Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kerfs So Thin You Can Wedge Them With Paper?

Non bench related post here, I am puzzled by a recent trend  happening with hand saws, thin saw plates! I personally do not understand it as I tend to cut on the waste side of my layout lines while doing joinery. For my part this is my greatest gripe with Japanese pull saws, I can cut a curved line with one without batting an eye, which is not the desired result. I think. For my money a saw with an 1/8" kerf ?, that sounds better just think of  how little paring would be needed on dovetail floors! Hmmmm., sounds like a job for Mr. Bad Axe Mark Harrell to me!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Joinery Bench: Part V

So now comes the very long post regarding the leg construction on this bench. It is very critical that you get the offset leg angles correct or the stability will be compromised. I encourage you to e-mail me if I do not relay this information in a manor that can be easily digested. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, lets do some math!

Let's start with a formula for the leg height. Take the top thickness and add 3 1/2 " for the top braces and the bottom skis. My top is 2 1/2 + 3 1/2 = 6". Now, take the total height you want your bench to be, mine will be 38" for my 5' 10" stature, and subtract the answer from the first math, 38 - 6 = 32".You will now need a piece of cardboard or plywood that is the depth of your top wide by the answer from our equation ( 24"w X 32"t) This is is what we will use to determine our leg angles and stock length.

Along the top of your board , it does not matter if you start from the left or right because it will be flipped over to do the other leg, just start from the opposite edge when you flip it over, make a mark the thickness of your apron ( mine is 3/4") From that mark measure the distance between the front apron and the tool tray apron (actual top glue up depth) and make another mark. Make a 1" mark off those marks toward the center.. The 1" space leaves room to fasten the legs to the top using lag bolts. 

Confused yet? It get's worse! Now, from the mark 1" off of the tool tray apron (inside edge of leg) to the front bottom edge of the layout board( outside edge of leg ) I lay one of my leg blanks on those marks. my leg blanks ended up 4 1/2" wide, this is the front leg angle. I then lay my back leg blank directly on top of that one at the 1" off the front apron mark to the opposite bottom corner of my rectangular pattern board using a spacer on each end to hold it up.( DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!! It is critical that the thickness of your legs be the same or less than the piece of stock outboard of the saw slot/ plane stop, or your saw will not go into it!!!!) Trace where the back leg lands on the front leg and viola! leg angles!

I use a Festool TS 55 to cut as many kerfs as I can exactly half way through my front leg half lap as possible.Then it is a matter of popping the bulk of the material loose with a chisel and my THOR mallet. I then clean up the edges of the joint with a rabbit plane and then a bench plane for the center portion. Lay the blank back on the board in the same spot and put the back leg into the joint and transfer where the corresponding lap joint occurs and repeat the letting in procedure. Now put the joint together and lay the hopefully X shaped assembly on the layout board in the correct spot. The top and bottom edge of the board gives you the line to cut the legs to length!

This is where I am in the process, we will do the top braces and bottom skis next post. If you are building this bench I am dying to see your progress. So please, please send me photos and I will post hem here. "The Schwarz" looks in on the blog occasionally  so if you want to show him what us nobodies can do........

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's About Time !!!!

After a lengthy and unexpected hiatus due to an unusual influx of projects at my day job, as well as my over the top involvement in South Asheville's Little League program. Posts will now resume on this site. I apologize for the lengthy delay in posting the next Joinery Bench installment, but rest assured you can expect it in the next couple of days. (As soon as I rifle through the sixty or so photos for that post!) Ciao!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Joinery Bench Part : IV

So over the weekend I finished dovetailing the apron assembly, put in the dog holes and attached the apron to the top as seen in this photo. This is what your top and apron assembly should look like.I drilled the dog holes in a configuration that best suites my needs, feel free to put them anywhere you like, just be sure not to put one in line of where your vise screws will be installed. You can wait until the vise hardware and chop are installed to drill the holes. I like to start the 3/4" dog holes with a plunge router and finish them with a forstener bit.

                                                                         Now, if you look at the next pic you can see that I attached the apron to the top with a liberal amount of Miller Dowel pins. If you have never used them you are missing out. They are stepped dowels with a matching stepped drill bit and are very strong when installed with glue. I like to layout mine in a decorative pattern usually starting 1 1/2" from the ends, then the middle, then half the distance to the outer pegs, then half again and so on. Just don't be afraid that you are using too many, there is no such thing as too many. I also like to use a contrasting wood but all I had on hand was Oak, so that's what I used. While the dowels come in three sizes, I used the Mini X for the  apron, although the 1X would do just as well.

