Maker, Joiner, Traditional Woodworker, Instructor, Engineer, Open Source Software and Hardware, Preservation Carpentry, Custom Furniture, Custom Mill work, Instruction, Preservation Masonry. Yep, I like to make stuff.
As I slowly work through the projects for my upcoming book Go, Go, Go I’ve been trying to do as many things the same way as Tage Frid did. It has been an interesting experiment.
Most of Tage’s advice has been sound and reproducible. Once in a while a given technique may want to induce fits. Those are often the most interesting to experiment with — especially if it clashes with what I learned in my manual training days. When I learned how to dovetail as a student at NBSS I was taught how to cut them either ‘Pins First’ or ‘Tails First’ and often switch between them depending on the project at hand. For drawers or boxes its nice to gang sides together and cut them tails first to save some time. For one offs and odd angles pins first sometimes makes the most sense.
Tage was a proponent of ‘Pins First’ arguing that:
“The reason pins are made first is that it is easier to follow the tail saw line. If the tails were made first and the pins were scribed onto the end of the wood from the tail, the first saw cut on the end grain would destroy the pin line since end grain fibers become fuzzy so easily. And we all know how difficult it is to follow a line started on end grain. By making the pins first and scribing the tails to them, we can begin sawing on the face side of the wood and we have more strokes to try to saw to the line accurately.” — Tage Frid, Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking Vol. 1
With decades of experience cutting all manner of joints his logic can be hard to argue with. To transfer the pins to the tail board Tage would often just hold the piece in place with his hands and mark the tails with a scratch awl. No skew block plane trick here. If the board was warped he’d flatten it with 2 clamps and a block of wood.
You may feel like you need a steady hand or super human strength to keep the pin board exactly where you want it to scribe the pins onto the tail board, but there are ways help make this easier when you are getting started.
When teaching students how to transfer the pins to the tail board I was taught to put a clamp on the setup — holding the pin board to the tail board, allowing you to adjust it a bit under tension and free up your hands to move around as needed to do a good job scribing. The idea is reasonable but I’ve seen folks do all sorts of fiddling with a clamp to try and make this work, often with headache inducing dings and colorful curse words as a clamp falls over and mars a piece of wood or a pin board goes flying.
In cutting a lot of drawers and trays for a Tage Frid drawing table I figured I’d go for the full experience in cutting them all pins first and given the very thin stock used — 3/8″ thick 1-1/4″ wide strips mating to a 1″ wide front there was not a lot of bearing surface so I went to break out a clamp and after messing with it for a bit (and remembering why I prefer tails first) it hit me that I should try and be more production minded — there’s gotta be a less fiddly way of doing this as I have a lot of drawers to make. I was working at my Festool MFT/3 table and it hit me — if I side clamp a Bessey K-body to the edge of the bench the wide jaws of the clamp would do a great job overhanging a bit of the bench and if I moved the jaw up and down I had a nice consistent way of setting up my pin and tail board and apply a little pressure as I quickly and accurately scribe the pins to the tails as you can se here:
There’s no magic to what I show here, but a nice little setup that can be applied to any bench or work surface and save some time and frustration.
The book had a great buzz from a lot of my woodworking friends and I bought it as soon as it came out, but with two toddlers and a crazy work schedule it took me a while to find time to read it.
The book was a quick read and provides an unvarnished view of what life is like for a full time cabinetmaker. The highs, the lows, and the brutal realities of making a living as a craftsmen in a world that seems bent on mechanization and disposable goods. Nancy’s stories are touching, personal and entertaining. I feel like I know her as a close friend when in reality I’ve only talked to her a few times online.
If you’ve spent time making money from your craft work, or even just day dreamed about it, it’s a solid dose of reality. The book provides some keen insights and reinforced some feelings I had as well when pricing work and trying to build a business. A living can be made, but it’s not easy and you can’t live on the good feelings you get by owning the process of making. It takes thick skin, determination, luck, business skills and many other traits Nancy has.
After reading Nancy’s book I felt compelled to share a story from my time as a student at NBSS learning some of the life lessons of being a craftsmen — I hope Nancy would approve.
