Category Archives: trades

The Autumn of Our Discontent


As Summer gives way to Autumn, mornings and early evenings have developed the tell-tale whiffs of a seasonal change. The air feels and smells a little more crisp. It is obvious that Fall is approaching.

With this change in seasons comes the steady march of students back to their respective institutions of higher learning.

I am now among the legions of other parents who send their child off to college with a mixture of trepidation, excitement, nostalgia, and pride.

My own child begins college this year with a vague idea of what they would like to major in. This only marginally tracks with, what he has of late, expressed interest or passion in with respect to a future career.

Historically, this is not unusual. In years past, a college freshman was not expected to have their entire life mapped out and career choice figured by the time they are juniors in high school the way they are driven to today. Sadly, we see that there has been great pressure on these students to pre-determine their life calling way, way, WAY, before their education has even remotely prepared them for such a task.

I am of the opinion that today’s educational system here in the States, has devolved into a clearinghouse of prepackaged, programmed “worker-bees” who are shepherded into various “slots” starting as early as their high school years.  Testing based education from grades k-12 has subtly evolved into a means of sorting students to some degree. This then seems to set them up to be directed to educational career “tracks.” Socially encouraged by media, peers, and the established norms of today, to pursue careers that may not actually be in any way satisfying or “life-giving.”

The concepts of creativity and innovation are only discussed or encouraged as they relate to some corporate need. The notion of artistic expression is not only not encouraged, but devalued as nothing more than a hobby or interest. “There is no realistic means to make a living thinking artistically”, the students are taught and  encouraged to think.

No means of developing these skills are provided with financial support except by endowments and donations. While specialized “arts schools” are available, they are often times underfunded or short-lived at best, and almost universally marginalized as only for a select few.

Add to this that the means by which a potentially gifted tradesman/trades-person could learn a trade like woodworking are vanishing. Apprenticeships are virtually an unknown here. In fact, they have all but vanished since the early 80’s. Shop class has developed a reputation as a place where the students who “can’t cut it in real classes or career paths” go to earn credits for the quickly vanishing state-run trade schools after graduating. So not only is the ability to, at a minimum, explore woodworking, metalworking, ceramics, vanishing from secondary education, what is available has steadily developed the reputation as a mode of education for those with underdeveloped scholastic “chops.”

Admittedly, there are a handful of specialized schools  that offer education in woodworking and other artisan trades. For example, College of the Redwoods, Rhode Island School of Design, Red Rocks community College. However, that they exist at all is remarkable and on the whole are struggling to find relevancy in today’s programming schema.

I think that starting in high school, and in a much more expansive way well into college, there should be a parallel course of study made available to potential students. This course of study would be dedicated to artisan development.

I am not discussing just the building trades. (House building, Electrician,  Plumber, etc.)

I am talking about the Woodwright, the Blacksmith, the Glass Blower, the Ceramicist, the Potter, the Pattern-maker, the Tool and Die maker.

These are all trades that even in the face of automation, have stood the test of time and are just beginning to show signs of revival among the nation’s younger generations.

As this country moves steadily toward automating a great deal of its production capability, these trades stand out as having survived almost entirely due to the fact that a machine cannot truly duplicate that which the human hand can.

I see a curriculum that includes the history of these trades. It should also include a focus on modern application in the marketplace. In addition to practical hands on training, there should also be a historical and philosophical component included to provide context and a foundation from which innovation might develop, thus moving the trade forward.

This course of study could be taught at both the undergrad (4-year) and graduate levels(2-4 years).

This course of study should also have an individually trade specific course of study on entrepreneurship, business administration, design fundamentals, and process/procedure development. This is key. The vast majority of these students may very well figure out that they stand a better chance of success being reliant on their own skills and independence, than if they fold themselves into a more corporate environment, even as an artisan.

Further, this program should be state funded through state colleges and universities. It should be given the same measure of attention and financial support as a medical school, law school, business school, computer science school.

Currently there is a focus on graduating students from college to be “Job ready” upon leaving school. It is truly only in the trades, both traditional building trade courses of study as well as my proposed course of study, that a student can have any degree of actual work readiness. Even then, it is marginal. Hands on in a scholastic environment is vastly different from actual work experience.

My point is, the current model for higher learning is mostly focused on development of students who fit well as cogs in the machine. They reinforce this by feeding the notion that you can get your corporate position in lower or middle management right out of college. From there, dear boy/girl, the world is your oyster. Sadly the reality is far, far different.