That is it for today. My next post will be on laying out and cutting the leg angles, which I just came upstairs from cutting and photographing the first leg assembly. I will try to get that to you ASAP, but I  am under the gun as this is the actual bench that will be at Asheville Hardware which will be used to take orders from. I also am dong a hand cut dovetail demo at the grand reopening on Friday April 2nd and would like to use the new bench. No pressure though!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Joinery Bench Part III : Apron Assembly

I could not wait for the votes so I am doing the apron with dovetails. You can use dowels, box joints, or even just simple miters. The objective is to run the front apron across your width ( which should be roughly 36") and return your sides along the depth of the top and beyond to 24".Then directly behind and attatched to the top is the fourth wall of the tool tray, just cut to fit in between the two 24" sides and fasten from the outside with your method of choice. ( Those I will dowel peg in)

So here are some pics of some of (one) the dovetailling and where the mid apron for the tool tray intersects!

Vote Now! - Dovetails or Pegs

I am going to let you decide how to do the apron assembly on the Joinery Bench, Dovetails or Miller Dowels!
I am heading downstairs soon to start so leave your vote in the comment section. But hurry I'm getting an itchy trigger finger!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Joinery Bench Part II : New and Improved Features!

So I now have my White Ash top glued up to a length of approx. 32 3/8". I told everyone to calculate a depth of 15". If this is what you did it should look like mine, minus the two ( yes two!) slots for stuff. Here is a pic of it.

The next pic shows how the right hand tool slot is assembled. I used a 3/8" spacer with the end grain up, but it could be side or face grain, the width is 2" also variable. I then added an end cap the same thickness as the top X the depth as wide as it needed to be to make my length 34 1/2'. Which will make the benchtop 36" when the apron is applied.

Now, while I was cutting the top to size with my Festool track saw I had a revelation. I love the L clamps that they use for the track, so upon calculating the dimensions of the bar I decided to add an additional slot to the rear of the top. I used three 13/16 x 3 x 2 spacers, one on each end and one in the middle, with the spacers below the benchtop plane. Now there is a slot for L clamps, or another planing stop ( I have designed a stop that works in both slots I will show at a latter date) or another slot for chisels, saws or anything you would like. Now, if your top is already 15" deep you can either cut it down by 13/16 or just leave it the way it is, it will only decrease the tool tray width, or just leave the slot off altogether. I calculated my depth to be 15" with the slot plus an additional 3/4" piece behind the blocks that the apron for the tool tray will attatch to.

This pic shows how the intersection of the slots comes together. I will be starting the apron assembly tomorrow, so expect another post pretty quick. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"The New Phonebooks Are Here , The New Phonebooks Are Here!!!!"

Good news Joinery Bench faithful. My "dealer" read my last post and personally located me a stash of 13" wide 8/4 Ash, Wooo Hooo! So I will be picking that up Friday morning and will be ready for post II with pics on what your top should look like, and how I like to do the saw slot.

I will also start the apron assembly with what is sure to cause a fight I'm sure. Peg joinery or dovetails. I prefer to use dowel pegs, more to the point Miller Dowels, which seems like maybe I have taken one too many boards to the head area since I built it to primarily dovetail with.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'll See Your Roubo and Raise You A Holzapfel

Mr. Schwarz over at the Popular Woodworking magazine is building a Roubo bench ( sliding dovetail legs and all) using only hand tools.It has a 5" thick top in cherry with only one joint in it, and 12 pounds of epoxy. So far it is looking very nice, but I am officially throwing down the gauntlet!

I recently have recieved an offer to acquire the appropriate amount of Douglas Fir timbers 4" thick by 9" wide in whatever lengths I need to build, a bench?, yes a bench. Not just any bench, I also have a desire to possess a French woodworking workhorse, but I can't seem to envision giving up my Holzapfel style work holding power.

So not only will this bench be Roubo, the opposite side will be Holzapfel! Yes! Twin screw and quick release on one side, as well as a leg and wagon vise with a deadman on the other. What? No power tools you say? Done! I will also attempt to use only hand tools as well.  And just to ice the proverbial cake, sliding dovetail leg joints.

A total of four working vises, and for what? Because I need to do over the top on my stuff, and all Mr.Schwarz has to do is.....well, he doesn't have to do anything. He is after all "The Schwarz" 

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Joinery Bench: Part I - Tiny Wood?

OK. So this was to be the first entry on building the" Joinery Bench"," was" being the operative word, but found my recent trip to the local wood monger to be disappointing and frustrating.White Ash is my first wood of choice for this bench due to it's mass and strength, which is paramount for this project because of the small size. Tape measure in hand I fumbled through a honking stack of 8/4 Ash, all of which clocked in at less than 5" wide. What the?

8/4 lumber is 80% of the materials needed, and you only need 48/bf of it, but it needs to finish out at 6" milled or the legs are too small and the yield for the top requires more wood, and at less than 5" I would have had to buy 70/bf of it. Ash is pretty cheap, but spending $80 more and not even getting appropriate sized lumber to make the leg assembly seemed, I don't know, moronic. So let's do this instead.

