Sunday, August 17, 2008
I'll admit it. I was a Normite. In fact, it was Norm Abram who taught me how to use power tools. At a time when there seemed to be very few female woodworkers (16 years ago), it was a tad bit intimidating to ask for assistance in a woodworking store full of men. But good 'ol Norm was there to give me my first push down the slippery slope of woodworking.
Then about 10 years ago, I became interested in working with handtools. Now I use a blended workshop.
But to all of us—power tool, hand tool, or blended woodworkers—don't we all share an irrepressible and magnetic attraction to workbenches?
My conundrum as a beginner handtool user was: How do you use a workbench? How do you make the most of it? What part of the tail vise is used to clamp stock?
The answers were found in books like The Workbench Book, Making Workbenches, and Choosing and Using Handtools (among others). And with the recent release of Chris Schwarz's book, we have another fabulous resource.
Books like these disclose the importance of bench jigs. Pictured are a cut off jig for dowels and a planing stop. The cut off jig has a roughly chiseled V-groove that holds a dowel in place, and a piece of wood glued beneath the front edge that acts as a bench hook. The planing jig has through-tenoned dowels that drop down into holes that are bored into my benchtop. Both jigs see a lot of use in the shop.
Once I learned how to use a workbench, how to make the most of it, how to build and employ bench jigs, it opened up a whole new dimension in woodworking. And the slippery slope became a whole lot steeper.