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have written before about The Heartwood School, which is focused on homebuilding crafts, particularly timber framing. Heartwood resides in the town of Washington located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. It is run by Will and Michele Beemer. The school offers a full range of home construction and woodworking courses – including a SketchUp course for timber framers. There is now several Build Your Own: courses including Country Windsor Chair, Woodworker’s Workbench, Shavehorse, Pole Lathe and Heirloom Dovetail Toolchest. ALso added is an Advanced SketchUp Pro: Layout course.

The Heartwood School’s course list and 2014 schedule is shown below. For a complete course description go to http://www.heartwoodschool.com/coursefr.html and in the table’s second column locate the course of interest and click the link. For further information or to register contact Michele Beemer at 413/623-6677, www.heartwoodschool.com or request@heartwoodschool.com.

Two Week Courses:

July 7 – 18 Comprehensive Housebuilding

 

One Week Workshops:

April 21 – 25 Fundamentals of Woodworking
April 28 – May 2 Cabinetmaking
May 5 – 9 Stairbuilding
May 12 – 16 Build Your Own: Shavehorse
May 19 – 23 Build Your Own: Country Windsor Chair
June 9 – 13 Build Your Own: Workbench
June 16 – 20 Timber Framing
June 23 – 27 Scribed Timber Framing – Using Natural Forms
July 21 – 25 Finish Carpentry
July 28 – Aug 1 Cruck Framing
Aug. 11 – 15 Carpentry for Women
Aug. 18 – 22 Converting Trees to Timber
Aug. 25 – 29 Timber Framing
Sept. 8 – 12 Compound Joinery for Timber Framers
Sept. 15 – 19 Build a Skin-on-Frame Canoe
Sept. 22 – 26 Carve a 17th century Oak Box – Peter Follansbee
Sept. 29 – Oct 3 Build Your Own: Pole Lathe
Sept. 29 – Oct 3 Build Your Own: Heirloom Dovetail Toolchest
Oct. 6 – 10 Stairbuilding
Oct. 13 – 17 Fundamentals of Woodworking
Oct. 20 – 24 Cabinetmaking

 

Other Workshops:

April 7 – 9 Timber Grading (3-day)
April 17 – 19 Tangent Handrailing (3-day)
May 29 – 31 Hip and Valley Roof Framing for Carpenters (3-day)
May 29 – 31 Build an Outdoor Earthen Bake Oven (3-day)
June 2 – 4 Eyebrow Dormers (3-day)
June 5 – 7 Intro to SketchUp for Timber Framers (3-day)
June 6 – 7 Concrete Countertops (2-day)
June 30 – July 2 Traditional Raising and Rigging (3-day)
Sept. 4 – 6 Timber Frame Design & Joinery Decisions (3-day)
Sept. 26 – 27 Advanced SketchUpPro: Layout (2–day)

The Heartwood SchoolI have written before about The Heartwood School, which is focused on homebuilding crafts, particularly timber framing. Heartwood resides in the town of Washington located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. It is run by Will and Michele Beemer. The school offers a full range of home construction and woodworking courses – including a SketchUp course for timber framers. New courses this year include Build Your Own: Country Windsor Chair.

The Heartwood School’s course list and 2013 schedule is shown below. For a complete course description go to the table below and in the second column locate the course of interest and click the link. For further information or to register contact Michele Beemer at 413/623-6677, www.heartwoodschool.com or request@heartwoodschool.com.

Date
Course
April 15-19 Fundamentals of Woodworking
April 22-26 Cabinetmaking
April 29-May3 Build Your Own: Woodworker’s Workbench
May 30-June 1 SketchUp for Timber Framers
June 1-2 Basic Concrete Countertops
June 7-9 Advanced Concrete Countertops
June 10-14 Build Your Own: Country Windsor Chair
June 13-15 Eyebrow Dormers
June 17-21 Build Your Own: Shavehorse
June 22-23 History of Timber Framing
June 24-28 Timber Framing
July 5-6 Build a Skin-on-frame Canoe
July 8-12 Converting Trees to Timber
July 15-26 Comprehensive Homebuilding
July 29-Aug. 2 Carpentry for Women
Aug. 12-16 Finish Carpentry
Aug. 19-23 Timber Framing
Aug. 26-30 Scribed Timber Framing
Sept. 5-7 Timber Frame Design & Joinery Decisions
Sept. 9-13 Compound Roof Framing
Sept. 16-20 Build Your Own: Pole Lathe
Sept. 23-27 Build Your Own: Heirloom Dovetail Toolchest
Sept. 30-Oct. 4 Stairbuilding
Oct. 7-11 Fundamentals of Woodworking
Oct. 14-18 Cabinetmaking
Oct. 21-25 Home Design for Owners & Builders


Headquarters In Warren,MEIf your experience is anything like mine you are tired of the companies that intentionally avoid human contact and feedback. I curse those telephone ladders that never lead to a human voice. When a human does answer you are speaking to someone who’s English is their second language and you have no hope of understanding them.

If you are lucky enough (some call it unfortunate enough) to make it through all that, and explain your problem with the company’s product, you are likely to be sorry you ever contacted them. You are treated to onerous procedures put in place to avoid correcting the situation. Some companies are honest enough to simply say “we don’t support our product with replacements” or “the problem is of your making and we can’t support you”.

LN's family of planes and accessories on display in the showroom.Not Lie-Nielsen. You see, Lie-Nielsen was somehow created from an old company mold; a mold I thought was broken and lost a long time ago. They talk to their customers, never fearing to meet them and listen to their feedback. In fact their factory is open to customer visits on most days (see my visit to the factory). They even have an annual Summer Open House where you can meet and talk with the entire staff including Tom Lie-Nielsen and family. And for a small fee you can enjoy a lobster bake dinner.

Not only does Lie-Nielsen talk to their customers, but they also surprise their customers with above-and-beyond support. I dropped my #5 Jack recently and broke my tote. I went to the Lie-Nielsen website to purchase a replacement. Disappointed not to see a replacement part I emailed the company. I want to share with you two emails, unedited; one that I sent to Lie-Nielsen and the return email.

To: toolworks@lie-nielsen.com
Sent: Wed 5/23/2012 5:23 PM
From: Joe Zeh [jpz@srww.com]
Subject: Jack Plane Tote

Hi,

 

I dropped my #5 Jack Plane and broke the tote. Fortunately I have a wooden floor in the shop and nothing else broke. Do you sell replacement totes?

 

Joe…..

 

From: Lie-Nielsen Toolworks [mailto:toolworks@lie-nielsen.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2012 2:41 PM
To: jpz@srww.com
Subject: RE: Jack Plane Tote

Good afternoon, Joe.

