One of the first things you need to start woodworking is a good bench, they say (“they” meaning most everyone who gives woodworking advice on the Internet). It makes sense, I mean, you have to build your project on something, right? My first project was a bench, of sorts, a milkman’s workbench to help with holding work on my rickety porch table. I didn’t trick it out to the level it was meant to be, never adding the wood screws in front or putting on finish. I did add a veneer press to act as a sort of end vice but it never worked that well and finally kinda fell off.
The people who owned our house before us left several things behind including the world’s smallest oven, stained carpet (seriously, what the hell was that?!?), and a high bench-looking monstrosity in the garage. When I first saw this “bench” I scoffed, thinking it was about as useful as the stained carpet (was it soda? Lord, I hope it was soda). No, I thought, this bench (Shitty Bench, as I call him) with its wobbly construction and nails poking out at odd spots, this is not a bench fit for a True Woodworker. Now, I was not above using it, it was after all, already there there and I had stuff to do, but the whole time I was planning for the Awesome Workbench. I bought books, watched and even bought some videos, and fretted. I finally decided I would go with an English bench style mostly following Chris Schwarz’s design but incorporating a lot of the hand tool techniques (especially using nails in the construction) I learned in Richard Maguire’s videos. I was so happy how awesome Awesome Bench would be. So I started building… and here I am, still… building…
As all this went down I discovered something about my woodworking self. I don’t like shop projects all that much, well, at least shop bench projects. And, as much as I KNOW I will love having a proper flat, stable work surface, I just can’t get into the work of building it as much as I am into building other stuff. Last December my nephews helped me flip over Shitty Bench and saw some height off it, greatly increasing its efficiency and greatly reducing my back pain when planing. So, while Shitty Bench is still shitty, it is usable and remains my primary work surface.
I really want to start building a smallish wall cabinet by the beginning of July. This gives me the rest of this month to finish up some DIY related stuff and maybe make some progress on Awesome Bench. But who are we kidding? I would just rather spend my limited time in the shop working on stuff destined to leave it.
Featured image is from Mendel’s and Landauer’s house books, as discussed on Lost Art Press blog.