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A New Workbench, Part 1: The Top

The Literary Workshop Blog - 5 hours 35 min ago

Since I moved from South Alabama to Ohio last summer, I have had precious little time for woodworking. But now that the school year has ended and my schedule is more flexible, I can finally start some of the big projects I’ve been planning all year. First job: a new workbench!

I have been planning to replace my old workbench since 2020, when I started picking up wide yellow pine boards at the home centers one or two at a time and storing them away. By 2023, I had collected enough wood to build the whole bench that I had envisioned, which would improve significantly on the bench I built back in 2008 or 2009. But instead of building the new bench, I changed jobs and moved a few hundred miles away. I considered giving away the yellow pine boards I had collected and just re-buying them in Ohio, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to find good yellow pine locally–the construction wood of choice in the Midwest is fir or spruce, which is quite a bit softer than the yellow pine I have been used to working with in Alabama. Besides, I thought it would be a nice tribute to my years in the South if my first major project in Ohio used only (or mainly) woods that I had acquired in Alabama.

A workbench is a simple thing, really. It’s just a thick tabletop on sturdy legs. You could describe the construction process in a paragraph. But because I want to go into more detail on different elements of the build, I am dividing the blogging process into three separate posts: The Top, The Legs, and the Vise and Planing Stop.

But first, here is the finished product:

I designed this workbench along the lines described in Chris Schwarz’s book The Anarchist’s Workbench, which you can get here in hard copy or as a free download. The finished dimensions are 8′ long, 24″ wide, and 34″ high. The right side overhang is 26″ and the left side overhang is 16″.

I made a slab top laminated from 2X construction timbers, with legs and stretchers connected with mortises and tenons. It’s a very simple design–sturdy and very heavy–but it can also take a long time to build. Most of the time is spent gluing up the top, which needs to be done in many stages. Fortunately, it can also be done one evening at a time, spread out over weeks or months if necessary.

I began the project in December, 2023. First I ripped the boards in half on my bandsaw, leaving me with a bunch of boards 1 1/2″ thick and between 4″ and 5″ wide. I decided to keep the extra width and make the front edge of the bench extra thick, instead of cutting everything down to the same width. It complicated the layout of the legs a little bit, but it turned out to be a good thing that I made that front edge extra thick.

The process of making the top is pretty boring. You plane a couple boards as smooth as you reasonably can.

Then you face-glue them together and clamp them up as well as you can.

This process uses a lot of glue. I bought a gallon and used a lot of it.

Normally you want to use boards all the same length. But when I pulled out all the boards I had set aside for the top, I realized that two of them were about 6″ too short. I have no idea how that happened. But I certainly wasn’t going to cut the whole length of the bench down just because of that. Nor did I want to just buy more boards and risk combining newer, wetter wood with my older, seasoned stock. Instead, I made up the length difference with scraps butted to the ends of the short boards and sandwiched between full-length boards. It doesn’t look great, but it’s not a structural problem.

Anyhow, I kept planing down boards and gluing them to the outside of my ever-widening benchtop.

It helps to get the clearest, straightest boards you can. I kept the boards with the tightest grain for what would become the front edge of the top. In yellow pine, the tighter the growth rings, the more wear-resistant the wood will be.

Every couple weeks, I would go down to the basement and plane down a couple more boards and add them to the lamination. And as it happened, having these scraps protruding from each end was a real help every time I needed to roll the whole thing over or stand it up on its side to apply glue. If you build a bench this way, consider using an extra-long board in the middle and leaving the extra length on each end to serve as handles. You can saw them off flush when you’re done.

Anyhow, I think pine is a great wood for making a workbench top. It’s cheap, easy to work, and wears pretty well in the long run. But yellow pine has a drawback that I learned from my old bench. The wood tends to splinter pretty badly under certain stresses, and after a number of years the front edge of my old SYP bench was starting to catch on my clothes. I ended up having to round over the front edge quite a bit, which made it hard to work on small workpieces set right up close to the front edge.

So on this new bench, I am lining the front edge with a less splintery hardwood, and I have set aside a special board for the purpose.

Among the boards I brought from Alabama is the last quarter-sawn cherry board from the lot I used to build my bed, my nightstands, and my dining room table years ago. I had been looking for a fitting “special project” to use it on, and this is it.

I am jumping ahead in the build process now. Before I laminated this final cherry board to the slab top, I mortised out the spot for the quick-release vise. (I strongly recommend building your workbench with the hardware both in mind and on hand.) The rear jaw of my metal vise will be let in behind the board on the front edge so that the entire bench front will be in the same plane–rather than having the vise stand out proud of the front, or having to chop a deep cavity into the front to let in the vise and a separate jaw. (More on the vise in a future post.)

Once the top was all glued up, it sat upside down on sawhorses for months while I worked on the legs. I started on the legs. (Again, more on that in a future post.) One night there was a tornado warning, and the whole family spent an hour in the basement in the middle of the night.

The workbench top made a pretty good makeshift bed for two of the girls while we waited out the storm. There was no damage in our neighborhood, fortunately.

I had started in December, and in May I finally finished the legs and set to work leveling the top with a jack plane. I found that my glue-ups could have been a little better aligned, and it took me an hour or so to level it all down to the lowest spots.

I periodically used a straightedge to help me find the high spots so I could work more efficiently. The top doesn’t need to be dead-flat, but there should be no big hills or valleys. I want workpieces to lay flat on the benchtop without rocking or bowing.

I asked one of my kids to take a video of the planing work:

It takes a while.

By the end, the floor was covered with shavings–as it should be.

