My 18th Century Workbench in progress 2

Wood Forage

18/11/2013 – I finally managed to go and see Attila Hoth of Southern Wood Trading on 7/11/2013. His warehouse is outside Windhoek, close to the Dobra Church. I struggled a bit to find the place so ended up having only about 10 minutes or so with him before having to rush back to work. The plan was to take a few pictures of the setup, but that did not happen due to the rush. I explained to him what I was after and how I want to build the bench. He agreed to work out a quote for the beech wood I need.


Attila promptly sent me the quote on Monday morning and now I have to find the money before the end of the year. The plan is to buy the wood and let it sit in the woodshed for a few months while I get the space for the bench sorted in the shop. It will also take a while to save for and order the Lie-Nielsen vise hardware. By the way, I am now leaning towards using their tail vise in the end vise position (rather than a second twin-screw vise), but this might still change a few times between now and the day I need to order.

LN tail vise

I decided to use beech for this project for two main reasons. 1) The experience I gained building all those hand planes with beech this year made me realise that it is particularly stable. 2) The very light colour really helps with reflecting light, which improves visibility.

26/11/2013 – My minister of finance finally informed me today that we should be able to make the payment to Attila by the end of the week!!!

27/11/2013 – As luck would have it I saw Attila in the street close to my practice this morning and promptly found a place to park. Illegally of course. We had a quick chat about the good news I received and he agreed to square the wood up on his monstrous jointer. So hopefully the wood will arrive at home some time next week. That would conclude phase one of my biggest project yet.

Below you can see exactly what I received.

JPEGEerste hout

I had a dream that …

21/11/2013 –

… I own a plough plane. Over the past few weeks I realised that during the early stages of setting up my workshop two years ago, I unpacked what I would now recognise to be a brand new plough plane. At that stage I did not quite know what it was and decided that I would keep it until I know how it works or decide to use the array of blades for building another tool. I distinctly remember thinking this.

I think the thought of the plane once came back to me while doing all the research on planes while building my wooden planes, which is well documented elsewhere on this site. The I forgot about it again, only to have the vision of unpacking it a couple of weeks ago. This time round (with my new found knowledge of planes) immediately knew that it was a plough plane and realised how useful it could be in my shop. Then I started searching for the plane, but could not find it anywhere in the shop. I distinctly remember standing next to the green bench when I unpacked it. Then I went through all the boxes in the garage that is housing my wood at present, but could not find it there either.

Last night I found the documents where my Dad listed all the contents of all the boxes that travelled from George in South Africa when we moved into the house in Windhoek. Part of this move was lots of my Dad’s tools that he passed on to me. The plane being something I have never see as far as my memory goes and clearly from looking at it he never even took it out of it’s original box.

To my surprise I found the Plough Plane listed in a box that has not even been opened yet?????

I thought that this might be a mistake, but opened the box anyway and found one brand new original Stanley plough plane also unopened in it’s original box. How does this work?? I have no idea, but it is quite weird.

Anyway I took some pictures to show you what it looks like. It has one very nasty plastic tote which I need to replace with a nice wooden one, but otherwise in absolute perfect condition.








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)



The burnisher that got lucky

11/11/2013 – This weekend I finally managed to provide the below burnisher that came with a skinning knife I used in The Land of the Long White Cloud with a handle.


I simply drilled a hole in the handle and stuck the burnisher in there with a liberal supply of epoxy.



Next I did the same with a short piece of copper pipe to create an easy way of hanging the burnisher.


Once the epoxy was set I tidied up the protruding pipe, chamfered the sharp inside edges, …



… treated the handle with tung oil and Wooddock … and Bob’s your Uncle.


I use this burnisher predominantly to created a bur on the cutting edge of my Lie-Nielsen card scrapers.


Another scratch awl

11/11/2013 – Last week I took some of the beech left over from my plane building phase, laminated two bits and used it to turn some handles.



The idea was to turn a handle of similar design for a second scratch awl and one for a chipbreaker/capscrew screwdriver.


