I met Mike Shalit a few years ago in a craft gallery near Tel Aviv, Israel. Constructura Gallery displayed several of my cutting boards and Mike, who frequented this gallery from time to time, complimented me on their design. We started a conversation on the best (and worst) finishes for wood utensils, and naturally continued to explore other woodworking subjects. At the end of our chit-chat I realized that the man I just met is a gifted woodworker.
Last month I visited Mike for the first time in his trailer-sized shop in Hod HaSharon, Israel. There is no other way to describe Mike’s woodshop but to say that it is a marvelous place. Surrounded by citruses, pecans, figs and sugar-apple trees, Mike’s shop is an oasis – a one-of-a-kind “lab” were woodworking and innovations are merged together. This is also the place ware Mike teaches his grandkids how to enjoy and love woodworking, in hope that they will fall in love with this art as he did more then 70 years ago in England.
I will dedicate a few of my next blog entries to Mike’s art and achievements: as a carver, innovator and woodworker.
Lets start with something really great that I saw in his shop: an adjustable bench dog, made from a car Jack that he installed on his bench.
Mike took an old Italian Fiat 500 jack and installed it under his workbench top. He welded a makeshift rectangular socket to the jack’s movable arm and opened a slot in the bench to allow it to travel back and forth. One wooden bench dog can be placed into the socket, while another is placed into one of the bench dog holes that he opened in the bench-top. When Mike cranks up the jack's handle, the movable bench dog starts to travel towards the stationary one. If a work piece is put between the two, the huge clamping pressure of the dogs will keep it put.