Taking student loan debt, and the fairly large discrepancy between what is being taught in the classroom and what is actually being played out in the “real world” into account, the average student is often made to be just another cube dweller, with very little in the way of upward mobility.

Please, spare me any discussion of “picking ones self up by their bootstraps, or work harder and harder until you finally reach that brass ring.” My educated opinion is that is all utter bullshit designed to keep the wage slave in line using the carrot of career advancement as a means of control. It has been this way for a very long time, and while some actually do advance through hard work and determination, I would ask at what cost? Health? Family? Personal growth? Artistic expression? Their soul?

The truth as I see it, is that this model of career development has evolved since … well …since forever. It is only now that the income disparity is so stark and glaring, that people (namely younger generations) are finally waking to this reality and are starting to explore other means of both making a living and expressing themselves. What a perfect time to develop and implement alternative means of doing both in the nation’s educational system….Nes Pas?




As I work on finishing a draft of the first installment of the MADCAP MANIFESTO, I have gotten in the habit of switching over to Craigslist or whatever to peruse tools that I need, might need, want, would like to have, don’t need, but will eventually buy etc.  Work on the first installment of the manifesto has proven to be an exercise in writer’s block, as I have a great deal to say, but am struggling to sort it all out in an intelligent manner.

Anyone who has been following this blog knows what a hopeless woodworking tool … ahem …enthusiast I am. I use that statement as a qualifier because what follows is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me Rockwell Delta.

I stumbled on a post on Craigslist that was simple enough. “Woodworking tools” . These posts normally contain various bits and scraps of cheap throw away hobbyist tools. Sometimes though, they can contain pure gold…..

It seems that a man in a town about 30 miles from me lost his father, an engineer by trade and life long amateur woodworker, to the ravages of time and old age. (Rest in peace). The son and his brothers had all grown and established their own tool collections, so what the Dad had left behind was to be sold.

A couple of really choice machines were for sale at reasonable prices. A Grizzley 15″ planer, a 1955 Craftsman (built by the Atlas Tool Works) 17′ bandsaw, and…..drum roll please…..a 1948 Delta Unisaw..

The son mentioned that his post had been on Craigslist for the better part of 6 weeks with virtually zero interest. In fact, I was only the second person to contact him about any of the tools.

It was the Unisaw I was interested in. For the uninitiated, the Delta Unisaw, especially the pre and immediately post war vintages, are the undisputed Rolls Royce of table saws. They are built with old world attention to detail. Castings were poured into molds, then removed after cooling and buried in sand for two years prior to being milled flat for assembly and sale. This practice ensured that any movement that the table castings or arbor castings would suffer from (twist, warp, cupping, bowing) would occur prior to final milling and finishing and remain true for their life thereafter. Motors were heavy and powerful. They develop an enormous amount of torque despite their anemic horsepower ratings. Better in EVERY WAY than anything built today short of a saw from Germany or Switzerland.

So it was that I entered into half hearted negotiations with this man. Surely he would want to stick to his asking price of nearly $500. Besides, LOML, would never cotton to my bringing home another  dusty old relic that would duplicate what was already in the Tiny Shop.

In talking with the son, he discussed how weary he was of waiting to move this piece of iron. He said he is just looking for the right person to come along, someone who knew what a gem this machine was. Someone who would use it, not just resell it or *GASP* part it out. It was his intention at this point, he said, to let the saw go for the first reasonable offer to such a person. I was beside myself.

The FIRST thing I needed to do was delicately explain to my sainted wife, WHY I needed…not wanted….neeeeeded, this saw. She must have seen the desperation in my eyes since she made a deal with me. If I could sell the General now installed in the tiny Shop, I could have the Unisaw. No disposable income was available for a purchase like this, and whatever funds I could get for my General, were all we had for an offer on the Unisaw.


In 24 hours, I had the general sold for $50 more than I had paid for it originally, and was locked in to a price with the Unisaw seller that allowed me to remain on speaking terms with my beloved wife.


Above is a picture taken moments after the arrival of the “table saw de tuti table saw”. 430 pounds of purring smooooooothness. This is prior to any clean up, I have only gotten the extension wings re-attached and the motor rewired by the time I snapped this picture.


Lovely clean and dead flat top.


Behold! An all original Delta miter guage


The Bullet. 90-some pounds of torque, ummph, and coniferous carnage. Just not made like this any more.


