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Woodworking is a solitary pursuit. Even at our shop at the magazine, it’s unusual for a couple of us to get together to work on something in the shop. Usually, desperation has to be heavy in the air before any of us dare ask for assistance.

Last spring, for example, Senior Editor Glen Huey helped me out with processing some stock for a class in Michigan. He saved my buttocks (thanks again, Glen). And more recently, Senior Editor Robert W. Lang needed some help getting the shiplapped shelf in his cool new bench ready for a photo shoot. Megan stepped in there, if I remember right. (And if I remember wrong, she will tell me.)

But these are press-in-your-yearbook red-letter days.

Even when I teach woodworking classes, I try to encourage students to work with one another. I ask them to to spot their benchmate’s errant sawing. To correct their wildacious (not a word, Megan, I know) boring. Or to simply help one another hold some parts together while the other drives a few screws.

Sometimes they help each other a bit. Sometimes they drift off into some other problem of their own.

So today we had to glue up an ANSI-certified, totally homogonized metric buttload of workbench tops for the class I’m teaching at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking. I’ve glued up a lot of workbench tops solo, but I can tell you that it is easier than biscuit joinery if you have a team of people slathering on glue, applying clamps and beating the living snot out of the miscreant boards.

Today was somewhat of a miracle. We glued up 31 laminations using a gallon and a half of Titebond Extend, more than 150 clamps and equal amount of sweat and saucy pirate talk. And while all this was going on, the students milled all their workbench legs to size using the jointer, planer and the God-awesome Felder table saw in Kelly’s shop.

At 5 p.m. and 28 laminations into the day, I was beginning to wane. But then I watched in stunned amazement as one of the students who had no vested interest in a particular lamination take charge of the entire situation to make sure that those three sticks of wood were glued together without a single gap.

That simple act took me through the next three laminations with great ease, as did the two Stella Artois beers that Kelly gave me.

Tomorrow is another day of brutal milling. We have to joint and plane all the laminations to make bigger laminations. And we have to mill the stretchers that go between the legs. Normally, I’d be resigned to this as another necessary step to get to the “good part” , joinery and fine-fitting. But with this group of students, I think we’ve already found the good part.

– Christopher Schwarz

Read “Build the Holtzapffel Workbench Part 3: Grit”

Do you really need two Felder jointers? Who doesn’t! Kelly Mehler’s awesome equipment makes pedestrian tasks feel God-like.

This was the scene right as lunch was served. Sure, we’d used $2,000 worth of clamps at this point, but the real work was still ahead of us.

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Showing 10 comments
  • Chris Schwarz


    That’s harder than it sounds. I’m taking these photos! Trust me, I’m here. Kelly will post photos of the class at the end, and we’ll provide a link. I am currently beardless, with short hair and looking like an investment banker. Ugh.


  • Santiago Carmona

    Christopher, please post some pics in which you appear working with the students.

  • Steve H.

    Isn’t Kelly’s shop GREAT! You’re right, he’s got a real Zen-like relaxed view of things.

    Looking forward to taking the class next year so I can finally get a decent workbench at home.

  • dave brown

    Ahhh Stella. The fallback in my woodshop. It’s a light tasting beer that will satisfy but not fill you up. It’s also low on the alcohol content scale so you won’t feel ready for a nap after drinking two or three.

  • John


    "Buttload" is a unit of volume, not weight. 🙂


  • Chris Schwarz


    We didn’t use spring joints. Instead, we used pure unadulterated high-pressure clamping force. The centers of the laminations were clamped with whatever. For the ends, we reserved the high-pressure I-beam clamps. Those super clamps closed up any errant gaps.

    Also, we used handscrews to shift the laminations around as we clamped things up. All-in-all there were a lot of different clamp forms used.

    In the PW shop and working alone, I stick with what I have: parallel-jaw clamps and some F-style clamps. So you can make these tops work with almost any clamp collection.


  • Wilbur Pan

    So given your observations with your students’ efforts to do all those laminations, were there any common pitfalls that you noticed in the benchtop creation process? Any words of wisdom for those of us who want to play at home? Sprung joints? Buttloads of clamp pressure?

  • Chris Schwarz

    Sweet Jesus. Does Glen save all of us?


  • megan

    As you hinted at my rather persnickety nature, I feel I must live up to said implication …it was Glen who helped with the shiplapped bottom. I merely wielded a card scraper and a can of Waterlox 😉

  • Charles

    Very interesting and entertaining post. You had me at "ANSI-certified, totally homogonized metric buttload of workbench tops". I tied to convert "buttload" into lbs via google but it said it was undefined… and I thought google had all the answers.

    I just purchased your Workbench book yesterday after reading your first post in this series as this build is now on my agenda. Can’t wait to bust out the saucy pirate talk myself and beat the snot out of some good lumber! I better get busy finding a parrot… it’s so hard to find a good one these days.

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