This is the handle that became the alternative scratch awl. I wanted an awl that is designed to make holes for accurate drilling as apposed to scratching/scribing lines at which my first shop made awl excels.



The punch I used was epoxied, tapped in and then clamped in position by the tight fitting ferrule.


I stuck the awl in the drill press to tidy up the copper with sandpaper.


After a treatment with tung oil and Wooddock it is posing with it’s brothers and sisters. These are all shop made marking tools.


My 18th Century Workbench in progress 1

Research and Dreams

8/11/2013 – A couple of weeks ago I realised that I would be able to fit my dream (proper) workbench into the shop space I already have. Until recently the idea was to only build this bench once my shop has been enlarged somewhat. Then one evening while packing a few things away before heading down to the house, I suddenly saw how the bench could fit quite easily with only a relatively minor reorganization of some power tools.

Since then my research, reading and thinking about the design of the bench sparked up again. I started re-reading the two books by Christopher Schwarz on designing and building traditional workbenches. I bought the article he wrote on building a Holtzapffel bench quite some time ago and re-read that as well..

workbench 1Y1532

This is an example of a Holtzapffel bench I found on the internet. My bench will be a version of a Holtzapffel and I particularly like the design of this one with the split top. Mine will probably have a bit of a wider gap to make it easier to get a F-style clamp through. I also plan to use a twin-screw vise as a face vise (same as the bench below) and a legvise on the opposite side in the face vise position. This is because my bench will be place so that one can work on it from all sides, rather than against a wall. I hope that my son will one day join me in the shop so the two face vises will enable us to work simultaneously and provide a wider range of options while I work by myself.

The end vise is still at a stage were I am weighing up different options. At present I am leaning towards using a smaller twin-screw vise, which could enable me to use another row of dog holes on the opposite side of the bench.


Just another example of a Holtzapffel bench. I will aim to also have a shelve low down between the stretchers, such as the bench below.


I really like the look and strength of these through mortise and tendon joinery that seems to be very commonly used on traditional Roubo benches. I am planning to use it for my bench.


The bench below show what I plan for the opposite (to the twin-screw) side of my bench to look like. A leg vise with a sliding deadman.



This afternoon I want to go and find, or more likely order, beech boards for this project. The idea is that the wood can then settle/acclimatize (in my shop) over the next 6 months or so until I have moved the power tools that needs to be moved (which will include building a few cabinets) to create the space for the bench.

As you would expect by now I plan to use only Lie-Nielsen hardware for all my vises.





leg vise

Lie-Nielsen customer service

6/11/2013 – I would like to thank everyone at Lie-Nielsen, and in particular Deneb Puchalski, Kirsten Lie-Nielsen and Jillian McCrohan for their superb customer service. It has been my consistent experience that these guys go out of their way to help poor sods like me who are stuck in woodworking-hinterland. Otherwise known as Africa, or more specifically Namibia. For customers like me they probably spend more time and effort to get my orders sorted than what would be economically profitable.

Over the past few weeks they have responded to heaps of e-mails and came up with ingenious plans to help me. They are not scared or reluctant to give me advise when I decide to try and build a tool myself to cut down on cost as you can imagine what the shipping to Namibia adds up to. When I do order some of their gold standard tools, they simply leave no stone unturned to make sure that it gets to me safely.

Due to my geographically-challenged-status, I end up having to buy everything I need via mail order and can honestly say that Lie-Nielsen has been the only company willing to deal with all the challenges of getting stuff to my Deep Dark African hideout.

So thanks a lot guys and viva Lie-Nielsen!

Ruler stop

3/11/2013 – This has been one of those ridiculously small tasks that I’ve been putting off for ages. My assembly table has a steel ruler close to it’s edge and inlayed flush with the surface. If you are interested to see how I’ve built this table you will find several chapters documenting the process in detail under the category “Bench” on this site.

