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Workbench Build – FINISHED!

And…I’m calling it finished. Technically, there are a few more small things to do, but the projects await and the bench needs to prove its usefulness. Once the next two projects are done, I’ll take time to square up the left end of the bench, flatten everything and fine tune the bottom shelf.

After the leg vise, I added a planing stop. The stop is doug fir, about 12″ long. This was probably the most difficult mortise in the bench, and I accidentally blew out some on the underside of the bench while I was chiseling it out.

And of course, I had to enjoy some Wilshire in my handmade pipe. Recently re-buffed with Carnuba.

With a few holes drilled out and the planing stop added, it’s starting to look good.

One of the best secondary uses for me has been to support work when I am crosscutting on my miter saw. I simply raise the stop up and it keeps everything level while I cut.

Quick demonstration of the incredible leg vise. Love this thing. Here I am fine tuning some massive tenons for a bunk bed build.

And, ta-da! Had to rehang my Hornets penant closer to the bench, and tried to get my great-grandfathers tool chest in the photo. With beer just within reach in the fridge behind the bench, I think I’m really going to enjoy this setup. I use leftover SYP 2x’s to build the bottom shelf. Each is rabbeted to interlock together.

Titus is happy I’m done. Maybe one day I’ll get him to chill in the shop like this with me.

Workbench Build: Top attached, leg vise construction

Unfortunately, we got rained out while trying to camp this past weekend and had to head home early. Fortunately, that meant more workbench progress. My bench is considerably lighter than a full Roubo, but man is it heavy to keep moving the base between the bench top and the floor! Whew, glad that is done. First up, drilling/chiseling out the big mortises.

After a few test fits, all is well and the draw-boring begins. You’ll notice the legs aren’t perfectly flush with the top – each part will need a bit of cleanup after it’s assembled. I want to assemble it, let the wood settle down and then finalize it with the cleanup.

I’ve recently been going through The Fellowship of the Ring for the thousandth time. This rainy day of draw-boring and top assembly called for the audio version and a pipe. Notice the flashlight for seeing through the pin holes and the Kershaw Emerson CQC-5k for tapering down the pins.

Next up, the leg vise – the part I have been waiting for. Lined up the vise and mortised for the parallel guide.

Good fit!

And…everything lines up! You’ll notice a gap at the top – that is perfectly fine. The entire vise will hang about 1/4″ – 1/2″ off the ground, so it should fit snug against the top.

Next up, I finished shaping the leg vise and then clamped it up to the leg where I want it to sit. This gives me a test fit of everything before I attach the parallel guide and so that I can bore the hole in the right spot.

Next up, I wanted to embed the vise screw hardware into the leg. I have seen some put this on the outside of the leg, but I hate the look of that. It was tempting, since it was over an hour of additional work to chisel out the large taper and mortise. Here’s a shot about halfway through as I am tapering with a straight chisel.

Accidental selfie trying to take a pic of the finished work. Loving my Artifact Bags apron!

Finally ready to attach the parallel guide. Did this with a wedged tenon. You’ll notice the blowout on the bottom right – looks bad here but the wedges really filled it out and it’s tough to notice now.

Taking a final look before assembly. You can see the embedded hardware here – love that it is flush mount!

You’ll also notice I added a brand to the front. This is the same thing I use as a bookstamp, but with the Fangorn Workshop logo inside the head instead of ‘rybo’.

Ta-da! Everything is assembled and running smooth. I dropped a few drops of mineral oil on the vise screw and it made a tremendous difference. After opening and closing the jaws a few times, there was a noticeable improvement in the smoothness of the screw.

Overall, I love this thing. Hands down my favorite (and most satisfying) part of the workbench build. It is super strong and I spent a big part of the rest of the day just clamping random things…because I can.

Next up, holdfast holds, flattening the top and I will be done!

Workbench Build: Legs, part 2 – base complete

The base is complete! Last night I finished drawboring the side stretchers into the two sets of legs. A total of 8 mortises that I cut by hand – something I find really enjoyable. I cut the leg tenons and long stretcher tenons by hand, and the small stretcher tenons on the table saw. True hybrid woodworking!

I placed these mortise for these stretchers 1″ in from the outside of the leg. This makes the stretcher inset about half an inch. In retrospect, I should have just made them flush, but I was thinking I would beef them up if I add a deadman. Bad idea, I could have just added a top piece for the deadman. Ah well, live and learn.

Test-fit…not quite.

Got great use of my great-grandfather-in-law’s (!) brace and bit and auger bits. They were beasts, but need to be sharpened after all this. Which, I don’t know how to do.

Post draw-boring. You are looking at the back legs (I placed the laminated posts in the back). So far, so good on the draw-boring. I have yet to have a pin explode, but I suspect that a few pins have not made it all the way through their tenons into the other side. However, for each leg I’m fairly confident that one if not both pins have, so I feel good. All but one stretcher was draw-bored without glue (creature of habit when I did the first one).

Getting close! Next up will be flattening the bench, cutting the huge mortises, and attaching the base.

Workbench Build: Legs, part 1

The workbench continues. Finally got some great red and white oak from the Asheville mountains, and I’m ready to complete it.

First, need to notch out a spot for the parallel guide on one of the legs. I made the first cuts on the bandsaw, then chopped out the waste with a chisel.


Then the huge leg tenons that will fit into the workbench top.   


Then the mortises for the stretchers.


Which are drawbored and pinned.

And set #1 is complete! 

While working, I found this date scribbled in my great-grandfathers tool chest. 1936!

Fellow Workers

“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

1 Corinthians 3:5-9


Last year, my wife and I purchased our first house. When the next spring rolled around, we went into full landscaping mode – watching This Old House, reading magazines and making frequent trips to Lowes. All of athe sudden, flowers and shrubs were really cool – something my mom has been telling me for years. We made plans, bought plants and started working.

As summer progressed, we were dismayed. The azaleas, hosta and boxwood in the front weren’t dead, but they didn’t look great, either. We planted, we watered…but nothing grew. The soil, though rich and dark in the backyard, was nothing but red clay in the front.

As a firstborn, type-A “doer”, I very badly want “he who plants and he who waters” to be the one who is responsible for making it grow. The overwhelming feeling throughout our first year as homeowners and novice gardeners is that it is not us that makes our plants grow – try as we might. The water and labor are nothing without the right soil. The soil means nothing without the sun. The sun doesn’t shine without nuclear fusion. None of this happens without the will of the Maker.

The job of the gardener is a penultimate gift of grace. To be given the responsibility to tend to the earth is just a small glimpse of the final joy we will have in the new earth.

We are in good soil here at Uptown Church. It is not perfect soil and the growth that happens in it is not pain-free. But the soil is rich and warm and deep. The church waters us well by filling us constantly with Bible teaching and rich theology.

But the Lord makes it grow. It is not our pastor, nor our elders, nor the parents or teachers or children that are responsible for the seasonal budding and the seeds that are spread. The Lord makes it grow. May God humble us daily lest we forget.

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

– Sam Gamgee on why we do art (sort of)