Can I get an…..AMEN!!!!


Just a little art deco to bring some class and panache into the Tiny Shop.

Ok, I should go now. I have honey-do’s to do, and also need to chip away at the first installment of The Madcap Manifesto. Stay tuned for that!!!!!

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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

Some Thoughts On The Modern Woodwright….OR……Chris Becksvoort Is My Hero.


As of late, I have found it a bit difficult to sit down to tap out a post here, as has become my habit. Suffice to say, the muse has not been upon me.

That is until I began researching clamps (of all things) to use in the soon-to-be-new-to-me shop.

I remembered reading an article in Fine Woodworking Magizine some time ago, that had some pictures of one of their long time editor’s, Christian Becksvoort in his home shop.

The article was about small shops of different sizes and scale. In one of the pictures that described Mr. Becksvoort’s shop at his home in New Gloucester, Maine, there was a wall full of sturdy looking clamps. These were clamps that I had never seen before, and felt that I simply MUST have them…… I have mentioned before, it’s a sickness.

Me being…well… “Me”, I Googled Mr. Becksvoort, and through his website sent an e-mail asking him if he would be kind enough to send me any information on those clamps if he could. (NOTE: please notice the request by him to direct any “woodworking questions” to his contact info at Taunton Press. He provides a link. I must confess that in my zeal, I did not notice this little request until AFTER I had sent the email to his business email…lessons learned, and he still took the time to respond to me. Nice guy)

Now, Christian Becksvoort is a well known name in woodworking circles. He has written books, gives workshops, edits a well known and established woodworking journal, AND finds time to produce fine, handcrafted furniture in limited quantities. In short, the man is a woodworking God to many….myself included.

So, imagine my delight when, in ten minutes time, I had received a reply from him graciously forwarding to me the contact information for the company that made his clamps. We traded a couple of emails, and that was that.

Or was it?

You see, in this day and age, it can be difficult to find a Woodwright like Mr. Becksvoort. Successful, well known, self employed, and solvent. Granted, he, like so many talented Woodwrights out there, supplements his income giving lectures, and writing, but that is only because he had made his name by hand crafting such fine pieces in the first place. The man is truly living the dream after having paid many, many dues. To me, having any expectation of getting a response from him, let alone within ten minutes, was a lot to ask. At least in my mind it was.

Anyhow, I may sound a little surprised by the personal response by one of my hero’s.  The truth is, if I really thought about it,  I shouldn’t be. Chris has a long standing reputation as a true ambassador for the art of woodworking, and also as a thoughtful and well respected “stand up” guy. I have followed his work for as long as I can remember, and can attest to this. Granted that my endorsement means very little, and that on a personal level,it is based only on three or four gushing emails traded with him in the span of an hour. Still and all, he did respond personally, and was just as gracious, encouraging, and friendly as a hero SHOULD be.

So, this begs the question, “Why so few Woodworkers like Mr. Becksvoort?” Why is it so, that so many aspiring woodworkers either never move past the hobby stage in their woodworking, or if they do try to strike out on their own professionally, fail to make a living at it? How do the Sam Maloofs, Christian Becksvoorts, and James Krenovs “make it” and others do not?

All good questions. All questions that I wish I had an answer to.

If you listen to some, you may get the idea that fine woodworking as a trade, is dead. That it is relegated to being a craft or hobby only, and that mass production and the IKEAs of the world have replaced it with disposable furniture. In some respects, and for some people, this may be true. However, for me at least, I do not think that it is asking too much of the world to make room for and appreciate finely crafted furniture. Pieces that started as a tree, and were lovingly, respectfully, and honestly worked into a table, book case,chair, or cabinet designed and built to last several lifetimes, and the people whose hands make them, surely still have value and an audience.

One of the keys to advancing this mindset, and thus securing the livelihood of present and future generations of Woodwrights,  is through connection to folks like Mr. Becksvoort. Connection with like minded artisans. It used to be that trade shows and guilds were the mainstays of this connection. Over the years, the guilds have either died off, or are only barely there, and the trade shows/craft shows have degenerated largely into not much more than living commercials for … gasp … tools and jigs that are not really NEEDED.

There is one area that has brought hope though. The internet.

