Category Archives: Shop tour

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.

Tour de Shop and project inventory 2014


My last proper weekend in the shop for 2014 has now come and gone. It is therefore now time to start reviewing what I have managed to accomplish during this year and to take a quick look around the shop.

It all started with the rehabilitation of the two planes I happened to buy at an antiques sale in RSA over the December holidays. The Bedrock no. 606 has become one of my go-to tools.



I also bought this no.78 Rabbet plane from Stanley at the same auction, but it’s rehab took quite some time as it had several parts missing.



This was the last of my holiday shopping, a no. 45 Plough Plane from Stanley. It was covered with a thick black paint, and had no iron/s. I decided to tidy it up for shop decoration purposes.



I managed to finish turning all those file handles that I started with at the end of 2013.



My major project for 2014 started on the 1st of February and is not finished by quite some way. I spent at least 80% of my shop time this year working on my 18th century workbench and am pleased to say that it is at least assembled by the end of 2014. You can read all about it in a series of posts entitled “My 18th Century Workbench in progress”

IMG_9580IMG_9581photo 3photo 4


My 17 m³ wood finally completed it’s journey when it took occupation of it’s purpose built shed.


These exquisite chisels from Lie-Nielsen arrived after a wait of several months. I made this very basic storage to keep them out of harm’s way.



Didi (my son) started his woodworking journey by turning this mallet for himself.



I used an antique brace bit from my father’s collection that had key parts of it’s business end missing to fashion this birdcage awl. It is a real winner.


Didi’s next project was this bird feeder.


I revamped and sharpened this old scissor.


This shop high stool saw a bit too much action during the 14 years since I first made it. I re-upholstered it with leather and strengthened the base, while (clearly) not worrying too much about je ne sais quoi.


Didi learnt a few more skills by producing this beautiful Assegaai handle for an old axe we had lying around.


This Miller’s Falls no. 88 joiner gauge was successfully rehabilitated.


The wife and I managed to make a team effort of the re-upholstering of “die rooi bank”.


In order to hand plane the two edges of my benches top parallel, I had to first build this large panel gauge.


In order to create the space for my 18th century bench, I had to rearrange  some of the power tools. This planer and radial arm saw were placed on the same steel table and lined up to become each other’s out-feed table.


A set of winding sticks.


My favourite shop made wooden plane received some cosmetic surgery. I added a thin strip of Tamboti to it’s chipbreaker/lever cap and covered the lever cap screw with Kaapse Swarthout. This is a true workhorse as it makes short work of all scrub plane and very aggressive fore plane tasks.


My own version of a Melencolia Square.


Custom made leather apron.


Restored a Stanley no. 10 Rabbet plane (ca 1900) and a Bedrock no. 607 Jointer.


Replaced my ½” Lie-Nielsen mortice chisel handle with a shop made Ysterhout version. So far it is standing up to heavy abuse without breaking a sweat.



A custom made pairing handle for my bevel edge chisels.



Finally got round to making an Ysterhout straight edge.


Restored this Stanley no. 203 bench clamp.



Restored this Stanley no. 9½ block plane.½-block-plane-rehab/


I started restoring this Stanley no. 8 Jointer (ca 1896), but there is a lot more work to do next year. I will replace both tote and knob.



Tour de Shop at the end of 2014

This is simply a series of photos documenting the state of the shop at the end of 2014. The major change from last year has been the addition of the assembled (though not finished yet) 18th century style workbench. I also managed to collect quite a few new hand tools with the help of Patrick Leach and Jim Bode. As I am writing this my first shipment from Jim has not arrived yet despite leaving the States on the 12th of October. My guess is I will never see those tools or money again. Just one of the joys of living in Africa.

(9/1/2015 – I am very happy to report that the shipment arrived in Namibia on the 6th of Jan 2015 without as much as a scratch. I will write a post on this saga in the near future)


Level playing field


On Sunday I finally made the effort to set up my radial arm saw and my planer (both DeWalt but from different eras) on the red steel table (first photo). About eight weeks ago I took the radial arm saw off it’s custom steel table and bought a new cross cut blade for it. I decided to move it to the red steel table to create more space for my new 18th century workbench that I am in the process of building. It used to reside next to the red steel rack that house all my offcuts (second photo).


In order for these two power tools to be functioning next to each other I had to get them on the same plane. That meant that I had to lift the planer.


Here you can see how the radial arm saw now acts as an out-feed table for the planer and vice versa. It took ages, fiddling around with different strips of wood to line the two surfaces up perfectly.


I also flipped the old chip board over that did duty as the radial arm saw table and made a new fence. Once I managed to set the saw up perfectly square in the two important dimensions, I cut a new zero clearance groove through the fence.


… and finally I cleaned the track in which the saw runs, which had heaps of antediluvian grease- sawdust-crap obstructing the saw’s path. A fresh serving of grease got it back to it’s former self.


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












Flesh and blood in the shop

I thought it would be a good idea to start collecting photos of the various family and friends who spends time with me in the workshop over the years. Seeing that the workshop is my haven where I spend most of my leisure time, I like sharing it with the family every so often. I enjoy getting the younger generation interested in the challenges and adventures of the creative process, so most of what you will see are the kids being introduced to the shop.