Start with 8/4 White Ash milled to 1 7/8" thick, ripped to 2 3/4" wide to allow for planing and flattening. This will take roughly 11/bf of 8/4 Ash. I am going to increase the width to 36" so you will need approx. 8 pieces that will finish up at 34 1/2" after gluing them up and squaring them off..

Glue up your blanks face to face with the grain running in the same direction throughout, if you alternate grain orientation it will be a nightmare to flatten the top with a hand plane.Do as many glue ups as you need to based on the size of the power planer you have available. The finished dimension of the top should be 32 3/8' long by 15' wide.I personally like the Titebond slower set time glue for everything I do.

These are the dimensions I have been using for this bench, although it is open to interpretation and improvisation at this point because the formula for doing the offset leg angles are based on the top size and can be adjusted to any configuration. There are no set angles for the legs as you will want to build yours based on your height. I am 5' 10" tall and mine is 38" from the floor, if you are taller or shorter than me I strongly suggest that you make a modification in height to achieve a properly ergonomic height for you, because otherwise why build it.

This is a good starting point until I get appropriate sized wood, I may have to do a little driving to get it, please post any questions you have as we are in it together now. I will get my top glued up and post pics which are not really necessary at this time, but will be for the next post, which will be the apron/ tool tray assembly and the integrated tool slot/ planing stop.

I surely hope you have better luck finding larger lumber than I did! Wait! This is starting to sound very similar to the same fifty e-mails I get every week. Larger lumber? Ask me how!!!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tool Review: Grammercy Tools Holdfasts

This is the first tool review of many I hope, all centered around accessories and workbench related products. I will give you my honest opinion abut the quality and usefulness of anything I review here. I am not paid to do so, nor do I get free stuff from manufacturers. That being said what better necessity to review than a holdfast.

Not just any holdfast, The Grammercy Tools holdfast. All I can really say is "BUY IT". Buy one , or two, or ten. Best thing ever for a workbench hands down. Every cast iron one I ever had exploded in a matter of days. The Grammercy holdfast is a single piece of bent rolled spring steel, flattened to form the pad on the buisness end. It is hefty beyond belief. With just hand pressure pushing it in place, I was able to lift The Joinery Bench off the ground. WOW!.Best part, they're cheap! $17 for one $32 for two!

So in conclusion, "YOU MUST BUY MANY, MANY, MANY. You will wonder how you ever did without!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Readers Benches!

My hopes for this blog is to be the place for all things workbench related. I feel that everyone should share their enthusiasm and be able to showcase their hard work. So starting immediately anyone who wants to send me photos, a summary about thier bench, and a brief bio about themselves, I would love to post it here.

Workbenches are the most important tool in our arsenals. It's where every step of whatever project we are working on occurs. It's time to bring them to center stage, so de-clutter your bench, re-flatten your top, and pretty em up and send them to me @

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Slop Rocks!

Forums on the web are filled with people with good questions and phenomenal answers, and no where on the Internet is that more true than the Wood Net forum. Today, Cliff at the forum, who has put me to task on my dual screw leg vise ( thankfully!) addressed an issue that I thought that most people would not consider when constructing an all wooden vise, single or twin.

Slop! When I say that I am talking about achieving the desired amount of " racking " or as he called "pivot" in the vise's chop. An all too desirable function for clamping tapered material, or in a leg vise situation, to minimize the amount of lower screw adjustment.

Easy answer! Drill the holes in the vise chop at least 1/2" bigger than the vise screw. You might think that is large but think about it, that is only 1/4 " per side. So keep in mind that your pivot is dependant on the vise chop holes and bigger is better, well, within reason. I like to thank all of the members on the Wood Net forum, especially Cliff!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Leg Vise: Remastered?

Well, over the last couple of days I was finally able to get downstairs and tackle the Roubo Dual Screw Leg Vise. After scoring some nice Purpleheart leg material from my boys at Asheville Hardware and two days of procrastination (or maybe fear of failure), I glued up my leg blank, flattened, tapered and drilled the screw holes. I will tell you that tapping the legs themselves might not be the best way to do it as my holes were not quite parallel to each other causing me to make adjustment in the holes in the vise leg blank.

The issue that had me boggled was how to adjust the bottom screw guide. to be honest I was going to just use a really short handle until I saw the groovy wagon vises over at the Benchcrafted site, "Hand Crank". OOOOHHHH, I like it a lot, That Jameel Abraham is way outside of the box. Parallel guides with ball bearing rollers? Genius!

