Category Archives: cabinetmaking

TRES BON…..For now.


In a radical departure from my norm, I think I have settled on the Roubo style bench as a proposed replacement for my outfeed table/assembly table.

I realize that I have forgone the traditional hand wringing and over examination of pros and cons, but I think this may be a natural choice.

One of the main reasons…as always…is the economy of this design narrowly beats out its Scandinavian counterpart. All told, I should be able to procure the required timber for just under $175.

Next, the dimensions. While not quite as short as I had initially envisioned, the height is just about perfect for hand planing work and also for it’s use as an outfeed table for the tablesaw. The length will still provide some extra breathing space between this bench and my main workbench. The nice thing about this will be that I will still have storage for both my planer and my sliding mitre saw, as well as a bit of space at the end to tuck a shopvac, or stool, or what have you under the overhang.

An added bonus will be the joy of having built both a Scandinavian design and a Roubo, thus soothing my craven desire to “have it all.”

I also like the idea of having two highly versatile work spaces. The configuration of the different vises will provide added optional work holding capability. This will become increasingly important as I continue to focus on more handwork using hand saws and planes.


I think a simplified front vise will suffice. I can’t see spending the premium money for the Benchcrafted vise hardware swhown above in these pictures. However, I think I may actually attempt the Wagon Vise that is shown above. I have drawings and plans for a shop made version of the Benchcrafted equipment pictured. I like the Wagon Vise idea because the vise is captured within the bench itself, and therefore does not intrude in the already tight space I am trying to maximize. Were I to build a Scandinavian bench again, I would either have to contend with whacking my knees / hips on the vise handle, or delete it all together.

On balance I feel this is the best of all options since it seems I am bent on building yet ANOTHER workbench. I am excited to get moving on this project. It will be something of a technical challenge. The vise engineering alone takes me out of my comfort zone. The top lamination may make up for that, as I plan to laminate 7-4″x6″x80″ timbers together to get a top that is close to 28″ wide. The base will likewise be 4″x6″ timbers with 4″x4″ timbers as the stretchers between the legs. The legs will be through mortised into the top. Each hand chopped nortise will be nearly 6″deep. Each hand cut tenon will also be nearly 6″.

This project is a bit ambitious for just an outfeed table, to be sure. In the scheme of things though, it meets several needs especially as they relate to work holding for hand work with planes, chisels, and hand saws.

Wheeewww….it’s going to be a fun ride. loving the adventure. I just need to get cracking on a couple of small lingering projects to clear the decks for this bad boy…..God I love this stuff.


Madcap Brain Goo

This blog has been a source of great joy for me. It has been the well spring for a lot of creative ideas.

When I first started The Madcap Woodwright, it was on a whim and really had no direction other than as a platform for whatever random thoughts I had.

It has seemed to morph from the run of the mill DIY/woodworking/tool junkie/word puke, into something much more philosophical and substantive.

In the coming weeks, months, and hopefully years, I will be delving more.deeply into the ongoing grab bag of thoughts and ideas I have been working with lately.

In a recent post, I mentioned the latest project that this blog has spawned. Work on that manuscript continues, but I am finding the urge to blog a louder siren song just now.

In any event, stay tuned. I’ll be making a more concerted effort to distill some “Madcap brain goo” to pour into the vessel that is The Madcap Woodwright.

A Little bit about Finishing



In my last blog post, I mentioned that I was planning to switch from my tried and true solvent based lacquer finish to a more eco friendly water based finish. A reader commented on the switch, and this lead me to jot down some thoughts I have been having on this issue…well…and as another excuse to avoid working on  The Madcap Woodwright-Thoughts On Joyfully Working Wood With Abandon manuscript.

As the Muse has continued to elude me of late, I figured that writing ANYTHING was better than hiding from my ThinkPad. (A true hot rod of a laptop by the way)

As I mentioned, my normal film finish (as opposed to a penetrating finish like Danish oil) was always some version of a traditional lacquer finish. Nitrocellulose, or “pre catalyzed” lacquer being the two main versions most commonly used, until recent changes to environmental law began making finding reliable and affordable sources for these finishes difficult.

In addition, I have many, many, MANY years under my belt using these finishes. They are wonderful, and provide a good protective, and visually pleasing finish. Ease of use and over all versatility round out the reasons why they are traditionally preferred finish choice.

Their downsides, for me at least, include toxic vapor, flammable vapor, environmentally negative, and they require specialized EXPLOSION PROOF exhaust equipment to be anywhere near compliant with safety regulations in most areas.

