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Project inventory 2016


It is that time of year once again, to take stock of what happened in the Je ne sais quoi Woodworking shop during the past 11 months. As usual I will add links to the posts I wrote on all the projects in this annual inventory.

I started off 2016 with small projects to improve the shop and built a few key tools that would come in handy later in the year. This mitre box and saw did not need much rehabilitation, but did suck up a few hours to set up and tune. My good friend Bob Demers guided me through the process of tuning the saw for the mitre box and wrote an epic treatise on the topic. It is as easy as Falling out of a tree, if you know the principles.

Accurate sawing off the grid


After using my new bench for almost a year by January 2016, I made a few small adjustments. So far the bench is working exactly as I hoped and I am using 95% of the design features. Therefore it seems that the bench fits well with my particular way of working.

Upgrades to my split top Roubo bench


I already knew that a reamer and tenon cutter would be needed later in the year so I got stuck into it early on.


This set of trammel points were joined in holy matrimony.


A Swedish side axe head received a handle and sheath.


The most important project of the year actually started in 2015 already and will clearly extend into 2017. It is a table for friends of ours. In January I put pen to paper for the first time in terms of formalising the design that evolved during countless hours of reverie since about mid 2015. I applied some of the basic principles employed by artisans from the pre-industrialisation period in terms of ratios and proportion. The design was otherwise inspired by the work of George Nakashima and Japanese joinery in general. I chose this genre as it compliments the the wild nature of the wood I have in my collection. After nutting out the key proportions of the design on paper, I tested the concept design by building a small prototype. This process led to further tweaks to the design, the most drastic of which was a redesign of one of the two legs. I came up with a so called Windsor Leg design.

You can read the series of posts on this project here.


A saw vise has been on the list of things to buy for a few years by early January 2016. In the process of discussing options with Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works he advised me to build my own rather than look for a vintage model. He also pointed me towards a design by Jason Thigpen, which became the inspiration for my version.

The Fountainhead


This year I was also very fortunate to be able to work with my father while he visited briefly. We worked on a bed for my daughter.


Aoife’s bed is also based on Japanese design and joinery. The main structure was made out of reclaimed Scots Pine and the headboard from Without (Cape Holly or Ilex mitis). This was the first project where I used dovetail keys to stabilise cracks in a feral board.

Aoife’s bed


I finally got round to building a sector. I made it from scrap Olienhout that has a lot of history behind it.

Olienhout sector from the Groot Marico


In May we spent a week on the island of Kho Samui in Thailand. While there we did a cooking class with a wonderful lady by the name of Ying. She inspired a few unplanned projects.

A tribute to Ying

Coconut shell lights


The other major project of 2016 is the table for the shebeen. I am in the process of using a massive slice of Rose Gum for a table top furnished with a heavy reclaimed Scots Pine undercarriage. A few readers have commented on the robustness of this table. The reason for this is that when the brave warriors of this fair land descend on a humble shebeen, they do not tend to take any prisoners. That is why you hardly ever find any furniture in a hundred meter radius from a shebeen. To survive in such a harsh habitat, a table needs to be overbuilt to the extreme.

A table for a shebeen


A wonderful 2016 addition to the Je ne sais quoi team came in the form of Cape Town based woodworker Frank Bartlett. Frank started writing on a few of his legendary projects and it has been very well received. I want to thank Frank for his contribution and hope to continue working together for many years. Our aim in this regard is to create a a space where woodworkers from Africa can publish posts and hopefully become a hotspot for networking. In short, we want to put African woodworkers on the map.

We might have a new cadre in the form of another talented Capetonian by the name of Werner Schneeberger in the very near future. I am privileged to have seen some of his work already so can attest to the quality. Werner we look forward to your contributions in 2017 brother.

Cape yellow wood chest

African Rosewood workbench

Mitre box and saw restoration

Toolkis24 (1)Toolkis27Toolkis28Toolkis30Roubo27 (1)Roubo25Stanley 246 15 (1)

The absolute highlight of 2016 was when Je ne sais quoi Woodworking were chosen as one of the five most nominated hand tool orientated blog sites by the Woodworkers Guild of America. It was a huge honour and I would like to thank all our readers who went through the trouble of nominating and voting for us. It realy helps to know that there are people out there who support JNSQ Woodworking.

Tour de shop and project inventory 2015


Once again, as per usual, it is time to review what happened this year at Je ne sais quoi Woodworking. It has been without a shadow of doubt the most exciting year since starting on this journey in March 2013. The most encouraging aspect was the increase in exposure of the website. Until February 2015 I had no clue whether anyone out there has ever even seen the website.