85% of the planing is done across the grain with the jack plane, using as deep a cut as you can manage. Once it’s pretty much leveled, you plane diagonally to the grain with a longer plane set for a somewhat finer cut. Finally, you use a smooth plane going directly with the grain using a fairly fine cut. On nice furniture, you would follow with a card scraper or sandpaper to remove the last of the plane tracks, but a workbench top does not need that level of attention. When the smooth plane can take a full-width shaving on every cut, the top is smooth and level enough.

I finished the benchtop with a bit of Danish oil. On my first bench, I never used a finish at all, and it was fine. But that old benchtop did absorb anything that got spilled on it–glue, stain, paint, coffee, etc. I didn’t like the way it looked after a few years. So on this benchtop, I decided that a little oil would make it easier to clean and prevent drops of glue from sticking. Plus, it looks really nice.

In my next post, I will show how I built the legs and stretchers from wood that I sawed out of a log and dried myself.

fancy picture frame pt III.........

Accidental Woodworker - 11 hours 51 min ago

 Made good progress on the fancy frame and more screw ball weather. When I rolled out of the rack this AM it looked like the sun was shining and then it got cloudy. It looked like it would rain but it didn't until after lunch. The skies then got increasingly dark with thunder boomers and flashes of lightning. The skies opened up and the rain came down like a cow letting loose on a flat rock. A couple hours later Mr Sun peeked out and said hello. Saturday is currently forecasted to be sunny so I might get out to Gurney's sawmill.

 ready to unclamp

I had a few clamps rosebuds from the bar clamps. No surprises removing them and nothing moved or sighed on me.

 flushing the corners

I didn't have to do much on the corners. For the most part they were flush and I only had to skim plane a few frog hairs worth here and there.


After looking and thinking about it for a while I decided on the battle plan. First step was doing the rope molding on the inside edge first. Followed by the leaf molding with the 2nd rope molding on the outside edge.


Made a me-steak with the moldings. I should have bought two rope moldings and one leaf one. Instead I reversed that so I had to make a run to Lowes to buy another rope 8 footer.

 bead molding

After the rope&leaf moldings are secured I'll do the bead moldings on the inside and outside edges. I made four long bead moldings for the outside edges.


I can't believe I screwed up the moldings. Oh well I had a couple of errands to run so I added Lowes to the loop. At least it didn't rain while doing the errands.

 first rope molding done

I glued and pin nailed the rope molding to the base frame. I wasn't happy with the dry fit of the leaf molding though. I sawed the miters and then shot them on the miter jig but they looked liked crap. I couldn't get the toes to not be wonky. I ended up going the leaf molding in the hand saw miter box and surprise they came out almost perfect.

 had to have it

I used this for about 2 months after I got it and then it got demoted to the boneyard. I found it easier to rough saw the miters (or any angle) and shoot it on a miter shooting jig. The biggest problem I have with this miter box is there isn't a way (that I have found) to hold the stock down to the table and against the fence while sawing it. For the most part the angles are accurate but there is a lot of saw fuzz to deal with.

Since I'm brain dead about certain things I am on the look out for one of the smaller Miller Falls miter boxes. The saw for this miters box is a monster - 5" x 24" - which was overkill for the thin moldings for this picture frame.

 wasn't working

It was like the molding was slightly circular from the heel to the toe. It was a PITA using the miter box but I took my time, kept the cursing to a minimum, and got it done.

 no more gap

I wasn't too concerned about the gaps with the rope moldings. They are going to be painted so filling/patching them is ok. There were only two gaps I had to deal with - one the outside and one on the inside.

 requisite blurry pic

There was no way I was going to get the outside corners of the rope molding to match. I tried but due to the lengths of my sides one corner would match and the other would be OTL (out to lunch). I used a chisel to knock back any proud parts and let to go at that.

 two problem corner

I sawed off a sliver of the rope molding to fill the gap at the miter. Sawed another piece to fill in a missing chunk at the toe. I will let this set up until tomorrow when I'll saw/chisel and knock it back .

 working the inside bead moldings

I fitted the four inside bead moldings but that is all I did with them. It is probably going to be a few days before I glue and pin nail them in place.

 one loose one

The bead moldings will be painted black so the gappy one will be used. I'll fill the gap with putty and the paint will hide my sin. I will paint the bead molding before I install them. I will also paint the rope and leaf moldings first too. That way I won't have to worry about getting a paint color where I don't want it.

 labeled and ready for paint

I could have started the painting but I can't decide on the paint. I know it will be black but I have two black paints. One is a gloss enamel and the other is flat black. I ordered the paint for the rope/leaf moldings and that will be here next week. I think I'll wait and see what sheen the paint for leaf molding has first.

 no quirk

The inside bead beading has a small quirk but I removed it on the outside one. I didn't like the look of it there facing in to the edge or facing out. Just having the bead staring back at me made me put on my smiley face.


I knew I had one more gap to fill. I had double triple checked the outside rope molding several times without finding it. Turns out it was hiding on me on the inside.

new handles

These came in much quicker than the first ones did. I guess I'm considered a repeat customer. I will definitely be buying more of these. I checked and the screws would poke out maybe a 32nd on the baby chest. I could file the points off but I'm undecided on that. If do use them they will be going on the baby chest after it gets finished with shellac.

 group shot

The chief inspector Mr Darcy approves of my work. After seeing this pic I got an idea for the next project, maybe. Making 3 more chests but making them so one nests within the other. The mama chest fits (barely on the width) in the papa chest but the baby chest won't fit in the mama one.

