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.
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.

Woodworking Basics presents an approach to learning woodworking that has proven successful for hundreds of people who have taken the author’s introductory course over the past 20 years. Peter Korn’s method helps new woodworkers learn the right techniques from the beginning.More experienced woodworkers can use it to master the classic furniture-making skills key to fine craftsmanship. Korn includes two attractive and useful projects — a small bench and a side table with a door and drawer — providing you the opportunity to practice skills and develop confidence with tools.
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“With Hammer in Hand” by Charles F. Hummel (UP Virginia). Resurfacing like Brigadoon, the woodworking shop of the Dominy family was sealed up with the tools still on the benches and saws still sharp. Moved to the Winterthur Museum, the workshop is an open portal into village woodworking in early America. Hummel’s book takes it tool by tool, piece by piece, expanding our view with a true scholar/craftsman’s eye.
As a teacher I find Ernest Joyce’s “The Technique of Furniture Making” (Batson) invaluable, ’tho it is as far away from an enjoyable read as possible. Similarly Bob Wearing’s “Essential Woodworker” (Lost Art Press). Bob is one of the only people who ever gave insight into traditional English technique. I believe the lack of similar books is due to the apprenticeship tradition of teaching, where nothing was ever written down.
The person who coined the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” just might have been a woodworker. Admittedly, new tools and materials have made certain operations faster, safer, and easier, but if a woodworker from the 1900s could visit your workshop, he’d have a tougher time with the K-cup coffeemaker than the table saw. That’s because the basic tenets and tools of woodworking are almost timeless.
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.
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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.
I ended up making a number of practice cuts. The first revealed that I hadn't tightened the screws on the edge guide enough. The second revealed that the design of the edge guide provided very little support at the end of a board, because of the cut-out for the router bit. In the "Getting Started in Woodworking" video, they had screwed a piece of hardwood to the edge-guide, to provide a continuous -- and longer -- bearing surface. I may do that myself, some day, but I didn't have the materials at hand, so I clamped some 2x4 scrap to the end of each board, to provide a continuous bearing surface past the ends. The two grooves in the long stretchers and the side groove in the short stretchers have identical layout. I made practice cuts in scrap until I had the edge guide set correctly, then I cut them all with that one setting. The bottom groove of the short stretchers uses a different setup, so it was back to the scrap, before cutting them.
Woodworkers like books. Maybe it’s because they’re somehow still a wood product, but let’s face it, they travel into the shop well, offer great how-to instruction with pictures and words, and you can make notes in the margins if you like. Our fine woodworking books cover all the topics for which you’re looking: furniture plans; hand tool techniques; shop projects; wood finishing advice and much more.
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.
1. Cabinet Making and Millwork by John L. Feirer. I read this book cover to cover when I first got into woodworking, and its still my number one reference book when researching a project or technique. I believe it was intended as a textbook for a high school shop class, so it's laid out in great 101 style. It includes descriptions of everything from how sandpaper is made to best practices for shop math, and provides details for both hand and power tools.
Tapping the knowledge of dozens of top-shelf woodworkers, Scott Landis’s The Workbench Book, and Jim Tolpin’s The Toolbox Book are filled with inspirational photos and drawings that you can use to enhance your workbench and tool storage needs. John White’s Care and Repair of Shop Machines completes the workshop triumvirate. The author’s straightforward advice for repairing and setting machinery will help you make the most of every machine in your shop.
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.
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.
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.
Next is the shelf. Start with the 24x48" piece of MDF. Clamp this on top of the base, and pencil in the outside of the stretchers and the inside angle of the legs. Flip it over, pull out your trusty cutting guide, and cut it to width and to length. Cutting out the angles is simple, with a jig saw. It's not much work with a hand saw. If you took enough care with supporting blocks and stops, you could probably do it with a circular saw. Since I did have a jig saw, I used it.
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.
I’ve built workbenches with more than 100 students. In every class, there’s one guy who wants to put a vise on every corner of the bench. Not because it’s a partner’s bench for two people. Just because he wants it that way. While I support your freedom to choose, I also don’t want to spend two weeks installing complex tail-vise hardware on your bench when we could be building furniture instead.
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.
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