In February I saw a comment by Siavosh Bahrami on Joshua Klein’s website were he invited woodworking bloggers to contact him if they wanted to be included on his aggregator I wrote to him and he was most helpful in adding Je ne sais quoi Woodworking straight away. It had an immediate effect on the site’s exposure. I want to thank Siavosh sincerely for the gesture.

Another major bonus of my inclusion was that all of a sudden I found heaps of other blog sites that I did not know of before. In particular, I became good friends with Jonathan White at I really value his thoughts as we have discussed various topics via e-mail since becoming acquainted. Thank you Jonathan, it is a real pleasure to correspond with such a passionate and precise woodworker.

I also met Brian Eve of Toolerable. He seems to be one of the woodworking blogosphere’s glitterati  who knows just about every noteworthy blogger. I was humbled by his gesture to include my site in his Blog list, but he did give me a lot of grief over my choice of string for a bow saw and shop carpet! 🙂 Thank you Brian.

Another new woodworking friend I would like to mention is Robert (Bob) Demers of The Valley Woodworker. He is a real legend in terms of his knowledge of hand tools and allround demeanour. I really appreciate the regular correspondence we’ve had over the past year. Bob and his wife Heather is currently going through a very tough time with her illness and treatment so I would urge everyone who is part of this wonderful online community to show them support. Thank you Bob!

At some point I also wrote to Leif Hanson at Norse Woodsmith. He runs the other major woodworking blog aggregator on his site. Again I was in luck as Leif was so kind as to add Je ne sais quoi woodworking to the aggregator. It led to even more exposure and I would like to thank him immensely for that. Thank you Leif!

Tour de Shop at the end of 2015

The area in front of the shop did not change much, apart from the decking timber added to the sliding gate for more privacy.


This part of the shop did not change at all, but it is clear from the amount of stuff one the assembly table that I am juggling too many projects at present.


It has been the first year of working on my shop built bench and it is a real pleasure.


The bench against the far wall was also built this year.


As you can see here my collection of kids art grew significantly over the past year.


No changes here either.


Project inventory 2015

I started on this chopping board at the end of 2014 and it was probably the first project that got finished in 2015.


My first real workbench was already assembled by the end of 2014, but received all of it’s armoury in the first few months of 2015.


Who can forget the inauguration party of the bench.


An important step in my slow journey towards a hand tool dominant approach was to build two excellent saw benches.

Part 0ne

Part two

Part three


At Je ne sais quoi Woodworking it was the Year of the Saw. This is a 700 mm blade from Dieter Schmidt in an Assegaai bowsaw based on a L’ art du menusier plate.


Based on the amount of hits, these holdfast boots I made was definitely my most popular idea/post of the year.


Speaking of woodworking fame, the series of posts I wrote on building this frame saw earned me an honourable mention by one of my personal icons. Tom Fidgen is one of the leading hand tool woodworkers around the globe. He posted a link to my posts on his site and I want to thank him sincerely for that.


Part one

Part two

Part three


Reconditioned this pre-1900 Stanley no. 66 Beadingtool.


Reconditioned this Shaw’s Patent Jack plane from Sargent.


Unexpectedly, building another bench ended up being the major project of 2015. I just had to utilise the unbelievable Scotts Pine (Pinus sylvestris) timber I came across by sheer luck.


Seeing that I am a huge David Charlesworth fan, I just had to find and restore a Bailey no. 5½ Jack plane.


A rolling pin for the beach house.


Restored this exceptional type 8 Bailey no. 8 Jointer.


Built this 12″ bow saw (Please note the string that earned me so much abuse from Brian Eve).


Hovering skeleton tool chest.


Japanese toolbox inspired knife and fork carrier.

Part one

Part two

Part three


Boorish pencil sharpener


Seeing that the concrete floor in my shop can be harmful to any tool that gets drop, I decided to use this old carpet as a temporary solution. It is hideous, I know.


Finally, I want to thank everyone who drops in from time to time to read what I am up to. It is much appreciated and I hope that you will come across stuff that will inspire new ideas for your own journey.

Didi’s Projects


My son Didi (short for Didier) is slowly starting to develop an interest in what is going on in the shop. I thought I should start documenting his progress. Here you can see him building a wild bird feeder.



He did the bulk of the work to glue-up and turn his first tool in the form of this beautiful Witpeer mallet.






Project inventory 2012

The major project of 2012 was the assembly table I built, which was also intended to act as a makeshift workbench until I manage to gather a bit more information and skills to build a dedicated one.


I invented and made these benchdogs which works like a charm. I include a photo of how I used it this past weekend while working diagonally across a heavy beam of Witpeer with my shop made scrub plane. They are known in my shop as Bench Bitches.


One Effulgent Arm.


