Not quite four years

My last post said to check back in four years…well, its been a little over 2 years but we have an update.

Previously, I said I had flattened the top. I had…to some extent. A couple weeks ago, I finally…no really this time…finally got it flat. There’s on spot that is a hair low, but I’m not about to take the entire bench top down to make it flat. I’ll live with the small depression.

Still no leg vise, but it’s coming. I’ve had the wood for the chop for several years and I got a wooden screw this week. I’ve got a couple of little projects to finish then the leg vise is next.

I will eventually replace this bench, but for now it will do what I need.

Lessons learned:

  1. If I laminate the next top, I will use biscuits to line up the top edge so I can get it flatter much quicker
  2. I will pay attention to the grain direction when I laminate the top. I didn’t on the current top and the top has several spots with tearout from the flattening
  3. I will pay more attention to the front of the top to ensure it and the front legs are parallel and square to the top. It’s not mandatory but it sure will make it nice.
  4. I will make it slightly wider. Current top is about 19″ and the next one will be 22″ or so.
  5. I will make it as long as I can to fit in the space I have. Current top is about 7′ long which is plenty good, but more would be better.

Four years and still not finished

Looking back at this blog, I see I started my bench 4 years and 6 days ago….and I’m still not finished!

Last week I finally got around to flattening the top. I’ve used it quite a bit over the last four years but I did it by working around the non-flat top. The left end was flat in the area I normally worked and if I ever needed more flat area I would just throw a piece of plywood on top.

I ended up cutting an additional 8 inches off the left side and about a foot off the right side.

I still need to put a leg vise on it and drill some more dog holes.

Come back in four years and see if it’s done yet!


Welcome Back…kind of

Seems I’m really not very good at keeping this thing up to date. I think its actually an indicator of how my overall woodworking is going. Its one of those hobbies that comes and goes as time allows.

For now, I’m back into the woodworking thing. I’ve become an Apprentice at The Hand Tool School which is keeping me more accountable to myself for actually putting sharp edges to wood.

The plan I came up with for my apprenticeship is to finish all of the projects in Semester 1 of the Hand Tool School. So far, I’ve finished the winding sticks and the saw bench. Next up are the bench hooks.

Here are the winding sticks:


The first one, on the right, is walnut. The only contrasting wood I had laying around was maple. I was listening to an episode of Wood Talk Online as I was putting the maple inlay into the walnut. Something on the podcast led up to Shannon saying he didn’t really like the contrast of maple and walnut. The he said it made a project look ‘crafty’. I know he was just kidding, but it tickled me since I was standing over a maple&walnut project.

I started a thread on the HTS forum lamenting the fact my teacher was mocking my project in the public venue. We have been having a lot of fun with this. Anyway, since I am a smart aleck at heart, I had to make the other winding stick out of maple with the inlay made out of walnut.

Overall this was a fun project. Some rip sawing, some cross cut sawing, a little planing to the line, and quite a bit of chisel work. Planing the maple was not the most fun thing. Made me realize I need some sharper blades and some more practice to tackle maple.

I will make another pair in the future that actually has a little better contrast and that is short enough to fit in my Dutch tool chest.

Houston, we have a problem

There is zero, zip, zilch, nada, no chance the chest will be ready for the charity auction this weekend.

I came to that conclusion Friday night at 2:00 am when I snapped a tennon. The tennon snapped and all of the air went out of my sails. Truth is, I would have had a tough time finishing the chest, but I would have had a chance.

Since I had some time on my hands and I was not 100% happy with the shoulders on the other rail, I just shortened the rails by a couple of inches and recut all of the tennons. I decided to try the router plane to make sure the tennons were a little more crisp. That worked like a champ, but was slower than cream rising on buttermilk.

The Real Reason

I started this blog as somewhat of a mechanism to hold myself accountable to a timeline. I promised a project to be delivered on 12 Apr and knew I would fall woefully behind, and hoped this blog would help.

