Monthly Archives: November 2016

Winter Workshop Wonderful…Or…Up Off My Lazy Ass.


Santa has the right idea. A large workshop, warmed by a large hearth, wood floors (NOT laminate or “engineered”wood), plenty of projects and 364 days to crank out finely crafted goods. Paradise.

Now that the cold is descending on Colorado, The Tiny Shop is cranking up the heat and working seamlessly. I have a small commission…well…a favor is more like it. I am building a small trestle chef’s cart for a good friend. After that, I have a small gift for the love of my life in the works, and a little rehab on a cutting board for my folks.

After that, I need to plan out the build of the Roubo, and I REALLY need to get to work making some prototype pieces to flesh out some ideas that have been rattling around in my melon.

This is where it pays to be mindful. If taken all together, and stacked up one on top of the other, the projects can begin to take on the feel of drudgery. They can cause anxiety and can plant the seeds of doubt and dissatisfaction with the art form that I love so deeply.

On the other hand, if I choose to prioritize and approach each project individually, that holds the promise of a winter full of mindful woodworking opportunities.

The trick is to get started.

Once the actual planning and sketching, and revising is taken care of, there needs to be an actual application of effort. One foot in front of the other, one process initiated and enjoyed for its own sake, at a time.

Each time I start a new project, there seems to be a latency period. A time of apprehension that stalls the project before it even gets started.

I had this pointed out to me by the love of my life recently. It seems that she sees in me a struggle to overcome a slight period of fearfulness that inhibits my forward progress.

I at first resisted this assertion. Surely she could see that there were many pieces to the puzzle that needed to be arranged through divine intervention before I would be able to motivate myself off top dead center. Surely she could see that there were tools to buy, wood to dry, and stars to align before I could actually put edged tool steel to wood.

No, not at all.

Basically I was being called out on a small hypocrisy that I allow myself to indulge in. Here in this blog , and in my ongoing book manuscript writing, I preach the gospel of fearlessness in all things, and especially in working wood. Yet, I procrastinate in the beginning of every project due to some niggling little fear or feeling of inadequacy that inhibits me.

Historically, my modus operandi is to allow the project to go un-started until I am locked into a time crunch or deadline issue. Then it is Katy bar the door, and damn the torpedos….full steam ahead!!!!

Not very mindful or fearless I must confess. Nor is it very conducive to a full enjoyment of my Tiny Shop and all that it stands for. The work is still first-rate, and my clients have been satisfied to be sure. However, I am left with the realization that I really must, if I am to see the evolution of Madcap Woodworking continue, begin to focus my attention to the more focused application of the advise that I so freely dole out here on these pages and elsewhere.

The really annoying part of the whole thing is not that my wife sees this in me and feels so free to call me on it, it’s that it is exactly the type of fear that I think should be eliminated completely. It is that same feeling of not being good enough or accomplished enough, or refined enough, that is such a killer of the joy that should abound in The Tiny Shop.

To be sure, these fears are fleeting and short-lived. They evaporate as soon as the saw dust and plane shavings begin their decent to my shop floor.  It is just that initial time of delay and avoidance that is the crux of the matter.

As I explore the reality of mindful woodworking, I realize that I may have jumped too far ahead in the process. I think it important to stop now, and take a moment to examine this issue I seem to have with the initiation of a project. Perhaps once this particular burr has been removed from under my saddle, I will have a new realization of mindfulness to prattle on and on about…..interesting, very interesting.


This burr removal is NOT in any way, going to stop or even slow me down in the progress of starting these new (and not so new) projects that I have slated for the near future. I just mention this because I could very easily use this opportunity for introspection and flat-out navel gazing as a means for avoiding the commencement of these projects.

Vigilant, ever vigilant.



…and so it begins…again.

Above: Roubo In Repose.
Resting comfortably are the Douglas Fir timbers that will soon be the Roubo. The plan is to let them rest and dry out a little bit more before beginning milling operations on them. 

My hope is that with some creativity, my Delta jointer and elderly Ryobi planer will accept the challenge that milling these beasts will present. We shall see.

Also newly arrived at The Tiny Shop, both the bench vise screw from Veritas as well as the hold fasts from Gramercy/Tools For Working Wood.

Both arrived as promised and both display signs of exceptional craftsmanship. I am well pleased.

Edit to add:

The Scandinavian bench I built a year or so ago was also a Borg lumber build. It turned out so nice that I haven’t had the heart to really do any work on her without a blanket or other form of protection. Much to my embarrassment, I have allowed it to become something of a princess bench.

The Roubo on the other hand is slated to be the real work horse of the shop once completed. At least, that’s what I say now. Knowing myself the way I do, I may be making a trip to Harbor Freight during one of their (daily) sales, and picking up still more $5 moving blankets. 

It’s not that I fear the dings and dents of the work on the bench, it’s just that I have such a weakness for the beauty each of these designs impart to The Tiny Shop.  My hope is that the first ding, scratch etc. will then liberate me to finally get to putting these beasts to work properly and without bench condoms….. otherwise, I’ll be cutting dovetails in the snow on saw horses.

“Dry my lovelies,dry!”

“Baby, it’s cold outside.”


It’s cold outside and winter has finally descended here in lovely Colorado. As the holidays approach, the siren call of workbench building has become too loud to ignore any longer. My latest rehab project completed and delivered, I find myself with an itch that needs scratching.

