Saturday, March 22, 2014

Random Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

I have today and tomorrow off, it's been a rare occurrence to have more than one day at a time off lately. What to do, what to do,,,,hummmm... how about something different, guess I will work in the shop.

I've the wood for the third side table rough dimensioned, it has been setting for a couple of days now, I hope it has finished doing stupid wood tricks and I can start finial dimensioning today.  Funny how things work out, from the start of the three table build I had planned on this table being mostly Red Oak but as I worked through my wood a nice riff sawn 8/4 Cherry slab caught my eye. There was just enough for four legs and a spare. With a little more digging I found a 6/4 Cherry board with nice figure  that would make the aprons. My Oak table will now be a Cherry table or at least the base will be, top to be determined latter.

I told you at the get go this would be random:

My first work bench was made of construction grade SYP, not because I was a fan of SYP or anything but because it was all that I had and could afford. This was before the internet, Fine Woodworking magazine was new on the market and woodworking was a wonderful opportunity to buy tools. If I could find 'em. BTW, Garret Wade's catalog was the major source. The bug bit and I lusted for a "real" work bench of Beech but that was just out of reach so SYP was it. As the years passed I discovered that the SYP bench did the job and I built other benches of SYP and bench envy went away. My current work bench was built of SYP a couple of years ago, that first SYP bench is still in my shop and serves as my sharpening bench, not bad for a bench built by a kid without a clue and only photos from a magazine to go by. Anyway enough ramblings by a OF, time to get to the point, well maybe just a little more digression first.

Over all these years I had never worked with Beech. A couple of weeks ago I found a nice 8/4 slab of Beech at the wood store and on a whim brought it home without a clue what to do with it. I just liked the look and feel of the wood. A couple of days later the local Woodcraft asked if I would teach a class on plane making this fall and like a fool I said I would "think about it".  Part of "thinking about it" was the realization I hadn't made a plane in almost a year and that maybe it would be a good idea to make one or two before committing to teaching a class. The wood of choice by the old plane makers was Beech, Thinking about it meet not a clue slab. I made a couple of Krenov style planes from the Beech and really enjoyed how it worked. Nice wood, heavy, hard as a rock but is amazingly sensual with edge tools. Beautiful look and feel with chisels and planes.

OK, I can now get to the point: Working with the Beech got me to thinking about how nice a Beech work bench would look and how nice it would feel to work on. BTW, looks has never before been high on my list of important attributes for my work benches, still isn't too high but damn the Beech feels good and it is pretty. I have room for another bench, I would like a second bench and I have a couple of mods I would make if I were building a new bench.

It may be a done deal, Beech top for sure, maybe a Beech base but most likely choice for the base will be Douglas Fir. BenchCrafted leg vise with Criss Cross and the hand wheel replaced by a "Johnson Bar", and as always I go round and round on the tail vise....will it have one or not. If it has a tail vise I expect it will be the Veritas Quick Release Sliding Tail Vise with associated dog holes only going about half way up the bench. I think I will drop the spilt top, the split gets in the way of holdfast hole placement and I think I will keep the sliding deadman. Oh, and the dog holes will be 3/4" round, not square.

Going to the Veritas tail vise and round dog holes has little to do with functionality but mostly with ease of build. Both the wagon vise and square holes work well but not enough to warrant the extra work. Same with the split, great for holding tools while working but I find I'm always wanting a holdfast dog hole right in the split and there are other ways to hold tools. I might bias the split more towards the back of the bench but most likely it will be a one piece top. I never use the dogs on the left half of the bench and if one were needed there are other ways to make a "stop", so the left half dog hole will go as well.
Size and height will remain about the same.

The leg vise on the current bench has been replaced by a metal vise until I can replace the hand wheel with a Johnson bar. My hands are not as strong as they once were and the wheel is too difficult to close and open tight enough to hold work.

Here is a photo of the current bench:

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