Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Know Kung Fu

Having completed my Roubo workbench, I feel like Neo in The Matrix when he wakes up in the chair after downloading skills for the first time.

My download took considerably longer, and like Neo, my skills still need honing. But it's given me the confidence to take on the challenges. I throw my head back and breathe deep, curling my fists as I gather power: bring 'em on! I got yer dovetails right here, buddy!

For me, it was an ambitious undertaking. As I had hoped, it was a great skill-builder. Where before I was intimidated by complex machine setups, now I know I can just grab my hand tools and knock the work out.

It was also a successful exercise in patience, taking months to complete. But I disciplined myself to be happy with incremental progress. I enjoyed the time I could spend on it without getting greedy for more.

The greatest feeling is the sense of accomplishment, the satisfaction of knowing it was me, my skills doing all the work, not my machines. Now I feel like a real woodworker. I have a real workbench!

My only regret is that I spent 36 years being a wannabe power tool woodworker. Yes, 36 years! Starting with 8th grade shop class, where we had table saws and power jointers and planers. These were all hopelessly unobtainable for a teenager with little money. Think of all that time I could have been doing stuff if I had instead focused on hand tools. What a missed opportunity.

And now I'm that most tedious of boors, the instant Expert. You got questions? I got opinions. I'm qualified. I've completed one major project!

So I'll bask in the glow of self-satisfaction while I plot my next one. My wife keeps threatening to buy a side table for the loveseat in the living room. I've been telling her for years I can make one. That rediscovered Stickley...

The other thing that's been rolling around in my head is tool storage. I have one plan for the workshop so they'll be immediately accessible by my bench. But I also want to go portable with them. I've been trying out some till layouts for a chest.

Everything I need to go from rough-sawn boards to final furniture with fine joinery. You can see the major tool groups laid out for their stacking tills, clockwise from upper right: planes; boring and rasping; bits and shaves; chisels; saws and molding planes. Measuring and marking items spread around for the moment.

Some miscellaneous things aren't shown, like mallet and hammer. Coping and turning saw. And sharpening supplies. And work-holding devices. Hmmm, will I be able to lift this thing? Maybe I'll need two chests, stackable. 

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  1. Congradulation on your bench! Does it ever feel good to have a good workbench! Nice tools colection! As for the tools storage, what about two cabinets, like wall cabinets, but that would sit atop of shop bents. You could move them easily, they would show every tools when open and would be at the right hight to grab tools without bending over all the time! Just a thought!
    Realy enjoyed the pictorial of the bench build!

  2. Thanks! Regarding storage, you're actually pretty close to what I was thinking.

    For the shop, I built a rolling cart with shelves, originally to hold small power tools and Shopsmith attachments. I'm planning to convert that to hold the pictured tools.

    For portable, I should think about cabinet style vs. chest. I like the shop bents idea. I have one I copied from Krenov's photos two years ago that actually knocks down flat, since I never glued it. Maybe do a few more of those, formalizing the knock down aspect a bit.

    Leaving them in the portable carrier does have the significant advantage of not having to load and unload every time I move them in and out of the shop.

    At this point I've worked out a usable relative positioning of workbench, sawbench, and tools, so I know where I would place the bents.

  3. You have every reason to bask and boast Steve. Yours is a very fine bench. Yet, enough already; get busy on that side table. :)

    Be careful about portable storage. You could end up building a something Tom Fidgen calls a "widow maker." If you can be very selective about what you take on the road, Tom's smaller toolbox, which includes some built-in workholding might be handy.


  4. Wow, yours is a well equipped shop! And one day, I'd love to build a workbench just like yours, that is really a great piece of work

    Thank you for the hint to the ECE booklet - it is really quite informative, and I didn't know it before.

    I'd advise you to build something for the wife as a next project, just to legitimate the time in the shop. At least that is what I would do :)

  5. Yeah, I have Tom's book, and I'm very cognizant of the widow maker issue! I like his small toolbox, but I'll kick myself if I'm ever somewhere thinking I should have brought that one other tool.

    That's why I'm leaning toward some kind of modular unit, so I can handle them one at a time. If I have to make 3 trips out to the van in order to have everything on hand, that's a small price to pay.

    I'll be starting on the side table this weekend. I've had some nice quartersawn oak in the basement for a year.

  6. Steve, I am right there with you. Having a completed my Roubo I felt there was nothing I couldn't do. Truly this bench allows you to do anything with it's infinite work holding ability. I have 2 furniture projects under my belt after finishing the bench and it has changed the way I work!


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