“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.
Shape is critical to the ultimate success or failure of a piece of furniture. Knowing this, custom-furniture maker Lonnie Bird has taken the complex subject of shaping and in this book made it accessible to every woodworker. He guides the reader toward first visualizing, then drawing a shape, and then choosing the appropriate tool for creating it. Shaping techniques of all kinds are covered here — from the simplest ones to more complex bending and carving.”
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
Workbenches have flat tops, though sometimes at the rear there is a cavity called a tool well that contains tools and components (and prevents them from falling off). One advantage of having the well set into the top of the bench is that, even with a variety of objects in the well, a large sheet of material can still be laid flat over the entire surface of the bench; the contents of the tool well offer no interference.
With the inner jaw fastened to the bench, I used the router to flush-trim the jaw to the benchtop, across the top and down the sides adjacent to the top (stopping short of the discontinuity between the top and the legs). I'd thought this would be the best way to match up the jaw against the top, but I'd not do it this way again. It was very difficult to hold the router tight against the face of the jaw, and the result was a surface that wasn't as even as I had hoped.
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.