Tuesday, December 27, 2016

a warm day in the shop

Today I will spend my day in the wood shop, preparing for assembly of a large table top of solid quartersawn white oak. The wood must be planed to a uniform thickness, then the edges of each heavy plank must be made straight and flat so that it may be joined to its neighbor on both sides. As the table top is glued together it will become of enormous weight and difficult to move in the shop. At some point in the day, I'll set up an area in the shop where the top can be assembled, cut to shape, sanded, routed and finished with as little additional movement of it as possible.

I often tell my students that box making can build skills for other areas of the woodworking crafts, but there is a distinct difference between working with small pieces of wood that can be handled easily and accurately on the table saw, and the pieces of wood I am using in this project.

But I have always taken pride in being a "woodworker," and not just a "box maker." Boxes can be made from scrap, or from just any old thing. Furniture of a larger scale, simply takes larger wood,lots more of it and to handle larger wood takes greater strength and often requires different strategies than one would use to cut small stock. This often involves bringing the tool to the wood, rather than bringing the wood to the tool, particularly when the wood is too long, thick, heavy and cumbersome for safe handling.

It is important to have variety and change of pace in one's work so making this table allows me to think in different ways and to take some satisfaction in my continued growth.

My daughter Lucy is home for a brief holiday visit from teaching high school in New York. Her school is an incubator  for New York City of new, better ideas and ideals and she's preparing for a week-long cooking intensive. Besides making food, (and eating it) the students will learn some math, measuring, chemistry and cooperation, while having fun. Boys and girls will take part in the class. Cooking is one of the most popular classes offered during the special week of intensives. This will be Lucy's second year of teaching that particular class. The important thing for all educators and educational policy makers to remember is that all students need most to do real things. Education mired in abstraction leaves children bored, disinterested, and sometimes disruptive.

Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.


  1. Hi Doug. Merry Christmas to you and your family. As you mention larger items require that you take the tool to the wood. That is the case with the workbench top that I am currently making. I am making a workbench for my youngest daughter's 5th birthday which is Wednesday. The workbench is based on the pattern you have shared for the one you use at Clear Spring School. I have a couple questions: How did you fasten the top to the body/legs - Was it strictly Gorilla Glue? What finish did you use/recommend? I have heard that Gorilla Glue expands. Therefore how did you prevent it from creating gaps between the plywood sides and ends?

  2. Joe, Congratulations on building your daughter a bench. Gorilla Glue is noted for foaming on the outside of a joint, but that doesn't happen between parts held tightly to each other. I used both air nails and glue to hold the parts together so any foaming would take place where it could be cleaned up with a chisel.
    The top of the bench is held to the sides with screws. I attached blocks to the bench sides and ran screws through those into the underside of the benchtop.

  3. I used Deft Danish oil on it, a finish that's no longer available. These days,I' use the old Sam Maloof formula, equal parts linseed oil, mineral spirits and urethane, or I would use another Danish oil formula like Tried and True.