I thought I needed the new bench to be able to complete my project. To some extent I was correct, but trying to get the bench done before I started the real project really threw me behind. Maybe not the bench itself so much as the bench in conjunction will all of the stuff life throws at you.

real reason

We have some dear friends that lost a 10 yr old son to cancer a couple of years back. He bravely fought brain cancer for 2 years. During his fight, a slogan became popular in out area called P4X. It stood for Pray For Rex. After his death, his parents started a foundation called P4X. Now it stands for Play For Rex.

Rex loved sports. All sports. Many local college and high school teams developed a motivational saying that they were going to Play For Rex. That saying stuck and became the name of the foundation.

During his battle, Rex spent many many days at Cook’s Children’s Hospital in Ft Worth. One of his favorite ways to pass the time during tests, chemo, surgery prep and recovery was to play games on his parent’s iPhones. The first goal of the foundation is to provide iTouches and iTunes gift cards to patients and parents undergoing treatments at Cook’s.

To raise funds, the foundation has an annual golf tournament and auction. My donation this year is a toy box made from cherry and pecan. So, that is the real goal for me to get finished by 12 Apr. The inspiration for this was The Wood Whisperer, Marc Spagnuole’s annual Wood Workers Fighting Cancer build. This year was a toy box, so I decided to do a version of the toy box for the P4X Foundation auction.

As you would expect, I am running behind and will probably have to spend some late nights getting it done, but I will get it done.

Check out P4X Foundation if you get a chance…heck, even make a donation if you feel inclined.

And we’re back…

Maybe the same DNA strand that made my undergrad GPA so ‘stellar’ is the same DNA strand that keeps me from posting to this regularly.

The bench is somewhat complete and is functioning as an actual bench.

The top is on the legs…more on this later.

The top is somewhat flat and kind of flush with the legs.

I have a project I am desperately trying to complete before the middle of April so I had to get the bench to a workable level and abandon any more progress on it for now. I need to come back and flush/square the legs and stretchers, finish flattening the top and add the hardware. But for now, it is relatively flat surface that is heavy and allows me to clamp stuff to it so it is already earning it’s keep.


All Jacked up!

I finally got around to taking the clamps off of the top glue-up and much to my surprise and relief, it stayed together. I clamped it top down to try to get the top as aligned as possible. The bottom looks like a relief map because it is so uneven. I haven’t seen the top and have only been able to feel it. Thankfully it feels better than the bottom looks.

I’ve been going after the bottom with the Jack plane just to try to get it level enough to attach the base.

Somewhere traversing the bottom, the light bulb came on that maybe I should work on my glue-up technique to turn the mountains into mere hills!

The die is cast

I just finished gluing up the entire top. I had three sets of two of my ‘pairs’….four boards already glued up…along with a single ‘pair’.
The top slab as it sits, is about 8′ long, 21″ wide and 5.5″ thick. An educated guess on the weight is about 200 lbs
I’ll leave it in the 19 clamps until we get home from church tomorrow and then we’ll see how well a month of effort turns out.

Shannon Rogers is a Genius!!!

The bench I’m building has a total of 14 half laps. The first one I sawed was beyond horrible. It stunk. It was miserable. It was awful. When I sawed the shoulder the cut drifted into the waste and I spent way too long with a chisel trying to get it somewhere near square.

I fired off an email to Shannon Rogers of The Hand Tool School for a little internet detective work. I sent him a description of my problem along with the details of my tools and setup.

He was kind enough to reply with a lengthy and well thought out response. One of the things he diagnosed was a possible misalignment of my body. He said if the cheek cuts were straight and the shoulder cuts drifted it was more than likely body position. He also suggested if the cheeks were being cut while held vertically it would naturally allow my body to fall into a good alignment.

That hit a chord with me. When I got home from work, I clamped a short stretcher to my bench and set up for the cut. I paid careful attention to my setup and body position. The cut was not perfect but it sure was a lot closer than it was before. A few quick swipes of the chisel and it was good to go.

Many thanks to Professor Shannon!!