Back when I was a student at NBSS, they would have a student works exhibit at reasonably public location which culminated in an annual giving/alumni/supporter event where donors and art enthusiasts could middle with students, see some of their work and help support the craftsmen and craftswomen associated with the school. The works are usually on display for a couple of weeks and we all had to take turns watching over the displays during the hours it was open.
It was a coordinated volunteer effort and neat to have work on public display in downtown Boston. The vast majority of the folks coming through the store would poke around, compliment the student work and ask a few questions here and there.
Lots of folks expressed the common longing for hand made work, talked about family heirlooms and/or woodworking hobbies.
There were a few outliers that passed through the store and left me with some memorable stories/interactions.
On a busy Saturday afternoon an heavy set middle aged guy came through and was poking around making excessive huff and puff and snort sorts of noises. I knew from a distance he had an agenda.
He poked around at the wares shown in the photos from this post. He motioned for me to come over as he paused in front of this exquisite demilune cabinet. The wood, stone and veneer work was excellent, the inside of the cambered doors have even more details that rewarded anyone who had the chance to see the interior.
He asked me “How much is it?”
I went over to read the card as not all items on display were for sale or some were already sold, but in this case there was a price listed along with details about all the work, materials and finish that went into the piece. The student who made it spent well over 100 hours on this piece and for the effort and result the price was quite reasonable for what it was. (I don’t recall the exact price anymore but it was a few thousand dollars) I know if I were to contract someone doing this longer for a living it would cost twice as much.
I talked to this man about the hand work that went into it, what the school is doing to teach the next generation of craftsperson, the longevity and value of such a piece and how relative to the amount of work and skill that went into it, it’s priced quite fairly. I highlighted the intricate details and selection of wood and hand many hardware etc.
He wasn’t having any of it. He laughed and said “Why would anyone buy this when I could buy something at Ikea for under $500 to do the same thing?”
It was clear this guy had nothing better to do than mess around in this fashion and I wasn’t going to let this joker bait me any further. I tactfully explained how this display was geared toward folks that love and value craft work and moved on to the next customer — thankfully someone with a smiling face who loved traditional hand work.
On a different evening of minding the display a gentleman in his late 30s came in to look around.
He examined many pieces in close detail and seemed to appreciate the work that went into them. He was friendly enough and said he dabbled a bit in woodworking as a hobby and got to talking about the sorts of work I did at the time.
He said he was looking for a couple of solid bookcases. I explained how working with a cabinetmaker or joiner you could really tailor a piece to the style, taste and budget of the customer. He affirmed all the things we talked about with respect to hand work, materials etc. It was looking like this might result in a commissioned piece for me or one of my fellow students…
Then with a straight face he said “If you can do it for cheaper than Ikea, then I’m happy to throw the work your way.” It took a moment to process that and stay composed.
I did my best to explain how the materials alone (and far superior to the pressboard of many Ikea pieces) would cost more than that, let alone the labor and finish work. It seemed odd to me at the time to meet someone who seemed to understand and admire quality yet assign so little monetary value to it.
Not all the memorable interactions at the display were negative either. One afternoon a young guy came in off the street, sat down at a beautifully restored piano and started to play it. Normally they had us politely asking folks not to touch or sit on the pieces but this guy walked in like he owned the place and was an exceptional pianist. I wondered if we were being pranked. The event coordinator from the school talked to him a bit, I didn’t get to hear the conversation but she let him stay and he played for an hour or two and the music helped draw even more folks into the storefront.
What’s the moral of this story? (Or at least my unsolicited advice on similar topics that I felt compelled to share after reading Nancy’s book )
Publicity and exposure are certainly good things to have though I’ve found far more work via word of mouth than I have from any of these sorts of open gallery events. My mentors at the school often said the same thing. There are good people out there who appreciate and are willing to pay for craft work but you have to know how to find them and network with them. The gallery experience allowed me to apply some of what I learned in high school working in retail to deal with the public and applied many of the lessons from my instructors at the school . “Trust your gut” If you get a bad read from someone trying to solicit work from you, its perfectly acceptable to pass on them as well. I know thats hard to do when there are bills to pay and mouths to feed. When you find a great patron or customer ask if they have friends or family who might be interested in similar work.
