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Construction Lumber and Just a Few Tools
What is the best beginner workbench? Wow, that’s a loaded question! Its one I get all the time. Usually I tell beginning woodworkers to hold off on building a bench right away because they don’t know what they don’t know yet and a workbench isn’t actually needed to get started.
For example, I’ve built a few things in the garage of my in law’s place in Maine using a sawhorse and a rickety table. But the time has come to build a proper workbench in that space. This workbench is designed to be possibly the first bench that a new woodworker would build. Though it could also end up being the workbench you use for many years as it is rock solid and highly functional. It is built using just construction lumber, 7 boards to be exact, and just 4 tools.
The beginner’s workbench should be simple to build, yet highly customizable for the future. It should be a rock solid, blank chassis that doesn’t require a lot of lumber or tools to build.
Its a straightforward built that introduces the new woodworker to some key concepts while not sweating the details that could make this project drag on for months and months. While hardly a new design, I think the approach I took to it could enable the brand new woodworker with no tools and no bench to actually get started building and come out of this experience a better woodworker
Full Build Coming Soon...Semester .5 at The Hand Tool School will be a back to basics course designed to speak to the brand new woodworker who has no tools and has possibly never picked up a saw or plane.
It will consist of a few introductory lessons and then many applied lessons in the course of building 3 essential projects for their shop. Its in production now and scheduled to be released this Fall. Watch this space or subscribe to my email list to be the first to hear about it when it become available.
Shift Your Weight Forward and Saw Between the Bench
This week I’m answering a claim that I’m “using my sawbench wrong” by talking about how my sawing technique has evolved over the years in my own work but also through teaching other woodworkers through The Hand Tool School. But how I used to use my sawbench is very different today than it was even 3 years ago.
To let the saw do the work you have to first get out of its way. This means body mechanics are so important. Working at the right height is a first step and that’s why a saw bench is helpful. But you are only halfway there unless you setting up with the right body position for a true cut and maintaining that position throughout the entire cut.
The secret to sawing accurately with any saw is letting the saw to the work.
Here’s Some More Hand Sawing Stuff
Resawing by Hand Doesn’t Have to Be Slow
4 years ago I built a frame saw based on the famous plate by Andre Roubo. Since then every project has been a guilty pleasure to find boards I can resaw and use. Building and learning to use one of these monster frame saws has really changed my woodworking and the way that I choose lumber for my projects. So in addition to this live session, I have pulled a lesson from the Hand Tool School vault and am offering it for sale individually.
More Resawing?I briefly touched on resawing with a regular hand saw and then why the frame saw is the better option. I mentioned several project videos where I used resawing to complete it, both with and without the frame saw. Here are those posts.
A Solid Tool Foundation You Can Build With and On
When you first get started woodworking the tools and acquiring them is a fun and exciting aspect of the experience. But it can also be very daunting as there seems to be so many tools we need just to build the first project. And tools are expensive making the task of acquiring a starting set even more difficult.
This doesn’t have to be true and you will find that a small set of tools can stretch a very long way and get you building quickly. Moreover it will light your path to future tool acquisitions by showing you clearly where a task could be made easier with a more specialized tool. For instance, a chisel can pretty much do anything in woodworking, but using just a chisel for some thing is just plain awful. But the chisel can do it so on that first project you may spend a bit more time with chisel and saw to cut that rabbet and when the next project comes around you invest in a rabbet plane. Slowly you start to build a comprehensive tool kit as the tools are needed.
As you add on specialty tools, you also have built the fundamental skills that will allow you to work without those specialty tools and this will come back to reward you when weird situations comes up that only a chisel can tackle. Or strong understanding of the saw, plane, and chisel will shorten the learning curve on a new tool.
Here’s the Important Bit
Which Tools Do I Reach For the Most
My tool cabinet is the final project for Semester 1 of The Hand Tool School. It combines every bit of knowledge crammed into one project. Its overengineered for sure just so that I could fit every single joint from the semester into it.
It took me a long time to build my cabinet, but it took me even longer to figure out the storage inside. I kept setting up chisel racks and plane cubbies and stuff and then switch them around. I kept searching for the best way to store things in the most efficient and ergonomic way. I built projects while working from the cabinet and started to realize which tools I needed the most and refine how I grouped them and where I stored them. The result is a highly optimized tool cabinet where everything has a place and that place is specifically chosen through building projects.