 2nd glamour group pic
I'll have to wait along with you to see what the finished papa chest looks like. When I get a pic of it I'll post it.

accidental woodworker

Coffee Table 4: Top & Finishing

JKM Woodworking - Thu, 05/23/2024 - 11:34pm

I made this sassafras top and set it aside a while ago. It’s a wonder it hasn’t been damaged. I was able to saw it close to the line, but now it needs cleaning up.

rough cut edge

I started with it upside down to work on the bottom first. Since I was trying new things I wanted any mistakes on the less visible side.

To clean up the edge I used a spokeshave and a block plane. The spokeshave worked better for long grain and the block plane was better for end grain. First I removed larger bumps and irregularities. Then I switched to chamfering the underside.

chamfer lines, 1″ back and 1/4″ down

The top was made from 5/4 thickness boards, and was now about 1″ thick. I envisioned a wide chamfer, about 3″ wide and 1/2″ thick. But when up close with the wood I balked at removing that much material. So I marked lines 1″ wide and 1/4″ thick. This will make the top appear 3/4″ thick at the edge.

I was able to remove almost all of this material with a #5 plane, and the remaining with a block plane.

smells like root beer

After making the chamfer I further refined the edge. It was easier to work on when 3/4″ wide than 1″ wide. I sprayed denatured alcohol on the edge and shined a light from different angles to look for tool marks and imperfections. After shaving and planing, I rounded over the corner with 3-4 swipes of the block plane. Then I hand sanded before flipping it over to work on the top.

tool marks to be planed
bottom finished

This picture shows a cabinet scraper on the top. It would have been smart to even out the glue lines with a scraper, but I made the impatient mistake of trying a #5 plane. This produced tearout on half of the glue line which I was never able to recover from.

I cleaned up the top as good as I could with the cabinet scraper and card scraper, frequently checking with denatured alcohol and a raking light. When I was satisfied, I rounded over the top corner with 3-4 swipes of the block plane. Then I hand sanded the entire top.

The last bit of woodworking is to make tabletop buttons. I have not done this before. I read an Andy Rawls’ post on Popular Woodworking about making buttons and decided to try it. In the post he gives credit to Paul Sellers. I could not find the info on Paul’s blog, so maybe it is on youtube.

The grain is oriented so that when struck the pieces separate. I was able to make six pieces quickly which needed only a little fine tuning. These will go into slots (domino mortises) in the aprons.

notches cut for tabletop buttons
ready to be smacked
cleave for me
buttons ready

For finishing I planned on the ash legs and aprons to be ebonized with india ink, while the sassafras top would have shellac.

My first time using ink was on my small dresser, where I used india ink on poplar. The poplar took the ink very well, with none of the downsides I had read about. The first coat provided almost full coverage, with the second coat making it appear richer or fuller. Ash did not behave the same way. In some spots the ink did not soak into the grain. And the grain was raised enough to be scratchy and start snagging the foam brush.

you missed a spot
raised, rough grain

So after one coat I will take a break and think about what to do next. I know I will have to sand these, I just don’t know if I will do it now or wait until more ink or topcoats go on.

The sassafras top I had intended to use a light colored shellac on. I tried Zinnser sealcoat on a piece of scrap, comparing it with garnet shellac. I was disappointed that the sealcoat didn’t do much at all, so switched to using garnet shellac for the top. I applied one coat with a cotton cloth. I saw some dry splotches, so applied a second coat immediately. The top is so large that by the time I get to the ending point, the beginning point is dry.

1-2 coats of garnet shellac

Here it is after 1-2 coats. I think it’s a bit orange-y. Now I don’t know if I will continue to apply a full 5+ coats of garnet shellac or switch to the sealcoat. I also don’t know if I switch to sealcoat if it will smear the underlying garnet coats. So more to think about until tomorrow.

Categories: General Woodworking

Pet Food Stand

Woodworking in a Tiny Shop - Thu, 05/23/2024 - 7:44pm

A neighbor asked if I could make something so that their cat wouldn't have to eat their food at floor level.  She wanted something about 12" long, 7" wide and 4" tall.  I made this in the same way I made a step stool a few years back - just two sides and a top, dovetailed together.  The only wrinkle is that the legs splay out at 11-12 degrees.  But the dovetails aren't complicated - you just have to put that 11-12 degree angle on the edges of the top when laying out.

The pet food stand
Here you can see the splay of the sides (a.k.a. legs)

The wood is pine that used to be my FIL's bookshelf.  It had different color heartwood and sapwood and I got the color to flow from top to legs.

Note the colors

The cutout in the legs that forms the feet is a half-oval.  I used the two-nails-and-a-string technique to lay out the oval, then cut it out with a coping saw.  The sides of the legs are also angled bottom to top for a nicer look.

The top has gently curved edges.  The dovetails came out nice.  As usual, could have been better, but I'm not complaining.

One end dovetails - had to contend with a minor knot

Other end dovetails

It's finished with a few coats of shellac.  My neighbor might choose to paint it, and I'm OK with that.  This was a simple little project, but fun nonetheless.  It's always good to practice with dovetails.

fancy picture frame pt II.........

Accidental Woodworker - Thu, 05/23/2024 - 3:25am

 I didn't get much time in the shop today because I was running around closing accounts. I was vertical at Santander Bank for over an hour before I made headway on closing out the checking and savings account. I wasn't charged any fees which surprised me because I thought that I had to keep a certain level in the accounts in order for them to be free. Got them closed, got the cash, and deposited it in the new credit union. I only have to close the Chartway account but before I do that I have to make sure my VA disability and Navy pension are direct deposited in Navigant. 

