New Class Schedule is Up

My friend Ron Herman, with Woodworking with Ron, has posted his new class schedule through July 2014.  He has a great offering of classes and I promise you’ll have fun.  Check out his schedule at

Ron has a great sense of humor and you will definitely enjoy yourself.  I suggest you sign up quickly to get the classes you want.

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New Year, New Bench

The Beginning of a New Bench

It’s been a while since I’ve written, mostly because I’ve been busy with work, children, and the holidays.  However, a new year brings me back to the shop for new projects.  The first order of business is getting a new work bench together.

I’ve been working on a make-shift bench that I cobbled together with some 2×4’s, a piece of ½” MDF, and a pair of saw horses.  There is a lot of discussion these days about what makes a proper bench.  Should it be made of hardwood or soft, utilitarian or ornate in appearance, and of course, what height?  My biggest concern is simply this: Will I be comfortable working at it and will it hold everything I need it to?  This bench answers yes to both questions, and many more.  I know this to be true because I worked on this bench for a month straight, 6 days a week, 10 hours a day, doing every imaginable woodworking task.

The bench I’m making now is a traditional British joiner’s bench, but fashioned to allow 2 working sides.  This will allow me to have multiple stages of a single project, multiple projects, or someone else working with me.  It will have a two 3” laminated top sections, each about 14” wide, and a center tool well at 9” wide.  It will be 5’ long and 38” tall, with a face vise on each side, made of ordinary construction grade lumber, available anywhere, and for a lot less money than other wood.

The tops will be fastened to a bearing plate, which sits directly on the leg frames, which are mortise and tenon H frames. There will be a 12” wide apron on the front, which is housed to the legs, then glued and screwed to tie everything together.  The housing dado will be oversized and angled to allow the insertion of a wedge.  This wedge will keep everything tight, no matter what racking forces are exerted.

ImageTo begin, I spent about 1-1/2 hours sorting through lumber at a local big box store.  I’m not a fan of these businesses, but it was New Year’s Day, and no one else was open.  It took every bit of energy I had to locate enough lumber that was straight, dry, and in a decent enough condition to work.  I ended up with 2” x 4” x 12’ lumber that I cut in half.

For all 16 pieces, I passed one edge across my 6” joiner, to get a truly flat edge.  I then ripped each piece to 3-1/16” on the table saw.  After dressing each face with my #4 Stanley Bailey pattern plane, I arranged them for color, grain, and general appearance.  I set out enough clamps for a section, and loaded the pieces for gluing.  Using Paul Seller’s zigzag method, I spread the glue, rubbed the faces, and stood them in place.

I began to snug up the clamps, making adjustments as necessary.

ImageOnce I had the bottom layer of clamps snug, I added the top layer and got everything clamped tight.  I used plane shavings to wipe off excess glue, and did the same for the second bench top.

I did the same procedures for my legs, making each section 4’ long.  The only difference was keeping a dry joint between pieces 2-3, 4-5, and 6-7.  Clamping like this allows me to maximize the clamps I have on hand.

I will leave all of these assemblies in the clamps overnight.

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I Hit a Milestone

Wednesday, July 31, 2013: I hit a milestone on the way back to camp last night. My car turned a whopping 200,000 miles! Only 39,600 to go and it’s been to the moon. I’m sure it will get there, I just don’t know about getting back.


I spent the day completing some odds and ends, mainly shop tools and a box for my son. After, I gathered all of my tools, cleaned the school’s tools and stored them, then cleaned up my bench space.

Several of us went for dinner. John is a retired dentist and dental professor. Ed is a physicist, Ray a retired government inspector, and Sylvain builds golf courses. We ate dinner, talked nonsense, and had a good time. This will be my last meal with them, as I drive back to Cleveland in the morning.


While I am anxious to return home to see my children, I wish this class was not ending. I came here with some hand tool experience. I had taken a few classes, with some very good instructors. The major difference here is the associated bench time that came with the instruction. A full month, 6 days a week, 10 hours a day makes for a lot of practice. The teaching moment that comes with one person’s success or failure on a joint or technique is so valuable. So is the skill development that comes with each lesson.

