I've worked with wood on and off for many years. My projects range all over the place, from simple knock-together bookshelves, to wall-mounted speaker stands, to actual furniture, to kitchen accessories. My wood shop was shut down for several years before and after buying my house, but now I'm starting to get it back into operation again.

Woodworking has always seemed natural for me, perhaps because my father introduced it to me at an early age. It is something I can just go and do. Admittedly, cabinetmaking is a bit more complicated than "lower" quality work, but once you get some good jigs setup, it isn't all that hard to do accurate work.

The one thing I really lack in the woodworking arena are good hand-tool skills; Planing, chiseling, sawing.

Woodworking Info


I've been contemplating making a "real" workbench to use with my tools. The ad-hoc workbench that I have, the WorkMate, and other stuff that is floating around don't really cut it. Especially when using hand tools -- you really need mass and stability for them.

I flavor a bench similar to Frank Klaus's. That is a traditional Scandinavian style bench similar to Tage Frid's. Part of that is because I've seen Frank use it a lot in videos, and the "feature set" seems reasonable. The other thing is that it is large enough to do reasonably sized work on ... or large enough that you could have two setups going at once.

However, I've started to wonder about what my real needs are, rather than my perceived needs. My current plan is to make a simple bench out of softwood, and play around with what works for me before building a real workbench. And what do you know .... I'll have a bench to build it on!

On further reflection, I've a better idea of what I want and like. This is from my experience using my workmate, my random shop benches, and some older (square dog) Ulmia benches at the local Woodcraft classes. At the same time, it opens some more questions!?

  1. Tail Vises with an "L" are the way to go.
  2. Square dogs are good, or at least they agree with me.
  3. Make some wooden dogs to use along with the steel ones... so you don't try to plane a metal dog!
  4. Protruding bolts / nuts on the edges / faces of the bench obstruct the use of the vertical bench faces.
  5. Large vertical bench faces, instead of board width, are important. They allow you to align tools, such as saws and chisels, with them to make perpendicular cuts.
  6. At the same time, too thick an apron is a problem. It prevents you from easily using a handscrew to hold work flat on the surface.
  7. Smaller benches are a problem, they don't have room to work on larger pieces, lack room for a selection of at-hand tools, only allow one task at a time, etc.
  8. The tool well works well for keeping tools handy yet out of the way.
  9. Drawers below the bench top are obstructed by workpieces, and prevent random clamps from using the underside of the apron / surface.
  10. A shelf in the legs may be handy for keeping handscrews, larger items, other parts, etc nearby and not on the floor. At the same time, it prevents cleaning / finding under the bench, and gets in the way of other items such as clamps.
  11. Too thin an apron prevents clamping items on the surface near the edge -- the clamp racks. Perhaps 4 inch aprons at a minimum?
  12. Shoulder .vs. Conventional Vise? I'm still out on that one. I do like "bellying up" to the work, which makes a normal vice convenient. At the same time, the shoulder vice would let me brace against the bench, and have the work at the proper distance to work / saw / chisel.

Bench Makers and Plans and Notes

Individual's Woodworking Shops

I've started to collect the links to individual people's workshops here, so there are easy to find. These pages can also contain lots of resource info, in addition to info about the person's shop.

The Norse Woodsmith has a good section on handsaw selection, sharpening, and use. The Cornish Workshop has plans for a wooden saw vise.

Dust Collection, Collectors & Systems

Dust is a extreme hazard in the workshop. Obviously it is a health hazard, and also an explosion hazard. Non-obviously it interferes with the work in your shop by getting in the way, losing items in piles of dust, making footing treacherous, settling on paint and finishes.

I put up with dust for a long time, since the worst case was sanding, and even that doesn't create a lot of dust, and you can use a mask to good effect. Use a broom, a vacuum, and it cleans up. Admittedly you still needed to clean things up, to make the shop workable, but its obvious impact wasn't really that large. I have grand plans for an excellent dust collection system; where I'm going to put the cyclone, where to run the ducting, where to put branches, gates, and power control. I never got around to it, always too much to do and never enough time for the shop. I'd setup deflectors when running planers to deflect the dust/chips someplace OK, or end up stopping jointing to clear out the chip chute. Not bad, just the way things are.

Then, one day, we cut some particle board or MDF. Not a lot, just halving 2-3 4x8 sheets, and making some shelving from the halves. Perhaps 16 lineal feet of cutting. The dust from that settled everywhere. Worse yet, 2-3 days later you could still smell the dust in the air due to the fine particles. That convinced me right away to go out and become serious about the hazard. I still don't have a proper dust collection system, but I do have a fine particle air filtration system, a JDS 750 to circulate the air around and pull out he fine dust. I really need to get my shop in gear and become more serious about this issue, as well as making my shop someplace I'll use more.

Projects, Mechanisms, Jigs and Plans

I am a big fan of marble machines. They are really cool. I have a big notebook of plans for things I want to put in my modular marble machine ... when I have time to build it. In the meantime, I just look at the marble machines made by other people and see how similar a lot of independent design is.

Wooden Clocks

Random Things


Some of these items probably belong in the metalworking or woodworking sections. However, they are generic enough that maybe they could be here too. Perhaps I'll be more organized one of these days!

Building & Using Hand-Tools

Tool Setup


Saw Mills

Mike and I once lumbered out a Black Oak that had died in my backward. We used a chainsaw to slice it up into beams that we were barely able to move. We cut these huge chunks of wood into 2 inch boards using a home-made "trolley" that traveled on a "track" that ran past Mike's bandsaw. Mike attached his hand-cranked boat winch to this contraption to make it easier to move the wood past the blade. The blade becomes too dull for hand feed quite quickly, so the winch really helped a lot. Once we had a selection of 2 inch boards, we stickered them in a drying rack. The rack provided pressure to the top of the pile of boards, using wedges, so they could be adjusted as the wood dried. The wood is mostly dry now, but I think it needs to be kept inside a house, instead of the garage, to acquire the final 6% moisture content recommended for woodworking. We've used some scraps of this wood for various small projects, and it seems to be ok.

It was really interesting to do make our own lumber. However, it is really time consuming, and hard on the body too. If I was going to turn another tree into lumber, I think I would consider finding somebody who owns a small mill, such as those below, and have them slice the tree up into boards. It should go faster, and take less time. Not to mention less wear and tear on ourselves!


You also need something to dry the wood that you have cut yourself ....

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Last Modified: Wed Dec 31 14:59:57 CST 2008
Bolo (Josef Burger) <bolo@cs.wisc.edu>