Roubo sharpening bench – part 3


It feels a bit like deja vu doing the massive joinery for this bench, as it was exactly what I was doing this time last year. It is however excellent practice in preparation for building furniture. I realise that my skills have improved significantly since the previous round of doing this. Also, the bench I built last year, improves the quality and speed of my work this year by providing so many work holding options.

Here you can see the setup I used to tidy up the tenon faces. I used my Stanley no. 10 Rabbet plane and a Bedrock no. 606 for this purpose.


A before and after photo.


Next up was to saw away a part of the apron tenon to create a notch (I think this is the correct term). The reason for this design is to act as an anti-twisting device and not to weaken the leg tenons.


The short stretchers received the same treatment, but obviously with a different design.


I then tidied up the shoulders by means of horizontal pairing.


Again, it should be quite obvious how useful the array of holdfast holes around my chopping area are for all kinds of joinery related tasks. Here I am in the process of chopping away the wastes between the two massive through tenons at the top of the legs. The second picture show another handy (albeit unintended) feature of my bench design. My squares and 1″ chisel (as well as saw in an earlier picture) sit comfortably and handy in the slot between the bench top and the sliding tool trays.


Dual tenons done.


Stanley no. 66 beadingtool rehab


This is a pre-1900 Stanley no. 66 beader that I bought from Patrick Leach. If you consult the appropriate chapter of his epic work entitled “Patricks Blood and Gore”, you will find that pre-1900 beaders were japanned and later models were nickel plated. I got it bead-blasted to remove all the old japanning before redoing it with my usual sequence of potions. I wrote extensively about this in previous posts concerned with this topic so I will not repeat all that here. The Jack plane in the background is a so called Shaw’s Patent by Sargent, which I am also working on at the moment. I will write a post on that process in due coarse.


I bought a set of beading tool blades from Lie-Nielsen some time ago and they fit this Granddad perfectly. For US$ 45 and a bit of elbow grease I have a new and highly respected classic tool. Those of you who (undoubtedly) thinking to yourself well I can buy one of those for $5 at a garage sale, shame on you. This is just another example of how lucky you are. To me here in the sticks, this is a very cheap option and it does not even include the arm and a leg it cost me to get it here from the US.


In the pictures below you can see where it found a home on my so called Hovering Skeleton Chest.


My journey 6


In this instalment of “My journey” I would like to discuss the next frontier that is looming in the distance. As most of you probably know by now, I have spent almost all my shop time over the past 4 years building shop structures, building jigs, building tools and restoring vintage tools. It is starting to dawn on me that I need to move on to building furniture as the lion’s share of the setting up phase should be completed by the end of the year.

Last week I found a link to an excellent document that a reader posted in a comment on the Lost Art Press blog. It seems to be an inventory for an antiques auction that took place in March of this year. It consists of page after page of some of the most beautiful and timeless pieces of furniture I have ever seen. There are more than a few examples of pieces designed by heavyweights such as Klaare Klint, Arne Jacobson, and Peder Moos.


It got me thinking that I should probably start building lose interpretations of these, while continuing to grapple with the ancient guidelines on preindustrial design as documented in the seminal work By Hand & Eye. This is a book by George R. Walker and Jim Tolpin. It is available from Lost Art Press. I thought this could be a hands-on way to develop a feel for shape and proportion. Once I feel comfortable with building such interpretations, it should be a natural progression towards more personal designs.

If one decides to be influenced/inspired by a particular style it should probably be one you really like. The same goes for designers, it is probably best to follow the lead of a legend who’s work has stood the test of time. I really like the timeless (to me anyway) look of early to mid-century Nordic furniture. It therefore makes sense to build some of these before launching into the full-blown je ne sais quoi (in other words my own) phase of design.

It is of course also true that very few people come up with truly unique designs, we are all influenced (whether consciously or subconsciously) by stuff we observe. We are all standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before. That gives us an opportunity to see where we can go next. Our designs are therefore literally grounded in history whether we like it or not.

Thus, my idea is to consciously ground myself in a style I admire, before trying to envision the next frontier.

PS – Please feel free to point me towards similar documents or websites that deals with the same style. It will be much appreciated.


Roubo sharpening bench – part 2


I would like to apologise for my silence over the past week. Due to a lack of shop time I had nothing to report.

You might have noticed one of the comments on the first part of this series, but if not Carsten from Germany commented  as follows: ”

this wood is without doubt what the english call “scotts pine” and what we just call “Kiefer”; being “Pinus sylvestris”.
The sapwood sometimes gets blue streaks, as one cross-section shows; this does not mean any mechanical weakness, it’s just cosmetics. OK, it is a fungus, but it does no harm at all.

You where lucky to get wood of this quality; all the engines, parts and fittings we get here on the shipyard are packed in crates of spruce with cm-wide growthrings.

I love the smell of this pine, especially as you cut a knot…

I am very grateful for his contribution as it makes the whole project more meaningful. It was really good to get confirmation that I am dealing with quality wood that would otherwise be impossible for me to access. If you are interested in reading more about this species click this link.