Paul reminded us almost daily, that the course is not about making a project; it’s about making perfect joinery. Strive for that, and you will succeed. Succeed, and you will have some nice projects.


If you have ever considered taking one of Paul’s classes, do it, without hesitation.

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Seat Making Day (At Last)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013: The seat is composed of a ½” plywood base, 4” of high density foam, and the outer upholstery layer; in our case, leather. The plywood base, which becomes the template, should be sized about ⅛” smaller (on each dimension) than the actual seat opening.


The leather is cut oversized and laid out flat, with the foam on top, and then the plywood base. Everything is compressed and the leather is folded up and over the base, then stapled in place. Once the tension is released, the foam expands, stretching the leather, and produces a very nice seat cushion.



With the upholstery complete, the cushion fits snugly into the chair.


I am now complete with all of my projects and need to gather my tools and clean my bench area. Then it’s time to pack the car and head for home.

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I’ve Got Arms

Monday, July 29, 2013: I finished scribing my rocker tenons and installed the rockers. I just realized though, that I did not get a close-up picture to share, so you’ll have to squint.

I moved on to making my arms.


This was a daunting task, since I need to chop a mortise to fit a tenon, which cannot be test fit until the arm is cut, but the arm can’t be cut until the tenon fits, which can’t be tested until the arm is cut… Are you still following this? Anyway, it all worked out in the end.


I chopped the mortise, test fit it upside down and flipped end for end, then used the knife line to locate the back corner. Once I had the corner marked, I matched the rake angle of the back post and notched the arm. Now, I can test fit the mortise and tenon and make any necessary adjustments.

I also made the corbels, which will add some support to the wide front of the arm. I’m going to leave them off for now, so the chair will fit in the car for my trip home. I’ll also leave the arms off and remove the rockers.

Tomorrow, I should be moving on to upholstering the seat. The leather just arrived today, so the shop smells really good.


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Some Short Videos

I thought I would post a few videos this morning. The first is sharpening a chisel, using Paul’s method. It is simple, quick, and very effective. It produces a convex bevel that is as sharp as anything, but substantially stronger than any other. That strength is very helpful when performing any number of tasks, and has proven invaluable during this course.

Chisel Sharpening

The second video is just a collection of photographs, showing how I shaped the curved backs for the rocking chair. I started with squared lumber, and ended with the curved rails. I used a chisel, spoke shave, card scraper, and my #4 bench plane… nothing more.

Shaping Wood

It’s back to work tomorrow!

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Rocking Good Day

Is that too corny?


Saturday, July 27, 2013: Today was dedicated to making the rockers. They were cut from a single piece of oak (Paul cut the rough shape on a band saw to save time) and then shaped. The inside curve was prepared with a spoke shave and card scraper, while the outside was done with nothing more than a Stanley #4 hand plane. After the curves were complete, I chamfered the edges and gave them a quick sanding.

As a side note, it is amazing how little sanding needs to be done when preparing the wood with hand tools. These tools are sharpened to a 12,000 grit, mirror finish that produces a surface so smooth, it needs to be sanded to roughen it for finish.


The next step is to lay out the locating tenons on the bottom of the posts. This mortise and tenon joint has little to do with overall strength, and everything to do with lining up the rockers properly. These mortise and tenons are all compound angles, so correct layout is a must. Once the tenon is cut, the chair is set on top of the rockers, centered, and then the tenons are traced. This creates the mortise layout. Chop the mortises to fit, making sure the tenons do not bottom out.


Now I scribe the tenon shoulders for an exact fit to the rocker. This is a repetitive process, so it is best done with the chair secured upside down. Since I just started this step, I’m not about to show you any pictures. They are all way to embarrassing! Maybe Monday or Tuesday if I can get a respectful joint to come together.


This is the stage of chair making that requires you to fix every little imperfection, from earlier in the process, which has followed you, never to be forgotten. Several different measurements, angles, and clamp pressure pull the frame where it sits now, and no amount of exactness will help to avoid this step. Take your time, and it will be fine. I’ll show you when I get back to class Monday.


I’m not sure yet what I’ll do tomorrow. The weather forecast is calling for rain and thunder storms for the next few days. I hope you’re dry and enjoy your weekend.


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