A Long-overdue Workbench Modification

Before

I’m in the midst of making my mom’s Christmas present*, and though I did the machine work at the “office” today, I decided to bring the surfaced and mortised pieces home (the hollow-chisel mortiser is my favorite power tool) and cut the tenons by hand. Yes, I could have cut them on the table saw, but these are offset tenons on small pieces, and I know I can cut them by hand more safely, accurately and quickly than I can get the table saw set, then reset for the second cheek.

So with my tenons marked out, I notched a V (following Robert Wearing’s tenoning advice in “The Essential Woodworker”) and secured the workpiece in my leg vise, leaned over, then couldn’t see my cutting-gauge line. My body, in sawing position, blocked the light. My shop, you see, is also my study. And the only illumination is from the ceiling light in the middle of the room and the glow from the computer screen.

Usually, I get around this problem one of two ways: 1) Do high-tolerance work during daylight hours; 2) Drag a reading lamp over from my bedroom and try not to trip over the base as I move around my bench.

Well, I’m tired of that…and I have only a few nights left in which to get this present done.

Last week (no doubt tired of hearing me complain about the problem), Christopher Schwarz loaned me the 1960s Luxo Magnification Light he used to use at work, already attached to a base with a dog. It’s been knocking around in my trunk since. Problem is, I haven’t yet needed any dog holes along the back of my benchtop. So there weren’t any to just drop it into and get to work.

It was either this, or don platform shoes to reach….

So I set aside my tenon saw, and reached for my brace and a 3/4″ bit. A few minutes later, I had a hole. Seconds after that, I had light that I can direct wherever it’s needed – not to mention a magnifying glass!

Now, I’ve a 20th-century light on my 18th-century-style workbench in my 19th-century house.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

After

* No, I’m not writing about my mom’s Christmas present until after I give it to her. Last year, she read about it on the blog beforehand.

 

After I posted the above, a couple folks asked to see how the mounting block works. I didn’t make this (I’m assuming Christopher did), but it appears there’s a screw coming out of the lamp base bottom (perhaps originally for a clamping mechanism?) and that is threaded into the block of wood. Then, on the bottom side of the block, a dowel was inserted, and whittled down to fit a 3/4 hole (obviously, if you have a 3/4 dowel, no whittling need occur). Pictures below.

Bottom of mounting block; you can see the screw poking through on the left.

base of light

26 thoughts on “A Long-overdue Workbench Modification

  1. steveh

    The Swedish furniture place usually has a good assortment of decent lights for the workbench. I paid about $4 for one a few months ago. It has a swivel head but no magnifier or flex nect. But it does the job … and it only cost $4 (do I repeat). The bulbs are more expensive.

  2. BoredCutter

    From the tiny corner, it’s within the realm of possibility that Ms. Fitzpatrick has installed a Benchcrafted (Moxxon) vise???

    So… let’s see that would be a 21st century vise, lit by a 20th-century light on her 18th-century-style workbench in her 19th-century house.

    (Sorry, being a blackjack aficionado, I didn’t like the number “21” not being represented somewhere. )

    Festina lente! :)

  3. Darrell S 4001

    There are various desk lamps available that have the adjustable arms, with and without the magnifier, that have a pin base mount. The plastic base that comes with these is fine for an office desk, but totally inadequate for the shop. I replaced my plastic part with a wood block for the house workbench (much stronger), and have a wood screw clamp – the kind with two opposing screws – with a vertical hole and a horizontal hole so that it can be clamped almost anywhere as a base for the lamp. No need to drill new holes in anything, and it works at the drill press, the band saw, wherever a little extra light is needed.

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Each of the for us actually 5″ wide, 4-1/2 thick; they were cut down from leftover timbers from a log cabin build; Craig’s list – incredibly economical. If I build another, my fist call will be to log home builders to see if they’ve any off cuts available.

  4. BLZeebub

    Amazing what you can see with light! I’ve collected a few trash bin beauties of old desk lighting. The one I use most is an old black wrinkle-paint finished magnifier light too. Mine’s mounted to a round weighted base BUT it was still a bit too tippy. Now it wears a ten pound collar made from an old plastic covered exercise weight plate. The stem fits through the weight’s center hole and still seats fully into the base. I wouldn’t dare attempt any joinery without it.

  5. Bill

    “Now, I’ve a 20th-century light on my 18th-century-style workbench in my 19th-century house.” [next to your 21st century computer] :-)
    Looks like a good modification.I have to get into the shop and finish some projects this week as well. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
    -Bill

  6. Bernard Naish

    Megan, Well done for using a brace and bit and not being as bone idle as some of your colleague who used power tools to do this simple task. I am staggered that I have see videos of power drills being used to drive a couple of screws. Nothing quite beats the speed, accuracy and sheer pleasure of such hand work. Our shop looks like a flamingo lake with the necks of lamps above our benches.

    Happy Seasons Hand work. Bernard Naish

  7. jcontract

    Megan. Funny you are writing on this. I have an old Luxor as well and I haven’t gotten around to mounting so that it’s got a dog hole on the bench. Would you share how it’s mounted? Perhaps a photo? You have just inspired me to get this little project done!

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      I’ll add some pictures at the bottom above – basically, there’s just a screw on the bottom of the lamp (I’m guessing it was originally part of a clamping mechanism?) that’s sunk into a block of wood, into the bottom of which, there’s a dowel inserted that’s been shaved a bit to fit easily into the dog hole.

      1. MikeC

        If it’s like my nearly identical light, that is actually a pin coming out of the light that fit a hole in its original clamp mount. The pin allows the lamp to pivot in the mount. My small auxiliary bench, which is pretty much dedicated to sharpening has a couple of holes for the light. It mostly lives next to the saw vise so I can use the light and magnifier when sharpening a saw.

        I like you mount. I’ll have to make one for my new bench rather than drill dedicated holes for lights.

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