People skills also help. A little time spent educating the consumer on what hand work really is, the process, the textures, the output, etc all can help as well.
The other hard lesson I can recall from this sort of experience is with how much information you put into a bid. Not related to a gallery event, more from people cold calling/emailing me via the website, I had a few experiences where I went into too much detail itemizing costs, materials, construction details etc (I think I felt like I had to justify it to myself back then) to have them take it to someone else and be undercut — and frankly as someone doing this as an avocation I was not charging as much as I should have and after taxes would have been losing money on the deal.
CYA — Cover Your Ass — make sure any contract templates you use cover you for things like change orders, what you are delivering, payment terms and all that sort of fun business oriented stuff. NBSS overs a very good course on starting and running a small business which covers a lot of that in detail and if it doesn’t sell out I think folks outside of the school can pay for a slot.
Back in early October of 2016 Festool offered a special edition of their new Sander for an amazing $99 which also included a $50 off coupon towards another tool. It seemed too good to be true given how expensive all my other Festools are. Within hours of the announcement I placed my order. I would think I must have been one of their earliest orders. A couple days later there were notes that the demand was so overwhelming that Festool told its network of dealers to stop taking orders. Then the waiting started….and dates kept getting pushed out.
I waited and waited and waited and in very late March of 2017 I *finally* received my new sander — 6 months is a LONG wait. I’m not sure what Festool’s reasoning was for the special package — some said it was supposed to be a thank you to loyal Festool customers, others said it was a good way to get folks hooked on their tools. Either way the demand was overwhelming I am glad that they eventually honored the order.
Here’s what came in the special color Systainer 2:
I was happy to see that Festool included some extras in there — an adapter for non Festool vacuums and a sampler pack of their Granat Abrasives (Which I think was added by the tool dealer ToolNut.com) rather than the 1 piece of sandpaper that would otherwise come with the unit.
The Systainer 2 is a nice dark Festool blue and has space for some optional accessories and some limited abrasive storage.
The new sander is lighter and better balanced than my trusty old Porter Cable 5″ Random Orbit Sander that I’ve had over 10 years now. The power switch is nice and big and the 13′ cord is nice. When paired with my Festool CT36 Dust Extractor the dust collection with the PRO 5 LTD is exceptionally good. Also the pad break is neat as the unit stops spinning fast. I normally use my trusty old ‘sander sitter‘ as a safe place to let a sander spin down and clean off an abrasive pad that has loaded up. The suction is so strong that the PRO 5 LTD will lift the rubber pad right out of the sitter — something I never saw with any of my other sanders (5″ or 6″ ROS with same CT36 attached)
The machine is well balanced with a tight stroke, powerful motor (Which I believe is brushless) and has noticeably less vibration compared to other sanders I’ve had over the years. The ergonomic handle is nice and rubberized texture provides good grip. Sometimes with 2 hands on the unit I find my second hand wants to cover the motor exhaust port a bit but the heat will quickly remind you to move that hand.
Too good to be true?
Like most things that seem too good to be true there is usually a catch. If you look at the image above you’ll see this Festool Sander and Festool abrasives have a VERY different pattern for dust extraction holes. That means you are locked into their abrasives. I haven’t seen any 3rd party companies sell pads with the same pattern yet. Like most things Festool they are expensive, but also very good quality. The abrasives have been long lasting and consistent and slow to load up. I
already have a few hundred dollars invested in Mirka Gold 5″ and 6″ and Abranet abrasives (which I keep in old style Systainers with 4 latches designed to hold sanding pads. I got those Systainers on clearance when the new style Systainer came out a couple of years ago). I don’t look forward to having to buy and stock another assortment of Abrasives but probably will as I am otherwise very happy with this new sander. I wish the advertising was a bit more straightforward in noting the above hole difference.