I am sorry to hear about your No. 5!  Fortunately in situations like this, we can supply you with a replacement handle at no charge.  I’ll have one sent out to your address today.

Thank you,
Kirsten

Kirsten Lie-Nielsen
Lie-Nielsen Toolworks
1-800-327-2520
www.lie-nielsen.com

The Lie-Nielsen No. 4 Bronze Bedrock Smooth PlaneLie-Nielsen didn’t simply replace my broken tote, which I freely admitted was due to my mishandling, but look at who replied, and note the cheerful and helpful voice of that reply. OK, Lie-Nielsen is not a multi-billion dollar corporation, and so you might argue that a multi-billion dollar corporation can’t afford to do these things. To that I would ask you to compare this customer’s response to Lie-Nielson in this situation to the same customer’s response to a new Grizzly G0586 8" Jointer. It is in a company’s best interest to support its customers – its peril when they don’t.

I have bought many Lie-Nielsen hand tools- and even a bench – over the years. Their trademark exceptional quality has always been present in those tools. When I told my wife about this situation she replied “Unfortunately, people need to understand that they have to buy, and pay for, quality up front instead of expecting a free replacement part for a plane they get at Wal-Mart.”.  It’s true. If you buy an object based on lowest cost you will replace it numerous times over your lifetime. On the other hand, you can buy a Lie-Nielsen plane, have it for life, and pass it on to your children and them theirs. Quality is always the best, and cheapest, investment.

A group of No 4 ½ Irons and Scrub Planes ready to be packaged and shipped.As I said, I have been buying Lie-Nielsen tools for some time and will continue to look first at Lie-Nielsen when again in the market. Not just because of their exceptional quality and customer consciousness, but they are Made-In-America. This is not a political site and never will be. But I sure wish our leaders would figure out what Tom Lie-Nielsen knows; it is in this country’s best interest to make real, physical things.

Lie-Nielsen, you have my respect and my business.


Jesse's Finished Drafting TableThroughout my career I was fortunate enough to work with some of the brightest and most energetic young engineers. In my retirement that luck has continued with a string of woodworking apprentices: Amber Baker, Melissa Stylos and Jesse Moy. I call them my apprentices, though I am neither qualified in the traditional European apprenticeship sense, nor do I have an official apprenticeship program. “My apprentices” is a label of affection because I have grown to appreciate and respect each of them for their drive, desire to learn a traditional skill and the quality of labor they brought to the task.

Inside The Drafting Table Is Storage For The T-Square & Other Drawing ToolsToday Jesse came to pick up his completed project and so he graduated in a sense. I introduced you to both Jesse and Melissa in my March 29, 2012 newsletter (Amber in my December 1, 2010 newsletter). See the March issue for Jesse’s background.

Jesse and I met in December of last year when he was introduced to me by Steve Racz of CutList Ruby script fame. Jesse had just finished a timber frame program at The Heartwood School the previous spring and was a co-student with Steve. He told me he wanted to learn fine furniture crafting and could I help him. I said sure, can you spend about two days a week in the shop?

A SketchUp Sketchy Rendering of the Drafting TableThe plan was simple. Jesse was to help me build two cherry chest of drawers to learn fine furniture woodworking. He would be under my guidance each step of the way. We would start with rough lumber selection, then stock preparation, followed by milling, layout & cutting of joinery  etc. He would learn both power tool use & safety and hand tool use & sharpening. I am big on hand tool use and told him he would have to master the use of planes, chisels and hand saws during this first phase. Then Jesse would build a project of his own design, working on his own, getting help from me only when he asked for it. That was the deal.

A SketchUp Sketchy Rendering of the Drafting Table InsideI believe you learn woodworking mostly from doing it – and – having a project of value to work on. Jesse certainly had that motivation. Jesse and his woman friend, Christina, have plans to obtain graduate degrees in architecture. The project Jesse chose is a portable drafting table which he plans to gift to Christina upon her graduation this month from The Conway School’s Sustainable Landscape Design program. Certainly this is a project of value and a labor of love. What better way to learn fine woodworking.

Learning to Hand Cut DovetailsJesse didn’t just choose a project and design it himself. He had to learn SketchUp too, and then model his design and produce the shop drawings to work from. In the tradition of Swamp Road Wood Work’s SketchUp models, Jesse is making his SketchUp model available to anyone who wishes to build this drafting table, or modify his design for another use. At a later date I will place Jess’s drafting table on my Free Plans page.

As mentioned earlier, drawers and carcasses crafted at SRWW are almost always joined using hand cut dovetails. In the construction of the cherry chests Jesse learned not only through dovetails, but half-blind dovetails too. He started by practicing straight cuts on scrap wood; over and over and over until he could follow a layout line. Soon he was cutting tails and pins and putting together practice joints. As is typical, his first dovetail joint was almost perfect – beginner’s luck; his second and third not so much. But each one got better and better. Jesse built the first drawers of my cherry chest on his own and I was very pleased with the result.

Jesse's Hand Crafted DrawersThe design Jesse created was full of hand joinery, some quite complex. The carcass employed hand cut through and half-blind dovetails, the drawers through and half-blind dovetails. Several styles of dadoes – traditional and v-grove – were employed. In addition, many of the dadoes were of the stopped variety. While the dadoes and rabbets were cut with the table saw and router, some were formed, or cleaned up, using a shoulder plane & shooting board or chisel. Jesse learned both the value of fine tuning joinery as well as the cost if you skipped this step.

Dadoes, Both Stopped & Through, and Half-Blind & Through DovetailsJesse was taught the tails first method of hand cut dovetails. And he was taught to cut to – but leave – a line when cutting the pins, since pins are laid out by tracing the tails. If done correctly you should still see the pencil lines after tails are cut. The more difficult dovetail joint is the half-blind dovetail because you have to cut to – but leave – the line, and you have to cut a complex angle and keep from unsightly overcutting. The picture below left shows how well Jesse performed this task.

Jesse's Well Formed Half-Blind DovetailsAmong the many things about fine furniture design and crafting Jesse learned was the importance of taking seasonal shrinkage/expansion into account. His top is fairly large and hence subject to seasonal changes in width and cupping. To account for this Jesse employed breadboard ends. He learned to use a moisture meter, first calibrating it and setting it for a particular wood species. Then making a moisture reading and using it to calculate dimensional changes taking into account species, board type (quarter sawn verses plain sawn), area of the country and the application (breadboard). Armed with this information he knew how wide to cut the top such that the average width over the full season would be the length of the breadboard ends.

