This book was put together to introduce people to the world of carving, and I think it does a great job. Starting with tool selection, sharpening and other important, but often overlooked aspects of the craft, it moves on to discuss chip, relief and sculptural carving. With a chapter on surface decoration as well as a section of scaled patterns to get you started, this book has a bit of everything. And even if you’re not interested in traditional carving projects, the skills learned in this book will introduce you to techniques that can be used to add texture to your next furniture project.
Tom Fidgen, a regular contributor to our magazine, works only with hand tools, so he has a slightly different way of looking at a project – and an honest respect for good, old-fashioned hard work. He seems to appreciate the small things in woodworking, gaining great satisfaction from a smoothly planed surface or a strong mortise and tenon joint, and it rubs off. Made by Hand takes the reader through the entire process of making six different projects with nothing but hand tools. He talks a lot about the philosophy behind his style of working and how you can bring some of the simple life into your next project. He doesn’t hit you over the head with electricity guilt – he realizes that balance is what most people ought to strive for. Tom’s welcoming, open writing style is also a nice surprise. It’s almost like you’re having a conversation with him right in your living room, discussing what really matters in woodworking.
When you're working with linseed oil, never -- I mean NEVER -- leave used rags lying around. Hang them up outside, away from anything combustible, and where there's enough air circulation to keep them cool. Or put them in a bucket of water, and hang them outside later. If you're just setting a rag down for the moment, set it out flat, without folds, on something non-flammable. Hanging outside in the breeze, the oil in the rags won't retain heat while they oxidize. For the oil to completely oxidize can take in a couple of days, if it's warm, or more than a week, if it's cold and rainy. When fully oxidized, the oil will be solid and the rags will be stiff. At that point, they're safe, and can be thrown in the trash. Toss them in the trash before that, and you might as well say goodbye to your garage.
I'd decided on an oil-and-wax finish. Oil finishes are by no means the toughest. In fact, they're really rather pathetic, so far as protecting the wood goes. But they're easy to apply, and not even the toughest finish will stand up to the abuse that a workbench will suffer, so it's more important that it be easy to repair. Wax is usually used to add a high gloss. On a bench, it's there to keep glue from sticking.
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 was raised by crafty people. In every sense of the word. Just kidding! My parents were lovely people who loved to work with their hands in their spare time. For a brief period of time as a kid my mom even earned a living by selling her wares at local craft fairs, but for the most part their crafting was a hobby that filled our home with beautiful and practical pieces of woodworking.
Be careful. Single 24x60" sheets of 3/4" MDF are pretty easy to lift. A doubled sheet is manageable. The countertop - 24x72" panel of 1-1/2" oak - weighs something over 100 pounds. It takes real care to lift safely. The joined top - 3" thick of oak and MDF - is past the range that can be lifted safely by one person. Don't try. Get a friend to help, or rig a block-and-tackle.
Another aspect that might irk some buyers is the fact that the capacity of this bench is less than great outside of weight. The top’s surface area is a bit on the smaller end, though its length is more in line with larger models. The width though is less than two feet which can limit some projects. Similarly, the vice capacity is the second smallest on our list at 4 ½”, though this too can be modded with optional additions.