Third Low Workbench

What Happened to the Second One?

Yes, I forgot to write about the second low workbench, but that way there can be a flashback about it, as if this was a modernist novel. This latest bench is no modernist–it is based on a Roman wall tile image from 79 AD. The accompanying three legged stool is my design, which is pseudo-scandahoovian.

Have a Seat

The finish on the stool is the Walnut Oil Wax finish I made on my workbench. I will use the same on the Roman style workbench.

Proton Torpedoes Fully Operational, Captain

This is it with the peg/workholding 3/4″ holes drilled, which make this thing ready for work. I will use it mostly for carving, though anything else is game as well. At 6′ 7″ long, it will handle some large pieces.

I need to make four more legs, so it will have eight legs like the original from Herculaneum, which was buried in ash by Mt. Vesuvius, and which is why this design survived. Old school really is the only school.

Making Walnut Wax Finish

Light It Up

This is a simple enough project, melting wax in oil, to make a wax finish, which is not to be confused with a wax polish. I used the best smelling oil for this, walnut, which also has the highest oil content of any drying oil.


4 oz Walnut Oil

1 oz Beeswax

1/4 oz Carnuaba wax

I cook these with a Trangia alcohol stove, in a pan of water. This assembly is so safe I make this right on top of my wood Sjobergs workbench. Just keep an eye on the water level, as it boils out quickly.

Three Legs are Better than Two

My three legged Cedar stool had only a finish of cheap Linseed oil, and this wax finish brought it back to life. The next project is finishing my low workbench #3, which is a full 6′ 7″ long. I may need to cook some more finish for that.

A Workshop is a Workshop?

Stuff Happens in a Workshop

I was formerly suspicious of people who had clean workshops, probably because of my own slovenly habits. I get busy and forget to clean up all the shavings, as I produce gallons of them regularly. And please, don’t even mention the sawdust, which I am currently trying to transform into mushroom spawn–a new project.

Then my wife Melanie Jane, who should be up for beatification for putting up with all this grunge for years, bought me a copy of a French woodworking book, Le Bois. That just means wood, but the subject of the book is actually Swedish treen, aka kitchenware, though there is also a chapter on making Afro combs–seriously. I wasn’t aware that the French were into that.

Although the book was written by two Frenchmen, it was first published in Swedish. It must have done well, as barely a year later the French edition appeared, which is a good thing, because I read very little Swedish. It is an excellent book, with excellent photography. And then, there it is–a picture of almost the same workbench that I have.


That bench is a bit longer than mine, but otherwise identical. I assume it is a standard issue Swedish schoolhouse workroom bench-every school has to have one room full of these, and every student has to learn slojd–that’s crafts. They certainly turned out a winner with this young woman.

The very tidy workbench belongs to Moa Brännström Ott, who is a noted young Swedish woodcarver of the Willie Sundqvist variety. Judging from the few shavings at the base of her bench, I doubt that she is turning out pieces of this magnitude:

Work Bar

This 8 1/2′ long piece of Eastern Red Cedar was meant to be a workbench, but turned out looking a lot like a bar–hence our name for it is “work bar.” I’ll put it to work tonight cheering on the Crimson Tide, and cursing the despised SEC refs. They would call a ten yard penalty on their own mothers for holding a baby.

Win or lose, tomorrow will be the same as today–round stuff needs to be flattened, flat stuff needs to be rounded, and raw stuff needs to be cooked. That’s how we keep going on.

Smokehouse, Part Three–It Takes a Village, or a Family, to Frame a Smokehouse

Moochers R Us

This project began with the gift of a bunch of cinder blocks, and a couple of wooden pallets–all unsolicited, naturally (I should add that cinder blocks are known as “see-mint” blocks locally). These came from BIL (brother in law) #1, who then added a few pressure treated 2x4s as well, which you can see as the sill boards on the smokehouse.

Not long thereafter BIL #2 got in on the action, giving us the lumber for the front and back walls, as well as the rafters, and some tin roofing. He really really wants this thing to be finished, as he has a whole list of meat smoking projects. We (gasp) actually bought the lumber for the two side walls. I have plans for a fancy door as well.

No Door Yet

I did all the work myself, with the exception of Melanie Jane helping me hoist up the first rafter. But, as my labor is free, as always, I did all the rest of it by my lonesome. That is, if you don’t count my actual supervisor on this project.

Get Back to Work

That’s Siegfried, more commonly known as Ziggy D. Dog. A finer nor a lazier Aussie has ever been birthed. The combination of the two traits makes him perfect for a middle management position.

MJ says that 16 square feet, the size of this structure, is big enough to sit in and smoke a couple of packs. My counter was that I would rather puff on a Bob Marley sized fattie (that’s a joint of Mary Jane, in case you just fell off the turnip truck). Truthfully, neither of us has ever smoked vegetable matter of any kind. I suppose we will have to stick with smoking meat instead.

Patagonia Tool Sak

The Sak is Out of the Closet

If you are a truly sick Gear Head, every day can seem like Christmas. Closets full of gear means that you can treasure hunt at any time you want. Stove parts and bags are every where in our house. We could probably move to a vacation home for a month or two without buying a box to pack in.

Article in evidence, a probably twenty year old Patagonia Tool Sak (they like purposely mis-spelling words as much as I do.) It’s a beastly bag, and currently it is the home of my DeWalt 20v electric circular saw. That and a speed square barely fill up a third of this bag.

The repair is courtesy of our late lamented old Aussie named Karl, who decided to see if he could chew nylon webbing in half. I caught him before he could complete his doggy mission, and fixed the cut with rivets, and yet more nylon webbing. That stuff really is strong enough to tow a truck with.