Further, he learned to elongate the pin holes in the tenons in a graduated way, the first hole in the front un-elongated and each subsequent hole elongated in a graduated way to allow for maximum expansion and contraction. If you look closely at the picture below right you can see this graduated elongation.

Mortise, Tenon & Haunch Joinery for Seasonal ChangesPlanning the inside layout of the drafting table was no small feat. Jesse had to provide storage for the T-Square, allow space and partitioning for the drawers, provide space at the ends for sticks that would hold the top open at the desired angle while drawing, and finally leave space for storage of other drafting tools, pencils, erasers etc.

Hardware choice was a particularly daunting task. Many woodworkers don’t understand the value of selecting and acquiring the hardware before completing the design and beginning crafting. Jesse learned this lesson somewhat the hard way. He also discovered that he couldn’t have chosen a more labor intensive drawer pull than the ones he chose. If you look at the sixth picture from the top you will see what I mean. The drawer pulls needed to be set into the drawer front. Creating the precise opening required the construction of a jig for the router. That was followed by drilling a rather large hole using a Forstner bit and then manually scooping out a ball shaped volume.

The Inside Layout Took Careful ConsiderationNot shown are the 6-lb rare-earth magnets and associated hardware to keep the drawers from falling out when the drafting table is moved. These are mounted into the drawer backs and the partition just behind the drawers. Knowing where to place this partition required detailed knowledge of the rare-earth magnet hardware which Jesses neglected to order until late in the game. To his credit he figured out how to stage the construction and glue-up so he could rescue himself from this situation.

Shown in the picture below right are the spalted maple T-Square and the top with breadboard ends. Both the T-Square and the breadboard ends are attached using pegs. This project for sure employed a wide variety of joinery making it an ideal project for learning fine woodworking. Looking at these pictures, especially the two of the completed piece; I think you will agree with me that Jesse is no longer an apprentice and deserves to be called a fine woodworker. His “graduation” comes with mixed emotion. I am happy to witness his end product turn out so well and I am proud of Jesse and his efforts. But I will miss working with such a talented, dedicated and hardworking individual. A young man who has become a good friend.

Spalted Maple T-Square & Breadboard Ends Attached With PegsDuring the course of our working together I dropped my #5 Jack plane and broke the handle. As a going away gift Jesse gave me a replacement handle and a gift of a Shaker furniture book. Every time I pick up my Jack or refer to that book I will be reminded of a young man with a bright future who passed through my life and shop and gave me the pleasure of teaching him fine woodworking. Good luck Jesse.


Will Beemer demonstrating the locking dovetail prop.I discovered the Heartwood School while attending the recent NWA Saratoga Woodworkers Showcase and wrote about it in my April 3, 2011 Chiefwoodworker’s Newsletter. All I knew about the school at that time is what I had seen at the show and read on its website. I sent the owner, Will Beemer, a copy of my newsletter and he wrote back inviting me to an active class. I took Will up on his invitation and visited Heartwood School on June 23, a damp and rainy Thursday.

Background

Shaping a tenon's seat with a spokeshave.Located in Washington, MA in the Berkshire mountains, Heartwood is run by Will and Michele Beemer. For the past 34 years Heartwood has been teaching students to design and build their own homes, mostly in timber frame construction.

Will has an extensive background in home design and construction, as well as teaching design and construction. He has taught at Cornell, Palomar College in San Diego and Colorado State University. He has written for Fine Homebuilding, Joiner’s Quarterly, Wood Design & Building, and Timber Framing. Michele is office manager, provides lunches for the students, is an on-site instructor and an author.

The first timber frame built by students houses the cafeteria, classroom, shop & library.Heartwood has a full range of courses in design and construction that run from April through October. Courses include energy efficiency techniques, fundamentals of woodworking, traditional cabinetmaking, building a workbench for woodworking, converting trees to timber and much more. They even teach SketchUp for timber frame designs.

My Visit

Checking the cut of an Eastern style tenon saw.Using my GPS I managed to find a small sign on a wooded road in Washington, MA. It said simply – Heartwood. I turned onto a paved and winding drive, which turned to a dirt drive that broke out into a clearing. The view reminded me of a childhood campground. Nestled in the woods to my left was a timber frame building with a sign over the door, once again announcing I had arrived at Heartwood. To my right were two long tents, open on all sides, like the tents used for a country fair. Under the tents, and protected from the rain, were eighteen students, an instructor and owner Will Beemer; all busily working away on 7” x 7” timber frame beams.

Tents set up to provide shelter from the rain.Trucks and cars were scattered everywhere, randomly parked under trees and I saw no defined parking area. As I sat there looking for a place to park my truck Will approached, introduced himself and welcomed me to Heartwood. He gave me a quick orientation introducing me to students, staff and showed me the shop, classrooms, library and kitchen. The latter rooms all resided in the timber frame building, which was the first building the students constructed when the school was opened in 1978. Will and Michele were not the owners at the time, though Will was an instructor. In 1985 they purchased Heartwood and have owned and operated it since.

"Get out of here with that camera so I can work!"Heartwood’s business model is simple and elegant. It brings together property owners who desire a timber frame home, barn, shop or other structure with students who wish to learn timber framing. Sometimes the owner and student are one in the same.

Everyone is busy but there is no panic. The raising is tomorrow.The first half of the business model is an owner who contracts with Heartwood to design, mill and erect a timber frame for about $30 a square foot. This includes frame only; finish materials, pre and post construction are the responsibility of the owner. If the owner’s site is more than 1.5 hours from Heartwood, trucking and other costs may be extra. Timber frame materials are rough cut Eastern White Pine, un-planed. Since Heartwood is a school for woodworkers and all work is done by the students, the owner must accept occasional constructions flaws, though Heartwood does its best to hide such mistakes. From my observation I doubt this is ever a real problem. The work I saw was top notch.

Now, that's a chisel!The second half of the business model is students. They come from all sorts of backgrounds and experience levels. Some have never held a woodworking tool before or never made a wood joint. Some are experienced woodworkers but who have no experience in timber framing. Many are hobbyists who want to build their own timber frame and attend the school to learn how. Still other are professional woodworkers or construction professionals who want to expand theirs skills and trade. I counted two women wielding chisel and mallet in this class of eighteen students.

Finished work ready to load on the trailer.Sometimes a class is held without a contracted owner. In that case a modest sized timber frame is crafted on speculation, though finding a buyer never seems to be a problem. The class I visited was building a studio for a contracted owner. Raising day was Friday, June 24th, the day after my visit. But there didn’t seem to be any schedule pressures, nervousness or frenzied activity. All seemed to be in control. There was a large stack of completed beams and the work-in-progress seemed near completion.

