I can handle it

One of the other great things about the Woodworking in America conference, was being able to see many different types of workbenches. And, not just seeing them, but using them, getting a feel for how they function, their weight, their height, etc. All of the editors and writers from Pop. WW had their own benches there, in addition to some commercial models that had been loaned from a store that should remain nameless. Comparing the two types, the store bought benches (well, store borrowed) couldn’t come close to the quality of the handmade ones. They were so light and unsolid that doing any handwork on them would cause them to start rocking like The Who Live at Leeds in 1970. All of the benches that have been featured in the magazine recently were there: Chris Schwarz’ massive cherry slab Roubo bench, Megan’s smaller version with an amazingly smooth rack and pinioned leg vise from Benchcrafted, the LVL bench with an added vise, and so on. Looking at the various types of construction for the bases and trying to decide which one I want to use on MY next bench. (I’m leaning towards a Roubo style tenon/sliding dovetail, of a more timber frame type like Bob Lang‘s design.)

Maybe I’ll build two, one for the shop, and a smaller one to use in the house in the colder weather. (Great; MORE projects for the list!)

Amongst the various vendors in the Marketplace, were the small tool makers that have popped up in the last few years, like Blue Spruce, Bridge City, Knew Concepts, and others. One of the newer makers of marking knives, chisels, and so forth is Czeck Edge Hand Tools. One thing that sets them apart is that, in addition to very finely handled tools and well honed O1 steel, they sell the components in a kit form, so you can turn your own handles form your favorite wood. I used this economical path with a new card scraper burnisher and small marking knive. The old burnisher wasn’t cutting it. (Just ask Chris Schwarz what he thinks about Crown burnishers. Just make sure there are no kids around!) I used African Blackwood for the burnisher handle, and a mystery exotic that I found in a box of Cocobolo cutoffs for the marking knife. (I think, its some Rosewood, but it could be any one of a number of chocolatey brown/green exotics.) The burnisher handle was no problem, but the knife handle proved to be a challenge because of its thinness. Trying to bring it down to a point at the end makes for some tricky workholding on the lathe. Luckily, the mystery wood was strong enough that it held by just a tiny bit, so I could do most of the sanding and finishing on the lathe. Some epoxy, and I have two new tools, custom fit to my hands.

The new burnisher has already proved to be a boon. I honed and turned a fine burr on a new curved end card scraper lickety split, and produced the nicest shavings I’ve ever gotten with a scraper. (I’m sure Marc Adams session on card scrapers helped, too.)

Now there’s no surface I can’t handle!

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