French Workbench Class – Day 6
It is unwise to rush when installing vises on a workbench. So I stopped whipping the
maggots students during the last two days of the class and encouraged them to work at their own pace. Some slowed down, but some stayed at the fevered pitch established in the first four days of the class.
In the end, I think everyone got at least one vise installed. Several students got everything done but the final cleanup. And I demonstrated how to do the final flattening with a jointer plane. (I hope one student will be sending us a cool photo of a method that has never been shown before.)
Then everyone loaded up their benches, packed up their tools and headed out. The class wrapped up at 4:30 p.m. I was home at 6:15, and my wife, Lucy, had bought me a growler of Existential ale (which is why I didn’t post this last night – you should not drink and edit video) and Dewey’s pizza.
I am a lucky man.
I’d like to take this opportunity to address some of the comments that have appeared on the earlier posts this week.
Gloves: I have no strong opinion on wearing gloves while machining rough timbers. Kelly Mehler does it, and he’s Mr. Safety. I think the right gloves – very tight-fitting ones – could be OK and do help your grip and protect you from splinters. And if you always keep your hands 6” from a spinning cutterhead, you’re going to be OK. I’ve tried gloves, and I don’t think they deaden your sensitivity – that’s just bunk. You can feel all the vibrations just fine.
On using power tools to build a bench that’s suited for handwork: I choose the best tool for the job. We were starting with rough timbers, and if we had processed the stock by hand, we’d still be assembling workbenches down in Berea. I am unapologetic about my approach. I like machines for the grunt work and hand tools for the details.
On the choice of timber: A few people have given me grief about using No. 2 yellow pine for this project. Again, I offer no apologies. Yellow pine is a fantastic wood for benches. I’ve forgotten what the material fee was for the students, but it was laughably cheap. And yes, there are some knots, just like on the old benches. I think knots make the thing look bada#%.
Thanks to all the students in the class. It’s rare to have a class without one professional wiener. And thanks to Kelly Mehler and Ben at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking. Without their assistance with the machines, we probably wouldn’t have gotten the benches assembled by Wednesday.
— Christopher Schwarz, who is ready for a nap