I hope that Festool, or a 3rd party compatible manufacturer will make a replacement sanding pad that also has the old style dust extraction hole pattern.
If you can look beyond the sanding pad hole location issue it is otherwise a great random orbit sander and I am very happy with it. I wish I ordered more than one unit.
Not all router bits are created equal. On a recent project I had to make a lot of 1/4″ wide and 1/4″ deep dadoes.
In my 20+ years of using an electric router I’ve only lost a handful of bits, most due to the carbide chipping out or something similar. (Or using a poor quality bit — back when I was starting out and didn’t know any better) Whenever possible I try to buy bits with a 1/2″ shank for the added strength and decreased vibration. Leaving my 1/4″ shank bits mostly relegated to my 1HP Bosch Colt palm router and tasks like using 1/8″ round-over bits — my favorite profile for cleaning up edges on around the shop projects.
Two weekends ago I was cutting a long dado with a variable speed 2-1/4 HP plunge router with a fence and had my old Craftsman 1/4″ straight bit snap off at the collar which was unusual as I would think it would snap off right below the carbide where the bit narrows slightly and is presumably the weakest point on the bit. I didn’t think much of it and figured ‘eh its a pretty cheap and 15 year old bit’ and went back to the tooling cabinet to grab another bit.
The second time out I grabbed an MLCS 1/4″ straight bit with a 1/2″ shank. In looking at the bit (it was part of a set of straight bits and looked like I never used this 1/4″ bit before) I thought to myself, wow that is quite the taper below the carbide. I loaded it up into the collet and got maybe 6″ through the maple and it twisted right off.
A few expletives flew, and I was questioning myself. Have I been spending too long doing hand tool only work? Am I using a router that is over-powered for the task at hand? I thought I was taking it easy as I made my passes — the tool wasn’t bogging down and it was cutting well.
After inspecting the plywood, both times where the bit broke it was hitting what looked like a knot in the veneer core of the plywood — so I think that change in density along with heat and friction was a contributing factor.
I was determined to make more progress on this project as I don’t get as many weekends to woodwork as I’d like. I headed out to Home Depot in the freezing cold and trying to make it there before they closed at 9pm and bought a Freud Diablo solid carbide bit. I balked at the ~$18 price compared to the say ~$5-8 each I paid for these bits from MLCS (but didn’t have the luxury of waiting for them to ship an order to me)
I really liked how the Diablo was solid carbide and had a completely straight profile from the shank down to the tip of the bit. The bit worked like a champ and so far I have been very happy with it.
What is the lesson from all this? Remember to go extra slow and take very shallow passes when working with a narrow bit like this. Make sure you adjust the speed (if your router has a variable speed control). Remember that humans and tools are not perfect. Some tooling like these sorts of bits are disposable. Inspect your tools and look for quality designs. Remember that even solid carbide can be brittle — so do what you can to minimize any jarring changes. There are many lessons to be learned and re-learned as you progress in your woodworking career. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and most of all get back out into the workshop — which is where I am headed right now.
Yesterday evening in the weekly Popular Woodworking ‘Week in Review’ email summary I saw a nice post by Bob Flexner — Contributing Editor to Popular Woodworking and well known Finishing Expert — sharing his thoughts on Danish Workbenches.
You can read Bob’s post here. Bob shares his thoughts on this form of bench along with some interesting anecdotes on his time in Denmark and importing some ETA benches.
Bob also had a couple questions/comments that I wanted to reply as they are good topics of discussion:
“The first was the top surface. Bill uses two 12¼-inch wide “slabs.” He suggests using three boards instead of two if you can’t find these widths. My workbench is made with slightly less than 1-inch wide boards laminated to form the wide surface. Wider boards could warp over time with humidity changes and water spills. The laminated narrower boards seem to me a better idea.” == Bob Flexner
The slab portion of my bench-top is only 12-3/4″ wide and was composed from two ~7″ wide 8/4 boards that were hand selected. I chose pieces with nice tight and even growth rings oriented to be reasonably stable — trying to get as much quarter sawn grain as I could from those pieces. The wood also sat in my reasonably climate controlled shop for a few years before I got around to building this bench. In the 3 years or so I’ve been working on this bench I haven’t had to re-flatten it at all so far.