I got my TIAA-CREF verification of the new Navigant account so on the first I should see it deposited in Navigant. Once I see that I will delete the Chartway account.

 last night

After dinner I went to the shop and finished fitting the b,c, and d tenon and mortises. I scribbled on the tenon and planed until they disappeared on both sides. It took me about 30 minutes to get them all fitted.

 needed a shave

The shoulder on this one was tight on one side and had a gap on the other. I few shaves with the tenon plane and all was well in Disneyland again.

 not much to remove

I chiseled this at a slight taper going from the knife line on the outside face into the middle of the mortise. 

 happy with this

All the corners look good. There were no gaps and the inside diagonals are off less than a 16th.

 brain fart alert

I got the long side of the frame but I had mind melded with a brown knot on the short legs. They were too short.

 wee bit long

The painting margins are 18 1/4 by 23 1/4. I have  about a 1/2" more on the long legs which is ok. I plan on putting a molding on the inside and outside edges of the picture frame.


This I don't understand but I obviously blew it big time. I am almost 2" shy of the minimum for the short legs. On a positive note the corners are square and tight.


The short legs overall are 23 1/4 which agrees with the numbers I wrote down. 23 1/4 minus 6 1/2 equals 16 3/4 which is what I got. I blew this one big time and the short legs are way too short and eat up too much of the painting.

 liking the look

I have been running the colors through the brain bucket and I'm still sorting through them. I have gold, black, two greens, and a brown color so far. 

 my measuring stick

I got the long legs figured correctly and blew it on the short ones. I don't know how.

 it is correct

I put two legs flush with the top and measured 18 1/4 and marked the leg underneath them. That makes the inside distance between two short legs 18 1/4. I got 16 3/4 and I did some serious butt scratching and nada. Before I got a pounding headache I said No Mas and I'll but a couple of new 1x4s to make two new short legs.

 dry fit is excellent

The me-steak aside, the frame is spot on. Sucks I made a bone head measurement error but practice makes perfect.

 AM session

The dry fit was an 1/8" strong off on the diagonals. After clamping it the diagonals were off less than a 32nd. I don't have any paintings or pictures that I could use this frame for so I decided to redo just the short legs.

got lucky

There are a lot of inconsiderate A-Holes who sort through the lumber at Lowes. The 1x4s were intermixed with 1x2s, 1x6s, and 1x8s. It was a mess and took me 45 minutes to sort through it and rearrange it neatly again. These four are kind of rift sawn nd all four are almost dead nuts flat/straight end to end.

 starts with a reference edge

None of the four had a straight edge (on either side). No problems getting that done with the 5 1/2 and the #7.

double triple checking

Making sure that the inside measurements are correct before I saw them to length.

I have about a 1/2" of wiggle room - a 1/4" on all four inside edges.


 layout done

I was fortunate that I didn't change anything on the Grizzly tenon jig. 

 last shoulder done

I was fighting the clock here because I wanted to get this glued and cooking before I quit and killed the lights.


Indicated which edge was the bottom so that once I got it fitted, it would be the way I glued it.

 half an hour

I am happy with the second frame or the 2nd half of a frame. Even though the half laps on the front will be covered with the moldings I still wanted them to be tight and gap free. The dry fit is good and when the clamps go on that should close up the bridle joints nicely.

passed with flying colors

You can see a border on the left between the painting and the end of the paper. I hope that the molding I plan to use will cover it or most of it. The important thing is that none of the painting will be covered or obscured by the moldings or the frame.

inside and outside moldings

I was going to use a 3/16" bead on the inside and a 1/4" on the outside. After eyeballing them I am going with 1/4" on both edges.

 growing on me

Even I am starting to like this arrangement. I was doing it strictly for my wife who likes this type of heavy detail in frame. Still have my fingers are crossed because I am still clueless about what she likes and doesn't like from day to day for the most part.

 Wetzler clamps

I think these are the favorite clamps of Chris S. I got these when I was in the Navy about 45 years ago. The bar clamps pulled the frame into square very nicely. I double clamped the corners to ensure a good bond with the bridle joints.

another bench hog

I will let this live here until the AM and then I'll unclamp it. I got this done at 1513 so I was happy I met my goal with it.

 1/4" bead moldings

This scrap was long enough (barely) for the short inside legs. I made four of them because I get confused mitering this and I want extras.

 4 each and need only 2

I bought 2 extra 1x4s just for the moldings. So if the short ones end up too short I have stock to redo them to a longer length.


The chain was too wimpy to hold the lid. I flipped it back and had it under control but by time I stopped it the chain had already snapped. 

#10 chain

This is stronger and it held. I let the lid fall back several times letting the chain stop it and no problems. I had #10 chain stops - missed them somehow on the first eyeballing of the drawers.

Killed the lights at 1529 but I got a lot done today. I might have to do some more running around tomorrow but I'll wait and see which way the wind blows me. Today it hit 91F (33C) and I felt the H&H when I walked to the bank after lunch. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain all day so it might be a good time to do any mop up errands.

accidental woodworker

Coffee Table 3: Leg & Apron Assembly

JKM Woodworking - Thu, 05/23/2024 - 12:49am

At the end of part one we had a rough elliptical top. At the end of part two we had four tapered legs. For this part we will finish the leg and apron assembly.

