Build the Holtzapffel Workbench Part 4: Gruntwork

I’ve taught eight woodworking classes this year, and I can tell you that every class has a Wednesday. This is the day when you work your hinder off (my hinder is long gone; ask my wife) and you don’t really seem to be much further along at the end of the day than when you started.

Oh, and this is the day when the instructor ruins some of your workpieces.

The day started great. We took the tops out of the clamps and cut them all to size on Kelly Mehler’s Felder table saw with a sliding crosscut table. Yes, the sliding table could handle a 3″ x 24″ x 8′ maple top. But it took a small army to porter each top in place.

And while Kelly was crosscutting, I demonstrated how to crosscut the tops to size with a Makita circular saw and an edge guide. No surprises here: With the Felder 10′ away, nobody opted to use the circular saw.

Then it was onto the detail work: cutting the tenons and dressing the legs. For the tenons, we set up two stations: One was a table saw with a dado stack that cut the tenons in one whack. The other setup used a table saw to cut the shoulders and a band saw to cut the cheeks.

I set up the machines, but I botched the setup on the table saw that simply trimmed the shoulders. I could blame the Europeans and their fancy table saw fences, but I won’t. It was me. When I thought I was locking down the saw’s rip fence I was actually just locking down the fence’s micro-adjust setting. So the fence moved and one of the students ended up making tenons with progressively longer shoulders.

Kelly had some replacement parts in the wings, so we quickly got back on track again.

Upstairs, the handwork began. I gave lessons in handplane sharpening and setup, and the students began dressing their maple legs with planes. There is a reason they call it “hard” maple. The stuff is hard to work. So I helped some students tune their planes a little higher. And we still have some tuning ahead of us.

I also got to give a demonstration in the care and feeding of augers and the bit and brace. By the end of the week, I suspect the students are going to be sleeping with their braces. Not because they love them so, but because their arms will be frozen while clutching them. Workbenches require a lot of boring.

Wednesday is now almost over. And Thursday is always a good day. These sticks of maple that we have been fussing over are about to become assembled workbench bases. It’s like making fire: Things get exciting when you put two sticks of wood together.

– Christopher Schwarz

Crosscutting the benchtops in one swipe on the table saw was very cool.

4 thoughts on “Build the Holtzapffel Workbench Part 4: Gruntwork

  1. David Pearce

    Chris,

    The class looks like alot of fun (translated – work!) Still, I wish I was there.

    I can imagine how nice it would’ve been crosscutting that top in one pass.

    You’re right about the Bit n’ Brace boring part, though. They’re going to have some seriously sore arms and shoulders soon.

    One note of caution for your students: Don’t mistake a 13/16’s bit for a 3/4 inch. Did I mention I finally figured out why my bench dogs don’t quite fit?? Yeah, I’ll be plugging the holes and re-drilling soon.

    See you in November!

  2. Michael Rogen

    Chris,

    Up until now I felt okay with my descion to drop this class when I did do to all the factors thar were against me, least of which was having to ship the bench home to New York at who know’s what price!
    Like I said, up until now; Just seeing Kelly’s class(you need to get him in a photo)and those great machines and hearing about your Faux Pau’s with the table saw really have me wishing I was there.

    I hope that all of the students realize how special it is to have you, "The Workbench King of the Free World" as instructor and Kelly as a host for six exciting days and how lucky they are to be able to bring home with them the most valuable tool in the workshop, a great workbench.

    I look forward with much envy to your next report from the front lines in Berea.

    Thanks for everything,

    Michael

  3. Chris Schwarz

    John,

    This bench is a 19th century form with different proportions and workholding than the Roubo. The legs are 3-1/2" x 5" and the tops are 3". It’s still a big bench by modern standards.

    We chose the Holtzapffel for this class because it has workholding that is more common for making furniture. The Roubo is great for furniture, too, but this one has a fantastic twin-screw vise.

    Either way you go, I think you’ll end up with a great bench.

    Chris

  4. John

    Chris,
    Thank you for the reports on class progress, it has been interesting. I noticed 8′ tops, does this mean 5X5 legs and a 4 inch top are not necessary? Why this bench as a class, why not the Roubo? I’m close to building one of these benches but still can’t decide which to build.

    Thank You

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