When building the bench I gave serious consideration to deviating from Frid’s design and building the top from narrower laminated strips. Given the stock on hand I didn’t think I was buying myself much as it would have been a lot of ripping and jointing and gluing to get a very similar grain profile to what I had. If I didn’t have the quality of wood I had on hand, or if the bench top were thicker, say 4″ thick instead of 1-3/4″ or 1-7/8″, I definitely would have laminated up strips as Bob suggests.
“One more thought. Once or twice in forty years the mortise-and-tenon joints at the top and bottom of the legs have worked loose and the workbench became lose front-to-back. To tighten them I removed the bench top, which just sits on the frame, and drove the wedges that tighten the joints a little deeper. So I don’t understand Bill’s rationale for gluing the wedges in place.”
When gluing the wedged mortise and tenons in place I was following Frid’s advice directly from his books. I believe he used PVA glue, but chose to use hot hide glue so I could have a longer open time and potentially repair it if need be in the future.
Notable differences compared to the workbench in his book include hand cut dovetails on the tail vise, a much thinner skirt board and dog-hole strip, wooden screw in the shoulder vise with much larger wooden jaw, a little less refinement in terms of details on the vise jaws and undercarriage. Nonetheless this bench seems to have over a half century of use to its credit and the legs were still solid and the vises moved surprisingly well. It gives some interesting insights into how even Tage Frid’s interpretation of this sort of workbench changed over the years.
I hope to have and use my workbench for many more years to come and I’m sure it will acquire some more scars over the years that become part of its history.
P.S. You can check out some other posts related to the Tage Frid inspired workbench along with a simple Deadman, Side-clamps and other similar workbenches out in the wild here.
I haven’t seen a lot of left-handed, or ‘sinister‘ workbenches out in the wild. I suspect most are from the mid 20th century or later with the assumption that earlier southpaws were likely forced to work right-handed much as a lot of the left-handed folks in my family were forced to learn to write with their right hands in school. If my woodworking research friends have actual information to the contrary I am interested to learn more about left-handed woodworkers. Given that in earlier times craftsmen usually made their own benches it seems logical left handed benches would be easy enough to make unless the social stigma and/or dominance of right handed tools outweighed the convenience.
Paul did an great job building his bench and it sounds like it has served him we’ll for 20+ years. It was great to see all the finger joints and other details much as what Frid had in his book and FWW article. The bench-top and vises look like they have all held up great.
Paul’s original note about his workbench, how he acquired the materials and built them was too good not to share: (Shared with his permission):
The bench is still my primary bench. I use it all the time. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of my son and I together at the bench. It’s not like my wife to take a lot of pictures of me or my kids down in my basement workshop. The wood was milled at a local mill just 25 miles south of us in Mellen, Wisconsin called North Country Lumber. I knew the owner of the mill and his brother. I took care of their families when I was still practicing family medicine. I told the owner Bob Stilen that I was interested in building the benches and asked him if he could provide me with some 8/4 clear hard maple select or better. He was surprised that I knew a little about trees, sawmills, and furniture grade wood, but said he could get the wood. He called me about a month later and we agreed to meet at the saw mill the next Saturday when I wasn’t on call. The mill was closed, but both Bob and his brother were there when I got to the mill. After a cup of coffee and a lot of bad jokes and stories from a couple of real northern Wisconsin characters (think the movie, Grumpy Old Men) I got a private tour of the mill and the drying kilns. Then he showed me the wood he had selected for me. It was a gorgeous pile of absolutely clear northern Wisconsin hard maple all cut to 8/4 thickness, kiln dried and planed on two sides. The boards were all 8 feet long or better and many of them were 12 inches wide. It was drop dead gorgeous wood! I was thrilled and had a smile from ear to ear. I asked how much I owed them for the wood and both of them said to me, “Take it it’s yours. You’ve taken such good care of our families and especially our mom (she was elderly and one of my residents in the local nursing home), this is our gift to you.”