Besides the webbing on the front, the back straps also serve as backpack straps, making the bag something of a pack bag. It was originally marketed as a climbing bag, a label that most people rightfully ignored. Mine is a woodworking, catch it all bag, but it has had more uses than I can remember.

There is usually one of these on fleabay at any given time, often for less than the original retail price. As they are next to indestructible, they are a completely safe purchase, even used.

Smoke House, Part Two–How Firm a Foundation

I Need Cement

The smokehouse continues to grow. It is now completely framed (just like me), but here it is in infancy. Instead of laying every run of block with cement, I just put rebar into all four corners, hammered them into the ground, and filled the holes with cement. This foundation is not going anywhere.

The Fire Pit

As this is to be a cold smoke/hot smoke machine, I re-used a rusted out old Lodge cast iron grill as a fire pit. Under all those leaves is a nice thick layer of concrete, into which the old grill is buried.

We’ll break this in this spring and summer hot smoking some trout and a turkey or two, and connect the cold smoking stove next fall. I am considering hanging a sign above the door that says, “Smoke ’em if you got ’em.”

Smokehouse, Part 1–The Cold Smoke Machine

The Things You Find in the Scrap Pile

The game is afoot, as Sherlock liked to say to Watson. I am finally finishing off my brick oven, AND building a smokehouse to go along with it. There’s some history to go along with this plan.

Back in the day, every farmer in our area had a smokehouse. MJ’s grandfather’s was a beauty. He built a fire right in the middle of it, but only smoked meat during “hog killing weather,” which began in November when it formerly became very cold.. In short, cold smoking was the only smoking he did, which meant that the temps inside the smokehouse never topped ninety degrees.

I’m going for one that will cold smoke and hot smoke. I will be able to build a fire in the smoke house, and one outside of the smoke house, thanks to the steel wood stove that was buried under my scrap pile. Moving it also helped clean out my workroom.

Be that as it may, the foundation is also completed now, and I am ready to frame this thing. Check back in another week or two, as we are about to have some very good weather for working outdoors.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Ten and 31/64–Gage Self-Setting Planes

The GOAT of Production Planes?

I have been off of WordPress for a month, as I have been setting up a new MacMini, a task somewhere in between cleaning the Augean Stables and finding the last digit of Pi. I am back with all new passwords, and projects delayed for too long. For example, look at that slab of Eastern Red Cedar the Gage plane sits upon. 6′ 7″ long, 14″ wide, and 2″ thick. It has new workbench written all over it.

Now back to that Gage G35 plane. It took over thirty years to corral all the parts. The last part was the combo cap iron and chip breaker, bought from the top tool seller in the country (he had several of them). I think my total investment in this plane was $29. A mint version of the same plane sold for $1700 plus.

Why so much Jack for a production plane? It is essentially an absolute masterpiece of late nineteenth century industrial design. Let me list a a few of the innovations.

The Parts

To start, the plane blade/frog Combo is rock solid. The iron slides into the frog via a slot in the built in frog. The depth adjustment is far more accurate than a comparable Stanley one, and the slot means no floppy lateral adjustment. And that is not even the best part.

The trick shot is the union of the cap iron with the chip breaker. The chip breaker is essential another plane iron, turned around bevel up–thereby creating a double iron, twice as stiff as a Stanley plane. The cap iron is also adjustable up and down, and is tightened without the need of any tools, such as a screwdriver.

The final result of this is to create a “self setting” plane. Loosen the cap iron combo, take out the iron and sharpen it, and then re-assemble. No fiddling about with the chip breaker when the iron is put back in the plane. It is almost exactly the same depth every time.

Why didn’t this company crush the competition? Stanley bought them out, and after two decades of ownership, closed down the company. Just another example of rotten American business practices. Thankfully these champs are still in circulation on auction sites, though the prices vary wildly. Timing is everything–my retirement looms, and Melanie Jane bought me a G36 Jack plane for $49. Soon I will be officially “retard,” for all of you Borat fans. Sacha Baron Cohen introduced that term in Mt. Brook, Alabama, a place he loves to jape. The scene from Bruno in Mt Brook is even better than that.

Eastern Red Cedar Bench

Karma is being unkind to the unvaccinated, and rightly so, but gave us a truck load of Eastern Red Cedar lumber. Actually, it was my in-laws, who we have practically buried with free eggs. This tree grew on the same property where Melanie Jane grew up.

I’ve never made something this large from slab lumber, so I made sure it would not fall apart–the stretcher is through tenoned and held together with a tusk wedge.

It Really Came with that Burl

I still have to finish the ends of the slab. The other leg on the bench is full of heavy-osity.

Not Going Anywhere

The finish is super blonde shellac, though I think super blonde is Melanie’s nickname at her office. ESPN has a similar looking coffee table made of red cedar in their main studio, but they painted the live edge with gold glitter paint. There really is no accounting for taste.

Hop Hornbeam Knife Block

Live Edge or Free Edge?

After this piece of Hop Hornbeam log rolled around on the floor of my shop for a good couple of years, I had had enough. Then we began buying these French made Laguiole utensils, and the answer appeared. Make a knife block out of it.

A few vertical cuts with the miter saw, and some walnut spacers, and the job was done. I had just bought a Swiss-designed Bessey web clamp, and it will hold practically any shaped object tight while the glue dries. The Swiss, they are so clever.

Hop Hornbeam grows on our property, and this is from one specimen that expired during a two month drought. It’s incredibly strong and heavy as a sea anchor, so this is not likely to tip over. Those are steak knives and cheese knives, and one sliced my finger open while making this. That’ll learn me.

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