I had some 4/4 ash about 3.5-4 inches wide to use for aprons. I set a bevel gauge to a 1:8 ratio and used it to mark angles on the ends when cutting them to length.

ash apron stock
1:8 ratio
two short and two long apron pieces

I tried to clean up the ends on a shooting board by including a cutoff to produce the desired angle. The idea is sound but the execution was poor. It would have worked better if the offcut was more precise or if I used some sandpaper to prevent slipping.

shooting an angled end

I thought the aprons were a little too wide, so planed them to about 3″. I used the same 1:8 angle to mark the tops and bottoms. Since the aprons will be tilted, this keeps their tops and bottoms parallel to the floor. This was also the time to pick which face would be the show face.

you’ve got some planing to do

Before joinery I mark the top of the legs. These pieces will be removed later. I don’t want to place the aprons above these lines.

marked top of legs

For joinery I am using dominos, 6mm thick and 40mm long. First they are glued into the aprons and left to sit overnight.

taped to mark domino locations
glued and clamped. a little.

In the meantime I prepare the legs. On my practice table I made a couple mistakes with the drawbore pins. One is that I did not stagger them on the corners, so they hit each other inside the leg. The second is they did not have clearance on the back side, having their exit holes covered by the aprons.

To keep the pins from intersecting, I staggered the dominos. I already had marked the midline of the dominos, so set a divider to mark the hole locations. The holes are 1/4″ diameter, centered 3/8″ from the edge. I bored 1/4″ holes with a brace and bit. A forstner bit gives clean entry and exit holes, but a carpentry augur cuts quickly in between. A brad point bit might be better, but I don’t have any.

dividers mark spots to drill holes 3/8″ from edge
ragged hole from augur, clean holes from forstner

I had one instance of the holes being too close to each other, illustrated below with the punch going through a hole. I had to redrill these holes after the first pins were in place.

most holes are offset, but some are too close

Later I insert the aprons as far as I can and mark the tenons with a 1/8″ punch in the 1/4″ hole. This will center the hole in the tenons 1/16″ closer to the apron.

1/8 pin in 1/4 hole
marked to drill 1/4 holes

To make sure the pins can go all the way through the legs, I marked the back side of the aprons where I needed to remove material for a clear exit path. I removed this material with a v-gouge. This would not have been necessary if I used thinner aprons. These aprons are almost 1″ thick.

mark where the pins will need room to exit
material removed to allow clearance

To make pegs I split smaller and smaller chunks from an offcut of ash. I did not have a wide chisel so first used a 5-in-1 painters tool. Once the pieces were close to size, I hammered them through a series of smaller washers until they were 1/4″ diameter. I mark the back end with a sharpie and I point the leading end in a pencil sharpener.

splitting pins

I put glue on all the mating surfaces and on the pins. I gather that some people don’t glue the pins. I glued up the short sides first and let them sit overnight. The next day I cut the pins with a flush cut saw and plane them with a block plane or cabinet scraper. I clean up the glue with hot water. Then I add the long aprons.

short sides glued
added long aprons to complete assembly
pegs, front
pegs, back

The last steps are to cut off the top ‘horns’ and do similar for the feet. For the horns the aprons help to keep the saw cutting straight across. For the feet, I take it inside, level it, and mark a line, as shown in a previous post. For this table I cut the lines with a fine tooth saw and chamfered the corners with a block plane. I kept holdfasting and cutting and rotating and planing until all sides were finished.

aprons help keep the saw straight. cut halfway from each direction
the four tops
bottom of leg marked for sawing
lots of clamping and unclamping and rotating

Next I will work on the tabletop.

Categories: General Woodworking


A Luthiers Blog - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 8:14am

The rosewood Standard that I’m currently building is a commission and the client wished for one of my dot and diamond rosettes. Here's a brief descripion of how it's done.

The recess for the rosette is cut and two strips of fine purfling glued into place.

Whilst the glue is drying, I get on with cutting the diamonds using a very simple jig and razor saw.

After some super careful marking out the inlays are glued in place with CA adhesive.

And then the spaces around them are filled in black: this is what I refer to as the ugly duckling stage.

24 hours later after some careful sanding, the beautiful swan emerges!

Tool Rack Part 23

Journeyman's Journal - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 8:00am
Categories: Hand Tools

10 Tools For the Old Folks’ Home

The Barn on White Run - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 7:51am

This video resonated with me as it has been an area of contemplation for quite some time.  A couple years ago Mrs. Barn attended an Eldercare event and they recommended that spouses discuss in detail their preferences for life in an assisted living arrangement or similar.  When we were having this discussion about that far off day, she was astounded that my top ranked “deal breaker” was not what she expected — my pocket tool.  My “deal breaker” was I would never willingly go into a care facility where I could not have my pocket knife/utility tool.

While the choices made in this video are thought provoking, they are probably not mine.  For starters, the question arises, “Exactly what kind of work would I be doing in the old folks’ home?”  A second attendant question would be, “Exactly what are the facilities and space available to me?”

Regardless of the second answer, the odds of me doing large scale woodworking or furniture making in an old folks’ home are pretty slim and my tool choices reflect that.  It is more likely that I would be doing puttering and repairing, making very small things or fixing stuff for other folks.  Plus, I’m thinking it would be a pretty rare circumstance where I would have access to a real workshop so my space would be my bedroom/sitting room and the furniture therein. (Obviously this assumes a transition from my own domicile to another facility).  Hence, my choices would be very different than those in the video.

Of course, the list begins with my Victorinox Spirit multi-tool.  Second would be a multi-screwdriver of the Stanley, Craftsman or Milwaukee variety, followed immediately by a pair of pliers or more likely small channel lock and adjustable wrench. Though these are not “woodworking tools” per se, they do provide a foundation for almost everything downstream.  The scene with Walt and Toad regarding WD40 and channel locks in the movie Grand Torino summarizes the situation perfectly.

