Monthly Archives: April 2015

Bench Progress and Pics.

After biting my fingernails down to the quick over the lamination health of my new bench top, I am happy to report that the top has survived glue up, remained in the clamps for 48 hours, and was pulled out of the clamps yesterday to sit and rest and attain some degree of stability. Today was the next step in its transformation from BORG (Big Orange Retail Giant) dimensional framing lumber, to hybrid Scandinavian cabinetmakers workbench.

I got the top pulled from the clamps ant it actually looked pretty good. No huge voids or checks from glue starvation to be seen. I was cautiously optimistic.

After having taken the lamination out of the clamps, I elected to set it out on stickers, or culls to rest. This was more a function of needing to take care of other projects instead of being able to devote any more time to the bench. The next step is/was to flatten the top and the bottom. Knowing people with WIDE wide belt sander’s is a huge plus. Even better when they also have the industrial size clamp rack too.

Once the top had passed a couple of times through the sander, it became pretty obvious that the glue joints were indeed, sound and tight. HUGE relief for me. No voids in between laminations, and the top and bottom surfaces sanded nice and flat and true.

For some reason, I am now unable to upload pictures using this pathetic two-in-one tablet I have. So I will try to add them through the use of my phone as an edit to this post…..Fingers crossed!!!!!!

This is the bench in the clamp rack…….so very nice to be able to use this bit of equipment.


Here is the top prior to flattening.


Here it is after ….so nice and flat and clean!!!




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Today marks a milestone for the rebirth of my new shop. I finally have clamps around the boards that will soon (hopefully) be my new bench.

This last week, my wife and I went to the BORG, and selected the lumber for both the top and for the trestle.

Selected lumber was of the kiln dried, yet twisty and knotty variety. While it was grating on me every step of the way, and I wished for nice, clean Maple to use, I had purposed to build an aesthetically pleasing (to me), yet wholly utilitarian WORK-bench.  NOT a show piece for the cover of Fine Woodworking magazine. Absolutely NOT some showy compensation medium to show off in the woodworking discussion forums. (Not that there is anything wrong with showing off one’s handiwork though) So Douglas Fir is the timber of choice for this bench.

I chose to use kiln dried 2″x6″x8′ boards to laminate for the top. 4″x4″x8′ timbers will be fashioned into the trestle.

Today, I picked up the lumber, and took it to the shop to mill it down and glue it up. (pictures soon. I was just too busy and too stressed out during the glue up to take any today). After milling, I have a top that looks to be about 22″ wide by 8′ long by nearly 6″ thick in the rough. I should be able to get a top that nets out at around 21″22″ wide by 51/2″ – 5″ thick and enough length to have  7 feet in length. Because the wood has a rabid desire to twist itself into knots, I will cut a pair of tenons, one at each end, for a bread board type assembly. This will either diminish this tendency, or be the means by which the top tears itself apart.

Today, during the glue up, I was shocked by how “thirsty” the wood was. By this I mean, the wood just soaked up tons of glue. I have this nagging fear that, once I take the glue up out of the clamps, it will start popping apart due to glue starvation. This is not an unusual feeling when doing an involved glue up like this. The boards are wide, and long, and they hold the promise of becoming a tool in my work shop. Better still, a tool that I built myself, but they are by no means easy to glue up.

Still, the fear of glue failure, and thus, craftsman failure, is still present. It’s departure requiring a removal from the clamps, and some time dimensioning it before I can relax, be assured that the glue is holding,  and that the top will not self destruct.

Once my nerves are calmed sufficiently,  I can begin the work of sizing the 4×4’s into feet, legs, rails, and trestles. This is also a potentially stressful step in the bench building. Large tenons and mortises will need to be laid out accurately. Cut with purpose, and fit with a deft touch. The trestle is actually the piece of the puzzle that, while not as “sexy” (?) as the top, it is absolutely crucial to get right. Even if the top turns into splintery shrapnel once pulled out of the clamps, the trestle can always accept another, different top.

Anyhow, it is in the clamps and it is up to the ghosts of Tage Frid and Jim Krenov and fate, as to the eventual health of the top. It will be, what it will be.

The last thing is going to be the vises. While I have more than my share of VICES, I do not have any VISES as yet. Things being what they are financially, I am just happy to be able to worry over the building of the top and trestle.

I did finally decide on a simple front vise from Lee Valley, and the larger version of their standard front vise, for my end vise. Annoyingly, the vise purchases will nearly be as expensive as the nominal outlay for the timber….that’s what you get when you are thrifty in your wood selection I guess.

Anyhow, Things are happening. I will be sure to get some pictures posted as things progress.

Until then, I will just keep my fingers crossed that today’s endeavors were not in vain……

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I was just watching the James Krenov Memorial on YouTube. It is a collection of friends and former students of the man, sharing their experiences with Jim, and what he meant to them. The memorial had taken place back in 2009 when Krenov died.

One of the speakers, Jack Bogdonovich, said something about his experience at College of the Red Woods, and working with Krenov, that really hit me like a ball bat between the eyes. It was because of how absolutely perfectly it described how I feel.

Among other notable descriptions of his time at the school and with Krenov, he mentioned this one little tid bit. It was almost in passing. He said that his experience was the first time in his life that he felt as though, what it was he was doing was not at odds with the world.

That single sentence perfectly describes how I feel about woodworking. It, from the very beginning, has been the one thing in my life that does not make me feel like I am in conflict in some way with the rest of the world. Perhaps this sounds a little self centered. Perhaps it is actually. However, the feeling itself, is palpable.

