With the finish drying on my knockdown Nicholson workbench, I began working on a removable shelf to go below the bench. (Forgive me. I am so stuck in the 18th century when it comes to wanting a shelf below my bench.)
Then our postal carrier made an unscheduled stop at our front door. In his hands was a box filled with hardware bits I had resolved to try at the recommendations of readers.
Most of the bits were no better than the steel tee-nuts I had installed on the bench. But one of the bags in the box was heavy. Real heavy. This bag of 14 malleable iron mounting plates (McMaster-Carr 11445T1) was impressive. The plates were sand-cast, thick and heavy.
So I put aside the planks for the shelf and began removing all the tee-nuts to install the iron mounting plates.
I could be wrong, but I think I’m now done.
I tried to destroy the threads of one of these mounting plates and I failed. The wood between the plate and the bolt’s washer just popped and crushed instead. I’m sure I could ruin the mounting plate, but the bolt and wood would also be ruined in the process.
So I installed all the mounting plates and reassembled the bench. I was going to shoot a video of the assembly process, but that will have to be tomorrow. I’ve got 63 pending e-mails to deal with tonight.
The video, hosted by Mike Siemsen, is an introduction to the world of hand-tool woodworking that begins with a tool kit comprised of only a 5-gallon bucket. It ends with completing a workbench that will allow you to start building serious furniture.
While that might sound like a long journey, it’s not. Siemsen, a life-long professional woodworker, has distilled the process of purchasing, setting up and using a basic set of hand tools down its most important essence. And he doesn’t waste a second of time or a penny of money in the process.
Here’s an overview of the 174-minute video:
1. Buy the tools. We followed Siemsen to a regional meeting of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association where we picked through piles of tools all morning to separate the good user tools from the stuff that should be left to rust. Armed with a wad of $200 in small bills, Siemsen negotiated with the dealers to assemble a useable set of tools, everything from the saws and planes, to the files and saw vise needed to sharpen them up.
These principles can be used to buy tools online or at an antique mall.
2. Fix the tools. If you buy the right tools, they don’t require too much repair. But every old tool needs a little setting up. Using home-center equipment (a grinder, belt-sander paper and carpet tape), Mike fixed up and sharpened all the tools. He set up the planes. He sharpened the saws (and repaired their totes). And he got all the Auger bits in good order.
3. Build a sawbench. Before you can build a bench, you need a pair of sawbenches. So Siemens shows how to build a sawbench using nothing more than the basic tools, construction lumber and a couple of buckets.
4. Build a workbench. With the sawbenches complete, Siemsen builds a full-size Nicholson-style workbench using more construction lumber and the same set of tools. You don’t a single machine to make this bench, just Siemsen’s clever ideas and the tools you’ve fixed up.
The bench is designed to do all the tasks required in modern workshop, and it doesn’t take a month of Sundays to build. Siemsen built the entire bench – start to finish – in a single day. It might take you a few weekends.
The biggest surprise of the entire “Naked Woodworker” project is how affordable everything is. Siemsen spent a little more than $571 for everything, from the tools to the wood to the glue and screws. But he’s a good negotiator. We estimate almost anyone could do the same thing for no more than $760.
In addition to the two videos, “The Naked Woodworker” includes a detailed SketchUp drawing of the bench and a spreadsheet that details every tool, screw and stick of lumber purchased for the project.
This product is available in two formats: A two-DVD set that ships from our warehouse in Indiana for $22, or in digital format for $20. Customers who purchase the DVD will be able to download SketchUp drawing of the bench, a pdf of all the tools and materials used in the video after checkout.
Customers who purchase the digital product will download three documents: a SketchUp drawing of the bench, a pdf of all the tools and materials used in the video and login credentials to be able to watch the video on any device and download it onto any device – all in HD.
I had only 90 minutes in the shop today as we spent most of our daylight getting my daughter packed for college and taking her out for a rib dinner.
But during those 90 minutes I assembled the ends and added the stretchers. Everything went swimmingly until I fit the final stretcher. I planed the stretcher’s edge a stroke too many and so that one lap joint isn’t museum-quality.
However, the joint is at the back of the bench and by the floor, so I guess I have more luck than brains today.
Tomorrow it’s off to college, and I’ll brood about that joint’s gap all the way home.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. “The Naked Woodworker” will be live in the store tomorrow evening.
The only thing difficult about building this workbench in two days is not building the whole thing in only one day.
I had only about four or five hours of shop time today because we’re packing up our oldest daughter to head off to college on Monday. Despite this, and going to three record stores and a pizza dinner (A Tavola, my favorite), I had to restrain myself from just building the whole workbench start to finish today.
This morning I broke down all the stock with a circular saw, jointed all the boards’ edges with a jointer plane and glued up the top. Then I ate a jelly doughnut.
I clipped the corners of the front and back aprons with a handsaw and then glued a 1×10 spacer to the inside of each apron. This spacer, which is an idea I swiped directly from “The Naked Woodworker,” is one of Mike Siemsen’s moments of pure genius on the DVD. The spacers add rigidity and set the location of the legs.
Then I removed the machine marks from the legs and drilled all the holes for the knockdown hardware. The surface-mounted tee-nuts are a snap to install. They press into a 31/64” pilot hole; prongs stop them from rotating. Then No. 6 x 1-1/4” screws make sure the tee-nuts never fall out when the wood shrinks. I was impressed by how easy these metal bits were to install.
And when I cinched up the legs to the aprons with 3/8” x 3” hex-head bolts and 3/8” x 1” washers, the assemblies were rock solid.
Note that the order of assembly here doesn’t appear logical at first. But I have a good reason for it. More on that tomorrow.