Time these days is somewhat of a precious commodity and time spent in the workshop even more so. What time I do have I tend to plan out in meticulous detail, usually while my wife is asking me to do something. As much as I expect things to go smoothly, entropy often extends its leg to trip me up. It’s the way of the universe after all. The issue here was with my dust collector. I had neglected to install a baffle plate (long story), which led to chips collecting in the filter and the fine dust canister. It announced it had enough with a loud pop and the entire filter dropped down. The pictures tell a better story than I can…
Your eyes have a remarkable ability to adapt to low light, to a point where your shop might not feel dark but it actually is. At least for woodworking purposes… I had two LED bulbs illuminating my space and they just weren’t enough. Chopping mortises was particularly difficult as I’d just revert to blindly stabbing the mortise floor hoping errant pieces of wood were lurking in the shadows. Enough. Enter hyperikon led lights. Simple to install and enough lumens to give me a nice tan.
After months of planning, reading and designing in sketch-up, it was time to install the benchcrafted leg vice. It took a long time to get comfortable with the order of operations, I think I scoured just about every build on the internet to glean as much as I could about the process. It’s not that the benchcrafted instructions are bad… it’s just a visual guide would go a long way to making things click (fortunately there a few really great youtube videos floating around out there). Also, depending on the tools you have on hand you may want to switch up the process a little. So, if you’re planning your own build, keep reading and feel free to ask any questions below.
Using blue tape to mark out knife lines makes me feel less like a wood butcher and more like a wood surgeon.
Most of the waste was hogged out with a forstner bit. Make sure your drill press table is square before you get started…
I cut the pocket for the acetal bushing with a large forstner and then used a smaller forstner to drill the hole for the vise screw. This was a multistage process. My drill press quill didn’t have enough travel to make it all the way through, so I had to start the hole stop and then raise the table and start again. All in all it worked great.
Used a similar start stop process when making the holes for the steel rods. This extra long fisch 3/8” brad point bit will probably be a one use purchase but it was worth it.
I don’t like routers, probably because I don’t really know how to use them. I watched a few youtube videos and bungled my way through cleaning up the mortises. In retrospect my cut direction was wrong… Goddam 10 minute youtube videos saving the important stuff for last, my attention span isn’t long enough for that shit.
X marks the spot.
And here she is, just a little fettling to go but all the major work is done.
I’ve brought epoxy into your house…. but it was a necessary indiscretion. The checking was too severe and the legs needed to be stabilized.
Resin is a funny business, I was a little hesitant to get started due to the chemistry involved but all in all it was a fairly straightforward, yet messy, process.
After a few days of letting the resin cure, I thought all was well and I was in the clear. That was until I checked the legs for square. It turns out dumping a pint of resin into a rift does funny things and is capable of turning what was a square leg into a rhombus. Oh well, thankfully I still have enough thickness on the depth to re-mill things square.
Today was a tough day, tackling the roubo top beams proved challenging. I tried to rip a square edge on the bandsaw using a MDF sled but I found the blade to drift and bow out. Perhaps I have a tension issue… Jointing was also challenging and I had to use a few shortcuts to joint one reference side flat. The biggest problem was with the planer. One of the beams was tapered and became wedged. The table was at its lowest setting so there wan’t anywhere else for it to go. A major fuckup. I had to disconnect the gears from the shafts and have my father in-law slam the beam backwards to unjam it. Not a pretty procedure but the patient was saved.
One weekend at a time… Legs and stretchers have all been milled down to their final dimensions. A couple of the legs are structurally compromised and will need some reinforcement. Initially I had planned on using a combination of dutchmen keys and epoxy but I think I’ll pivot and use 3/8 brass rods and epoxy. I’m afraid chisel and hammer work will crack the legs further, so the brass rod approach seems like a safer bet. Still haven’t touched the beams for the top… perhaps next month.
It’s time to get started. No more planning, no more thinking and hopefully no more tooling up. First order of business is to start cutting my beams down to size. Though it’s not as straightforward as it might appear. I’ve learned a few things about buying wood, some which I already knew but didn’t quite register with me. I guess i’m an experiential learner… 1st off, country folk are savvy and you should drive a hard bargain. I still can’t decide whether I got a good deal… On one hand, walnut beams are exceedingly rare and should cost a small fortune. On the other hand these beams have checks, pith, debris and the tree ate a small fence and a few lag bolts back in 1982. All in, I probably did very well, especially considering I wouldn’t have been able to buy the same amount of wood in ash or oak from the local hardwood supplier for any cheaper. Actually it would have been close to double. The trade off is that I had to dig metal out of a few beams, I’ll have take care to mill the pith out where ever possible and I’ll probably end up having more dutchmen than than the Netherlands.
The machine shop side of the workshop is complete. Ducting has been run and the sub-panels in. I won’t go into too many of the details as it was more of a hassle than anything else. Numerous trips to home depot, rona, lowes, to purchase all manner of ducting, fittings, screws, hose clamps tape, in various diameters, gauges and orientations. But it’s in and I have enough parts left over to build a small space station. Nasa, look me up if you’re reading this.
I’ve been deep in the minutiae of workbenches for some time now, it’s been one of more extensive rabbit holes I’ve travelled down. I’ve poured over all the books, have read countless build threads and I think I’ve reached a point where I have a clear idea of what I want for my own. Initially, I was really drawn to Chris Schwarz’s cherry slab roubo, to my eye’s it was just about perfect except it was a little on the small side. It has a purposeful honesty about it, whereas the more popular “benchcrafted” style benches come across as more cold and clinical. My plans changed when I stumbled across 1stdibs.com, which is a veritable treasure trove of workbench design ideas. And it was there where I found it, a french bench with perfect proportions, a design which sang to me across the centuries, and It’s the one I will build. It differs from the modern roubo interpretation in a few ways. Its front stretchers are inset and not flush, It has drawers, lacks the dovetail tenon and has an overall wider stance than most. I’ll need to make a few modifications of my own, I’ll add upper support stretchers , a quick release tail vise, a shelf to the underside and will thicken the top somewhat. It feels good to be able to stop searching, no more endless research, it’s just time to build.
If all goes well the shop should be up and running in a couple weeks. An electrician will be by to install a 100amp sub-panel tomorrow, which leaves me with the dust collection ducting to figure out. Haven’t quite decided on whether to use 24g stove pipe single wall duct or to go with sewer piping. The sewer piping is difficult to find around these parts, it seems 6” diameter is only sold wholesale to the plumbing trades…
I’ve landed on machine placement, the layout below seems to have the best feng-shui, however these things tend to change in practice.
Once complete it’ll be time to start prepping stock for the roubo build.
I managed to drag two of the six walnut beams into my shop yesterday. A few passes with a hand plane gave me my first look at what was waiting for me. A few checks and cracks but nothing that can’t be stabilized. Moisture is a little on the high side but it’ll come down over the next few weeks. Building this Roubo will be an exercise in timberframing before cabinetry. I still have a lot of decisions to mull over… face or edge grain for the top, cabinets below or open space… who can I trick or bribe into helping me rip them down on the bandsaw.
It’s been a while since I’ve written here and much has changed. We now have two little ones in our life and have made the great trek back to Ontario after our experiment in B.C. We have a few acres of land here and a house with ample space for our growing family; something which was an impossibility for us in Vancouver. It’ll be a long winter but building a new workshop should keep me plenty busy.