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?”
— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com
Next up: Workbench Personality No. 4: The Best of Everything