Category Archives: Lost Art Press

Sinister Workbench

 

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.

3/4 view of workbench
3/4 view of left handed Tage Frid workbench by Paul Van Pernis

My friend Paul Van Pernis, former president of the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) , recently reached out to me and shared that he built a pair of left-handed workbenches based off of Tage Frid’s original plans — one for himself and one for his youngest son.

Paul Van Pernis at the EAIA Annual Meeting 2015 holding my son Bradley. :-)
Paul Van Pernis at the EAIA Annual Meeting 2015 holding my first son Bradley 🙂

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.

Detail view of the shoulder vise
Detail view of the shoulder vise

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.

Warm Regards,
Paul

Here are a few more photos of the bench from Paul:

If you built your own Tage Frid inspired bench, either from Frid’s book and/or article or my recent revisit in the February 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking, I’d love to hear your story as well.

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TheRainford
RainfordRestorations.com

P.S. Check out Paul’s excellent series of blog posts on various planes from the Stanley Model shop over on the EAIA blog here.

P.P.S. I’m the webmaster for the EAIA website as well so if anyone has a  relevant story they’d like to share with the EAIA, please feel free to contact me.

 

Deadman With a Tale

In building my workbench I also built a simple traditional deadman to help support long boards at the bench.

Workbench Deadman
Workbench Deadman

This simple to build workbench accessory is as a great addition to any bench with a tail vise.

Bill demonstrating the use of his deadman
Bill demonstrating the use of his deadman

If you’d like to learn more about this bench and how to build one for yourself, please check out my blog post on this topic over on the Popular Woodworking site here.

Take care,
-Bill
@The Rainford

A little clamping on the side

Have you used your side clamps lately?  Wait, what are side clamps?

Close up of the side clamps
Close up of the 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.

Background: 

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.

Use a self centering doweling jig to start the 3/8" holes
Use a self centering doweling jig to start the 3/8″ holes

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)

Use a long electrician's style 3/8" drill bit to finish the centered hole.
Use a long electrician’s style 3/8″ drill bit to finish the centered hole.

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.

Zinc'ed steel bar, cut to size, corners ground round and edge burs removed
Zinc’ed steel bar, cut to size, corners ground round and edge burs removed

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.

Drilling all four blanks at once.
Drilling all four blanks at once.

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.

Using a file to clean up and remaining burs and fine tune the work you did on the grinder
Using a file to clean up and remaining burs and fine tune the work you did on the grinder

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

Self-adhesive cork sheets
Self-adhesive cork sheets

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.

Use a utility knife to clean up the cork around the edges of the plate and the 3/8' drill bit to clean up and cork in the holes
Use a utility knife to clean up the cork around the edges of the plate and the 3/8′ drill bit to clean up and cork in the 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.

Assembling a side clamp
Assembling a side clamp

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.

Large objects are easily held between these side clamps
Large objects are easily held between these side clamps

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.

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TheRainford

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.

Popular Woodworking February 2017 Cover
Popular Woodworking February 2017 Cover

 

Go, Go, Go: The Life, Influence and Woodworking of Tage Frid

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

Bill Rainford with his felling ax. (Photo by Doug Levy, 2016 http://douglaslevyphotography.com )
Bill Rainford with his felling ax. (Photo by Doug Levy, 2016 http://douglaslevyphotography.com )

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.

Bill standing next to his Tage Frid inspired workbench. (Photo by Doug Levy, 2016 http://douglaslevyphotography.com )
Bill standing next to his Tage Frid inspired workbench. (Photo by Doug Levy, 2016 http://douglaslevyphotography.com )

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.

UPDATE: The February 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking is now out and you can read more about it or purchase it here on PopularWoodworking.com

–Bill Rainford
@TheRainford

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.

Behind the Scenes

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” — Wizard of Oz

Back in May I spent a couple of days in Cincinnati Ohio on my way down to Harrodsburg Kentucky for the EAIA Annual Meeting and a quick stop in Covington Kentucky on my way home to visit with some of my woodworking friends in the area.

My first stop was at the Popular Woodworking offices and studio to see Megan Fitzpatrick and David Thiel who graciously showed me around.

 

Popular Woodworking Sign
Popular Woodworking Sign

The office building while nondescript from the outside contained an interesting space on the inside. A mixture of office space, editing bays, studio/soundstage and a woodworking shop.

Me in one of the locations you've seen in Popular Woodworking videos
Me in one of the locations you’ve seen in Popular Woodworking videos

I visited the shop area with backdrop you may recognize from several woodworking videos. The timber framer in me wants to push up that simulated plate and add some braces. 🙂

Furniture from earlier magazine projects
Furniture from earlier magazine projects

In the warehouse space you could see several projects from Popular Woodworking and American Woodworker magazine.  If only we had room in the car to buy one and bring it home.

A live shoot & recording session in the studio
A live shoot & recording session in the studio

In the studio area I was able to see another F+W project video being recorded.

Megan's workbench in the corner of the workshop
Megan’s workbench in the corner of the workshop

Out in the woodworking shop I felt right at home. There was a large machine and bench room. In the corner I could see Megan’s workbench and the windows you may recognize from many an article and post from Popular Woodworking over the years.

I was too busy talking David’s ear off and didn’t take a picture of him to include in the post, but I’ll make sure to take one next time I am in town.

On the way home from our trip I also stopped in Covington KY (right across the Ohio river from Cincinnati OH) to visit Chris Schwarz at the Lost Art Press storefront. The storefront is a nice historic building that used to be a saloon in a part of Covington that reminds me a bit of Brooklyn — lots of history, artists, hipsters, good restaurants etc.

Inside of the Lost Art Press Storefront
Inside of the Lost Art Press Storefront

After watching the build out via many of Chris’ blog posts it was neat to see it in person and to see several of Chris’ recent pieces in person.

Aumbry from the Anarchist's Design Book
Aumbry from the Anarchist’s Design Book

You may recall the Aumbry above from the cover of a Popular Woodworking issue earlier this year and from the Anarchist’s Design Book.

Chris working on a 'Danish Campaign Chest'
Chris working on a ‘Danish Campaign Chest’

The weekend I was there Chris was working on his “Danish Campaign Chest.”

One of Chris' Anarchist's Tool Chests
One of Chris’ Anarchist’s Tool Chests

I had fun talking shop with Chris and Megan and checking out some of the recent bits of hardware he picked up.

Nice swing out adjustable seat attached to the workbench leg
Nice swing out adjustable seat attached to the workbench leg

The adjustable swing out seat he added to his bench was a nice addition I’d love to have on my own bench someday for carving and other detail and design work on the bench.

Megan Fitzpatrick, Bill Rainford and Chris Schwarz
Megan Fitzpatrick, Bill Rainford and Chris Schwarz

This was my first trip to Cincinnati and I had a great time exploring the city. In fact I’ll be in the area again in September for Popular Woodworking in America.

A big thank you to Chris, Megan and David for showing me around and a big thank you to my wife Alyssa for wrangling the babies while I geeked out with fellow woodworkers.

Take care,
-Bill

For more information on the Lost Art Press you can check out their website here.

For more information on Popular Woodworking you can check out the magazine’s website here.

For information on Popular Woodworking in American 2016 you can check out their site here.