It was a wonderful gift and very typical of the good people who work hard and live well in the woods of northern Wisconsin. Bob Stilen started the saw mill on his own and had grown it into a significant business that employed about 80 people and was supplying hardwood to several furniture manufacturers throughout the U.S. They practiced great forest management (select cutting only) and gave good jobs and good salaries to their employees. Both Bob and his brother have passed away, but the sawmill is still in business. A lot of the teenagers in Mellen get their first summer job piling lumber and stickering it came off the saw.
I brought the wood home and have great memories of the time my youngest son and I had making those benches. My youngest son is now a Prebyterian minister in Howard Lake, Minnesota and still likes working with his hands. He and his wife are the ones I built the bed frame for that you saw in the picture I sent. My other memory of building those two work benches was that I burned out the ¾ horse motor on my old 1978 Sears table saw trying to rip that 8/4 hard maple. I replaced it with a 3 horse Baldor electric motor and switched from 110 to 220 and after that I had no problems. I retired that table saw about 18 months ago (it went to the son of a friend a local farmer from whom we buy 1/3 of a pig each fall) and invested in a Sawstop table saw which I really love.
My guess is that we built those workbenches in about 1990 or 1991, so they’re at least 26 years old. As benches do, they’ve acquired a few scratches, gouges, and dings, but they are both still doing well. After working with the benches there are really not any significant things I’d change about them. So, that’s the story.
Here are a few more photos of the bench from Paul:
3/4 view of workbench
Left-handed Tage Frid workbench by Paul Van Pernis (Alternate view)
Left-handed original plans Tage Frid workbench by Paul Van Pernis
Detail view of the shoulder vise
Left-handed Tage Frid workbench by Paul Van Pernis
Workbench side clamps are not something I think anyone would generally use on a daily basis, but when the job calls for the sort of clamping they provide, they do a great job. I think one of the reasons they were not used often is the time it takes to affix them to the workbench — usually requires the use of nuts and wrenches.
How can I improve the likelihood I will use my new side clamps?
The 3/8″ 5 star knobs I ordered from Rockler for my side clamps arrived yesterday and I gave them a shot.
On the left you can see both knobs on the same side of the clamping block and on the right you can see one knob on the top and one knob on the bottom. Either configuration works well. With a 5 star knob you can easily loosen both knobs and remove one knob to move the block around.
The above tweak is not an earth shattering change but it does remove the need for a wrench and make it a little more likely I’ll break out the side clamps with the need comes up.
P.S. If you’d like to read up on how to build your own pair of side clamps you can read my earlier post on that topic here.
Have you used your side clamps lately? Wait, what are side clamps?
Side clamps are a pair of adjustable wooden blocks that mount on the outside of a traditional continental workbench with one block mounted to the tail vise and one mounted to the fixed portion of the bench top. In this experiment the blocks are mounted to the bench via 3/8″ diameter, 6″ long threaded bolts and some shop made metal plates.
When building my Tage Frid inspired Scandinavian workbench I spent a lot of time looking at examples of Frid’s benches — some early extant examples in person, his Fine Woodworking article on his bench (FWW Issue #4, October 1975), the chapter in Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking Volume 3 and various online searches.
In the FWW issue #4 diagrams and text there was a very brief mention of a set of ‘side clamps’. I couldn’t find any photos of these clamps online and they didn’t seem to make it into the book version of the bench. I was curious if they were cut to save space or if in fact they didn’t turn out to be useful.
I decided to build my own version of these clamps based on that lone diagram and experiment with them.
Building a pair of side clamps:
Using some scrap hard maple left over from the workbench I made two 1.75″ thick, 3″ wide and 4.5″ long blocks. I planed them and rounded over the edges with a 1/8″ radius router bit.