Anyway, here are the pics of the vise and a closeup of the hand crank for everyone. I literally just came upstairs after testing it and snapping some photos just so I could get this post up tonight, and by the way, WOOOO HOOOO! I have only played with it for about 30 minutes, but so far it looks definitely like a keeper. So all of you traditional leg vise users, by the time you get the draw bore pin where you want, I will have already been planing, a lot!

PS: As soon as I can get to it, Photos don't do it justice, so I will be posting a video clip of the vise in action.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Roubo Experiment in Terror !

I am taking a couple of days off from "Joinery Bench" related propaganda (which I love!!!) to address something that has cost me a lot of sleep lately. My partially naked bench! My main workhorse is Holzapfel in nature with a ridiculously massive twin screw vice, as well as a quick release vise on one end. (click photo) Most people would be ecstatic with this work holding monster, so forgive me for what I am about to drag you all through, apparently years of lacquer asphyxiation has brought me to this. " THERE ARE TWO SIDES ON MY BENCH DOING NOTHING! Nada-zero-nil-zilch-bupkus, continually mocking me to the point of putting my very manhood in question.

So here's the deal! I'm thinking Roubo redo, wagon and leg vises, dead man to be determined at a later date. But here in lies the biggest workbench thorn of all thorns in my side, damned parallel guides. I mean have you priced draw bore pins lately, pricey is putting it kindly, not to mention the fact that you are locked in to preset increments on the guide.

Dig this! " Duel Screw Leg Vise" There, I said it and I am absolutely serious. There should be no reason that you can't use a separate vise screw where the parallel guide would normally be, I mean imagine if you dare this, micro-adjustability in a Roubo style leg vise. OOOHHH, AAAHHHH. Here I will document my journey into completely re-writing workbench history as we know it, or the birth of a total abomination that will exile me from the woodworking world as we know it, as well as contemplating a new career as a Sherpa.

So far I have tapped the legs on my bench to accept the screws, yes I said tapped the legs! I make all of my bench screws, so I whipped up two that are 18" long. Excessive?, Always! I currently don't have a lathe, so I glued up a 3"x3" walnut blank and grabbed a spokeshave to make the hubs, which surprisingly only took about 30 minutes to make "square", "round". Then the 1" hole to accept the handle, and a 1 1/2" hole in the end to accept the shaft of the vise screw. Unlike one piece screws that can be found more and more these days, mine are two piece so I can use any wood species I want for the hub portion. I also prefer a steeper thread pitch, roughly 4 to 5 threads per inch, the steeper angle creates greater clamping pressure with less force than a 2 tpi screw. Check the photo to see where I am so far. I will be posting more progress tomorrow. (I hope)

Saturday, February 13, 2010


No!, I meant "vice" as spelled. As I have decided to start a new blog as a departure from my Wood Therapy blog. This one is more for selfish purposes as i hope to use these posts as a sounding board for those who are as obsessed with workbenches as I have become, hence the "vice " in the title.

I recently sent Chris Schwarz at Woodworking Magazine some photos of a prototype bench I had built that was small in size and tall in height that I had called a micro-bench thinking he might get a chuckle out of, except he failed to see the humor in it, in fact he was quite excited about the idea.

He proceeded to give me a short history lesson on smaller benches through the ages and the fact that some chair makers used taller benches. Several e-mails later he suggested we post it on the magazines web blog and I agreed. So the Joinery Bench came to light ( Chris named it the joinery bench and I love it) and the response has been incredible. I never thought that something that started out of necessity would spark such interest.

The idea for this endeavor came in stages. In preparation for a recent hand cut dovetail demo at Asheville Hardware I had been hand cutting dovetails non-stop as it had been a while since I had cut any. As many of you can attest to, in no time at all my back was in knots. I figured there had to be a better way that was more ergonomic than crouching down or sitting, which is less painful but detrimental to line of sight, power and controlling a hand saw.

My second concern was if enough people attended the demo would everyone be able to see what I was trying to show them with a seven foot long workbench. There was a possibility that if a fair number of people came to see me that some would have to stand on the other end opposite of where the vise I would be using was located.

It has snowballed into something even bigger, I mean this would be an amazing tool for anyone that has a limited amount of space at their disposal. I also think for those who do smaller projects, such as making boxes, it would be perfect. I have the joinery bench set next to my Holzapfel bench. I do all of my joinery at the smaller bench then do all of my larger tasks such as planing at the larger one.

In the coming days and weeks there will be posts here on the Joinery Bench as I plan on doing an extensive text and photo article (magazine style) on constructing it. There is a 3-d sketchup model that will be posted on the Woodworking Magazine web blog this week, even though all of my woodworking accomplices see dollar signs at the prospect of selling plans and landing magazine articles about the bench, I think this is something that needs to be out there for those needing a solution to their joinery woes. Besides for those who like the bench but do not want to build one, it is going to possible to buy either the bench or just the vise screws through Asheville Hardware in Asheville NC very soon.

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