here is something I need to tell you guys; something I have reluctantly realized. I have become a very casual woodworker. There, I said it; put it out there. I outed myself. I can almost hear some of you gasping – “No Jeff, say it’s not true.” It used to be that I lived and breathed woodworking. You could find me in my workshop during the week, early in the morning before work. I called it “Pre-Work Woodworking.” I used to post photos of these early morning sessions on Facebook as sort of a badge of honor, letting my friends know how serious I was about woodworking.
Then in the evenings, more woodworking; and on the weekends. Even during my day job I would think about woodworking. I could be in a meeting; there could be some important conversation going about growing sales. Me? It’s entirely possible that I’d be thinking about the best way to straighten an unruly board or what to do about a joint that didn’t come together just so.
I used to listen to three different woodworking podcasts. Now I barely keep up with one. And just look at the date of my last update on my workbench: December 3rd for crying out loud. In 2017!!!
To be fair to myself, my wife and I have gone through some highly unusual situations in our personal lives. Things that just zap the emotional energy from a body. Some of these situations still continue. And, I had to fly to two different sales meetings – one of which was on the west coast; Newport Beach, California (I don’t know much about Newport Beach except I saw an Aston Martin and Ferrari car dealer, so I concluded it is a wealthy area). I should mention I don’t like flying.
Things have settled down a little, but not much. Which means I have become more determined to finish my workbench; upgrading my status to “A Little More Than Casual Woodworker.”
The Bench Top – Sooo Challenging
Another reason for the slow down is that this bench top has been kicking my butt at every turn. Flattening the slabs with my lunchbox planer presented two significant problems to work through. The front slab had a bow along its length and the back slab had some twist. I took the slabs to the Alabama Woodworkers Guild workshop where their jointer was not working right. They concluded that someone before me had run some reclaimed lumber across it; the gunk and debris the boards contained messed up the helical cutter – not good. Etc., etc. I have the hand planes necessary for flattening, so with the slabs back in my shop, I got to work – a process that went on for several evenings over a two (or three) week period, usually about 30 minutes per evening.
Getting a flat surface.
My attempt at a sexy Instagram woodworking photo.
After much sweating from hand plane work, I got the bench top in suitable shape – not perfect mind you, but good enough. Then it was on to cutting the slabs to final size and mounting the front vise. I did some flattening to the bottom, but not much. I recall Chris Schwarz saying (I’m paraphrasing here, and I think Chris said this) the bottom can be left in a somewhat rough state as long as it does not present a problem for the top.
Trimming the ends.
The vise is attached to some red oak with ginormous lag bolts.
Let me just say that this vise is almost too big if that is even possible. There is just enough space at the left of the legs to make it fit. But I’m not complaining about having a big honkin’ vise. By the way, that is a corded drill you see above. When I need to do some heavy drilling, I’ll pull out my hammer drill.
With the front vise mounted, it was time to add one last board which will help bury the vise in the workbench itself as described here. I needed the vise in place so I could fit the board around it.
The cut-out to make way for the vise.
The last board being added to the front slab.
In the photo above there are 23 clamps. I have added a number of new clamps to my shop for this project. Then, for some of my long pipe clamps, I bought two feet long 3/4″ pipe and took the clamp hardware temporarily off the long clamps making several two foot versions. This provided clamp flexibility (note the black pole in the left of the photo – I have named this “The Pole From Hell” because it is always in the way).
Note how the first board on the front wraps around the vise.
Still a lot left to do. And yes, I Photoshopped out all the junk in the background.
I am entering the final stages of the construction process. Next, I need to add an ash filler to the vise cut out seen above. The two ash slabs which make up the bench top are not attached. Then I need to make the gap stop; the strip that goes between the two slabs. Mount the end vise, drill dog holes and holes for hold fasts. Take it all apart for one last sanding and then the bench itself will be finished.
Then I’ll need to build the tool cabinet which will rest on the front/rear stretchers. I’ll have more soon. I promise.
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