I believe this is a hand cut brace.My brother-in-law designed and built his own timber frame home and barn from hand hewn timbers. So I am familiar with the excitement of raising that these students had to look forward to. As I am writing this article on the 24th I am looking out the window at the rain coming down. Par for the course in the trades and a good lesson for the students.

Lots of mortises are needed for a timber frame construction.My primary interest in woodworking is furniture crafting. The interest I share with these students, however, is hand tools and joinery. The dovetails, mortise and tenons I use in my joinery are not all that different from those used in timber framing with the exception of size (I will post a follow-on article on one unique and interesting joint used by these students). Most of the joinery these students use are cut by hand with a combination of handsaw, chisel, mallet, spokeshave and drawknife. To be sure, those joints are larger than one would use in a furniture shop, but they are used in very similar ways.

How's that for a mortise bit?In my shop I use a power mortiser and I was surprised to see the timber framer’s equivalent sometimes used by the students. It is driven by electric motor and plunges in to the timber much like a plunge router would. However, instead of a square chisel and drill bit, the cutting blade is three – stacked side by side – chain saws. The beams used are 7” x 7” and the tenons are 1 ½” thick. So I suspect the chains are designed to be 1 ½” in width when stacked, and long tenons are formed with Looks like instruction on how to use the power mortiser.repeated plunges, though I failed to ask about this. A fence can be adjusted to place the tenon the appropriate distance in from the edge of the timber. It appeared to me that the “blade” could be plunged a little more than eight inches for a through mortise, or adjusted less deep for a stopped mortise.

The dovetailed tenon half of the locked mortise and tenon joint.Most of the mortises I saw were hand cut with a mallet and chisel. A couple of students were being instructed in the use of the power mortiser. So this may have been the one signal that the scheduled raising was requiring the use of more rapid methods, though once again I failed to enquire about this.

Friendly conversation over Michele's lunchtime meal.I was struck by the accuracy and smoothness of finish of the hand cut joints. Obviously not the kind of finish you would find in hand crafted furniture, but still I found myself needing to wipe my hand across the joints and marvel at the smoothness. I picked up a few tools and checked out the sharpness and found myself approving what my hand felt. As I studied the joinery I could see the light pencil lines that provided guidance for hand cuts. All in all I could relate to the work of the students and I even had a feeling of wanting to join in. That’s when Will came out of the timber frame building and yelled “Lunch”.

Lunchtime at Heartwood

Michele at work in her kitchen talking to the students.When Will invited me to visit he said I should plan to arrive at noon and join he and the students for lunch. I had read about Michele’s fine cooking on the Heartwood website and I was eager to sample the food. My eagerness was aided by the fact that I was just plain hungry. Hunger is a feeling I get if I spend too much time watching others hard at work. So I joined the rush to the dining room.

A 1 personpower drill press. Notice the dual crank.Dining at Heartwood is cafeteria style and all the food is home cooked. I had a soup, sandwich and crab salad. If you are a New Englander there are three chowders of choice: clam, seafood and corn. I love all three and I thoroughly enjoyed Michele’s corn chowder and crab salad.

Over lunch I talked to several students I The classroom is on the second floor across from the library.sat near. One was from a town not far from where I was born and raised and we shared news of that area. I learned that students stayed in B & Bs, hotels, friends homes or even commuted to Heartwood. Those I talked to came from all over New England and New York, though I suspect Heartwood draws from a much wider area as well.

The comfortable portion of the library. There are additional bookshelves out of view.After lunch I took more pictures, including the shop, library and classroom. The library has a wonderful collection of books on timber framing, general construction techniques, drawing, energy efficiency and many other home building related topics. If I go back to Heartwood I would like to spend some time in this library and get some titles for my own collection.

I said my goodbyes and thanked Will and Michele for the visit and lunch. I left feeling I had visited a woodworking school I could really enjoy and learn from. And I left with more questions than I had answers. So one day I hope to go back and talk with Will in more depth – and of course have another lunch.

Heartwood Update

I'm guessing this is a vertical support post with both mortise and tenon joinery.I spoke to Michele on Friday late. She and the class had just returned from the raising. All went well and the class finished the raising early afternoon. Though it rained in my area the rain held off at the building site. The raising marked the end of the class. Eighteen students were going home newly proficient in timber framing. It doesn’t get much better than that.


Vase & Flower - Sells For $27,000. Worth Every Penny!As a kind of annual spring trek my brother Clark and I visit the Woodworkers Showcase woodworking show presented by The Northeastern Woodworkers Association. It is held each year, usually the last weekend in March, at the City Center, Saratoga Springs, New York. Next year it will be March 31st and April 1st. Mark it on your calendar, because this show is the best woodworking show you will find.

Water Powered Woodshop Model, My Favorite.The show is not just for woodworkers, but anyone who appreciates art and fine craftsmanship. This year my daughter Summer, her husband James and James’ parents, Don and Ellen attended. None of them are woodworkers but they loved the furniture pieces, guitars, bowls and generally the artwork and craftsmanship.

Handcrafted Guitars - James Liked These.This year there were 40 free lectures and demonstrations ranging from hand carving to turning. I attended two 17th Century Carving lecture/demonstrations by Peter Follansbee (www.peterfollansbee.com) and a turning demonstration by Lulia Chin Lee. There were numerous other lectures and demonstrations by Ernie Conover (planes and dovetails), Tom Wetzel (Windsor Chairs), Bob Van Dyke (mortise & tenons with a router), Bill Sterling (crafting acoustic guitars), Dave Mobley (inlays with a router), Chris Schwarz (tool chests), Lyle Jamieson (goblet turning), John Grossbohlin (the scrub plane), Chris Walker (marquetry the French technique), Sheila Bergner Landry (scrollsaw), Barbara Nottke (beginner’s scrolling), David Nittmann (airbrush color expression), Alan Craft (bandsaw setup and techniques) and yours truly (SketchUp).

I Can't Bring Myself To Eat Off These!Where Do You Get Figured Maple Like This?The majority of the displays are by hobbyist woodworkers. In fact the large display room is restricted to hobbyists. None of the woodworking displays are for sale, keeping that portion of the show a display only for art exhibition and appreciation. Professionals are relegated to a rather narrow and short display area called Featured Exhibit. This year’s featured exhibit was Grand Workbenches, although there were a couple of other pieces in that area. The makers of the benches each gave a one hour talk on their design and construction. Notable among them were Chris Schwarz and Lie-Nielsen.

The Sign Says It All.Patricia's Restored Desk With A Jeweler's Lathe On Top.Most pieces displayed at the Saratoga Showcase are of new or contemporary work. But at this year’s show there was a restoration project the caught my eye. It clearly has a story much deeper than the display can tell; a story of a love between a husband and wife.