The latest completed project out of The Tiny Shop was a 1916 Brunswick phonograph.

wp-1479138980630.jpg She came to me in pretty rough shape. Strangely, I think it was the 3 or 4 miles of cheap lacquer that were heaped on this poor thing that protected it from the abuse and torment that only the ravages of time can bestow. Once I got it stripped down and sanded, it all of a sudden began to live again.


She had been manhandled a few times prior to my loving ministrations. Some of her veneer had been sanded through, some of her lines worn down. On balance though, I felt her to be more than worthy of the care and attention I put into her.


So, without gainful employment, and without a paying project for The Tiny Shop, what better time to embark on yet another bench building adventure?

I mentioned in a recent post that I wanted to replace the cobbled together, yet highly functional, table saw out feed table I have with a second workbench. Since I have been gradually returning to hand tool use and finding myself returning to the joinery techniques of my youth, it was a wonderful excuse to enter once more into the madness that is bench building planning.

If I remember correctly, the last time I wrote I was still hemming and hawing over which style bench to make. On the one hand, a scaled down and modernized version of the Scandinavian/Germanic/Continental bench was the initial go-to choice after flirting with a Roubo design and also a brief tryst with the Holtzanapffal design. Thematic and aesthetic continuity.

I set the idea for the second bench on the back burner for a little while though. I was really starting to feel hemmed in my shop space, and the thought of a cold winter in such tight quarters was all I needed to start pondering the ways in which I could get a little breathing room in there.


Above is the original configuration of The Tiny Shop. Functional, fairly efficient, and mostly very comfortable. However, the limitations of the space and the lack of adequate means to store lumber, were beginning to wear on me. Stacking boards on top of the Gorilla racks was a real pain in the ass. It ment I had to un-stack, and then re-stack the entire pile whenever I needed something that was not right on top of the pile. It also had a way of accentuating the closed in feeling of the shop. The ceiling is very low, and towering racks just make it feel a little….tight.

In mulling over my options, I was staring at the gorrilla rack system and remembered that it was made to be modular……thunder clapped, the earth shook. Why not separate the two sections, and set them side by side rather than one on top of the other? Duh!!!


So that is what I did. Above you can see the mayhem that this caused. The Tiny Shop turned into a mess that still haunts my quiet moments. The upside though,is that I was able to mount proper lumber racking on to my walls. These were perfectly sized for  such a small space. While I wont be stocking up or nurturing a wood stash any time soon, the racks allow for good storage of lumber for projects in process currently. Perfect!

They also have the added benefit of creating the feeling of a more open space. Double bonus!


So, that little bunny trail project accomplished, I turned my attention back to the replacement out feed table.

It has become something of a return to the obsession that I had when building the S.S.Madcap bench of world renown. Back and forth I go between the various pro’s and con’s of each considered design. What should be the planned length? What should be the planned height? Blah, blah, blah.

As lumber buying time approaches, I find that the Roubo design keeps nagging at me. The down side is that anyone who has read Christopher Schwarz’s books, or who frequents the popular woodworking forums has built this bench. It is ubiquitous, almost cliche.



Yes I could carry the traditional woodworking bench theme through with another copy of the classic form. But I have done that…twice now. Add to this that for all its zombie like devotee’s, there is a lot to like about the Roubo, especially for hand work.


To start, the roubo has some features that make it a better choice for the type of work I am doing lately and plan to do moving forward. For example, instead of having a large overhang of the top, the Roubo’s legs are flush with the top. this provides extra clamping surface that the Scandinavian design does not allow for. It is lower than the S.S.Madcap. The lower height not only being optimal for hand planing, but also perfect for outfeed duties…happy, happy, happy.

It is designed to be very stout. I will be building mine with BORG lumber, just like the S.S. Madcap was. However, this time around, I will be using 4×6 material almost exclusivly. The exception being the shelf below the top which will be made from 2×6 or 2×8 BORG wood. It is going to be an absolute beast just like the Nimitz class bench I built before.

The goal here is to do this on the cheap, but still make a handsome and useful tool for the shop. The discovery of Douglas Fir as a good choice for this type of build has been like a wonderful Christmas gift.

 Sure it is fairly soft and not generally considered to be workbench material, but there are a lot of folks out there…a LOT…who would disagree, and go on to argue the liberating merits that a cheap lumber bench, made well, offers. 

Myself included.

This bench will need a vise. These can be quite expensive and time consuming to build into the bench if done in a period correct fashion. Expensive but exceptional Benchcrafted vise hardware being the normal go-to in these applications.

However, it can also be done with minimal investment of time and money while delivering superior performance to iron quick release or traditional vices. More on this later.

Finally, the Roubo will be my first experience with traditional holdfasts.holdfasts

Embarrassing in their simplicity, they are perfect for the needs of someone who is working wood by hand. Simple, effective, cheap, and super versatile. More on these later as well.

The dimensions for the new bench will be something like 80″ long by 24″ wide by 34″ high.

The top is slated to be around 3 1/2″ thick, the legs and stretchers 5″x 3 1/2″. More than enough mass to keep it in place for any hand planing and mortise chopping.

One last benefit to all this, I now have more material to write about here. Since I continue to look for any excuse NOT to write in the book I am supposed to be finishing right now, I think this may be a good jump start to get the literary juices flowing again….

Nes pas?