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There are a few things that have been kicking around our shop forever. Now and then we come across them, recognize them as valuable, and move them out of the way. Some are small, such as an ash panel glued up by a former editor, and some are big like the life size photo of Bob Vila that used to live on the top shelf of the lumber rack. One of these items is the face frame for my backbench. This face frame has appeared in the background of many photos, most recently the cover of the April issue, and in this photo from last summer taken while I worked on my bench.

The backbench cabinet, referred to around the shop as “Bob’s Credenza” will sit under the window, behind my workbench. It’s about eight feet long with four sections of storage space for tools and miscellany. I like my main workbench away from the wall, and a separate storage bench behind me. The backbench is a staging area for tools and parts, leaving the main bench free for work in progress. When it’s complete I will be much more organized, and the piles of junk that sometimes show in the background of step photos will become a memory of days gone by.

As sometimes happens, I started a project, got part way through and then set it aside. When I paused, I had no intention of leaving the project for as long as I did. But things happened, events beyond my control took over and time marched on. I got back to it a couple of weeks ago, found the door parts and drawer fronts I had set aside, and made the plywood boxes. As I planed the doors, I realized that the cherry had developed the patina that comes after a year or more. I wondered how long I had left this sitting.

I blogged about my methods at the beginning of the project, so it was easy to check back to see when I had left off. It’s been a while, but I’ve made progress recently and will be posting soon about building the cabinets, joining the face frame to the boxes and hanging the doors. I still have a ways to go; drawers to build and a top to make. The drawer fronts were milled long ago and I was a little surprised to find that they were all still there.
So I’m hoping you readers can help me to feel better. What’s the longest period of time that you’ve let a project sit without working on it? Leave a comment below. I’m heading back to the shop to get to work, although I’m curious to see who or what is on top of the lumber rack. And I’ll have to track down the pleonastic editor who left half a bibliothques’s worth of parts on my bench.

–Robert W. Lang

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Showing 13 comments
  • Mauve

    Hey. You cannot be mad at somebody who makes you laugh – it’s as simple as that.
    I am from Antigua and too bad know English, give true I wrote the following sentence: "Also among them are the two best known tax cut by block and turbo tax."

    Waiting for a reply :p, Mauve.

  • Bob Bell

    Started a butler’s table in 1977. Finished it in 2005. Moved partially constructed table and mahogany and hardware that had been purchased for the project twice.
    Finished table looks pretty good. However my wife gave me a d- for timeliness.

  • John G

    I just finished a clock as a 2008 Christmas present that I started in 1981……27 years. 🙂

  • Archae

    I had big plans for a garage workshop and doing a lot of creative woodwork after moving into a new house twenty years ago. I was impressed with the versatility of the Shopsmith system, and when I finally could afford one four years later, I thought I was finally making progress toward my goal. It was late fall when the machine arrived. I assembled it within a few days of its arrival but did not fully complete its setup. Then winter came and it was too cold to work out in the garage. For nearly fourteen years it sat against the wall before I did the final adjustments and calibrations, and cut my first scrap of wood on the table saw. Almost all of the Shopsmith accessories, and the band saw I purchased at the same time, were still in their sealed shipping cartons. Its all unpacked now, but I have yet to complete a full project using my Shopsmith, yet I know it will happen someday, if I don’t die first.

  • Stephen Kirk

    Well, I made the body for a bread knife about 5 years ago. I believe it’s still sitting on top of my sanding cabinet awaiting final sanding and a blade. Maybe one of these days …

  • Bob Lang

    To update a couple questions that were asked. I’ve given up on the finished end panels, deciding that this is a "shop cabinet" after all. The right side ends up against the tall cabinet that holds the shop stereo and our collection of glues, tapes and abrasives and will never be seen. The left side is partially visible now, but will most likely be buried under clamps and interesting and useful pieces of wood. I’ll try to work the mitered end/panel face frame joint in somewhere-it’s one of those things that seems intimidating but isn’t that hard to do.

    The original drawings for this were done in a program called VectorWorks, and all the drawings for my books were done in AutoCad. I’ve made some changes and will post a SketchUp model of the cabinet "as built". We are now doing all of our drawings for the magazine in SketchUp, at least initially. To get to print they make a trip through Adobe Illustrator, sometimes with a side trip to AutoCad. I haven’t used LayOut much. I didn’t like the version with SketchUp 6 and haven’t had time to explore the newest version.

    Bob Lang

  • Jonas

    I started making a set of domino out of bog oak and aluminium dots exactly on dec. 26th of 1988, I have never finished it, and I still bump into the pieces once in a while.
    So I guess that is a little more than 20 years.
    There are some other projects like a large model boat that I now intend to finish along with my son.

  • Dennis

    Longest a project has sat before finishing – probably on average about 5 yrs. I modified the dry sink plans that PW has on the site for use as an actual vanity, and it took at least 4 years to finish and install. There are parts of a new medicine cabinet that have been sitting at least 2 yrs, and I made some shelves for my sister that she finally got I think 6 years after they were promised.

    I think that it’s part of the process, after all, the wood has to properly season and dry out, right??

  • Charles Brown

    Bob, thanks for updating us on the backbench. This may be a little off topic, but, out of curiosity (I came to this after looking through your past posts), what program are you using for your construction drawings? The picture from your past blog looks a lot similar to the drawings in your Complete Kitchen Cabinetmaker book–is that AutoCAD or have you moved over to SketchUp / LayOut for this part of your design process?


  • Eric Pereira

    This is a project I’ve been interested in for a long time and seeing your face frame in the background of many pictures kept me hoping you would come back to it later or a lot later. I really enjoyed your previous posts about it (especially your pragmatic way of working and the use of an integral beaded detail) Are you still going to join the face frame and the finished end panels with a miter? Looking forward to reading the rest…


    I have had a childs wagon completed except for finish and the handle for 5 years and counting. I was making a wagon for my neice and decided to make two so if there were issues with parts I could finish one. The last step before finish was to put the oak handle on a lag screw. One of the handles cracked so I used the back up part. I have still never completed another handle for the 2nd wagon.

  • Narayan

    Half my shop (and most of my life) is an unfinished project, Mr. Lang. My TS extension cabinet still has no drawer fronts, my bench cabinet still has no drawer fronts, there’s still a DC duct with a cap on the end of it rather than a few more feet of ductwork and a blast gate. The list goes on and on.

    Someday. Someday.

  • Murphy

    My oldest of three was born 4 1/2 years ago. Having taken a recent survey of the shop and calculating for windage, I would say the longest I have let a project sit is about 4 1/2 years.

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