In the picture below you can see how well my leg vice and sliding-deadman-cum-leg-vise function together to allow hand planing of the edge of these long stretchers. The second picture show my version of a crochet. It is minute, removable, moveable and does pretty much the same job as the more elaborate versions being bandied around.


I simply cannot get over the beauty of the grain on these boards. I have never been much of a pine fan, but this is superb wood that is a joy to work with. Carsten was also spot on in terms of it’s smell, it is exquisite. You can appreciate how it looked like after the planer took care of the non-reference surfaces. You might remember that I hand planed the reference surfaces.


In winter I have the privilege to work in this wonderful cosy late afternoon sun. In summer this same sun will kill you on sight. Here I started marking out the tenons of the aprons and short stretchers.


My whole Sunday was spent hand sawing the tenons. My Lie-Nielsen tenon saw does not have enough blade under the back, which meant a lot of extra work. Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works recently built me a monster Roubo Beast Master for this type of job, but I will only take possession in two weeks time. Watch this space for a post on my experience in dealing with Mark. I just want to test the saw a bit too, but so far I can only say good things with regards to his professionalism and personal attention to customers.


Here you can see the setup I use for cutting the shoulders.


This step was necessitated by the tenon saw blade being to short. I want to point out that my Lie-Nielsen tenon saw is a fine tool, it is simply a case of not being designed for these gargantuan tenons. It is more in the timber framing ballpark.




Roubo Sharpening bench – part 1


I’ve been planning to build a small sharpening station in order to make it easier to keep all my edge tools in top nick. At the moment I have to dig out the sharpening paraphernalia, set it up, sharpen what ever needs attention and pack it all away. This has the side effect of postponing one of the most important tasks of a hand tool woodworker.

Since stumbling across a very nice stash of wood I’ve realised that I could fit a 3.2 meter (length) by 600 mm (width) bench up against one wall of my shop. The dimensions of the wood would also allow for such a bench. The idea is that I might as well build a big bench and it could double up as a stand for my drill press, bench grinder, the green monster and a dedicated sharpening station.

I enjoyed using the Roubo joinery for my current workbench so much that it was an obvious choice for this bench.


As this is reclaimed wood, my team of keen apprentices had to do quite a bit of cleaning before we could removed all the nails carefully.


Once that was done, I used one of my favourite tools to chop up these beautiful beams for the legs, aprons, and stretchers. It is of course my 24″ Disston no. 12 (7ppi crosscut) saw that dates back to 1896. It is an absolute gem of a tool. It is mind boggling how a tool of this quality could have been mass produced. The pictures (above and below) also show how useful a set of saw benches can be in conjunction with holdfasts for this type of work.


This is definitely the best pine I have ever worked with. Can anyone out there identify the species from these photos, I have no idea?


I then removed wind and squared up two reference faces before feeding the legs to the electric planer. My shop made fore plane and scrub plane (which was used as a super aggressive fore plane in this case) made short work of this job. I must say it was a pleasant surprise to realise how easy it can be to plane wood like this after years of planing African hard woods. I am starting to realise that I have been a “metal” worker up until now, if this is how it feels to work wood.



This is what the legs looked like just before it went through the planer.


After the planer munched on it, it looked like this. You can see how I marked out the famous Roubo through tenons. In the process of sawing these I discovered a very handy design advantage of my sliding deadman. The pictures show how the leg sat comfortably and stable at the correct angle for the sawing between two dogs.


The next step was to drill out material as illustrated with a spade bit. The rest was removed with my shop made bow saw in order to free up the waste between the tenons. The shoulders were sawn using the setup as shown.



I had to fetch another beam for the stretchers and my Cruiser was at the garage. The only option was to use the small delivery car of my practice. Luckily it is only a few blocks away. As you can see, I used my newly built Roubo bow saw to chop off the length that was required. I ripped this piece down the middle (on the band saw) to created the two long stretchers. In order to plane them I had to use the whole length of my bench, which necessitated an improvised planing stop. The pictures tells the story.



Shop made Fidgenian frame saw – part 3


I had the pleasure of finishing this Tom Fidgen inspired frame saw over the weekend. If you missed the first two posts in this series, click these links:

Part 1

Part 2

I treated the Kershout with Tung Oil followed by a coat of Woodoc.



One last foto pre-assembly.




My righthand man Connor (my son’s best mate) had the honour of first handling the assembled saw. As you can see it came out pretty nice.  Kershout is really one of the most beautiful wood species from this part of the world.




Unfortunately, I have not been able to weigh it yet, but will post the weight as soon as I have it.  However it felt reasonable during a test cut, but I will have to report on how it feels after a few heavy re-sawing cuts. Before I can do that I need to build a kerfing plane. I have an idea which departs significantly from Tom Fidgen’s model, but you will have to wait with me to see if it works, otherwise we will revert to his version.