Anyway the idea of having the ruler there is to speed up basic layout tasks such as marking out lengths of pieces of stock. In order to really make this easy one needs a stop at the zero end of the ruler so you can simply butt the one end against it and mark the appropriate length. In the picture below you can see what I mean.


The stop is simply a small piece of scrap Assegaai with a 6 mm hole accepting a bolt which slots into the T-channel on the side of the table’s edge, fixed with a few turns of a wing-nut. When it is necessary to remove it, it is simply flipped through 180º and it sits below the table’s surface. You will notice that the ruler was positioned so that the edge of the table is zero even though it does do run all the way to the edge.


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












File handle mania

28/10/2013 – As you might have noticed, my files recently found new accommodation. Now I want to replace their handles with shop made ones. For this task I found the Witpeer board as pictured below.


The board was a bit wavy so the first step was to chop it up into shorter bits. These were then ripped on my bandsaw into strips ideal for turning handles. I used the whole board for this purpose which would give me quite a few more handles than what I need at present, but I thought that I would just make heaps so all the handles look the same when I buy more files in future.



Before turning any handles I switched lathes as the grey one developed a wobble and is therefore now ear-taged to become a disc sander.


This is the first set of handles I turned and realised in the process that the stock is too thin to to turn such a long piece. I will turn them individually from now on.


In the pictures below you can see the process of tapping the ferrule over the end of the handle. The leading edge of the copper ferrule is chamfered in order to slide without digging into the wood which was turned to be ever so slightly bigger than the inside diameter of the ferrule. I first lubricate the wood and inside of the ferrule with epoxy, then tap the ferrule over by hitting the back of the handle with my dead-blow mallet, while the ferrule is pushed firmly against the bench hook. I wrote an entire post on how I made this and a number of other mallets. The post is titled “Mallet Mania”.

The design of the handle is my interpretation of the Lie-Nielsen handles made specifically for the Auriou rasps they sell. This design feels comfortable in the hand and gives me several different grip options while doing different filing tasks.



I hope to be able to turn the bulk of the handles this weekend and will update the post with the result of my efforts next week.

3/11/2013 – On Saturday I turned 5 more of the large handles and furnished them with ferrules.


On Sunday I decided to see how many of each size handle I actually need.


Then I took the stock that was cut for the handles and marked out the different handles to correspond to the the numbers needed of each size. For this task I used the ruler on my assembly table with the ruler stop pictured. It is as simple as butting the stock against the ruler and marking the different lengths with a pencil and square. I will write a short post on how this stop was made in the next day or so. You will find a whole series of posts on how I built the assembly table under the category “bench”.



Here are the fruits of my labor ready for the next step.


As I explained already, it became apparent that one can only turn one or at most two handles from a length of stock before it becomes wobbly. I assume this is because it is too thin. I therefore had to shorten the stock that was prepared last weekend. I took this opportunity to get plenty of hand sawing practice. As you can see, my Lie-Nielsen carcass saw and shop made mitre box came in handy.


Then came the prep work for the lathe. I used my shop made Dead-blow mallet ( and scratch awl ( together with a Lee Valley centre finder for this purpose.


In the pictures below you can see how my medium sized handle turned out. This would become the handle for the bulk of my files. In the second picture you can compare it with the large handle and in the last one with the small handle.


Then came the small handle.


After a hour or so of turning, I needed to do something else. So I seated four large files. In order to know which file to grab devised a code which goes on the heel of the handle. In the first picture you will see the halve round shape with XL inside. This means it is a halve round extra large file. The SC-S refers to it’s double cut smooth grit. The second photo shows a square shaped extra large double cut bastard grit file. Hope you get the idea.



Four extra large files, seated with the information on the heel of the handle.



Here they are after a coat of tung oil.



11/11/2013 – During the past week I continued to turn, seat ferrules, oil and seat these handles.



Here you can see how the Witpeer handles are slowly replacing the horrible plastic ones.



2/2/2014 – This weekend I made a concerted effort to finish the file handle project. In the pictures you can see the last crop being processed.