After that, again since my scenario is built on a premise of having only my bedroom or sitting room to work in, I would need a work holding set-up.  For me that means either a Zyliss vise or a wood screw clamp.  Add a block plane with two irons — one flat, the other cambered — a small Japanese saw, a small eggbeater drill or Yankee drill or similar, and a 3/8″ chisel and I would surprise myself at how much I could accomplish.

Though not the “5 Tools” as addressed by the video, I think these 10 Tools (combined with a nice plywood for a work surface, and some ultra fine wet-or-dry sandpaper in lieu of a sharpening stone) are the ones I would want in hand as I head to the geezer farm.  In the meantime, I’ve still got the barn and its 7000 s.f of work and storage space, along with another barn just for lumber.

If your choices would be different, let me know.


Categories: Hand Tools

How to Use a Wooden Tongue and Groove Plane

Wood and Shop - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 7:05am
How to Use a Wooden Tongue & Groove Plane Bill Anderson shows how to make a tongue & groove joint using a pair of wooden tongue and groove planes   By Joshua Farnsworth  |  Published 22 May, 2024 How to Use a Wooden

Ruthless Efficiency And The Perfect Pencil

Tools For Working Wood - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 4:00am
Four lead pencils in a craftsman's pocket. The caps are color coded to know which color is whichFour lead pencils in a craftsman's pocket. The caps are color coded to know which color is which
Pretty much everybody I know who works in a shop gets into the habit of keeping stuff in the exact same place all the time. The goal is not to spend 5 minutes looking for stuff. It's just a waste of time and makes woodworking less fun. If you're someone who works on site, your pockets get assigned to various things: the pencil pocket, the phone pocket, the wallet pocket, etc. But even if you're in a shop, knowing that your pencil is in your back pocket on the left saves a lot of time. When I'm going to a meeting, I keep my pen in my breast pocket. I'm an engineer, so people expect that. (If on the other hand, when I wear a shirt that doesn't have a breast pocket I get thoroughly confused. And people wonder what's happened to me and suggest that maybe it's time I retired.) I've also hooked pens in the "V" of my shirt. But that's never felt exactly quite right.
We have sold Blackwing pencils for a long time because they are probably some of the best pencils ever made. The lead quality for drawing is wonderful. They write very smoothly leave a dark black line. They're great pencils with one fatal floor in a shop: If you put them in your pocket, you're going to break the point and also mark up your pocket. And when they're new, they're a little long for a pocket.
Meanwhile, we've noticed that many of our customers are big fans of Pica pencils. If you come into our showroom and we get to chatting, we may ask you about products you wished we carried. Sometimes there are some very practical reasons why we don't carry a given product, but sometimes we just need a nudge to get us motivated. This is what happened with Pica. What sets Pica apart is not just that it's a quality pencil (though it really is a quality mechanical pencil - the lead writes smoothly, it's great). What sets them apart is every pencil comes in some sort of holster. So you want a red pencil, blue pencil, thin line, thick line. Markers or long nose markers. For writing on dry wood, greasy metal or materials that will be exposed to the elements. Whatever. They all have their holsters and the number of people who walk into our store with four of them sitting in a pocket is not small. See the picture above.
Pencils and their sharpenersPencils and their sharpeners

When I'm doing drafting or drawing, I typically want to use a .5 or a 0.3 mm lead. I actually prefer regular pencils that get sharpened with a fine tip. That's where Blackwing and their long point sharpener come it. But when laying out something on wood, the 0.3 and 0.5mm are really too fragile for use on anything other than a really smooth surface. Fortunately Pica makes a 0.9mm which is a game changer. But a lot of people don't like even a .9mm and they go for a regular size lead holder. And a lead holder makes it possible to use shorter leads so the holder fit in a pocket properly. Fortunately all Pica lead holders contain built-in sharpeners. Which is brilliant. Pica also makes different colored markers for different things. They even have accessory caps like in the photo above at the top so you can tell which color lead is which.

When you get into the habit if keeping the pencils in the same place or pocket, you don't waste time looking for it. And more importantly perhaps, when you have the right tool at hand like a pencil and a sharpener, your layout will be consistent and accurate. Having the right color at hand also helps you not cut on the wrong thing that you thought was a line.

Ruthless Efficiency And The Perfect Pencil 3
The pencilsThe pencils, markers, and gel Signal Markers come in different color cases
The XL markers are long for easy layoutThe XL markers are long for easy layout
The gel Signal Markers have their own sharpener built into their casesThe gel Signal Markers have their own sharpener built into their cases

picture frame adventure.......

Accidental Woodworker - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 3:12am

 What I thought would be a nightmare from hell and back has turned out to be a walk in the park. I had 3 retirement accounts plus SS to switch from one bank to another. I got confirmation letters/emails from Social Security (done by the bank) and two retirement accounts which left one to go. I went online with my new bank and voila I saw instant joy. The last account had made a test deposit and withdrawal from the new bank account without any hiccups. Tomorrow I'll go to the old bank and close out the accounts I have there. The other bank I'll have to fight it out with them over the phone because I ain't driving to Virginia to do it.

 going for it

Decided to put the new handle on the Mama chest. As long as I don't stow a small block chevy engine in it the handles should hold up fine.


There is no way I can show both handles in one pic so one will have to do. This was the extent of my AM shop accomplishments. I left for the VA right after I got the handles on this chest. The doc said I was in fine shape and I don't have to see her again until next year. Still don't know why I was seeing her every 6 months for 3 years.