The internet has been a wonderful resource not just for researching woodworking, but also for connecting like minded artisans. I belong to a handful of quality online woodworking forums. ( , ,, etc.)These forums are an absolute treasure trove of folks who, of vastly differing skill levels and woodworking interests, gather to shoot the breeze, talk about tools, and generally be there for one another. I doubt very highly that you could ask a question on one of these forums, and not get a researched, and thought out answer. More likely, you will get several. Even more likely, you will get several DIFFERENT answers. While it may sound like getting a bunch of different answers to a question is like spinning your wheels, think about this…..

In getting several different answers to a question, you are presented not only with differing opinions and options, but also with little morsels of information  that you can use to further your search, should you not find a satisfying answer initially.
A word to the wise, if you ask a question, and get several different answers that don’t really satisfy you, go out and research what morsels you get in those answers. If you come up with an answer all your own…. go back to your original post and SHARE THAT INFORMATION.

It is through the continual sharing of information that we help keep woodworking alive. Sure, you really DO need to go out to the shop and build stuff. To spend your days writing blog posts and researching tools and blabbering about workbench design, is an exercise in mental masturbation. It feels good, but produces very little.

However, sharing information, and helping fellow woodworkers develop and grow their skills and knowledge base, is a foundational move to keeping the trade moving forward, keeping it from dying. It is through this connection with one another that we help to evolve the art of working wood in that, methods and processes, both old and new, are passed on. Questions about various joinery techniques are answered. Help with applying finishes can be had. Critiques of design ideas are available for the asking. Discussions of forestry and responsible timber harvesting, renewable forestry, and general knowledge sharing on the subject of the proper management of our forests for future Woodwrights, are all facilitated  and made much more available via the internet now.

Therefore, a simple personal response to a very simple question, asked by a VERY simple Woodwright, is indeed a hallmark of someone who values working wood not just as a means to provide for a family, but also as something worth sharing and passing on to future simple Woodwrights.

Thanks Chris.

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The Once and Future……..Shop.

As winter has begun it’s annual transformation into springtime, my creative juices have begun to thaw.

Yes, this blog has done well to quell the ongoing need to express myself, as have aspects of the classes I am taking at the Fine Woodworking Program at Red Rocks Community College. However, I find myself desperately craving to flip the switch on my “New-to-me” shop.

Allow me to recap some of the previous posts I have made here. I am the proud owner of a “lightly used” General International contractors table saw. She comes equipped with General (Canada)’s Biesemeyer rip fence. This is, by it self, worth the paltry admission price I paid for the saw. The saw also has a true 2 horse power motor, and a full cast iron top.  All very, very desirable features to be sure.  Though, on the down side, she will need arbor bearings soon. She does have the beginnings of the tell tale “whine” that signals the need for some tender loving care.
Also, if I were a smart man, I would tune the saw to the “nth” degree while I was elbow deep in the saw’s guts. Aligning the blade to the mitre slots, and also aligning the fence to the blade. In addition, it would seem to make sense to add a couple of modifications while I am at it. The PALS system, is a very, very simple add on that makes alignment procedures much, much simpler. Add the PALS, some machined pulleys, and a new drive belt, and the saw should perform quite well for my needs….quite well indeed.

Next in the line up is my “new-to-me” Inca 510 jointer/planer. Since I have not had a chance to fire it up yet, I am forced into trusting the previous owner’s description and anticipating nothing more than a good lubricating of moving parts, and waxing the jointer and planer beds. It’s promise of an exceptional cut quality, and precision have me chomping at the bit to put it through its paces.

Because the Inca is now safely in hand, I had turned my attention to finding it’s companion, and I finally got a line on one of those lunch box planers I mentioned some time ago.

The Ryobi AP-10 was the original lunch box planer. Originally designed, built, and sold in the mid to late ’80s, the little Ryobi is of advanced age now, no question about it. This does not worry me in the least. The Ryobi AP-10 has always had, and continues to have, a reputation for longevity.

Ryobi had something to prove back then, so they “over engineered” the little surfacer. They are beloved by their owners because of their ease of upkeep, solid construction, and unwillingness to provide an owner a reason to replace it. They just keep going, and going, and going. The only reason I am able to get my hands on one at all, is because the owner willing to let this one go, has a second one that he has been bouncing back and forth between. He feels that that is a bit of overkill. HA! … HA HA HA!!!

I don’t think I need to mention how difficult it was for me to keep my mouth shut. To NOT preach that there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty about having two planers….It pained me like none other, but … I WANT this little planer. So discretion proved to be the better part of valor in this case.

