Workbench Madness

OK, I probably need to have my head examined.  Again.  Or, perhaps, stop reading books and blog posts about workbenches. Or maybe any book by Christopher Schwarz.

I’ve been suffering along with my “craigslist special” workbench.  It’s an old Sears Craftsman cabinetmaker bench.  It’s shaped like a workbench.  It has a tail vise with a pair of bench dog holes, a face vise.  Dog holes in the top, a place for a tool tray.  But the resemblance to a functional workbench stops at, well, resembling a workbench.

The tail vise is so loose that it racks if you look at it crooked.  The face vise is just as bad.  It’s way too light, and held together with 1/4″ machine screws.  Seriously.  About two minutes of planning and everything loosens up and it gets to wiggling around like a bowl full of jelly.  Is that enough for this to count as a seasonal post?

So when I heard about the recycled doug fir on sale at Jackel Enterprises I had to go take a look.

I bought a 6″ x 9″ beam, I had them cut it into 3 pieces with the idea that I’d use two of them to make the top for a mini-roubo bench.  The knots are a little worrisome, I probably should have picked through the pile more carefully.  Oh Well.

I cleaned one face with a wire brush and knocked it down with a scrub plane.  The scrub plane really, really doesn’t like the knot on the near end.  I chipped out the center of the knot and used a rasp to take down some of the material around it.  I’m planning to bring the rest of the face down to meet it.

After a bit of work with the scrub plane I started working with a #5 jack, but it kept gumming up.  I think I need to move the frog back to open up the throat.  For the moment I switched to my #6 which seemed to work a little better.  I worked lengthwise and also skewed across the face.  I’m using a 5′ long piece of steel flat bar I had on hand (I have a lot of metal stock) as a straightedge.  No, it’s not straight yet, but it’s probably plus or minus 1/16″ at this point.

I can tell this is going to be a big learning experience.  And an amazing cardio workout.  I came in from the shop after 45 minutes of making shavings, sweating and breathing hard.  It beats spending time on the Stairmaster, and the smell of the wood as I’m working it is great.

Update: Another 45 minutes of work and I’ve got the first face as flat and straight as I can,  I checked it for twist with some winding sticks (two lengths of 1″ square aluminum bar stock…lots of metal laying around as I said) and have that taken care of, and checked it with my straightedge.  I’m going to re-sharpen my plane iron later and make a final cleanup on this face and call it good.

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