Another aspect that seems important to me is to get the (let’s call them) experienced bunch in the shop to get the flow of knowledge from one generation to the next going. Here I am for example working with my father-in-law.


My mother likes to hang around chatting about all kinds of stuff while I toil away at some project.


My daughter sometimes use my assembly table to practice for one day at Uni when she might feel the need to dance on the bar or tables, hopefully completely dressed throughout. Her mother seems to encourage this particular activity.


My son Didi and his mate Connor are serial knife smiths. They convert every freaking stick they pick up into a knife. Here you can see him sharpening another deadly wooden dagger.



Sometimes he likes posing with new jigs …


… and other times working half naked, although I have to say in his defense that it gets seriously hot around these parts. In the pictures below he is working on a bird feeder.



The wife on the other hand usually keeps her clothes on, but tends join me for a chat while she savors a glass of wine.


Aoife has helped me to plane a few boards.


I try to get them used to good habits such as wearing eye and hearing protection.


Here is Didi with his mate Connor helping me to rip Assegaai on the table saw. Connor is such a workshop junky that he sometimes hangs out with me in the shop while Didi is not even around.


I found that they can be very handy in cleaning rough boards before we feed it to the planer.


Apprentice cabinetmaker Connor during one of his solo sessions in the shop.


I have now started giving them small projects to keep them busy in order to get to know various basic tools and material.


The whole family sunbathing in front of the shop 3/8/2013.


The wife in action cutting out letters to put Aoife’s name on her (my daughter) bedroom door. 3/8/2013.


19/8/2013 – I took these photos on the weekend. Granddad Derick supervising proceedings at the drill press during their recent visit to the Land of the Brave.



1/9/2013 – The wife and kids left me all alone for the latter part of last week as they took advantage of the school holidays and joined our good friends (one of which you have already met earlier in this post by the name of Connor). They all had a ball of a time at the legendary Henties Baai, while I continued to save lives here in Windhoek. While they were away, our family lap-dog became my woodworking buddy. Her name is Pipsqueak and she is an imposing Miniature Pincher. We supported each other through the tough times, as you can see.



25-26/1/2014 – Didi and Connor working on an axe handle ….



… which Didi finished today.




The hooligans helping to clean up shavings from the planer and used it as mulch for the trees outside the shop.




My cousin Jogy creating a couple of orifices in my bench top to accommodated planing stops. He is particularly skilled at this type of activity being a Urologist by training.







IMG_0180IMG_0181IMG_0182photo 1









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.


Shop humidity

On the podcasts I listen to the guys often refer to the ambient humidity in their shops. Namibia being a fairly dry country, but with a definitive rainy season would have quite a dramatic shift in humidity between summer and winter I thought. The question is how much and exactly what is happening in my shop?

The reason why I first thought about recording this was when I heard this one guy (can not remember who) suggest that one should consider building one wooden plane for winter and one for summer to cut down on the amount of tuning that needs to be done secondary to wood movement. I am currently in the process of research and information collection before embarking upon a wooden plane building spree.

I thought I should therefore start to collect data on the changes in humidity in my shop. In the pictures below you will see the small electronic device I use to record the temperature and humidity. It is able to record the current, maximum and minimum for both humidity and temperature.

I record the maximum and minimum each time I am in the shop on the chart pictured. Once in a while I would then enter this data into a database I have built using Filemaker. The database then calculates the averages for whatever time frame you are interested in, be that a month, a season or a year. Of course I first need to collect a year’s data to do the latter.


Temperatue and humidity chart



I might write a very brief post from time to time reporting on the actual humidity trends in the shop. So far I found the following:

March 2013 – Average Minimum Temperature 24.7°C Average Maximum Temperature 30.2°C Average Minimum Humidity 21.5% Average Maximum Humidity 34.4%

April 2013 – Average Minimum Temperature 17.9°C Average Maximum Temperature 25.6°C Average Minimum Humidity 29.6% Average Maximum Humidity 44.3%

May 2013 – Average Minimum Temperature 15.6°C Average Maximum Temperature 22.5°C Average Minimum Humidity 28.4% Average Maximum Humidity 36%


I did not manage to record any data in 2014, so one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to get back into the habit. I did however manage to enter the data for the rest of 2013 in order to calculate the averages.

June 2013 – Average Minimum Temperature 12.4°C Average Maximum Temperature 18.6°C Average Minimum Humidity 31.3% Average Maximum Humidity 35.6%

July 2013 – Average Minimum Temperature 11.7°C Average Maximum Temperature 19.5°C Average Minimum Humidity 31% Average Maximum Humidity 35.5%

August 2013 – Average Minimum Temperature 13°C Average Maximum Temperature 22.2°C Average Minimum Humidity 28.2% Average Maximum Humidity 34.7%

September 2013 – Average Minimum Temperature 14.7°C Average Maximum Temperature 25°C Average Minimum Humidity 28.1% Average Maximum Humidity 39.9%

October 2013 – Average Minimum Temperature 21°C Average Maximum Temperature 29°C Average Minimum Humidity 23.3% Average Maximum Humidity 31.2%

November 2013 – Average Minimum Temperature 22.1°C Average Maximum Temperature 30.6°C Average Minimum Humidity 23.2% Average Maximum Humidity 37.1%