Patricia Betterly, wife of Jack Betterly a jeweler, restored the roll top desk pictured in the poster shown left. The restored desk was on display shown right. It is one of the finest restorations I have ever seen. I was unable to look inside, but judging from the outside the amount of care and love put into this project was truly impressive.

_MG_1518This desk is apparently used daily in Jack’s shop for the repair and restoration of timepieces and jewelry. A close-up picture is shown at right. A small motor sits behind it and drives an adjustable pulley to control speed. The bed, headstock, rest and tailstock are like any you might see on a larger lathe. I would love to have seen what the turning tools look like. I was so curious that I went on-line and found a You Tube video on the basics of using a clockmaker/watchmaker/jeweler’s lathe. Apparently the motor is about 1/12 horsepower and the tools are a stubby version of those we woodworks use. Except for the size, this lathe would look right at home in my shop.

Good Night - Sleep Tight - Don't Let The Bed Bugs Bite!In addition to woodworking displays there is also a large room for tools, machine and materials exhibits and sales. Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley are always present as are many others. Hardwood suppliers are in attendance with some of the finest figured woods you can imagine.

A Tiger Maple Rock-A-Bye Baby.I never miss this show. Of all the shows I attend this is by far the best, especially the hobbyist’s pieces. Everything from chairs to lathe turned hats, period highboys to toys and musical instruments to benches are all on display; all crafted by some of this country’s best woodworkers.

Pure Artwork! Elegant And Beautiful.The setting is Saratoga Springs, a beautiful and small early colonial settlement. Saratoga played a major role in the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Saratoga sealed the fate of British General John Burgoyne’s army in the American Revolutionary War, and is generally regarded as a turning point in the war. Saratoga boasts the most beautiful and oldest race track in America and The Travers Stakes is the oldest thoroughbred horse race in America. Saratoga Springs is where President Ulysses S. Grant spent his final days while writing his memoirs and bathing in the springs to nurse his failing health. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is a cultural seasonal outdoor theatre that hosts summer theatre groups to pop artists. There are numerous and excellent restaurants and hotels in the city.

Now That's 3D!If you have never attended this show and live in the greater area make sure to see it next year. Even if you live a distance from Saratoga, NY, plan a vacation. Take in The Woodworkers Showcase along with a car tour of central to northern New England during sugaring season. I promise you won’t regret it. Let me know if you attend next year and would like to connect to talk all things woodworking.

A Bench To Die For.For more information on The Northeastern Woodworkers Association or the Woodworkers Showcase visit www.nwawoodworkingshow.org. You might especially want to view the 2010 Showcase Winners at http://www.nwawoodworkingshow.org/2010awards/winners10.htm.


For a complete set of show pictures click here.

Note: All pictures in this post were taken by me and are of pieces on display at Woodworkers Showcase 2011. None are my pieces. However, I did examine them critically and can vouch for their excellent craftsmanship.


The Supreme Drill Press Table Mounted On My Delta Drill Press In March of this year I found myself wishing I had a drill press table with a fence to aid in accurately drilling a series of holes. My first thought was to build one; then my long standing rule of “using my time and efforts to build furniture and not jigs or fixtures” kicked in. So with the help of my large collection of woodworking catalogs and the internet I researched drill press tables available on the market. I settled on the Supreme Drill Press Table from Peachtree Woodworking Supply, Inc. (http://www.ptreeusa.com) shown left attached to my Delta drill press. The table is 15” deep by 24” wide and 1 3/8” thick. As shown there are two 22” fences which are closed to produce a 44” fence. These can be fully extended to form a 72” fence. It comes with two hold downs and two UHMW stop blocks. There are also two inserts to plug the hole in the center of the table that is provided for drill through.

Drilling A Series Of Holes Aligned By The Fence Since March I have used this table on numerous occasions leaving me to wonder how I ever worked without it. T-tracks on the bottom allow you to fasten the table to the drill press and provide plenty of travel front to back. The hold downs are secured in T-tracks that run front to back and are great for securing single thickness boards or boards with backing as shown at right. The star knobs allow for quick adjustments between drillings while providing plenty of clamping power. This is particularly necessary when drilling large wholes with a drill or Forstner bit.

Shaker Clock On Drill Press Table With Supporting Rollers I recently completed a wall hanging Shaker clock. The clock doors are held closed with magnetic catches which are secured in the sides by recessing them in shallow holes. I didn’t want to drill them by hand for fear of drilling them off vertical alignment. Further, I wanted to control the depth of the holes very accurately. After pondering this for a few minutes I wondered if my new drill press table could do the job. In order to get the sides under the Forstner bit I had to bring the table completely forward which caused me to think the setup might be unstable. Also the clock is about 4 feet long and holes had to be drilled close to one end, creating another potentially unstable situation. The former was no problem at all and the latter was solved with the use of adjustable roller supports shown left above.

Bessey Bar Clamps Are Used To Hold The Clock In Place For this operation I removed the fence and centered the holes in the side by eye. I adjusted the depth of the Forstner bit and locked it in place. Then I simply slid the clock along between drillings. Though it may not have been necessary, given the weight of the clock, I used Bessey Bar clamps to it in place while drilling.

I probably could have completed this operation without the use of the drill press and table. However, it sure made me feel at ease knowing I wouldn’t screw up this last step, which surely could have ruined my whole day. My brother-in-law, Winter Bargeron, calls these critical steps, with their potentially disastrous consequences, the “money cut”. Well, this table costs about $250 and is worth every penny.


A few weeks ago I got an email from a woodworker who saw my miter saw workbench (aka chop saw station) on my website. He asked if I could supply the drawings I used to build it. I explained that I didn’t use a drawing, but rather built it from mental drawings, but said I would reconstruct a model in SketchUp for his use. That gave me the idea for this blog article – if one person was interested, maybe others would be.

Chop Saw StationWhen I moved into my current home with attached workshop, all I had was a contractor’s table saw, a miter saw, hand tools and routers. No benches, not even an extension on the table saw. My shop is two stories, 30 feet by 30 feet. So my workbench was my shop floor. I had an idea in my mind for my first bench, a miter saw bench. I bought some plywood and set to work. If you have ever built something this large, without a workbench – not even saw horses – then you know what a physical and crafting challenge it is. I made a few mistakes, largely due to the working environment, but I ended up with a very workable miter saw bench pictured at left. The overall dimensions are 97 1/2” long, 25 1/2” deep and 36 1/16” high. If you plan to build this for your shop and have a sliding miter saw, be sure to leave enough room behind it for the slide.

