Bootstrapping – Phase 2

I’m more or less following the script of The Naked Woodworker for my workbench, making adjustments as necessary to accommodate the differences in sizes and shapes of lumber that are available to me here in Ecuador. I used the two-bucket sawbench illustrated in my prior post to build a “real” Mike Siemsen-style sawbench, and then used that one to build a second, twin (fraternal) sawbench.


Workbench material

I’ve been amassing the materials for the workbench over the past few days, most recently with a trip to a different lumber vendor, Maderas La Morita.


Their sign could use a little work…


A fraction of the lumber for sale at La Morita, several different species

I ran into a bit of a language difficulty while there, not understanding the difference between tabla and tablon (roughly the difference between “board” and “plank” in English). I would have thought that the two words were fairly interchangeable, but apparently not so. Anyway, I got confused, which made the person trying to sell me the wood confused, which made me even more confused. But it all worked out in the end.

I was looking for some 3/4″ pine, which they did not have. “Not a problem! We’ll just make some.” (Loose translation.)

And so they did. They took a thick pine slab and resawed it for me on the spot:


Changing out the blade on the tablesaw; the one that was mounted wasn’t quite big enough to span half the width of the plank


A couple of passes through the thickness planer, and we’re good to go

The pine lumber that I have is surface planed and jointed on one edge, but rough on the other. The leg assemblies of the Naked workbench require the two sides of the leg plank to be (or be made to be) reasonably parallel, which would be easy to do if I had a workbench, which I don’t. So I screwed two pieces of scrap to a 2×6, so that I could wedge a board into the tapered gap between the scraps:


My first vise

The improvised vise holds the board surprisingly securely, and I only crashed my plane into the wall once.

The Kywi that I’ve been buying most of my tools and hardware from has a decent selection of screws for wood and sheet metal, but hardly any bolts at all, so I wasn’t able to get the necessary carriage bolts there. But have no fear, because just down the road from our house in Tumbaco is La Casa del Perno (House of Bolts), and they had just what I needed.


All the bolts you want, all the time

Elsewhere on the tools and hardware front, I previously mentioned that I might buy another saw and make it a dedicated rip saw. I did just that, and now you can see why I was hesitant to buy it earlier:


Shark? Maybe. Saw? Definitely not.

I’m clearly going to have to spend a bunch of quality time with the saw to get the teeth into reasonable shape, but so it goes. I did discover something that I had somehow missed on previous trips:


Saw sets. In blister packs.

Knowing that a saw set is available to me makes me less reluctant to fiddle with the set of the saws that I have.

–Steve Schafer

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12 Responses to Bootstrapping – Phase 2

  1. Roger says:

    Very entertaining and interesting post; thanks. Roger

  2. richmondp says:

    Steve, I admire your sense of adventure and have been thoroughly enjoying your posts. Thank you.

  3. fitz says:

    “…and then used that one to build a second, twin (fraternal) sawbench.” Ha!

  4. toolnut says:

    Fun posts. I was wondering, have any of the neighbors have gotten curious yet?

    • steveschafer says:

      In Ecuador, as in Latin America in general, anyone who is in the equivalent of the middle class or higher lives in a secure compound of some kind, be it a single house within a walled garden or a gated community. The house we’re renting is one of four in such an enclosure, all owned by members of a single extended family. The couple that own the house we’re in are working on a long-term project in the Galápagos, which is why they’re renting the house out.

      So the only “neighbors” who can see what I’m doing are all people that I’ve already met, and interact with fairly frequently, plus the various gardeners, housekeepers, etc. that work here during the day. The family matriarch (I call her “Abuela”) came over while I was woodworking one day, and we had a brief conversation about hobbies (hers is needlepoint). Other than that, I think there’s some mild amusement about what I’m doing, but that’s about it. I suspect that there will be more interest once I actually start producing real stuff.

  5. “And so they did. They took a thick pine slab and resawed it for me on the spot…”

    Wait, they have thick pine slabs?? if they have thicker slabs of pine, it might be worth checking to see if you can get the workbench top out of just a few pieces instead of a big lamination.

    • steveschafer says:

      Well, they had one thick pine slab. The Naked workbench is a Nicholson design, with a 2×12 top and some blocking underneath to give holdfasts something to bite into.

      If I were going to be here longer, I’d build another workbench with a thicker top (and believe me, there is a lot of heavy timber to be had around here). But that kind of bench is more difficult to build unless you already have a bench to build it on, hence bootstrapping via the Naked approach.

  6. I would love it if I could find a saw set in a blister pack here in the U.S.! Really digging your adventure.

  7. When you actually get that sawset to work, there is a trick with paper and a vise – not sure if you’re familiar with it? No? You start out by setting the teeth just an increment more than you want with the sawset. Even though it has a depthstop, adjuster and so forth, you most likely will not succeed in a dead straight kerf – here is where the trick comes in! Paper will cut, but only compress slightly, which means if you fold a certain gauge of paper, or fold it beforehand to desired thickness, then wrap it around the blade and give it a nice and tight squeeze in the vise, then the teeth will cut into the paper, still being set that certain thickness of the paper, whilst the paper on the flat surface of the blade will only compress that much, leaving you with a set of perfect teeth straight as an arrow and ready to rock. You might want to experiment a bit with what paper and how many layers actually works for your particular wishes for set.

  8. Chris Decker says:

    I’ve really enjoyed these posts! I lived in Paraguay for two years, but it was well before I became interested in woodworking. Bricks and mortar were the go-to choice for construction, and given the relative scarcity of lumber, people had a sort of reverence for it. I still have a nativity set that was hand carved from Palo Santo. Thank you for sharing your adventure!

  9. Mike Siemsen says:

    Good to see The Naked Woodworker put use as it was intended! Your saw horses look great by the way and I appreciate your use of what is a available locally. The bootstrap approach can seem difficult initially but as you go you are finding local sources that you would not know about if you had everything shipped in. Reworking saws will add to your skill set and confidence as well as your feeling of accomplishment. Keep up the good work.

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