Tag Archives: woodworking workbench


As promised, here is a link to the first “Official” published work by The Madcap Woodwright.


There are actually two other bits published in Highland Woodworking’s blog.(Part one of the Roubo build being one of them. It is linked in the intro to this piece. Don’t miss it)

 I am actually enjoying two bylines via these brave souls.

 I have a spot in their blog, as well as a column in their online magazine WoodworkingToolTips.com.

 I wish to extend my profound gratitude to them for providing me with a literary outlet for my musings, as well as all the editorial mentoring and encouragement a budding writer could ever ask for.

Thanks especially go out to Kelley Bagby for rolling the dice on an untested voice.




The Roubo-apffel workbench is now complete. I once again could not resist a pic of it here since installing the leg vise replete with Benchcrafted “Criss-Cross/Retro.”

Highland Woodworking was where I chose to get the hardware for this vise. Excellent experience with them as usual….Not surprising…. And I’m not just saying that because they are publishing my rambling prose. The have always been a first class operation in my book.

Speaking of rambling prose, look for a couple of articles from me on both their blog

And their online magazine. I will link to the online magazine after they publish my article and send me the link……Whooooo hooooo!!!!




After all the mental gymnastics, after all the dithering over wood selection, after all the work to laminate a 5″ thick x 8′ long, x 22″ deep bench top, after hand cutting 16 mortises and 16 tenons, after assembling, flattening, and nit-picking, my bench is FINALLY together and resting comfortably in it’s new home.

I had the day set aside today to join a friend of mine and go pick up my bench. He has a truck with a trailer, so this was a huge boon to me. We got it loaded, and commenced the ENDLESS 6 mile sojourn to my house and Tiny Shop.

Once home it was right to work setting the top, and tool till. First, the till got a nice coat of home brew wiping varnish, as did the tops of the top rails of the trestle base and very back edge of the bench top along with the bottom of the top. Then it was on to the rest of the bench.

I had to resist the temptation to just slather on a coat on the top, no……I was methodical, and patient. Starting from the very bottom, I worked my way up the bench until every surface had been coated with the homebrew. After the excruciating agony of having to actually work through each facet of the benches base, I was ready to coat the top.

Heavens to Mergatroid….what a transformation. I took the above picture about ten minutes after finishing the application.

The last bit of hand wringing to be done, is going to be over the vises. I think I have settled on Lee Valley’s offering(s) for both the front vise and end vise. High quality, well built, and no question among fellow woodworkers regarding their longevity. Add to that the ease of installation, and it’s a no brainer. That will be a separate blog post though. I need to put the capitol together first, so it may be a while before that post graces this blog.

In the meantime, here are a couple of more pictures to close out this post. Im off to go sit in the Tiny Shop, and just admire the bench.



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Well….sort of.

Recently, I have been remiss in my blogging duties. Aside from being insanely busy, I have also been working very hard to get the “Tiny Shop” up and running. Progress has been slow, and tedious, but it continues.

As any of you who have been reading or have gone back and read the many posts that incessantly chronicle my preoccupation with work benches, know, I have been slowly building a traditional-ish workbench for my “Tiny Shop”.

Finally, I can post a couple of pictures of my nearly completed workbench. It is built entirely of BORG (Big Orange Retail Giant) dimensional lumber. 2″x6″ x8′ boards were laminated for the top. The trestle is made up almost entirely of 4″x4″ material with the exception of some 2″x8″ boards that are the lower stretchers of the trestle.

Joinery is all hand cut mortise and tenon. These M&T joints are fortified by 5/8″ carriage bolts, washers, and mating nuts. I decided to put two of them through the tenons to ensure the kind of heft and “stoutness” that I was after for this bench. Definitely overkill of the highest order, but quite satisfying for me. The M&T joints were nice and snug fitting, but I wanted a really , REALLY stout bench.


Currently, the trestle is glued, bolted, and wonderfully stout. The only things that remain to be done are construction of the tool well, attaching the top to the trestle, and finishing the bench.

The last time I built a bench, the “Beloved Bench”, I left it unfinished. There are two schools of thought on finishing wood working workbenches. One is NOT to finish it at all. The thinking goes that it is better to leave it unfinished so that no “slickness” develops on the bench top, thereby making some hand work operations more difficult.

The other school of thought, is to use some sort of oil finish. This gives a modicum of protection, and allows for easier clean up of glue and other contaminants.

Since it seems that I am doing all the things with this bench, that I did NOT do on the Beloved Bench, I have elected to finish this bench.

Since I am painfully, economically challenged of late, I have decided to use a “home-brew” wiping varnish on this bench. It is cheap, it is proven, (and proven, and proven) and it is stone simple.

Once the bench is sanded and ready, I will mix a batch of finish that is a mainstay of countless cabinetmakers and furniture builders. It is a blend of 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 spar varnish, and 1/3 turpentine. The turpentine thins the oil and varnish so that they penetrate deeply into the wood, and also help to dry-cure the finish just a little faster than normal. After a couple of thin coats have been applied and cured completely, I will “finish the finish”off with some quality paste wax. It should be beautiful.



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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……..as 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. (sawmillcreek.org , woodworkingtalk.com , lumberjocks.com, 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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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…..like 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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