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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.
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.

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.
 Watching all of these crafters for the past few weeks has not only been the highlight of my week, but it has inspired me to learn more about crafting and explore my own creativity through their different mediums. Inevitably, I fell down an internet rabbit hole of research and excitement (including Kristen McQuinn’s piece on Books About Traditional Crafts) and found myself enthralled by what I found on the craft of my childhood, woodworking.
A few days back, I was searching for some cool DIY plans. So, I got to work and ended up coming up with some easy to follow project and an awesome new ice chest cooler to have out on the deck! It was going to be perfect for summer hangouts and barbecues. It was a fun and practical plan to work on and I know you will have fun tackling select a design from this plan and start building your own. Enjoy learning how you can build a rustic cooler also sing the video tutorial and source tutorial plan!
For an entertaining read (and proof that woodworkers lead interesting lives), treat yourself to Nancy Hiller’s Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life, and George Frank’s Adventures in Wood Finishing. These two biographical books are beautifully written and offer similarly lively accounts of the adventures that come from making a living as a woodworker. As you spend time with Nancy and George, we think you’ll enjoy the stories that come with the sawdust
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.
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Ernest Joyce, Revised & Expanded by Alan Peters, Technical Consultant, Patrick Spielman It’s been the number-one book on the subject for most of the 20th century; the encyclopedia with the latest information on the tools, techniques, and processes. This thorough…edition introduces furniture construction, design, and restoration. Choice color photographs accent…abundant black-and-white photographs and drawings…an invaluable reference
This book addresses a key dilemma of the beginning woodworker: how do you build good projects without the basic shop furnishings to get the job done? And, why struggle with makeshift workshop equipment when you can create your own? Now you have the guidance of an expert woodworker to help you build workshop basics that you will use for years to come.
But I still wasn’t entirely satisfied with our list. I wondered if we’d read enough woodworking books as a staff to create a solid list. So we surveyed the readers of my blog (the results of that are on our web site), then asked many of the woodworkers who write for us to contribute lists of their favorite woodworking books. Theirs are below, in their own words (publishers have listed only on first reference; but if no publisher has been noted, the book is available on Google Books at books.google.com).
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.
“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.
I drilled from the mark. That way I could ensure that the hole was where it was supposed to be, on the side where the position was critical. I have two 3/8" bits -- a brad point bit that came with my doweling set, and a perfectly ordinary 3/8" twist bit. Brad-point bits are far more precise than twist bits -- they're more likely to start where you want them to, and they're more likely to stay straight. My problem is that my brad-point bit wasn't long enough to go through 3-1/2" of wood. So I started each hole with the brad-point bit, then finished it off with the twist bit. I clamped a piece of ply on the back, to reduce tear-out.
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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