SQUIRREL! (and other shiny distractions)

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O.k., I had to lead with this pic because I’m super happy with this project.  It is, however, the squirrel that led me to look away from what I was doing at the time.

Let me explain; I had a couple soft maples sawed up into 8/4 slabs several years ago in anticipation of this bench.  After the grand tradition of doing things right, and learning to be patient enough to let wood dry, I dilligently stacked and dried these planks for a couple years.  Eventually, I cut and milled the planks for this workbench top, then promptly leaned them in a corner in the shop, to be almost forever-forgotten, after another grand tradition; the easily-distracted Dad/Husband/homeowner.

So after a few years, there I was, minding my own business, happily selecting and milling white oak for the trim for my new mudroom.  I had run a batch through the kiln for the windows and, like the short-sighted moron I can occasionally be, I dried only enough for the windows.  What, you didn’t know about the doors and the baseboard?  Jeez.

Anyway, I ran another batch through the kiln, and began choosing which board should go where, when I realized I just wasn’t feeling it.  I just had no gumption for what lay ahead.  Be easy on me, sometimes you just run out of creative gas.

While I was moving these boards around the shop, not really looking forward to the job ahead, I kicked one of the already-milled and ready-to-use maple boards I had milled a couple years ago.  Light bulb.  “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a big honkin’ workbench that didn’t slide around the floor when I leaned on it?” “Does it sound like more fun than building trim?”  Yes.  And yes.

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So, here we go.  Trim?  What trim?

This is a “Roubo”.  It’s only the most popular bench going right now, popularized by Chris Schwarz of Popular Woodworking Magazine.  It solves just about all of the problems of modern, rickety, underbuilt, gadget-laden workbenches.  It has a 4″ thick top, 5-1/2″ square legs, 1-1/4″ thick rails, and is about as manly as you can get with a workbench.  An almost-forgotten style of leg vise coupled with my twin-screw end vise make work-holding much easier.  Don’t forget another almost-forgotten work-holding device; the holdfast.  Drill 3/4″ holes in the top wherever you need them, and these things are awesome.  I got used to the shelves under my old work-pig, so I had to add the shelves underneath.

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The old work-pig

Here’s the original.  Casters on the bottom for the ever-changing setups in The Bronze Oak Leaf.  As I’ve said before, this shop changes from grease-monkey to sawdust more often than I’d like.

Anyway, when I completed this one, I still couldn’t bring myself to make trim.  So, I took some nice 8/4 planks of white oak and began the bench for the mudroom.

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Bench on bench

I got to the legs, which needed bandsawed, and remembered I don’t have a bandsaw.  Wait… SQUIRRELL!  dsc_0238

I DO have a bandsaw!  This old jalopy I bought a few years ago to restore!

Well, here we go.

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My biggest sticking point with the saw was that the ancient Babbitt bearing for the main shaft was shot.  Well, I knew nothing about pouring Babbitt, so this saw sat for a few years while I mulled it over.  I can really take my time mulling things over.

My brother was with me all the way, and we went to see one of his friends.  You know, one of those guys who just knows stuff.  He watched a short video on pouring Babbitt and said “why wouldn’t you do that?”

I spent a couple weeks planning, acquiring tools, and, of course, mulling it over.  For anyone considering a job like this, fear not- it wasn’t a bad job at all.  Kind of wish I’d had the courage a couple years ago.

Anyway, the pour went well, and I’m well on my way to having a functioning antique that I will make work better than anything you can buy at the store.  They really knew how to build stuff back in the day.

So, here we are.  A distraction from my distraction.  Waiting on parts for the saw, my mudroom bench is leaning in a corner waiting to be finished.  Oh, well.

SQUIRREL!  I need to change the oil in my car.

About Sam

Young, good-looking, manly--you get the picture. Novice woodworker with just too much rolling around upstairs to keep to myself. Random thoughts, philosophical questions, the occasional flash of insight or just dumb luck that needs to be shared with anyone who cares.
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