling. The legs are mortise and tenoned together, the ends glued and pegged, the stretchers are joined with long bolts so it comes apart. I stiffened it by adding a very closely fitted cabinet underneath (it had to go in dead square) and it is now absolutely rock solid.

I used the factory edge of the half-panel of hardboard as a guide for cutting the ply. I wanted to cut a 5-1/2" strip, and my saw cuts 4-1/2" from the edge of the shoe, so I wanted the edge of the hardboard 10" from the edge of the ply. So I set my combination square to 10", and used it to mechanically set the distance. Hint - if you need two things to be precisely the same length, try to avoid measuring them separately. Use some mechanical mechanism for setting the distance.


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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