Chris Schwarz's Blog

French Workbench in Douglas Fir, Day 1

When it comes to building furniture in my shop at home, I have zero desire for industrial-grade machinery. But when I need to get a class of students at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking to get 17 benches completely built in five days, I embrace the large-scale noisy stuff.

Some might call it selling out, but I call it the quickest way to get a workbench built that will allow you to practice handwork without fighting the wiggly table thing you bought from the home center one weekend.

However, the funny thing about all this machine work is that it always reminds me of the importance of mastering hand tools. When we needed to make small adjustments to 8’-long 6×6 timbers, the machinery just didn’t have the finesse. So we broke out the jack and jointer planes.

And when we needed to knock the top pieces into position while they were saturated with glue, we needed to fetch Mongo, my brass-headed mallet. It was the only thing that would do the job.

It’s a good day when Mongo comes out of the tool chest.

And tomorrow will also be a Mongo-day. While we had two of the tops glued up by quitting time, we still have 15 more benchtops to glue up.

— Christopher Schwarz

If you want a solid introduction to the world of hand tools, we have a new DVD “Mastering Hand Tools” for sale in ShopWoodworking. Check it out here.

9 thoughts on “French Workbench in Douglas Fir, Day 1

  1. plato

    Open your eyes mate!!…Mea Culpa Mea Culpa!!…I take it back in part LOL…I missed the jointer covers..at least writing when tired isn’t so dangerous as working with machinery when tired..which is when I sptrayed blood skin and bone around as a teenager using a jointer…good bye finger top to the first joint!!
    …however the comment about turning machinery off before walking away still applies as does the rest of the comment. I deserve your clip over the ear for that error …but to recover a little…some guys take the covers off jointers when using them…and the covers being taken off circular saw blades is shockingly common.Not good practice to use machine beds as a bench for hand tools either. I’ll go away and have a cuppa and a nap LOL!!…

  2. plato

    Hi there’s a few Occ health and safety issues here..especially with two fellows close together as one leans forward at the jointer…the middle bloke should back out before that happens.I see no covers on the machinery and I see no one turn it off…Someone should stand guard at the machine if left running that way.

    The thicknesser…you can see that the timber isn’t coming through straight by the gap between bed and timber….this will give ripples..A chap holding the far end and walking it into a short bed as most portable thicknessers have, just isn’t good enough, though common place.

    A table with rollers which are exactly the thicknesses bed height, should be installed…but then I’ve investigated deaths and injury from entrenched malpractices, I look at it more critically…and have written only to hope you’ll think about it.I have been criticised for doing two postings today already so I’ll pack it in after this short one on safety and technique.

    Things happen so fast and with high speed machinery (including routers) …I was on an outback property in Australia for example where a chap used a chainsaw improperly…and without a chain brake…the saw kicked out and sawed through his face and forehead in the wink of an eye…

    I wondered about the poor ‘B’ ….I never stand directly behind the chain saw…but then irrespective of my natural “intelligence” in these areas (LOL!!) …I have also learned the hard way.with high speed machinery it’s all over in a split second, hands fingers thumbs…off in a flash.

    In other cases a shattering saw blade or grinding wheel or angle grinder disk can be lethal…yet still, against all warnings people work on the sides of grinding wheels. They cut timber incorrectly on circular saws jamming it or presenting the saw blade with a knot like cast iron. Many work off the side of angle grinder discs..itself dangerous enough to ‘sharpen’ drills and screwdrivers… then use them for cutting …Please at least think about it…and speak and act about it in the workshop.Voila.

      1. Phred

        The old knifey moloko, peeted with synthemesc and drencrom? Careful, don’t end up like this: “Bit of a pain in the gulliver, mum. Leave us be and I’ll try and sleep it off. Then I’ll be as right as dodgers for this after.”

  3. Mitch Wilson

    If it’s time for Mongo, then it must also be time for cigars and beans. Will Marc permit all of that in his shop? And you have a droog with a derby to boot. He gets the prize for the best hat ever in a woodworking video.

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