Evolution

My foray into woodworking resembled a black hole, absorbing everything readily available about the subject. And, if I had learned anything along the way, it was that not only is a workbench a shop’s focal point, it also defines one’s work focus. My bench is no exception. Although it will never adorn the cover of a woodworking magazine, it seemed to hold workpieces nicely. Early on, my focus was quite blurry, trying my hand at many different styles of woodworking! My bench remained in lockstep and seemed to evolve right alongside. On one side, it resembles a Nicholson bench, with the characteristic deep front apron drilled to facilitate holdfasts and pegs to support the workpiece vertically.

From the other side, it is somewhat Roubo-ish. There’s a leg vise, a Moxon style vice, and a small wagon vice for securing work.

It even has pivoting saw-stops at one end that allow for off-the-bench sawing. There are two covered wells to store wedges and such and even an open well to store bench dogs and various tools.

Over the years, I have noticed that I’m using less and less of my bench. A few benchtop accessories have all but replaced the Nicholson side. The Moxon vice has lent the leg vise virtually useless, except for helping to secure my carving platform. Those nifty pivoting saw-stops are no longer needed as I have a dedicated saw bench. Oh, and those wells need constant cleaning as they fill up with chips and dust. And, I do believe that there is an unwritten rule that all horizontal surfaces must accumulate stuff over time! With everything that I have piled on my bench, I’m only using about a quarter of the surface area for woodworking. Perhaps you will agree that my workbench has seen better days and is now merely an obstacle.

So, having learned to manage a much smaller workspace, not to mention that I’ve started sitting on a stool while working, I thought, why not try a Roman bench. Having a work surface to accomplish necessary tasks designed for sitting on seemed like a win-win situation, especially since my aging back was starting to feel the strain of leaning over all the time. Such a bench needed to handle all the necessary woodworking tasks, such as sawing, face, and edge planing, mortise and tenon work, dovetailing, shaving, and of course, carving. It needed to be portable for transport to and from art shows. The bench needed to be comfortable to sit on for extended periods as well. After a brief Internet search for design ideas and careful consideration of functionality, I finally nailed down a design for a mini-Roman-ish low bench. Coming in at 7-1/2 inches wide, 48 inches long, and 19-1/2 inches high, say “Hi” to my new Roman bench. It is shown here with all of its current attachments. I say current because I plan on adding a small file box of sorts and perhaps a mortise bull soon.

If you are not familiar with Roman benches, they utilize wooden pegs and various wedges to hold workpieces in place. The shavehorse and carving attachments are somewhat modern conveniences.

Stay tuned as I put this bench through its paces, building carved boxes, ratchet bookstands, and whatnot.

Jury’s Back…

If you will recall, the jury was still out at the end of my last post. A till inside this small chest, or not? Having a few quarter-inch-thick pieces laying around, I decided to go ahead. The thin stock was leftover from earlier resawing operations. Waste not, want not, my daddy always said!

After cutting the required rebates, grooves, and dados, I loosely fit the chest together and determined the inside dimensions. Wow, this is a tiny till.

Given that these boxes are held together by nailed corners only, assembly is quite nerve-racking. The small size here adds a whole new level of angst.

But, once together and functioning, the satisfaction is unparalleled. I hope no one will notice that my pine box has a linden and red oak till. LOL!

This little chest requires a thin top. I prefer resawing as opposed to planing any day. Besides, you can’t make till parts from shavings!

I get a big kick out of pintles and hinge cleats. There is something about the simplicity that makes me smile.

I used 1-inch fine-cut headless brads from Tremont Nail Company to attach the hinge cleats to the top.

After a good slathering of stain and a respite in the sun, this little chest is ready for the Wareroom! Thanks for following along.

At it Again …

There is just no viable excuse for my silence these last few months. Perhaps I have a case of the pandemic-blues. With no art shows to attend due to social distancing, inspiration has become somewhat of a rare commodity. Add to that lousy weather, and you have the perfect combination of unfortunate events that make sitting in front of the TV seem logical. I have been in the shop, mind you, but the umpteenth shop rearrangement or tool sharpening session makes for boring blog posts, would you agree?

