Archive

Avoid Splintering with a Handsaw

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There are two woodworking tools that we have forgotten the most about in the last 50 years: the steel framing square and the handsaw. The steel framing square is essentially a jobsite calculator, and you can get up to speed on what it can do with one of several books. But handsaws are trickier to master. No one has written the be-all end-all book about using this simple tool. So […]

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Holdfast Holes: Where Should They be Located?

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You don’t need a lot of holdfast holes to hold most work on your bench. In fact, I’ve found that somewhere between eight and 10 holes is more than enough for most work. And if I used a tail vise, I probably could get away with just two or three holdfast holes. The topic of where to put holdfast holes stresses out a lot of bench builders, especially if they’ve […]

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Disassemble Heavy Joints

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Sometimes you can get a joint together no problem. But getting it apart is another matter. With the joints for a heavy French workbench, disassembling a test-fit gives many beginning woodworkers a fit. Many times they end up slamming hammers or mallets on places that are easily bruised (including their hands). The easiest way to knock out a leg that I’ve found is shown here. Prop up one end of […]

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Pare Odd Corners With a Homemade Jig

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The sliding dovetail joint on the heavy French workbench is one of its most distinctive features. And if you mess it up, everyone will notice. So today I took an hour to pare the female part of the joint with some care to get a tight fit with the male part on the leg. I cut in the dovetail walls for this bench with a circular saw. I usually do […]

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How to Make Deep Mortises When You Aren’t a Timber Framer

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One of the defining characteristics of the heavy French bench is its joinery – the top and legs are joined with a joint that is one-half through-tenon and one-half sliding dovetail. The sliding dovetail is the easy bit. Saw the walls. Knock the waste out with a chisel. Clean the floor with a router plane. The through-mortises are trickier. It is more than 5” deep, 6” long and usually 1-1/4” […]

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Eleventy-hundred Benches Later, a New Glue

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I know that some day I’ll perfect building these simple French workbenches, but it won’t be today. After 10 years of making benches by myself and in groups, I’m finding new strategies for making them better. The last time we built these French oak workbenches the wood was wet – sometimes out of the  range of our moisture meters. We used regular yellow glue to put the tops together, and […]

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The Best Jointer Fence I’ve Used

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All stock jointer fences stink. No matter how tightly you crank them down or how gingerly you treat them, they won’t remain square to the tables. Why? Because they can be adjusted off 90°. Anything that can be adjusted will eventually go out of adjustment. So today at the French Oak Roubo Project, we had to glue up 14 benchtops by the end of the day to make sure the […]

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Big Workbenches Need Big Machines

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This week a team of 25 woodworkers is in Barnesville, Ga., to build 17 massive French workbenches using ancient oak imported from France and every bit of machinery muscle we can get. I love hand tools, but when it comes to moving around 400-pound slabs of oak, I’m happy to see a forklift coming my way. These 17 benches will be the product of the French Oak Roubo Project, an […]

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