Enter water based finishes.

Since their initial introduction, some 15(?) plus years ago, they developed a reputation for being cranky, finicky, and generally not ready for prime time.

A lot has changed in that time.

Now, let me say here, I have yet to actually use a waterborne finish. To say that I am hopeful, yet skeptical, would be an apt description.

However, word on the street among those who have actually used these finishes, say that they act very much like their solvent based predecessors. The word is that the newest generations of waterborne finishes cure to a tough, hard, and nearly identical to the traditional lacquers they are moving to replace.

target finishes

One thing to note, ANY solvent free finish that calls itself  “Lacquer”, is NOT lacquer in the strictest sense. Rather, most water based lacquers are in fact an ACRYLIC rather than a true lacquer. This is important because it has some significant differences in performance. Acrylic finishes are difficult to strip off when doing a refinish as compared to traditional lacquer, it does not “move” in the same way a traditional lacquer does either. This is, or could be important, for instrument makers or craftsman who take wood movement into consideration.

That said, the latest generations of acrylic lacquers are said to have much improved elasticity properties, and  perform very, very closely to solvent based lacquers but tends to be brand dependent.

All of this leads me to the decision to begin working with the above pictured finish. By all accounts the Target Coatings acrylic lacquer is as close to traditional lacquer as one can get in the latest generation of waterborne finishes.

My hope is that I will find that this is the case. I really want to be able to make the switch from solvent based to water based spray-able finishes.

Much more on this as events unfold……stay tuned.

Writer’s Block Sucks…


Since I had been using my poor, much overtaxed, little tablet to do the majority of my writing since starting this blog, I had a built in excuse to avoid the subject of the dreaded “Writer’s Block.”

Now that I have obtained an incredible, new-to-me, Lenovo Thinkpad, I no longer have technical difficulties as an excuse for the denial I have been wallowing in regarding the case of writer’s block I have.

So, while I have been remarkably negligent in my writing, I am now, as they say, “Back in the saddle.”

Attempting to get myself back in the game, I figured I would whip something up for this blog as a means of stirring up the creative juices, and reconnect with my muse.

Thus far, I have been somewhat mired in finishing off the equipping of The Tiny Shop, and doing some light restoration work to keep the mind and hands supple and well practiced.

I had the good fortune to find a deal on a brand new 1 1/2 HP motor for my Delta jointer, and it is now semi operational. I need to dial in the knives still, but otherwise it is fairly tuned and ready to do real woodworking finally. wpid-wp-1444014009777.jpg


Also, after much research and hand wringing, I decided that using the tried and true HVLP conversion set up that I had been using for years for applying finish was just not in keeping with my position on environmental responsibility. Further, It just had far too much in the way of “tweaking” that always seemed to need to be done in order to get the level of quality I wanted in a finish.

Add to that that I was planning a switch to water borne finish media, and the need for a different application tool was obvious.


Enter the Fuji Semi-Pro2.


The Fuji set up is a very well regarded turbine driven High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) system. The idea is, that with this small, self contained set up, over spray is kept to an absolute minimum,which means a significant boost in savings as it applies to material cost. Also, since there is no traditional compressor, oil, water, and other potential contaminants are no longer a worry.

Since the cup gun is stainless steel, (both the gun and the cup) I can shoot both solvent based finishes as well as water based finishes.

Word on the street about Fuji turbines is universally good. They are regarded as some of the very best finishing equipment at markedly reasonable prices. Far less than other manufacturers like Apollo, and Grayco. Bang for the buck, and considering the space limitations of The tiny Shop, this is a no brainer.

All that remains for initial equipment purchases are another router or two, a hollow chisel mortiser, and a dovetail jig.

I debated long and hard on these last two, expensive, pieces. I decided to add these to my “need to have” list because, as I have aged, hand cutting joinery has begun to take its toll on my hands/joints. As much as I enjoy hand cut joinery, I feel that from a longevity standpoint, it makes sense for me to mechanize these operations. Trust me, if I thought that I could continue indefinitely hand cutting my  joints, I would. It is a wonderful exercise in mindful woodworking. Alas, the ravages of a misspent youth and father time, are beginning to rear their ugly heads.

That, and it gives me two more tools to shop for… I got that going for me…..which is nice.





As It Is Written……….


Todays blog post is an announcement of sorts.