 PM session

The goal I had in mind was to get the base frame glued and cooking so I could work on adding the moldings to it tomorrow. The lead off batter was squaring, flattening, and straightening a reference edge. 

 bridle joints

No miters for this picture frame because I'm laying moldings on top of the base frame. The frame will be 3 1/4" wide to accommodate the width of the three overlay moldings.

wee bit short

I did the bridle joints on the tablesaw with the new grizzly tenon jig. The blade will only go up about 3" leaving me a two pennies and a 1/4" short. I had to complete the last of the mortise and tenon work by hand.

 big arse Lie Nielsen tenon saw

I don't use this often but it has the depth plus needed to do the mortises and tenons. I tried this first and it worked so I used it for all of them. The second choice in hot standby was a Ryobi saw.

 shoulders need some love

The shoulders cleaned up without any hiccups to deal with. 

wee bit snug

This is as far as I dared to push the mortise and tenon together. It is snug enough to be self supporting but too snug to seat the tenon in the open mortise.

sneaking up on it

Used my LN rabbeting blockplane to trim and fit the tenon into the open mortise. It took a few dance steps before I got it to fit. I had to use clamps to pull the two parts together flush and square. My goal was to get the tenon to seat in the mortise with hand pressure only. Took a few more swipes with the blockplane before I achieved that fit.

wee bit of a gap

This was a surprise that I didn't want to see. The joint seated with hand pressure but I could see that the bottom edge of the tenon was still a little fat. A couple of more swipes with the blockplane and the gap was gone and the clamp wasn't needed to pull the joint flush and square.

dead nuts

I am (not bragging) but I do well with sawing a square shoulder on my tenons. It has taken me quite a few years to get to this point. I wonder sometimes how long or shorter it would have been if I had done a traditional apprenticeship?

I didn't get the frame glued and cooking today. However, I did get one corner (the A one) fitted. So one done and 3 to go. Based on how long it took me to do the first one I should have the frame glued and cooking before lunch tomorrow.

I skipped taking my post lunch stroll today so I could bring the frame and turtle painting to Maria to mount etc/etc. I also went to the bank and made my first deposit in the new checking account. Nice and convenient having the bank a short walk away. Did some grocery shopping along with a stop at Wally World so I'm good to go for 3 more days. I buy fresh and after 3 days I replace and renew. 

accidental woodworker

Ready to Blow Your Socks Off?

Journeyman's Journal - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 1:52am
Almost Replica of the Studley Tools Chest

At first, I thought this was the Studley Tools Chest, and I was very eager to see all the tools in it as he was going to clean them. Then things just didn’t quite look like the original, and then I saw the “style,” in the title and realised that this guy made a chest similar to Studley. Still very impressive and mouth watering. His other videos are also great; I mean, really impressive. Well worth the watch.

Categories: Hand Tools

Tool Rack Part 22

Journeyman's Journal - Tue, 05/21/2024 - 8:00am

I’ve decided to rename them all according to the part numbers.

Categories: Hand Tools

Two Mandolins: the movie

A Luthiers Blog - Tue, 05/21/2024 - 7:54am

For your viewing pleasure!

Cheers Gary

finish one, start another.......

Accidental Woodworker - Tue, 05/21/2024 - 3:25am

 I am almost done with the little miniature blanket chest. I was looking at them today and it seems I have a Papa, Mama, and baby blanket chests. All that is missing is Goldilocks. I have the next project or I have the stock for it. I'm still mulling over how and what I want to do with it. Nothing is carved in stone with it other than it will made of wood.

the drum roll

I was pretty confident that the carcass is stiff and strong enough to resist flattening the twist in the base. The proof was about to be proven.

 teeny bit said hello

A good chunk of the twist disappeared but there was a wee bit still peeking back over the sticks. A huge improvement of what I saw on the base by itself.

it ain't rocking

I planed 99% of the twist away with the blockplane. I sweetened it with the sanding block. I didn't go full blown nutso on it. I've found over the years that what it is initially checked for flat on (like the workbench) may be ok but on another one it will rock.


The lid out of the clamps and I have a huge cup in it. I had to saw it apart on the joint line and glue and cook it again.

 I doubt it will cup this time

Before I had put the first one aside to cook I had looked at it. I eyeballed the stock laying flat on all three clamps. The pressure from them must have caused the cup in it.

 Lowes haul

I picked the pile and found 4 clear 1x4s by 4 feet long. All four of them are rift sawn too. Usually this thin width stock is all heart wood which is useless for picture frames.


The four 1x4s and these 4 pieces of moldings was $80 and change. I almost had involuntary bowel movement. The lions share $$$$ were these 4 moldings.

 the percolating idea

This is my idea for the picture frame. I would like to do something with the inside/outside edges too. My first thought is some kind of bead detail. I'll be starting on this tomorrow. I have an appt with my PCP at 10ish so that blows the AM session out of the water. 

 rough sawn to length

I don't have any place to safely keep 8 foot long molding intact from harm in the shop. I know how long the frame parts will be and sawed them 8" longer. 


Two corners closed up nice and two corners have a slight gap. After these are set up I'll fill them in with wood putty because this is being finished with shellac.


I let the lid cook for about 3 hours and the clamping worked. It is flat and laying flat on the chest.

screwed up

I marked the width and then forgot to add a 1/2" to it. There is a 16th of overhang at the front. I'll carve a finger grabbie lift up thing in the front.