Next up was drilling a 3/8″ diameter hole through the center of the block, the long way. I started off the drilling by using a self-centering doweling jig (see photo above), and went as far as the bit would let me drill into the block. Then using that first hole as a guide I used a longer electrician’s style 3/8″ drill bit to drill the rest of they way through the block. (see photo below)
With the woodworking complete, it was time do to some metal working to make a series of small plates that are used to affix the clamp blocks to the dog holes in the bench by way of the 3/8″ bolts. I bought some 1/8″ thick x 1″ wide zinc’ed steel bar at my local hardware store and cut them to 2-7/8″ long. (Note this is 1/2″ shorter than what Frid called for as I as felt 3-3/8″ would have too much slop/space. I also could not find 1/4″ thick bar stock, but think 1/8″ thick is still plenty strong for anything I plan to do with these clamps. Make sure to leave at least 1/4″ of metal on all side around the holes). I cut the pieces to length using an abrasive cut off chop saw, but a hack saw could also get the job done.
I took the metal blanks over to the slow speed grinder and rounded over the corners and chamfered the edges a bit to remove any burs.
Next up I stacked/ganged up all 4 pieces and drilled 3/8″ diameter holes at the drill press. The pieces were held together with some strong tape and held in place against my makeshift fence via the scrap block in the foreground of the above picture. Make sure to use some cutting oil and make sure you don’t overheat the metal nor your drill bit. Also use some scrap underneath the blanks to protect your drill press table.
With the holes drilled out I took the metal blanks over to a vise wherein I made sure the bolts fit through the holes, cleaning things up with a rat-tail (round) file. I then used a flat mill file to clean up any roughness on the outside edges left from the work at the grinder.
Given my background as an engineer, and touch of OCD I decided to add some self adhesive cork to the sides of these metal plates that might come in contact with my bench top
I cut the cork to rough size, affixed it to the plate and used a utility knife to cut off any excess around the edge and a 3/8″ drill bit to remove any waste inside the drilled out holes.
With the metalworking completed, it was time to install the nuts and bolts and try out the clamping blocks. One bolt goes through the top plate, the wood block, the bottom plate and is secured with a nut or five star knob. (I ordered some knobs from Rockler but at the time of this writing they’d didn’t arrive yet, once they come I’ll add some post script to show the clamps with easier to use knobs in place.) The other bolt goes through the top plate, the dog hole, the bottom plate and is secured with another nut.
Given the use of square dog holes on this bench, and the fact that that blocks are 1/2″ longer than the bench is thick, this allows the side clamps to pivot a few degrees in either direction. This gives you the ability to securely clamp some tapered or irregularly shaped pieces.
The blocks can be moved to different dog holes as needed or removed from the bench altogether. In testing these clamps on a few different items and shapes I found the blocks were surprisingly easy to use and held oversized items with ease.
The Verdict: (So far…)
It was a fun project to build and experiment with. These clamps are useful for specialized clamping needs, such as large items, re-working the edges of a drawer box, planing dovetails flush, and similar operations.
Do I think they will get used every day? No. Do I think they can do a few jobs that would be tougher to do on the bench-top secured via bench dog, hold fast, face or shoulder vise? Yes.
For the small amount of wood, metal and time it took to make these side clamps I think they were a nice addition to my workbench.
If you build some side clamps for your workbench, please share what you thought of them in the comments below.
P.S. If you’d liked to learn about the workbench featured in this post, please check out my related article in the February 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine which can be found here.
I have some big news to share with everyone today, I’m proud to say that I am the process of writing a book for the Lost Art Press tentatively titled “Go, Go, Go: The Life, Influence and Woodworking of Tage Frid”
You can read more about my background and the premise of the book in this post I made on the Lost Art Press Blog here. It’s an exciting opportunity and look forward to sharing my passion for Frid’s work and Danish Modern furniture design.
Related to the above book I’ve also written an article for Popular Woodworking Magazine on my Tage Frid inspired workbench which will be the cover story for the February 2017 issue which is coming out later this month. Once it is published I’ll be sure to share more related links and details.
P.S. A big thank you to Doug Levy for allowing me to share two of the excellent photos he took for the upcoming article. You can check out Doug’s photography work here. He also has a great series on New England Craftsmen here.
A Joiner's Guide To Traditional Woodworking and Preservation