This makes my cabinet not just a storage option, but as refined and efficient a tool as my workbench.
A Powerful Tool for a More Enlightened Age
This week I show you how to sharpen a vintage pattern maker’s gouge, also known as an incannel gouge. Then I show you 5 examples where I’ve found them to be really useful in my own woodworking adventures. Oh yeah and we have a fun little history lesson on the Pattern Maker thrown in just so you can get your continuing education credits for the week.
More Old Tools Get New LivesHere are some other old and unusual tools I’ve come to love and how I put them back to work, plus more sharpening stuff cause you guys can’t get enough of that:
Lumber Stuffs, Get It Here
First, let me apologize about the static in this audio. I specifically did this same demonstration with the same hardware at the same time last week and I had great sound. All I can figure it the radio on my phone (no wifi) was interfering with the wireless lav mic. If I do it again I’ll get a wired lav mic. Anyway, this session is all about you and the questions you have about lumber, the lumber industry, buying lumber, choosing lumber, etc, etc.
What Did We Cover?A LOT!! Its a really broad topic and I had way more questions than I could keep up with. Thank you for that. We covered a lot of basics from terminology to how to choose your lumber and prepare for a trip to the lumber yard. We even talked about some ways to source lumber when you don’t have a retail or wholesale yard near you. Here are some blog posts to help you with some of the points I talked about.
Seek Out the Deep Dark Corners of Your Moulding
This week I show off my new track lighting and smart bulbs in my shop. For me these lights serve 2 masters: woodshop and film studio. So my set up may be a bit different than a lot of you, but embracing task lighting over banks of fluorescent lights is a major step forward for any hand tool shop.
Then I answer a question about nailing moulding to a case and how to hide the nails so you don’t have to mess with wood putty that usually makes things more obvious.
Chair and Table Legs Made Easier with a Long Tool Rest
Turning flowing curves and long cylinders and tapered legs is much more difficult when you have to stop mid curve and move the tool rest. Inevitably you have to clean up little bumps and hiccups in the curve where you try to pick up the curve again. After seeing “real” turners and chairmakers use long 20-30″ long tool rest to great effect, I decided to stop stalling and make one for my own lathes.
And hey, metalworking! I guess I am a Maker after all!
Get the Edge “Square-ish” Then Feel Your Way Flat
The focus of this Live session is edge planing, specifically getting square edges. The original question comes from Chuck who will be making tapered octagonal legs and wants to get the 4 sided taper first. Basically you lay out the taper and plane to your lines. I like pencil lines over knife lines but either method will work. I do all the heavy lifting with the Fore plane and get almost right on my lines, then flatten and refine the taper with my jointer plane. But a Jack plane would work just as well.
3 Tips to a Square Edge
There is only so much I can cover and still take questions in these live broadcasts, so in an effort to cover some more edge squaring tips, I took a live session on this very topic from my Hand Tool School Apprenticeship and edited it a bit and released the video as a stand alone product that can be purchased over on the school site (or by clicking the image)
Two Methods for Tiny Dados
This week I demonstrate two methods for creating really small dados. More importantly how to create dados that are directly opposite each other in a grid work pattern without significantly weakening the board into which you are housing your parts.
Next Week I'm LIVE
Sharpen More to Sharpen Less
This week I am hoping to address a whole bunch of sharpening questions all at once by illustrating how I sharpen my tools now that I have settled on diamond stones and strops. I discuss the process of free hand sharpening, how to use a strop, and the spectre of dubbing.
Save This Technique for Large Mortises
I got a lot of questions after I chopped out a through mortise last week about whether boring the mortise is a valid approach. So this week I used my brace and augers to bore out the bulk of the waste and then pare back to the lines. I think you will see that the process is not actually any faster. But when you have really large mortises that exceed the sizes of your chisels, boring out the waste definitely makes sense.
It All Comes Down to Working to Your Lines
This week I have a question about some through mortises so I figured I would just chop one. But to add an wrinkle, this mortise needs to be a bit wider than any of the mortise chisels I have and even a different size any type of chisel I have in my arsenal. So this mortise requires a bit more finesse to get it right.