Well, as cyclical as life can be, the weather improved, and just the other day, I stumbled upon a photo of a small late 17th-century Welsh boarded coffer. I was most intrigued with the feet formed by the end boards. It is crazy sometimes from where inspiration blossoms. Giddily, I switched off the TV and headed for the shop. Not bothering to read the text accompanying the photo, I grabbed a one-by-eight of white wood and started laying out the sides. I envisioned a box 8-inches deep, 12-inches wide, and 9-inches high. The Welsh coffer is slightly bigger, measuring 11-inches deep, 22-inches wide, and 12-inches high. The white wood was a good choice. Being so soft, It causes one to slow down and pay attention. It is also good that I spent time in those sharpening sessions. The adage “cuts like butter” can be somewhat two-faced. Dull tools can cause softer woods to smush just like butter, especially when in a rush.

Most 17th-century boxes have bottoms nailed in place. A boarded box, on the other hand, has the floor secured via dados and grooves.

The corners on this box are the typical rebated butt joint. Additionally, the front and back are secured atop a notch in the end boards just above the stylized feet. As usual, the corners will receive a few cut nails.

I will be using wooden hinge cleats and pintles at the top. The jury is still out as to whether there will be a till or not. Stay tuned!

Sidetracked

For the longest time, an unbiased stance on political matters made loyalty to a particular political party unnecessary. I felt that both Democrats and Republicans had the country’s best interest in mind – they just had different approaches. I went on for years living and having my being, raising an eyebrow only on occasion. It wasn’t until the Obama/Trump transition that I started paying closer attention.

Sometimes it feels like offending people has become a part of life. Call it whatever you’d like, moral imperative, or just being decent human beings, but as we find ourselves stuck on a rock hurtling through space, with no chance of escape, shouldnʼt we at least try to be kind to one another? I think some people genuinely care, while some couldnʼt care less about other folks. Ask some folks to offer a helping hand, and they will act as if someone just stole their chew toy.

I realize that we all canʼt have our way, and In a democracy, sometimes other people win. But over the past four years, it appeared that the winning was only for a select few. I’ve said all of this, not to start a political debate, but to help explain my lack of shop time. Ever since the days before the election, joinery and carving have given way to counts, recounts, as Iʼve, been glued to the television, hoping and praying for better days.

Unfortunately, my boxed joined stool has befallen the same fate as my Waldo chair – unfinished. Both projects require more concentration than I can currently afford amid lawsuits and riots. Besides, there is an upcoming Impeachment trial just over the horizon.

It’s Never-Ending!

If you recall, I spent some time renovating my shop a couple of months ago. I made adjustments to my “gallery” and cut-off storage area. At that time, I placed my bench and lathe in the center of the shop, thinking I would be taking advantage of the available light. Well, that didn’t work! The morning light coming through the skylight was splendid, but the evening light pouring through the front door was maddening. Something had to change!

And that something was yet another rearranging session. Every time I comment on having achieved the perfect floorplan, I end up moving things around. It’s either a workflow or a lighting issue. But, knock-on-wood, I think I’m on to something this go round!

Using the lathe as a divider of sorts, I now have two distinct work areas and plenty of space to move around.

I won’t say this is a permanent solution to the lighting issue, but as to workflow, I like it!

Currently Unhinged…

Distractions still abound, as state election boards busy themselves with recounts and certification deadlines, not to mention the torrent of baseless lawsuits. It does, though, make for entertaining television viewing, and as a result, my joined box stool is progressing ever so slowly. I did, however, manage to get a rather fashionable pair of walnut strap hinges off of the bench over the last few days.

