Gumption Traps

In Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Robert Persig writes about (among other things) what he calls “Gumption Traps”.  In short, these gumption traps are things that prevent you from moving forward on a project because of some problem.  This occurred to me as I’ve been pondering the dilemma that is my leg vise.  It’s all too easy to get embroiled in the problems, and it’s important to be able to step back, problem solve and move forward again.

I’ve decided to press forward with the Crisscross.  The fix for the problem of weakening the stretcher tenon is not a big deal, I’ll make a brace to reinforce that one joint.  Not a big deal.  In fact I just went out to the shop to glue-up the now-acclimated pieces for my leg vise.  Guess what?  Turns out “acclimated” is a five dollar word for “warped”.

This is what they call "acclimated"...

This is what they call “acclimated”…

Now, getting rid of this cupping isn’t a big deal, but I’m already under where I should be in terms of the necessary thickness for the vise chop.  By the time I remove wood from both faces of both boards I’ll be at least 1/4″ under, maybe more.  So, I can pick up a scrap of 4/4 red oak and laminate three boards together for the chop, or I can start over and just get a piece of 12/4 something.  I’m leaning toward the later, although it means that my expensive piece of 8/4 red oak was a waste.  In hindsight I think this board was badly dried.  I noticed several bad checks in it when I planed it, including one that goes completely through the 4/4 thickness.  Rats.

I need about 6 board feet of 12/4 wood.  I know Southern Lumber has 12/4 Poplar for $9/bf (which is really expensive for Poplar and typical of their prices), I think I saw some 12/4 Swamp Ash at Global Wood recently for a bit less.  I’ll have to check that out tomorrow.

Offsetting this little bit of bad news, my Crisscross arrived yesterday, a day early (thanks USPS!)  It’s nice, and I’m looking forward to putting it into service.

Crisscross Parts

Crisscross Parts

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10 thoughts on “Gumption Traps

  1. I have been reading along on your progress and sorry for the set backs. Is that Benchcrafted hardware?

  2. Hey Jeff,

    Yes, that’s the Benchcrafted Crisscross guide. It’s plenty stout. In the instructions they say it will support the chop by it self, so the screw (I have a Lake Eire Toolworks wood screw, drying in the sun from it’s bath in oil/wax) will not have any load on it.

    I was feeling like I had setbacks until I remembered Persig, then I realized it’s just part of moving forwards. Like a lot of things you start out with a handful of tools and insufficient information and problem solve as you go. The next time I build a bench I’ll be able to make new and interesting mistakes.

    I’m excited to take the next steps on the bench. I have some vacation time next week and should be able to finish it off. I should also have the materials to do the stained glass for my sconces by then too.

  3. Jonathan


    I think that you should laminate in a piece of contrasting color wood. Do you have anything darker laying around the shop? I think a thin layer of sapele would look great. It only has to be about 1/2-inch thick.

    • I do have some 4/4 Claro Walnut, if I put that on the outside face it would look pretty sweet.

      I’m a little “afraid” of this Red Oak board, it seems pretty unstable, it cupped 1/16″ in three or four days. Between that and the big internal cracks I think it was just dried too aggressively. I’ll stop by the lumber yard and see what kind of options I have. I don’t want to spend a bunch (more) money on the chop.

      I also thought about sawing out an interesting design in 1/8″ steel plate and screwing that to the face to dress the chop up a little.

  4. Jonathan

    Even if you took the 4/4 walnut and resawed it into 1/2 inch it would sandwich nicely in between your oak and still give you the thickness you need. You could even resaw the oak in half, joint it, and glue it all back into a 5 layer lamination. That should help to sabilize everything. I know that i would not likely walk away from a $90 piece of wood, but maybe im cheap. 🙂

    • No, I’m pretty unhappy about the state of that piece of Red Oak. I hate to think that I’ve lost that money, but if it cups again after I glue it all up again then it’s useless as a vise chop.

      I’m sure I’ll use it for something if I don’t use it for the chop. It would be fine for a box project I have in mind… I have kind of a crazy (maybe interesting) idea for a project that involves a wood box and some odds and ends parts. More on that another time.

      My thinking tonight is that I’ll stop by Global Wood after work tomorrow. If they have a piece of 12/4 Ash for about $50-60 I’ll get it. If not, it’s laminatin’ time.

  5. paul6000000

    I’ll also cast a vote in favour of laminating something onto it. You can still replace it with something nicer in the future and you’ll be experienced enough to do a super nice job of the hardware installation.

    • Wow, that’s two for making the warped red oak work. I guess I can tell people it “curly red oak”.

      I did look at one of my Claro Walnut boards and it’s big enough. I flattened it on two sides a few weeks ago just for kicks, so it’s had plenty of time to acclimate (it was air dried to begin with).

      OK, I’ll give this serious consideration.

  6. I think the cracks through and through, along with the cupping warrant putting that piece of oak aside. Let it set for a while and look at in a year or so and something else with it. I can’t believe you’re paying $9 a bf for poplar – even if it’s 12/4. My vote is to start over with the leg vise and eliminate any potential problems cropping up later.

    • To be fair, *I’m* not paying $9/bf for poplar. I try to avoid Southern Lumber for anything. They are crazy expensive. They have a pretty broad selection, but their prices are nuts. I went there recently, just browsing, and every row I got more and more disgusted with their prices.

      If that was the only place to guy hardwood I wouldn’t be a woodworker. Their “Select” Fir is a better grade than the home center by far, and at $2.98/bf is seemed OK. It’s neither Old Growth or Vertical Grained, which I can get elsewhere for not that much more than they charge for the green stuff.

      Your line of thinking on this piece of oak is where my head is at too.

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