During the last year, especially in the last six moths or so, I have felt that The Madcap Woodwright Blog has been an awesome medium to work out various thoughts and ideas I have had of late. I hope that you who read my meandering, sometimes actually sentiant, ramblings have enjoyed the experience.

Edit to say:
The Madcap Woodwright Blog will continue. It’s a bit of an addiction, so it’s not going away any time soon.

I say this because, after a good deal of thought and much hand wringing, I have decided to sit down and write a book.

Let me say right now, that I in NO WAY  would ever compare myself to Papa hemingway. Nor would I dare to proffer the notion that I am in any way the next James Krenov of the woodworking literature world.

I am writing this book for a couple of reasons.

First, I found that I have been writing a great deal about some fairly longwinded topics here on the blog. This will continue, but I wanted to divert to the book some topics that I have raised here, but wanted to explore more fully. A book seemed a logical way to do this.

Second, I wanted to write this book because…..well…..I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to see if I could do it and also to see if it were any good.
I am NOT doing this to make money. However, I will be self publishing it on Amazon Kindle among other digital platforms. Currently, there are no plans for hard copy versions to be printed, but if there is a demand, the platform I am using to format the manuscript allows me to create a format file that can then be used to provide “print on demand” hard copy books too……so there is that.

So far, I have an outline…see below….and a fairly solid start on my rough draft.

I am including the outline of chapters here. The working title is “The Madcap Woodwright, A Guide To Joyfully Working Wood With Abandon”.

I would welcome any comments or suggestions any of you may have after looking over the outline below.

Be advised, this outline is the roughest of drafts of the actual outline. It is more or less just an idea “sticky pad” that I am working from currently.

Please feel free to comment/suggest or share thoughts on content. No promises that it would be included in the final manuscript, but I am nothing if not shamelessly willing to take good ideas and run with them….HEE HEE….let the fun begin.

The Madcap Woodwright

A Guide To Joyfully Working Wood With Abandon

By John D. McBride



Chapter 1 – It Takes A Madcap

A) For the greater good-

B) Rethinking traditional views on design and woodworking

C) Why elitism sucks

Chapter 2 – Life Is Too Short – 3 “Rules” to joyful woodworking and life

Don’t sweat the small stuff

B)  It’s ALL small stuff

C)  Always remember  1&2

Chapter 3 – The Madcap Workshop – Observations On Creating A Happy Place.

The Tiny shop – Why Aesthetics Count



Handwork vs. Machine Work.

B)   Discover your muse, design your shop.

Chapter 4 – The Joy Of Design

Inspiration, where to find it and what to do with it

B)   Sketch, sketch, sketch!!!!

C)   Flying by the seat of your pants, and why it’s so important.

D)   The soothing of the inner anal retentive

Order of operation

Chapter 5 – Thoughts On Success and Failure.

Reexamining and redefining

B)   Progress, not perfection, freedom to make mistakes

C)   It’s not a mistake, till’ it can’t be fixed….It can always be fixed.

D) If you are not making any mistakes, you are not doing anything.

Chapter 6 – Bizarro Economy, The Madcap Woodwright’s Natural Habitat.

How an Arts and Crafts Revival might save the world

B)   Build it, and they just might come

C)   Defining value

Chapter 7 – More Than Madcap / Expanding Into The Community.

Responsible craftsmanship

B)   Find your tribe

C)   Thoughts on pragmatism, and why it’s overrated.

Chapter 8 – Moment By Moment / Mindful Woodworking

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This morning was one of those wonderful mornings that one simply must savor.

LOML and I awoke and only had two “must do items” on our list. First, we sauntered to a tiny little breakfast joint we love. It’s claim to fame being their home made biscuits. Their biscuit breakfast sandwiches joined by a rich and flavorful cup of locally roasted coffee are just the thing to start the day.

After that, it was off to the grocery store for some much needed provisioning.

That was it for the day….well for me at least. LOML then had to forge ahead and work a Saturday shift at her job.

This left me with a full belly, a bright, sun drenched, nearly 65 degree January day, all to myself.

A perfect day to go out to the tiny shop and just….putter.

One thing that I am an ardent believer in, is the correct music selection for blatant “puttering”.

Having an aestheticly pleasing Tiny Shop requires the appropriate “sonic flavor” if it is destined to be a pleasingly productive shop.

Because there is precious little to be managed in the Tiny Shop, (save for a new motor for my poor little Delta jointer), and no major projects on the docket, puttering seemed to me to be just what the doctor ordered.

The music selection started off with a nice dose of Joe Walsh and the James Gang. Purely to get the juices flowing. Followed up by a nice selection of Sam and Dave, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding.