Using a piece of walnut, 3/4-inch x 1-1/2-inch x 11-inch, I established a centerline and laid out knuckle joints (1), the same joint used on a Roubo folding bookstand. Before cutting the knuckles, I bored holes for a pin (2). After forming one-half of the joints, I sawed the piece in two (3) and resawed both halves lengthwise (4). With the knuckles separated, a bit of filing brought the knuckles to completion.

For proper functionality, the hinges will be inset into the back of the box, and the lid/seat by 3/8 of an inch. Insetting should provide added protection for the knuckles. I will attach the hinges with glue and wooden pegs. Now, once the dust settles and the Nation’s Capital returns to normal, I’m sure this stool will progress much faster.

I Had No Idea!

I never expected this year to turn out the way it has. If you will recall, I announced plans for building a three-legged joined chair. Looking back, perhaps that was a mistake. Not thinking that I could take on constructing a chair, but announcing it to the world. Here it is November, and I’m still staring at that 8/4 red oak! So, what happened? Twenty-twenty has been nothing but one distraction after another. Not all distractions were bad, mind you, but there’s always something in the air causing one to lose focus, it seems.

I stepped off on the wrong foot, refusing to look toward my inevitable elderliness. Having felt young and virile to this point, the threat of turning sixty-five just seemed old! That red oak plank just kept jeering at me, as if to say, “just try it, old man!” Sixty-five, can you believe it? Refusing to throw in the towel, I got started on some other projects.

I continued working on a Roubo folding bookstand commission I had picked up at the end of 2019. Since carving is good for the soul, and box construction is a breeze, I knocked out a few carved boxes, all the while retaining a youthful spirit. I built a walnut cremation urn for my church and a small sliding-top box in cherry. Mind you now, these projects took a long time to complete as they kept taking a back seat to the Senate Impeachment Trial.

Then the unspeakable! A pandemic? Yes, we found ourselves in lockdown due to COVID-19. I lost a lot of shop time in early March, having to scour the countryside looking for toilet paper and other essentials as we all prepared for the worst. Bill Lattanzio, The Slightly Confused Woodworker posted, Seeking a Woodworking Project for the End of the World, lamenting the woes of his ongoing shop reorganization and the trials and tribulations of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to his post, I started my End-of-the-World project. A walnut carved box with linden bottom and lid.

Despite our best efforts, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to rage forth. The political climate remained maddening, bringing out the worst in people every day. I found myself glued to the television more and more, watching chaotic civil unrest and unprecedented storms. Yet, I managed to eke out shop time here and there to knock out a few more projects.

Then the best distraction of all, my beautiful daughter, Gretchen, and her wife, Chata, made me a granddad. Say hello to my most precious granddaughter, Lillian Grace, born June 20, 2020.

Anticipating future furniture projects, I decided to renovate the shop to gain more floor space. It’s infuriating how many little pieces of scrap you find once you start rearranging your shop. With the newly found floor space, inspiration blossomed, and I was once again creating. I must have discarded at least a truckload of scrap. I did, however, manage to salvage a few pieces, putting them to use. Having also acquired some nice cherry from a local vendor, I carved yet another box.

My bride found herself working from home, more and more, as the pandemic continued. Needing a comfortable place with which to spread out, I built a small work table. And of course, it just had to be carved. After all, this table may just become a sofa table once she finds herself back in the office full-time.

Wanting very much to stand up to the 8/4 red oak plank that kept bullying me from afar, I decided to tackle a small boxed joint stoole in white ash. Realizing that white ash is much harder than red oak, I figured it would be good training. I had a short white oak plank that required but three rips to obtain four 2×2 billets. How perfect is that?

Now, I have been working on the stool since late September. Please realize that in addition to the Impeachment Trial, the pandemic, civil unrest, the birth of my granddaughter, and everything else 2020 has brought, it’s also an election year. And as you can imagine, I’ve been glued to the television. Although I’ve made a lot of progress, I doubt I’ll finish it this year. But hear me loud and clear, no 8/4 red oak plank is going to intimidate this “old man” much longer!