Add to an insanely low asking price for this machine ($75), the current owner is also including the original manual, the blade setting jig, and a NEW set of resharpenable blades. Not only is the little workhorse well equipped, but it is also in really good condition based on several pictures I got from the current owner. Seems he is a bit anal retentive about his tools too….my kind of guy.
Normally, IF you can find one of these little gems for sale AT ALL, they NEVER have the manual and usually have the disposable, NON-resharpenable blades.

THIS is one of the original machines, one of the good ones.

As soon as I am able, I will be adding this machine to my current line up, thus inching closer to basic operating ability.

The only other pieces to the puzzle that need to be fitted into place for basic operational capability are, installation and powering of the “new-to-me” sub panel I acquired for free from a friend, the running of the Romex to the soon to be installed outlet boxes and ceiling lighting fixtures, and find the best deal on Pony brand 3/4″ pipe clamp fixtures and black iron pipe.


…wait for it….


Now, I know you all will miss my incessant blogging on which bench to build for myself and why.
So, in an effort to keep ALL of you happy, I will say that as soon as this bench is finally built, I am QUITE sure I will be dissecting it’s good qualities and failings in an effort to justify the building of a MUCH BETTER (insert a “knowing” … as in… “Knowing” I will be building many benches in the future, as it’s my weakness … tone of voice here) bench, to replace the one I just finished building.

In the meantime, I am going to go on the hunt for worthy 4×4 Douglas Fir  material for the top and the trestle. I know already that Lee Valley Tools has my two bench vises for this bench at reasonable prices. For now, it’s about the wood.

Ill be looking for dry, non-pithy, non “Boxed Heart” boards to laminate into a top. The trestle will consist mostly of 4×4 construction, but the two rails that connect the left side to the right side of the base, will most likely be 2×6 boards. The top will be laminated, yes that’s true, but the base is all mortise and tenon construction. It will be heavy, and stout.
Right now, I am planning to put a tool well on the back of the bench. As I have said before, I have never had a bench with one, and I WANT one. If I like it, it might be a regular feature on future benches I build. If not…bonus…it’s an excuse to design and build another BENCH!!!!

As it is now, I am inching closer to making the little shop that could, a reality. With any luck, I will be able to make things minimally operational this spring/summer. Once that happens, I can begin moving to fill in the blanks that will round out the tooling needs. Routers, band saw, dust collection, etc.

For now, the goal is just to get the space set up to accept the shop, and to begin tuning and using the tools I have/am getting very soon, so that I can begin both creating, and building shop fixtures. (like a super cool tool cabinet)………

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Home Of The Mustangs!


I got a phone call today, from my high school wood shop teacher. (Names are withheld to protect the tool addicted) This is not really an abnormal occurrence, as he and I will talk from time to time. This is usually when I have a question, or if I am trying to remember some woodworking tid bit that I know he will know off the top of his head. I will ring him up, and we can spend a few minutes chatting about woodworking, how I am doing, how he is getting on etc.

To give you some reference, Woodshop was THE ONLY class I paid any attention in. I actually took it two years in a row, and was immediately smitten with woodworking from the beginning. I was what was considered a … how do I put this delicately, ….. “non-traditional” student. I was bored out of my mind, and was notorious for acting the fool because of it. However, shop class was a different matter all together. I loved it.

I think that the main reason for this was , as a student, it was really apparent to me just how much my teacher enjoyed what he taught. It really helped to create interest and to make the class something I WANTED to do.

He was also a certifiable tool junkie. Hand tools, machines, jigs, he just loved (loves) tools. So it is no surprise that sharpening is almost a religious event for him. Thankfully, some of us students picked up on this too, and it is a skill I have worked to keep up, and improve on as my early woodworking endeavors turned into a vocation.

In addition to opening my eyes to working wood, He also introduced me to the woodworking deities that are my heroes to this day.  Jim Krenov, Sam Maloof, Tage Frid, Thomas Moser, all names I learned from this shop teacher. I learned them, I read their books,  I was inspired by their designs and their techniques. It all started with this one teacher.

It’s sad really, that for whatever reason, the educational establishment sees fit to de-fund programs like this. My old high school still continues to offer wood shop, but is in the minority. Any more, one is hard pressed to find a high school with any shop class, let alone a quality wood shop like Ponderosa’s. kudos to the county for continuing to provide an avenue for kids to learn this trade.

In any event, It was a real pleasure, as it always is, to hear a voice from the past that reminds me why I chose to make my (meager) living working wood.

