I’m a tool chest guy. At the end of the day all my tools go back in my chest to protect them and to soothe my head (I am a tidy German). When I’m working with my tools at the bench, I also like to keep them sorted – simply so I can work faster.
And that’s why I bought a Texas Heritage Woodworks Saddlebag and screwed it to the rear of my workbench. (FYI, I buy all my tools and etc. at full retail. I receive no “promotional consideration,” “affiliate monies” or “reach-arounds.”)
Like everything Jason and Sarah make, the quality is top notch. The seams are tidy, sturdy and riveted for strength. The pockets are thoughtfully designed to hold a variety of small woodworking tools.
My Saddlebag is set up to work like a traditional rack on a French workbench – it’s located opposite the face vise and slightly below the bench’s work surface. With the Saddlebag in this spot I can stick my typical small tools there while I work, and I always know where my 6” square and mechanical pencil are. (My ears are simply too big to tuck a pencil there – it would have to be the size of one of those pencils we had in kindergarten.)
The Saddlebag is also ideal for hanging inside a Dutch tool chest (check out this gallery of these chests on the Popular Woodworking blog).
Big slabs of wood move as they dry – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. In my experience, the worst of the movement happens in the first six to 12 months of drying. The hardest two problems to deal with that emerge from the drying process are: a crown over the length of the slab, and the more common twist or wind over the length.
This movement (particularly a bad twist) can mean removing a tremendous amount of wood to get a flat surface. A jack plane with a cambered iron can do wonders, but if there is a lot of wood that has to come of it, can be quite a job. Another factor can be the wood itself. Most of the benchtops I deal with are red or white oak; once dry, it is hard to take much of a bite with a handplane.
The past couple of years I have been using a hand held electric plane for hogging off the majority of the offending wood. It works quite well across or with the grain. When using it cross-grain it will take close to 1/8″ off each pass. Once I am close to where I need to be, I can easily finish up with handplanes.
These little electric planes vary in price, I think I paid $120 for the one I have. This one has seen some pretty heavy use and has held up well so far.
In the video Chris and I shot, “Roubo Workbench: by Hand & Power,” we used one of these electric planes to flatten one face of the benchtop. We did the opposite face of the top with a 20″ surface planer. After all was said and done, wrestling the 300 lb. benchtop through the surface planer was much more exhausting than going the electric plane/handplane route.