My daughter Maddy is sold out of stickers. But three new designs are being printed now. My favorite is the one shown above. If that sicker doesn’t make a bit of sense to you, read this blog entry at my other blog.
Maddy will start selling the stickers once they arrive.
Quick editor’s note: These entries on the six kinds of workbench builders are all 100 percent true. I have removed the names of the people involved (except for Todd). Note that I have only love for these nutjobs.
My encounters with The Cheapskate could fill a book on workbenches. This is but one short story.
I receive a fax. On the paper is the message: “Could you call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX please? I have an important question about workbenches.”
Intrigued, I call. My first question: Hey, uh, why the fax?
The Cheapskate: “We’re not allowed to make long-distance calls here at my place of employment. But they didn’t say anything about making long-distance faxes.”
A cold stone grows in my stomach.
The Cheapskate gets down to business: “I want to build a Roubo workbench, but I’m tight on fundage. We’ve got these pallets where I work, and I’m wondering if those will work? I don’t know what the species is – something weird – and the stock is thin and filled with nails and spiral screw things.”
I am certified in counseling The Pallet People. So I know what to do.
Question: What sort of sizes can you get from the pallets?
The Cheapskate: “About 1/2” thick, 4” wide and 48” long.”
Me: So for an 8’-long bench, you will need almost 100 of those pieces just for the benchtop. You will need to de-nail them, flatten them and glue them together in stages that are staggered – probably about 18 to 20 stages – if I remember right from my Pallet People Intervention Manual.
The Cheapskate: “Brilliant! Thanks so much! I’ll do it!”
A few weeks pass; another fax arrives.
The Cheapskate: “I’m working on the benchtop, and I have a technical question for you. How little glue do I need to use to stick these pieces together? I mean, I’m trying to recover all the squeeze-out, but I’ve laminated seven layers so far and used up a 16 oz. bottle of glue. That’s crazy.
“Can I get away with just gluing a little bit at the top and bottom of each board – leaving the middle dry?”
Me: I explain that glue is the cheapest part of any project. (“Not this one!” he interjects. “So far I’ve spent money only on glue!”) Deep breath. OK, I say, if you use this strategy, once you flatten the benchtop a few times the top will delaminate.
There is silence on the phone line. (I’ve won!)
Then he answers: “What if I put a paste of rice and water in the middle instead of glue? I’ve heard that rice glue was used in Japanese cultures. We have a lot of rice.”
I unplug the office fax machine.
The Cheapskate sends me an email: “I need to make a face vise and a tail vise, but all I have on hand is all-thread rod from a neighbor’s fencing job – 32 tpi. Can you help?”
I am seriously considering counseling for myself when a follow-up email arrives. It continues the discussion of the 32 tpi vises.
The Cheapskate: “I’m thinking a quick-release mechanism is the way to go – 32 tpi is really slow. But it’s super precise! So here’s the thing. I have a friend with a SawStop. He set the thing off when ripping my benchtop for me (some of the glue wasn’t dry). The SawStop cartridge has these strong blue springs in it. He was going to THROW THEM AWAY! That got me thinking: I could use those as a quick-release trigger for my vise – holding a bit of metal against the all-thread.
“Have you ever seen plans for something like this?”
Weeks pass, and I hope The Cheapskate has taken up Animal Husbandry, cheaping out on animal condoms or something. But then I get a phone call.
The Cheapskate: “I see you’re teaching a workbench class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.”
The Cheapskate: “I was wondering: Could you get a student to take videos of your lectures and send them to me? Not the building part. Just the part where you explain how to make the thing. I don’t really have the fundage to take a class.”
Me: I’m afraid that’s not really fair to the students or the owner of the school. Sorry.
The Cheapskate: “Hey, I totally understand. How about I just come to the class and watch? Is that OK? I won’t build anything. I’ll just be there, like a fly on the wall to listen? That OK?”
The Traditionalist sends me an email. He wants to find a source for his slab workbench top. It needs to be 6” thick, 20” wide and 9’ long. One piece of oak. And rived. Definitely rived. Rived is best. He’s talked to a tree service in his town about riving a tree for him, but they just shook their chainsaws at him.
Hmm, I reply. Have you tried visiting RivedBigSlabs.com? I apologize for my joke. OK, let’s try again: If you want a riven benchtop, you will have to do the work yourself.
He’s considered that, he writes. The problem is that the wedges they sell at his hardware store are either plastic or cast iron. Surely there is an online source for wrought-iron wedges. Wrought iron has grain, like a tree, and is much more suited to cleaving without deforming or breaking.
Also, could I suggest a class for making traditional forged axes in the American pattern? Nothing too late in the game – definitely an axe pattern before 1860. Best before 1830, when the great design malaise of Classicism crept into the work of the craftsman.
The Traditionalist sends me a message on Facebook. I don’t use Facebook. A week later he sends me another email. He’d like to buy a large frame saw for ripping his bench legs, but he can’t find anything suitable. Yes, yes, he knows there are people who sell kits for building a saw. He owns those already. But the blade isn’t right. The blade’s teeth have fleam.
Fleam, he explains, doesn’t show up in the historical record until sometime in the mid-19th century, well after the Golden Age of furniture making. If their saws didn’t have fleam, then surely they knew something we didn’t. Fleam must be an unnecessary modern contrivance.
My short reply: Dude, you definitely want fleam, especially in wettish hardwoods.
A week later, The Traditionalist replies: he’s removed the fleam and is having problems. The saw sticks. Do I think they filed sloped gullets between the teeth back then? Perhaps these larger gullets will carry away the waste? Also, he’d like to make some mutton tallow to lubricate the blade but doesn’t know what cut of lamb he should ask for at the butcher to make the tallow. Should it have a lot of fat? Cartilage? Do I have any cites to share on this matter?
The Traditionalist asks me a question during one of his SnapChat stories. One of my teenage daughters sees it and shows it to me on her phone. I decide to wait for his email.
The Traditionalist takes a workbench-building class. On the first day I explain how we’re going to build all the workbench components as a group – one team will work on tops, a second on leg joints, a third on the undercarriage and vises.
During a coffee break on the first morning, The Traditionalist asks if there’s any way he could build his bench during the class without power tools. He explains: Using these machines tends to rob the work of its soul. Everything is too exact. Too perfect. It has lost all its humanity. He wants to stand at a workbench that reflects his own values on craft. It should be beautifully imperfect.
I think about his request. OK, I say. You can build your bench by hand in the afternoons and evenings, and I’ll help you. But in the morning I need you to do your part on the machines so the class doesn’t fall behind. He gladly agrees. I assign him to the Altendorf sliding table saw to crosscut the components to length.
At lunch that day, The Traditionalist sits next to me.