Thank you, Mr. Rauh, for sharing your love of woodworking and passing it on to us. Always remember, there ARE guys like me in your classes who ARE listening, and who ARE paying attention. There are knuckle heads in your classes, who just need that ONE teacher to actually give a shit. To be the teacher who looks for untapped talent, rather than be the teacher who is only punching a clock, or enduring yet another day teaching. Thank you.

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I Think We Have A Winner!!! -or- Yet Another Workbench Post!!!


Wandering around Google images last night, (get your minds out of the gutter people. The only porn I was looking at, was workbench porn…sheesh) I ran across this picture of a bench. Doing some research, I discovered that this is a LaChappelle bench made in Switzerland. I was smitten.

This is as close to the design of the bench I made , lo those many years ago. It has all the right characteristics that I am looking to build into this next bench, and is nearly identical to what I am used to using.

As of late, I have been fixated on Frank Klausz’s cabinetmakers work bench. The design is perfect for hand tool work, but more complicated than I had originally considered building. Because I rediscovered Jim Tolpin’s “Wrokbench Book” which has dimensions and drawings to work from, I was leaning to building the Klausz bench.

I did have some misgivings about building a bench with the traditional “dog leg” shoulder vise though. Mostly because I am planning to build it out of Douglas Fir or Southern Yellow Pine, which may not lend themselves to the vises that Mr. Klausz calls for in his design. The vise’s “arm” looks to me to be something of a weak link, and prone to failure unless built of much harder,more durable wood. Add to that the traditional “End Vise” on Mr. Klausz’s bench, and the challenge of building a bench built for the ages increases exponentially. Building a bench with these vises, requires that the builder really get it “right”. Zero room for error.
I DO love the design though. If you watch the video I posted last night of Mr. Klausz cutting dovetails using his bench, you can quickly see why he is so militant about this particular design. It is truly a thing of beauty.


A thing of beauty indeed. One I very much want to build. However, there is something in the back of my psyche that nags at me to wait on building that design. It tells me that that bench’s time will come. When it does, it will be when my skills are better restored, better honed, and the ability to purchase nice, hard Maple stock for it’s construction will be there. To build this bench out of Douglas Fir will undoubtedly leave me feeling unsatisfied and wanting to go out and spend money I don’t have on the stock that this bench really deserves. If I am going to build it, I am going to build it right.

Back to the LaChappelle. Here is a bench that I can feel comfortable building out of something other than Maple. I can build it to be a WORK bench, and not a shop show piece. It shares a number of features of the Klausz bench in terms of overall scale and design, including the tool well along the back rail.
The tool well is the subject of much debate among aspiring bench building woodworkers. “Collector of detritus” “Catch all” “Unnecessary” are all arguments on the against side, while the proponents generally postulate that a truly organized and fastidious woodworker… me…..gain much from having one on their bench. Tomato….Tomahhhto.

For my needs, and wants for that matter, I like the idea. Having never had a bench with a tool well, and planning to locate the bench against a wall rather than in the middle of the shop, I am quite enamored with the LaChappelle design for my needs. If I were to be placing it in the middle of the shop, I think I would do without the tool well so as to provide a complete work surface accessible from all sides. Since I am in a shop space that is too small for that, I have to position it against a wall, so this lends itself nicely to the tool well design. I can live with it, work with it, and decide which side of the tool well debate I side with.


So now, this is the latest finalist in my personal workbench design  showdown. The only thing I think I will change is the end vise. From a complexity, longevity, and ease of construction standpoint, I think I may just stick with a normal full length end vise purchased from Lee Valley.

Then again, I can absolutely see myself beg, borrow, and stealing to buy a German made or Lie Nielsen traditional end vise hardware kit, if I can somehow find the resources to spring for such extravagances. It would be nice to have on this bench. I could always repurpose it on the Klausz bench when I eventually get to build it……otherwise a normal, single screw, full width end vise, suits me just fine.

Another feature of both the Klausz and the LaChappelle, are the end caps of either end. They are almost like giant “bread board” ends. Since I plan to use Douglas Fir for the construction of this bench, having a pair of husky, cross-grain caps on either end should help keep the top flat and well behaved. Either that, or provide the means for catastrophic glue joint failure….

Either way, I think I am going to find out. I think, at least for now, that this is going to be “The One” that I build initially for the new shop. Nice proportions, simple, stout construction. Familiar look, feel, and hardware to my beloved first bench, the LaChappelle is the current front runner for my affection.

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