The puttering tasks were menial. Fixing a hinge on the Tiny Shop’s main door, futzing with the shop vac and several lengths of shop vac hose and integrating them with a cyclonic separator I have for the shop vac. Sipping coffee…..sitting on my bench stool…..looking around the Tiny Shop for other anal retentive tasks to perform…..a fantastic way to start the day.

Truely a morning to be savored before enjoying the afternoon.

Now, I am a rhythm and blues kind of guy. R&B, soul, streight up blues, sometimes some reggae, and always Rock and Roll.

Today….well, as the day matured into afternoon, I felt the day dictating something different for me.

Dear reader, please indulge me a short bunny trail. I promise it will circle back nicely to my current ramblings.

My dear grandmother on my mother’s side was a classical music consumer of epic proportions. She and my grand father had a wonderful collection of vinyl records representing both the best of composers as well as recordings of some of the finest performances of their handiwork.

She was also a fan of the M.A.S.H. In one particular episode, the character “Radar” was getting dating advice from Hawkeye, or Trapper John, or both.

When the subject of how best to manage conversation with  a lady whose interests include classical music, and if the subject of Bach should come up, Radar was encouraged to keep it simple and just utter the response “ahhhhhhh…. Bach”. My grandmother LOVED this scene and this phrase became something of a family motto.  When the whole family gathered, it was a rare time indeed, that you did not hear someone say this.

So it was this afternoon that I had a hankering for some classical music to take me into the last hours of the warmth of the sun, and the peace of puttering in the Tiny Shop.

What to listen to? With the miracle of streaming music, there is so much to choose from.

Then it hit me.

Ahhhhhhh…… Bach.

A perfect choice for the perfect end to the perfect day of perfectly puttering.


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A Madcap Manifesto.(Preface-Introduction)


Alright, don’t let the title startle you. I have not taken leave of my senses and started hoarding survivalist supplies. Nor am I writing this hold up in a cabin in Montana.

What I am developing here and in the posts to come, are simply a collection of thoughts, ideas, and observations that relate not just to woodworking, but also to a few other sociologically interesting issues that often interface with woodworking as well.

As I begin to try to string together my thoughts and plan out what I want to say here, I find the process a little bit akin to tugging at that stray string on your sweater. I keep discovering little bunny trails that coincide with original subject thoughts. I keep unravelling more and more that ties in directly with modern woodworking, especially at the professional level.

Interesting and a little frustrating at the same time.

A little while ago I found myself at an interesting confluence. I had been reading several blog posts by Paul Sellers that discussed the historical importance of the traditional apprentice – journeyman model from years past, contrasted with their current state of near extinction.

At the same time I had the fairly rare opportunity to talk with my youngest son about college, the future, and most satisfyingly, life and happiness and what they really look like. Heady things to discuss indeed.

All of this lead me to this place. I wanted to spend a little time documenting my thoughts and observations.

It sounds easy at first. At least  I thought it did. However, the more I tried to sketch out a blog post in my mind, the more I had to say. The more I had to say, the larger the catalog of subjects to talk about became.

Ultimately, I settled on the idea of a series of posts that touched on some of these subjects. While this post is going to be the Preface and introduction to what is to come, I suspect that there may never, truly, be an end. I know myself well enough to know that as the blog develops, there will undoubtedly be times that I feel the need to amend or supplement, or reverse position on what will initially be the Madcap Manifesto.

Earlier in this blog, I mentioned that I may be touching on more esoteric aspects of woodworking, craft, and craftsmanship ….  This is it.

To be fair though, the discussion of just those subjects, I’m discovering, require exploration of the more sociologically based topics as I mentioned above.

Happiness, satisfaction, education, career, worth, self worth, stress, fairness, equality, inequality, social change, sustainability, ecological responsibility, are all topics that have influence on modern woodworking as a profession.

They, and many similar topics, all have (or should have) relevance to the modern professional or serious amateur.

Finally, I invite comment on anything written here. Please be aware that my posts may end up with a hint of “ramble” as I sometimes struggle to get multiple thoughts down in a coherent and thoughtful manner. Not because I have not given them thought, no, quite the contrary, I sometimes feel I have thought about them too much. (Usually during long sessions of sanding projects, or sometimes after having read something somewhere, or even just wondering what my kids futures will look like.)

Just know that I will endeavor to keep things simple, and hopefully both thought provoking and entertaining at the same time.

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