 2nd step

The first one was sawing off most of the waste followed up by the chisel work to get close to the layout lines. A sanding block and rasping finished it up.

 taking no chances

Glued the back stop thing on and clamped the lid the bar clamps again. 

 knew I had one

I might have more of the narrow hinges too. I remember buying brass and antique brass ones too.

one down, 3 to go

It was lunch time and I got one hinge mortise done. I did the other 3 after my post lunch stroll without any me-steaks.

 stopped chamfer

I wanted this to be a lambs tongue but it ain't. The wood grain wasn't cooperating so I rounded it off and flattened it some.

 chain lid stay

I wanted to use #10 chain but I didn't have any #10 chain ends. On my next Lee Valley order I'll add them to it.

almost done

I little touch up sanding to clean up some smudge marks and than I can start applying the shellac.

 mama and baby chests

I'll get a group shot of all 3 when I bring the Papa chest upstairs.

 I'm impressed

I found these on eBay for $42 (from RestoreHardware P/N 281659052512). The only quibble I have with them is the plates for the handle ends only have two screw holes. But the price is good and the castings are pretty darn good. The brass is clean and smooth with no inclusions or pitting on the show or underside surfaces. And they come with screws! I am still second guessing myself about putting these on the Mama chest.

Either way the wind blows I'll be getting another set (or more) of them to have in the handle bin.  

accidental woodworker

getting ideas.......

Accidental Woodworker - Mon, 05/20/2024 - 3:23am

 I had to make a road trip to Lowes and while I was there I looked at the moldings to get some ideas. I am pretty sure my wife wants a gold toned picture frame with carvings. Lowes has 'rope' moldings - 8 feet for $16 that looked promising. There were also 3-4 stamped moldings that I liked. They were a couple of dollars more than the rope molding. I searched through the 1x4 pine but I didn't find one piece that wasn't twisted, cupped, or bowed. They usually stock it on sundays so I'll go again tomorrow and search it again.

I'll use the 1x4 pine for the frame and I will then glue the rope and stamped moldings to it. A couple of coats of shellac and I'll be expecting oohs and aahs from my wife. Hopefully, fingers crossed on that.

 new miniature chest base

The base has a bit of twist to it. It is definitely too much to ignore. I didn't check the base pieces for twist before I dovetailed it. I'll deal with it after I get it glued and cooked.

 base cutout

Used a 1 1/4" forstner bit to make half holes on each of the base pieces two at a time.


Drew a straight line across the tops of the 1/2 circles and removed the waste on the bandsaw. I did the cutout before the glue up because of the size of this base. Even if I were to clamp it I don't think the clamp pressure would distort it.

everything dry fitted

The tails/pins all looked good. I didn't see any gaps but they usually wait until it is glued and cooked to pop out. Got the bearers dry fitted too. They will be glued to the base after it has set up.

 from Lowes

One slightly cupped four foot 1x12. I only need a small piece from this for the lid about 19" x 5-6". I also bought a bottle of glue because I don't trust the white glue anymore. I searched Lowes for a 1/4" quarter cove molding and nada. Lowes doesn't have 5% of what they used to stock for moldings. I should have tried Home Depot to see what they have for offerings. Anyways, I bought a small molding for the miniature chest base. No idea what it is called but it fits the scale of the chest.

 it'll break

The molding is 8 feet long and as loose as an overcooked noodle. I rough sawed to length the four pieces I needed for the chest. I planned on using one of these piano hinges but they are both toast. The right one is too long and the smaller left one (perfect length) is no good. The barrel pin is bent - at the top outwards and at the bottom inwards - makes for opening and closing the hinge almost impossible. 

I was generous

I sawed the moldings out leaving a good inch past the outer face of the base at both ends.


I had to try this out and satisfy my curiosity. I clamped the base to the bottom of the chest pulling the twist out of the base. The sticks are telling me I got zero twist now. 

 working the lid

The lid is a half inch thick and I need a piece about 12 1/2" wide and 18 1/2" long. That will give me a 1/2" over hang on the front and sides.

 checked it for twist first

I was surprised by the amount of twist in this board. I had eyeballed it and didn't see any but I did see a wee bit of cupping. The sticks told me their sad tale of woe and I had to flatten and straighten it out first before planing it to thickness. This is for the lid back stop thing.

 1/16 over

The width is 12 9/16" but there is one more glue up I have to do to this before it is done. I have some wiggle room to play with yet.

 back stop thing

This is my extra wiggle room. I could glue it on at the back on top but that won't give me 'wiggle room'. What it will do is give me somewhere to bury screws for the hinges. The lid is a few frog hairs thicker than a 1/2" and most hinge screws are in the neighborhood of 3/4".

 where it will be glued

I plan on gluing it to the back of the chest as pictured. That will be me wiggle room and a place to bury the screws. I don't like the thickness of this (it is 3/4") and I'll thin it down to match the thickness of the lid.

 second sawing

I sawed and planed the miters and got the fit closer but all still need a final shaving to fit. I glued the carcass to the bearers on the base and I will let that cook until tomorrow. Because of the thinness of the sides I didn't want to chance screwing into the the base bearers and the carcass.

 almost done

I want to put one more coat (or two) on the show face of the lid. I don't like the look of it as is now. I can't wait for it to be done and out of the shop.

accidental woodworker

May Leaves

David Fisher - Carving Explorations - Sun, 05/19/2024 - 11:12am
The Trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said; — Philip Larkin, The Trees (1967) Over the last few weeks, the view from my workshop window has been transformed by the annual miracle occurring on every twig. Leaf … Continue reading
Categories: Hand Tools

Moulding Planes & Tool Rack Part 19

Journeyman's Journal - Sun, 05/19/2024 - 8:01am

This is a good one, as I show you how to bore perfectly straight with a hand brace. Watch me as I hit the bullseye.

Categories: Hand Tools


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