Its not so much that life for me is just one constant struggle, or that I am feeling sorry for my self or what have you. Instead, what I am attempting to describe is actually the one experience in my life where I feel  no conflict. Absolute freedom and ability to settle into who I am and be comfortable with that person to my very core.

My marriage is very much like this feeling. A partner like my wife is like having won the lottery, to be sure. Though, a marriage is still an interaction between two people. A relationship HAS to have some conflict by it’s very nature.

No, the feeling I describe here, is the absence of any fear (save for the fear of spoiling some piece of truly fine wood), and the comfort I get in being able to manipulate that material into something fine, refined, and pleasing to the senses. The comfort of supreme confidence that I can enjoy in my shop. Nothing there but multiple opportunities to express, multiple variations of expression, and nothing there to erode the confidence.

Sure, someone may see the end product and not enjoy it, or whatever. That is much different. What I mean is that woodworking is, for me, the ultimate catalyst for focusing in on “the moment” and an exercise in true “mindfulness”. Not being a practitioner of  Buddhism or meditation, woodworking remains the purest, most satisfying method of enjoying these two experiences.

In any case, I encourage anyone to watch the Krenov memorial service on youtube. It is long, about 90 minutes. but trust me, if you even have a passing interest or knowledge of Jim Krenov, it is worth your time to watch. It seems that the man continues to be the life changer that he was when he was alive. Certainly still a teacher, and fondly remembered by a great number of people……….often times people he never met, but still had a profound effect on.

Count me among that number.

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Dear readers,
Just a note to let you know that I had edited this most recent post, and had it completely formatted perfectly!!!! not the jumble of words you see below.

Obviously, I have not yet mastered the WORDPRESS way of doing things, but rest assured that I am tending to this as we speak.

My apologies for the difficult reading ahead.

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A Day In The Life … or … The spirit of James Krenov is alive and well and living in Denver.

image Now that I have made some headway on sorting the shop, my thoughts turn to just what it is exactly, I intend to do with it. Obviously, there will be much lolly gagging, and pondering over steaming cups of coffee. There will be plenty of tinkering, and tweaking, and fussing about with the machines. I can also imagine a period of building jigs, and shop cabinetry, not to mention those pieces promised to the Love of my life (LOML) once the shop is operational. After that, it is a little foggy. If I were asked what my fantasy life would be like, I would have to say that I would be quite content to stroll out to the shop early in the morning, smelling the lilac as I passed by, coffee cup in hand. I can clearly envision opening the shop up, turning on some music (perhaps Bach, or Brahms. Maybe some Miles Davis, or Duke Ellington.) and sketching something from the catalogue of project ideas I have stored up in my minds eye. Once a suitable direction has been selected, the rough dimensions and scale imagined, it is time to saunter to the lumber rack and select from the gobbs and gobbs  of North American hardwoods or perhaps something European and mysterious. Something I have yet to cut into or work with yet. Perhaps some Olive wood, or Steamed Beech. Running my hands over the rough sawn boards, I wait for one or two to speak to me. As esoteric and deluded as this may sound, I have ALMOST felt this experience as described by James Krenov in his books, from time to time in my career. The experience of being patient, and waiting for the wood to “Tell” you what it wants to be. Once the boards have been selected, it is time to begin the day by bringing these precious pieces of wood into square so that they can begin their metamorphosis from rough sawn stock, into something fine and pleasing to the touch. The anticipation of the finished piece is present, to be sure. However, there is great joy in handling the boards, discovering their grain and figure as they are milled carefully. As the day progresses, a break for a drink from a refrigerated water bottle, and a bite to eat. Mustn’t forget to feed the Koi also. I can imagine spending 20 minutes or so, munching on a sandwich, drinking cold water, and watching the Koi Hoover up every last morsel of food tossed in their pond. Once snack time is over, it is back to the shop to lay out joinery, or to take glue-up’s out of the clamps and scrape the squeeze out from the joints before preparing them for their intended use. As mid day turns to late afternoon, good headway has been made. The piece is ready to be dry fit. With the remaining time in the day, perhaps even getting the piece into glue up is possible if executed well. Should I? Or shouldn’t I? Will I have to rush through the glue up process? Or can I take my time, and allow the piece to come together, rather than bullying it into submission? Maybe there would be someone waiting to buy the piece. Someone who knows what went into it’s construction. Someone who sees the same synchronicity  between the wood itself, and the piece as a whole. This would be the ideal way to spend my days. Yes, this would be an ideal day in the life of the Madcap Woodwright. A day spent exploring my imagination, and making useful things for people to enjoy. Definitely something to work for…no question. Like me on Facebook @ Madcapwoodwright Follow me on Twitter @ mdcpwoodwright

Starting Out Naked

I just discovered this blog. Very well written, and worth reading.


I don’t think there has been a better time to for someone to start wood working in over a hundred years.  At least for hand tool woodworking.  Quality tools are once again being manufactured and the internet gives us unprecedented access to used tools.  There are numerous blogs on the internet with a wealth of information.  Not so much this one, but the good ones. 🙂  Videos abound for just about any type of project you can think of and more are uploaded every day.

A round of recent comments on one of my posts set me to thinking about and re-watching one of those videos.  Well, actually three of them.  Back in August, Lost Art Press released a set of DVD’s entitled “The Naked Woodworker“.  On the DVD’s host Mike Siemsen walks the viewer thru acquiring essential tools, putting them in working order.  He then demonstrates how to…

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