SketchUp Model Of Miter Saw Bench - ISO View At the end of this post I will supply a link to the SketchUp model (see right) and Cut List (CutList Plus file, CSV File & Excel File)which you can download and modify for your needs. The recessed area of the top was designed to work with a DeWalt Model DW708 12” Sliding Compound Miter Saw. If you have a different brand or model you will want to customize this area, including the depth of the recessed area. In this particular configuration I left the recessed depth just slightly deeper than the height of the saw and used washers to raise the saw to the exact height. The shape of the recess was designed to allow full swing of the miter arm both left and right. This will also be unique to the brand and model.

Chop Saw Station Pull Out Shelves The drawers on the right and left are graduated and the bottom drawers are designed for file folders. I keep all my power and hand tool manuals in a file drawer for easy and organized access. The tall doors on either side open to expose adjustable shelves. The middle short doors pull out to expose shelves that may be accessed from either side as shown at left. The middle shelf is adjustable. Note that the pull out extends all the way out. The bottom slides are Accuride, model 9301. You can get them from most woodworking supply catalogs.

Chop Saw Station Fence & Adjustable Stop I added a homemade fence with built-in tape measures and moveable stop for accurate cut settings. However, the fence and tape measure do not support pieces shorter than one foot. For that reason I keep an accurately cut “One Foot Stick” which I stick between the stop and the piece I am cutting, and set the fence for one foot longer than the desired cut. This works really well. If I had it to do over I would buy a commercial metal fence with T-tracks. Mine is made with two pieces of 3/4” plywood and trimmed in oak. I have noticed some warping over the years even though the fences are screwed tightly to the top. The top is finished with Formica and trimmed in oak. This makes for easy cleaning and a hard durable surface.

Chop Saw Station Sliders The pull out shelves are supported by two slides on the bottom and one on the top. The top slide is a normal heavy duty drawer slide laid on its side to keep the push/pull travel stable and centered. The bottom slides are heavy duty pantry pull out slides. See the close-up at left. The adjustable shelf is supported by vertical holes spaced 1” apart, two rows on each of the front and back.

I used birch banding on all exposed edges of the plywood. This is an easy process and dresses up the plywood quite nicely.

I should say a few words about the SketchUp model and the joinery. The model does not show joinery such as pocket hole screws and biscuits. I leave it to the woodworker to decide which type of joinery he/she prefers. I also have not included all the cleats, brackets, braces etc., though some are shown. Again, the woodworker can decide how much reinforcement is necessary. The model is largely dimensioned, though not completely. Most of the dimensions that are missing are obvious ones, e.g. 3/4” thickness of the primary plywood. I assume that anyone using the SketchUp model knows how to use SketchUp and can fill in the details. If you are not a SketchUp user but would like to learn, see my Beginner’s SketchUp Tutorials on my Google SketchUp Page.

Lastly, I offer this model and cut list free. I accept no responsibility for its completeness or correctness. Travel at your own risk and check carefully all documents. My lawyer made me say this. Have fun with this, and if you make significant modifications I would appreciate an Email with the SketchUp file attached and pictures.

Downloadable Files:

Miter Saw Bench SketchUp Model

CutList Plus File

Cut List CSV File

Cut List Excel File


My Daughter, Summer My daughter and I visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a Father/Daughter mini-vacation over the Memorial Day weekend. Both halls, much to our surprise, took only a half day to see. We had planned a day apiece. So with the extra time available we decide to add one more stop on our way home; Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock, Massachusetts. I had been there three times prior, but my daughter had never visited a Shaker village and both she and I wanted her to see it.

basketmakingshop The Shakers are a significant part of my life. I was born at home, on Albany Shaker Road in Colonie, New York, approximately one mile from Mother Ann Lee’s grave and the site of the founding village in Niskayuna, New York. I spent my childhood ice skating on the Shaker Pond where the Shakers cut ice in the winter. I worked on a farm owned by the Engel family who were very close friends of our family, and to this day attend our family reunion each year. The family elder, Walt Engel, worked for the Shakers cutting ice during the winter when farm activity was slow. Working next to him in the fields he would regale my brothers and me with Shaker stories. I graduated from Shaker High School in 1963. Throughout my life I have always been attracted to simple Early American furniture with a special liking of Shaker pieces. To this day my own furniture designs are guided by my early Shaker influence. Some of you may not know, or heard of the Shakers. The following is a digest history.

A Family Dwelling With Kitchen, Dining Rooms, Meeting Rooms & Bedrooms Ann Lee, born February 29, 1736, was a member of a group derisively referred to as Shaking Quakers due to their spontaneous dancing that accompanied their worship. The group resided in Manchester, England where they were often persecuted, beaten and imprisoned. From early youth Ann believed she experienced “divine manifestations” and believed that intercourse and its sexual pleasures were sinful. However her parents convinced her to marry a blacksmith with whom she had four children. All died in infancy. This experience and her religious beliefs later led to her strong belief in celibacy, void of marital family structure.

A Unique Circular Cow Barn Improved Efficiency And Fire SafetyAnn herself was imprisoned in 1770 at the age of 34. While in prison she experienced Christ more strongly than ever. After being released from prison Ann Lee, with her strong belief in the second coming of Christ and a vision of what living a Christ like life must be, eventually became the leader of the Shakers, now formally called the United Society of Believers in Christ’s First and Second Appearing. The group bestowed on her the title of Mother and she was from then on known as Mother Ann. Members of the Shakers were called Sister or Brother.

An Adult Cradle Used In The InfirmaryDue to continued persecution, in 1774 Ann Lee led seven of her followers, including her husband, brother, niece and a wealthy financier to America arriving in New York City on August 6, 1774. Her husband abandoned the group shortly thereafter. Upon arriving they split up to find work but two years later bought 200 acres in Niskayuna located in the township of Watervliet, NY.

Crutches, Walker And Hearing Aid The Shakers practiced their religion quietly and without much notice. As a communal sect they farmed, made their own furniture, tools, equipment and built buildings. Because of their beliefs they opened their own schools. They remained under the radar until a period in colonial life when many people feared religion was being lost in American society. The Shakers offered what was considered a pure religion and was soon discovered by those seeking a deeper dedication. Mother Ann recognized this and from 1781 to 1783 traveled throughout Eastern New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut as a missionary seeking converts, who once converted opened new villages.

One Half Of A Symmetrical Dining Hall Shaker orthodoxy included celibacy, equality of the sexes and races, pacifism, communal living and property ownership, strict Christian worship and confession of sins. In support of these beliefs there were no marriages or children born into the Believers. Their numbers grew by converts and adoption, particularly of orphaned children. Upon entering the Shaker community converts offered all their property and belongings to the community. Shaker communities were governed by four elders, two women and two men, which served to support their belief in equality. Indeed after Mother Ann’s passing on September 8, 1784 the Shakers as a whole were led by Mother Lucy Wright and Father Joseph Meacham.