Saw Hook


Chopping board for the beach house


Sushi plates


Knife rack for the beach house


Sun oven for the beach house



Dowel plate



Spice rack for the beach house




Tour de Shop and project inventory 2013

11/11/2013 – Just before I finally left my shop on Sunday evening, I took some photos of how it looks at the end of 2013. Hopefully this type of post will help me to see at some point in future that I am actually making progress. Since the shop tour photos of 2011, things changed quite a bit.

This first photo shows what is currently on my bench. At the back on the right hand side is the shooting plane I am working on. So far (excluding the shooting plane) I have managed to build 7 wooden planes during 2013. They are a Petite Smoother, a Jack Plane, a Fore Plane, a Jointer, a Scrub Plane, a Shoulder Plane and a Flush Plane. Here is a link to a gallery of photos of these planes I also wrote a post on how I built each of these which you will find under the category “Handtools”.

In the front left, you can see the Witpeer stock ready to become file handles. Behind that is an area set up to treat the handles with tung oil and Wooddock as they are turned. I am about half way with this project.


My main tool cabinet (by lack of a better word) has experienced several changes this year. Some tools were added (most notably the Proletarian sanding contrivances), some were moved (ie the files and chisels) and some moved to the opposite side of the bench (ie the planes and drill bits). I finally arranged easy access for all my small Bessey F-style clamps (last picture), which has made a huge difference to my efficiency. You can read more about this in the following post


As I said my planes moved across the bench to were I do most of my hand planing.



This is the area that I want to target next year. The bandsaw needs to move around the corner towards the left, while being lined up (height-wise) with the radial arm saw and the planer. This will created the space for my proper beech Holtzapffel bench, which will be my number one priority to build in 2014. The drill press might also move a bit to the right were the Kershout boards are standing up against the wall.


It is in this channel where I plan to line up the three mentioned power tools.


The green bench in the corner will move down to the shed where my wood will be store by next year. If you want to read more about that project see this post

My idea is to set up a rough lumber processing plant (probably a bit too dramatic of a description but anyway) down there in the shed. Then I will be able to cope with the tools and setup in this shop in terms of milling, shaping and cutting the tamer wood from the mentioned plant. Watch this space.




The future wood storage and rough processing shed.


These are makeshift wood storing hooks hanging from the rafters. I use this to get wood acclimatized to the shop, while trying to get a better arrangement in place, which is part of the project mentioned above. These hooks will hopefully disappear once the majority of my wood is in the shed, which will enable me to acclimatize wood in the garage that is currently housing the wood.



I thought it would also be a good idea to list the projects that I have managed to complete in 2013, while it is still relatively fresh in my mind.

The Legvise was finished in 2013 although I already started on it towards the end of 2012.


The sliding deadman.




A set of six sanding planes (three short and three long) each with a different grit sandpaper


The following planes:

Scrub Plane (


Petite Smoother (


Jack Plane, Fore Plane and Jointer


Shoulder Plane (


Flush Plane (



A set of marking tools



I rehabilitated my father’s old Stanley Bailey no.4 and no.5 handplanes and replaced their blades with brand new Lie-Nielsen blades.

IMG_6814 BeforeIMG_6883 After

100_1202 Before

IMG_6881 After

A Sealskin strop (by the way this is by far the most read post on this site, on 12 November 2013 it reached 1000 hits)


Five wooden mallets


Plane hammer


Tuned my bandsaw and built a bandsaw mitre-sled


Heaps of file handles (I will probably not finish this project before the end of 2013)



Glue roller



Drill bit shelve


Sandpaper storage cabinet



Card scraper holder



Plane stops of different lengths and four bench hooks



Three similar jigs for routing dados, each for a different diameter dado bit



Not sure what this thing is called but it stops your vise from racking.


Sharpening jig based on a design by Deneb Puchalski (see the Lie-Nielsen site for a pdf version of his jig)


A set of shop made trisquares.


Rehabilitation of this egg beater drill.


Capscrew/Chipbreaker/Deadman screwdriver


Spice rack



Wooden plates for braaivleis!!



Whoa-oa-oa! I feel good, I knew that I would, now
I feel good, I knew that I would, now
So good, so good, I got you (James Brown)



Shop art

1/11/2013 – In order to establish a creative environment in my shop, I decorate the walls with my children’s art. This post shows some of the their art that is already inspiring me. From Didier’s art it should be quite obvious that we live in Africa. My daughter is going through quite an abstract phase.


Didier Jan Marx


















Aoife Isi Marx












Shop made wooden plane show-off

14/10/2013 – I wanted to show off the wooden planes I’ve built so far. While drinking a glass of Sauvignon Blanc I took heaps of photos on the Rhodesian Teak tree truck that acts as our bar top. Please note that all these planes apart from the Flush Plane are powered by exquisite Lie-Nielsen blades.

First a few family photos.


