Tools: I am inspired by tools, whether the tool is a good chef’s knife, a watercolor paintbrush or a lowly marking gauge. I find 18th-century tools particularly beautiful and elegant in their simplicity. To openly admit I am inspired by my tools makes me somewhat of a kook. But here, amongst friends, I suspect I am not alone. I’ve copied many tools in these books and sought tools that resembled these and been a happier person for it.


I marked out the one hole location, drilled a shallow 1/16" hole into the top. I then put a 1/16" bit through the hole in my template and into the hole I had just drilled. I lined up the template, and drilled a second hole, then put another bit through that. From then on, I worked entirely from the template. With two bits through the holes pinning the template in place, the other holes in the template would be precisely located (or so the theory goes) on a 4x4" grid.
My first attempt at making a cutting guide didn't work. What I ended up with worked fine for cutting panels, but the guide-strip was too narrow, and when the saw was extended fully for rough-cutting the 4x4's the clamp heads got in the way. So I made another. Actually, I made two more, so that I could cut one into shorter pieces that would be easier to handle.
“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.
There’s a lot of space above the shelf in most closets. Even though it’s a little hard to reach, it’s a great place to store seldom-used items. Make use of this wasted space by adding a second shelf above the existing one. Buy enough closet shelving material to match the length of the existing shelf plus enough for two end supports and middle supports over each bracket. Twelve-inch-wide shelving is available in various lengths and finishes at home centers and lumberyards.

Another odd design feature of the Windsor Design is its dog holes. While this bench provides a variety of dog holes and even offers numerous pegs and dowels to go along with it, the dog holes are not spaced as closely or with as much variation as you see with many other benches. Ultimately, this means that smaller workpieces may not be able to use the dog holes and pegs as well.
The decision to be made with respect to the end vise is whether the support plate should be mounted to on the inside or on the outside of the stretcher. Mounting the plate on the inside of the stretcher reduces the reach of the vise - it can't open as far, because the support plate is back from the edge by a couple of inches. But mounting the plate on the outside of the stretcher means that we need to add some support structure for the inner jaw of the vise, which the legs would have provided if we'd mounted the plate on the inside.
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Editor’s note: In the September/October 2017 issue (which mails to subscribers on Aug. 1), we have an article from up-and-coming makers on the books that have influenced their work and woodworking philosophy. Below is a similar article we ran in June 2011, asking established makers what they felt were the most important woodworking books, plus we included our staff picks. I’ve linked to our store for the ones we carry, some of which are now available only as eBooks, and to those from Lost Art Press. For titles that are out of print, I recommend Bookfinder.com, or better yet, your local used bookstores. Or, ya know, the library.
Furniture with Soul sheds light on some of the worlds most re­spected and revered makers of fine furni­ture. Going into their shops and learning how they got into the craft, what they most enjoy about it, and hearing some funny stories along they way is what this book is all about. It’s not a how-to in any way, unless you’re talking about how these selected group of makers made a living creating exquisite works of art. Beautiful photos of creative and challenging piec­es of furniture are included throughout. My favourite book from the last year.

Our understanding of what makes pleasing proportion is deeply imprinted in our mind and of all the design elements is the least influenced by one’s cultural experience. Desirable proportion has long been based around ratios we see in nature with an emphasis on the human body. The “golden rectangle,” considered to be divine proportion, has been used since at least the Renaissance period in art and design and has largely influenced our common experience with architecture and design. In fact, we often don’t even see proportion until something is out of proportion.


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.
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.
As I was handling the 2x4's, during the routing, I realized that I really wouldn't be happy with the look of the bench, if it were made from these unfinished boards. They had stamps, pencil marks, and more importantly, incipient splinters left by the saw, none of which I wanted. And I was remembering what other shop furniture made from unfinished pine had looked like, after a few years in the grime of a shop.
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I'd intentionally made it oversize, intending to trim it flush. Trimming is a little more complicated than usual, because I needed to trim it flush on two faces. The end face extended a good 3/8", so I cut off most of the excess with a circular saw and the edge guide, then flipped the edge guide upside down to make a stable platform for the router. Aside from the use of the edge guide, flush trimming the edge face was unremarkable.
This time I surprised one of my favorite dice games and took it outside. I made a set of wooden dice in just a few hours, and instead of sitting in the room and doing nothing, we are taking our dice game out into the yard. With this set of wooden dice, dice games are becoming our favorite backyard game. Check out the step by step tutorial below so you can make your own.
Much like the dimensions of a bench’s tabletop, the weight capacity will similarly affect what size of projects you can work on with your bench. A common weight capacity sits between 220 to 250 pounds. While this is okay, it will limit some heavier projects. Ideally, you should shoot for 300 pounds, though some benches can offer 500 pounds of weight capacity or more.
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