Built-ins Were Functional, Efficient And Often ColorfulMother Ann died from frailty largely as a result of her missionary work from 1781 through 1783, where she often met with violence and beatings from those who viewed Shakers as troublesome. This was particularly true in Shirley, Massachusetts. But Mother Ann almost always succeeded in her mission. The Shakers survived and thrived well beyond her life to become the America’s most successful communal sect. At their peak there was 19 major communities with a population between 4 – 5 thousand members and stretched from Kentucky to Maine. A community sprung up even in Shirley, MA, where Mother Ann was tormented and beaten. Mother Ann never lived to see the completion of a village but her convictions and guidance remained the focus of Shaker life.

One Half Of A Symmetrical Meeting Room The Shaker contribution to American society went well beyond beautiful and simple furniture to the creation of the circular saw (table saw), the flat broom, packaged seeds, clothes pins and many other inventions.

Wooden Hand Planes Of All Shapes & Sizes - Notice The Long Jointer The Shakers were good neighbors, they paid taxes, obeyed the laws, sold their wares to the community and purchased goods and services from the community. They took in workers who were unemployed and gave them jobs, took in abandoned and orphaned children and gave them homes and love, and yes, most importantly to a woodworker gave us a clean, beautiful in its simplicity, furniture style.

A Shaker Version Of A High Boy The Shaker orthodoxy, their beliefs and Mother Ann’s strong guidance shaped their furniture with a simple principle, simplicity of purpose, that is, form follows function and nothing more. Mother Ann instructed her followers to “do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live, and as you would if you knew you would die tomorrow.” To the woodworker this meant build it to last and don’t procrastinate. Father Joseph Meacham wrote “All work done, or things made in the Church for their own use ought to be faithfully and well done, but plain and without superfluity.” To the woodworker this meant well joined, simple trim and no ornate pieces or carvings. It is stated in the Millennial Laws that guided the Church that “Members of the church of God…are forbidden to make anything for Believers that will have a tendency to feed…pride and vanity”. Indeed, signing a piece was not allowed early on, although in the 19th century many Shaker woodworkers did sign their work but always hidden from plain sight.

A Shaker Built Shoulder Vise - Note The Dovetails Despite the avoidance of “superfluity” and simplicity of purpose, Shaker furniture is beautiful, it is elegant in its simplicity, and it is nothing else if not well constructed. Thumbnailed drawer edges, mushroom shaped pulls, dovetailed drawers and carcasses, brilliantly arranged and proportioned doors and drawers, functionally configured desks, sewing benches and tables all combine to give us this unique and beautiful style. Perhaps never again will there be such a distinctive style tied so closely to so few a people as Shaker furniture is to the Shakers – and their beliefs.

A Shaker Woodworking Bench To anyone who wants to know more about the Shakers and their works I highly recommend a book titled “The Complete Book Of Shaker Furniture” by Timothy D. Rieman and Jean M. Burks. I also suggest you visit the websites of Hancock Shaker Village, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village or Shaker Villages And Museums.


Home of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks I was scheduled to pick up my new Lie-Nielsen workbench on Monday, October 6th. (See The Tool Worth Waiting For for background.) I had waited for this moment for nearly twelve months; Lie-Nielsen has a large backorder on this popular bench which I learned when I ordered it in the fall of 2007. The combination of my excitement, the beautiful October colors and a desire to visit the Lie-Nielsen facility suggested I pick it up in person. I invited Willow along so that we could spend a weekend in Maine – sort of a short vacation.

The Chisel Group, in the background are the milling machines used to manufacture chisels.We departed early on Sunday morning, October 5th, from Lancaster, MA after spending and evening with our grandchildren – and their parents too. We guessed it would take about five hours driving time but were pleasantly surprised when it took only three and a half. I had two requirements for the trip. First, I didn’t want to miss the Patriot’s football game which began at 4 pm, and secondly, I wanted to spend most of Monday touring Lie-Nielsen and ogling their tools. Willow also had two goals. First she wanted to stay in a quaint B&B – she abhors motels and hotels – and she needed to participate in a board meeting conference call Monday morning.

Drill presses used by the Shoulder Plane Group in the making of shoulder planes.So we set out to find a B&B with cable TV that received the Patriots game. This didn’t take long because there are numerous old houses which offer B&B services. We were particularly lucky to find the Weskeag Inn, located on Route 73 in South Thomaston, situated on the edge of the Weskeag estuary near the reversing falls in South Thomaston village and not far from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Inc. The Inn was built in the 1830’s and is filled with antiques, many of which are furniture pieces that I admired and thoroughly examined for construction.

A member of the Shoulder Plane Group making sure the machine is grinding the side of the shoulder plane properly.We had a quick lunch in the combination general store/post office next door and read the local papers with particular interest in the local political races. With our famine quelled we retired to the Inn’s living room to watch the Patriots beat the San Francisco Forty Niners 30-21. Watching that game must have burned a lot of energy because immediately thereafter we had dinner at Amalfi’s.

A member of the Bronze Group lapping the sole of a bronze plane by hand on a belt sander. All LN planes are held to a .001 inch tolerance for flatness.The couple that runs the Inn are our contemporaries and over a delicious breakfast the following morning they regaled us with the Inn’s history including stories of how he acquired it, its disrepair and repairs and their meeting – and discovering they were high school classmates. The stories were interesting and humorous, so much so that I almost forgot we were supposed to be at Lie-Nielsen’s.

One of the best Bronze Polishers in the world polishing bronze caps for LN's Low Angle Block.Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Inc. was founded by Thomas Lie-Nielsen in 1981. The company manufactures and sells high quality hand tools for woodworking at a premium price. It currently employs about 90 people. Corporate headquarters, shown in the first picture above left, resides in Warren, ME. This building houses a showroom and corporate offices including sales and marketing. Manufacturing is in a building about 200 feet away where nearly all Lie-Nielsen’s tools are made. Lie-Nielson workbenches are made in a separate facility in Waldoboro, ME – about 10 miles from corporate headquarters.

A member of the Bench Plane Group grinding a lever cap for a No. 5 Jack Plane.We pulled into the parking lot and Willow sat in the truck where she was able to acquire good reception for her conference call while I went inside for a tour of the facilities. To this point most of my communications with Lie-Nielsen had been through Andrew Dix in the Sales Department and Darren Gilbert of the Workbench Group. After announcing myself I was introduced to Matt Blazek, also of the Sales Department, who took me on a guided tour of the manufacturing floor – safety glasses required. The pictures you see here were taken by me while on that tour. Hold your mouse over a picture to read a description or click the picture for an enlargement.