Petite Smoother bedded at 50º



Idiosyncratic Scrub Plane bedded at 45º



Jack Plane bedded at 50º and around 17″ in length



Fore Plane bedded at 50º and around 24″ in length


 Jointer bedded at 50º and 31″ in length



Shoulder Plane bevel-up blade bedded at 20º




Flush Plane




Tour de Shop 2011

I thought I should do a post from time to time showing photos of how my shop change over time. Sometimes this helps to remind you that you are actually making progress, when you look at photos of how the place looked like a year or two ago.

For this first edition of “Tour de Shop” I chose photos from the very first few months in this current shop, dating back to late 2011. At that stage we only just moved into the new house and my father arrived with a truckload of our stuff that was in storage in South Africa since 2002, while we were living in New Zealand. This shipment included all the tools (hand and power) that he passed on to me, and 17 cubic meters of Knysna Forest hardwoods that was dried naturally over a period of between 7 and 11 years. We bought the wood in batches between 2000 and 2004.

In the picture below you can see my initial makeshift workbench. It comprised three sawhorses with a sheat of plywood lodged on top. You can find an entire post on these sawhorse under the title “Darwinian Sawhorses”. To the right of the workbench you will see some makeshift tool storage. I refashioned the crates my Dad built to transport the tools safely into basic storage structures. It works well as everything is handy, but the only downside is that it gets quite dusty being completely open. The shelves on the left I found in another garage on the property and moved it. It is those made up of metal bars fixed vertically to the wall with adjustable horisontal arms on which the shelves rests. Over time this became the main storage for screws, bolts and all the other hardware.


In the two pictures below you get a good example of my crate-converting-activities. My Father built this particular one to house the lathe during it’s odyssey from Outeniqualand to the Land of the Brave. I converted it into a cupboard that became the abode of all my finishing products.


A quick reminder of the infancy stage of my assembly table. You can find a catholic five chapter opus on this project under the title “Alternative workbench/assembly table”, if you are intersted.


The brackets that fixed my lathe to the wall were the first objects I have ever welded.


Here you can see one of the first steps towards building up a comprehensive supply of fasteners and others hardware/supplies to prevent the problem of having to drive to the hardware store each time you need something. This is my old fashioned steel wood screws in almost all the sizes I might ever need.


Phase two of the above, concerned bolts (standard and countersink heads), nuts (standard and lock), washers in heaps of different lengths but predominantly 6, 8 and 10 mm diameter.


This was the first proper power tool I bought (ever actually), a Festool TS 55 circular saw with the table that is designed to also accept their router, etc etc. On the shelves to the right you can see the music system which I bought secondhand in New Zealand. I listen mostly to old vinyl  records, which I collect. Since discovering woodworking podcasts they also feature as part of my auditory diet. The green bench in the back corner used to be my father’s workbench. We will have a close-up look later in this post.


The drill press I simply stuck on top of the crate it traveled in. One day I will build a better cupboard with storage for all the drill bits as currently I am doing a lot of walking to fetch them.


The picture below was actually taken more recently, but I wanted to show you the red steel cupboard. My father bought this form his work when they got rid of such stuff and kept it disassembled in storage for many years. In 2000 I assembled it and painted it red. I used it for 2 years in the first shop I ever had and now it is doing duty in my current shop too. You can see how I pop-riveted scrap chipboard strips to the front of some of the shelves in order to contain smaller pieces of wood and steel. I sort off-cuts of wood in different sizes in the top three shelves and metal in the bottom three.


The green cupboard is another survivor from many arduous years in my Dad’s workshop. I do not actually know it’s history (will ask the man and update the post), but it looks like it is a recycled kitchen cabinet (from the 70’s as per fashion trends) and I painted it green in 2000. On the doors above the work surface you have the added benefit of appreciating my 4 year old daughter’s art.


This became my metal working area. The green (not my doing, incase you think I am a Greenie) steel structure with the steel vise was created by my father many years ago. On the crate/cupboard next to it, I have hung the bits and pieces of metal working tools I have. In the mentioned cupboard you might notice the red welding machine (not quite sure what it is called to be honest). I bought this one and am trying to teach myself this skill. The massive black pipe on the right is a chimney I fashioned for a Pizza wood oven we built immediately outside our kitchen.


These shelves were already in the garage when we bought the property, which was an monumental gift.


Below you can see just another example of how I converted the crates into storage by adding shelves. In this case some tools hang on it’s side, the top shelve house painting paraphernalia, the next one down, all the sanding bits and pieces (including the two old Stanley planes pre-rehabilitation) and further down quite a few Stinkhout legs (from my father’s collection).


Finally, the green bench which served the previous generation of Marx cabinetmakers for innumerable years. I stuck it in this corner, close to the lathe and drill press. On the wall you can see the “Darwinian Sawhorse” I wrote a whole post on under the same title.