If you have ever been in spitting distance of a tornado then you are familiar with the sound and then the silence.
Today we finished up most of the machine work for the benches and turned our attention to the handwork needed to get the joints together. But first, there was to be a smoke show.
While ripping a last piece of oak on a 14” Martin table saw, the oak clamped down on the back of the blade. The operator, one of the skilled assistants, held his ground at the arbor. If he’d let go, the 60-pound piece of oak would have flown back at him. He couldn’t turn off the saw because the old-style switch was out of reach of his leg.
I saw it happen all from behind. First there was a noise. When I looked up the smoke from the blade was drifting into the shop fan – shooting it out like a jet across the room.
As the noise began to bend, the operator’s strong arms began to jiggle like Jell-O. I started to run for the switch, but Jeff Miller was faster. He dove under the saw and switched it off. No harm came to anything except the wood, which was burned.
No one said much of anything for about an hour. The machines in the room were turned off. The rest of the day was mostly quiet. A few people switched on the band saw for a cut or two. But most of the day was all hand cutting, hand planing and hand paring.
Despite the adrenaline, I tried to keep moving all day long. Thursday is my last day here in Barnesville, Ga. On Friday morning I have to head out to Berea, Ky., to teach a two-day class on making wooden layout tools at the Kelly Mehler School of Woodworking.
So I had to get all the joints fitted for the base of the bench so I could cut the joints in the top. The strength in these French workbenches is in the joint between the tops and the legs. The stretcher joints are not as critical.
So when it comes to fitting those joints, I usually take a page from the playbook of Peter Follansbee. He says that mortise-and-tenon joints such as these should be seated when you hit them with your hat.
So about 5 p.m., Jeff Miller walked up to me as I was bashing one of my joints with a dead-blow mallet.
“Looks like we have the same kind of hats,” he said.
I grabbed my shoulder plane and finished the job in 10 minutes.
I wiped down my tools and put them away. Ate barbecue. We went back to our sleeping quarters and the power went out in a thunderstorm (it was a 30-percent chance of rain).
So now I need to sign off so Raney Nelson, Don Williams and I can tell ghost stories.
— Christopher Schwarz