Bar-stock used to make various plane parts, such as the screws for the tote, lever caps and other miscellaneous parts.After the tour I went to the showroom to fondle and try out some of the new tool additions such as the progressive pitch dovetail saw. There is an old bench in the showroom for just this purpose. Lie-Nielsen’s entire line, including the workbench, is available in the showroom for the customer to examine and try. I fell in love with the progressive pitch dovetail saw and vowed to get one to accompany the Lie-Nielsen Independence Saw I currently use.

The Blade Group is where all LN’s blades are ground flat and honed.Willow joined me in the showroom. While I was looking at tools I noticed her talking to Andrew and filling out some papers. When I inquired what she was doing she said “I am giving you a $400 gift certificate for your birthday”. I knew I invited her on this trip for some specific reason, but wasn’t sure why until that very moment. Willow insisted I spend it right away. She said “I know you have a list in your head, so just pick the next item on the list”. I did. I got the Iron Miter Plane which coincidentally will partner quite nicely with the bench I was about to pick up.

Part of LN’s heat treating system. These ovens are used to heat treat blades. They are subsequently removed and dropped into a cryo-bath.While we were converting the newly gifted gift certificate to a purchase Thomas Lie-Nielsen walked in. I had met and talked to Tom on a number of occasions at woodworking shows but this was an opportunity to introduce Willow to him. We talked for a while. I was curious about the practical use of floats and Tom demonstrated their use to me. I told him I was there to pick up my much anticipated bench. He told the story of their surprise when they started offering custom benches and receiving a response which quickly swamped their ability to fill orders. They are catching up now, but still have a backlog of nearly 200 benches. We discussed the benefits of tools made in America and Tom indicated that he is thinking of making his own line of vises to some day replace the high quality German vises now used on his benches. You can always make improvements he said.

All LN's blades are tested on the Hardness Machine and must fall between 60 and 62 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale.Famine hit again and Willow and I made for Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, ME. I didn’t realize the history of Moody’s until I began writing this post. Moody’s is a family owned restaurant and motel which is apparently 75+ years old. It has its own cookbook called “What’s Cooking At Moody’s Diner: 75 Years Of Reminiscences” by Nancy Moody Genthner, the daughter of the founders Bertha and “P.B.” Moody. I ordered a favorite meal of mine – liver and bacon with mashed potatoes and gravy. It was delicious. The liver was tender, the bacon crisp and the vegetables cooked just right. Even the coffee seemed exceptional.

Final assembly. Each plane is assembled by hand with careful attention paid to 100% perfect assembly.Finally we arrived at the Waldoboro shop to pick up my bench. Darren greeted us and gave Willow and me a shop tour. I recognized much of the equipment; Bridgeports, Jets and numerous dust collectors. Workbenches in various stages of build were throughout the shop, as well as large blanks and other raw material used in their manufacture. The glued up bench tops are purchased from and American supplier and customized for Lie-Nielsen. There, up against a wall, under an old factory paned window, sat my bench. I actually felt a chill when I was told it was mine, my anticipation so long and great.

A group of No. 4 ½ Irons and Scrub Planes ready to be packaged and shipped.Darren supplied some cardboard for the bottom of my truck to protect the bench. The trestle was disassembled and placed on the bottom, more cardboard, and then three guys loaded the top. I brought along a plastic tarp, purchased just that morning, which we strapped to the bench and truck. Rain was forecast for the trip home.

An old bench in the showroom available for customers to try out LN products.The following morning I was back at my shop with the bench in the back of my pickup. I was alone, no one around. The bench weighs 250-300 lbs. I wanted it set up and usable – now! I tried to contact my usual list of likely helpers with no luck. I committed myself to do it alone. My shop was designed with a garage door and a floor raised in loading dock fashion. With the help of an assembly bench with wheels I was able to set up the trestle and move the top in place. To place the top on the trestle I had to turn it over because it was loaded on the truck topside down. It wasn’t easy, I was careful, and it required a lot of awkward hefting. But I managed.

Dovetail saws displayed in the showroom.After approximately six weeks of use I couldn’t be more pleased. This bench is heavy, stable and flat. The vises are smooth and precise. The bench came with two sets of dogs; one metal and the other wood. They work great.

LN's family of planes and accessories on display in the showroom.I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t find a few things I would do differently if I were to make a reproduction of this bench. First, I would probably add a few more coats of finish. It came with two coats of a 50/50 mixture of boiled linseed oil and turpentine. However, I have noticed that pencil and crayon marks that I make on milled pieces are wearing off on the bench. Maybe a few more coats would at least keep them from wearing into the top. Second, when the tail vise is fully closed there is a gap. This is apparently traditional as I have noticed when researching benches. However, looking at the bench it appears the gap width is arbitrary. I would choose a gap of 3/8″ instead of the nearly 1″ it now has. This is because most drawer sides, backs and even some fronts are 1/2″ thick and this 3/8″ gap would make it easier to cut dovetails using the tail vise. These are minor issues that can be easily remedied by the user. The bottom line – this is a top notch bench, well worth the $2,500 sticker price.

My bench on the LN shop floor, ready to come home.With a career in electrical engineering behind me and an avocation of cabinetmaker I am ill prepared to fully understand the metallurgy, machinery and mechanical engineering that go into the manufacture of quality hand tools. However, I have been around hand tools all my life; my father and brothers were all craftsman in the carpentry, plumbing and electrical trades (I come from a family of twelve siblings). As a child and teenager I used numerous pre-war Stanley tools and planes as well as many other quality brands. I was always taught to purchase a quality tool; tool purchases are not a time to be frugal, for good ones will last generations. With that background and my own woodworking experience I consider myself qualified to discern quality as I use such tools. Lie-Nielsen tools are second to none in design, fit-and-finish, quality and results. That, combined with the fact that they are American made is why I use almost exclusively their products.

Nearly comleted hand tool cabinet next to LN bench.The bench is home in its corner of my shop next to the tool cabinet that holds my hand tools, mostly Lie-Nielsen. You will notice that my tool cabinet has some space for planned future purchases, but space is not planned for a complete family. I doubt I will ever have all the planes, chisels, floats etc in the Lie-Nielsen collection. I am not a collector. I am a user who generally purchases a tool only when it is needed or will improve some facet of my work. I try not to fool myself into thinking I need a tool only to see it take up space in my shop but serve no useful purpose. But when I do purchase a tool I am particular about the brand. Lie-Nielsen has proved to meet or exceed my expectations.

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